Preconceived ideas…..

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20130415-100534.jpgI have always been a lover of a good cup of tea – not the sort of tea from a tea bag, that is just a drink (and I do lots of that!) – a proper cup of leaf tea – earl grey or Darjeeling! Equally I have always thought of tea as a very British thing, something that we do more than any other country of the World.

However, a recent visit to Paris suggests that the French drink lots of proper tea – this tea shop was frankly amazing. The selection of teas was huge and they have shops all over France (this one was in the Carousel next to the entrance to the Louvre).

I would love to think that we have educated the French in the ways of tea – sadly I don’t think this is the case though!

Interesting how wrong our preconceived ideas can be….

Europe’s most romantic city?

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20130410-193251.jpgThis week I have been in Paris with my family – including two teenagers – so not at all romantic, but great fun. Paris is often sold as the most romantic destination in Europe, whether this is true or not remains to be seen (depending on a couple only trip in the future), but certainly there are signs that it may well be!

I am aware that the idea of locking a padlock onto a bridge to show your love for someone is not a new one – and I have no idea where it started (I have certainly seen it in various parts of the world). However the locks on the Pont de l’Archevêché which lies very close to Notre-Dame are the most I have seen yet – and perhaps prove the French claim that theirs is the most romantic city?

More French flair

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20130409-201238.jpgI am a fan of the French (really! – despite what I said yesterday) and the way they do things – they have a certain flair and also appear to get things done! I realise this is not a generally held view in the UK, we love to bash the French – I really don’t understand why……

A classic example of the flair that the French have can be seen in the design of the metro station at Arts et Métiers which has its roof finished in a ‘copper style’ – it feels like something out of a Jules Verne book or Captain Nemo’s Nautilus (perhaps that is the idea), whatever the reason for the effect it has a real impact when you first see it and just adds to your day.

You’ve got to love the French………

How not to manage one of the worlds busiest museums….

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Ok, so I admit I am not averse to complaining – in my opinion no one should be, it is the only way things improve. So when there is a total lack of information or perceived management of a situation it annoys me…..

The situation I refer to relates to the closure of the Louvre in Paris on Wednesday 10th April – now the French are very proud of the museum (quite rightly) as it is one of the largest and most visited in the World. This would therefore assume a good level of management. So when we arrived as a family and found barriers up, security staff guarding the doors and very small messages saying the museum was closed – but giving no reason why and no idea when it would reopen – we were naturally somewhat annoyed.

But what really didn’t help was the total lack of real information, it took us at least 45 minutes to discover the reason the Louvre was closed – a strike by staff due to pickpockets – and also that there was no chance of it opening at all on that day. This last point was not clear from the note at the entrance (and the ‘help line’ mentioned on the message was never answered – on strike too?)

Who did I find out from? A security guard – no one else was around from the museum staff.

But what really annoyed me? The fact that the message on the website (which only appeared many hours after the strike started) was so incongruous. One might almost say it was deliberately vague – perhaps they didn’t want visitors to know that the staff strike and that pickpockets are a big problem? I would hardly call a strike in France ‘exceptional circumstances’!

Come on – this is Paris, France – the home of strikes and now it appears Europe’s capital of pickpockets!

So in trying to ‘keep it quiet’ it appears to me that the Louvre’s ‘management’ may well have scored a huge own goal – typically French?

A Parisian discovery…

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20130409-195703.jpgI am in Paris for a few days, a city that I like to think I have a reasonable feel for, but today proved that you can always discover something new, even in a city you think you know…

New York is well known for its HighLine or ‘park in the sky’ – I am looking forward to seeing it in the summer when we are there as a family as I have heard so many positive things about it. However, today I discovered Paris’s own HighLine – la promenade plantee. This is a similar thing – a former railway line and viaduct in a city environment that has been formed into an amazing linear park. In addition the arches below have also been refurbished and created into workshops and retail space for artists and artisans. This in fact was the original High Line, built sixteen years before the New York model, and apparently it served as inspiration to it’s American counterpart.

The promenade stretches for almost 5 kilometers across the 12th arrondissement following the path of the retired ligne de Vincennes railway track from Bastille to the boulevard Périphérique. It is highly popular with runners as well as for ‘promenading’ and was quite busy mid morning when we were walking it. It is also beautifully planted and in places you would be hard pushed to believe that you weren’t in a larger garden rather than on a city viaduct!

20130409-195454.jpgIt is great to see regeneration on this scale in a city – the walkway itself is great, but the conversion of the arches below is simply stunning and provides fantastic space for new businesses. Sadly I can’t see this level of planning commitment or general vision in the UK – somehow I feel the use of bulldozers would have been more likely?

This would work if cyclists could follow the rules….

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So we have all seen them when we are in our cars – cyclists who decide that they are allowed to cross junctions on red or generally flout the laws of the Highway Code. As a car driver it is annoying, particularly as there are certain cyclists who seem to make it their ‘reason for living’ to annoy drivers! My wife has a particular hatred of these cyclists – they give good law-abiding cyclists a bad name.

Now I would be the first to accept that cycling is dangerous in cities, and that drivers should give cyclists due consideration, but it is a ‘two way street’ and they need to play by the rules as well – that’s how it works on the road.

even our PM jumps red lights!

So I can see the reasoning behind the recent attempt to get ministers to look into allowing cyclists to go through red lights, as an attempt to cut fatalities and serious injuries. Making the case for the debate supporters have expressed concern at the rising number of cyclists killed on the road and the “disproportionate number” of accidents involving vans and lorries.

There has been a pilot scheme agreed in Paris recently following a campaign by cycling groups to allow cyclists to turn right (the equivalent of turning left in the UK) or go straight on at T-junctions, even when the lights are red.

They are also trying so-called “Trixi mirrors” – fitted to traffic lights to give lorry drivers a better view of cyclists on their left side at road junctions – the reasoning being that large vehicles turning left do have a degree of difficulty in seeing people. Of 16 cyclists killed in London in 2011, 12 involved a goods vehicle – seven of which were construction vehicles.

So yes, I can see the reasoning behind the arguments – but my concern is that if the law changes the cyclists will then have to comply with the law and stop behaving as if they own the road – and I can’t see them changing their spots if I am being honest.

Weight loss and excercise

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a minor blip!

As you may have gathered from my previous blog entries I have been trying (and managing) to lose weight over the last 6 months or so. I am aware that I have become a bit of a ‘bore’ on the subject as the weight has disappeared – but if I am honest I am rather proud of myself for managing it (with lots of help from my family and Wendy in particular).

The recent holiday to Paris was the first ‘real test’ of my resolve and weight management when off the diet. So how did it go?

Well I am amazed to report that although I did put some weight on  – around 4 pounds (and if you saw what I was eating that would come as no surprise!), the real damage was kept off due to the amount of exercise we did! This has highlighted to me more that anything that diets are fine, but one needs to exercise as well!

In Paris we walked our feet off and also climbed a serious number of stairs – 90 up to our apartment plus 1400 on the day we walked up and down the Eiffel tower and 600 the day we went up and down the Arc de Triumphe.

A busy weekend out and about has allowed me to rid myself of most of what I put on in France as well!

There is no doubt that getting out an exercising will become a major part of my regime for the future!