Paris- A City for Lovers

This post was originally for my travel blog, travelling lighter, but I thought you might like it. I have been binge-watching and loving Emily in Paris. Known as the City for Lovers, for me, it’s a city for; fashion lovers, food lovers, art lovers, architecture lovers, history lovers and simply lovers of life….

The Netflix series has come in for some criticism for using cliques of Parisians and their life’s, whilst I do see this a little bit, it does also portray the Paris that I have seen with my own eyes. And after all it’s a light- hearted, series which offers escapism, (which we all need right now) not a gritty, realistic drama. I am sure when we can travel for freely, myself included we will be flocking to spent time in the beautiful city of Paris.

I have been to Paris, many times but not for several years, and I think that it has undergone some upheavals and changes, but like a fading beauty queen, she will never totally lose her true glamour. There is an under-side, as in all major cities and caution is required, particularly where muggings and pickpockets are concerned. But by using some common-sense, essential for all travellers it is still relatively safe. Leave your valuables in a safe place and pay attention when you are out and about if you a female solo traveller.

Parisians, it has to be said are a law to themselves, a bit like native New Yorkers, however their attitude is to envy, confident, arrogant and so very French, as a self-enfacing, English person it’s quite refreshing to see, well in small amounts.

Anyway, less of the people and more of the city, I love walking around Paris, as a poor student, I didn’t have any choice, but by exploring this way, you always find a wonderful little street or bistro and I discover something new everything. Walking is very Parisian thing. People- watching is one of by favourite things to do, and siting with un café et une croissant and watching the world go by is a Parisian tradition, I can easily adopt.

A break in Paris, offers something for everyone, from wonderful shops, restaurants, galleries and museums, there is so much to see and do. I always think its best to see less and savour the experience, rather than trying to fit everything into a few days, as you totally lose the vibe of the city by doing this and its great to have a good excuse to return.

Guide books and maps are helpful particularly if it’s your first visit but by going off the beaten track you discover things yourself, so I make loose plans which I can then change easily. I prefer to eat in smaller local places, as sometimes the well-know destinations can be full of tourists and a bit disappointing. An open mind when traveling can give you a better experience. I learnt French at school and have been re-learning French in the lockdown, I always aim to speak French in Paris, sometimes you will not be understood, (often on purpose)you may even be corrected but it’s just the Parisian way.

The blog the Every Day Parisian is very interesting with some great tips, as an American photographer writes about her time living in Paris, the photos are lovely too. Paris is perfect for any time of year, as the seasons are quite different, just dress correctly. It can be cold and wet in Winter and very hot in Summer, pretty sun- dresses are great, in Paris, summer fashion is not too revealing and don’t forgot comfortable shoes for all the walking, the cobbled streets are not great for heels. An umbrella is often necessary as it can rain a lot.

I might just watch Emily in Paris again, why not!

100 Years of Agatha Christie Writer, Traveller, Surfer and Archaeologist

Agatha Christie remains, the best-selling novelist of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. She is best known for her sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections but produced six more as Mary Westmacott and two under the name Christie Mallowan. The Mousetrap is the world’s longest-running play. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and a billion in translation. (She is the most world-wide translated writer)

To cover both her career and personal life in full, I would be blogging for quite some time, so this is a short, compact history, which I am sure I will add to at a later date.

2020 marks 100 years since the publication of Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced Hercule Poirot. It was created in 1916 but not published until February 1920, when it was serialised in 18 parts in The Weekly Times (part of The Times) Agatha Christie came up with the idea for the novel whilst working in a dispensary during WWI.

I began considering what kind of a detective story I could write. Since I was surrounded by poisons, perhaps it was natural that death by poisoning should be the method I selected. I settled on one fact which seemed to me to have possibilities. I toyed with the idea, liked it, and finally accepted it. Then I went on to the dramatis personae. Who should be poisoned? Who would poison him or her? When? Where? How? Why? And all the rest of it.  

Agatha Christie

Miss Marple first came into being in 1927 in The Tuesday Night Club, a short story pulled together into the collection The Thirteen Problems. It was first published in the December 1927 issue of Royal Magazine. Inspired by her maternal grandmother and her friends, Agatha Christie never expected Miss Marple to rival Poirot in the public’s affections but since the publication of The Murder at the Vicarage in 1930, the first full- length novel, readers were hooked. She is the only crime writer to have created two equally famous and much-loved characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

Interest in her work still continues today, this year sees the release of Sophie Hannah’s new Poirot novel The Killings at Kingfisher Hill and the big screen launch of Death on the Nile. I really enjoy Sophie Hannah’s books so it will be fun to see what she does with Poirot. Kenneth Branagh made a great job of Death On the Orient Express so the follow up should be as equally good.

She wrote about the world she knew and saw, drawing on the military gentlemen, lords and ladies, spinsters, widows and doctors of her family’s circle of friends and acquaintances. She was a natural observer and her descriptions of village politics, local rivalries and family jealousies are often painfully accurate. Mathew Prichard, her grandson describes her as a “person who listened more than she talked, who saw more than she was seen.”    

Agatha Christie was born in Torquay in 1890 and throughout her life she returned to the South Devon area buying a holiday home there called Greenway House. Her upbringing was unusual, even for its time, as she was home schooled by her father. Her mother, Clara, who was an excellent storyteller, did not want her to learn to read until she was eight but Agatha taught herself to read by the age of five. In 1902 Agatha began her formal education at Miss Guyer’s Girls’ School in Torquay, before moving to France in 1905 to continue her education at three different Parisian schools. Agatha Christie always said that she had no ambition to be a writer although she made her debut in print at the age of eleven with a poem printed in a local London newspaper. By the age of 18 she was amusing herself with writing short stories, some of which were published in much revised form in the 1930s.

Agatha’s Christies, personal life was not without much mystery and some sadness.  It was in 1912 that Agatha met Archie Christie, a qualified aviator who had applied to join the Royal Flying Corps. Their courtship was a whirlwind affair, the war separated them and they spent very little time together, In 1914, they married but, were only reunited in 1918. They had one child, named Rosalind, in 1919.

Archie was asked to tour areas of the British Empire to promote the opening of the British Empire Exhibition, which was due to open in London in 1924. Agatha joined her husband on his travels and while visiting Hawaii the couple possibly became two of the first Europeans to master surfing standing up. They spent as much of their days as they could on the beach riding the waves. She expressed her feeling of mastery and triumph the first time she rode her board all the way to the beach while standing up. This research was done by Peter Robinson from the Museum of British Surfing, who was quick to admit that the discovery caught him by surprise.

Archie and Agatha’s relationship, strained by the sadness in losing her mother, broke down when he fell in love with a fellow golfer and friend of the family, Nancy Neale. In December 1926, Agatha left her daughter to the care of the maids without saying where she was going. Her car was found abandoned the next morning several miles away. A nationwide search ensued. The press and public enjoyed various speculations as to what might have happened and why but no one knew for sure. It eventually transpired that Agatha had somehow travelled to Kings Cross station where she took the train to Harrogate and checked into the Harrogate Spa Hotel under the name of Theresa Neale. Having been recognised by the hotel staff, who alerted the police, she did not recognise Archie when he came to meet her. Possibly concussed but certainly suffering from amnesia, Agatha had no recollection of who she was. An intensely private person, made even more so by the hue and cry of the press, Agatha never spoke of this time with friends or family. Films and TV series have been produced about this event, however the true story has never been uncovered.

After a devastating divorce, the crime novelist took a trip to Baghdad in 1928 and lost her heart to the ancient sites of Iraq and archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, who become her second husband in 1930. Forged by a love of travel this was to be a much happier marriage. Agatha would spend long seasons at various excavation sites in Syria and Iraq, accompanying her husband. She worked on restoring pieces of pottery, inventorying finds, and photographing artefacts. This also gave her further inspiration for her plots

Christie considered retiring at the age of seventy-five, but her books were selling so well that she decided to keep writing for at least another five years, and wound up writing up until about a year before she passed away at age eighty-six. After a hugely successful career and a very happy life Agatha died peacefully on 12 January 1976. She is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Cholsey, near Wallingford.

Thousands of visitors come to South Devon every year to visit the places that inspired Agatha Christie’s books and imagination. The estate of Greenway near Kingswear which was her beloved family retreat is now a National trust property. Christie called it ‘the loveliest place in the world’ and it’s easy to see why. An annual festival is held here to celebrate her life. The International Agatha Christie Festival in 2020 was cancelled but it will be held again in September 2021, which will feature a competition for aspiring young writers.

I have always been a fan of the books but finding out more about the interesting and surprising facts of Agatha Christies own unique life, makes me even more of a super-fan.

As well as a host of activities and events, more information is available on the website

Traveling Lighter

On reaching the age of 50, I realized I had spent most of my adult life constantly busy and stressed. Always 10 minutes behind schedule, I was dancing to someone else’s tune: work, family, friends etc. There never seemed to be enough time for me in my own life, perhaps it was time to change the song!  At 50 it was also time to face facts, that I was now a GROWN – UP.  My life was sensible, responsible and comfortable, I worked hard and tried to give as much time as I could to loved ones, but was life exciting or fun? To celebrate my milestone, I wanted to do something memorable and quite possibly life-changing. I was going to go on holiday not just for two weeks but for a whole year. My mid-life teenager was demanding a grown-up gap year.

What was the worse that would happen? Had I gone a little mad? More than likely, but I could always blame in on my advancing age.

Well, everything turned out just fine and dandy. My first Airbnb was not great, however, my second Airbnb was wonderful, I even made a return visit to the same apartment. So, apart from a few little hiccups along the way my solo traveling had been very positive and I would encourage others to give it a go.

 In a quiet, gentle way it was a life-changing experience. My life did not change beyond all recognition. I still have a similar job role, still work too hard and still have many responsibilities to others. That’s just life, there are always going to be bills to pay, even if I won the lottery. What I did learn was the importance of having a family I loved, work I am good at and enjoy doing and the opportunity to be given responsibilities, and at the risk of sounding like a quote from a self- help book, I realized there was a great deal in my life to be grateful for. Sometimes we just don’t appreciate the good fortune we have in our everyday life’s. A couple of years on and I still feel the same, certainly the current Lockdown would have been a great deal harder to cope with without gaining this knowledge.

 Through travel it’s almost as if our eyes open again for the first time in a while. Nothing changes the way you view your own life experiences than by seeing the way other people have to live.

Since I decided to start my journey in August 2015; I have made 7 trips, lasting up to 3 months in length, spending around 15 months in Spain, I have stayed in 32 Airbnb properties and volunteered 3 times. I stayed in; Mallorca, Ibiza, Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Malaga, Granada, Valencia and the Canary isles. During my trips I met many wonderful, interesting people, making some very special friends who I have continued to stay in touch with, I tried lots of new things and immersed myself in a different culture.

What did I discover along the way? Well oddly, enough I found myself, my younger, braver self that is. I remembered my long-forgotten childhood dreams and goals. Traveling teaches us to explore and discover new and old parts of ourselves. To think about what’s really important. Investing in this rather than what no longer serves you well, not dwelling in the past. Been happy now.

Did I have any regrets? Not at all, there were some laughs and tears along the way, sometimes things didn’t go to plan. Learning how to be calmer and not get frustrated or upset when things went wrong was a hard challenge but learning to roll with whatever came my way was one of the most valuable skills acquired. Been totally independent means that you also spend large amounts of time alone. I missed my home very badly, on occasions, I had to accept living standards well below what I am used too. But knowing that this was only a temporary situation helped me realize, that we can get through any situations by just changing our mindset and trying to stay positive. We can learn and grow from everything we encounter, good or bad.

Where next?  I’ll continue to travel, that I know. My love affair with Spain is the real deal and not just a holiday crush, so who knows where I will go in the future! At the moment, I am unable to leave my house until the end of July, so, I’m writing a blog of my journey, finding new destinations on Pinterest and watching A Place in the Sun. Life is pretty good. So, whilst I prepare for my next adventure, for now I can indulge in some Arm Chair Travel until I can travel for real.

My travel blog is