Didn’t sleep well overnight. I had a really sore hip from too much walking yesterday and the nerves were building for getting out of Paris in spite of all the positive self-talk. I swear if the quick trips to the loo are going to be routine before departure each day I will be a mere shadow of my former self on my return!...not a wholly bad thing but a crappy way to do it…if you’ll pardon the pun.

Norm was determined to get an Iconic / Recognisable French shot of us with our bikes in front of the Eiffel Tower before we headed out of Paris. How hard could it be? We keyed in the address to the GPS and headed off and thankfully found the traffic not all that heavy or pushy. We parked the bikes and figured out where to stand to get the entire Tower in and started to eyeball passers-by to see who would do the picture taking being conscious all the time that we would likely be asked to move on at any time. The answer to the ‘how hard can it be?’ question was ‘apparently impossible’….even from the woman who proudly told us she had the same camera. End result is that the test one Norm took was the ONLY one with the whole Tower so have cropped and included that.

Nola standing her ground in front of the Tower

We had a great time in Paris. We loved everything we saw and found the people and communities we moved amongst to be very friendly and welcoming. We were relieved that the traffic was surprisingly light and although a bit weird on some streets and intersections, as in the dividing lines for lanes apparently being more a ‘suggestion’ rather than a ‘requirement’, didn’t feel unsafe and we were soon on the Motorway and heading south through magnificent sweeping vistas of farmland and forest on our way to Beaune.

We took a break at a roadhouse and waited for Sharon and Ken to catch up with their car then headed off together. We came straight to Beaune and wandered around the beautiful old walled city before we had a delicious dinner and came back to the hotel to fall into bed. We have two nights here so will explore more of the surrounding towns and countryside tomorrow. The old bodies decided today they hadn’t fully recovered from hanging on in gale force winds on our way from Calais to Paris so it will be good to have a quieter day tomorrow. The town is remarkably well preserved and feels a bit like stepping into an ever changing picture postcard.

Part of the Hospices De Beaune - Musee de l'Hotel Dieu which was both a magnificently well preserved building and also served a valuable purpose of being a world renowned and progressive Hospital from 1453 until 1971 when a new hospital was built to replace it. They retained the retirement homes only. We toured through much of the building including many of the wards / chapels, the kitchen and the pharmacy. Very impressive.

Bits and Bobs:

Sometimes it’s hard to maintain even a hint of femininity on the bike but check out the serious ‘Bike Bling’ I found in the window of the ‘Wedding Dress Couture’ shopfront close to the hotel! I didn’t arrange to have it shipped home….not sure how the sparkly bits would survive having bug guts washed off them and to be truthful it’s not really my style. Ah well.

Last nights’ accommodation:

Citadines St Germain Paris
53 Ter Quai Des Grands
Paris France 75006
A lovely Apartment Hotel on the banks of the Seine and a convenient distance to all the highlights of the city. Compact apartment type accommodation with direct internet access and beautifully comfortable bed…..ahhh!. Nicely maintained, quiet for sleeping and very friendly and helpful staff.

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Another full day of exploring started with grabbing a day pass on the metro train (great value as we zig zagged our way all over Paris all day) and a visit to the Eiffel Tower including a ride up to the very top in the lift and a look at the magnificent panorama of Paris at our feet. As if that wasn’t enough to make us gasp who should we run into than a friend and fellow Women in Supply Chain (WISC) member Jennifer and her husband Steve from Melbourne. Now what would be the chances of that? I know we both work in the area of logistics but that’s ridiculous, cracked me up!

The photo to prove it from the top of the Eiffel Tower looking towards the Arc de triomphe

From there we headed back to the Louvre as it was close to the hotel and Sharen and Ken got their ipad issue sorted at the apple shop in the Louvre and we went back to collect our Museum pass’s I had left in the room safe..…only to find I had already put them in the backpack..…so I forgot that I didn’t forget or something. Anyway the Louvre was awesome and we saw the Mona Lisa in person as well as a lot of other beautiful things not to mention the building itself including some of the apartments occupied by Napoleon which were quite beautiful.

An interesting view of window cleaning at the Louvre

From there it was off to Museum Dorsey which was the original Railway Station in Paris until the platforms were no longer long enough to cater for modern trains. Such a blessing the building wasn’t scrapped, it is a magnificent structure and I enjoyed the sculpture and seeing many paintings I had studied in my school days by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Manet, Gauguin, Lautrec and many others. The building was a beautiful space and we were surprised that there is no reference to it having been the railway station…a major oversight in our opinion and somewhat disrespectful for its actual history. Opportunity lost.

Having walked our poor little legs off we decided NOT to return to see the Eiffel Tower with the lights on but to find a restaurant close by to dine at so we can be in better shape to tackle a big day tomorrow as we head out of Paris.

Notre Dame Cathedral from the land then from the Seine. Cannot believe that I would see this in person after studying it in my History of Art lessons all those years ago. Just beautiful!

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Who would have thought that these two scared weird little country kids would ever be here in Paris and seeing the sights we have seen today? Not the two little country kids I can assure you and it’s only just starting to sink in that we really rode into the heart of it….been as high as a kite all day and just about needing to pinch myself to be sure it is real….there’s a bit of life left in the old girl yet!

The Eiffel Tower (as if you didn’t know)

We have had a great day exploring this lovely overall clean and well maintained city which is quite something given the age of so much of what we have been moving amongst. We have spent a good part of the day on two hop on hop off bus tours and then a boat cruise on the Seine.

A work shot – one of the many barges on the Seine passing the Louvre Museum. This one had 7 x 40 foot containers on board but has a capacity of 12. Very impressive.

We saw gravel, sand, cement, scrap steel and several rubbish barges not to mention dozens of other boats and restaurant boats and barges and river cruisers which would cater for thousands of people….and I mean that. In one spot there were 15 coaches lined up off loading their charges to barges. Quite a busy and effective highway!

To top it all off a lovely dinner at an Italian Restaurant around the corner from our hotel.

L – R Ken, Norm, Nola, Sharen

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We left Marshside after a welcome cup of tea and headed off in the rain to the Folkestone tunnel. It rained all the way and was accompanied by gusty wind and a fair bit of water on the road for good measure so the travel was slow and while we had allowed plenty of time to get there we only had time to buy a Panini and some juice for breakfast which we took onto the train.

My nerves were getting the better of me and I seriously needed to get some miles under my belt in France to prove to myself I could do it without skating down the motorway on my face as I did last year. I felt really ill by the time I got to Folkestone and my instructions to Norm were that as soon as we got off the train and it was safe to do so would he please pull over in case I needed to be sick. By the time we rode out of the train and got onto the motorway I felt a lot better and next thing Norm pulled over and I told him I was okay and we could keep going but he reminded me we hadn’t put the electronic toll tags onto our arms so we had to dig them out and put them on. They have thankfully worked well so we haven’t had to try and get wallets out with gloved fingers so a positive outcome.

We didn’t get much rain on our way down to Paris but the wind has been ferocious and it was high on the endurance rather than enjoyment scale throughout. We stopped for a coffee and fuel then lunch which was as much about giving the poor old bodies a chance to recover as needing fuel or food.

I was feeling like I needed to get off the bike again about 30kms from Paris when we struck around 4kms of stop start roadwork’s which took us a good 45 minutes to move through by which time I was drenched in sweat in my waterproofs so I was dry on the outside and dripping on the inside. The trafic finally opened up then hello we were onto a massive multi-lane freeway complete with tunnels and huge volumes of traffic and that’s how it was until we turned off to get to our accommodation on the banks of the Seine just across from the Louvre. What were we thinking!!!!

Norm unstrapping the cases on the banks of the Seine…by the way we got a number of toots and thumbs up with passing traffic after seeing the Aussie sign which was good. It is French for ‘Australians on tour’

Sharen and Ken had arrived earlier in the day and met us at the foyer and we stowed our gear, had a hot shower and headed out for a walk around the Louvre then got some grocery supplies and brought them back here before walking a short distance down the street for a beautiful dinner. They were as exhausted as we had been the first night we arrived and we weren’t much better. We both ache all over our shoulders and back from holding the bikes up today and I feel a bit like Neanderthal man with arms hanging down to my ankles….well at least that’s how it feels. The bed is looking pretty good at this point.

On the bridge crossing over the Seine to the Louvre…the thing that looks like a light pole over my left shoulder is the top of the Eifel Tower

Last nights’ accommodation:
North Stream
Canterbury Kent CT3 4EE

Delightful family cottage in a lovely leafy garden complete with family atmosphere and comings and goings of past and present residents. Superb ambience, hospitality, food and locality and a short walk to the local pub. Will have to come back here! (Phil said WHAT?!!) Ha ha....Thanks Phil and Jean, been a delight to catch up.

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We woke to a sunny wet morning, had a leisurely breakfast complete with a visit by Pedro the village peacock and headed off to explore the Canterbury Cathedral. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip which was a real WOW experience from the moment we rounded the first corner as we approached and saw the massive towers and spire rising above the rooves of the village. The old village is magnificent with cantilevered buildings jutting out over lanes and streets and ancient timber skeletons visible amongst the brickwork. The sort of thing my childhood story books were full of so seems very surreal. We lit a candle and said a prayer for family members past and present and for all those caught up in the September 11 tragedy before we left the cathedral then gratefully sat and ate lunch in the sunshine surrounded by ancient buildings as we texted Sharen and Ken who we thought should be about to reach Kuala Lumpar on their way to meet us in Paris. When we got home we got a reply to say they were, so starting to feel real now.

Village view Canterbury

I’ve been preoccupied with preparations for our departure to France tomorrow. We’ve packed and repacked the bags and minimised the gear we will carry on the bikes and in the back pack so we can be ready to just get up and go in the morning. We have to be at Folkestone no later than 7.50am.The trip on the train in the tunnel is about 25 minutes then we have a ride of just over 3 hours to Paris. I will be pleased to get the first day’s riding in France out of the way…..feeling somewhat apprehensive so need not to think too much more about it so I can just relax and do what needs to be done.

An Aussie biker at Canterbury Cathedral

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The day started overcast and humid and ended up a lovely balmy day with sunshine and a bit of wind but a comfortable temperature then a solid downpour once we were home..…before we brought in the washing..…Murphy never rests!

We managed to track down a bed in Faversham for the night we return from France with the bikes (06/10) which was a bit of an exercise as there is a wedding that night and the hotel and guest houses were booked out so a friend of a guesthouse owner will let out her spare room to us and we had to go to pay a deposit. So, all sorted now, got the hair dressing appointment as well for the afternoon we return with English speaking people so hopefully with my note from my own hairdresser it will be a less scary outcome than it may have been in France…...we’ll see.

Since we were already in Faversham we decided to check out some of the town and discovered some ancient, beautiful, stately and quirky buildings……sometimes a combination of all that. Overall it was quite a beautiful old town and we found the market in full swing so had a yummy lunch before we headed off. It was a lovely friendly and relaxed atmosphere and we even ran into Phil and Jean’s daughter and her young man. Who would have thought! When we got back home here we discovered Phil and Jean had also enjoyed a cup of tea in the cafe next to where we had lunch without seeing their daughter or us!

Faversham - Looking towards the market place

After lunch we stowed the leather vests and neck warmers and headed for Dover Castle. It was a beautiful ride between leafy glades, green fields, orchards, market gardens and newly turned soil complete with opportunistic birds feeding on the buffet the farmer had provided. It just felt good to be alive and being part of it. The temperature cooled a little and the wind picked up as we got closer to the coast but the sun stayed out and it was lovely.

We really enjoyed the Dover Castle experience. This has been a place of fortification and defence for centuries all of which is well documented. We climbed Henry II’s tower to view Dover from the roof and noticed how much calmer the ocean was compared to a few days ago when we saw it. Ships and ferries were streaming in and out of the harbour instead of lining up and wondering about how or if they would enter.

The fortifications at the castle were preserved and presented well but what interested us most was the tours of the Secret Wartime Tunnels where some were used as a Wartime Hospital during WWII. It was a dreadful shock to see the same sort of surgical instruments, enamel kidney dishes and other paraphernalia which was in the Nursing School when I started my training in 1968……really, they should have had ‘old stuff’ instead of modern items like that! The other tour we took in the secret wartime tunnels was of those used as the base that ‘Operation Dynamo’ was managed from. The phone rooms had the exact same switchboards as were used in the local exchange at the Post Office where I had my first paying job after school in 1967. Again, the credibility issue with historical artefacts! But..…back to Operation Dynamo which was abut retrieving just over 338,000 troops and allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk before the Battle of Britain in WWII. This was a massive undertaking which started out planning to rescue 45,000. What a tribute to the guts and determination of the Brits. I found the tour quite moving and I’m extremely grateful I have never had to experience such scary times.

One of the views from the roof of Henry II’s tower across old Military Barracks to the Roman lighthouse (on the right) and the Church of St Mary-in-Castro

Bits and Bobs:
We are enjoying observing heaps of quirky and clever names for shops and businesses throughout England. The favourite bar (a franchise I think as I saw a couple in London) was ‘All Bar One’, but the best was ‘Herman Ze German’ which was a café and the signature dish advertised on the window was ‘Hot Curries'…… cracked me up!

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We set out from the hotel this morning and headed to the Embankment Pier and caught the Thames Clipper to Tower Bridge where we had a look at the Tower of London then struck out to find St Paul’s Cathedral. Our walk confirmed for me again that I like low rise cities; they somehow (for all their movement and congestion) seem less cold and more personal than great high canyons of glass, stone and steel.

London Bridge from the Thames

We both loved exploring St Pauls Cathedral including the 528 steps (85metres) up to the top of the Golden Gallery and checked out the Whispering Gallery and Stone Gallery on the way. The view from the top across London was great. It is a truly beautiful building and I can see why the Londoners worked so hard in the Second World War to ensure it wasn’t destroyed. We spent a long time walking and sitting and listening to the audio tour which was excellent. I suspect my thigh, shin and butt muscles will be screaming at me tomorrow, thanks mainly to all those stairs but I will do my best to ignore them!

St Pauls Cathedral

We finished our day off with a lovely dinner with Phil and Jean and Gareth and Dawn at a little Italian Restaurant (Gozzi’s) in Minster. It was lovely night and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know everyone better and enjoyed the synergy between the group. It was a treat to spend some time with the UK connection which has made our trips possible.

L – R Phil, Nola, Norm, Jean, Dawn and Gareth

Last nights’ accommodation:
Charing Cross Hotel
The Strand
London GB WC2N 5HX
http://www.guoman.com/hotels/united_kin ... index.html
Wonderful stately old building beautifully maintained, great location, delicious dining room with yummy breakfast, very friendly and helpful staff.

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The morning was grey and cold so we donned the waterproofs for our ride to Faversham on the bikes to keep the cold out then hopped on the train and headed for London where we planned to catch up with some of the troops from Women in Logistics UK (WIL UK). http://www.womeninlogistics.org.uk We checked into our hotel which was lovely and located next door to the Charing Cross Railway Station and set out to explore.

Looking to the London Transport Museum from Covent Garden Market

We were amazed at the scale of things in London. My dear old Mum used to say being at my house was like living on an ants nest with so much activity and I was reminded of this with the level of movement and people as we tramped about London. We enjoyed walking through the Covent Garden Markets with a basement, ground and first floor level under the big glass ceilings very reminiscent of the Melbourne Victorian Markets though a much grander scale.

We also enjoyed our dinner with the WIL UK troops and the chance to compare notes of the intensity of traffic, population, congestion and the logistics needed to manage all that. The differences between the UK challenges and ours in relation to the smaller population and remotness we experience in Australia was both different and yet the same when it came down to customers, freight and bringing it all together.

We also heard about Transaid, the charity they sponsor which sounds very impressive and Clare Bottle is about to head off on a sponsorship exercise to Madagasgar. You can find out all about it at www.transaid.org

Dinner with WIL UK L - R Gary Forster (Transaid), Norm, Nola, Clare Bottle (WIL UK)

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A quiet kick back day today for us……Phil has pointed out that he in fact drove all day so it was NOT a kickback day for him. We explored Hever Castle with Phil and Jean and then drove back to Marshside via Faversham and checked out Phil and Jean’s boat at its berth in Oare Creek then dined at the Shipwright’s Arms Pub which sits beside the boat yard. It was a very quirky ancient building with many rooms which we needed to keep our heads bowed so as not to lose the top half of our heads…spare a thought for Phil who is 6 foot 5! We finished the day at the Gate House Inn as part of a local team at the weekly Pub Quiz which was a bit of a hoot….even got a couple of the answers right, YAY for the Aussies!

Hever Castle and grounds was a really nice experience. This was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn who ultimately became the second wife of Henry the VIII (poor thing…lost her head literally) and mother of Queen Elizabeth I.

Hever Castle

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After deciding on some more exploring today the rain set in overnight so all we did was ride into Maidstone to sort out the Road Tax for the bikes then headed straight back. The wind was ferocious and both tested out the waterproofs which worked well and we remained warm and dry so a good outcome. We are hopeful any rain tomorrow will be patchier so we can do some more exploring but it was nice that we didn’t have a set destination we had to get to by a certain time today.

PS: Since originally posting this we have learnt that the winds today were between 8 – 10 gale force. To this non yachty that sounded big and it had certainly felt big as we had ducked and weaved in the wind on the motorway amongst the shredded foliage on the road surface so we asked him how that is measured. To quote him (more or less) If you’re out on the water in Force 8 you are scared sh----ss, Force 9 you are too scared or sick to know how scared or sick you are and Force 10 you wonder who it was who sent you to your certain death ……….. didn’t feel so woosy after that!

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