Wednesday, 30 May 2012

I promise ...

I will be back within a couple of days with day four in Paris - and I know you will love it.

If you have read my Beejay's Bits and Pieces entry today, you'll know that I'm about to sit my first university exam, and so the last week or so have been pretty well devoted to revising, revising, revising - oh, and practising handwriting for hours on end.

Anyway, do check back because I have lots of lovely stuff and photographs to share with you for Paris.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

France, Day 3: Paris

30 April

 Paris - every day a new and wonderful experience.

Today, after another yummy breakfast and coffee served to us by the delightful Iris – and with the morning greetings exchanged with our fellow diners from Italy – we headed down the road to rue de Rivoli, a street which you would recognise if you saw it because it pops up in just about every movie or television show set in Paris.

Named after one of Napoleon’s victories in Italy, rue de Rivoli will take you from one end of the Jardin des Tuileries past the beautiful Hotel Maurice, the golden statue of Joan d’Arc, the lovely Hotel Regina, past a million souvenir shops, along the side of the Louvre, past countless eateries, down to the amazing Hotel de Ville, the Paris Town Hall, and beyond – no, not to infinity and beyond, just “beyond”.  Anyway, this isn’t a history lesson; this is our second day in Paris, the third day of our wonderful trip, and it’s the little fun parts of that which I want to share with you here.

Eglise Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois,
Place de Louvre

So, from rue Saint Roch we turned right onto rue de Rivoli. I have to confess, we hadn’t gone too far before I was lured into a ring shop. Yes, that’s right, this shop sells rings only. Now, as you have no doubt heard, copy goods are absolutely banned in France, and you will even hear stories of tourists having their fake Gucci handbags which they picked up for a song in Thailand or Bali confiscated at Charles de Gaulle airport. These people are serious about rip-offs. I think that’s quite okay, actually. Let’s face it, French design is something they are rightly proud of, and it accounts for a big chunk of the gross national product. It’s perfectly reasonable then that they have a right to be protective of such a valuable commodity and don’t want it devalued by $5 copies. But here’s the funny thing. While you can’t have rip-offs being openly sold in France, you can actually have copies of designer stuff as long as it doesn’t actually pose as the original. Have I confused you totally? Well, put it this way: this ring shop specialises in costume jewellery which is ‘based on’ or ‘copied from’ the rings produced by famous jewellery houses; they just don’t label them as the genuine article. Oh, and of course, the price is very attractive. The designs were amazing, blow-your-mind stuff. I squeezed in between a few well- heeled American ladies whose own diamonds probably could have bought the whole shop, building included, and feasted my eyes on the wonders to be had there. Well, suffice it to say that I left that shop with two lovely, lovely bits of bling in my handbag.

And another view of the same beautiful church.

A bit further along rue de Rivoli we came to rue Castiglione. Now, I don’t know about you but there are certain combinations of letters, certain words, and certain placenames which I just love. I don’t know what it is but they are to my mouth as treacle or fine shiraz. They roll around my tongue in such a way that I can taste them. Castiglione is one such word. I can’t even say it without shrugging my shoulders and raising my eyebrows in a show of delight, and my hands – quite without any conscious direction on my part – simply raise themselves and open out like the petals of a flower raising itself to the sun. Okay, okay, I know that that’s a bit much, a bit silly, but you sort of get the picture: I love that word, Castiglione. Needless to say, I took my man’s arm and turned us away from rue de Rivoli and down rue Castiglione.

Yes, it is indeed part of the gardens of the Louvre
(amazing on the outside as well as the in).

Now, one of the guide books which I had purchased a few months previously was Suzy Gershman's "Born to Shop Paris".  I had been through the book many times, marking stores which appealed to me, those that sounded distinctly Parisienne, small stores where the shopping experience would be different to the normal shopping malls and department stores to be found at home. One such shop was Catherine’s. I didn’t have Ms Gershman’s book with me that day as I had intended to leave shopping until just before our holiday came to an end, and of course I hadn’t noted addresses of any of the shops I planned to visit. But – serendipity, people, seriously – there, on rue Castiglione, just beyond the beautiful Hotel Jolly, it was, Catherine’s.  Believe it or not, though, we almost missed it. A tiny little shop - one which you would miss if you were busy on the phone or if something in the passing traffic distracted you for a few seconds – with an entrancing window display that stopped me in my tracks, it wasn’t until I looked up at the sign above the door that I saw the name. I couldn’t believe it. See, serendipity indeed.

The Louvre suits B&W methinks.

Through the door we went and into that charming store. Make-up and beautiful bottles of perfume were elegantly arranged everywhere we looked. There were two assistants, although advisors would be a better term. One was busy attending to an immaculately dressed French woman, and so my man and I had the benefit of being looked after by someone who will remain always in my mind as the best sales assistant – God, she was so good I hate using that term for her and wish I could think of something more fitting – I have ever come across.  In my poor French and her wonderfully accented English we discussed what scents I usually like, my lifestyle, my skin type. She spent quite some time examining my hands and arms, talking about acidity levels, before selecting various perfumes which she assured me would actually last on my skin – something so many perfumes fail to do. She would chose a spot on my arm and apply a little bit of perfume. I was then instructed to hold my arm straight and we would wait 2 or 3 minutes. She would then raise my arm to her nose, and rolling her face from side to side so as to ensure she got a good noseful, would inhale deeply. If she then tapped my arm, I knew she liked it. No tap, a downturned mouth, a gaze off into the distance, and I knew that perfume was not right for me. I mentioned a particular scent which I had been fond of in years gone by, and so she tried that on my skin. Aghast at its effect, she declared that the smell of that lovely perfume on me was like a Chinese restaurant. Oops, sorry, bad suggestion.  We settled on one particularly stunning perfume, by Lalique, and of course the bottle in which it came was itself a work of art.

It really is VERY photogenic.

It was then my man’s turn. Now, you need to know, he is an extremely shy person. Huh, not in the hands of this woman, I can tell you. He was as captivated by her as I was, and he was more than willing to have her spray his arms, his wrists, even his chest with a huge variety of colognes, which of course she then nuzzlingly checked to find just the right one. Actually, I think that was one of the highlights of his stay in Paris. Believe me, on our next trip he couldn’t wait to revisit Catherine’s.  Of course, she selected a cologne which was absolutely perfect for him, Hypnose Homme by Lancôme, and backed it up with some fantastic after shave balm. 

People just add the human touch -
making it real, not one of its own treasures.

With our selections dealt with, I then decided to purchase a couple of bottles of perfume to bring home for gifts for special people. I had in mind to buy a bottle of Joy for one of my sister’s. Our fabulous expert asked me to describe my sister – her hair and skin colouring, her occupation, her age, her lifestyle. I was then firmly told that, no, Joy was not the right perfume for my sister as it was a night perfume and more suited to people with a different colouring and lifestyle. Wow!  We then went through the same process for a special niece, and again a particular scent was recommended. Needless to say, both choices were absolutely perfect for the people they were given to.

And I love the pyramid, and think it works beautifully.

As our purchases were being wrapped – beautifully, I must add – I happened to mention that I had read about Catherine’s in Born to Shop Paris and that a visit to this store was on my list of things to do during our time there. Our lovely attendant smiled, thanked me for mentioning that fact, and extended to us a very generous discount simply because I had done so. The moral here: if somebody, or some book, recommends a particular shop or service to you, always mention it to the store or service giver. There may be no more reward than a smile – that’s a pretty good reward, actually – but you never know.

Thank goodness for digital, is all I can say.

Absolutely delighted with our purchases, we headed back towards rue de Rivoli, crossed the road into the beautiful Tuileries, and strolled around the grounds of the Louvre for some time, admiring the wonderful architecture, and falling in love, it must be said, with Mr Pei’s fantastic pyramid. I can’t for the life of me understand why people have a problem with it. Yes, it’s different; yes, it’s almost futuristic; yes, it’s almost anachronistic; but, yes, it works.

In the Tuileries you are not allowed to sit, or walk, on the lawn; on the lawn in the grounds of the Louvre lovers lay around kissing, children kick soccer balls, shirtless young men show off their browning pectorals, intense American university students read Proust, and those cute little Japanese girls in their tartan mini-skirts and long socks make their endless V signs for snapping photographers. You don’t even have to enter those hallowed halls to feel tingles, to feel privileged, to feel as though you have won the lottery.

The Louvre's own wonderful Arc de Triomphe du Carroussel

All that happy wandering and retail excitement had made us hungry, and so – little creatures of habit that we become so quickly – we walked down to rue du Louvre to revisit the café Corona. Yes, I know we were there yesterday, but that’s what we tend to do: we like it, we come back.

After lunch – a light and lovely omelette and a pichet of rosé – we crossed the road and made our way down the old stone steps to the quayside, where we bought tickets for the batobus, a sort of waterborne version of the hop-on-hop-off bus. A trip to Paris must always include at least one cruise up and down the river, and this one is recommended as a great introduction. With eight stops at which you can get off to explore, it makes perfect sense to use the batobus to visit the major sites of Paris. I know, I know, you are probably saying, “What about the metro?” Well, while the metro is a great way to get around, and fantastic if you are in a hurry, why would you want to be underground unable to see anything when you are in this magnificent city?

Just one of my favourite photographs
taken at the Louvre

Where we were? Oh yes, the batobus. If you’re in Paris, stroll along the quayside on either bank of the river and you will find a batobus ticket office. The tickets are reasonably priced, and we bought ones which lasted for five days. In this way we were able, whenever the walking got a bit too much, to jump on one of these boats and cruise to our next port of call. It really is a top way to get around when the feet go into protest mode.

Because the day was so gloriously warm, we got to see the way the locals relate to their river when the temperature rises. All along the riverside people were sunning themselves, sitting on the quaysides with their legs dangling over the edge, or stretched out on the warm stones. I live in a city built on a river, but we don’t relate in the same way to the river as they do in Paris. Perfectly suited professionals were stripping down to their underwear, reclining on benches and soaking up the rays. Young men, sans shirts, were strumming guitars to slim brown women in gaily patterned sundresses. These people were just BEING, and it struck me that that is a fantastic state to be in.

After a full day walking, shopping, cruising, we made our way back to the hotel for a freshen up before heading out again to dine. Well, you can’t win all the time, can you? We sure as hell didn’t win that night. I won’t mention the name of the restaurant we ate at, but I can tell you the food was revolting, and most of it was returned to the kitchen. The waiter really didn’t care whether we ate or not. You just knew that this was a place where the chef had no personal investment in the business – or he had gone home with some terrible disease and the cleaner had donned the big white hat for the evening.

Ah, just lovely.

Thank goodness for a great bottle of port and a lovely package of divine chocolates back in our hotel room, because we needed them after that.

Sleepy, sleepy, and so to bed, looking forward to the morrow.  Catch you later.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

France, Day 2: Paris

29 April 

After a great sleep in a bed so wide I had to keep stretching my arm out to make sure I wasn’t alone, we woke to a perfect Paris spring day. Whoever wrote “I love Paris in the spring time” probably had the wonderful good fortune to first meet her in that lovely season when I am sure there are at least 100 flowers for every tourist. Solomon, indeed, in all his finest was not dressed as grandly. 

A fantastic hot shower in soft-as-silk Paris water, a dash of make-up (for me at least), and we were ready for breakfast, so down we headed to the ground floor and into the breakfast room, a room with yellow stone walls and wrought iron furniture, a small room where nobody could remain unseen and anonymous. Having been tipped off by wonderful travel guides such as the DK Eyewitness series on the importance of acknowledging other people in shops and restaurants, as we entered the room we politely offered a “Bonjour” to our fellow diners, all four of them. As it turned out, one couple was Italian – their French, of course, was far superior to ours – and the other couple was English, and their accents were such that it actually made us feel a little better about our own attempts.  

Our waitress, a delightful woman of African descent whose name was, if I recall correctly, Iris, brought us coffee and we feasted on light as air, buttery croissants, pain-au-chocolat and delicious, creamy yoghurt. It was a great way to start what was to be a day, indeed, of awe and wonder. 

Leaving the hotel, our first stop was the Jardin des Tuileries.  Through the gates by the metro entrance, and we were in a world of true beauty.  To our left, the Louvre in all its magnificence, but we wanted to keep that for later, to prolong the anticipation; today was just for walking and looking.   

Jardin des Tuileries
With our shoes becoming whiter and whiter by the second from the dust of the chalky white pathways, we strolled through avenues of magnificent trees, past statuary both stunning and whimsical, paused at fountains which in another city would have a park  all to themselves such is their loveliness, were wooed by banks of perfect spring blooms.
The white pathways = dusty white shoes
(so worth it)

We delighted to see donkeys taking small children for rides under the elms and mulberries, were transported back to childhood ourselves by a fabulous carousel, and were oh-so-impressed by elegant Parisiennes promenading in their beautiful clothes and high heels, looking themselves like part of the artwork on show. 


With our back to the Louvre, we walk toward the Place de la Concorde, and the Eiffel Tower came into view slightly to our left. Straight ahead of us, lined up in perfect symmetry to the Louvre and the gardens, is the Arc de Triomphe. Wide stairs lead us up to street level. We pause to admire some superb artwork, huge hands that hold the promise of friendship and connection. Fantastic!  A young guy comes up to us and asks us to take his photograph. We oblige, of course. He then offers to return the favour. We hesitate, thinking of all the dire warnings we have read on Trip Advisor about people who have lost valuable camera equipment to unscrupulous people offering just such a favour. Stuff it, we think, life is too short to spend every moment expecting the worst. We hand over our camera and pose with the magnificent Obelisk of Luxor in the background. Our photographer - who we discover is from Brazil - tells us he thinks we will like the photograph, hands our camera back, shakes hands with us and wishes us a happy holiday. See, it really does pay to maintain some faith in human nature. 

Wonderful work - one of my favourite things in Paris

Leaving the gardens we spend some time taking in the Obelisk, this 3300 year old piece of Ancient Egypt.  We are indeed in awe. It is quite breathtaking, everything about it perfectly formed and it is SO OLD! Coming from a place where we get excited over buildings which are less than 200 years old, this is indeed a thrill. 

Place de la Concorde

I love that this spot which was once so drenched in blood during the Reign of Terror, this place of execution, vengeance, of justice and treachery, is now named the Place de la Concorde, the place of concord, of agreement, of peace. It seems to me it’s a very good name for such a site. 

Dignified National Assemby building, fittingly
sited opposite Place de la Concorde

Walking to the left we approach the Seine – ah, the river at last – and cross at the Pont de la Concorde. They don’t do things by half, these people of Paris. It seems that every building is constructed with a view to the view, if you know what I mean. Nothing seems haphazard, beauty is never left to the whims of chance. And so, there in front of us, on the other side of the bridge, lined up perfectly for effect, is the imposing National Assembly building.  If ever a building looked like a seat of power, this one does. It looks as though it has stood since Centurion was a rank and not a tank, as they say. Indeed, it looks as though it could easily have been the regular meeting place for the Roman senate, and you just know that if a barrel chested man in a toga walked out through the main doors at that moment it would somehow look absolutely right. It is just as it should be, no more and no less, and so for me it immediately goes onto my “favourites” list. 

Ah, how would you like to be ...

Turning left – how appropriate on the “left bank” side of the bridge - we strolled slowly along, pausing often to admire the work of local artists or to browse the wares for sale by the many bouquinisters, those keepers of small green pop up stalls that line the footpath overlooking the river.  The main items for sale are books – often old, rare, smelling musty and wonderful – but you will also find movie posters, artwork, postcards (including some of those old black and white naughties from years long gone), traditional French house number signs, and of course all the usual souvenirs such as fridge magnets, face powder compacts, playing cards, etc.  Checking out what is on offer, watching the delight of people who come across some literary treasure, is a fantastic way to spend your time. The bouquinisters are an icon of Paris, one that should not be missed. We purchased a charming print called “The Cats of Paris” – yes, we are cat people – which we really love. Haven’t had it framed yet, but one day it will hang on the wall and whenever we look at it we will remember our first day in Paris. 

Fabulous bouquinista stands
(photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

All around us were the scenes of movies, of imaginings. We wanted to take it all in at once and just fill ourselves to bursting with the place. We wanted to be on the right bank, the left bank, the islands all at the same time. When we came to the Pont Neuf we crossed over to the Ile de la Cité and wandered around the flower markets on Place Louis Lépine .  Heavenly doesn’t begin to describe it. The colours and scents that come at you from all sides are truly out of this world, and even if you have no interest in gardening, a visit here is an absolute must. 

One of my favourite photographs - love this shot of the Louvre
taken from the Left Bank

Blissed out, and with tummies rumbling after having walked for hours, we decided to find somewhere to eat.  Heading back towards the Louvre we decided that the Café le Corona looked like a good bet. It is right there on the Quai du Louvre, and we were able to sit outside at one of the tiny little round tables which are the norm for eateries in Paris, enjoy a Croque Monsieur and watch the passing parade – the elegant locals, the back-packed-bum-bagged-baseball-capped tourists, the leather–jacketed-slightly-scary-looking Eastern Europeans, the cute-as-buttons-in-their-tartan-miniskirts-and-long-socks Japanese teenage girls making V-signs for holiday snaps, and the cops on rollerblades. Yes, cops on rollerblades. You have to love this place.  With so much entertainment, it was easy to linger at the Corona, sipping on a couple of beers and then rounding it off nicely with a good, strong espresso. 

By this time we had been out and about for over 8 hours, and most of that time had been spent walking, walking, walking. In case I forgot to mention it, I was actually still feeling the effects of a broken ankle and multiple fractures sustained a few months previously, and the pain gremlins were beginning to bite.  Some time spent with my foot resting on something nice and soft, such as a cushion atop a bed, was called for and so we headed back to our hotel for some well-needed rest. 

As we were getting ready to head out again for dinner the heavens opened. The day had been a perfect spring day, with stunning azure skies and warm sunshine on our faces. There had been no hint of rain, but here it was, beating down with the intensity of a Darwin “shower”. Phew, unbelievable.  But of course, Paris suits rain so much that it only added to the charm. The receptionist had handed us a couple of umbrellas, and so we were able to enjoy a stroll around the block watching the rain turn the stunning architecture into a soft-focus photograph. 

We checked out various restaurants, but the one which caught our eye was one right on the corner across from the Louvre, Café le Carrousel. Right in front of the café is a superb statue of Joan of Arc on her horse, gleaming and glittering in gold. Okay, the café is definitely more popular with tourists than with locals, but it is one of those places where the position is so fantastic that you are willing to forego fantastic food. Some of the best meals we have had in France have been in little villages where the furtherest you can see is into the kitchen. But this was our first dinner in Paris, and to enjoy it while gazing across the street to where soft yellow light flowed from the windows of the Louvre while Joan kept watch over everything made for a total package that was nothing short of wonderful. Oh, and we were introduced to Kir Royale, so what more could you possibly want. 

I never tire of thiswonderful  statue - must
have 20 photographs of it.

You do want more, hey? Well, when we had finished our meal, when we were ourselves warm and fuzzy with food and drink, we crossed the road and stood for a while watching the Eiffel twinkle in the distance. Now, come on, you could not want more than that, definitely. 

Catch you tomorrow.

Friday, 18 May 2012

France, Day 1: Perth to Paris

 28 April

Perth, Western Australia, to Paris, France, all the way with Air Mauritius, with an eight hour stopover in Mauritius thrown in for good measure. Distance:  8,865 miles, or 14,267 kilometres for those of us who prefer bigger numbers.  Flying time: 17 hours and 44 minutes, give or take 15 minutes, so just call it 18 hours to neaten things up.  Let’s add in getting to Perth International Airport a couple of hours before flight departure time, and you start to get the idea: it was a lllooonnngg trip. 

Comfortable lounge at Mauritius Airport
But do you know what? As that aircraft approached Charles de Gaulle Airport and I looked out the window and got my first glimpse of Mr Eiffel’s superb tower, those 28-odd hours were as nothing. Okay, I admit, from Mauritius to Paris we were in first class and so we had enjoyed French champagne, foie gras, and a long, lovely sleep. But even so, any effects of being picked up on one side of the globe, confined for hour after hour after hour in a pressurised cabin, and then deposited on the opposite side of the globe, were immediately dispelled by that view. I had lived for years in Europe when I was younger, but this was to be my first visit to that lovely City of Light. Goosebumps, people, honestly. 

Different section of the lounge.

As I write this, I can tell you that we have been to France five times, and never once have we had the same experience on arrival. For this trip, we walked off the plane, straight through to the luggage collection area, picked up our suitcases and walked out – no customs, no immigration. Was that perhaps because our suitcases came rolling drunkenly through about 30 minutes after every other traveller had collected their luggage and gone, while we stood there, too unsure of our halting French to go and seek assistance. And so we waited, and waited, and waited, and as we waited the immigration and customs people, it would seem, simply decided that we looked harmless. Either that, or it was time for steak frittes and a pichet of Bordeaux. Whatever the reason, they had gone, and so did we. 

We had booked a shuttle transfer from the airport to our hotel. I can assure you that the driver was not exactly thrilled with the delay caused by having to wait so long for our luggage. His other passengers were already waiting in the minibus, tapping their fingers and toes impatiently, wanting, understandably, to just go. As it was, we weren’t able to sit together in the bus, and so I scrambled over legs and into the back row of seats while my man sat up front with the driver. Actually, I think I got the better bargain as our driver was one of those who seem to be in a constant state of warfare with all other road users and to be in that front seat next to him, all the while waiting for the screech of brakes and the crunching, grating sound of metal on metal, is not for the faint-hearted.  

Beautiful even through the window of
a speeding taxi in the rain.

Now, here’s one of life’s amazing coincidences. A few years ago I worked on a project related to the investigation into a fire on board a Royal Australian Navy vessel, the “Westralia”, in which four young sailors lost their lives. As I’m sure you know, there are, sailing the seas of the world, hundreds and hundreds of vessels which have had their names changed many times. The “Westralia” was one such vessel. In a previous life she had belonged to the Royal Navy and had been called the RFA “Apple Leaf”. So, here I am, just arrived in Paris, sitting in the back of a minibus being driven by a homicidal frustrated formula one driver, and I am sharing the seat with an English couple, the Doyles from Manchester. How the conversation came around to the “Westralia”, I have no idea, but suffice to say it did. Well, can you believe it, Mr Doyle said he knew the vessel well as he had served on her when she was the “Apple Leaf”. Forget “of all the gin joints in all the world”, this was a coincidences extraordinaire!  

Anybody who has been to Paris knows exactly what I mean about the crazy traffic. Death defying motorcyclists flashed past our windows, weaving between the lanes of traffic, sometimes even darting at right angles between motor vehicles, always on the lookout for the advantage to save a couple of seconds.  But nothing I had ever read prepared me for the insanity that is the Grande Point, the huge roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe. Just in case you aren’t aware: there are no lanes, it is a case of just take a big breath and go for it; vehicles entering the roundabout have right of way – yes, that’s right, they have right of way when entering the roundabout – but that should be no cause for you to actually slow down as they shoot out in front of you; should you actually hit another vehicle, your insurance company will not cover you as there is no insurance cover for vehicles on this bit of vehicular lunacy. It is so crazy there is only one thing you can do and that is just to simply laugh. Let’s face it, everybody is moving and nobody seems to actually collide with anybody else, so enjoy this trip to the other side and just be glad you’re not driving. 

Before we knew it, our minibus was pulling to the kerb in front of our hotel, the Emeraude Louvre Montana, on rue Saint Roch (more about that particular street later), our driver was dumping our suitcases outside the entrance, wishing us a “Bon nuit” and departing at high speed for his next drop-off. 

We looked to the right and there, just a few short steps away, we saw the Tuileries Gardens. All around us were beautiful Haussmann buildings. Tiny Smart-for-2 cars were parked with bumpers nuzzling each other in the night air all along the street. From a florist shop a couple of doors away wafted the sweet smell of spring flowers. I wanted to cry. Honestly, I really did. I wanted to stop my watch, stop the world, stop everything, because I felt at that moment that life just could not get much better. How often do dreams come true, really? 

View from our window - no,
not taken at night; the following morning.

Summoning our courage, and mentally going over the French phrases we had practised, we opened the glass door and entered the small lobby of the hotel. A charming young woman was seated behind the reception desk. She smiled warmly and welcomingly. I opened my mouth and heard myself somehow manage a passable. “Bonne nuit. Nous sommes une reservation. Je m’appelle …” I think I did alright, actually. Phew, first hurdle over.  

Within a very short time we had done the necessary re passport numbers etc, and were given our room key and shown the elevator. Hm. Did you say you had been to Paris? Do you know what I mean when I talk about really, really, really small elevators? This beautiful little elevator, so perfect for a British television period drama, offered us a choice: both go up to our room in it, and leave our luggage behind, or make a couple of trips with one person and one suitcase at a time. I entered the elevator, pressing myself against the side wall to accommodate one suitcase and a carry-on bag. The ornate wrought iron gate was pulled shut, and up we went, the lovely old, carpeted spiral staircase winding around us like a sleepy serpent.  I waited by the lift until my man and the rest of our baggage arrived. 

We opened the door to our room and entered what was to be our home for nine days.  Everything was just as it should be, just as it had been on the hotel website. The bed was huge, there was a little refrigerator, there were tea and coffee making facilities, there was a bathtub – always heaven when on holidays – there were places to sit and read, or chat, or sip wine while planning the next day’s adventure. There were also two large windows – French windows, you could say – which, when opened allowed us to lean out over the window boxes of geraniums and, looking to the left, gaze at the lovely gardens or, looking to the right, spy, just a couple of hundred feet away, the fantastic Eglise Saint Roch, the church where Yves St Laurent’s funeral service was conducted. 

After a total of 30 hours, we had arrived in Paris. We had left Perth just after midnight one day, and we had arrived in Paris in the evening of the same day. Was I a day younger? No, I was years younger, and ready to revel in it. 

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Checking in

Well hello there.

At long last – beginning to think it would never happen - I'm all packed and ready to take off on Beejay's Travels. I'm so glad that you're going to join me on what promises to be a fantastic journey. Wow, how exciting!

Okay, I may not be able to take you to Vladivostok or Lake Titicaca - not at the moment anyway - but I will visit some really great spots, and it wouldn't be the same without you right here with me.

So, last minute check:

Got your passport? Sure? Has it got at least 6 months left in it?
Okay, great.
Cancelled the newspapers and the milk?
Wonderful – oh, and the cleaner as well. Excellent.
Set the timer on the lights so no baddies know you're away?
Tops - you're a legend.
Dropped Fido off to his boarding kennel?
Bow wow, yes. As if you’d forget that!
Packed a couple of good books to read?
Oh, I love that one myself - great choice.
Got your tummy tablets, just in case?
No, red cordial will not suffice.

Right, the taxi should be here any moment, so I'll just dash to the loo before we leave. Why don't you just wait outside with the luggage, and I'll be with you in a few minutes.