Somewhere new

After watching junior win his handball match (24-20) this morning and doing a few chores, Mr Esther and I went for a bike ride this afternoon. We biked somewhere I had never biked to before. Well, the beginning part of the route was familiar but then we went left somewhere where I normally turn right and after a while came to this very pretty botanical garden that Mr E had seen before but I hadn’t…

We had a cup of tea, my first chai tea latte in a very long time…

… and then biked back again…

A little grey but quite warm, good weather for a bike ride! I wonder how many more weekends like this we will have before it really gets chilly.

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. 🙂

Friday evening drinks

Mr. Esther and I biked into town after dinner yesterday evening (about a 10 minute ride) for drinks outside and found a prime spot to sit right on our market square overlooking the back of our old city hall.

We don’t do this so often, go out just the two of us. It was lovely to just take this time alone, away from our house, to chat about life, work, kids, holidays, etc. and flirt a little as well. We really should do this more, now that the kids are way past babysitting age. Great start to my holiday. 🙂

Delft 22 years later

On Monday, July 26th 1999 this happened in Delft…

… and this evening, exactly 22 years later and also on a Monday, we were in Delft again to celebrate our anniversary…

… with a nice dinner at an Argentinian restaurant together with our kids…

Little celebrations commemorating big celebrations are precious things.

Seven years of The Crucible

Yesterday Richard Armitage tweeted this…

… and I can relate to the feeling old statement. It doesn’t feel like seven years ago that this play was staged at The Old Vic in London and that I went to see it during ‘the summer of love’, a term coined by some Armitage fans at the time due to the outpouring of love for this production and for Richard during that summer run. The Crucible gave me a lot personally as well.

By the time I traveled with my husband to London in July of 2014 to see The Crucible, I had been an Armitage fan for 8 years. I was a solitary fangirl at the time, eagerly slurping up Richard Armitage news and discussions on message boards and on certain blogs, lurking but never jumping in myself. During that summer, Servetus on her blog very helpfully kept a running commentary on all stage door encounters that were shared online, hence making it really feel like a summer of love for me. Check out the archives on her blog for June – September of 2014 if you are curious to see pictures of fans with Richard and read fan reports.

In tandem with this trip I had also been wanting to jump in to blogging on my own blog for a long time. I had started this blog with a single post in 2013 but didn’t know where to go from there as I didn’t want to write a single issue blog, so I stopped again. I was feeling especially inspired by some other Armitage blogs I also read (like Guylty’s blog or Herba’s blog and some other really great blogs that have alas gone silent over time, but popped up again partially during last year’s online blog reunion, see this Twitter hashtag).

Anyway, during this summer of Crucible love I started to feel the pull to also share my Crucible play and stage door experience. I was just a bit iffy about the public attention, i.e. worried that if I did get active, I too would eventually be caught in fandom spats as I had seen happening from the beginning of my fangirling days. I wanted to share but I didn’t want the drama, real life was busy enough. Then in September of 2014 I finally decided to stop over-thinking and over-analyzing, I just jumped in and wrote about my Crucible experience. With that post, really, this blog was born. Richard Armitage in The Crucible and the fans’ enthusiasm had pulled me over the edge and finally got me blogging. I didn’t announce anything about that post anywhere and it wasn’t until a few months later that this blog even started getting any traction but the slow start suited me well.

Not only did The Crucible get me blogging, it also, very importantly, led to my first personal encounter with Richard Armitage whom I had admired from afar for all those years. I can still remember the excitement while meeting him and handing him a little gift and exhanging a few quick words with him. Alas my camera failed that evening (also it was dark outside that stage door) and the pictures are all grainy but I don’t mind so much as the memories are all still there and really do not feel like 7 years ago! I am forever grateful to Mr Esther who helped me get my Crucible booklet and ticket signed and my little North and South poster as well that I had brought from home.

He also took this picture of me with Richard (I look a little manic!), which is now still the lock screen of my phone before I unlock it to reveal Mr Esther and our cats.

What The Crucible also gave me was a renewed admiration for Richard’s acting talents. I’d not been a huge fan of Robin Hood and Spooks and while I did love him in The Hobbit, I longed to see him do a great role without prosthetics. And boy, did I get that with Richard as John Proctor…

Mr E and I were both quite blown away by the production, by the cast and especially by Richard in it. We were mesmerized throughout and feeling quite shaken and drained by the end of it. My husband, who has always been supportive of my fangirling hobbies but always benignly from a distance, was just as much in awe as I was. Richard Armitage on stage is a wonderful thing to behold, he has a big presence there, he feels large and powerful, and when we met him at the stage door after the play he suddenly felt slight and almost shy. He must have felt competely drained.

That Crucible experience stayed with me for a long time (still very much alive in my mind and heart when I finally posted about it a month and a half after I’d seen it) and I was pleased when it was announced that the play would be filmed. When it came to the cinema in early 2015, I took my mother to see it and she too was very impressed. So much so, in fact, that for my birthday two months later she even gave me a watercolour painting she had made of a Crucible scene. It is now hanging above my signed Crucible ticket and poster in our dining area. That painting became my blog header and I also had a phone cover made of it that Richard Armitage even signed a few years later at the Newcastle International Film Festival.

I am glad The Crucible made me able to share some fangirling with my husband and even with my mother and I credit Richard as John Proctor for giving me the push to set me off on this blogging journey that I have really been enjoying these past almost 7 years. The play has been an important catalyst for me and I have loved revisiting it again and again over the years. I still think it is one of the absolute best things Richard has done in his career, he would have really deserved that Olivier Award he was nominated for at the time.

Long story short: happy 7th anniversary to The Old Vic’s The Crucible production, I’m glad you were made.