Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Swimming with Frogs

So yet another long weekend in France. And this time we took the opportunity to go to the wine region of Bourgogne. We set off on Friday night straight after work with a full car of 7 people, 3 bikes on the back and a roof box. Well prepared indeed. We were booked into stay in a lovely looking gite near Beaune which said it was a big country house with a big garden and swimming pool. So when we pulled into a normal looking house in a residential street we were a bit surprised. Just as we were about to barge on into the house K looked again at the address and realised we were in the wrong village - the GPS had in fact taken us to the wrong place. This is one of the reasons I will always use a normal map - so much more reliable. We all clambered back into the car and had to drive another 12km to find our house but it was so worth it. Even at night time it was an impressive entrance. Big gates led into an impressive driveway with a big plant covered house on one side and barns on the other. Walking into the house it only got better. Huge rooms with enormous fireplaces, beautiful artwork and mis-matched furniture - it certainly had a WOW factor.

In the morning we got to see the gardens which had 3 cherry trees, a raspberry plant, a herb garden, an apple tree and probably more undiscovered fruit plants. And then the swimming pool. Not just any old swimming pool but a NATURAL swimming pool. Not quite sure how it works but it looks like a pond and there is no chlorine in it. It was so nice. 

I had a little swim in it after lunch - it was pretty cold but too hard to resist. Especially as there were fish and frogs in the pool. Now isn't that what you've always wanted - never mind dolphins - swimming with frogs is the new black.

We spent the morning wandering around the market in Beaune which was fantastic. I love French markets - the produce is always beautiful to look at and seems so authentic. We stocked up on plenty of fruit and veg and tons of meat.  That is the problem with this year - every weekend there is something special going on so it's another excuse to eat plenty of delicious food, or over-indulging. And this goes for alcohol too. I have had a very good education in wine this year and this was topped off this weekend by visiting 2 of the wine chateaux of the region. Have you ever visited one before? You get to wander around the wine cellars and see thousands of old, dusty bottles. Then you come to the end and you have a degustation or a wine tasting. We tried €50 bottles of wine. And they give you nearly half a glass full of up to 7 different wines. Not bad huh.

Sunday morning I went in a HELICOPTER!! The 2 girls and I had an 8 minute tour round Beaune from the air. A special treat paid for by Kirsten's parents. We even had to wear the big headphones and spoke to each other through the little microphone. I felt like a journalist or Blue Peter presenter. 

Aren't I spoiled?

Also, 6music has just introduced me to Hollie Cook, such good summer music. Have a listen:

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Lads on Tour

The weekend before I had Hatz and Jenny to visit which was truly fabulous. They arrived on the Thursday and in the evening we went to a night out called the Secret Garden Party at Parc Buttes Chaumont. I was expecting it to be a kind of rave thing in the whole park but in fact it was in the pavilion by the lake and very civilised. While we were queuing up we could see inside and there was a strip tease going on to an Edith Piaf song. It seemed like it was going to be a cool night. The crowd was young, hip and trendy - we fitted right in... Ha. It turned out to be one of the best nights out I've had in Paris. The music was good and we spent most of the time dancing and not getting grinded against and chatted up by strange persistent men. Genial. However it was a Thursday night and I had work in the morning so after being persuaded to at least stay in Paris and not get the last train home, I said we should get the last metro as otherwise it would be un cauchemar to get back (remember previous post about horrendous Paris taxis?) We got to the metro in plenty of time, went through the barriers, in front of the men working in the booth, to be told that the metro had stopped running. Thanks for telling us before we had put our tickets through the machine. This was 1am and not central Paris. Uh oh. Taxi problem. I suggested hiring out the velibs but that idea was poopooed pretty promptly so we started walking and hoped for the best. After about 10 mins we had a stroke of luck and a taxi stopped by us and a person got out meaning FREE TAXI! We ran to get it, shouting to the other people who were trying to get it that is was ours. We were seriously lucky, I was getting worried it was going to be a long walk home. Paris taxi drivers - you will not lose money if there are a few more taxis on the road, there is plenty of demand for you all and it would make everyone's life so much easier.

I ended up getting about 4 hours sleep before I had to head back to take the girls to school. They seemed to be in a particularly loud and playful mood that morning. Exactly what I was hoping for. After I'd dropped them off I got the train back into Paris to meet H+J and we did the proper tourist route - Arc de Triomph, Champs Elysses, Louvre. And Hatz insisted we did a leaping photo in front of all the hotspots.  I don't think I've ever done that before in my life but I'm now a convert. Even if you do get a lot of strange looks doing it. In the evening we went to Rue Oberkampf for dinner and drinks. That is my top tip for going out in Paris. There are so many good bars in that area, you are bound to have a good night. We went to a bar that Frances has taken me to before, I think it's called the International, where they often have free live music. There was a band playing called Hyphen Hyphen. They dont come across so well online, but live they were brilliant, loads of energy and really fun. We left after they finished to find another bar and drank wine and smoked Vogue cigarettes to look cool. Then after we'd finished being so cool and Parisian we were careful to leave and get the last metro home. 

Saturday was a day of more sightseeing and walking and sitting in cafes. And posing as the hunchback of Notre Dame, in front of the Notre Dame. I'm not sure anybody else found it amusing. For supper we took some bread and cheese up to the Sacre Coeur and watched the sunset. Sounds romantic doesn't it. Well it was, but there was also a terrible puppet show about the Bible going on and a German couple sitting next to us who wouldn't stop staring at us. Slightly disconcerting. Anyway it was a great weekend, I had the best time.

Clare's just put up pictures of Giverny. Really upset now. Plus Federer lost the tennis.

French Holidays

In France there seems to always be jour feriés, know to us as bank holidays. This week there was yet another one on Thursday which meant everyone thought they might as well take Friday off as well making ti a 4 day weekend. Schools were closed, businesses were closed and I get 5 days off. What a life. There's another one next Monday as well which means we're taking a trip to Beaune for the weekend. But this week I've had a nice time relaxing around Paris. I've done lots of wandering, mainly around places I already know but seeing them in a more relaxed manner. Clare and the girls also took me to an amazing little takeaway pizza place by Gare de Lyon. It's just one man working all himself and he makes them fresh there and then, nothing pre-made. You pay €5 for a pizza or €6 for a big one to share and they are incredible. I'd say as good as if not better than Firenze ones (the Italian restaurant where I used to work. Sorry Bruno). Clare and I shared one with creme fraiche and smoked salmon on. Definitely my new favourite pizza. We sat up on the viaduct eating them in the evening light and afterwards Emma took us to her flat where her housemate breeds pedigree cats. One of the mummies had recently had a litter of kittens - all tiny and white and we got to hold them!! Ee they were so cute and they fitted in the palm of our hands. I love kittens so much. I can't decide between having a cat or a ferret when I have my own house. Ideally a ferret but a cat is probably more practical. And maybe less smelly.

Then yesterday I met up with my old housemate Jo who is visiting for the weekend with her friend. We did a big walking tour of Paris through the Marais to Notre Dame through St Germain des Pres, lunched in the Jardin de Luxembourg and then went to Musée d'Orsay before ending up in the Latin Quarter for dinner. All in the stifling heat. I think it's just under 30 degrees here and it has been for a while now. It's ridiculous - the temperatures are those of high summer and yet it's the beginning of June. It's beautiful but all I want to do is be by the beach or in a pool and I unfortunately have neither of those near by.

A Failed Outing

I woke up this morning very early (6:45) because I had planned to go to Giverny where Monet's gardens are. However when I arrived at the gare it turned out I'd made a mistake and the train I was going to catch doesn't actually run on Sundays. Which meant I would then miss the connecting train from St Lazare. Tant pis pour moi. And the next train apparently wasn't until 12:20 ( I have since found out this isn't true but I'll brush over that because it makes me cross). I walked back home to find the rest of the family awake and about to get ready to go to a brocante at Chavenay so I decided to go with them as at least like that it wouldn't be a waste of my day and my early start. It is meant to be one of the best brocantes and in a very beautiful village. It was very charmant and it was pretty enormous. I managed to find a couple of things - there was a stall devoted to brand new Kookai clothes at cheap prices. The girls were the real winners though, they came back with a mini telescope, a few toys and a microphone which they've been singing into in the garden and making an terrible racket. How can children continue doing the same thing and making the same annoying noise for 15 minutes and not get annoyed themselves. This microphone has got a horrible reverb thing going on and I think we are going to sorely regret this purchase.

This afternoon it's the final of Roland Garros between Federer and Nadal which I think we might watch here on the big screen. I'm rooting for Federer as it's about time he won this competition and he's probably one of the nicest men in sport. But I don't mind if it's Nadal, he's a god. Plus he's only 2 years older than me which I find très impressionant.

I haven't written this for a while, I've been doing lots of things and keep forgetting to update so I might try and do a backdate of what I've been up to. Seeing as I haven't gone to Giverny today : ( I suppose I've got some free time to let you know what else I've been up to. Here goes.