06 June 2014

Paris to:Auxerre to:Beaune to:Quincieux to:home!

Skate punks near the Town Hall.
Day 2 - the morning is on the scooters in town a bit.

Town Hall

Andre and Nisette

Then off to Chatenay Malabry to visit Andre and Nisette. They pull out the champagne - looks fancy - grand cru. The place is how I remember it, except for the back yard, street and station. I don't remember those at all. It's been 30 years since I last saw them.

Andre is instantly recognisable. When he speaks his eyes twinkle, and he looks closer to 40 than 80. Nisette has not changed much either.

They hop around - mainly Nisette says something and Andre hops - the recipe for a long happy marriage. Lunch is with some Grand Cru 1988 - wasted on me. The cheeses are just fantastic.

Chateau de Sceaux
After, it's a walk around the Chateau de Sceaux, the former home of Colbert(?). The time got to 18h30 magically, and we got home late, so we had bread and cheese for dinner, then in bed quick. Louis scootered across a road with a pedestrian, to our horror, but all good.

On the platform that turns to watch balls thrown. At the science museum.

Day 3  - montmartre, Sacre Coeur where we did the tourist train. Lunch was a nice little place.

We stopped at the Catacombs. No chance to get in with the queue. Then off to the kids science museum - Musee de la Decouverte. Lots to see, and only saw half before it closed.


The next day, we had to cover about 3 or 400 kms via Auxerre - a nice medieval town, and Beaune - a nice medieval town, and a centre of the Bourgogne wine region.

The central park at Quincieux

We found a hotel at Quinceaux. This place is so tiny. There was a nice park, some scootering in the carpark, then a 3 course meal. Food is about 100 x better in the small towns, than in our we don't care about tourists home.

Paris, gay but not that gay.

Train rides, always tops.
Arriving in the outskirts of Paris, you can tell when you're close, as the traffic starts to stop. Filthy black concrete beams are above but that's the autoroute. One of the mayoral candidates said the answer to pollution is to have cars that do 2-3l/100km, and ruled out congestion tolls to enter the city, so it's all just pie in the sky. It's a position of strictly doing nothing. So the result is a thick brown/grey Hong Kong fog.
We walked around a little bit, and found a little Easter show type ride. Cars stopped for us when we crossed the road. The bread shop lady said, we hope we see you again tomorrow! Something's changed with this place!

Cargo bike!! HEAPS of fun. 
The next day we finally fulfilled my dream of hiring a cargo bike. Me and the boys were super excited. They sang away, to the appreciation of passers by. 
There 's a lot of new bike paths around. The path down to the river is one of the best. 

The boys didn't care much for it.
Rolling along the river, there's no way to get a 40kg bike up a staircase, so we lock up and walk up to the Eiffel Tower.
Lunch is nice. The place seems full of locals, so think we did ok.
They say a traveller doesn't know where he's going, and a tourist doesn't know where he's been. Neither is clear today.

We get to the Champs Elysees. It's the most important street in the city. I'm not big on cars, and this one has 8 lanes of them. We continue on the footpath. It's an obstacle course of newspaper kiosks, postcard stands, metro entrances, and tourists.

Clément checks out the biggest roundabout here.
The Arc de Triomphe is a big roundabout. In the middle lies the unknown soldier, who gave his life for the country. Cars rev, honk, make noise and stink up the place. They should give this person some peace!

Along the river is really pleasant, a properly separated path and heaps of trees. One guy rings his bell furiously as we stopped on the path to check the map. Get a life!

A detour in the Tuileries Garden has lovely gravel paths in the greenery. The gardens are another highlight surrounded by georgeous stone buildings. There's a big kids in there too.
At 3 o'clock the traffic is already blocking up the roads. Not sure how people can do it every day.
Then a group of 40 odd schoolkids cheer us as me and the boys roll past. Around Notre Dame a Japanese couple, and others, take our photo. It's a nice quiet spot, and pretty. Later, we have a stop to look at the old Orient Express. It would have been a dream to take a trip on that thing.

Mmmmm, fancy gelato, yum.
In the sixth arondissement, the roads are all 20km/h, narrow and low traffic. A gelato stop tops off the feeling that we finally found my idea of cycle heaven. This has to be one of the most beautiful parts of the city.

This city was a lot better later in the day.
It's followed by a playground stop. It's a large park surrounded by homes, and quiet. The only noise is kids yelling and laughing. The paths back to the bikeshop from here are excellent.

There's not many cyclists yet for a city of 10 million. The city is going be fantastic once they put in a few more good paths, and connect them up.

Hautvillers, Metz

Abandoned house, fixer upperer? At Hautvillers.
Day 9: after setting off to buy a car battery, it starts on the 3rd go, so it's off for champagne tasting. Hautvillers is the resting place of Dom Perignon. Everyone in town credits him for creating champagne. Everyone outside this town says this story is rubbish.

Lunch is awful. The champagne tasting places are great. All the villages are in amazing condition. The boys play in the park in our street before dinner.
Widows love kids.

Day 10: morning in Reims, to visit the champagne places in town. First stop is Veuve Cliquot, because we can. Too late for the cave tour though.

The happiest woman alive.

The Taittinger factory. 5 million odd bottles/year.

2nd stop is Taittinger. Valerie Taittinger is one of the heir to this family company. Asking "does your dad own a brewery?" would be a grave mistake! A supermodel millionairesse with a life supply of top shelf champagne is the definition of hard to get.

Going underground is fun for kids too.

The tour goes way underground, where the temperature is 10 or 12 degrees. This is where the champage sites while it ferments. Remove the sediment involves having the bottles half upside down, and turning it a quarter each day for a week or two, then freexing the neck, then pulling out the resulting ice cube containing the muck (slow process!). Then they top it up a bit, and cork it.

72,000 bottles in this room. A LOT of $e$.

The walls, roof and everything is chalk. The Romans quarried the chalk out around 2000 years ago for making concrete. Good Italian stuff. They still don't know how they did it. It's super strong and still around places.

6 bottles, a snap at 620 e$. Includes wooden box.

Clément Aplati (pictured here) is Ollie's school project. You take him with you on holidays, then use the pictures to tell the story of the region, answer questions on the terrain, the typical food, the history etc. He's a paper cutout, so easy to colour and take along.

Taittinger is sponsoring the Soccer World Cup.

In the afternoon we got to Paris, an hour odd away. They say it's gay, but I like it.

05 June 2014


The boys like this one.
Day 8: catch a tram to town. The helpful lady, who explained the tickets, told us about a car show, so we head there with her. They were selling rides in the cars to raise money.

In the back of the transformer car.

The boys got a ride a Transformer series Camaro, and then a Porsche. The owner explains the Porsche has got all the options, which really could slow it down.

It knows what you're thinking.

It's a convertible and sounds like an F1 - the boys love it. He revs it up in the tunnel. He learned one time, that if you go hard before it's warmed up properly, you will seize the motor. Oooh expensive.

And then the Porsche 9 something.

The owner was nice.

We spent a bit of time looking around.

Then we walked around town and check out the famous cathedral, where most French kings (all?) were crowned. Seems odd, why the church should get involved giving it's blessing to whoever got the crown by birth or by force. Joe public gave feedback later via the guillotine.

Louis's just about got the swing of it.

We stopped at the Easter carnival for dodgems etc. So the start and end of the day is car central.

And now it's time to smash into his brother.

Verdun and Vauquois

The Douaumont Ossuary memorial at Verdun.
Day 7: early start, clean up the place, go to Verdun. It's a pretty town, surrounded by a thick green forest. During the war this forest was a muddy wasteland. The battlefields have masses of white crosses. Parts are mown to shown the huge craters. They look like a jumble of golfing bunkers all tightly mashed together.

The battlefield was up over the hill. They never reached town.

While driving, there are many cemeteries for French, Americans, even Germans along the roads around the place.

The amazing sights of a hill in Vauquois

We stop 20 minutes on at a high hill at Vauqois, still with the trenches, tunnels and barbed wire. The boys have a great time running around the giant craters, the trenches and barbed wire.

The trenches and tunnels have been preserved.

The whole drive rolls along near the WW1 front. Arrive at Reims at 6. The car won't start.

These craters are *very* big.


Day 6: Luxembourg city, what a nice city, super clean, buildings are mostly preserved, in immaculate condition, footpaths, gardens, lots of trees, some bike lanes.

The place is a financial centre. Some big multinationals are headquartered here for tax.
Right in the town centre - immaculate.

Compact and nice for a walk or a jump.

The nice parts are wrapped around the river.

This is a European city like they look in the photos. An enormous traffic jam clogged up most of the way home.

03 June 2014

Strasbourg, Helling and Heckenberg

A nice surprise for the kids: chickens at Helling 
Day 4: Strasbourg, hired 3 bikes, one with a kid seat for Louis, who fell asleep while we rolled along the rivers. We spent a while in the park while he slept and after. At the end of a nice day, we couldn't find the bike shop, going in circles trying to find it, and got properly soaked in the rain. A nice city.

The small entrance to Heckenberg
Day 5: Thionville for the kids park, then Helling for lunch. We saw a lady feeding the town's chickens, and joined in giving them some apple cores which they loved. There were rabbits in a hutch, elsewhere but the chickens are the main event. The boys saved their bread from lunch, so as to go back and give them something.

Big guns on a 90 tonne rotating turret
Then we visited Heckenberg, a large fort in the Maginot Line. There's a tiny electric train that took about 40 of us 1.5km inside. It took 1800 people 6 years to dig the tunnels.There's space for 1000 odd people, 5 major gun turrets, and multiple smaller machine gun placements.

After the Americans attacked the Germans at the end.
During the short invasion, the people inside were well able to continue the fight. They had to be ordered by the high command to surrender. They did so only after 2/3 of France was overrun, and the Vichy government made peace. The Maginot line sure didn't cave in. It was the tactics around it that failed. Easy to say with hindsight, though at least one senior French army man thought the Ardennes would only take days to cross well prior to the event.

A bit noisy on the 1.5km electric train ride 
Sadly, the lines of chalk running through the rock expands with water. The constant expansion destroys the walls. A lot of the fort is not open for visiters.

I bet they ate well

Healthcare for all under the ground.

Last school holidays

Taking a turn in Tournus
Day 1; got up late, left at 10. Stopped for lunch at Orange, walked past the amphitheatre 2000 years old, seating for 10,000 and still used. The neighbour saw Dire Straights there, must have been a nice atmosphere!

Stayed in Tournus, a pretty town on the river, overnight.

The attractions of Tournus

Day 2: more driving, stopped at Nancy and its picture perfect town square. It was a pottery display day. The boys got a chunk of clay to squish for a bit. We watched a man showing kids how to use a potting wheel. They killed cups, and he'd rescue them.

The cathedral at Metz
Got to Metz at 6pm. The appartment is in a roof space, spectacular and huge. The kids took the double bed in the loft and to their excitement. We had a broken sleep worrying about them falling down the wooden stairs in the night.

The bannister is held by 2 bodgy screws. Ollie managed to pop it out, but did not go all the way through it. There's a drop on both sides. We tried out the jacuzzi, the boys yelling "oh, it's a bubble bath!!". We economised by skipping bath the next 2 nights.

Scootering around the city centre in Metz
Day 3: scootered around Metz all day today, cathedral, fortifications and gardens are v. nice. Ate at a typical place for lunch, the Dauphine, v.v.good and packed.

11 May 2014

Going back in time

They seemed to hit each other a bit too seriously.
Going about a month back, we went to the Medieval Festival at Biot. After the displays, and goods stands, we saw the show. Everyone insulted each other on the microphone, not sure who the good side was, but it didn't matter as everyone got slayed in the following battle. The dead breathed heavily where they lay. It was all in good sport though, as conquerors and vanquished helped each other get back up again afterwards.

Young destroyers launch missiles to knock down a wall.
Then it was time for the usual falconry, where the bird flies off, sits there, and won't come back. Falconry is fauconnerie, which sounds the same as faux connerie, which is some stupid activity, and involves faucons (the bird), which sounds like faux cons ie  a.holes who are fake. Lots of merriment all round.

I've got no idea what went wrong with my lunch order, but we did eat, and I think it was enough.

The other two shots below are one Sunday, and a 4 year olds birthday.
At a local beach

At Vaugrenier, a park nearby.