Saturday, December 31, 2011

Beaune Noel

The Christmas period was spent in and around Nolay.  Simon & Chazzy arrived on the afternoon of the 23rd and departed for skiing on the morning of the 26th.

We packed into the little apartment with heaters running full power to keep things warm.  Days have been fine and sunny, but cool.

There were a few walks around the area and some time in the French supermarket.

We had Champagne before lunch and before the lovely turkey Christmas dinner.while it was not surprising to see the bakery open on Christmas morning the small grocery shop and the florist were also open.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vroom vroom & Chocolat

We left Paris in our iittle rental car ~a VW Golf and had an easy run down the motorway for 2 hours and then left the motorway to meander through some smaller villages on our way to Beaune.  

We had Beef Bourguignon for lunch at Semur-en-Auxerre before heading to Flavigny-sur-Orzelain. Flavigny is famous for 2 things the 1st is it's Anise lollies.  And the 2nd is this is where the movie "Chocolat" was filmed.  

Sadly the factory lolly shop was closed - but we picked some up at the supermarket.  Most of the rest of the town was almost deserted, but you could see the atmosphere and character.  And I imagine it would be atrocious  in the height of summer with the bus loads of tourists teeming through the place.

We are staying at an apartment 20km out of Beaune, in the village of Nolay.  Not the most atmospheric of villages, but it is nice to be out of the tourist hustle that is Beaune.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wandering around Paris

It was raining lightly this morning.   We used some walking routes as guidelines to explore the Latin Quarter not far from where we are staying.  

Of course the morning started with coffee and croissant (& an extra pain au chocolat for Andrew) to give us strength and energy.   

A bit of a look around Place St. Michel before heading towards Musee de Cluny and the Sorbonne and the Pantheon. A wander through the bare Jardins du Luxembourg where we took a couple of photos. Apparently I often give instructions when I hand my camera over to Andrew!

Lunch was back across the river near Les Halles.  The specials of the day were Veal Roast or Head of Veal.  if you are not sure what Tete de Veau is this might help to explain why I suggested Andrew didn't choose that.  Http://  I suspect this happy face might have not looked quite so happy if he was eating the Tete de Veau :-)

A bit more wandering & exploring before returning to our hotel area and the Rue Mouffetard - a bit of a food, wine and specialty goods street.  We enjoyed window shopping but were very glad to get back to the hotel and rest the feet.  We haven't spent a lot of time in lace up shoes while in Laos and we noticed the change pounding the pavements. 


We travelled to Paris via Hanoi arriving about 6.30 am. After the usual stuff we purchased our day pass for public transport (20 euro each) and off to The Latin Quarter to our hotel on the RER train.  Then we needed to change to the metro at Notre Dame.  Easy peasy. We had printed out travel instructions but had not included the walk between the two (not interconnected) stations.  As a result our return to Paris started with a half hour effectively walking the blocks around Notre Dame before we found the direction we were supped to go and the 5 minute walk to the metro.  Our hotel was not ready as it was only 9:00am, so we dropped the bags and headed off.

Within in 5 minutes we had found the excellent Eric Kayser bakery and were nibbling on a croissant and having a coffee.  All the Bread, pastries and sweet temptations in the cabinets beside us were there just waiting for us...

The sun was shining and the temperature cool, but not cold.  So we decided to ease into France with a trip to Gallleries Lafayette - just to remind ourselves what retail is. 

We then headed off to find a menu for lunch and ended up at an excellent little place that was turning people away because it was full.  

To finish our afternoon we walked the Christmas market along the Champs Elysee.  It was busy, but it was twice as busy when we returned about 7pm to see the lights. To get into the spirit we had some Gluhwien and sausages & tartiflette for our dinner.  

Not a bad day where the only money we spent was on transport and eating.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A few days on the beach on Phuket

On Monday we took an Air Asia flight down to Phuket. Normally Phuket would not have been our 1st choice of destination, but an hour and a half direct flight from Udon Thani (50km over the border in Thailand) made it easy.  And given that we decided and booked on Friday, left Monday, easy was important.

When we got there we had a feeling of hmmmm, might of made a mistake.  Phuket is one of Thailand’s most heavily visited areas.  We had made the decision to avoid Patong beach, with it’s go-go bars and bright lights and instead headed further to what the tourist information described as more relaxed Kata Beach.  The beach had umbrellas in rows 3-4 deep in places, the sea was full of swimmers, and it looked a (lot) unappealing.  Interestingly Club Med is built on this beach (just at the left of the photo) and the people paying $3000 per week share beach with everyone else…mmm no thanks

Then we walked 10 minutes over a hill and found a beach with 1/4 of the people & umbrellas and a beach with good waves.

Busy crowded main beach ------------------> Bliss 10 minutes away

So the pattern for our time there was walk 10 minutes further than the main Kata beach to Kata Noi beach.  Hire a lounger for 100 baht each (NZ$4) and sit, read, drank, eat Pad Thai for lunch at a beachside cafe and swim.  Then at the end of the day walk back to the hotel in the afternoon before going for dinner.  The beach was spotlessly clean and the water warm and crystal clear.  It was tough, but we managed.  So after being a bit dubious to start with, we ended finding a nice spot and really enjoying ourselves.  We would not hesitate to go back.
The odd thing about Kata was that we English speakers were in the minority.  We were completely outnumbered by Russians and Swedes.  Signs and menus were commonly in English, Russian and Swedish.

If heading to that part of the world the Two-chefs restaurant has fantastic food at reasonable prices.  And we had the best wine in months there – a South African Pinotage – from Spice Routes winery. 

IMG_2946x1And in celebration of a beach holiday Andrew broke out his redIMG_2951x1 ensembles.  How many shades of red can you count in this outfit .

Unable to top the full on red look, the next day he substituted a pink t-shirt for the red one, and stowed his cerise beach towel in his maroon man-bag =>

It was much hotter in Phuket where the day/night temperatures ranged from mid-30s to mid-20s than here in Vientiane where the cool season is upon us at mid-20s to mid-teens. Not quite cool enough to acclimatise us to the European winter temperatures coming up for us in 9 days time :-?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Colds and incidents

It has been a quiet few weeks with life as usual.  So Andrew has taken it upon himself to make his own entertainment.

This week there has been the Cold – which half the rest of Vientiane has also been suffering.  Andrew didn’t get the same chest cold as me, he got an “infection”.  It seemed a lot like a chest cold, but ohhhh sooooo much worse.  Team him up with one of our neighbours, who is also “suffering terribly”, and you have the President and Vice-President of the Laos man-flu club.  (on a positive note the cough has reduced from seal-barks to a more gentle hyena hiss, and next week we hope for a miracle full-recovery)

[on reading this in his editorial capacity I was told I had to say he also had a sore back last week from trying to lift two large water containers.  We are lucky this has also come right]

The cold may be what led to a small international incident in a local supermarket.  He went in and purchased some tea bags and then found he had been charged too much.  On returning to the store he was standing in the aisle and showing the shop attendant the price on the shelf and the price on the docket were different.  The young man was swinging his arms around to catch the attention of a fellow worker for a second opinion when the cringe-worthy incident happened.  

Being somewhat shorter than Andrew, the returning arc of the swinging arm managed to hit Andrew in the privates in a solid, but non-injurious, thump.  Both parties were horrified!!!  Andrew started glaring at the man.  The young man could see his shop career disappearing in front of his eyes and started apologising and retreating at a rapid pace.  In Andrew’s words “he seemed to disappear through a solid concrete wall” and was not seen again.  On the positive side Andrew was refunded the $1 he was overcharged and managed to ride home with his chest infection, sore back and wounded crown jewels.

And in his spare time he has been modelling his ski hat and neck warmer.  While temperatures are dropping noticeably here – they are not quite needed yet.
On the other hand I have caused no issues and have been generally well behaved.
[Andrew here, women sometimes have a blinds spot about their behaviour, and the impact of their cold.]