Bon Jour from Troyes

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We have good internet again and I can write my blog once more. The camping tour of France is going very well. Day 1 we drove from Paris to the little village of St Maurice in the north east. We camped in a beautiful old orchard – plums, apricots, apples and of course Poire trees. Scenic, quiet and relaxing after the first day of driving on the right side of the road in a left hand drive van. We had dinner at the local restaurant and our own goodies bought from the market for breakfast.

The next destination was the Jardin Fruitiers outside the village of Laquenexy. This gareden has displays of everything French – fruit trees, grapes, herbs, vegetables, flowers, ornamentals as well as theme gardens including edibles, colours, dry garden plants, and even a poisonous plant collection. It is a beautiful place and in 38 deg heat there was plenty of shade. The grassed areas were so soft and lush. This is also where there are 2 gardens from other places. One is Native American and the other is Te Putake – Maori traditional garden. The people brought over a huge stump of a Kauri tree and a slab of pounamu [greenstone] and there are carvings and art as you roam around. Tati really loved it here.

The downside was that there was a shaded outdoor cafe/restaurant overlooking the gardens and the village beyond but they would not serve us any food or drinks because we didn’t book. There were only 10 people there!! Most tables were not set. I was very annoyed that we had come such a long way especially to see Te Putake and they wouldn ‘t even serve us a glass of wine!! Needless to say we flounced off to the local restaurant and had a lovely lunch and wine under a shady tree.

Other exciting moments that we can tell you about later were: getting pulled over by the Gendarmerie when the GPS went haywire, the toilet and shower block at the camping ground that faced onto the restaurant and courtyard,not having any bags for our groceries at the supermarche, getting stuck at the toll booth because our Visa cards didn’t work, rules of the Piscine [swimming pool] and the very strange system of actually getting to the pool. This experience was particularly funny because the rule is you MUST wear a bathing cap. We didn’t know. While we were being told off a group of young people were dunking each other and kids were coming up choking and flapping. The pool guard ignored all this and continued to give us a dressing down because we didn’t have caps on our heads!!!! Cultural differences can be hilarious especially when no cap is worse than drowning!!!

Today we are strolling around Troyes admiring all the old buildings and courtyards. It is gorgeous. I’m sipping a glass of local Rose and the weather is much cooler with a nice breeze. Will consult the map of where to next after our wine.

Au revoir

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Knitting in the Magical North

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So much for writing a blog each evening! There is so much to do and see that I haven’t had time. I get up early and go to bad well after midnight. The sun doesn’t sink below the horizon so there is no sign that it is getting late.

Here are some photos of the knitting and hiking tour. I shared a room with Annegret from East Germany. The ‘knitting women’ came from France, Germany, USA, Switzerland, New Zealand, Scotland and of course Australia. We all had a fabulous time but I don’t know what happened to the hiking. Several people chose to stay at the guesthouses and knit rather than come on the walks. Seemed a bit strange to the rest of us and our knitting guide but we had a great time exploring.

REYKJAVIK Iceland . . .

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I knew I would love Iceland! I am staying in a typical Icelandic home with a garden which is unusual here. The standard joke the Icelanders tell is – and I’ve heard it 3 times today – What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest? You stand up!! Trees generally only get to a couple of feet tall. The trees in the city streets are exotics. The town is lovely and the best thing is there is not much in the way of junk food outlets, enormous supermarkets, or chain stores. The shops are individual and creative, there are many places to eat and like Melbournites, Icelanders are obsessed with coffee. They also have a bit of a hipster cool thing happening here. I went on a walking tour today with a small group and our guide Audir showed us a cafe/bar that is so hip it doesn’t even have a name !  There is also Puffin cafe which is coffee served by a man from his kitchen window. If he is home he will make you a coffee and serve it with a baked treat. If he is out – no coffee. The price is a donation and he is raising money for a charity.

Ingolfur Arnarson

Ingolfur Arnarson

I arrived last evening and headed straight for the pool. I managed to get through the wash yourself procedure without the attendant telling me off. It is a bit weird using the communal shower facilities but it was so worth it. The water is divine. I went late at night and people sit around in the hotpots relaxing or chatting to family and friends. It is very social. While we swim to cool off, Icelanders swim to warm up! Everything in reverse her on the other side of the world, including the roads, and going in doors and up escalators at the airport. If there are people leaving say a restaurant they MUST wait for the people outside to come in.

I was hoping to go whale watching under the midnight sun but there is so sun and sea is rough. The whale watching boats and the whale fishing boats leave on opposite sides of the same port! Both are important here.

Tonight I went to a show at Harpa which is the concert hall that Iceland built while their banks collapsed!. Opinions about the building are divided here but it is spectacular and I hope to go back again tomorrow with the real camera.
The show – How to be an Icelander in 60 minutes. This was a comedy in English – one man show – and it was hilarious as well as culturally educational. Bumped into a Swedish woman who was on the walking tour so we sat together. She is going horse riding tomorrow. I will do another post about this as I’d like to include a video and a very funny story.

Now for the photos . . .

Post these tomorrow. Need sleep.

 

Off to Iceland

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I had a very late night as I went for a midnight stroll along the sea. It is dusk at midnight and then the sun comes up really early but I slept in. Breakfast consisted of a GF breakfast roll, ham, brie and tomato and the rest of the Skyr yoghurt. I loved the little flat and the view is beautiful. Helsinki was more crowded today as I think people have returned from their summer holidays.

So here I am at the airport waiting to fly Icelandair. I forgot to ask if I had a window seat as apparently when the plane lands it looks like you have arrived on the moon.

Here’s the last of the Helsinki photos.

 

HELSINKI by foot all day and LOVING it here . . .

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I had the most spectacular day. Jet lag gone, a good night’s sleep,the sun is shining, a cup of tea and a walk by the sea before breakfast and I was out the door at 9am. Took the tram into the city centre and wandered to the cathedral – stunning bathed in the morning sunshine. I really enjoy walking around the cobbled streets and the architecture here is amazing. Couldn’t be happier than strolling around gazing up at the spires and domes and window boxes of the old and the new buildings. I had a morning coffee at Cafe Esplanad but I was wishing I could eat the gorgeous pastries and buns. Every cafe has clear and cold water on tap to help yourself. It’s lovely water. All the tables on the pavement face to the street so you can watch people go by. Finns are very casual and I noticed that the clothes are not wearable advertising for the companies. Logos are very discreet. All the young people wear Converse sneakers. People seem to prefer plain colours with a bright scarf or shoes or bag. Simple and nice fashion on the streets here. I wandered down to the open air markets by the docks and had lunch with a woman from Melbourne who had just arrived today and a Finnish woman from the country. We ate Finn style – little fried fish with a creamy garlic sauce and I had grilled salmon from Lapland with hot potatoes and veggies and more garlicky sauce. So so delicious. It was lovely having a conversation with other solo travellers. Next I found the knitting wool store. I follow the owner on Instagram and she has a small farm where she keeps sheep and spins and dyes the wool gently using plants and mosses for some of her colours. I bought a mittens kit and they provide the instructions in a number of languages including English. I visited the Ateneum – the Art gallery of Finland to see the Tove Jansson exhibition. She was an amazing artist and writer and was the creator of the Moomin books. They have been translated into many languages and every Fin has a favourite Moomin character. The exhibition included her childhood drawings and letters, film of her dancing at the beach, photos from her family album, self portraits, anti war pictures she did for Garm – a Swedish magazine – landscapes, still life and of course her wonderful Moomins. I have fallen in love with this artist and plan to read more about her life work when I get home. Now I am back at the flat with the view and sorting my photos and gathering my mementos. One more morning here and then off to my next adventure in Iceland. Continue reading

Jet Lag Excitement.

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Way too tired to write much but I’ve just arrived at Helsinki and moved in to the flat by the sea. Helsinki is amazing and so quiet. I’m about to go for a walk to get some fresh sea air and then catch a tram into the city centre.

Hi Linda, if you are reading this can you send me an email as I have lost your address.  I’m texting on viber if you have this. Not going to worry about a SIM card til Iceland.

 

 

Bon Voyage

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Thanks Em for the lovely travel gift.