Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A weekend in Paris

I just spent a fabulous weekend in Paris. After only 80minutes in the air, direct from Newcastle, I arrived in Paris and was immediately confronted with the fact that I don't speak French! Luckily I had company on the flight - Harriet who I play netball with just happened to be catching the exact same flights as me to Paris. I managed to catch the correct train to Gentilly to meet Bolt (science circus) and Tom (her boyf). It was so great to see them both, and they are the best tour guides of Paris! I can't tell you how amazing it was to be shown around Paris by someone fluent in the language, and to be taken to the best parts of the city.

On Friday night after I arrived we jumped on the train and went straight to the Eiffel Tower. It was beautiful, all lit up, as you will see in my pictures. We sat on the grass and ate baguette and cheese and drank French wine, and it was topped off by some devine French chocolates. There were lots of people doing the same as us. I love how people in Paris use the outdoors. We wandered down some side streets and found a place for dinner. We didn't finish eating till 12am!

Saturday was a very full day- It began with going to the local markets and wandering around, buying baguettes and croissants and pain du chocolat for breakfast. Delcious! We then headed to the Louvre. Bolt and I were wandering what was so good about the Mona Lisa... And we decided that although unimpressive at first, she is just so intriguing. The more you look at the painting, the more intrigued and mesmerised you become. It was great. On the opposite wall was a fabulous painting by a venetian artist (whom I have forgotten the name of) and we spent ages looking at that because there was so much to it. It was a scene of the last supper, but so scandalous because it featured drunkards and brawls and animals that it almost got Venice ousted from the Catholic Church back in the 1400's I think.

Bolt and I were also amazed at some bottecelli paintings. The girls in the pictures had similar colourings to us, which we though quite interesting for Italy...

We did so much that day I am having trouble remembering it all! It was fabulous though, I hope you are enjoying reading this.

We then went to a famous tea house called Angelina's. It was frequented by Coco Chanel amongst others, including prominent politicians and all sort of famous people who went there to discuss politics and other important things. Bolt and I discussed cultural differences, and indulged in the most amazing hot chocolate (almost liquid chocolate I would say) and an amazing desert called a Mount Blanc, which had chocolate, coconut, cream and meringue in it, but I can't describe the most unusual texture it had. All very incredible and we were on a sugar high for the rest of the day from that.

We went to Montmartre then and saw the Moulin Rouge, and as we meandered up the gorgeous windy streets to the top of the only hill in Paris we bought a baguette and cheese and wine. The wine seller thought we were Irish, as he though we certainly didn't look like we were from around there.

We walked through the streets that featured in my favourite movie Amelie and arrived at the Sacre Coeur. It is a stunning view from the top of all of paris. The white city sprawls away into the distance...

Bolt and I sat and ate and drank there. We then met Tom who had been working all day and went to a few very cool bars in Montmartre. We even met some Aussies - fancy that :) One was from Canberra and the other from Logan (near gold coast). Great fun.

Sunday we went to the Notre Dame Catherderal, which was spectacular. There was a service happening there at the time - incredible acoustics. We saw the centre pompedeiu with all its pipes, ate chocolate crepes and watched a street performer. There are things I haven't mentioned, but you can see what I did in the photo album I have made. I couldn't just put a few pics into the email like I normally do, as there were so many I wanted to share!

This is the link the album. I hope you go and view the pics, there are some great ones.
http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=2e0wkff.7ve8x3wz&x=0&y=-h6ewz7

I made it home and was in bed at 10pm on Sunday. I can't believe I fit all that into a weekend in Paris! Thanks so much Bolt and Tom for having me and showing me around :)

It is amazing how going away for only 2 and a half days can feel like it has taken up a huge part of your life. And that is how I feel. Paris is such a beautiful city, so rich in culture and history. It feels special just to be there and walk down the elegant streets. I can totally understand how people fall in love with it - I was definately under its spell. Not only is it pretty, but the people were very friendly, and it seemed that everyone just enjoyed being there. It is a bit of a contrast to England, where walking along the streets people look quite glum, and not at all like they want to be walking down a grey street in Newcastle for instance. There is also a great contrast between Paris and London- you really know where you are in Paris- you are in Paris- but in London you really could be any big city in the world.

Paris was amazing. And now I'm back in Newcastle it also feels good because I know that Paris is so close, and there is so much more of Europe to see as well. Can't wait!

Love lots,
Jo

Monday, September 19, 2005

London

I was in London for the weekend to visit Katie (friend from uni) and to go to Anna (family friend)'s birthday. I had a great weekend. It only took 3 1/4 hours to get down there on the train from Newcastle- very convenient!

On Friday Katie met me at the station and I stayed at her place in East Acton. She has a really nice apartment there with two other Australians and is enjoying the London life. We went out for a quite drink in Shepards Bush, after fending off the drunk Aussie guy who was insisting we had a drink with him and his mates. But really he looked well dodgy and was very drunk so we thought better of that one.

On Saturday we ventured into the city to St Paul's and across the millennium foot bridge to the Tate modern. We watched "the Budgieman" do a little show beside the river, so very hilarious! He has about 10 budgies trained to basically be really placid while he picks them up on a stick and waves them around in the air. Then he gets a couple of the little things to run up ladders and across ropes. All the while he's singing some tunes that go something along the lines of "I'm the budgieman with the budgies in old London town, been here for 20 years with the little budgies...etc". It was hilarious!

The Tate was very interesting. Saw some great Picasso's and an interesting display of propaganda art from the Stalin era. The moving image art wasn't totally my thing, and neither was the piece of cardboard with holes punched through it with a pencil, but I totally loved Rodin's The Kiss. Fabulous.

Katie and I made our way across town then on the tube to Anna's place in Greenwich. She has a BBQ from the afternoon and afterwards we went into town to a club called Tiger Tiger. It was really nice seeing all of Anna's family at her place. The most hilarious part was getting a group of 20 people from Anna's place via bus and 2 tubes. Good fun night.

On Saturday, after a restless night's sleep on the couch, Katie and I went for a walk to the Greenwich museum and observatory, and ended up chatting outside under the grey sky for a few hours. Was really nice catching up. We will have to go back to Greenwich again to do it properly and see the museum and Cutty Sark. I spent the afternoon chilling out at Anna's with her family, before catching a late train home, arriving into Newcastle at 12.30am.

I enjoyed going down to London for the weekend. It is very different to Newcastle though... London is such a huge city, and so multicultural. It doesn't feel very English though. In London you feel like you could be anywhere in the world with the variety of accents and sprawling suburbs. Newcastle is much easier to handle, and so easy to get around. And it is quite English here. It has made me appreciate how easy and good I have it up here, not having to tackle crowds and the tube everyday. But it is exciting down there. Would be fun to live there I think, but I would have to be earning the big bucks to enjoy it properly- my Newcastle wage wouldn't go too far!

Tomorrow night I start my Spanish class- 3 1/2 hours of it every week. I'm really looking forward to it. And seeing as I think I will visit Lizzie (my sister) in Costa Rica early next year I should be able to put it into practice too! Most exciting. Lizzie has just moved to San Diego by the way to be a nanny for a family whose parents work on a marlin fishing yacht. So she there until December when they go to Costa Rica for 4 months. I am somewhat jealous and hoping that some other position will open up on this luxury yacht :)

Chris is still travelling around Europe- currently in Berlin I believe after a hazy few days in Amsterdam. I am off to Paris this weekend to visit Bolt. Very excited to see her and also to see Paris as I've never been there before. I'm catching a direct flight from Newcastle and taking a half day of work of Friday to go- so very easy!