Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A few nights in Paris - Hotel Saint James

After my last post about camping, my friends have had a bit of a chuckle and still can't quite believe that I was there. Just for the record, it's definitely my hand that's holding that floral beaker in the first photo!

In direct contrast to that night under canvas I am going to take us to a hotel in Paris for this post.

First glimpse of the Tour Eiffel
Magical, even on a cold and wet December morning.

Last December we were fortunate enough to go on a trip back home to the UK to spend a cold Christmas with family and friends. I didn't really write much about it as I was too busy enjoying myself...but I have often thought that I should have recorded a bit more about the holiday.

When we were planning the trip we knew that our priority was to visit people, but we also wanted to try and fit in a couple of mini holidays away just  for the three of us. One place that was on the 'must do' list was Paris.

I had some lovely memories of the city but had not been there for many years so I was keen to return.

For the whole holiday I was more or less in charge of the itinerary (for that read most of the organising!) and Neil was tasked with finding accommodation. Now for most of the time we were lucky enough to stay with family and close friends so his job wasn't particularly onerous.
For the Paris trip he was just asked to "find somewhere that feels French"  So he did!

pretty impressive from the outside

You know that a place is going to be interesting when you are greeted at the front steps with a guest leaving with a flurry of small white fluffy dogs. They weren't poodles, but the scene was set anyhow!

Then in the entrance foyer there were zebra heads, a cascade of chandeliers and leopard print carpet...

Entrance foyer to Hotel Saint James.
You can just make out the zebra heads either side of the mirror in the bottom right photo. 

It was a glorious mixture of the starkness of black and white mixed with an eclectic feast of warm colours and texture and crazy hanging chandeliers.

The hotel is built on the site of the first hot air balloon launch in 1783 and there are a few quirky nods to this connection.

 hot air balloon inspired wallpaper and lights

 Each one of the 48 rooms and suites has its own story and hidden behind a bold red door is a uniquely decorated haven.

We booked a junior suite and were upgraded to a suite upon arrival  - I was already impressed...

colourful, elegant and at times a  little eccentric...

It certainly felt very French with the soaring high ceilings, luxurious fabrics and marble bathrooms. Oh, and did I mention that there was French champagne in an ice bucket? Merci Beaucoup.

The hotel is the only chateaux hotel in the city of Paris and is located in its own private courtyard and gardens. It was December when we visited so we didn't see the glory of the gardens, instead we were treated to log fires and enormous scented Christmas trees so I definitely wasn't complaining.

As you can imagine, the restaurant was another wonder of decor where the young female Head Chef creates typically French masterpieces. We mainly dined in the Library and I could have happily spent hours just soaking up the atmosphere in there with the 12,000 leather bound book and Pilou the hotel cat. Yes, Pilou the black cat lounges around the place in his/her red diamante collar just waiting for attention from adoring guests. Sibs was suitably thrilled.

from top left - the restaurant,  lots of heavy tweed curtains and leather,
 exploring the library and planning the day over morning coffee

After a day exploring the sights of Paris and walking many kilometres in the cold it was a treat to return to the splendour of this place.

I swear that I have never had such a good night of sleep -  anywhere, ever.
In fact, we missed breakfast on the first morning! The shutters did their job and plunged the room into total darkness and the opulent fabrics and furnishings muted any noise. I had no idea what time it was!

Sibs looks tiny 

Paris, you were magnificent....

 Hotel Saint James, you made it even more so.

Happy, happy memories,

Hotel website link HERE - well worth a look just to see the photos.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bush camping

I've been camping!

Yes, that's right - I did it. This self confessed 'sometimes princess' has weathered the great outdoors and voluntarily slept under canvas.

at least I had a pretty cup

Last week there was a Wednesday public holiday for the EKKA show day. This is an agricultural show in Brisbane. We have been to the EKKA a couple of times but as Sibs was already spending a day there as part of a school excursion it was agreed that we would do something different this year.

view from the tent in the morning

Some friends were camping a few hours away and invited us to join them for the day on Wednesday. In a very weak moment (was there wine?) I may have whispered to myself that we could think about a stay over on the Tuesday night.... What was I thinking? It's Winter!

Ok, so Winter daytime temperatures are in the 20's but night time is a different story. Couple this with inland and a mountain and it's cold - really cold!

I don't do camping, so as a result the tent and equipment is all Neil's domain. He uses his camping trips as an excuse to be a boy scout again. In other words, he just makes do.

 I'm not very good at 'just making do...'

Our tent was a glorified portaloo tent.

my home for the night

Sleeps 4??  
 I don't think so...

Our sleeping bags (2 between 3!?) were very  lightweight Queensland summer ones... it was freezing! It plummeted from 23 degrees to 0 overnight. I wore all possible items of clothing to bed and pulled the hood on my jacket tight, so tight it almost cut off circulation! I seriously considered getting into the car to try and sleep, but I was afraid that I would drive home!

toasting marshmallows

My task was packing food. I made a nutritious chicken and vegetable soup for the Tuesday night meal and Neil produced some dodgy plastic bowls that looked suspiciously like dog bowls. After a quick wipe I searched for a spoon and was given a plastic fork... See what I mean about making do? Apparently it's part of the camping experience! At least I packed a bottle of bubbly. Then a thought....bathroom facilities? They would be a kilometre away...

Despite these 'challenges' I did have a good time and Sibs had an absolute ball. She helped to feed the farm animals, collected eggs, and even had a go at milking.

early morning egg collection

She went on a horse ride, learnt how to throw a boomerang and crack a whip and generally had some freedom and fun.

afternoon horse ride

I relished the time to sit and catch up with friends. Just chatting, strolling, drinking tea, doing a bit of crochet, watching the kids, nothing extraordinary, but all good.

happiness is a skip to explore...

Would I do it again?
 Maybe....big maybe.

I would have to stock up on a few essentials though, 
and I think my definition of 'essential' and Neil's definition  is quite different!

We stayed at Bestbrook Mountain Resort ( website HERE)

Friday, 9 August 2013

She's growing up...

I'm starting to let go.....

I'm entering that stage where a little independence is being sought...

This month my little girl turns eleven. (Eleven?? That can't be right!)

Through circumstance not choice she is an only child and she is crazy precious in my world - no understatement.

Lately she has begun to move away from being wholly dependent on her parents to quite rightly finding some space to test herself. I'm not talking anything dramatic here - no throwing her out of the car on the top of the mountain with nothing but a compass type of testing!

Just the stuff that I used to do at her age. Walk to a friend's house, take a dog for a walk or go to a shop with a friend. Yet now that she's doing it - it's different.

This is nothing new. I'm sure most parents ponder on the freedom versus safety issue. Protection versus helicopter parenting...?

I rely heavily on gut instinct coupled with a tendency to err on caution in my parenting style. As a result Sibs has probably been sheltered from pushing these freedom boundaries. She is the youngest in her school year and in her groups of friends and she's feeling the need to catch up.

I'm grateful that she has a cousin who is a few weeks apart in age from her.  A boy cousin. They love spending time together and I can see the huge learning that they subconsciously share. He toughens her up and she softens him.

So I'm slowly...very slowly... letting her do her own little bit of exploring. She's relishing and embracing the opportunity. She needs these skills to manage life and I'm here to help her find them.

There will be big lessons I'm sure... for both of us! 

Go Sibsy girl!