29/7/2007. Subject: Bring on Le Tour
After complaining that I have seemed to have narrowly missed all the great European festivals on this trip: French open; Wimbledon, rugby world cup, running of the bulls, octoberfest etc etc I now find myself in Paris just one day out from the end of the Tour de France! AND an Australian is a a real contender to win!! (he’s currently second). I cant tell u all how excited I am. I decided to stay an extra night so that I will be there in the Champs Elysees for the finish tomorrow with Aussies from my hostel.
Finally I have a very good excuse to bellow AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE OI! OI! OI! . I swear I have refrained up to this point as I hoped to avoid being an obnoxious Australian abroad.
Paris brings me to the end of my BusAbout-ing. I’m headed back to London in a couple of days via Bayeux to see the Normandy beaches and the famous tapestry. I’ve also decided to get the Calais to Dover ferry.
The last week or so I’ve lapped up the French culture. I did a wine tasting course in Bordeaux and drank a bottle of said red after a vineyards tour. I found myself hanging out with this Canadian in a very French looking bar, at around 2.30am we realised we had been drinking in a high class brothel/gentlemens club all night. LOL!. We were buying drinks so they didn’t seem to mind. It seemed to explain why, despite being in the middle of Bordeaux they didnt sell wine. And as well why the barmaids were dressed so skanky.
On my last night in Nice I went out with this Aussie girl for a traditional french meal and got Escargot aka snails. I think they tasted like mussells more than anything but mostly all u could taste was the sauce. No frogs legs on the menu tho.
From there it was onto Barcelona – home of the petty criminal. Everyone I’ve talked to had something nicked or thought they had/or knew someone
who had their drink spiked. Luckily I was only there two nights and cameut unscathed apart from mild food poisoning (just the one spew) from some dodgy sausages in the tapas. On the upside I had fantastic shellfish paella and sangria. I saw the sights including the massive “melting candle church” La Sagrada Familia by Gauldi plus a few other of his architectural works.
I skipped Madrid and caught the train to San Sebastien – the most beautiful place I have seen in Europe. Its a beautiful traditional European city, so clean and right beside the best looking beach Ive seen.
I think it was so good it would rival Aussie beaches. It had a beautiful old town and river through the middle. Plus the night I was there they had a jazz festival on the beach!
I went back to Paris via Bordeaux and that brings you all up to date. Except for the fact Ive already found an English copy of the new Harry
Potter and finished it!!!! It’s so good but I wont spoil it for anyone who’s going to read it. Now I just have to find an English showing of the Simpsons movie… It’s La Simpsons over here.
Ill be back in London for a quiet few days before its off to Scotland for a week backed up by Ireland …. then home.
Missing you all.
18/7/2007. Subject: The highs and lows of Europe
As I’m writing there’s only about five weeks until I return to Australia. People have asked me if the past three months have gone quickly but in actuality because I have done sooo much it feels like a very full three months. Although I’m looking forward to coming home at catching up with everyone.
I’m in Switzerland now and today I went up to the Jungfraujoch (sp?) – it’s the highest point in Europe anywayz. Me and this girl I met from Perth braved the snowy mountain top and trekked across to the hotel on the other side to check out the views. In an attempt to save money instead of getting the train all the way back down we got the train half way and then took the three hour hike back down. High in the Swiss Alps we did break into a bout of yodelling as we passed cows with bells round their necks, snow covered mountain tops and green rolling pastures.
It’s quite strange to be trekking across snow mountains when only two days ago I got sunburnt laying on the beach in Nice. However the French Riveria was fantastic, a little touristy but crowded. I checked out Monaco, saw where Grace Kelly was killed in a car accident and the exhibition on her life, saw Bono’s Island retreat, Cannes and the Bastille day fireworks over Nice beach.
France was a welcome change after a week in Italy. If there wasn’t much room in my bag after Egypt there’s certainly much less now. In Rome I added to my Louis Vitton handbag collection with a Prada bag and a lambskin purse. In Florence I could have queued to see the Michaelangelos statue of David but decided to stock up on assorted leather purses and wallets for brithday presents later this year instead. Okay I swear no more shopping. I did see parts of Florence I promise, I will show you all the photos when I get home.
But I think I’m also the only person to be granted an exchange by a street handbag seller after I changed my mind and went back after dinner.
I also saw all the traditional stuff – the Vatican (2.5hr queue no matter what time you get there), Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica (saw John Paul II’s tomb), the Colloseum, Roman Forum, Palatino, ruins, ruins and more ruins. I also paid 6 euro (12 AUS) for a friggin gelati. Lesson learned: always ask the price first.
From there it was down the winding roads of the Amalfi coast where, I’m sorry to say, there was a distinct lack of shit-hot cars ie Ferraris, Alfa Romeos etc etc. It was all smart cars and mnis. Sorrento was magnificent, exactly like it is in the movies. My tour took us to the glowing blue grotto on the island of Capris and wound around to the cliff edge towns of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello and back to Rome.
The bus from Rome to Florence took us through through the lovely vineyards of Tuscany and after Florence we stopped at Pisa, home of the leaning tower and more handbags (which this time I didn’t buy) and then onto Nice.
After the literal high of today I feel at this point however I feel I should also review the lows of this holiday, you know, purely for the sake balance.
The rundown includes:
>-two chest infections
>-tripped on a cobblestone in Monaco and hurt my toe, plus a few other times in each city ive been to
>-scraped my pinkie toe in Pompeii
>-walked into a tree at the Acropolis
>-got sunburnt in Nice (my own fault)
>- hit my head getting out of a minibus in Cairo, Egypt
>- then again in Aswan
>- then again Luxor
>- Hit my head on the bottom of a locker in Austria and the bruise didn’t come up for two days
>- attacked by mosquitoes in Venice
>- then again in Mykonos, then again in Egpt
>- then again in Rome
>- fell over on the pebbles at the beach in Croatia, then again in the Greek Islands and once more in Nice.
>- got food poisoning in Rome (stupid Paninis) and was in bed with gastro and wasted a day (see I jinxed myself with my last email)
>- fell down some steps in the laudromat in Nice
>- hungover x 3 (not too bad for three months away)
All in all though I can’t complain. Despite the above I’ve generally had good fortune. As you can see its mostly all self inflicted.
Tomorrow Im going to the Lindt factory in Lucerne.. cant wait. Mmmmm chocolate.
Lastly if you want to know what I’m missing, here is a random assortment of things I’ve suddenly found myself missing on this trip: my knee high boots, salt and vinegar chips, television, sausage rolls, weet bix, Terrigal beach, Avoca beach, my car, strawberry milk, barbeque sauce, English newspapers, shopping centres, supermarkets and plastic money you can crinkle up.
Can’t wait to be home but there’s still more to do.
19/6/2007. Subject: MMMmmmmm beer
Greetings from Vienna friends!
I’m feeling very cultural at the moment. Ive just come back from a cycling wine tasting tour just outside of Vienna in the birth place of reisling – so much nice wine, so hard to choose. Last night I went to the opera (standing room only for three euro) in the Vienna opera house. We went out for Wienna Schnitzel afterwards which was the size of the plate! I’ve been to lots of palaces and stuff too.
I’ve been in the Czech Repulic for the past week. Prague I think is overrated- full of tourists. Two days is all you need to see the sights. It was unbelievably hot with no wind, 35 degrees I think. Went on a ghost tour with this eccentric czech, prague is very gothic at night and spooky! On the tour they had actors who jump out at you from around corners just to give you a fright, which was hilarious.
I chopped and changed my plans and went to this little town called Csecky Kumlov for two nights. Went rafting, bought clothes and wandered round its old streets and castle. It was very relaxing.
From Vienna tomorrow I’m going to Salzburg where the hills are alive with the Sound of Music! There’s also some great ice caves to visit which are top of my list.
Now to the important point. BEER!
I had never finished a beer in my life till I got to Europe. Beer here is
cheaper than a coke and cheaper than a glass of water in a restaurant. It’s really falvoursome and easy to drink. I finally understand how nice a cold beer is at the end of a hot day. Wine (Vine as they call it) is also cheap too. My diet basically consists of ice creams (europeans love their icecream for some reason), beer, bread, ham, cheese, beer, beer, beer. U get the idea.
The humble ham and cheese sanga is strangley ubiquitous (look it up lazy bums who dont know what I mean) here too. Milka chocolate is definitely a highlight. Hell all the chocolate is a highlight. (Ve cum form zee land of choclate! hehehehe)
Finally, I have to say I miss Australian weather. Summer here is just hot and still, no nice southerly. When it looks like you’re going to get a cracker of a storm you get two drops of rain and more sun. It’s hard to escape.
Okay well enjoy winter guys!
10/5/2007. Subject: The french rude? nah.
Bonjour from Parie everyone!
Well I have to say i’ve only had three days in paris but I haven’t found the
french rude, pretty friendly really. However I did have on encounter at Ste
Chapelle when I tried to buy a museum pass. It went like this:
me: bonjour. l’anglais? (english?)
lady at the ticket window: eh, if you want.
It was as if she could speak any language if she really wanted. I’m
sure she’d encountered plenty of loud Americans before me but she pretended as if I was the first English speaking person she’d ever encountered.
I’m staying at a nice hostel about 15 mins walk from the Eiffel Twer. It as
lots of Cnadians staying here but is ironically titled Aoha hostel. There’s a cat here which likes to curl up in backpackers laps.
I’ve mastered the very complicated Parisian metro train system, I had some help from some country French girls im sharing a room with who helped me learn to ask for a booklet of tickets in French.
I’ve learned how to ask for a baguette and a croissant in a bakery, and
consequently I’ve been eating lots of baguettes and croissants. I’m a bit
scared to ask for any other items in case I say them completely wrong.
I’m still being mega tourist so far ive seen – Eiffel tower, Arc de Triumphe,
Hotel des Invalides with Napoleon’s tomb, Notre Dame, Ste Chapelle, St
Sulpice, Pantheon, some other random churches, Jardin du
Luxembourg (gardens), Bastille, Sorbonne, the list goes on.
Today was totally dedicated to the Louvre. I just got back and I’m so bloody
exhausted…the problem with seeming as innocent as me is tourists trust me with their cameras. sitting outside the Louvre while I was trying to rest I
got asked to take three pictures inside of five minutes!
If you ask me the Mona Lisa is overrrated – there were far better works in the Louvre. I liked the French sculpture. The Venus de Milo was similarly
underwhelming…. so much sculpture, ancient crap, more ancient crap -
although the audio guide was pretty good. I went to most rooms but I just
walked through most and stopped at whatever grabbed my attention. And
seriously how many pictures of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus can some
artists paint! Get some new material puhlease! There’s the whole bible to
choose from to start with.
Tomorrow is some more random museums and Friday im going to Sacre Coeur – will do Palace at Versailles on my way back in july.
Leaving for Amsterdam on Busabout on Saturday morning. I’ve really had
enough of Paris – weather is miserable – overcast, windy, spitting rain, and
it’s really a pretty grotty city. So depressing in foul weather. But im
having fun nonetheless.
Should be in Amsterdam in about three days, then onto Germany – I’m hoping to hop over to Denmark from there. Will see.
3/5/2007. Subject: The gaoler in the Tower of London yelled at me
Saturday night which was good. Heather also took me to Borough Markets -
love the free samples, especially the chocolate ones.Saw the beautiful Kew gardens – so very pretty in an English kind of way.
Have also been to Madame Tussauds, Harrods – stupidly expensive by the way – a teatowel with Harrods on it was £14 – what the hell? But they have perfume in the public toilets or rather luxury washrooms there.
Saw the princess Di photo exhibition in Kensington Palace – gorgeous. Went
to Windsor Castle today and Eton. There is a fabulous Doll house in Windsor
Castle – everything in miniature. Fantastic. Feeling very refined after a
tour of Eton. Saw all the boys at lunch in their coat tails. Bit late for
Harry and Wills tho – by about 6 years. However, Joseph Banks (ie Banksia
man) went there before founding Kew gardens or something like that.
Hmmmm that’s all. Going to British Museum tomorrow and France prolly by about the weekend or monday.
Hi all. It’s Al here reporting after my first few days in London.
To answer the first question, no the flight over was not all that good.
About 23.5 hours of it was smooth sailing but there was around ten to
fifteen minutes of scariness. When the plane took off from Hong Kong it flew
right up in the middle of a thunder storm and hit some pretty severe
turbulence. Just when it was about to finish the plane hit an air pocket -
ie the plane suddenly dropped – and all the flight attendants screamed. The
lady sitting next to me freaked out and I had to try and calm her down.
The only solace was the pilot had said he expected turbulance and in
retrospect I think the attendants may have just got more of a fright than
anything cause they were preparing the food and it sounded like they dropped heaps of stuff.
Once I shook the sudden realisation that this giant piece of tin could
potentially succumb to gravity – about three hours later – I was okay too.
I didn’t really get jetlag. Once I got to London I slept like 12 hours that
night and then I was fresh as a daisy. However this time of year it gets
light at like 4am and dark nearly 9.30pm so its really screwing with my body clock. I wake up with the light and consequently feel pretty tired by about 8.30am – but who can go to sleep when it’s still light?
Heathers couch is comfy enough. Shepherd’s Bush, where Im staying, is shall we say “diverse” – to be polite but despite the spectrum of people it
seems pretty safe and has a fair few commuters etc.
In three days of travelling I’ve become a mega-tourist, cramming heaps into
one day. I’ve also become a very big-fan of the audio-guide – where you hire an electronic device with headphones and use it to guide you through the
tourist attraction. It’s much easier than reading the white blurbs on the
walls next to artwork etc… and entertaining too.
One tip: Forget step classes – walking up to the very top of St Paul’s
Cathedral ( the church on the Thames logo at the end of quality British TV
shows like Sooty) is the best workout there is. I climbed like 300+ steps to
the top and back down again.
I’ve also done/seen/climbed the following – open top bus ride through
London, cruise down the Thames, London eye, Tower of London, Kensington Palace, had lunch in Hyde Park, Westminster Abbey, Trafalga Square, Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing St, St Paul’s Cathedral, Museum of London, and National Gallery, Princess Di memorial walk and made full use of the Tube.
Needless to say my feet, legs, shoulders and basically everything else hurt.
Heather, my host, is back from Turkey now and is taking me to the pub
tonight I think.
Interesting to note is that cocaine and pills are cheaper in London than
beer. I thought I felt like a square in Australia but with people dropping
and snorting and smoking left right and centre I really feel like miss
goody-two-shoes here. But the position I’m taking is that abstaining makes
me an individual.
London is different to what I expected. It’s a really beautiful city with
lots of old old buildings. It’s really short – there’s not really any sky
scrapers which was a suprise. As well traffic lights flash orange before
they go green. I think cars drive slower in London than they do in Sydney
and it’s a much more pedestrian friendly city. Lots more people smoke
cigarettes which is pretty yuck to catch a whiff of as you walk along.
There’s a bloody starbucks every four shops.
People are very polite but not necessarily friendly. The weather is a little
cold but bearable. It’s a bit like Melbourne atm – you have to layer up as
the weather changes back and forth all the time.
Okay. I’ve bored you all long enough. Will prolly email again in a week.
Having a ball