And now for something COMPLETELY different tour travel blog

Johnstown Castle cRTesearch Centre, Wexford, Ireland.

Our first beers (always in stemmed glasses) and yummy snacks in Paris

Every type of mushroom know to man - local markets, Paris

Notre Dame, Paris.

Lunch provided by David (check out the baguettes) in his spacious apartment,...

Yes, the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci would have been surprised I think....

Special pad provided in the middle of the road for photos, Arch...

No need for a caption on this one!

Peter, David and me celebrating in one of David's favourite restaurants, Paris

Apart from the obviouys, I like the lamppost, Paris

Now that's fabulous street art - the little boy I mean. Monmartre,...

Just one of the remaining art nouveau Metro entrances, Monmartre, Paris

Sewer Museum, still operational, Paris.

Tacky I know but just to prove we made it, Paris

Looking up the skirts of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

At the top of the Eiffel Tower looking down on the Seine,...

Just a final story about Ireland – as travellers know you can strike up friendships very quickly with locals and visitors alike, something about ships passing in the night I think. Anyway, met John (about our age with a beautiful singing voice) in the pub who told us of the recent loss of his much-loved younger brother from pancreatic cancer. John explained that as much as both men dearly wanted to, they just couldn’t bring themselves to actually discuss the prognosis. After the brother’s death this poem sort of appeared in his head without any prompting. He recited it in a very noisy pub, almost holding Peter’s hand, and…..and…..phew…….

At 48 years of age his life came to an end

He fought a battle to stay alive that will stay with me my friend.

Almost he never hurried or dashed about in vain

And he always said just take your time and you’ll get there just the same.

I remember his last walk in life as he walked the farm around

and he seemed to count every blade of grass that grew upon the ground.

As he walked back home that evening with contentment and grace

and the sun now just descending and a smile upon his face.

That memory I now treasure in my heart it shall remain

that summer smile upon his face I saw through my windowpane.

Five lovely weeks in Ireland and after dropping the hire car off and tearful farewells from Michael and Maura, caught the bus from Wexford to Dublin airport and, in a fitting homage (we think so anyway) to the Irish, noted that as every person got off the bus (with 2 exceptions) they said thank you to the driver. The word “gentle” springs to mind, no road rage (it’s us foreigners who get frustrated!), take-your-time attitude, be nice to each other. Think we’re in love.

OK – bucolic Ireland and 2 ½ hours later bustling Paris. From avoiding all villages with populations over 2,000 to over 10 million in Paris and surrounds, blimey! Finally got to Peter’s nephew David’s apartment via a bus and the Metro with Google Maps again letting us down, knocking on a door which was definitely not David’s at 1am. And just to put the “unfriendly Parisians” myth to bed – we found them perfectly helpful provided you obey one rule: always say Bonjour first. One of the best things would have to be the local outdoor markets, held pretty much every day in every area selling cheap fruit and vegetables. Add to this the permanent markets with a stupendous array of cheeses, meats, fish, breads – deli heaven at very reasonable prices. All within walking distance. The bars with outdoor tables and chairs (usually right on the street) principally for smokers (unfortunately rampant) were very hard to bypass too. Our sundowners were spent staring at the traffic and the people rather than the sea.

Of course visited the statutory sights – Eiffel Tower (impressive), Arch de Triumph, Louvre, Montmartre – all fabulous along with whole suburbs of highly decorated turn-of-the-century mansions. Made a special effort to visit the Sewerage Museum which was still operational – very dark, damp and smelly but interesting. Not down-playing the grandeur of the buildings, fountains, arches, bridges and canals it’s the more human-based activities that interests us the most. Got a good handle on the Metro (underground). Construction first started in 1898, currently with 16 lines and 303 stations and I recon we used at least half. Incredibly efficient, cheap and reliable. Some of the original entrances are still operational with beautiful art nouveau style ironwork. Along with the Metro we walked all over Paris, many hours and many kilometres necessitating the odd cold beer at a friendly street-side bar.

David showed us his favourite places, great eateries, the best markets etc. Like all big cities the homeless were very evident, sometimes whole families under dirty blankets begging. Apparently many pose as Syrian refugees to evoke sympathy. Got to feel for the genuine ones. A peculiarity was the singing/preaching beggars on the Metro – captive audiences between stations we were either sang to very loudly with various accompaniments (once even a bloody trumpet) or yelled at, with a hand or cap passed around afterwards. Saw very little charity. After 8 days suspect David was glad to get his space back as his apartment is tiny. We thoroughly enjoyed Paris and next time will perhaps hire a car and explore the countryside – so much to see, so much unbelievable bread and cheese to eat, so little time.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise but we’re now in Bangkok, for 2 months this time. Managed to rent the large apartment we had last year and have resumed 7am wakeup calls for exercises in the park, purely to get rid of Guinness/cheese/bread/beer guts. Peter’s brother Kim has just arrived for 4 weeks so I’ve got two big babies to look after!

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