The best bits of Paris

In November, I met up with my sister in Paris.

An opportunity had come up for her to attend a conference there and after some last-minute hunting for flight (her) and Eurostar (me) deals, considerable fossicking around on accommodation websites and much emailing, we managed to cobble together a pretty fabulous rendezvous for ourselves.

It was not my first trip to the City of Light – that was way back in 2000, and I’d been three times since (as a tourist, that is) – but this was the first time I’d visited so late in the year.

Temperamental to the core, Europe’s grand old dame put a pretty formidable foot forward, for the most part shrouding herself in icy-grey light and a bone-chilling wind. Occasionally she would toss her drab cloak aside, yielding a few hours of brisk blue sky before her grey mood returned. But Autumn had smeared its dazzling colours over her tree-lined boulevards, smattering her towers and turrets with its trademark reds, oranges and golds. We were enchanted.


L to R: Jardins du Luxembourg; Les Jardins du Pont Neuf (taken from the Padlock Bridge); behind Notre Dame Cathedral

I mentioned before that this was not my first trip to Paris but for Lil Chicky it was. As with all first times, there are must-sees-and-dos so a long[ish] list made its way across the world and based on what I knew – and a rather tight planning window – I made us a bit of a plan.

Disclaimer: I do not profess to know Paris well, not like some other people I know. But those ‘others’ have given me some cracking recommendations for my previous visits – my last trip was in 2013 and involved pootling around some lesser known places in between hours spent reading in sun-drenched parks or lingering at outdoor cafes watching the world go by.

So here was my dilemma: How should I balance the new versus the I’ve-seen-it-before, the I-need-to-see-everything against quiet moments of contemplation and reflection that for me make Paris…Paris?

It turned out to be easier than I thought. It had been so long since I’d done the first time things that it was a real treat to go back and do them again. And in most cases, we managed to add a little something extra. So hang on to your woolly hats peeps, here’s your armchair tour of my best bits of Paris.

The Hop-On-Hop-Off (affectionately known as HOHO) bus drove us around the city sights for a couple of hours on Sunday morning and we got some great photos particularly of the ferris wheel on the Place de la Concorde and the Eiffel Tower.

Bridge and Eiffel Tower

The following afternoon we joined a small skip-the-line group (skip-the-line is so worth paying for – I will never live in Britain long enough to love a queue), so were on la Tour Eiffel just as night fell. The city lit up before us and with the tower glowing and sparkling above us…

Eiffel Tower

Far right: Standing on the second level as the light show happens.

…we got the lift right up to the summit (a first for me, very windy and VERY high – over 1000 feet!). We treated ourselves to a [plastic] glass of [expensive] champagne to toast our efforts – it would have been rude not to.

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One morning we spent an hour visiting the stunning Sacre Couer Basilica in Montmarte…

sacre couer

…then strolled through Place du Tertre, its cobbles dappled with easels and Autumn colour. We walked back down the hill of Montmarte via Rue Lepic, stopping to admire the local art and architecture along the way…

Montmarte Artists

…before pausing opposite the Blanche Metro at the bottom for a cheeky photo of the Moulin Rouge. Many years ago I went to a show in this area but have never stopped here during the day – the Pigalle district doesn’t look anywhere near as risque in the daylight.

Moulin Rouge

On a another afternoon we wandered up the Champs Elysees to the Arc du Triomphe…

Arc du Triomphe

…then climbed the 284 steps to the top for the most spectacular views of both Paris and the star-shaped Place Charles de Gaulle below us. We booked our skip-the-line tickets just as we arrived so were able to show them on our phone and walk straight in and up. Definitely my top pick for Paris views.

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On our last morning we spent a few hours at the Louvre Museum wandering through the extraordinary palace building and admiring a few of its most famous exhibits…

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…as well as some not so famous ones (yet!).


I laugh out loud every time I see this photo!

We visited the breathtaking Notre Dame Cathedral…

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…and the 13th century royal chapel on the Ile-de-la-Cite, Sainte-Chapelle.

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Map in hand we stalked the famous, and infamous, at the Pere Lachaise Cemetary…

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…and throughout our stay in Paris, found a few ways to honour those that we’ve loved, and lost.

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A month has passed since I let myself into the snug hotel room at Villa Pantheon and hugged my sister hello. We went on to create so many wonderful memories. For five days, we ambled through the boulevards, avenues, gardens and alleyways of Paris together. We walked until we didn’t think we could walk anymore, falling into our beds each night with aching backs, feet and legs only to get up and walk all over the city again the following day. We drank wine, got lost and explored (not always in that order). We laughed – sometimes until we cried (there may have been a ridiculous hat involved) – and ate far too much cake than is considered good for a person.

Paris cakes

L to R: Our trip to the fabulous Angelina on Rue de Rivoli (with special Aussie friend); our discovery of an Angelina outpost at the Louvre and its location-themed special; this absolutely divine tarte tatin at Brasserie de la Tour Eiffel was scrumptious – the cake of trip for me!

But above all, we surrendered to the joy of simply being together…

Arc du Triomphe Paris 2017 2

…and that peeps was definitely the best bit of Paris.

The carnival is over

After an end to August that was bathed in glorious sunshine, Autumn has arrived under a bit of a cloud – literally. For several days now I have been pricking my ears at the sound of rain spattering on the kitchen skylight and have been caught in a few unexpected downpours (only to find myself sweating it out in my mac when the clouds lift ten minutes later). Suddenly layers – and umbrellas – are the things I need to be thinking about.

I was walking back from East Finchley on Monday afternoon – the sky drab with cloud and the air heavy with humidity – and decided to pop into Long Lane Pasture.

It’s been two months since I first discovered it during a geocaching exploit with stepmum-B. On a warm summer day back in July, we had plodded curiously along the grassy pathways, stopping to admire a bright flower, taste some small golden plums or wonder at an unusual plant. Profusions of ripening blackberries, just a few short weeks from plump purple readiness, lined the paths and we had been delighted to find a patch of cool relief under a draping willow tree by the railway fence.

LLP July montage

Since then, the blackberries have all but gone and with things having been mowed and generally tidied, it was clear that the volunteers had been hard at work.

LLP Sept (3)

LLP Sept (4)

LLP Sept (2)

This grass circle (above left) contains 17 different species of native grass which, apart from being hand-weeded, are left to grow wild.

And speaking of native, the middle picture below is a Guelder Rose (viburnum opulus), native to the British Isles and named for Gelderland, a Dutch province. It grows in hedgerows and still grows wild in the London Borough of Barnet although this particular shrub was planted in the Pasture. Birds love the berries but they are acidic and slightly poisonous for people.

LLP Sept (1)

I also got a gander at some rose hips (above left) – which I’d only ever experienced during my childhood as ‘jelly-in-a-jar’ – and all to the accompaniment of bees buzzing away industriously. On the way out I put some coins in the donation box by the gate to support the efforts of the volunteers who tend this little patch for the community.

I continued on towards home and as I passed Victoria Park, I noticed something unusual on the grass.

Victoria Park

No, the aliens have not landed. Rather over the last ten days, the park has been playing host to a kiddies’ carnival – rides, bouncy castles, you know the sort of thing I mean. I’d grown used to it on my morning walks. But on Monday it had vanished leaving nothing but the marked grass as testament to their stay. With the rain, it will no doubt green up even more quickly than usual but I was astonished at how much of an impact the ten days had made.

And speaking of astonished, the garden at Gidday HQ continues to surprise and delight, particularly given the absence of green-coloured-thumbs. Small sprays of roses keep bursting forth, the insects continue to buzz busily and a flourish of striking red poppies has cropped up along the garden fence.

ChezGiddayFlowers Sept17

I did not plant any of these but most days I wander out to visit them, enjoying their delicate freshness and vigour and wondering what other surprises might be in store. I’m also flabbergasted at their undaunted survival and the unequivocal claim they have made at the home of one so horticulturally-challenged.

Nature is a marvellous thing isn’t it?

As I type this, my feet are tucked into my cosy sheepskin slippers. The lounge room is noticeably darker without the sun streaming in and while the desk lamp illuminates the keyboard under my fingers, the floor lamp in the corner behind me casts soft light across the room. The days are already feeling shorter.

Yes peeps, the carnival is definitely over. Long summer days are already yielding to brisk autumn nights. The kids are back at school and daily commutes are crowded with the busy and the anxious again. The steady march of annual comfort telly – the flurry of The Great British Bake Off and the flounce of Strictly Come Dancing – has begun.

Nevertheless I’m hoping that it’s not quite over yet. A bit like the roses at Gidday HQ, just when I think they have finished their annual flowering, their scented petals burst forth again, enchanting me one last time.

Peach roses.JPG

So if you are looking for me, I’ll be the one still smelling the roses…and keeping my eyes peeled for a late burst of summer.

Last of the Summer Wine?

It’s a rainy Sunday here at Gidday HQ.

I can hear the occasional car swish by on the wet street outside and this morning my feet slipped easily into my fleecy purple slippers, my toes sighing in toasty relief.

There are no shouts from next door’s football-playing children today, confined to indoor pursuits by the inclement weather. 

And earlier this week, I bemoaned my lack of an ‘extra layer’ as I stood on the platform at West Hampstead station and felt the chill in the air through my jacket.

Autumn has arrived in earnest this week with its chill-blue skies and brisk damp air.

But this year, it has crept up on us all.

The trees have not heralded Autumn’s arrival with their usual fiery display of foilage, confused (it has been said) by the ‘poor summer’ and an on-again-off-again burst of warm sunshine around the August Bank Holiday weekend. 

Last of the Summer wine?

It has tiptoed quietly in, behind darker mornings and shorter evenings, allowing us to stick our proverbial heads in the sand and pretend.

But in the dark of each workday morning this week, I have found myself automatically reaching for my ‘cosier’ dressing gown, where it has hung patiently all Summer, behind the bedroom door.

And after Monday’s invigorating reminder, my Autumnal work coat was brushed down, readied to commence its Fall 2012 season on Tuesday. And I wore tights to work.

Most years, we accept the transition from English Summer to Autumn’s embrace with a little moaning and a stiff upper lip. (After all, how else can one start a conversation with a Brit if one is not up on the mildly depressing vagaries of the weather?)

But if you listen closely, there is still a hopeful whisper of an Indian Summer, another burst of sunshine and warmth before the nights close in and mornings become crunchy with frost for good. 

So in spite of the Autumn chill, I shall leave a few lighter items in the corner of my wardrobe, still within reach yet just outside the more immediate array of cardies, polo necks and mid-season jackets that I suspect will be needed in the coming weeks.

And socks. Yes, I think socks will become a constant at Gidday HQ from now on as well.

New Tesco socks – ready to go

So could someone please explain to me why I spent an hour yesterday painting my toe-nails?

Goodbye To Summer…

The thing about the August Bank Holiday in the UK is that it’s like this last ‘hurrah’ of Summer.  Even though for the last week it’s been cooler on the walk to and from home each day and it’s dark enough each night when I get home for me to leave the outside light on when I leave in the morning, there’s something about our last long weekend of the year (not counting when the fat man in the red suit visits) that’s a little laden with regret.
It’s been a cloudy Bank Holiday Monday too – perfect weather for some daytime telly and an indulgent dvd (Julie and Julia if you must know). This has followed on from much sleeping in, considerable reading and highly-intensive jigsaw-puzzling and as a result, I’m feeling extraordinarily relaxed and reflective as I sit down to tap this farewell to Summer post. 
And then just as I’m sitting down at my computer positioned smack-bang in my front window, a blinding shaft of sunlight bursts through the clouds – making the late afternoon all golden and hazy for a moment – and then it disappears again. The light is soft and beautiful and takes me back to when I first arrived here and how struck I was by how softly the light bathed everything it touched compared with Australia’s harsh and brilliantly hued landscape.
I know it’s a day early: but today it’s goodbye to cardy-less commuting and twilight evenings around the barbie…
…and welcome to my favourite season of the year, the soft, golden hues of Autumn.

Date Night: Breathless Anticipation…a correction…

Dear reader

An erstwhile follower of my blog has pointed out to me today that the 31st May was not the end of Autumn for me here in the UK but the end of Spring!  Generously she has done this via email rather than leaving a comment on my blog so for all of you who thought I’d lost the plot but were too polite even to mention this gaffe…what sort of friends are you?? (Ha ha…)

I have obviously been left somewhat dazed and confused by my Aussie visitors…who will be back on the weekend!

Yours sincerely

The Numpty Blogger

Date Night: Breathless Anticipation…

Here we are at the 31st May…for me the last day of Autumn.  And I’m kind of peering ahead into the Summer months, hoping that the recent burst of glorious weather here in the UK is not all behind us, given that the sunshine-y top-down temperatures of yesterday have disappeared into gloomy greyness today.

I have just had 6 days off in a row and, as I’m feeling rather chilled and not at all like getting ready for work tomorrow, I have convinced the lovely J that we should go to see Sex & the City 2 tonight.

(I think I can just about hear your barely baited breath in anticipation of my critique but don’t you worry…there will be plenty of opinions…as always!)

So toodles, cheerio and all that!  Date night has begun…

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year…

The weekend is here again and despite the fact that during this last week, there’s been just a little nip in the air as the sun dips backs down to the horizon each day, today we were blessed with a beautiful Autumn Day…so beautiful, in fact, that the top came off…

…my car you numpty, I’m talking about my car…

Got your attention though, didn’t it! Ha!

Anyway, Autumn is my most favourite time of the year.  

(English people think I am weird when I tell them this. The usual reaction is an unbelieving ‘What about Summer?’…I try to be gentle when I tell them that we don’t all live in ‘Summer Bay’ and it does actually rain in Ramsay Street.)

The leaves are starting to turn now so we are getting some of that startling red and orange appearing in the midst of leftover summer-green foliage.  The mornings are peppered with misty puffs of breath and there is an extra layer of clothing in place on my daily, crunchy-leafed walk to catch the bus. And the daylight hours are definitely getting shorter too with my normal journey home cloaked in evening by the time I reach my door again, with the tip of my nose gone all cold and tingly.

But it’s lovely – crisp and invigorating outside and cosy inside – and a great excuse to rediscover my warmer wardrobe staples that have lain abandoned over the glorious summer that we had…and so it all feels like new.
Yes, Autumn is definitely the most wonderful time of the year…

The view from my front door…glorious!!!

Last of the Summer Wine…

Well, here we are at August Bank Holiday Monday and the official last day of summer here in the UK and the weather has put in a simply splendid show of sunshine to remind us all that summer was actually pretty good over here this year. 

It’s 26C, and whilst I submitted myself to a rather unruly burst of spring-cleaning this morning, I followed this with a couple of hours of luxurious reading under the trees out the front…and we are bbq-ing in earnest tonight to give this English summer of 2009 a proper and fitting ‘cheerio’.

So it’s a toast to farewell Summer…goodbye to tomatoes and blackberries and rosily,sun-kissed cheeks and noses…and to welcome the brilliantly-hued and softly sunshine-y days of Autumn…