As I suspected everyone voted for different things - the travellers wanted to hear about France, the chefs wanted to hear about the cake book, the people related to Michaels want to find out about the Michael story, and the crafty types want to hear about sewing.
But I think the greedy readers who want to hear about everything shall be declared the winners! France and Michael first, then sewing and cakes.
We went to Paris for a week and then on to South-West France, where my parents live, for a second week.
I was good at French when I was a teenager and I visited Paris a great deal on exchanges and school trips. In my twenties I worked there for a little bit too, and when G and I were newly going out together he used to catch the Eurostar on a Friday night and come and stay with me for the weekend. Pure romance. We love Paris. If I didn't live in London I would live in Paris.
The children had never been there before and had come up with a good list of everything they wanted to do:
- see the Eiffel Tower
- go on the Metro
- visit the Louvre and find the Mona Lisa
- eat lots of pains au chocolats and drink Orangina
- go to Disneyland
G and I had lists of our own, which looked a bit like this:
- walk up to Sacre Coeur and drink in the view
- sit in a cafe and people watch
- go to Parc de la Villette and the Cite des Sciences
- stroll through parks
- eat amazing food and drink fabulous wine
- go to the Musee d'Orsay and look at everything
- buy French stationery
- prowl around bookshops and look intellectual
G, outside a cafe, practising his French shrugs.
We were there for six days and we managed to do everything on everybody's list, plus several other impromptu things. Disneyland was horrible but everything else was magical.
By the time we got on the train to head south we were shattered!
C on our last day in Paris, waiting for a metro. Just look at those bags under his eyes!
Our second week, in the South West, was a complete contrast. We did almost nothing. I don't think I've ever had such an idle holiday. The peak daytime temperatures didn't drop below 35 degrees the whole time we were there, but despite my hatred of hot weather I had a fantastic time.
In the cool of the early mornings and late evenings I sat outside knitting, or reading, or chatting with my parents. In the middle of the day we played our favourite board game in the cool thick-walled house, and read, knitted or chatted. In the late afternoon everyone went for a long swim in the pool and I sat on the edge, knitting, reading and chatting (I hate swimming). Occasionally we ventured out to the croissant shop or a market or a restaurant, but not in a terribly energetic way.
During our week of extreme idleness G and I had plenty of time to admire my father, Michael's, approach to house and garden maintenance. In a very old, rambling, rural house with a large, lush garden there is a never-ending stream of tasks to be done.
- cutting the grass
- keeping the fridge stocked with wine
- putting new tea lights in the lanterns each day
- testing the pH of the swimming pool
- fixing a new hosepipe with connectors
- treating the centuries-old beams for munching beatles
- bringing in the chair cushions every single evening without fail
- mopping up spills and croissant crumbs so that the ants don't take up residence
A baby lizard rescued from the perfectly pH balanced swimming pool.The best illustration is the old wooden, homemade stool that Dad picked up for €2 at a second hand fair. G or I might have bought the stool and then would have taken it home and put it into use straightaway in the front room or a bedroom, marvelling at the bargain. But Dad bought the stool and when he got it home took the time to treat it with two different types of wood preserver and was so that it shone like a new conker and would not stain. There is a thoroughness in the pottering sort of tasks he does which makes their house such a wonderful place to live.