Sunday, 27 April 2014

Home, sweet home.

I am writing this from Melbourne, in a bit of a jet lagged fog. I've unpacked, and had a huge amount of sleep, caught up with my loved ones, and am now trying to sort out uni and work and the rest of my non-travelling life.

Our last day in Paris, we packed up all our stuff and then cleared out of the apartment for a wee stomp around Montmartre. Mum and Marnie did more shopping and I did lots of window shopping, then we had crepes for lunch and came back to the apartment to collect our stuff. We booked a taxi to the airport, and it only took about half an hour, and cost just under 50 euros. It was INFINITELY preferable to taking the train, though that is doable. We had lots of time to kill at the airport, but once we were on the plane, we discovered we had booked our seats at the front of economy block, so we has oodles of extra leg room. In the months since we booked our seats, we'd forgotten this, and it was the best way to travel on an economy budget. I watched How I Live Now (amazing!) and the new version of Romeo and Juliet (not so amazing) and even managed an hour or so of sleep before we got to Dubai. Then we found we had booked the same seats on the second leg! We high-fived our past selves and settled down for a nearly 14 hour flight. I watched more television and movies, read my book, did codewords, dozed, was generally bored, but survived. We flew into Melbourne at 5.20am Sunday morning, and it took us about 20 minutes to get through passport control and customs. Dad was there to pick us up, and we were home by 6.50am.

I have had the most wonderful trip. I have had the most lovely company, and created some wonderful memories. I have a pile of souvenirs and gifts to sort out, and a somewhat jumbled life to return to, and now, a huge amount of money to save so I can eventually go on another trip. All my love xx

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Au revoir, City of Love and Light

Our last full day in Paris! We wanted to make it count. I went with Mum and Marnie to the Palais Royal gardens, where they were going to check out a bunch of passages, which are these little joined together covered walkways of shops. I headed off in the other direction and went to Sainte-Chapelle and La Conciergerie, two places I have been very interested in seeing, but haven't made it to yet. It's my third trip to Paris, and I wasn't going to leave without finally seeing them, especially as you can get a discounted ticket if you buy for each place at the same time, and a further discount if you're under 26. It only cost me 8.50 euros to see both. I walked right into the Conciergerie, which is a former royal palace and prison. It is particularly famous for housing Marie-Antoinette and numerous important prisoners during the Revolution. They have recreated Marie-Antoinette's cell and built a chapel where the original cell was. The Gothic architecture is also particularly beautiful, but it was very sobering seeing an enormous list of names, all people who were guillotined. There were different cells on display, all according to rank/wealth - pailleux for the very poor, which was pretty much just crowded cells with hay on the floor and no beds, pistoles might have a couple of beds and a table, and the very wealthy had a cell to themselves with space to do work. But they still had to pay for it, and often it was only a matter of days before they were executed and the privilege to pay was offered to another prisoner.

Afterwards I stood for about half an hour in the line for Sainte-Chapelle. It is most famous for it's stained glass, though it was originally built to house the relics of the Passion. It is also built with Gothic architecture, and the ceilings are really something to be admired. They were doing restoration on part of it and it was crowded inside, but the beauty of the place makes up for it. As I was going through security to be let in, the gendarme said something to me in French. I told him (in French) that I couldn't understand, because he was pointing to my phone and I thought there was something wrong. So then he asked in English for my number and I sort of laughed and shook my head and said 'I'm Australian' like an idiot, before I ran away.

I walked to Notre-Dame - the line was about a million people long, and I've been twice, so I didn't worry about going in, but I did go into the archeological crypt. It houses a bunch of Roman ruins that sit beneath the ground level, and provided extremely detailed scientific information about the agricultural history that went straight over my head. But it only cost 3 euros to get in (being under 26 gets you some decent discounts) and I got some good photos.

I walked back to meet Mum and Marnie. I bought a kebab on the way and the kebab guy told me he liked my eyes, so clearly the French men find the no-sleep, overheated, death-warmed-up, wrung-out-by-travel look a real turn-on. I sat and drank cucumber iced tea and read my Agatha Christie book while I waited for Mum and Marnie and they arrived bearing presents!! Mum had bought me both volumes of Jane Eyre, in French, 1886 editions, and they list the author as Currer Bell!! (Which was the pseudonym Charlotte Bronte wrote under). They are so beautiful!! I'm going to teach myself French with my French versions of Jane Eyre and Harry Potter. Yesm.

Mum and Marnie took me through the passages that surround the Palais-Royal gardens to show me a couple of cute bookshops they had found. The passages were very beautiful, and I'd like to see more of them one day. As we walked through the gardens, we saw people filming something (we've seen quite a few things being filmed on this trip). I tried to stickybeak and check if I recognised any French movie stars, but I couldn't. However, there was a paparazzo snapping away from behind some tables and chairs, so you never know.

Back to Montmartre for a wee rest before our tour tonight. I'll continue this afterwards!


Okay, back. Had a lovely tour of Montmartre, which I also did two years ago and you can read about here. There's been a few changes here and there, but we heard some great stories, some quite sad, some quite risque. There was a lot more said about Vincent Van Gogh on this tour than I remember - what an interesting dude. We are home now, super tired, but trying to do some last minute luggage organisation. We fly home tomorrow, and I can't believe this has come to an end. Frodsham seems like another lifetime, but it also feels like it's gone so quickly. I have loved traveling with Marnie again, and traveling with Mum has been really special. I feel so lucky to have been able to have this experience with them. I'm ready for a sleep in my own bed, and a shower in my own bathroom, but first, a plane flight to get through! I'll try and update this tomorrow at the airport, otherwise, I'll see you all in Melbourne. Au revoir.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Fun times at Shakespeare and Company

Several things happened today that are noteworthy:

1. Mum's back! We met her at Gare de Lyon after her train came back from Avignon and had lunch and swapped stories and it was wonderful to see her again.

2. I finished and submitted my assignment. Letters of congratulation, chocolates, flowers etc can be left at my house because I'm home on Sunday.

3. We all went back to Shakespeare and Company, where I browsed for a blissful half hour, bought a book about the history of the shop, and found out about an event tonight in celebration of Shakespeare's birthday!

4. Mum and I went back at 6.30 (Mum wanted to come with to make sure I wasn't murdered on the metro) and we were let in to the little banks of stools inside the shop. It was tiny, and cramped, and crowded, and we couldn't see the itty-bitty makeshift stage, and it was perfect. We sat next to an American guy who is living in Paris and we just talked and talked about books and travel for about half an hour before anything started. He was very well-read, with a very cheeky sense of humour and thought it was hilarious that I said 'Far out' because he hadn't heard anyone say it since Mick Jagger did a couple of decades ago. Rude. There was about half an hour of songs and poetry performed, then two people did a scene between Helena and Demetrius. Then a bunch of people performed Tom Stoppard's version of Hamlet that went for about 25 minutes. It was hilarious. Most of it I couldn't see, but their cobbled together version was still very entertaining, and the dude playing Hamlet reminded me a lot of Riley which made it even better. Afterwards, they filtered us out and let a whole bunch of people in who'd been waiting outside. They gave us wine and then Mum and I walked back to metro, trained to Abbesses, and bought crepes for dessert and took some home to Marnie. It was a fairly warm, mild evening in Paris and it was a great way to spend our time - I feel very lucky to be in Paris on Shakespeare's birthday.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Beautiful Giverny

Marnie and I were up and out the door early today (too early, it transpired, as we did a lot of waiting at the train station) to go to Giverny! The train ride is only 45 minutes out of Paris and then you spend 20 minutes on a shuttle bus from Vernon station to the village of Giverny. A round trip on the train sets you back about 28 euros and the shuttle bus round trip is 8 euros. Giverny is famous, of course, for being the home of the brilliant Impressionist painter Claude Monet. His house and gardens are open to visit and you can see so many beautiful and recognisable scenes from his art. He himself was the garden architect and it has been recreated and preserved with such love and merit. We had beautiful sunny, spring weather, and the light on so much colour was stunning. His house is pink (amazing) but the inside has some seriously gorgeous interior decorating in blues and yellows, and a huge amount of art on the walls. You can see his studio, his bedroom, the beautiful kitchen and dining room - it really is a wonderfully preserved monument. But the real attraction is the gardens. The famous water lilies were not as plentiful on the water at this time, but the garden was stuffed to the brim with tulips, wisteria, hyacinth, violets, roses, poppies and approximately 5 bazillion other varieties of plants that I can't name, but are brilliantly colourful. We saw turkeys and chickens and a tiny little frog hidden on the banks of the pond, the famous Japanese bridge and the little riverboats. And the enormous gift shop, of course.

Ten points if you can spot the frog...

After Monet's house and gardens, we stopped for lunch (tea and baguettes, yum), then walked up the road to the church where he is buried. His grave is quite elaborate, but it contains quite a few members of his family as well. There is no fence or anything roping it off - it's so touching that he was buried in the place he loved so much. We wandered up and down the main street (called Rue Claude Monet) looking in all the shops and galleries, killing time in the best way until our shuttle back to the station. There is an Impressionist Museum there, which we didn't go into today but it is supposed to be very good. There was one tiny gallery with scenes, sort of diorama things, created from little bits of rubbish, and they were arranged into little miniature artist studios. Very beautiful, but too expensive and large to take home to Aus! We had a drink, and climbed back onto the shuttle bus just as the rain started coming down. It continued in earnest while we waited for our train in Vernon, and then as we trundled back to Paris, but by the time we emerged out at metro stop in Montmartre, it had lessened to a pretty sunshower. We had crepes for dinner and people-watched, then walked home to the apartment! Very full day, but such a lovely way to spend it.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Assignment writing does not a particularly riveting day make

But it's pretty much done! I slept in a smidgen, then got up, ate something, did homework, showered, did more homework, then went for a walk with Marnie. This time we actually made it to Sacre Coeur and it's beautiful views of the city, though it was still quite crowded. But it was a good walk, with lots of stops for souvenir shopping and admiring all the different artwork for sale in Montmartre. We bought a fresh, hot baguette, a couple more groceries, and an absolutely delightful mille-feuille pastry which turned out to be the best kind of vanilla slice. Then home again! More homework, a powernap, another walk down to check out where the post office was and to stop and sample some tea at a fancy gourmet tea store. Home! Homework! Then the sweet relief of finishing something that you have been dreading for some time. I have not submitted it yet because I may tweak a couple of things in the next few days, but it is safe and sound and there, and I don't need to jump the hurdle of actually writing the damn thing again. Phew. So now I'm relaxing for the rest of the night!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Au revoir Maman!

Mum left for Avignon this morning, which meant we were up and out of the apartment by 7.30, to make our way to Gare de Lyon to see her off! We found her train and platform with no trouble and she shouted us hot drinks which tasted wonderful. We stood on the platform to wave her off and I felt like a proud parent, which is an odd way to feel about your mother. Afterwards, Marnie and I took the metro to Saint-Lazare and bought tickets to Vernon, to see Monet's garden. We will probably use them on Tuesday, but I wanted to make sure we had them organised. I tried out my French (the ticket people spoke great English anyway, but I like trying) and success! Then we headed back to the apartment.

I have an assignment I need to complete before I leave Paris, because it is due the day after I arrive home, and the very last thing I will be capable of while jetlagged is cramming an assignment. It's not ideal, but it is what it is. So today and tomorrow are assignment writing days. Now, I'm not just going to sit in the middle of beautiful Montmartre staring at my computer screen, so we broke up the rest of the day with walks. We went to Rue Lepic again to get a couple more groceries, some souvenirs, and a fresh baguette. Then at home we assembled amazing lunches and I sat and did my assignment while I ate and listened to the sounds of Montmartre floating through the window. It's a warm and sunny day today, so we went for another walk a couple of hours later and headed for Sacre Coeur Basilica. The crowds were enormous. I think it was a combination of Easter church-goers, Sunday afternoon Parisians and market enthusiasts, people visiting the city for the long weekend, and the nice weather. Anyway, we couldn't even get close to the basilica, so we walked a sort of scenic route out of the crowds and down through the tiny streets. I bought important essentials, like macarons, and then home again! Now I'm procrastinating and Marnie is reading her book. Lovely day, and I even got a bit of work done (I've really got to knuckle down tomorrow though).