A Travellerspoint blog

A Return to Paris...

Thursday afternoon I arrived safely at Gare Montparnasse Station and decided not to do the 20 minute walk to the apartment with my bag...I would catch a taxi...hahahahaha...expensive idea!!! I should have known he would take me all around the world to get there because it was only a short way and a cheap fare!! I am sure it cost me double and I tried to talk to him but of course he didn't know what I was saying...hmmm not so sure about that!

I finally arrived at the apartment to meet Cecile and Nicola who were going to let me in and show me everything. When I got out of the taxi and walked up to them they exchanged a look and a little chuckle...immediately I knew they were laughing at my bag and I knew there were going to be stairs. What I didn't know was my apartment was on the 5th floor (note to self...check next time!) WHEW...tough work but we made it...they tell me it is easier going down!

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My Apartment and looking down the dreaded stairwell!

At first I was a little disappointed at how basic the apartment was, but I had to remember I was comparing it to our beautiful villa! I have now found that I am enjoying the space it offers me and it is quite cozy and feels like home...sort of!

I unpacked and then went out to get some supplies...nice to have a full working kitchen. After some dinner I was ready for an early night and maybe even a sleep in. Sleep in I did...I didn't wake until about 8am and I decided to have a lazy start to the day. I spent some time searching out which buses run outside the apartment and which metro numbers I needed to know. I then had to plan how to get across Paris to Gare St Lazare Station to buy my ticket to Rouen to see Joelle on Sunday as I had been unable to do it online.

Then came a day of Firsts!!

I had to catch a bus for the first time in Paris and activate my visite card...I found the bus stop and got on (thought it was funny that the bus was a few minutes early...) and headed off. It only took a couple of stops before I realised I was headed in the wrong direction...what the heck...I stayed on till the end for the ride and then changed to come back the right way as time was not an issue. I have loved travelling on the buses as you can see way more than when on the metro.

I eventually made it to St Lazare and then I had to find the ticket sellers at this enormous station...I watched and wandered around for a while and discovered one area that sold tickets but only for suburban lines...then I found one for greater france, which sounded more like it as I knew I would be travelling for about an hour to get to Rouen. So I hopped on the queue and hoped that the ticket seller spoke some English...and voila I got my tickets! I was delighted that they only cost me 28 euro as it was going to be about 45 euro over the net...the only difference is I don't have a reserved seat allocation...I can live with that! So tickets in hand I tried to find the bus stop to go back to the apartment for some lunch...hahahaha...I couldn't find it!!! Once again after a walk around I managed to eventually find it.

When I got home it was about 3pm so I hung around near the apartment and then put together a little picnic dinner to take to the Eiffel Tower to see the lights.

Another first was using the metro...up till this point I had walked or used the bus...I knew it was easy but I wasn't totally sure I knew what to do. Off I went at 5.30pm...peak metro time of course!! It was almost impossible to get into a carriage. It was packed to overflowing! I got on and was then a little nervous of pickpockets as everyone had told me to be wary when it was so crowded...I arrived all safe and sound and even changed metro lines mid stream!! I joined the many tourists that were arriving with the same idea and we all sat and watched the afternoon sun set over Paris and the lights come on.

As I ate my my cheese and baguette and drank my wine I watched the fountain display in front of me, got wet with the spray and had a wonderful afternoon and evening.

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To brighten my time there as I sat on the grass near the fountains at the Trocadero, three guys turned up just near me and were acting really weird! Two of them pulled out foam kickboards and a wig and the other guy got set up to film what was going to happen...Then before our eyes they ran down the slope and threw themselves into the pool at the bottom of the fountains with their kickboards...I filmed them too and so did everyone else! Then when they were happy with the film they got out...stripped off their wet clothes, changed into dry clothes and left!! hahaha...that was the nights entertainment!

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As the sun set the tower lights came on and then at 9pm the twinlkly lights appeared for their first appearance of the night...it was truly magical. I really had to pinch myself to believe I was really here!!

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BY 10pm Paris nightlife was in full swing and I walked for a while before jumping on the metro to head home...What a great memory!

Posted by thewoodsies 12:38 Comments (0)

Last Days in the South of France

The last couple of days at the villa went by so fast!! We lazed around the pool for another day, just because we could...Ben and Jenna cooked the most wonderful Lemon Pesto Pasta and salad for dinner...mmmmmm, which we teamed with some more Bordeaux red!

Then late the next day the girls decided that as the boys had been to the beach it was time for the girls to have an outing on their own! So we headed to our favourite place, St Jean de Luz for a few hours of shopping. We of course hit the beautiful tablecloth shop yet again and some fabric and another tablecloth or two were purchased, just as a reminder of this wonderful place and we also had to sample another flavour of Gelato just to find our favourites.

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The Girls

We arrived after siesta time and the town was buzzing with people and overflowing with exciting produce to buy.
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We returned just as young Hugh was going to bed and then Nini and I made a big Potato Bake to team up with the left over Beef Bourguignon for dinner. It was a very late one as the oven was being very temperamental!!

After dinner I reluctantly dragged myself off upstairs to pack ready to head off back to Paris.

Time to say goodbye...

How sad it is when part of a holiday has to come to an end, but the memories will last forever!

...the lazy days by the pool soaking up the sunshine
...the fun when you are preparing a meal for the many guests in the lovely big country kitchen
...the walk to get baguettes and croissants as the morning mist begins to lift
...the afternoon siesta
...chatting to Gordon on Skype
...drinking Bordeaux reds late in the afternoon while munching on slices of baguette topped with mozarella, tomato and basil with olive oil and balsamic glaze drizzled over the top!
...navigating in and out of towns...(of course, without ever getting lost)... while Nini becomes expert at driving on the wrong side of the road
...the drives to Biarritz, St Jean de Luz, San Sebastian, Hossegor, Capbreton, Bayonne and even Dax!!
...the evening meals that were a taste sensation and all so different because we had a different chef every night
...the endless laughter and delight that being with family brings
...and not to forget the smiles, the chatter, the cuddles and the wonder of spending your day with beautiful babies and their amazing parents!

Part of me is sad to leave but another part of me is thrilled that I was offered and accepted an invitation to attend the 1st Birthday celebrations of Master Hugh Smith!! Where will we all be when he turns 2????

Thursday morning brought goodbye hugs from Hugh and all the gang then Nini took me to Gare Biarritz for another 5 hour train trip.

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Now the adventure continues as I return to explore Paris just a little more.

Posted by thewoodsies 14:39 Comments (0)

The Spanish Experience...

The day dawned with clear skies and sunshine and everyone was up and going early...all off in different directions.

Ben, Jenna and Josh decided to find some wineries in the Bordeaux area...Tris, Dan and Hugh explored Biarritz...Di and Brian took on the challenge of feeding everyone for the night so they headed out to get supplies...Brenden, Tori and young William decided after their full day out yesterday that they would relax around the pool...

Janene and I decided it was time to head down into Spain and explore San Sebastian...so we tackled the A63 Autoroute to get there.
We went through toll payment after toll payment about 8 euros down and then the same back. We enjoyed the drive down and laughed as the signs changed from the french that had become so familiar to espaniol...a big mind shift for me!! I had just got my head around the french pleasantries and now my brain was struggling with a change of tack!!

We arrived about midday just before the traditional siesta time we had now got used to...or so we thought! We drove round and round trying to find a parking space which seemed totally impossible when we came upon a sign for an underground parking complex...did we dare to venture in? Yes we did...wondering all the way whether we were in the right place...finally we got to the boom gate for tickets and found that we were indeed in a public parking lot...whew!

We entered out into the sunshine and began to explore...the buildings were beautiful and very eclectic in design.

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We could smell the ocean, which we hadn't been able to do at any of the other seaside villages we had visited. We crossed the bridge over the large river that flows out into the sea in search of the "Shopping District"!

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We found some lovely shops to wander through but of course the siesta time was fast approaching...no worries we thought...we will go have some lunch then shop after...this is when we discovered that in Spain the siesta runs from 1pm till 4.30pm!!!! A long time to window shop!!!!

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We grabbed a delicious gelato and began to explore...there were some shops still open, but the staff were not very excited to be working and more or less ignored us so it became a little like self serve!!

Nini managed to find some lovely things by the end of our wandering and even got the girl's attention enough to pay for them as well.

We wandered some more and stopped by a beautiful old church for some food and decided that we would head home as a dip in the pool seemed very inviting indeed...it was about 4.15pm and some of the shops were beginning to open their doors. As we walked back to the car we stopped at a few more just to make sure we hadn't missed anything.

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We even found the sun worshippers on the jetty!

Paying for the parking was easier than expected and not quite as expensive as we had feared...8euros for the afternoon. Nini manouvered her way out of the deep, dark depths of the carpark up into the sunshine very expertly indeed...we then headed for home...or so we thought!!

Our original plan was to avoid the autoroute and wander home up the coast...but this was thwarted as we couldn't find any roads that went that way...we then found signs sending us back to Francais...but then when we got to roundabouts and stopped at endless traffic lights for pedestrain crossings, with no pedestrians in sight...there were no more signs to follow...we ended up in the port area in amongst some building demolision...so we retraced or steps and tried again...but to no avail!! Eventually an hour later we were still driving around Spain and feeling very trapped...hahaha...final decision was to head over the river to see if that was marked with better signs to follow...

Eventually we managed to find the Autoroute, which of course had a different number because we were in Spain and followed this over the border into France and onto our beloved (now) A63!!! We gladly paid the tolls and in another 45 minutes were home.

We now love the roads in France and all their roundabouts and signs everywhere because in Spain they have way too many traffic lights for invisible pedestrians and cars and no "toutes directions"!!!!

Posted by thewoodsies 01:37 Comments (0)

A fantastic Happy Birthday to Hugh!

Here in this beautiful villa in the village of St Jean de Marsacq I was priviledged to be part of a very special birthday celebration.

It is an amazing milestone when your first born child turns one year old and you want to be surrounded by those closest to you to celebrate. I was allowed to join into this very private celebration and spend time with some of my favourite people.

The day began with Hugh opening some presents and it was such fun to see his face light up with excitement at the tractor that Uncle Josh had given him...Hugh was happy for ages taking his new tractor off to work in the fields that were the dining room table!!!

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A beautiful photo...thanks Josh.

He then got his very own Mr Potato Head as he had taken a shine to the one left in the villa for the visiting children.

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We blew up balloons and admired the spectacular cake that Tristan had made over the last few days...shame it has to be eaten!!!

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Hugh had been practicing clapping hands after singing "Happy Birthday" and was delighted to show us how well he was doing!

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The cake was of course a big hit!

A lunchtime bbq seemed an appropriate way for a bunch of Aussies in France to say Happy Birthday to a very special little fellow.

Hugh managed once again to keep us all entertained and the cameras focused on him in paparrazzi mode for most of the day. Lunch was delicious as was the French Champagne that we used to toast the birthday boy in style.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to Quin and Melissa who had to head back to London for dreaded monday morning work...but the rest of us spent a quiet afternoon chilling out and chatting around the pool before we all shared a huge pot of Beef Bourguignon and Smashed Potatoes for dinner followed by more birthday cake and ice cream for dessert. We even had Gordon here with us via Skype for most of the day...amazing to be able to share this with him while he is working hard back in Sydney with everyone wishing he was here!

Posted by thewoodsies 13:19 Comments (0)

Lazy days in the south of France...

The weather has been amazing...the sun has shone for us on most days and we have even had some lovely mornings where the mist has stayed in the valley long enough to take your breath away with the view...

We have mastered the art of driving on the wrong side of the road, changing gears with the gearstick on the wrong side (discovered the door handle really doesn't work) and have managed to turn on the indicators when turning rather than the windscreen wipers!!

We had a day trip to Hossegor, Capbreton and Bayonne...found beautiful towns with some lovely shopping and even better gelato! These are all towns that you could spend hours wandering through and then come back and do it all again another day.

We headed even further south...almost to the spanish border and discovered the beautiful seaside town of Saint Jean du Luz...ahhhh...a little piece of heaven! Amazing shopping and a lovely big piazza surrounded by wonderful restaurants that you can have a lazy lunch in while everyone in the town stops for the 2 hour siesta time...all the shops shut from 12.30 till 2.30/3pm for a long lunch break...very sensible indeed. We wandered up and down narrow streets and walked along the beaches soaking up the atmosphere.

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We spent a whole day in Biarritz...amazing coastline with beautiful beaches, restaurants and cafes lining the boardwalk. Once again fantastic shops to wander in and out of and of course the obligatory long lunch by the seaside before hitting the shops again.

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The house is almost full with a few more arrivals to come today and tomorrow ready for Hugh's big first birthday celebrations on Sunday.

Everyone is taking turns at providing our evening meals and Nini and I are up for the challenge...tonight we shall attempt to make quiche and for tomorrow night Boeuf Bourguignon with a Plum Tarte Tatin for dessert...we were inspired to produce a french flavoured meal...prepared in the beautiful big country kitchen in our villa!

We have had a day or two lazing by the pool soaking up this glorious sunshine that has been shining and of course most late afternoons and evenings we have managed to force ourselves to indulge in some delicious french cheese, fresh baguettes and a glass or two of Bordeaux red or French Champagne...so as you can imagine , we are really struggling to enjoy any of it without you all here with us...

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We have also had many, many laughs with our two most important guest...Master Hugh and Master William...

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Posted by thewoodsies 01:30 Comments (0)

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