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From Paris to Aix

From Jude

Well we have had a couple of very busy days in Paris. 

Paris has been amazing - so much to see and do.  Saturday was pretty warm, yesterday a bit cooler but today has been very hot.  Don't seem to get sunburnt as you would at home but you do feel pretty hot and sticky. 

Went to Versailles yesterday and were lucky enough to be there when the musical fountains were playing - it's only a couple of days a week that they do that so it was great to be there at the right time.  The palace  is just incredible - no wonder the people revolted and kicked the monarchy out, it's just so much opulence.  The gardens are fabulous and you could spend days there but we only had a half day which worked out fine for us.

In the afternoon we went to Giverny, the home of Claude Monet (the impressionist artist eg the waterlilies paintings).  The gardens there are just fabulous, especially the ponds and the waterlilies and the house is great too as you can see where Monet lived and worked.  I could stay there all day taking photos!

Today we have been round Paris on the hop on/hop off bus plus we did a river cruise down the Seine.  Gave us a chance to have a good look around and see the sights without dying from heat stroke!  A bit of walking involved as well of course!  We didn't go inside at the Louvre as the queues were long and we weren't prepared to stand out in the sun that long so we walked around instead. 

I've used my French a bit - more as I feel more confident.  Everyone seem to have very good English but it is nice to have a go and I think they appreciate it.  At Giverny the tour guide thought 4 people had got lost but they were waiting at the bus.  However the bus driver didn't speak English at all so there was a problem with the guide frantically searching for the (actually not) missing people.  I explained to the driver what had happened and so he was able to get a message to the guide to let him know everyone had turned up. 

We are off on the TGV (fast train) tomorrow morning to Aix-en-Provence in the south of France.  We are there for 6 nights and we expect to meet up with Lenore (daughter of Mum's school friend Annette and cousin of my friend Dianne) while we are there - should be great.

Tuesday: Well, we made it to the train station without any hitches (we were early) and sussed out the platform and where we needed to be.  It is a very good system and well organised and runs like clockwork so you definitely don't want to be late.

We are in first class which is good but the space for luggage is barely enough so it was a bit tricky getting all the bags on board and stowed.  Doug helped some ladies who were getting a bit stressed about it all - I note that their bags were bigger than mine!  Ha ha.  I have plans to buy another small bag and take it as carry on luggage.  Everything fits in ok at present but we haven't done a lot of shopping so will probably do a bit in Aix.

The train is very fast and gets up to about 300km per hour - it is amazing.  Can still see the countryside but not an option to take photos.

Paris was lovely but very busy.  It is school holidays in France and England so lots of people everywhere.  Paris is the most visited city in the world (highest number of visitors per year) - I think 22 million a year we were told. 

We're loving it here in Aix-en-Provence.  We have an apartment and have been to the supermarket so we feel more like locals.  Although there are still lots of people it is not as bad as Paris and it just seems like a more low key atmosphere.  Our biggest challenge here so far has been buying tomatoes - had great difficulty relating the price signs to all the different kinds of tomatoes.  Eventually picked up some nice looking ones but when I came to weigh and price them (you have to do that bit yourself before you get to the checkout) I realised that they were heritage tomatoes (old variety) so very expensive.  So I returned them and chose some long tomatoes (italian type) which were much cheaper.  We can't believe how cheap the cheese (brie) is - under 2 euros.  Avocados however - 4.95e (though that might have been for 2, but still!

My French is not that fluent but it helps to have some to get by.  A mix of French and English seems to work most places.  I've tried watching the news but it is too fast for me but I can work out the headlines that run in text underneath.  Luckily they repeat them on a continuous loop so if I don't get it all the first time round I can get it the next time.  I have been translating for Doug.  There was one story that I couldn't quite work out - I said to him they were worried about meat - I thought the word was meat but it seemed a bit odd.  But the next headline was about pork so then I knew I was on the right track.  Seems like they are not going to be able to breed enough pigs to meet demand within just a few years.

We are going to Toulon on the bus on Saturday morning (early - 6.30 am!!) and Lenore and Pierre will meet us at the station - we are spending the day with them.  They will bring us back to Aix later in the day.  Lenore has promised to take Doug for his swim in the mediterranean!  We will also have a look around the markets and the port.  We are really looking forward to it.

We are having a slow lazy start today - Doug cooked breakfast and we are just getting ourselves organised then we'll head out again.  I think going out early and late in the day are the best options with a bit of quiet time in the middle of the day when it is very hot. I watched the weather forecast last night and I think it should be a bit cooler the next few days ie high 20's rather than over 30 which will make life easier.  Our apartment is very comfortable - massive space after the tiny hotel room in Paris - so we are enjoying being able to breathe out and spread out a bit.  Also air con is very welcome, especially at night.

NB: Sorry had trouble with putting up the photos. Will try again later.

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