Friday, 14 July 2017

Booze, Bands and Bastille Day.

Joyeuse FĂȘte Nationale! Today marks the day when the revolutionary forces stormed the Bastille prison and symbolises the demise of the French monarchy. Celebration have already got in full swing. I started the party last night because who doesn't like to make the most of a three day weekend? 
Last night a few friends and I took part in a fantastic Bastille Day tradition: the bal des pompiers. What is this I hear you ask? Every year the fire stations open their doors for a big party full of dancing, drinking and general frivolity. We ended up at the party in the 3rd arrondissement but they have them all over Paris and France. Dancing the night away with reasonably priced wine, we were showered with red, white and blue confetti that I'm still finding around my flat!  
According to an article I read earlier today said that today is the happiest day of the year. I have a funny feeling that all the partying in la belle France might have something to do with that. Last night was a fabulous demonstration of the strong sense of community you feel when living in France. Citizens, young and old, were out dancing in the streets just letting their hair down and having fun. It is real testament to a city that has dealt with so much in the last few years that they can still have such amazing events without being scared of what might happen in reaction to previous events. It was a big deal for me to go to such a well attended event as quite often big crowds especially at night can trigger my panic attacks. Do you know what? I didn't even feel nervous once and I can truly say that Paris has helped me get to this point in my recovery. So, when I'm singing the Marseillaise on the Champ de Mars tonight it is with strong emotion in my heart that I celebrate a country that means so much to me. 

Merci beaucoup.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Green and Glorious Giverny

The rain has made a comeback. You wouldn't have thought that it was July if you looked out of your Parisian window today. I had to do a double take myself as I just couldn't believe how miserable the weather has become. I have a theory that it's because I'd finally got used to wearing lovely summery dresses and secretly the universe has got it in for me and my wardrobe. 
I've taken to reminiscing sunnier times to boost my mood on this grey, dark day. What better moment to lovingly remember than a weekend escape in the sunshine? A few weekends ago I did just that. My Mum was over to visit and suggested we get out of the city for a change. Exploring the rest of France is something that I've been meaning to do so I proposed a trip to Monet's house in Giverny as our day trip. I had been once before a few years ago and remembered it being a nice relaxed excursion full of clean Normandy air and picturesque views. Our number one priority was where we were going to eat and rural touristy France being what it is we didn't have much faith in the village's offering. Instead we packed a proper Parisian picnic of Champagne, truffle cheese, charcuterie and fresh fruit. A feast for for queens. 
The day started on the train from Gare Saint-Lazare. For 25€ each for a return ticket it seemed like pretty good value and the train was spotlessly clean, although we did almost sit in first class by accident! 45 minutes of nattering later and we were out of the city ready to take on our Norman adventure.  I'd researched the next leg of our journey online as I recalled that you had to get a shuttle bus from the train station to the actual village. However, we decided to take another path. Instead of the 10€ per person for the official bus to Giverny we ended up on the mini train that was 2€ cheaper and 100% more entertaining. From the naff commentary to the route along the motorway without so much a seatbelt to hold you in, we arrived at our historic destination giggling and reveling in our spontaneity. 
Arriving at our destination we did what all self respecting Brits abroad would do and joined the queue. Of course being with my dearly beloved maternal companion we also started to make friends with the couple in front of us in said queue. 
A relaxing stroll around the immaculately planted but charmingly rustic gardens was followed by a meander through the great man's house that is filled with his own artwork as well as many other interesting pieces. All in all we were there for about and hour or so. 
After such a nice wander in the fresh air it was about time we cracked opened the picnic which I have to admit was sublime. The sun started to shine as we sat in the gardens surround the Impressionism Museum and had a lovely time munching on our French gourmandises! There are a few quirky little galleries and antique shops in the village which were fun to explore and required me to act as translator so Mum could inquire about bits and bobs! 
All in all, I would recommend it as a day out if you are lusting after some fresh air and inspiring scenery. While on the expensive side when you have taken all of the travel into consideration, it is a great destination for art and horticulture lovers alike!