Sunday, March 16, 2008

France .. and the mystery of the expanding jeans!

Sue: ... now I remember why we moved to London! After a rather frustrating few weeks of looking for places to live (to no avail) we travelled to France for 5 nights. This was mainly due to Matt's procrastination technique of pretending to look for work on the net (where I thought he was being very conscientious) but really looking for places to travel to. However, the fine chap did a sterling job.

We went to Paris on the Eurostar - the only way to travel between London and Paris (so much quicker than a plane ... and better for the planet). They had ramped up the security quite a bit since my last Eurostar journey from London to Paris -10 years ago (hmm ... small things like terrorism and 9/11 might have had something to do with that ... d'oh). After passport control and baggage check we only had a few minutes to spare. We were in a double seat (we were both in the aisle seats) while a rather amorous French couple (who had the window seats) were all over each other the whole way. Made it a little uncomfortable to look out the window past them (didn't want them to think we were providing an audience). Checked into our hotel in Paris near the Luxembourg gardens on Montparnassee. Arrived to find the walls of the hotel were rather thin ... the couple next door were obviously on a "romantic getaway" and didn't mind others listening in. We must be in Paris?!?

So much for OUR romantic week away .... Matt had just come down with a cold the day before our travels and required an afternoon nap. Anyway, while Matt was asleep I managed to book us into the "Buddha Bar" for dinner. We'd heard lots about it from friends so thought we'd give it a burl while we were there. We both had a fantastic evening .... the ambience (including the music of course) was awesome, the food was great and the waitress was lovely (Matt found her accent especially lovely). Wasn't exactly the cheapest places we'd ever been too (oh my God) .... it even cost us 6 euros just to check our coats in!!

The next day we took it pretty easy (a theme of the holiday). After a breakfast of awesome pastries (another theme of the holiday) we walked through the Luxembourg gardens, to the Pantheon and then to Invalides. Matt hadn't seen Napoleon's tomb under the dome of Invalides before so we checked that out for a while.

We then came home so Matt could have a rest before we went to dinner that night (he decided at this stage that he had a collapsed lung and broken ribs from coughing ... hmm .. men). I decided I'd have another pastry from all my exercise that day ... a french vanilla slice ... now I know why the french label that pastry as their own ... delicous. Went to dinner not far from our hotel with my last boss in QR, Brian Bock, and his wife Desley. They've both just moved to Paris. Was great to catch up with them and I think they enjoyed the Australian company.

On Wedensday we caught the train to St Malo - about a 3 hour trip. Scoffed a pastry or two on the train (this is when I first started to wonder how long my, normally tight fitting jeans, would fit for). We booked into our hotel, Hotel Elizabeth, which was Intra Muros (within the walls) of St Malo. The owners of the hotel were extremely welcoming and very informative about good things to see for a 3 day stay. Matt needed another rest before we set off to explore the place. Hmmm ... the boy really must be sick?!?

Secretly I was enjoying the fact that Matt was sick at this stage ... meant he wasn't marching me around at a cracking pace all day. We were strolling around together, arm-in-arm, watching the people around us, the view and basically just enjoying the moment. Normally he has me walking at a cracking pace for hours on end. Not so conducive to enjoying your surroundings when they whiz by, and rather than the peaceful sounds of seagulls and the breeze, I'd hear the sound of my own wheezing lungs. Does that make me an awful person ....?!?

Our first short walk was on top of the walls of the city. Such a gorgeous place ... everywhere you looked was like a perfectly framed photograph. It was low tide, so we could walk across the sand to a little island (only accessible at low tide).

We came back to the mainland to watch a guy kite surfing (well with a skateboard on his feet rather than a surfboard). After this massive walk (maximum 2 hours) Matt was exhausted and not up to dinner. No problem for me, we'd stopped in at the market before we returned to the hotel and bought some crackers, blue cheese and wine ... I'd just have a few biscuits. Hmmm ... well after knocking off 3/4 of my 125g block of blue cheese and only a few glasses of red wine I then went on some kind of blue cheese trip where my head was wound up like a top and I couldn't sleep for hours. Bugger, those jeans definitely aren't going to fit tomorrow.

The next day Matt was still crook (hmm ... ok, now i'm getting over being sympathetic). After pulling on my jeans (why do they still fit?) and a fairly healthy breakfast (as long as you don't count the very buttery croissant) we found an internet cafe where the owner made the most awesome coffee (something we've sorely missed since leaving Aus). The guy that owned the cafe was German. He'd married a French woman and they were raising their child in Germany and France so he could be exposed to both cultures and languages. V cool. We then went for a walk within the walls of St Malo - winding narrow alleys with restaurants, clothes shops and patisseries.

We then went for a walk along the promenade outside the walls of St Malo. I'm now starting to feel like a nurse taking my old patient for his daily walk (only problem is he needed a wheelchair or a walker to keep up the pace). And for the tenth time Matt, I'm not wearing the nurses uniform ..! The day before we'd arrived in St Malo they'd had the annual spring tides which meant there was sand up and over the walls, across the promenade and onto the other side of the street. Weird walking on seaweed at such a height. We finished our walk rather late so, rather than spoil our dinner with a big lunch, we bought a few pastries from the patisserie. Unfortunately Matt wasn't too hungry (so sad) so I had to polish off the custard doughnut (that even Homer would be proud of), the Pain au Chocolat and the last corner of his chocolate cookie that he couldn't finish. Ok, now I feel sick and I've definitely overdosed on pastries ....!! My jeans are definitely not going to fit tomorrow. Didn't go out to dinner that night either as Matt again wasn't too well and the night air was making his cough worse. But fear not, there was still a little bit of blue cheese left in our minibar from the night before.

Our last full day in St Malo was lovely .... apart from the fact that Matt decided he had pneumonia and was 10 minutes from dying. After breakfast at the hotel (hold the croissants!!) we went to the internet cafe for our heart-starter and took off for our daily pensioner walk. We walked out of the walls, across the loch, past the harbour, around an old fort, through a gorgeous village and then to a little bay with lots of cafes and restaurants (as I'm sure you're gathering ... stunning!!). Matt required quite a few rest stops along the way ... we had a lovely stroll. We had crepes for lunch (our first in France this trip) and then took the shortcut back to our hotel.

Of course, then Matt needed his afternoon kip ("with his dentures in a glass beside the bed") before we went to dinner at Bistro Jean. Dinner was fantastic ... we both had a scallop and caramelised onion tart for entree and then different poisson dishes for main. Our first dinner in St Malo and a great way to spend our last night.

Saturday was spent on trains back to London .... and the continuing saga of finding a flat .... oh, and finding jobs.

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