Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Hello dear Sparkfriends,
Greetings from Athens, Greece! That was the view that greeted me when I reached the hotel on Saturday evening
Striking no? For me however, being in Athens isnt just the beauty of the city and the excitement of work meetings (NOT!!!), but of course
meeting with NUOVAELLE and BLOOMINGLENA again! - We first met back in February 2013 when I had a few hours in Athens between flights. The blog is here if you want to have a look:
As I visited Athens a couple of times in the past, we didnt do all the touristy sites: I especially wanted to spend time with Elle and Lena getting to know them better! (Before I continue, I should say that as I am writing this blog tonight I am listening to a Greek singer I discovered thanks to Lena, called Haris Alexiou... Apparently she is very well known but to my shame I didn't know her! Here is a link to listen to one of her songs:
But I love flea markets and antique shops, so we walked around the little shops and stalls near Monastiraki. It was very busy, but not more than a Parisian flea market on a Sunday, and I loved it!
(Looking at this lamp above on the right, I am really regretting I didnt ask for the price
yes it would have been crazy taking it back home on the plane, but it is exactly the kind of thing I like for my home! Ah well, too late now!)
If you are into embroideries and laces, believe me this flea market is the place for you! It was very small, but there were even more by square meter than in French markets!
But I think the stall Elle, Lena and I enjoyed the most was the one with all the old boxes of all kinds. Of course for me, anything with Greek writing is exotic too, but even apart from that, they were fun!
Ohhh I forgot to tell you! It was the day of the Marathon! Everywhere we walked in the afternoon, we saw people in running clothes, some with their medal around their neck. It was very fitting for a day 3 Sparkfriends meet!
In the little streets going up the hill there were mostly second-hand books stalls
and, to my surprise, birds in cages! I should have asked Elle and Lena whether these were peoples birds or whether they were for sale!
By then we had reached the Roman Forum, and Elle and Lena found a great place for us to eat, in the shade but with a great view!
I tend to be suspicious of restaurants in touristy places, but this one was great!
The Greek salad didnt disappoint, and Elle explained to me the herbs on top are oregano, not thyme as I had always thought. So Ill try to redo this at home, although the beautiful Greek olive oil really is the secret ingredient!
Have you ever had fried feta cheese? Give it a go if you have a Greek restaurant nearby, it may not be very healthy, but you only need a small piece to enjoy the taste! : )
Same for fried aubergines/egglplants! They were great!
I had ordered grilled octopus and that was a special treat for me. I could have seafood everyday I think!
After our late lunch we walked further up the hill
... to well-known Plaka. It is very touristy but so pretty!
(Elle and I in Plaka)
We walked further up the hill (I id 18,000 feet in total that day, so we didn't just eat and chat you know!!!)... and ended up near the Acropolis Museum, which I definitely want to visit next time. This time my sciatica presents me from standing still (I must keep walking all the time or it really hurts) so we didnt go in. But the building itself is a work of art!
What a lovely time!!! And you know what? Lena and I met again tonight for a walk and dinner after work and we enjoyed chatting, chatting, chatting!!! About (healthy) food and exercising of course (Lena loves zumba and recently discovered pilates too!), travels, friendship...
It was the perfect way to celebrate the near end of my meetings before heading back to France tomorrow. I am feeling quite sad tonight though, I will really miss Lena and Elle and I wish I could come to Athens regularly (or they to Paris)... Believe me I have rarely been disappointed when meeting Sparkfriends, but Elle and Lena are extra special with BIG hearts and very warm personalities! Thank you both for taking such good care of me during my visit, dear friends!
Ill end with these bougainvillea flowers to send you a bit of Athenss sunshine and warmth!
Thank you for reading friends!
Sunday, November 02, 2014
Do you know Vétheuil?
If you are a Claude Monet fan, you actually know Vétheuil! The painter lived in the village between 1878 and 1881 and made over 100 paintings of it.
The hike I did yesterday was through the villages and the countryside
but one of these days when I go to Vétheuil I want to find the view Monet painted the most, from across the Seine. So beautiful!
That was a short hike. I should probably say a gentle walk (2 hours and 10 minutes), but it was hard work as it was steep in places, and my sciatica wasnt happy (a colleague who did it last week said it was all flat
hmmmm it was far from flat!).
But it was sunny, warm, a gorgeous area, and I took things easy! I couldnt believe it was 1st November, I was wearing a light linen shirt, it was that warm!
And you may have noticed already, the autumn colours are definitely starting to appear. They should be at their best in about 2 weeks, when I am back from Greece (Ill be in Athens for work, woohoo!). But it was definitely starting.
My favourite part of the hike was probably as I followed a little creek
I loved how it sounded
I share the views of my hikes, but never talk about the sounds much. They are so much part of the pleasure of hiking in this area though
the sound of the leaves under my feet
a churchs bell in the distance
the birds in the trees nearby
the cows and horses roar
I think it is partly thanks to all these wonderful sounds that I never feel lonely during my hikes, and also that I prefer to hike alone to really listen to them.
Even though yesterdays hike was short, it had all I love in a hike, and made me feel like I had been far away, both in terms of geography and time, on a great holiday!
Isnt it a fantastic feeling to have? Ill definitely go back to Vétheuil though, and then a little further to Giverny again!
Thank you for reading dear friends! Have a sparkly Sunday!
Saturday, October 18, 2014
I am sorry for the dramatic title, but today was an eventful hike indeed! I don't think I like those, I'd rather have one of my usual hikes, where the worst that can happen is to get a bit lost... And speaking of getting lost (to start with the fun bit!), I havent lost my touch! Although it hadnt happened in a few months, I still know how to get completely at the opposite of where I am supposed to go during a hike!!!
It is especially stupid as todays hike should have been really easy! Mostly flat and straight, through the beautiful Vexin countryside!
But I used directions prepared by an association I already had had problems with. I think out of the 3 hikes I did that they prepared, all 3 were very badly done! I.e. poor maps, no signs and almost no directions. The best way to get lost!!! If I could remember where I got these 'hiking sheets' from, I would go back and tell them they are really unreliable!
Because really I did get lost brilliantly!!! I took the wrong path in the woods
it wasnt straight at all, so I lost my sense of directions (and of course I thought I was on the right path!)
I ended up completely West in Blamécourt when I thought I was completely East in Nucourt.
Of course paths didnt match what I saw on the map, I didnt understand but I kept going, walking through the countryside and crossing a village with a funny old water pump with an animal head
And as I left the village, there was a sign with its name, and I just stopped and laughed out loud. Suddenly it made sense! I really was completely in the wrong place!
Luckily, that village still appeared on the very poor map I had in my hands, so I was able to find my way back, cutting through the countryside. It was such a gorgeous day I didn't mind at all, and the area is so beautiful! (In France most paths are public, i.e. everybody can walk on them, so if you have a map that shows the paths properly, you are fine!)
But it is never a good idea to be creative in terms of paths finding during hunting season! I ended up on footpaths that werent official ones (not recognised by the hiking federation and clearly marked)
and suddenly, as I came out of some woods
I heard a very loud BANG that sounded way too close for comfort!!! Hmmm what to do? Well I kept going, slowly, and singing at the top of my head!!! I think between cows (see my blog from two weeks ago!) and hunters, Ill choose cows anytime!
When I finally came completely out of the woods, facing the fields, I saw about 10 hunters facing me in the distance. My goodness, they had been shooting animals in these woods! I dont know between them and me who was the most unhappy to see the other(s). I am sorry I interrupted your little Saturday afternoon game, guys! And very glad you didnt permanently interrupt my life!!! I didnt like the sound of your BANGS at all. (No, I didnt say anything, I am not that mad... and they were too far anyway... I just left as quickly as I could!)
I wont lie: I was a little wobbly on my feet for a while after this! And I was glad I basically only had to cross one last big field before I reached Serans again.
The church looked wonderful as I saw it appear in the distance! PHEW. Now can I go back to my usual uneventful hikes please? I would love the same sunshine next week, but NO HUNTERS, or at least very far away from me!
Thank you for reading, friends. And please dont worry, Ill be more careful next time and make sure I have a good map with me so that I dont get lost. I hope you are having a fantastic weekend!
Saturday, October 11, 2014
I had wanted to do this hike a few weeks ago already, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the terrible Ourcq Battle that took place in these fields and on these paths 6-9 September 1914.
It was the very beginning of WWI, and everybody thought it wouldnt last, and the boys would be home in no time. Sadly, as we now know, it wasnt what happened.
And the 534 men who are buried in Etrépilly were among the first ones of a dreadful series.
Todays hike was obviously different from any other one.
Yet it was a beautiful sunny day and if you didnt know what happened here it was just so peaceful
with views almost as far as the eyes could see
not too difficult to imagine the battle fields there
When I saw Polignys farm, near Puisieux, I remembered what I had read on the Internet before I left: that several farms were in the middle of the battle fields and were bombarded. There wasnt much left of Polignys farm after the battle, as it was both bombarded and then burnt by the Germans.
When I reached Puisieux
I suddenly understood better how close the troops were: the Germans were in Etrépilly and the French were in Puisieux. Very very close. It took me one hour and a half, but the path wasnt a straight way at all. I expect that through the fields it would have taken maybe 30 minutes, even with the heavy backpacks that the soldiers had to carry.
Shortly after I left Puisieux, I reached Champfleurys farm which was also bombarded (and I was so glad to see that, like Poligny, it was rebuilt and still exists today).
After watching the sun play with the clouds for a while (how fitting
it definitely added to the feeling of being in a place with History)
I crossed some woods and more fields again in the beautiful late afternoon light
and this is when I saw todays treat
fields after fields of beautiful purple and yellow flowers!!! I couldnt believe my eyes. I had never seen these purple flowers, and the smell was gorgeous. It felt like Spring in Autumn! Despite the heaviness of the History of this place, I couldnt help it and had to smile.
I really dont know what these purple flowers were .They werent thistles.
As I entered Etrépilly, this house also brought a smile to my face: it was old and not in good shape at all, badly in need of repairs
but with friendly red geraniums in the window boxes.
It was time I got back as the sun was slowly disappearing
I hope you enjoyed sharing todays hike through a somber page of French History. In the next couple of years, Ill try to go hiking in some of the areas where the 1914-1918 battles took place and show you also some cemeteries from foreign soldiers who came to fight for us, there were many countries...
Thank you very much for reading! Take good care of yourself and keep sparking!
Sunday, October 05, 2014
It feels like ages since I last went on a hike, although it is only a little more than a month. So much has happened since then! September was mad, with 3 weeks away from home in total.
But back to todays hike!
I went to Sigy-en-Bray today, in the beautiful hilly Bray area that I love so much, between Picardy and Normandy. The sun was shining bright (with just enough clouds to make the sky interesting!), when it was very grey and wet back home. Yay!
Sometimes it takes me a while (an hour or so) to feel fully into it, but today after only about 10 minutes, I could tell my stress was disappearing, I was breathing better, I was smiling at the cows I met and I was just my usual ridiculously happy hiker!!!
I needed that. September was tough. I loved Rome but struggled with the meetings. I didn't like the Gulf, and wont get more into it as I dont want all of you to get depressed! ;-) But I didnt get any time for sightseeing (hence no blog), and maybe thats not a bad thing. I so love my trips usually, it is this enthusiasm I want to share! And I can already assure you Ill LOVE the next one in November in Athens, Greece! So looking forward to seeing my dear Sparkfriends Elle and Lena again there!
So todays hike was really needed, and it didnt disappoint! It was cooler but still very summer-like. It felt more like late August than early October.
I crossed fields and woods
and a couple of villages too
(Hello you, you are a very cute little goat!)
One of my Sparkfriends kindly wished me lately to enjoy the colours of autumn. To be honest, there isnt much to enjoy at the moment, as the beautiful colours are usually found in the first two weeks of November here. But there were a few, and also lots of red and blue berries, edible or not.
At some point I got all excited
My guidebook said to push the gate of a field, and to walk by the fence for a while (that was about 10 minutes or so) before leaving it through another gate.
It was the first time I had been in a field with cows and I thought it was pretty cool. Well, no. It wasnt cool at all. It was actually SCARY. When I reached the area where they were, they started running towards me, all 10 or 15 of them or so and I started realising they werent scared of me and they were coming very very close. I tried not to panic and I shouted: Non, non! (they did look like they would understand French better, haha!) and Shhhhhhhhhh pointing my finger at them (not sure why
being scared you know
), while feeling extremely stupid and urban!!!
When I finally saw the gate I really hoped I would make it there in one piece. I opened it as quickly as I could, keeping an eye on the cows and still shouting at them, and when I was on the other side I took the picture above. My goodness, I am really glad I didnt fall, I fear they might have stamped on me!
I just googled crushed by a cow and it is pretty scary the number of people who are killed by cows every year. So
very glad I made it safe and sound! I told someone who was worried for me when I flew to the Gulf that I was probably more at risk driving to work here every day
I didnt think of hiking among cows! ;-) It took me a few minutes to find cows cute after that, but I couldnt resist the little calf in the shade in a nearby field
nor these sheep who didnt move an ear when they saw me!
When I saw Sigy-en-Brays abbey in the distance, I knew the end of my hike was near. It was a very short 2 hours and a half hike today (10K).
I passed by some houses and the cemetery
and indeed reached the abbey where I had parked, without any more scare! :)
Tonight I am so delighted with todays hike, so grateful to live in an area I love. And I can tell it took all my stress away and Ill sleep much better tonight.
Thank you for reading dear friends! Have a beautiful, healthy and exciting week!
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