Day 8 – Sarlat-du-Caneda and cruising the Dordogne River

By today I am feeling rather exhausted again from being around too many people. The number of people at Rocomodour had taken its toll and while I did sleep okay, it was a real struggle to get going this morning. Our first stop though was Sarlat-du-Caneda and it was busy! If I was feeling ‘peopled-out’ earlier I was dreading now what was to come.

Once again we clamoured off the bus & headed towards the church and town square.The closer we came, the more crowded it became! But we stayed together, got our instructions & then Shirleen and I headed off – back towards the shops.

By this stage I felt sick of churches & going in this one seemed to be a bit of a bun-fight just to get in the entrance so shopping it was and shopping did we! Ended up having an absolute ball! Yes I finally found something that both fitted me and was beautiful – and affordable! Wow! Then if that wasn’t enough I found these ‘groovy’ shoes that were also wonderfully priced.

Along the way we saw the work of some annoying artists, tasted some absolutely delicious cheese + I saw a herb and spice stall. The cheese that I liked Are best was ahe cow’s milk cheese with black truffles – but at 89E, I was not buying!

Then we had to find somewhere to eat for lunch and we decided do go to a patisserie where I ordered a croissant, a torte framboisie and une cafe alonges! Tres delicious!!!

After Sarlat, we were off to the Dordogne River cruise. To be honest, I was looking forward to this optional activity because we were going to see some castles where the English and French used to fight each other from opposite sides of the river. Driving into one township the scenery was pretty amazing! 

Not only that but the place was littered with families holidaying and canoeing out on the river. People were out having fun. In particular I noticed how much the men were enjoying being with their children – laughing and joking around, splashing each other! My memories of fathers are not like that; there was always a seriousness about them. l think in part that may be due to the pressures of fatherhood and the traditional notions and values of authority associated with such an image. Anyway some people even used the canoes to cross the river for a family picnic! The only element missing from this cruise was the ability to run my fingers through the water. As the photos show it really was an amazingly spectacular place.

That evening back at Brive, Anne, John and I went out to the Black Truffle and enjoyed another deliciously scrumptious meal complemented perfectly with a beautiful, local red wine. We all enjoyed the soup, and for me, this was the first time I had eaten cold soup & it was magnificent. This was followed by a main course of duck + raspberry & almond cake & sorbet for dessert. 

John enjoyed some alternative meals – the trout and rice pudding!

Afterthat it was bedtime. These days I am just crashing into bed big-time.

Day 7 – Off to Brive-la-Gaillarde

No more free-ways today! It was all country roads, tiny villages, historical buildings and beautiful, green countryside – so yes lots of wow moments along the way! 

As we were driving along lunch of what I was seeing took me back to what I had always imagined France to be! In some ways I felt like I was being transported into another world! There were places we drove through where David was telling us about how small French traditional communities were being transformed because many people including non-French people were moving into these places due to affordability and for tree-changes. Of course many of the places that were most ‘affordable’ were those houses that needed renovating and that often proved too costly for some!

Our first stop this morning was a little village called Villefranche-de-Rouergue. Again a beautiful place. However, today also happened to be the Catholic feast day of the Assumption (of Mary into heaven) and for this village and the time we arrived everyone still seemed to be enjoying a sleep-in. 

Like usual our focal point was the church square but in this square was a beautiful clock face made using water fountains and lights. 

As it happened Shirleen and I were sitting having our usual morning tea when it turned 11am. At the same time a dog was playing in the fountain trying to drink/eat/catch the water! She was having so much fun and we just laughed! Up until this point I had not been exposed to crowds and crowds of people but that was about to change.

One of the fabulous things about the traveling today was that we were driving along country roads rather than freeways and it seemed like around every corner there was something extraordinary to see. And Rocomodour was no exception. 

To be honest, I thought I was heading to Gondor and in some ways it was a three level version of the seven levels of Gondor -and yes this is a LOTR reference! Neither was l disappointed that it wasn’t Gondor once we had arrived! At the top was the castle, then we took the lift down to the second level where there was the church/cathedral and down below was the village!

By the way, this guy cookingthe crepes was so funny and he cooked amazing crepes. When he realized I was from Australia he started singing ‘Old Macdonald had a farm’ which apparently is Australian – not American or English. Anyway he was from Turkey and the nutella crepe he made me was superb! 

In some ways it felt like the place had become Jesus’ den of iniquity, den of thieves and I could almost here him raging at the the sellers – especially up in the church area – even though I think in the centre of they were actually just like an information office that provided people with water and information. To be honest, my very catholic tradition rose up in my memories especially as the tour guide told us the history and the stories behind Rocomodour. At every point she was able to trek about the historical information as well as the religious and hagiographic type of story that went with the imagery and depictions in the artwork. I did love this painting of the skeletons on the wall (and the timing of one photo could not have been better – and yes these people are all my traveling companions!).

The story goes that one day these young soldiers were riding their horses past a cemetery laughing and joking about how young, strong and healthy they were. Suddenly three soldiers buried in the cemetery rose from the grave and told are soldiers to beware – one day they too will become old and die! Of course I couldn’t help but think it was an early drawing of zombies on the wall of a church. You know in some ways, I was also reminded of today’s grafiti artists and the commissioning of artists to paint large paintings on the walls of buildings. Of course there is an irony in the description of what takes the form of art and grafitti in there too!

It is also here that we were given the opportunity to visit and pray with the Black Madonna. It wasn’t anything like I had imagined yet it was as it ‘should’ be – a white European looking statue painted black. That said, in amongst all the seemingly commercialisation of the place, There was a presence of holiness and calm when you actually managed to sit and be still. Our guide was awesome and extremely knowledgeable and she took us into chapels (and there were seven – one for each sacrament) that no-one else was allowed into; only two people had the keys! One of the bonuses of today was that it was a huge feast day and so in the cathedral there was a choir and orchestra practicing for the evening night’s concert and outside a choir was singing acapella style. The music was magical.

Next we were off to Colonies du Rouge – yes the red village; renown for being the most beautiful village in France and for its very red brick. And it was beautiful.

This was where David had booked our evening meal and yes, where yours truly had her first exposure to the infamous escargots!

And yes, as you can see, I ate all six! I can honestly say that I did enjoy trying them and they weren’t as slimy or rubbery as I had expected. Am I desperate to have them again? Probably not. Would I enjoy eating them again – yes! The food that was to follow was, once again absolutely delicious. I had the slow cooked duck followed by a chocolate cake filled with a chocolate mousse/custard. 

Here are also some photos of the other’s food.

During our dinner we had thunder rolling over and lots of rain. One of the conversations I enjoyed was the tasting of the wine they had served on our table. It seemed that the people I was sitting near- Sai, Eunice, Matt, Ed + Catherine all decided to put our wine tasting skills to the test. We first dried the white and very quickly moved to the red where the reviews were much more favourable. Both wines had good fruit on the nose but tasted somewhat young or maybe the term is ‘short’. For some reason though, l went back to the white and low and behold, exposure to the air had opened up the flavours of the wine and voila! Magnifigue! What I enjoyed most about this conversation was ale way we all contributed our impressions of the wine rather Than one person being and expert. It really was a shared conversation and a building of knowledge and learning.

Finally we arrived at Brive la Gaillarde. While the hotel was very nice, as has been the case everywhere we have stopped, one of the things I have noticed is the hotels charge an arm and a leg to do the laundry. While I was doing some hand washing I could not dry my jeans quickly + they needed washing. So, prepared to spend up to $100 to get four pairs of jeans and a dress washed l quickly raced down to reception. To my amazement and relief the manager took my laundry and refused to charge me for it! I felt so relieved that I no longer had to worry about getting the washing done; and went to bed very happy!

Day 6 – Moissac to Albi and the most scrumptious food yet!

If you think I’ve had a wonderful + exciting time, it all pales into the background today! I still struggle to put into words the taste-bud explosion of sensations that began in Moissac and ended in Albi!

Arriving in Moissac for morning tea was amazing! The town itself was beautiful and again a place that I would love to spend more time in. Of course our first visit was to the the cloister and how inspiring was that. It was just beautiful to wander through the walkways and explore each of due rooms and their artefacts. 

Instead of having old books out on display you could view One through an interactive reading machine. Then I came across a small statue of a woman that spoke to me of meditation, contemplation and peace so of course I had to photograph it!

Then I found this tiny alcove and it became this tiny staircase that clearly led to the place where the nuns or monks would attend mass in the church. A few steps in and l started to wonder if this was such a good idea? l made it – both ways! 

After I wandered through the church a then into the town , finally netting with Italienne glacier et cafe noir alonges! 

Yes there does seem to be a pattern forming. Mind you, down in this part of France, it has been hot and sunny so some cool relief has been required. Anyway, as you do, these ladies came and sat nearby and we enjoyed a lovely conversation and then of course I had to race to the bus. That’s when it happened! I popped into this little shop and what did I find? Chocolates from Conques! 

As you know, I had been planning on popping into Conques but I have decided to stay with the tour – as I don’t want to miss a thing! Oh boy, was I excited! And yes I showed everyone on the bus! Mind you, poor David had to come and find me because I had misjudged where the bus would be! Oh well!

Then it was off to our ‘be our guest’ experience – and what a feast it was. Again our journey there included some beautiful scenery, especially the drive into the farm.

Jean-Francois was our host and chef and it was his family farm that we visited! It was beautiful – and guess what? You can stay at their B&B for only 56Euro a night! Everything we ate was so delicious a much of it was grown on the farm including the ducks, chickens and pigs? Thrown in there were some ingredients that if I had known what they were I would not have tried but they turned out to be delicious – like the duck and pork gizards salad!!! And yes I had two servings of that. The soup was magnificent and the courgettes coated in batter along with the chicken were delicious! The cheeses were beautiful too but I could not get enough of the soft cheese. The merengue island was floating on a creamy custard that complemented the plum tarte perfectly! Of course for drinks we start with a white wine cocktail to be followed with a delicious red. 

l cannot begin to tell you how fresh and flavoursome the food was. And the company of those I am travelling with has been wonderful, lots of fun and interesting conversations. Even as we climbed onto the bus it felt like the taste buds themselves were re-enacting the flavour hits of the meal. It really was incredible and Jean Francois and Olga were delightful people – warm and welcoming.

 Needless to say we all needed that sleep on the bus trip to Albi.

Of course when we arrived in Albi, David started to tell us about the Cathers and how it was because of their heretical ways that the catholic church built such a gigantic cathedral – a symbolic gesture of power. Well, it is as magnificent as it is imposing both on the landscape and inside! The photos can speak for themselves. 

One of the interesting features of the cathedral is the number of altars down each side of the church. 

Today each one is like an altar to two, three or four saints including St Rita as well as Mary and God but I imagined in the past when priests had to say mass at least once a day, they would be said here. l heard in the past that historically, alone was a time when lay people were not encouraged to receive Communion regularly and so attending mass was also about having the chance of “seeing” the body and blood of Christ. All priests, at this time were required to say mass and there were too many priests for just one altar – add to that and the old Latin mass where the priest did everything with his back to the congregation! Combine all this and it is no wonder they introduced the altar boy ringing the bell when the bread & wine were consecrated! This was the signal that let people know that their chance to see “Christ” was about to happen. Now picture this all happening at 10 different altars where priests were saying mass at staggered times. Can you get the picture that I had in my mind as I entered this cathedral? Yes I had a slightly irreverent chuckle as I imagined people scooting from one mass to the other! But also I was in awe of actually seeing a church built where possibly this was the original purpose of all the different altars.

After walking through the streets of Albi for about an hour and enjoying some very refreshing ice cream I found my way back to the hotel. 

Once refreshed I joined Shirleen down stairs for dinner in the restaurant. Well unbeknown to us we they had a wonderful chef who created the most beautiful dishes but again I’m getting ahead of myself. When we came down we decided to enjoy an aperitif before dinner and ordered a Perrine mint. We had been told it was a lovely, refreshing, non-alcoholic drink! Yeah right! Somewhere in the translation from English to French, we ended up with creme de menthe and perrier water!

My mum has always loved creme de menthe and I must say it was a most refreshing way to watch the day begin to slip away. The rivers have all become a but of a blur but I think this was the Tarn River and sitting out in the courtyard overlooking the bridges, river and city was just beautiful.

Our meal, as I mentioned was extremely delicious. For my first course I tried some froi gras which was followed by chicken and lobster! This was topped off with a chocolate cake dessert and coffee! Of course aside from everything tasting so delicious the plates were served beautifully too. I especially loved the dots on the dessert plate!

After that it was bed time. It really was an awesome day!

Day 5 – Pilat, Arcachon and Saint Emilion

The day started and l was not ready to be on the bus with everyone! To top it off, when I got on the bus, someone was sitting in my seat! Yes yours truly was really not coping. Fortunately, Shirleen picked up on my anxiety and kindly swapped seats. However, my day turned into a fabulous day where I had so much fun!

First stop was Pilat, Europe’s tallest sand dune.To this point I had been skeptical – I mean surely if you have seen one sand dune, you’ve seen them all? But no, this sand dune was extremely impressive and had my leg been feeling better I would have climbed those stairs. As is, I nearly did but thought the better of it. Just as well, because we didn’t stop.

By this stage, Shirleen. I had caught up and we decided that we would go back for a wander amongst the shops. For me, that meant coffee and ice-cream – and I had already spotted a place that did sundaes. Both of us ordered and were totally gobsmacked by what we were served! And yes, it was totally delicious. Mine was called Cococabana and lined up to its name!

After that it was off to Arcachon and the city of oysters and muscles and fabulous beaches. 

Shirleen has become a great wandering partner because we can enjoy each other’s company and do our own thing without “needing” do hold each other’s hand. So off we wandered, found some street markets and then food markets. Here we bought a pmmet of strawberries and raspberries and proceeded to eat most of them by the time they were ready to save us. Then we tried finding some fish a chips but to no avail so I settled for quiche legume and an eclair. Of course being a beachside resort I couldn’t resist all the ice-cream shops so we stopped at Sorbet Armour for some ice cream in a cone! Then we were back on the bus and off to saint Emilion.

After a nap on the bus we arrived at Saint Emilion and it was beautiful!

David walked as all down to the town square and as we walked he told us snippets of information using an audio set that has about a 100m range so we can actually wander and still know what the group is up to! Once at the square we got to spend about 40mins wandering around and the place was just beautiful. I managed to find a little artists’ courtyard and found myself a beautiful Scarf! 

Then it was off to Saint Emilion’s hermitage which was a cave dug into the limestone rock and where he lived for 17 years – never coming out! 

We then wandered down through the catacombs where he had been buried and into the church; all of which had been carved into the one piece of rock. It was actually quite phenomenal. Camille our guide was fabulous a extremely knowledgeable. Of course at a later stage the built a clock tower on top of the church and now some of the pillars have to be supported to stop the weight of the tower from crushing the church entirely. Finally we finish and start to head off to the winery tour and tasting. The walk back up through the township was a struggle. No only was I exhausted but my leg a feet were killing me! Now while a Panadol may have helped out somewhat, I wanted to enjoy some wine so l soldiered on!

Once again, in viewing how the wine was made, we got to taste their merlot grapes. They were so sweet any ymmy but for our winery guide, Stacey, they were not sweet enough yet to make wine. The winery we visited was a Grand Cru winery and it grew only merlot and cabernet frane grapes. Again we had a wonderful and informative guide who had us through the underground cellars and explained the process. One of the interesting aspects of all this digging underground here in thewinery and in the church was the fact that the people used the dug out limestone for their buildings and to onsell to others.

I must confess though as interesting as all this was, I was exhausted! All the walking on uneven surfaces & the hills was taking its toll.To be honest I felt rather embarrassed struggling to keep up and was beginning to wonder if I had taken on too much! Yes it was a gruelling day of walking in thick sand in the morning and uneven, hilly cobblestones in the afternoon.

Anyway, still feeling sorry for myself, I managed to stay upright for the tasting! And it was worth it. We were also given a lesson on how to taste wine and with that tasted both their early grape variety and an older grape variety that had been aged as well. The first wine was lovely but the second one was magnificent! After that it was back on the bus and return to Bordeaux. To this point I had loved Arcachon and Saint Emilion. They were beautiful towns and in particular I felt I would love a holiday in Arcachon – aside from being a great beachside resort, these were bike paths everywhere so exploring the area would be quite amazing. At this point I hadn’t really warmed to Bordeaux itself.

Upon our return to Bordeaux I realised that I had better have dinner before I returned to the hotel and David pointed me in the direction of a restaurant or two! Sitting myself down at al lovely street cafe/brassiere, I was just about to order, when Shirleen arrived and she was like, ‘Oh gosh, mark you for saving me! I couldn’t find any take-away and was about to grab something at McDonalds!” Well, we proceeded to have a lovely evening chatting and swapping stories. The beauty about this place was that the meal was simple, and yummy. I had a steak and chips followed by crepe grand marnier and chocolate ice-cream. 

Then as we wandered back to our hotel through the square, we spotted some guys dancing! They reminded me of the style of dancing they did in the “step-up” movies. Sometimes I wondered how they didn’t hurt themselves!

Finally it was sleep time!

Day 3 – Riding through Champagne

Finally, it is Friday, it’s 7am and I am off to find Gare du L’est train station. Of course I am feeling very comfortable about finding a train station where I can catch a train there and meet up with the tour group. But no it was not that simple. First of all you have to find an entrance where they sell tickets! Once again I found myself walking all the way to Republique but in the meantime, as luck would have it I found a beautiful bakery and bought Breakey-French style! The best Croissant I have tasted yet!

Finally I arrive at Gare du L’est and it is beautiful! 

There I meet the fabulous Neil and together with two of the other guests we catch the train to Epernay. Throughout the train ride, Neal told us all about champagne and even about how the area was affected by the wars. It took a little while to get used the e-bikes but once we did -it was fun! After purchasing some lunch, we took off! The hills were not only steep but took ages to climb. 

There were times, however and we were allowed a takeoff! Needless to say, yours truly managed to beat the motor, that only goes to 26km and get up to 34 km/hr. It felt so good to have the wind in my face and to be riding again. Can’t wait to get home to ride again! There is a real sense of freedom and being released from constraints of life when I am riding. That said, riding around champagne was wonderful – it was everything I thought riding in France would entail.

We visit a Premier Cru winery, called Phillipe Martin and we were given a tour of the cellar and shown the processes used to make champagne. Then the tasting! Here we enjoyed a sit down tasting out in the terrace area and we managed do enjoy about six champagnes including a vintage 2008.

After that we rode up to the abbey where Dom Pierre Perrignon, a monk, lived, worked and developed champagne – the drink. 

There we had a picnic with the food we bought earlier in the day. Of we also had a glass of champagne with our picnic overlooking the valley of Epernay. The picture doesn’t do the scene justice. It was magnificent! 

The next challenge was to travel down a very, very, very steep incline – and yes I did it. Thankfully we weren’t allowed to go fast but it was so hard not to!!!

We ended up back at Mercier, just past Moet and Chandon, where we enjoyed a train ride through the cellars – not quite the 18 kms that are underground there. 

While at Mercier I started to run out of puff so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride without listening to the audio guide. As we rode home on the train I closed my eyes and enjoyed a bit of a snooze! Mind you it was just as well because my evening suddenly became hugely entertaining!

Arriving back from Epernay, my use of the Metro was much smoother and I arrived at the hotel around 7.30pm – expecting to be late for tae reception dinner that was Are first official function of the tour. You can imagine my horror when I saw that we were meant to meet in the foyer at 5pm, have a bit of a bus tour and go out for lunch. Anyway there was a number to ring and I managed to make contact with our Tour Guide who’s name just happens to be David! Anyway, they all returned in half an hour and a couple of us sat down and had a drink – and did that turn into a bit of a saga! In drying to have a meal and sit out in the courtyard I was forced to make a decision about eating. After chatting for awhile with some lovely people, I decided to move into the dinning room where no-one proceeded to serve me. As you can imagine by ahs’s stage I was feeling somewhat affronted when they knew I wanted to order something and Ney could not even give me a menu! So up to the bar I go and when I asked to pay for the wine, they wanted to know what I was doing because the thought I wanted to eat! When I told them that I was going elsewhere, they suddenly started apologising and offered to cancel my bill for the wine. Then before I knew it, they were offering anodhe glass of wine on the house. When I said no, that I had already dunk champagne all day and needed to eat, the manager suddenly started pouring me no less than a Moet and Chandon champagne! Well of course, ahat could not go to waste and so I sat back down with my new friends. proceeded do enjoy a lovely drop of champagne. Then l said goodnight to my friends and walked out to the cafe where I had dinner at on the first night.

As I sat outside and waited for my meal, Legumes Pasta, l became aware that over the road, the Italian-style cafe where l had been the previous night had someone playing me guitar live. The best part about that was I could sit and eat at my preferred cafe for dinner and listen to some beautiful music. 

As I sat there, I began to reflect on my day and it occurred to me that all day, today, I had been surrounded by people who spoke fluent English. It made me realise that it would be very difficult to develop my language skills any further if I only spoke to English-speaking people. It also made me realise that when I am able to speak fluently the words pour out of my mouth like water down a waterfall. In some ways it was a relief to finally be able to talk without thinking too much but then on the other hand it was kind of nice not having to have to contribute to a conversation all the time. Of course I also began to think about how we, as Anglo people often expect people to speak, read and write fluently in English and we often speak critically about how different ethnic groups all tend to live in the same area. I wonder if people from a non English speaking background feel like they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the choice of mixing with people who speak the same language and feeling connected to others or who speak a language that is different, that they are forced to learn to assimilate regardless of their ability to learn a new language and who remain isolated from most. A longwinded sentence but hopefully you get the gist! The vegetable pasta was absolutely wonderful and the coffee still absolutely a favorite!

Anyway, as I am sitting there, a father and daughter from Canada who are also on my tour, walk by and decide to join me for dessert. I have discovered a new term: cafe gourmand. In other words, a coffee and a selection of three mini desserts! This time is was a very delicious panacotta, creme de brillee and chocolate mousse. I was very happy but because it was my second coffee for the night the waiter was worried I’d be awake all night. He didn’t believe me when I tried to reassure him that I would! After that it was one very exhausted Janet who went to bed!

Off to Bordeaux – Day 4

Today we headed off to Bordeaux via the TVG: the fast train and yes we travelled over 300km/hr. Once again over the trip I enjoyed some wonderful experiences communicating with some French people. One guy even persisted in making me learn a French phrase and then promptly thanked me in English! Rather than being affronted, it felt like he really valued my attempts to learn even a little bit of French andmy openness to be corrected and to practice until I got it right. My next companion, after he alighted was a beautiful, young French woman, Estelle. We enjoyed a wonderful conversation learning about each other! Her favourite wine is a Chenin Blanc which is mainly grown around her home region. Clearly that is one variety I have not learnt to appreciate in the Australian variety. Apparently it is a very versatile variety that can be used to produce a sweet or dry wine. I do hope I get to taste one before I leave France. Estelle was heading off to Ferira Dax – a bull-fighting festival in Dax where everybody wears red and white. Sitting around us we heaps of scouts – teenage girls and boys who were clearly off to a jamboree or camp. At the beginning of the trip they were rowdy and cheerful, excited and very polite. About half way into the trip after they’d eaten their food, they all fell asleep and suddenly it seemed that Estelle and I were the only ones chatting!

Reaching Bordeaux it was great to get off the train and finally it felt like summer in France! While waiting for our rooms to be ready the bus took us on a tour around the city of Bordeaux. 

The city is actually beautiful and along the river bank they have developed a great spot for people to wander. We saw a very large square with a massive column and statues. To be honest driving around Bordeaux it felt like I was in Spain – not that I’d know what it’s like to be in Spain! Also as we were driving around, we drove past the street, Rue Catherine which our English guide, David described it as similar to High street shopping strips in England. Now you must realise that all my time in Paris, I have barely seen a crowd of people. After all it is August and the French are on holidays! So you will have to imagine my very open reaction to the idea of going shopping down Catherine street when from one side to the next and from one end to the other it was filled with ‘bumper-to-bumper’, people! David burst out laughing and came back with an ‘or not’ kind of response. Arriving at the hotel I promptly went up to my room and fell asleep. Je suis tres fatigue! 

Of course after waking, I did venture at on the streets and discovered that Bordeaux has its own Notre Dame where as I was walking through the entrance I fell into the arms of a beautiful young man! And yes, quite literally I had not calculated the small step ahat was sitting there and fell forward almost losing my balance- and voila! There was someone there ao stop the fall. Of course, I was so embarrassed I very quickly apologised , thanked him and kept walking-and of course, laughing to myself about what had happened – I think he was just as shocked as me! Anyway the church was beautiful and I also found a beautiful painting of St Therese of Liseaux (sp?).

After that I joined with the others and we went off to dinner. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner where I sat beside Ed and his daughter Catherine (Canadian), opposite Shirleen (NZ) and John and Anne (Sydney, Australia). Great food – pork froi gras, tomato salad and duck followed by creme bruillee – fabulous conversations, delectable wines topped off with dessert and coffee.

As we walked home to the hotel, we Walked though the square between the Grand Theatre and the Grand Hotel. I must admit I could sit there for hours it was such a hive of activity without being overly busy.

As the days go by! Day 2

Wow! What a wonderful couple of days I have had and where to begin! Probably that I am absolutely exhausted! I thought I was fit but I feel like I have just woken up a whole heap of muscles that have been well and truly asleep all this time!

The day started with a sumptuous break banquet here at the hotel. 

From there, I decided to walk to the nearest Yves Rocher institute/shop and as it would happen, there was one only a 10 minute walk away! Of course that would be if I could find it! And of course I didn’t! 😕 So I decided I would follow my nose! And of course that just took me from Republique into Le Marais and a coffee stop to regroup! 

After all there were meant to be Yves Rocher institutes everywhere and by this stage I was starting to feel that a facial and foot spa would be just perfect! I needed an hours rest! Continuing on my way, I finally found what I was looking for! Voila! Yves Rocher!

By now some if you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about! I used to sell Yves Rocher when it was available through party plan in Australia. Now you cannot purchase Yves Rocher in Australia not even online. So in I go and fall in love all over again! As you can imagine, language again was a challenge but between the two of us we managed to not only purchase a skin care regime but Faizie also helped me with my make up! I cannot begin to explain how wonderful it felt to be wearing Yves Rocher again! And believe it or not, my guide for the bike trip to Eperhay, Neil, used to do the marketing for Yves Rocher and my Trafalgar tour guide, David swears by the product too-and promptly pulled out the amazing hand cream for us to try! Yes while everyone else visits the Louvre & the Eiffel Tour when they come to France, Janet is chasing skin care products!

Proudly setting off with my purchase which was amazingly cheap, l started walking in the direction I thought was my hotel and to find somewhere to eat for lunch. As I am walking, though, it started to rain and rain and rain! But I was smart this time and had already purchased a cheap umbrella! lt still didn’t stop the rain from soaking my Yves Rocher carry bag and suddenly I heard a third on the footpath and there at my feet was the shower gel I had just bought and two big holes on either side of my bag. By this stage the rain is coming down hard and I have to put my umbrella down to pack everything quickly into my back-pack. Now I know how the bottom of my back-pack got a wet! Anyway after eating a magnificent bowl of Carbonara Taggliatali, I pulled out a novel, and started to read, hoping that the rain would slow down or stop! But not quite!

Just wandering around Paris – even in the rain was wonderful. I kind of had a sense of where I wanted to go but sometimes the streets twisted and tuned and l would have to stop and try to work out from the street signs where I wanted to go! One of the things I have noticed about the shops here is that when you see one type of shop there usually are like a cluster of that type of shop. For example if you see one shoe shop there are usually about half a dozen or more – same with book shops + gaming shops; even saw a cluster of kitchen renovation shops on my travels! I also found a lovely display of clowns at a shoe repair shop!

Eventually I found my way back to Republique and lo and behold as I rounded the corner I discovered the closest Yves Roher to my hotel! Typical! Anyway it was just as well, because when I returned to my room & unpacked my goodies, I discovered that I had lost a couple of items before I realised that my shopping bag had broken. So much for an afternoon rest- but this time, I wanted ice-cream! Spotting the Italian styled cafe on the corner, I asked if they sold gelati. And guess what? They didn’t know what gelati was; nor did they sell ice-cream or sorbet! So back to Republique where I made my Yves Rocher purchases and then walked around the corner to have an cafe noir alonges dan eclair chocolat! Sitting out on the street and savoured every mouthful. At home, Are eclairs are filled with cream, here they are filled with a chocolate custard. Mmm! 

Of course back towards home l discovered a place that sold gelati and thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful.

Dinner that night was at Cafe Italian-Style where I enjoyed a typical steak and chips with a glass of Malbec, which was then followed by a coffee a Tiramisu!

The waiter was tres belle and he could dance! I know what you are thinking! What, Janet dancing with a Frenchman already? But now, he was outside chatting to what looked like his brother when he started dancing on the street! The music playing in the cafe was his favorite and apparently in his spare time he loves to dance! And yes, French or no French I have managed to have some fun conversations hole people I have met!

Finally my day ended with a beautiful body massage at the hotel as my feet a legs were killing me! Mind you they still are today but I seem to be getting used to it.