Wednesday, 13th May, 2015
This will be the last instalment of the blog as we have just left Paris and in 10 hours and 40 minutes will be in Hong Kong. Our aircraft is a Boeing 777-300ER. Although I checked in 24 hours before I couldn’t change our allocated seats as the plane was full. The only problem with them is that we have a window and middle seat so it is a bit harder to get up and walk around. Still we have a very nice view of the neat champagne vineyards below us near Reims.
Back to yesterday morning. Instead of using public transport we had the luxury of a taxi.
John smiled sweetly at the female Air France flight attendant as we checked in and managed to get us two seats together as we had been allocated seats two rows apart. The new seats were just behind Business which only took up two rows. An hour and a half later we were in Paris.
Arriving at Terminal 2 we walked for ages and finally caught a shuttle train to Terminal 3. Another long walk and we were out of the building and rolling the luggage past a number of airport hotels. I had chosen CitizenM as it had good reviews and sounded a bit quirky and interesting.
The building is a rectangular block six storeys high with a large mural at the front of people walking, carrying smart phones and drinks.
There are six CitizenM hotels around the world now including Amsterdam, London and New York. The difference between a CitizenM and other hotels is that they are “smart”, the common areas are immensely comfortable with objects d’art lining the floor to ceiling bookshelves, the bedrooms are small but space is used cleverly as in a caravan.
The bed is wonderful, so huge it can be slept in across or down. The only problem is one person gets to climb over the other if they want to get up in the night. A Samsung tablet controls the lighting, blinds and shades and TV.
I had fun changing the bathroom lights from green to red to blue to yellow while John was in the shower, much to his surprise.
Meals are a very casual affair. There are a number of casserole dishes with meat dishes, rice, potato and ratatouille. Dessert was in little preserving jars in a fridge. A bottle of red can be picked up from the counter. The tables are scattered near windows, bookshelves, lounge areas. There is a bank of iMac computers in one area. I thought the whole place was fabulous and felt very much at home. The staff were very friendly.
We went for a walk around the building which is only eleven months old. The landscaping is still unfinished as the area is obviously being further developed. What a great place for a one night stopover!
Now to review the holiday. People usually say to me after a holiday, “What was the best part?
John said that the bike rides (Versailles and Berlin) were the best things we did. We picked up a lot of information, met lots of people and covered a large distance in minimal time. I agree and would recommend taking a bike tour whenever possible. Even if you are a bit nervous on a bike in an unknown area (that includes me) there is a definite high which is only achieved when you are in control of your means of locomotion.
John really enjoyed the World War 1 Battlefields. I was not sure I would but it turned out to be a great experience. Reading “Birdsong” at the same time really made history come alive. Also our guide was really into how the men and women of WWI coped with the stress and horror of battle rather than simply outlining the facts.
The day trips we did from St Remy were amazing and varied. We both loved the Pont du Gard. To think it has been there for two thousand years and is still standing is mind boggling. Le Baux was incredible, just like the ruined castles of childhood imagination. The perched villages of Gordes and Roissillon were picture postcard perfect in the Luberon and our 18th Century house in St Remy seemed to belong to another time.
We loved the airy apartment in Nice with its view of the mountains and the eclectic architecture surrounding us. Here we met up with friends from Australia and experienced Cannes and Monaco preparing for the Film Festival and the Grand Prix. Even St Jeannet, with its quirky “Frog’s House” could not dampen our spirits as the only serious rain of the holiday fell on a day when all the shops were shut. The next day dawned bright and beautiful for our rendezvous with our friends from Sydney.
Then of course there was Berlin. We had a wonderful time there and found it clean, easy to navigate and full of history. Looking back at our holiday I have realised that the highlights have not been in Art Galleries or Museums but actually visiting the places where things happened and learning the details of these events from passionate people who have made it their life’s work to share their knowledge with others. In Berlin, the Reichstag Building tour brought to life the Battle of Berlin, the Templehof Airport recreated the 1948 airlift which kept West Berlin alive and of course the remains of The Wall have so many stories to tell. I have just downloaded Ian McEwan’s “The Innocent” to read on the flight. It is about a young Englishman’s experience in Berlin in the Cold War and is written by one of my favourite authors.
Monet came alive through visiting his garden, Matisse through looking at the same views he painted of the ocean through an open window. And of course Van Gogh with his marvellous works created in St Remy. Even the Picasso in our Nice apartment changed both our views on modern art.
Then there was the food. By eating in our apartments most of the time we could afford to splurge on memorable meals and bring back ideas to try at home.
People are asking, “Where to next?”
We have no plans. We will go home, enjoy our house and our family and when the time comes, we will know.