Happy Xmas Eve everyone - from the first place in the world to celebrate the occasion! It's currently a little overcast here, but warm at around 22 degrees centigrade and forecast around the same tomorrow. It's certainly a very different xmas experience in New Zealand. For many British people it's the cold, dark and snow that makes all of the festivities so welcoming to brighten up the days, but it's still a joyous family and fun-filled time here with it being the main summer school holidays, and we've just had our longest day in contrast to the Northern Hemisphere's shortest day.
Tomorrow we'll have a BBQ in the evening - no turkey and trimmings, that's replaced by pork kebabs and spicy chicken drumsticks along with new potatoes, rice and salad and hopefully a delicious desert from Barry's brother Ray.
Unfortunately Barry's mum June isn't terribly well so we're not sure what the coming weeks will be bringing.
In the meantime, here's another celebration to post on the blog - my 51st birthday spent in the chic and cultured city of Paris ...
Tuesday 28 September 2010
It was an extremely early start to my 51st birthday. I managed to open my cards and presents, down a cup of tea, have a quick wash and get dressed before setting off to St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Paris - despite being organised enough to pick up the tickets yesterday we still only just made it in time!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Sandra and Bon Voyage!!
From St Pancras to Paris in the blink of an eye - well just over 2 hours really
We were most impressed with the very smooth journey, and in just over two hours arrived at Gare Du Nord station in the heart of Paris. Our hotel was a short stroll away, where we deposited our bags before going for a coffee and quick explore of the area before we were able to check-in at 1400hrs. Of course Paris is known as a romantic place - but sadly to save money we were all booked into the same room - still, there's more to romance than what goes on in the bedroom, especially as we get older!
Tom discovered his favourite coffee was called a 'Viennois' (pronounced Vien - wah)- Vienna - and tried his best to remember how to pronounce it for the remainder of our stay but found the accent most challenging! Incredibly, for those of us who live/have lived in Europe, Tom had never before been to a country whose occupants didn't speak English, so he was fascinated by the language.
Gare Du Nord - Northern Railway Station to the rest of us!
A Happy Birthday coffee - and Tom's creamy Viennois
Not the cheapest of coffees, delicious though and it is Paris after all!
We grabbed lunch from a Patisserie, officially checked-in to the hotel, then walked to the centre which must've been a good mile or two away, but it was a fabulous way to see Paris without the hordes of tourists.
Something merveilleux to photograph at every turn
Yum! A fruity birthday cake from the Patisserie, and the traffic in Paris is crazy!
Could this be the Arc de Triumphe? Non monsieur!
Just before we reached the main attractions, we came upon a beautiful old 'merry go round' which I couldn't resist having a go on. A little boy who was riding with his grandma looked at me a little oddly until I informed him that it was 'mon anniversaire' to which he replied something unintelligible but was obviously happy - I knew that schoolgirl French would come in handy one day!
Sadly the weather was poor most of the day, but luckily remained dry - it was really misty entering France this morning so was difficult to see anything.
Sandra gets a little equestrian - Tally Ho!
Sacré-bleu! was that JUST a kid on my back?
Now one of these would be interesting to meet in a narrowboat on a blind corner
Quintessential Paris - art and artists line the pavements of the River Seine
Eventually reaching the hub of Paris we found The Louvre, the one place Tom really wanted to visit - amazingly it was closed on Tuesdays, we couldn't believe it! Such a huge tourist attraction having a day off during the week? Incredible! We had a stroll around the buildings anyway, completely awestruck by the magnitude of them, but once again shocked at the opulence of people in centuries gone by - and we think there's a divide between the rich and the poor in the 21st century?
Breathtaking architecture in the grounds of The Louvre
The famous pyramid of glass - from 'The Da Vinci Code' ...
and a panoramic view of the buildings and pyramid
Taking a rest while the boys snap away - watching the amazing suction window cleaner at work
Another panorama - it's massive!
Since leaving the hotel earlier in the afternoon, we'd been searching for the 'Open Top Bus' to find a stop where we could jump on board. We've done tours in a few cities in UK, and have found it's a wonderful way of discovering a place in a short time.
Still looking, we crossed the road from The Louvre and walked down the glorious gardens towards the Champs Elysee. By this time dusk was starting to fall and it was magnificent to see lights along road.
Is this the famous Arc de Triumphe then? Non!
The gardens were full of interesting things - like this bronze statue ...
and this fountain - go for it now Tom, while she's not looking - oh OK!
Looking down towards the Champs Elysee
What an amazing fountain
After leaving the gardens, we finally found a stop for the open top bus, jumped on and bought a two day ticket. There were three separate circuits to be done on the bus, so we chose the 'Grand Tour' as by this time it was after 1700hrs and I dearly wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower on my birthday.
Lots of things to see while sitting up on the top deck ...
... and at great expense Barry organised a 'Happy Birthday' sign on the back of the van ...
... and of course an abundance of flowers
Rush hour in the centre of Paris has to be seen to be believed - it's complete chaos!!
Tom sitting in the prime spot to see and get some shelter from the cold autumnal wind
The Champs Elyse - it really IS this time in the distance!
THE ARC DE TRIUMPHE? Mais oui!
After doing the Grand Tour once we stayed on board to go around again so that we could get off at 'Le Tour Eiffel' and ascend to the top - but the bus came to an abrupt halt at place called Trocedero and the driver came upstairs to inform us that there'd been a bomb threat at The Tower so this was the last stop and we had to disembark - shame! No birthday treat for me then! But we had seen the Tower lit up with it's lights flashing like a huge xmas tree, and it was an amazing sight.
Unperturbed by the change of plan, we found a suitable (in menu and price range!) nearby restaurant, and had the other treat I'd wanted while in Paris - snails! I'd first tasted French snails when I was about 10 years old visiting France, on own, and staying with friends of my Dad - I was a bit of an adventurer even then!
Heavenly food - snails for starters and crème brulée for dessert
After dinner we went across the road to take some shots of the Tower at night - and what a view it was
Exhausted, we managed to work out how to catch the Metro back to the hotel, Tom took advantage of the free internet, while I had a long soak in the bath - awesome! Having not had access to one for weeks, it was my final birthday treat - I had such aching legs after so much walking in the past few days.
It wasn't really that late - sadly there's quite a few homeless people in Paris, despite it's opulence (or maybe because of it?)
We really did find Paris mind-blowing - much more so than I remember, and we realised that we're not going to see everything there is to see in the time we have. So tomorrow Tom will visit The Louvre, and we're going to look around Notre-Dame Cathedral, as well as bit more touring the sights on the bus ...