Connection

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

One thing I feel we are learning from the global pandemic, is that we are all connected. Humans, planet, earth, nature, animals, seasons – there is a connection between all. Humans are connected as people, living beings, shared biology and emotions. As humans, we are connected to the planet, the earth and nature. We rely on these for food, oxygen, water and life. We are connected to animals for food, companionship and a sense of wonder. The seasons bring us different animals and plants that grow or we can grow in the earth for food. Animals can be enjoyed – to be observed, provide research for conservation and may also be farmed for food.

Seasons also allow us to enjoy nature and participating in activities such as hiking, swimming, surfing and skiing to name a few. Seasons allow us to feel warmth, cold, rain, wind and snow. It caters to diverse preferences amongst humans regarding favourite times of the year. As humans we can be connected by language, culture, country and food. We are learning that as humans we can are the same regarding certain emotions – a different race or ethnicity does not change how illness and death affects us. We are also connected in how we choose to rally together to help others – the vulnerable, the high risk and those who choose to help others in essential and medical services. When we pause to think about the connections, there are many more things that connect us rather than separate.

When we emerge from this pandemic, may we be mindful of the best of the human spirit displayed during this time. Times like these bring out the best and worst of the human spirit – may we continue to demonstrate the best and hopefully influence the rest. We are all members of the same human family, we are stronger together and need to reach out to one other. We are facing the same crisis all over the world and are learning from each other, helping each other, and hopefully when this crisis is over – we continue to treat each other with kindness, compassion and love. Connection reminds us we are not alone and we can get through adversity so we can continue to Laugh.Love.Live once more. Keep well and safe, take care of each other and may we come out of this with a renewed energy and compassion for each other, the earth and the planet.

A moment of Gratitude…

This post is a big thank you to the universe, my grandma’s spirit, the positive people who have shown up in my life to provide the support and encouragement when I needed it the most. I am truly grateful for the positive energy that is surrounding me and for the manifestation of many things and those yet to come.

Do you believe you can manifest your heart’s desires or the life you are meant to be living? Once you rid your life of toxic energy and toxic people who have an adverse affect on your outcomes – the things that were just out of your reach seem to become within your grasp. This has been my experience since the passing of my Grandma, sliding into depression and anxiety realising who has been there for me, who turned up when I needed it most and who were never there for me in that capacity.

It’s been a challenging and energising time – detoxing people and things from my life that were no longer serving me. I am very grateful for the people who have shown up and been there during my tough times and not kicked me when I was down. And those that did, helped me to realise who and what I needed and wanted in my life. Positivity, support, love, encouragement, acceptance, tolerance, understanding and compassion – if the people in your life do not provide you with these, then it may be time to reconsider your circle. I read a quote that states “If you look at the people in your circle and don’t get inspired, then you don’t have a circle – you have a cage!”.

Sometimes we become comfortable with the uncomfortable because it’s what we have become accustomed to, however change brings discomfort and with change comes growth. Change is something humans are not comfortable with but once things have changed and become the ‘new normal’, we tend to forget what it was like previously because the new normal becomes the status quo. Remembering that we have the power to choose is often the first step to living your life on your terms. Owning our decisions and making changes that are right for us doesn’t need explanations. People will tend to understand only from their level of perception. My experience is that until you go through the same or similar situation, you cannot begin to understand what choice(s) or change(s) you would make based on what you have to choose from.

I’ve been lucky to have a circle of people who inspired me, supported me and helped me to get back to my usual self, seek the help I required and checked up on me along the way. Some of these people were not always people I had known for a long time, I have found that difficult times often reveal those who ‘show up’ for you don’t always equal the length of time you have known them. Sometimes it does, but not always. I am grateful for my circle, for allowing me time to heal, providing support and enabling me to Laugh.Love.Live again. Peace and blessings!

Who are you becoming?

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Image credit: pinterest.com

The title of this post was a homework question to ponder for an accreditation I am completing. I didn’t like who I was 20, 30 or even 10 years ago but I like who I am becoming. I am becoming authentic – becoming who I am supposed to be. I feel as though I was living my life based on expectations placed on me – whether that be mine, my family, friends’ or society’s. I am unlearning years of conditioned thoughts, actions and behaviours. It took years to learn and will also take years to unlearn and I am glad to be on that journey.

 

I have been on a self-discovery/ learning journey now for about 6 years. Learning about yourself is often an uncomfortable one, accepting things about yourself that you may not like. It is also about looking at what you can change and how you can go about it. It’s not an easy journey and one that I still stumble on but one that I am committed for the whole journey. There are thoughts, actions and behaviours due to unconscious or sub-conscious thoughts/ behaviours that I am still addressing. Sometimes they will pop up at times least expected. Like my one with body image, familiar with most people – females in particular.

When I was younger, I was unhealthy for a long time – physically and mentally. As a result, I was quite thin. People used to say to me “You’re so lucky to be skinny” but I didn’t see that comment as a compliment. I would exercise to try and put on weight, muscle and to look healthy but I remained “skinny”. I was in a toxic environment and this resulted in not being in a good space physically and mentally. I became anaemic, my acne flared and I was making unhealthy food choices – I wasn’t eating or sleeping well for many years. When I was able to remove myself from the situation, I was able to sleep and eat properly. I gained weight, looked healthier and felt better about myself.

However, when I bumped into people who hadn’t seen me since I was “skinny”, the comments I would receive were “Oh, you’ve put on weight” and “Be careful you don’t get too fat”. So, even though I was finally healthy, people didn’t seem to observe this and chose to comment about me getting ‘fat’. I was in my early twenties so image was one of those things that was kind of important (not something I’m proud of but it was reality). I would respond to those people with “Yes, but I’m healthy now”, but I still had a small part of me thinking I was ‘fat’. I try to avoid using those labels especially now that I have a daughter who could be influenced by how I perceive myself. I prefer to say that our bodies should be healthy – regardless of weight, size or shape. By choosing not to use those labels, I am unlearning years of conditioning and still progressing. I have a long way to go but slowly making progress – and progress, no matter how small is still progress. Something that I feel society has yet to tackle successfully eg Media, advertising, films, etc. There has been some progress but there is much more to room to move.

Which is why my comment to a couple of my friends one night bothers me so much, even to this day although it happened a few weeks ago. I caught up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while and we started discussing tattoos. One of my friends, whom I call my ‘tattoo buddy’ as she has accompanied me previously, has a design that she drew and had finally decided where she wanted it to be placed. I love her design and also the location she has decided. I have also been contemplating where I’d like mine and mentioned a spot I was considering. That spot is on my side torso, my friend said with encouragement “Yes, that’s where you should put it!” To which my response was (to my horror) “It just means I can’t get fat”.

Awkward poster

The thing with words is once you have said them, you can’t take them back. I can’t take back my words and I have been ruminating over them since. I realise my comment was a reflection of how I felt about my body, not anyone else’s. I tend not to notice people’s weight/ size unless it is pointed out but I’m quick to criticise myself. Something I am slowly changing… becoming. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be but I can be better. Even when I facilitate learning, I say “Practice makes permanent” – not perfect. I feel that nothing is perfect. I can practice the change in my thoughts, actions and behaviour to become permanent.

I caught up with my youngest sister recently and we spoke about this question amongst other things. She is also on a self-discovery/ learning journey so our discussion revolved around a few things related to this. My sister spoke about what she wanted in her life right now was different to what/ where some of her friends were at the moment. I said that it was okay for her to be different and she agreed. I also mentioned what her friends want or are doing in their lives at the moment may not be what they want but may be because it is expected of them. We spoke about how sometimes the years of conditioning also takes a long time to unlearn.

How sometimes we may say/ do things sub consciously or unconsciously based on what friends/ family/ society has projected on us rather than what we really want and that we need to become more aware/ conscious to prevent doing that. Especially if it is not congruent with who we are. She mentioned how it is with me being the eldest and her being the youngest (there are 14.5 years between us), how responsibility is always expected of me and sometimes thrust upon me even when I may not want it. I agreed, and mentioned with her being the youngest, that there were also certain expectations that were projected upon her.  We both laughed and said we are ‘flipping the bird’ to expectations! We accept who we are and who we are becoming, faults and all – it’s quite liberating!

So, who are you becoming? How can you ensure you like who you are becoming? What are some things you could start or continue to do, to become who you ARE?

I aim to enable myself and others to Laugh.Love.Live. Thank you for allowing me to share and process my thoughts through this blog. I feel I process things better when I construct my thoughts into writing. Thank you for sharing back with me via your blogs, likes and comments – it is very much appreciated, provoking thought and insight! The definition of authentic is below – I hope to realise point 1, but not so much point 2! Peace and blessings!

authentic
ɔːˈθɛntɪk
adjective
adjective: authentic
  1. of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.
    “the letter is now accepted as an authentic document”
    synonyms: genuine, original, real, actual, pukka, bona fide, true, veritable; More

    sterling;
    attested, undisputed, rightful, legitimate, lawful, legal, valid;
    echt;
    informalthe real McCoy, the genuine article, the real thing, your actual, kosher, honest-to-goodness;
    informaldinkum;
    raresimon-pure
    “the first authentic Rubens in the museum’s collection”
    antonyms: fake, spurious
    • made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.
      “the restaurant serves authentic Italian meals”
    • based on facts; accurate or reliable.
      “an authentic depiction of the situation”
      synonyms: reliable, dependable, trustworthy, authoritative, honest, faithful; More

      accurate, exact, factual, true, truthful, veracious, true to life;
      informalstraight from the horse’s mouth;
      rareveridical
      “an authentic depiction of the situation”
      antonyms: unreliable, inaccurate
    • (in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.
  2. Music
    (of a church mode) containing notes between the final (the principal note) and the note an octave higher.

The city of fountains – Part one!

We arrived at our final destination and the realisation hit me that our adventures were at the beginning of the end! I felt as though I didn’t want our adventures to finish. My husband and daughter were looking forward to this destination as was I especially to one part it in particular – a week with no itinerary down the south coast to relax and unwind. We arrived in Rome and headed for the taxi stand to be taken to our accommodation for the next 3 days.  We took everything in with our eyes when we left the airport – it is so exciting arriving at a new destination with no expectations other than to be amazed by the beauty, history and culture!

When the taxi driver arrived at our destination, I was a little underwhelmed as he pulled up alongside an old building that looked neglected, graffiti covering the walls and a little deserted but it was only around 3pm in the afternoon. I had booked online and was a bit worried. The taxi driver stopped and said, the hotel is in there, pointing towards the door in the middle and I asked “The hotel is just here?” He confirmed it, let us out and put our suitcases on the steps.

We needn’t have worried as we walked down the front of the building, finding the hotel entrance towards the middle, as indicated and walked inside. We were greeted by a very friendly concierge, who called the porter to bring us to our room before bringing our bags up for us. We were surprised at the size of the room compared to the tiny room we had in Paris! We had a quick walk around the hotel to get our bearings as we were taken up a lift then up a few flights of stairs. We found the hotel housed some beautiful artwork in the common area which was unexpected. I have included some pictures of the artwork on display and one of the lounge area where a lot of this artwork was displayed. We were quite impressed!

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The hotel we stayed at was Hotel Napoleon, it was quite close to the Metro line A and our first major attraction when we went for a little wander after finding something to eat close to our hotel. We stumbled upon the Santa Maria Maggiore, a beautiful large basilica only 5 mins walk away. It is an 18th century building and we found it looming above us and beautiful from the outside. Unfortunately, we had so much to see in our short time here that we didn’t get to go inside the basilica – we came close but realised we were dressed inappropriately. When visiting churches in Rome, your shoulders and knees must be covered and most days, the temperature was quite high (over 30 degrees celcius/ 86 farenheit) and as a result, we were dressed in shorts and singlets. So unless we had planned to visit a church, we would only see the outside of the building. As you can imagine, there are many churches, cathedrals and basilicas to see in Rome so we had plenty to choose from!

We were already in awe of Rome after seeing the Basilica and went exploring around the neighbourhood within a 10 mins walking radius to find somewhere to have a nice Italian meal for dinner later that evening. We walked past many and decided that we’d come out later and see what took our fancy.

We walked into a restaurant we had walked past earlier that was quite nondescript from the street. It had a little sign out the front and steps leading into the restaurant below street level. We entered and were taken to our seats, we realised it was deceivingly larger than first impressions would lead you to believe. The restaurant is called La Vecchia Conca and we found the meals to be delicious! It was cozy and served great Italian food, the waiter spoke English as my Italian is rudimentary at best! It was family friendly and locals frequented it as well as tourists so we took it to be a good sign. We liked it so much, we ate there again before departing. We found out a little later, a tip to eating in Italy is that if there is someone outside the restaurant/ cafe enticing you to eat there then it’s not worth a visit.

After our lovely meal, we walked around a little before heading back to the hotel to settle in for the night. The next morning we walked out to the bus stop near the Santa Maria Maggiore to wait for our bus. When we arrived, there were a few tourists already waiting, some hawkers were there selling hats and scarves. They were particularly persistant even when the two ladies said no, they would put a hat onto their heads. Luckily we were all wearing hats ourselves so were not bothered by them. This we found was a common occurrence where tourists were gathered en masse!

The first stop for our bus was where we also got off to explore as it was the main attraction for us that day – the Colosseum! We saw it from afar and could not believe we were so close to something we had only dreamed of seeing! Once we arrived, we were awed by the sheer size of it! Even if you have seen images before, it pales in comparison to when you are standing in front of and in it! We proceeded to the Roman Forum as that is where the visit commenced. We collected our tickets and proceeded into the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. It is such an expansive area with so many ruins, amazing architecture which we found was a great pre-cursor to the main attraction! My husband studied ancient history in high school and was blown away by the fact that you could touch artefacts that were thousands of years old and be surrounded by so much history!

Climbing up Palantine Hill is amazing, to see how the Romans built their cities, the views, architecture and beauty surrounding them was astounding! There were rooftop gardens, city views, temples and so much more! It really is amazing to see how much history was around us, in front of us, behind us and underneath us! There are still ruins being found to this day as they dig underground – they have been trying to build another metro line since the 1980’s but as they dig, they come across more ruins and have to cease! My husband joked that they have to stop because they keep finding more ruins before we knew that was the actual reason! It is a city rich in history and everywhere you look, you will find ruins scattered amongst the modern buildings – such a unique city!

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Our ticketed time for the Colosseum was around 3pm in the afternoon so we headed out of Palantine Hill to grab some lunch at the metro station next to the Colosseum. It was a very warm day and we enjoyed lemon granitas with pizza – they were a refreshing, cool accompaniment to our lunch – when in Rome! We rested and cooled ourselves before lining up to see the Colosseum. This is what my daughter and husband had been waiting for – this was the highlight for both of them (and me too)! It still felt surreal that we were standing in Rome about to see the Colosseum even after being blown away by the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill! We passed through the security checkpoint and then were inside walking along underneath admiring the structures from below only to be blown away once we walked up the stairs which revealed the structure in all it’s glory! Walking around, reading the information, seeing the sheer size and detail makes you realise the engineering and architectural marvel as a testament to why it is still standing there today! Even though we took many photos, I feel the pictures do not do the Colosseum justice. Even though it has a macabre history, I feel it shouldn’t take away from the amazing structure built centuries ago that is still standing in modern times! I hope my photos do not want spoil it for those who have yet to see it for themselves!

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After our day at the Colosseum, we hopped back on a bus to see more attractions and see where we wanted to explore the next day but there was one stop we had to make before calling it a day! We got off the bus and walked our way through the cobblestone streets towards the buzz of a crowd. We arrived to the one place I wanted to see with my own eyes – Fontana di Tevi! Yes, it was crowded, full of tourists, noisy and busy but we felt it was so worth fighting the crowds for! The Fontana di Trevi is the largest Baroque Fountain in the city and the most beautiful in the world. We all threw a coin each into the fountain to ensure our return to this wonderful city! I was advised by a good friend to visit the fountain at night so that was planned for a later date during our stay!

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It was also the place where I sampled my first Cannoli in Rome and it did not disappoint!  There just happens to be a great Gelateria and Pasticciera right near the fountain, it is called Don Nino and I recommend visiting it if you ever happen to be in the area! Our first full day in Rome – what an eventful day that is forever etched into our memory. We looked forward to more amazing sights in the days to come.

The next day we headed off in the morning and planned to visit Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). It is an ancient chariot racing track which you may be familiar with as it was used in the filming of Ben Hur. It looks plain and dry upon first look but has much history attached to it. We were amazed at the sheer size of the track and how it was used as an entertainment arena by the ancient Romans. From there, we walked to the Piazza della Bocca della Verita this translates to the Square of the Mouth of Truth. This is situated near the Tiber River and was interesting to walk around to view the remains of a temple, the fountain and park. The Mouth of Truth is situated near here in the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church. We didn’t line up to take photos, we enjoyed the Piazza and the Tiber river instead.

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From here, we got on another bus which took us to the Il Vittoriano.  Romans don’t much admire the Vittoriano; they refer to it as ‘the wedding cake’. We decided to stop and explore this monument or ‘wedding cake’ as it affectionately known. It is very impressive due to it’s stature and those who love it for it’s beauty, views and architecture – it certainly delivers! There are great views back to the Roman Forum from behind. There is a museum to visit, galleries to explore and of course the Monument to visit and views across the Piazza Venezia when you get up to the equestrian statue, as the monument itself does not impede the views. There are also impressive fountains in front of the monument as most fountains in Rome. We spent a bit of time walking around, exploring and taking in the sights.

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The next stop was Castel D’Angelo, it is built along the banks of the Tiber river – also with a deep history as was the case with many of the places we visited in Rome. It has been a papal residence and has a bridge that you walk across which has the statues of the apostles Saint Peter (holding a book, with the pedestal inscription Rione XIV) by Lorenzetto, and Saint Paul (holding a broken sword and a book, with the pedestal inscription Borgo) by Paolo Romano.

There is so much to see and learn in the city of Rome and we had only begun to scratch the surface! From the Castel, you can see the Vatican City and the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. We wondered around the building and markets nearby where we bought some refreshing lemon and watermelon granita to cool down and walked under a water sprinkler to get some relief from the heat. The temperature was above 30 degrees celsius during our visit to Rome, so it was quite warm!

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Afterwards, we enjoyed travelling around Rome taking in a few sights and stopped at Piazza Barberini to walk around and view the famous Fontana del Tritone, sculpted by Bernini. This piazza is named after the Barberini family who made their home here. There is also a smaller fountain called the Fountain of Bees which was the symbol of the Barberini family.

Another full day in Rome, where we did so much walking and exploring, drinking in all the sights with our eyes. We were thoroughly enjoying our visit to this city of fountains! The next day was also a highlight of our visit to Italy. We were up early, catching the metro at 7am to meet at Piazza del Popolo for our day trip to Pompeii! It was an early start but worth every second! There is a house with interesting history called Casa Longus, not due to the family who lived there but for the marble table on display. Servilius Casca Longus who was one of the people responsible for Caesar’s death. This table was auctioned by order of the future Emperor Augustus, as all of Caesar’s followers were stripped of their worldly goods. They are certain that the rich owner of the property bought these things at an auction then brought it back and put it on display as a proud purchase from that auction in Rome.

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After visiting the ancient city of Pompeii, we had lunch in a restaurant in Naples (apparently where you can find the best pizza!) and then visited Volcano Sulfatara. We were meant to go to Mt. Vesuvius but due to recent fires, it was unsafe to visit. Volcano Sulfatara gets it’s name due to the sulphur gases you can smell when you visit (smells like bad eggs!) You walk out into the crater of the volcano and see the natural saunas that were used by the ancient Romans – the Mouth of Hell and Purgatory. These are aptly named due to the high temperatures (above 60 degrees) which were believed to cleanse and purify. You are able to sit inside the Mouth of Hell at your own peril!

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Our full three jam-packed days exploring Rome were over for as we headed off to our Coastal escape on the Amalfi Coast. This post ends the first part of our visit to Italy, what we had seen and experienced so far had been amazing. We were looking forward to some rest, relaxation and family time to Laugh, Love, Live together near the water – our happy place. Thanks for joining our journey so far, it’s been great reliving our journey by writing this and previous posts, I hope you will join us on the next part of our Italian adventure – Peace and blessings!

Here are links to the previous posts of our European Adventure so you can read and follow in order of our trip:

https://tigre23.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/european-adventure/

https://tigre23.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/double-deckers-wizards-and-just-rocks/

https://tigre23.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/olde-worlde-charm/

https://tigre23.wordpress.com/2018/01/20/ville-damour/

 

 

 

Ville D’amour

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Roundabout at Avenue de Villiers

This is the third destination of our European Adventure – we boarded the Thalys from Midi station in Belgium excited about our next destination. We are enjoying our European adventure immensely and looked forward to each new country. We arrived with a little trepidation as my friend and relatives in Belgium warned us to keep our bags close because of pickpockets and watch for drivers who take tourists unawares, charging extortionate fares. We arrived to armed guards and police guarding the station. Police directed tourists to the taxi stand to wait for a taxi. I spoke to a fellow traveller while waiting in line for a taxi who said he loves this city and said he comes back every year just to visit. He recommended markets near the Eiffel Tower on the weekend and said he caught the metro, walked the streets and emphasised it was a safe city – a great recommendation upon arrival!

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This city is my Aunt’s favourite city of all the places she has visited – she has spoken about it many times and has been back several times to visit. Now that I’ve been there, I can see why. One of my close friends who helped me with planning this leg of our trip, sent me a message asking me what my first impression of the city was moments after I had arrived. My response was “such a pretty city”. The city I am referring to is Paris – ah Paris!

A few hours after arriving in Paris, we made our way to the first attraction and I fell in love with the city – the vibe, the beauty, the history. J’adore Paris! When I found out we were staying only a 15 minute walk away from the Arc de Triomphe, I didn’t tell my husband or daughter where we were headed except to say “Just keep walking” when they asked “Where are we going?”. When it came into view, I said with a flourish “That’s where we are going!” It was such a breathtaking moment and seemed very surreal – to be facing a monument that I had only dreamed about and seen only on TV or in books. I couldn’t believe we were standing at the busy roundabout where the Arc de Triomphe stood! It was a breathtaking moment for me and I daresay also for my husband and daughter.

We observed the traffic on that roundabout and deduced that it was a crazy, busy roundabout! We even observed a man gambling with his life when he decided to cross the traffic to get to the Arc but I assure you there is a much safer and easier passage via the underpass! Upon returning home, my friend told me that travel insurance companies don’t cover you if you drive at that roundabout and now that I have seen it first hand, I can see why! After 7 days of observing traffic there, we still couldn’t make sense of who was supposed to give way, or how you would enter and exit!

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Our next two days were aboard the hop on, hop off Big Bus tour of Paris – we caught the metro to Trocadero and had our first glimpse of the Tour Eiffel! It was a bit grey but we were amazed to be standing in sight of it! We then walked  across the road to board the big bus. We were able to catch many sights, take many photos, hop off and spend time before catching another bus to the next stop!

Over the two days we saw the Tour Eiffel, Champ de Mars, Ecole Militaire, Hotel des Invalides (Napoleon’s final resting place), Petit Palais, Grand Palais, Avenue de Champs Elysees, Arc De Triomphe, Palais de L’Elsee, Place de la Concorde, Eglise de la Madeleine, Opera Garnier, Musee de Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Musee de L’Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries, Trocadero, Notre Dame, Musee de L’Homme, Musee de la Marine, Moulin Rouge, Sacre Coeur, Gar de Nord, Gar de l’Est and Musee Grevin, just to name a few!

We didn’t have time to see inside everything but will definitely have to come back to visit places we would like to explore further! A fellow blogger also visited the Palais Garnier went inside and has graciously given me permission to provide a link to their video of their visit – it is a beautiful building, as were many of the buildings in Europe! The Phantom of the Opera’s falling chandelier scene was inspired by the real-life event of a chandelier falling from this Opera Garnier’s ceiling because of the weight. Please enjoy the video:

https://miutravels.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/a-short-vid-of-palais-garnier-in-paris/

We saw so much and some we chose to only pass by but the places we did spend time in was amazing, these included the Musee de Louvre, Musee D’Orsay & Musee de L’Orangerie. We also spent time at the Eiffel tower and Trocadero, outside Opera Garnier, visited Petit Palais where there was free entry (that was a nice surprise), went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and visited the Sacre Coeur – my daughter said that she didn’t want to have to climb any more stairs after those two visits! There are 284 steps to climb to get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and 270 steps to the Sacre Coeur! Our legs definitely got a workout visiting those two places! For those who are unable to climb that many stairs, there is a lift in the Arc de Triomphe where it takes you nearly to the top and there are only about 40 or so stairs to climb to the top. At Montmatre, you can ride the funicular to the top of the hill to make it easier to get to the Sacre Couer, and there is also a ramp and lifts at the Basilica for disabled access. We also visited the Arch La Defense and took the lift to the top to take in the panoramic views of Paris! My daughter was glad that there weren’t stairs to climb!

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We also visited Pont Neuf and the little park underneath – the Square de Vert Galant which is on the Seine river. It is a nice place to relax and enjoy Paris!  The name Pont Neuf translates to ‘New Bridge’ but it is actually the oldest stone bridge in Paris! We saw many people had put padlocks onto the bridge with their names/ initials – whilst we think this is a lovely sentiment, we feel it took away from the beauty of the bridge. We also had a quick visit to Galleries La Fayette to buy a gift! It is such a beautiful building with a gorgeous dome roof which has a restaurant in which to sit and enjoy. There is so much to see and do in Paris, we have agreed we need visit again at a more leisurely place to explore the places we were unable to do visit time.

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After our busy couple of days around the city of Paris, we went on a day trip to Giverny to visit the house and gardens of Claude Monet – my favourite artist! The gardens were beautiful and seemed like I was standing in a replica of his paintings! I couldn’t believe I was standing there taking it all in! Claude Monet was a french impressionist artist who made money while still alive thanks to the dedicated support of collectors, most notably from Americans who discovered his work in the 1880s. Monet’s famous paintings of water lilies were inspired from his own garden.

https://www.claudemonetgallery.org/biography.html

Monet’s house was also wonderful, he loved colour and his house reflected that with colourful rooms and paintings. Monet liked Japanese prints and had his own private collection at his home. All the artwork in his home have been replaced with replicas – with the amount of people visiting there are sure to be valuable pieces which may be damaged or go missing!

After a beautiful morning, we headed off to a traditional french restaurant in Normandy and along the way, our bus driver went our of his way to stop and let us see a 12th century castle (the top/ turret of the castle was built in the 12th century). It was used by the Germans as their headquarters during the war, it is the Chateau de La Roche-Guyon. It is now a museum which holds guided tours, the 14th century addition is the main building which you can see behind the gates. Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, we arrived at our picturesque destination – Moulin de Fourges, it was built in 1790 on the ruins of a former mill, it is one of the most elegant mills in the valley inspired by the architecture of Queen Marie Antoinette’s hamlet at Versailles. We had traditional French food, which is simple but very nice – a lovely salmon pate for entree, Chicken for main and tart tatin for dessert because Normandy is also famous for its apples. The lunch was also paired with some lovely french wine.

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After lunch, we explored the gardens around the restaurant and found an artist painting by the banks of the river. I purchased one of his paintings as did a few other people who were part of our tour, they were reasonably priced and were great souvenirs of the trip. My painting is hanging in the same room I am writing this blog where I can enjoy it and be reminded of that lovely afternoon!

We headed off to see one more grand palais that afternoon, the Chateau de Versailles! We had heard a lot about it but until you see it for yourself, you cannot imagine the scale of opulence and grandeur! It is amazing to see – the building and gates gilded in gold, opulent fabrics, paintings, statues and ornate ceilings. The gardens are also beautiful and have fountains synchronised to music. The garden is apparently smaller than the original gardens – the adverse history surrounding the palace makes you feel a bit disgusted at the opulence, when you hear that the people of Paris were starving but King Louis XIV lived in all that grandeur!

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We came, we visited and we loved Paris! We ate the most scrumptious croissants and pastries (loved the chocolate eclairs!), baguettes and even tried some burgundy snails -well, when in France! All in all, we had a wonderful time and were sorry to be leaving vowing to return again some day to visit Paris at a more leisurely pace and also see more of France, particularly the south. It seemed that this European adventure was getting better and better at each destination and we still had one more country with a few more places to visit! We definitely were applying Laugh.Love.Live to the full – our first taste of Europe creating an appetite wanting more!

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I hope you are enjoying our adventures as much as we did, we learnt so much on this trip – Europe is immensely rich in history! It is nice to relive the memories, discoveries and adventures – thanks for sharing them with us and hope you will join us on the final leg of our European Adventure. Peace and blessings!

 

 

Peace and Blessings!

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Wishing everyone will continue to Laugh.Love.Live in the year ahead. Thank you for the support and encouragement for my humble blog. Peace and many blessings for 2018 – may it be a year full of love, laughter, compassion and understanding.  namaste

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Olde worlde charm!

Our next destination was only a couple of hours away by train so we settled in on the Eurostar and enjoyed the high-speed journey. Originally, we hadn’t planned visiting here as we weren’t sure we could fit it in until my friend advised that is was en route to another destination so it made sense to visit – and we’re so glad we did! We were able to catch up with my relatives – Aunt and cousins whom I have not seen for 20 years! It was lovely to spend a few days exploring and visiting – my husband and daughter got to meet relatives from my side of the family whom they had never met.

We alighted the Eurostar at Midi station in Brussels. My youngest cousin met us and took us to our hotel. It was so nice to see him, the last time I saw him was when he was visiting Australia – he was only 6 years old! After checking into our hotel, we set off to see the city. My cousin advised us that Belgium was not a big city like Sydney. He visited Sydney last year and said Brussels was much smaller, you could drive from one end of the city to the other in 20 minutes, unlike in Sydney.

The first stop for us was adhoc because as we drove past a large cathedral, it caught our eye – my cousin stopped the car so we could admire it and take a few tourist snaps! After that we had a tour around Brussels – he took us to see the Grand PlaceManekin Pis and his girlfriend – Janekin Pis ! We also visited Delirium Cafe to try some Belgium beer  – two different types and found the alcohol strength to be double or more than that in Australia! I took a photo in the pub which I did not check until the evening and my cousin looks as though he had a little too much to drink because his eyes were half closed. I can guarantee that he was sober, it was just my poor photography skills!  After our tour of the city, we went to his mum’s (My Aunty’s) pub to see the rest of my relatives except one who was away on vacation with her family.

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We spent the evening at my Aunt’s pub where my daughter and my eldest cousin’s daughter got along very well even though it was the first time they met. They had interests in common and enjoyed each other’s company. It was lovely to see and the language barrier seemed non-existent! We  had a big family dinner at a lovely Greek- Chinese restaurant (yes, an unusual combination but it worked!) You could order either Greek dishes or Asian dishes and the food was delicious. It was a full first day and a great introduction to the city!

The next day we headed out for a day trip to Bruges which is a  Flemish-speaking  part of Belgium. The Flemish or Flemings (DutchVlamingen) are a Germanic ethnic group native to Flanders, in modern Belgium, who speak Dutch, especially any of its dialects spoken in historical Flanders, known collectively as Flemish Dutch.[5] They are one of two principal ethnic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons. Flemish people make up the majority of the Belgian population (about 60%)**.

I had  been advised by a few colleagues and friends that if we visited Belgium then we had to visit Bruges. I had asked my cousin if we could visit Bruges when we arrived and he said of course! He was our chaperone, driving us there and taking us around for the day.  Before we arrived in Bruges, my husband kept asking what is in Bruges and why did we have visit, to which I replied that it is the old part of Belgium and supposed to be beautiful. That was an understatement – we were absolutely blown away by the beauty of Bruges! We spent hours walking around looking at the buildings, sights, canals, tasting chocolate, waffles and mussels! It was a feast for all our senses! It seemed as though Belgium never ceased to amaze us, with each day better than the next!

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The city of Bruges was an absolute highlight and we recommend it to anyone visiting Belgium –  it is a must! It is only an hour and a half drive from Brussels or you can also take the train. There is a place in Bruges in my photos that is full of white swans. There is the legend of the Bruges Swans. I’ve included a link to the story so you can read it at your leisure. The history in Europe is so fascinating, we were learning so much in each place we visited!

My cousin also enjoyed Bruges because even though he had been there before, he said there were thingst he hadn’t seen before so it was also a ‘new’ experience for him too. We headed back to Brussels, dropping into my Aunt’s pub to spend a bit of time there and take some last photos. Then my cousin took us to see the Atomium which was lit up at night, it was built for the Brussels world fair in 1958. There is a panoramic restaurant at the top of the structure with gourmet food and views. We didn’t have time to have a look inside the spheres as we were heading to my eldest cousin’s home to have dinner with her family which provided another opportunity for her daughter and mine to spend some time together before we left the next day. We were grateful for the time we did spend in Belgium – being so surprised by the beauty of Belgium and discovering it was such an unexpected highlight of our trip so far!

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The Atomium alight!

My cousin’s husband cooked a wonderful, delicious pasta dinner for us and we were able to sit and catch up. Our girls were able to spend time together and attempt to make slime, it is a big trend at the moment with kids – big and small! We spent some time playing with her younger son with his police chief, hospitals, ambulance, staff and patients! He is currently obsessed police and their vehicles! It was a lovely way to spend our last evening in Belgium.

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We were so grateful to be able to catch up with family and do some sightseeing, ticking off some of our main attractions. It was definitely a place where we put into action Laugh. Love. Live! We were enjoying our European adventure immensely and looking forward to our next destination. We were drinking in each experience with relish – filling our hearts, souls and stomachs with amazing nourishment! Hope you enjoyed this little snapshot of Belgium as much as we did – onwards and upwards to our next stop on our European adventure!

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flemish_people

Current mood…

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Capturing the sunrise on Monday morning….

Awakening…

Energies swirling,

Dark, light and colourful.

Restless yet calm,

Clear yet confused,

Sorting through what needs to stay,

And what needs to go.

Priorities changing,

Perceptions moving.

All for the better,

Remembering Life is an endless learning journey…

Healing.

 

 

 

Double Deckers, wizards and just rocks!

Our first stop on our European adventure was London, we travelled to Heathrow Airport via Singapore – another place we have yet to visit but that will have to wait for another time! We left in the afternoon and arrived already tired and travel worn in Singapore for a 3 hour stopover. It wasn’t pleasant trying to stay awake when all you wanted to do was sleep but we explored Changi Airport seeing the food halls and a bit of souvenir shopping. We boarded our flight to Heathrow and promptly fell asleep for a few hours which was just what we needed, only trouble is we woke up about 5-6 hours later and still had another 8-9 hours to go!

We finally arrived in Heathrow at 7.45am in the morning, excited but tired. It felt surreal to be standing there on the other side of the world! We made our way to the Underground station to catch the tube to the apartment which would be our home away from home in South London. Catching the tube was also a mini adventure for us – it was something I thought I’d never experience and yet here we were doing just that! We were already enjoying being in England, albeit very tired!

After asking for directions , we found we had to change lines to get to our line which was the Bakerloo line – when we asked for directions,  we were given a map of the Underground network which became very handy during the coming week. We found the transport staff to be very helpful while we were finding our way around for the first day or two. Once we knew the stop, direction and lines – we were travelling around London like locals!

We arrived at our stop and found our way to the correct exit which was 5 minutes away from the apartment. The first thing we were excited to see when we were walking on the streets were the red double decker buses which are quintessentially London! There are things that we relate to a country – the red double decker buses and black taxi cabs were the things we related to London and were excited to see! We checked into our apartment and were very excited with our view from the 30th floor!

We were able to relax a little before heading off for the first item on our itinerary – the Warner Bros Harry Potter movie studio tour! My daughter is a huge Harry Potter fan and very excited to start our adventure there. After a little hiccup in the directions provided by our concierge, we found our way to the correct underground line and stop, making it in time for the bus! Luckily we left earlier which gave us plenty of time even though we had headed in the wrong direction!

Even the bus was exciting to see as we lined up waiting to board – it added to the anticipation! The bus ride was about an hour and a half, as the studio tour is located 20 miles north-west of London in Leavesden. We were advised the tour would take 3 hours and would have some free time after the tour to visit the shop and cafe before our departure. Harry Potter was the highlight for my daughter during our visit to England. It was amazing to see the props, sets and costumes used in the films. We were able to board the Hogwart’s Express, walk through 4 Privett Drive, see the Knight Bus, the Pensieve, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor Common room and so much more! For Harry Potter fans, we found this an amazing experience!

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After the tour, we visited the cafe and shop for a few choice purchases that my daughter had already advised she’d like to make when we booked the tour – which was before we even left home! We left the tour excited and animated at what we had just experienced, it helped keep our jetlag at bay for the day. I was advised by friends to go out and not sleep during the day no matter how tempting it was to help us adjust to the local time there. We all crashed that night by 9.30pm and slept for about 11-13 hours! Luckily we didn’t have anything booked until after lunch the next day!

We woke up late morning feeling quite refreshed. We self catered for breakfast which we found to be cheaper and easier being in an apartment with a shopping centre just across the road. We found the quality of food we bought when out and about in London to be sub-par and quite expensive! That was the only drawback visiting London. Today we were heading to Buckingham Palace for the tour of the State Rooms – a dear friend advised to visit them and we were glad we did. Such amazing rooms, decor and art viewed as we wandered through! It was also the perfect day to do something indoors as it was typical London weather – wet and cold even though it was summer! We recommend it if visiting in summer as it is only open for about 8-10 weeks and worth the visit!

Our next day trip was my highlight of our visit to England – Bath and Stonehenge. It was an early start but so worth it! The city of Bath was our first taste of European architecture and cobblestone streets – so pretty! We visited the Roman Baths and after being to Rome, could see the Roman influence had spread across many of the countries we visited. Roman architecture is ornate and beautiful – decorated arches, domes and statues dominate.

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A colleague of mine asked where we were going in England and when I mentioned Stonehenge, she said “they’re just rocks”! I found it amazing to be in such an historical place where the true nature is still a mystery! There are “theories” to consider and I feel it is up to you to decide which one you decide fits. I sent my colleague some photos and she admitted that it did look pretty amazing.

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For the next two days, we toured London via the Hop on Hop off bus which was great to see the city from a different perspective! We visited Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the Tower of London, St.Paul’s cathedral and Westminster Abbey. We were also fortunate to catch the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace!

Madame Tussaud’s wax museum was a bit of fun – it was also my daughter’s choice and was excited when she saw her favourite actress. We enjoyed seeing some iconic wax statues and historical figures.

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The next morning we visited the Tower of London, it is great – so much history and the Crown Jewels are a must see! A tip when visiting is to arrive for opening which is at 9am and head straight to the crown jewels to avoid the long queues! There were so many jewels and gold items – bling galore and worth a visit! The Tower of London has quite a macabre history especially the Bloody Tower! I feel learning  ‘live history’ makes it all the more fascinating and interesting then reading it from a book. All in all, it was fascinating to learn history in a live environment – would recommend a visit if you are visiting London for the first time. We also caught a ferry ride on the Thames clippers from the Tower of London to Westminster which was an added extra that we enjoyed!

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We took a train ride to St. Alban’s which is a beautiful city where a dear Uncle spent his early childhood. It is a beautiful city, we had brunch there, roamed the markets in the town square and visited the St. Alban’s cathedral which was quite impressive. We were surprised to find Roman influence in this city too which is about 30 mins away from London.

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We also caught up with my cousin and his family while we were in London which is lovely. It’s always nice to be able to catch up with family especially since we live so far from each other, it was nice for both our families to meet! They live in South England about an hour away from London so we appreciated them travelling in to meet us for lunch and enjoyed the afternoon with them before we left.

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We visited Covent Garden, Chinatown, Southbank, Big Ben, Borough Market, Platform 9&3/4 at Kings Cross station – we felt we visited and did so much, but also felt we could have easily visited more places. We took a mental note for a return trip in the future!

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We had a wonderful time in London and felt we could have easily stayed a little longer. Although a little sad to leave, we were excited to embark on the next part of our European adventure – catching the Eurostar to Belgium! We loved the fact that you could be in a different country in just 2 hours! In Australia, we travel 5 hours across the country and we’re still in the same country – just in another state! We also found St. Pancras International train station to be a beautiful building. As it was our first visit, we had plans for each day except one or two – it was a busy week but so much fun! Our main aim was sightseeing – taking in as much as we could to Laugh. Love. Live each moment! We look forward to returning to see more of England in the future. Hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride on the first leg of our European Adventure! Peace and blessings!

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