France – Part 2

After Paris the rest of our holiday was spent in Lille. We stayed at the SuiteHotel for a fab price (love the internet!!!). It suited us brilliantly as it was situated directly across the road from the train station and had movies on demand plus internet all included. The room was bigger than our bedroom at home with shower AND bath, bliss. It truly was a relaxing break in Lille as we wandered the streets and at night caught up with lots of movies we missed on the big screen!

We also caught up with our mate A and met his girlfriend who took us out to a fab restaurant (complete with some Moet) and a great day trip to De Panne in Belgium.

Steve even got some fillings attended to while we were there, thanks A. It was great to see A in action as a dentist!

Here are some pics of our time in Lille and Belgium.

First class to Lille on the train! Same price as 2nd!
The chair!
On the beach in De Panne (before the rain)
Town square
Hot chocolate

The French Connection – Part 1

We had a fabulous 8 days in France with perfect blue skies and up to 35 degrees (only a bit of rain one day when visiting De Panne in Belgium). It was our 6th wedding anniversary, which reminds me Happy Anniversary to mum & dad Sears. Happy Birthday to A-L and P.

Each time we go to Paris it is harder and harder to find a free Wifi connection besides going to McDonalds and buying a coke in order to use their service. Many people are more aware now of 1) protecting their connections and 2) businesses charging for connections instead of providing it as a free service to their customers. Get with it people, it is a necessity now! One hotel we stayed it was trying to charge 25 Euros for a 24 hour connection. I don’t think so mate! Hence I have to do the posts now, after the fact.

Anyway, last Thursday night took the bus down to London (see previous post) ready for our Eurostar journey early Friday morning. We arrived at Paris Gare du Nord around 10.30am in time for some breakfast. We decided to walk from Gare du Nord to our hotel in the Latin Quarter. A slight problem as I hadn’t thought to bring our Paris map. Generally you don’t need one as maps are often posted on bus shelters for tourists. However a back up is a good idea for one reason. If you walk in the totally wrong direction, leaving the tourist area, then you don’t get those maps as frequently! Guess what we did. Ah huh. Thankfully Steve had brought Susie (our GPS) with him. Thanks love, that got us back on track.

About 2 hours of strolling through the streets of Paris we arrived at our hotel to offload our bags and continue our journey. We stayed at the Hotel Observatoire Luxembourg as it was across the road from the gardens that I love. As our feet were rather sore we spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the gardens and watching the local businessmen playing Pentanque during their afternoon lunch break before returning to work (playing in suits and all!). That evening we visited Rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter to find something for dinner. Found a lovely Algerian restaurant where we had couscous and a chicken tagine. Yum. The restaurant owner was a rather keen man and gave us a free wine taster and a refreshing mint tea after dinner. I think he was trying to ensure we stayed a long time in order to pull in other diners as there were few other people in the restaurant.

On Saturday we visited the Petit Palais so I could see my favourite work of art (La Femme au singe) but it was closed! I was rather disappointed but you expect these things on occasion. Of course we then headed to our favourite restaurant near Abbesses metro (Le Relais Garcon) for our heart stopping salad. That evening we had a call from some friends that we had been trying to get in touch with. We met them at the Paris Plage for a picnic. Paris Plage (beach) happens ever August where areas along the Seine are turned into beach with sand, deck chairs, music, dancing, free games such as pentanque, fencing etc. Dancing areas operate throughout summer on the left bank and our friends N and C had a dance in the samba area. People just turn up with music and friends and specific areas are for specific styles of dance like samba, rock and roll, ballroom, country etc. It’s fabulous fun with a good vibe. About midnight we headed to N & C’s car and they took us on a tour of Paris by night. We took the Champs-Élysées but soon gave up as the traffic jams were incredible even at that hour of night. We went for a walk under the Eiffel Tower which was still heaving with tourists and even though it was midnight it remained very humid.

Sunday saw more walking and by this time I had developed some very nasty blisters on 4 of my toes. We went to dinner at N & C’s that night and had a wonderful evening catching up, talking to A-L in Australia on the phone, meeting new people and of course eating N’s wonderful cooking. Thanks so much guys for an awesome night and the lift back to our hotel!

As always Paris leaves us in awe of its beauty. Some observations this time around as our 5th stay here include locals speaking more English freely (possibly due to the height of the tourist season?), August means a number of shops are shut as the locals take their summer holidays, tourists are in astronomical abundance so don’t expect to get into any places without large queues and prices have definitely risen since we were last there in April. Next post will cover our other 4 days in Lille.

Playing in the park - Petanque
Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg
View from our hotel window
Paris bike scheme
Another view from our window
Algerian tagine
Petit Palais and fountainPont Alexandre III
Feeding the bees in the park
Isn't she beautiful at night!
Fabulous street with a plethora of art shops & food places
Sainte Chapelle
Coffee in Paris is about looking out not in

What time is it?

5.50am that’s what time! We got to London last night on the bus. Only 5 quid each. Underground was heaving with tourists! Got to our hotel near the Eurostar terminal at 10pm last night. Took a quick walk to get the lay of the land and then hit the sack. Leaving for the Eurostar soon. Here’s some pics from St Pancras station that we took last night . Gorgeous station.

Je ne comprends pas

I just had to put that in as we head to France tonight. Yee hah! The heading above (Je ne comprends pas = I don’t understand) is one of the few lines I NEVER use while in France if I can help it. We always give it a go, more often looking silly but hey, you have to try.

I got my haircut last night before going away. The flatmates seemed to like it. Not sure if I’m sold on it or not. The idea has been to go shorter and shorter in length until I get it all chopped off. For the first time the hairdresser mentioned that as my hair is so thick it just goes really boofy the shorter it gets and may not sit well. Thanks for that, could of told me earlier. I think I am using this as an excuse to chicken out having always had long hair it feels very strange. Anyway, here’s the current look (including copper tones). Sorry about the quality of the photo and the cheesy grins, I have to start using the camera again as the Iphone quality is really not up to scratch at times for posts.
The new look

A weekend off!

Steve had a weekend off and finally the sun was shining. As we are heading off on holiday soon we thought it best to stay in Bristol and get ourselves organised. We did manage to get a bit of fun in as well.

Sunday we went to Bath and ended up at Jamie Olivers Italian restaurant in the Milsom Place mall. Wow! We had forgotten had wonderful Italian food can be once you get past the stock standard pastas that people pass off as Italian. Steve started with some green olives with a black olive tapenade and music bread. I had stuffed pepperdews. The olives were wonderful (as were the other items but the olives were particularly note worthy). Next Steve had the sardines and I had pork skewers. I had actually ordered a crabmeat spagattini but somehow that got mixed up with pork skewers (???). Even though salt and pepper is nicely presented on the tables you don’t need it! Everything is so well balanced in flavours that it would be a crime to add anything else. We topped it off with an affogato! A shot of espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or gelato). Only the second place in the UK that we have come across that had it on the menu. A bit costly at 4.50 each but the espresso was excellent with a very creamy vanilla ice cream. Yum. It has inspired me to venture more into some Italian recipes.

We also managed to get to Baristas Coffee Collective on Saturday for a coffee before they closed. When the owner is on the machine he tends to be rather flexible about opening and closing hours which can be very frustrating. They do the best coffee in Bristol! Sorry about the quality of the pictures, what can you expect from IPhone photos.

Best coffee in Bristol
Green olives, tapenade and music bread
Pork skewers and sardines
Yum! Affogato
Jamie's Italian in Bath