Sunday, December 30, 2007

Paris, France (day 4)

Well that last entry took 3 hours from start to finish.. Here's hoping I can get that time down.......


It had always been the plan that at some point we all would leave Paris and head to a building of 'architectural' interest elsewhere in the country. Gregg had picked a chapel near the Swiss border. An option to visit Switzerland was thrown on the table, which met with universal agreement. The decision of when we went there, and how long we stayed, was made on the Sunday; leave on Tuesday with an, as-late-as-possible, return to Paris, on Wednesday.

With us only planning to be away from Paris for 1 night, we hoped to keep hold of our room for when we returned, unfortunately we could not reach the apartment owner and had to vacate as originally planned with all our luggage. At the station we discovered, to our horror that a trip to Switzerland would cost over €200! So a quick fix was needed fast. Gregg and Dan spoke with one of the window ladies and returned 10 minutes later with 3 tickets to Belfort, the town near the chapel. They were cheap, next-day returns, but still cost €100 each. The journey would take 4 1/2 hours.

Arriving in the early evening our first mission, was to find a place to stay that night. Gregg bought a local map and over a beer we found the most central hotels. Our main choice turned out to be a bit pricier that hoped so we trekked back to a hotel we had seen near the station. That one was full, so back we when again to choice number 1.

Gregg fancied some 'real' French cuisine and asked for some traditional restaurants. They were in the old part of town and admittedly the first place we'd been where no-one could speak English. I had rabbit and duck; Gregg had guinea fowl and I can't remember what Dan had, but it was good eating. After dinner we wandered around town and found a fort guarded by a massive stone lion. Suddenly the place had character and was no longer just a place to crash for the night.

We ended the night in a bar two roads away from our hotel. Much later Gregg went for a litle midnight walk. Dan and I hit the hay (not together mind ('I was never confused')), for the next day was the reason we'd travelled there; Le Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp.

Christmas Interlude/ Paris, France (day 3)

Well hello! Sorry for the interruption but a minor yuletide festival got in the way. I don't really care much for Christmas; it feels like the world grinds to a halt and every day feels like a Sunday. And Sundays are always the slowest, dullest day of the week (for me anyway). Christmas for me means; lots of time with my Playstation. Yay!

Sadly, I was in the middle of recounting my France trip when St Nick rudely interrupted, so in my infinite anal retentive need to keep Squish Pages in event order, I need to finish my French story before I can get into the other fun stuff that has happened to me this December. Even more daunting is the fact that we (myself, Gregg and Dan) were in France for 6 days :- Saturday through Thursday, and I'm only up to Sunday.... Which means I've gotta 'flood' my blog today.

Hopefully I can stick with it because this is gonna take allllllll daaaaaayy!.......


We 3 awoke early(ish), for this was the day we were to visit our first architect driven building, but first, breakfast at the Sacré-Cœur. We grabbed a few daytime shots then attempted to unearth Jim Morrison's grave (I made a funny) after being told it was in the vicinity. After some wandering around we found the cemetery but it was the wrong one! Jim Morrison was on the other side of town, too far away for us to get to in our timescale. Gregg filled the hole with an impromptu visit to a house of interest that was ultimately back near the Sacré-Cœur.

From there we headed to the train station that would take us to Poissy, a Paris suburb and home of the Villa Savoye. The train out was one of those double decker numbers (they are WELL cool). A short cab ride took us to the Villa Savoye, but we were not there long to realise that the house was closed. Gregg's book stated that the house was closed every Tuesday, in fact it was closed every Monday. D'oh! We walked back to the station and returned to Paris with a very dejected Gregg; he was really looking forward to seeing the Villa Savoye.

By now it was 3pm and Dan and I decided it was a good idea to visit the Louvre, an attempt to salvage the day. Gregg at first still wanted to see some buildings and was to head to south Paris on his own to find one, however with time against him he settled on the Louvre. Despite there being notices everywhere the said 'no photography', pretty much everyone else were taking photos - so we did too!

The Eiffel Tower was our next destination, so we had only brief 3 hour stay at the museum (believe me, the place is so vast that it would need a whole day just to visit every room in there!). We took a walk to the bottom of the Champs-Élysées to catch a train to the tower.

'Three tickets to the top please.' It seemed a good idea at the time but my nerve went on the lift ride to the 1st level. And that's where I stayed. My fear of heights took me no further. Dan and Gregg went to the top and reported that it was deathly cold and windy up there. Our bellies were grumbling by now, and we went for dinner. After the previous night's dinner debacle, we stayed out and ventured to an area named République, kind of like Shorditch is in London, famed for the trendy bars and restaurants. (Incidentally we went to eat in République twice during our stay, and both times was the worst food of the trip)

As always, much love goes out to 'Oh great and wise leader!"

Friday, December 21, 2007

Paris, France (day 2)

.....continued from the post below.


'Sleep when you die!' One of Gregg's favorite lines and the motto to live by when with him. We awoke Sunday in time to get our complimentary breakfast which was disappointingly just bread, (French stick bread, as we were in France. Der!) jam, juice and hot chocolate! Not the breakfast of champions but it was all we had. We were harried out of our room, an hour past check out, and went to find the nearest internet cafe in order to book our next 2 nights stay in Paris as we had decided to head for the Swiss border on Tuesday. (More on that later).

As we were in the area, Dan, Gregg and I went to the Pompidou and saw an exhibit for the architect, Richard Rogers. Whilst walking round I started to flag, maybe from hitting it too hard that first night, and had to sit, as my eyes threatened to close. The call came through, during that time; we could have the apartment for 2 nights, Sunday night and Monday night; all we had to do was meet up and collect the keys. Once there we were able to spread ourselves a bit knowing we had the place all to ourselves and could come and go as we please. Next stop; Sacré-Cœur.

By now it was about 5pm and I was moaning about being hungry as we hadn't eaten since breakfast, so we stopped in a small bar that did food, and cracking food it was too. Definitely pushed the needle back to full. Once done, we continued on. Sacre Coeur is a Catholic church perched atop a hill in the north of Paris and has some great views. When we got there it was evening mass and it was absolutely fascinating to observe the congregation in worship; crossing themselves and praying to statues of Jesus and Mary, and in the main hall the service itself with a nun singing the most serene of hymms. The building itself is breathtaking in its size and beauty.

The rest of the night was spent wasting time playing on the PSP and DS, dozing then venturing back out all too late to find someplace open where we could have dinner. By 1am we had run out of places to look and had to eat KFC, much to Gregg's chagrin as he hates fast food.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Paris, France

Well, I've plucked up the courage to tackle my Paris trip on Squish Pages. We crammed a lot into those 6 days, which is why I've been putting it off for so long. But what I'll do is write until I write too much, then, the rest will go into another post.

To set the scene, Gregg wanted to go to Paris to see the work of one of his favourite architects who went by the name Le Corbusier. He had a lot of buildings in Paris and the plan was to see as many as possible in the time given. For me and Dan B, it was a trip to a great city; no more excuse needed. In the end we only saw 2 buildings:-

The house on the left is called Villa Savoye. A 3 bed house, just outside Paris, with servant quarters and integral garage and was built, believe it or not, in 1929! On the right, a chapel called, Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp. Built in 1954 and is in east France near the Swiss border.

The Trip

In usual Gregg and Sacha style, the only thing booked prior to leaving the UK was the Eurostar train journey to Paris and back. Just the way I like it; kinetic, unpredictable and exciting. The train out of Kings Cross was leaving the station at 3.30pm on Saturday 1st December. I awoke at 11am and had to pack my case. As it was I only and ready to leave my house 45 minutes before the train's departure and only reached Kings Cross 10 minutes before the train drew out of the platform. In fact we played a trick on Dan, who was waiting at the new Ebbsfleet International station, by pretending that I had arrived too late, and that Gregg and I would try and catch the next service and meet up with Dan in Paris. In fact we arrived at Ebbsfleet from Kings Cross so rapidly that we had to hurriedly ring Dan to ensure he was actually on the platform and ready to board the train!

We arrived in Paris's Gard du Nord with nowhere to stay that night, or indeed any night. However Gregg had a 2 year old Paris guide and the email address of the owner of some apartment's. Our first call to a local hotel bore no fruit but we got lucky on our second call. We had somewhere for the night, in the morning we would find an internet cafe and email a request for one of the apartments. That night we had dinner near the Pompidou centre, then took a walk to find a club Gregg had been to once before. He remembered it being on the banks of the Seine underneath the arches of one of its bridges. We eventually found it by about 1am and joined the already substantial queue. Its obvious that this place was quite exclusive and once at the head of the queue a burly doorman says something to us in French. By our blank stares it only takes moments for him to work out we may not be French. A lady doorman asked, in English, how many of us were there; we indicated 3 of us. To which they looked us up and down a few times then said, 'Sorry. It is not possible.'

We immediately walked away. Maybe because we were trying to get in by disguising our 'English' we took the knock-back as being caught, but as we walked on, we pondered on the fact that we were all dressed incredibly smart, we had money and we're not exactly spotty teens. Why were we not let in? Nevertheless we had to find another venue and fast. We were sobering up, and Paris at 2am is as cold as London at 2am. We headed to Pigalle, where we knew of an all-night club. I think we got back to our hotel at 5am.

to be continued...


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Carols with the Stars (vol 2)

(Again with the delayed entry) Thursday 29th November. Mr Garner had invited me back once more to help in the choir as they sang at the Albert Hall along with Sydenham Girls School. This as last year there where a host of 'soap stars' and TV celebrities on hand, but unlike last year we (the school) only got to see them as they were announced and appeared on stage during the concert. The celebrity count was up from last year but unfortunately we (the performers) were not allowed cameras which means no snaps. Robert Powell, Lorraine Chase, Ainsley Harriot, Paul O'Grady; also the cast of The Bill lead by Graham Cole, PC Stamp. The only other person I would have any knowledge of would be Tommy Walsh from Ground Force.

Kirsty had been invited to sing with Caterham School as well, and a good thing too, as it was the first time we had seen each other for months and months and months! During a 2 hour break between rehearsal and concert we snuck away from the group and climbed to the top of the Albert Hall, and hung out, high above the hubbub below. That was cool.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The 'Hairspray' and 'The Ivy'

Exactly 2 weeks ago my office had its Christmas do. As we had won a bit of extra money for our performance this year, we decided to do something a little bit extra. We agreed on a restaurant, and choose The Ivy, and then wanted to back it up with a show. Alan, Sharon and Melissa had all seen the recent movie Hairspray and really wanted to see the stage show; I didn't need much persuading.

All 4 of us were working that day so some careful juggling had to take place so that all the company cars were at home come 6pm. A quick change into our snazzy threads then the tube to the theatre for a 7.30 start. I absolutely loved the show. It is set in the 60s, and I was totally thrilled with the era, the music and the outfits; by the curtain fall I was buzzing and saying to myself that this had been the best piece of entertainment I had ever seen!

From the theatre we had an 11pm dinner at the Ivy. I guess due to the high celebrity count I was told I was not allowed to take photographs. With that and the 'no camera' policy of the theatre I was left with a nigh on redundant camera! Grr.

Once I got home I ordered the DVD of Hairspray.