Thursday, 28 June 2012

France: Canal Boating Day 1

5 May

After breakfast we had a final walk around, popping in to a chemist to pick up some hay fever medication – yep, all those lovely falling white flowers with their lovely falling pollen were having an effect - and a new umbrella before a walk-through of the Tuileries. We left our large suitcase in storage at the hotel, taking only a couple of carry-on size bags, and then checked out of the hotel, grabbed a taxi and zoomed off to the Gare de Lyon to catch our train to take us south, to Burgundy, for the next stage of our holiday. 

We easily found our seat on the train, only to discover some Frenchman sitting comfortably ensconced in one of them, happily reading his paper and sipping a coffee. We checked our ticket numbers and told him that he was sitting in one of our seats. He just smiled, apologised, and moved down the carriage to his allocated spot – he had obviously simply decided that our seats were better ones and had hoped that they were unoccupied. We stored our luggage overhead and settled down into the super-comfortable seats. Right then and there we fell in love with rail travel in France.  

Why would you stress out on the autoroutes when you can sit back, read a paper or book, have a meal, a drink, access to clean toilets, and watch the stunning countryside roll past? Lunching on baguettes and a bottle of wine in our seats, we gave up on reading our books and just relished the views of chateaux, forests of a green we had never seen before, and charming, picture book villages. 

Oh, and one thing I have to share with you: on the train there was a special little area, about half a carriage in length, I would estimate, which was set aside as a play area for kiddies. The walls below window height were all thickly padded, and there were toys on the floor. It was just lovely to see this, and to see children happily spending the journey in there, having fun as kids should. 

Something else which also really impressed us on the train was the stress on respecting the comfort of your fellow travellers, and this means: if you want to talk on your mobile, leave the main carriage and stand in the between-carriage spaces to hold your conversation, or if you must stay in your seat you have to keep your conversation really low. Oh, and no blaring music either. Wow, impressive! 

We had to change trains at Nevers – a famous city, and the one where Julius Caesar apparently had his war chest stolen. What?? Wow, stories and history at every turn aren’t there. The railway station is not the most salubrious of places, but by this stage we were so excited that it could have been a tin shed and we wouldn’t have cared. 

The trip from Nevers to the town of Decize, where we were to start our canal trip, was a short one, and so we were soon there. We were met at the station by Florent, from Crown Blue, now under the umbrella of LeBoat, and driven to the spotless, well-maintained marina. Completing the paperwork with Elys, a member of admin staff at Crown Blue, was completed quickly and easily, and we were then shown our boat, the Cirrus It was love at first sight for us.  While my man spent time learning the ins and outs of the vessel, all the necessary technical “stuff” and how to operate her, I happily unpacked our bags and then checked out the excellent fit-out, opening kitchen cupboards, discovering the clever layout in which not an inch of space was wasted.

Our boat

This was our first trip to France, and our first boating holiday, and we had left all the arrangements to the fantastic staff at the French Travel Connection in Sydney. Susan, who was the consultant we dealt with, had herself done a few of these boating trips in France and so she was able to advise us from first-hand experience. She recommended this particular cruise as being scenic, having lots of little villages to pop into along the way, and with a perfectly manageable amount of locks for a crew of just two people. Susan also gave us details of shops and restaurants along the route, and various other little tips that you only get from someone who has actually been there. For future trips we made all the arrangements ourselves, booking everything direct, but for the first time traveller – cruiser particularly – I think it’s fantastic to have such experienced and helpful staff to rely upon.

Now, back to the boat. David, the engineer who was providing the pre-cruise instructions then got my husband to start up the vessel, go for a little cruise, practise a bit of manoeuvring, and then pull up back at the jetty and  moor the vessel by the necessary method before handing over the keys and all the paperwork and wishing us a bon voyage.

We had been advised that there was a large supermarket almost opposite the marina, and so we took advantage of its proximity and did a fairly big shop, stocking up on cheese, wonderful Paris ham, breads, terrines, butters, etc, and of course quite a bit of wine. We actually thought we’d done a really big shop, but of course it turned out that we really had not bought nearly enough. 

Isn't this gorgeous.

Many people spend their first night on the vessel at the marina, setting out on their cruise first thing the next morning, but we were too impatient to do this, so as soon as I had put away the shopping and got the kettle on to boil, we set off. To exit the port area and turn north towards our final destination, Chatillon-sur-Loire, we had to pass through our first lock. This was an automatic lock, and it opened automatically as we approached, which was great. Into the boat our lock went, the gates closed behind us, the water level dropped, the gates in front of us opened, and we sailed out, out onto the canal, its green banks lined with stunning trees that dropped their blooms all over the water. A heron rose from the rushes along the side of the canal, flew over the Cirrus and headed straight forward in front of the boat, as if to say “Follow me; I know the way”.

It was already quite late in the afternoon, and the sky was darkening rapidly, and so we pulled up to the bank and secured the vessel by way of mooring spikes pushed into the earth. We went for a walk along the tow path, feeling happy enough to burst that we had now actually began this wonderful trip.

Our mooring site.

Sitting on the front deck, we dined on delicious ham and pate, cheeses and tomatoes that tasted the way tomatoes used to taste years ago before we started gassing them and turning them into flavourless red globes. We sipped wine and chatted softly – any volume would have jarred with these beautiful surroundings.  As the evening wore on the sky got blacker, and blacker, and blacker. I had never known such darkness; it was complete. Add to that the silence, amazing silence. It was almost as if we had been picked up and placed in a black box somewhere, isolated from all life on earth.

Getting darker
Did I say silence? All was shattered by the loudest thunder I had ever heard; it sounded as if very heavens were being ripped apart. And just so the ripper knew exactly where to tear, blinding lightening lit everything up with light so bright it almost hurt your eyes. Oh, and of course it rained – no, that’s wrong, it pelted down. So, here we are, night one on the canal boat, and we are smack bang in the middle of a storm of Hollywood blockbuster proportions. It was amazing!

What a place to spend the night - wow.

Catch you later.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

France, Day 7: Petit Palais, Paris Illuminations

4 May

Reading through my journal for today is fantastic. As I read, I am reliving every delight I felt at the time, and so I have decided to once again simply quote from that journal. 

Today being our last full day in Paris before heading south to do our canal boat trip, after breakfast we strolled along rue de l’Opera to have another glimpse of the fabulous Garnier Opera House, and then around past the Madeleine – lovely, classical building.

The Madeleine

 Looked again at Maxim’s with that “should we or shouldn’t we”, but decided that it’s probably not us. Perhaps her little sister, Minim’s, which is right next door, is more to our style.

A long lovely stroll through around The Tuileries and then down to the river left us perfectly positioned to take a right and walk along to the Petit Palais and Grande Palais, magnificent buildings constructed – as so much of Paris was – for an exhibition, the 1900 Paris Exhibition.

Some else strolling with us.

The Grande Palais is now used for specific events, such as touring exhibitions, while the Petit Palais is a permanent gallery open to the public. This is not the Louvre, but it is absolutely sensational, with ceilings that take your breath away and a truly spectacular art collection.

Petit Palais

Stunning entrance.

Okay, I’ll ‘fess up: I prefer it to the Louvre. Its creamy walls and colourful ceilings, without all that opulence, make it the loveliest place to visit.

One painting in the Petit Palais which really caught my attention and claimed me for quite some time is a rather large work of “The Good Samaritan”. It is truly beautiful, and I think will prove to be unforgettable. It’s such a different depiction to the sanitised pictures we have in our Sunday School lessons, but I imagine so much closer to reality.

It’s easy to pass hours in this delightful place, and then to enjoy a long, leisurely (what else!) lunch in the café and restful gardens. Even though there were a few people around, this is obviously not somewhere that most tourists to Paris all rush off to see and so it’s an excellent respite from the crowds of the Louvre, the d’Orsay and such places.

My busted ankle was really giving me trouble today, and so after leaving the Petit Palais we caught a Batobus for a nice long circuit of the river – a great way to rest the ankle while still gazing on Paris.

Verandah of the Grande Palais
Grande Palais
(not nearly as pretty as the Petit Palais, is it)

In the evening we dined at our favourite Café de Carrousel. No, it’s not the food; it’s definitely the location. Sitting at an outdoor table across the road from the Louvre and with Joan of Arc triumphantly sitting astride her horse is pretty hard to beat.

After dinner we joined a Cityrama Paris Illuminations coach tour.

The Conciergerie

The city is truly spectacular at night, as we knew, but it was great to see it from the different perspective of seats high up in a tourist coach – well recommended, actually. The Eiffel, need I say, is incredible. Although it’s lit up beautifully anyway, it has an amazing flashing light display which goes for 10 minutes every hour, and the coach tour was perfectly timed to coincide with that. Notre Dame is also pretty impressive at night – I think the darkness suits such buildings.

Notre Dame

So too is the incredibly ornate and imposing Hotel de Ville (town hall), which looks big enough to house the whole European Parliament.

Hotel de Ville
(Paris Town Hall)

The Montmartre/Pigalle area at night definitely looks a bit seedy, and I think everybody on the coach was surprised at how small the Moulin Rouge looked. That famous red windmill is in reality only half the size it looks in movies.

I really enjoyed our coach tour and think it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours, even if you have seen most places on foot during the daylight hours.

Sleepy people now. I phoned Crown Blue today just to confirm all is well for our canal trip, and so tomorrow we’ll leave Paris for Decize and the next exciting phase of this holiday.

See you then.

Monday, 25 June 2012

France, Day 6: The Louvre, the Trocadero, the Eiffel, les Invalides

3 May

Started the day with a visit to the Louvre. What a thing to say, “Started the day with a visit to the Louvre”. How good is that!! Some wonderful people on Trip Advisor had advised us to get there early, early, early and to take the Carrousel entrance, not the Pyramid one, which is where you get queues a mile long. So, take note: when you are in Paris and it is your day to feast your eyes on amazing artworks at this number two tourist attraction, enter via rue de Rivoli, at the Carrousel entrance. The result: a very, very short queue and we were in.

Oh, and this is something which totally blew me away – it only cost us €8 each. Can you believe that? Goodness, go to any tourism site in Australia and they want an arm and a leg, and here you have the Louvre, somewhere you could enter first thing in the morning, not come out until they close at night, and still feel you had only scratched the surface, and it costs €8. You can’t buy a sandwich at lunchtime for that in Perth. Okay, it’s gone up a little since then, but so has the price of a sandwich. Go figure.

Anyway, naturally everybody heads in the same direction first – but, oh, what a journey it is to get there, passing works of art of such beauty that you really could cry, passing Winged Victory, wanting to stop and just gaze at the staircases, the ceilings. I am writing this by reference to my journal which I wrote at the time and I think I’ll just reproduce here what I wrote then:

As you go up the stairs it becomes harder to breath – you enter a different realm. At times we had to just sit to try to take in the surroundings, and particularly the ceilings. At one point my eyes filled with tears just for the beauty of the place.

Because we got there so soon after opening, there was no huge crowd at the Mona Lisa and we were able to stand very close to her. There is SOMETHING, something very indefinable, about her. That is indeed the mystery, isn’t it? After all, so many other works of Da Vinci are much “nicer” or “better”, but she does hold in her face a mystery, and you are aware that you are looking at the most famous painting in the world, and to see it is really amazing.

There are so many other incredible artworks, some with beautiful, cheeky children. What stands out for me for the astonishing detail is the art of Italian painter Panini (and you thought it was just a sandwich!). His work is absolutely mind-blowing.

The painting which I was most affected by, though, was a large oil painting of a scene after Christ’s body has been taken down from the cross. He is being cradled very tenderly, and there is so much compassion and love in the arms holding him, but the aspect of this work that puts it far in front of anything for me is the two cherubs in the scene. One is holding Christ’s right hand, and the other is cradling his feet. They are pointing to the nail holes, and looking at each other as if to ask “Why?”, although that word is so insufficient in this case. I have never seen such anguish on faces ever, and you feel that if you touched their tears your fingers would come away wet. (As I write this, I can still feel that painting, five years down the track.)
Adore this!

And love this humour.

After, rather reluctantly, leaving the Louvre, we jumped on a Bus Rouge and went up to the Trocadero, the location on a hill looking across the river to the Eiffel Tower. There are - as you must expect in such a spot, and with such fabulous views and wonderful museums to visit – plenty of options for eating. We choose an outdoor table at Café Kleber and there, with a wonderful panorama in front of us, we lunched on the largest, most delicious servings of quiche that we had so far come across in Paris. The quiche was truly superb, as were the crunchy fresh chips which accompanied it. Oh, and of course, a pichet of rosé found its way to our table, as you must expect.

The two buildings, like arms, of the Trocadero perfectly frame the Eiffel and the Champ de Mars. (Don‘t worry, I’ll put a map link so you can check out this superb location.)

On a wall facing the museum on the right is a marvellous relief carving dedicated to French soldiers who fought in the Great War. It is huge, and it is really special in that they are being held and comforted by French soldiers –and perhaps Christ? – from the pages of history. It’s really beautiful.

While at the Trocadero we had a “moment”. As we were about to leave to walk down through the gardens and across the river to the Eiffel, we heard the sound of glorious voices massed in song. It was a choir from Madagascar, and here they were on the steps of this stunning site practising for an evening performance. Everybody around was entranced. They sounded heavenly, and it really did make the moment magical. To add to that, as we and the people around us were taking photographs of them, they – without missing a note – were taking photographs of their audience. What a blessing!

And what a view!

Feeling as though today was really living on another plane, we walked down past the beautiful water features, the delightful carousel, across the Seine and to the Eiffel. Ah, it is so much more somehow than you ever imagine. And so are the crowds. We wandered around, gazing up, up, up, and then strolled through the gardens abundant with spring blooms to the Place de Mars. The azaleas and roses were just amazing, and I think a real gardener would happily have passed the day there.

Looking forward

Looking back

Through rue de Grenelle we then went and came – all unplanned – to Les Invalides. Now, this is where Napoleon Bonaparte is interred, and this is the church with a Dome which is covered in 12 kilograms of gold. 12 kilos! Les Invalides was inviting, but the tour buses full of Spanish school kids weren’t, so after a quick walk around we decamped, as they say.

Remember, that's 12 kilos
of gold up there.

Talking of school kids, one thing which has really struck us here in Paris is the behaviour of groups of school students when they are on outings. We watch them, amazed, as they walk along the sidewalks in the usual two-by-two-holding-hands style, but they are not yelling and screaming, they always seem so well behaved! So nice to see. And the teachers – and there seems to be a lot less teachers per student than what we see here – are actually decently dressed. Apologies to any teachers I offend here, but sometimes I am disgusted when I see teachers on school outings here in Perth wearing track pants or old jeans, etc. And those teachers, even if there are two or three of them, are not doing the usual Aussie thing and hanging back at the end of the line just chatting away to each other or talking on their mobile phones; they are in amongst the children. Okay, they may also be smoking, but that’s a different matter entirely.
Just a lovely apartment building
on rue Grenelle

Well, today our feet got a real workout, and so we decided to head back to the right bank, pick up something to eat for dinner and have a quiet evening in with a long bath, a few drinks – and perhaps a quick late night dash around the corner to peek at the Louvre and the Eiffel flashing their lights and glory at us.

Tomorrow we continue walking Paris, taking in the totally gorgeous Petit Palais, catching a Batobus again, and having our eyes set alight on a Night Illuminations tour.  I do hope you'll join us.

Au revoir.

Post script:
If you get a moment, follow this link and visit The Louvre yourself – it’s a gorgeous
website and I think you will find yourself spending a few hours there.

And why not follow the route we took on this little outing on this map.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

France, Day 5: Garnier Opera House, Handbags and a French Waiter

2 May

Today we continue our ambling around Paris, without any fixed schedule but just allowing the flow of the sidewalks and the sights and smells around us to guide our footsteps. 

Place Vendome
On leaving the hotel, instead of heading to the left, toward rue de Rivoli, we turn right, up to rue Saint-Honoré where we make a left and then continue on until we reach once more the understated elegance of Place Vendome.

Place Vendome looking toward the Ritz

So simple, so elegant


Don't think my Visa card is up to this

From here we again turn to the right, further away from the river, and stroll along rue de la Paix until we see, right there in front of us, the Garnier Opera House. To say it is impressive is just silly understatement; it is magnificent. 

Ta dah!
 Wondering whether the Phantom is watching us from some hidden eerie, we walk around the building, wanting to see it from every side. Sweeping staircases, superb carvings – it’s really almost too much to take in. Even the scaffolding, which seems to be ever-present in Paris, does nothing to dull the effect of this place. This building is so different to the Gothic magnificence of the Louvre, so different to the rounded symmetrical Haussmann architecture which surrounds our hotel; this is plainly and simply OTT gorgeous! Oh, and I’ll swear that the Music of the Night wasn’t playing only in my head; I’ll swear that it was emanating from the very stones and windows of that stunning building.
The beautiful foyer.
And so we go inside. We purchase our tickets to wander more or less at will, and prepare ourselves – or think we have, silly us – to feast our eyes on bling extraordinaire.
Stunning doorway.
There are wonderful items contained with the museum of the Opera House, items such as beautiful sketches of performances, programmes, artwork, and – breathtaking –Anna Pavlova’s costume for Swan Lake. You look at that, so tiny and beautiful, and know that you are in a world apart.

But of course it’s not the museum we have come here to see, is it; it is the full-on gorgeousness that the very name, Garnier Opera, offers. And it doesn’t disappoint. If the French economy starts doing a Greek (or a Spain, an Italy, an Ireland) dive down toward the bottom of the pool, they could always sell off some of the zillion tonnes of gold on show in this building. The strange thing is, opulence is often just garish and quite offensive, but this isn’t; this is just stunning.

The staircase, with the magnificent lights on either side, the little seating areas, the salon where patrons would linger and make clever conversation during intermissions, they are all quite breathtaking. This is indeed a feast for the eyes. I really can’t do it justice or describe it in a way that could convey to you any concept of what it is really like, and so I will just add in some photographs and hope you enjoy looking at them.

 Have your eyes recovered?  Oh, really? Try these.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? Oh, I just loved that place. Unfortunately, there was a rehearsal happening at the time and so we weren’t able to go into the main theatre area, but that is a joy we can put off for another time.
 We left the Garnier and walked down Avenue de l’Opera, and in this way we came to a Fragonard store. Slim, elegant, beautifully “finished” sales attendants made a fuss of my husband and, basically, ignored me. While I sampled various scents he stood there glowing while gorgeous young things on either side offered “Monsieur”this and that men’s fragrance, piling him with samples to take home. Left more or less to my own devices, I selected a charming little lingerie bag as a gift for a cousin back home, but no perfume. You need to know that when you shop in small shops in Paris – even patisseries – the wrapping of the item is most important. This little piece of frivolity, this small lace bit of nothing, was lovingly ensconced first in layer after layer of tissue. It was then carefully wrapped in the sort of beautiful wrapping paper which we reserve for those dearest to us. That then was topped off with a ribbon, and then that, and my man’s collection of freebies, placed in an elegant carry bag. Ah, I love this place!
And still more?
We cut through back to rue Saint-Honoré and – oh, joy of joys – came across a handbag shop to make handbag lovers cry for the beauty of the window display. Could I pass it by? Don’t be silly. We entered to find a store of nothing but beautiful, real leather handbags of every colour of the rainbow, and – here’s a bonus – all made in France. I could easily have just sat down and spent a few hours gazing at the goodies on offer. However, my eyes had been drawn to two particular handbags, one in powder blue and white, the other in bone and tan. The owner of the store – an immaculately suited Asian gentleman – noting the direction of my loving gazes, removed those bags from their shelves and took me to the rear of the shop where, in front of huge mirrors, he invited me to “try them on”to see if they suited. Now, perhaps I’m the odd one out here, but I had never been invited to “try on” a bag in front of a mirror in my whole life; it was a new experience. Checking from all angles, twirling in front of those mirrors, I simply fell more deeply in love. Yes, of course I have those two handbags, and they are still loved, and they still live in their feather soft muslin bags, and I delight in seeing other women’s eyes grow large with admiration and envy whenever I “wear” one of them.
Could you resist this?
Sunshine, laughter, new handbags, and with the images of the Garnier still there on the front page of the mind, this is one wonderful day.
We drop our purchases off in our hotel room, happy little campers indeed, and then it is time to acknowledge that our tummies are trying to tell us something. There is a little café around the corner on rue de Rivoli, and so we go there to pick up a couple of baguettes avec jambon et fromage and then cross the road to our lovely Jardin des Tuileries, where we find a seat under a shady tree and watch the children laughing and giggling on their donkey ride as we munch happily on our delicious, cheap and simple lunch.
Where better could you eat your lunch?
With hunger sated, we walked along by the river until we came to a spot where one of the red hop-on-hop-off buses stops. We noticed one of the buses swaying from side to side, making its way slowly along the street towards the stop, and so we decided to take advantage of its appearance.

We purchased a two day ticket, took our seats and happily did the whole 2.5 hour circuit. It’s probably really a 2 hour circuit, but our driver, who looking like a backing vocalist for Bob Marley, had to take time to smoke at least one cigarette at every stop.
On the coach we got chatting to a young girl from Brisbane who was visiting Paris by herself for four days. She was staying at the Mercure Hotel on the Champs Elysees, which one would think of as a great location for a single traveller. Not her, though. She said she felt really unsafe in Paris. Interesting, isn’t it, how people react so differently to places. We don’t feel particularly safe in our home city, but do feel safe in Paris. Okay, I’ll qualify that: we feel safe in central Paris. Those ugly, economically depressed suburbs are not places we would venture to, and so they form no part of our Paris.

Now, I honestly believe that hop-on-hop-off buses are fantastic. When your feet are sore but you don’t want to miss a thing, they are a great option. We make use of them wherever we go, and it allows us to decide, “Oh, yes, we must go there”, or “Nah, that just doesn’t do it for me”.

One place we saw on this circuit which just captivated us was the Trocadero, on the opposite side of the Seine to the Eiffel, offering the best views of that iconic tower to be had in Paris.
When the bus dropped us back near our hotel, we agreed that it was high time to treat ourselves and visit a patisserie. There is a wonderful one on rue Saint-Honoré, just around the corner from the Emeraude Louvre Montana, and so we headed there. Joining the queue of ladies waiting to be given their daily bread, we had time as we slowly edged forward to check out the delicacies on offer.
Had to pop in another one, just because.

Now, I know that Acland Street in St Kilda has some great cake shops, but what you find in Paris – and elsewhere in France – is on a different level entirely. These are works of art, and selecting was difficult. It is also really noticeable that these cakes are not the huge, giant sized things which we see in cake shops here, which leave you with nothing but an enormous sense of guilt and a need to loosen your belt. No, these Parisienne lovelies are small and perfect. We chose our cakes, and headed back to our hotel room to relax with a good book, a delicious cake and a cup of coffee (remember, always go for a hotel where you can make yourself a cuppa in your room – so important!).

For dinner this evening we decided to try a different restaurant. We walked along rue Saint-Honoré until we found one that looked inviting. It was a simple little bistro and obviously quite popular with the locals as most of the conversation which flowed around us was in French, not English, Italian or German. On checking the menu, my man spotted an item called Andouillette Saucisse. Well, he thought, sausages might be the way to go. When the waiter took our order he peered over the top of his glasses at my husband and, with raised eyebrows and a look of doubt on his face, asked, “Do you know?” What an interesting question. I mean, just simply, “Do you know?” Obviously, we didn’t know but we were not going to admit that, so my husband smiled, nodded his head, and said, “Oiu, je sais”.

Okay, one last one.
Hm, hands up anybody who has been to France and, not knowing, has ordered this particular very-popular-with-locals dish? Well, the first thing you notice when your meal is placed on the table in front of you is the smell. You really want to get up and leave right then and there. This smell is B-A-D. I have read websites that refer to it as “the smell of death”, and some that call the Andouillette Saucisse “the sausage of death”. I was so glad that I had gone for a nice piece of veal with a creamy Normandy sauce and, of course, the obligatory frittes. My man, nevertheless, was determined to not be put off by the smell. He was, however, put off by the taste. It was disgusting. He offered me a bite. I took a tiny nip. I was put off, for life. Not wanting to give the waiter too much satisfaction, he bravely made it through half of his meal. What a man!

We have since discovered what goes into these particular sausages. Some are made the traditional way, with the skin actually being from a pig’s colon. The filling in the sausage is variously described as tripe, intestines, chittlings – but most often intestines. So, here we have a bunch of intestines, and other more solid looking bits that you really don’t even want to think about, all neatly, and tightly, encased in a pig’s colon. Now, doesn’t that sound delicious to you? I have since discovered that there are many, many French people who almost throw up just at the memory of Andouillette, and I have come across two other men – my brother, and my dentist – who having unknowingly ordered this French speciality. Their minds are cruel enough to hold the memory of the experience front and centre. Urgh!!!!

Our waiter, no doubt extremely pleased that my husband hadn’t really known, hadn’t quite finished with us, however. As is the habit here in Australia, and no doubt many other places in the world, when we ordered our dessert we also ordered our coffee. We definitely did not know that this is considered a huge faux pas by some French people. Obviously we did not want our coffee with our dessert, but we were just getting the ordering of it out of the way. The top half of our waiter’s torso pulled back so that his body was slanting away, obviously trying to seek refuge from these ignorant foreigners, and, peering once more over his glasses, he asked, “And when would you like that served? Would you like it with your dessert, after your dessert, or perhaps you would like it at breakfast time?” Well, what does one say – or do – in such a situation? Was he being incredibly rude, or was he being a smart-mouth? Who knows, and who really cares. I prefer to think of it as being a smart-mouth, the sort of thing you expect on a 30 minute sit-com set in New York, and so I refused to take offence. We assured him that after dessert would be fine, and he trotted away as happily as his repertoire allowed.

Ah, tomorrow!

Ah, what a fantastic day, just wonderful. Catch you tomorrow, when we’re off to the Louvre – aaahhh – the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and the Trocadero. See you then.