This is will be my last post here as I have now moved to the typepad site and have created a blog today called dragondays. I can't get the link to work though. Will try adding it later.
This link won't work but scroll down a little and you have it linked on the right ...
Monday, January 26, 2009
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Five months between blogs is too long ... I started this blog with good intentions and things are going from bad to worse! Since my blog on the frozen wastes of St. Petersburg in February, G and I have done a fair bit of travelling and have contributed a mega carbon footprint to the Planet which is nothing to be proud of ... we returned to Brussels last night from Ireland and I am definitely not moving from the house in the forseeable future - even my wee Scottish gentleman is wondering who I am.
After our rapid and sad trip down to the Pyrenées to attend my ex-husband's funeral, we have been to England to assist at the wedding of G's son in Somerset and celebrate my mum's 80th birthday, we spent ten days down in Brittany near Quimper which was lovely - lots of exploring, too many crêpes and masses of seafood and we have just returned from ten days in Co. Mayo in Ireland - a country that I have never before visited. A wonderfully wild place with some of the best salmon fishing in the world, miles and miles of peat bogs, lakes and lashings of rain! It is green - and the 'Emerald Isle' suits its name perfectly. The Irish are very charming and welcoming and very easy to get chatting to (especially over a few pints of Guinness!) although I found the accent a little difficult at times. We had hoped to do quite a lot of walking over there but two days before leaving I fell on the garden steps and managed to turn my left thigh and my right foot into a purple/green/yellow rainbow, so the first few days I was hobbling around feeling sorry for myself. So instead of walking we drove around the whole of Co. Mayo, visiting ruins of churches, abbeys, peat bogs, the wild Altantic coast so that I could get a feel of the country.
G went fishing one day and returned with a (rather small) brown trout that we hadn't the heart to eat and which I hope is not still sitting in th hotel 'fridge! We spent a morning in Ballana watching the salmon starting to make their way upstream which was most impressive - there wasn't enough water in the River Moy (despite the rain) so they were congregating in the pools under the weir, waiting for the water level to rise - I have never seen so many salmon leaping out of the water and we witnessed a guy catching a salmon which I have never seen before - he put it back in the river as he normally catches about six a day, so salmon is a rather boring food for him!
And now we are back to the tropical heat of Brussels - today it has been 30 degrees which after Co. Mayo and its copious rain is quite an impressive temperature. Wee Angus has been collected from the kennels, happy and content to see us and smelling like nothing on earth, so it's bath time for him tomorrow before we all pass out!
And the best thing that has happened to me in the last couple of months? Guess ... ? G asked this grumpy old woman if she wanted to marry him, and she accepted! So a wedding probably in December here in Brussels and all our decomposed families are suddenly in the process of being recomposed - wonderful!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Goodness - not a squeak from me since our trip to New York! A quick run-down on the last five months ... Christmas first of all with 14 of us gathering in Switzerland for a week of eating, drinking, skiing, family feuding and over-excited children; the usual sort of stuff and G of course being thrown into my family. This is somewhat like being hit head-on by a runaway train! 24 hours grace which gave me time to wash sheets and towels and dig out from under the sofa remnents of wrapping paper, chocolates and a couple of marrow bones belonging to Angus and the next lot arrived for a week ... by the 8th January when everyone left I just wanted to lock the door, take the phone off the hook and sleep for 2 days.
However, this was not to be - four days later the car had been filled to the gills for a nine hour drive to Brussels to take possession of the new house. G had sort of packed up his old house - he had pulled everything off the shelves and faced by chaos, had given up. But with help of friends, a wonderful Polish guy with a van and me, of course, he moved out and into the house (the garage is still full of what I class as rubbish but its days are numbered!). Beds hadn't been delivered so we spent a few days sleeping on a mattress on the floor, the heating played up and the dishwasher was dead, but apart from that all went well. The beds arrived but we couldn't get them up the stairs, so for three days they filled up the hall until the guy with the hoist arrived to put them in through the second floor window. The usual moving stories!
A couple of weeks of scrabbling round in packing cases, washing up by hand waiting for the new dishwasher to arrive and problems with internet connections and G whisked me off to St. Petersburg for Valentines - most romantic ... not! A beautiful city most certainly - the sheer size of the buildings and the enormous squares and parks are quite, quite breathtaking, but the Russians still have much to learn in the hospitality business. We found them surly and indifferent and despite all the rubbish one reads in the papers, Russia is not yet 'European' although the prices are! Of course the language was our biggest handicap and despite all our efforts to trot our our four words of Russian, it never raised a smile. I must admit I had expected museums to have explications in Russian and English - no way, and when you can't understand/don't know what you are looking at, you miss an awful lot.
We wanted to eat Russian food ... everywhere serves European food which is often excellent, but one doesn't go abroad to eat what you have at home; we wanted to drink Russian wine - embargo on Georgia so all wine is French, American, Australian. We did find some Russian beer though. On the couple of times we managed to eat Russian, we regretted it most bitterly, so plumped for French/Italian food.
And it was cold - bitterly cold. You face froze in a couple of minutes. We knew it would be, but it was the wind that really got to us and as we did all our visiting on foot (not able to read the bus signs!) we were frozen most of the time. So not one of our most successful jaunts - everyone said we should come back for the White Nights in June, but I think this is just a massive piss-up and we have other places to go to ...
On a sad note, my ex-husband died unexpectedly last week of a stroke - so everything was dropped, the son was put on a plane from Geneva to Brussels and the three of us drove to the south-west of France for the funeral - 2400km return trip over 48 hours. My children are of course heartbroken at losing their father at the age of 58, I am worried for them but I think my mourning was done when we separated and divorced. A very sad time, but a 'good' funeral on a lovely spring day ...
Little did G know when he contacted me on the internet dating site that he would find himself with a rather loopy English woman, her dour and rather smelly Scottish terrier and now a rather laconic 16 year-old. He is a courageous man!
Monday, November 05, 2007
Back from what must be the most fun city in the world, and a quick scribble before I'm off again to Brussels this weekend for a week, signing papers, attending business meetings and above all a trip I hope to Paschendaele for the 11th November rememberence ceremony.
We flew out on American Airlines from Brussels - not one of the most memorable trips in the world - the food was lousey, the seats in cattle class were minute even for skinny me and the staff were obviously just wanting to get back home. But nothing unusual in that! Arrived in New York at lunchtime in the sun and took a shuttle to the appartment we had rented in TriBeCa. We were met by the charming owner who was desperately trying to explain all the details of the flat to me but eventually gave up seeing me sagging at every passing moment! In the end she said 'If you have any problems, ring me or send me an email'.
The appartment was lovely and enormous and although not cheap, it was no more expensive than a good hotel in NY with the added advantage of living in 300m2 and having a kitchen which meant we didn't have to pay for indifferent hotel breakfasts or go out to eat every meal, which can be hard in the evening when you have walked for miles all day, and all you want to do is flop, take a bath and have a boiled egg!
G and I took Pierre with us and a girl the same age as Pierre who is more or less his 'adopted' sister and who lost her father to cancer this summer. This worked out a treat - it meant that we didn't have to trail round shops playing loud rock music, selling a 1000 different styles of jeans and trainers - dollars were thrust at them and they went off on their own. I worried slightly, but in fact they were far better than us at using the subway - one day after visiting the Frick collection we had a subway 'race' home - needless to say they were home a good 15 minutes before us using their route!
We 'did' the sites of course, particularly as A had never been to NY before but I think my favourites on this trip were just strolling through Central Park, the visit to the Frick Collection which is fabulous and our last couple of hours in NY when we took the Staten Island ferry. Food wise, G and I went for dinner at the River Café in Brooklyn one evening, which must have one of the best views in New York - it is just under the Brooklyn Bridge and overlooks southern Manhatten. The food is good, very expensive but is worth it just for the view. We took the children to Buddha's Bar one night which is a totally crazy place - it is lit only by candles so you can't see the menu too well and there is a DJ mixing music at max volume all evening so you can't talk either! Good food though and the kids thought they had died and gone to heaven! We then went on to a very good jazz bar where the volume was turned down slightly! Great lunch also on the dining concourse of Grand Central Station - the boys had chili, A had chinese and I ate kosher - and for under $10 per person for an enormous meal!
Go back? In a flash! We all loved our trip and the icing on the cake was G working his usual charm on the Purser and getting us a free upgrade into Business Class (the children were dumped uncerimoniously in cattle class!). Great food, good wine and champagne and a seat that converted into a bed - bliss! We both arrived in Brussels in fine form, the children were frazzled to say the least!
A couple of photos later on - blogger doesn't want to know at the moment!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Well, not yet! But the decision has been taken - and this is will be my last winter high up in the Swiss Alps. Last week on yet another flying visit to Brussels, G and I found a lovely house to rent and will become the new tenants from mid-December. Apart from the usual criteria of area, size and price, there were a couple of things on my 'must have' list, namely a bit of garden for my little four-legged Scottish friend and an open fire, and both of those have been fulfilled. We also have a garage into the bargain which might take a car if it is not too cluttered with junk and logs for the fire, but which also means that you have a parking space outside - essential in the city.
So, a lot of excitement at the idea of my new life, but quickly dampened by the thought of the horrendous move - yet more packing cases, heavy duty tape, bubble wrap, thick felt tip pens that disappear when you need them and trying to type up the list for Customs at the same time. I can't even vaguely start to prepare a few boxes as all my family are here for Christmas (18 of us!) so I need to have things in the right places - I hasten to add that we are not 18 in this chalet, only 8!
I am of course still totally and hopelessly lost in Brussels but perhaps this is because I am not driving the car - the other day we were in the same area all day driving around and the only way I recognised it was that there was an old Routemaster bus parked on one of the avenues! We must have passed it eight times during the day, but I still couldn't work out how to get back to G's flat. I don't like driving in a city and Brussels has an excellent metro and tram service, so I shall take full advantage of it. The Bruxellois seem to be pretty hot on using their car horns and I am rather frightened of their road system where you cut right across motorway traffic to get onto another road. If I have to take the car in the city, I think I shall practice with G's car and bash the hell out of it and once I know where I am going then I shall use mine!
I am off again up to Brussels on Saturday with my son and then on Monday we all fly to New York for a week. I think this will be my last holiday for quite some time, but after the move I shall insist on going away for a few days at least!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
In three days' time, we will celebrate two years of living in the Swiss Alps. Two years that have been fun which has seen the arrival of my first grandson who has just celebrated his first birthday, my daughter growing up and becoming a Mum in her own right, my son going from being a very good skier to a great one and tomorrow sees the six-month anniversary of meeting the new man in my life.
'Meeting' is not quite the word as we actually 'met' on the internet! From the original exchange of emails and 'phone calls, we actually got together to meet up about two months later. During those two months we exchanged literally hundreds of emails, quite a lot of phone calls and eventually decided to meet somewhere 'neutral' and chose Barcelona as G had work down there. Before going any further, G lives in Brussels, so meeting up doesn't just happen like that! We are 800km apart, so we can't just ring each other and say 'Want to go out for dinner this evening?'
Obviously the Barcelona meet up went well as we are still together - but on the plane from Geneva I admit to getting cold feet and wondering if I was totally mad and whether it would be possible to sneak from arrivals to departures without him seeing me and catch the first plane back to Geneva! And then I thought that after these hundreds of emails swopping life history with each other, there is no reason why we should suddenly not get on, and if the worst came to the worst, we were adult enough to spend a couple of days together in Barcelona without one of us causing a major scene!
In the last six months we have met in Switzerland, in Belgium, in Aix-en-Provence, London and have been on holiday to the south of France and Brittany. G has been scrutinised by quite a few members of my family and next week the same fate is reserved for me in England when I meet his family. It sounds quite fun, all these trips round Europe and it is, but often it is only for a weekend when G comes here - we actually managed a fortnight together this summer, a record! And I am starting to hate goodbyes at airports and train stations.
The family and friends all know we met this way and although I admit to being slightly worried about their reactions, everyone thinks it is great. And to prove my point there was an excellent article in the Financial Times on the 4/5 August by Mrs. Moneypenny extolling the virtues - basically what she said was that she had wasted a lot of time falling for men who were possibly obsessive compulsives, had only read one book in their lives, or liked Wagner - the cyberspace can iron out a lot of the 'don't likes' before actually meeting up. Chatting on the phone is important too, as emails cannot convey the same thing as the voice - especially if you are like G who, if it wasn't for the spell checker, would be sending me emails that could be written in Chinese or Russian!
What both of us have noticed I think is that we have learnt a lot about each other through writing and sometimes I think that there are parts of us that the other knows better than close friends or family. Having established the grounding, meeting for the first time is much easier, as the awkward conversation isn't necessary; we have already moved on from that stage.
So, touch wood, internet dating has been a very positive thing in our lives - I think G even suggests it to his single friends! 2007 has been a good year for me so far (especially as my birthday was on the 07.07.07) - I wonder what 2008 will bring? A move from the Alpes? Who knows? We don't!
PS G sometimes reads my blog ... wonder whether he will catch this one?!
Monday, September 17, 2007
I don't seem to have had much time for my blog recently, but have managed to write a piece for Colin Randall over on his blog about the joys of cattle class travel! Bon voyage!
www.francesalut.com (Colin's blog, which I am unable to link to at the moment)
www.francesalut.com (Colin's blog, which I am unable to link to at the moment)
Sunday, August 19, 2007
The last day of the summer holidays - tomorrow the alarm will ring at 5.30am and the school year will start once again for my son. As I type this, there is snow falling! I can't believe it - it is 10 degrees outside so it isn't settling thank goodness! I returned to sunny Switzerland yesterday lunchtime after a fortnight in Brittany and Jersey with G. The lad arrived back last night with two cases of dirty washing and looking (and smelling) as though he hadn't bathed for the two months he has been away! The dog went beserk as we arrived back and is now jealously guarding my shoes, just in case I escape again...
Our trip to Brittany was great, and the weather was actually okay; not boiling hot but apart from one small shower we had sun all the time. We stayed north of St. Brieuc and pottered around the coast there. I don't know where all the tourists went this summer but it wasn't Brittany, which for us was lovely - enough going on without fighting through the crowds. During our time there we drove over to the west coast of Brittany to Beg Meil which is near Concarneau to visit the hotel where G used to spend his holidays as a child - the owners' children are his age and now no longer play on the beach but run the family business and are about to retire! A day of trips down memory lane and a memorable 'assiette de fruits de mer' which kept me going as an entrée, main course and dessert - glorious!
La suite : written on Monday.
After our Brittany trip we caught the ferry from St. Malo to Jersey to go and see Mum and just potter around - again the weather was good, the beaches empty and I overdosed on fish, which I miss desperately here in Switzerland. The weather broke the day we left and we set sail in some pretty rough seas, but the wind had dropped and the sun was shining in St. Malo when we arrived.
On our way home we stopped off to visit the Bayeux tapestry which I had never seen. What a marvel. We watched a short film before visiting the tapestry in order to jog the memory of history learnt too many years ago, and then were given personal audio receivers which lead one through the tapestry and what each 'panel' represents - I think even G enjoyed the visit, even though he had suggested it, I think he was secretly hoping I would say I didn't want to go!
We then went on to visit the Normandy landing beaches and the American Cemetery which I had never visited. Very sobering and desperately sad - the sheer numbers of those who died is mind-boggling and shows the futility of war. In the late afternoon we stopped in a British Cemetery from WW1 which was much smaller and just by the side of the road. Although more 'intimate' than the American one, there were still hundreds buried there, many with no name, simply their regiment and the date they died.
As we arrived late that night in Brussels, we passed through Waterloo and its splendid illuminated monument. A rather sad and reflective way to end a holiday - monuments to three wars and millions of lives lost...
Saturday, July 28, 2007
My God! A month and a half since I have written anything here. I have a backlog of blogs to write but little time at the moment ... hopefully they will appear in the autumn when it is dark at 5 p.m. and the thermometre starts to drop dramatically.
Last week G and I stayed with friends who have a house just outside of Valbonne in the south of France - a great week with some good food and wine. I admit to not venturing out much as July in the south of France is really not the best time of the year for sightseeing and also it was extremely hot, so most of the time was taken up lazing by the pool. I managed to read 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' by Paul Torday which was an ideal holiday-by-pool book - light-hearted, easy to read and amusing. I also took Andrew Marr's book 'A History of Modern Britain' but it's a hardback so not suitable for pools, but have plunged into it (the book!) now that I am home.
We ventured out one day to St. Paul de Vence and of course, regretted it bitterly. Although we arrived early, the place was already heaving with every nationality under the sun ... a quick coffee and then a trip round the village. Sorry, but what a load of rubbish - every second shop is an "Art" gallery selling absolute tat and if not a gallery, a souvenir shop selling the usual rubbish one finds everywhere. We found a "real" gallery and were attracted to it as they had a Chagall litho for sale. As a matter of interest we went in to ask the price. The two girls in the shop were fine, and we got the chat about the symbolism in the picture, how it had belonged to his daughter, how it was she who had had it framed (badly) etc. The cost was €60,000! We both did a 'that's a reasonable price' face, as if we bought pictures like that every day, and just before leaving, G said to one of the girls "Tell me, we were discussing Chagall earlier, and neither of us can remember his real name". Talk about two blank faces! I wonder whether they knew he was buried in the cemetary in St Paul de Vence? I admit to being amazed that for the modest sum of €60,000 these girls, albeit very charming, knew nothing about what must be one of the villages' most famous artists, and if I were spending €60,000 I would want them to know everything about the artist.
Rushed back to the car and headed for Eze, but on the way there decided that it would be just as busy as St. Paul, so we took a vote and agreed we would go to Italy for lunch! Crossed the border and headed to the hills looking for slightly cooler temperatures. Our lack of food led us to the Principality of Seborga totally by (happy) accident. It is a small, pretty hillside village with no tourists, no touristy knick knack shops, a couple of restaurants and that is about it. We had a lovely meal in a little courtyard (far cheaper and far better than what we would have found on the French coast at this time of the year), a wander around after lunch and generally had a great day, especially after our disastrous start. So definitely a place to recommend if you are down in the area this summer and need to escape from the madding crowd.
One other gastronomic recommendation I can most definitely make is to try and get a table at the Auberge du Vieux Chateau in Cabris. It is at the top of the village and there are the most wonderful views over Grasse and to the coast. We had booked a table outside, and when we arrived ... no table! What could have become a rather unpleasant scene was immediately transformed by the wonderful owner into a memorable evening. He suggested we admired the view and he would bring us all a glass of champagne on the house and so we did just that. A bit of juggling of tables and five minutes later we were installed outside. A small 'carte' with a choice of 4 entrées, 4 main courses and 4 desserts and a good choice of local wines. I ate the best salade niçoise in the whole of my life there - sounds boring? Not this one. It is not cheap; we had a bill for €200 for the four of us, but we had had wonderful amuse-gueule, a three course meal that was perfect (we could also have had cheese but didn't), a bottle of good wine, 2 bottles of mineral water and coffee. The staff were young, friendly and knew their job and we had a marvellous evening, so was it expensive? I think not.
Next week G and I are off to the north coast of Brittany, as I am desperate for some 'real' sea and 'real' fish - two of the things Switzerland cannot provide! Then to Jersey to see my Mum and eat more fish and stroll along empty beaches and hopefully I shall be back here with batteries recharged ready to rise at 5.30am on the 20th August when the favourite son starts another school year!
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Sun going down over Wimbledon Stadium
Well, the 'Journey' didn't take us to the Western Isles of Scotland this time, but plunged us into the dark depths of Wimbledon to visit the dog track and watch the first heats being run for the Greyhound Derby which is on the 7th July. 'You are going WHERE?' said my mother when I told we were going to the dogs, and I must admit dog racing does conjure up visions of shady guys in spivvy suits, jellied eels and off the rail betting.
G and I only had two days in London before going down to the country, so we tried to cram in as much as possible, and an evening of dog racing is great fun! I am a horse racing enthusiast myself and have only once been dog racing and that was in Florida many years ago. I know nothing about greyhound racing whatsoever and suspect that G knew little more than me ... so off we go on a bus from Victoria out to the wilds of Wimbledon. It seemed to take for ever - I didn't know London buses went so far! Arrive just after seven to meet up with a friend of G, who had actually rung during the day to ask if the rendez-vous was serious and as we were a little late, I think he was starting to have doubts!
We had pre-booked tickets as the stadium was doing a special e-mail offer; for the princely sum of £15 we had entry, dinner in the 'posh' restaurant, and race card. The entry fee is normally about £6 I think, so the mind boggles at the three course menu! In past the gorillas on the doorway and then greated by George who was Master of Ceremonies, Maitre d'Hotel and general jollier along of the diners, at which he was most successful.
Up in the lift to top of grandstand and restaurant overlooking the course. The tables are all in lines and everyone sits facing the track. Linen tableclothes and napkins, sparkling glasses - things started off well. The waitresses of course were efficient and friendly (and not English!) and the menu was astounding! The choice of 5 starters, 5 main courses and 5 puddings and a long, long way from Prawn cocktail or half a grapefruit. The order was taken swiftly, wine appeared and a bread basket that would put a Michelin restaurant almost to shame! Six different types of bread, beautifully fresh and nicely presented.
Dogs being loaded into traps just before start of race
The first race started at 7.30 - 12 races in all, the last one at 10.30, so it is pretty fast and furious. Being up in the restaurant there is no rushing to place bets; five minutes before the race a girl from the Tote appears at your table and takes your bets from you and if you are fortunate enough to back the right dog, she appears immediately after the race to pay out the winnings. The minimum bet is £2 and I'm afraid I just chose dogs because of their name or the colour of their eyes! D did the same thing and G got into deep discussion with the girl from the Tote, hoping she would give him tips and actually being rather secretive about the whole thing, as well as showing off a bit doing each way bets and various complicated combinations which I don't think worked all that well, as he did start to get rather grumpy when I won! D's betting was totally disastrous and he only won one race and ended up begging the Tote girl to take his house and I won on six of the twelve races, so didn't lose very much. We were visited during the evening by George, who gave D a tip and told him to bet on Dusty Carpet. D was delighted and was already spending the millions that were to come his way, until George said 'Never been beaten' (Ho!Ho!). This is probably the joke he turns out every night, but after a couple of bottles of wine, we all found it very funny!
'Our' Tote girl, whose name I don't remember but she said I could use her photo in my blog!
G did film one of the races on his camera, so if I am feeling techie during the day I will try and publish on YouTube and then post the link here. I must just point out though that in the background commentary there might be a remark about 'horses' - for some reason (and it might have been the wine!) we kept on referring to the dogs as horses!
So an evening to be recommended, even if you nothing about dog racing. Good fun, great atmosphere as the lights go off inside the grandstand and the track floodlights come on just before the race and the buses are still running after the evening, so you can get back to Victoria!
PS I put up a rapid blog on MyTelegraph about this, so there are also a couple of comments posted there
http://my.telegraph.co.uk under my blog name of More Swiss Choc
Monday, June 11, 2007
My poor old blog has been abandoned recently due to the early euphoria of the new Telegraph blog. I think I will no longer blog there, but post a comment every now and then - the site is too muddled and there are just too many blogs appearing daily that unless one is prepared to spend the day in front of the screen, one quickly misses the plot!
I am still in England but return to my mountains in Switzerland this evening. L'Homme (don't like that name, so from now on, he will be referred to as G) and I managed to spend two days in London cramming in loads before going down to the country for the weekend, so within the next couple of days I hope to be able to put up a blog on our trip together with some photos.
My memories of London are vague apart from the odd day trip when I am back in England, but both G and I agreed that as a couple of rootless expats, London as a base was out of the question - despite the lovely time we had in town and the great people we met, it has changed out of all recognition and not for the better, I think.
But more of that in a couple of days when the fridge at home has been restocked after depletion by the favourite son and the small Scottish gentleman with four legs calms down after my return!
Friday, May 25, 2007
The problem of being in a city for a long weekend or a short week, depending on how you look at it, is that you cannot see and do everything the city in question has to offer. Or at least I can't. I prefer to do a few sites and take in as much as possible rather than suffer from a 'culture collapse' where everything becomes hazy. So on this trip the Sagrada Familia was not on the list, but will be on the next trip. Instead we visited the Cathedral of Barcelona. When on holiday I love visiting churches and cathedrals - apart from their beauty they afford a tranquil moment in what can be an exhausting time. They are cool, calm and often have more treasures to see than a museum.
The Cathedral of Ste. Eulalia is no exception. The stalls are wonderful, the organ majestic (shame it wasn't being played when we visited), and you can also take a rather dubious lift up to the top of the Cathedral to get some stunning views of the city. I wasn't too keen to go up as I am not the most courageous person in the world where heights are concerned, the lift didn't seem too secure, but in fact once up at the top there are no knee-buckling views down to the street below! So definitely worth going up for the views.
The cloisters have some strange inmates! Thirteen white geese who live there permanently and of course pose for the cameras! Each goose represents a year of the life of Ste. Eulalia who was martyred by the Romans for her religious beliefs. Why geese and how long ago they were introduced, I know not. There is also a charming little fountain with a statue of St. George slaying the Dragon but not easy to photograph in the afternoon light.
Difficult to leave such places that appease the mind and the soul but after lighting a candle in memory of loved ones, it was back to the buzz of Barcelona.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I enjoy going round an unknown city on an open-top bus. It helps me get my bearings (sadly lacking), gives you an idea of the size of a city and takes you past many of the sites worth visiting. As we only had three and a half days in Barcelona, and l'Homme was there on business, there is no way we could have visited all the sites. We decided to go and take a trip out to the Park Guell so my wish was granted to take a bus - the weather was lovely and taking the Metro didn't sound too much fun! After the hectic pace of the city centre, the Park Guell is wonderful.
Designed by Antoni Gaudi, it was originally intended to be a housing development, but due to lack of funds, the project never saw the light of day. It was eventually bought by the city of Barcelona and is now a municipal park. Everyone who visits Barcelona knows the dragon at the entrance and the souvenir shops are full of copies - it was vandalised in the early part of the year, but is now fully restored.
The stroll to the top is worth it for the wonderful view looking down over the city. The day we were there it was rather hazy, but we could still make out all the major sites. The view of the Sagrada Familia is unfortunately ruined as there is an enormous and very ugly development of flats/offices blocking it. How this was allowed beats me.
The main terrace of course is internationally reknowned, snaking its way round the viewpoint. What I didn't know was the shape of the seats was determined by Gaudi by getting the workmen to sit in the wet clay with their trousers down! After a welcome beer and a half an hour of people watching, we were off to catch the bus to continue round the city. The second half of the trip is slightly less interesting, unless you are a football fan and want to visit the FC Barcelona, but we decided we liked the FC Barcelona as they support UNICEF instead of having enormous logos of 'phone companies on their shirts...
Towards the end of the tour as we neared the sea, it did start to get a bit chilly - the thermometres in the streets were saying anything between 25 and 27 degrees - they were definitely wrong. I was frozen! We could have gone downstairs but the whole thing becomes pointless. So if you take the bus trip, take a sweater with you if the wind is coming off the sea.
Drop-off on the plaça Catalunya, back to the hotel to leave camera, grab a sweater and off again in search of a good restaurant, followed by a good bar to end off the evening! By the second day I was being to get into the swing of going to bed at an hour when I am normally getting up!
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Well, how I actually managed to get to Barcelona defeats me! The day I leave God decides that the skies will open, sleet will fall and the temperature will drop dramatically. So instead of an hour and a half to get to Geneva airport, it takes me over two hours and obviously the whole world had decided to park their cars in the airport car parks that day. I must have got the last space on the roof of the car park that is almost over the border in France and got totally soaked getting from there to the terminal. However...
The last time I visited Barcelona was over twenty years ago and my memories were not good...cold, miserable and dark - but it was probably during the winter and perhaps I didn't want to be there. So on landing, what a pleasant surprise to see the sun and feel the heat, especially after my really cold start to the day.
We checked into a super hotel called the Pulitzer which is just off la plaça Catalunya and if you have a few quid to spare is worth it. Modern, bright and great staff - pleasant, efficient and most welcoming. So having dumped the cases we galloped off in search of food and a well-needed drink. Walking down las Ramblas I was quite convinced I would get my bag stolen in a flash as I do tend to amble a bit and not pay attention to things like people following me or coming too close - I used to be street wise when I lived in Toulouse, but after a couple of years in Switzerland I have forgotten the rules. But obviously l'Homme was looking tall and menacing and my bag stayed with me!
It's great being in a city with someone who knows their way around - although even he got lost a couple of times, and particularly useful for me who tends not to pay attention and doesn't have a built-in SatNav system. The restaurant we had chosen had a queue snaking out of the door and we waited what seemed hours for food, but my glass seemed to be filled constantly as we stood in the street and chatted with other diners to be - our impromptu street party was as fun as the food was good when we eventually sat down. We had chatted to a young English guy who lived in Barcelona and was something in property, another chap who designed cars with a company in Spain, an American wholesaler who exported foodstuffs from Spain and probably others, but the mind started to blurr a little after too much wine and no food and a twenty hour day! There was no choice in the restaurant, you sit watching your food being cooked in front of you and wait to see what turns up. Good stuff!
Goodness knows how many different languages I heard that evening walking through the streets of Barcelona - dozens I would think. It is truly a cosmopolitan city, very alive and buzzing and over the following days we were to meet some great people who live and work in the city. But that is for another blog!
We eventually got back to the hotel at some terrible hour, having avoided the municipal workers with enormous fire hoses cleaning the streets and I still had my bag!
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Apologies for not having posted anything for ages - you must be getting heartily sick of the same old photos of the demolished chalet! I was lead astray into becoming a guinea pig for the new Daily Telegraph blog site, so for the last couple of weeks, along with about a dozen others, blogging has turned from being difficult to nightmarish! My eyes can no longer take it and my fingers are down to the knuckles.
Still it was fun and I learnt a couple of things that weren't too technical! The site was launched during the week and got off with a resounding BANG! and far exceeded everyone's expectations, I think. Blogs were appearing so fast that they disappeared if you blinked.
Anyway, as I can't plug my blog on the Telegraph, I shall plug my Telegraph blog here! If you go to my.Telegraph on the Daily Telegraph site, I am registered as More Swiss Choc - I haven't put in the links as I am too tired to do all the work! I have also set up a blog for Angus (A Swiss Scot) which actually I enjoy writing more than my own! It is only for testing purposes but perhaps the dog side of my split personality might get the upper hand!
So am off to Barcelona for a couple of days to recover from cabin fever and I hope I shall come home with loads of pictures and stories for blogging, and with my handbag!
Thanks to my favourite son for the two photos!