Sunday, July 25, 2010

Paris 25th July

Sunday 25th July 9:48am

It is an overcast morning, a cool breeze but not cold. The traffic on Saint Martin Boulevade is slow, mainly taxis and service vehicles. Sunday mornings, Paris sleeps. Only backpackers are seen amberling by. At Cristal Café only one old man sits at the bar slipping coffee and chatting to the waiter. The tables out the front are all mine until a single backpacker sits in front of me – he orders expresso of course.

It seems impossible to give an impression of Paris without describing the lifestyle. This trip we have enjoyed living in a Parisian apartment, having our regular morning coffee at our favourite café, buying our baguettes from the same patisserie and frequenting my favourite gardens, Luxembourg.

Yes we went up the Eiffel Tower with Ben, Kat and Addy perfectly timed at sunset. Watching the city morph from a sea of buildings to a city of lights was a fabulous experience.

Possibly the most intriguing experience was walking through the catacombs. The maze of tunnels filled with human remains from hundred of years ago filled me with a sense of compassion and awe of a bygone era. It was an interesting solution to a city’s problem.

We climbed the circular stairwell of the crypt of the Bastillica of Sacrea Coeur and looked out over the city of Paris during mid afternoon. It seems architectural prowess is no longer emulated in society today. As Glen commented perhaps the equivalent today is the football stadiums in South Africa. Pilgrims come from all over the world to worship the players – watch and partake!

Once again we visited Notre Dame, the Louvre and Pont Neuf. The beauty of these buildings can still be breathe taking a second time.

Do I have another coffee or go and wake Glen?

It is now 11am and the Parisians are beginning to wander by, baguettes in hand. More people sit at the café. The aroma of hot coffee surrounds me. The traffic is building up but I have not yet heard a siren! Perhaps an hour more of peace.

Tomorrow Ben, Kat, Glen and I leave for the Somme – the World War 11 battlefields area. My quiet morning routine will end!

By the way have any of you read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”? It is a well written intriguing crime novel - worth a read.

I will be sad to leave Paris and could indeed come back. “Monsieur, une café au lait s’il vous plait!”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Monday 12th

Monday 12th July – World Cup Final.

I woke to the raucous shouts of six English guys on the platform of the RER below. I wanted to yell out the window – you’re the reason the French don’t like the English and neither do Australians, but I didn’t. I climbed out of bed and shut the double glazed windows and pulled the curtains. Instant silence – amazing! I glanced at the clock, 9am, way too early to be awake. An hour or so later I stirred, got up and made a Nespresso. Glen was still asleep. I looked out the kitchen window into the courtyard, it was drizzling outside. Time to check my emails and wake Glen. Glen groaned, told me he felt not so good and rolled over.

The smell of the patisserie lured me down the circular stairwell and around the corner… today a “Pain au chocolat” and a traditional baguette. I had time so I stopped at the café – ordered a coffee and felt somewhat Parisian sitting watching the people pass by. We each sat, 5 of us, at small tables, the man in the beret sipping his espresso glanced up only as pretty lady’s walked by, the couple at the end were deep to conversation, while the man beside me ate his omelette while reading “Le monde”. A sixth sat beside me smiled and said “Bonjour” I replied and she promply said, “Australia?” She was a teacher from Adelaide – in Paris on a school excursion but one of the teachers had had a heart attack and was in hospital down the road. She had stayed as she spoke French while the class went onto London. She was a jolly personality with a true Australian spirit. She suggested great places to go and things not to miss.

I returned to the apartment – Glen was still not feeling so good. I decided to wander to the Latin Quarter and look for some shoes and band-aids. It didn’t take long to succeed in my quest – yes some good Vanessa style heels to save her feet! My next mission was to find a traditional fondue restaurant. So I wandered through the narrow streets, trying to avoid the hawkers wanting me to come and eat but getting close enough to read the menus. Finally I asked a gentleman at a restaurant who, of course, assured me their menu was authentic! Mission accomplished – homeward bound – heels on saving my feet! The metro and back in two stops.

Glen was feeling a little better so we decided to find a place to watch the game. Back on the RER to Notre Dame – he wanted to find an Irish Pub. It should have great atmosphere. We enjoyed the cool breeze as the sun streamed down the streets. It was warm! Not a heat wave like at the signs kept telling us – not in Australian terms or should I say Adelaide terms! Glen was starting to get tired, still not 100% so was decided to head back to Port Royal. We had walked our mandatory number of steps for the day and definitely several kilometres. Now we were both exhausted. We sat on the lounge watching the final of the World Cup. I kept drifting to sleep and waking. I really wanted to see the full game – was it jet lag or was I getting a bug!

We succeeded in watching the winning kick! It was the conclusion to World Cup fever! No more regular 4am mornings for 4 years!

Wow that was a long winded 12th!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2010 France and the Low countries - Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg

Paris - 11th July 2010

After a 9 hour flight to KL, Malaysia and then a 13 hour flight aboard Malaysian airlines we landed in Paris!

Took the RER to Port Royal and met the cleaner of the apartment who showed us in and explained how to use everything in her simplest French.  Vanessa interpreting in my basic French!  Every now and again we resorted to writing - she in French for me to translate and I in English which she could understand!

This is where we are in Paris - on the third floor in a 3 bedroom apartment.  In Parisian terms we are in a very large apartment!,+75005+Paris,+France&sll=-32.947365,151.652176&sspn=0.00542,0.01575&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Avenue+Georges+Bernanos,+75005+Paris,+Ile-de-France,+France&ll=48.839357,2.341332&spn=0.010225,0.039482&z=15

Karine and her 3 children are at home in our place - which the children are absolutely loving!  Space!

It was the typical departure from Australia - long days and short nights.  Little sleep and lists that we thought we would never get through.  I suppose this trip was different to any other.  This was the first total home swap. 

Getting the house ready became a challenge after Brent reversed his car into the wall and put a hole right through!  Yes $12000 worth of damage!  Not a soft small hole!  How you ask, did he do this?   Well at about midnight - a car load of kids and ug boots on!  His story is it got caught between the brake and accelerator and hence a speedy reverse into the wall.  Glen and I were upstairs watching the football when we heard the very large bang!  "That doesn't sound good"  I commented!  Then I looked - "That did not look good!"  Glen didn't look at it until Richard came almost 2 days later!

So began the repairs,  pulling down an entire wall exterior and interior and rebuilding and painting!  Painting - well we went a little further than Brent's room!  Luke's room, the hall and all the patches Glen repaired finally!

And now with that all behind us - we are in Paris.

In two days we have successfully stressed our leg muscles and I have 2 serious blisters on my ankles!  Why is it when we travel I always get blisters?  The three storeys of circular stairs to the apartment definitely has killed our calves!

Friday - We landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at 7am and caught the RER.  Unpacked and walked to the Latin Quarter down the road. 

We ate at a cafe and met a french man going to a wedding and a family from Brasil.  My feet already had blisters so off to the pharmacy!  The Louvre courtyard and then through the Tuillerie Gardens all the way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe! 

A wine and a 1664 at the local bar before a nap! Jet lagged just a little!  We woke but decided we didn't need dinner.  Another walk before an early night!

Saturday seemed such a long day!  We woke and walked around the Luxembourg Gardens then through the middle as the gates where opened.  They are such spectacular gardens - and so close to our apartment.  First we found the patisserie and indulged.  Then we found the food street market around the corner and ambled through enjoying the colours, smells and flurry of people.  We indulgently bought olives and cheese - fresh tomatoes and basil.

Next we headed to Rue de Rivoli to purchase tickets to Mont St Michel - a day trip but a place I really want to see.  Glen has been there.    We then rode the ferris wheel in the Tuilerie Gardens - photographing the view across the city.

We then headed to Marche de la Creation at Bastille.  A craft/art market.  I got a fabulous idea for portrait photography from a French photographer!  I also bought 4 prints to frame as a memory of Paris. 

We wandered through the streets of Ile de France near Notre Dame, saw lovers sitting on the banks of the Sienne, tourists buying ice ceams and then ate lunch at a small resturant at about 3pm! 

It was time to have a siesta!  We woke at 8pm and headed to Montpanasse a couple of blocks away!  We found a resturant with the football and sat and watched the last half of the Germany vs Uraguay game!  More wandering and sorer heals!  We decided to catch the metro back!

All this in one day!