Archive for June, 2010

Arriving in France

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Arriving in St. Malo and a good 45 minute walk to the train station, to attempt to get tickets to Paris.
Ended up having to go for a train an hour later due to the first one being booked out. Had to change trains twice, but only cost 1.50 euro to get there! I was however heading towards Paris without any accommodation booked yet, only a small list of hostels, with an arrival time of 7.30pm. I was getting a little freaked out and tried talking to the staff at St. Malo (with their limited english) to try and get a train to Madrid that night, where I was able to find accommodation online. Unfortunately there were no reservations available so I got on the train, stressing and debating my options.
I got in to Le Mans around 4pm, with one train left, for which no reservation was needed. With about 45 minutes before the train left I wandered around a bit, and found a timetable for Le Mans -> Paris. Turns out they are fairly frequent, so in the end I resolved to attempt to find somewhere in Le Mans (with the last train leaving Le Mans at 9pm there was that as a last resort, although finding somewhere in paris that late at night would have been interesting).

Luckily I found a hotel, with a cute little single room for only 22 euros.

My tiny one bedroom place for 22 euros!

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My tiny one bedroom place for 22 euros!22-Jun-2010 19:13, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 200

Was one of the more bizzare experiences I’ve had the checkin. After making sure i could check the room before paying he took my money and left me with the key – no ID or anything!
I dumped my stuff and wandered back down the the train station to see about tickets to Madrid, considering how difficult they were to come by… turns out I should have been booking this one a couple of weeks ago. The guy at Le Mans station was amazingly helpful, and eventually found me a ticket from Paris to Madrid for 120 Euro with a change at Irun near the border. Unfortunately there were no Eurail pass tickets available for the next few weeks so I had to pay that full fare. Found myself a ticket on to Lisbon as well, and so with a bit more of a solid plan booked I headed to the internet cafe to see what I could do about accommodation in Paris.

Once there, the stress came back again, I was able to find a few hostels with a bed for one night here and there but nothing for the two nights I was planning on spending in Paris. So I got the addresses and maps of 4 or 5 hostels and headed out for a wander of the town.
Uneventful little place it seemed a bit of a working class town. Got some good panini though, and the trams reminded me of Melbourne somewhat (not surprising considering Melbourne trams are made in France!)

They even look the same :P (yes i know our trams are made in france)

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They even look the same 😛 (yes i know our trams are made in france)22-Jun-2010 21:05, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160

Seems a bit of a working class city

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Seems a bit of a working class city22-Jun-2010 20:55, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200

Trams! Reminds me a little of Melbourne

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Trams! Reminds me a little of Melbourne22-Jun-2010 21:01, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 160

Gare Du Mans (Le Man train station)

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Gare Du Mans (Le Man train station)22-Jun-2010 20:41, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

Cool contrails from the train

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Cool contrails from the train22-Jun-2010 10:35, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 100

Jersey

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The ferry… was a ferry. Pretty much what I expected. The food was somewhat better than the ferry terminals at least. Rocked up at Jersey 4 hours later, around 2030, found a map and started walking. 10 minutes later I rang the bell on Joe’s door, who’s couch I was going to be surfing for the next 3 nights. I’d thought about ringing ahead, and probably should have, as he hadn’t remembered the date. Luckily this was fine anyway, he showed me around his 1 bedroom apartment he was renting (A little bigger than Bridget’s) and he checked with a few friends and we headed out for Jersey’s Saturday night life!
One studentish pub, a faux posh club and an equivalent of Melbourne Uni’s Wednesday night PA’s (ie dirty scummy, although it smelt rather strongly of Chlorine) we headed back to Joe’s.
In the morning Joe gave me some suggestions for the sights of Jersey, and I headed off on a vague walking tour around the south west coast.

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20-Jun-2010 14:46, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

Elizabeth Castle

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Elizabeth Castle20-Jun-2010 14:50, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

Elizabeth Castle

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Elizabeth Castle20-Jun-2010 14:50, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 5.6, 24.8mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

Look closely at the woman in the background.... or don't >.<

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Look closely at the woman in the background…. or don't >.<20-Jun-2010 16:25, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

Country road

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Country road20-Jun-2010 17:12, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.04 sec, ISO 200

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20-Jun-2010 17:27, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

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20-Jun-2010 17:33, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

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20-Jun-2010 18:07, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 100

Lighthouse!

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Lighthouse!20-Jun-2010 18:57, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 14.0, 20.18mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

Awesome, not sure what they're called though

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Awesome, not sure what they're called though20-Jun-2010 19:21, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

And the other one

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And the other one20-Jun-2010 21:40, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 4.5, 16.77mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

My great great great great grandfather! Elias des Landes, made it to 90!

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My great great great great grandfather! Elias des Landes, made it to 90!21-Jun-2010 19:03, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

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21-Jun-2010 19:06, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

Where my great great great great grandfather used to live... before they knocked it down to make a new court...

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Where my great great great great grandfather used to live… before they knocked it down to make a new court…21-Jun-2010 19:50, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

The scenery was nice and 8 hours of walking later, and a great meal at ‘gunsite’ a cafe on one of the beaches recommended by Joe, I walked (staggered? :P) back to Chambers, the student pub mentioned previously to meet up with Joe around 8.30. We headed out to get some takeaway, and I was surprised to find that the equivalent of a ‘Burger with the lot’ doesn’t exist! Still a double hamburger with cheese and bacon was satisfying enough 😛
Monday Joe headed off to work at 10ish and I hang around a bit to do some more internetting, and had a chat with Bridget and Mum. Mum reminded me of Green St Graveyard in St. Helier and about 2pm I finally headed out 😛
First dropped in to the co-op – a supermarket. It’s one thing that I’ve found completely different to Australia is the supermarkets in the UK. They all have a HUGE array of ready to eat meals – as in literally open the packet and eat. Sandwhiches, fruit salads with forks etc. Like an entire aisles worth. This co-op even had hot pies and wedges ready to eat! Grabbing some I dropped the house keys off with Joe and headed to the graveyard. It took nearly 3 hours of wandering but in the end I found the gravestone of my Great great great great grandfather, Eli Deslandes (seems he spelt it as one word). It was strange because it was a quite large gravestone, yet it only said “In memory of Eli Deslandes, Died 1890 Aged 90 years & 6 months” It was almost ready for all the family members to be engraved below him etc, but it never happened 🙁
I did also find quite a few other des Landes. Quite a mariners family, at least 3 different Captains. Jean and two Georges. The dates didn’t match any of my direct grandparents, however they could have been cousins or uncles.
That night a friend of Joes (Tom I think his name was?) came around and we had a couple of drinks and watched some funny youtube videos before crashing. Then I was up at 6.30 to catch the 8.30 ferry to St. Malo!

Portsmouth

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

2010-06-22 Portsmouth

Well National Express is no better than Megabus which I’d hoped, their seats are equally non-reclining, however it was only a 2 hour bus trip after the 9 hours from Edinburgh it doesn’t look so bad. I think if I had have known I could have stayed on it for longer and taken it right into Southsea, but everyone with luggage was getting off at the Portsmouth Ferry Terminal, and that’s where I’d saved directions from to get to my hostel, but a 30 minute walk is fine 🙂
Got in there and…
The receptionist showed me the room, 2 guys were in there sleeping still. Fair enough, receptionist leaves. Then the covers move and there’s a girl in bed with one of the guys, hiding from the receptionist. The proprietors of the hostel have rather strict rules – no visitors after 11pm, and obviously she had been… ‘visiting’ Whatever, I head off to find a Laundrette and do some badly needed washing. Hour or two later I come back and the guys are packing up, even though they’d said they were staying another night. Apparently she had been discovered while going to the toilet, been forced to pay for the night she’d stayed, and the guys were getting kicked out.
This left me with a 4 bunk room to myself =D (Although another guy did turn up later)

The facilities at the hostel seemed quite good as well, which was perhaps suprising considering it was the only hostel in Portsmouth at all. I found it amusing that the Spanish guys who had been in my room were actually near horrified at it. I think they thought it was a hotel with a private room and stuff. I headed down to watch some football and catch up on my internets again 😛
While there I met Andrew, a guy from New Zealand, who seemed to be the only other person at the hostel! Near empty, quite bizzare considering the season. We resolved to go to the pub together to watch the England game that evening, and have some dinner. Turned out the best pub for watching it was also the closest. Even the English were somewhat disgusted with their teams performance however, and for us the game was somewhat boring…
The next morning I headed off for the train station. Turns out there was a food market on in the centre of town! Convenient! I got myself a ham cheese and mushroom crepe =D As I headed back, it was unexpected but I wandered down the road that the Ebezner chapel was on – I didn’t think I had enough time to go there, and here’s me stumbling on it accidentally! Only houses where the chapel was, but the street itself is awesome.

Clock tower near where Ebezner chapel was

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Clock tower near where Ebezner chapel was19-Jun-2010 12:07, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 100

Street the Ebezner chapel was on.

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Street the Ebezner chapel was on.19-Jun-2010 12:06, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 100

I think it's this apartment block which was built on the chapel's site.

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I think it's this apartment block which was built on the chapel's site.19-Jun-2010 12:08, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 100

So off on a train to Southampton, and another one to Poole, and time to watch the first half of the Australia Ghana game, see Kewell get a red card when he could have only avoided it by chopping off his hand, see Ghana get the penalty which is fair enough, and then had to get on the ferry. Seems the second half I didn’t miss much but oh it was painful at the time. Possibly made worse by the worst meal I’ve had over here yet, costing nearly 6 pounds for 2 smallish sausages, baked beans and some chips. The menu had said ‘Jumbo Sausage’
I didn’t have the effort in me to complain.

Edinburgh

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

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My great great great great grandfather’s tombstone!

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Just found the tombstone of my great great great great grandfather in Green St Cemetary, in St Helier, Jersey!

My great great great great grandfather! Elias des Landes, made it to 90!

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My great great great great grandfather! Elias des Landes, made it to 90!21-Jun-2010 19:03, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

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21-Jun-2010 19:06, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

I’ll have a post about Edinburgh up soon, and then Jersey… hard to keep up!

More London

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

London was action packed. As you’ve probably already seen, I went to the Tower of London on Wednesday. Been told by multiple people it’s the one attraction in London which is worth paying for. They were right. I went there about 10am and didn’t leave until it closed at 6. Royal armories, the crown jewels in a vault with the worlds largest cut diamond. But the highlight was obviously firing the trebuchet (although it had another name I couldn’t recall).
I turned up for the firing of the seige weapons, and saw them fire a kind of ballista, then some water balloons out of the trebuchet. Then afterwards ‘who wants a go?’ which was unexpected, but was very cool.
Went home rather exausted.

Thursday was the British Museum. Free like they all are in London, it is massive. Some of the most interesting stuff was the ancient stone axes, 20 000 or more years old. The highlight was actually the history of clockwork, with myriads of different timepeices, many of them with their innards exposed, falling, clicking, spinning away. It’s always fun trying to follow each cog until you reach the clock hands. The museum was open late being a Thursday, yet I still didn’t get to all of it sadly and missed out on some of the European history section 🙁

Friday – The science museum! It seems the science museum is in a complex of museums including the natural history museum. Very similar to scienceworks, Some of the highlights:
The steam engines (none working sadly). The listening post – an exibit which parses through live irc chat messages and creates a sort of music show from it. Quite artistic. Of course humans being humans there ends up being the occasional sexual reference which sounds quite amusing coming from the monotone computer voice.
And of course the kids area, with all the hands on funky little science experiments. There were just as many non kids like myself there still 😛
Yet again, ran out of time, but did get a quick look around the aviation history section, with actual full size biplanes and fighters handing down from the ceiling.
Saturday and Sunday ended up being lazy days of soccer watching. Sunday night of course being the big game, I watched it at the hostel with 3 other aussies, and had the joy of a 9 hour bus ride to Edinburgh to attempt to sleep away my sorrows of losing 4-0 =(

Trebuchet @ Tower of London

Thursday, June 10th, 2010


Free walking Tours!

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

The first full day in London!
Had some breakfast at the hostel, standard cereal and stuff, and had another walk on over to Regent St, where the Visitor information centre is located. Picked up a whole lot of brouchures, one of which advertised a free walking tour around London, on Tuesdays only! Very convenient considering the day was Tuesday. I’d missed the first one, but the second one was at 2pm, so I filled in time at the British Gallery then wandered over to the foot of the Duke of York Column at the south end of Regent St… and ended up getting a one on one tour guide as no one else turned up! Considering other tours you have to pay up to 10 pounds for, the fact I got a guide all to myself for free was quite amusing. Rob was from International Friends and we wandered over a similar area to my walk last night, but with commentary – up to Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall to peek in on Downing St (which I’d missed the previous night)

Outside Downing St. Can't actualy go down there at all. #10 is on the right near the end.

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Outside Downing St. Can't actualy go down there at all. #10 is on the right near the end.08-Jun-2010 16:58, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 200

across to the parliament houses and Big Ben again, where parliament is actually in session at the moment, and through St. James park again to Buckingham palace.
It was good having a guide to point out the other interesting buildings along the way however, such as where the bands for changing of the guard leave from, and the other two palaces around Buckingham which I never would have known about otherwise. At the end he told me he was also running the later tour, around London’s West End, which was on the same brochure, at 6.30pm. After a quick drop in at the hostel I headed over to that one, and again I was the only one! 4 hours of my own tour guide for the win!
I was a bit confused as to why it was the ‘West End’ to start with – turns out The City of London is separate from the City of Westminster where the palaces and parliament are, and so the ‘West End’ is actually east of where I’d been. I hadn’t been over that way at all yet, and we wandered past the British museum, which I will have to visit in the next few days, through the London University

Gotham Tower! Is actually just a university building

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Gotham Tower! Is actually just a university building08-Jun-2010 20:54, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 200

down through Soho, Leicester Square with all it’s cinemas, Covent Garden with all it’s restaurants – no longer a market, and ending near the Church of the Knights Templar.
Again it was the places along the way which were interesting. And while I can’t really remember specifics at the moment it was good to get a general overview of the area, and going back I should hopefully know my way around a bit already 😀

Phoenix Hostel

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Is decent enough. 10 beds in a room the size of my bedroom back home (to be fair my bedroom back home is quite large) is a little cramped, you can feel the springs in the mattress, and the pillow might as well not exist it’s so thin. Despite this, I actually slept quite well the last two nights, despite noises and snoring and everything.
After arriving I went on a bit of a walk. After walking 10 minutes in the wrong direction, I figured out what way the river was and wandered down through Hyde Park

Hyde Park bike path

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Hyde Park bike path07-Jun-2010 20:09, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

to Buckingham Palace,

Buckingham Palace

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Buckingham Palace07-Jun-2010 20:30, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200

Was rather empty at 6pm

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Was rather empty at 6pm07-Jun-2010 20:30, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 125

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07-Jun-2010 20:35, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 125

through St. James Park,

Squirrels... are like possums in Melbourne. IE: Everywhere

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Squirrels… are like possums in Melbourne. IE: Everywhere07-Jun-2010 20:45, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 5.6, 24.8mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400

Was spitting slightly, only damp though

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Was spitting slightly, only damp though07-Jun-2010 20:43, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 5.6, 24.8mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 320

View along St. James park.

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View along St. James park.07-Jun-2010 20:41, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 5.6, 24.8mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 250

across to Parliament and the Big Ben,

Along the Thames towards Parliament buildings, Victoria Tower & the Big Ben.

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Along the Thames towards Parliament buildings, Victoria Tower & the Big Ben.07-Jun-2010 21:16, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 100

up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, before over to Picadilly Circus to catch the train back to Marleybone. Google Maps
It was strange in a way – having seen so many of these landmarks on TV they were so familiar – but it doesn’t quite do them justice, having seen them in person.

And onwards to London

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Up at 6, packing, breakfast, and a pre-booked taxi with Madeline and Carson to the airport. When we got close our driver tried to convince us there was a parking fee or some such for dropping us off… yeah right – we had agreed 75LE already and only gave him as much.
Cairo airport departures are a little strange. The checkins counters are on the other side of the security scanners and x-rays. I already had a print out of my ticket, and Carson got through with a print out from the travel agent, but because it had no names on it, Madeline didn’t, and Carson had to head back out – I didn’t actually see them again before I left which was a little sad as I didn’t get to say goodbye.
The second strange thing – although I believe this is more common than not and Melbourne is an exception – is the gates themselves have another round of security, with seating just past them. It seems like useless duplication to me – why not scan everyone instead of different terminals at each gate. What made it more annoying was the fact there were no shops one you were through this final security check, and waiting at the gate for it to open. This meant you couldn’t have a water bottle with you at all, unlike Melbourne where you can purchase them once you are past security and everything is fine then. There was a rather large pile of water bottles next to the x-ray machine by the time boarding began.

Flight was straight forward, Heathrow was straight forward, just purchased an Oyster card with 20 pounds and caught the underground in. Less than half the price of the express to paddington, although did take almost 3 times as long.
The London rail network isn’t as confusing as it first appears from the maps – all stations are very well marked and it’s easy to find your way between lines – just follow the colour coded signs.
Before long I was walking from Marleybone station to Phoenix hostel.