Flying Bicycle


Oh no. I have morphed into the two most disliked passengers at the airport. I am THAT passenger with way way way too much luggage for flying, the one who breaks the baggage handlers back. AND, I am also THAT passenger who is super super super late, recklessly sprinting down the hall, losing control of the trolley, too panicked for apologies. The GF, pushing an identical load, glides towards the check-in having somehow gotten 10 metres in front of me. A huge winning margin considering the circumstances. Not that it matters with so many people in line. A line, I quickly realise, that is way too long to wait in. A line we will simply have to cut. Oh no. Now I’m THAT passenger too.
C’est la vie, we are flying to Paris!

Reassembling bicycles at baggage collection is a bit of an oddity. The first bike is back together and ready to ride as the carousels start spinning, signalling another aeroplane’s arrival. The second bike is in action not long after. Tyres pumped, panniers saddled, helmets on, we are off. There is something exhilarating about riding bicycles through an airport, like breaking an unwritten law of travel. Through the sliding doors into the arrivals lounge, past the chauffeurs holding name cards, a man with a bunch of roses, and all the other family and friends waiting patiently for the next arrivals, we were greeted to smiles of wonder and awe. A strange sight for sure.

Navigating Paris is simple. Find the Seine and follow it. So of course we get lost. 

“Excuse moi, which way to the river?” The GF asks some workmen in her best French.

“You are a BEAUTIFUL WOMAN”, a workman replied.

Welcome to France, I thought.

Peddling past the pedestrians, traversing traffic, crossing train tracks and we finally find the river flowing through the City of Love. A single poppy grows miraculously between the pavement on the bicycle track leading into town, a sign of the beauty to come.

J’aime Paris!
(Photo Instagram @nickisalwaysonholidays)

Night in Giverny


Rolling slowly down Rue Claude Monet on bikes in Giverny during Spring leaves quite the impression. Rows upon rows of flowers are in full bloom, white wisteria, yellow irises, pink and purple tulips, red poppies, all making for a kaleidoscope of colours. The tiny town of Giverny (pronounced ‘shiver-knee’ I learnt) is appropriately packed with tourists queueing in the long line, patiently waiting to purchase tickets into Monet’s Garden, where once inside they all try their best to take photos without too many others in the shot. The town itself has enough gourmet restaurants, slick cafes, museums, art galleries and artists studios to keep one entertained. Giverny is extraordinarily beautiful. 

The GF and I roll to a halt, look at each other and in unison declare, “We’ll stay!”

We need to find a room. 

This is difficult. A futile search finds the whole town full. Of course. Spring, sunshine and a Saturday, a perfect combination for those prepared. We are not. What to do? 

We need to find a drink.

This is easy. A table on the pavement outside Gaudy  awaits the GF and I. A bottle of rose quickly found, and the glasses clink as our eyes meet. People watching is one of our most pleasurable pastimes and this spot was above par. 

A flash convertible pulls up, and the spitting image of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman steps out and heads straight towards us.

“So I see you’ve found my favourite table at my favourite restaurant in Giverny”, he confidently states. Spotting our camera he offers to take our picture, which he does, about twenty shots in all. Our new friend is invited to help us with the wine.

Conversing in quick and fluent English, taking a phone call in Swedish and talking French to the waiters who seem to know him well, he is often up and down to mingle with the locals walking past. He is an industrialist (his description) and loves impressionist art and, more so, loves Giverny. 

“What? No room?”, on hearing our predicament. Another phone call is made, and with this our invites arrive for a dinner party, board include. 

Leaving the bikes at a local gallery to pick up the owner and the resident artist who are also dinner guests, we all jump in the convertible and drive a short way out of town to a magnificent property on the Seine.

The hostess leads the GF and I to our quarters to refresh, pointing out points of interest of the house which sprawls down the bank. An art book is opened on the bed, the page a print of exactly the view we are looking at, painted by the late Pierre Bonnard. It turns out we are to spend the night in the old French impressionist’s bedroom.

A river punt pulls up and docks on the bank, and our host, looking the part with a blue beret, disembarks accompanied by Mademoiselle, an octogenarian with immaculate taste.

The conversation flows, along with the wine and the food, and for the umpteenth time in my life I wish I spoke French. We learn that the local mayor of Giverny is at odds with the local shop keepers for wanting to cap the number of tourists in the town. The artist explains the new work being shown. The host winds up an antique music box, La Vie En Rose plays. Our new friend laments that his estranged wife wants him committed…..again.

The wonderful night winds down with the octogenarian tapping her glass to deliver words of wisdom,

“The key to youthfulness is to never dwell in your own sorrow, but to always smile, for everything will turn out for the best.”

The GF and I couldn’t agree more.

(All photos Instagram @nickisalwaysonholidays)

Picnics of the World

“Well — I’ll get them to put you up a tea-basket, and you can picnic all to yourselves, — that’s the idea, isn’t it?’

‘How fearfully good! How frightfully nice if you could!”

Women in Love (D.H. Lawrence)


(The most romantic grass in the world?)

For all the travelling around the world feeding my face at fancy restaurants, I still find a picnic hard to beat. Growing ‘hangry’ searching along a dining promenade, my mind will wander to the perfect park or patch of grass that awaits at the most spectacular scenic spots. Getting the right amount of romance and Rose Wine onto the rug takes a little knowledge and patience, but with preparation the picnic is the true winner in alfresco dining. Let me review some of the great picnics of the world.


FRANCE

Sunset at Sacre-Coeur 

Getting you out of the restaurants in the dining capital of the world is admittedly a hard sell, but a visit to Montmartre and the Sacre-Coeur is a ‘must do’ when visiting the French capital. Why not pack your rug, and pick up supplies along the uber cool Rue Des Abbesses on your way towards this most romantic of picnic spots in the city of love. Belon No.2 oysters from La Mascotte are shucked and ready to go, grab a chicken and a tabouleh salad at the rotisserie across the street. Don’t forget the Brie de Meaux sold at any number of the delicatessens on the strip, and add some fresh bread from the award winning La Greneir a Pain. Continue to the green grass at the Square Louise Michel below the iconic building. Watch the sunset over Paris and pop a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Rose to wash down the feast.

AUSTRALIA

Brunch on the Mornington Peninsula (outside Melbourne)



A short drive outside the city of Melbourne takes you onto a number of stunning beaches. Bushman’s  Bay on the Mornington Peninsula is the clear picnic spot winner. The walk is full of wildlife, kangaroos hoping through the eucalyptus forest, kookaburras laughing, the place nearly always devoid of people. On the way, pop into Ten Minutes By Tractor for their 10X pinot rose to accompany lunch. Down the road, Red Hill Cheese produce the apt named ‘Picnic Point’ range. A quick stop in Flinders is where you can get the rest of your supplies. Local prawns by the half kilo, and the heavenly Flinders Bakery heavy fruit loaf with poppy seed. As extravagant as the provisions are, the real reason to picnic at Bushman’s Bay is for the secluded rock pools that you can swim in after the meal. Now what Michelin restaurant supplies that! 

(Rock pools at Bushman’s Bay)

PORTUGAL


Afternoons on the Banks of the Tagus

Portugal is the picnickers paradise with so much produce perfect for the rug. Simplicity is key. Pick up a can of Conservas Santos sardines. Eat with local sourdough and fresh tomatoes. The new Mercado da Ribeira market has all you are looking for. Grab a wheel of  Evora cheese. Include some local pate and of course a bottle of Mateus Rose, a Portuguese classic. On any given weekend the party atmosphere on the river may well extend past the picnic. Not to worry as there are many pop-up bars serving sangria and mojitos to keep you fuelled.

Got a favourite PICNIC ? Please let me know in the comments below.