Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas in Adelaide

Greetings all! Hope you all had a lovely festive season. 

It having been pointed out to me yesterday that I've been growing increasingly slack on the blogging front, I thought I'd do a quick recap of how we do Christmas down in SA.

Things kick off early around here, with the Credit Union Christmas Pageant heralding the start of the Christmas season at the beginning of November. This year was the 80th Anniversary of the Pageant (one of my personal favourite Adelaide events I must admit) and I was lucky enough to be with me nieces as they experienced it for the very first time. Which of us was more excited its difficult to say (ok, it was me). Joining the thousands of people who arrive hours early to secure a spot along the route, I met up with the family who had got us a primo bit of road about half way along. A lot of sitting in the sunshine, watching the kids cover the roads in chalk drawings, chatting to the people around us and losing count of how many balloons were floating off into the distance later, it finally began, being led not by the Police Greys as we expected (though they weren't far behind), but by 4 bicycle cops in their spunky new dark blue uniforms. And then it was waiting for the 80 floats including marching girls, bag pipers and drum bands, clowns, fairy tales, monsters, pirates, toys and of course the old favourites, Nellie the Elephant, Nipper and Nimble to pass by until Father Christmas finally arrived and was safely escorted into the Magic Cave. 


With 99% of the population putting up their Christmas trees on Pageant day as is mandatory, you know face a month and a half of walking around the Mall in shorts listening to White Christmas blasting from every shop. The suburbs also light up (to the great joy of the electricity companies) with clusters of fantastically decorated houses now springing up everywhere, thus eliminating the need for the delightful pilgrimage to see the Christmas lights at Lobethal (which is good cos I don't think I could pedal that far).

The big Christmas tree in Victoria Square gets lit up at the start of December, and just to make sure that no one has missed out on the Christmas spirit, everyone descends on Elder park for Carols by Candlelight on the last Sunday before Christmas (which I missed this year, boo).

Last but not least you have the Brewery Lights. These decorations have been brightening up the riverbank below West End for over 50 years now, and I strongly suspect that was the last time they got any new ones in. This year it was joined by the Christmas Tree Festival where groups came together to decorate Christmas trees in the park land to raise money for various charity organisations. But back to the brewery lights. Once again joined my nieces to wander along and look at all the old favourites; the jack in the box (now covered in channel 7 advertising, hmmm), the ferris wheel, the nativity scene, the black smith working away in his volcano and, of course, the blue whale, now extra secured in the river after his escape attempt during the floods a few years ago. Oh, also there are donuts :)

So there you have it, just a few of the Christmas traditions we have around Adelaide. When you have Christmas in the middle of a sweltering summer, you can't exactly go out building snow men and ice skating but I think ours is more fun anyway (not that I'm at all biased or anything). Hope where ever you were in the world your Holidays were just as much fun!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yarn bombing in Victoria Square

This is a bit of a quickie post because I sadly didn't get the time to participate (mostly because I kind of forgot it was coming up, hence not having time to whip something up) but spotted the finished installation today and thought I would share how great it looks. 

As part of the Christmas tree lighting celebrations this year, anyone in the community was invited to knit or crochet something to be included in the yarn bombing of Victoria Square/Tarndanyangga. With the project being wrapped up (haha, get it?) last week, the Square is not much more colourful with all the trees left of the fountain wrapped in bright Christmassy blankets, complete with teddy bears, knitted baubles and, for some reason, a rat on one. Some ingenious person even knitted up a set of stripped (and by now very soggy) wing covers for one of the birds in the fountain. 

And I must say, it's been a long time since I've seen Queen Victoria looking quite so snazzy!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mud Run

Bit of a short one today as I've been slacking off on my adventures around Adelaide with the warm weather starting in earnest this week. But what better way to combat a bit of a temperature increase than by running a 4 km obstacle course through the mud?

Arrived at Urbrae and found the other guys I was running with nice and early (because it said to get there an hour before our 10am wave time), got all registered (which involved being handed a t-shirt, white of course, and having my number scibbled on my arm in not-quite-permanent-enough-to-last-through-the-race-texta), checked our bags....and that left us with a good 45 minutes of standing around and waiting time. Went for a wander with the Biz to suss out the what we could see of the course and evaluate the food situation for afterwards. Rejoined the team back at the start line for more standing around waiting while our action sports photographer extraordinaire went off to find a good spot.

Before shot, all nice and clean

We finally made it to the start line and set off around the oval, through the hay bales, over the tyres (yay, didn't stack it) and into the paddock for 2 laps of very, very muddy obstacles. We crawled through mud under flags and cargo nets, waded through waist deep canals of mud, climbed over stacks of hay bales, over barrels and through concrete pipes, all culminating in a face first slide into a pool of mud, then (after the second time around), back around the oval and across the finish line.

Got ourselves hosed down (which mostly just served to make us all look like we'd recently gotten dodgy fake tans) and enjoyed some tasty post-run hot jam donuts as a reward while watching others go down the mud slide. Seriously fun event!

After shot...less clean

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A very bikey weekend indeed

All weekends should be like this. My muscles may not agree but whatever. 

Saturday JB and I rode to town, picked up some lunch (which took foreverrrrrr) and did the traditional mad dash for the train with the added bonus of dragging our bikes along as well, and eventually arrived at Noarlunga. Spent a little while trying to find the Coast to Vines trail as it was largely diverted due to the roadworks along the Southern Expressway, but soon enough we were underway. Followed the bike path along the side of the Expressway, through the burbs and past the airstrip for the little old biplanes, until just before Seaford. Veered off to do a spot of impromptu shopping and then tackled the last big big hill before Maslins (and thanks to the very observant car full of teenagers that slowed down near the top to yell "You're on a bike" at me, cos until then I thought I was floating up on a fluffy white cloud. Darn kids).

Recharged with iceblocks (thanks Robbie!) and spent a lovely afternoon catching up with Robyn and being wowed by Lachie's mad drumming and bike riding skills (I think its safe to say Uncle JB has a new number one fan). And then we did it all in reverse. May have slightly dozed off on the train (once they shut off the ticket machine alarm anyway) and then, just as a bonus, threw in a ride up the hill up to North Adelaide to get some dinner before hitting the couch, hard.

Today, having been reprieved from helping drain brake fluid (or something) I decided to continue my search for convenient walking spots for the tragically car deprived, i.e. me. Of the many things that continue to make Adelaide my favourite city to come home to, Linear Park is way up there. I love that you can ride all the way from the hills to the beach without going on or across any roads, and I especially love that within minutes of leaving the CBD you could easily be riding through bushland (if you ignore the OBahn buses zipping past anyway). Having only realised at Trailblazer exactly where Linear park finished in the hills, I headed out that way, arriving at Black Hill Conservation Park an hour later with a flourish as I hit a patch of gravel in the car park and mildly fell off my bike to the general amusement of picnicking retirees nearby.  

Passed a jogger on his way out just as I headed in and after that, not another person the whole time I was there (sorry Stephanie and Seek, no sexy Australian men for you this time). Left my bike behind and hiked up the Main Ridge Track, pausing to enjoy the views over Adelaide from time to time (not at all an excuse to rest on some of the hills, nope nope nope) but mostly just soaking up the solitude and thinking how lucky we are to have such perfect little spots of tranquility so close to the city. Made my way up to the ridge, and eventually met up with the Yurrebilla Trail for the rocky climb back down to Amber's Gully, keeping a watchful eye out in the warmer weather for any innocent looking sticks along the track that might suddenly decide to move (luckily all those that did had legs), and was I was back at my bike but with plenty of plans to return to explore all the other trails that caught my eye along the way. All the witnesses to my very elegant arrival luckily having departed, I climbed back on the bike and enjoyed the much swifter ride home for a well earned beer to round off an excellent weekend (trying not to think about how sore I'm going to be tomorrow :s).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vic road trip

After nearly 3 years of promising and failing to deliver on visiting Adele in Edenhope, at last the stars aligned to make it possible! With a car half full of dismembered mannequins (don't ask) JB picked me up from work on friday night and we slowly trudged out of the city and towards Victoria. Stopped for dinner (and a personal apology from the manager for JB's meal being forgotten) in Tailem Bend and finally arrived in Kaniva where I got given the grand tour. Unloaded the mannequins into the front lawn and set out for a night at the pub - love those country beer prices!

Next morning, with the Biz off to get grubby at Lake Hindmarsh, Adele came to collect me and the mannequins. After nearly driving of with Adele's purse on the roof of the car, we decided to do a little exploring of Kaniva's main street sheep art and refuel with coffee before heading for Edenhope. Stopped by Lake Charlegrark on the way for a bit of a look around, then of loaded the mannequins finally at their new home and headed back to Adele's for lunch and some artsy brainstorming. Decided on a plan for the rest of the afternoon, I comandeered the car keys and we were off.

Drove back into SA and cruised through the Coonawarra wine region. Stopped in Penola to buy some delicious treats from the lolly shop, marvel at some of the order pieces in the antique store and checked out the work of local artists in the main street gallery, then onto Mt Gambier. Headed straight for the (not as blue as it will be in a month or so) Blue Lake which was just beautiful. Followed a path all around the crater and had a look at Leg of Mutton lake crater as well. Adele got some blue lemonade to match the lake, and then we had a wander around the pretty cave gardens. 

We were then going to go to Beachport for tea but with it still being fairly early by the time we reached Millicent (and Adele having foolishly surrendered the keys to someone with an insatiable love of kitschy roadside attractions) we decided to continue out to Kingston S.E. Found the Giant Lobster (yay!) and amused ourselves and passing traffic posing for dorky photos, then brushed up on our zombie blasting skills at the world's saddest video arcade (the zombie game was the only one plugged in) while waiting for our take away. Had a lovely dinner down in the foreshore with our very own squad of menacing magpie bodyguards to chase the mooching seagulls away followed by a lovely twilight stroll along the jetty. Then it was back in the car, through Naracoorte, back into Vic and home to bed.

Sunday we spent a quiet morning around the house and at the school working out some logistical ideas for Adele's latest project, and after a quick circuit of the town to try them out, we headed for Mt Arapiles. Got pulled over for my very first RBT (much excitement) on the way, and we drove up to near the summit for a picnic lunch and a bit of scrambling over rocks to enjoy the view from the very top. Drove back down to the base so we could follow a different trail up past where all the climbers set themselves up. did a bit of exploring around the cliffs (bit tricky in the wind) and eventually made our way to another lookout for a quick rest. Took another trail back through the valley with climbers on the rocks on both sides, and indulged in a bit of bouldering when we got back to ground level.

Stopped at the cafe in Natimuk for a well earned cold drink and had a look at the town's mosaic statues, then onto Nhill where we had a last mini picnic at a park on the edge of town while waiting for JB to collect me. Adele headed for home while we returned to Kaniva for a roast dinner, a visit to the horsies and a very good night's sleep. Spent monday out at the farm and had myself a short (and extremely unexpected) ride on one of the horses. Eventually packed up the car and got back on the road. Stopped in Keith to check out the Land Rover on a pole and Andy Caldecott memorial, then on back to Adelaide and all the wild weather at home. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Marion Coastal walk

With the weather being all sunny and nice for the first time in, well in a couple days but it felt like longer, decided to do some more exploring around town. After getting a beef and veg curry going in the slow cooker (domestic goddess alert!) jumped on my bike and headed for the train. Got off at Marino and rode around in circles for a while trying to figure out why all the roads heading to the coast ended up somewhere other than the damn coast! Eventually got to the Seacliff caravan park and found somewhere to leave my bike. Then the real work began.

Spent a lovely afternoon following the Marion Coastal Walk, a 7.2km trail along the coast (surprisingly) from Marino to Hallet Cove. Lots of nice walking along cliff tops, enjoying the view over the ocean, and lots and lots and lots of climbing up and down stairs. I kept meaning to count the stairs, but I'm easily distracted so probably wouldn't have worked anyway. Eventually made it to Hallet Cove Conservation Park to check out the cool rock and cliff formations created in ice ages 600 and 270 million years ago, which is just a little while.

Made it up to Hallet Headland and enjoyed a quick rest before turning aaround and heading back. Took a different path through Hallet Cove which took me past the Sugarloaf (cos it looks like a loaf of sugar) and got startled by a Stumpy Tail Lizard (cos its a lizard with a stumpy tail - brought to you the Australian Committee for Giving Things Unimaginative Names) hiding off the side of the tail. Made sure I checked that it definitely had legs before getting close :P

Eventually arrived back at Seacliff where I treated myself to an ice cream and a nice sit down. Then, having decided that I didn't fancy giving Adelaide Metro too much of my money in the one weekend (wouldn't want them getting spoilt), decided to ride back along the coast via Brighton, Glenelg and Henley, then back along the Torrens back home. On an totally unrelated note, there are now a few dozen inconsiderate and generally oblivious pedestrians who have made my list...muhahaha.

So many stairs!

Black Cliff

well played lizard, well played

The sugarloaf

nom nom nom

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Adelaide Zombie Walk

Having managed about a 15 minute powernap and some important lying in the beanbag staring at the ceiling time to recover from Trailblazer, it was finally time to prepare for Adelaide's night of nights...Zombie walk!! After feeling far too low on blood spatter on our last attempt, this year we had doubled the supply and added props. So we began to prepare. I was going as a cheerleader zombie (mainly just cos I wanted a costume that featured sneakers), while JB was going as  zombie boiler maker, complete with a grinding disk protruding from his chest (which looked pretty awesome I have to say). Got dressed, applied the obligatory white make up and dark circles around the eyes (not much make up needed there after such an early start to the day), added the first layer of blood and strolled to the tram.

Met a few fellow undeaders on the tram, but mostly just entertained ourselves with the surprised looks on people's faces as the doors opened. With the tram dropping us in town at about the same time the walk was due to start, we headed back along the route, applying a fresh splattering of blood on the go, until we spotted the hoard moving towards us along Grenfell St. Joined the throng at Hindmarsh Square for the stumble through the city.

Many excellent outfits, some a little baffling...and I'm not sure that the guy dressed as a completely non zombified Wally quite got the point. Plenty of kids and dogs dressed up as well this year, a lot of superheroes, brides (weddings being apparently the most common sites of zombie attacks), celebrities, doctors and at least 2 special appearances by Jesus amidst all the gore. Towards the end we spotted some familiar faces on the footpath and joined Verity, Ryan and Kathryn to watch the rest of the walkers go by for a better look at the costumes. And it was a big, big, crowd too. Everytime you thought they must be nearly at the end, another wave of zombies would appear.

Eventually rejoined the tail end of the walk and finished in Light Square for a bit more of a look around. came to the conclusion that we still didn't have enough blood but not to worry, costume ideas are already being floated around for next year. With half of Adelaide heading to the after party at Fowlers, we instead enjoyed a pudski or 2 at Enigma with many other ghouls before my various aches and pains from Trailblazer forced an early retreat to the tram.

Trailblazer Challenge

After a last minute practice hike up Mt Lofty with Adele on Thursday, got an early start to the day on Saturday and met my fellow Booth Bevy team members (Adele, Verity and Lyndall) at Pinky Flat in the city to get ourselves signed in and pick up our race numbers. After some milling about wishing I'd woken up slightly earlier to have a coffee, we handed some essential supplies to one of our support crew (also known as JB) and joined the crowd at the start line where we, and some very surprised pelicans, got sent on our with the firing of a cannon. After a little of the obligatory weaving around walkers, we soon found space to run in and set a nice, steady pace for the first leg. Ran along Linear Park (with a few drinks breaks and one pretty impressive stumble courtesy of me along the way) for the first 18kms which is officially the furthest I've ever run, yay. Arrived at the first checkpoint in 2 hours 20 mins-ish, where we were met JB and all the yummy snacks we'd given him earlier.

Had a good break at Athelstone to refuel, change from running to hiking shoes and treat some blisters and various other aches and pains, then set off on the second leg. Left the river behind and headed up a narrow rocky path into Black Hill Conservation Park. Hiked up over Three Sugarloaves, then had a nice flat and downhill section before tackling the very long and steep Chapman track which took us up to the top of Morialta Conservation Park for some really spectacular views over the city, not that we could really stop to admire them because the trails were so narrow and crowded with the others who'd struggled up the big hill alongside us that anytime you stopped you would have to wait for about 15 people to overtake before starting off again.

Took the steep descent (poor, poor knees!) into Morialta and finished up with the less inspiring trek through the carpark to finally cross the finish line for the 34km event 6 hours and 6 minutes after setting off. Got our bibs scanned (so they could make sure we hadn't fallen off a mountain along the way) and collected our medals which was pretty sweet. Then Ryan drove us all back to the city for a relaxing afternoon of eating too much and hobbling around the house.

Big thanks to everyone who donated to Operation Flinders and helped motivate us, and extra big thanks to our fabulous support crew David, JB and Ryan for keeping us hydrated, fed and not making us walk back to the city again afterwards! So...who's up for the 50km next year then??

At the starting line

Refuelling at Athelstone
Tackling the Chapman track
Enjoying the view from above Morialta
At the finish line!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

City to Bay 2012

Having thankfully recovered from the exhausting croquet tournament the day before, woke up nice and early on Sunday. Enjoyed a nice light breakfast, double checked the back pack for race numbers and safety pins, then JB and I rode into the city and joined the 39000 others (well a lot of them would have been at the 6 & 3 km starting points but whatevs) lining up for the 40th City-Bay fun run.

And we lined up for a good long time too. Didn't get across the start line until 8:31 (made sure to check that in case my timing chip stuffed up like last year). As always spent the first 2kms dodging and weaving to find a clear space to run in, then going through the same process again after hitting the 6km mark, although our later start this year meant that most of them had spread out by the time we arrived so that helped.

Got lots of motivation from the supporters, bands, and one group of Morris dancers along the way. Surprisingly kept pace with JB the whole way, and the last 500m when the end was in sight and the rain had just started, I managed to find a little extra reserve of energy and just snuck across the finish line in the lead (he may be injured but it still counts). And despite lack of training, my jetlag and his seperated shoulder we still managed to finish with 2 personal best times. Go us!

Found the Booths and later Ana for a celebratory brunch before bracing the traditional crush of a tram ride home. Now to get training for the 34km Trail Blazer in a few weeks :-)

Croquet at Chateau Tanunda

With still 2 more official days left of my holiday (back to work on Monday), decided to head up to the Barossa to use up a few of the vouchers I always seem to have on the side of the fridge. After a realxing morning watching Sophie's swimming lesson and cuddling tiny Annabelle headed to Sarah's place along with Maggie and the three of us headed for Chateau Tanunda.

Indulged in a spot of wine tasting to get into the spirit, then picked up our gear (and a set of instructions on how to play, cos its been a loooooong time for me) and headed for the lawn. Then we headed back in when we realised that we were missing the hoops but a short while later we were actually ready to go. Spent the first round trying to get the hang of things (except Maggie who nailed it right off the bat). Picked up an audience when the tour buses started rolling in so then the pressure was really on. Maggie won the first round easily. I got the hang of things after that and claimed round 2.

After that (and lots of exhausting posing for photos and chasing each other arond the lawn with croquet mallets) we packed up, returned the gear and eagerly awaited the arrival of our cheese platters and sparkling Shiraz. Sooo many delicios goodies on the cheese platter, and yet we still found room for plenty of sampling when we migrated to Maggie Beer. Wandered around the beautiful farm and the lake, then found  a spot on the balcony for brownies and icecream to round off the day.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The journey home

Well folks, guess that just about wraps it up for this year. Had a very long trip home from London, via Frankfurt, Singapore (didn't find out about that one until I arrived in Frankfurt) and Sydney and finally home to Adelaide yesterday morning. Managed to stay awake all yesterday so hopefully jet lag may not be too horrific (maybe?), so now it's just the always fun getting back to reality  and planning the next trip. Thanks for following along all :-)

Monday, September 10, 2012

London, Cambridge and Liverpool

Yay London. Arrived on Thursday night on the Eurostar (why can’t there be a train from Adelaide to London is what I want to know!), found my way to Tim’s place and spent a nice relaxing night catching up with him, Amy, Killian and Dominy.

Set out on Friday for a day trip out of the city. Basically went to the train station and the first name on the departure boards I recognised was Cambridge so I figured that sounded as good as anywhere. 45 minutes later I arrived and based on the number of bikes thought I’d ended up in Amsterdam accidentally. Turns out (as I learnt on the free walking tour I found) that the students aren’t allowed to have jobs or to drive so its bikes or nothing. Kooky. Anyway, got taken around the city, past the botanic gardens where Charles Darwin hung out and they have a replica of Newton’s apple tree grown from a branch from the original, into a few of the beautiful colleges and their chapels, along the river and finally to the stunning King’s College chapel which is bigger than some cathedrals back home. Found out lots of history about the town, the university and some of the more famous students (Steven Hawking for one), also the guide got into a fight with some guy at a church so that was interesting.

Explored Kings College and market square, then rejoined some of the people from the walking tour to go punting on the river to see all the beautiful bridges and the backs of the colleges. Very relaxing and the weather was just perfect for it. Found a patch of grass that you were actually allowed to go on (like Versailles, if you walk on the grass in the colleges someone with a whistle will come chase you off) and had a little picnic with myself before meandering through the back streets to the train station and back to the house. Joined Killian for a funfilled night at the pub watching soccer, which I’m getting marginally closer to understanding after the Barcelona v Real Madrid game we watched at Pueblo Ingles (apparently I’m a Real Madrid fan). Got to meet plenty of the locals and bitched about the price of beer in Australia (seriously its so frickin’ cheap over here!).

Saturday I made my mooching around the city day. Headed into Piccadilly Circus to see what tickets were available. Les Miserables having been completely sold out my entire visit last year I wasn’t holding out a great deal of hope, so I nearly keeled over when they had a seat available for that night! Happy dancing around the Cupid statue completed, I made my way to Camden, possibly my favourite place in London where, between strolling and enjoying the sunshine and whacky fashions, I managed to buy a whole new wardrobe. Now I just have to fit it in my bag! Headed back to the house to drop off my shopping and relax for a bit, then back into the city.

Enjoyed my traditional Boots meal deal at Piccadilly Circus (cos I just love getting into people’s holiday photos eating a sandwich), though it was dampened a little when I discovered that Boots no longer seem to have chocolate brownies which is basically the whole reason I come to London all the time L Found Queens Theatre and got settled for Les Mis. I was literally on the edge of my seat the whole show, though that was largely due to the fact that I was in the front row of the upper circle and the only way to see the stage was to lean all the way forward on the railing (cheap seats). Doing that though the view was perfect J And the show was amazing! They have a rotating stage and incredible sets and the songs were all brilliant. I laughed, I cried, I got a cramp in my back from sitting in that position for 3 hours but all worth it.

The last official day of my trip I headed out to Liverpool to hang out with Stephanie (of Pueblo Ingles fame). About 5 minutes before arriving however I finally got the phone call that I had a 6th niece, Annabelle Jorja. So close! Anyway, Stephanie met me at the train station and we spent a great day wandering around the city with me saying “this city is so cool” around pretty much every corner. Looked at the beautiful old buildings and museums around the train station, grabbed chai lattes in a very funky coffee shop, then wandered around restaurants and shops at the docks (Port Adelaide needs to take some lessons from Liverpool, seriously). Had a look at the Mersey and its ferries, then just cos you have to, we found the Cavern club and stopped for a beer and a little groove to Beatles covers. Went back to the docks for a lovely Italian lunch, then did a bit more wandering, got yummy icecreams and hiked up to the massive Anglican cathedral before returning to the train station and back to London to repack and relax before starting the trip back home.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Paris part 2

The next day I decided to brave the Louvre. Having been tipped off to a few secret entrances during the walking tour I was all ticketed up and inside within 5 minutes of getting off the metro. Take that people lining up at the main entrance! After stopping by the Venus de Milo (awesome!), decided to just get it over with and headed for the Mona Lisa. I survived but it was touch and go there for a while. Fought my way to the front, got a photo, did the ‘huh, I thought it would be bigger’ thing, and got the hell out. To be honest the rest of the museum, especially the Egyptian and sculpture wings were much more interesting, and I spent quite a while getting lost in the quieter sections where the crowds who only go for that one painting never get to.

Once I decided that if I hadn’t seen everything, I’d certainly seen enough I headed to Notre Dame. Took a quick circuit of the inside but found myself far more impressed by the exterior. Lined up to climb the towers and got up close and personal with the amazing gargoyles. Enjoyed a spectacular view which did in include the Eiffel tower, and saw the enormous main bell which had to be almost twice my height. Definitely worth the 400 steps, if only for the amazingly expressive features on the gargoyles.

For my last night in Paris, I returned to Monmarte and treated myself to a very nice French meal of almond encrusted goat cheese salad, salmon steak with pasta, crème brulee which arrived fully aflame and a glass or 2 of pinot noir, because honestly eventually you just have to accept that no handsome French millionaire is going to swing by the hostel and insist on taking you out for dinner so you better spoil yourself. After all that indulgence I continued on to the Arc de Triomph which I may or may not have broken into as it was a little unclear as to which parts you did and didn’t need tickets for. But the security guard that saw me enter via the exit (oopsy) didn’t seem overly fussed…and I wasn’t set upon when I tried to leave the country so I think I’m ok.

Having finally figured out what that niggling feeling that I’d forgotten something was all about, checked out early on my last day and made my way to the Catacombs. Chatted with a few people during the wait in line and eventually made it inside (glad I got the tip to go early!). Just incredible. Its over 2km of tunnels through old limestone quarries with thick walls of bones and skulls from when Paris emptied the cemeteries in the 1700s, in most places stacked taller than me. Very cool and creepy, definitely the highlight of Paris for me.

Back on the surface I found my way to the Musee d’Orsay which, for me, was so much more rewarding than the Louvre, having a huge collection of more contemporary artists such as Renoir, Monet, Toulouse Lautrec, Picasso and some more of my very favourite Van Gogh pieces (the painting of the church that was featured in that Episode of Doctor Who is simply mesmerizing in real life). Lots more of the same at the Orangerie, but with the added bonus of Monet’s Water Lillies Certainly none of that size based disappointment so common around the Mona Lisa with each of the 8 being almost 2 metres tall and running the length of the walls.

Since I was in the area, wandered to the Hotel de Invalids and had a gawk at Napoleons tomb which is just about as humble as you’d expect from him, being a giant marble sarcophagous under the golden dome of the church and surrounded by Roman style carvings of himself as emperor with all his minions looking on in awe. Yikes. The rest of the complex is a military museum so zipped around there before racing back to pick up my bag and heading to catch the Eurostar to London.