We are still in Albi

We planned to leave today, but found the train connections for our next leg of the journey worked best on Tuesday. We had a good day yesterday of exploring the local bakery and hydro electric museum. We set out around 9:00 am and stayed at the bakery for a couple of hours working out accomodation and trains. This is proving to be a lot of work!

We caught up with Matt on FaceTime at the bakery cafe.

By the time we started walking again it was warmer. We are using our umbrellas for shade, no one else does, so we must look a bit odd to the locals. We stopped and had lunch just after 1:00 and then were able to get to,the museum shortly after it opened. We had a rest in a local park as well.

By now it was very hot. We found that all of the signage and the tour were in French only, so a bit of a struggle.

By the time we walked home, about 3 kms, it was around 4:00 and we were very hot and bothered. It was a relief to be in the relatively cool house.

An interesting outside spiral staircase on this building.

I took some photos in the front garden yesterday after sunset.

This morning we went to the bakery again and bought a large cheese and salad roll for our lunch and a meet and cheese platter for dinner. A couple of pastries made it onto our shopping list as well.

We’ve spent the rest of the day at home, with our hosts out at work. Today was about 38 degrees, the beginning of a heat wave. Our hostess did some washing for me yesterday in her washing machine, and I did a bit of hand washing this morning to keep up to date. The dripping washing, including a pair of jeans was all dry within four hours.

We switched the air conditioner on at about 2:00pm and have needed it ever since. We have watched the first three episodes of the HBO series CHERNOBYL, very well done and intense. It’s been a good distraction from planning trains and accommodation. We seem to,have to do some planning each day.

Paris to Albi

Our day of travel on Friday went well on the two booked stages, but not so well at the end. We caught a taxi from our hotel to the train station as our local Metro stops do not have lifts or escalators for going down and I was worried about injuring ourselves. We were in plenty of time for our train and boarded without difficulty.

This was all that we saw at Bordeaux. Later, when the train was due this platform was packed with people. There was a 15 minute delay.

The first train was very modern and the second not so much. The older train seats were well padded and more comfortable than the modern seats. We had plenty of space and napped a bit.

In Toulouse we hit a snag. Due to strikes trains weren’t running to Albi because of strikes. We waited 1.5 hours for a train, were told about a bus substitute too late to actually catch it, then missed a train as we were were walking back to the station. Our AirBnB hosts in Albi suggested we go on the Metro to an outlying suburb and catch an Uber, but we were tired and wanted to wait for the train, since they were finally up and running. Our hosts were picking us up from the station and had to do so much later than originally planned, which meant they were late for their social event for the evening.

The afternoon was warm and sunny and a bit humid, making the frustrations of the afternoon more challenging.

We realise that where we are staying is rather out of town, with a poor bus service. Our hosts gave us a lift to town yesterday morning and we caught the last bus home, with a 1 km walk at the end. We bought some food for an evening meal, plus a bit of food for today as the buses are even less frequent on Sundays and we have decided to have a rest day today. So we were carrying shopping for that last kilometre.

We like the house here, a traditional French house with shutters and nice outdoor areas. Our hosts have only been here a short while and the house needs a lot of work. The cost for staying here is quite low and we have everything we need, but it’s very much living in other people’s space. They had friends over last night, and they were sitting outside, Stephen continued to sit in the lounge, but I felt in the way and went to the bedroom where it is hot and stuffy. They gave us a fan for our room, which makes a difference as the only air conditioning is in the lounge room and our hosts don’t seem to use it, though they said we could.

We had a thunderstorm yesterday morning, which cleared the air for a while. It has rained again this morning.

Our day of sightseeing in the town was enjoyable, despite the heat. The morning was pleasant and we went to the famous cathedral and alto the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum of Art in a wonderful old building next door.

We had a meal at a restaurant with a set menu of three courses. We sat in the shade on a terrace and when there was a breeze it was very pleasant. The food was very good, of course and if you thought of euros as equivalent to dollars, it was quite a good price at $16.50 each. some photos from our lunch.

Stephen napping on the train.

Both the cathedral and bishops house next door look well fortified. They were built after the defeat of the Cathars, an alternative Christian sect that was persecuted in France. The buildings are in brick because there was no suitable local stone available.

A granita in the afternoon was very cooling.

There were quite a lot of tourists, but not too bad as Albi is not a top tourist site. Well worth a visit though.

Farewell Paris

Yesterday we spent the full day out. We went to the Musée D’Orsay to see the wonderful collection of impressionist paintings. As well as going to many of the galleries we had morning tea and then lunch at two of the cafes. We were able to get a lovely view over Paris from the upper deck, as in the above photo.

There weren’t just impressionist paintings, as you can see.

Our lunchtime cafe.

We were at the Musée from 9:30 to 3.00 pm. Afterwards, we caught the Metro to a famous cemetery where Stephen found the tomb of Oscar Wilde, whilst I sat things out in a nearby bar. Very tired legs.

On Wednesday we had had a very frustrating time trying to catch the 69 bus, a local bus that goes near many of the main attractions. Yesterday we finally managed to find it and were rewarded by going by the Louvre after squeezing through a very narrow passage. We must have been on a magic bus to have got through.

Not a very good photo from the bus.

We had an evening meal near the Musée D’Orsay which was on the way home. For the first time we were out well after sunset.

We were too tired to do too much packing last night, but getting up at 6.00 this morning we had plenty of time to get ready and have breakfast. We caught a taxi to the station as I was worried about carrying our luggage up and down stairs on the Metro. But then, we have a double decker train and our seats are on the upper deck. Stephen does the heavy stuff.

We really loved our little hotel in the suburbs, with low rise apartments and lots of cafes and little shops. I felt like I wanted much more time in Paris as it feels like we had just mastered how to get around and it was time to move on. We were able to hand wash our clothes and hang them in the bathroom to dry. In the warm weather they would dry quickly. The air conditioning worked when we needed it and otherwise we could just set to have fresh air flowing and open the window.

Our train seats are very comfortable with a good tray for messing around as we travel. We have two train changes on our way to Albi. The mild weather is about to change, we even had light rain on the way home last night. The forecast is for 38 on Monday.

19,000 steps: getting lost in Paris

We weren’t so much lost as having difficulty finding places we wanted to see. But, we managed to take in Notre Dame Cathedral in all it’s mess, still very impressive/

We had a morning coffee during our morning ramble and liked that chairs at cafes face outwards to the street to take in the views. It was sunny today, warm by the middle,of the day, but still very pleasant to be out.

We had lunch locally at a small restaurant and had Thai food this time.

Then we had an afternoon rest until 5:00 pm when we set out for the Eiffel Tower. We fell into conversation with someone at the station. He told us our planned route on the subway wouldn’t work and we had to go another way. That was helpful.

When we arrived at the station we still had quite a walk through a park and there was quite a lot of dust being blown up. Not quite what we had expected. We had a cold drink before tackling the final part, walking close to the foundations before going up to the Trocadero and around to the next metro.

It was a long and complicated journey on busy trains to get home. As we had a proper lunch we bought sandwiches at our local supermarket, plus small containers of crepe caramel and took them back to our hotel, it was quiet in the breakfast room, so we had our simple meal washed down with a beer.

Then back to our room for the night/

These photos are a little out of sequence.

Breakfast at our hotel this morning was lovely. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, cereals, fruit, pastries, pancakes, toast, coffee and all sorts of extras. Just what we hoped for. We spent some time planning how to get to Albi. We had to book the first train, and that includes a change of train on the way. Then we have one more train to catch. Our host can pick us up and take us to our AirBNB for the night, rather than having to go by bus for the last leg. When our planning session was over we set out on the metro, and got lost, more or less.

London to Paris on the Eurostar

We’ve had an interesting day, starting early so that we could leave the house by 0700h to catch the Eurostar to Paris. We had booked the first class, not actually called first class, and one of the perks was that our ticket included breakfast. We had cereal before leaving home, but after a fairly long time on the train to St Pancras International we joined long lines of people to go through security and then through passport control.

The train journey took about 3.5 hours, I think. There was a time change, of course, going back one hour, so we are only 6 hours behind Beijing time, also Perth time.

The breakfast included fruit juice, coffee, a small roll, butter, jam and a croissant or two. The coffee cups were small, but they kept returning for fill ups. We felt rather spoilt.

Getting from the station to our hotel was quite a business. Fortunately it has been mild weather today and we didn’t get too frazzled. Our hotel is quite small and sweet. Modern and a bit quirky.

We have supermarkets nearby and bought some salad and a sandwich to share before having a nap. We went out at about 1900hrs, the sun was still high and after checking out some local restaurants, many Chinese, one Japanese, and quite a few Italian we eventually saw a French restaurant.

We took the metro to the centre of the city. It was very busy along the river and we thought most of the people we saw were locals enjoying the long evening. By the time we were back in our own area the sun was much lower and was no longer glaring. We chose a small Chinese restaurant for tea, mostly because we could point to food to choose and because we could eat in an upstairs room.

Breakfast on the Eurostar

A beautiful old bridge on the river Seine.
The Hotel Issy where we are staying.
One of the many beautiful old buildings near our hotel.

Once again I am writing this entry whilst feeling very tired. None of the images have been processed. But I am not sure how much time I’ll have tomorrow and it’s best to get something written whilst it’s fresh.

Are we ready for this?

We haven’t been out the last couple of days as we finish off watching the Wimbledon finals and plan for our rail journey in Europe. We have two nights at a hotel in Paris and two nights at an AirBNB in the southern French town of Albi.

Today we booked our Paris museum tickets online, resulting in e-tickets for our entry.

We have only booked our first train trip on the Eurostar to Paris. We hope that after that we can just catch trains, but may sometimes have to book, e.g. for scenic train trips in Switzerland. At this stage we are thinking of roughly three weeks of travel, but will see how we go. If we get tired of this type of travel it may be a shorter time. If we love it and want to go further we have time to do so.

We are not used to having to book accomodation when we travel and being locked in after Paris is a bit of a pain as we might want to stay longer. However, accomodation bookings can be changed without penalty if we give notice. We are just now deciding to stay another night in Paris, so I will see about changing our bookings.

We have done most of our packing and Stephen has been very good about preparing meals the last few days. Here is my house husband at work.

I shall crack on with bookings.

Anyone for tennis?

We went shopping in the morning and settled down to watch the women’s final of Wimbledon. We don’t usually drink at lunchtime, but felt the occasion called for a beer. Sadly it was a disappointing match with Serena not up to her best. I hope she is feeling OK now, a few hours later.

At around 4.00 we set off to visit Morden Hall Park to enjoy a walk and afternoon tea.

We travelled for about half an hour on the tram. It was very full, with people drinking alcohol and being a bit noisy. It is Saturday afternoon. The park had more people than we were expecting as well, but it wasn’t crowded and it was nice to see so many people out with their children.

There was a warning sign on this little canal about the water being dangerous. However these children and their dog seem to be having a good time and the water is shallower than I thought.

A pot of tea and a shared slice of jam sponge cake made the journey worthwhile. Stephen checked out the bookcase, but found that the books were for children. The light on his hair gives him a sort of Boris look.

There is a nursery selling plants and Stephen checked out this pretty pavilion. The park is run by the National Trust and there is an interesting shop selling gifts and outdoor chairs, BBQs, etc. of the more decorative and expensive kind.

The old waterwheel and these grinding stones show that there was once a working mill here, plus some old stables that have now been made into a community and arts cemtre and cafe.

There is also this attractive house right near the mill, with a formal rose garden.

Our days are spent eating and thinking about meals and revisiting places we have been before. Of course, we are heading off soon for our rail journey through Europe and it’s good to feel that our present life is just a bit boring and to be anticipating having a much more interesting time once we leave.

A visit to our local park

We spent most of yesterday at home as we seemed to be feeling the effects of jet lag. In the late afternoon we visited the local park and enjoyed catching up with the usual things, such as the kiosk (closed, as it was late), and the community garden. The park is called:

We think of it as the water tower park because of the decorative water tower that dominates the scene. We can see it from our apartment:

And this is what it look like from the park:

Stephen looking graceful in front of the shuttered kiosk.

It was peaceful in the community garden even though it’s impossible to get away from the sounds of traffic.

We saw some squirrels as well, but my phone isn’t good for wildlife, the little creatures don’t let you get very close and they move very fast.

We stopped in at the little off licence on the way home where Stephen was given a copy of the paper, rather than having to buy it.

This morning we planned on seeing the movie ‘Rocketman’, but our information about it screening today was wrong. We may go tomorrow. We had some shopping to do in Boots, then had a coffee at a new cafe nearby. I noticed it yesterday and wanted to try it out. The atmosphere and coffee were fine, but it is like many other cafes here in having packaged sandwiches rather than food freshly prepared in their own kitchen.

As Stephen wanted to go to the library we called in there and had soup at Clocktower Cafe. It is rather like a canteen, and has fairly cheap and varied food. Not so much prepackaged.

I realise from the photos that the ceilings of both places are rather similar. However, the Clocktower Cafe is in an atrium and the photo shows it in one of the ‘sunny spells’.

This afternoon was the tennis, with the big match between Federer and Nadal keeping Stephen entertained whilst I was reading.

The weather continues to be quite mild, very cloudy with ‘sunny spells’. No complaints, we are just glad to not have hot weather, yet.

Let’s do a house tour.

The living room of our apartment from the upstairs landing.

Our bedroom, which has the window on one side and a sliding door on the other side. We get a good cross breeze.

The upstairs landing. This makes an excellent drying area for washing.

The upstairs balcony. This can be accessed from the landing and the main bedroom.

There is a second, smaller balcony off the living room downstairs.

The kitchen is spacious and there is an iMac in the corner which Stephen uses. I have my little office set up in the bedroom upstairs.

There are two bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs. This is the downstairs bedroom.

There are two bathrooms upstairs, with full baths. The downstairs bathroom (not shown) has a shower.