Year End. RM2016

And so, once again, it’s here:

The sun has set on December the 31st –  not only the day but the year.

New beginnings; dawning sunrise; fresh prospects

And another 365 days spread out before us.

 

A blank canvas upon which to print our marks, we are told, but

Coupled with embracing the new, is dismissing the old.

 

Waving goodbye to a year which has shared sadness for many of us,

With strange and bewildering world events and unexpected losses

 

But it is easy to forget that time and dates and years are but social constructs, and as we go to bed tonight, and wake up tomorrow in a new year, nothing has changed but our perceptions, and no year is fortuitous or otherwise.

 

2016 has not worn a robe of death and doom,

And the path of the future is untrodden until we tread it.

 

 

But there is nothing wrong with pausing and taking a breath and starting anew;

And telling ourselves that this year will be better, stronger, ours. Me and you.
 

 

The seasons will change, and the coming months coming after.

Will offer us all challenges, surprises, sadness, joy and laughter.

We cannot necessarily control what lies ahead, but we can control the way we face it.

 

So, the last twelve months have contained

Birdsong and dew; sunshine and rain;

Huge moons, bright stars, births, deaths and pain,

 

Laughter and joy watching lovers get wed,

Wiping away tears for what they have said,

 

New friends and chances, lifetime goals,

People embedding into other souls,
 

 

Walks in the sunshine, family and travel.

Feeling numb and impotent, watching fear unravel

 

 

Circumstances dictating no choice

Realisation of possession of a new voice

 

Moons rising, suns setting,

(surely both ways round)

Blissful ears taking in new sound

 

Always feeling that there’s something more

Finding that something worth searching for

Reconnections and losses, inexplicable news

Respect and challenge; opposing views

 

And through it all, the wiping of tears and putting plasters on grazes.

 

And finding joy in something small.

Pleasure in the knowledge that loved ones have happiness

And sharing sad times when grief consumes all.

 

 

I don’t really get involved in the dawning of a new year,

When I know that challenges and chances are always around,

Despite our best attempts to compartmentalise, ration and define.

 

 

Tomorrow is the first of the first, and as I do every year, I will acknowledge it in some small way

Then I’ll just keep living, like it’s another day.

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Blue Lagoon and a Siesta 

Day 10

The 6am alarm sounded like a good idea when we set it last night, but, oh, how the bones in this 41-year-old body protested this morning.

Still, disney awaited, and we were duly showered, dressed and down in the breakfast room for 7am, as promised. Now, I’ve read and heard all manner of warnings about the cattle market style breakfast experience at The Sequoia Lodge, and when we stayed in the Cheyenne, it was certainly a free for all scrum, elbows-in-your-face kind of affair, but let me give you a tip – go to breakfast at 7am. It’s so chilled and peaceful; the staff are warm and friendly; the few other patrons who are there, are polite and wait their turn, and it’s really a rather nice dining experience. As we left at around 7:30, the queue to get in was starting to swell, and it was full of stressed looking parents, crying disney princesses and small boys with swords, making enemies of calves and thighs.

We strolled past them, fully satiated, ambled through Disney village, and shot through the main gate of Parc Disneyland, flashing our “hotel guest” cards for early entry.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a magic kingdom employee, but if you are a guest at a Disney hotel, you get to go into the park 2 hours before the plebs non-hotel guests. Which means you can get on loads of attractions, meet characters or ride trains without any queuing. And it’s surprisingly quiet.

All of which meant that we managed four big rides before 10am, and were then able to catch great seats for the spectacular stunt show in the studios.

We decided to go back to the hotel when the sun was at its hottest, and the park was at its fullest, with every intention to go for a swim… But just had a little lie down, and a snooze…

At 5pm when we finally woke up we got our act together, shot back to to the park, caught the last showing of Cinemagique and then went to The Blue Lagoon, for our reserved evening meal.

Those of you who know me, will know that The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is my absolute favourite theme park ride. I love it. I loved the one in Florida, and I adored the one in California, but the Paris one is my favourite. And the boats you travel on, sail through a Caribbean restaurant.

And, finally, we ate there. It was wonderful. The meal was perfect, and the experience was brilliant.

When we finished, we had to go on the ride again…Smallboy is a little freaked out by the drops, but he compensates by squeezing the blood out of my arm on every descent.

We decided to omit the firework display – too many frikken people and go to bed instead, to burn off those calories with a good 7 hour sleep before we fill up on breakfast.

It’s a hard life…

All about the packing

Day 8

Today is our last day at Camping International, and although it genuinely is a very basic site (get ready to check out my Trip Advisor review, fans) I am really going to miss it.

The weather has helped. France (and the UK I believe) is currently experiencing some weather anomaly, and it has been completely glorious every day. I can imagine that the dust and sand and building works on the campsite  might have felt a little more grim, in torrential rain, but the sun can make a bulldozer look as sparkly as a diamond.

So, this morning we did somehing I have NEVER done on any holiday, ever. We did nothing. Literally nothing. We had a lie-in until about 9:15 (which is CRAZY late for me – I am a morning person) and then we lazed around, had breakfast, read, played games and coloured, until about 11:30.

Eleven-frikken-thirty without going outside!

I’m blaming the bloody 15 km a day treks through Paris we’ve done. My feet have not known what’s hit them (cobbles, grit, soil and paving slabs mainly)

Smallboy and I  both got a little stir crazy, so in the interests of sanity (and my now infamous holiday logistical planning) we despatched husband to the laundry, and I packed. I assumed that this was going to be a mammoth task. I had carefully-considered piles of categorised stuff ready to go. And it took me around 4 and a half minutes.

I had to call on all of my “optional and alternative activity” training and, so we decided to walk along the river to a park that we’d noticed last Monday.

 It was just so…French…

We strolled through open air seafood restaurants, to the sound of an accordion playing, we saw cyclists wearing actual berets and carrying French baguettes in rucksacks, we saw dressed poodles in the arms of impossibly-glamorous and fashionable French women, and we saw old, tanned men in canoes, smoking cigarettes and shouting at ducks.

It was like being on some xeno-centric film set!

The park duly played upon, and the 2 mile walk back completed, we felt we’d earned a final dinner out at the campsite bar. Turns out the French for “nuggets” is “nuggets” and it was entertaining listening to Smallboy speaking French to the bar owner.

W: Bonjour

L’homme: Bonjour

W: Ca va?

L’homme: Ah… Ca va bien. Et toi?

W: Pleeu plee ce ce va chan ce la….. MUUUUUMMY….he’s speaking a lot of bonjour words to me…

🙂

So, about to embark on our final night, but very excited, as tomorrow we go to Disneyland Paris…and Smallboy doesn’t know! He thinks we’re going home.

This could go one of two ways….

But for now, mes amies….Bon soir

Red Dirt Roads and American Dreaming

WritelyOrWrongly

DSCN1896I close my eyes. There is a stillness I am not used to. The heat from the sun washes over and around me, and it is so intense that I can almost taste it. I am far from anywhere, with a noiselessness that enrobes me. Then, I notice that there is more to listen to than I first thought; the rhythmic creak of a cricket, the lazy buzz of a curious fly, the crackle of dried grass barely moving in a feather-light wind, the sporadic hum of an occasional passing car, far from where I stand.

I open my eyes and take in my surroundings. The ground underfoot is red dust, peppered with tiny rocks and faded tyre-tracks from long-passed vehicles. I am on the edge of a vista of dried earth, painted by an unseen hand into hues of brown, orange, red, yellow, grey and green; fading into one another in…

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We Made It

Day 6

I know you’re all dying to know…did we make it to the Louvre?

The answer is; “yes, we did.”

And, as it turned out, the smuggery of pre-buying the tickets actually worked, as there was no queue and we strolled straight in.

The concourse underneath the giant pyramide is fabulous. It truly is a work of art, and clever construction. But, of course, like ever other philistine  visitor, the galleries denon is the one that we headed to first, to go and view the museum’s most famous lady.

I’d seen lots of photos online of people viewing Mona. They all look like this….

  …so I wasn’t expecting a peaceful, zen moment with the masterpiece, but in actual fact it was nowhere near that busy, so we were able to get fairly close to her.

My first reaction upon seeing the famous enigmatic  portrait was “oh”. I mean, genuinely, it’s obviously the work of an incredibly skilled artist, and hugely famous….but, I just don’t know what I should have experienced. I don’t know if this opinion will have me hunted down by the art police, and covered in oil paint and hung on a scabby wall in a temporary exhibition space, but I couldn’t really see what all the fuss was about.

I don’t know what’s supposed to make one painting worth so much more than another. I saw a fab one with some disembodied heads and an angry cherub pointing a knife at them. I liked that one. And another with an angel fighting a bloke with long dark hair and an empty scabbard, which held my attention for ages.

But at least I’ve seen her.

(Maybe the cosmos pre-empted my reaction, and that’s why it was so hard for me to gain entry in the first place)

Anyway, after Mona, we had a lovely look round the galleries – I particularly enjoyed the ancient Egyptian art, and the Greek and roman stuff. And I have to say I loved old no-armed Aphrodite… (More commonly known as Venus de Milo) but soon all three of us were museumed-out, so we ate a pizza and then chilled once more in the baking Paris sun.

Now, I am, of course, going to write a guide full of tips for taking a five year old to Paris – but today you get a freebie. 

When your five year old starts protesting, in a world famous museum about his feet hurting; the art being boring; and asking when he can go home; – simply play the game of “find the bums and willies on the statues” 

It will keep him (and the Japanese tourists) entertained for hours.

  

Third time’s a charm

Day 5

Oh, smuggery will get you nowhere, Morris. And pride doth go before a fall.

Having been separately a few times before we met, this is mine and Mr. M’s third trip to Paris together. The first time, in 1998, we were excited to go to the Louvre, but didn’t realise that it closed on a Tuesday – and that was our last day of the trip. The second time in 2003, we excitedly queued up to get tickets, but after two hours, a stern guard halted the line and told us that there were no more tickets left for that day. So, on this trip we decided that we would leave nothing to chance. We checked tips and trip advisor and consulted Lonely Planet. And yesterday, we descended below the Louvre and bought open ended tickets, without even having to queue, with the plan to go to the museum, see Mona and Milo before the crowds were heaviest, skip the ticket line and be out by lunch.

So, this morning, we duly awoke at stupid o clock, and 7am found us waiting at the shuttle stop to take us to our train.

We were in the heart of Paris, even taking into account the rush hour commute, by 8 o clock, and even had time for a crafty croissant before moseying on to the Louvre, our pre-bought tickets burning a little smug hole in our pockets, as we observed the already snaky, winding queue for the ticket machines at 08:40 – a full twenty minutes before the museum was due to open.

We joined our “ticket holders” queue, which was nice and short. And waited. It turned to 9am, and there was no movement. 9:10… Still no joy. 9:20 and we discovered that due to an unscheduled meeting of museum staff, there would be a slight delay in opening. No problem, we thought, we can cope with that.

9:40 and the queue started to move. Really quickly, in actual fact. Almost too quickly. But, we were finally on our way – a trip 17 years in the planning.

We could see the doors revolving, the glass pyramid sparkling in the sun, the security guard turning people away…

The security guard turning people away was the reason why the queue was moving so rapidly. “Haha” we thought “I bet they haven’t got tickets and are in the wrong line”

We arrived at the guard, brandishing our tickets, the grail of the doors mere feet away.

“I am sorry” he announced, in perfect English, “the museum staff have had a meeting, and decided to take industrial action today. The museum will be closed all day.”

Well, of course it will be…

I mean… You couldn’t write it, could you? Clearly, what actually happened was the one of them looked out of the window and said 

“Merdre – they’re here again…and this time they’ve got tickets. Quick, Claude, think of something”

So, our plans for the morning gone awry, we made the most of the 25 degree heat and hiked it to the Sacre Couer, (which looked blooming lovely in the sun) and enjoyed the harpist and the accordion player (well, this is France.) We strolled through Pigalle, and Lady Marmaladed our way past the Moulin Rouge, and then we hot footed it to Pere Lachaisse cemetery to visit Jim Morrison and Mr Oscar Wilde. I do recommend Pere Lachaisse as an experience, but take your walking shoes…. It’s bloody enormous! Especially if you go in through the south entrance instead of the one near the graves you want to visit.

Following this, we visited Notre Dame and took the Batobus down the Seine, while our feet cried with relief from no longer having to hit the ground.

There genuinely are worse places in the world to suddenly find yourself with a free day, but tomorrow’s plan of going up Le Tour Eiffel is now on hold, as we attempt the bloody Louvre for the fourth time. I mean, we’ve visited the set of Angels and Demons, and I enjoyed the Da Vinci Code, so I want to do some movie moments.

Let’s see if Paris can throw us another curveball tomorrow.

I’m off to have a bath in Corona…

Hotel showers and French Arrivals

Day 2

So – 9.5 out of 10 for the Heathrow T5 Holiday Inn Express shower.
Power, heat and a detachable head, along with free shampoo and shower gel.
It negated the pain of the 3am alarm call 

Also towels that fit the body and not just the size of a cloth handkerchief.

 I do not give shower praise lightly.

From here, we shuttle bussed it to Heathrow. I love Terminal 5. I feel like I’m in a space port.

I’ve never been in a space port, but my imagination is fabulous.

I was bewildered by the array of breakfasts on offer at Giraffe, and, in a panic, ordered porridge. It was bloody lovely, but the arrival at the next table of 16 “stags” and their English breakfasts accompanied with “the first beers of five days of fucked-up-ness” ensured our hasty departure. They did look like they were having a great time, but I’m a mother now, and little people have keen ears.

We caught the train to our departure gate (in the manner of princess Leah or similar) and boarded our flights. We were the front row of the Cattle Class  Euro Traveller, and so seated just behind the four rows of business class. As far as I could see, for their extra dollar, they got a tray with their breakfast and the curtain just in front of my seat got closed for the duration of the flight. Presumably so they wouldn’t have to look at our poverty-stricken pauper faces, or catch some skint from us.

There was no one in the seat in front anyway. So arses to your segregational curtain, BA!

Almost before we took off, we were descending. Paris is not far. And as we looked out of the window, we saw the Eiffel Tower. I was more excited by this than is reasonable, really. I don’t know what I was expecting to see or not see out of the plane window as it flew over Central Paris, but it did make me happy.

Two trains and a 3 mile walk later (it looked closer on the map) we arrived at Paris Est Camping, in bright beautiful sunshine. Kelly, the world’s least rushed woman, eventually got her head round checking us in, and led us to our holiday home. 

Her conversation with me went like this:

Me: beautiful day isn’t it? Really quite warm.

Kelly: yes

Me: looks like we picked a good week

Kelly: yes. And it did rain

Pause

Kelly: where are you from? England?

Me: yes. Nottingham

Kelly: oh.

Pause

Kelly: This is yours. We live on site, so….. Bye

She is English, by the way.

Anyway, the thought of catching a train back into Paris gave us the shakes, so we decided to brave the supermarket. Joinville le pont is really lovely and has a lot of bread in it.

But then we are in France now.

Also – French crisps. Bravo

I’m guessing the rest of today is going to involve sleeping.

Nigh night