Parisian fog and sunshine – Part 2

Our second full day in Paris was much sunnier, with none of the fog we’d had the day before. Although we tend to avoid the tourist traps, this visit we tried to embrace it a bit more, so headed up to Montmartre to see another view of Paris and visit the Sacre-Cœur.

I have to be honest, having visited the Arc the day before and the Eiffel tower on a previous visit, I was unprepared for just how touristy this place would be. There were people everywhere, the majority either taking selfies or trying to force something on the tourists. Going up the steps to the church at one point about 6  guys tried to funnel us into a literal tourist trap (not saying it was anything nefarious, they were likely just trying to flog us something). Luckily we managed to manoeuvre past them pretty sharpish and got to the top.

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Were the views worth it? Maybe. But I wouldn’t even consider going back at anything like peak-season.

After that, we idled our way back down through the artists’ square and independent shops of Montmartre. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon – we even found a gallery selling Shepard Fairey, Pure Evil and some other artists, which was a nice surprise.

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After the rather intense tourist hit, we decided to spend the last day in Neuilly-sur-Seine where things were reassuringly French and laid back. We sat in the sun drinking beer, wandered about the incredibly good looking streets, and ate good food.

That’s what Paris is really all about.

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Parisian fog and sunshine – Part 1

A month ago we were in Paris for Jen’s 30th (and my 29th, though that was secondary).

As always, it was stunning.

We were staying in the suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine; a picturesque and posh area that had lots of great restaurants, bars and patisseries and some impressive views of the skyscrapers of the financial district. As the main road in Neuilly is Avenue Charles de Gaulle, which is one big long straight road that eventually reaches the Arc de Triomphe, we decided that was a must visit.

It was a foggy day when we set out, but that’s ok, as it added atmosphere to the views we received when we got to the top.

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The tunnel under the insanely busy Place Charles de Gaulle roundabout was one of my favourite features. Watching the cars from the top made me thankful I hadn’t decided to drive for the trip.

Whilst up the Arc, the sun slowly started to emerge, and after that first morning we were lucky with the weather – bright, crisp winter sunshine for the rest of the trip.

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On the way back to the apartment that afternoon we stopped at a market which was buzzing with local activity.

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After a day of walking we had a nap. I’m not ashamed to admit it. When we woke it was nighttime, which meant there was only one course of action – find a trendy little burger bar that brews its own beer and settle in. We found Frog Burger, and it was good.

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Cherry Bombs – Eastbourne Roller Derby B team

In July last year I retired from playing Roller Derby – the sport that had been my obsession for well over 3 years. I still Benchcoach the girls’ A team (meaning I stand on the sideline and shout things) and on occasion I like to take photos too.

I find sports photography incredibly difficult…

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A Gaiman-esque birthday

Neil Gaiman is probably my favourite author; certainly my favourite living author. Even so, I was surprised (and very pleased) with quite how much Gaiman featured on my 29th birthday yesterday.

Jen got me Norse Mythology, which hadn’t really been on my radar, despite being released this month. I was delighted with the present, of course, but didn’t know what to expect – in just over 24 hours I’m now 3/4s of the way through and thoroughly enjoying it. Essentially a series of short stories, light-weight and a bit mad, they are none-the-less engaging and a fun read.

Then my parents went and got me two Coraline prints, both signed by Chris Riddell. They are from the 10th-anniversary edition – which I have signed by both illustrator and author, and which I consider an important part of my book collection – so I’m chuffed to bits with them. They framed one, the other will have to stay unframed for now.

All this Neil Gaiman talk made me think about American Gods. When I think about American Gods, I have to read American Gods. I consider it my favourite book ever, and this time around I decided to listen to the audiobook. It is very well done. Shadow has just been busted out of train-prison by his dead wife – if that doesn’t make sense to you, do yourself a favour and read the book.

Then, to end the birthday-day, we watched the film version of Coraline – one of the few films which I consider to be better than the book (only other one I can think of off the top of my head is Shutter Island, but I’m sure there are others) whilst eating homemade red Thai curry and dumplings by Jen.

On a non-Gaiman front, I also got the final Tribe Called Quest album, which is fantastic. 

Not a bad birthday all-round.

Inspiration at inconvenient moments

Tonight I’ve been writing. I hadn’t planned on it, but as I was putting the shopping away (Wednesday is shopping night) an idea popped into my head, inspired by the little brown amazon box that was sitting on the hall table when I got home. It was the sort of idea that I only get once every few months. Not a whole story, just an image in my head that had possibilities, the kind that I just can’t ignore. So I stopped with the shopping (luckily the frozen stuff was already away), grabbed my pen and notebook and started scribbling right there in the kitchen. Nothing might come of it, but it is an idea, and now I’ve begun putting it down on paper I know there’s a chance it might just grow into something good. 

Inspiration for me is a tricky one. If I force myself to sit down and write, I might get something decent – especially if it is on a pre-existing story. But more often than not what I force out is a page or two of nothingness that I forget all about the moment I stop writing. If I get an idea like tonight, that’s when I really enjoy it and most often get something worth keeping. The question is though, is it that I’m struck by a great idea and that’s what galvanises me, or was I already in the mood to write without even knowing it and that’s what’s made the idea seem so good? Chicken or egg?

Either way, it’s good to be writing. Ive been working on my second comic script (my first one was the Human Next Door – nice review here) over the last few months, but other than that I haven’t really written any fiction. Hopefully this will help me get back into it. 

Tonight’s writing has been accompanied by the Coraline soundtrack. A couple of years ago Jen got me the Mondo vinyl edition, which I still absolutely love to this day. Perfect writing music, when you tend to write creepy weird stories like me…

Libratone Q Adapt Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Before saying anything else, I’ll say that I’ve never before seen such an incredibly good-looking set of headphones. The Libratone Q Adapt are sleek, stylish and constructed with excellent materials. The leather is soft, the plastic and metals are smooth, the cloth is textured – combined with thought and care into something truly special to see and feel.

And that’s just first thoughts on taking them out of the box. When using them – because form without function is pointless – they show what they are really made of. Sound quality is excellent, with rich bass and nicely balanced treble. My writing today is being accompanied by The Juan MacLean’s In A Dream and it is immersive, but even when I switch to something more aggressive – Run The Jewels III, anyone? – the headphones keep up magnificently.

I’ve been using the Libratone Q for about 2 months now and I’ve only just downloaded the app. This has brought with it some helpful firmware updates that have fixed some of the issues I had with the touch controls – yes touch controls, some space-age stroking of the bird on the right side unit allows for changing tracks, volume control, phone answering and more – and has also introduced me to the impressive CityMix noise control.

I fell in love with these headphones as soon as I held them in my hands. Combine that with rich sound and advanced controls, I never want to take them off – a shame, seeing as Jen nabbed them for her commute within seconds of them arriving…

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These headphones were sent to me by Amazon for review, but my thoughts are my own and entirely honest. There are also affiliate links in this review.

Paris – Cereal City Guide

Later this month we’re off to Paris for thatbeastjen‘s 30th birthday.

I booked the long weekend away and originally planned to have it a surprise for her, right up until we got on the Eurostar. Then, as time went passed, I started thinking that you can’t really get excited about something that you don’t know about…

So instead I got her a guidebook to Paris as an early present and as a way of revealing her birthday trip’s identity. Now we get to be excited together and decide exactly what we want to do.

We went to Paris two years ago for her birthday and both loved it, so we’re not completely new to it, but the Cereal Paris City Guide features loads of places we would never have found out about on our own. Naturally, being a Cereal book it is gorgeously designed with a minimalistic feel. The photos are emotive and give you a sense of the place, and the descriptions are short but with enough information to make them useful.

I considered getting Quiet Paris by Siobhan Wall, having previously got Quiet London for my sister which was lovely, but decided on the Cereal guide as it is more recent, so hopefully less chance of places having moved or closed.

Can’t wait for Paris. I’ll be taking lots of photos and sharing them here when we’re back.

Cereal Paris City Guide and Eiffel Tower

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