Thursday, July 19, 2018

Firenze

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......

Friday, July 13, 2018

Honfleur et Bayeux

I have been wondering about the endless energy small children have. You know, when they just seem to run and run, when all you want to do is rest. I have been thinking that it must disappear before the teenage years, but I think it is more the case that energy is ruled by motivation, whatever the age. People say they have no time to garden, or read, or play sport, when really, they just don't wish to do those things with their time. I have the energy to keep sight-seeing; I want to go to more places, see more things. The kids are tired, but if climbing a mountain was an option, Toby would be up early, and would go all day. The key to a family holiday like this, I think, is to prioritise the things you most wish to see, and, when possible, split up to achieve what everyone wants.

We had a quiet day in Honfleur yesterday, leaving the car alone. Andrew, Beth and I went to the markets just around the corner, and had the best time buying things with my terrible French. The fruit and vegetables were beautiful, so we got some apricots and blueberries, as well as cider, eggs, and crepes.


After the markets, Joss, Toby, Andrew and I went on a walk up the hill to an old chapel.


Expansive views were had from two locations, and then we weaved our way back down the hill.


Honfleur is so very old, and charming. It isn't much fun to drive a huge van down these narrow, cobbled streets, but Andrew has pulled it off twice!


The harbour is just around the corner, lined with restaurant tables under umbrellas.


We spent the afternoon watching le Tour de France, and the evening watching the World Cup - with more walking in between.

This morning we wandered down to the beach where the van is parked. Toby cleared the fountain jets easily, though he wasn't so lucky on the way home, when he attempted a higher jet of water.


We drove to Bayeux to see the tapestry, almost one thousand years old, now. I was worried the kids would be bored, but they kept it to themselves, if they were! The story it tells is quite fascinating, and you listen to it, read by someone who sounds like Derek Jacobi, as you shuffle along the 70 meters of tapestry in a darkened room.



The cathedral in Bayeux is beautiful, inside and out. Toby was most put out that we couldn't climb to the top.




The harbour is lovely this evening, and we are hoping to get down to the beach, seeing as there is no football on!

Tomorrow we leave Honfleur, and will attempt to see the Tour. The plan is to be on the side of the road around 11 or 12 kilometers from the end. We'll see how easy that is to manage....