Continuing the Paris life.

With our navago travel ticket we can go to Versailles.

It was so easy to get to and we packed our baguettes, fruit and water and hit the estate for a massive day of walking and ogling.

Once you get through seeing inside the main palace and all the throngs of people ( was anyone left in Paris) you can really enjoy what this incredulous estate has to offer.

The gardens are immense. 230 acres of gardens to be precise but in total the land is over 2000 acres.

There is just SOOO much to see.

In all honesty a day doesn’t really cover it. So my suggestion is go early, take a sarong or something similar if it is a warm day and do what we did,take a little snooze under a tree for a good break so you can get the most out of this awesome place.

I’m not going to go on and on but really try not to miss Marie Antoinette’s little farm hamlet.

Also visit the summer palace also called the estate of Trianon.

We prefer this to the large palace but that’s our opinion only.

The above gives you an idea how big Versailles really is. You’ve all seen the photos of how huge the palace is so just look at it in perspective of the whole estate and you will see what I’m talking about.

Needless to say we covered some ground over 23000 steps for the day.

I was quite keen to go rowing on the canal but James wasn’t, he could tell who would be doing the rowing and who would be lying back relaxing and he didn’t see his role as favourable 😂.

Another day we chose to meet for a 2:30 pm free walking tour of The Marais area of Paris. You do pay the guide a tip which the suggested price was slightly more than we expected but hey it was a great look around somewhere we hadn’t fully explored before with some invaluable local knowledge so well worth it.

The great thing about our navigo pass is that we just don’t think about not going somewhere because you can always find your way home using the bus and metro network together. We also don’t mind going for a walk knowing we can always get a ride home if we get too tired.

This way we have ventured out all over locally and just enjoyed finding interesting places.

We also walked to the Eiffel Tower and were going to walk along the Seine when my sandal strap snapped and it was easy to just hop on the metro into the city where we knew a Decathlon outdoor store was and purchase a new pair.

When friends from back on the Coast were in town and called saying they were at The Tower, we knew we could meet them there quickly and easily and go off with them anywhere and not worry about getting home.

Another day we used it to go to the other recommended Chateau Fontainebleau.

This was a magnificent day out and we thoroughly enjoyed both the Château, it’s grounds and the town it is in.

The Chateau was unbelievably less crowded than Versailles and as the home of so many Kings, Queens and the Emperor Bonaparte richly decorated in that over the top elegance that only royalty of those times seemed to be able pull off.

We would highly recommend a trip here to anyone who either has already been to Versailles or just doesn’t do crowds very well.

Some place I have wanted to visit from when I first read about them but hadn’t managed to either find them or have the time on previous visits to Paris ( still can’t believe I can say that. Doesn’t seem that long ago that a once only visit was all I could hope to have here) was the Catacombs of Paris.

The story of this incredible but strange now popular tourist attraction is well worth a little research on google if you’re so inclined.

But to save time I’ve taken a few photos off the catacombs official site and I use them purely as reference material only and claim in no way that I did this research.

It seems we keep adding to our list of places to go and see but we keep going out everyday and tick at least one off our list.

Having been to our local flea markets we decided to go to the BIG PARIS MARKETS one Saturday and were just totally blown away by the scale of these markets and the variety of goods on offer and also the way they are displayed.

From your paddy’s market type of stall right through to arcades full of gorgeous furniture, paintings, chandeliers, rugs and so much more all which could easily have been in any Chateau or stately home.

There was modern art and furniture from all different eras.

Clothing, Nic nacks, even a stuffed lion, oh and a space ship.

So much to see you could spend weekends here just wandering taking it all in.

Another place we wanted to visit was the Buttes Chamond Parc so the next day we made our way on the metro and bus.

The park is full of people running, cycling, exercising whether it was fitness classes, yoga or tai chi. There were families picnicking, lovers like us strolling and everyone enjoying the sunshine.

This isn’t a flat park but rather lots of rolling hills and bridges as well as a big pond circling around. With all the trees and green spaces it’s a nice reprieve from the city.

From there we took the bus down towards the Canal Saint- Martin.

A lively area full of things to do on the canal or on its banks.

There were row boats, motor boats, restaurants and bars both on the canal in boats or on the land. Children’s playgrounds, sandy areas for deck chairs and lots of people watching to be had.

The only spoiler was the condition of the canal itself a real shame that rubbish has been left to build up and algae.

Still we were glad to have found yet another spot in Paris we wouldn’t have seen if we’d only had a week here.

The next day we were off to Orly airport to pick up a car for four days to go see our friend Brigitte which I’ve written up about separately.

Back to Paris after our wonderful time away we settled in for our last nine nights of living in Paris.

We dropped our car off at the airport on Thursday night rather than trek out there again Friday morning and we took two buses home; all on our navigo card.

The next day we lounged at home. James did quite a bit of office work on the iPad and I spent time writing about our time away and looking at our photos.

We had planned to walk around the city that evening as the 13th is an open night at fire stations and lots of parties but we ended up relaxing with a wine at home instead.

We didn’t know about the big parade on Bastille day down the Champs-Élysées or we would have gone. We saw it on the tv and were disappointed we hadn’t made it there.

Anyway we did go to see the fireworks off the Eiffel Tower that night.

They started at about ten past eleven and not too far away from where we are is a great area for viewing them.

We weren’t the only ones with the same idea and it was a very well behaved crowd of mostly locals who oohed and ahhed as you do when something is done so well as were the fireworks that night.

Well done Paris. It was really spectacular with a great use of the tower, using sparkling lights, moving patterns projected up and down the tower and of course spectacular use of fireworks. A 30 minute entertainment for all.

The next day Sunday the 15th was WORLD CUP FINAL DAY.

We started the day wandering down to the local Sunday markets and looking for a venue to watch the cup final that was starting at 5pm. We found a great bar and was told 3:30 would be a great time to arrive. Unfortunately we arrived about 3:45 and there wasn’t a seat to be had so we wandered back towards home and found a spot in a smaller bar with a great view of the tv screen and settled in.

Several beers and of course with a score of 4-2 there were quite a few moments of rapturous cheering to be had. Car going past beeping their horns and General good spirits.

It was fantastic to be here for their win and a great memory of our time in Paris.

After the game there was dancing and much jubilation on the streets around.

after all the excitement of the last few days we spent the next day at home again catching up on affairs from home etc. But by Tuesday we were ready to go off exploring again. This time we made our way to Provins and incredible Medieval town out of Paris which fortunately we could still get to with our magical navigo pass.

James didn’t really know where we were going and I had only decided to chose here on looking at someone else’s blog.

Winner winner chicken dinner.

What a great place. I don’t know really what to say but it was a great day and here are the photos.

But I should mention the church was built 1000 years ago ( third picture down). And King Henry the first lived in the tower the only circular tower built in a square base.

The day till our departure started to draw closer and we spent a few days in the last week finalising some plans and starting others and of course had a look at our packing.

We had booked a 15kg check in bag in case we needed to and decided that we would any way just to give us the opportunity to take a few books and some toiletries we had that were over the 100 ml size.

we have now started to look forward to our new adventure where swimming will feature and a week visit from a great mate from my teenage years in NZ Craig.

On one of our last days we ended up having a massive walk around Paris and walked home. My home made sangria never tasted so good. But we saw some beautiful sunflowers and mounted police officers. We also could see the great clean up the city had done after their huge weekend.

On the Friday our last full day in France we took the train out to the town of Rambouillet. Here this a lovely Chateau with some very nice grounds.

The Chateau to be fair doesn’t show off a lot of rooms nor a lot of furniture. It does however boast to being the summer home of the Presidents of France and where heads of state are received. On the ground floor is an extremely ugly room all made of marble which is where the first G8 summit was held.

The interior of the rest of the Chateau is Rococo and Neo-Pompeian style.

There was however a particularly strange exhibition on throughout most of the rooms while we were there.

Some very weird taxidermy, some odd animal skin yurts with peep holes in to see lit up animal designs. Anyway made it interesting if not quite in keeping with the property.

The formal French gardens hold canals and six islands and also an English garden. We made the mistake of napping under a tree and a man came along and blew his whistle at us to get off the grass. Oops.

The grounds also house a couple of quirky buildings one which is la Laiterie de la Reine otherwise translated to The Queen Dairy. Built by Louis the XVI for Marie Antoinette it holds an unusual sculpture for a dairy called Almathee and the Nymph.

And the other odd building was a very ordinary country home with the most unusual interior a round high walled room completely and richly decorated with shells.

The sea shelled thatched roofed cottage was built in 1779 by the Duke of Penthievre for the Princess of Lamballe.

We saw the Dairy and the sea shell cottage on a guided tour which was free with our entrance ticket and the only way you were able to view them. Unfortunately the entire hour tour was in French but we got to see them and that was our ultimate aim.

It was one of the only days we’ve seen rain and we got caught out after having nothing but great weather. Still we enjoyed the outing and were home in time for our little cocktail drinks before dinner and to relax on our last night of our French experience.

Thanks to the many people here who have shown us tolerance and patience with our non existent French apart from the few cursory and obligatory Hello, thank you and please.

In a city of 2,250,000 locals welcoming almost 25,000,000 tourists a year I have found every one to be extraordinarily pleasant considering how many times they get asked for help by strangers, have the trains and metro seats taken by tourists when after a day at work they would love a seat. The bad behaviour by some tourists must rankle at times but they accept that the tourists pay a lot of wages etc. There will always be that person who has a bad experience and lets it ruin their stay or make that their focus on storytelling but mostly around the world if you’re polite and respectful to others they give it right back.

Thanks Paris you’re very charming for a big city and we leave with lots of great memories.

Next stop Cavtat Croatia.

Thanks for joining the ride.

BRIVE-LA-GAILLARDE, 9-12th July 2018

Back in September 2017 while James and I were doing our month in Sanur, Bali we met the lovely Brigitte from Brive in France.

We have non existent French but Brigitte has some English and we made it work and we enjoyed her company.

So when she once again invited us to come stay while we were in Paris we looked at our dates and decided to hire a little car and go country.

James did a great job of driving FiFi Fiat ( thanks for the name Christine Lavers).

We made a couple of food and liquid stops before succumbing to a flat tyre.

Being such a little car the spare was one of those small temp tyres and we had to drive at a reduced speed.

We finally made it to Brigitte’s home in the picture postcard town of Brive-la- Gaillarde.

What a lovely town and Brigitte’s home is a glorious traditional stone house on three levels with a wonderful eclectic mix of art, artifacts,and personal touches that makes her home both welcoming and fascinating.

Hugs and kisses greet us as do lily her little dog and Camina another dog she is looking after for a society that takes care of dogs for people who are unable to for a period of time. Perhaps they are in hospital or in Gaol.

We shared a lovely meal and her daughter Lea came for dessert and before we knew it we were ready for a shower and bed.

The next morning after breakfast on the terrace patio where we ate all our meals as the weather was just perfect for this, Eric took James to see about our flat tyre and they organised a replacement tyre to be fitted the next day.

Once they returned we all hopped into Eric’s car for a day tripping around the Dordogne countryside.

What a fabulous day with our friends we had.

The countryside is outstandingly beautiful and with the sun shining made everything glorious.

We started with a visit to Lascaux where a cave system filled with prehistoric paintings was discovered in 1940 by a young local boy walking with his dog. Returning a few days later with three friends they found the cave entrance led them into the most incredibly preserved prehistoric wall art and by 1948 this incredible find was open for public viewing.

Unfortunately the reality of doing this started a decline in the paintings quality and it was regretfully closed to public completely in 1963.

An incredible undertaking began to complete a totally authentic like experience with the opening of the Lascaux centre and recently only a few years ago a new and even more spectacular centre opened giving people a very much realistic experience of what this find looks like.

From here we whizzed around to Sarlat-la-Caneda.

One of those gobsmacking medieval towns that have you wandering around in awe at the architecture and the skill of the craftsmanship from so many centuries ago.

We love these places and as we wander around we also exclaim “well we’re not in Woy Woy now”.

The temperature was very warm so we sat at a very nice outdoor covered area for a drink from the bar/cafe before it was time to take the trip back to Brigitte’s home. We bade a fond farewell to our new friend Eric and he sped off to his evening shift at work leaving us all in awe as to how he would cope after driving us all around and walking in the heat.

Brigitte is one of those cooks who makes everything tasty and quickly prepared a large potato omelette (cooked in goose fat) to share along with the sweetest small vine roasted tomatoes and a simple salad of leaves, walnuts, pine nuts and sharp cheese shavings with a tasty vinaigrette. We opened the Moët and Chandon we had bought to share and a after dinner coffee we talked Brigitte into walking into the town centre to watch the end of the World Cup semi final which saw France make it into the Grand Final. There was much rejoicing in the town. Horns beeping, flag waving, cheering and singing and our walk home saw us all happy and ready for bed.

For our last full day Brigitte had us once again whizzing around the countryside in her little car with the roof down and with The Beatles playing we sang along and again marvelled at the countryside before we arrived at the hilltop town of Turenne.

Again we enjoyed winding through the streets and taking in the surrounding views.

But wait there’s more! From here we to Collonges La Rouge. All the little town is built in the same red brick and so carefully preserved and pristine that it’s no wonder this is a popular tourist spot. There were a lot more people here than our last stop where we seemed to be almost the only visitors amongst the locals. Still it didn’t detract from its overall attractiveness and we had a look at a few of the stores here as well.

Next we were back at Brigitte’s where she had a meal of duck and green beans on the table with a bottle of rose’ before you could blink.

By now we were realising you have to say no more at Brigitte’s restaurant or we would never fit in the little fiat for our drive back to Paris.

Brigitte and James picked up the new tyre so we were all good to leave the next day ( sadly).

And off we went again for an afternoon at Rocamadour.

Just when you think you’ve seen everything you come around the corner and see this place.

We are developing bulging eye tourist syndrome. Honestly we couldn’t believe what we were seeing.

Brigitte drove us to the other side of the gully so we could get the best pictures before driving back up to the top where we took the inclinator down to next level where we walked through the church. This stop is part of a pilgrimage walk so very sacred.

On the next level down was the town which had lost some of its charm by the over tourism and abundance of shops.

The crowds do detract somewhat but you still know you’ve seen somewhere extraordinarily special.

On the way home we stopped for some dinner ingredients as Brigitte had invited her best friend Hyam and her partner Yannick along with Brigitte’s son Adrienne and his girlfriend Sophie and her daughter Lea to come for drinks and a nibble type of dinner with James cooking the tasty thin sausages on the bbq.

I couldn’t believe that Brigitte took it all in her stride. We got home at 8pm the time everybody was expected. Luckily they were all fashionably late so we had a bit of time to get a few things together and Brigitte to make her famous “soup de champagne “ OMG. Yummo. Mix one cup each of sugar, lemon juice and Cointreau with lots of ice cubes then pour in champagne. ITS A WINNER.

We had a lovely lovely evening with almost everyone there speaking a little English.

We felt very welcomed and included. The weather has been divine and sitting outside with no flies is heavenly.

After Bisous bisous when everyone left we climbed the staircase for shower and bed and fell asleep feeling very happy.

Our last morning was spent breakfasting again on the terrace and then walking through Brive -la-Gaillarde, Brigitte’s home town with its historic centre and displays of windmills and umbrellas to celebrate summer.





We went to a little food market where some goodies for lunch were purchased and then back home for lunch of figs stuffed with foie gras, salad with slices of duck and nuts and I think the right term for our other dish is duck/ goose rilletts.

Finished off with goat cheese from Rocamadour and of course for Brigitte and I a glass of rose’

What a fabulous way to end our true living with a local experience.

Our goodbyes were heartfelt and with sadness that our time together had come to an end.

Our drive back was thankfully uneventful, no punctures and we dropped the car back at Orly airport and took the bus home rather than returning it the next morning.

Our few days away were just what we needed. A breath of country air and a smiling friend to share some laughs with.

PARIS. MAY 31st- JULY 21st. The first four weeks.

Having made the trip across from Dover to Paris on the Thursday 31st May we stayed one night in a cheap hotel near the bus station as it was an 8 pm arrival and we weren’t due to take the keys of our apartment in the 15th till the next day.

We had booked this seven weeks early in 2017 with the idea it would give us plenty of time to really live like a local.

As it turned out it was another lesson in why the slow travel comes into its own.

My mother’s illness escalated so quickly that my trip to spend time with her while she was well enough to enjoy the visit became a mercy dash to make it back in time to see her before she passed.

After meeting Andie the owner on the Friday I booked my flight back to New Zealand for the Sunday evening.

From Friday till Sunday mums condition had worsened to the point I was worried I wasn’t going to make it back in time.

Fortunately I did and I got to say goodbye to my mum both in person and at her lovely service.

Mum knew I wasn’t that great with dates so I knew she chose our wedding anniversary to pass away so I’ll never forget the anniversary of her passing.

Mum was nearly 90 so it was a celebration and congratulations for reaching such a great age that we celebrated on the Tuesday before I left on the Friday to return back to Paris.

I was well supported by family and incredible friends and I got to enjoy some catch up with both these groups whilst I was in New Zealand.

James remained in Paris for the 13 days I was away and really got to know his way around using the transport and his navago pass we had purchased that first day in the city. So on my return he proved a great tour guide.

I was extremely lucky by getting some good rests on both trips there and back and didn’t succumb to jet lag either ends which meant I was ready to start making use of the five weeks we still had in Paris.

On the Sunday 17 th June we started the day by walking to the big market held each Sunday just down the street, covering quite a few blocks you can purchase all your weekly food needs with fish, meat, vegetables, fruits, cheeses,flowers, sweet treats , breads and so much more.

We luckily found it not too difficult buying with our non existent French language skills but a polite Bonjour certainly helps.

We bought quite a lot for our €49 and look forward to using our fresh produce over the next days.

After returning home and putting our goodies away we took the bus travelled into Luxembourg gardens which were just gorgeous with plenty of different areas for people to enjoy including hiring little miniature sailboats to race across the manmade pond.

We ate our baguettes that we had made up with salad fillings at home and walked from there to the Pantheon basilica. We weren’t immediately sure if we would bother paying the charge to go in but decided it would be interesting to see the crypts which held the likes of Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Alexander Dumas, Pierre and Marie Curie as well as many famous French citizens from the resistance and other circles of French life.

It was magnificent but nothing could beat the 3€ tour to the top of the dome outside with 360 degree views of the city I would easily say it is the best value when it comes to getting the overview of the city. Highly recommended.

By the time we got home we were keen for our dinner which we made from ingredients bought that morning at our market shopping trip and the pork we used in the stir fry was the tenderest we had ever eaten.

The next day we did some office work before we headed out to Montparnasse to look around.

Not as exciting as the previous day but I did manage to buy a couple of pairs of light weight cotton pants at a reduced rate to replace the pairs I’ve been wearing for over a year now and James bought some weetbix from Marks and Spencer’s food market to add to the marmite we got for him yesterday.

Our apartment is very comfortable with a full kitchen and user friendly lounge,dining,bedroom,bathroom and separate toilet. The laundry is in the basement where we have our own washing machine.

The place is full of all the necessities for living long term and our lovely landlords Andie and Georges had James for dinner one evening whilst I was away. They live in the building next door and are delightful Andie originally bodes from New York but has lived in Paris with her French husband Georges for many years. She’s a little pocket rocket and has a warm and friendly manner, just what strangers to town are looking for.

Continuing our exploration of the city we decided to tick one of our list places off by arriving in time for the opening of The Musee d’Orsay to find it was subject to a strike and likely to open later.

We decided to check it out again another day and that we would now walk down to Notre Dame Cathedral and mooch around the Latin Quarter. We spent four hours strolling the waterfront and all around Ile St-Louis before walking around Notre Dame.

As the queues were extensive and we had both been before we skipped along to the Latin Quarter and enjoyed all the restaurants, cafes and busy scene there, whilst looking for The Breakfast in America diner we had read about in a book by the owner whom documented his trials and wins in setting up the business in Paris. We weren’t interested in eating there the prices pretty hefty and it was packed but we were happy to find it and James recognised the author who was hands on working in the diner.

Taking the metro back to two stops before ours we walked through those neighbourhoods and noted that there were a lot of well patronised bistros and cafes during the fairly lengthy lunch time service. May return there for a meal of the day sometime soon.

With such a good length of time we have been able to go out everyday and see different parts of the city without having to race. Some days we are out four or five hours and others more, it really depends on when we feel we’ve seen enough for the day and how many of those hours have been spent walking or climbing stairs to get the view.

We’re very lucky that one of our local buses takes us across the seine, past The Louvre and up to Montmartre.

This is a great trip and we’ve made the most of it and the metro as we get around finding new suburbs to spend time in.

Sometimes what we planned to do hasn’t worked out due to strikes or huge queues so we’ve moved onto something else on our list.

We finally got to the Musee d Orsay and bought a ticket that gave us entry to the Musee d l Orangerie giving us another day trip out.

So we spent the next days wandering around Montmartre and taking the stairs to the top of Sacre Coeur for the awesome view. Took in the Musee d Montmartre.

visiting cemeteries where world famous people are buried including the one at Montparnasse and Pere Lachaise.

walking the gardens of Tuileries near the Louvre and revisiting the wonderful gardens Luxembourg.

To the side of the Tuileries gardens is the wonderful Musee de l’Orangerie one of the best art museums you will find. It is a relatively small Musee but boy it packs a punch. Purchase a ticket combining the Musee d Orsay for around €18.

This Musee then gives you the opportunity to hang in the gardens on one of the many supplied metal chairs some even tilted for more relaxing and taking in that most popular of activities, people watching and just soaking up the sights and atmosphere of life in Paris.

Among other random things we went to the Oz bar to watch the State of Origin football, wandered around our local area and found a great park not far away with exercise equipment and pond,along with just going to the local street food markets to buy produce for cooking at home.

One of the ways we have been able to afford travelling is to live like a local that means eating most of our meals at home and taking lunches out with us. I know this sounds dull to some of you and we certainly shout ourselves a meal out occasionally but we have found that this is one of the most cost saving ways to keeping our budget on track and to also keep an eye on what we’re eating.

It about experiences not always luxurious meals that we are after.

There have been plenty of stays where we haven’t had a kitchen and we found it sometimes difficult to find meals we either liked or were within our budget threshold. Also using public transport in a large city is key to keeping our costs down and most of the large cities if you’re there for a month have some kind of deal. Hiring a car though like we did in the UK for our last ten days gave us the flexibility we wanted at an affordable price and well worth it.

When you take into account what your monthly outlay is at home including entertainment, home and car expenses, we are often living cheaper than we did in Australia.

I’ll leave it here and add the rest of our Paris adventures in a separate post.

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