Friday, July 20, 2018

Last day

Yesterday was the last, full day of this wondrous holiday. It hasn't flown by, for me, but we are all looking forward to getting home to our family, friends, house, and animals.

Our main objective for yesterday was to enjoy the Giardino di Boboli, and while we were all terribly hot, they didn't disappoint. The colours were simply greens, greys and browns, no flowers, but that just highlighted the sky and the expansive views of the city and beyond.

A whole day, at least, would be needed to properly explore the gardens, but we headed back over the Ponte Vecchio for lunch and shopping, before a rest in the cool apartment.

Later in the afternoon, Toby and I went wandering. We went to Santa Croce, which was closed, most unfortunately, so I'll just have to watch A Room with a View again, to see the inside.

We went inside the Palazzo Vecchio (town hall).....

...and admired the gallery of statues next door at the Loggia dei Lanzi.

We topped it off with dinner at our favourite restaurant - we get attached quickly - and gelato on the walk home.

We have slept in and are now packing, for the last time. We were very thankful to discover that the owner of our apartment is happy for us to stay until we need to leave, at 3.30, so we are taking it slowly, and keeping cool. We'll do a tiny bit more wandering and shopping in Florence before flying to Frankfurt (can we count two hours at the airport as a visit to Germany?), then Singapore where we will have dinner with a friend (nine-hour stopover), and finally, home.

Here are some reflections on where we have been:
  • so many people smoke, or vape!
  • it is hotter here at lower temperatures.
  • there are dogs everywhere - in the shops, in the cities, even cities with no grass.
  • traffic in French and Italian cities and towns is crazy, and I could not even attempt to drive, or ride, in the narrow streets.
  • all but two places we stayed had just a fitted sheet and doona, no top sheet. This is madness, there needs to be something between a doona (way too hot for summer) and nothing!
It hasn't been perfect, but it has been wonderful. Thanks for coming along for the ride, see you at home! 

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Many years ago, we added four nights in Paris to our UK trip, because my brother and his wife had done that on their honeymoon. So, when Joss wanted to go to Italy to see her friend Chiara, we thought we would just add a few nights in Florence to the end of our trip. I didn't realise how much I would love it and wish we had longer. 

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Unlike Paris and London, the touristy part of Florence is small and you can walk everywhere, quickly.

Perhaps because it is so compact, it's also really crowded. There are long queues to get into the cathedral, and we left it too late to book a spot to climb the Duomo.

I don't think I will go to the Uffizi gallery, either, though I know I would love it. I am enjoying just walking the streets, and there is so much beauty around to be viewed without entry fee or waiting time.

Every turn brings something glorious to see, and there are paper and fountain pen shops!

Joss's Italian friend ended up being in Paris this week, so she saw her there, rather than here, but she did catch up with a friend from Albury who is here on his gap year travels!

Not only is the city beautiful, but our accommodation is the best we have had on the trip, so we are also loving relaxing in the cool, and sleeping really well.

We have walked and eaten ourselves silly. Now, there is only one more full day left!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

France celebrates

So, France won. We are staying in an apartment, in a residential area, and we could hear everyone else watching the match, and then, though we could hardly imagine it getting rowdier outside, everything erupted! Much, much celebrating on the streets, with firecrackers going off, car and motorbike engines being revved and horns sounded without ceasing. People danced, sang, and cheered. Cars piled up with people hanging out of every window, the sunroof, and even the boot.

Joss was meeting her Italian friend, who arrived in Paris just hours before. I took her down to the train station, so we got to experience the joy and madness.

This morning, the streets were almost deserted, except for a fair bit of rubbish. Today was our last full day in Paris, and it was not spent together. We woke early and I waved everyone else off at the train station as they set off for Joss' birthday choice - Disneyland.

I started walking (as fast as I wanted!) and enjoyed the sights as I made my way to the Musée de l'Orangerie.

As I wrote yesterday, I don't really like taking photos of paintings, and these enormous paintings, especially, I cannot capture, but just to prove that I went.....

I reached 10,000 steps before 10.30am, and just kept walking. The weather was just right for it; cool and overcast.

It looks dark here, which it wasn't, but the clouds were spectacular.

Approximately five bajillion people were lined up to go inside Notre Dame. Thankfully, I have been in before.

These photos were taken at the same time, just with the light focused on a different spot.

It even tried to rain for a little while, though it only managed a few drops.

20,000 steps later, and I was back in Montmartre. After doing some washing, I walked up to the Sacre Coeur again. The afternoon had turned sunny and very hot.

Tomorrow we go to a country none of us has ever visited before, for the final three nights of our holiday (not counting the endless night that will be our many flights home). We're off to Florence, and my book and movie reference is A Room With a View.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Le Tour and Paris

We have been watching le Tour de France for many years now. We look forward to it, prepare for being tired at work, and have pyjama parties to watch it with friends. To actually see it in real life was an experience we just had to have. It was a tricky one to plan for, though, and I made a bit of a mistake with accommodation, in that I should have stayed in Honfleur another night, not tried to get to Paris and return our car after the tour. Nevermind, we managed.

We left Honfleur with lovely memories, and drove towards Alencon, which was around halfway along the route for stage 7. We set ourselves up next to the road in Saint-Paterne, with a nice, manageable crowd. We bought quiches and croissants and settled in until the parade of cars with blaring music and people throwing items at the crowd, began.

If this guy was throwing chickens, I didn't get one.

We had hats, lollies, dried sausage and various other items thrown at us, and we bought a few shirts. Once we could hear the helicopters we knew the riders where close. In fact, the breakaway only had one rider in it, a French fellow, and everyone cheered madly for him.

Too busy watching to take a good photo

Many helicopters

Eleven minutes later the peloton arrived, and I didn't bother with my phone, I just wanted to experience it. In fact, I started crying right away, looked for Richie Porte, found him and yelled some encouragement, then just soaked it up until they were gone; a matter of seconds. It was all over so quickly, but well worth it. We'll remember it each time we watch the Tour in coming years. Of course, in today's race, Richie crashed out with a broken collarbone; I am so disappointed for him.

It was a bit naive to expect that we could just experience Paris as usual when we were arriving in time for Bastille Day, Sunday and the day France plays in the World Cup final. I knew we definitely didn't want to drive in Paris, so I chose the closest Europcar office to Honfleur to return the car, just inside Paris. We found the address easily, but finding where to actually return the car, once the office was closed, was another matter. Andrew drove brilliantly, and we asked some fellows with no English and I was able to work out what we needed to do. Phew!

Then we needed to find a taxi, or two taxis in fact, and we eventually arrived at our apartment in Montmartre, around 8.30pm. It's near the Moulin Rouge, so definitely a happening area at night....

The Scare Coeur is also here.

Our first day saw us walk down to Galleries Lafayette for a bit of shopping. I am not that interested in shopping, but everyone else bought things (I dd get a cold brew latte), and I enjoyed the architecture, and the sights on the way there.

We then walked down to the Louvre, for what was probably the best thing about the timing of our trip - entry was free for Bastille Day.

It was awfully hot, especially in the museum, so after we walked all the way back to Montmartre, we thought that perhaps we would try the public transport system today. Sadly, being a Sunday, there wasn't much going on in the bus department, so we ended up with two taxis to the Musee D'Orsay. I really, really love it there, just over the river, serene on a Sunday morning (not that early in actuality, but early for the morning after Bastille Day).

I could spend a whole day there, but not Joss' birthday!

After the Musee D'Orsay, we walked up the Champs-Elysee and had a birthday lunch.

It wasn't quiet, as the hour of the World Cup grand final was approaching, and many French people were making much noise! There was a group of flag-coloured cars, with young men drinking beer and yelling, as they honked horns and blared music, driving up and down the famous, crowded street.

Toby and Bethany bought flags to fit in, though Toby is really going for Croatia.

After making all kinds of compromises due to the weekend/World Cup, we were disappointed again to discover the Arc de Triomphe was closed due to the mayhem.

We had been hoping to climb it as we already knew that the Eiffel Tower was closed all day, given that a bajillion people are there right now watching the final on big screens!

We decided to walk down for a photo, which coincided with a great increase in people, wearing flags mostly, taking to the streets and walking in every direction. We made it down to see the Eiffel Tower, and wanted a taxi to get home, but couldn't get one.

After a long walk, we tried the Metro. We let around four trains go past, absolutely packed, each one. So we walked all the way home to Montmartre and are now in front of the television, watching the game, and hearing the neighbourhood experience it, too.

Now, we are tired and footsore, but we will always remember being in Paris on this day. I have never seen, or heard, anything like it. Extraordinary crowds everywhere, spilling out of every bar for hours before the game began. I wonder what will happen if they don't win......