A Travellerspoint blog

Champagne

Bubbles, Monuments and Driving on the Right...

sunny 25 °C

I've finally slipped into the holiday vortex of not knowing what time or day it is. And we seem to be over our jetlag and sleeping through the night.

We left Paris on Friday... collected our car - a brand new Citroen C4 (Diesel) with six speeds and less than 50kms on the clock. Collecting the car was painless and I'm really glad we went with the diesel as we're getting 800-1000kms out of the tank with highway driving. So far Steve has done most of the driving, but today we have a long drive ahead of us, so we'll be sharing. The highways here are great (although all toll roads) with speed limits of 130kms/hr when sunny (which means that most people do 150kms/hr.

So we've been here in Champagne since Friday afternoon. The Chateau where we have been staying is lovely. Chateau du Mairy in Mairy-sur-Marne. Our hosts - Michelle and Franz are delightful and there have been two crazy dutch guys here for the weekend too which has been entertaining us at meals.

On Saturday we went to Epernay and did the champagne thing. Toured Moet & Chandon. 28kms of cellars underneath the buildings and probably about a million bottles of champagne aging in them. Pics attached.

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After lunch and a wander around the town which is very picturesque... and managing to buy cold and flu drugs from the chemist in French (yes - I have a cold =( )... Went to another champagne house and sat in the sun tasting several of their champagnes.

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Then home for a nap before heading out to dinner in Chalons where a jazz festival was underway. Music good. Food average. Service very poor.

Yesterday - we headed up to the Somme area to visit both the Australian and New Zealand memorials at Villers-Bretonneau and Caterpillar Valley respectively. Sobering stuff. The Australian memorial commemorates 11,000 servicemen whose graves are unknown. Both the memorials are immaculately kept.

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This area of France is just so pretty. We're thinking of emmigrating.... just need to brush up on my French. =P

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Last night was dinner at the chateau. Michelle's cooking was great. Home made pate, Coq au Vin, then Apple Tart for dessert... oh - and cheeses. So much cheese.

This morning we are heading to Loire... so have a long drive ahead.

Posted by LindsayandSteve 01:49 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris - Day 5

Stairs, Subway, and Showgirls

sunny 24 °C

Thursday.... final full day in Paris and just one more "big" thing to see... Arc de Triomphe.

Also a day where we travelled around on the metro quite a bit. The thing with the metro is not that it's a problem to use... it's a problem to find the right station. There seem to be stations just about everywhere, but not all of them will get you where you need to go. Easiest way to buy tickets is from the information desk, but only some stations have these. The ticket machines are OK, but you need to know which ticket to get (the general Paris ticket is a flat price) whereas if you are travelling on the same line to another station, it's cheaper.

Anyway - Arc de Triomphe.... pretty stunning monument records all of Napoleon's battles. He told his troops that they would return and walk through triumphal arches... so he built one just for that purpose. It has since been added too with brass ground plaques dedicated to more recent war activity (i.e. WWI & WWII) and has the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier there with an eternal flame.

We climbed the 278 stairs to the top and the views were lovely (although not as high as from the Eiffel Tower).

Then we bought lunch and caught the metro across to the other side of Paris. Ate lunch in a park (a very Parisienne thing to do)... then went off to see the Catacombes.

Problem: We couldn't find them. There were signs pointing in opposite directions and according to the map, they were right next to the metro station... but after 30 minutes of wandering around, we decided it wasn't that important (the bones were from an overflow of the cities cemeteries) and headed home for a nap due to planned evening activities.

Met up with Raymond's friend Francois and had a lovely evening with him before heading across to La Lido. I had read an article about Parisienne shows in The Age which talked about Moulin Rouge, La Lido, and Crazy Horse and booked tickets for us in advance. It was quite a spectacular... showgirls with lots of feathers and various other outfits, interspersed with somewhat random acts such as the guy wearing a glittery white and blue suit who's act involved large yoyo things... and the male ice dancer... and the male gymnast who did a very good aerial performance on white cloths hanging from the ceiling. We both really enjoyed it, although for me it seemed a bit like a group of people had gotten together and gone... OK so we've got showgirls and boys and we're doing numbers involving cats and another involving motorbikes, and another with egyptians... but you know what's cool.... a guy with yoyos is cool... So it seemed a bit random. An entertaining evening though.

Posted by LindsayandSteve 09:25 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris - Day 3 & 4

Art, Army and Opulence

sunny 24 °C

So I'm a day behind on the blogging, so this morning you will get two days worth...

Tuesday

We were both starting to get tired and a bit scratchy... I think we've figured out that we were in fact a little jet-lagged and we've been pushing pretty hard to see as much as possible. The sleeping thing has been a bit out of whack too... Going to bed at the right time, but waking super early... 2am the first night, then 3am... etc. I'm now up to a 5am wake up... which is almost normal for me anyway.

So back to Tuesday.... Musee d'Orsay was first up. No pics as they aren't allowed in the gallery (not that many people were paying attention to this). There was a special Manet exhibition which I quite liked (Steve didn't)... although the commentary was less about the art and more about his life. He wasn't very likeable and basically chased popular opinion. Back in the permanent exhibition... Got to see some great stuff... famous Renoir and Van Gogh (although not Starry Nights or Sunflowers). They also had Monet, Whistler and Sisley and Degas... which was all very good. Did you know that Monet designed and planted the gardens that would then inspire him to create >300 paintings over 30 years? Fairly prolific. Also - that Van Gogh (towards the end of his life) was creating a painting a day.... Anyway - I found it interesting. Steve was a bit more along the lines of "are you done yet?"....

I would have to say that the d'Orsay doesn't feel as accessible as The Louvre. Perhaps it's just me, but little things like the tags about the artworks was all in really little printing, so you had to kind of shove through the masses to get close enough to read it. The audioguide commentary was a bit patchy too.

After the d'Orsay and lunch (yummy soup followed by crepes flambe) - it was time to sacrifice myself on the alter of love and marriage and go back to Musee de l'Armee with Steve.

The Musee de l'Armee is kind of like the Australian War Memorial, although probably not quite as up to date in terms of displays and stuff. Half of it is dedicated to World War 1 and World War II, as well as big section on la Resistance and De Gaulle. This was all pretty interesting (Steve's not the only one who likes history), and it had some good multimedia clips and lots of weapons. The other section was on Napoleon and his battles etc. Due to the historical significance of the artefacts, it was gloomy inside and very focussed on the battles, so for me - some of the narrative got lost. Plus by that point we'd been there for >3 hrs... so I entertained myself trying to figure out the metro system in the guidebook while Steve enjoyed himself. I did like that they did reenactment boards of some of the battles, and just about everything had english translations (which was good), but there seemed to be very little about Napoleon's life... only his military endeavours. Here are some pics of Musee de l'Armee.

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Oh - I almost forgot to mention Napoleon's Tomb. Talk about a monument to oneself.... Very romanesque. You can see from the picture above how big his sarcophogus is and the building around it is pretty incredible. There's not much else in there... just Napoleon, and a few people who came after (but in much smaller ante-rooms)... but it really is dedicated to Napoleon.

Wednesday

Only one thing yesterday - Palace of Versailles.

We had a great day weather wise... sunny, blue skies and warm. I steered us slightly wrong on the metro (Chateau de Versailles is not Port de Versailles), but the system here is so good, that the return train was only 3 minutes wait. In my defence, the RER C station wasn't on my metro map... Anyway - made it to Versailles and the place is amazing. The palace itself is seriously opulent... all different coloured marbles and chandelliers and paintings. Much of the furniture is replica due to it all being taken during the Revolution. Seeing the inside of the place, you can totally understand why the peasants had an uprising... the nobility were living a life of such excess while the masses were starving...

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What was also incredible though, were the gardens. And I'm so glad we had a great day for it. The gardens are like nothing I've seen anywhere else, and you can just imagine the life the court must have led walking through them.

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We sat by the Grand Canal and read in the sun for a while. Unfortunately, I got sunburnt (arms and neck)... but the sun doesn't have the intensity of home, so it's red, but bearable.

After Versailles, we had several drinks in the sun at cafes and had a cheap dinner at the cafe a few doors from our apartment.

Posted by LindsayandSteve 07:38 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris - Day 2

My feet hurt!!

overcast 10 °C

A busy day yesterday.... and so much walking... =)

On Mondays, many of the museums here are closed, so we checked out what was what and with a plan in mind were on our way.

First up - Musee de l'Orangerie. It wasn't on our list, but we were walking past it. Well worth the entry fee, and on another day (i.e. not a Monday), we could have got a combined ticket for this and Musee d'Orsay. Anyway - the contains several large panoramic paintings by Monet, plus a downstairs gallery covering much of Renoir and Picasso... plus some others, but these were the stars.

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Cathedral of Notre Dame. Pretty impressive building. The bronze star in the courtyard is still used as the centre of Paris (for all the mileage signs).
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Ate lunch in the park next to the Cathedral (and got told off for feeding the pigeons)... then wandered across to the other island for tarte tatin (my new favourite french dessert).

Walked up to the Panthenon (but it was closed for renovations) -
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then across to the Jardin du Luxembourg, where somewhat randomly, there was a school band from Brixton in the UK playing jazz/swing classics in the bandstand there. They seemed to be very good, but it was a bit chilly standing in the wind... (north-easterly has different connotations here)... and went on our way to the Eiffel Tower.
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Had to queue for a bit... and it took almost as long to get snacks from the kiosk... but worth the wait. The view from the top is pretty spectacular. You also get an interesting feeling of vertigo looking up from level 2. Around the top floor, there are flags of different cities with the distance to each... and I can tell you that Sydney is 16962 kms and Wellington is 18983 kms from the top.

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Then we walked home... and when I lay down on the bed to read... I fell asleep. At least Steve woke me up for dinner. The day before I did the same thing and slept through the night.

Anyway - all up... a big day and by googlemaps' calculations, >12kms of walking.

Posted by LindsayandSteve 17:39 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris - First full day

rain 13 °C

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We got lucky today - Musee du Louvre has free entry on the first Sunday of every month. YAY!! Only had to queue for a little over an hour, and to be honest, the building itself is so amazing, that you don't really mind.

Easy to get lost in the Louvre... but it really is a wonderful experience. I can see that you could easily spend several days there if you were serious about your art and/or historical artefacts. We did the Egyptian Antiquities section, Greek sculpture, and Paintings... I've uploaded pics of some of the more well known stuff and some things we thought were cool.

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After lunch, we headed to the Musee d'Orsay (also free today), but the lines were pretty long, so we wandered up to the Museum of the Army - (guess who chose this??)... but only went through the temporary exhibition on French Armour. We will be going back to see the museum properly... (although I'm not sure how many cannons I want to see...)

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More French armour...

More French armour...

Lots of walking... it's really beautiful here... even in the drizzly rain. The streets are more like grand boulevards and everywhere seems dotted with pockets of gardens/parkland with lovely trees and manicured gardens and lawns. What I liked today was the fact that these spaces are used by the locals... we passed several groups playing soccer or touch rugby on the lawns in front of Musee de l'Armee... and lots of people jogging this morning.

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Paris seems to have a much larger inner city populace... but it doesn't feel crowded or busy.

Posted by LindsayandSteve 15:40 Archived in France Tagged paris de musee louvre l'armee Comments (1)

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