April 15 Giverny

My tour to Giverny didn’t leave till 1.00 so I bought tickets online for the Musee D’Orsay and walked over in the morning. Buying tickets online has been brilliant. With a digital ticket it is so quick to enter and thus miss the queues.

The crowds were fewer and the experience so pleasant. So much art I have seen in books and the building is fantastic. I loved the clock windows and the ballroom was spectacular. Why don’t we do something like this with Flinders street station?. I imagine the ballroom is not so sumptuous but the space could be utilised for art shows or even studios perhaps.

Then onwards to the Place des Pyramides for tea in a salon opposite the Tour office. We loaded up and headed towards the Arc de Triomph through the Bois de Boulogne and onto the freeway. The guide reminded us that Paris had been a walled city but that all the walls/ gates were destroyed in the war but the names have been kept for the exits. It was a pleasant ride with the weather looking quite ominous but by the time we arrived at Vernon any rain had passed. I had not realised that Normandy was actually settled by Vikings(North Men) and set up a rival duchy to the French King. He legitamised (made treaty with them) and so Normandy was established. It explains the very different architecture for the church spires – more Scandinavian. Vernon was mentioned in the book I read last year, Black Waterlillies. In the book it didn’t seem to be as charming as Giverny but in fact it has a substantial area of medieval buildings and quaint streets. Giverny on the other hand is more pastoral but really just a street and quite touristy but in an unobtrusive way. Monet’s gardens and home were not as large as I expected but nonetheless very charming. The tulips were in full bloom and really were spectacular. The waterlilies don’t appear until later and were a more wintery looking still. The fragrance of the garden was beautiful and after bustling Paris a balm for the soul. I so envied his studio, or rather three studios. One was built especially for painting his massive canvasses of the water lily garden that hang in the Orangerie. And the kitchen stove was a massive Aga style which was needed for feeding his huge family.

It was difficult to get pictures without people! Especially over the famous bridge. Returning to Paris was painful because the traffic was at a standstill many times and I began to feel bus sick. Fortunately I was able to control the nausea and realised I hadn’t had lunch! It was 7.30 pm when we arrived back and I was weary and starving and desperate for vegetables. I ate a bowl of Ramen and had a delicious mango for dessert. Crisis averted. I also felt quite chuffed that I could return to my hotel now without the aid of a map!

April 14. Paris

At  last Paris! After a movie marathon on the plane (7) where I caught up on the latest and was fortunate to be seated next to very pleasant people. They were happy to act in a team capacity when we all needed the toilet as it was so very squashed and I was in a window seat. When one got up we all got up! I haven’t had that experience before with strangers but it made for a most agreeable flight.

I arrived in Paris and my booked shuttle was nowhere to be seen. It turns out they came on the 13 th instead of the 14 th but were quick to reorganise. After finally getting to the hotel I jumped in the shower to refresh, and took what was supposed to be a very quick rest. I woke with a start and realised I wouldn’t be walking to the tour after all! I grabbed a cab ( which came in five minutes- a far more positive experience than my 1 hour wait for a cab to take me to the airport in Melbourne!) to get me to a Jump the queue tour of the Louvre. I was pretty tired because I only slept a couple of hours on the plane and an hour in the hotel but I was glad of the booked tour. If I had had to queue I would have bailed. It was all your worst ideas about travelling in Europe. Crowds everywhere. I almost got the giggles over the crowd around the Venus de milo and the Mona Lisa. I wasn’t too concerned because the tour guide was very informative about those and other paintings and sculptures we saw and rooms we visited which I previously had never seen.

Flagging by now I stopped at a little bistro to have a Croque Monsieur and glass of wine and a delicious Tart Tatin ( essentially a toasted sandwich and fancy apple pie)before walking back to the hotel which is very nice and opposite the Pantheon. It is well situated and it was good to walk the streets.

Paris was overcast and cool but still people were sitting around in the Tuileries gardens relaxing and playing Pétanque. The gardens are just starting to have spring blooms but they look a little miserable yet.  Away from the tourist attractions Parisienne life seemed quite pleasant and less frenetic. There seem to be homeless people on the streets that I hadn’t seen when I visited before. Paris still retains its little boutiques and odd shops that we are losing,  though the expensive shops like at Melbourne Central are at the tourist places, like the Louvre, where they have added shopping malls . I felt somewhat relieved I would be here only a few days and heading into the country to be free of the crowds. Having said that I did meet some friendly Americans and enjoyed their company while having dinner .

On my return to the hotel I crashed for a satisfying 8 hours sleep. Day one done and dusted. Is this real? This trip has been in my head for so long it feels like I am in a dream.

Three sleeps to go…

I have just had a wonderful massage from my friend Jan which has released all my pent up tension. Feel like I am walking on air. Jan and her husband Ron gave me a small file of ‘ health elixir’ to ward off infections and viruses. Ron is a chemist and expert on aroma therapy and this little mixture will work with me to keep me well. They swear by its properties. It has a robust but pleasant aroma. I was so touched. They have become good friends and their loving care of me is most appreciated.

After a busy day with Ziggy, followed by a stimulating book club discussion and then a quick edit of Hazel’s short story, I tumbled into bed around 12.30am last night. When I awoke  this morning at 6.30 I decided to take Alfie for a walk and then go to gym, my usual routine, despite feeling a little weary. I was shocked to discover that not one but two of our favourite trainers are leaving. Michelle the Pilates teacher has resigned because she can no longer combine teaching with her physiotherapist studies and Sam wants to spend more time with his upcoming baby. I admire his commitment to his wife and child but I am so disappointed for us. Sam is an excellent trainer who always pushes us to go harder or faster but never bullies . It is his efforts that have got me and kept me really fit and ready for this walk. I will miss his smiling face and good natured cajoling.

So now only three more sleeps to take off!

Last week countdown

Over Easter I went to the Grampians with friends. We did some solid hikes up to several peaks and I coped well which gave me confidence for my walk in France. Despite huffing and puffing like a steam engine, as soon as I stopped my breathing was normal, so it was just the extreme incline and the rough ground. I leftTuesday morning before the others at 6 am in order to get to Melbourne in time for my matinee session of the Carol King Musical , Beautiful at 1.00 pm. It is a 3 and a half hour + drive from Halls Gap to Melbourne depending on the traffic and I managed door to door in 3 and a half hours. It was just before daylight and I was startled by some deer crossing the road. That woke me up! The road is good when the traffic flows but coming into Melbourne I thought I would be stuck in morning peak hour traffic as it seemed to come to a standstill entering the freeway. All moved steadily however so I was home and unpacked and easily ready for the show.

Janine and I followed the show with afternoon tea at the Sofitel, a decadent , delicious treat. No dinner required! I also had to front up to book club at Tooronga village so all told by bed time I was a tad weary. I felt tired for a couple of days. We always seem to complain when Daylight saving starts and finishes so I will use that as my excuse!

I am into countdown mode and have reviewed my clothes to take on the hike and those to send to Germany, started the final list of documents to be copied, itinerary to be shared with family, health check and farewell dinners.

I have Ziggy to mind on Monday after dinner with the family at Simon’s Peking Duck Restaurant on Sunday. He is entranced by Hazel and they had a play last night before bed. She is gorgeous with him, so patient and playful. He insisted on joining her while she did exercises before bed.

I didn’t sleep so well because he wanted to sleep on the foldout couch but not on his own, so we shared. He is a twister, kicker as most children are! Also I was aware there is no mattress protector and wanted to be sure to take him to the loo in the night as well. He is not always reliable yet.

I am hosting the other book club tonight (what was I thinking?) and my housekeeping has slipped somewhat so with Ziggy’s help? I will tidy up and make the place presentable. I have half eaten chew toys, plastic balls, a table with junk on the end and a rocket left over from Ziggy’s creative exploits. We have bounce scheduled as well as a swim in the pool on the agenda. Just another day.