A Travellerspoint blog

August 2011

CLA Game Fair

Reporting from Pontypool

sunny 21 °C
View European Vacation on aboo10's travel map.

Wednesday night - Paris, France
Thursday night - New Inn, Wales
Friday night - Stony Stratford, England
Saturday - CLA Game Fair....

What is the CLA Game Fair?? It's the Country Landowners Association annual fair. We were going with my lovely friend Sarah, who we stayed with on Friday, and who I know from Sydney, and see either here in the UK or in Australia usually once a year, but missed out in 2010. She is a little bit 'country' as she grew up with her own pony. It's funny when we catch up, because it doesn't ever feel like there was a 9 - 24 month gap in our lives, and we truly just pick up where we left off. We had a lovely afternoon when we arrived, went to a gorgeous park to feed the ducks, and then the kids had a lovely play in a little playground with some local kids while we sat and caught up!

We had a lovely evening, slightly interrupted by some minor flooding and quick plumbing DIY (thoroughly enjoyed by Mike, although much consternation for Sarah), and some Thai takeaway while the kids watched TV in bed!

So Saturday dawned bright and beautiful, and we headed to the Game Fair, explaining to Jie Jie that 'Game' meant animals like deer, ducks and wild boar, and that the people who attended this were hunters. And that there were not going to be many games to play. The dress code was rural chic, and I envied Kate Middleton's wardrobe (again). I learned a lot about fancy boots. Other attendees were leading their dogs, lovely pointers and retrievers, and Jie Jie was very concerned that we didn't have a dog with us, because she worried then that we would have to collect the animals we killed ourselves. Oh dear, I didn't realise she was quite so au fait with the concept of hunting and retrieval. She was particularly keen on the ferrets and birds of prey too.

We wandered around looking at all the displays, and it had everything, from outdoor furniture, to saddleries, to polar fleece shops, to country produce, to artwork (usually depicting hunting scenes) and sculptures. Check out this statue Jie Jie had a fascination for, complete with dead bird!

It was held in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, a private home which has a hereditary title associated. Apparently the next-in-line has declared that when he 'finally' inherits it, he is going to put in a polo field, because there isn't one. The fair is held every year, but location varies, it was last at Blenheim Palace about 3 years ago. The house, I'm sure you'll agree, makes a splendid backdrop for the main arena, where we saw dog trials, and shooting demonstrations.

Highlight of the day, was probably the trick pony riding demonstration, where a girl, with fabulous legs and a very short skirt, rode around a ring doing acrobatic stunts. Jie Jie and Didi were breathless.

It was a lovely day, an eye opening experience to watch the differing attendees - there were the Pimms and Lemonade set who picnicked in the car park, there were the keen hunters and shooters, with their own guns and dogs, there were the tourists like us and the city folk, wannabe rurals!

Terrific day out - thanks for encouraging us to come Sarah - now to get you to Shanghai!!!!

Posted by aboo10 01:02 Archived in England Tagged family_travel game_fair Comments (0)

Paris is fantastic, really

Reporting from Pontypool

overcast 18 °C
View European Vacation on aboo10's travel map.

Four days in Paris, what could be more lovely? We had checked the weather forecast and seen that it was supposed to be four days of rain, but the Eurostar was booked and the hotel was booked... Paris in the rain couldn't be all bad. So to trick the weather forecast the day before we were due to leave we went and bought new raincoats, knowing that being prepared meant it wouldn't rain! Right?

Well it worked for our first full day! We roamed around Paris, enjoying the lack of precipitation, and enjoyed refamiliarising ourselves with Paris, after all it is 6 months short of a decade since we were last here, sans kids of course! Our hotel was in Rue d'Aboukir in the 2nd Arrondissement, and surprisingly (to me) quite well located, and walking distance (and pram pushing of course) to the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Seine. Our first destination was Notre Dame, and we were keen to look at the statue of Charles of Allamagne next to the entrance, as apparently the man standing beside Charles who is on the horse is one of Mike's distant ancestors.

Feeding the pigeons in Paris doesn't not seem to be discouraged, and Didi found a Chinese family whose Mum carried a bag of bread, to give to the son who was doing just that, and went over to the Mum, and put his hand out then clear as a bell, said 'Mianbao' which is the same as 'le pain' or 'bread'.

While he was doing that, Jie Jie had managed to snatch a nap in the pram, and so because of the queue to enter the cathedral, Mike and Jie Jie waited while Didi and I played with the filthy pigeons, only joining them as they approached the roped off queue section. Notre Dame was as breathtaking as I remembered, dimly lit with many prayer candles and the light coming through the stained glass windows. Of course the most beautiful main window, even took Didi's breath away.

We were incredibly lucky as well, as we noticed through an open window just after we'd entered the cathedral that it had started pouring outside! When we left there was still a light drizzle, so lucky we had our new raincoats... and then bought each of the kids an overpriced nutella crepe from just across the road.

We then headed back over the Pont du Neuf, and around the Louvre. The children loved playing in the Tuileries, and we enjoyed strolling through the well maintained gardens. We sat for a while overlooking the boating pond, but none were sailing today, but we enjoyed the sun on our faces.

Day 2 we were not so lucky. It rained, and rained, and rained. We had delayed leaving our hotel, hoping for a break in the weather. We'd gone out for breakfast, and dashed back, again hoping the day would clear. And then eventually we just had to load the children into the pram, with rain cover, and make the most of being in Paris. So we walked down to the Galeries Lafayette to see the stunning roof, and enjoy whatever else we could. Unfortunately every other wet tourist in Paris had the same idea, so trying to manoeuvre our pram through the department store was a little tricky. The kids loved the toy department, but then it was tricky to take them away without buying a 'Mermaid Barbie' and a 'Train' - I mean we managed, but suffered from endless whining about how somebody doesn't have a mermaid Barbie, and really needs one - Yeah, right.

Then we thought, well let's go to the Louvre after all. We'd originally not intended to go there, as we thought the kids would enjoy it more when they were a bit older, but we thought, well, there won't be much of a queue to get in in this weather! We were right. And wrong. Tuesdays all museums in Paris are closed. Left through the Tuileries which were a very different sight to yesterday, and headed down to the Orangerie - alas also closed.
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Went back, and had a warming Onion Soup and a glass of wine in a cafe which wasn't very busy because of its location in the park and the rain, and then headed back to the hotel, agreed that the kids could watch a movie on the iPod, and then we would go out for dinner.

Our dinner plans came highly recommended by my parents, and seconded by my sister, and we'd worked out that we could make it there on the Metro, and travel without a pram! We were going to Le Relais de l'Entrecote, in St Germaine. It is a famous restaurant, that has no menu for entree and main, you are only asked how you like your steak cooked, and a quite brief wine list. Entree is a Frisee salad with walnuts and walnut oil dressing, and main is steak and chips, served with an amazing secret sauce. They bring it out on trays, and then serve at a serving table, and then deliver to your table. Oh wow, it was truly delicious. Then when you think you have finished, or just about finished, they ask if you want MORE! Oh, please sir, can I have some MORE! It is really up Jie Jie's alley... no vegetables!! In fact, we thought it was so good, that we went a second time the following night. The dessert list is quite extensive, and we enjoyed that too! Profiteroles, Meringues, Ice Cream, fabulous!! On our second visit, Jie Jie wanted her own dinner, and she ate the WHOLE FIRST PORTION!!!! And an enormous quantity of chips!!
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Day 3 dawned overcast, but not raining. So we set out early to fulfil the whole purpose of our trip to Paris: to take Jie Jie up the Eiffel Tower. It was a no pram day, and we negotiated the Metro to get there, and then the kids walked and walked until we could finally see the Tower. Except they got distracted by a giant ice cream on the way to the tower, and were over excited by that! IMG_9084.jpg We got closer and closer, and then finally found the end of the queue to go up the elevator... I think if the kids were a bit older we might have been able to attack the stairs only entrance, but neither of us wanted to carry either of them! So in the queue we waited. Fortunately due to their running around efforts, Didi was quite tired, so we put him into the baby carrier on my back, and I walked him around for about 20 mins until he dropped off to sleep, while Jie Jie and Mike held the place in the queue. Once he was asleep I returned, and sent Mike and Jie Jie off on an explore for half an hour. Didi ended up sleeping for about 45 mins, so for him the time in the queue wasn't too bad. We queued for about 2 hours before buying our tickets, and then actually entering the elevator.

But once we got up there, the wait was so worth it. The view of Paris was spectacular, the clouds were high enough to not interfere with the views. And that was only to the second level. We queued again to go up to the top level, where we enjoyed a glass of champagne, took loads of photos, before heading back to earth. IMG_9142.jpg We were at the Eiffel Tower for about 5 hours all up, so it really was the whole day swallowed up. Other photos from our day at the Eiffel Tower are in my photos page, so check them out there!

We then walked from there back to St Germain for another delicious steak dinner... reflecting on our successful day!

Our last day, we went for breakfast, then packed everything up and checked out. We walked through Les Halles and just went for a general wander around, pushing the kids in the pram. Enjoyed looking at an outdoor photo exhibition opposite the Louvre, of photos in areas facing environmental peril. It was amazing, and really eye opening. Then bought a tasty baguette for lunch, and headed back to the hotel to collect our stuff and begin our hike back to Gare du Nord.

What a wonderful few days in Paris!!

Our train was back to London on time, but an hour after, I'd told my sister that it would be there, so she had been waiting and waiting for us to arrive, thinking we'd have time for dinner before our bus back to Wales... unfortunately not to be... and we rushed to catch our 7pm bus from Victoria Coach Station, only just making it by the hair of our chinny chinny chin.

Posted by aboo10 01:00 Archived in France Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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