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We stayed in Saint Germaine for the third part of our trip to Paris. This was the least flashy hotel of our stay and it was ok. The room was a bit pokey and the breakfast was really not good. That though totally justified us wandering down to the bistro on the corner to have an energy boost before the full day ahead.

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Because yes, the deal was … two days at EuroDisney. And C very patiently schlepped along to all the art galleries I wanted to see in exchange for all the rides in the world. Except, I absolutely refuse to go on rollercoasters and my cold turned into a chest infection and I felt AWFUL. I have a couple of complaints about EuroDisney – everyone smokes everywhere, which yes, Europe, but also, place which has a tonne of kids all in one place! And with my asthma already being agitated by the chest infection, I was not a happy camper with all that smoke. The second complaint was there was almost nowhere to wait that was not in the cold and on a cold piece of furniture. It was freezing and sometimes drizzling with rain and pretty much every ride was a one hour wait in the queue. I’m sorry, but to me, the happiest place on earth does not involve a 55 minute wait for 5 minutes of fun. I went on a few tame rides – the Pirates of the Caribbean, its a Small World, the steamboat, the haunted house thing that kinda stuff. And the rest of the time, I read the first two books in Marianne de Pierres’ Tara Sharp series – Sharp Shooter and Sharp Turn – which were a heap of fun to cheer me up in the miserable cold.
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The face of a man who’s realised he has to go on the ride alone, followed by the face of a man who’s realised he still gets to go on the ride.
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We ate lunch in one of the restaurants, which had a very US 80s feel to it. It was overpriced, the service was poor and the food was not good. Pretty much what you’d expect. Here, C is realising there is too much to do and not enough time!
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And of course we stayed for the lights show, both nights.

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Something else I was determined to visit was The Catacombes. I honestly have no idea why this was on my list. I knew it was bones of dead bodies arranged in patterns. I *knew* this. Yet for some reason, it only dawned on me after we’d climbed down the flights of stairs into the under the ground and walked some distance and that the only way out was through (and up) some 2 kms, that this is an actual trigger for me. Yeah. And I got triggered. I had to just look straight ahead and be determined to walk to the end as quickly as possible and not think about it. It was very not fun trying not to have a panic attack and melt down.

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(Get me outta here)

There were some interesting things though – here is the aquifer
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And intricate carvings into the stone walls:

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Much grumpiness ensued as we’d waited for an hour to get in to see them and then I hadn’t even enjoyed it. I took us to Starbucks for a salted caramel hot chocolate and then we finally went to the Marais for falafel. I’d heard it was the best falafel outside of the Middle East and I can confirm it is the best falafel outside of the Middle East.

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I utterly loved our trip to Paris. C had never gone before and didn’t know what he’d think but he pretty much fell in love with the city as soon as we arrived and I’m so glad because I love Paris and can’t wait til we can go back again.



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The one thing I really do appreciate our travel agent suggesting was taking a really decadent few nights in a chateau “somewhere”. When she first suggested it, I thought I would really want to pack up and move hotels so much but the photos she showed us of Chateau d’Esclimont, I was kinda sold. And in the end, it worked out really well to do a few nights in Montmartre, stay in the chateau for a few nights and then come back and stay in a completely different part of Paris. It meant we saw a lot more, I think.

The problem was, she didn’t actually organise us a way to get there and back. And the chateau was an hour out of Paris and we were booked in there from New Year’s Day. That as a bit interesting. We decided against taking three different trains with all our luggage etc and got a car to drive us there and a taxi back at the end. Neither of us were confident enough to hire a car for that part of the holiday so I’m not sure how much I would recommend it. The plan was to head down there, spend one day out and about on the grounds and in the town, one day at Versailles and one day at Chartres. But both Chartres and Versailles were not exactly close and there was not a way to get anyway from the chateau other than taking a 15 minute taxi ride to the train station and then taking the train to places. I think Versailles was an hour train ride, from memory.

Still. After we finally got ourselves organised out of Paris and arrived, here was the view:

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And the front:

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Our room was the top right hand window. The grounds were gorgeous to wander around in, beautiful manicured topiaries and other more wild woods and lots of other buildings – quarters and I think little cottages for family stays. And a pool, a helicopter pad and tennis court but were closed for the season. It was pretty cold and we headed back inside after a quick sticky beak.

Our room. Or rooms? Chamber?
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And this was the stunning view from the window facing the bed:

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It was a very fancy hotel. We almost didn’t see any of the other patrons. The restaurant was very fancy in one of the rooms downstairs and the food very French, meaning I had a green salad and C tried all kinds of meats that I would never ever eat. I found French food (when I could eat it) very rich and I progressively ate less and less over the holiday. We were limited by food options as there was not really anywhere to go other than the hotel restaurant.

We made it to Versailles on the second day (the first of our proper stay) by accident as when C was inquiring how to get there, they booked him a taxi to come get us so we ended up doing it a day early. Evidence we were there (and Galactic Suburbia in the Hall of Mirrors)

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But, and you know there is a but coming. Versailles was a gorgeous walk from the train station. But it was an hour ride there and back and then hanging around to get a cab back to the hotel (pretty sure we had to call someone who was at home making dinner for her kids and then she popped out to give us a lift back to the hotel). And it was cold. And we stood I don’t know, an hour? Two hours? waiting in the line out the front before we actually went in to the grounds. We wandered around. I yet again lost enthusiasm well before I managed to see everything. We did a bit of the Marie Antoinette stuff – and took the little train thing around the grounds. And we had a delightful lunch. But. I started to get a cold shortly after the photo above and by the time we headed back it was pretty much evident I was sick. I’m not sure if it was all the standing outside in the cold or if the jetlag combined with all the wedding stuff that finally ended up in the usual burnout cold thing. I got a bit miserable.

And really, you book yourself the kind of holiday staying in the middle of nowhere, with almost no internet (no wifi but they had a cable that we had to share), nothing much to do, in order to just spend time with each other and chill the hell out. So that’s what we decided to do for the rest of our stay here. We did a bit of a food shop in Versailles at a supermarket and that kept us in snacks and a few light meals. We ordered room service a bit. I took to my bed in a very Jane Bennett fashion, with that glorious view and the whole series of The Closer on DVDs to watch and I finished knitting these two scarves and it as utterly relaxing and divine. We just hung out and it was really great.
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The cowl on the left is the Sartorial Cowl made from Blue Moon Fibre Arts De-Vine in the colourway Kraken.  The scarf on the right is the Barbara Cowl made from a prized skein of Handmaiden Sea Silk which I bought in Toronto when I was there for World Fantasy Con at Lettuce Knits which Jonathan very kindly schlepped to with me.

Final picture of the view from breakfast:

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If you have to be somewhere feeling miserable with a cold, it really was a good option :)



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I figure I have like one week into January to wrap up the rest of my year in review/ highlights posts from 2013? Plus I have some plans to spruce up this place and I’m keen to get stuck into those. So maybe some pretty pics from my honeymoon in Paris then? I’ve definitely been thinking about how this time last year, we were wandering around in Paris and seeing out the old year and in with the new one, the first of our married lives.

Some stuff we did before NYE:

photo(8)We were staying within walking distance of the Moulin Rouge so I grabbed tickets to a nighttime show before we left Perth. I’d heard that the dinner was not really worth the price so I booked for the after dinner show which included a bottle of champagne. Seemed like fun!

It was definitely good that the theatre was within walking distance of our hotel and that I had prepaid for tickets cause we were still so jetlagged, I’m not sure we would have definitely gone otherwise. It was also VERY cold and we had to queue outside with everybody for what felt like hours. It was probably at least an hour and I hate queuing, I feel like the longer you have to queue and wait for something, the less you will enjoy whatever it is you are waiting for. Just too much expectation to wait time ratio. Suddenly, after waiting FOREVER, we were ushered in and the ushers seated the whole crowd in record time. You sat at tables seating about 6 people, so we sat with strangers. Our bottle of champagne was thrust on us, glasses filled and away we went. (It felt like A LOT of champagne but I think that’s because I couldn’t really drink due to my Crohn’s and so C drank pretty much the whole bottle and got quite merry.)

What to say about the performance? Hmm … there was a giant pool with snakes with a woman doing some kind of synchronised swimming. There was the traditional cancan dancing, which was my favourite part of the whole show. There was a lot of bare breasts. There were a couple of fabulous male dancers who did not really have to nude up. And then there was the second half of the show which I will describe merely this way – Eurovision meets Macy and Thorn from the 80s (Bold and the Beautiful).

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I did enjoy the show. But more than that, I enjoyed a couple of the smaller museums which we visited nearby which documented a lot of the history of the arts, politics, music and performances of the area and placed the Moulin Rouge within that greater context. I loved learning about the Le Chat Noir, which was in a museum in Renoir’s house.

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We wandered around in Montmartre on a glorious winter’s day, drinking lots of hot chocolates and eating pastries when we got hungry. We ended up at Sacre Coeur which had a market day on with lots of stalls – I bought earmuffs! (it was cold) and I also bought a few of these confections. I don’t know what they were but they were not what I was expecting them to be which was chocolate covered marshmallows.

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I really enjoyed travelling with C. Even though we’d lived together for a few years, travelling together felt a bit like a “what will we be like as team in life?” I discovered that he listens to all my crazybaked ideas and that I should be careful when I shoot my mouth off because C will have googled whatever it was to see how we can do it. We joked a lot about me being the ideas and him being the execution. I got to see a lot of things I might not otherwise have if left to me to figure out how to get there or do it. Not that Paris is all that hard to get around. But having C to stand around  in long lines joking made the time go quicker and the prospect of tackling more popular sites more inviting. We did a bunch of the galleries I wanted to visit. I got to see all the Dali my heart could desire. And the Pompidou and the Musee D’Orsay, both of which were closed last time I was there.

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And I schlepped C to the Louvre. We ended up getting to jump the huge queue and go straight in (with the museum passes, this did not help us in the same way when queuing for the D’Orsay which we must have done for over an hour). I still hate the Louvre and I’m not sure why I still feel the need to go there to check (that’s three for three now) but it was so easy to get in that I thought C should at least experience the Mona Lisa (ie the pushing and shoving and not really enjoying the painting bit). A lovely wander down the Champs Elysee afterwards brought nutella crepes for some and (French) onion soup for others. (Don’t you think felafels, cheesecake and mint tea go perfectly together? No, me neither.)
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One of the things C really wanted to do was see a rugby match. I was a lot more wary about catching a train out into the suburbs, a part of Paris I know nothing about and a lot less likely to accidentally stumble my way home from. But C was determined, and he put up with a very complaining me who wore the wrong shoes and didn’t like walking (the fifteen minutes!) to somewhere I’d not been before. But I’ll admit, when we got there, I had a fabulous time. It was cold (yay the earmuffs!) but it was a lot of fun. And the theme song for the home side – Agen – was to an ACDC track which made it all the more amusing. Here’s the view from our seats. C couldn’t resist getting an Agen supporters jersey (that’s him wearing it at breakfast the next day).

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And then there was New Years Eve.

One of the disappointing things about our trip related to my travel agent. Normally I would have booked the whole thing online myself but my Mum had used a really great travel agent previously and the idea of someone planning some parts of the trip considering all the other stuff I was doing with the wedding seemed really appealling. In the end, I was given a different agent to the one my mother had used and the one thing I regret is either not being more of a pain about getting her to do the stuff I wanted, or just doing it myself. She was going to book us this really lovely NYE – drinks at the George and then dinner somewhere near the Eiffel Tower etc etc. In the end I think she booked, or we booked, a degustation dinner for the evening but then realised at the last minute that there was nothing on the menu I could eat and the chef refused to do a vegetarian option for me (the French didn’t really seem all that into vegetarians and that was something that was an issue for the whole trip). We ended up cancelling those plans and our concierge at the hotel booked us a river cruise vegan dinner.

It sounded awesome and we were really looking forward to it.

However it had rained the days before NYE and when we headed down to the Seine it was cold and wintry. When we arrived at the correct berth we discovered that the river was too high for the boat to be able to cruise (too high for it to pass under the bridges) and so it was going to stay docked for the event. That seemed ok. But the evening was not quite what we had imagined. I guess we had in mind something similar to the original plan but on a river cruise. And I can’t quite remember how much it cost but it didn’t really seem cheap. I think though what we had stumbled across was a club or a vegan group who were having their end of year/new years eve celebration. Most people seemed to know each other and the diners also seemed to know the waitstaff and kitchen crew. Seating was at large round tables and there was a band set up in a corner. Like we were at a wedding or 21st on a cruise ship. We took a tiny table in one corner near the exit and tried to melt into the scenery. Slowly people asked to take the remaining chairs at our table for sitting at others and we were good with that. We were hoping for a romantic, intimate dinner to see in the new year.
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(I have no idea about my hair other than we stood in the wind on the dock for quite some time before dinner.)

We got adopted by a somewhat eccentric woman who seemed to know a lot of the people in the room but didn’t actually want to sit with any of them. Instead she sat with us and provided lively conversation. She gave us some suggestions of what we should see when in town (we took none of the suggestions), told us how she’d been on a diet for several days because she was auditioning for some dancing show the day after (and then shovelled a loooot of food into her face, whilst continuing her stories unabated and sometimes spitting food in my direction) and was very generous in hunting down lashings of food from the buffet and insisting we share from her plate.

The food. I think really what we learned is that C has no desire to become a vegan any time soon. I didn’t really mind the food as much, being a vegetarian and having almost no appetite due to the Crohn’s. We had to keep going to the bar which was hidden behind the entrance, for tiny cups of drinks. The cups seemed to be in limited supply and got more and more assorted as the night wore on. The food was a buffet spread out on a trestle and was a lot like if we went and cooked up a storm for our friends. It was not quite the evening of decadent, French fine foods I’d been planning. And I felt very self conscious and out of place for most of it. At some point we both realised we were more than happy to bail and whilst our friend was off saying hi, finally, to someone, we ducked out the door and off the boat. But not before grabbing our goodie bag of vegan delights, most of which we couldn’t bring home to Australia. Though we did enjoy the vegan chocolate and the eucalyptus bubble bath.

Not quite the night I had hoped for but still a story that brings a good laugh. In the end, all I wanted was to spend the night in Paris, with C, and see the Eiffel Tower lit up. And we did. And then we headed back to our hotel well before midnight. The staff had left us a new year’s gift to wish us a sweet new year:

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Tasting Pierre Herme’s macarons was on my Paris to do list and I don’t think we would have got there on our own. I can quite happily say that our Adriano Zumbo’s are still the best I’ve ever tried.

We kept our eyes open to see the new year in and then fell fast asleep, jetlag still prevailing.

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Towards the end of our wedding reception, my work friends J&S came up to us in a bit of a panic as they wanted us to open their wedding gift. Unfortunately, all the gifts had been packed off to my parents’ place until we got back from our honeymoon. This turned out to be a bit of a problem. J&S wanted us to open their gift before we left as it wouldn’t work after we got back. Intrigued, I got my mum to fossick around for a gift of the description we were given and to bring it to us at Christmas lunch. All was quickly revealed – J&S’s gift was a quest. The creation of a memory.

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We were of course to go off in search of the Love Bridge and place our own lock on it for our love. I was floored by such a gift – what a really great idea! We headed off and I think (as judging by how tired I look in the photo below) on the first day to make sure that we definitely got this done.

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I’d brought more than a few guide books with me on our trip. I might have been a bit excited to be returning to Paris. But what turned out to be the best buy was  a set of cards of walking tours of Paris. There were 50 in the pack and you could just pick one out at random or one with something you wanted to definitely see on the route or in the area you were interested in. C took to these, which in retrospect I should have realised would be right up his alley. He really enjoyed making sure we followed the tour and did all the stops etc. I really enjoyed the extra little things you ended up seeing on the way – stopping for the best hot chocolate in Paris, seeing significant landmarks or points of interest that are off the standard tourist grid. I ended up seeing a lot more of Paris than I would have on my own and I also saw a lot more cool stuff than I would have thought of looking for. And … bonus was lots less crowds most of the time.

Here’s C checking we’re still on route:
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And here we’ve just added our lock to the bridge – and thrown the key into the Seine, which the greenie in me cringed at but the superstitious OCD side did anyway – and C is taking data point photos so we can come back and look for it another trip.

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photo 2My year started in Paris, and that is a pretty darn fine way to start a year. To back up a smidge, we got married and then stayed around at home a couple of days for Christmas. Some of C’s family had come over for our wedding and were staying for Christmas so we did too. We moved up to the CBD and stayed an extra night or two at a hotel, bumming around the city and generally trying to destress after the excitement of getting married and also you know, process the whole WE GOT MARRIED concept. Christmas lunch was pretty laid back but it was really nice to hang out with our parents and some family and do that all post the whole wedding thing. Jewish tradition has people entertain a married couple for 7 nights after their wedding and welcome them into the community as a couple/family and this felt like a nice nod to that.

And then we headed off to Paris. It was my second trip to this city I love and last time I was there, I’d really wanted to share it with someone, and to be there in love. That’s the cliche after all. I’d read all the stupid bridal mags while planning our wedding, cause again, cliche, and gleaned that the Maldives is where everyone is honeymooning at the moment. I spent a day or two drooling over the beautiful white beaches and blue blue ocean and sky and thought about the lazying about by the pool and hang gliding and then I remembered this was US I was planning a trip for and unless there was wifi by those palm trees, we were gonna be dead bored. I knew I was quitting my day job in 2013 and that this could be the last holiday hurrah for me for some time and I’m not sure when C had last had a proper holiday so … Paris it was! I managed to get a great deal on Singapore Airlines via a travel agent and the flights to Paris were really very pleasant (not so much on the way home but oh well). I sort of had the travel agent plan the trip for us cause I had a lot of other things on. Some things worked great, others not. But she convinced me to book in three different hotels in two different quarters and a decadent couple of nights out of Paris. And I think that was definitely a fab idea I wasn’t sure how it would go moving so many times in about 10 days but it worked out fine.

photo 1We arrived at about 6.30am on a very dreary morning and headed to our hotel in Montmartre (or thereabouts). This hotel was a lot of fun – Secret de Paris – on a corner of the street and lit up in purple lights, each room was themed to make you feel like you were sleeping in an iconic structure of Paris. It sounds cheesy but it’s French and they pulled it off! We got the Eiffel Tower room (that’s my pillow marring the decor of the room. And the speccy lighting which again, was more atmospheric and less cheesy in real life) and were told we could request to move to any of the other rooms at any time if we wanted to try out a different room. At the time, we were so jetlagged and coming down off the wedding high that we couldn’t be bothered – we did a quick touristing the first morning we arrived and then slept for most of the rest of the day. And after that, we were either sleeping or out and about and packing up to move just seemed like too much effort. Now, I wish we had tried other rooms out, especially cause ours didn’t have a spa bath. Also, a nicely confronting moment after you just got married, our bathroom was encased in glass. So – bedroom, and then the toilet, basin and shower to the side and sectioned off with see through glass. Bit personal.

photo 4We did a lot of recuperation – a lot of napping, I watched a lot of TV (I watched the entire series of The Closer whilst away, cause I don’t nap!). We also ate a lot of croissants – a delicious bakery was on the corner diagonal to our hotel. I think I might have rushed out there as soon as we’d checked and taken our bags to the room to get an escargot and OMG, baked goods are never as good as they are in France. I’m ruined for croissants now because they just don’t come anywhere close to as delicious. Also the Hot Chocolate – I drank a lot of it cause I had a Crohn’s flare up the whole time trip  (started in the lead up to the wedding in about November and went through into my pregnancy). I dunno how they make hot chocolate in France but OMG it’s fabulous.

Here’s a pic from the breakfast room. Sumptuous chairs, they also had a lot of loveseats so you could sit next to your lover and whisper secrets (of course!) in their ear. We though that was a bit too corny for us!

 

 



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