Phoebe and I at Stonehenge and, oh dear...what is that I'm wearing....a shapeless gortex jacket! I've incriminated myself now haven't I?
Leaving North Wales we took the scenic route towards Surrey where we would again be imposing upon Andrew (remember, Nick's third cousin) and Alex's hospitality. First stop was the mandatory Pershore, where we met again with Sheila and Barbara who took us to Pershore Cemetery to see some of Nick's forebears resting places, and then to the rather magnificent Pershore Abbey where Nick's great-Grandmother and nearly every relative remaining in Pershore since has been married. Then we were off to Somerset to the small town of Kingsbury Episcopi....which according to my Dad is the town of my forebears past, although I'm pretty sure it was long, long past. The village was small, had a church and pub (bare minimum for 'village' qualification) but has probably been ambling along that way for quite some time as Kingsbury is down in the Domesday book which was commissioned in 1086.
Next stop was Stonehenge where they give you audio guides for free, I think to justify the entrance price. I really liked it there, but understandably Phoebe was a bit lost on the significance. Then onto Salisbury to see the big cathedral and it's spire. The cathedral also contained a copy to the
Inside Salisbury Cathedral
Fun Phoebe activity = running around the grounds NOT seeing Magna Carta
Magna Carta which we were excited to see, but again it's importance was lost on Phoebe. For visits such as these we do try to impress upon Phoebe the significance of what she might be looking at but on this day Phoebe knew we were making our way over to Andrew and Alex's house so our explanations were usually met with “yes, but when will I get to see Niamh and Carrig?”
After a couple more days spent in Surrey and seeing friends in London it was time to catch a ferry over to France to begin our mainland Europe adventure. Having not a word of French between us before we left for France, I guess you could kind of say that we were already on the backfoot. Actually, not true, we knew “baguette”, “croissant” and “merci”, which do come in handy when in France. I also knew the phrase “Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi” from a Kylie Minougue song that was on her first album 'Kylie', which was the first cassette tape album I owned at the tender age of six. I used to sing the song at school (with all it's French suggestiveness) innocently until one day
Phoebe being a Sulk at The Louvre
Culture and kids just don't mix sometimes
a teacher told me young girls like me shouldn't be going around singing French songs without knowing what they mean. I assumed from the teachers tone that it probably meant something sexy, so made a mental note to not sing the song in earshot of a knowing adult (I have since found out that this actually translates to “I don't know why” - clearly the teacher just assumed French = sexy).
It didn't take long to realise that our sat nav, or Doris as we like to call her (what, you didn't think we'd been navigating all this time with some old, archaic road maps did you?) did not have the full complement of maps for France. It was a disaster! We ended up winging it all the way to the outskirts of Paris where we free camped for a night. We caught the train into Paris centre where, phew, we could update sat nav over the internet. For three days we got into a comfortable routine of getting up early, buying a 'Suisse Chocolat' (delicious chocolate custard pastry), catching the train into Paris and seeing the sights and generally just mooching about, eating baguettes by the Seine River
Mandatory Eiffel Tower shot, yes we also did one of her trying to push it over
and drinking overpriced coffee.
On our first day in Paris we decided to just walk and see what came up, as it happened we were standing on a street corner and oh, what's that? Oh it's the Eiffel Tower. Heading in the general direction of the Tower we stumbled across a big, important looking building. Further investigation found that it was the Louvre! Not bad for a morning stroll. We made straight for the Louvre and found, happily that it has just opened (and therefore not too crowded). Once we saw the Mona Lisa, Phoebe decided that it was time to leave. Ah...sorry, but there are 35,000 other pieces to see Phoebe! We didn't make it around the whole place, in fact multiple visits (combined with some gallery stamina) would be required to even lay eyes on the whole collection. But Phoebe grizzled, moaned and sulked the whole way around, and only sparked up momentarily upon seeing 'Liberty Leading the People' remarked “Hey, that's the Coldplay album”. Well, it does happen to be on the cover of Coldplay's latest album (and admittedly this was my first thought too).
When we first told Phoebe we were going overseas all
Relief at St. Chapelle
St. Chapelle in Paris is famously known for it's beautiful stained glass windows however I found the reliefs, largely hidden from view, to be the most beautiful
she wanted to know was 1) Would we be going to Europe, 2) Would we go to France, and 3) Would we go to the Eiffel Tower. Her fascination with the Eiffel Tower is largely due to the book 'Eloise in Paris' a story about a little girl who lives in The Plaza Hotel in New York and travels to Paris with her nanny and dog Skiperdee. I should add that Eloise's life is Phoebe's idea of total luxury and Phoebe will attempt to emulate Eloise at any given opportunity; (just an aside, but thinking about Eloise has caused me to reflect that perhaps she is a young Paris Hilton....she lives in a hotel, she has a penchant for small, pathetic dogs, and well, she's a brat.....should I be concerned?) Unfortunately for Phoebe, she was sleeping in a 22 year old campervan in the suburbs of Paris, and not staying in the Relais Bisson on the Quai des Grands Augustins with a permissive and indulgent “Nahnee” as was the fortune of Eloise. Nevertheless, we did make it to the Eiffel Tower, and went up to see the fantastic views of Paris. Afterwards we went to a 'Boulangerie' and ordered a mass of French quiches, pastries and cakes. We went to the park in front of the Eiffel Tower, laid out our spread and pigged out! Afterwards Nick declared that he would only be requiring an apple for dinner.
Paris was great, and we probably could have gone on with our Suisee chocolat/train/mooching around routine for quite a few more days, but reviewing our timeline it seemed we would be trying to squeeze in seven countries in seven weeks which is no mean feat when you are doing all the driving yourself!
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