Monday, February 22, 2010

Paris...Day 2 morning. Louvre.

On our second morning in Paris the weather turned to sleet so we hit the Louvre (again, go early or die in the queue of starvation). The kids wanted to see the Mona Lisa...yes, that's her in the distance :)  Not my favorite picture by any stretch. 

They've moved her since last time and put that screen over her and a barrier so you are so far away you can barely make out her features.

Some of the real (to me) beauties are hung on the wall within touching distance...
The Lacemaker by Johannes Vermeer painted around 1669. Probably worth millions. What I hadn't realized is the picture is tiny.  24 cm high, 21 cm wide.  But so beautiful. 

Even the ceilings were amazing...

My seven year old son was quite taken with the gory, bloody battle scenes that took up entire walls. But after we'd been to see 3 or 4 paintings that we just had to see (and a hundred galleries), we hit the kids' choice of destination...the mummies! They have a fantastic display of Sarcophagi and ancient carvings and jewelery raided from tombs, but I always feel a little uneasy with these sorts of exhibits.  They always feel stolen, like the Elgin Marbles. Enough said, the kids loved it.

And finally we had to visit the naked people.  Well, in Paris that isn't very difficult, even the kids were laughing that around every corner were naked men and women of one form or another.  Hubby wanted to see Venus...

and I wanted to see Canova's achingly beautiful 'Psyche revived by love's kiss' and 'Cupid and Psyche.' Gorgeous gorgeous sculptures.
Odd to walk in the footsteps of such notables as Louis XIV and Napoleon. 
I wonder what they would have made of the pyramid?  When we got back outside it was still raining so we found a dry spot on some steps and ate our baguettes while admiring the architecture and watching all the other tourists enjoy the day.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Paris...Day 1.. Tuesday Afternoon

I forgot to say we were staying with friends of my parents-in-law who live in Alfortville, Paris. They were wonderful hosts with a gorgeous flat and beautiful cat and unimpeded view of the Seine. The 'main' reason we went was because my daughter wanted to go to Paris for her 10th birthday (which is next week but close enough). Our hosts, Mike and Michele, gave her a present when we arrived that included a map of the Metro and instructions for getting around. My nine year old mastered the Metro and RER after one go and kept us going in the right direction for the entire trip. We only had one hitch the whole time and that was when my son decided to stick his foot between the Metro doors and my husband literally dragged him free. Quick heart-attack for me.

Our daughter also got us around the Louvre with the museum map and I know I am biased but I really think she is a genius :)  The layout is hideous and map may as well be bloody encrypted.

So after we battled our way through the throngs of knick-knack-selling street-hawkers at the Eiffel Tower we walked up (via the Arc de Triomphe) to the Champs Elysees to feed the children a much-promised MacDonalds. I know it isn't very French but it is only their second since arriving in France so not too bad. Then we got the Metro to Pont-Neuf so we could explore the Ile de la Cite.

Pont Neuf, despite the name, is Paris’s oldest surviving bridge, built by Henry IV four hundred years ago. From here we walked down to Ste Chapelle but discovered it is closed for renovation! So we dragged our flagging children to the magnificent Cathedrale de Notre-Dame (past all the policemen who call the island home).

Once inside, we lit candles and said little prayers and then wandered through the huge dark Gothic structure

Pretty packed with people and gloomy inside and we were grateful the children didn't decide to play hide-and-seek around the alter. Beautiful atmosphere though, amazing stained glass windows (obviously). After we'd exhausted the inside we took advantage of a gorgeous(but frigid) day and wandered around the back of the catherdral to the famous buttresses.

and then around the north of the building which clearly had not felt the warmth of the sun.  Can you see one of the gargoyles drooling ice?  

Then it was back on the Metro for DD to lead us home for food and wine.  A brilliant first day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Paris...Day 1.. Tuesday morning.

The last time I went to Paris was two weeks before I got married and I swear the Eiffel Tower has grown in the intervening 13 years! We decided to walk to the second floor (again) and I almost expired by the time we got to the first floor. We jogged of course. Seven and nine-year-olds might complain it is a long way up but it is still a race.  The air was so cold it seared my lungs and it took me about 20 min to stop coughing before I could climb the next level.  We spent those 20 min in the gift shop where we stocked up on all things pointy.

 We spent an age admiring to view through an almost cloudless sky. Spotted the flat top of the Arc de Triomphe, the blunt pillars of Notre Dame, the grand edifice of the Trocadero, etc., etc. It was beautiful.

 And can you see this guy painting?  Even the thought gives me the willies!

It was hard work but I'd rather have climbed than waited in the enormous queues at the base.  One word of advice if you come here, arrive early!!  And if you can, take the stairs from the south corner.  There is something about earning the view that makes it even more beautiful. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Warm evenings spent curled up with

 Rescue Me, Series 1 & 2.  

Pride & Prejudice

Star Wars IV & VI

Back to the Future  I & III

Lord of the Rings


Planet Earth


Da Vinci Code


And last (and perhaps least) my children's new favourite (thanks to Jackie Chan), (although I prefer the old David Niven version) 

Does this make me an official sloth? Or an unofficial one?


Thursday, February 11, 2010


It hasn't all been fun and games over here.  We've had to do some serious scientific research.  Not a day goes by when we don't search for a new species of wine or cheese.  Each has to be examined carefully for taxanomic and genomic variations.  Even the children are helping out.  And then there are the patisseries and chocolatiers...

This shop was in Quimper (pronounced Gemper) and it had some of the best cakes/chocolate I have ever seen/sampled.  I didn't take many photos of the city itself.  We were caught up in the food.  There were shops dedicated to the amazing variety of seafood pates and sardines ect., all in tins that looked like works of art.   
The city is famous for its pottery but to be honest I didn't like the pottery itself.  I suppose I was spoiled growing up in the shadow of Coalport China works.  It is a nice town and I'm pretty sure we'll have to go back because the sample size wasn't quite big enough...

Monday, February 08, 2010

North coast and Meneham

Yesterday was DH's turn to pick our destination and we headed for the north coast. We started off in Roscoff not expecting to find a gorgeous little seaside town and harbor (so reminiscent of Anstruther and St. Andrews) complete with its own marine lab.  Then we worked our way west.  On the advice of the Rough Guide to Brittany & Normandy we headed to Brignogan-Plage and what it described as a 'gem of a beach.'  Total understatement!

So we ate our picnic amid these gorgeous rocks and then hunted for shells on the perfect white-gold sand. Our son decided he had to go swimming.  That lasted less than 1 second but by then he and DH were completely frozen!!

And what made this place even more spectacular was a restored village that wasn't in any of the guidebooks.  Meneham.

It isn't in the guidebooks but it is glorious!!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Pointe de Saint Mathieu


We went for a family haircut today, found a salon that fitted us all in and actually did a good job :) Then we went to the shops and hubby bought me a Breton stripy shirt, and a wooden sword & shield for DS.  Then we nipped into IKEA for a few essentials, then Sportchek for a new swimming costume for DD, and food shopping in the Supermarket.  We did so well we treated the kids to their second McDonalds of the trip.   Now DH is watching Ireland beat Italy at rugby.  I'm off to feed the ducks while avoiding my son's wooden blade!  Salute!!

Friday, February 05, 2010


I loved this part of the coast--all jagged rocks and half-submerged lighthouses.  Negotiating these waters in the olden days must have been nerve-wracking as hell. My hubby wants a boat one day, but I'm not sure I'm brave enough!!  Bon Weekend!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Beachcombing in Brittany

There's nothing I love more than the sea. The love affair started years ago on a sandy beach in north Wales, survived a 3 year marine biology degree at University of Liverpool and has never really let go. Now, I live about as far from the sea as humanly possible, but for the next few months I get to have my fill of skanky seaweed and beachcombing. My kids have caught the bug and we have emptied half the shells from the local beach and will need an extra suitcase on the way home just for periwinkles.

Brittany is lovely. The wine, divine. The cheese and ham ... yummy.  Crepes... Oh, man I'm putting on pounds just thinking about it :) 

DH has taken over many of the daily chores I have in Canada. He drops the kids at school on the way to work and picks up groceries on the way home.  I just stay home and write on school days :)  Wednesdays are catch up with homework/house work/shell collecting and maybe a quick veg in front of an episode of PLANET EARTH. The pace is very laid back and yet I've accomplished lots of writing and plotting and edits. The world is truly a magical and mystical place. My French is still abysmal. So sorry to all the French people in my sphere. And in twelve days were are off to Paris on the TVG.  I'm so excited!!

So, anyway, I'm back online and looking for good news from you all!!