Holiday reading

Whilst cruising on the lovely Marina, I’ve managed to find the time to read a couple of books out of the ship’s library

The first was The Paris Vendetta by Steve Barry. I thought this was a fitting choice as I had just enjoyed that lovely week in Paris and I knew exactly where the characters were as they moved through Paris in the story. The book reminded me of The DaVinci Affair by Dan Brown as there were ancient mysteries to be solved, clues to be followed and places to visit. I learnt about the life of Napoléon and his battles through Europe. I wondered if he did really leave a secret legacy and followed the characters as they tried to prevent The Paris Club from triggering a global financial meltdown. It was a little difficult to grasp all the different characters at the beginning but once I did, I really enjoyed this novel. It was full of suspense and twists and turns and it got me in.

The second was The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a Lisbeth Salander novel by David Lagercrantz and continuing Stieglitz Larsson’s Millenium Series. I loved the series by Larsson and was very sad to hear he had died. Lagercrantz has done a great job of continuing these exciting stories and I really enjoyed spending more time with Lisbeth Salander, genius hacker and uncompromising misfit, and the journalist, Mikael Blomkvist. The characterisation fits with that in the original novels and the battle between right and wrong, between Lisbeth and her twin sister, was absorbing. I loved it. Didn’t want to put it down!

Pictorial story of our train ride from Paris to Southamptonj

Without luggage this would have been easy. With two suitcases and two carry-on bags and a handbag and a man bag, it was a bit of a tussle but we managed it surprisingly easily. Here’s the story in pictures beginning with the beautiful sunrise out the window of our Paris apartment.

We needed a beer when we arrived so I, of course, had a pint. Delicious it was too!

Today we board our ship. During our one night in England, I’ve had a pint, fish and chips and peas (although they weren’t mushy) and ridden in a London cab. So that’s a pretty good effort. (We have spent considerable time in England before but this visit is very short.)

We are ready to be spoiled. We know that the Oceania Marina crew will take very good care of us. Bring it on.

The secrets of The Marais, the old Jewish Quarter

We’ve wandered the old Jewish quarters of quite a few European cities and we always find them interesting. Today we did a walking tour with a young man named Emmanuel who grew up in a Jewish Family but is not a practicing Jew. His grandparents managed to escape Paris to America in 1942 because he was a physicist. Emanuel is a film maker & photographer and he personalised the tour by talking about specific people. It was very interesting.

Firstly we noticed the beautiful cakes in the window of the shop where we met. There a family from San Francisco joined us for the tour. We returned to this shop at the end of the tour to catch our metro but, of course, we took home some goodies to have with our cup of tea when we got home.

There are many beautiful old buildings in this area. Originally Dukes & wealthy people lived in them but during the revolution many escaped or were killed, leaving their homes empty and they became neglected and dilapidated making them cheap to rent. Jews migrating from Eastern Europe came to France as it had a policy of freedom of religion and they took up residence here.

The plaque above is a Memorial to the family who lived in this house in 1942 but were deported and exterminated because they were Jewish.

We were permitted to enter this synagogue which was used by Jewish people during World War II when they were not allowed to worship under the Occupation of the Nazis. It was a secret synagogue and is still used today. A young man was there studying the Torah.

It was lunch time and there were long queues at some shops which all sold kosher food.

During the occupation this was a Jewish school but the students were not taught any traditional Jewish learnings. One of the teachers was Joseph Migneret who assisted 252 of his pupils to escape from the Nazis and this plaque honours him. I think that number is right but I could be wrong.

The street below had its name changed to honour non Jewish French citizens who assisted Jews to escape the Holocaust and did this without any prospect of payment. As you can see there are many names on the wall of the street which honours them. It is the Street of The Just.

Emmanuel had planned to finish the tour at Notre Dame but all the streets are closed off. I imagine this is to allow investigation of the fire and to begin the clean up and rescue of whatever can be saved. David and I went as close as we could to get the following photo

And I’m very happy to report that I found a very delicious, traditional onion soup and now I feel we can leave Paris happy tomorrow. We’ve been to Giverny to see those spectacular gardens of Monet. We’ve seen his wonderful work in Musée de L’Orangerie and his work as well as that of the other impressionists in the Museé D’Orsay and at the Foundation Louis Vuitton. We’ve had our incredible day in the Somme with Myriam discovering the story of our family members who fought in WWI.

We’ve bought and eaten delicious food from the markets and restaurants. We’ve wandered some interesting streets and laneways. We’ve loved our cute little apartment and tomorrow it is time to move on. Will we ever return to Paris? Who knows. But I can tell you that I love Paris in the Spring time – in fact anytime!

Neighbours & Fauchon

Today was a quiet day. An easy morning with just a short walk to the local Carrefour to buy some coffee pods to refill the jar waiting here for us when we arrived. Of course, we had to have a coffee on the way. No one has soy here so I’m having to drink my coffee black so I’m just having espresso. We flew over on Etihad and they had no dairy alternatives on board. Pretty slack of them, I reckon.

We live in a complex with 34 units. Would you believe that two other couples from that complex in Australia are in Paris at the moment too. We all met up on the Pont Neuf today & wandered up the street to find a restaurant. Unfortunately we didn’t pick too well. I have very pleasant memories of a wonderful bowl of onion soup that I had here in 2013. Even though my digestive system doesn’t cope well with onions or garlic now, I had onion soup for lunch but it was so disappointing. Nothing like I remembered. And I suffered after so definitely not worth it.

However it was good to meet up, have a chat and compare travel stories and the waitress was excellent which always makes for a pleasant experience.

Then David and I walked to a shop full of goodies, Fauchon – chocolates, desserts, pates, cheeses, jamon, wine etc. We bought just a few jellies and a couple of small chocolate bars but we did go to their cafe for a pot of tea & Mille feuille.

So a quiet but good day.

Oh! What a beautiful morning!

After our tasty breakfast, we caught an Uber to the Museé D’Orsay, arriving about 9:10 for a 9:30 opening. Our plan to avoid the crowds worked well and we had easy access to the display of Impressionist art on the 5th floor. This museum has an extensive & amazing collection. I think I love it more than any other. Until this week, my favourite artist has been Camille Pissarro but I think now he has to move to second place.

Monet’s range of work and the quantity that he produced blows me away. Here’s some of my favourite pieces from this museum with the first one being my pick of all the art we have seen in these three days. I’d love to have it hanging on my wall at home.

My family gave me a print of the Japanese bridge at Giverny for my birthday last year.

We learnt at Giverny that Monet loved trains and railway stations as is evidenced by his paintings of Saint-Lazare Station. Apparently he was painting there one day and wanted a certain effect so he caused the trains to be held in the station with their engines stoked so he could paint it. Pity the passengers who arrived home late!

Here’s a Pissarro painting that I really liked & one by Renoir of two beautiful girls playing piano. This made us think of our two beautiful, pianist granddaughters back in Brisbane.

We then went for a leisurely stroll across to the Musée de L’Orangerie in the Tuileries Garden, walking over the top of runners participating in the Paris Marathon.

This museum was designed and built by Monet in 1905 to house his beautiful large circular paintings representing his beloved water lilies in the four seasons. It is fabulous. He built it so that Parisians would have somewhere quiet to sit and relax. It is still very soothing today. The paintings cover the rounded walls of the circular rooms and are stunning. I don’t think my photography does them justice.

We wandered off and found lunch at a restaurant called ‘Flottes’. The staff were so friendly and were having so much fun, laughing and joking with each other, that it made it a very pleasant experience. It was obviously an old restaurant and was very busy. David ate moules et frites and I had a salmon, mango and avocado salad. For dessert David went for a little drama with crepes Suzette while I had my old favourite, rice pudding.

Walking off our lunch, we came to Galleries Lafayette. What a huge shop in an amazing building! There must be a playground in the roof as there seemed to be children jumping on some sort of jumping castle.

We couldn’t get over the queues of people lined up outside the Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores waiting to go in to spend their cash. Not us, though, it was time for home. we had had a morning filled with beauty. How lucky are we?

Early morning musings

It’s so exciting to be in this beautiful old city of Paris. I look out the window & see an old skyline, not high rise just a series of different shaped ups and downs.

It’s 5am and I’ve been awake for two hours. It seems we can’t stay awake past 8:30pm which, of course, means I wake at 3 having had a really good sleep. David sleeps on. We must stay up one night until the sun sets so that we can brave the cold and go down to the street around the corner to watch the Eiffel Tour put on a show on the hour as it does every night. My almost four year old granddaughter told me yesterday that Peppa Pig went to The Eiffel Tour so I do need to send her some pictures of it, I think.

That does however mean braving the cold. This Queensland girl is not used to the cold and I don’t enjoy it much but it is manageable if I have the right gear. There I have a problem at the moment. I did some of my packing in a stressed state so I have come away with an unmatched pair of boots so, alas, they are unwearable. My joggers will have to do. The zipper on my trusty bubble coat won’t work either. Oh no! How will I manage? I was lucky though as a stall at the markets was selling bubble coats so I have a very nice new one.

When Jac shared her love of the Museé D’Orsay and Museé de l’Orangerie with us in 2013, I loved it too. And I’m very excited because we are returning to them today. I’m really looking forward to sitting on a stool at L’Orangerie and just gazing at those water lilies. Hope it’s not too busy.

I could wax lyrical about the sweetness of the strawberries and cherry tomatoes here. We think they are so much sweeter than at home. I don’t think I’m imagining it. Have a look at them. The cherry tomato bowl was full initially but I’ve been eating them like lollies. And what about this fruit loaf? Yum! French bread is amazing.

So now David has woken up so it’s time to get stuck into that yummy food.

Monet’s Garden

The ennui of 28 hours of flight across the world disappeared as if by magic this morning when we wandered through the beautiful gardens of Claude Monet at Giverny.

We first visited Paris in 2013 when we celebrated my birthday at the Moulin Rouge with my daughter, Jac, and eight friends from home. What a memorable night. It was on that trip that I discovered my love for the Impressionists and their beautiful work at the Museé D’Orsay; firstly Pissarro and then Monet. Jac, with two years experience as a Contiki Tour Manager, was our guide to Paris, her favourite city and she shared her delight with us. At Museé de L’Orangerie, I was thrilled by Monet’s beautiful water lilies. I sat and contemplated those amazing paintings on the walls of the two oval rooms purpose-built by Monet for his art work. I loved them and wanted to visit his gardens to see what inspired him. But, alas, we were out of time.

We’ve returned to Paris in order to visit those gardens so, after our very early breakfast – we’d woken at 4am as you do when you are suffering from jet lag- we joined the thousands of others on the Paris metro to get to Saint-Lazare station to catch the train to Vernon & the shuttle bus to Giverny.

We weren’t disappointed. The spring flowers were out in full – tulips, daffodils, pansies, primula ……. and they were magnificent as you can see in the pictures. The water lilies were not in flower but the ponds were still beautiful and so calming even though the crowds were starting to build. I’m so glad we arrived just after opening at 9:30.

We enjoyed visiting his studio and seeing inside his home. It reminded us of our visit to the home and studio of Joaquín Sorollo in Madrid.

By this stage, we needed sustenance & warming up as, although the sun was very pleasant, the temperature was about 5 degrees. So we found hot chocolate and tarte tatin and it was delicious.

We retraced our steps to our Paris home but, before coming in, we visited the very friendly restaurant across the street for a very late lunch and then it was home for a nap. We’ve a lovely little apartment just across the river from the Eiffel Tower. It’s up in the attic on the 6th floor. Thankfully there is a lift and, even though it is tiny and antiquated, it works well. We have a great view of the Paris skyline.

It has been a wonderful first day in Paris.