Monday, June 23, 2014

Pigale and Montmarte - Sacre Coeur Day 11

 Today we decided we would take a little stroll around Pigale, the part of town where you will find the Moulin Rouge.  I overheard a young British girl say to her friends, "Really that's it, it sounds so romantic to say we are at the Moulin Rouge, shit it's like one of our shitty old pubs back home."  Pretty well sums it up actually.  The Moulin Rouge sits faded red between two rather unremarkable white buildings, like some weird windmill in a town full of filth.  The Pigale area, apparently meaning Pig Alley, is the red light district.  Every other window is filled with sex toys and skimpy lingerie.  On the train over,I was confronted by a woman, well I think it was a woma.  She looked like she had had a bad dose of botox and acne scars, well let's say she wasn't a beauty.  She sat with a friend a darker haired version of the first, drinking wine from a glass in the train, with the bottle squeezed between her legs.  She said something to me snarling really, I had no idea what she said, I smiled and she snarled a little more.  I mumbled Merci, what the!!!!! What was I thanking her for ha ha!  She glared at me, her friend gave her a dig in the side.  Everyone on the train looked the other way.  Adrian was a bit away from me, he could hear her talking but didn't know she was talking to me.  A gypsy woman jumped on the train and started singing, weird lady sang along and at the next stop I rushed over to where Adrian was standing.  Far out.
We took a very brief walk around Pigale and headed up to the Sacre Coeur.  There is a Funicular there now so you don't have to walk the hundreds of stairs, that Monmartre is notorious for.  For the cost of a metro ticket you get to stand in a little glass sauna and ride up the staircase.  This is the skyline from the Sacre Coeur, the pictures above.
 Take a stroll around the back of the big church and you will find some little laneways, away from all the crowds.  You might even find people having a picnic lunch/celebration.
You might see this beautiful vine covered walkway.
Maybe you catch a glimpse of another skyline, the one that is Montmarte.  
Then never ever if you can possibly avoid it catch the RER Blue line.  It is always having difficulties and today we spent 40 mins roaming around the Gare De Nord trying to find the Blue line that would bring us home.  Little did we know that it was once again not working.  That's the problem when all the notices are written in freaking French.  Everyone else is making their way to the alternative train platform, we are roaming up and down miles and bloody miles of terminal trying to find a bloody train that isn't ever coming.  I seriously had a panic attack, I felt like I was going to be eternally stuck in the bloody train station.  Finally home, I needed a vodka and a sleep.  Tonight we are going to L'Orangerie for dinner with Stuart and Darlene, and if I hear another bloody siren or horn toot, I am going to stick something in my ears so I go deaf.
Till Tomorrow

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 9 and 10 And sayin' it like it is

 Today is our 10th full day in Paris, it's the 21st June 2014 and it is about 5pm.   The sun has been up since about 4ish this morning and it is hot.  The sun is definitely not as burning as in Australia but I am quite red.  All the walking around we do has us in the sun quite a bit.   The girls have been gone 3 days and the apartment still seems quiet without them.  I have my i pad on now with music playing just to break the silence.  Open the big windows though and it is noisy, traffic and voices filter up to our living area.  Yesterday we went on a canal cruise of Canal St. Martin.  A word of warning if you don't feel like listening to me grumble leave right now.  Above is a building that sits on the banks of the Canal, so cool.
Above is a view of the canal from the starting point of the cruise.  Those are the only nice things I can say about the entire experience.  We thought it sounded great, 2.5 hours of cruising the canals from the Canal St. Martin area, ending at the Bastille marina.  We bought our tickets and waited around for the 1.5 hours till the cruise would leave.  As we sat waiting about 15 mins before we could board a tour of Germans arrived and stood right in front of all of us waiting on the banks for the past hour or so.  Then the captain announced that the group would go on first.  We were all pretty ticked off, Adrian asked the girl taking if the tickets if she spoke English of course she said, have you heard of trip advisor he asked yes she smiled, good because we are gonna slam you on it he said.  It was down hill from there on.
Of course the group took the entire upper outside seats and most of the front outside seats.  We went through 4 double locks, it took about 15 minutes each and after the first one it was pretty boring.  We couldn't see what was happening as the Germans had the seats that you could see from.  The interior filled up with the smell of the diesel and it was awful.  Then the woman who had initially thought we were going to be nice, did a narration of the different sights along the way.  Well we think that's what she was doing as all we could pretty much hear was her rattling on in French to a boat full of Germans and English speakers WTF, and then she would give like 2 sentences in English, which with her accent we couldn't understand anyway. As Adrian said once again the French folded at the bloody knees to the Germans.  It was just the shittiest thing we have done so far.  Rant over!!!!!
 So most of you would know that we paid a bucket load of money before we came away to take French lessons.  We went for 10 weeks once a week and played a cd in our cars every day.  We were determined that when we got here we would be able to get by with at least a reasonable touch of French.  Hmmm well not really.  My first experience was in the Metro, fresh off the train from London, when we needed coins for the tickets.  That was not a sentence we learnt, "Can I have coins please" nope not in the book, so she sends me to the bloody toilet for coins, ha ha.  Well it hasn't gotten that much better, last night we decided we would get a bottle of bubbles and go sit on the river bank with the rest of the Paris population, seriously everyone under 35 is on the Seine all night long.  Point there is that we are not under 35 so in the end we sat in the old people's hang the park at the side of the Notre Dame.  Umm anyway back to the bad French.  Adrian went and ordered a supreme pizza without egg.  Yep you get a raw egg on most pizzas here watch out ha ha!!  
He also ordered Calamari and Frittes (chips)  now what did we get?  We got Prawns and frittes and an onion pizza hahahahahah!!!!
We have decided that in France don't bothering ordering anything let them bring you what they want to, because they will anyway.
We did feel rather French though sitting there in the park drinking champagne (not real champers its too bloody expensive) and eating dinner.
 Park beside Notre Dame
 The girls have hidden something in this spot for a friend to find in 3 months
I saw this strange fellow hanging about 
 Some trivia for you, every afternoon here there is happy hour, from about 3 till around 8pm in most of the cafes, bistrots and restaurants.  That means the drinks are a bit cheaper.  Make the most of it if you don't want to buy a bottle and eat and drink at home.  We had a really nice time an afternoon or 2 ago sitting on the footpath, everyone does here, eating a bit of tapas and enjoying a couple of mojitos, which by the way we later found out weren't included in the happy hour ha hahahahahaha!!!!
We also have come to the conclusion that the police here use their sirens and lights to get through the never ending snarl of traffic.  We constantly hear sirens rushing to no where.  The cars get through the lights and turn off their sirens and go on their way.  
We are so surprised by the number of young people who are out really late every night along the river bank.  They all have some beer and wine, but there have been no fights or altercations at all that we have seen.  We haven't even seen any teens really drunk, though I would assume they would be at least reasonably drunk just by way of the amount of time they have spent drinking.
Also here, we think the African population must have been here a generation or so more than in Australia.  We see Bi racial couple everywhere, and mixed race children.  The African community here is at restaurants and at work in businesses everywhere.  Not like in Australia where they seem to mostly get work in the meat works of some form of labouring.  I look forward to the day when I see that in Australia.
Also gay couples are openly together in Paris, men walking along holding hands, women cuddling in the park, very different to Toowoomba at least if not all of Australia.  Paris is okay with everything, I long for the day when we can all accept each other, colours and preferences aside, how many generations will it take I wonder.
Paris is nice during the week when it is quieter, not so nice on the weekends, when it seems hoardes of visitors come to town.  Paris is noisy, well noisier than Toowoomba, and it is the tourists that cause the chaos.  I can imagine Paris without the visitors, it would be a wonderful place.  I am ready to leave I feel though, it is exhausting.  The trains are quite difficult, I found the tubes in London much easier to use.  They eat and drink differently here and I am looking forward to a good coffee.

When you look up there are vapour trails all over the sky, people going somewhere, it makes me wonder where.  It makes me want to leave a little trail in the sky and head home to my baby girls, my daughter and my bed.  My twins are safe and sound in Canada and will be until at least May next year.  
So as the days wind down and we prepare to head off in a few days to Amiens to see the Western Front, I hate to say it but I breathe a sigh of relief.
Till Tomorrow

Friday, June 20, 2014

Day 8 in Paris Come to the Marais District

Today Thursday 19th June we found ourselves alone, for the first time in 14 days, arghh!!!! Ha ha  I am only laughing so I don't cry.  It is a strange feeling when once again the house is crowded, the ipod is playing all the time, the jokes are flowing, the wine is flowing and there are young people around again.  It is even stranger when they leave.  After all my tears yesterday, and there were lots, I woke this morning hoping that I would be better able to cope today.  Crazy really when the girls have already been gone for a year and I knew this would be the case, that they would leave again, but none the less it is difficult.  But today my feet didn't hurt, for the first time in 3 weeks, I wasn't limping by the time I had walked maybe 20 minutes.  Seriously, this has been an extraordinary experience with my feet.  I bought shoes months ago to wear in and wear here and I wore them one day and could barely walk.  So finally I was able to walk today for about 5 hours. 

 We took a stroll to the Marais District today, the Jewish quarter of Paris, did you know about 76,000 French Jews were deported during the Nazi occupation of France in WW2?  What an atrocity!  There have been terrorist attacks on the Jewish Quarter in the past since the end of WW2 actually as recently as 1982 Palestinian gunmen threw grenades into a dining room in a restaurant and killed 6 people.  But today it seems like life goes on, and in the fountain of one of the market places we found this thong oops who left that behind?

A splash of summer colour,
 African artifacts in the middle of Paris,  there are so many Africans here, I met a man today from Sengali (I think) he really wanted Adrian and I to buy some African outfits for in the house he said, ha ha, they were great caftans, in those brilliant bright prints I see our friends at TRAMS wearing all the time.  What a salesman!
 The season for Fraise and berries is now and everywhere we see these beautiful berries.
 Nuts, salted fish and other unknown foods for us tempt me.
Fresh seafood, Langoustines, and some sort of cockles, whatever you wanted was there even horse!!!
 We took a stroll to Place des Vosages, where Victor Hugo (Les Miserables, Hunch back of Notre Dame fame) lived before his exile and took a tour of his apartments and saw an exhibition of his work "The Man who Laughed", we both want to watch this when we get home.  The Place Des Vosages is beautiful.The doors around the Place imposing and old, I love the mystery behind each one.
 Place Des Vosages, filled with school children and families enjoying the sun and summer.  I have never seen such public displays of sleeping and sunbathing as I have here in Europe.  Business men with their shoes and socks off at lunch time.  Couples snuggled together on the grass, families with children in the parks! 
And street art as I prefer to call it, is alive and well in Paris.

Till tomorrow,

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dining and Crying in Paris Today

 Last week after catching up with Stuart and Darlene from the first European tour we took with Rick Steves in 2009, we all decided we would get together and cook a meal.  So last night was the culmination of this little idea.  We decided we would do the entree and dessert as it was easier for us with the great kitchen set up we have.  Darlene and  Stuart would do the main.  Our first idea was to have the cauliflower puree we had learnt to cook at the cooking school and top it with seared scallops.  But in true Parisian form the fishmonger we went to was well all I can say he was an arse.  So after waiting quite a while, I stormed off in a huff and we had to come up with something else to top the puree with.  AH ha duck we said and so it was. I have toi say it turned out beautifully and we all really enjoyed it.
Stuart brought shrimps (I know we say prawns but the Americans still say shrimp ha ha) and he cooked the beautifully along with delicious vegies. The vegetables were cooked in an apricot glaze and it was fabulous.
We ate some cheese before dessert as you do in Paris, actually to be totally Parisian we should have had the cheese after the entree and before the dessert with a little lettuce and some very mild dressing, go figure.
To end the meal we enjoyed, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries with a tangy cream, and some meringue crumbled in it, Oh my goodness that was nice.
We had a great night with our friends from Boise Idaho and hopefully we will squeeze in another get together before we leave next week.
This morning though was a very sad time, in fact all bloody day has been miserable.  Except for a few short minutes at lunch, when we sat down next to some fellow Aussies and savoured the sound of our wonderful accents.  That was a nice break in the otherwise sad day.
 Today Ashleigh and Danielle went home to Canada and I want to swallow my tongue when I say they went home, but that's where they live now, it's where they have been for the past 12 months, long months for me, and it's where they will be for the next 12 months at least.  We had a couple of teary discussions these past 2 weeks about the consequences of the decision to live so far away for so long.  We three girls all cried together, talking about missing out on things like birthdays, Christmas and of course the new baby girl they haven't even held or touched yet. They miss Elle and Sophie, their sister and brother in law, their friends back home and of course us.  But this is the life they want for this time and it is the hardest thing ever, to let them live it.
So today as we waved goodbye to them at the customs gate, and then I held on a little longer so they couldn't leave yet, and then we waved again and again until we couldn't see them anymore, I wanted to curl up into a ball and scream.
I am sitting here now wishing I could fly home right this minute, I want to hold Elle and Sophie and Alicia and be in my own bed.  I want something that feels real instead of like some crazy never ending holiday.  I like Paris, not as much as I thought I would, I really struggle with talking to people and that is a big part of me, I talk to everyone, everywhere.  Here I can't do that.  I want Ash and Nelly to come back to Toowoomba, not Brisbane or Melbourne or Sydney.  I hope that over the next few days this all settles down, I do, but right now I am a blubbering mess and I just want my girls back.
Till Tomorrow

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I'lle St. Louis and drinks on the banks of the Seine Day 5

Today we had no plans after an attempt to catch up with an Aussie living here fell through, so we just wandered.  We are not far from a place called Oz Cafe, a chain of pubs over here, Adrian wanted to find out if they would be playing the State of Origin on Wednesday, ha ha seriously, here we are in Paris and what's on his mind...... the second game of State of Origin, ha ha.
The apartment above is on the banks of the Seine and covers two floors we think, with a roof garden ooh la la.
 Sitting on the banks of the Seine, everyone does it, these girls were drinking water, ha ha, next to them were a small group drinking wine, it's quite acceptable out in  public anywhere here.

 Getting sa decent group photo for our family as anyone who knows us knows, is a difficult job, proven by these photos.

I am still amazed by the way the incredible architecture and beauty of these old cities, London and Paris, seem to be taken for granted by the locals.  I guess where ever we live is home and we expect and accept what is around us every day.  Today is Monday and many of the larger stores don't open, actually I am surprised by the number of shops that are open today, we expected to have very few open at all.
Notre Dame is in the distance behind us here.
The signs here and in Germany as I remember are great.  I love the creativity of the people and the age of the stores here.  This was a cookie store, like the Aussie Cookie Man stores, how cute.
Till Tomorrow

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