Well all. We are finally here. Actually we have been here for the last 3 days. Weather was great Friday, getting a bit colder by Saturday and now just plain cold and wet. Must say at this stage however we are fine with it. Ask us again in a months time.
So far we have walked around the centre of Bristol trying to get a feel for this place. So far, love it. Although we have only seen the city centre so far it has been friendly, good sized city without too much traffic, the cool trappings of living in a city with the benefits of the countryside close to the edges.
Went to a church service today at the stunning St Mary of Redcliffe. Incredible building and we were priviledged to attend the service on Whitsunday when they have a whole heap of pomp and ceremony. The Lord Mayor and council members all attend in their finery due to something or other that happened way back when ever. (You can tell that I clearly remember the reasoning behind it all 🙂 Anyway it was interesting to watch. Will post photos when I get around to downloading the camera. Have been a bit slack lately I think that is due to the fact that we have limited space here at the hostel. OK, so I’m making excuses!
While lately we have been busy moving here, there and everywhere, the old internet availability has been a bit sketchy. So to get up up to speed this has been our movements so far:
Saturday returned the rental car to Avignon after a high speed dash to get Kerryn (our mate from Australia) to the correct railway station. She was not away that there were 2 stations in Avignon and had chosen to get dropped off at the wrong one. With 20 minutes to get to the correct station it was breakneck speed and a few red lights to get there. We have recently discovered that apparently there are a number of red light cameras at many French lights. Darn!! Not sure if we could be expecting a number of tickets.
Next it was the train to Lille where our mate Axel picked us up thankfully in his dad’s car as the amount of luggage would have been an issue in his one. We had an incredible time in Lille with Axel taking us out to a fabulous dinner on Saturday night then an incredibly memorable day in Brugge (Belgium). Even though it rained later in the day it didn’t deter from the fact that the city is beautiful and the chocolate incredible. Thanks to Axel and his family for letting us stay and being such incredible hosts.
Monday morning was breakfast with the Vienne family and then we were off to the station to catch the Eurostar to London.
We are currently staying in Wembley Central – the outskirts of the outskirts and really enjoying it. Finally made it into London central today to do some “business” and spent the day walking around the city. Can’t believe that we are here! Had no idea where we were wandering to but ended up at many of the main highlights such as Piccadilly Circus, London Eye, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. Tomorrow will be a down day as we get our CV’s into order and apply for our national insurance number. Yes, tax to pay no matter where you go. Until next time….
Went for dinner in town Thursday night. Not so used to the late night dining at this point. With a full tummy you usually end up having bad dreams. My latest was about killer seals. Go figure? Anyway, on a tour around the town we finally made it to the basilica. It is advertised that the bones of Mary Magdalene are entombed here with some other saints. The church is incredibly old (1295 AD) and as yet still unfinished. I’m pretty sure that it is a sure bet that it won’t be finished. The organ pipes are huge and we were lucky enough to hear them being played today (Friday) although I think the organist was practising. It is the only Gothic style church in Provence. Steve was very impressed and has decided Gothic style is his thing.
The surrounding farmland has amazing cherry trees along with the usual vineyards, pine trees, birch etc. This morning as we were having crepes I thought a delicious cherry jam might be worthwhile trying. So here are the pictures from that experience. Not too bad if I may say so myself. The hardest part is ensuring you don’t squirt cherry juice all over the place while still ensuring you keep as much cherry pulp as possible!
Today we went to a little village called Plan D’Aups. From here we did a walk into the hills and up a mountain range (Sainte Baume) heading for the Grotto of Mary Magdalene. Apparently this is a bit of a pilgrimage site. It was a beautiful blue sky day but the wind has been bitterly cold. The walk was incredible through ancient forests that have been there since the 14th century (possibly earlier). Legend told is that Mary Magdalene fled with her mother and brothers to this area to avoid persercution as a Christian. She is said to have lived and evangelised in this region and later died in a grotto that is perched on the side of a cliff. We climbed all the way up to the church cut out in the cliff. Stunning views of the area from there. The grotto is incredible complete with statues, holy water, stained glass windows and of course the Catholic sacred relic (in this case, Mary’s bony something-or-other).
Sunday we left Paris for Provence, heading to a gite just outside of Sainte Maximin la Sainte Baume. Picked up a rental car in Avignon and Steve thankfully did the driving as it freaks me out too much at this stage. Only had 1 near incident but survived to tell the tale. To give us a bit of a break from the stress of driving we dumped the car (after 15 mins of driving) outside the gates of Avignon and walked into the centre. We walked around town and took photos of the Palais du Papes (huge church), listened to the accents of the many travelers that had descended on the town (including some kiwis from the South Island) and decided to have some lunch. This is where today’s lesson is taught. We managed to find a very reasonably priced place for lunch, salade nicoise for 8.50, however, note to self – check a menu when ordering a drink. Steve decided to get a Coke so I joined him in a Diet Coke. I got a medium size he got a large. Well, the large was in a STEIN GLASS! We believe there must have been at least 1.5 litres in there. The price? 10 Euro!!!! His drink cost more than the meal. Doh, lesson learnt.
Today (Friday) we visited the Chateau at Fontainebleau. After setting out at a time finally compromised on (8.30am) we arrived at midday. OK so Steve was correct in the fact that we should have left earlier. Located around 60 kilometers outside of Paris the Chateau was the original palace that royalty used to occupy until the royal court was moved to Versailles. A lot less touristy than Versailles (and in this not as well signposted to provide good “tourist idiot” proofing) we finally managed to figure out how to get into the Chateau. Personally I prefer Versailles for the incredible beatuy and colour of the gardens but Fontainbleau was far less pressured “tourist wise”. Interesting areas to look at would include walking in the gardens with the wild meadow flowers and checking out the bizarre “dog peeing” fountain in the Garden of Diana. What do I mean by this? Basically it is a round fountain with a circle of dogs that have the fountain water coming out like they are peeing. Can’t say this would be my fountain spot to sit on a hot sunny day!
OK so the cheese here in France (Paris) is amazing. Traditional cheese making uses non pasteurized milk which gives it the incredibly creamy texture and taste. The trade off for this though (for our tourist tummies) is gurgly stomachs and frequent trips to the restroom. As long as you can find a restroom (hopefully one that doesn’t cost 0.50c to use it) then you are OK. In a day of walking around the city we came across one public toilet which was a bit dodgey but when nature calls…
Another incredible must do in Paris is the chocolate crepe sold at the roadside stands. For a bargain 3.50 Euro you get a huge crepe with nutella and banana. Yummmmmm!!!! However, I think I have just discovered that I may have a hole in my tooth. Darn it! Well, it will have to wait until we start earning some pounds.
Although overcast this could never stop you from enjoying Paris. Temp has been quite cool but loving it after the heat of Dubai. Walked about 10 kilmetres today and also attended the shareholders meeting from my last job. Must say it was interesting and insightful to see a shareholders meeting. It was held at the Palais des Congres and in all honesty at least 85% of the attendees would have been 60 years old +. This gave a large insight into the company and more so listening to the future plans. Very exciting times. We managed to get onto Skype today as well and chatted to our families which was lovely. We are so priviledged to have such amazing technology that allows us to cheaply and at anytime connect with friends and family overseas, talking and even seeing them on camera. In the french language department, so far we have managed to order our dinner last night. Tried to get 2 metro tickets today and failed miserably. All in the fun of traveling however.
Well after a day of traveling and 3 days in Dubai we have arrived in Paris. I love this city!!!
Dubai was bizarre. Glad we have done it but not certain that it is a place that is high on the agenda to return to. The plan they have to make it a grand tourist destination and have all the incredible luxury etc is an interesting idea but at the end of the day a lot of it is fake. You think you are seeing an historic site then when you go up to it you see it is made of plaster. The extreme in weather was incredible (up to 46 degrees while we were there). Today however flying out it was much cooler. If I was to sum Dubai up it would be a hot, progressive destination that is doing all it can to build its future while trying to understand what kind of nation it will be eastern or western.
Paris on the other hand has not changed. Still incredible in its age, beauty and dignity. Now its time to hit the streets of Paris for a stretch after the plane ride.