Right now we are in the Somme region of France. This is an area that has a strong military connection to Australia. This region was called the Western Front during World War One.
One particular town, Villers Bretonneux, identifies itself with Australia. The streets are all named after towns in Australia. There are images of kangaroos everywhere and the school makes a point of doing Australian cultural studies. This is because ninety years ago this town was liberated by Australian soldiers.
Not far from this little village stands the most incredible memorial to the foreign soldiers who defended this area.
Forty-six thousand Australian men lost their lives in this region in a matter of three years. All young men, in the prime of their lives, at a time when our total population was only four million.
Their names neatly engraved on wall after wall of sandstone, lists so long that it is agonsing to stand before them.
Row after row of white headstones mark the passing of each soldier.
Many of the headstones stand for soldiers who could not be identified, but whose family ached for their loss.
The inscription on this one just broke my heart.
The day we visited was cold and rainy. It seemed entirely appropriate.
Lest we forget…
Our first day in London was our only dull day. It was quite late in the afternoon when we went up on the London Eye.
Just to prove that I did actually go up there…
although I did not stand up (or even look very happy).
Some iconic images.
Big Ben (although I realise the name refers to the bell which is not visible)…
the changing of the guard at the Tower of London…
the Tower Bridge..
Carnaby Street (where I whistled the Austin Powers music in my head the whole time)…
and the West End theatre where we spent our last night with tears of laughter rolling down our faces.
We have now moved back to France for our last few days in Europe. We are in the northern area – where Ashy has lived this year. She is going to show us her highlights.
France de Ashy…
I sat in a comfortable chair in the lobby…
beneath ambient light…
clutching a gift.
Our dates arrived promptly and with much excitement. They took us to a cavern of a bar, known to have been frequentled by other Australians.
After our drink we sat at the top of a double decker bus…
and travelled to our next London location.
We nearly lost Ashy on the way…
but that train had already left.
We ate dinner in the most amazing space…
and did that thing that bloggers do when they meet in real life. We talked comfortably, as though we had already been in the middle of a conversation, as though we had met a million times, as though we knew each others’ minds.
Our hosts were thoughtful and gracious and kind. They shared their knowledge and passion for this place. They knew of our area of Australia without even realising it. Thanks to this man.
Perhaps one day they can visit us for dinner… we promise not to serve witchety grubs though!
We spent some time exploring the halls of the Louvre. I must say, and sorry if this makes me ignorant, that I was more taken with the building than with the art. The castle must have been magnificent in its prime.
We moved quite quickly through the museum to our targets – the Mona Lisa
and Venus de Milo.
She is indeed beautiful.
Although Ashy noticed that she has large, flat and rather manly feet just like yours, Pip.
Just imagine what her hands must have looked like if she still had them.
The Eiffel Tower is the ultimate symbol of Paris. Immediately recognised, a beacon for tourists to the city. By day it is magnificent – especially in the weather that we were lucky enough to enjoy.
By night it takes on a whole new dimension. Right now it is lit up in an eerie blue to represent the European Union.
This is the enduring image that we will take with us from our days in Paris.
Today we flew into London. We have already been way up high on the London Eye. Tomorrow we begin to explore the streets.
PS I haven’t even shown you my Louvre shots, it might have to be two posts on one day today…
Last night we each slept for twelve hours. This is the true sign of a good holiday! Over the past few days we have walked and walked and walked through the streets of Paris.
The leaves on the trees are noticing the first hints of winter and beginning to fall.
We held hands down the Champs Elysees…
We ate beautiful pastries…
We got caught taking self-portraits in the lift and had to pretend that we were mature…
We walked the castle…
and gardens of Versailles…
We climbed the fifty thousand steps to the Sacre Coeur with fifty thousand other people…
We watched a lady whistle along to a herdy-gerdy at Montmarte…
No wonder we were tired!
Check this dude out, Pip. Not only does he have to suffer the embarrassment of being carved naked, but he has the added humiliation of having a pigeon on his head!
We have made it safely to Paris, although several times during the 24 hours in the air I thought we would NEVER make it! I am embarrassed to say that one of the first things that I did on arrival was vomit – a lot. In the Aussie vernacular, I spewed my guts up. All that flying, then driving into Paris in the back seat of Ashleigh’s Host mother’s car. Luckily we had a plastic bag from the duty-free shopping we had done.
This is the hotel that my Pete selected for us…
He wanted to stay somewhere typical of the country. He made a fantastic choice. We are staying in the very top window – where the walls are the roof so they angle in.
This is the view from our window
How cool is that? At night La Tour Eiffel is lit up with sparkly blue lights. I can see it while laying in bed. Parfait!
We have been up the tower.
My Pete and Ashy went right to the top. I did not – after the previously mentioned vomiting incident I decided that the second level was enough for me.
We have taken the metro. My Pete and Ashy decided the route after serious discussions.
We visited Notre Dame.
It is amazingly detailed – inside and out.
We visited the Louvre, but we haven’t been inside yet. We just walked around the exterior.
Ashleigh has done a lot of this..
She calls it camera whoring. She’s a charmer! It obviously doesn’t impress my Pete!
But it takes a great photo…
It is fantastic to be together.
I miss you most beautiful boy. I miss your hugs and your easy laugh. I miss you noticing anything that is slightly offbeat. I’m sure that you are being fabulous company at Peta’s house and that Chelsea and Jojo are loving that you are sleeping there for two and a half weeks.
I hope that you are remembering to wake up on time each morning. Don’t forget to wash you hair every couple of days and make sure that you don’t leave your dirty socks all over Peta’s house.
Please feed the dogs and the fish each day. Check that the dogs have clean water – make sure no toads have jumped into their dishes. Feed dad’s fish, but don’t overfeed the big oscars – they just make a mess of the tank if you do. The bins go out on the footpath on a Thursday night, can you bring them back in on Friday morning.
Check your email – I will send you some. You can send one to me too if you like. (This is all you ever need to do to please your mother.) I’ll send you a text message when the plane lands in Paris and if I see anything that you would like.
Enjoy your holiday at Peta’s house. Go to the movies, ride your bike, read some books and help out wherever you can. These seventeen days will go quickly, then you can come to pick me up at the airport. I’ll have a bag full of gifts for you. I know you’ll have lots of stories to tell me. I know they’ll be funny and that I’ll laugh with you at every one of them.
I love you. I miss you. Be good, I know you will be, you always are. I’ll see you very soon. I’m looking forward to it.
Tomorrow morning at 6am we depart from Townsville. It will be another thirty-two hours until our feet hit French soil. Thirty-two hours without a bed or a pillow. Thirty-two hours without a proper warm shower. Thrity-two hours without a proper meal.
Thirty-two hours until I stand with my baby. Thrity-two hours until we watch her fluently translating what is happening around us. Thirty-two hours until she shows us around her France.
It may be some time until I post again. It may be some time until I read your posts again. Please try not to do anything interesting, or dramatic, or funny for the next little while. I don’t want to miss out on anything…
and getting organised!
This weekend my Pete and I are preparing for our visit to France. We leave on Wednesday, but are both working on Monday and Tuesday.
So we are doing the washing, cleaning out the fridge and packing.
I have done my essentials. I took some of these
and used them to convert this bag so that it will hold my camera and lenses.
I don’t like to carry a bag and a camera bag. With the velcro and padded inserts I have created a camera bag that can also carry my purse and phone and bits and pieces. This one has better handles than a camera bag and it is a much better colour. Why are camera bags always ugly grey?
I also made this – another travel essential.
My travel diary. Each night I will cut up the pamphlets and maps of the places we visit and glue them into my diary. I bought two new pens because NONE of the pens that I own are suitable to write in a travel diary. Some paper, some sparkly flowers, some sparkly letters and I have all that I need.
I should probably get serious now and pack some clothes, otherwise I will get to Europe with the most fabulous travel accessories, but no clean underwear…