Friday, 9 November 2012

Diary of San Sebastian.

San Sebastian: Saturday 14th April

We headed over the border from France which was a bit unnerving with police standing there holding huge guns and just staring. Not sure if that was normal or if there was some baddie on the run. 
We were really excited crossing over but we lost Jane as she only works in France - we were sad we had no warning, no chance to say goodbye to her - she was just gone - and we got terribly lost as we headed into San Sebastian. We finally found the down town part of SS after seeing the beach area which was lovely and looked just like the photos. Soph and I hopped out to buy a map as we had no idea where to go. I rang our apartment contact to try and get directions but she could barely understand me or speak English which for someone doing her job I found really annoying and ridiculous in her job dealing with tourists. My 3G on my pad had run out so that was no use. we had a frozen on the screen google  map on my pad that I couldn't manipulate but after a couple of calls to Yany again Andrew stopped in a car spot near a park and Soph, George, Ed and I ran around trying to find the apartment - we knew it was somewhere around where we were. I asked 2 women but the kids managed to track Yany down and she took us up to the apartment. There was a big wooden security door and a lovely marble entrance area. There was a small lift but I refused to go in it so walked up the 7 flights of stairs!! They were nice stairs!  The apartment was good but a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Eddy had the sofa bed and there was only a small couch and tiny chair to sit on, a small dining table and chairs. Kitchen was good and there were doors from the living room and kitchen leading to a large balcony overlooking the park and river. There was also a balcony off each of the bedrooms - over the rooftops. The girl Yany was totally disinterested, didn't show us round or anything. We paid 200 euros as a bond. Andrew had parked the car and came up then we all went to the car and carried all the luggage up after we had found a car park to leave the car in just nearby. I was finding it hard to get orientated with the city and work out if we were in a good part and if we were in the heart of it all as I like to be. After we settled in we set off for the old town to have Pintxos. We were only about 9 blocks from the centre part, right near the Cathedral so it's a fantastic spot to be. It started to pour so we ducked into a bar. It was great - the man and the young girl behind the bar were so nice and we had a bit of a chat. It's so wierd to be in Spain now and know NO Spanish at all except for Hola (hello), adios etc. I don't know how to say excuse me or anything unlike in France - very frustrating when I open my mouth to say something and I have no idea what to say!!! All I can think of is the French word-- I suck at Spanish! 
We had wines and they gave us nuts and chips. It was such a friendly little cosy bar. We were very excited being our first night in Spain. The drinks were so cheap - I was tossing up whether or not to buy a 2nd drink as I thought they'd be around $8 or so a glass but when I paid I realised the wine was about $1.20 a glass!!!! This is my sort of place.  The bar (we christened it our local) funnily enough was called "The Vienna bar". After a few drinks we headed off for dinner. The rain had stopped and it all looked lovely. It was quite late by now - about 9-9.30. We were so aware of the fact that no one eats dinner early in Spain so we went late to eat. Headed to the old town through a lovely big sqaure. It was really busy in all the narrow little streets. We found a pintxos place that was really crowded - and so we headed in there. All the tourist books I read tell you to go into the really crowded ones as that's an indication of how good they are. It was so much fun - there were people 2 deep at the bar and plate after plate of pintxos (tapas) on the bar. You get a plate and choose a few - we all did that and shared them. They were all on bread and have things like peppers, anchovies, prawns, egg and you can get hot stuff too if you order it - like calamari etc. We didn't really know what we were doing but a Spanish woman next to us helped us. It was chaotic but alot of fun - and you just stand round. After a few samples of pinxtos there we moved onto another one. We did the same again but this time we ordered some garlic prawns and potato bravas. It was yummy. The white wine is 1 euro 40 - seriously - and the red about the same - amazing. The pinxtos is only a few euros each too. We couldn't believe how cheap it was.
George has extended his trip until we leave Madrid so he's coming with us which is really good. He loves Madrid. We got him a new ticket to fly out the day we leave for Barcelona. He'll fly to London for the marathon on the Sunday.
By the tme we'd finished at the 2nd place we were full. As we were leaving we ran into some Aussie girls so had a chat to them. We wandered round to see if there was anywhere else to go for a drink but it was 11 o'clock by now and places were closing. It had become rather sleezy - full of young people and wierdos - not a scene I liked. We headed back to our place and I was telling George on the way back that San Sebastian wasn't really what I expected. It's certainly alot bigger and I have to get my head around it, get my bearings and work out where we are. I thought SS was just a little beach town.
Got back to our apartment and had a few drinks adn went to bed. It's really cold here, we were expecting Spain to be hot - or at least a lot warmer. It's very exciting to be in Spain but so wierd not to be able to speak any Spanish and to have NO idea how to say anything except Hola and adious amigo. haha. The wine is SO cheap - I'm sure I'd be an alcoholic if I lived here!

San Sebastian: Sunday 15th April

Woke up about 8.30 or so. Soph and I headed downstairs to find a spot to get coffees, breakie stuff and a supermarket for a few bits and pieces. it was dead being Sunday and at first we couldn't find anything open. The streets were lovely - I think we're in a very nice area. There is a lovely park opposite and nice shops in wide streets. We found a patisserie and went to get milk and butter from a supermarket we found open around the corner. It was 10 to 10 and it didn't open till 10 so we headed back to the patisserie for a coffee and muffin together until the supermarket opened. Back to our place with coffees and breakfast stuff, had a relax for a while then headed out. Walked up our street to the cathedral - all the streets are basically a grid. Walked to the beach which is really lovely - big and wide with a wide path running along it. There were also some lovely parks along the wide boulevard. I really loved San Sebastian now - all my reservations have gone - it's absolutely beautiful. The weather was lovely - cold but sunny and we were all complaining about the fact that we didn't have sunglasses. Walked all along the beach edged with apartment blocks - very south of France. There is a massive statue of Jesus up on hte hill - it's amazing. Last night it was all lit up. It looked fantastic looking out over the town. We walked around to the marina - full of souvenir shops and restaurants. I bought a couple of things. Suddenly the weather changed dramatically and it started to pour and then hail - it was mental. So sudden. Luckily we got undercover at the marina so it was OK. We thought for a moment that we might eat there but it was so touristy. We decided to give it a miss. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started and we wandered over to the old town for lunch. It wasn't nearly as sleezy during the day and we decided when we go there for dinner again we'll go abit earlier. We were so consious of the fact that the Spanish eat late but I think we were abit too late.

Anyway we wandered round for a while then found a place we wanted to go to so we could have paella and sangria - so exciting. They tried to take us downstairs all on our own but I didn't want to - I wanted to be in the action and it was just because the waiter was too lazy to put 2 tables together. We excitedly ordered sangria and paella. It was so exciting to be in Spain and ordering paella. When it came it wasn't great but we didn't care. I had a bowl of custard for desert - divine!!

After lunch we walked through Plaza de la Construction which is a really lovely big square with little apartments above it. We went on a big walk way up the hill to the Jesus. It was a big long steep walk but fantastic when we got to the top. The view was fantastic - all over San Sebastian and the beach and then on the other side it was the actual sea. We tried to pick out countries on the horizon.
There was a castle at the top with the Jesus. The castle had cannons and areas where they used to shoot canons at the enemies. We could pick out our street and we could see the beaches right around - there is the long La Concha and the smaller Ondarreta Beach is a little more out of town. It was really lovely. Walked back down and back through town and lovely squares. There are lots of beautiful old buildings but also lots of grafetti and quite alot of closed shops - you can see the effects of the problems they are having here - it's sad.
Had another lude in a bar/coffee shop. all the coffee shops sell drinks as well- only shops like the patisseries don't. Sometimes the coffee shops look more like bars than coffee shops. Had hot chocies and cakes. George and Eddy were playing some game - they are so funny with their little competitve games.

We planned to eat at home tonight and have fajitas and guacomole. Sophie broke the glass on the dining table this morning. She lent on it - not hard at all adn it snapped. It already had a chip in it. We texted the useless girl but we were worried that we wouldn't get our 200E bond back. We tried to buy ingredients for dinner but everything was closed. Nothing seems to be open on Sundays - and their bloody siestas are so annoying. The shops close for hours and hours. We went back to our place and worked out it was impossible to have dinner at home. The little supermarkets close at 2pm but the bigger ones don't even open on Sundays at all. We cracked the Moet Imperial and sat out on the rooftop. It had cleared up but it was freezing so we rugged up and had the champs there just to take advantage of the roof top.
Walked back along the lovely streets and along the beach as the sun was going down - it was lovely. Went to the old quarter for more pinxtos. Sophie and i had made a list of recommended places so found the first one - I think it was in the Mayor or one of the streets there. It was fairly quiet but the tapas was great and we could get a spot at the bar. It was 2 old guys running the place and the food was really good.  We moved onto another one and met 2 Americans from Washington (older than us) so had a chat to them. It was so much quieter than last night being Sunday night. We went back to the first place we went to last night. It was so quiet. Had a few pinxtos there then headed back to our place for a drink or 2. We texted the girl about the glass table top and she told us a "technician" would be there in there in the morning to fix it.

 San Sebastian: Monday 16th April.

 Another great day today. The technician came and picked up the glass from the table. Soph and I went off again to get pastries and coffees. Things were all open so got a few things from the supermarket. San Sebastian is full of baby shops and shoes shops - they are eveywhere!! It was cold again and cloudy but it's meant to fine up. We have decided that the Spanish are actually very rude - ruder than the French and hardley anyone speaks English. It's amazing. When you say you don't understand what they are saying they just gabble on in Spanish. Didn't leave after breakie and showers until about 12. Headed up through the streets to Zara. Had a look round there. Andrew had wanted to buy a pair of chinos but they were no good. It's really for under 40's. The street called Txurruka was really lovely with pretty trees and big wide streets - this is one of the main shopping streets. Got to a really nice park - Plaza de Gipuzkoa I think it was. Then walked over Pliente de Zurriola - it was an amazing bridge - very impressive with big sort of pylons on it. It was so windy - and it was coming right off the sea. It was unbearably cold. We walked over the bridge and onto Gros, the other part of San Sab. We had a look at Playa de Zurriola - the 3rd beach here which was lovely but it was SO windy. We headed away from the coast and as soon as we did the wind stopped and it was quite warm and nice. We wondered round trying to find somewhere for lunch but there wasn't really anything appealing - this area isn't as nice, but it's all at a slower pace over here  so it says in the guide books. Just as we were about to give up and head to the old town we found Bergara bar. So went in there for pinxtos. It was great. They had tables and they gave us one to sit in which was relaxing. The food was really good and I had a local wine - txakol - a tart white wine poured from a great height.
Walked through a square and Ed and George went on the swings. We walked along the river along the most beautiful part of the city - a gorgeous walk alongside the Paseo de Francia - it was so divine -- across the Puerite de Maria Christina and to Place due Bilbao - a really lovely square (although the fountain was on siesta). It was lovely and hot and sunny. We stopped there for coffees and fries and enjoyed the sun. Had a nice lude there - this is a lovely part of town. We wanted to go down to the beach and park quite a way away we thought so we decided to catch the busy which didn't prove that easy. Had to wait ages for one. These 2 women from Miami started chatting to us - such dicks but at least they told us which bus to catch. The boys were playing some game - chasing and shoe throwing (which has been an ongoing game) The bus seemed to wind all over the place, past the uni ( I didn't realise there was one here) but eventually it ended up at Ondareta Beach and it didn't take very long.

When we got off the bus the wind was howling - it was so bad. The Miami women got off too and George kept stirring saying "Muggsie there are your american friends" really loudly. Eddy wanted to see some sculptures right at the end of the point so we walked round there. It wasn't very pleasant! So windy and cold. We strolled back along the promenade beside the beach. The beach was lovely - big and wide and white sand. The boys were playing on the sand. Nice area too. Walked all the way back along the promenade which was really lovely - right alongside the beach. A few nice little cafes - again in summer it'd be manic. We had to meet up with Yani, the agent for the apartment as we are leaving too early for her in the morning. Along the way we went to this really nice bar we'd seen. We were the only ones there as it was about 5. Had a couple of glasses of wine and a couple of nibbles there. Not only is it a bar but it's also a wonderful wine shop. We bought some wine for tonight. Back to our apartment. Yani came and gave us back our deposit - no question of not giving it back to us with the broken table so that was good.
After she left we all walked up to the Super Amara the huge big supermarket ( not as big as other stupid one we went to in France) it was so well organised. It was funny at the checkout - we pulled out all our Spanish phrases and the checkout chic and the woman behind were laughing. When they realise that you don't understand a thing it encourages them to gabble on in Spanish. They could say anything and we'd have no clue.
The other thing we've noticed in Spain is that everyone smokes and you can smoke in cafes, restaurants etc. Foul. We got ingredients to make Fajitas and Soph is going to make guacomole. Back to the flat. It had turned into a really nice day so we took the chairs out to the back balcony off our rooms and had the bollinger adn enjoyed the sunshine - it was so lovely. Its' so good with daylight saving. It stays light until so late.
The boys cooked adn we set up the outside table in the loungeroom and had a yummy dinner. We were all so glad George could stayon otherwise he would have been gone by now. Had a lovely night. Got organised and packed our bags as we want to get away quite early for Madrid. The beds are so uncomfortable - really really hard and here we have 2 single beds pushed together.

I'm sorry to be leaving SS - it's so lovely but looking forward to Madrid. Another thing we've discovered about the French and Spanish is their hot water is a joke - this place has a really fancy tap etc but hopeless hot water and such a hassle to try and get the hot water to work . It's either too hot or too cold. We actually ran out of hot water too and had to get the Spanish instruction book out to fix it!


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Diary - Bordeaux and down the coast to San Sebastian.

We woke up early and packed up. It was a beautiful day and through the windows we could see markets setting up near the Cathedral. We were so excited and couldn't wait to start exploring Bordeaux.
Checked out and packed everything into the car. Our french girl on reception had marked out a place to go for breakfast and the main areas of Bordeaux to see. We were in the centre of everything - that was one reason why I picked this place. We walked to the square and had breakfast in Cafe Karl that the girl at the hotel recommended. It was like a uni hangout but really cosy and nice. It was great. Had baked eggs with ham + creme frais - so yummy. We all had heaps to eat and it was really reasonable.
Wandered all over Bordeaux - we loved it! It's such a beautiful city and we were amazed as although I'd done all my research it's always so different when you see it in the flesh.  We walked all down the shopping streets, window shopping abit (there were about 3 streets in the main area) then walked into the golden triangle full of beautiful buildings and shops with a lovely centre pedestrian area in the middle full of trees - really pretty.

We walked down to the river - it was so divine - with a big wide esplanade all along the river. Across the road were beautiful old buildings. In the middle of esplanade there was a huge pool of water that is a massive fountain with a whole heap of jets. We really wished we had more time in Bordeaux.

I would have liked to have more time to explore the wineries that Soph and I had researched but have to that will have to be next time!!

Sadly left Bordeaux at 12 and headed down the coast to Biarritz. Soph and I had been looking forward to coming here. We parked in the Casino and walked out to the beach. It was raining which ws annoying but it was so good to see the ocean again. The beach was lovely - George immediately ran into the water, Soph, Ed and I ran onto the sand. It stopped raining which was great.

We walked to town and into the main square. We were going to have lunch but decided to have a look round instead and skip lunch. Soph and I went into a couple of nice shops.

The markets were on and there were lots of small booths selling stuff. Again it's a real summer spot. I can imagine how busy it would be in Summer. Walked along the main road full of market stalls. We ended up at the Mercure bar and had cassis and olives for a little lude. Biarritz was lovely. We headed off and drove to St Jean de Luz all along the coast road which was lovely. We got there and drove through the town but decided not to stop as we were keen to get to San Sab. We crossed the border into Spain - we were so sad to leave france - we LOVE it. We also had such a funny time as we headed to the border - we had a grasshopper clinging on for dear life - didier we called him. We wanted him so much to hitch a ride over the border but then he couldn't hang on any longer! George was videoing it and we were all laughing and crying when he finally flew off. As we crossed the border with great excitement there were all these mean looking guards standing there with big machine guns and staring at us. Not sure if this is the norm or if there was a baddie trying to escape over the border.
We also lost Jane as she was only active in France so we got really lost driving into San Sebastian.

Au revoir France - Bientot I hope.

Hola Spain!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Diary - to Bordeaux. (to finish)


Down to breakfast - had boiled eggs and pastries and bread. Packed up and said goodbye to Wendy and David - really enjoyed staying there. They were so lovely.

We drove off through Sarlat to the Chateau de Castelnaud. This was a big castle that we walked up to with displays of medieval things - armour, weapons etc. It was actually all redone in the 60's and more done in the 90's so it was all abit of a fake but the view from the top was fantastic before we got inundated by school children so we headed off to Beynac. This was a beautiful little town - again right on the Dordogne which is such a lovely river. The town was set up high and built on the side of a hill. It was really pretty. Lovely narrow streets, cobblestoned and cute little houses. We had lunch at a pizza place right on the river. I had croque Monsieur which wasn't great but the setting was fantastic.
We left there and drove to St Emillon - lots of beautiful green fields and yellow flowers that look like canola. Got to St Emillon about 1/4 to 4. We went to the visitors information and found out about hiring bikes. it was 12e each so 60e to do it. That was for 1/2 a day but the same for us for the time we wanted to hire them for. went back and discussed - I was sure Andrew would say no because of the cost but the boys were all really excited and were very keen to do it. We all decided that as we were spending so much on the bikes we'd have dinner in the apartment tonight in Bordeaux. We were looked after by a gorgeous French girl called Camille who took us to the bike shed, got the helmets for us and gave us a map of the route where we could ride. This was about 1 and 1/4 hours long. We set off, I was abit wonky at first and we left St Emillon on a fairly busy road but very soon we turned off into beautiful fields of vineyards.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Diary of the our visit to the beautiful Dordogne.


Up early and into Autun to visit the markets which were in the village square in a large indoor  barn. We went in before breakfast. George went for a run - much to Eddy's annoyance - he wanted George to come to the markets.  George surprised us and met us at the markets. Eddy and George are like a married couple!! Their competition  for the middle seat is so hysterical and really hotting up now.
Autun is really lovely - in fact I think I like it more than Beaune. The square (centre ville) is great. We went to the markets but only the covered area was open - which was fruit and vegies. We bought some fresh fruit. It all looked fantastic. Sauntered around and suddenly there was George. Had a walk around Autun and checked it out, saw the cathedral, then we headed back to our place for our breakfast. Chatted with Olivia and Grant and the Swiss couple. Had pastries, bread and boiled eggs for breakfast. Packed up sadly, said our goodbyes and set off. Ed and George had their usual competition - so loud and such fun. All for the coveted middle seat. We're hoping to extend George's part of the trip so he flies out of Madrid instead of San Sebastian. We had  a 5 hour drive. We were going to go via Perigeaux and have lunch but we decided to just to straight to Sarlat instead of going to lots of different places - we can't see everything and if we stopped alot along the way we'd never get to see Sarlat and enjoy it. We stopped for petrol - it was a large service centre with huge restaurant so we decided to have lunch there. It wasn't as good as Landset in Austria and the coffee was appalling but there was lots of choice of food and they had wine as well and wasn't so bad. It was cheap too. There was also wifi so I was chatting to Muff on the pad - so funny.
We continued on after a hilarious scissor paper rock episode and gloating from George. It was about a 5 hour drive to Sarlat - mostly on freeway. We have Jane (our tom tom). You can pick who you want - male or female and what nationality so we chose Jane who's English. She sometimes takes us on random trips! Drove into Sarlat and found our B & B - Le Jardin de Sarlat. David and Wendy, an English couple run it. When we arrived they were SO friendly. We all had a drink in the guest sitting room and a chat. They're lovely. Our rooms were also lovely. Soph, Ed and George are in one room. There are 5 rooms altogether. The garden is beautiful too. Wendy talked about our plans for our stay. Settled into our rooms then headed into town to have a drink at a bar Wendy recommended called Eeles bar overlooking the main square. It was really cold but even though it was we sat outside under outdoor heaters. It was exciting to be here. Sarlat is SO beautiful - lots of lovely old buildings in the old quarter. We went for a wander through the medival parts. So lovely. Wendy had recommended a restaurant - Le Bistrot - so we went in there to get a table. It was completely empty but we were told they were full and had no room. The French never seem to be of any help and never put themselves out. So funny. We booked it for tomorrow night and found a lovely restaurant next door. Had a really nice dinner and had lots of laughs. We had a lot of fun trying to speak to the waiter in French- practising and getting it wrong and laughing. When we walked past Le Bistrot on the way home it WAS full. . This is a beautiful town - can't wait to have a good look round and check out the buildings and the shops.  When we got back to our place we went to the guest sitting room and had a couple of wines from the honesty bar (4 euros a bottle). Wendy came in and talked to us. We plan to go to Rocamodor tomorrow and some of the 5 top villages. We thought about going to some famous caves and you can canoe through some others but we have decided to visit the little villages and enjoy the countryside instead.


Had a fantastic day today. Went down for breakfast at 8.30. Wendy and David are so lovely and perfect hosts. They moved here 4 years ago to set up the b & b. The gardens are beautiful and very peaceful. It's a shame it's not warmer as you can sit out of the verandah and in the garden. David is so funny. There are 3 Aussies (young) staying here as well so had a chat to them. Breakie was bread and croissants, meats - they even had vegemite. Set off for Rocamador - an hour away. All through beautiful green lush countryside. We saw a whole gaggle of geese so we stopped and took photos. Little narrow roads - so divine. Got to Rocamador. We saw it from a distance and it was amazing. We parked down bottom below the town and walked up lots and lots of stairs to get to the town. When we got to the top you came out right in the middle of the main street - I felt like I was in Harry Potter - a whole new world! Narrow cobblestone streets and cute cute shops. So so cute!! I loved it so much. We then climbed up more stairs towards the castle. There were more shops up there. It was quite a climb - paths and stairs but the view was absolutely amazing. We got to the top and paid 2e each to go up to the ramparts. God it was so scary! Eddy stood right near the edge and I was hyperventitating. Again the view was unbelieveable - lush fields adn the beautiful Dordogne river. Rocamador is amazing - built right into the side of a hill - built by the pilgrims who would climb the steps and kiss each one. I have noticed a huge difference in my fitness. I am so much fitter and don't find all the walking difficult at all or getting out of breath when walking. Stairs can still be abit hard but compared to how it would have been in the past I feel so much better.
Walked back down to the shops and had a stroll through - a few pottery shops, souvenir shops. I found a fantastic leather shop and I bought a divine orange handbag that was only 32e. It's so lovely. Also bought a towel for gym with Rocamador on it - pretty tacky!! Such a lovely place. Left there and headed to a little town called Domme for lunch. This was such a beautiful place. We all loved it. The most gorgeous stone buildings, nice shops, narrow little steep streets - it was just divine. We had a lovely lunch in a pizza place - it was fun. Pizzas and vino - we were the only ones there. We wandered around after lunch. It was a walled town and down the hill and through part of the wall was the most amazing view of green fields and farmhouses - so beautiful.
Left Domme and headed to the next little town only a few minutes away - Le roque Gagaeu. It was another beautiful little town right on the river Dordogne. The town was down near the river but the streets wound up the hill with all cobblestone streets - again so divine - narrow little streets, stone houses, all so beautiful.
Headed back to Sarlat as we wanted some time to check it out before dinner. Jane took us on some hair raising little thin road - tiny but so beautiful - barely a road really. Hairpin bends with sheer drops off the side. It was abit scary especially when we met the odd car who was travelling way too fast. On one of those roads we met a HUGE truck full of hay piled up so high. I thought we were done for! Made it back to Sarlat and went back to Le Jardin to leave the car. Had a bit of a chillout for a while then headed into town about 6. Wandered around the town, looked in all the shops and bought a few souvenir things. Wandered up into the streets up the hill to see all the lovely houses and buildings. It was absolutely divine. Had a drink in a bar in the plaza which was good. We imaged the square when it was summer and hot. It would be so packed and lively. I thought it would be a lot hotter in France in spring but it's freezing here - only about 11 degrees. We went to dinner at 7.30 at Le Bistrot. It was a cosy little restaurant. Had a great mushroom pasta. It was really quick. Had a desert too - creme brulee - my favourite. The food here is a bit tricky as this is the goose and duck area so lots of pates and duck and goose everything which of course doesn't interest me. We'd finished dinner by 9 so walked back to our place. we were excited to be able to put on our leisures and chill in the guest sitting room which is what we did and went on our computers. One of the Australian girls came in and we had a chat. She's a violinist. Tomorrow we head to Bordeaux via a couple of stops along the way . Had a couple of drinks from the honesty bar. We are hoping to hire bikes from St Emillion tomorrow as we couldn't do it in Burgundy.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Our diary of Paris. 4 blissful days.

PARIS - DAY ONE: Thursday 5th April.

We got up really early this morning (2.30 am) and left Cardiff. Drove to London and dropped the merc and Suzie back at Europcar Marble Arch. We caught two cabs to St Pancreas which was so easy to do. We have alot of lugguage which will be OK when we get the car on Saturday. We got to St Pancreas very early - about 6am and our train didn't go until 7.55am. It was so relaxing doing it like this as we went to a nice cafe and had ham and cheese croissants and coffee. We were all so excited about going to Paris. Boarded at 7.30am and the train left at 7.55am.
The train trip was fun at first until a turd of a child decided to have a screaming tantrum for 15 minutes. I was so annoyed and the parents were laughing. Finally the mother took the child out and the carriage cheered.
We arrived at Gare du Nord at 11.17am. We couldn't check into our apartment until about 3 or 4 so wanted to put our luggage in lockers. We found the locker room but the change machines were broken and the lockers took coins only - AND had to be exact money!! You can imagine the total bedlam with everyone trying to get coins and lockers. Eddy and George went upstairs to the platform shops to change some money and managed to get some - but not enough. Then Soph and I scrounged around buying bits and pieces to get change. At last we did it and off we went! We were all SO excited to be in Paris. Walked down La Fayette, caught the metro from Poissonniere to Pont Neuf. walked along the river to Ile de la cite. walked up to Notre Dame. It was really crowded - tons of school groups etc. but the cathedral looked great.  We were all hungry by this time so found a cafe called Esmeralda just across from Notre Dame. We thought it would be really touristy with bad food but it was great - the waiters were so warm and friendly. We were all bonjouring and smiling away just because we were in Paris. Had my first croque Monsieur of the trip and had wine and coffees. Sophie and I decided as it was 2pm and we had to go and check in the best plan was for the boys to go to Gare Nord to get the lugguage and then catch a cab to the apartment while Sophie and I went and met Marco at the aparment. Finished lunch with lots of practising of French to the waiters ( la toilette, not bain de lavins!) and got lots of tips to enhance our French.  Headed off round the rest of the Ile de la Cite over to the left bank.
The boys set off to get the luggage and Soph and I headed off to Rue de la Bucherie via Rue Dauphine, along St Andre des Artes - the area is absolutely fantastic and busy and lots of little narrow alleyways. We're coming back on Sunday. Got to our apartment and met Marco - a funny, over the top gay Italian who was so funny. He showed us round the apartment which is fantastic - a big kitchen/dining/ sitting room, 2 beds, 1 bathroom and a loft for Eddy. We were very happy with it. Marco went through everything with us - how everything worked etc. Soph and I were so excited, calling out BONJOUR out the windows. The boys arrived and were very excited by the apartment. It's a fantastic area and has so much room. When everyone had settled in and ready to go we set off and got the tube to Les Halles. Found a SNF shop and bought a sim for my IPAD from Jeremy which was interesting with the lingo!
Walked to the Louvre and through the Tuileries which are so beautiful. Walked to Place de Vendome and to Madeleine. Saw the square with Faucon and tried to go to Lauree for a "lude" (our word for interlude - a food and drink stop usually including alcohol and which happen often!)  but it was packed so headed down to Place de la Concorde which was so chaotic with the traffic - it made us all laugh. It's frantic.
Walked up Champs Elysee part of the way - the nice part with all the trees to Rue de Marbeuf and found a really nice bar called Pub Elysees. The waiter was friendly and Soph and I had a kir (wine and cassis). Had some pommes Frites. It was great.
Caught the metro to Trocodero. Looked at the lovely view of the Eiffel Tower and took lots of photos in the garden grounds of the tower and family shots.  I love the view from the Trocodero. We walked across the bridge to the tower. As gorgeous as ever. It was cloudy but not raining and really cold but it was divine. It was 10 to 9 by this time so we sat on the grass and waited for the 9pm lights to come on. It was so beautiful but we were inundated by the guys selling stuff - when we were here 3 years ago they were just selling little eiffel tower replicas and a few souvenirs -- now they are everywhere and even sell bottles of wine (to enjoy while watching the light show!!) . We had to be quite rude to them in the end. We were right in front and could see the lifts moving up and down and people at the top. It was absolutely beautiful and magical with the Eiffel tower sparkling for 5 minutes. We then strolled over to Rud St Dominique to got to the restaurant that Heidi Lillyman recommended - Cafe Constant. It was really busy with a really long wait so we left which was a shame as the restaurant looked really good and really French and bustling. It was pretty late so we decided to get back to our area and have dinner there. We were going to catch the metro but we were all starving and tired after our early start. We tried to get a cab but none of them take 5 - unlike London cabs!! Eventually there was a big van taxi - he charged us an extra 6 euro to take 5 of us - a total rip off. Got the cab to Blvd St Germaine and walked up to a little restaurant that Sophie and George went to when they were last here called Les Pipos. It was right near where we stayed last time - near the Parthenon and University and it was a really cute little French bistro. I found the menu a bit tricky but chose fish and gnocchi which was delicious. Had a really good night but by this time we were all really exhausted. Walked back to our place which wasn't very far. So excited to be in Paris.
I need to check on the voucher for our car as I don't seem to have it or know where to pick it up on Saturday - even who we are actually hiring it through. We are going to Duncan's tomorrow night for dinner so will get him to help me.
Our apartment is great - beds are so hard and shower leaks badly but such a fantastic location!!

PARIS - DAY 2 - Friday 6th April (Good friday)

Woke up this morning and couldn't think where I was. I lay there for ages until I remembered that I was in Paris - so exciting!! I got up and lent out the window that looks over the little narrow street  and said "Hello Paris"
George and I walked round the corner to the Bourlangerie - about 2 minute stroll - to get breakfast.Managed to get croissants and a bagette and coffees. ( quatre croissants s'il vous plait - aussi une bagette, merci beaucoup!haha) It's all such fun asking for things in French. Back to our apartment and we all had breakie at our kitchen table. Soph and I planned the day based on the plan we'd done. Paris was very quiet. Nobody seems to get going till much later. It's like 9am and no ones around even on a work day (they don't celebrate Good Friday here), shops are closed then it all starts waking up, shops open, people start appearing so we set off. Walked over the Pont de l'Archeveche which is full of locks - couples buy padlocks, write their names on them, padlock them to the bridge and throw the key in the river - very cute.  There are hundreds of them - thousands probably. It was really cold and overcast today but at least it wasn't raining. Only about 8 degrees - meant to be 14 later today.
Caught the batobus up the Seine. It's such a lovely thing to do but it was 75e for the 5 of us so it's not cheap - but so worth it.. I LOVE cruising along the Seine checking out all the beautiful buildings.  Got off at the Louvre stop. I wanted to go to the Musee d'orsay this time but Soph wanted to go to the Musee D'Orangerie to see Monet's water lilies - and guess who won. Sophie's reasoning was that I didn't know what art was even on display there so why did I want to go. She wanted to go to the Musee D'orangerie for a specific reason. I couldn't really argue - it's just that everyone recommends it and I like the look of it. Oh well... next time.
We walked through the Tuilleries ( I just love these gardens) to the gallery. It's in the Tuilleries. All 5 of us cost only 25e. George is free as he's an EU resident and Soph and Ed were reduced as they are 18-25. Such a good system to encourage young people to go to the galleries. The exhibition is 2 rooms only and is stunning. We got the audio to hear the history. The rooms are massive and circular with huge artwork on the walls of the water lilies. I think it's 8 paintings only. It was sensational and I was so glad we went.
Walked across the Tuilleries to Rue de Rivoli. I bought Soph some hand painted artwork of a paris boulangerie sold to us by the artist. Went to Angelina's - famous for it's hot chocolates. We had a table upstairs - the downstairs area was very elaborate and crowded but Paris finds 5 difficult. We ordered the the famous hot chocolate, some macaroons and a St Honore I think it was. The hot chocolate came in jugs and it was all quite a process by the waitress. We poured out the hot chocolate and it was thick and delicious and hot - so yummy - as were the macaroons and pastries.
Eddy and George are so funny - they get on so well and revert to like 10 year olds - giggling and being silly. Eddy walks along the street calling out "bonjour" to everyone he passes. It's such fun. The French are great - not sure if it's because we are making such an effort or not but it's all great. Caught the metro to Rue de Montorgueil - a great food street full of yummy cheese shops and cafes - it was great. On the metro at the station there was a 9 piece bank playing - there's often bands playing in the metro stations and people playing on the trains. We got on one train and a guy started up playing the accordian. The French ignored him but we got right into it clapping and giving them money. It makes the whole thing such fun. Sauntered down Rue de Montogueil looking at all the yummy things then caught the metro to Passage des Panaromas which is in the 2nd arrondissement and is so divine. It's this arcade full of really French looking bistros and book and old letter shops - really old world. We missed all these last time but thanks to our research this time we discovered them. It was so cute. There are several but we picked this one as it looked the best. Paris is pretty dirty though - lots of bags of rubbish just lying round all over the place - London was the same - not so much rubbish on the streets as piled up bags. Alot of the buildings are grotty too - but it's still so divine.  Really enjoyed Passage des Panarama - definitely worth going to. It was so cute and so French.
There were people riding around on bikes in bunny suits which we gathered was because of Easter. Walked past the Pompideau Centre which I hadn't seen before then walked all the way to the Marais for lunch. Eddy and George were whinging about being starving (j'ai faim) and all we'd had was a croissant, bagette and some cake. We went to the cafe that Sophie and George went to last time - Le Voltigeur. It was very french and cute and cute and there were only 2 things on the menu - Croque Monsieur or Quiche ( 3 types). We had a gorgeous waiter who when we left he gave us a French book which was so sweet. The food was yummy - I had quiche Lorraine. Had some wine of course and noisettes (short black with milk) Wandered all round the Marais, down Rue de Rosiers full of people queueing for falafels. So funny. Lots of lovely shops and streets. Went to Place des Vosges which is beautiful - I remembered it from last time. It was a lovely day even though it was cold. It was sunny some of the time. We lay on the grass in the square and chilled for a while. The boys all fell asleep for about 20 minutes. Then we went to find this "secret" spot in the corner of the square that I had read about in my Paris book - but it was not so secret - haha. Lovely square and buildings. We did a walking tour around the streets of the Marais. I had read about a square I wanted to go to - St Paul's. We saw a high school where they were all standing right outside the school smoking. We found the square - it was really lovely, full of shops and cobblestone streets and cafes. Walked back down to the Seine and hopped on the batobus (which was really crowded this time) and hopped off at the Arc de Triomphe stop. Sophie and I had all these things on our agenda (golden triangle and rue cler) but we had to be at Duncan's between 6 and 6-30. We walked along the Seine which was a lovely walk amongst the trees. It was so pretty. Headed to Avenue Montaigne - part of the Golden Triangle and a divine area.  Very wealthy area all around here.  Walked onto the Champs Elysee - God it's so tacky, lots of people and food outlets, big cinemas, some OK shops but it's foul and next time I don't think I'd even bother with it.
Walked past Abercrombie and Fitch - you should have seen the queue - it was amazingly long - like the first time we saw the queue in London.
The boys were starving so got Macas - which took forever. I remember last time Eddy got a burger from the same place last time and it also took forever. From there we caught the metro from George v to Charles de gaulle Etoile then the RER (normal train but quite luxurious) to Jovel a Citroen. Walked over the bridge and saw the Statue of Liberty which I hadn't seen before. Walked to Dunc's in the 16e via a supermarche. They sell everything in them including alcohol. Some of the wine there is so cheap - only a couple of euros. Got a couple of bottles of Burgundy Chardonnay for 4e each. They were hopeless in there and it took 20 minutes to get a few things. To Dunc's place. We couldn't remember what number his was for a while but eventually got in.  The flat looked lovely - it has the tiniest kitchen.Masha was away -  Kids were great - Emma is gorgeous and loud, William watched quietly for a while in his shirt buttoned up to the neck not saying a word but it didn't take long for him to warm to the big kids! I got Dunc to ring up about the car we're picking up tomorrow but didn't get very far. I'm abit concerned as I have no voucher although fully paid and not even sure who are hiring through. I thought it was Europcar, now I think it could be Hertz. I will have to email Flight Centre - although it's Easter so not sure what to do. In the end I worked out it was Hertz and we were going to set off to Place D'Italie in am. Dinner was lovely - Dunc had cooked roast lamb and me some chicken and the kids had set the table and made name tags etc. It was a lovely night. We left about 11.30 adn we caught the RER straight through from his stop to our stop with no changing - so easy. It's a lovely residential area where they live. When I got back to our place I emailed drive away holidays and flight centre just to confirm where we had to pick the car up as all it said was "Paris downtown" which could be anywhere. Hopefully I'll hear back from them very soon!
I really enjoyed tonight - seems surreal to think we are in Paris having dinner with Duncan. It was lovely to see hm.

PARIS - DAY 3 - See Champagne Post.

PARIS - DAY 4  - Sunday 8th April

We had the BEST day today - it was so good. My status this morning on Facebook was  - I feel very lucky to be in Paris on such a spectacular Sunday" or something like that.

Minky and I went to our little boulangerie and got croissants, bagettes and coffee for breakie. It was a lovely sunny day. Had breakfast together and planned the day. The plan was to wander round our arrondissement and 6e. Eddy wants to go back to the Eiffel Tower one more time so we are going to head over there this arvo and have dinner in Cafe Constant that we couldn't get into on Thursday night. Left our apartment and headed up to Shakespere & Co (famous bookshop) but it was closed and didn't open until 11am. Wandered down Rue de Petit Pont, Rue Saint Andre des Arts, Rue Dauphine to Saint Germaine. Just wandered around checking it all out - very relaxing. Wandered through passages and saw the oldest teahouse - it's completely crooked and dating back to 1600's. Lots of cute shops in Saint Andre Passage, Passage Dauphine, walked along Rue de Furstenberg full of cafes and food shops. Walked back to St Germaine and went to Cafe de Flore for coffee. It's a famous cafe here. It was busy and they sent us upstairs but we could have been anywhere and I didn't see the point of being stuck there by ourselves and not able to people watch and feel like we're in Paris. Amazing when we went to leave they found us a table in the thick of it all, in the main dining room. The service was so slack as it usually is at this big touristy venues but it was something we wanted to do that we didn't do last time. Had coffee there - won't bother going there again. Wandered off again to Rue de La Princesse. I had put this on my blog as an area with alot of atmosphere. It was a beautiful area - not a soul around but full of lovely art galleries adn beautiful streets - we loved it. There were lots of people on Blvd St Germaine outside all the churches as it's Easter Sunday. There area all around Princesse was lovely and we strolled all round there. Walked to St Sulphice where we had a drink with Duncan last time. Sat in the square for a while on the fountain and decided where to go for lunch. I had put a bistro on my blog in 6e but we weren't sure if it was open today. We found that alot of places don't seem to be open on Sundays - very odd or maybe its' because it's Easter Sunday. Got to the restaurant - Cremerie Restaurant Polidor - right near Jardin du Luxemburg which we were planning on visiting after lunch. We got a table - which was one long table. It was THE most perfect place to spend our last lunch in Paris. It was so French and bustling and just fantastic. Our waitress was gorgeous. We ordered wine, I ordered chicken and mash potato, the others ordered Boeuf Borginon - so french and so much fun. Ordered more wine and desert and laughed alot. It was great - our favourite spot for a meal in Paris we all decided - and funnily enough we saw Marco there - the guy from the agency who is our apartment contact. So funny. We had a wonderful lunch.
After lunch we strolled through Jardin Du Luxemburg which I really love (although I do love the Tuilleries as well) Jardin Du Luxemburg is so green and lovely - beautiful flowers everywhere although it was pretty cold so not really springlike. It was a beautiful sunny day but more like a Sydney Winters day. Divine nonetheless. Had a lovely stroll, took lots of photos and lots of laughing and silliness. We are so lucky we all get on so well - as a family and with George. Eddy and George are like brothers and we're all just as relaxed with him round as he really is one of the family.
Spent quite a while in the gardens wandering round and the kids rumbling. Walked down to Rue Moufftard. The markets had been there this morning but there were lots of nice shops. It was quite a steep street but lovely - lots of lovely shops and restaurants. Walked past the Pantheon and back past Les Pipos to our apartment where we had a bottle of champagne. we were all really enjoying our day. After our little Champagne lude we wandered over to Notre Dame for a last look. We noticed the green people on the roof that I've never noticed before. We bought Nutella crepes ( a paris staple) from beside Notre dame and walked along the Seine then over to Rue de Pont des Artes. Minky had seen a shirt he liked earlier today when the shop was closed so we went back to get it now. He tried on a couple of shirts - trying to get one on sale - but of course the one he liked and in his size wasn't on sale so he got one for 119e that was really nice.  Caught the RER train to the Eiffel tower stop. Got off and walked along the Seine, along the promenade d'Australie  to the Eiffel tower. Took more photos and checked out the restaurant there - "only" 86e for a starter and 316e for a set menu - quick lets go!! Walked down to the Rue St Dominque to Cafe Constant to see if we could get in this time. we had to wait almost 1 and 1/2 hours for a table and had to stay at the restaurant! We all sat at tables outside on the street and drank wine while waiting ( it was very cold). I was chatting to people on Facebook. Andrew and I had driven past the street yesterday when we picked up the car and it all looks great - lots of restaurants and shops. We were half way along at the restaurant. Eventually we got a table and had a lovely meal - the waiter was a dick which we haven't really found to be the case at all in Paris. The French have been fantastic - friendly and helpful. We have made efforts everytime though by trying to speak French - they like that. After dinner we walked up to get the metro and saw the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle again. We were ooohing and ahhing and yelling out "au revoir Paree" all sad it was our last night. Have had the best time in Paris - really loved it adn really saw so much. Back to our apartment. Early start tomorrow - all looking forward to our new adventure in the French countryside. Packed our bags, had a few drinks and off to bed.

AU REVOIR PAREE, Je t'aime. A beintot I hope!!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Let the fun begin - Our diary of London.

So we're on our way after a few annoying delays. We had a 5 hour delay in Singapore before boarding the A380 - QF 1 due to having to wait on some people coming from Brisbane who couldn't miss the connnecting flight which was us. The A380 was so much better - more room and so much quieter but if you're surrounded by dicks it ends up just as bad really. The kids in front put their seats back SO far. We had a lovely girl from Cornwall (now living in Perth) next to us. Finally landed at Heathrow. It took an hour to get through customs and get our bags which wasn't too bad then jumped on the Heathrow Express (19 pounds each) and within 15 minutes we were at Paddington station to meet up with Soph, Ed and George - a very happy reunion.

We bought travelcards for us all. The kids get a discounted card for 5.60 pounds each (16 - 25 year olds) and Andrew and I got travelcards @ 7 pounds each a day. This was a big saving - we could go on unlimited tubes and buses all day. That cost us 30.80 pounds per day.

We had an absolutely wonderful 3 days in London – but definitely not long enough. Of course we didn’t get to do everything on the list so pretty quickly we realized we had to cull – especially as we arrived 5 hours late on Friday morning. It was very hectic but so much fun.
We did some things I’d never done before which I love doing as I can’t see the point of going back to all the same places and never exploring new spots. That is of course unless you can stay for weeks which I would so love to do. And there are so many places to explore. Of course we did all my favourites as well.

Our apartment “Scampston Mews” in Cambridge Gardens was perfect for us. Booked through an agency “One Fine Stay” it was actually someone’s house and they rent it out when they go away. It was on 3 levels with a winding staircase to our huge room complete with a fireplace and sitting area and then up again to Soph and George’s attic room and ensuite. The room Ed was meant to sleep in  had a tiny bed that could only fit a small child or a dwarf so he dragged the mattress and couch cushions up to the floor of Soph and George’s room. It was very comfortable and had the comfiest couch and chairs – seems it was an old stable and is in a cobblestone area off the street with several other old stables – all fully renovated. Really lovely and pretty central to everything as it pretty much is in London with the tube.
Our tube station was Ladbroke Grove.

Sophie is such an expert on London and the tubes so we just followed her around from line to line to end up where we needed to be. It was very busy in London – or so I thought although the taxi driver on Saturday night told me otherwise. I think it’s just that it’s so different in Sydney that naturally it seems so busy. One time on the tube it was packed – with people squashed against the doors. Sometimes when you’re in a really crowded tube it’s just such a sea of people. Luckily if you don’t get on one tube another one turns up only a minute or so later. Although they say there are cameras on the tubes now I do think about some mad bomber being on the tube especially when warning messages are coming over the loud speakers. The escalators are SO long and so steep too and some of the tube stations go on forever – making you go up and down dale to get to the actual train.
So this is what we ended up doing in London:

Day 1 which was really only 1/2 a day  (Friday 30th March)

Headed downtown from Paddington. As it's a Friday this area would be busy as opposed to the weekend when Sophie had visited this area and it was dead. We left all our bags at the luggage minding place as there are no lockers here. It was I think 7 pounds per bag. There wasn't really many options and we certainly didn't want to drag our bags around London with us.

Got off at Temple tube station - strolled along the Thames and headed over to Fleet Street. It was lunch time by now so we went to THE OLD BANK OF ENGLAND - a beautiful old English pub. It was a lovely day so we sat out in the courtyard and had good old English fare - chicken pies.

The inside of the pub.

St Paul's was next. We didn't go in as it was 15 pounds per person and when you x that by 5 it makes a very expensive outing. Anyway we've seen it on TV! We sat round on the steps to take in some of the atmosphere. Walked over to Leadenhall Market where Harry Potter was filmed. This is a shopping arcade with lovely high ceilings, shops and pubs.

Walked to Bank tube and caught the tube back to Paddington to pick up our bags as we had to meet the person who was checking us into our apartment. Picked up our bags and as we had so many we decided to catch a cab to Scampston Mews. Well that was absolute bedlam as the taxi area was really really busy and full of impatient people and the cab driver was really rude and uphelpful. Hope they improve at such a major train station for the Olympics!! We couldn't all fit in the cab with all our bags so George and Eddy caught the tube to the Mews.

Driving through Notting Hill we were getting really excited as it was all just buzzing and so busy - so many fantastic looking pubs and cafes and shops and just busy and fun.

As I mentioned our apartment was fantastic. The girl who checked us in showed us around. We received a "welcome pack" which was a box of things for our stay - tea, jams, biscuits and all shampoo and soaps were in the bathrooms.  This is actually someone's home that they rent out for holidaymakers so it's very homely and lived in.

After the boys arrived and we had had a couple of wines and a short relax we headed out for dinner, walking to the tube we then caught the tube to Baker Street and walked to Marleybone High Street and to the Marleybone pub. It was fantastic - really busy and fun although Andrew and I were alot older than most people there! It was happy hour so Soph and I had a 1/2 price cocktail. Stood outside on the street as it was too crowded inside - and we were allowed to drink there as long as we stood behind a barrier. We were so excited to be there and be altogether.

Next door to the pub was this amazing cheese shop called La Fromagerie with a window full of wonderful cheeses.

It had been a wonderful sunny day and not too cold at all. I really like Marleybone - I hadn't been there before.  It was really lively with lots of pubs and people around.
Walked along the High Street  through St Christopher's Place which was fantastic and over to Sth Moulton Street to Rocket. We had been here before, last time we were in London.  The lane way is full of bars and there were so many people there. It was packed. We went upstairs for dinner - Sophie had booked. It was pretty busy and the service wasn't great by any means. Food was average but for Mayfair it's not expensive. Andrew was really jetlagged and falling asleep at the table so after dinner we got a cab back to our place. I didn't feel too bad!

Day 2 - 31st March 2012

Woke up this morning feeling good after a great sleep in the really comfy bed. We were all excited so got ready and set off . It was cold and overcast today which was really disappointing as the weather had been really hot for London for the whole last week.  Luckily it wasnt' raining.  Walked through all the streets up to Portobello Road where the markets were just setting up. It was so exciting. Last time we were here we could barely move but now it was deserted! All the fruit and vegetables looked so fantastic.

Walked into the really divine part of Notting Hill - Westbourne Grove. Lovely shops and cafes - very upmarket. Went to a cafe for breakfast that Soph had found on Streetview - called 202. It was very exclusive and often has famous people eating there (not today :() and often there are queues out the door. We were pretty early so luckily we didn't have to wait.  It was a mixture of tables and fashion. We were served by a lovely Spanish woman. Had a yummy breakfast - It was expensive though - 95 pounds although we all had full breakfasts and the coffees all add up too! But it was worth it. So nice.

Headed off to the tube and caught it to Westminster, changed to Jubilee Line and got off at London Bridge.  Walked past Southwark Cathedral to Borough Market. This was another new experience.
It's a huge produce market, really busy and so much yummy looking stuff. We all wondered around, bought fresh juices and then some yummy chutneys and cheeses from France. It was really worth visiting.

Caught the tube to Waterlo and walked over Golden Jubilee bridge to Trafalgar Sqaure via Northumberland Avenue. Trafalgar Square looked fantastic as ever. It was really busy. Saw the sign telling us how many days it was until the Olympics which is exciting.

Walked down Whitehall, had a viewing of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Westminster Abbey. Walked towards St James Park via Horseguards Road.

Entered St James Park which looked lovely with geese and birds all around. Went to Inn on the Park which was a lovely cafe in the park. It was really cold today and it was full inside so we had to sit outside on the verandah. There were heaters but it was still icy - around 8 degrees. Such a change from yesterday. We had soup and crusty bread and wine for lunch with Jenny and Ian who were in London for the weekend from Florence.

  After lunch we walked up to Buckingham Palace which looked as wonderful as ever

then up the Mall. Took photos of the guards then to Malborough Road to the suburb of St James. Walked along Pall Mall to St James Square. It is such a lovely area. Last time in London Soph and I  had lunch in the square but today it was all closed up. Walked up Duke of York Street to Jermyn Street to Picadilly. I love Picadilly!! Walked along to Picadilly Circus. Went to a tourist shop to try and buy the dilly bag I bought last time but sadly 3 years later I couldn't find them. The shop was still there but not the same bag.

Continued onto Carnaby Street and wandered through there which I love and to Oxford Street - to Regent Street - my favourite Street in London. Ducked off into the little secret area of Heddon Street and to the cafe we had planned to have breakfast at yesterday - Aubaine. It was really lovely. We had wine, coffees and were talked into pastries by our cute (but very gay) waiter. It was such fun and a good relaxing "lude" (as we came to call them) after a manic day of walking.

Walked down Saville Row to Burlington Arcade. There's so much work going on around London in preperation for the Olympics. Lots of shops boarded up - e.g Fortnum and Mason. Still open but closed off.

Went to Burlington Arcade - which I love, full of beautiful jewellery shops and onto Old Bond Street and Bond Street - i just love this area. So posh!! Lots of very expensive shops I'm sure I'll never set foot inside.

Got a cab back to Scampston Mews, had a quick relax then got a cab back to Trafalgar Sqaure. It was bitterly cold and I was shivering! We walked across Trafalgar Square to Terroirs Wine bar in William 1V street. The bar was really crowded but great. We met Jenny and Ian there and Penny and Peter. It was great to see them again. We stood around barrels. The waiter was French and very knowledgable about wine so tried some very nice ones. It was a very cool bar - and has been written up in lots of magazines (latest being Gourmet Traveller) I noticed. You could also have dinner there.

We went to Penny's Club for dinner - down a really cute narrow alleyway and hidden. Right neare thte bar. Penny had to press an intercom to enter and once inside it was fantastic - full of little rooms so we had our own individual  room. It was very British and felt like our very own dinner party. The food was fantastic and it was so much fun.

Day 3 - Sunday 1st April.
Up early and headed off to Covent Garden. Got the tube from Ladbroke Garden (our local) to Charring Cross. Walked up to St Martin's lane to Covent Garden. There was so much work going on. It was pretty early and not many places were open - and it was cold but I do love Covent Garden. We ended up at one of the few places open and had a pretty yucky but inexpensive breakfast.  Wandered up to Neal's yard. Sophie had been here a couple of weeks ago and it reminded her of Byron Bay. It was really lovely except we had to be really quiet as there were a whole lot of people on benches meditating!

Walked to Monmouth Street to 7 dials - a monument with 7 streets coming off it. It was a really lovely area.

We got the tube for Leister Square to Holburn and then to Marble Arch. Walked through Hyde Park - my favourite - to Kensington Gardens. 

Eddy had said something that made us all just crack up!!

Had a leisurely stroll through there - it was a lovely day but cold! Got a takeaway coffee and took a replica photo of Soph, Ed and George on the bridge - same as we took last time!

Walked along Carriage Drive to Sth Kensington tube station via Exhibition road - great area. It's all been done up and is really lovely. Walked for miles and miles in the tunnel to the tube! Caught the tube to Sloane Square. walked to lunch on Pimlico Road at the Ebrury. This area round Pimlico road was SO lovely. I must have gone here when I lived in London. It is so lovely.

Met Debbie and Susanne Barnes and partners Bob and Simon for lunch. Belinda and I went to Gordon West with them briefly - then we were pen pals.  Debbie was in Belinda's class and Sue was in mine. I saw Sue in the 80's when she came to Sydney - but we all found each other on facebook - as you do. We had a really lovely lunch there - it was very upmarket - and expensive!!(200 pounds for the 5 of us) But it was so lovely and the food was fantastic. I had a really yummy gnocchi and we all had lots of wine. After lunch we took lots of photos.

After lunch we said goodbye to Debbie, Susanne, Bob and Simon and headed over to King's road - one of my favourite spots. It was busy and lovely. Walked through Duke of York square -lots of lovely shops and cafes. Wandered up through Sloane Square to Cadagon Place - God it's so divine. Can't believe I lived here.

Stoppped at no 37 and took photos. I realised I was the same age as Eddy now when I lived here. The whole area is unreal. Headed into Motcomb Street (another favourite) Belgravia. This is the street that Harry took Sophie and I to lunch last time I was in London - on the day I arrived.  We went to the Pantechnican for a glass of wine and hot chips.  We had planned to go here for lunch but when we rang to book it was full.

Everywhere is so busy - everywhere you go is full, hard to get into restaurants. Walked up to Harrods. Went to the top floor to the souvenir section to buy a new cup and tin of tea with London designs on it. It was SO crowded. Got on tube to Paddington. George had to leave and head back to Cardiff as he has to go to work tomorrow.
We had to go back to Scampston Mews to pick up more money  - we had a huge day of expenses today. We're not being very good sticking to our budget but I don't actually think that we exchanged enough pounds.
Headed out via tube to Waterloo.It was such a beautiful evening with a lovely sunset.
There were masses of people around and the queue for the Eye was huge. It was also 20 pounds per person and we would have had to wait for hours.
I had planned to go to a pub in Clerkenwell but decided once we got to London that this was a very random place to go - and it would be much better to go to the city. We also wanted to go to somewhere on our list. We decided to got to St Christopher's place - although we had walked through it.
Walked all along the Thames - it was so lovely. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament looked fantastic as the sun set. There were lots and lots of people around - a really fantastic atmosphere. It's also the start of the Easter holidays. Had a lovely stroll all along the Thames and through Jubilee Gardens. It's daylight saving here so it doesn't get dark till late.
We walked across Golden Jubilee bridge to Charing Cross then caught the tube to Oxford Circus. Walked along Oxford street (lots of Olympic construction)but fun all the same to St Christopher's place. We met Stevee and Tory at a little Italian restaurant called Olivetti's. Soph had been here a couple of times. Had bruschetta, platters of anti pasta and pasta - it was really nice and great to catch up with Stevee and Tory. They are loving living in London.

We got a cab back to our little mews. Last night in London - I just love it. Wish we were staying longer.

London dining and bars.

There are of course a huge amount of places and areas to eat in in London - and some great sounding bar.

We plan to go to The Marleybone on our first night.

Sweetings also sounds good -  39 Queen Victoria Street. The City -  This place has been around since 1830.
It has a mosaic floor.

We wanted to go for dinner at The White Swan pub and dining room, 108 New Fetter lane, The City - on Sunday with Stevie and Tory but it's closed on Sundays (and Saturdays) which is so wierd but I guess it's because they are in the city which may not be very lively on the weekends.

The Wine Library - 43 Trinity Square, - www. Not sure if it's the same as the one in Paddington!

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese - 145 Fleet Street - this is a historic pub. We had a walk through here after we'd been to The Old Bank pub - it was pretty dark and all little rooms. Not that appealing but glad we had a look.

There are lots of places around Covent Garden.

Soph has picked out a bar to go to on Saturday night.

Terroirs Wine Bar - 5 William 1V street,

Around Covent Garden are plenty of places to go - some that look good are:

Salisbury - in St Martin's Lane and next to the St Martin's Lane Hotel. It has a very British pub interior.

The Lamb and flag sounds good too. The interior is more than 350 years old and live jazz on Sunday afternoons.

Neal's yard Dairy - 17 Shorts Gardens - a fabulous smelly cheese shop with over 70 varieties of cheese.

Inn the Park -
St James Park
This is a stunning wooden cafe and restaurant offering cakes and tea plus quality British food. It has a new roof terrace. We are planning on going here. It looks amazing.

Lamb bar in Bloomsbury - very popular with mahogany bar.

Clerkenwell sounds quite interesting and has quaint streets. A couple of places that sound good are:

Moro -
34-36 Exmouth market.
This is the best known restaurant in Clerkenwell serving African/Spanish food with apparently fantastic food.

Coach & Horses -
26-28 Ray Street, Clerkenwell.
This is a gastropub with old world charm and well priced food.

Jerusalem Tavern - very cute pub with booths and a small bar - 55 Britton Street, EC1.

We have booked Rocket for our first night - - we have been here last time and we decided that this is where we'd like to go for our first night together.
4 Lancashire Court, London W1S 1EY - this was very average but great value to have dinner in Mayfair  - and in a fantastic area.

We'd like to go to Beach Blanket Babylon again - that was great.

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