Thursday, July 21, 2016

Touring Paris.

J'aime Paris! What an experience this has been! While living out the dream of actually being here, Paris is unlike any place I have ever been before. Busy, and fast, and noisy, and crazy. Yet plenty of stand-still moments in awe of the architecture and culture, and delicious moments of savouring French food. Here's a smaorgasbord of places we've visited the last two days.

The Louvre    
Triumphal Arch    
Notre d'Ame
Notre d'Ame
Inside the Tower
Eiffel Tower view    
Sacre d'Coeur
Sacre d'Coeur      
Moulin Rouge
The French drivers are completely nuts. To have spent two full days here and not have witnessed a single road accident is a mere miracle in itself. If you come here, you must find yourself a spot at the Arc d'Triomphe and watch the masses of traffic manoeuvre around this giant circle. There are no lanes, no traffic lights, no yield signs. The buses, cars and motorcycles simply "merge". Often with barely an inch to spare and with much horn fanfare. It is quite the spectacle.
The French macarons we found in Paris are, indeed, decadent. You can buy them at McDonalds here, although I now know from experience that the ones from a patisserie far excel in deliciousness. But they're at least twice the price.
Just saying... if you want the really good ones, you'll have to pay.
Speaking of paying... the price of food, specifically drinks, is outrageous, just as we were told. This can of coke with dinner one night... €8. Converts to $12.80 Cdn. Just another reason not to drink Coke.
Last night we meandered the Champs-Élysées. You find all sorts on here. Everything from rags to riches. Beggars... against the backdrop of shiny Lamborghinis and Corvettes sitting on side streets, available for rent at €90 for twenty minutes. I guess that sounds like a more affordable deal than €6,480/day. Gulp! Bentleys with suited drivers, sitting curbside, waiting for the wealthy to return from shopping. Diamonds displayed in Cartier's window, without a price tag.
But as the famous saying goes here... if you have to ask the price, then you probably can't afford it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Well, here we are. Bonsoir!

Arrived safely in Paris, to a balmy 34 degrees. We rode the RER train from the CDG airport this afternoon. Which was anything but pleasant, unless you enjoy riding in a moving sauna, We endured stiflingly hot temperatures in the railcar, packed with passengers, and no A/C. Glad to soon reach our final stop, where we found our hotel quite easily, dropped our bags and set off to eat and explore.

The Royal Magda Etoile is true to European size, but perfectly located just a 3-minute walk to Arc d'Triomphe, the Metro and the Big Bus Tour stop. And with today's high temperatures, we quite welcomed the air-conditioning in this comfy little hotel.

Eating took place at a French restaurant close by, where some of us delved into fancy crepe entrees, and the rest of us settled for burgers and French fries. We sat outside while we ate, and watched the French go by. Lots of mopeds and skinny ladies in high heels. The local side streets are cobblestone - the high-heels ladies strut amazingly well over these uneven surfaces - and the buildings are four to five stories high with unique architecture, and these adorable little iron railing balconies.

Exploring began at the Arc, painted gold in the setting sun, and from there we jumped on the Metro to head to the Eiffel Tower.

It was pretty busy here by the Tower... tourists and crowds mulling around. And too many pushy street sellers and stinky trash. But we watched the Tower light up as dusk set in, and did several reality checks to take in its view again and again, reminding ourselves that, yes, yes!, we are really here!


Paris... Here We Come!

Yesterday we did everything from enjoy some beautiful scenery through the Glenshane Pass, to ride horses, catch up with distant relatives, picnic on Benone beach and body-board the waves in the freezing cold Irish Sea.
Today we are off to PA-REE! Wow. Check back for all our "aventures francais"!  


This couple.
One of the most kind, gracious and dignified couples I know. Growing up, they lived in the "house behind" us, so our families were quite close during those years. Mr W often piled all of us six kids into his Austin Morris, to drive us to school on rainy mornings. Mrs W was well known for entertaining, and the delicious food she always served to her guests, frequently us.
We were invited to their place to spend Sunday with them, and some of their family. 
The kids, of course, added some noise and liveliness to the day, with their quick wit and giggles.
Haha. They made us laugh too!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Castlewellan Show.

Look at that fair and beautiful maiden showing off her heifer calf in the cattle ring. She's related to me, the fair and beautiful maiden, I mean, yet I don't know the first thing about exhibiting cows or calves or anything bovine. But she does... and loves it too!

This is Castlewellan Show. An annual gathering of farmers and more farmers with their livestock. Where we spent a family day on Saturday, hanging out with the cows and chickens, horses and sheep, goats and pigs. And dogs. We watched dogs perform on a circuit all day long, through tunnels, over jumps and weaving through sticks. The sun shone... our first hot summer day here. 

Aaah. This picture. I absolutely love it. My dad, walking with two of his granddaughters.    

Picnic lunch.

Then to Newcastle for fish and chips, and loaded ice cream sundaes.

And an evening walk on the Promenade.

With a couple of eejits, who insisted they walk on the beach. 


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Recovery Day.

Friday saw us all sleeping late and lazing around for most of the day, recovering from post-London exhaustion. In the afternoon, I met up with a co-worker from almost thirty years ago, who recently contacted me through Facebook. Dear, sweet Gemma. Still the same, smiling inspiration from so long ago! We had a grand old time reminiscing, catching up on each other's lives. And I think I may have even convinced her to come visit me in Vancouver!

Goodbye London.

Today we left behind some amazing memories of our visit to this great city. We definitely crammed a lot of sight-seeing and food into our short stay. I'd say the highlight for me was the Big Bus city tour. By far the best way to get to all the local landmarks, and be educated at the same time. Awesome family time too, cousins from two continents having fun together... LOVE.