Paris : A few of my favourite things

Are you heading to Paris over the next few months? 

Lots of my friends seem to be heading to this gorgeous city and have asked for some suggestions about things to do other than the ‘big iconic sights’.

It always seems best , to me,  to spend as much time in one city as you can than to jump around and Paris is no exception. Stay as long as you can, to discover the side of Paris most people miss.

As you probably know Paris is divided into Arondissemnts – a bit like suburbs, but given a number. It also has the Seine to divide it into Left Bank and Right Bank. So depending on where you stay you can explore Paris yourself, mostly on foot, and discover so much as you go.

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How To Start: 

1. Choose the Arondissement you wish to stay in. I have stayed both Left and Right bank and love the 4th or lower Marais ( and the 3rd or upper Marais)  A very close second is 6th into the 7th. Not the touristy end of St Michel and Saint Germaine.

2. Do see the ‘ big sights’ this means : The Eiffel Tower , the Louve, Musee D’Orsay, the Tulleries. However it’s best to incorporate them into your general wandering in Paris.

4. Plan your days – this can include wandering the Arondissements but with an end in mind.

A few of my Favourite Things: which Arondissement to stay and play?

1.   4th Arondissement: Marais.  It’s narrow streets hint at its medieval background and give it an intimate feel. It’s full of artisans and craftsmen and lots of lovely boutiques. It’s also open Sunday when other areas are all closed. So plan this area on a Sunday.

Some of the places to stop in the Marais:

The wonderful Carnavalet Museum which is housed in a building of such beauty with secret gardens  it has you feeling you are away from the crowds. It tell of the history of Paris.

Place de Voges a wonderful peaceful square to walk or sit in peace and watch the fashionable Parisians.

Explore the Village of St Paul and down to the Seine and cross on Pont Marie to the wuaint Ile Saint Louis

Take a walking tour of the area. Usually around 10euro for about 2-3 hours it is a great way to get the history of the area.

2. The 6th Arondissement: this is an area of such beauty. Grand buildings and tree lined avenues and the fabulous Luxemburg Gardens. I once spent a beautiful,  warm, winter November Sunday in the gardens just observing, taking photos and being peaceful. You can settle on one of the thousand green metal chairs and watch chess players, tennis matches, bocce, children riding miniature cars and ponies, families sailing boats on the lake, lovers walking hand in hand, old men chatting, cyclists and coffee drinkers. It’s a snap shot of Paris and costs nothing.

Some places to stop: 

The Luxemburg Gardens. A must

Bon Marche a department store to tempt even if it’s just in the food hall.

The book stores off Saint Germaine. Including my absolute favourite Shakespeare and Co which is technically in the 5th but definitely worth a visit.

The design and decorating stores are great for window shopping, the florists bursting with colour, the fashion boutiques,  usually the higher end ones which seem friendlier  than their sister shops over in the 8th Arondissement. The tea houses – Laduree for one and cafes made famous by the writers,  Cafe de Flore, Deux Magots and the Lipp. Take time to stop and have a drink or coffee. No one will mind if you sit with one drink and observe those passing.

Streets to explore:Pace de Furstemberg and the Delacroix Musem.  Rue e Buci with all it boutiques and designer stores, Rue Jacob, Rue Saint- Andre des Arts.  And if you feel like a big walk wander along Rue de Varenne and find the thoughtful Rodin Museum, across past the Invalides and follow Rue Saint Doinique to Parc Champ de Mars and the view to the Eifeel Tower. Then visit it! Make sure you make regular stops for Coffee, ice cream, French Patisserie. I promise you there are lots of places to stop along the way.

If you are now exhausted catch the no 69 local bus back. It winds its way back to the 6 th,  along the Seine crosses at Pont de Carrousel in front of the Louve then turns right and follows Rue De Rivoli, past the great Musee Palais Royal, the Hotel de Ville through the Marais to Bastille ( visit the New Opera House). It continues all the way to the Pere Lachaise Cemetry where you can easily wander or take a tour of all the famous people buried here.

What value for money! I’ve taken this bus many times. It’s slower than the metro but it passes so many places of interest and you can easily hop on and off with the price of a ticket that lasts 2 hours.

A Few More Favourite Things! 

Jacquemart-Andre Museum on Boulevard Haussmann in the 8th. A beautifully decorated mansion house with a fabulous tea house for lunch.

Museum of Decorative Arts: a treasure trove of things artistic. Palais du Louve Rue de Rivoli in the 1st.

Visit at least one tea salon: Laduree in Ave Champs Élysées in the 8th, Mariage Freres in Rue Bourg- Tibourg in the 4th or Angelina in Rue Rivoli in the 1st.

Take a walking tour of Montmartre. Definitely worth it to get the history or the place. Follow with lunch or a drink on the terrace at Hotel Terrasse on Rue Joseph de Maistre ( near the Cimetiere de Montmartre) with its view of the Eiffel Tower

Get a haircut. What an experience. Search on this blog for ‘A hair raising day’

In fact read my blog from my two week stay in Paris in October. 2012. Search Paris. 

Please tell me about your favourite things to do in Paris. Just use the Comments Box. I’d love to hear from you

Wedding Fever

Who doesn’t like a wedding?

My family certainly do. None more so than me!

I have been told on good authority that the way for parents to plan a wedding is to:

1. Keep all advice to oneself.

2. Allow the kids to do all the planning.

3. Write a cheque.

4.  See no. 1!

I will try and remember this with Cambodia coming up!

Well whoever had a say in my beautiful niece Pip’s  wedding to Hugh Smith did a great job.

It was a perfect day. Warm weather,  clear skies and all the cousins together. For Steve and I to have our two boys together is such a treat. So here they are all dressed up with Pete’s fiancé Elena and Rob’s partner Jordan.


It was held at St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill, a school famous for its rugby, but to me memorable because my father John and my brother John both boarded there when it was all boarding not day students. It’s a beautiful school with traditional sandstone buildings and rose gardens any gardener would be proud of.

As it turned out Pip’s now husband Hugh from Wagga also attended Joeys. Pip’s dad and Granddad would have been smiling down thrilled with with her perfect match.

Pip arrived and took away my breath  with her beauty and composure.

 

Pip looking stunning with her best maids : Felicity, Anna Anna and Claire

Our cousin James McCarthy – mentioned in my last blog on Family Reunions – married them.

The reception was at Orso on the water at the Spit and the whole night was fun tinged with sadness that John couldn’t be there to walk his beautiful daughter down the aisle and hear her speak so eloquently.

A family night to remember.

Family reunions reunite 

What is it about families that unite us?

Do all families get along?

Two weekends ago my sister and I attended our family reunion on the Gold Coast. Our father was one of 8 and most of those siblings had large families. So I have about 48+ first cousins!  So many different personalities but somehow on the few occasions we all come together we have fun.

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my Father’s wedding with his parents and 5 sisters and 2 brothers

Lots of stories, laughter, singing ( some of it bad) and planning to catch up more often- even if it doesn’t happen. Of the 8 original McGann family there are two siblings left. Eileen the eldest and the lynchpin of the family and her younger sister Dorothy. Both retired to the Gold Coast where several members of their own families are now living.  

Aunty Eileen 93 and Aunty Dorothy 87

 

We started the weekend at the Coolangatta Bowls Club. This is significant because all the McGanns were keen bowlers and had many weekends away together playing tournaments and no doubt playing up!

Celebration dance with Natalie and Lizzie and my sister Catherine


So after we had lots of kissing and telling lies about how wonderful we all still looked we formed teams and started our own competition. Some were more competitive than others. Some of the McGirr and Fisher boys actually bowl so had a head start on the rest of us I was with some of my girls cousins Natalie and Liz Fisher, Liz McGann, Kevin, Tracey and Marion McGirr and my sister Catherine. Well we bowled and laughed and told stories until time was declared.

Then we all stood in a large square around the whole rink and on the signal GO all bowled together –  the closest to the jack won a bottle of rum. Of course the non drinker of the family  ( and the only one I think) won. Her 9 brothers and sisters were pretty pleased though.

After a swim, rest and quick repair to the makeup we were gathering at the Coolangatta blows club for a “dinner dance” organised by the Dunn family – mostly Alison – whose turn it was to plan the whole reunion. Well done Alison.

 We had our own family band courtesy of Andrew Fisher , Jim McGann, Michael McCarthy and various other talented or otherwise musically challenged cousins. They did a great job and after some speeches we were all up dancing and singing.

 The speeches were many and varied as the eldest of each family introduced and said something about the  members of their own family.

We all prepared our own family tree with photos to put on display and it’s interesting to see likenesses between various members of the different family and their children. Of course Catherine and I had the best display! So we thought. But with many teachers in the family ( 2 are school Principals) the competition was stiff. I think there are 10 girl cousin teachers. 

Feeling ‘talked out’ we slept in Sunday before the family gathered with our 2nd  cousin Father James McCarthy who said Mass,  before their 10 children lay the ashes of their parents – our Aunty Eileen and Uncle Frank in the memorial garden at the church. A very moving memorial for all relatives we have lost.

So what is it that bonds?

We are quite  different. We have different personalities, careers, lifestyles but the link that is family is strong. Everyone talks to each other. There are no fights or cruel comments. Not that I heard !  We all share a tolerance, understanding and caring that should be bottled and distributed to people and countries of the world. World peace McGann style. Our parents would be proud.

Happy Family to all readers.

Lost in the thermal springs at Whitianga

Would we regret our decision to hit the thermal pool this morning?

Would there be too many people there to enjoy it? After visiting yesterday afternoon I was slightly concerned the thermal pools would be awash with cocktails and pee.

But I need not have worried. It was amazing.

Listening to to the heavy rain last night I was lulled to sleep wondering if our time at Coromandel would be grey and rainy but the morning was clear and blue, so after breakfast at Diana,  our absent B&B hostess’ house / apartment,  we arrived at Lost Springs.

A quick change and we were easy for some therapeutic action.

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We started in the warm pool and would work our way up to the hot pool –  it was gorgeous. So relaxing, so calming and so much fun.   I floated and flipped,   we chatted and laughed , we drank water and moved to the hotter pool. Oh boy ! like a massage without the rubbing hands.

We took a break and ordered drinks. No big cocktails for us – though I do think my therapy girls group would love a day in this magic place. With cocktails!

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Our 2 hours for $38 came to an end and we showered off and made it to the car for the second part of our trip to Coromandel. We were heading for the Driving Creek railway. Rockin’ rollin’ ridin’

Along the way we saw the most amazing sights.

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Driving Creek Railway and Potteries is the vision of Barry Bricknall,  who started his career as a science teacher but quickly  moved on and became a potter. He was collecting clay from the hills in the area and eventually starting building a 15 gauge rail line up through the forested area above Coromandel town. It’s become a very profitable business and is a great way to see the views. We had a great ride and loved the views.

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The afternoon was one of those perfect weather days, so we explored the area a little and nearly took a swim in the bay near Coromandel.

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Talk about a letter box with a view! They look like mini beach shacks.

We finished the day with an evening walk, a drink at the pub and a delicious dinner at Peppertree restaurant. Try it if you are in the area.

So an end to a beautiful day. Thank you Wilsons.

On the road to Coromandel

An early start for the swimmers which meant I got to sleep past 5.30!

Sorry readers this little swimmer opted out! Too chilly for me with no wet suit.

Jill and Chris picked me up and we checked out the local markets and had coffee before heading to Tapakuna Beach north of Auckland.

imageLots of local fish at these markets.

We arrived in time to see Kim David and friend Adam line up for the relay. Steve had finished his 3.5 km swim and the shoulder was fine. He was happy so that means I was happy too.

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The day was a little grey with sudden showers but not too cool. I think it’s clearing for our drive to the Coronandel this afternoon.

We had a great farewell lunch at a restaurant overlooking the bay and decided NZ offers great food and wines and we could easily stay longer than the 5 days we’ve allowed.

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Chris drove this afternoon as Steve enjoyed one beer too many in celebrating his swim  and we hit the road about 2 pm. It was a lovely drive down and luckily no rain.

The roads were winding through green rolling hills and was chocolate box perfect. NZ ……. Sigh! Beautiful.

Got to Whitianga around 5 and found our slightly odd accommodation. It’s a B&B but is inside a 3 bedroom apartment in a largish complex. Seems we share it with Diana. Lucky for us Diana is dog sitting tonight and has left the keys and the apartment for our exclusive use!

Whitianga is a laid back peaceful port and turned on a beautiful afternoon for us as we wandered around the foreshore and found a place for a sundowner.

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Steve was more than tired by  now after his early start and big swim so we made a fairly night of it. Of course we checked out Lost World Spa and decided tomorrow we would start with the thermal pools of the spa before moving on.

These warming pools are very  sort after in this area and we had a choice of taking a shovel to Hot Water beach and digging our own spa in the sand and lying in it or going to Lost World and lounging in their pools.

We checked it out yesterday and it looked very tropical lost worldish and thought that was easier than taking a shovel to the beach.

So tomorrow a little account of us ‘taking the therapeutic waters’ of the thermal pool. Could be interesting.

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Visiting New Zealand

  Come and swim in NZ said our swim trekking friends. Why not! 

So a quick trip was planned to visit Kim and David Parker in Mellons Bay Auckland. Chris and Jill Wilson decided to come along with us to recreate our swim trek group from Greece in 2014. 

  There is a big ocean swim with about 1200 swimmers setting off on Saturday and I won’t be one of them. In one day it’s turned cool and without a wet suit I would freeze. Wimp I know! Steve of course will go bare! Well not completely – he will have on his budgies. Our friends swim in wet suits and who could blame them here in NZ. They swim most of the year in the bays and the ocean around the North Island. They breed them tough in NZ. 

Our flight out was at 8.30 but due to the customs strike were told to get there early. So bright and early we were in a taxi and straight through customs! So we sat in the lounge, had breakfast until boarding time and met up with my friend  Fi from Mahjong. 

Landing we saw the long white cloud that told us we were coming into NZ. We welcomed ourselves by posing under the carved tiki in the arrivals area. 

  
Off to Mellons Bay and our friends Kim and David, our Greek swim trek friends. They have a cream house set in a very well tended green garden with lots of white flowers – my favourite,  with views towards the bay. 

Kim had prepared a Greek feast to relive days spent in the Cyclades and with champagne and red wine we managed to settle in and have a wonderful night. 
Next Morning: 

Feeling very guilty we wandered out for breakfast around 9, well after David had left for work and Kim had had her hour long walk along the foreshore. Chris and Jill arrived – late-  from Mandy’s B&B and we set off for the city. 

 Auckland is a water city. It is surrounded by bays and waterways and we drove the slow route around the bay into the Botanic gardens. The boys were going to the War Memorial and the girls to that other shrine – a shopping area called Newmarket. 

Lots of eclectic boutiques with the latest fashions. The colour navy, in lace and sheers for layering seems to be favoured by the many NZ fashion designers. And there are lots of them. We visited Nicola Waite, Trelease Cooper, Verge, Briarwood just to mention a few. 

Kim proved to be a keen tour guide as we meandered from one boutique to the next. No big shopping malls here. Lots of little streets and lanes with individual boutiques and fashionable sales girls modelling the latest. I gave up resisting and bought a simple shift dress from Briarwood. It has the most beautiful fabric and simple design. Hope it turns out to be a winner! 

Jill definitely won the shopping! She bought 2 pairs of pants and 3 tops. She’ll may have to employ the de littering hints we read about in NZ’s Women’s Weekly. 

We met the boys for lunch and heard stories of what they had seen at the Museum. Coming in at the tail end of the conversation I heard about NZ’s  mower  – ( really their Moa ) and thought that’s strange having a mower at the Museum! 

Tonight we wandered up to the ‘local village’ and sat in the ‘Library’ of the local hotel. Quite charming. I do wish I lived near a little village like this. Such a great selection of shops from fashion to food, hardware to bookshops, cafes and restaurants. We had a hearty dinner so the swimmers would be fuelled up for their race tomorrow. Kim, David and Steve are doing the Beach to Bay ocean swim. A mere 3.5 km of swimming in the bay. So a fairly sober night for some of us!  

   
If you have handy hints for Auckland please share them in the Comments Box