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Versailles and Paris!

The only day trip we decided to do on this trip to Paris was a trip to the Palace of Versailles. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until  1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution.

We chose a half day tour on Viator only because we wanted to get back to Paris and stroll and wander and stroll the streets of Paris and while away our time in cafes and restaurants, boutiques and boulangeries and we didn’t want to spend this trip in Paris just doing tour after tour which is what most people (and ourselves the first time ’round) get caught up in doing!

Our arrival was imminent when it seemed the sun was shining off the earth! We later saw the magnificent golden gates, ornate and beautiful and understood why it looked like the sun had stopped to take a break in Versailles! There with a knowledgeable tour guide we were ushered straight into the palace where we were given the interesting histories and stories behind some truly incredible rooms !

With stories being immortalized on ceilings and with the plushest of materials , the most expensive of chandeliers and the most ornate and expensive furnishings, this was the most enthralling account of an era of plenty which quickly gave way to one of the most radical social and political upheavals of the Eighteenth century- the French Revolution.

The Royal Chapel (above) was breathtaking and it was an experience to be  ushered through several of the palace’s very  unique interior rooms, including the King’s and the Queen’s State Apartments where we were that as the King slept all his Court-men were to wait around his bedside till he fell asleep. We also saw some very interesting, curious, hidden corridors where the King could escape to sleep with one of his mistresses if he chose to do so! What was also interesting was that if the King wished to sleep with his Queen, he had to meet her in her own State Apartment.

The Hall of Mirrors was also stunning and I have to admit that this was my favourite room and it was the favorite for several – we spent a lot of time there! I guess vanity hasn’t changed over the century’s!

The Queen’s State Apartment was feminine , floral and a bit ,well over the top…! But much like the rest of the Palace it seemed to fit perfectly!

The Palace was filled with interesting stories, legendary tales and very historic. A Private walking tour made it even more interesting and allowed no time to go to waste!

As we finished with the Palace it was time to explore the magnificent gardens and then we were off for a quick bite to eat and a trip back to the city!

Then ti was back to the city and some much well deserved time spent at Opera (the area near the Opera House). We enjoyed walking Opera, stopping at some poster and music shops before finally walking back via Concorde and ending up at Avenue des Champs-Elysees and then shopping some more…!

Interesting note -: This time , after visiting Rome and Italy, sadly I have to say that the shopping in Italy was far better than in Paris for me! Maybe I expected too much or maybe too many high street brands have taken up the small boutiques that used to dot Champs Elysees on our earlier trip there! I miss those boutiques because well, high street fashion, is high street fashion and well Italy allowed me to find my own style and I loved that!

The adventures were to continue and we were off to Amsterdam …. exciting , exciting, exciting!

More on that next week!

MY RECOMMENDATIONS! Paris sample itinerary-: 

DAY ONE – Walk Champs Elysees and shop, stop, and pause at the Arc di triumph! Day One evening- Book in advance a dinner at the Eiffel Tower restaurant- the view memorable, the experience – unforgettable!

DAY TWO- Walk the Latin Quarter and the Student’s area – enjoy the bohemian vibe of the city!

DAY THREE- Visit the Louvre and see the Monalisa (though I had built it up a lot more in my head and was left a little let down), wander through Concorde!

DAY FOUR- Do a day trip to Versailles and spend the rest of your day in your favourite part of Paris.

DAY FIVE – Make your own Parisian memory!

My personal Waste of Times & Money- The lido show and the Moulin Rouge… ! With even 10 year olds being allowed into these cramped dimly lit rooms, it is definitely an experience to AVOID! The show is unremarkable and any sub-standard Las vegas show or Cruise show is far better and when you are cramped on tables with cheap champagne and soggy snacks you’re really missing walking the streets of Paris. SO SPEND YOUR MONEY ON SOMETHING BETTER!:)

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The Great Ocean Road and Yarra Valley(the MUST DO Day trips from Melbourne!)

As promised last week I’d finish writing about the Must-do Day trips from Melbourne, so here goes!

The Great Ocean Road and Apollo Bay with the 12 Apostles ARE FAAAAR from Melbourne! It’s comfortably a 4 hr to 5 hr drive so don’t look at seeing both and returning the same day unless you want to get stuck on a God awful tour bus for an entire day!

I’d recommend renting a car and driving their. AVIS has an office at the Grand Hyatt in the center of town and you can very easily rent a car. All you need is a Valid License written in ENGLISH! You don’t even need an International License! I opted to get an International Drivers License because I didn’t want to take a chance and that was very easy to apply for, took a day in processing and made my trip stress free (for me!!!) The husband’s never stressed when I’m at the helm … cos I’m the lister, the planner, the organizer , the madly OCD one! 😉 It works!

So off we went …I drove (yes you can make all the jokes you want about Women drivers!!! But I drive well… and I had the license! So that’s that!) With a GPS System that was far too chatty for our liking and was continuously ” re-calibrating!!!!” in a terribly annoying nasal drawl; we headed off out of Melbourne!

The minute you leave the city limits , you see the changes. Roads and highways now start moving past undulating hills, small townships and quaint coffee shops. Buildings are few and far between. There are more cottages and homes…more gardens and bicycles! And then you take the turn on to the Great Ocean Road and everything stops! A wide road on a cliff edge in front of a panoramic ocean is all that lies in front for miles and miles. Cars drive, stop and park on the left and take photographs of the incredible 180 degree view and every time you think you have the greatest photograph, you’ll find one that’s just a bit better a few minutes ahead!

My advice is to drive along and stop on the way….a cuppa coffee, a seat on a cliff edge… or just a run in the sand… that’s what Australia is all about…and that’s what a vacay should be all about too… Relax, unwind and breathe!!!

We stopped for coffee at about 5:30 p.m at Lorne ( we only left Melbourne just after lunch). The coffee shop was nondescript. I was tired. The coffee was superb!

Charged it took us another hour or so to reach our destination. We were stopping for the night at Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant and Villas. This is not a very luxurious place to stay but has a beautiful view. We were barely staying there for a few hours, so we ate a comfortably-sized well made dinner and went to our villa to sleep.  The villa had wonderful views of the bay but was strictly okay. Sure, if you have a family and want to use a kitchenette and washing machine and want to make your own food; this might be a good option but it was bitterly cold with colder floors and small rooms and I was glad I was here for just a night. Driving for so long, I fell into a dead sleep.

We loaded our car and headed off to the helicopter point where we had booked a helicopter ride to see the 12 Apostles!

Now this was beautiful! I got some incredible photographs and we also learnt something very interesting. There were only 9 rocks that jutted out from the sea but as 9 Apostles wouldn’t attract that much attention it was decided that this would be called 12 Apostles. One rock however had now fallen, and there were only 8. The breathtaking view of the sea front and of these magnificent rock structures in the morning made the looooong trip worth it!

And then it was back home to Crown Towers and back home to Melbourne!!!

Yarra Valley is only about an hour away from the city and it was definitely easier to get to and infinitely less tiring! We left after breakfast to the Domain and Chandon Vineyards where we were taken on a fabulous tour across the winery. This tour is free and you just need to sign up at the reception when you get there. To do special tasting and wine and cheese pairings you do pay a bit extra but if you’re a wine lover (like my wonderful husband is) then a connoisseur will take you through the history of each wine , the thought behind it’s creation and fill you will fun facts and interesting stories of how the wine came to be and more importantly how it is being appreciated!

Yarra Valley has several vineyards…so you can stop at one and move thru all. They’re all barely 5 minutes away by car!

After the vineyards you could grab lunch at the wonderfully pretty Sweet water cafe at the beautiful Chateau Yering a historic house converted into a boutique hotel, with beautiful rooms each with a personal touch!

And since you’re in Yarra you must taste the cheese! A coffee and a plate of cheese at the Yarra Valley Dairy  is a perfect way to sober up, end the afternoon and head back into town!

These are both trips I recommend you do yourself so you can personalize it the way you prefer and don’t need to do the plain , simple , mass produced lunches that tours usually thrust on you! You can stop along the way- taste the cheeses, enjoy sea breezes, take your own photographs,decide on the perfect wine and just laze or go as fast as you need to!

Do these day trips at your pace…your way!

And along the way try out my faves, I know you’ll love them too!

Price Factor-: 12 Apostles Helicopter rides are approx $190 for 2 people and take about 10 minutes. Domaine Chandon wines are available by the glass from $8 or by the bottle from $22.00.

Best times to travel-: Southern Hemisphere …so once again I recommend August – February. We went end March and tho Yarra was just perfect, Apollo Bay was super chilly already!

Get the Cappadocian High!

So when nothing in our lives was working out and when we were down but not yet out…we decided to take a break! A new show had been sucking the life out of us and for the first time …in ever were the both of us tired and low about theatre! When life brings you downs….sometimes you have to create your own highs! And that’s what we did!

Emptying our bank accounts with no idea how we were going to figure the show or the sponsorships out- we escaped….to Turkey!

Our first stop was Cappadocia… a land of Fairy chimneys and tales untold. Magical and surreal we were looking for this short escape from life and this seemed the perfect stop!

To get to Cappadocia , you must fly to Kayseri. A small airport in the middle of nowhere, we were glad we’d arrange transport to our hotel! Getting outside, the landscape looked nothing like what was promised to us. Barren , flat and boring it was like luck was just not on our side! Infact as we headed off in the car, driving through what looked like dessert we saw the most incredible sight- Mc Donalds! Well that was as un-Turkish as the rest of this miserable trip ! The car ride took about 1 hour and suddenly in the final 15 minutes or so, everything changed! Chimneys appeared from almost nowhere and the land looked like a fairytale come to life! Rock formations in crazy shapes and the car now seemed to be going up and down hill and there was suddenly too much to see and not enough time!The incredible cave dwellings still had people living in them , we were told, and I was really excited now to see where we’d be staying!

And before we knew it we were at our hotel – the exquisite Museum Hotel. Now we had specifically chosen a Luxury Cave Hotel to get the real Cappadocian experience and wow we were in for a treat! Our room was gigantic and our bathroom even larger. We had a small , oddly shaped cave window and every possible luxury you could imagine. Traveling all night and most of the day we were exhausted and we decided to head to the pool to relax. The pool, perfectly placed on the edge of a Cliff almost melted into the blue sky and one quick dip and we were refreshed and relaxed! Suddenly we heard the pitter patter of little feet on the stone and there were two glorious pups frolicking in the hotel. They are the owners dogs we were later told, though they often commanded a great deal more attention than the owners did!

Dinner was pre set and I was worried. This hotel in the middle of nowhere may not really be able to cater to my very difficult tastebuds and I was FAMISHED! I was wrong! The chef  was the winner of International food Awards and the food just melted in my mouth! The turkish cuisine was fabulous and I wished desperately that our 5 course meal would last forever! The meal ended with some fabulous Turkish apple tea and we called it a night!

Turkey is approximately 2.5 hours behind us so getting up the next morning at 5 am (equivalent of 7:30 am) worked out okay! I was even to have a quick wash to get ready for our champagne balloon ride above Cappadocia! Now in most cities I would warn against doing anything remotely touristy but in Cappadocia if you don’t do the balloon ride, you’ve really missed on quite an incredible experience! We watched as the balloons got fired up and then headed up, up and away above the glorious Cappadocian landscape- taking hundreds of pictures and photographing what looked like Google map images of earth! So high in the sky all our troubles were forgotten and as we bobbed in the balloon looking at the tens of other balloons that dotted the sky…life had never felt more colorful and I felt the incredible lightness of being!

Back on ground as we finally got our land legs back we went back to the hotel to have the most sumptuous breakfast ever! Local cheeses, fruits and every possible breakfast delight with some bubbly made the morning perfect! After that Aditya and I decided to do some exploring of our own so off we headed via ATV. Now anyone who knows me or knows my driving knows that an All Terrain vehicle is probably the safest thing for me to drive except when your driving over cliffs and driving down steep roads. I almost lost balance of the heavy vehicle more than once trying to keep up with our enthusiastic guide…. but luckily for me that despite a few near misses and one where the ATV had a wheel over the edge…I survived! This was the coolest way to explore Cappadocia and after dropping our guide back to the town aditya and I continued exploring the narrow lanes and numerous caves ourselves! Stopping every so often for an incredible photograph this is the ONLY way to see Cappadocia and is an absolute MUST DO!

In the afternoon we headed to the Goreme Open Air Museum and visited some ancient 10th, 11th and 12 th century churches. This was fascinating as you could still see the paint on the walls and scenes from the nativity, crucifixion and the Last Supper were painted in glorious detail. Then we marveled at some astonishing rock formations. My personal favourite was the camel because it looked so incredibly natural!

And After that we were off for a quick cup of rich turkish coffee and a fabulous photograph under the Evil Eye Tree!

Dinner was glorious as usual and before we knew it our 3 days in Cappadocia were over! Lighter, happier and calmer we were ready to take on the world. Sometimes all you need in life is a little Fairy dust from Fairy chimneys perhaps to make the whole world seem bright again!

Now that you know what i’m writing about and I am getting such amazing feedback – I’m going to now make this a weekly blog and update it with a new destination, new hotel, airline review on Wednesdays! So mid week get ready to travel…. even if it’s only via a blog and only for a few minutes! after all any adventure starts first with a little dreaming!

Also please vote on what you’d like me to write about next!

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