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Paris 2009 – Day 4

For our final day we thought we’d “do the Louvre” …

Our guide book says: ”This is one of the world’s biggest museums, but there’s no way words on a page can convey it’s size.” They are not kidding! Doubt if anyone could ever say they’ve “done the Louvre” even if you lived in Paris and devoted yourself to very little else. We followed the book’s suggested tour, “designed to help you dip your toe into the Louvre’s sea of art”. Three hours later we had certainly dipped our toes and were ready to give them a rest.

Started with Venus de Milo (there are obviously a couple of things you’ve really got to say you’ve seen) and then followed a trail through 2nd and 1st floors of Richelieu before skimming through a bit of Scully en route to Denon and finished up with Mona Lisa. A bit frustrated en route that several things recommended by the tour were out on loan! – but never-the-less enjoyed the experience, seeing lots of nice or at least “interesting” stuff ( to quote from a Tom Paxton song: “I don’t know much about art; but I know what I like!”)

Had a late and slightly disappointing lunch (on our last day, it’s the main meal, since we have to get to the airport early evening) and killed some time listening to a jazz guitar/base duo in the gardens behind Notre Dame, before heading out to CDG.

Good flight home and out through passport control, baggage claim and customs in record time – only to find the car completely devoid of electrical power (“Less than one volt in it,” the AA man informed us, when he stuck his multimeter on the battery.) Arrived home an hour later than we should have, tired but happy. (Pity I needed to be up at 6.30 a.m. for Oulton Park on Saturday!!)

Paris 2009 – Day 3

Boat day — bought tickets for the Batobus and sailed the Seine.
Breakfast was disturbed when we arrived a the cafe to find someone else in Our Seats! – the nerve of some people.
First to nearby fnac.com store on Bde St Germaine to buy tickets for Musee du Louvre tomorrow. Thankfully this place was a lot less hectic than their store at Les Halles yesterday.
Boarded Batobus at Notre Dame and rode down to Jardin des Plantes and back up to the Hotel de Ville stop. Wandered in general direction of the Marais to find a cafe for morning coffee. Found another interesting church (I was going to say "large church" but they mostly seem to be that!) St Gervais is the home base for The Monastic and Lay Communities of Jerusalem — an interesting movement devoted to a mission to "live in the heart of the city, in the heart of God": basically combining a minstry of prayer founded on the monastic tradition but lived in touch with and as part of city life.
Back aboard and up river to Eiffel Tower. Disappointed to find the garden/park area enclosed with high plastic screen fencing and unavailable for our anticipated stroll. Lunched on tourist-priced baguettes and went to catch the boat back down river.
Weather had taken a turn for the worse so we sailed home for a free cuppa in our hotel room and siesta.
Now wondering where to eat tonight …

(update 22:34)
Dinner at Brasserie de l’Isle St-Louise, 55 quai de Bourbon — highly recommended.

Paris 2009 – Day 2

Can’t believe what we paid for two teabags and a jug of hot water this afternoon — just have to tell myself we were paying for the location and the atmosphere (cetainly not for the flavour of the tea!)
Generally, though, a most enjoyable day.
Breakfast at the cafe on the corner (cheaper than the hotel), then set off to have a look at the Pompidou Centre.
Having taken in the interesting, if somewhat strange architecture, we noted the length of the queues and decided not to do the inside on this occasion.
Moved on to explore Les Halles. No doubt this area all looked great in the 60s, or whenever it was done, but as with all that concrete-and-metal architecture of the period, it has not weathered well — now looking pretty grotty, especially in contast to the adjacent spendour of St Eustache.
Had a brief look at the shopping centre beneath Forum Les Halles — think Trafford Centre but three levels below ground instead of above! Didn’t stay long!
Back to one of our favourite bars near Notre Dame for a well-earned beer, followed by ham and cheese crepes for lunch.
Short siesta, interrupted by air-conditioning engineer wanting to check the system; then a wander along Bde St Germaine and the aforesaid highly priced cup of tea.
Dinner at the piano bar on l’Isle St Louis — excellent, as usual.
And so to bed …

Paris 2009 – Day 1

I never cease to be amazed by the size of Paris CDG — fully 6 1/2 minutes from touchdown until we reached the terminal building, and that at a fairly brisk taxi rate. A few minutes of uncertainty when the baggage carousel stopped and announced that baggage delivery was complete before we had actually got our bag; but eventually it restarted and the bag arrived.
Impressed ourselves by using the automatic ticket machine for the RER, rather than standing in the usual long queue, but then spoiled the effect by getting on the all-station-stops commuter train instead of the semi-express.
Eventually reached our destination of St Michel – Notre Dame, and staggered to the hotel with the heavier-than-intended bag — 15 kg gets to be pretty heavy by the time you’ve covered some distance; next time I really will cut down on luggage!
Hotel d’Albe is pretty much unchanged — this year we have room 640 for a change: actually an improvement spacewise, though we’ve lost our view of the river.
Pleasant lunch of omelette mixte at a cafe near Notre Dame — our usual place near by the bridge between the Iles was too quiet and rather draughty.
Heavy rain shower this evening while enjoying a pre-dinner snifter at Le Depart, but it eased up enough for us to dash across Place St Michel to the Pizza Marzana.
Early night seems to be in order, since we were up at 3.00am!

To The Principality for a Dose of Nostalgia

Joined our friends Chris and Phyl in North Wales on Friday for a jaunt around some places we haven’t seen for a while …

wales

Many years ago, C&P used to spend summer holidays with their kids at an old railway station near Trawsfynydd. (The station ceased to function as such thanks to Dr Beeching, though the line remained operational for a time as a goods line serving the power station.) We used to visit them for a day, with our mutual friends Barry and Val. I also have memories of the area from the time when I had caravan holidays with my Mum and Dad.

C&P had decided to have a short break, staying at The Grapes in Maentwrog, revisiting old haunts and old memories, and it seemed appropriate for us to join them for a day once again.

Lesley and I took The MX for an outing and enjoyed a very pleasant run (top down, of course) with sun shining most of the way.

The four of us (plus Maisie the dog) started out with something new – a walk to a nearby waterfall, recommended by the hotel owner. It looked as if things might take a turn for the worse when it started to rain almost a soon as we got out of the car; we were relieved when if proved to be only a passing shower.

Pretty soon we were in nostalgia mode, as Phyl took us to a place they remembered taking the kids to swim on the south side of the river estuary near Llanfihangel. Sun came out again, and we enjoyed a pleasant picnic lunch and a bit of a gossip.

We then drove down the coast, past Harlech, and I recalled my childhood holidays at Tal-y-bont. We stopped there to check out the beach, which is enormous and was pretty deserted. There a quite a few more caravan parks etc than I think there were 50 years ago!

A walk on the promenade at Barmouth followed, with the obligatory ice cream – Maisie finishing hers in double-quick time!

Then up the river towards Dolgellau, to pick up the A470 back towards Trawsfynydd. We thought it was somewhere along here that we had the incredibly wet tramp to a gold mine with Barry and Val, but were unable to identify the exact location.

On through Porthmadog, where we picked up fish and chips, to end the day with an alfresco supper at Borth. We finished with a walk to the beach where we had shared sun and sand so many years ago – it seemed somehow smaller than we remembered.

All in all an excellent day, lucky with the weather most of the time. Home in under 2 hours (top up, I fear – must be getting old!)

To Oulton for the Touring Cars

An interesting, if sometimes tedious weekend at Oulton Park, marshalling for the BTCC meeting.

The main events were, of course, the actual Touring Car races, but there were supporting races for the Porsche Carrera Cup, Ginetta Juniors and G50s, Formula Renault and Renault Clio Cup. There’s a PDF file of the timetable here (I’m sure there must be a better way of linking a PDF directly into the blog).

Saturday was a long day: mainly practice and qualifying, but ending with a couple of the support races. Signing on was a real drag – queued for about 20 minutes without moving and then inched forward for another 15 minutes before actually getting assigned.

Sunday was better, being all races, and also a late start, which makes a pleasant change. There was a fairly spectacular happening on Avenue in the G50 Cup race, resulting in a half-hour clear-up operation that threatened to clobber the timetable, but having abandoned that race the rest of the programme was just squeezed in. (Report here.)

Being assigned to the Water Tower post both days was a bit of a bummer. They always say, “This is a post where not much happens, but when it happens, it happens big!” – well, this weekend it didn’t. Only action was pushing a defunct Ginetta Junior off track, which is hardly what you’d call exciting!

Still, weather was glorious sun all day both days, so it could have been worse.

Next outing will be BARC meeting on 20th.

Holiday Snaps

A few piccies from the holiday:  Click here

Update from The Kingdom …

The main point of the annual pilgrimage here being to revel in the isolation, it was almost inevitable that the lack of a decent internet connexion would mean neglect of the blog. And, sure enough, here we are a week later with not a solitary thing recorded, beyond my notes the day after we arrived.

But if this record is to be a useful chronicle of events that I can refer back to (as I suppose is it’s only realistic purpose), then I’d best get something down …

Saturday 16/5/09 –
Continued high winds from the NW: this sets the pattern for the next several days; don’t think we have ever seen the flag on the church stuck so consistently on one place. Sea state very choppy – no way the boat was going to come, so arrivals and departures by helicopter for most of the day. Curry for tea.

Sunday 17th – 
Wind and sea conditions unchanged. Fortunately, very little rain, so it’s possible to get out for some fresh air and exercise, but not conducive to long walks. Roast beef and all the trimmings for tea.

Monday 18th –
Weather much the same, but sunny and not unpleasant where you could find a bit of shelter. The others were well into their jigsaw puzzle, so I took a solitary walk for  a couple of hours: up main road to Quarter Wall, then over to the West coast (where I met the Warden’s Walk coming back); through the Earthquake and spent some time in total shelter at its Northern end, admiring Jenny’s and the view towards North End (as usual, lots of razor’s and guilli’s on the rock faces, a few on the water, but no puffs!); back across the Halfway Wall, pausing at its Eastern end before crossing to Caterpillar Corner and sitting for a while out of the wind again (two or three seals below and brief sighting of the peregrine); dawdled down the Quarry path and up to the Timekeeper’s Hut; home along the Upper East Coast Path (got a second view of peregrine, or possibly a different one?). Boiled ham joint for tea.

Tuesday 19th – 
Still the wind! but the sea didn’t look too bad and the Oldie made the crossing with some changeovers and a handful of day visitors. After coffee in The Ugly, watching the boat come in, went up to the pub for a couple of pints; Diana introduced us to Marion Trapnell (she said in fact the crossing had been pretty unpleasant and a lot of people were ill). Pub for tea.

Wednesday 20th –
Weather definitely improved; bright and sunny in the morning with much less wind. Most of the day taken up with the visit of TRH the Earl and Countess of Wessex (Edward and Sophie). It was a very relaxed and informal affair: they had lunch in the pub, sitting at the big middle table (naturally we lunched there too!) before setting of on a tour of the obvious island points of interest. Turned quite wet for a time, but cleared up in time for them to unveil a commemorative plaque outside the door of the Marisco.
Sausage and cauliflower-cheese for tea.

Thursday 21st – 
Finally the wind shifted to NW and was much abated, though still brisk; plenty of sun and no rain; excellent visibility – clear views of Devon and Wales for the first time. We did the North End, but not using the "usual route": up main road to Half Wall, then across to Jenny’s and up the West side; lunch in the usual spot, well sheltered from the wind; back down the road almost to Three-Quarter wall, then down to the Lower East Coast Path, just North of Brazen Ward and back that way. Chilli for tea.

Friday 22nd –
Topher and I got up early (8.00am !) to meet up with Roger for a chat: as usual he was good value on some of the goings on here, and ever ready to chat about various infrastructure projects. Weather not looking so promising today – the rest of the morning spent reading, and doing this update. Maybe it will improve later.

Saturday 23rd –
Time to go home already 😦
Lovely sunny day to end with; smooth crossing in record time.

Finally Arrived in the Kingdom of Heaven

And so to Lundy for some serious chill …

Tuesday we travelled down to Poole, after a morning spent in final packing, using the leisurely rural route: to Newport, then Bridgnorth (avoiding Telford) and Kidderminster, joining the M5 at Worcester; M5/M4 to the outskirts of Bath, then Warmister, Blandford and Wimborne; arrived Broadstone just after 5.00pm. a little over five hours including a couple of stops.

Next morning spent in frantic re-packing after a trip to Sainsburys for final provisions. One of our bags initially weighed in at 42lbs, way over the maximum individual bag weight, with the second not much better. Fortunately we had brought an empty bag (anticipating problems) and could do some rearranging. C&P had four bags, bring the group total to seven and quite a few pounds over our joint baggage allowance — fortunately they never check!

Arrived Lundy yesterday via an easy, if rather early sailing from Bideford, having overnighted at the Travel Lodge in Barnstable. Very pleasant lunch at the pub. Met up with several old acquaintances and settled gently into Lundy Mode.

Cold and very windy today, but that’s OK — we’ve lit the fire mid-afternoon and settled in for the rest of the day, after a very invigourating stroll this morning, up to the Old Light. (Very strong wind from the WNW: almost enough to knock you over.)

Now approaching G&T time …

[ footnote: the Kingdom of Heaven a reference to the island once having been owned by a certain Revd. Hudson Heaven — spendid name for a parson! ]

To Garstang for the Annual Gathering

And so to Garstang for the annual clan get together (Lesley’s clan, that is) to celebrate Mother-in-Law’s 87th birthday.

Travelled up early Friday afternoon (moderate traffic) and arrived to find R&M already in residence. They had come early to visit estate agents, following the Big Announcement of their intended relocation. Mother-in-Law was apparently gob-smacked, as you might expect, by the news they plan to move back here — but of course delighted: she declared at some point during the course of the day that this was "the best present of all". Lesley and I think it’s quite a good thing too 😉

Saturday, we had the now traditional family lunch at Quattros — twelve sat down to eat, counting The Boys.
Photobucket  Mother-in-Laws 87th Birthday Lunch - 1

A good time was had by all, and the staff were particularly good, especially going to lengths to accommodate and amuse Archie and Jack. I had hot shrimps followed by the Bistecha Piccante (which was definitely very piccante! but good none-the-less) and finished with toffee pavlova. I nobly volunteered to drive — must remember next year (DV) it’s somebody else’s turn!

In the afternoon, the cousins decended. The last couple of years, we’ve had good weather and been able to sit in the garden, but this time we were out of luck; so twenty of us crammed into the lounge for tea and cake. Still it’s really good to get everyone together — I’m sure M-in-Law was greatly chuffed.

No room of course for The Children (and their children) to stay overnight, so just the five of us for lunch today.

Then home this afternoon to begin final preparations for Lundy — tomorrow is Child Minding, of course, so we need to get organized ready to go down to Poole on Tuesday.