Saturday, 29 August 2015

Paris and The Eiffel Tower...

We were both pretty knackered, so I didn’t set the alarm and instead had a lazy (for us) start to the day. After breakfast we walked up to the Eiffel Tower, The guy who owned the apartment said it was a 10 minute walk but in reality it was more of a 20 minute walk!

Ebi-kun noted that there were so many beautiful buildings but also asked why people graffitied on such lovely places, I had no answer.

We arrived about 9.30am and already the queues were long. We decided to walk up to the 2nd floor and then decide if we wanted to tackle another queue to get to the top.
It took us 40 minutes to get tickets to walk up and € 5 but not too long to make it up to the first floor. Yes, that is glass on the floor and yes, they are the queues of people waiting to get in.

We had a break there and a Pain Au Chocolat to celebrate, after a wee break we continued to the 2nd floor. Our first French pastry, up the Eiffel tower, we know how to roll!

The views are pretty impressive but I felt Paris was much smaller compared to London and Tokyo. Luckily it was a beautiful day so we could get a great view.

But the queues... we could only make it around 2 sides of the tower because of the queues for the lift to go to the top. We had a chat and Ebi-kun really didn’t want to stand in a line for an hour plus, so we had another half lap of the second floor then headed back down.

Ebi-kun treated himself to a pack of Top Trumps and got a mini tower for daddy and we headed out. By this time we were getting hungry so we had a delicious crepe in the park just the other side of the river Seine, took in the views and watched the tourists milling around. Then we headed up to the Musee De Art Moderne, it was actually really hot in the afternoon so we just wanted to shelter from the heat.

The museum was free and not busy at all, we had a good wander and got to see some great pieces of work. As it was still too hot for us feeble English tourists so we nursed a drink in the cafe and played Top Trumps until we could face heading outside again.

Eventually we made a move and wandered back over the Seine and through the gardens to make our way back to the apartment. We could have jumped on the metro but you miss so much when you are underground. To be honest, I really have to start doing Tokyo above ground because I rely on the trains and miss much of it!

We had to make a stop at the park for a play, it had great equipment, all the play parks we saw looked fun. I did think to myself that it looked like a fashion shoot come to life, all the kids were so well dressed!

When I was researching Paris I came across THIS SITE which is great, he is an American living in paris and gives you the low down but not in a boring tourist website way. One of the things he mentioned was the pixel graffiti art and so this became the challenge for the week. I will do a round up of them all at the end but this is the first one we found. They are little mosaic on random buildings.

We made it back to our end of town without too much trouble and tried out one of the little cafes on our street. Food was great, waiters were rude, I would expect nothing less. For an idea of prices, my salad was €13 and Ebi-kuns €14.

Then it was back home and collapsing into bed! Tomorrow, Daddy arrives!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Remembering the not so great trip to Paris...

[11th august]

We left Brighton bright and early, luckily there was a direct train to St Pancreas which is where we were catching the Euro Star. This was a first time for me although I have been to Paris before, which ended in disaster, maybe I should tell the story...

Many moons ago, when I was a college student my mate Sam and I decided to go inter-railing for the summer, for those that don't know, you could buy a 4 week rail pass which allowed you to travel all over Europe.

The start of the trip should have been an indicator of what was going to happen, I met Sam in Birmingham, where she discovered she had left her passport on her bed in Liverpool! We ended up staying over and my Nana's house and her mom posted the passport down. It was this trip that we heard the story of my granddad walking 15 miles to see a dead donkey! He also tried to get Sam (a vegetarian) to eat a ham sandwich, insisting that the pig had been a veggie too!

Eventually we managed to leave the country and we spend the first week city hopping, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin then we found ourselves locked out of a youth hostel at 10pm in a small town in Germany. We walked back to the train station, the choice was a night train to paris or sleep at the station.

We decided on the night train. We pull into Paris first thing in the morning, both of us feeling awful, I felt like I had a migraine and hangover rolled into one. We get off the train and decide we need to change some money - this was pre-Euro days, and then we discover we have been robbed!

No money other than some loose change in various currencies, no passports, we had our rail tickets and I had a credit card. We eventually found the police station to report the crime, it was horrid, the police were horrible, but they said it was a common thing and that we felt awful because the robbers used gas canisters to knock the passengers out before robbing them.

The very unhelpful police told us we needed to go to the British Embassy since we had no passports. We managed to call Sam's mom, who in return called my mom, who promptly cancelled the credit card! Although we didn't know this at the time.

We walked for miles to find the embassy, when we got to 119 on the street that the police had given us, we found ourselves outside a closed Italian restaurant!

We sat on the pavement and just laughed, it would have been that or cried! Luckily 2 lads were walking by and asked if we were ok, we told them our tale and the said they would take us to the embassy but we were in the wrong side of town so it would mean a ride on the metro. We didn't have money for the metro but the lads showed us how to jump the barriers so we didn't have to pay!

We finally made it to the embassy and we said our thank you's and goodbyes to the lads that had helped us. Then we were greeting by a f'ing twonk of all twonks, we had obviously interrupted his Sunday tennis game. You would have though that two 19 year old girls who were stuck with no money and no passport would have gotten some help. The embassy chap was rude and not helpful at all, wouldn't even allow us to use the phone so we could let our parents know we were OK. He gave us an 'official' bit of paper to act as a temporary passport and sent us on our way.

We managed to make our way to Calais, by this time we had eaten or drunk anything since dinner time in Germany 24 hours before. We went to buy ferry tickets with the credit card and that is when we discovered that the card had been cancelled. I managed to call my mom in a panic because at this point we were totally stuck. Luckily between my mom, the ticket lady and the bank, they managed to sort the transaction out but I wasn't able to use the card for anything else. We still had very little money. 

We pooled together what we had got and we had enough to buy a cheap bottle of wine or a sandwich each. We went for the wine! Just as you though the tale was coming to a close, the ferries were stopped because of bad weather. We ended up spending the night at the ferry station. All was not lost, we met a group of lads who took pity on us and fed us lots of beer and kept us amused with their daft antics.

We eventually got on the ferry and we went to the cafe to see if we could buy some food with the bit of change we had left, the waitress felt sorry for us after hearing our tale and gave us both a free meal. Thank you ferry waitress lady, your kindness has never been forgotten!

Once we got to Dover, we had to yomp from the ferry station over to the train station, I don't remember how far it is now but I know it felt like forever! Finally we made it into London and on to trains to take us back home. 

So, that was my previous experience of Paris, not exactly a bundle of fun! So it was with nervous in-trepidation that I headed over there this year. 

Our journey went without any issues. I had booked an apartment with AirBnB so we made our way to the apartment OK, of course, when you arrive in a new country it's always a bit of a challenge to get your head around the transport system. I asked a local or two for help and they were both very kind and obliging, not the rude French stereotype.

We were met at the apartment and shown around, rather a quirky place and at the 5th floor, which to be honest was a bit of a killer! By this time it was late afternoon, so we just had a wander around the neighbourhood, getting the lay of the land as it were and picked up some food for dinner and breakfast. We both collapsed into bed pretty early.

Tomorrow we go adventuring....

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Playdate with MY cousins

10th August]

Monday morning the boys were dead to the world, Di and I packed up the rest of the tent and yet they slept on. Finally we had to tip them out of their sleeping bags (sweet revenge) so we could actually pack up the tent!

After getting back, unpacking, all taking a bath and getting sorted my uncle (who is just 4 years older than me) and his kids (my cousins) came round for a playdate. Obviously my uncle thinks he is 6 years old and is rocking a jesus look with the beard and the sandals!

Serious game of footie going on in the garden there....

It was lovely to see them if only briefly, once they said their good-byes it was time to welcome Rob back home, who had been in China for a week and to get our backs backed, ready for the next adventure...Paris!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Forgotten Fields and The Levellers

[9th August]

Followed by another early morning. Thankfully the whingy kids family were packing up, along with a lot of other families. The festival finished late Sunday but I expect many people had work Monday morning so a lot left Sunday.

We were blessed with beautiful weather all weekend, Di can't remember going to such a mud free festival, I can't remember ever going to one with crappy weather! maybe I'm the festival good weather fairy or something!

The toilets had also been cleaned and they organizers had come to their senses and let people into the arena a bit earlier so Sunday was a lot more chilled. There was a lot more circus tent fun and a bit of drama where Ry, who had taken his shoes off, managed to lose a shoe. Of course we hunted everywhere and couldn’t find it. We got Marcus the circus master to do an announcement and had all the staff keeping an eye out but it was no where to be seen! A couple of hours later... Ry came back with a grin on his face, apparently some dad had handed the missing shoe in! *phew*

We spent most of the day just chilling, we had no net access which was great - a forced digi detox. 

Di caved into Ghandi’s flip flops and had a veggie curry with a plate full of pickles and side bits and a plate full of popodoms. Ebi-kun has never tried Indian curry before so he had a sample of all Di’s dishes and then decided he wanted the kids curry. I wasn’t sure if he would like it so asked for a wee taste, the staff were great and gave him a ladle full to try. He polished that off with Di’s left over rice and then had a bacon buttie!

Late afternoon was time for the balloon disco in the Big Top, they started off with tiny ones then kept adding bigger and bigger ones, the kids were running round like loonies, and some of the adults too - lots of fun!

The boys both wanted exotic burgers again for dinner, everyone opted for the same as the day before, although Ebi-kun was interested in trying zebra, he changed his mind at the last minute.

Then what you need after a big fat burger is to go on a swing ride, first time either of them had been on one, they loved it!

All to do now was to wait for the bands to come on, there were smaller bands playing through the day but we didn't really make the effort to watch any of them. Waiting time meant Top Trumps time, I lost count of the times we played over the weekend!

I love this photo of Ebi-kun as the sun was setting, it sums up the whole festival feeling for me.

Finally the headlining band, The Levellers, an old favourite of mine and so Ebi-kun knows a lot of their songs too, he got so excited when they came on. Putting him on my shoulders wasn't such a good idea, he is way too heavy these days. We did however manage to get right to the front, which reminded me of when I took my little brother to see them at the NEC (enormous arena) when he was 13, I lost him as he tried to get to the front, thankfully I found him later on but missed most of the gig as I was trying to find him!

They played lots of the old stuff and because a lot of people had gone home we had a good dance right near the stage.

Ebi-kun loved it, he was buzzing all the way back to the tent! It was the perfect way to finish the weekend really.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Forgotten Fields And Famous Authors...

[8th August]

We were awake bright and early on Saturday morning, no thanks to the whingy kids in the tent next door! We had some heathy snacks for breakfast then headed up to the ticket office to see if they could replace Ebi-kuns wrist band, they had put in on too tight the night before and it was hurting him. They chnaged his band without issue and we discovered a couple more screw ups from the organizers, firstly the toilets hadn’t been cleaned over night - porta-loos at their best, or not. 

Lots of grumbly parents as kids were kicking off and refusing to use the minging toilets and then we discovered that they arena wasn’t opening until 10am and of course, this is where all the food stalls were. No food to feed the kids, not everyone had bought either food with them (big daft really) or cooking equipment. More angry parents ready to rush the gate by 9.30am! We kept the boys busy, playing hairdressers!

Apart from these teething problems, everything else seemed to go OK. We had toasties for brunch then lazed around as the boys played football. Nic, one of our uni friends (that I used to make dance outfits for) lives literally next door to the site and he had free tickets so we met up, again I haven't seen him since we left uni but we are mates on facebook.

Nic bought his partner Steve with him, who is lovely and funny too and he also happens to be an international best selling author, he wrote Before I Got To Sleep which was made into a film last year and last week he left to do a book tour with his latest book Second Life, if you love mystery thrillers, you will love his books!

It was really good to catch up, it was as if we were back at uni, stupid stories and remembering all the daft things and people! Nic and Steve didn't stay for long, they had things to do (and probably have a much nicer toilet back at home!)

Once it started heating up we headed into the Big Top Tent which was excellent. They had shows and activities on throughout the day, kids Zumba was hysterical they also did a beat boxing class, trapeze lessons, juggling and other circus shenanigans then later in the evening they had films showing in there. Just outside the big top there were hula hoops, juggling balls, things to toss and jump on, tight ropes to try, a section for the little ones and some crafty activities too - all very well done. 

The boys spent a lot of time in there as we sat under the big trees enjoying the atmosphere and a crafty beer or two. We tried to take a siesta because we knew the boys would struggle to stay up late, Ry managed to fall asleep but the rest of us were too hot. Bit of a fail really.

For dinner we headed over to the exotic game burger stand, Ebi-kun had his eye on the kangaroo and I decided to try the llama (I have had alpaca before in Peru so figured it would be similar. Both were good. Di and Ry just went for plain ole cow!

Ry and Di are both Super Furry fans but Ebi-kun and I are not so bothered, we all stayed up to watch them play but Ry wasn’t happy because they didn’t play his favourite track (in Welsh!) maybe next time. So it was another later night...

Friday, 21 August 2015

Forgotten Fields Music Festival

[7th August]

Di had won tickets to the Forgotten Field festival which was held about a 45 minute drive out of Brighton, near Tunbridge Wells. We spent the morning packing and making sure we had everything we needed. Di is an old hand at this festival lark, she has been winning tickets to all the big festivals since our uni days! Ry has been to 5 or 6 too so he knew the drill, I haven’t been to a big music festival for about 20 years and it was Ebi-kuns first.

We arrived without much of an incident then headed down to the camping area when the first of many orgainsers bungles became apparent. The festival had been advertised as family friendly but then they had assigned the field furthest away from the car park to the family camping which also happened to be the field closest to the main stage

It took us a while to find somewhere to pitch the tent, mistake #2, there was a definite lack of camping space, they really needed another field or two. We eventually got pitched and set up then we headed into the arena once Ebi-kun had done his hair!

Due to the ticket prices being quite low they were strict on what you can and can’t take into the arena, so they can make their money of food and drink. It wasn’t a big festival so the choice was pretty limited. We decided to go for pizza the first night, although Di had her eye on Ghandi’s Flip Flops!

The kids played for a bit and then we had a cheeky wander back stage, we had a general public pass and a green pass that no-one seemed to know what it was for. We were told we could use the hospitality tent and since no-one was really manning the gate we had a poke around backstage and used their fancy loos whilst we were at it. Unfortunately we didn’t see anyone famous (not that we recognized anyway).

We then went to watch a couple of the bands, we made it through the Horrors but then the boys were getting tired so we went back to the tent, because we were so close to the main stage we could still hear everything anyway!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Shopping in Brighton

[6th August]

Di booked the boys into a football class which was 4 hours and included lunch. Di had some work to do so I popped into town for a mooch. I love that Brighton is so full of art and design, even in the most unexpected places...

There is graffiti everywhere, some usual tagging crappy stuff but there is also some cool work out there...

And some fun stuff! I did have a good wander around the shops and treated myself to a new necklace and a few bits and bobs. Having a couple of hours by myself was good and there are lots of great indie shops in Brighton, my kind of shopping.

After football, a bloggy friend of Di's came round with her two boys who are the same ages as Ebi-kun and Ry. They all got on well and played football, (no surprises there) when they were worn out they all played Mario together.

With the boys busy, us moms had a sneaky late afternoon drink or two and a good ole chat.

Turned out to be a beautiful sunset.

Top Of The World - The Shard, HMS Belfast and Peruvian dinner

[5th August]

Today we headed into London, to London Bridge Station. When we arrived we got off the train and all the emergency alarms went off and everyone was told to exit the station. We met Brogs (a uni friend) just outside the station and made our way to The Shard.

Di had won a red letter day and decided to trade it in for 4 Shard and Champagne tickets so we only had to pay for 1 child in the end, which is just as well since a regular adult ticket is 33 quid!

To get to the top you have to take 2 lifts. Then when you get to the top, you have an amazing view! The Shard is currently the tallest building in Western Europe (something in Russia is apparently taller). We had a beautifully clear day and could see for miles.

We all got the interactive gadgets, the boys loved them and sat and listened to everything on there. They have done it really well by keeping the info short and sweet and with lots of random facts thrown in. This gave us girls time to catch up and sup on some champagne, very civilised - must say, the bubbles got straight to your head when you are at that height!

There are two floors to view from, the second one is more garden like with fresh air and plants. Apparently there are 9 apartments within the Shard building each one costing around £50 million! 

After we had taken in all the views we nipped to the loo... this is most certainly a loo with a view!

Then we headed off to the war ship HMS Belfast which is docked in the Thames.

Unfortunately we weren't on the ball and hadn't printed out the discount vouchers before leaving the house - I know, very shabby of us. If you are planning to go make sure you do it, it will save you a fair bit. It was expensive to go in but it was great, the boys loved it! Be warned, there are 9 floors and most of them are accessed by going up and down steep stairs/ladders.

We took a break on deck and had fun waving to the tourists as they went by and the boys got busy with selfies...

We also had fun posing with the models on board....

As evening drew in, the rain arrived and we headed back towards the station to Tito's Peruvian where we met another two old uni mates, I haven't seen Matt and Damien since we graduated in 1995! It was good to catch up and hear about other course members that they are still in touch with.

We had a great meal, I went for the lomo saltado which was my favourite dish from when we were travelling in Peru.

We left around 8pm, the boys worn out (moms too) and headed back to Brighton. The weather on the way back was crazy pants, on one side of the train it was beautifully sunset skies and the other black clouds and thunder storms, we did get a stunning double rainbow too! Good way to end a fab day.

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