Sunday, January 21, 2018

christmas in paris

I already thought that my love for Paris had reached a peak. Then I visited in Winter. At Christmas. We travelled via fast train from Bruges to meet up with our English rellos. Finding a flat in Paris that could accomodate two families [with enough beds so that our gal didn't have to sleep on a pull-out sofa] was a challenge, but we found one on Boulevard Saint Germain - mere steps from Notre Dame.

Now, I've seen Notre Dame many times in the spring when it's surrounded by roses and beds of flowers, and the contrast of its stark gothic beauty with natural blooms is perfection.

However, I realise that true perfection is Notre Dame at night in the winter.

When I first caught glimpse of this, as we wandered over to Ille St Louis for dinner I actually held my breath in wonder. I have taken approximately 9 million photos of Notre Dame. All majestic.

I apologise for nothing.

Can you even comprehend the work that's gone into this creation?

There was a wee Christmas market beside Notre Dame that we wandered by on our way to the Metro each day. So tiny, so charming. I bought my sister-in-law a rather fabulous hand-crafted hat from here. Memories.

Wandering mere steps from the market we found THIS! My spiritual home - Shakespeare & Co. It's everything I've dreamed of and more. For some reason, I've never visited on our previous trips [quelle horreur!] but this time I had to step inside those magical doors. I bought a book for our gal on French Christmas stories, and a book for myself. When I purchased it the guy asked me if I'd like a Shakespeare & Co stamp on the inside. "WHO WOULDN'T?" I exclaimed?

Well, apparently some weirdos don't.

I did.

Attached to the bookstore is a rather delightful café with this view. Good coffee too.

I heart the metro so hard. Getting around Paris is so ridiculously simple. I adore the book of ten tickets [which I bring home and use as bookmarks - cos I always lose real bookmarks...]. These stations will never cease to make me swoon.

Oh, our apartment? Here 'tis. Again it was an AirBnB find. Our host, Claire, was an utter delight. My gal managed to leave behind a pair of spesh PJ pants, and Claire mailed them to us - no charge. Love her. Also love the decor of this place [and that view!]

Note the photogenic power of my cape combined with my gal's faux fir.

Never have I ever seen a Parisian kitchen this size. I feel guilty that we only cooked in it one night, but with so many cafés offering up three course meals for 20-odd euros - why cook! We did enjoy that lovely bottle of red though!

Galeries Lafayette. Already pretty much my favourite place in the world - and then decorated like this. Every hour, on the hour, music would play and all these sweets would rise and fall to the dome. Best viewed with a champagne in hand from one of the bars.

My niece Ruby loves ice-skating, so we promised her an outdoor rink in Paris. Here it was at the base of the Tour Eiffel.

Oh, and a winter fete? If you insist...

I am not the only one in my family with a love for this place. Have managed to pass it on to our gal.

You cannot stop me from taking photos of this structure. I love it so.

Oh look, it's the Eiffel Tower highlighted by bare branches. What a surprise!

 There was wine. Red, rosé and Sancerre.

 There were memorable family meals. This one one the Place des Vosges. I had steak and frites and it was damned fine. Washed down with a diet coke with lemon. The best.

Bowie, a Parisian street light and a Paris street scene. Bliss.

There was a Degas exhibit at the Musee D'Orsay. It was utterly sublime. There were sketches alongside his paintings which really provided insight into his incredible way with form. I didn't take a photo of my favourite - woman leaning over a bath. It's imprinted on my heart though.

These sculptures. They challenge Rodin for form and fabulosity.

One day I will actually eat in this café. Next time for sure.

The place in itself is a pure work of art. 

Again, Paris at night, does it get any prettier?

Quite frankly it is not a visit to Paris without a boule of violette icecream. Despite the temperature hovering around zero I had to partake.


Just like Paris at Christmas.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

in bruges

Oh Bruges, you're a beauty. This post has been brewing for days, mainly because I just couldn't manage to cull my photos into a small enough batch for a blog post. Bruges was my husband's idea, one of his best. As we were going to be in the Europe over Christmas he thought we'd best try somewhere new, and of course cycling led him to Bruges. 

And us.

What an absolute stunner of a city. We arrived late at night after taking the fast train from Ebbsfleet in London through to Brussels before switching to the train to Bruges. Along the way I saw so much snow, I got a bit excited about the whole White Christmas scenario - but we didn't need it.

 Have you ever seen anything prettier? This was a mere 100 metres from our front door. We rented a house on AirBnB in the old town, and a more perfect position you could not find.

I was worried that the shorter days of a European Winter would limit our sightseeing abilities, but Europe in Winter at night takes on a whole new level of beauty.

Bruges is likened to Venice and I understand why - there's just something extra special about homes along canals.

 The sound I'll take away from  Bruges is the clip clop of the horse and carriage on cobblestones. [Oh, those cobblestones, so pretty - but jeez, they take it out on you when you do a lot of walking!]

 Adding to the whole Winter Wonderland vibe was this ice rink in the centre square. We didn't strap on skates [I value my ankles too highly for that!] but it was just lovely to watch.

Nowhere did my eyes alight without falling on something just utterly breathtaking. Religious iconography abounds - particularly on every street corner which is decorated with the Mother Mary and child.

The best thing we did was hire a bicycle tour guide dude. Here he is. An historian with thighs of steel, were were pedalled through the streets of Bruges where we heard so many tales about the architecture, history and politics.

Best money I've ever spent. Seeing a city via bicycle is my fave, and I didn't even have to pedal!

We were blessed with blue skies for pretty much our entire trip ensuring that every iPhone photo looks like a postcard.

Our gal succumbed to a bit of a cold, so hubby and I toddled off to a restaurant around the corner where we shared this plate for two featuring Belgium's greatest food hits. Rabbit, chicken, pork, beef, veal and mussells - accompanied by frites and mayonnaise, and washed down with a local beer.

No filters were required, just the spectacular night sky. This looked like some glorious version of the Northern Lights - and had us in awe.

This here is the wee house we stayed in. A beautifully-restored 16th century home. It's got me yearning to paint the floorboards in our house white...

My cape got quite an outing in Bruges. Hubby was very approving as it provided just the pop of colour he needed for his photos.

Have you ever?

Seeing white swans still freaks me out a little...

There were so many cyclists in Bruges. I'd estimate 1/3 of the vehicles on the roads were cycles. So safe. There's a mutual respect between cyclists and cars in Bruges, like pretty much all European cities. I pine for that in this country.

One of the things we didn't get time to do was take a boat ride on the canals. What a shame, we'll have to go back again...

Look at this light. And I love the architecture of bare branches in winter and how they just provide the perfect frame for photos.

These windmills are still in action - in the warmer months - milling flour. Also: v pretty.

Honestly, my obsession with bare branches and architecture is really only beginning - wait till we get to Paris.

This was our bedroom at the top of the house. So restful.

Now, how do I go about painting our floorboards white?

Next: Paris.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

christmas in london

I've always wanted a white christmas - well, a cold one at least. And in 2017 I got my wish. With my gal finishing year 12 [!!!!!] it was the perfect opportunity. So she jetted off just after her Year 12 formal, and hubby and I left a few weeks later.

Oh, it was magical.

For some black cabs are typical London, but for me, it's the red double-deckers. Aren't they a hint of cherry-topped fabulous!

London really knows how to turn on the lights. Oxford, Regent and Carnaby Streets were lit up a treat. We trudged for miles, gazing upwards, oohing, ahhing and taking 1000s of pics on our phones.

"There must be an angel..." this was my fave. How utterly divine is this display!

Carnaby Street went tropical, because when in the hell has it ever done anything conservative or traditional? While we were there we stopped in at the Dr Martens shop and bought our gal the coolest pair of Union Jack boots. They were the most-commented-upon in New York (to come!)

Is there anything prettier than a Liberty of London store? Doubt it - and this one's my fave. If you think the tudor exterior is a treat, you should see inside - stunning.

Now, I have ALWAYS wanted to go to a traditional English Christmas Panto (he's BEHIND you!) and Dick Whittington didn't disappoint. The Guildford Theatre was chockers with families with young kids continuing their tradition (and a fabulous set of grandparents who didn't bring the kidlets - but brought their childish sense of joy!) It was a riot - I loved every second of it.

While we were travelling our gal received her uni results and ATAR, and, as you can see by the bubbles - she blitzed it. So proud that all her hard work paid off.

After a few days in London we were headed on a fast train to Bruges, Belgium. Oh my, are you in for a visual treat with my next post...