Paris: part 5

A picture speaks a thousand words, enough said.

We totally loved Paris but not even with 5 days could we see and do half the things I had on my list. We took it easy and relaxed a lot after a strenuous travel plan the past few weeks. We will have to come back one day. The boys treated themselves with a Ferrari ride through the streets of Paris. Ernest looks like he is concentrating very hard ! Luckily he had practised driving in France just the day before. The owner also goes with, to talk you through the drive. They had super much fun!

If you are wondering what this photo is about, it is the Arc de Triomphe that Ryan tried to get from the back of the car. I guess they went to fast for that.

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Paris: part 4

Mont Saint-Michel: This is a medieval Benedictine abbey and Monastery high on top of a lone standing rock with the sea tide coming in to surround this little island. It is in Normandy France. It was a military stronghold in times of war and now a Unesco world heritage site. It was uncomfortably busy with visitors, but well managed.

The cute Fiat 500 that Ernest rented at Rennes station to drive to Mont Saint Michel. The french countryside was beautiful. It was also much cooler outside of Paris close to the beach. We took the TGV from Paris to Renne and then car to the monastery. It was a full day and I suggest you start very early from Paris.

Finally the girls escaped to the shops and we enjoyed all the lovely clothing etc. shops. We headed to Repetto a classy ballet shop, and they were nice enough to let Amelia fit their own brand point shoes. They were very nice and cheaper than point shoes in Australia. It was very tempting to buy a pair. I also tested some of their other perfumes. Mmm nice (one was too sweet like candy-floss)

Just what the doctor ordered.

This is how you do it in France; Baguette over the shoulder ready for lunch, and then a nap afterward.

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Paris: part 3

Here we are at the iconic Louvre. How Blessed we are! It was such a great experience. Again as before, we booked an online timed entrance and literally walked in from outside without stopping for a queue. We were so early, anticipating a queue that we had to wait inside to enter at the right time. Inside waiting is better than outside! The girls stood longer in the loo queue than the Louvre queue( if you pardon the pun). One would think that they would close just one of their display rooms and install a hall of loos for the women! It is crazy-there are 5 cubicles close to the entrance, the other level that we tried had 2 cubicles. There probably are other locations that I missed, but point be, other mega icons in Europe have sorted this little issue with finesse- like about 30 toilets at Stonehenge and about 20 at the Alhambra… ok rant finished…

Mona lisa-it was one big squeeze to the front then they open the access belt to let the front squeeze out, every how many seconds- again if the authorities are reading my blog, just do a snake zig zag towards it and you walk through take a photo and out. It was worth the anxiety to be squeezed though, as we got a good look at her. There are so many other amazing paintings and sculptures. We tried to see as much as we can in the time we allowed ourselves. Again some animal spotting!

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Paris: part 2

We loved Hillsong Paris. The people were extremely welcoming and friendly. We went early to make sure it’s the right place, and the welcoming team talked to us and showed us were to go as well as offering a flavoured water and fruit before the service. Other people also came to talk to us- that’s what makes a church stand out: how welcome you feel. They are using the Bobino theatre for their services and it is very flash, with crystal chandeliers gold and red velvet. The girls toilets are PINK. We went to the English/French service which was at 10am and the interpreter was amazing. They worked so well in unison. It was harder to sing in French than it was to sing in German when we went to church in Stuttgart. So I stuck to English.

We thought it a good idea to go to the famous cemetery Pere Lachaise after church and lunch. It was so big and hot that we gave up half way, but did appreciate the impressive grave stone “houses” and the peacefulness there. One of the advices we read was to take a specific bus or metro can’t remember which one, to start at the top and walk down- we didn’t do it as it didn’t fit into our plans. I would suggest to other people start at the top. Of the famous people buried there we saw Jim Morrison and Chopin’s graves as that was in the first half.

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Paris- part 1

We are in Paris! My feet already hurt and it’s only day 2. Our accomodation is very central and close to the Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle. We started our sight seeing there. Notre Dame is huge and impressive. The queues were just too long and standing in the intense heat and sun to go in won’t do! We will admire it from outside.

Saint Chapelle cathedral was spectacular inside and as we booked online a few days before, we were just fast tracked in past all the other waiting people. One can not comprehend how much effort went into such a beautiful place. All the detail in the stained glass pictures are stunning. This is an over the top type cathedral. Wonderful. I can strongly recommend booking tickets to go in. Children go free.

While walking through the streets some interesting things came up, like the Vegemite table at the Australian bar and the Chewbacca mural. The kids loved the Little Prince movie and tv series and there was a shop close by where we went in. The Lego shop we found by accident in the Forum des Halles and it is a dream for lego lovers especially older customers.

We had our lunch in a park and these pesky little wasps are all around you, hunting for food especially meat- we gave them some ham to get them away from us. Maybe not a good idea to “feed” the wild life, but it did keep them away from our sandwiches. Apart from that and the heat we are really enjoying Paris so far.

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The Rock of Gibraltar

I’m so glad we decided to rent a car and drive the 140 Km from Malaga to Gibraltar to see the “ROCK”. It was an amazing experience and on Ryan’s bucket list. We arrived by bus in Malaga and the airbnb let us book in early so we left our luggage in the house. We left after lunch from Malaga and had a very easy drive on a nice freeway all the way there. We payed road toll money in total about 15 euro. The surrounding landscape was beautiful with the Mediterranean sea on the one side and mountains on the other.

We parked our car at the La Linea parking lot and walked over from Spain to British soil. They didn’t stamp our passports! Aww. We took the bus that drove over the airfield into the city and to the cable cars. The Rock is a 426 m high, single standing mountain. We decided to queue for the cable cars to go up, as it was late afternoon and the queue moved fast. UNFORTUNATELY it was hazy and cloudy so we could not see Africa across the strait but we kind of imagined that we did!! The wind blasted humid air up the one side of the mountain and up into the air, to form a cloud over the mountain. The Barbary macaque monkeys are known to cause trouble and will grab food and things from people. I think they had enough to eat as there were only 2 when we arrived late afternoon. They are given food at a certain spot maybe to help curb the problem.

Psalm18:2 in the bible says The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

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Spain: Granada and the Alhambra

Another Wow and to me a highlight, as I dragged us all to this southern corner of Spain. It took about 2 hours by fast train and a further 1 and a half by bus from Madrid, to get to this beautiful town. The landscape on the way there reminded me of South Africa’s Bushveld and Karoo but only with Olive trees. For about 400km as far as you can see- only Olive trees, and now and then maize and wheat. The main attraction: The Alhambra- one of Spain’s most visited sights and a Unesco world heritage sight. It was originally a military fortress and around 1238 the palace was built by the Moorish king Alhamar and later extended by Yusuf 1 Sultan of Granada. In 1492 King Ferdinand 2 of Aragon and Isabella made it their royal residence. If you plan to visit it, book tickets online 3 months before to ensure the date and time you want to go. Once in Granada take a bus or taxi to the top unless you are very fit and it is not 36 deg. Go also much earlier than your timed slot as it is far to walk to get to the palace entrance. You want to do sight- seeing along the way. All the patterns are carved out of plaster (Stucco) .The decorations are Arabic inscriptions , mostly poems or praises for the palace. It is manipulated into geometric patterns, with floral patterns in between.

Our treat airbnb was a cave house, there are many caves dug out of the hills in the Sacromonte area of Granada and some has been converted into tourist accomodation or restaurants. It is amazing how cold it is inside around 18 to 20 deg C all year round. With 36 deg outside it was a welcome refuge. It was so cold after a while that we wore a light jumper and had a blanket over the knees. I loved sleeping underneath a duvet again. It was a wonderful experience. If you have respiratory problems reconsider or read up about cave environs as I found it challenging when having a cold while we were there. It is very damp in there. If you are claustrophobic you might not like it much.

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Spain: Madrid

We came into Madrid in style, with a very fast modern train and in business class. We were very much spoilt with the most delicious complementary lunch, and warm towelettes for our hands. It was very nice after our 2 bad train experiences in France. The station is big and modern. At last some dry heat so we are not as wet- it feels more like Perth now. This is a huge city and we did not make much progress exploring it, Ryan had a cold so we didn’t do too much. The highlight of Madrid was the wonderful meal we had at a restaurant called Ginger. We also went into an amazing shop full of medieval weaponry and curios. We were not allowed to take photos inside but the displays are beautiful and here is the shop from the outside.

We felt like a bit of meat after a lot of bread and pastas meals. This was a wonderful, oxtail stew and mash, pots and Scotch fillet for Ryan.

The city has a huge park called Retiro park and is beautiful. We sat there and had our lunch. When you see a lot of cities in a row it becomes like a maze of streets and you don’t always appreciate the moment. You need to go to a high place to see the bigger picture, or escape to a nature spot to recharge. Sounds like good life advice too.

Some of the street names are on these tiles and are beautiful.

This Bear is on Madrid’s coat of arms. It is reaching up to a strawberry tree. The fruit and veg here are fantastic. We bought some figs which was so sweet.

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Spain: Barcelona

This is one of those wow moments when you get to a sight look up and stand in amazement. We were blessed to get tickets to Park Guell. Designed or created by Anton Gaudi who was a truly gifted and creative person. He was a Spanish architect and his greatest passions were architecture, nature and religion. He loved mosaics and he also reused old ceramic pottery. The photos later in the post is of the La Sagrada Familia cathedral also designed by him.

It is timed tickets and when we looked 2 days before we got there, there were a only a few left for the times we were there. We decided to do the night tickets at 8pm- an hour before sunset because it is cooler then. The light was also beautiful.

Can you guess what I’m going to do when I’m back home? Smash all my old plates….mm I have actually kept a few older ones for a little project.

The La Sagrada Familia cathedral, a work still in progress.

The streets of Barcelona- The pavements are very broken and dirty in certain areas but the Spanish do a good job at picking up litter so it seems clean. They are also good at recycling. There are some very nice street art amongst all the graffiti. I’m getting sick and tired of the constant graffiti everywhere since we started our trip. What happened to society?

And some ballet photos in Park Guell.

All the mosaics made me think of the song: All the broken pieces by Matthew West. Our lives may have many broken pieces but if we allow God to come heal our hearts and minds it becomes a beautiful “picture” or testimony of His love for us. Ps 147:3 Says He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

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Can’t believe it can happen twice in a row. Our train from Aix-en-Provence to Carcassonne, had to stop on the tracks before we reached Montpelier because another train hit a person. It took 2 hours before we could move and another 2h to Carcassonne. We were so tired and hungry. All the passengers got an assistance pack with food, water and snacks in. Luckily this time the train was more modern and there was a little bit of aircon. In 36 deg it helped only a bit. Did I mention there is a heatwave in Europe and we have been constantly drenched in sweat for the passed 3 weeks.

Carcassonne is a beautiful little town, clean and fresh looking. They also have a festival on, so I’m not sure if the umbrellas are for that or permanently there- it looks amazing. It is such a good idea because it gives shade, colour and fun to the main pedestrian street. They also washed the pavement so it doesn’t smell like some other cities do.

Unfortunately because of the late train, heat and our exhaustion we didn’t get to go to the medieval castle cite’ Carcassonne. I would have loved to see it up close. Luckily we could see it from a distance as our accomodation was on the other side of the river from it so we took photos as we left in the morning. We made a mistake in booking just 1 night, you need at least 2 nights in a place to see a few things and rest from travelling.

Because of the festival there are different shows on every night so Ernest and Ryan walked to the square to listen to the rock show and enjoyed it very much.

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