#AtoZChallenge – Z is for Zzzzzs


snoringAh… good night folks. This month has been a blast but this gal is tired and is off to catch some Zzzzzs.

I love my sleep and I don’t think I snore, although I have been told otherwise. Have also been told that when I fall asleep watching telly and the dog snores along with me, someone has to turn the volume up to hear over us. I don’t believe a word of it. I mean, I’ve never heard myself.

Hope you’ve enjoyed following my blog as I endeavoured to come up with interesting posts for each letter of the alphabet from A to Z.


#AtoZChallenge – Y is for Yo-Yo


I remember having a number of yo-yos throughout my childhood – wooden, plastic, large and small.

The one pictured below is similar to the ones I had that usually came once a year in a Christmas stocking.

wooden yo-yo
By XuliánConX (http://www.flickr.com/photos/xulianconx/824067292/) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Some people became extremely adept with their toys and learned to do all sorts of tricks with them from the basics like walk the dog, to the more complex like shoot the moon. I never quite mastered that so just up and down and the occasional flip of the wrist was the extent of my prowess.

There are even yo-yo competitions. So if you think you’re up to the challenge, get practising and maybe someday you’ll be off to the World Championships!

You can check out the various types of yo-yos at Duncan Toys.

#AtoZChallenge – X is for X marks the spot

X marks the spot

X marks the spot in treasure maps showing the location of the buried bounty. These treasure maps were a staple in pirate stories.

X marks the spot
Béria Lima [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons
And come election time, don’t choose your candidate in the same way? An X beside their name kept within the confines of the circle, lest you spoil your ballot?

X marks the spot on the election ballot
By D’Arcy Norman from Calgary, Canada (democracy Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Where else have you seen X marks the spot?

#PostfromParis – Day 7 off to London to visit the Queen

Well, not really but we did take the Eurostar through the chunnel to London. Our train departed from Gare du Nord which is about a fifteen minute walk (on two good legs) from our hotel, but we decided not to leave anything to chance and took the metro there instead. The station is enormous, but very easy to find your way. We passed through UK customs before we got on the train which meant we’d be straight off and on our way once we stopped in London town. The guy that took our customs declaration and checked our passports thought we were nuts only going for one day but as we’d been to London before and exactly a week before the unmentionable thing happened in July 2005, he seemed pleased that we were willing to return.

From the departure lounge in Gare du Nord
From the departure lounge in Gare du Nord
From the departure lounge at Gare du  Nord
From the departure lounge at Gare du Nord

When I sat back down from taking the pictures of the train using my old Nikon camera (battery low in my good DSLR), a young girl offered me the use of her Canon zoom lens if I’d like to use it. I told her the battery was low and she rooted through her bags to find her charger, cables and plugs. I could use it on the train and return it to her on the platform when we arrived in London.

We chatted with her until it was time to board and agreed to meet at the barrier in London where I could return her charger.

on the eurostar

Unfortunately, the carriage we were in on the train didn’t have anywhere to plug in the charger. Well, in the filthy bathroom but who wanted to leave it unattended? I know I didn’t.

Going through the chunnel took about 20 minutes. It really wasn’t any different than some of the dark metro tunnels between stops – just longer. My ears popped like on a plane when it lands but they did that, too, when we went under really wide motorway flyovers.

When the train stopped in London, we waited for the young girl at the moving sidewalk to the lower level and eventually she arrived (she was in a carriage near the rear of the train and we were near the front). She seemed surprised that there was no place to charge my camera battery.

Our first stop was Madame Tussaud’s. But once again, the lineup was unbelievable. We overheard the guard at the door say it was at least a two-hour wait before the people at the head of the line would get to walk down the red carpet. The window where online bookings people could go had no one. I was going to book online in advance but we weren’t sure if we would go or not so decided against it. Guess we should have.

My good DSLR wouldn’t turn on so I ended up taking some of our London pictures with my trusty old Nikon.

Madame Tussaud’s

sherlock holmes museumwindow in london beatles store on baker street 2window in london beatles store on baker streetWe stopped in at the Green Man pub for a bite of lunch and a pint. Fish and chips. When our meals came, the piece of fish was huge! The plates were oval in shape and the fish stretched from one side of the plate to the other. And man was it good!

While we waited for our meal to arrive, I made my way downstairs to the loo. Before we left, I was making one more trek there and the girl who cleared our table asked if I’d like to use the handicapped one instead. It was on the main level of the pub and since stairs and I still aren’t the best of friends, I agreed.

st pancras church
St Pancras Church
Euston Road Fire Station

We had time when we got back to the station before we had to check in, so went for a wander through the station and stopped at Searcy’s Champagne Bar on the upper level. It might not have been champagne blanc dans coupe lumineuse a la sommet de la Tour Eiffel, but it was just as good – maybe even better. We weren’t rushed or jostled by other people. We sat on a sofa with our back to the railway tracks and relaxed to the point where we had a second glass of champagne each!

At Searcy’s Champagne Bar at St Pancras Int’l
Statue in St Pancras Int’l
Eurostar trains in St Pancras Int’l
Another statue in St Pancras Int’l

When we finally boarded the Eurostar to come back home, we had a good giggle. Right at our seat was a charging point. This one had the UK outlet and the one across the aisle has the European one.

The first thing I did when we got back to the hotel was dig out the charger for my battery and get it on to charge.

This wasn’t one of our longer days, steps-wise but distance-wise it was the longest. 453 kms from Paris to London and 16,332 steps.




#PostfromParis – Day 6 Versailles, Palais Royal

Today was our tour of the Palace of Versailles. We were to meet the bus that would take us there for the afternoon at 13:30 near Vedettes de Paris. We had plenty of time so did a walk about beforehand. There was a walking tour I wanted to do but because it’s only on Thursdays, I came up with a variation of it and we did some of it this morning starting at the Church of Saint Sulpice.

fountain in place sulpiceAt Place St Sulpice

Church of Saint Sulpice

From here we walked to the Jardin du Luxembourg and took in the beauty of the manicured lawns and fountains.

Fontaine Medecis in the Jardin du Luxembourg
Fontaine Medecis in the Luxembourg Gardens
fountain in jardin du luxembourg
Fountain in Jardin du Luxembourg
palais du luxembourg
Palais du Luxwmbourg
manicured trees in jardin du luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg

It was a beautiful day so we walked from here up to the meeting place for the bus tour. While waiting, we encountered this guy.

with clown near vedettes des paris

with clown near vedettes des paris 2

When we had done these pictures, he offered to take one of us together but we’d seen him in action before already and he’d held people’s cameras for ransom until they gave him money for his services. We refused the offer and when he dropped a five Euro bill from the cuff of his jacket, told him about it. So we figure we saved him some money.

We’d seen these cute little rental cars scooting about in Paris. I can’t imagine driving here. Sometimes being a pedestrian can be scary enough.

Electric car
Electric car

We found the location where our bus would pick us up so went there to wait. It and the driver were there but we couldn’t board straight away, although we did get to board earlier than usual. I think “Able” had something to do with that.

While I was relaxing on the bus, Don chatted with the driver and checked out the bus. What can I say, once a mechanic – always a mechanic?

checking out the bus

Soon we were on our way out to the Palace of Versailles.

Statue of Louis XiV outside Versailles
Statue of Louis XiV outside Versailles

There were so many people going through the palace that in places we were packed in like sardines. I can see why they have signs telling patrons to be aware of pickpockets.

Palace of Versailles

This was one of the few unobstructed pictures I was able to get and that was only because you weren’t allowed in this room. You could only get as far as the barricade in the doorway and I squeezed my way there was people who had finished with their photos moved on.

Chapel Royal
Chapel Royal

When the tour moved upstairs, I was offered the use of the lift (along with a young mother with a child in a stroller) rather than climb.

A small portion of the gardens from one of the upstairs palace windows
A small portion of the gardens from one of the upstairs palace windows
The hall of mirrors
The hall of mirrors

There were a number of rude people touring the palace and they pushed past us, through us and practically walked over top of us – all for the sake of taking a photo. I bought a guidebook to the palace that I can peruse at leisure any time I want and can see the rooms entirely… not through a throng of people.

One of the couples on the bus (we had to wait for them at the beginning, too) was late getting back and the driver almost left without them. That time difference meant we hit rush hour traffic coming back into Paris. But in the end, the driver got his own back on them. He dropped us off on Pont d’léna directly in front of the Eiffel Tower rather than down below where he picked us up. He said it would be easier for me.

Not as many steps today (mind you, inside Versailles the pedometer didn’t register most of our movements because it couldn’t move) – only 14,045. Each day the leg gets a wee bit better.

#AtoZChallenge – W is for Whitby


View Larger Map

Located in North Yorkshire, England, Whitby lies along the coast of the North Sea. The River Esk bisects the seaside town – the West Cliff is the bustling town, and on the other side of the river (East Cliff) stands the Church of St Mary and the ruins of the Benedictine Abbey.

Whitby - Church of St Mary
Church of St Mary and churchyard
Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey

Captain Cook learned seamanship here and a statue commemorating him stands on the West Cliff near the Royal Hotel.

Whitby - statue of Captain Cook
J3Mrs at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
In addition to the statue of Captain Cook, nearby is a whalebone arch to signify the town’s whaling history.

Whitby - whalebone arch

But that’s not all… the town has a connection to Bram Stoker. It’s claimed that it was this location that inspired his novel – Dracula, although the Scots would disagree as they feel it was Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire and the ruins of Slains Castle… but that’s another story.

And if you’re looking for some really unique jewellery, you have to visit the Whitby Jet Store.

#PostfromParis – Day 5 pas de champagne en coupe lumineuse au sommet de la Tour Eiffel

Sorry for the delay getting these posted. Internet woes, what can I say.

This was our most active day on the walking front. My leg was feeling much better. We started out morning with a cruise on the Seine.

ET champagne
Musee D’Orsay from the Seine

Back in 1910, when the Seine flooded, the waters rose so high that only his head was visible above the water. Since then the people of Paris judge the height of the river by how much of the statue is submerged.

le zouave
le zouave on Pont D’Alma

Once a royal palace, The Conciergerie became a notorious prison and Marie Antoinette was kept there until she was executed by guillotine in Place de la Concorde.

The Conciergerie
The Conciergerie

on the pont neufAfter our boat cruise, we walked along the Seine taking in some of the sights we’d seen from the water.

The narrowest house in Paris
The narrowest house in Paris

Almost every bridge or fence that has a place for a padlock has one on it these days. The names of lovers are written on them and the idea is that their love will last forever when the lock bearing their names is fastened to the object. The city of Paris comes along and cuts the locks off the bridges because when they get this filled, the wind can’t pass through and the bridge will begin to sway in the wind and become unstable.

Lock covered pedestrian bridge
Lock covered pedestrian bridge
Lamp post on Pont Alexandre III
Lamp post on Pont Alexandre III
Dinosaur skeleton at the Bateau Mouche docks.
Dinosaur skeleton at the Bateau Mouche docks.

On Avenue New York, a replica of the flame held by the Statue of Liberty stands above the entrance to a tunnel. Many people believe this is the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed and leave flowers (and padlocks on the chain barrier surrounding it) but it isn’t.

Liberty Flame on Avenue New York

Since we didn’t have to be at the Eiffel Tower for our Behind the Scenes Tour (and jump the queue… ya right), we walked further along to Pont Bir Hakeim.

Sculpture on Pont Bir Hakeim
Sculpture on Pont Bir Hakeim
The Passy Viaduct on Pont Bir Hakeim
The Passy Viaduct on Pont Bir Hakeim

By now it was getting close to the time for our Eiffel Tower tour. We walked back and waited near the north pillar for our tour guide. While we waited, the wind came up and it began to rain. Not a nice place to be stood waiting to see if “maybe” (that was the word used by one of the earlier tour guides) our guide would turn up.

looking up the eiffel tower from the 2nd level

On level 2 of the Eiffel Tower

The wait to get tickets and get to the top level was going to be at least two hours, not to mention it would be that long to get back down afterwards. As much as I wanted champagne at the summit, I caved and we walked down the stairs from level 2 to level 1. Stairs and I still aren’t friends and going down is much harder than going up. Our guide said there were about 700 steps from the ground to the second level, so I figure we traversed about 350 give or take.

On one of our rest stops on the way down, I got this photograph of the Eiffel Tower elevator. Years ago, a man controlled the weight and speed of the elevators at the Eiffel Tower. He sat on a seat outside the carriage and turned the wheel one way or the other to make adjustments. Not my idea of a fun (or even safe) job. Now, a mannequin sits in his place so that people can see the technology from years gone by.

Eiffel Tower elevator mannequin
Eiffel Tower elevator mannequin

Whilst disappointed about no champagne en coupe lumineuse au sommet de la Tour Eiffel, we decided to find a place where we could buy a bottle of nice champers and we’d have it back at the hotel where it would be just the two of us and we wouldn’t be rushed.

A plus to the day was we were ‘downtown’ so got to see the Eiffel Tower lit up after dark. A tripod would have worked better but I tried to balance myself against the stone wall to keep the camera from moving too much.

Eiffel Tower at night
Eiffel Tower at night

Once an hour, on the hour, and lasting for five minutes the Eiffel Tower glitters. Lights randomly go off and on and it’s truly a sight to see. When I was in Paris in 2003, the main tower lights went out and it was just the glittering ones that were on. Either way, it looks amazing.

Eiffel Tower glittering

BTW, we walked a mere 27,467 steps today… and I feel fine.

#AtoZChallenge – V is for Vichyssoise


A French potato and leek soup served cold or heated.

By BocaDorada (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
How to make Vichyssoise…


1 tablespoon butter
3 leeks, bulb only, sliced into rings
1 onion, sliced
5 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
5 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream


  1. In a large stock pot melt butter over low heat. Add leeks and onion, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add thyme, marjoram, bay leaf and stir well. Cover pot and continue to cook for 12 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, partially covered for 30 minutes.
  4. Puree soup in blender or food processor and cool.
  5. Prior to serving add cream. If you are serving this soup warm you need to reheat the soup slowly so that the cream does not change consistency.

#AtoZChallenge – U is for Unicorn


unicornA unicorn is a legendary animal with a large, spiraling horn protruding from its forehead. In folklore, it is always white but can look like a horse or a goat. This wild, woodland creature was a symbol of purity and grace and could only be captured by a virgin.

A mercat cross is the market cross which be found in many Scottish towns, cities and villages. The cross is a symbol of the right to hold a regular market or fair which was granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron. It indicated a burgh’s relative prosperity and marked the settlement’s focal point. In many cases, these crosses are topped with the Royal Unicorn.

There are more crosses with the Royal Unicorn, but these are a few.

Aberdeen Mercat Cross:

Aberdeen Mercat cross with unicorn
Richard Slessor [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Edinburgh Mercat Cross:

Edinburgh Mercat Cross with Unicorn
By User:Kim Traynor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Glasgow Mercat Cross:

Glasgow Mercat Cross with unicorn and the Mercat Building
Thomas Nugent [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
And to end my post, here are the Irish Rovers to sing you out…

#PostfromParis – Day 4 Cimetière du Père Lachaise et de plus

This is a bit late getting posted but had problems accessing the Internet yesterday morning. Call me weird but I like to wander through cemeteries. I like to see the variety of the architecture of the monuments. And for doing just that, this is a fantastic place to do it! And you can do it from the comfort of your own home by visiting pere-lachaise.com.

The weather was dark and gloomy (perfect atmosphere for cemetery wandering) and it spit rain the entire time we were there (another prerequisite of cemetery prowling). The sun tried to break through a few times but the heavy cloud cover kept it at bay.

When I was first here back in 2003, a security guard was posted at Jim Morrison’s grave. Now, a fence has been erected to keep people away from it. Obviously, it’s not keeping his ardent fans away entirely or how else would these flowers and other things end up on his grave?

Cimetière du Père LachaiseVictor Noir is also interred here in Cimetière du Père Lachaise. I’m not sure where the story started, but apparently his bronze effigy represents fertility and women who wish to become preganant come and rub his crotch. It looks strangely amusing to see the bronze sculpture green with age except for that one polished area.

Cimetière du Père LachaiseOscar Wilde is also buried here and for years, women would kiss his monument. Now, a wall of clear Plexiglass surrounds it keeping the lipstick prints off. It was really strange seeing Oscar’s grave so clean after having seen it with lip prints of many shades of red all over it before.

Cimetière du Père LachaiseAfter getting our cemetery fix, we decided to return to the Champs-Élysées but this time walk down the other side of the street. This is almost a must since there is so much to see on each side of the avenue.

when we walked by the Toyota dealership, we were surprised to see this race car in the showroom. You could go in and take photographs of it, selfies with it in the background, pretty much anything you wanted as long as you didn’t touch. There was a security guard watching to ensure that you didn’t.

Rolex series ToyotaTwo doors down at the Renault dealership, it was the same thing except they had two cars in the showroom – an older F1 car and last year’s model. Again, a security guard stood watch.

Old F1 carRenault F1 carWe carried on down to Place de la Concorde again before deciding where we would go next. While waiting at one of the traffic lights, a guy on a bicycle when tearing through the crowd (still surprised how he didn’t hit anyone) and didn’t bother to stop for the red light. Big mistake. I didn’t see it but I heard the crash. Mr MR-K said he saw the bike go flying in the air and almost twice as high as one of the buses that was in the intersection. We both figured when we got there, he’d be laid out on the cobbles – dead – but no, he was standing, hopping on one foot and his legs were scratched, cut and bruised from the pedals of the bike. The taxi that hit him had a broken fog lamp.

Some (a lot of) more walking and we were at Hotel de Ville on our way to The Auld Alliance.

Hotel de VilleWhen we walked down Rue Francois Miron, we passed by the oldest house in Paris.

oldest house in ParisThirsty now, we stopped in for a pint of the amber nectar – Caledonian 80. By now my leg was getting tired and a refreshing pint was just the ticket. We enjoyed our drinks then gradually worked our way back to the restaurant for supper and our hotel.

busker on pont marieAnd that was it for Day 4. Oh, and if you can go by the accuracy of the pedometer (seemed closer to what it felt like), we walked 28,589 steps or 9.02 miles.