The Changing Seasons: From Summer to Autumn

Yesterday was a crisp Autumn day in London. There was not a cloud to be seen and, despite being freezing, the day was beautiful.

Adrian, Cynthia and I set off early for Oxford for a relaxing Sunday out of London. Sipping my coffee (I’ve discovered decaf), I began to feel very relaxed as the train departed Paddington and sped through the city into the countryside, past rolling meadows and picturesque hay bales. I realised, as I sometimes do, that I haven’t updated this journal for too long.

We arrived in Oxford a little over an hour later and wandered into the city centre to book a walking tour for the afternoon. We then bought ourselves a cheap (comparative to London) lunch and headed for the botanical gardens. I really enjoyed sitting under the yellowing Autumn leaves, nibbling a baguette and watching the passers by. It was the first time, in a while, that I’ve felt truly relaxed.

From here we had a look at a climate change centric photography exhibition before thoring ourselves in the greenhouse while being wowed by some incredible tropical plants. As it approached 2:00 we strolled back to the centre of town to commence our walking tour.

This took us through various parts of the town with our guide commenting on the history of the city, its buildings and its various colleges. Luckily we were able to enter several colleges, as part of the tour, for an interesting inside look into their beauty and grandeur.

Possibly the most enjoyable part of the day, for me, was spending the remainder of the afternoon in a restuarant / bar on the main street listening to live jazz while we had Devonshire Tea and read the Sunday papers. It’s something I often intend to do, and never do it, and sitting there relaxing with friends really made my weekend!

In other news work is going well, having had my St George’s contract extended until the end of November. I have booked my ticket home for early December. I will arrive in the midst of several major birthdays and Christmas before madly job hunting to start work next year.

Since my last entry I popped over to Paris, needing some time out of London, and had an amazing Autumn weekend with beautiful weather and great culture (thank you Gilles). I wandered the streets, visited Le Père Lachaise (home to the tombs of Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison) and spent Sunday night in a funky underground jazz club.

I’ve also been spending many days in London trying to fit in as much as I can before I head home. From a trip with Yumi (one of Adrian’s house mates) to the Tower of London, to a morning service at the beautiful St Paul’s, to free outdoor cinema at Trafalgar Square, to days in the Tate Modern, I’m trying to make the most of this city.

I will be home in a few weeks but, until then, stay well and I look forward to catching up soon!

j j j

Bienvenue à Paris

I’ve been a bit slack with writing, due to how busy the tour is and the extreme lack of Internet facilities. However, here is the latest update since the last post.

I left London early on Friday morning with my Contiki tour and headed to Dover for the ferry crossing to Calais in France. We watched the white cliffs disappear into the distance as we sailed away from England and approached France. The rest of the day was a long drive from Calais to Paris, but it was well worth it.

That night, after dinner, we had a night tour of Paris to get our bearings for the city and to see The Eiffel Tower, at sunset, in all it’s glory! It was nothing short of what I expected, spectacular!!!

The next day we headed straight to the Chateau de Versailles where Scott (a mate from Contiki) and I spent a couple of hours wandering the huge gardens. King Louis sure knew the meaning of extravagant.

After the Chateau Scott and I headed into Paris, starting with a race through the world’s largest round-about to get to the Arc d’Triomphe. After exploring the Arc we wandered down the Champs-Élysées to get lunch, not that I got to eat much of our French picnic after a bird decided to crap on me and my lunch. I found it pretty funny wandering the streets of fashionable Paris in a shirt with bird crap all over it.

The rest of the afternoon we wandered, taking in the sites and the culture of Paris. We didn’t get up to much that night, just headed to bed after a couple of drinks at the bar.

On Sunday morning we were up early to walk up the Eiffel Tower. The view from up there is breath-taking and I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of smog. I could see for miles. And, just as I thought that my dream of climbing the tower couldn’t get any better, we hopped in a lift bound for the very top. Up there, you feel like you’re on the top of the world. Paris, in all it’s splendour, spans for miles and I spent a good bit of time up there taking it all in (and, of course, drinking a cappuccino (I won’t mention the plastic cup)).

That was just the start of a very big day in Paris. That afternoon we walked along the Seine to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. That museum is huge, it’d take you a holiday alone to see it all. Following the Louvre we skipped lunch, running out of time, and headed further along the river to see Notre Damme. Though we didn’t have time to get in, we walked around the cathedral and took plenty of photos. Afterwards we headed back to the Contiki bus via several quaint back-streets. Though only 2 days, it was a great preview of Paris and definitely inspired me to go back.

From Paris we headed to the Contiki chateau in the Beaujolais region of France. Here was a relaxing couple of days with a bit of a party the middle night. It was good fun and an opportunity to get to know a few people better instead of madly running around sight seeing.

j j j