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France

    Off to Paris for Lunch, as you do!

    Fancy something crazily luxurious? How about nipping across The Channel for lunch just because you can?

     

    One of the biggest draws for living in London is the ability to leave it easily. What I mean is there is access from London to pretty well everywhere in the UK and Western Europe within a few(ish) hours. With the Eurostar mitigating the need to travel first to the airport (usually and arduous journey itself) and then through Airport check-in lines, going to Paris for lunch is something that has been on my ‘all time’ bucket travel list, and as such has lurked on my 101 in 1001 list where it threatened to stay for a long time.

     

    …until discussngs the possibility over afternoon tea with a few crazy friends, when we made the decision to stop talking about it and pick a date. This was despite getting out of bed extra early and being faced with a pre-10am Emma – something not to be taken lightly I assure you (my husband leaves for work early to avoid before being faced with the confuzzled Kraken).

     

    So one cool November Wednesday, at 7.30am instead of being smooshed on a commuter train and undecided as to what to have for breakfast at my desk, I met my fellow conspirators and decided what coffee and croissants to breakfast upon whilst travelling at great speed towards France. A much better dilemma.

     

     

    We arrived to a stunning autumn day, and we popped to the Musée de l’Orangerie, to see the Frida Kahlo / Diego Rivera, ‘L’Art en fusion’ exhibition, and Monet’s famous ‘the Nymphéas (Water Lilies)’, installed in their custom designed oval rooms. Words fail me trying to describe how fabulous these are. To be encompassed by such moving beauty…

     

    With the trifecta of famous Parisien museum/art galleries; the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and now Musée de l’Orangerie ticked off the ‘Stuff wot to visit when in Paris’ list, we tripped through the Tuileries Gardens towards our ultimate indulgence.

     

    Angelina.

     

     

    (Excuse the weirdly tinged lunch photos, the the European lighting may have confused my camera. Why, I don’t know.)

     

     

    I couldn’t not order the infamous Angelina Hot Chocolate, a molten cacao concoction that tastes like liquid Lindt truffles, but balanced it with a lovely salad.  

     
    You also can’t not have proper Patisserie whilst in Paris, it would be rude.

     

     

    Good, no? Well worth the trip (given the choice between this and practically anywhere I can get to in two hours, it’s a no-brainer.)

     

    BEST DAY EVER. No wait, that’s our Wedding. SECOND BEST DAY EVER.

     

     

    Tummies full, heart happy and laughter on our lips we tripped down along the Seine towards my favourite Eclair shop Notre Dame soaking in the general French conviviality.

     



     

    Requisite eclairs, baguette, pate and a tatty pen for the other half in hand, we settled in for one last aperitif in the cutest, cutest shop/cafe/delight.  

     

    Most definitely my highlight of November.



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    South of France – Nimes and Avignon #travelthursdays

    As it was recently our 5 year wedding anniversary and the London winters nights are beginning to draw in, it seems only fitting that I tease you all with our honeymoon holiday, in the sunny South of France.

     

    After the wedding we were so busy catching up with antipodean friends and family up in the Lakes, that we didn’t take it immediately after the wedding, but allowed ourselves to extend the festivities to later the next year. 

     

    (‘Scuse the quality of the photos, they were taken a long time ago on a pretty rubbish workhorse camera. I think it gives them a certain hazy romance, non?)

     

     

     

    Sunshine, wine, fresh tomatoes, cobbled streets and the best Italian pizzas we’ve ever tried.

     

     

     


    We stayed slightly off the beaten track as is our usual want – we like to stay where the locals live; on the Venetian Mainland, Floridian holiday flats for locals or in a Parisian apartment overlooking a market, as it really gives you a proper flavour of life (as much as you can savour in a week anyway) rather than the grandiose tourist pretensions some cities present. Except New York. New York is best savoured through the craziness of downtown.

     

     
    The Maison Caree, another ancient wonder. Apparently yours for only 378,000 EUR. Cheap.

    We settled on a town called Nimes, and booked an apartment based on it’s gorgeous garden and feline owner called Mamont (who was kept in treats and cream by a lovely English couple). It was a lazy, hazy break, starting the day with fresh coffee every morning taken in sunshine in the garden. We ate al a fresco picnic lunches each day wherever we were with market finds, and – more often than we should have – carb-loaded with freshly made pizza in the evenings. 

     

    The local pizzeria was hilarious. Everytime we popped by they greeted us enormous grins, watched Top Gear every time we were there with English subtitles and saluted our holiday with the biggest glasses of wine I’ve ever seen.

    We interspersed the lazing with a lot of walking. We must have walked almost 5 hours each day, sometimes up mountains, sometimes along cobbled streets and always lost, daytripping it all over, including historic Avignon.

     

    The best part of the holiday was the actually the most accidental. I studied classics at High School, and among the architecture we studied (such as Hadrian’s Villa) one that fascinated me was the Roman Aqueduct, the Pont du Gard.


    I must have been wearing my invisible ‘crazy hat’ one of the days, as I discovered that you don’t just get to visit the Pont du Gard, but you can kayak under it for the full 360° view. So, armed with a life jacket, a crash course in Southern French health and safety (ie. “Stay out of the shallow bits and don’t drown”) and with the kayak dumped onto the sandy river beach we were off.

     

    It was the biggest test of our marriage we’d ever had to date (bar the 25+ hour cross world flight to New Zealand). The first two-thirds of the 8km course was amazing. Cruising down the peaceful river in happy harmony, we stopped for a picnic on a handy island and kept true for the Aqueduct. It was stunning.
     


    Then, it got tough. Once we cleared the Pont du Gard, a counter-wind really picked up, we ran aground several times and panicked. Well, I panicked, then Mr Kiwi panicked at my tears and had to drag the kayak, and a crying wife off the shallow we ran aground on.

     

    But, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

     

    Would you kayak or do an adrenaline junkie activity somewhere new?

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    48 hours in Paris – A London Kiwi’s Guide

    Even the term itchy feet when translated into French is elegant. It can translate as bougeotte ‘wanderlust’ or vouloir changer d’horizons, which translates to literally ‘changing your horizon/view’.

     

    You won’t need me to tell you that Paris is an amazing city, and really needs as much time you can give to her. Over the years I think I’ve spent nearly a month there, but if you’re really stuck for time, it’s possible to do all of the fun highlights within around 48hours. You’re going to have to get up early and have a game plan though…

     

      

    We like to start the day early with fresh French baguette from the local market, coffee and orange juice. ‘Proper’ parisians love the darker sticks of French bread and espresso – nothing else will do. They seem to be less passionate traditionally about including orange juice but ours was freshly hand squeezed and came with a buttery croissant. How could we say no to this carb heaven?

     

     I’m definitely not an espresso-in-the-morning girl. You can take the Kiwi out of New Zealand…

     


    Then, it’s off on the metro. I’d recommend a carnet of tickets as the cheapest, easiest way to get around unless you’re staying really, really, really central.
     

     

    In your whirlwind, you can’t miss the world’s biggest sparkler. If you want to go up to the viewing platforms on the Eiffel Tower, I’d recommend going early or quite late in the day as the queues can be pretty massive. We like going up in the evening, just as twilight begins to fall and the lights of Paris start to switch on.

    If you don’t want to, and want a stonking photo I’ve got a little secret I can pass on. Catch the metro to the Trodadero stop on the 6 or 9 lines, take the Tour Eiffel exit, turn right, go up the steps and et voila, enjoy the beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars. (Ps. there are some fab museums, gardens and restaurants in the Trocadero area too.)

     

     

    I’d advise a quick lunch on the hop – the many grocery stores (Monoprix) do some fine quality sandwiches/salads if you’re on a budget. Try not to be lured in by the Touristy offerings – they tend to be bland AND overpriced, but it’s your wallet…

     


      

    then you have the afternoon to take in either;

    – Notre Dame Cathedral which is free to go into & beautiful; 

     

     

    – a wander along the Seine to admire the love locks bridge and pick up a few Eclairs

     

    – the Arc de Triumphe

     

     

    … may be with a cheeky side trip to Laduree to taste test their delightful signature Macarons


    In your evening, it would be almost a sin not to visit the Moulin Rouge, or something a little more highbrow at the Paris Opera House. If you are going to the Moulin Rouge, book ahead, I implore you!

     

      

    The next morning, maybe check out your nearest market for your brekkie to nurse your Parisien wine tasting hangover – Mairie de Paris’s website here (in French) is really helpful, or ask your hotel staff for recommendations.





      

    Whenever we visit like fit in at least one museum or gallery – with most of them, but especially the popular ones the earlier in the day you can get there the better. Having been to the Louvre several times (and as it really needs a day on it’s own) on our last trip we made our way to the beautiful Musee d’Orsay for breathtaking Impressionist paintings, sculpture and furniture.

     

    For your afternoon, how about something a little more on the dark side? Père Lachaise Cemetery is Paris’ largest city cemetery at 44 hectares and many of the city’s illuminate are buried here – Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Jacques-Louis David and Edith Piaf to name a few. 

     

    Don’t be taken in by people trying to walk you around the cemetery, it’s a common trick of shysters who will try to charge you €50-80 for the pleasure. You can buy maps or download the nifty app. I just cheated and photographed the map at the entrance… 

     

    Just so you know, even in the case of mausoleums and chapels, coffins are most of the time below ground. It’s a beautiful haunting place, and if you visit via the Gambretta tube station it’s a nice downhill walk to explore.

     


    Jim Morrison’s resting place – just follow the crowds.
     

    Or may be explore the Paris Catacombs. The only trouble is deciding what to do before going home. That I’ll have to leave to you!

    The best thing about Paris? It’s a 2.5 hours train ride with Eurostar from central London – how fantastic!

     

     

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