Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Lovely Loire Valley, France

15th July 2009 (continued)
We were greeted by Rene and Terry who were the most loveliest people ever! Not to mention the house and rooms: Gorgeous! Lauren and I headed out for a walk around the small town and it was so pretty and peaceful. I think there were a total of 2 restaurants (the expensive one, and the not so expensive one), a bakery, pharmacy and church. Not big at all, but I think I could definitely live there. I would have my own garden and grow all my own fruit + vegies and even get Terry and Rene to build me a swing, just like theirs! hehe. It would be so Belle.

Walking in the town...

A gorgeous French house

That night we had sparkling wine infused with raspberry (me), violet (Lauren) and peach (Nicole). We then had the most delish dinner ever made. 5 courses with things like orange chicken, vegetable terrine, vanilla + ice cream pudding and of course a fine selection of cheese. Oh how I love cheese. I was so full by the second course, but it was all so good that I continued to eat and ended up eating everything!

If you EVER go to the Loire Valley in France, you must MUST stay at Le Petit Clos! And then look for our entry in the guest book!

16th July 2009

After having a great nights sleep on an awesome bed, breakfast is served. Homemade French toast, homemade yoghurt, fruit, croissants, bread, pastries and coffee. What a mouthfull! After breakfast we recieved directions to our first destination: Chateau Chenonceau. Today it was Nicole's turn to drive! We headed out towards the chateau and Nicole drove perfectly down the windy French country roads, even manuvering around the dreaded round-a-bouts, which turned out to be not so bad in the end. After seeing the sign for the chateau behind a tree and turning around to go down the road, we parked the car and walked up towards the chateau. As it turned out, we actually parked on the wrong side and where we were was an exit. We were told we needed to walk 1km to the bridge, cross the bridge and then walk down to the entry. It was 40 degrees and I just wanted to go inside. Grr! So we walked the 1km to the bridge, crossed it, and then walked the 1km back towards the entry. We ended up walking through what seemed like someones field, past some carni's setting up the dodgems til eventually we found the correct entry. Walking through the tower of trees towards the chateau was amazing.

Walking through the tall trees...

Before we made it to the chateau, we went to the Maze! Nicole and I were singing "we're painting the roses red" and as we were leaving had a race out of the maze. I lost :(

The Maze

The entry to Chenonceau was breathtaking. Everything seemed so perfect. All the gardens were in immaculate condition. I just wanted to pick one of the flowers and stick it in my hair, but I resisted the urge.

First impressions

One of the gardens...

Standing infront of my new home

Chateau de Chenonceau is 'the ladies chateau' and has been home to Diane de Poiters, Catherine de' Medici, Louise of Lorraine, Louise Dupin, Marguerite Pelouze and Simone Menier. I think I should have my name to this chateau as well! We had a look around and inside was just as nice, although it was not fully furnished. We then had something to eat in the Tea Gardens and then we were off to our next stop: Chateau Du Clos Lucé.

Clos Lucé is a mansion in Amboise (connected to the Château d'Amboise by an underground passage) where Leonardo da Vinci was invited to live by Francis I and settled in 1516. He lived there for the last three years of his life, and died there on 2 May 1519.

Chateau Du Clos Lucé

We then walked up the street passed some houses built into rocks to Château d'Amboise. Here in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert adjoining the Château, Leonardo da Vinci is buried.

Houses within the rocks

Leo's grave

Saint Hubert Chapel

King Henry the II Chamber

Why are the beds so short you ask? Well it wasn't until we went to Castle Cheverny that we found out that at that time, people slept sitting up as the lying down position was reserved for the dead, and also they were afraid of swallowing their tongues.

The Chateau overlooking the town below

17th July 2009

Again it was my turn to drive, and what a day to drive! It was raining, and I think we were all wearing thongs. Well, at least our feet got a mud bath! After our lovely breakfast, we hopped in the car and I drove us to Chambord. This place was HUGE and by far my favourite of the chateaus. It had this awesome dual spiral staircase! I was on the other staircase and Nicole and Lauren on the otherside. It was pretty neat. We then ate some delicious onion soup - I must say I had a few doubts about ordering, but I am glad I did. Bonus points for the fact that it comes with cheese!

Me out the front of Chambord, my other home!

If you look hard enough, I am standing with Nicole on the footpath!

Check out the creepy guy in the back!

Nicole and Lauren on the other side of the spiral staircase

Overlooking our kingdom - hehe!

Next on the to do list was Castle Cheverny. Tintin anyone? Herge, the author of Tintin used Cheverny as inspiration for Marlingspike Hall! How cool is that. The interior was to die for and I actually took pictures of things that I will one day get Chris to make me.

Castle Cheverny

One of the tables I WILL get Chris to make me

Guess who?

That night we went to dinner at the local restaurant (the not so expensive one) which was a short 2min walk for the B&B. The meal wasn't THAT great. Nicole and I had fish which was very dry and Lauren had ordered organ meat by mistake - yup, ew! But we had cheese and red wine from Cheverny so it was all good in the end.


18th July 2009

Our last wonderful breakfast (that Lauren threw up as she ate too much) at Le Petit Clos. We packed our bags and jumped in the car and headed towards Charles De Gaulle airport were we needed to drop off the car. WHY did we choose Charles de Gualle you ask? I don't know. But it was the furthest airport we could possibly go to. Anyway, it was Nicole's turn to drive again and we were doing fine with directions until one turn off. We ended up in Antony, which we weren't supposed to, so we turned around and got back on the A6. However, we didn't realise we were going in the wrong direction until about 20mins later! We pulled up at a service station to ask for directions, but no one spoke English so we bought a French street directory. After figuring out where we were and turning around, we were back on track. Even though I get sick if I read, look down or even breath wrong in the car, I managed to direct the way back towards the airport. It was tense, but we stuck it out and everything worked out in the end.

At Le Petit Clos: Our final breakfast *tear*

To be continued...

Friday, August 21, 2009

For all the Chick Lit fans, like Me!

I had no idea there was another book by Sophie out! How awesome. It's called Twenties Girl... AND I also received and email with her saying she is working on a new Shopaholic book. OMG!!!! I'm excited!! Although, I have yet to finish her other book (The Undomestic Goddess and Remember Me?) but I FIRST need to finish New Moon... gah!

Well here is a preview of twenties girl found on her site, looks good from what I have read so far :)

Chapter ONE

The thing about lying to your parents is, you have to do it to protect them. It's for their own good. I mean, take my own parents. If they knew the unvarnished truth about my finances/love life/ plumbing/council tax, they'd have instant heart attacks and the doctor would say, "Did anyone give them a terrible shock?" and it would all be my fault. Therefore, they have been in my flat for approximately ten minutes and already I have told them the following lies:

1. L&N Executive Recruitment will start making profits soon, I'm sure of it.

2. Natalie is a fantastic business partner, and it was a really brilliant idea to chuck in my job to become a headhunter with her.

3. Of course I don't just exist on pizza, black cherry yogurts, and vodka.

4. Yes, I did know about interest on parking tickets.

5. Yes, I did watch that Charles Dickens DVD they gave me for Christmas; it was great, especially that lady in the bonnet. Yes, Peggotty. That's who I meant.

6. I was actually intending to buy a smoke alarm at the weekend, what a coincidence they should mention it.

7. Yes, it'll be nice to see all the family again.

Seven lies. Not including all the ones about Mum's outfit. And we haven't even mentioned The Subject.

As I come out of my bedroom in a black dress and hastily applied mascara, I see Mum looking at my overdue phone bill on the mantelpiece.

"Don't worry," I say quickly. "I'm going to sort that out."

Continue reading at her site...

Can I be the girl that you met in the coin laundry?

How cute is this song! For some reason, I can't escape the Coin Laundry by Lisa Mitchell (remember her from Australian Idol?). I wasn't really a fan of her, but anyway, this song is just too darn cute:

Monday, August 17, 2009

France. Definitely. Love It.

12th July 2009 (continued)

I attempted to write in my travel journal on the train from London to Paris, but ended up feeling a little sick so opted for a nap instead. The next thing I know we are in France! Looking outside the window in awe... the countryside of France is stunning. Not many hills, but luscious and green with cute houses! I was definitely looking forward to France. I heard two things: You either love it, or think its overrated.

Our first stop was our new hostel Oops!. It looks great on the outside and inside, but the staff are neither friendly nor helpful. We had a great view from our room and we did have a room mate who was non-existant the first couple of days. After we got settled we caught the metro to the Eiffel Tower. Absolutely stunning. It may be a bunch of ugly looking metal, but geez its impressive. I don't understand why or how some people don't like it! We didn't actually climb it (yet) but we did go buy some crepes and eat them over by the park. We sat for awhile soaking up the Paris atmosphere before we decided to head back for some shut eye. I still can't get over how bright it is at 11pm. We were chatting for awhile before we realised it was 2am!

Me under the Eiffel Tower
Awesome view of the Eiffel Tower from the park

Nicole and I at the Park, chillaxing.

Actually, before we went to bed, we attempted to do the laundry. One of those annoying things that you just need to do when you pack light. It turned out to be a total disater. FIRST: We asked Jaun (one of the most loveliest people in the world - NOT!) if there are laundry facilities available in the hostel. His only answer was "No". So we asked (as he wasn't going to tell us unless prompted) where the nearest laundry place was located. Turns out there is one just around the corner approx an 8minute walk. Again, being prompted we ask "Is it open?" and he says "No". We decide to go check it out anyway so we at least know where to go the next day. So we head down the street, turn left as instructed and viola. Laundry. And it's OPEN! We go in and a helpful lady shows us how to operate it, thank god, as I don't think we would've worked it out. We are furious that we have to walk back up to get our laundry. Damn you Juan. We all grab our dirty clothes, and head back down in a huff and a puff. As we are in the laundromat sorting the clothes, the owner comes in and notifies us that in actual fact, he is CLOSED even though the lights are on and the door is clearly open. We grab our clothes and head back. Damn you JUAN!

Although, that all happened in the span of 20 minutes. Hahaha! Inside joke, ya'll!

7am, 13th July 2009

We woke up to do the laundry. Damn you Juan! As the washing was well, washing, we headed back up to the hostel for our all inclusive breakfast. We had a crossiant, bread and coffee. I think it was probably the best thing about Oops! at this stage. After breakfast and hauling the laundry back to the hostel we caught the metro to the Louvre. We walked across the road and through the entrance into the central courtyard and found ourselves at the glass pyramids and fountain on a gorgeous french day. I think we were all ready to jump into the water. We went inside and strolled around for awhile. We saw the Mona Lisa (hello, tiny much?!), The Nike of Samothrace (circa 190 BCE) and unfortunately the part where the Venus De Milo is, was closed off so I didn't get to see that, but the place is spectacular.

The Nike of Samothrace (circa 190 BCE)

The Mona Lisa and I

Me, admiring.

We then walked over to the Notre Dame. We didn't go inside as the lines were long and we were being hassled by Romanin gypsies so we took some photos and then headed over to the park to eat a baguette - Yum!

Lauren and I at the front of the Notre Dame

Me eating my baguette!

Since we were close by, Lauren was interested in seeing the Sainte-Chapelle so we walked a couple of blocks and found it. The Sainte-Chapelle: Gothic architecture from the 1300s with 15 high stained glass windows.

The Sainte-Chapelle

After we lifted our jaws off the floor and of course snapped some photos we went over to the Arc de Triomphe and trudged up the 280 stairs! I love it how there is a lounge at the top of the stairs for you to have a rest. It really is a terrific view of Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées which was our next destination: One of the most expensive streets in the world.

Nicole and I at the Arc de Triomphe

Walking up the stairs, looking down. Crazy!

View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triopmhe

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triopmhe

I had my photo taken infront of the Louis Vuitton store. We also went in and I could afford one of the wallets - only €300. Pity it was plain, otherwise it was totally sold!

Me at the fround of Louis Vuitton on the Champs-Elysees

It was now time for dinner, so we went over to Fountaine Saint Michel and ate at a little place down one of the roads. Yes, I ate escargot! and Yes, I loved it! I also had a pancake/omelette thing with cheese, ham and mushroom and for dessert was crème brûlée and I think Nicole and Lauren had lemon mousse. Totally delish! After getting a little tipsy from the fabulous french wine and now carrying food babies we headed to our final destination for the day: the Eiffel Tower. This time we climbed it! Unfortunately the top pier was closed so we could only get to the 2nd pier which was still an awesome view! It was shame, but it will give me a reason to go back - yay! (Although, I am not entirely sure you need a reason to go back, its just way cool, why wouldn't you?).

Mmmm... Yum!

What I have yet to climb...

View from the Eiffel Tower, second pier

14th July 2009

We had all pretty much decided that we were going to spend the entire day by the Eiffel Tower to celebrate Bastille Day with the rest of France. After finally meeting our room mate and making friends, Lauren invited Justin along to our Bastille Day picnic. The good thing about that was, Justin knew where to buy breakfast and food for the day. So we ended up walking down the road and ate at a cute little street cafe (where we waited quite some time for someone to take our order AND then bring it out) but a crossiant and a hot chocolate is definitely the way to wake up in France. We then continued walking down the streets where we bought some wine, raspberries, strawberries, baguettes and of course cheese!

Me sitting at the cafe waiting for our breakfast

Nicole strolling down the market street, Lauren and Justin in the background walking

We then hopped onto the metro and made a beeline for the Eiffel Tower. The previous night I met an American in the hostel who infirmed me that to get a got spot by the Eiffel Tower people get up at 6am, and it was now about 12pm so I thought we might have run out of luck, but once we arrived we found a great spot on the lawn, right in the middle! See getting up early never pays off! Anyway, by about 3pm our wine supply was out so Lauren and Justin headed out for more while Nicole and I held the fort (aka chatting, sipping wine and eating the cheese). There was a concert with 'legendary rocker Johnny Hallyday' (who?) + others which was great... not to mention entertaining with all its frenchness and of course a couple of English songs like "Born to be wild" and "Unchained Melody". Once the concert was over with, and the sun was going to sleep, the fireworks began. All I can say is... WOW. INSANE in the MEMBRAIN. They totally blew me away. Let's just say that it kicked Sydney New Year's fireworks butt, and then karate-chopped it in half, and then used its lightsabre to shred it into little teeny-weeny tiny bits! The day goes down as one of the Best. Days. Ever. awards!

Me and our little picnic

The most spectacular fireworks I have ever seen...

Oooh... Love it.

Once the fireworks were over, it was time to pack things up and head back to the hostel. Simple task, no? Well, I guess everyone else had the same idea. It was suddenly crazy with people walking to the nearest metro which turned out to be closed, so continuing to the next metro, only to find that too was closed. We continued walking to the next one and the next thing we know, Nicole and I were no longer with Lauren and Justin, nor could we see, hear or find them in the crowd! Nicole and I did have a key to get back into the hostel, the only thing missing was a map. We had NO idea where we were, or where we needed to go. This was starting to go from bad to worse. We couldn't get into any metros and then, for some reason, people thought it would be a great idea to start setting bungers off! We both thought we were going to get our faces blown off, not to mention the long night of walking we had ahead of us to get back to the hostel - if we ever found out where we actually were! We were both looking around until, by pure luck, we spotted an unguarded metro and some people going down. I think we were both in a state of shock to actually realise, but I think we may have ran so fast to that metro we were almost flying. It was lucky we got onto that particular train when we did: Once we got onto that train we were so packed in for every other stop, no-one else was getting on. The girl standing right infront of me was continuously bracing herself for impact as the door would open at each stop (seriously, I could feel her tense her body it was that jammed), and there were people telling the ones trying to get on that there was definitely no room and they weren't getting on. Mean, Yes - but I was glad. I was on. Nicole was on. We were getting out of there in one piece and a lot sooner than first expected. Once we got off at our stop, we basically sprinted to our hostel not even looking at anything or anyone else except that construction area, knowing the hostel door was located only metres away. A HUGE sigh of relief. I have never been so happy to see my bedbug hostel bunkbed.

During this entire episode of LOST, Nicole and I were locked hand-in-hand!

15th July 2009

Woke up, and NOT with a hangover. Awesome! After drinking 6 bottles of wine between us I was expecting a lot worse. I think the only one affected by it was Lauren. We then headed down for our breakfast and then we packed our bags. I was feeling a little nervous this morning as it was the day of... The Car. I was driving first, which was a little scarey, but we googled some French road rules (as you do) and I felt prepared (Ha!). We made our way to Charles de Gaulle airport and picked up our little Citroen C3. Cute. Hybrid. I'm going to be driving a car in France. Shit. I headed over to the left side and sat down in the drivers seat, turned it on and viola, hit the gutter while turning. Only a little bit and no damage so it technically doesnt count, but it sure got my heart racing. Getting out of the carpark was a drama. Do they really need to make it so windy? Some of us have never driven on the opposite side and its a little akward trying to not hit the right side of the car into poles and what not. So after we successfully exited the carpark we were on the highway. It was strange at first, and I was definitely glad there was a traffic jam, but I told myself that I knew how to drive a car - what's the problem! After about 1 hour I was cruising down the A10 at 127km/hr and overtaking trucks. Once we got to the last few kilometers from our destination, exit 3, we exited the highway TWICE before the real exit. Both were pit stop and rest areas! I guess the French prefer a 40 minute notice for an exit. After finally exiting the highway and driving towards Chaumont sur Tharonne, we arrived at our lovely little bed and breakfast - Le Petit Clos.

To be continued...

Sunday, August 16, 2009


9th July 2009

I arrived in London on the 9th July at about 6am after having slept most of the flight over (which was great!!) as it made the plane trip a lot quicker than I had expected. I basically woke up with about 4hrs to go, ate, watched a movie and then we were landing. Lauren and her dad picked me up from the airport and took me back to were they had been staying to shower and eat etc. and met up with Nicole and Sarah who had arrived earlier that morning. We then headed off to The Generator hostel on the tube, checked in and went to get something to eat. We ended up at an Indian restaurant where I ordered a Prawn Cocktail that was 3/4 sauce and some Chicken Curry.

Me with my Sauce Cocktail

We then went to the British Museum where we all decided to meet back at a certain time as we all wanted to go our seperate ways. Nicole and I had pretty much the same idea - ambush the place as quickly as possible. I mean, I love museums, but they are so huge you need to do it quickly, grab pamplets and read about it later... well, if you want to! We had covered most of the museum in about 1 hour. I did take quite a lot of photos here, one of my favs is probably the one of a mummy and I...

Me and the creepy mummy

We also stumbled across the Rosetta Stone, which I honestly had no idea what it was and pretty much walked straight past it until we realised there were crowds of people around the area taking photos. Sarah had said it was a 'must see' before we seperated so we took a photo then read about it. Turns out, it's quite important: 'The Rosetta Stone carries an inscription in different languages which helped decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic script'. The same thing happened with the Elgin Marbles: Nicole and I were freaked out by the amount of headless statues that we decided to skip that room. I was secretly looking for marbles...

The Rosette Stone

I really enjoyed the Assyrian section of the Bristish Museum. Some of the lion carvings where a little distressing, but overall, quite remarkable.

Me next to the Human Headed Winged Bulls from Khorsabad (companion pieces in the Musée du Louvre)

Assyrian Court Scene (about 865-860 BC)

After meeting back up, we all headed back to the hostel and had some drinks.

10th July 2009

After a hectic morning we finally made it to the Camden Markets. I absolutely LOVED IT. I bought two dresses for about £15-18 each: so cute! Did I mention it was HUGE? In hindsight I would have totally spent all my time and money here, rummaging through all the funky things - seriously though, I do think they top ANY of Sydney's markets that I have ever been to.

The 2 dresses I bought

After the markets we walked back to the hostel for some dinner and then we were off again on our own little London pub crawl. Okay, so we only went to 3 and one of them was an Irish pub, but geez, drinks in London are a little pricey!

Nicole and I

Nicole, Sarah and Lauren

One thing I noticed about London was that most of the people are foreign. Maybe it was just the area at the time, but there were a lot of Aussies. Come to think of it, I don't think I met any British people! Another thing that I noticed, was that you can also tell a tourist by their shoes: Those in heels or those walking in pain (probably from walking in heels until eventually giving in and wearing flats) are usually foriegn.

11th July 2009

First stop: Harrods! Tell me something, what does this place NOT have? I was told later in the day they even have a pet store inside! Crazy. Again I think I could have spent a day, or 2, in here exploring the levels. Instead we strolled around and made our way to the food hall filled with cheeses, avocado filled with lobster (only £15.95 each) and amazing salads. We eventually decided on 2 different salads and a snack each and were going to head over to Hyde Park to eat in the sun under a tree but alas, being London - the rain appeared, so we went to starbucks instead!

Nicole and I at the front of Harrods! Shopaholic series, anyone?

My 2nd love: Cheese at Harrods!

After lunch we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The place was gorgeous, inside and out! Of course, I loved the fashion and jewellery sections. The amount of detail in the fashion pieces, seeing an original John Galliano from Summer 1987 and the charming jewellery dating back hundreds of years, pretty much blew my mind. Looking back, this was definitely my favourite museum. While Nicole and I were walking around we came across the Library which we went into to take a snap for one of Nicole's friends who likes libraries and in doing so, got told to leave our bags and sign in to go any further, so instead of actually going in Nicole pulled out her camera to take a quick photo and was told, and you have to say this in the strictest voice possible, "you cant take pictures in here" as the flash went off and then just walked out. Crazy Librarian.

Nicole and I at the front of the V&A

Corset (1890-1900)

We then continued marching. Next stop: Buckingham Palace. The place was huge-mungus!

Me at the front of what appears to be some sort of prison, but is in fact a Palace.

We had to walk around the entire palace before we reached the entrance and saw a guard marching up and down. Must be the world's most boring-est job. Anyway, I think by this stage we were all needing foot massages and and UMBRELLA as it decided to suddenly poor down with rain. We were all trying to fit under the pillars at the front which had about a 20cm coverage. I even had 3 ponchos AND an umbrella back at the hostel, but in the end we came to terms that we were in fact, defeated by the rain, and so we soildered on to meet up with Sarah at the Tower of London. Nicole and Lauren headed off to a local pub for some drinks while Sarah and I had a tour of the Tower. The tour is run by the Yeoman Warders (aka 'Beefeaters') who are responsible for looking after prisoners and the British crown jewels. They live in the tower and the list of requirements to become one is very impressive. The outfits on the other hand. Poor guys. I suppose thats why they have a great sense of humour!

Lauren and I at the front of the Tower of London

Sarah and I with our Beefeater tour guide, Alan

As we were standing in line to go see the crown jewels, I ran to get some coffee as it looked like it was taking forever, but when I got back, Sarah was already up to the door waiting for me so we could go in! Turns out, no drinks allowed inside! Typical. So we littered, and headed in. The crown jewels are gorgeous, huge and not to mention weird. I think the highlight was definitely the spoons and I have come to believe that everyone should own a sceptre.

Heading out of the Tower of London you come to the Tower Bridge which is just beautiful. I could have stood there for awhile if it wasnt for the rain!

Me at the front of Tower Bridge

So after our short (2 hour!) tour we started another: The Grim Reapers tour of London. We had also succumbed to the rain and bought ponchos. It was a great fashion statement!

Us in our lovely ponchos

The tour started around the Tower of London where we were told stories of be-headings (Nicole's favourite!) and then continuing over to the East End where we were told about Jack the Ripper and his victims, baby killers and other gruesome events. I thought the tour was fun, but I was glad for it to be over. The walk back to the hostel was painful. Apparently I looked like I was skiing, which was fine by me! The less movement and pressure, the better!

12th July 2009

After having out final breakfast at the hostel, Nicole and I went to see if we could by some proper walking shoes. Turns out, shops are closed on Sundays until about 11am and we had to be at St Pancras station AT 11am to catch our train to Paris! Typical. So no proper walking shoes as yet!

This post continues...