Death & decay; war & treachery

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Yesterday and today’s highlights were both the choice of my daughter, both possibly not what you’d expect to be on a 13 year old girl’s list of French holiday priorities.

First up was the Catacombes de Paris, a maze of 780m of corridors running 25 metres or more underground in the 14th Arr. in the southern part of the city, set up as an ossuary to house the bones of millions of Parisians, relocated from the overcrowded cemeteries around Paris in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

You might think it would be sad, or creepy, or disturbing, or even gruesome, to visit such a place, but I found it fascinating, knowing next to nothing about the Catacombs until we descended down the 130 steps after an hour and a half wait in the queue to the entrance.

The skulls and femurs were placed in decorative patterns forming walls, behind which the other bones were piled. Pithy sayings about human mortality, Bible verses and tombstones and other grave decorations were also added for effect. The overall effect, for me, was one of a shared humanity with millions of people from times long ago, and a sense of my own historical insignificance, and at the same time an appreciation of the significance and respect owed to each individual on the planet.

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Today’s expedition was to see the Bayeux tapestry, a 70 metre long embroidered pictorial account of the lead-up to, and the events of, the Battle of Hastings. It was incredible that a 1000 year old piece of fabric had lasted so well, but I was also impressed with the embroidery techniques used and the artistry expressed in the scenes depicted on the tapestry. Harold’s treachery against William and its aftermath are depicted realistically and beautifully, to such a degree that you hardly notice the limited colour pallet and the green horses until they are pointed out to you.

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Day 1 in Paris

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Well, we arrived safely yesterday and settled in to our temporary home in Paris, a fantastic apartment near the Eiffel Tower.

Unfortunately Peter was feeling pretty ordinary, having eaten something that disagreed with him last night, so I scratched together a meal for Nicola and me, and then we all collapsed into bed.

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A good night’s sleep did us all good, but we were a bit slow to get going, as Peter was madly trying to deal with some work challenges, but eventually we headed off for a coffee and then to the Musee d’Orsay, where Nicola was keen to see the works by Van Gogh, Monet and the other impressionists. I also particularly enjoyed the neo-impressionists (Seurat etc.) and the Art Nouveau school.

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We walked all the way home, via the Hotel des Invalides (top photo), and the supermarket for some essentials. Peter had been invited to see the Wallabies play France (rugby), so he went off with the blokes and Nicola and I stayed in for the evening.

Travel planning

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Planning for a holiday, especially a trip overseas, can be highly stressful. How much do you book ahead? What should you pack and what should you buy over there? What if you get there an find that your hotel is in a seedy part of town?

Travelling with a family can be even more tricky. Some might like to flit from here to there, others might prefer to stay in one town and get to know the area. Some prefer to have everything organised before you go (like me), and others like to make it up as they go along (my husband!)

One piece of advice everyone gives is to “pack light”, although this can mean different things to different people. We generally like to take carry-on luggage only, although the 7kg weight limit can be very tricky, especially if you’re travelling to a cold place.

So this is what Peter’s 7kg looked like. Basically two pairs of pants, one pair of shoes, a couple of shirts, socks and underwear, iPad and chargers, and toiletries. Because he travels business class, they’re a bit forgiving about the carry-on weight; wish me luck getting my 7kg onto cattle class!

Welcome

Welcome to my blog, named after three of my favourite things to do!

Let’s start the blog with a stack of pancakes, cooked by my daughter.  Every so often, on a Saturday or Sunday morning, she decides to whip up a batch, and it’s a great way to start the day.

Cooked with love.  Yum.

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