You may know this already, but we are back.
When you change from being on holidays for six months in Venice and Paris to NOT being on holidays in Venice and Paris, it turns out a change is not as good as a holiday. But it’s good to be home regardless. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and now in an attempt to relive the adventure, I thought I’d go through some of my favourites.
Favourite city to stay in for three months
Paris is a fantastic city. It is full of interesting things to do and see.
The place we were staying, the 7th arrondissements in the shadow of the Tower, was perfect. It was reasonably easy to get anywhere we wanted. We were within walking distance of plenty of good bakeries for the morning croissant run. Any route home would take us past way too many cakes and pastries places. French bistro fare and Michelin stars rubbed shoulders with sushi takeaway and Indian as good as any I’ve had.
Now after talking up Paris for a couple of paragraphs, the answer to the heading “Favourite city to stay in”? Venice.
Paris is, like many European cities, beautiful and entertaining and has the necessary infrastructure to support the day-to-day realities of people who aren’t simply holidaying for 6 months. It also doesn’t have so many stupid bloody tourists who need to be punched in the face for standing right in the middle of a tiny alleyway while they check their map.
But Venice is unlike any other city. European cities often have the beautiful old town and the crappy new town. Venice is all beautiful old town. It was so rich for so long that almost the entire island is covered in villas. The colourful buildings reflect in the ubiquitous canals; almost anywhere you stay will boast water views. It’s small and manageable but deceptively large. We wandered the place for weeks and still daily would stumble into new corners that we hadn’t found ourselves in before.
Venice is also surprising convienient as a travel base. Car hire, a well-connected train station and the airport are all very easy to access thanks to Venice’s relatively compact size. Once we got residents cards for the ferry (without which ferry tickets are ludicrously expensive) getting round the island itself was also a breeze.
We were so lucky that staying in Paris the whole time wasn’t an option, forcing us to look at a plan B. Plan B turned out great.
Favourite place to relax
During our Italian road trip we spent several days in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. Antico Borgo San Lorenzo is an old hamlet that was converted into a countryside retreat.
A pool, deer frolicking in the meadows, and interesting towns to visit within a short driving distance. Perfect.
Most unexpectedly delicious food
Langos. Why only now, at 39, am I discovering that you can deep fry pizza dough? I won’t bang on about it again but this waistline-busting flavour sandwich is great.
A week after we got back, I fired up the deep fryer at home to make some langos of my own. It went super well. Being in the position to create, in the comfort of one’s own home, endless rounds of langos is a dangerous prospect.
Honourable mention. We had scrambled eggs with sea urchin that came a close second in the unexpected delicousness stakes (mostly because it was edible at all, which I wouldn’t expect out of an egg-and-urchin combo).
Most memorable accomodation
We stayed in a castle. With a moat. And a boat in the moat. If only there was a goat that could… float?
After 5 months of travelling largely in cities, we had a week in the Loire Valley countryside. Airbnb, the gift that keeps on giving, put a 17th century castle at our disposal. Apart from the luxuriously renovated bathroom, it was all three hundred year old stone, clay and exposed wood. The fireplace was more than big enough to fit the entire family in. I mention this only to illustrate the size of the fireplace. This is not something that was actually attempted. I have a strict no-families-in-the-fireplace rule. We rode horses, rowed the aformentioned boat, walked to a one-bakery town for our pastry fix.
It was a singular experience. Five stars. Would castle again.
Favourite mega-touristy thing
The Eiffel Tower is a singular structure, and you can’t go to Paris without heading up to the top. This time round, Lucy and I walked up the stairs. If you are able, it’s a great way to do it. We went first thing in the morning – a benefit of living 5 minutes away – and already decent lines were forming at the lift ticket booths and security checkpoints. At the stairs booth though? I’ll put it this way. When Lucy and I arrived, the queue size doubled. Not too many people wake up early in the morning and decide to ascend 600-odd steps apparently.
The stairs are mostly in the open latticework sections of the tower supports, so the views (both out over Paris and of the complex structure itself) are different to those you get from the lifts. Neither Lucy nor I would be described as ultra marathon runners in terms of fitness, but we both made it to the top fairly easily.
When we hit the level 2 platform, I gave Melik a call. She stood on the balcony putting the awnings in and out at the apartment and Lucy jumped around waving her white jumper so that we could try and see each other. Eventually I got a photo through the telescopes of Svet and Oli waving up at us.
If like us you’ve “done” the tower multiple times before, walking the stairs is a way to experience it from a different angle.
Favourite thing since being back
It’s been great seeing family and friends, and being back in our own little home. In a great piece of timing though, 2 weeks after we arrived back we spent a weekend in Traralgon for the crazy and awesome yearly event that is Nolan-Bingham-And-Associates “Pretend Christmas”. To make the logistics of getting the geographically spread family together to honour the Lord’s birth, we do a weekend together in November. Food, presents, fun times.
Now we have to somehow survive all the way to December for our next 2 week holiday (in sunny Pambula). How ever will we manage?