Monday, 20 July 2015

Lavender man

The lavender man had a shabby wide brimmed hat, dirty earthy brown, dusty coloured with age. His dark blue pants and his button down jacket were equally worn through. From the countryside, not from the city of Paris, screamed his clothes.

His lanky frame looked out of place on the métro platform. And he stank. Of lavender. Or rather, the huge crop of lavender bush on his arms envelopped him entirely, and as its perfume aired throughout the train carriage, heads turned in surprise to peer at the powerful violet bush at his feet.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A bientôt, Bordeaux

The train approaches and I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry. Remember that first time I had to leave La Rochelle and France, ten years ago? I had cried my eyes out, then. Years of travels and constant hellos and goodbyes had made me stronger, I guess. Regardless, I will miss this city so much. You had been almost perfect,  Bordeaux, I really thought I could settle here for a while. Thank you for the souvenirs. A bientôt ♡

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Thank you, London

Clap. Ham. My first week in big busy London started in Clapham, feeling apprehensive and scared and almost reluctant to start a new adventure away from the small but beautiful Bordeaux. The border control had been equally reluctant to let me in, each time I tried to come in after a trip away - "I have a return ticket back to New Zealand, I am basing myself in London because I only have three months left in Europe and there are loads more flights from London. I promise I will be leaving on the said date."

Alas, that said date has come, finally. It is time to leave.

While it was slow to start, as always it is the people and friendships I take away with me. A has been with me from day one to day of departure, showing me how it's done in this big city and making sure I get to my final destination safely. I am immensely grateful for his kindness and friendship. I met a lovely group of ladies to spend each lunchtime gossiping and discussing the current events of the world around us. Each lady, so different, yet so full of life and potential. I learnt from every one of them and hope that our relationships will continue despite the long distance and time that will part us.

London, thank you for the opportunity to get to know you better. I may not come back in a rush, but if I do, I will be glad for the yet another chance.

Cheers, mate.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Back to France

I was sure I'd gained weight stuffing myself with all the salmon bagels, sushi, fish n chips and beer in London... but apparently I'd actually lost a little. Good news or no? Not bad news, in any case. Need to get back into core training and running, soon. A says not to worry, he will feed me, haha.

Back in Bordeaux for the week, I am lucky to have so many spare beds/couches on offer. I keep inviting everyone to come visit me in NZ, I really must get a spare bedroom/space for when they do start coming over - accommodation hunting kicks off this week.

So many ideas for blog posts, but I haven't had time to get around to them yet. Hopefully I will be able to set aside some time, soon - plenty of train and plane times up ahead!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Rainbow sunset over London

My cousin came to visit London last week, so I got to show him around. It was his first time in Europe and our first time travelling together. His virgin Eurotrip reminded me of my first solo overseas trip, all week. Everything had seemed exciting and everything had tasted so good, then. It helped that my first trip had been to France, staying with some exceptional people who are like family now.

NB and I visited all the big tourist spots and even stopped by platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross for some Harry Potter moments. We ate all the classic British foods I like - scones with jam, fish and chips, and lots of beer. We definitely got to know our 24-hour bus very well by the end of the week. On our last night together, we went up the London Eye - something I had resisted for a long time, but I thought it was time I gave in. As we cast our eyes over the Thames river, Big Ben and the rest of London bathed in dusk and the last rainbow colours of gay pride day, I came to a surprising realisation that my London stay is finally coming to an end soon. I'm glad but unexpectedly a little sad, too.

It is, as always, the people you meet along the way that makes the farewells and the long trip home bittersweet. Before I leave there is one big to-do item that needs to be crossed off on West End. It will definitely be a highlight finish to the OE year experience.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

London on a weekend: Broadway Market and V&A Museum

Standing on the overground platform, arms crossed, I feel a vibration. Phone? No. Stomach. I am grumbling starving. Train, hurry up.
To the market we go. The weather is not great; grey and occasionally spitting onto my glasses. Only people with four eyes would understand. I'm always. I try to follow a lone guy a few metres in front of me, hoping he is going the same way. Turns out he is just as clueless. A canal path filled with health conscious joggers and cyclers lead me the way, instead. Hunger leads me on.

Famished and finally here. It's a lively street filled with two rows of back to back stalls, artisan crafts mixed with savoury and sweet foods. My lunch and dessert: my very first Scotch egg, a coconut macaroon from a well respected bakery, and a flat white, my daily morning essential.
Second part of the day: a trip to the galleries. The London tube stations need more bins. Any bins. I am forced to carry my empty coffee cup around for two hours because I do not litter. I end up chasing after a cleaning staff to pop it in his bag. Why two hours? Because the transportation in London is very disruptive at times, quite often, and especially on weekends. I ride the trains literally from East to West trying to find my way. I end up hopping on a bus in the end. Should perhaps have been my first option, all along. This one is the only non-double decker I have seen in London, yet everyone seems to want to get on it with me. At least one consolation - so far, no rains. Thank goodness.

I've already wasted so much time that a decision needs to be made. Saatchi or V&A? I will need to visit both in time, of course, but there is only time for one for today. So, V&A, it is. Oh no. Both the current special exhibitions, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty and Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, are sold out! Boohoo. Oh, well. There are plenty of other, free, collections to see. So many of them. I love it.

Whenever I visit museums and galleries, I always pay a visit to their shops. I want everything in there. They are always overpriced. Most of the time, I never buy anything. Sad. So much walking and gazing and listening and touching and feeling inspired... makes me hungry again.
The V&A café is a big cafeteria, where you get to choose from the sweet and savoury selections, and a series of tea rooms, where you enjoy your foods in style. The English floral tray is sticky and the small tearoom is dimly lit. The English ancestors must have had bad eye sights, being in dark indoors with no proper lighting shining in from the outside. I would have lit as many candles about as possible if I had lived then. I like it bright, unless it's mood lighting. The cream and berry jam Victoria sponge cake and tea combo is perfect though. Elderflowers. Cream. Mmm.

(Photos all from my visit to V&A)

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Stay here: Spoilt at Villa Montabord

One orange, half a lemon. The golden ratio for your daily morning juice. It's essential for breakfast at Villa Montabord, 3, Cité des Fleurs, Paris 75017.
Villa Montabord sits near the entrance of a private alleyway in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. A couple of necessary side notes: the alleyway is named, literally, 'City of Flowers', and, true to its name, is a lovely passageway to stroll through, admiring the beautiful houses, or rather mansions, and the glimpses of their gardens. Once they apparently had to follow strict rules to keep their front gardens looking immaculate and reasonably uniform, but it seems the rules did not altogether extend to dictating the styles of the houses much. 17th arrondissement is characterised by their elegance. Villa Montabord sits neatly in line with the standard. Bourgeois, ladylike, with her chic red pout. Ready to welcome chic travellers to rest their heads in her luxurious yet cosy rooms inside.
I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in one of Villa Montabord's four rooms - Chambre Charlotte. Plush red carpet lined the staircase up to my room. To the left, two double French doors let in light through its white curtains. On the other side a deep wine red wall resided over a double bed dressed in white. My first night in that bed was one of the best in a long time. The plush pillows were a dream! Swoon! My next favourite thing about Chambre Charlotte was the bathroom, just was warmly lit as the bedroom, and almost as spacious. I loved the huge mirror reflecting the light.
After a good night's rest, a hearty breakfast. As much as my small stomach would allow. Croissants, tartines with butter and jams, homemade yoghurts, coffee, tea, you name it. Plus the orange/lemon juice. Don't forget the juice.
A few itineraries for the weekend included catching an open air opera near Hôtel de Ville and strolling through Palais Royal, Jardin du Tuilleries, etc. From Villa Montabord, a bus stop just across the street and a Metro station only a block away means easy transport. Around the B&B there are also heaps of restaurants, bars, fruit and vege shops, and supermarkets, so you are spoilt for food choices if you ever need a rest from exploring the City of Lights.

Like that will ever happen.

Villa Montabord, I will be back soon, please.

Villa Montabord
3, Cité des Fleurs

Paris 75015
+33 6 14 88 74 06

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