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France

Shopping, The Adventure, Travel

Paris Part II

James and I walked the Champs Elysees several times, like every tourist does. I perused a few of the high end stores, making an imaginary wish list for my imaginary bank balance. Marlee took the kids with the intention of seeing a movie, but they were all being shown in French because the school holidays were on. The kids were so good about it, luckily the nearby playground and a hot chocolate made them forget all their worries.

purpleposterImage by Society 6

James hired a Mini Cooper, just like we did in Nice on the Cote D’Aur. The weather was ghastly as we zoomed out of Paris and headed north to Reims. We enjoyed strolling the cobble streets in Reims and made our way to a few champagne houses to stock up on some bubbles.

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In the apartment, the kitchen was well stocked and I really hit my stride, cooking up a storm for the family. I have been surprised how much I miss the routine of cooking every night. Crepes, pasta, steak, curries were always a popular request from the kids. We had a coffee machine which makes mornings easier in our household. Every morning, James or Marlee would start the day with the buzzing of the machine and the smell of fresh coffee wafting through the apartment.

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Marlee ventured out on her day’s off and always came back amazed by what she had seen and eaten. Paris is an overload of the senses to all, but especially for a first timer.

We seeked out a non tourist museum and picked the nearby “Palais De Tokyo”. We walked from our apartment and watched skateboarders putting on quite a show on the forefront of the museum. The kids were besotted with them, and both Abi and Ted took photos on their cameras.

Inside the museum, art installations, provocative displays and sections of unique, abstract art pieces like dip dyed ropes and piles of sand was a little too much for the kids and I could tell they were just too confused to enjoy the experience. Myself on the other hand, was completely in my element and I managed to walk around on my own for awhile, enjoying the weird and wonderful.

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James took the kids up the Eiffel Tower one morning, Marlee decided it wasn’t for her and I have been up twice in the past and decided to stay home and mind Harriet. The kids enjoyed it although Ted is a little timid of heights so the visit at the top was brief.

Another day, we took the kids to explore the Left Bank. We visited Shakespeare and Co bookstore, ate hot dogs in a cute diner, bought red berets and got soaked in a storm and lost on the cobble back streets.

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We spent just under 2 weeks in Paris which was more than enough for me. While the pretty sights and butter laden cuisine are exciting for a few days, the locals nonchalant attitude and hoards of aggressive tourists were a good reason to say our farewells to the city of lights and head south to Croatia for some sunshine, seafood and swimming.

Until next time Paris, merci beaucoup et, pour la dernière fois, au revoir.

xo

stationImage from Society 6

The Adventure, Travel

Paris Part I

One day
we’re gonna live
in Paris

I promise
I’m on it

 

The city of lights. The city of cheese and champagne. Where shop fronts lure you in with the most amazing bread, pastries, crepes, macarons, marshmallows and of course, the infamous croissant. Where you can smoke almost anywhere. Where dog poop lays deserted on the footpath. A city famous for fashion, sights and cuisine. The most romantic city in the world. More people are engaged in Paris than any other city on earth, I should know, I was one of them. 

Way back when in 2002, my “boyfriend” popped the question on a quiet lawn by the River Seine, right behind Ill St Louis and Notre Dame. It was adorable and sweet and the whole experience was so corny, I’m surprised I didn’t need salsa to wash it all down.

We stayed in Paris for 2 weeks in a privately owned family apartment that we leased through a boutique rental company named One Fine Stay. The apartment was huge, on the top floor of an old building in district 16. We had 2 living areas, a study, kitchen with walk in pantry and dining table. The balconies along the front of the building all had views of the Eiffel Tower much to our delight when we checked in.

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James and I had a lovely master bedroom at the end of the apartment with views of the Eiffel Tower from our bed. The kids were in the next bedroom in double bunks which they loved. Such a novelty climbing a ladder to hop into bed every night. The little boy who resided in that room was named Paul and he had many toys and books, all in French of course.

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In the next bedroom, Harriet slept in a gorgeous timber cot with cute toys, and baby supplies.

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Marlee was in a separate wing of the apartment near the living area. She had her own master bathroom too.

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The weather over our 14 day stay was unpredictable and kept it interesting while dressing every morning. With the school holidays still on in Paris, many shops and cafes were closed in August which was rather annoying. We walked to many cute boutiques in the St Germain area only to find they were closed and wouldn’t re-open for weeks after our departure. 

Our favourite place to shop for gourmet edibles was Le Bon Marche in the St Germain area. This gorgeous high end department store was truly Parisian in every way. Luxury goods, impeccable service and all out fancy in every way. Next door to the department store, another old building hosted the Le Bon Marche Food Hall which was mind blowing. Food from all over the world, in different sections to ponder over. We bought hard to find items like curry paste, pop tarts, bagels and more. The prices were absolute outrageous, not the place you would do your weekly shop but rather, a special occasion or when you were in need of multicultural foods. Many people perusing the aisles were Asian, American or British.

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On our quaint street, we had many little parks that would predominately entertain the local children in neighbouring streets. Marlee would often take the kids there in the morning while Harriet was having her morning nap or James and I were working together. 

We decided to cap our sights to just a few so we could enjoy more time living like locals and visit the areas that aren’t as popular on the tourist trail.

The Musee D’Orsay is one of my favourite places in the world. I could sit in there for hours at a time, and just absorb the ambience and beauty of it all. The kids were very well behaved during our time there and loved seeing the Van Gogh exhibition. We were directed into the VIP / family line at the entrance by a lovely security guard which meant we could queue jump and save time lining up outside. 

After our dreamy visit to the Orsay, we walked over to the Jardin des Tuileries which was hosting a fun fair / carnival for the month of August. I had read many positive reviews about the fair but was quite disappointed when we walked over. Carnival folk are the same in every country it seems, and were doing the usual job of touting their crap and offering scams on rides and games. We had promised the children they could ride on 1 ride and they picked the most hideous looking contraption in the entire fair. Marlee, James and I laughed on the sidelines as the kids enjoyed the ride. 

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James and I enjoyed a truly magical day together as we ventured out to and shopped the quaint streets. We had an early lunch at a hipster pop-up burger bar with clientele sporting tattoos, beards and bros. A nearby adorable bakery offered the most delicious treats and together we sampled hot pink raspberry marshmallows and perused stationary and homeware stores all through the Marais district.

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Next stop was a late lunch. Long lines form in front of a tiny, dark green storefront, where tourists and locals alike await for what just may be the world famous felafel at L’As Du Fallafel’. What you’ll get is a pita stuffed to the brim (cue forks and lots of napkins) with garlicky chickpea fritters, creamy hummus, pickled red cabbage, salted cucumbers, fried eggplant and just-hot-enough harissa. 

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We spotted the Channel Nine ‘Getaway” TV crew there filming an Australian family. We wiped our faces clean and continued to walk along the Rue de Rivoli before grabbing an Uber home. The Uber service in Paris was fantastic.

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An old friend of mine was staying out in the country, not too far from Paris and headed into town to meet us for lunch and a play. Her son Tom is 6 as well, just a week younger than Abi. We invited them to our apartment before lunch and Jen and I managed to catch up properly while the kids enjoyed the playroom. Hungry tummies beckoned, so we shared an Uber over to the Marais district and introduced them to the famous felafel shop, L’As Du Fallafel. Jen was beside herself with her tasty treats!

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We sat in a nearby park and let the kids run wild in the garden while Jen, James and I had a lovely chat in the sunshine. It was so delightful, and I really enjoyed having some face to face time with a girlfriend. 

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More to come in Part II

The Adventure

3 Countries in 1 Day

Breakfast in Italy
Lunch in Monte Carlo
Dinner in France

three countries in one day
james hired a mini cooper for the way
we drove along the road with glee
all the way to san remo in italy

we drank espresso in the sun
walked along not feeling glum
watched the yachts and sailboats sway
3 countries in 1 day

with a little driving left to go,
we arrived in monaco
monte carlo, to be exact
shopping, ferraris and minimal tax

we ate our lunch in the sunshine
drank champagne instead of wine
overlooked the beach and bay
so much beauty, we could not look away

around the racetrack we zipped
like the grand prix drivers, i sat tight lipped
along the coast to ville franche sur mer
the roads so narrow, we got a scare

photos were taken and kisses were shared
people may have looked, it was doubtful we cared
time to return back home to nice
our day was over, almost complete

farewelled our rental car
saw the kids, explained we travelled far
went to dinner, a local place
ate indian food, had a smile on my face

we braved 3 countries in one glorious day
enjoyed 3 meals, different each way
created memories in a special place
have stories that i can’t replace

san remo, monte carlo and nice
italy, monaco and france
an amazing day
the adult way
kid free
a driving spree
conversation flowed well
under a love spell

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NB: This post is a flashback from our time in Nice, France.

The Adventure

A Piece of Nice

Our transfer van made the short journey up the coast from Cannes to Nice. We had booked a 3 bedroom apartment just 2 blocks back from beach.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the real estate agent who informed us that the lift in the old building was broken and we would have to carry our luggage up 90 STAIRS to the 4th floor where our apartment was located. I expressed my disappointment to him, saying how completely unreasonable this was with 3 small children, one of whom is still in a pram.

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James and Marlee managed a few trips up the stairs with our luggage and were absolutely exhausted after doing so. Then once we perused the apartment, we realised we had 1 bathroom for 5 people for the week, things were about to get cosy!

We had views over the mountains and restaurants below. Nice was considerably noisier than Cannes, and the kids were often woken by the loud bikes and scooters. James even said that the French Riviera reminded him of Queensland. If Cannes were Noosa, then Nice was the Gold Coast.

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Our kitchen was large and well stocked. I was able to cook poached eggs with avocado and spinach every morning which pleased me so. We had 2 mini-markets located below which had amazing fresh produce and enough items for me to throw a few good dinners together.

We were blessed with the most amazing gelato shop around the corner that the children loved. While they made wonderful gelato, they were so stingy with their quantities with such steep prices. One evening, I had a caramel milkshake that literally filled my cup halfway. When I asked them to fill it to the top, they said it was their policy to not overfill cups!?! We encountered many places like this in Nice, more people trying to squeeze a buck from you.

gelati^^ Nutella flavoured gelato ^^

The beach in Nice is breathtaking to look at, but the huge pebble beach proved quite difficult to swim in and the kids weren’t too impressed at all. When the waves roll in, the pebbles tumble around and whack you in the ankles! Luckily, the beach club that we frequented had a little kids plunge pool which was great. Marlee took the kids down most days for a cool off, although she did tell us she had to fight off a few local French children with mischievous intentions.

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We managed to find a few cute little restaurants for dinner but it was difficult to choose with almost every institution serving the exact same menu and price. Tourists lined the cobble alleys, reading menus and choosing tables. One of the best meals we ate as a family was in an authentic Indian restaurant across the road from our building.

James and I hired a Mini-Cooper convertible for a day, leaving the kids with Marlee while we cruised up the coastline. A more detailed post about this to follow soon!

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On our 2nd last day, we decided to head to a sandy beach only 10 minutes north of Nice named VilleFranche-sur-Mer. This is a busy seaside fishing town in the Côte d’Azur. A couple of features that make it so attractive to visitors are the long sandy beaches, terrace cafés and restaurants. Many cruise ships choose to dock in the calm bay while guests can experience a quieter version of the French Riviera.

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This day turned out to be such an ordeal and a complete disaster. James lost his iPhone in the taxi on the way to the beach, we had to fight for a sliver of sand with all the locals and tourists who had disembarked from the 2 cruiseships docked in the bay then when we decided to head home, we had to wait for an hour in the hot sun on a tiny train platform because the trains were too full for us to jump on. When we arrived back to the apartment, James tracked his phone to a apartment block about 3.2km away. He decided to go for a run to see if he could spot the cab we had taken earlier, but alas, he came up short and had to jog the 3.2km run back to Nice. We did however manage to head out for a late dinner together and enjoyed some quiet time after a very long day.

jamesnice^^ Look at his face, so deflated! ^^

Our time in Nice was up rather quickly. James picked up a replacement phone down the road at an Apple Store. We packed our bags and lugged our suitcases down the stairs. Collectively, we bid farewell to the French Riviera and France too. Our early evening flight to Venice was jam packed with Italians, we scored the Easy Jet lottery having being allocated the ONLY spare seat on the flight next to us so Harriet had a little extra room to move around. We landed in Venice not long before sunset. It was magical and I cried tears of joy. Ciao Italia!

The Adventure

Because we CANNES!

Scotland was so unexpectedly cold that during our time there, James and I decided to change our plans to head to a warmer climate. We had originally planned on heading to Hungary and Austria but rescheduled our flights and headed to the Cote d’Azur otherwise known as the French Riviera in southern France.

We managed to find the most amazing apartment at the last minute, right in the heart of town, opposite the marina, beach and casino. A quick hop, skip and fly from Gatwick Airport had us arriving in the late afternoon at Nice Airport.

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IMG_3969Landing at Nice and seeing more private jets than you could count.

Our driver was so quintessentially French, with his tanned face, ponytail, beard, blue suit with strong cologne and stale cigarette on this breath.

We zoomed down the back streets of Cannes and arrived at the most amazing waterfront apartment.

Our host Jackie is originally from Germany but now resides in Cannes full time. She was so warm and kind to us. The apartment was absolutely amazing, she even hinted that some A list celebs have stayed there during the Cannes Film Festival. When she mentioned Brad and Angelina, I nearly screamed and ran instantly into the master bedroom, pondering on the thought that they might have slept on that bed that I would be residing in all week! I can dream, can’t I?!

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We walked the streets of Cannes, settling on an early dinner at the best place on the strip called Steaks and Shakes which pleased the kids. Thick shakes, skinny fries and hotdogs made with 100% local beef. The kids were in heaven and this became our local place to grab a shake on the way home from the beach.

The next morning, our gorgeous nanny Marlee joined our family’s adventure after flying overnight from New York where she has been residing for the last year. We warmed to her instantly and before she could even get in the door, the older kids begged her for a visit to the beach followed by ice-cream. Marlee obliged and since then, it has been an absolute dream having her accompany us on the trip. More about Marlee soon, I promise!

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Our time in Cannes was spectacular. Days were long, the huge french windows were open all day and night, blowing in the most amazing breezes and sounds from the street below. We listened to the scooters zooming past, boats departing the harbour, street performers putting on a show for the tourists and best of all, fans and locals cheering and jeering at the World Cup games which were being screened below us at the popular waterfront cafes.

Blue skies woke us every morning with warm breezes and a lovely dry heat. Every morning, we would walk to the local produce area named Forville Markets. Here we would wander the aisles, perusing fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, cheeses, nuts and flowers. It was without a doubt, the best farmer’s market I have ever been too. The food was so fresh and clean to eat.

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The beach at Cannes is sandy but not overly clean. The water is quite murky and the sand was dirty. Our feet and shoes were always filthy after a visit. Not to mention our gorgeous white towels from the apartment too! The kids loved the shallow beach though and we spent hours just watching them play, collecting rocks and building castles. Little Harriet was so confident sitting on the sand, getting covered in the waves. She really seems to enjoy the beach so much!

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On our 2nd last day, we caught a mini tourist train around town which affirmed our love for this gorgeous little place even more. Harriet fell asleep in my arms and the children sat with Marlee and listened to the history of Cannes and its famous sights.

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The best thing about Cannes would have to be the food. We didn’t eat a bad meal there. Not once. Every morning, James would head down the bakery for some fresh croissants and pain au chocolat plus a few lattes too. For lunch, we would dine at any of the eateries scattered along the narrow streets. At night, we would either cook beautiful fresh produce in our apartment or head out to the little trattoria’s off the Rue Antibes which always included a stop at the ice-cream shop on the way home.

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We ate smelly cheeses, the best macarons money can buy, discounted Veuve, Moet and Taittinger, fresh salmon from the friendly fish monger, the thickest creamiest shakes from our favourite place in town, honestly, I had no idea how splendid Cannes would be.

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I am so thankful we chose to spend a week there. Would I return for another holiday? Absolutely.  Would I rent the same apartment? Absolutely. It wasn’t right opposite the beach but across from the marina instead. Gazing at the cruise ships and yachts, scooters and people watching was so captivating. Our host was amazing, probably one of the friendliest people we have encountered on the trip so far.

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The week was slow and relaxing. Long dinners were shared as James and I got to know Marlee. Soccer was watched. Sleep-ins were had. Sand was permanently on the bed sheets. Croissants were buttered. Ice-creams devoured. And a few new freckles were added to the children’s happy faces.

We packed our bags and hopped in the van for the short drive up the coast to Nice, our next stop on the journey!