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Sunday, 21 December 2014


Today marks the beginning of winter with the shortest day of the year.  We know that we will probably have many weeks of cold dismal weather to come and yet there is also cause for celebration since from now onwards the days will gradually get longer and lighter which is always hopeful.   On the subject of hope I took the above photo yesterday just a short distance from my home!  If the daffodils are in bloom can spring be far away?  Well yes it can but I am kidding myself that it is just around the corner!

 I had walked up through the wood to the local post office with the last couple of cards - they probably won't arrive in time for Christmas now but maybe they will serve as New Year cards!  The sun was peeping through the trees as I walked and the birds were singing as if they thought Spring had arrived as it was quite mild too.

 Having posted my cards I walked back along the A30 instead of through the wood the way I'd come to where I had seen a few daffodils in bloom when we passed in the car a day or so earlier and I wanted to get a photo and here they are nodding their heads happily.

Leaving the main road I walked back into the other end of the wood and made my way home.  The view between the trees was beautiful with the sun shining on the distant countryside.  I'd been feeling a bit blue and stressed for some reason but my walk and the sight of the daffodils soon had me in a more cheerful frame of mind I am glad to say. 

In spite of the daffodils it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here and yesterday I put up an outdoor tree, alongside the front door, I'd made from an idea I'd seen in a recent Landscape magazine.  Not sure I like the trunk though as it looks like a ladder - maybe I should remove it since the one in the magazine didn't have a trunk being just a simple triangle.  I am also not sure if it might look a bit naff instead of my usual wreath on the door but I thought it would be a change and the wreath makes the hall a bit dark as it hangs over the glass in the front door.  Oh well it's only for a couple of weeks anyway and then it can come down if not before as the ivy may well shrivel and die before then.

In case I don't get chance to post again before the 25th I wish you all a peaceful, healthy and happy Christmas however you are spending it.

Monday, 8 December 2014

No room at the inn?!

 You may remember here that I told you we had built a bug hotel for the insects to shelter in over winter?  Well I can't tell of course whether or not there are any guests resting inside but what I can tell you is that I have a colony of ladybirds who either couldn't get a booking there or perhaps thought Bug Hotel? No Thanks! and are now residing in our bedroom window!

We have a dormer window and the curtains hang on dormer rods as you can see above,

There is a narrow gap between the window frame and the hinge of the dormer rod just the right size for a little group of ladybirds to settle!  If you click on the pic to enlarge it you may be able to make out the little colony as a dark line.  I am surprised that they didn't choose the other side since the side they have picked is the side whose window is left open a little all the time except when we go out and it must surely be rather draughty.  But maybe that makes for easier entrance and escape.  Last winter we had ladybirds in the corners of the window frames and I had to be careful not to close the windows tight but to leave them on the locked but ventilated position or I would have squashed the little dears and there was a small group of them actually on the curtain who didn't seem to mind being swung backwards and forwards every time we opened or closed the curtain.  They are ideal house guests since they make no noise, they require nothing to eat nor do they leave any mess when come the spring they just disappear.

I notice too that in the compost bins there are many woodlice and a few snails settled in round the woodwork of the lid and first storey who don't seem to mind that the lid is lifted at least once each day letting in the cold air!  Maybe the bug hotel just wasn't large enough for them all!

 The bird table is a hive of activity what with the birds and the squirrels, who are so cheeky and get house points for perseverence.  We don't want squirrels to eat all the food and leave none for the birds but they too are wildlife and who are we to decide who shall live and who shall starve?  They can't help being squirrels can they?!

I also have a healthy number of spiders in the conservatory to judge by the cobwebs.  It is unheated so I don't spend much time out there and they can stay till the spring when they will be evicted during the course of the ritual known as spring cleaning.

So as you can see we do our bit for wildlife here even to the extent of sharing our home with them if there is no room at the inn or the inn is not perhaps to their liking!

Nothing to do with insects or wildlife but I did breadmaking workshop on Saturday.  I used to make a lot of bread and was pretty successful but lately my bread isn't as delicious as I might wish so I enrolled on the course and spent a happy and fun filled afternoon with 6 other students at Emma's bakery in the Real Food Shop in Exeter.

 We produced a 100% wholemeal loaf each, a foccacia embedded with olives, some Greek rolls called Daktyla topped with sesame seeds and a small loaf of soda bread - all of them organic.  I struggled home on the train with all my bread still warm from the oven and we enjoyed the foccacia for supper, I froze the Greek buns and we are both eating the wholemeal which is amazing since Mr M never normally touches wholemeal!  I have to say the soda bread (which contained seeds) has been made into breadcrumbs and the squirrels are enjoying that!  It was far too dry by Sunday and we could only eat so much bread on Saturday evening!

It was a fun afternoon and I learned that one of the reasons my bread is so dense normally might be because "wetter is better" and mine was always on the dry side when I mixed it, not to put the salt near the yeast until you are ready to mix it all together and the slower the rising the better the bread and the better its keeping qualities so no need to put it somewhere warm at all it just takes longer.  I am planning to sign up for the Improvers workshops in the new year and am inspired to bake more once we have eaten what we have!!

Sunday, 7 December 2014


No pictures just a few thoughts:

I have been thinking about connections recently and this week I thought about Advent as being a time of waiting, anticipating and expecting and how that might be connected with another meaning of the term expecting that of expecting a baby.  Of course the birth of a baby is what the Christmas story is all about so there is already a connection.

This week a double tragedy occurred when a young woman walked out of a maternity hospital in Bristol where she had given birth to a baby girl just 4 days earlier.  She left without a coat nor any proper shoes on one of the coldest nights so far this year and her body and that of her baby were found a day or so later just over a mile away where she had apparently jumped into the Avon Gorge.  I have thought a lot about her and what might have driven her to do this at a time when society would be expecting (that word again) her to be overjoyed at the safe arrival of her baby.

Our society expects us to be happy at the birth of a baby in the same way that it expects us to be happy at Christmas but it isn't always quite like that.  Take Christmas - in spite of the decorations and the parties and so on it can be a terribly sad time for many people as the advertisement for Crisis at Christmas says "when you are homeless and lonely at Christmas you can only watch as people meet for parties ....."  of course you don't have to be homeless to be lonely and for many people Christmas reminds them of loved ones who are no longer alive to share it with them.  Some are sick or sad, frightened or concerned and not everyone is enjoying themselves as the media would have us believe.

Having a baby can of course be a happy time especially if the baby and mother are healthy and well but for some people the baby blues set in and the mother loses all sense of her self and her ability to parent the child.  Not everyone is endowed with mothering skills and for some it is a nightmare not helped by the fact that some babies don't sleep enough and exhaustion soon sets in.  Some apparently adore motherhood and seem to know just what to do whereas others lose all their common sense just at the time when it is most needed and lacking in confidence makes matters worse since babies apparently need a relaxed and confident Mum.  But what about the Mums needing relaxed and peaceable babies?!!

It seems to be taboo to admit that you are not enjoying any of it, that you wish you had never thought of having a baby and that you can barely manage to get dressed half the time let alone return to a career where you might have been somebody busy and capable.  Lack of sleep can go on for a long time and such mothers can feel murderous when other mothers blithely say "Oh yes he/she sleeps through the night now" a few weeks down the line!  Not all babies sleep much at all and it is little consolation to a weary mother to learn that they are often the intelligent ones either which may or may not be true. (I loved the Wanderer and still do of course, and would willingly have died for her had that been required but motherhood was definitely not my metier and even now more than 30 years later if I hear a small baby crying my stomach knots and I want to run away as I have no idea what to do to calm it.  Not for me the peering into prams and cooing at the baby inside!!)

I wonder if Mary was a natural or if she too found it all very difficult especially with all those shepherds and wise men visiting and expecting her to make them welcome!  She always looks very serene but I wonder...!

I guess what this post is about is just a reminder to spare a thought for those for whom the Joy of the season is a little thin on the ground this year at Christmas whether they be sick, lonely or even new mothers who are finding it all too much.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Another day another seaside

 Thank you all for your kind comments of my previous post - I continue in similar vein today with another seaside walk for you.  Cyber Monday?  Christmas shopping?  Busy busy?  Take a break and come with me for a breath of fresh air and relaxation!

One of the great advantages of being retired is that if a day dawns bright and sunny and there is nothing in the diary we can just take off and so it was that this morning we decided to take a trip to Bridport which is a town with many antique and junk shops.  I had seen a cottage style carver chair I liked recently and wondered if something like it might be found for our kitchen since I spend a lot of my time sitting out there listening to the radio and reading or knitting and so on.  We didn't find what I was looking for but we did find this cafe and went inside for a coffee and liked it so much we went back later for lunch too.  It was somewhere different - quirky and a bit alternative if you know what I mean.

 Nothing matched and there were books and magazines like National Geographic or Permaculture to read, a board of notices about everything under the sun from yoga classes to sustainability and art classes and best of all the coffee, and later the lunch, were delicious and very reasonably priced - we will certainly go there again.

 Having seen what we wanted in Bridport and had our lunch we walked back to the car park and set off for West Bay for a wander along the coast.  I don't think I will be joining in the Boxing Day Swim though!  It was very cold today even in the sunshine let alone on Boxing Day when it might be even colder!

 The sea was beautiful and the sky blue.  The sounds were of waves and the suck and pull of the sea over the pebbles and all thoughts of consumerism and world problems vanished from my mind.

 Legacy of last year's storms perhaps?  As we couldn't walk any further along in this direction we turned round and walked back towards where we'd come from.

 The waves looked like lace as they rushed across the sand.

 I walked out along the concrete pier - nobody fishing today but one or two other walkers.  This is looking towards Golden Cap.

 By now it was about 3.00 and the sun was getting lower in the sky and lighting the cliffs with a golden glow.  We didn't walk any of the coast path today but we have in the past walked up that steep slope from West Bay and along the top of the cliff before dropping down to Burton Bradstock - a hard climb and the path is now very close to the edge so don't think I'll be trying again any time soon!

Back into the little town and we then made our way home through the stunning Dorset countryside with the sun getting lower in the sky and bathing everything with an apricot glow before dropping below the horizon and the distant viewscould be seen in soft focus with the sky turning the softest pale birds egg blue with the moon to be seen waiting for its turn to shine and the trees an inky silhouette against the skyline.  We got home and lit the fire and put the kettle on feeling so grateful that we live somewhere where we are never far from such lovely places should a bright day arrive and happy that we are in good enough health to go there.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Away from the consumer scrum!

 The last day of November and what a beautiful day it was.  We had an early lunch and then went for a short walk nearby.

 This is one of my favourite places and I always feel at peace up here on the Ridge with distant views in all directions.

 It was so quiet nothing to be heard but the birdsong - bliss!  No traffic, no ringing of tills, no pushing and shoving, not another soul to be seen!

 I love the inky tracery of the trees against the skyline at this time of year although it is strange that not all the leaves have yet fallen from some of the trees.

  Just look at that sky - isn't it fabulous?

 There's something about gateways with a view beyond isn't there?  They draw me in and I feel I want to walk further, maybe to that horizon?  But not today as it would be dark and cold long before I got there!

 The sun is low in the sky now and the colour of the foreground is dark in photos but if you enlarge the photo by clicking on it the foreground is clearer..  Just look at that cloud formation isn't it great?

Back to the muddy lane where we had left the car, feeling refreshed and happy filled with gratitude for such a beautiful day, at this time of year something of a rarity.  Although a short walk it was just what was called for - I had seen the news reports of Black Friday and the fighting in the aisles to grab a bargain and had been struggling to understand what is happening in the world these days that people should behave in such a way. I could understand starving refugees behaving in such a maner when food parcels are dropped but for a television or an i-pad?  Surely not.  Black Friday is a comparitively new idea here.  Sadly it is often the worst ideas of American culture that we seem to adopt here in the UK and not their better ones,Thanksgiving now that's something we could adopt perhaps though for all I know that too might have become victim of commercialsim like Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas I saw this "tree" in a window display yesterday and thought what a good way to use up one's stash of yarns and reels of thread, thimbles and buttons etc!!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

November at the seaside

 Fancy an outing and a walk with me?  We met a couple of friends yesterday at Weymouth - this was the beach a bit different to how it looked in July here eh?

The route to Chesil along the old railway line.

Nearly there and lunch time at the Visitor  Centre just along here.

The walk back took us along part of the South West Coast path.  All in all we'd probably done something like 5 miles or so and the sea air, sunshine and good company made it a day for the mental photo album!

Only problem with November walks is that it gets dark so early! We got back to the town for the bus back to the Park and Ride car park at 4.00 and were home indoors at 5.00 but although the sky was stunningly beautiful on our return journey all backlit by the sun below the horizon and looking like a watercolour painting with the inky silhouettes of the trees and the sky background in shades of palest robin egg blue, lemon and apricot it was dark before we got home.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Real Mail

Some time ago I joined in a letter swap organised by Elizabeth at Cornish Cream and I was partnered with Kirsi at Kimberlys Kitchen and Garden.  When I went to the blog to check it out I discovered that Kirsi is Finnish and her blog is written in Finnish too - but luckily there is a translation button and even more luckily, even though English isn't Kirsi's first language, her letter when it came was in excellent English!  Phew!

The package arrived in this pretty jiffybag and inside along with a lovely letter which made me feel I already know Kirsi was this dear little angel cutter.  I can see I will now have to find a suitable recipe to make some cookies for Christmas or maybe I'll put it on the tree instead and save the calories!  Thank you so much Kirsi and I do hope that we will become good friends through the medium of letter writing.  I know almost nothing about Finland and am looking forward to getting to know both Kirsi and her country, traditions and culture as we correspond.  I will reply to you personally very soon Kirsi and thank you so much for the thoughtful gift and for your interesting letter.

I have been taking a rest and a bit of a detox from blogging and trying to reduce my use of the internet somewhat but rather like dieting when you have to eat something and cannot go cold turkey as you might if wanting to give up smoking or alcohol or whatever I do need to use the computer at times otherwise my friends will all think I have died!  I do think however that I had been using it more than necessary and the following quotes, found in a journal I picked up in Waterstones and was tempted to buy, might illustrate my views:

We didn't have Facebook when I was young - we had phone book but you wouldn't waste an afternoon on it.

We are like Hansel and Gretel leaving crumbs of our personal information everwhere we travel through the digital woods.

In the age of Google when everything you say is for ever searchable the future belongs to those who leave no footprint

I like hanging round people who knit they are usually in a good mood - people who are staring into I-phones and so on whilst demanding your attention at the same time are not as much fun!

and another I saw somewhere which said something about learning to let oneself wonder once again ie not to just click on the internet and find the answer to e verything instantly.

So for the time being I am not around much on-line and am finding more time for the things that matter but I am sure I will be back when I have something interesting to say!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

October reflections

 One of the hydrangeas still blooming in the garden this chilly October Sunday morning - it is beginning to lose the freshness of the summer blooms but is still beautiful.

 On my kitchen window sill a few heads of the hydrangea which got broken a few weeks back - I rescued them and put them in this old sweet jar (a find when walking on the common when we lived in Guildford years ago!) What was a sweet jar doing out on the common I wonder?

 The photos don't show the true colours of the now dry flowers but as I stand at the sink I am reminded of those silk and velvet flowers ladies used to use to decorate their hats - they are really lovely.  A metaphor perhaps for those of us who are now past our peak and have lost not only the fresh bloom of youth but also the colour and beauty of middle age - in our youth obsessed society we too have our own beauty and worth don't you think?!!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Blog Hopping

I have picked up the baton for a blog hop passed on to me by Sustainablemum in which I am asked to answer questions which I originally thought were to be based on my creative endeavours but I now see can be much more general than that.  I am however going to stick with my original understanding and talk about my creativity - if any!

What am I working on?

I usually have several things on the go at any one time and am currently in the process of making a bag - yes the same one I talked about here still not finished, I am making a start on a shawl which I discovered the pattern for on the web, I have been engaged on making the above bug house - I desiged it and Mr M did the carpentry and then I provided the bits and filled the spaces.  I don't know how much of this could be called creative - the bag maybe, the shawl not really as I am following a pattern and the bug house is not all  my own work though I am hoping that the bugs will take up residence whoever made it!  It has had to be altered slightly since the photo was taken the badgers got at it the first night and tipped it over possibly searching for the sunflower seeds in the top left corner (which a friend on seeing the photo thought was a hedgehog so maybe the badgers did too!) and half the stuff fell out of the shelves so now there is netting over all the front and the sunflower seeds went on the bird table and the gap was filled with more shavings and pine cones and we have had no further bother!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Anything I make is usually made for a purpose and not just for decoration.  If I have no use for something either for  myself or as a gift then I don't make it.  My ideas are usually of a "make do and mend" or" necessity being the mother of invention" kind and I try not to purchase anything to make them but to use what I already have to hand.  The crazy patchwork bag is a case in point using up tiny pieces of the stash I seem to have accumulated over the years, the shawl is being crocheted from some yarn I bought to make a bolero but never finished and the bug house was all made from scraps we had to hand apart from the wood shavings which a friend gave me!

Why do I create what I do?

Possibly because I feel the need to make something, anything at times when I want to escape into my own world for a while.  The things I create always serve some purpose often as small gifts or as items that have a proper purpose like a quilt or mittens for warmth, or indeed a bug house to provide save winter accommodation for the bugs (hopefully the badgers won't try again!)

How does my creative process work?

My ideas are usually inspired by other people - for example I might see something I like and want to try something similar but different for myself,  When I did a City and Guilds Creative Textile course many years ago we all said how important the mutual inspiration was to us - how we'd share our ideas and often from that would be born another idea one or other of us would want to try - I find the same sort of communal inspiration in reading blogs whose writers make so many lovely things.  Other things which trigger ideas might be things I notice such as the twisted bark of plants or chimney pots - I ask myself how could I incorporate that in some form of textile work.  Or perhaps it will be the materials themselves which suggest something be they yarns or fabrics or even perhaps natural things like long thin leaves which could be used to make a basket (I remember as a child plaiting reeds and making tiny basketys from the plaits or maybe  finger weaving binder twine into something).  The world's my oyster really and filled with more sources of inspiration than I could ever use. And sometimes the creating of one thing leads to another idea too which is probably why I often don't finish one thing before embarking on another!

One other thing I haven't mentioned is blogging itself - I never really intended to become a blogger but it might be said to answer the same need in me to be creative and I have discovered another hobby in photography and writing.

I am supposed to pass on the baton to a couple of other bloggers so I am suggesting:

Creations by Caz

But no presssure there and of course the blog hop is open to anyone else who fancies joining in.

Monday, 6 October 2014

More exploration of Paris on foot

Thank you for your kind comments - you might wish you hadn't been so encouraging when you see this long post - I am writing it as much for myself to be able to revist as I am as a blog post which are and probably should be much shorter I know.  Anyway to continue our explorations:

La Petite Ceinture

Leaving the Allee des Cignes we made our way towards Ballard purchasing a picnic along the way.  We had heard about the Petite Ceinture last year too late to find it for ourselves and had picked up a free brochure of Balades or walks when we were visiting the Hotel de Ville on the Saturday which told us more.  La Petite Ceinture is an abandoned railway line which has been left to nature and there are some parts which you can walk.  Do check out the link which is a short BBC video in English and is fascinating.

 First climb the obligatory steps!

 Now we are above street level and it was intriguing to look down on the roads below as we wandered along the track.

 I imgaine in springtime when the wildflowers are in bloom it would be very pretty but wouldn't reccomend it on a hot summer's day as there was little shade on this section.

 This would once have been a station - it looked as if somebody lived here now though.

 The permitted path ends just under a mile later at the entrance to the tunnel - although the French don't seem to worry overmuch about Health and Safety I dare say walking through a dark tunnel might not be considered very wise so we climbed up the steps (again) and out onto the road

Looking down on the track from the road.  Not far from here we found a park - Parc Georges Brassnes built on an area which until the 1970s was abbatoirs.  No sense of that now though and it is a lovely place to sit.

Having enjoyed our lunch and a sit down we set off again towards the main road where we discovered we could get a tram using our tickets which cover travel on the Metro, the bus, the tram and the RER - we had bought a carnet of 10 tickets at a discount of about 20% over the price of buying 10 single tickets and also saving time at the ticket machines.  The ride took us about half an hour and being along the street gave us views of Paris as we went.

Bois de Vincennes

 We got off the tram at Porte D'Oree and the entrance to the Bois de Vincennes - a lovely park where we walked round the lake.

 We were interested to see heavy horses at work in the park as we sat with a drink later.  Mr M asked for a coffee so no problem there and I asked the chap at the kiosk whose first language was obviously not French, nor is mine, for a tea with some cold milk alongside.  I don't know what he did but I was presented with a plastic cup of cold very milky tea.  When I explained what I thought I had asked for he then made tea in a teapot, poured it into a plastic cup and passed me the jug of milk to add myself but when I began to drink it I had been given mint tea!!  Never mind it was hot, wet and actually not unpleasant, though I would never have added milk had I known it was mint and not Indian tea,  I was enjoying watching the horses in the sunshine so it didn't matter!

 We continued our walk in the sunshine and very attractive it was too.

 Here is the photo that some of you thought might be Stourhead!

We thought we might visit the Parc Floral at one end of the Bois de Vincennes but although there were maps on boards here and there along our walk we didn't actually find the route we hoped and arrived at the Chateau de Vincennes instead.

By the time we had wandered round the courtyard and decided to come back another day to look round the chapel and the chateau time was getting on so that when we reached the botanic gardens it was almost closing time so we decided it was not worth the entry fee for so short a time.  By now we'd been walking for hours - I have no idea how many miles we did that day - and I was ready for a sit down and a drink at a nearby cafe.  Having enjoyed our drink and feeling rested we got the metro from just near the cafe and made our way back to the hotel.

Buttes des Cailles

Next day we decided on a walk we'd found in a Dorling Kindersley book about Paris which took us to the Buttes aux Cailles a peaceful area where not many tourists seem to venture although we did stop to talk with an American couple at one point just outside an intriguing yarn and tea shop L'Osive The an interesting little tea shop which also sells yarns and hosts a knit and natter group - do check out the link for a much better photo and info.

After exchanging ideas of places we liked and where to go and so on with the American couple we continued with our walk.

 An area of old houses and with a bloodthristy history though there was no sense of that this morning.

Back in March 1871 this working class area, along with many others in Paris rose up against the French government based in Versailles after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussion war.  The National Assembly, elected in February of 1871 had a royalist majority and reflected the conservative attitudes of the provinces and the republican Parisians feared that they would restore the monarchy. The city of Paris set up its own government the Commune of 1871 and war broke out between Paris and Versailles.  Frenchmen slaughtered Frenchmen and more people were killed in one week than during the 6 years of the Revolution 80 years earlier!  Many buildings were also damaged including the Hotel de Ville which I showed you earlier.  One picture in a book about Paris history we bought shows it as a near ruin!  When the carnage was finally over France was left with a hatred between the right and the left that still poisons French politics.  The Communard legacy lives on here and this little shop sells T-shirts,books and pamphlets on that bloody episode.

Here is Place de la Commune - the site of a major battle in May 1871.  Looking peaceful in the sunshine in 2014!

And here Les Temps des Cerises restaurant is run as a co-operative and serves as the neighbourhood HQ.

But all around are quiet streets ....

 ...and here one of the first public housing schemes in Paris.

A red brick Art Nouveau swimming baths and see how many people are waiting to get in for a swim!

And just opposite the swimming baths is this rather ugly modern fountain refurbished in 2000 and supplied by a well 580 m deep and dating from 1863.  I tasted the water and it had a really earthy taste.

 More pretty streets...

 And finally what a find!  Something that is as rare as hens' teeth in Paris - an organic vegetarian cafe where we stopped for lunch.  I loved this; it was right up my street and I wished it were nearer the hotel so we could have eaten there more often.  We each had a huge pottery bowl of organic crushed pea and vegetable soup served with the most delicious soughdough bread and a glass of cider.  One of the highlights of the holiday for me as a nearly vegetarian!! It was obviously popular as it was full though not another tourist amongst the customers who all seemed to be known to each other.  They don't have a web site but in case anyone is interested it is at 72 rue du Moulin des Pres nearest Metro: Tolbiac - highly recommended!

We walked back to the Metro and made our way back to the hotel stopping at the patisserie nearby to buy a pastry (yes just one I asked for two but when we got back found we'd only got one!) which we shared with a cup of tea and had a rest before setting out to walk round the local area in the hope of finding somewhere different to eat that evening.  Finding restaurants that suit both Mr M, a meat and two veg man who hates pasta, and me, as I said a nearly vegetarian, locally since we were always too tired to go far after our days out proved somewhat difficult especially as the restaruant we'd liked so much last year had closed down!

Parc Monceau

 Having wandered through the park filled with children letting off steam after school we came out here at these fabulous  gates and walked on towards.....

 ....the Arc de Triomphe and onto rue Hausseman still heaving with shoppers even at this time of day with the sun going down. The tourists were packed onto the top of the Arc taking in the view - we have a photo of us up there on our first visit to Paris when on our honeymoon back in 1972!

 Back in the park it was quiet now the children had all gone and there were just a few adults enjoying the last rays of the sun.

 Here is the pretty bridge I showed you before ....

...  and a mock Greecian colonade.  This park dates back to the late 1700s and is supposed to be in part like an English garden.

As the sun set we made our way to a Brasserie we'd noticed for something to eat - end of another lovely day.

St Chapelle 

Our last whole day in Paris and we set off after breakfast to the Isle de Cite to visit St Chapelle or as the lady in the queue in front of me called it Saint Chap - elly! An amazing place but unfortunately due to restoration work much of it covered with tarpaulins!

 It was difficult to get decent photos but if you Google images for St Chapelle you will find plenty.  It is famous for the stained glass and the delicate pillars which support the vaulted roof between the windows.  The whole Bible story is pictured in them but you'd surely have a terrible crick in the neck if you spent too long trying to pick out the different scenes!  There are two chapels this one, which is reached via a narrow spiral stone staircase, which was for the king and his entourage and the lower one which was for the rest and which was lovely too.

 I was struck by the colours everywhere not only in the glass windows but on the floor....

 ...and the walls and pillars too.  We forget that this is how they would have been when so often the stone work nowadays is unadorned and plain.


This not very clear photo is of King Louis IX who was canonised and also known as St Louis.  A devout Catholic he acquired the Crown of Thorns from the Emperor of Constantinople and a couple of years later a fragment of the Cross.  St Chapelle was built as a shrine to house these relics although the Crown of Thorns is now housed in Notre Dame.

Leaving St Chapelle we made our way to Isle St Louis and to the ice cream shop and this time we got our ice creams!  I must say they were worth the wait - I had nougat au miel and Mr M chose plain vanilla and they were indeed delicious - maybe it was all that waiting to try one! If ever you are in Paris and fancy a really good ice cream then visit Berthillon on Isle St Louis  Sadly the founder died recently and this article has lots of photos of the ice creams and the shop.

Les Jardins Caches du 18e

After a picnic lunch in the gardens just behind Notre Dame we took the Metro to Porte de Clignancourt from where we intended to do a walk we'd come across in a little booklet picked up at the Hotel de Ville on the Saturday called the Hidden Gardens of the 18th arondisement.  It was marked as taking about 2 hours and being 3* which was apparently the advanced level for bon marcheurs as it woulde be steep and/or long.  We felt able to tackle this after our previous days of training!

 First garden we came to was alongside our old friend the Petite Ceinture cultivated by a community and having on one side an enclosure with goats - yes in urban Paris!

 And a little further along an area of gardens with seating but it wasn't open to visit though it did look interesting!

 We continued our walk towards Montmartre and here you can see whay it was marked as a 3* walk as we had climbed up all these steps from the road and there were a lot of them!  Taking the photo was a good excuse to stop for a moment!

 Next up was a Wild garden of 1500 square metres where the plants and animals live entirely naturally and withour any input from man.  This little treasure in the heart of Montmartre is protected and only accessible at certain times and our visit didn't coincide with one of those times!  Nice idea but we didn't get to see what it was like.

 On towards Montmartre and we passed the famous Lapin Agile cabaret and bar.  Just across the road from this is a vineyard the largest in Paris apparently from which about 2,000 bottles of wine are harvested each year.

 We continued on into Montmartre climbing more pretty streets.

 Until we came to the town centre via another flight of steps past this garden - which wasn't yeat open!  Not our lucky day really!  We continued into the shopping area where we stopped for a cup of tea and some chouettes at a pavement cafe.   I love these little choux pastry balls crispy with large grains of sugar and keep telling myself I will make some at home but so far haven't sourced the coarse sugar - anyone know where to get it in UK?

 Refreshed and rested we wandered round to the area just below Sacre-Coeur which was thronged with tourists.  Having seen it before and having had our fill of steps we didn't climb up to it! I did go to my favourite fabric shop though to browse and came away with a metre or so of rat-tail cord which I wanted.  For anyone interested in stitching of any kind this shop is an Aladin's cave and you find things there you can't get elsewhere - just the place to spend a rainy afternoon or longer and the only difficulty is in deciding what to buy and what you could actually carry home!

 By then it was time that the Jardins d'Abbesses should be open and sure enough we were able to go inside and have a look round this quiet little herb garden.  The herbs would in the past, and maybe still are, used as cures.

Leaving Montmartre and the last garden listed thus having completed our walk we made our way back to Villiers and the hotel on foot.  We passed a cinema outside of which was a homeless man who was busily picking his way through some popcorn dropped on the pavement and eating it - how I wished I had a sandwich or something to offer him....

 ...and a little further along was a shop selling what looked like posh hot water bottle covers untill I looked closer and noticed that this one was something called a doudoune for a dog at 209 euros!

Or if it's not that cold a "pull skinny" at 129 euros for your little dog!  How can anyone justify that when there are people starving I wondered!  Paris is certainly a city of contrasts.

Back at the hotel we relaxed in our room having enjoyed our last day of walking and exploring;  the day after we would be making our way to Gare du Nord and from there to London and home a long day of sitting down for a change.  We'd really enjoyed our stay and been incredibly lucky with the weather and are now finding out more about the places we found and wondering whether another trip maybe in the spring might be possible - always a good sign of a great holiday in my book.  If you have made it this far you deserve a medal!