Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve at la Tour Eiffel

We had quite a relaxed morning, I only went out briefly to walk down Boulevard Temple and find a photographic shop to buy a replacement protective case for Caron's camera. While I was there I couldn't resist a lightweight mono-pod which came in very handy later on in the day. Unlike the tripod, it is much easier to transport and I find it easier to use as well.

Kirsten and Carl were off somewhere so we had lunch with just the four of us before we headed out afterwards. Kim, Caron and Sage to go on the big wheel which is at the one end of the Champs Elysee while I went to Musee D'Orsay. When I arrived at the Musee D'Orsay the queue was enormous but I thought I would give it 30 minutes and by the time 30 minutes was up I was already inside. Thoroughly enjoyed the gallery especially the impressionist painters. I was surprised at some of the Degas, Sisley and Manet's which I liked when I wasn't really expecting to. Not as impressed with the Rodin sculptures as I was expecting to be although there were some other outstanding sculptures whose artists I can't remember. There were definitely no photographs allowed in Musee D'Orsay, the gallery guards making frequent use of Frances favourite expressing, 'Non!' and don't miss the gallic '!'. The gallery didn't only contain paintings and sculpture but had exhibitions of furniture which were really beautifully made and highlighted the distinction between France (Developed) and South Africa (Developing) where a table, for instance, would be of purely of utilitarian value in South Africa whereas in France it is of both utilitarian and aesthetic value. The graceful curves of the legs and table tops add nothing to the utility of the piece but everything to the aesthetics.

I met up with Caron, Kim and Sage in the shadow of the Eiffel tower looking forward to the trip to the top. As it turned out, the top was closed due to ice so I still have not made it to the top of the eiffel tower. Although this was quite disappointing the views from the second deck were still quite amazing.

Looking up to the top of the eiffel from the second deck.

And of course we had to have some happy family snaps for posterity.

We had made arrangements to meet Hennie and Dierdre for the evening but Sage was having tantrums and I wasn't feeling that great so we decided to slit from Kirsten and Carl who went on to have what sounds like a great evening while we went home and had pizza and some wine for supper. I really would have liked to have been with Carl and Hennie wandering around the Latin Quarter puffing on cigars and enjoying the ambiance but it was not to be. I spent the evening in a semi delirious state while a fever raged, dropping in and out of consciousness. Not the best manner in which to spend new years evening, particularly given the location and the alternative but I would rather be sick now and well for the skiing, all things be told.

Having taken our leave we walked across the bridge towards the Tracadero metro past stacks of police having their supper inside their vans, I don't quite know what they were there for but there were stacks of them. I shot this from near trocadero looking back towards la tour eiffel and while I was shooting this sage ran off in a huff and sat down about 10m away and before we knew it two policwomen were talking to her and admonishing us for letting her get so far away. 'They take them very quickly here' was what they said so maybe the film 'Taken' is not so far from what actually and currently happens. Pretty scary.

This was taken just before we got off the metro, Sage was trying her very best drop dead look which she is learning quite quickly from her cousin Megan.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Disneyland with Caron and Sage

So while Kim and Roland went gallery and art hunting, Sage and I and the van der Riets ambled out to EuroDisney on the train. Mostly according to plan but the train/entry ticket that we wanted to get was unavailable so we had to buy the entry pass once we got to Disneyland .....The van der Merwe's were to join us at the station but were running a couple of minutes late so......

Once at the Park, we separated - Sage and I off to FantasyLand and the others to higher level stuff .... On the way to FantasyLand, we met up with one of Ratatoiulle's mates -

We then did the Mad Hatters teacups, the Carousel

before spending a large amount of time standing in the queue for Peter Pan's flight which Sage seems to enjoy and wanted to do again but for the queue .... I spent most of that ride holding onto a piece of clothing as Sage was leaning so far out of the car that I was sure that she would either fall out or bang her head on something.

We then went to have lunch in Toad Hall ... very crowded as it was rather cold and nasty breeze blowing. After lunch it was off the Curiosity Labyrinth and into and around and into the castle...

We then wandered around the Sleeping Beauty Castle ... Sage wanted to get to the top of the caste but we couldn't find a way up.

Then we went to to AdventureLand.... pirates etc... We wandered through caves and rocks

and Robinson Crusoe tree house before heading off to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which was supposed to scary for the youngsters but not for Sage - she loved it so we did it again. After which I insisted on coffee which was accepted by Sage as long as she could have hot chocolate.. She wanted to carry on but it was getting dark and I wanted to go home ... the queues were still rather long, to say the least, so we started home to be caught up in the Parade ....

then we headed home ... a long day for me but Sage was still going strong. Tomorrow is my day off....

L'Orangerie and EuroDisney

We're doing something different today and sending Kirsten, Carl and Caron with all the children off to Disneyland while Kim and I visit a gallery or two. As it turned out we only got to one gallery but it as really good.

My holiday routine is to wake up early before anyone else so that I can blog but today, the moment my foot stepped outside the bedroom I could hear the minions getting up. As soon as the first adult gets up then that is the signal that they are also allowed to get up so I get to make the three little ones some hot chocolate every morning. Because Disneyland is a long day everyone was up early so my morning period of peace and quiet was not to be.

After the hordes departed Kim and I left for L'Orangerie which was blissfully free of crowds so early in the morning and we, I think, both really enjoyed the Waterlilly Series by Monet. There were a number of other paintings but the star attraction was definitely the Monet's.

Kim wanted to have the authentic Paris experience and go shopping at Galleries Lafayette which is a huge department store but, unlike Johannesburg, where designer kit is in specialist boutique shops, Lafayette is full of the stuff. What is considered Designer in Johannesburg is simply another brand in the department store. Caron, not being the shopping type, this was a new experience for me, traipsing after Kim while she tried to find some things to spend money on. She eventually settled on a new knee-length jacket which makes her look like a real Parisian; who, by the way, dress in a pretty uniform black, dark brown or grey so the odd visitor like myself, wandering around in bright red, really stands out as a non-Parisian.

On the way to the Galleries we stopped in at what we would call a delicatessen and had a bite to eat and some coffee while we watched the world walk past which is where we came to the conclusion that the Parisian's favour the 'dull' colours. Walking into Galleries there is lots of colour on display and for sale but not much in the way of people actually wearing it.

From there Kim and split up, she went on the city bus guided tour while I came home to have a quiet afternoon reading and writing which I really enjoyed. Just around the corner is this house that, if my interpretation is correct, is condemned but at the moment is being held together/up by the scafolding in the photograph.

Kim eventually arrived home at about 17:30 and we organised cheese, wine and supper for the disneyland voyagers who arrived at 18:30 (Caron and Sage) and about 19:30 (Kirsten and Carl) carrying mementoes of their visit. Caron had a near thing, she put the cover for the camera in one zip up pocket and the camera in the other for some reason and in one of the lines, the camera bag disappeared so we had to come all the way to Paris to get pick pocketed! As it turns out I just need to buy another bag which is a great deal less annoying than having to buy another camera.

While we were having supper, Megan was munching on a 500mm marshmallow so I picked up the other end which she obviously took great exception to because she let me have it with a right hook, much to my and everyone else's surprise. So I now have a black eye compliments of Megan, one of those little incidents which happen in the blink of an eye and is going to follow Megan for decades.

I'm going to let Caron write up the experiences of the Day at Disneyland.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Saint Chapelle and the Latin Quarter

Phew, what a busy day this was. We're going to have to calm down otherwise it isn't going to feel like we have had a holiday by the time we get back.

First up was Saint Chapelle which is quite near Notre Dame and the queues are not quite as long, hard to believe given the size of the queues at Saint Chapelle but true none-the-less. While the Mack's waited patiently, I walked Caron and Kim over to Notre Dame but the queues were a total put off so I left them to wander around Isle de la Cite and we would meet up later at a cafe.

Saint Chapelle was quite an eye opener both in terms of the beauty of the stained glass windows and the architecture but also in terms of how cold it was inside - it was absolutely freezing. I have been in many churches and chapels across europe and this has got to be the best one I have seen so far.

Each window has a separate story which it tells which I couldn't really follow but from far it looks quite uniform and ordered but as one gets closer one realises that there are many variations within the overall theme and I think that it is this that captivates people.

We met up with Kim, Caron and Sage in the cafe where they had already ordered and almost finished eating lunch. Caron's bill for Onion soup, coffee and odds and sods came to 30 euro which was pretty steep. We abandoned the cafe before were were forced to pay by dish washing and made our way up to the Latin Quarter stopping at an amazing cheese shop on the way. For some inexplicable reason, Caron will stand still for photographs in cheese shops.

The famdamily with Notre Dame in the background.

The Van der Merwes met us in the Latin quarter and we meandered through it without any real direction or purpose, stopping for lunch at another cafe. I had the onion soup which was exceptional so this meal is going to go down as one of my most expensive and most memorable ever! - in total 60 euro for two onion soups, some crepe's and beers and coffees. It's outrageous but damn it was good, I thought I was the only one finding the prices a bit steep but afterwards it came out that both Carl and Hennie thought likewise - as Hennie said, "That's a whole weeks worth of groceries in one lunch!"

Saw this stilt monster wandering around begging so, after a photo, I kind of had to make a donation.

The Ski boot shop which I visited on the first day is also in the Latin Quarter to next stop, after saying farewell to the Van's, was some serious shopping. Kirsten and I both tried on several boots while the children whined about how long it was taking which we just ignored. Kirsten found her boots quite quickly while I vacillated between two, one was more plush while the other was slightly more performance orientated. Eventually went for the performance option because the tongue that goes against your shin was more comfortable so I hope that I made the right choice. Only time will tell and the dice have been cast, there is no way I will be able to return them.

The night life in the Latin Quarter is great and makes for great photography although one really needs to have a tripod of sorts for the low-light stuff.

Final stop before we got home to a really amazing meal of chicken and roast vegetables prepared by our resident cordon-bleu chef, Kim, was shopping for two new suitcases to avoid the R1200 penalty on the way home. Ended up with two very nice delsey semi-rigid wheelie bags which I hope will do the trick.

Gotta slow down tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Family Arrive

Woke up early-ish and sent an SMS off to Carl and Kirsten who should be getting off the plane and dragging their luggage through the subway and trains. Get a call from Kirsten to say that they're downstairs. After a long night without sleep and having dragged some huge suitcases up and down stairs and on and off trains and metro their arms were a bit longer and mood a bit shorter. On top of this Carl's phone decided to go on the blink which was really just the icing on the cake as far as Carl was concerned. While K&C settled in and had a bit of a nap to restore some sanity we went out shopping. Shopping is a big deal in Paris because the homes are so small that you actually can't do 'the months' shopping because there is nowhere to store the stuff. On top of this you have to carry the groceries from the store so you are limited by the strength of the tendons in you fingers.

Hennie and Diedre arrived for a lunch of soup and bread with a spot of cheese before we all ventured forth following our intrepid leaders (Caron and Carl) to see the Arch de Triomphe and the Champs de Elysee. The weather wasn't that great but at least it wasn't pouring with rain.

The view from the top of the Arch de Triomphe looking over towards the eiffel tower. The experience was nice but not great, we also had a look at the eternal flame at the tomb of the unknown soldier. Did I mention the 284 steps up to the top? Several people were a little out of breath by the time they arrived at the top. Caron decided to stay at the bottom and we tried to see her on the video screen that shows the view but we could only see dark shapes huddled up in their rain coats and big jackets.
From the Arche we strolled down the Champs barging our way through the crowds which are pretty thick and having some roast chestnuts along the way. We stopped at a cafe for some coffee and a rest and when we emerged it was dark. It feels like it goes from day to night to very quickly here. The christmas decorations are very attractive ....

... as was the carousel with the horses to sage who couldn't resist.
After that it was back in the metro, home, supper and bed. Everyone quite tired but looking forward to tomorrow which should include some shopping for new luggage and ski boots!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Paris, mid winter

Had a so, so night. The drugs really help so I at least got some sleep unlike Caron who refuses to take them or Kim who took them but had a wriggly worm next to her called Sage which no amount of drugs can compensate for.

Long queues in the airport but it all moved quite quickly, I have to admit that there is something about France which I like. It's a bit like when you meet someone for the first time and you take an instant liking to him or her. There isn't any reason for it, it's just a gut feeling.

Kim and Sage on the Train into the city. The book didn't help, it's even out of focus!

Took the train and then the metro in to Place de Republique and then walked the rest of the way to the flat which we found quite easily. We arrived at about 09:00 but the flat was only available from 14:00 which meant that we had a lot of time to kill and we still had all our luggage with us. We retired to a bar across the street to kill some time and drank lots of coffee and hot chocolate while the resident dog barked furiously at other dogs passing by. Something one has to be subconsciously aware of in paris is dog poop all over the place because dogs here live in apartments and there is a spectacular lack of green grass for their toilette.

Eventually got hold of the keys person who let us dump our bags at 11:00 but then shoed us out again until 14:00. Can't work out why because there wasn't anyone else in the flat and there also wasn't any sign of cleaners. Caron reckons that it is the french love for bureaucracy which, I'm sure they deny.

With the bags gone we went out for lunch which is expensive but not nearly as expensive as it used to be. Kim and I also went food shopping and according to her, if we had bought the same back at home it would have been pretty much the same price, maybe even more expensive at home. My how things change in just few short years.

I left everyone after lunch to go and find some ski boots while everyone else retired to the now, at last, available flat. I had a great time wandering around paris feeling a little lost but found the store I was looking for. In Johannesburg, it is just plain not possible to purchase ski boots. All the ski shops in Johannesburg combined had only one pair of boots for sale and the sales people had not a clue as to how to fit and size them. The one shop here had probably 50 different brands/models and all the sizes one could think of not to mention the expertise to fit them. It's wonderful! So mission accomplished, I now know where Kirsten who arrives tomorrow and myself are going to go shopping!

Made my way back to the flat where Sage was still going. I really thought she would have crashed by now but that was not to be. She has an unusual amount of stamina for a body that small.

The flat is quite something but, I think, quite typical of Parisian apartments. the floor are uneven and the cupboards are skew and while some parts of it have been renovated nicely, other parts are just terrible. Anyway, it's home for the week whether we like it or not although it would be really nice if we could figure out how to turn the heaters on permanently. In case anyone doesn't know, it's freezing in Paris. Caron and I feel right at home in the flat, there are books everywhere but the topics are mostly philosophy, art and music so whoever owns the flat is really pretty widely read. I recognise most of the names of the philosophers but I have read, oh, maybe one ... book!

The pictures below are of the entrance to the apartment building and the flat itself. Can't imagine have the main entrance to an apartment block going past a pile of rubbish bins back home. It is so very different here.

These are the steps up to the apartment and they are uneven in tread not to mention not being level. My father-in-law would have heart palpitations at the workmanship, at least the lack of it.

Having said all that, the flat is dry and warmer than outside as long as one keeps on turning the heaters on. Made some supper which we enjoyed with some wine and some cheese before retiring. Busy reading my first ebook on the galaxy. eBooks are definitely the way to go.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gone Skiing

Following numerous complaints from a small minority of the family my blog lives again .... rising like the phoenix from the ashes. Again and again!

This time we're off to france for a spot of sightseeing and some skiing. Uncharacteristically, the day before the flight was not spent rushing around like a madman. We basically did nothing, I even managed to finish reading my christmas present from laurel which was a book about black and white photography. I'm not sure if it going to help but it sure is inspirational. The 'j' on the keyboard is hypersensitive so if there is the occasional 'j' that creeps into a word, it is the keyboard not my spelling.

Caron gets very tense when travelling. Kim says that she is so like her father so now I know what she is going to be like when she gets old-er. Instead of doing the time honoured trek out the airport inconveniencing family and friends we picked Kim and Sage up, dropped them at the sandton gautrain, left my car at work and then walked back to the gautrain and then took the train out to the airport.

We weren't sure which platform to use so we asked one of the security guards who said that we were on the right one which was technically correct but he failed to mention the train on the other platform waiting to leave in 10 minutes time. Oh, well! at least we were really early so it didn't really make any difference.

Coming off the gautrain caron was about to go through a turnstile when this kid tried to sneak in. Caron was already in the turnstile so it was more of an arm around her trying to tap the card. She should have let him tap it and then just walked through rather than scolding him. That would have taught him, he, or rather his mother, would have had to pay for two trips instead of one. The mother was indignant, imagine someone scolding *her* child for doing something that was essentially wrong. Okay, caron could have done it in a nicer manner such as a belt alongside the ear, but these moments come and go so quickly.

Made it to the airport where the check-in people strictly enforce the one item of luggage rule on air france unlike with other airlines where, so long as you're underweight and not unreasonable they happily accommodate you. Had to pay R400 for an extra bag. Luckily we could give one bag to kim but when we're coming back it's going to cost an extra R1200.00 for our bags. I'll have to think up a solution to this somehow in the next two weeks. Caron very unimpressed!

The rest of the day as uneventful, I was really looking forward to the flight in the A380 but it was just like being in any other plane although it took longer to take-off and didn't climb so steeply. The tail camera looking forwards over was pretty cool though.

Took my drugs along with supper, either my standards are slipping or airline food is getting better.

Nighty, night!