Sunday in Paris

Today the final of the Tour De France is on. Sharon and Paul left early to get a good spot while Steve and I decided to do some shopping and visit the Rodin Museum. However it would appear that nothing in the central district is open on Sundays! Oops. So it was off to the Rodin Museum instead for the day.

Works of Rodin are housed inside a lovely building but the most interesting stuff is in the gardens which are spectacular. On reflection I would suggest paying the 1 Euro for the garden entry and don’t bother with the museum. That is just my personal opinion as I have decided I really am not a Rodin fan. I will admit though that the sculpture “The Kiss” is rather cool but not worth the extra 5 Euro to view it. Maybe I just don’t get his work but many of the models and poses seem to come across as being quite tormented and uncomfortable. On a positive note, the gardens are spectacular and we spent the day lounging and snoozing in the garden chairs in the sun. It reached 28-29 degrees today so it was perfect for a spot under a tree out of the sun. Well worth a visit to see the gardens.

Yesterday we visited Montmartre and found the restautrant that we love La Relais Garcon. The salads from here are phenomenal. Thanks Axel for introducing this place to us. We look forward to it every time we come to Paris. At this stage, we are now incredibly tired, feet are sore, spending money is getting low but we have enjoyed Paris yet again. This city, the culture, the lifestyle, the people, food and the ease of the metro totally rocks! As we have said before, smile, use what french you have to try to communicate (don’t be obnoxious and expect everyone to speak english, you are in their country) and many great experiences will unfold before you.

A summary of places

It is now Saturday and over the last 7 days we have seen and done so much.
Although we didn’t see too much of Geneva I don’t think it has met my expectations. I thought it would be a architecturally rich city using interesting modern design but this did not appear to be the case.

Chamonix surprised me to no end as to the beauty and quaintness of the region. Very Swiss in look and feel but still french through and through and very proud of this. The people here were always friendly and willing to help, even going out of their way to assist us on occassion. Nestled in the valley surrounded by towering mountains, Chamonix has all the aspects that you would imagine for an alpine, sporting region. With incredible casual walks, full on hiking, climbing, skiing, ice climbing, canoeing, paragliding, mountain biking the list goes on as to all the sports you could get into here. The price of food is significantly more expensive here but if you are clever, shop around using the supermarkets and use the kitchen if you have hired an apartment then you can still save some money.

Grenoble again was a surprise. Surrounded by hills it is a bigger city with a smaller town feel. I really enjoyed this place but would still probably pick Chamonix over all of them. The cable car was great fun and the river (Isere) wonderful to watch as it flys by. It doesn’t seem to be a place though that people use as a base for sports like in Chamonix.

Finally, Paris. We love this place. Currently it is warm, sunny and great summer concerts are on along the Seine, with music, dancing, petanque, fencing, “beaches” that have been created along the Seine river walls, people eating, laughing and watching the world go by. More on Paris later as we have to get going. Off to Montmartre today.

Mer de Glace

Another spot in Chamonix that we went to was Mer De Glace (sea of ice) called so due to the bands that seem to look like waves on the sea on top of the glacier. I think this is the 2nd largest glacier in France? Something like that. Anyway, here are some more photos. My favourite bit was the caves cut into the glacier.

Chamonix, France

We are sitting here in the sun next to the Office de Tourisme in Chamonix, France writing this to you. It is a free connection and the number of travellers here sitting around in the sun is great to see. We are all frantically checking emails, blogging and calling home on Skype.

On Saturday, after an hour and a half delay our Easyjet flight finally took of to Geneva. We thought we might miss our connection from Geneva to Chamonix but it appears that others were running late as well.

What can I say about the countryside and Chamonix but magnificent. The mountains are as spectacular as the South Island yet more accessible. What I mean from this is that you can climb, ski, walk, mountain bike, ice climb etc etc all with ease in this area. It caters for all levels of fitness and ability.

The favourite things so far – Mer de Glace and the train ride up to this glacier. The walk out to the glacier was nice but more spectacular was the ice cave carved into the ice. The cable car was stopped midday due to high winds so this meant quite a hike up to the top, but we did it!

Today, Monday was the trip up to Mont Blanc. The weather wasn’t looking that great but as we got higher we cleared the clouds and were on top of the world. Incredibly breathtaking.

The cable car up to Aiguille du Midi is well worth the 38 Euro. Tomorrow we head for Grenoble. Photos to be posted soon as this battery is about to run out.

Bon Journee.

p.s. finally got another internet connection although briefly so here are some shots so far…In addition to the above. We all suffered from altitude sickness in one form or another. Myself experiencing dizziness, shortness of breath, slight headache and a feeling of nearly passing out. Cool!

Run in with the law

To be honest the title sounds more exciting than the facts but I was having a slow blog week. In the weekend as we were cruising in our high stylin’ Rover (read – yeah right), we noticed that a police car had pulled off on the same road and was travelling behind us. As I had decided to take a slip road to get around some slow traffic I thought the police might have been a bit curious as to my speed but they didn’t turn their lights on at all. Oh well – maybe they thought my idea was a clever one?

Anyway, at the round about, they went the same way as us. Turn left, they turned left. Do a right for fun, oops they turned right. You pesky police car, I’ll show you. 100 mile an hour, crest the hill, hit the ground, drift through a few curves, hand brake turn 180 degrees, accelerate towards them…OK, so in reality we are still in our Rover that has a top speed of 0 to 60 in 1 hour driven by me (still frequently referred to as “safety mum”). We continued cruising at my grandpa speed of 30 mile an hour. However, I was now starting to get the feeling that they were following me.

We had managed to make it all the way home and still they continued to follow but not put any lights on to pull us over. Maybe they think we are on the lookout for business as we live near a rather dodgy area of town? I finally pulled into the street we regularly park our car in and the police car pulled up next to us. Slowly we rolled down the window to look at two of the most good looking police officers you will ever see. Steve and I wonder if the constabulary in our region has a “Baywatch” criteria for recruiting their officers as we haven’t seen an “average” looking cop yet. Anyway, the reason they had been following us for the last 5 miles is that our brake light was out. Have a nice day, they said and drove off. Are you kidding me? All that for a brake light? Told you the title was more exciting than the facts. He he he.

St Pauls yet again

Can you believe that this is the second carnival we have attended at St Pauls. I can’t anyway. We did this on Saturday last weekend but I had forgotten to do a blog about it. Anyway, the weather was miserable but it stopped raining in time for the parade. We managed to get some photos before the parade of everyone getting prepared but they seemed quite scattered this year so we didn’t know where to go to get the main photos of the main groups preparing. Anyway, this is a small sample of the colour and vibrancy that is the St Pauls Carribbean Carnivale. There was a rather large police presence this year due to some unfortunate incidents including alcohol and knives last year but we found the mood to be fun loving and happy. Welcome to England.

Hampstead, London

We are back from house sitting and had a lovely day in London to meet up with another friend from Australia.

Penelope was only in London for one day so we drove down on Sunday, parked at Kew and navigated the London rail system to Hampstead to meet up with her.  It was a rather miserable day so we chose to sit in a cafe, Carluccio’s, for a coffee. After having placed our order Steve noticed that the barista had an Australian accent so he was quick to change our order to flat whites! We miss flat whites! The Aussie (from Brisbane but lived in Sydney for 10 years) was happy to make them and little did we know that it would create a huge debate amongst the italian staff wanting to know what a flat white was. Very humourous indeed. They were convinced that what we were asking for was similiar to an Americano. NO WAY! Next they believed it was similar to a macchiato. Close but not quite.

So what is a flat white? 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk which has been volumised (therefore it is a bit thicker in consistency but def. NOT frothed) then served in a small cup (215-240ml size) so it is a relatively strong coffee.

Anyway, we ended up having 2 of these each. Bliss.

It was great catching up with Penelope and felt like we had seen her just yesterday not over a year ago. We then went for a few photos up on the heath before we departed. The Hampstead area is pretty nice, obviously a rather wealthy area judging by the homes and cars parked around the place. Steve is now convinced that the Maserati is his car of choice!

House sitting

This weekend we are house sitting for a friend. Well in effect house sitting would mean that no one else is here, and considering another flat mate is still here we are really probably just keeping her company. Had a great sleep last night, the first time in ages without having to wear ear plugs to bed! It is pretty incredible what you can hear in the dead quiet of night. It was so silent that I could hear the blood pulsing in my ears. Does that make sense? Anyhow, very interesting.

The house also has Sky TV. The joy of channel surfing. Woo hoo. Small pleasures I know. We don’t watch telly at our house as there is nothing on. In fact, there is not much on Sky TV either come to think of it, just the pleasure of pushing all the buttons to see what pops up.

Sunday we head to London (yet again) this time to meet up in the afternoon with another friend from Australia. Unfortunately she is not here for long so it will be a fleeting visit before she goes to Scotland then France. For having been in the UK for over a year now, we have not really spent much time in London at all. However, over June and July I will have been there 7 times (3 times for work, the rest for pleasure).

Anyway, it is time to get back to my channel surfing, maybe even make myself a delicious jam crumpet for breakfast. Speaking of crumpets, did you know that another X-Files movie is being released. Looking forward to it.

Cheers – Carleen

P.s. A bit of trivia for you in case you are wondering what a crumpet has to do with the X-Files. The character of Scully played by Gillian Anderson was referred to as “the thinking man’s crumpet”.

Movie: The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian

First off, loved this even more than “The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe”! The graphics were amazing, stunning scenery of NZ of course, enjoyed having the same cast back from the last film, costuming marvellous, musical score fabulous…

Check out the Disney website for the movie. I would go back to see this movie over and over again. It captures the images I had made up in my head as I read the books as a kid, the creatures are magnificent and the story telling keeps you engaged through the whole film. 5 out of 5.