Fin des vacances

Nous sommes arrivés à la maison; fin des notres vacances en Loire-Atlantique et Bretagne! We’ve had a marvelous time and during our second holiday week we managed to do a lot and also nothing at all.

We relaxed at the cottage we had rented…

We walked in the nearby woods…

And saw beautiful things like the thousands of prehistoric menhirs lined up around Carnac…

… and had dinner in the picturesque town of La Roche Bernard…

We did a boat tour in the gulf of Morbihan, from Vannes to the prehistoric cairn on the island on Gavrinis. The prehistoric grave (built around the time of the pyramids) contained many geometrical carvings, it was just beautiful and fascinating to be there…

But not only the prehistoric site was fascinating. As we were on the island, low tide set in and, boy, did the water move fast! It was like watching a river with a strong current. Boats going against the tide were struggling to get ahead…

When we had left Vannes on the boat, it had been high tide. By the time we got back again some 4 hours later, the tide was low. Where there had been water you now saw land and the jetty, which had been horizontal when we had boarded, was now angled.

The boat trip itself was a lot of fun too, especially on the way back when there was more wind and we even got splashed (especially Mr E) due to going up against the tide in the wake of some other boats that had made waves.

We also went into Nantes again for a day, to see some of ‘Les Machines de l’Île’, just as Rachel had suggested (thank you!). The park is inspired by Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci and houses mechanical (partly fantasy) animals, also on carroussels. We didn’t go into the exhibition areas but we did ride the mechanical elephant!

We then went into the centre of Nantes for a late lunch and a gander around the castle grounds (which had been closed the first time we visited due to demonstrations in the vicinity)…

As we had some time to kill before dinner time and we didn’t want to walk anymore, we drove to the nearby town of Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu where Mr E and I visited the 9th century Carolingian abbey, while mini me napped in the car.

We drove back into Nantes again after and had a lovely dinner at fellow blogger Agnès‘ home with her partner and her lovely daughter who is the exact same age (only 3 hours older) as my son. Thank you again so very much Agnès and family for your hospitality, for the tasty dinner, for sharing your art and your cats, and for the lovely time we had!

Last Saturday we had to leave our rented cottage and started on our 4 hour drive to Paris. We stopped in Chartres for an hour, for the sole purpose of visiting the cathedral there and seeing the stunning 12th/13th century stained glass windows…

We arrived in the Paris hotel at the end of the afternoon, dumped our bags, and then walked to the Eiffel tower which was about 10 minutes away on foot…

From there we took a train to Notre Dame and Quartier Latin where we had dinner. We walked around a bit after and then mini me and I walked along the banks of the Seine to a metro station while Mr E went off on his own.

Mini me and I had tickets to go up the Eiffel tower and as we got there at 9 pm, the Eiffel tower started to sparkle!

I have been up the Eiffel tower several times already but mini me couldn’t remember the last time she had been up, aged 4…

… so she was really excited to go up now, especially in the evening, looking out over all the lights of Paris…

We even (half) saw a proposal happening at the top. We heard applause, looked around and saw a young man get up off his knee and hug a young woman who had apparently accepted his proposal.

And that was it, the end of our French holiday. The next morning, on Sunday, we drove home again, only stopping for a lunch along the way. We got home in the afternoon. Junior was at work but the cats were there to greet us, just like they had greeted him when he had gotten home from his holiday in Portugal 6 days earlier. Our old red cat is outside a lot but did come by for a little attention and all our black cat wants to do is lie on top of one of us every single second of the day.

Time flew by on this holiday and we’re sad the travel part is over but at least we get to be with Junior again and Mr E and I still have one more week off work and yes, the cats are a bonus of being at home again as well.

Our holiday & #RA50Auctions

It’s a bit strange turning 50 during these pandemic times. My 50th last year and my husband’s 50th this year were both celebrated in lockdown at home, with few visitors and no big parties possible. We’re not big birthday party people, I never go big on birthdays, but 50 did feel a little special. I had originally wanted to throw a “We’re 100!” party last fall, when I was 50.5 and my husband was 49.5 years old, but alas, due to lockdowns and a virus that has been killing so many people, that was not possible. So, with all the 50th birthday partying that has not been possible, I’ve got to say that partying online for Richard Armitage’s 50th has been extra fun!

I was not able to follow everything in detail, as I am away on a family holiday in France in the Loire-Atlantique / South Brittany region, but celebrating Richard’s 50th with the online birthday auctions has been extra exciting this year. It was always going to be fun and exciting but then Richard reached out and donated an item of his own, the Guy of Gisborne leather jacket, and that was the little cherry on top. So, from our holiday in France, I’ve been doing my best to follow what I could and join in the celebrations.

While walking around in Rennes on August 18th…

… Mr Esther, mini me and I watched the last few minutes of the jacket auction on my phone and we saw the price jump up almost €2000,- at the very end! We were amazed. The jacket sold for a whopping €6333,- (!!) and Richard seemed pleased as well:

Then on the 19th, after a short afternoon visit to the little town of Redon with a nice cup of tea there…

… and a swim after with mini me in the indoor swimming pool right behind our cottage, I was at the laptop about 15 minutes after the fixed price items went live. Man, so many items went like hot cakes! I had two things in my basket and by the time I got around to paying, one of them was already gone. After paying for the one leftover item I picked another second item, so I’m happy with that too. I also had another interest in these fixed-price items as I had donated some magnets to the sale, 36 of them…

… and they too were all sold out within a few hours at €5 per magnet. That’s another €180,- that can go into the donation pot for LOROS hospice!

Yesterday on the 20th, which was also the final #RA50Auctions day, we visited the beautiful city of Vannes (I think my fave town so far on this Loire-Atlantique/Brittany trip)…

We drove by a castle and a pre-historic menhir…

… and on the grounds of the pre-historic cairn of Petit Mont…

… after looking around there, I switched on the #RA50Auctions on my phone to follow the last minutes of the item I wanted to win, hoping that I wouldn’t be pipped at the post. I was lucky that I was not and that my item remained within my financial reach…

Yes, I really wanted that Martian Invasion of Earth cd and I got it. 🙂 To my regular readers here that may sound surprising as I don’t normally enjoy audiobooks at all, not even Richard’s. But this is no ordinary audiobook, it’s more of an audio play, with different actors voicing different characters and I loved it when I first heard it after purchasing the digital version. I’d actually been considering getting myself a physical copy as well (as I often end up doing when I enjoy something) and I also like the look of the cover, which was an extra incentive to buy. So, this item was perfect for me and I am really looking forward to receiving it. I was also bidding on some other items but let them all go in favour of this one. Luckily the price remained affordable to me.

We drove on to have some drinks at a nearby seaside town…

… and there I watched on my phone to see how the Richard Armitage playing cards would do that I had donated to the auctions. I am very pleased that the playing cards have done so well. Thank you so much to the very generous buyer! That is another great sum for LOROS!

We ended the day at St Gildas de Rhuys where Abelard (of 12th century Abelard and Heloise fame) had been an abbot for seven years. We only planned to drive by on our way home but the church was still open, so we took a peek inside, and we found a nice spot to eat dinner there as well, so we stayed.

I made some time to immediately pay for my Ebay win (ah, the wonders of mobile phones and 4G networks these days!) and with that rounded off the mingling of Armitage birthday celebrations and our holiday. It’s been fun! However, I am signing off for a little while now from Armitage fandom and Armitage blogging. OK, I may pop in on the man’s actual birthday tomorrow but I also have uninterrupted sightseeing to tend to, and books to read and family to focus on.

So, In case I don’t say it on the 22nd: Happy 50th birthday, Richard Armitage and here’s to many more years in health, happiness and surrounded by love! I hope the LOROS donation gift is a good one for you. 🙂

Paris (et Le Mans)

Ah, it’s so good to be away! We’ve only been gone a few days but already it feels like forever! Junior is on holiday with his girlfriend and her family in Portugal, so it’s just Mr. Esther, mini me and I. Beware, I’m going to just picture spam now (click on images to enlarge if you wish to see them better)…

We left home this past Thursday and drove to Paris, with a break along the way…

We were obediently following the route our car navigator gave us and after about 5 hours of driving, lo and behold, we found ourselves right in the middle of Paris on the Champs Elysees!

Traffic is quite chaotic there. It felt like a free-for-all-everyone-do-as-they-please driving adventure (although, in fairness, red lights are obeyed) and in the end we were glad to get out of there and find our hotel.

We dropped our bags and then immediately started walking (which felt good after all those hours of sitting in the car). We walked by the Jardin de Luxemburg and into the city center with the Notre Dame and took a peek at the famous Shakespeare bookstore that I always like to walk by every time I am in Paris. We walked through the Quartier Latin to find a place to get some dinner. It was quite busy and we were relieved to find a good spot to eat where it was less busy (and that pizza was yummy!).

After dinner we walked on in the direction of Montmartre, we also passed Paris city hall, where the Olympic rings for the next Olympic games are up.

We took a metro to Montmartre, then walked up lots of steps to get to the Sacre Coeur. Mon Dieu, we are not used to climbing so many steps, especially after more than a year in isolation! It was very pretty up there, though (and many people there too), with lovely views over Paris by night.

Took a metro back to the hotel and we were properly exhausted. Slept in and the next morning, after a late breakfast at a sidewalk café, we went to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and then on to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees (mini me wanted to take a peek at all the designer shops). For you Europeans, you may have caught wind of the news that star football player Lionel Messi has transferred from Barcelona to play for Paris St. Germain a few days ago and already there were lines of people waiting to get Messi in Paris t-shirts!

By the way, sprinkled around Paris we saw these little white tents where you could get Covid tested. You can only gain entrance to certain locations if you are either fully vaccinated (which we are) or if you are tested negative for Covid 19.

We walked down the Champs Elysees and then came to the Louvre museum…

We had booked tickets in advance and after showing our “passe sanitaire” (digital Covid pass) we went in and saw so many beautiful things!

I think my favourite was to see Botticelli…

Of course, Da Vinci was awesome too. The row to actually stand in front of the Mona Lisa was insane, though, and we didn’t attempt that. We saw her fine from the side. It was really busy there, so we didn’t want to stay there long.

So much more beautiful art to see! And Mr Esther was in heaven finally seeing a funeral monument with beautiful heraldry (he’s a heraldry expert) he had always wanted to see.

We were exhausted afterwards, so took some time to drink and relax outside on the grass…

We then took a bus to the Eiffel tower, had dinner near there in a cute little square…

Our feet were completely dead when we finally got back to the hotel again at around 9.30 pm. The hotel had a lovely courtyard garden where we could just sit and relax with a beer before falling into bed.

Yesterday was a travel day. Had some breakfast at a sidewalk café (with a cup o’ Richard)…

… and then we left Paris (for now). We’ll be back for one more night on our way back, which makes mini me very happy as she has fallen in love with the city.

It was really busy on the road, lots of holiday traffic, which meant we were delayed for almost an hour after the first part of our journey. We stopped in Le Mans, which was about halfway on our journey, walked around for a short while, popped into a museum so that Mr E could see (and show us) the first example of a coat of arms in colour from 1151, we cooled off in the gentle water spray that was right outside our garage, and then drove on to our cottage not far from Nantes. Oh, and can you spot the dramatic teen in one of the pictures?

We got some groceries at a hypermarché close to where we are staying and finally arrived at our destination at around 7.30 pm. We had dinner at the restaurant on the premises (too tired to cook) and we figure we’ll be happy here for the next two weeks as our cottage is small but comfortable and well kept, with our own private yard.

Today (it’s 3 am as I post this, I’m a night owl and couldn’t sleep yet) we do nothing. We’ll just hang around here, nap, eat, read, play games and maybe go for a swim. Wifi is quite good, so I’ll be able to follow the kick-off of the Richard Armitage birthday auctions later today as well. Off to sleep now (yes, I’m finally ready); I’ll probably wake up late in the morning and won’t have to wait that long for the fun to unfold. 🙂

Au revoir

I’m not sure how much I’ll be posting these coming two and a half weeks. Tomorrow (or rather, today, as it’s after midnight) Mr Esther, mini me and I will be driving to France for our summer holidays. We’ll be staying in Paris for two nights, after that we go to a holiday cottage near Nantes for two weeks and on our way back home we’ll stop in Paris again for another night there. I’m sure I’ll be online and posting some holiday pictures now and again but other than that I suspect I’ll not be very chatty on other blogs or social media.

I will make sure to try to check in on the Richard Armitage birthday auctions starting on Sunday, though. Guylty has given a lovely detailed description of Guy of Gisborne’s leather jacket and today has written a teaser for some other items that will be going up for auction! As mentioned by Guylty, I have contributed another Richard Armitage characters card game. I had two sets made specifically for these charity auctions; one sold last year Christmas and the one that is coming up for auction now will truly be the very last one on offer. Hope it will fetch a good price again.

Back to our holiday: suitcases are packed, snacks and drinks for on the road are good to go, camera batteries are charging, passports are packed, our Corona check apps are up-to-date so that we can prove that we have been vaccinated, face masks are packed, the neighbour has had instructions on cat care (she’ll be taking care of our cats, like she does every year, until Junior comes home from his holiday in Portugal in 10 days time), the house is in reasonable tidiness and the laptop will be packed in a few minutes right after I post this.

It’s just after 1 am now. I’m off to bed in a few and in about 15 or 16 hours we’ll be in Paris. I’m so excited to really be travelling again and actually leaving the country!

Au revoir et à bientôt!

Venturing out more again

It’s going well here with the Corona crisis and vaccinations make it possible for people to move more freely now. This means that larger events are possible again and travel has also opened up. I’m chomping at the bit for travel, so we bit the bullet last weekend and just went ahead and booked our summer holiday. Eek!

We don’t dare to fly yet but one of the good things about living in Europe, and also living in a small country, is that you don’t have to drive far to go abroad. We also wanted something self-contained so that we can easily social distance. Junior isn’t coming with us, he is holidaying with his girlfriend, so it’s just the three of us. We booked a cottage to the north-west of Nantes, right near Brittany, in France for two weeks from mid to end August.

France requires from EU citizens either a recent negative Corona test before entry or a full vaccination that is two weeks or older. Mr Esther and I will have the full vaccination, mini me will only have received her second vaccination 3 days before we leave, so she will need to test right before we go. As we only drive through Belgium and won’t be there for more than 48 hours we won’t have to do anything special there.

Anyway, we felt we got a pretty good deal on that cottage for the middle of summer, so decided to also book two days in a hotel in Paris before that. Mini me really wanted that stopover in Paris (about 5 hours drive for us) as the last time we were there (for one day, during another summer holiday) she was 4 and a half years old and she barely remembers it…

We have a little time yet to get used to the idea of feeling brave enough to travel again and we can also cancel the trip without losing money up to a week before we leave, so that gives us a little peace of mind.

It’s not only the planned August holiday that will have me venturing out more again. Yesterday evening in the parents’ chat group of my daughter’s football team it was suggested we go to a live match the Dutch national women’s football team will be playing on Saturday, July 3rd. It’ll be a practice match against South Africa about an hour an a half away. Our Dutch women’s team is very good, they won the European Championships in 2017 and came in second (losing to the US) in the World Championships in 2019.

There was a lot of enthusiasm for this plan and I admit, the outing appealed to me as well. They needed parents to drive, so I volunteered and will be going as well. My daughter is a little dismayed as she doesn’t want me interfering with her enjoying the day with her team mates but I promised I’d keep a low profile and stick with the other parents. And oh my goodness, do I even remember how to still be social around other parents? We’ll see. We need to show a recent negative Covid test before being allowed to enter the stadium, so mini me and I have a testing appointment next week Friday afternoon. So far, I haven’t needed to Covid test before (the only one of the four of us who hasn’t had to) so I need to work up a little bravery to tolerate that swab up my nose.

It feels weird to be making these venturing out more plans but it also feels good that life can be picked up again somewhat.