CHRISTMAS EVE

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I spent the morning baking with my trusty assistant Hugh who got to lick the chocolate bowl as a reward !
Jean, my Mum arrived from Newcastle by train at 1215. Pip + Barbs drove down with the turkey (to be eaten tomorrow) from Norwich and arrived at 1500 and Terry + Simon coming from Brighton arrived at 1930. We drank lots of champagne and ate lots of food – a filet of beef included.

My mam had written a play which we all took part in and laughed a lot.
Good to be with good friends and family at Christmas.

SALES MADNESS

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Sales in London have already started. Traditionally they used to start on Boxing day but not anymore. Many shops were discounting prices and started their sales in the days leading up to Christmas.
Have to show you this great photo which I snapped as I walked up Hampstead High Street today – a little lad amusing himself in the window of Gap. Funny !

WARHORSE

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Today we went to see the most wonderful piece of theatre – WARHORSE – showing at The New London Theatre in Drury Lane, based on the book by Michael Morpurgo.
I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I wept a lot.
It’s the story of a boy and a horse in rural Devon and the 1914-1918 First World War. Fantastic theatre – clever. The horses are life size puppets operated by puppeteers. After 15 minutes, I didn’t realise they were puppets any more as they were so life like. I believed they were real horses- absolutely.
Haunting. I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it now.

REUNION

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So good to be in London and no more Eurostar worries until we leave on January 02nd when hopefully everything will be normal.

Because of Eurostar, Hugh’s friend Jamie from Cape Town, on a grand tour of European cities, happened to be stranded in London so the 2 boys met up and had a great day together. We ate sushi for lunch and Chinese in China Town for dinner. The boys spent a good few hours at the magical Science Museum with its Launchpad permanent exhibition.

Hugh finally got had his orthodental appointment which we had been forced to cancel on Saturday afternoon and again on Monday afternoon. At last he started the process for getting braces which will be with him for 18 months – 2 years.

He also found his dream guitar in a music shop near Soho. He has been saving to buy this guitar but not quite there with the money yet….maybe Christmas gifts might top up the supplies.

LE VOYAGE

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Monday started with rather a long wait at Gare du Nord for our train to Calais, delayed by having to drive more slowly than scheduled due to thick snow on the tracks but once onboard, it was a pleasant, pretty 2hour (should have been 1.5 hour) ride.

 

 

 

 

A bus was waiting to take us to the port of Calais where rather a lot of people were queuing waiting to buy tickets, change tickets or board the ferry. We had missed our ferry but easily swopped it with a later one. All was rather excellent in Club Lounge – definitely the way to travel – including free soft drinks,tea,coffee and your first glass of champagne ! Of course I actively encouraged Keith + Hugh to order their champagne so I could “help them out” !!

 

The last bit of the journey once we reached the UK was not good. 1hr 30mins standing to disembark from the ferry as not enough buses to offload us all and take us to customs so just 2 buses shuttling thousands of people backwards and forwards.

 

Sadly, no taxis to be found at Dover due to excessive demand, so more waiting waiting waiting. Finally a train from Dover to St Pancras. From there a taxi to the house in Hampstead (home exchange) but as all of London’s roads were ungritted and not cleared – London traffic was at a standstill !

Once the taxi meter reached £50, we got out and walked through the ice and snow with our luggage as the traffic had ground to a complete standstill. Finally arrived at the house at 2230. Much relieved !

UH OH

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Got to Gare du Nord this morning for our holiday to London to find no Eurostar services running ! Stood in a queue for information – not much – Channel Tunnel closed due to the cold weather ! What was I just saying yesterday about no disruptions…..
Came home, watched news, read online reports and decided it could potentially be quite a problem for Eurostar – already 4 trains’ engines failed as they entered the tunnel from northern France. Thank goodness we weren’t one of the people stuck on the trains. It will take time to a) find the cause of the fault b) find out how to put it right c) Do testing to make sure it is working again.

In light of that , we decided to make contingency plans ! So we booked the train Paris-Calais, the ferry Calais-Dover and the train Dover-London. Departure Monday 21st Dec. Cancelled the Sainsbury’s supermarket order due to arrive on Sunday in London !

Fingers crossed….

BRRRRRR……

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You people in the southern hemisphere ? Are you enjoying your sunshine ? Want to try minus 1C snow ? Unlike London, Paris seems to function quite normally when the snow falls. Métros run fine; buses run fine; trains run fine. Or maybe I just don’t notice through my rose tinted spectacles !

Welcome the snow ! This is what Paris woke up to on Thursday morning !



Sorry I got a completely obsessed with the 1,000 Nativity Crêches exposition in Reims and I took about 100 photos so I have to show you some of them – sorry if it’s boring …..but it really was so gorgeous to see so many examples of nativity scenes from so many continents all so stylistically different. And it’s quite easy to guess which ones belong to which countries – some of them are so typical.

The exhibition was so beautifully lit and with such good and clear explanations of each country’s traditions at Christmas. And it was all in French and I didn’t bat an eyelid ! I finally think my understanding of written French is not too bad !
But let’s not mention the speaking of the French language or the comprehension of real speakers !

Have just come back from 2 days + 1 night in Reims which until recently I had been pronouncing as “REEMZ” but is in fact “RANCE” ! Monique who organises our monthly randonnées decided to organise a trip to Reims so 15 of us left Paris on Tuesday morning and returned on Wednesday evening.
These TGV trains here in France are so efficient and so fast. Just 45 mins from Paris Gare de L’Est. Reims is 80 miles north-east of Paris in the Champagne-Ardennes region. So you can guess what the highlight was !!

Yes, we had a tour of the TATTINGER cellars and sampled some of this very fine champagne. The lowest price bottle at the cellars is 31€ (Rand 334) and some bottles were 110 € (Rand 1188)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we ate at every opportunity and this restaurant was super – fun friendly staff and wonderful food. My endive, roquefort + walnut salad starter was a winner !
Reims Cathedral completed at the end of the 12th Century where almost all the kings of France were anointed and their rule consecrated is magnificent and has some stained glass windows by Mark Chagall.
A magical exhibition which we really enjoyed – over 1,000 Nativity scenes from hundreds of different countries with explanations as to how each country celebrates the Nativity – baby in manger, Joseph and Mary, three kings and the stable. Fascinating to see each country’s character revealed through the way their Nativity scenes are created.

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