Cité Europe

Since there was not much thing to see or could do in the old city centre, mum and I decided to spend the rest of our time in France at Cité Europe before boarding a train back to the U.K.

Cité Europe was a shopping centre situated next to the Channel Tunnel terminal. The complex contained over 140 shops, a hypermarket, a 12-screen cinema complex and around 20 restaurants. The shopping centre opened on March 21, 1995, about 10 months after the completion of the tunnel.

I still remember the hype the shopping centre had created in the U.K. The Brits en masses flocked to Calais in their cars, and they laden their car boots with cheap booze and cigarettes at the shopping centre before heading home.

After more than two decades, the place looked a little dated and tired…

By the way, the lamp posts of the shopping centre car park remind you something?…

Don’t you agree that the curve of the lamp post looks like the Martian’s craft’s red-eye heat-ray gun in The War of the World’s (1953)?

The car park was huge – spaces for more than 4000 cars, therefore, we must make a note near which entrance our car was parked…

The shopping centre was designed by a French architect, Paul Andreu…

The architect is famous for being in charge of planning and constructing Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
So when was the last time I used the airport?
Since Eurostar connected London with French capital in May 1994, I have been using the train only. That means I haven’t been to the place for nearly 25 years!

Large skylights introduced abundant natural light into the interior of the shopping centre…

We found the shop floors very quiet. It must have been because the famous annual summer sale – Les soldes d’été was still a few days away and probably the shoppers didn’t see the point of paying full prices.

Children’s play area near Carrefour…

We did some grocery shopping at the hypermarket, buying cheese and sweets to take home. I must say, the Carrefour branch at Cité Europe was humongous! The floor area was enormous and the selections were stupendous.

Mum was happy (and tired) after shopping at Carrefour…

Ok, shall we go back to our car?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Thank you, John Lewis!

It is so nice to be able to do the laundry at home again. The sound of the water in the drum, which was swashed around with a steady rhythm, was a comforting reminder that my life with a laundrette and the pungent smell of unfamiliar washing powder had finally ended.

When my last NEFF packed up precisely a month ago, I expected it to be replaced straight away. Waiting for a week would be the max, I thought. How wrong I was. Despite the fact I bought a new Bosch on the day when the old one had had it, I ended up having to wait for a replacement for 31 days!

It was not entirely John Lewis’s fault, however. The old NEFF was an integrated one and had a stainless steel door in front of it. Naturally, I wanted to keep the same appearance on the new washer dryer, therefore, I ordered an integrated model by Bosch.

After one week’s waiting, the machine arrived at our door, accompanied by two engineers from John Lewis. They pulled out the old unit and tried to install the new one. Then, we discovered a problem. The replacement could not be pushed in all the way because a waste pipe from the kitchen sink got in the way! The old machine did not have a flat back like the new one, therefore, it accommodated the pipe and the front of the unit door ended up being flush with the rest of doors.

Oh noooo! I wept (in my head) while the engineers scratched their heads. ‘Madam, if we attach the existing door to the unit, it will stick out 10 cm from the rest of the unit.’, one of them delivered the bad news.

What should I do? Is there any alternative? Apparently, all washer+dryer models tended to be larger than washer alone units. And I did need a washer dryer. ‘How about a freestanding one?’ The engineers scrolled the screen of their smartphones and showed me the one they thought it would be suitable. ‘ This LG washer dryer is silver and it goes very well with your stainless steel kitchen unit.’

I was very much relieved to find the alternative but there was a catch. The model I wanted was out of stock.

Still, that particular model by LG was the only one which fitted the bill, therefore, I had to wait another three and half weeks until it was installed.

All in all, I was very happy with the way John Lewis handled my order. Especially, their delivery was punctual and installation and instruction were very customer-friendly.

Look, Bella! A newbie in our kitchen!

Bella wasn’t sure what to make of it.

I can’t wait to use it tomorrow!

Hubbie was very happy with the way the washer dryer fitted into the kitchen unit. ‘It looks well!’ Yeah, I’m over the moon.
Now, I have to find a carpenter to make new skirting boards to fit around the washer dryer…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Feeling of being overrun

Bitter medicine never comes in small doses, I sighed. To my chagrin, I discovered that our old washer drier had packed up finally Sunday morning with a pool of water on the floor. 

That morning, Bella and I were supposed to be attending Bella’s doggie friend’s first birthday party at Kensington Gardens, and I was rather looking forward to it because of the recent unpleasant incidents. Oh well, I am annoyed but what can I do? Because I seem to have very little control of anything recently. 

Instead of heading towards Chelsea, I trekked to Oxford Circus with Hubbie in tow. And at John Lewis, we ordered an washer drier by Bosch. 

After coming home, I took Bella to Regents Park…

The ground was a full of weekend footballers. 

Because of the remnant of Storm Brian, it was very windy and I had to be extra careful when I threw a frisbee for Bella…

It kept on amazing me that she was very good at anticipating where the frisbee would land. 

Then, she lost it…

Literally, the frisbee disappeared! I combed and combed piles of the fallen leaves but never managed to find the frisbee. How weird, it just vanished into thin air!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Exploring Strasbourg

When we took Petit Train Touristique de Strasbourg during the previous visit, it took us towards southwest and went around the old city centre clockwise…

The tour showed us all the musts of historic area of Strasbourg, and it also gave us a comprehensive overview of the city. However, the route did not include the area north of Place Gutenberg, and we wanted to explore what they offered there.

We felt a little peckish, so we bought some pastries at local boulangerie, an almond croissant for mum and a brioche for me, and munched on them as we sauntered along Rue des Grandes Arcades. Unlike small side streets around the cathedral, Rue des Grandes Arcades was wide and lined with major high street stores, such as Mango, Adidas, Promod, Levi’s store, etc. Because it was Saturday, there were numerous clusters of people, the locals and the tourists alike, milling around and moving slowly on the pedestrianized grand thoroughfare.

‘Mmm, it’s a bit boring, isn’t it?’, mum and I agreed.

Nowadays, all the high streets in the major cities seemed to sport all the same cookie-cutter façades. It wouldn’t matter where we went, we would end up running into those ubiquitous corporate giant brands. Oh, how depressing.

We just carried on walking along the street and arrived at Place Kléber. The sun was beating down brightly, and it was becoming scorching hot…

I wanted to sit mum down for a break but there was no bench available in the shade.

At the northwest end of the square, we saw a few police cars…

The policemen appeared to be there to keep their eyes on things around the square and to give assurance to the general public.

Then on our right, we saw a tram station.

Hey, shall we hitch a ride on a tram?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bonjour encore, Strasbourg!

Despite the pandemonium experienced during the final leg of our German road trip, we managed to travel to Strasbourg in three hours.

‘We are like an old pro now, aren’t we?’ I chatted to mum as we strode towards Hotel Cathédrale from La place Gutenberg. We were there a mere seven days ago and acquainted ourselves with the area already.

Bonjour, our one night nest!

Last time we were in the city, we only had a few hours to explore the place in reality. It was in a late Saturday afternoon when we arrived and had to leave for Würzburg next morning.

This time, we reach the city by lunchtime, therefore, we had ample time to explore the place further. Mum and I dumped our luggage in our hotel room and went out to see what Strasbourg’s Saturday was really like.

Saturday was market day, and there were stalls laden with antiques and crafts all around La place Gutenberg…

At one stall which specialized in vintage and second-hand books, I asked in my basic French if they had any book of Caroline et ses amis by Pierre Probst. An old vendor in a director’s chair with a Panama hat on looked very surprised and asked me why I knew about the books. I answered him in my basic French again that the series was my childhood favourite.

Caroline and her friends on summer vacation in original French…

Then, the Japanese version with which I grew up…

I loved all the characters in the series…

and especially Youpi, I loved the most because he was the naughtiest…

And I named my aunt’s Yorkshire terrier as Youpi as well!

It was before we had a family dog, and Caroline and her friends really made me fantasised about the life with furry friends…

The old man apologised that he didn’t have any Caroline book in stock and I had to walk away from the stall empty-handed.

It would have been wonderful if I could read the book with mum again…

Some years back, I did managed to buy a few copies of the vintage Caroline series at one of the antique bookshops in Passage Jouffroy, Paris. The books smelt rather musty, but they brought back all the memories of my early childhood.

‘Now, let’s stretch our leg further, mum!’ We turned northward and walked towards Rue des Grandes Arcades…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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