A Travellerspoint blog

April 2010

A bit of light relief

Disney in Paris...

sunny 22 °C

We headed out to Eurodisney just outside Paris. Got there soon after the park opened, and there was already quite a crowd. The French are not backward in bringing their own food, so there people bringing in eskies crammed full. I don't know what the security team was on the lookout for, as one group showed them enough alcohol to start a bottle shop. We tried to creep through with a paper bag with a few patisseries in it
Euro Disney

Euro Disney


Anyway, inside the mouses' kingdom we jumped on to a couple of rides with short queues (Space mountain and star tours) G was not to happy about the acrobatics on space mountain, so he refused to go on any more rides with a loop. So we lined up for Indiana Jones and had queued for35 minutes when we saw the cars looping up in front of us - oh bog... Forced him on anyway, and he sort of enjoyed it. Had a break for lunch (nothing inspiring, but there was some salad with it) before we got onto Big Thunder Mountain. This went up down and all around, G got into it so much that we booked straight back into it for a couple of hours' time. But as I was doing that, a nice girl offered G her fast pass for right now that she was not going to use, so off he went again.
On Big Thunder Mountain

On Big Thunder Mountain

And Loving It

And Loving It


A few other low key rides (Pirates of the Carribean, Alice in Wonderland) and back to BTM. G rapt again, so we queued straight back again for our final ride. A good fun day for all.
One for Michael

One for Michael

Posted by lostagain 14:34 Archived in France Tagged motorcycle Comments (0)

Anzac on the Somme

sunny 20 °C

So we hired a car to drive up to the dawn service at Villers Bretonneux, near Amiens. Getting the car out of Paris was quite an experience, so I left that to L. I had after all rented the car and worked out our route, fair division of labour I thought. Headed up to Amiens, about 90 minutes.
We rehearsed the drive out to the memorial so as to be on top of game in the morning. It is a very solemn place, in a beautiful setting. The surrounding land is quite flat and slightly rolling; you can see it would be slaughter attacking in these areas, and it is no surprise so many lives were lost if men were marched across here against machine guns.
P1000348

P1000348


We went around to view some of the head stones. It is possible to see how few of the soldiers were identified when recovered. It was also a stark reminder of how many soldiers in units could be wiped out in a single blow – we saw a group of 70+ Canadians who had all died on the 8th August 1918 in the battle of Amiens.
Australian Memorial

Australian Memorial


The cemetery in front of the Memorial holds the remains of soldiers of all Britains allies, not just Anzacs. The remains of Aussies are spread about on the Western Front from Ypres to Fromelles and Bullecourt to V-B. The site at V-B was chosen as it marks the site where the Anzacs stopped a massive German advance threatening to get through to the Channel ports, and more decisively, pushed them back a few hours later on 25th April 1918, two years to the day after Anzacs had landed at Gallipoli. Even knowing that, it is truly impressive to see the depth of feeling in the local community for their Anzac brothers. It is well known that after the Great War Victorian school children donated pennies to help with the rebuilding of the V-B school. The town hall always flies the Australian and French flags together.
Af the Australian Memorial

Af the Australian Memorial


After the visit to the memorial, we headed back to find some food in Amiens. The pickings on the road into town were very slim, so we ended up eating in the tourist area beside the canal in the shadow of the Amiens Cathedral. Back to the plastic box motel and a quick sleep.
At 4 am all up and gone. We are out at the site by 4:30, well L & G are as I drop them off then go and park and walk back. Sign into the Memorial book, then head up to meet the others. It is not too cold but sitting still you are glad you rugged up.
V-B before dawn

V-B before dawn


At the Anzac day dawn service

At the Anzac day dawn service


The service starts at 5:30 after an introduction by the MC. The procedure for the service has been well set over the years, but it remains quite moving. There was the catafalque ceremony, welcomes from the V-B mayor, replies from our Minister of Foreign Affairs, the local Army Commander, Australian school children got up to read extracts, National Anthems and hymns, a reading from the British Army Padre who had also sanctified the Australian graves at Fromelles (it was supposed to be an Aussie but that volcano...) To me the most moving part though was the bugler playing the mournful last post followed by a minutes silence. it is this point when you are all alone with several thousand other people and your thoughts of what people went through then and still are now around the world. It is good to be alive. The reveille comes with the dawn and the raising of the flags to full mast. The ceremony is completed with the laying of wreaths (in a very specified hierarchy).
Villers Bretonneux dawn service

Villers Bretonneux dawn service


Being in France, the local region (the Somme) have provided us with coffee and croissants to warm us as we leave...
Anzac Day dawn

Anzac Day dawn

Posted by lostagain 14:26 Archived in France Tagged events Comments (0)

Food in Paris

falling in love again...

sunny 20 °C

So we had the one swish dinner at Le Petit Zinc, but rest assured we could not continue with that damage to our bodies (hip pocket and waistline). G has found a favourite in Panini Parisienne with mayonnaise – he had three of them while we were there. My favourite was the Sicilian and L tried the Bolognese crepes and a Feta Panini (and I stress this was not all one visit but three) These were fresh and tasty and good for on the go. But any of the Boulangerie were great for a little pick me up. G quickly learnt to say ‘Pain au Chocolat’, and you could feel the butter in the pastry doing you good. And by our standards these were cheap too - $1.80 for Pain au Chocolat, Escargot or Chocolat Viennoiserie.
Had a fantastic tarte Marseille, with tomatoes, zucchini and basil, so fresh that it was dripping and so delicious my mouth was watering before the tarte got there – heaven. At that point L had an onion and anchovy tart – might not sound appetising but it was great!
One of the big misses with the bloody volcano thing was the chance to go food shopping in Rue Moufftard to have at home. We had deliberately picked our base to be just metres away from this action. Should have taken some photos, but the shops were decked out with beautiful displays of fruit and vegies, meat, seafood, cheeses, deli stuff. We could have eaten there for weeks... Instead we just left smears on the windows up and down the street.
Fresh Fruit

Fresh Fruit


We went out for dinner another couple of nights but it wasn’t as good as the original, but it was also substantially cheaper. We wanted to go to Glanvins near place d’Italie for some Pays Basque food. We were told to get there early but we got there at 8:15 and there were a couple of sessions worth of people waiting outside. So we gave up and went across the street to the three sisters for a bite to eat. It was very rustic, but really tasty. Grilled sardines with potatoes dauphenoise - all healthy stuff.
We had one dinner in a Rue Moufftard restaurant but it wasn’t that good.
One night in Amiens we went to Tante Jeannes on the bank of the canals in the centre of the city. The food was pretty good with some of the local specialities. For the most part the specialties seemed to be presenting the food on crepes. From what I could see, most of the food was eaten and the crepes avoided. That was only a single course as we were supposed to be getting to bed early.
G had a frankfurt crepe in the Tuileries garden, setting was great but it was a tourist set up and the food not too flash.

Posted by lostagain 16:43 Archived in France Tagged boating Comments (0)

So where do you want to go today?

wherever

sunny 21 °C

This being G’s first time in Paris, we have to do the major sights. We started with the Eiffel tower on the first day. It is pretty impressive, especially since the Parisiens hated it with a passion to start with. It was there for the 1889 Paris exhibition, and only supposed to be there for 20 years. Gustav Eiffel paid for the tower himself, and was given the rights for 20 years the government thought it would take to turn a profit. It was such a huge hit, he had made his money back in 6 months. Nowadays, they estimate the annual income at 6 billion euros. Brian the guide told the story of a confidence trickster who made a motza by taking a huge deposit from a scrap metal merchant after he had convinced the bloke he had the rights to cut the tower down for scrap metal. Brian also told us that the view from the ugly Tour Montparnasse was much better, cheaper, no queue and much more central than the Eiffel Tower.
Big game at the 'E today

Big game at the 'E today


Due to a lack of time (bloody volcano) we did not get into any of the Museums. If you want to go to the Louvre, Brian the guide told us that you go direct by Metro so you join underground and miss the queues going from the foyer under the Pyramids, up the stairs to the outside and around for a while. Failing that he said, don’t go and instead go to the Musee de Orsay for some more modern art, and l’Orangerie to see Monet’s Water Lilies.
Centre Georges Pompidou is now 40 years old, but it still makes an impression on first viewing. The inside out design, with all the colour specified service plumbing, pipes, lifts and escalators on the outside of the building is just fantastic. They did have a Lucien Freud exhibition but again time (bloody volcano) was against us. We are just going to have to come back.
Cubby house at the Pompidou Centre

Cubby house at the Pompidou Centre

P1000312

P1000312


Notre Dame of course, with its magnificent Rose Window is a must see. What was great to see was the families who were so happy to have got to Notre Dame as a sort of pilgrimage and their faces lighting up with joy to be in such an important place for them. Brian told us that a much underrated church was St. Chappelle as it had originally built as the royal families own, and had the most magnificent curtain walls of stained glass all around.
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P1000322


G and I had a brief look at the outside of Musee de l’Armee but only enough time to admire the topiary, Napoleon’s daughters (cannons) and the toilets. Shame, because we were told it is great.

We didn’t miss everything though we did get up onto the Arc de Triomphe to see the views up and down the Champs Elysee, see the tomb of the unknown soldier and all the battle honours won by Napoleon’s armies. It was here we got the first approach by a Gypsy, but much lighter on than we had read about on the web. It even took four days for the first attempt with the gold ring scam (“excuse me, but did you drop this gold ring? I think you did. You should keep it, please give me money for finding your ring....”) There was a bit of Police action around the Tuileries gardens, “On gypsy patrol” as Brian put it – some commotion about a pilfered mobile from a Japanese tourist.
P1000298

P1000298

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe


Anyway, the other place we visited was the Catacombs. Southern Paris used to be honey combed with gypsum and limestone quarries underground. These were commandeered to put millions of skeletons into when there were some bad disease outbreaks around some of the local cemeteries due to inadequate burial practises. So the Catacombs are down deep. They are below the sewers, below the metro and below all the utilities. So we start with stairs (“MORE stairs?” – L) a hundred or so going down. Then half a km of walking along the old mine tunnels, fairly boring. Until you get to the realm of the dead where the walls are lined with the bones of those moved in the 18th century. And they have even been arranged artistically, with the skulls formed into patterns in the face of the bones, even a sort of round column of bones arranged - and all mortared together so they do not move. The bones go on and on, and you can see them further off in the galleries in all directions. Not surprisingly it is a bit creepy, but way fascinating. The mood of the place, and the quiet apart for some water (I hope) dripping through the ceiling and the echoes from other people further down the tunnels was something quite different.P1000273

P1000273

In the Catacombs

In the Catacombs

So that’s what we did in the short time we had available to us in Paris – apart from the food of course...

Posted by lostagain 16:39 Archived in France Tagged vegetarian Comments (0)

Get around, get around, I get around...

Paris that is

sunny 21 °C

So last time we spoke we had been in Paris for just a few hours. Being such a good correspondent, we have already left. But that’s okay ‘cos now I get to put things down in a more ordered fashion than they actually happened.
So getting around Paris - it is pretty easy. If you are staying centrally, most stuff is within walking distance and you get to see some interesting stuff in the side streets, especially the food outside the tourist haunts. You actually get a similar thing riding a bike around. You can sign up for this great system called Velib – ‘free’ bikes – and pick up and drop off bikes all around town. If your trip is less than 30 minutes it is free and goes up reasonably after that. You have to use a credit card at the bike station to get on the system, but after that it’s off you go. Unfortunately for G the minimum age is 14. Instead we went on a Fat Tire Bike Tour. We went and saw some of the sights of Paris with Brian the guide, and got a run down on some of the history and some of the better places to go. (So do it early rather than on the last day like we did) They also do Segway tours – but again G is ripped off with a 12 yo limit. You can do hop on hop off tour of the sights on many buses too. This is good if you get lost easily – they take you to all the major sites .
Biker, Paris Style

Biker, Paris Style

End of the Fat Tire tour

End of the Fat Tire tour


If you want to get somewhere toute suite then go for the Metro System which criss crosses under the city. The trains turn up every 4 or 5 minutes so there is no waiting, which is useful as you usually have to change lines. We only used the buses once and it was fine, but in the centre they do get jammed in a bit.
Metro

Metro


Running is a good way to see some alternative sights – One morning I ran up (down?) the Seine from the Jardin des Plantes to Notre Dame and saw all the morning starters (most things get going around 10am) getting up and out. The river is very pleasant and it has been reorganised so there are walking paths right along the river for ages. Another day I ran across the river to the Promenade Plantee, an old elevated train track which has been planted out, and this goes right out to the Periphique, the Paris ring road. I got out that far, but don’t worry it’s not nearly as far out as Melbourne’s.
As we said last time there is a Batobus which is a hop on hop off service up and down the Seine from Jardins du Plants to the Eiffel Tower. Get on it early in the day as it is a calendar day, not a 24 hour day. But a good way to see the city and the river.
Or you can hire a car. Or not. The traffic is something else, not heavy but chaotic. Having said that, we think it has calmed down since last time, drivers are even obeying traffic lights! We hired a car to drive up to the Anzac service. L drove, I aggravated. (I had already planned our route out). The trip back in and trying to fight the one way system was quite an experience. We drove back in on a Sunday evening and the jams started 15kms out. When I was driving, allegedly I was always veering into the next lane.
The hire car

The hire car


So, nothing exciting there but hopefully something useful.
A bientot...
??? Answers on a postcard please

??? Answers on a postcard please

Posted by lostagain 16:37 Archived in France Tagged transportation Comments (0)

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