Good-bye my Rud

Sometimes in life you are lucky enough to connect with a person, an animal, or a place on a soul-deep level.  It's like something deep inside is stirred by a connection that you can't explain.  Kindred spirits.  That happened to me when I met Rud.  Rud and I had a connection that defies description.  That dog knew and understood me inside out.  He totally, completely and utterly "got" me.  No other person or animal has ever touched my heart in the way he did.  I know it sounds utterly crazy, but it was very real.   

I got a phone call this morning to tell me that my precious Ruddy-boy had died during the night.  We don't know what was wrong with him - he was literally a bit sick yesterday and then took a bad turn at 3:00 this morning and died.  

I will mourn him forever.  I have lost something irreplaceable, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that his spirit lives on and I will always be so grateful to have experienced the quality of love that I shared with this dog.  It was a privilege to know him and to love him.


I saw this quote a couple of weeks ago on Clever Bird Banter and it really stuck with me:

Thought-provoking isn't it?!

It prompted me to think about all the things that I am thankful for:

I am grateful for my family.  My husband, my children, my precious grand-daughter and my extend family, small though it may be!

I am grateful for my pets.  My furry family that means so much to me.

I am grateful for my home.  I actually plan on doing a blog post all about my home in the very near future.

I am grateful for my job.  I am very grateful that I am able to work from home.

I am grateful for my health.  Very grateful.  One of my blogging friends was recently diagnosed with a third cancer.  Another blogging friend lost her beloved husband to cancer this week.  These people are young, they have young children.  My heart goes out to them.

I am grateful for my faith.  I may not be your poster-child, church-going Christian, but I am a Christ-follower and I am grateful that my Father is up there - probably rolling his eyes at some of my antics - but up there, looking after me, none-the-less.

I am grateful for my lifestyle.  We may not be wealthy (okay, we're definitely not wealthy!), but we live comfortably.  We live in a country with significant issues, but we are able to live an outdoorsy kind of life, with a fantastic climate and plenty of wide open spaces and a culture that is diverse and interesting.

I am grateful for my friends.  Being the introverted soul that I am, I don't have a big circle of friends, but the friends I do have are friends for life.

I am grateful for all the extras that make my life fun and interesting.... books, music, the internet, movies, photographs and hobbies....  all the "fluff" that adds depth and variation to my everyday life.

What are you grateful for?

My tribe

It's fascinating to me how relationships shift and settle over time.   I've watched it happening over the years with my girls.  There's a 5.5 year age gap between Roxy and Paula.  In general, I LOVE how that age gap worked for us but, on the down-side, it didn't make for a particularly close relationship between the girls while they were growing up.  The first time they grew particularly attached to one another was when Rox was 18 and Paula was 12.  Rox started working as a Teacher's Assistant at the school Paula was at and Paula just looooved being driven to school by her sister and having her sister working there.  That was the start of a lovely bond between them and over the years that bond has grown and grown.   They are SO close now, it really warms my heart to see it.

I have always been really close to both my girls, but in different ways.  I will never understand the dilemma some people have about having a "favourite" child.... my two have such distinctly different personalities that they are BOTH my favourites, but in completely different ways.

If I'm feeling down and need a laugh or a distraction, then Roxy is my go-to girl.  If I am feeling down and need to have a good heart-to-heart and some sympathy, then it's Paula I run to.  Roxy is my polar opposite - she is out-going, funny, happy-go-lucky and confident.  Paula is my mini-me - she is sensitive, very slightly OCD, hard-working, organised and a worrier of note.  Roxy challenges me, stretches me, makes me laugh and causes me to gain vast amounts of weight by eating my own body-weight in her cup-cakes.  Paula understands me, she really, really "gets" me, she comforts me, builds my confidence and is the best reading and music buddy in the world.

And then there is Issy.  Our precious, special, most gorgeous girl.  Loved and spoilt rotten by her Mummy, her Nana and her Lala all day, every day.

The four of us together are a little tribe.  We challenge each other, we build each other up, we stick together like super-glue and love each other madly.  I thank my lucky stars for these girls, these relationships, this love, every single day.

The Worst Dog in the World

Meet the worst dog in the world:

Her name is Becca, she's about 18 months old, and officially belongs to my daughter, Paula.

Paula adopted Becca in September last year, she was a rescue dog, about 5 months old at the time and had had a pretty rough start.

Right up front, let me say that I don't like drama, I like peace, calm, quiet, control, order......  Yeah... Becca doesn't understand that stuff!

Becca is a hooligan.  With Becca around there is ALWAYS drama, She is highly excitable, she is noisy, she is destructive.  Becca is, simply put, a force of nature to be reckoned with.

This dog has me tearing my hair out daily.  The things she does.....  

She chases things.  Becca chases the hadeda's, she chases my cat, she chases our other dogs and sometimes she chases imaginary things.  She likes to hump, she humps our legs, she humps Isabella, she humps our visitors, she tries to hump the cats and occasionally she humps a teddy bear... it's very disturbing!  She brings things inside that have no business being in my house - things like charcoal, branches, a decomposing frog and the skeleton of a small, unidentified animal!  She barks.  Most dogs bark, but Becca takes it to a whole new level.  She barks at passing cars, she barks at birds, she barks at the wind.  She barks the whole time our gardener tries to talk to me, to the point that we now have to use stealth if we want to have a conversation.  She barks when the telephone rings and she barks when anyone touches keys - be they house keys or car keys.  Weird!  She steals.  Becca steals toys from somewhere - we have no idea where they originate from - and this is really strange because Becca is a fenced in dog who cannot get to any of our neighbours' houses.  She loved stealing from the builders we had doing renovations - she stole their tools, their sand paper, their lunches and anything else they left lying about (they learnt very quickly!)  She goes places where no dog should go.  I have found Becca walking around on the coffee table, walking around on top of the dining room table, in the dishwasher and on my dressing table.

She is always up to something, always causing trouble, always destroying something and yet you can't help but admire her for her spirit and her spunk,  She is totally gifted in the area of bad behaviour.

I have known, owned and loved many dogs in my life-time and I have NEVER encountered a dog like Becca.

She is also precious and loving and insanely sweet.

Becca's redeeming feature is that she loves with ALL of her heart.  If you want to feel like a rock star all you need to do is wake up next to Becca.  I wake up, stretch one arm out to her and say "hello Becca" and I have instantly MADE her day.  She goes from this: a ball of frenzied joy and adulation.  I have made her day by simply opening my eyes and acknowledging her existence.  She jumps and shivers and kisses me and licks my face and leaps all over me and practically pees herself with joyful exuberance and adoration.  How can you not feel like the most important person that ever roamed the planet when your first conscious thought is that you are loved and adored beyond all reason?!

There is just something about this dog.  She has crept into my heart (and raised my blood pressure!) like no other dog I have ever encountered.  I firmly believe that one day we will remember her as the best worst dog we ever had. 

A week-end in Paris

Last time I did a travel-related post I based it on a day-trip we did to Paris in 2012. This time I thought I’d reminisce about our 2-night stay in Paris in 2011. To me, this was the perfect way to get a proper taste of Paris. Again, Paris has so much to offer that, really, a week-end is just going to scratch the surface. But why not? (If you’d like to read in more detail about our couple of nights in Paris you can pop over to my travel blog here.)

Day One:

Our visit to Paris began with a trip on the Eurostar. If travelling from London, I highly recommend doing so via the Eurostar. It’s fast, fun and comfortable and so much less hassle than dealing with the security and bother of air travel. Tickets can be bought online here, which is what I did.

Okay, I now have a small confession to make. I have a bit of a “thing” about transfers. You see, I like to have a “Man in Black” waiting for me at the airport or station when I am travelling with luggage. I think it stems from this incident. There is something incredibly comforting about arriving at the station/airport and seeing a Man in Black with your name on a board and having him relieve you of your luggage and lead you to his comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle and then transport you completely “fuss-free” to your hotel. I love it and will pay the big bucks for this service. If this sounds completely self-indulgent and ridiculous to you, well then we will agree to differ on this one :) No probs. We had a (very handsome!) transfer waiting for us at the Gare du Nord station in Paris. I booked this transfer here.

The hotel I booked for our 2-night stay in Paris was the Hotel des Grands Hommes, located in the Latin Quarter. I LOVE this hotel, it is quite possibly the loveliest hotel I have ever stayed in. It is a small boutique hotel, perfectly located, beautifully decorated in genuine French style and the service and attention to detail rate 10/10 in my book. “des Grands Hommes” translated into English means “of the Great Men” – a reference to the Pantheon which is literally on the doorstep of the hotel and which houses the remains of numerous distinguished Frenchmen.

View of the Pantheon from our balcony

The Pantheon
We began our explorations in Paris with a Classic Walk of the Latin Quarter. We thoroughly enjoyed our walk, led by an American living in Paris. We walked all over the Latin Quarter, learning all sorts of interesting things and seeing sights we might otherwise have completely overlooked. We visited the Pantheon, the Luxemborg Gardens, Notre Dame, Pointe Zero (the point from which all distances in France are measured) and Les Bouquinistes amongst many other beautiful and interesting sights. I highly recommend the Classic Walks as a fun, relaxed way to see things and learn more about the various areas of this gorgeous city.

Notre Dame

Luxemborg Gardens

For dinner we wandered down to Rue Moufftard.  We found a lovely restaurant where we sat outside and enjoyed an authentic French meal. Rue Moufftard is a wonderful street to stroll along, filled with bakeries, gelaterias, restaurants, food shops, wine shops and bars, this is where many locals come to eat and shop. There is also a street market, see the details here
Something very special happened on our first night in Paris, but it deserves a blog post all of its own, so watch this space!

Day Two:
After a delicious continental breakfast in the breakfast room (housed in an atmospheric cellar) of our hotel, we headed off to catch a train to Versailles. The trip took about 40 minutes. Once we arrived at the Rive Gauche station at Versailles we walked the short distance to the Palace.

The Palace of Versailles is an assault on the senses! Ornate, colourful and completely OTT, it is a sight to behold.

I far preferred the gardens to the overwhelming grandeur of the Palace itself.

We caught the little “train” that goes around the estate, visiting the Petit Trianon, Grand Trianon and Little Venice. Had the weather been kinder, we would definitely have spent longer enjoying the beautiful gardens, but unfortunately it was wet and soggy on the day we visited, so after hot chocolate at the Petit Trianon and some time visiting the swans at the Grand Canal we called it a day.

Next stop on our itinerary for the day was Montmartre. Montmartre is one of my favourite places in the world. I just love the bohemian feel to the place and all the quirky, interesting things to see. If you catch the metro to Blanche station you will emerge at the famous Moulin Rouge, complete with great photo op in front of the red windmill.

There is a little train that has a stop right outside the Moulin Rouge and we like to do a loop on that - touristy and cheesy it may be, but it’s great for getting an overview of what Montmartre has to offer. 

You could spend days wandering around Montmartre – perhaps spotting film locations from Amelie, which was set largely in Montmartre (If you haven’t seen Amelie, I suggest watching it before you go to Montmartre) or maybe having a look for the vineyard of Montmartre, or trying to find the two remaining windmills of Montmartre. Otherwise you could of course embrace your inner tourist and succumb to the charms of the Place du Tertre and get your portrait painted, or people watch to your heart's content while sitting in a cafĂ©. Montmartre has it all! Personally, I would love to do this walking tour next time we are in Montmartre.


After enjoying the charms of Montmartre (and some kick-ass moules mariniere), we returned to our hotel for a rest, before setting off on a private tour.

The tour we did was the same as this one. (I booked it through someone else, but can’t find that particular tour on the web anymore) We began with an hour-long cruise along the Seine - absolutely gorgeous at sunset! And then our friendly tour-guide took us on a tour of Paris by night, including a stop at Trocadero to see jaw-dropping views of the Eiffel tower. The Eiffel tower sparkles for 5 minutes on the hour every hour – something well worth seeing!

Day Three:
On our third and final day in Paris, we had a leisurely lie-in and breakfast, before catching the metro to the Louvre. (We didn’t go inside this time, as we had done that on our previous visit to Paris.) We took a lovely walk from the Louvre, through the beautiful Tuilleries gardens, up the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. No rushing, we strolled and enjoyed the sights and completely Parisian feel to the place, stopping for coffee along the way.

Most of the family climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

Views from the top of the Arc de Triomphe:

Our final stop was the renowned department store Galleries La Fayette. Some members of our family like to shop!

I strongly suggest buying Paris Visite cards if you are going to be using the metro. Also, it helps to print out a metro map and spend a little time familiarising yourself with it before setting off. You don't want to waste valuable time trying to figure it out when you are standing at the metro station!

I used to buy our Paris Visite cards, our rail tickets to and from Versailles, as well as our Paris Illuminations tour. I had these documents delivered to our hotel and they were waiting for us on arrival in Paris.  Easy-peasy.  

I like to plan our days in advance and work out our route - which metro stations to get on/off at, walking maps etc. I print this all out and carry it in a plastic sleeve – it makes our days flow so well, no frantic huddles searching for routes, no stress…  Having said that, there are some places where we just wander to our heart's content e.g. Montmartre.

· Getting there: Take the RER Line C, bound for Versailles Rive Gauche station. Come out of the station, cross the road and turn right, walk to the main road where you’ll clearly see the palace, on top of the hill to the left (alternatively follow the crowds!). It’s best to aim to leave Paris at about 08:00 as you want to get to Versailles before the tour buses arrive.

· It is a very good idea to pre-book your tickets to Versailles as the queues to buy tickets on arrival are very long. If you have purchased your ticket on the internet beforehand you can by-pass the long queue and enter through Entrance A (this was correct when we were there, might have changed since then) You still have to queue, but not for nearly as long! I got our tickets direct from the Palace of Versailles website

· I would strongly recommend catching the little train I mentioned, or hiring a golf cart, as the grounds are HUGE.  Details regarding the little train can be found here.