Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The proof is in the pastry: Paris Take Two

After a nice long sleep we were eventually stirred by music floating in through the open window, announcing the beginning of Journée du Patrimoine (Cultural Heritage Day, when numerous monuments and important buildings open their doors to the public, usually offering a special programme of events). Once fuelled up with a café crème and three mini viennoiseries we sauntered towards Le Château de Vincennes to take advantage of the free cultural programme. The château is large, attractive, and, well, very French-looking! People were lining up to take tours, several of them kitted out in traditional dress, but we continued to the central courtyard where we could see some kind of marching band emerging from an archway. This turned out to be a reenactment of a march by the Grognards de la Somme, soldiers of the old guard of Napolean I. The drummer’s time-keeping and the group’s synchronicity left a lot to be desired, but the concentration on the their wrinkled faces as they huffed and puffed in their archaic uniforms was endearing to say the least.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The tourist branches out: Paris Take One

I am a big fan of the French capital and have been four times before. None of these previous visits lasted more than three days, and yet I always obediently crammed in as many “important tourist sites” as I could; Sacre-Coeur, Moulin Rouge, Champs Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay… Been there, done that, taken numerous pictures and basked in their historic grandeur. But there comes a time for every visitor returning to a capital city when they feel the urge to try something new, and venture off the double-decker tour bus route...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

All at sea

I must admit to feeling a little out of place as I strolled up to the reception at the Hotel Jerez, a 5 star hotel and spa, which we had managed to book for 65 euros a night thanks to Considering the free private parking that came with the room this deal actually turned out cheaper for us than the more modest hotels or even hostels that we had found elsewhere in or around the city, and what a luxury to have your room cleaned and fresh towels delivered every day! Ideally we had wanted to be right on the coast, but naturally the world and his wife were also heading that way, so everywhere was either fully booked or the price had been hiked up to peak season rates, so our solution was to stay in an attractive town slightly more inland and drive to the coast most mornings.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Next stop, Sevilla!

So, onwards to Seville… The roads once again managed to thoroughly confuse us until we resolved to buy another map (note to self: resisting maps is futile) and finally conquered the one way system to reach our destination, Hostal Jentfort. We had decided to sacrifice the ‘traditional’ Seville hostal (with patio and potplants) in the name of a good deal. Our double room was neat and a good size, with an en suite bathroom and air conditioning. Parking in the private garage was 10 euros per night, and the room was around 35 euros. The 24 hour reception desk was usually manned by Pepe, a jovial pensioner who instantly warmed to us because my boyfriend has a Spanish name, Manuel (or, as Pepe affectionately called him, Monolo).