Friday, June 2, 2006

I’m up late trying to win something on ebay, so this gives me an opportunity to finally post about our trip, even though I should be in bed.

We got to France last Friday night. We actually missed our ferry due to terrible traffic on the M25, called P&O to re-book a later one, didn’t because it was going to cost an arm and a leg, go to the ferry port and got put on the next ferry without having to pay more. There’s a lesson – anyone who is ever late for a ferry, don’t re-book!

Anyway, Friday night we stayed in grotty Calais in a cheap hotel.

Saturday, we headed south east to the Vimy Canadian War Memorial. I knew in advance that I was going to be disappointed as they are doing a major refurbishment project on it and it’s entirely covered in scaffolding. However, my grandfather told me I needed to visit it while we lived here, so we did. It was still interesting and good to go. It’s a First World War site and the ground is still pock-marked, and fenced off due to possible unexploded munitions. The German and Canadian front lines are preserved, and are incredibly close. The land was given by the French to Canada to thank them for their efforts, and it’s a place to be Canadian with pride (even if I am totally not into wars and getting involved in them!). We also visited Canadian Cememtary No. 2 and also saw many other signs for Canadian cemetaries and memorials along the roads we took soon after.

Then, even more disappointingly, we headed further south east to the little town of Fresnoy-le-Grand. Why would anyone go there? ‘Cause it’s the home of Le Creuset. However, don’t go, because the factory shop has very little at any kind of reduced price unless you collect really odd colours of the cookware. We ended up getting a piece of silicon bakeware that was pretty cheap, and a utensil holder thingy just because we had made the trip specially. Shame about that place.

We then took the quick route (read: stopped being cheap and paid the tolls to go on the motorway) to the suburbs of Paris. We had booked a hotel for 2 nights in Maisons Lafitte, which is on the west side of the city. I was immediately impressed with the place, and we ate dinner that night at a sidewalk table admiring the attractive buildings and trees.

Sunday was our big day in Paris. We took the RER train into the city, and go out at Les Invalides. We sat out in the sunshine while Oliver had lunch and all the things I had seen and done there a few years ago with Jean and Michelle came flooding back!

This time, I wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower as last time we saw it at night and didn’t go up. So we did. And we waited in a queue for over an hour to do so. Bought some good frites for lunch up there, too. It was a really nice day so the views were spectacular.

We came down, and decided on bateaux mouches – a sightseeing cruise on the Seine to save our feet and to save having to carry Oliver up and down flights of stairs at Metro stations (the city is highly inaccessible). It was pretty good – you were able to see the bridges obviously in better detail than you can on the banks, and some of them are very attractive. And we went up from the Eiffel Tower around past Notre Dame, and back again.

We then took the Metro over near Notre Dame to get some dinner in the Latin Quarter. We wandered around looking at all the cheap 3 course menu deals and settled on a place where the waiter immediately made a fuss of Oliver and it turned out to be pretty good. Mark had moules marinieres and a fondue. I had warm goat’s cheese salad and boeuf bourgignon (spelling?!). We both had a crepe with chocolate sauce and ice cream for dessert. Really decent food and all for 15 Euros. You can’t do that in London.

We ate pretty good all weekend, actually. Two lunches merely consisted of a baguette and ham and camembert bought in supermarkets and just that was excellent. Food in France is damn good.

After dinner, we returned to the suburbs and said goodbye to a most attractive city.

On Monday, we drove a slow way back to Calais- taking a country route north west of Paris to the Atlantic coast. We did some shopping at a hypermarket in Boulogne, where we had shopped about a year and a half ago for all the alcohol for the wedding (no, we didn’t return any this time, as much as we need to). Had dinner outside of Calais, and in another stroke of luck, drove through the centre of Calais to catch the return ferry instead of taking the ring road, which brought us straight to the front of a queue of cars and trucks a few miles long.

All in all, a pretty good weekend. Becomes much more complicated and tiring with a 5 month old in tow, but still a good time was had by all. I wanted to put photos with this story, but I am having Blogger problems again, so if you are interested you will have to see them on Flickr (left hand side of this page links to my photos on there).

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