Archive for July, 2010

A quick update

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Been too busy to write full entries so a quick run down on the last couple of weeks.
After Switzerland I spent two nights with Robert – the guy I met in Egypt. Watched some football of course – being the finals weekend.

Then I headed over to Rothenberg o d Taube (lit. Rothenburg above the Taube (river)) a quaint medieval walled village full of tourists.

Then 3 days ferrying down the Rhein – staying in a castle, a hostel, and a cute little bed and breakfast run by a woman who knew next to no english. The Rhein (not Rhine as I keep misspelling while I type this) has castles galore – oftentimes you could see two at once, on various hills overlooking the river.
I visited Rheinfels (one of the largest castles in Germany – now a ruin) and Burg Eltz (one of the best preserved castles in Germany – still owned by the Eltz family) both were amazing.
Then onwards to Berlin, where I wish I had’ve spent longer than 2 nights, but I’d already booked Prague, where I ended up staying 4 nights. Both amazing cities for their history.
Now I’m chilling in Vienna. Or rather boiling, while fighting off oversized slow mosquitoes. The city itself is amazing architecturally. For me it’s the sheer volume of magnificent buildings – someone who knows what they are talking about might say there is no variety or something, but I don’t know any better!
Tomorrow I’m off to Salzburg, day after I may head back to Munich so I can drop by the Dachau concentration camp – which I missed on my first visit – as I need to visit at least one.
Then on to catch a few more castles in the south of Germany, and then in to Italy finally, where I hope to spend the majority of my remaining time in Europe. Venice first, and we’ll see from there.

So, yes I am still alive, and when I get the time I’ll write a bit more about the places I’ve already been =)

Switzerland

Monday, July 19th, 2010

With my tickets all reserved already the trip to Interlaken in Switzerland was relatively straight forward, if very long. Barcelona -> Montpellier (France) -> Geneva (Switzerland) -> Bern -> Interlaken. I think I left around 9am, and got in to Interlaken around 8.30pm (As the game was playing)
Armed with a list of a few hostels I again set about finding myself a place to stay without having booked anywhere. My experience in Paris was stressful, mainly because I didn’t have a good map. Interlaken was small enough and I’d made sure I had better maps πŸ˜› The first hostel I tried came with great reviews, and the bar was absolutely packed for the game. Unfortunately they were booked out, so I wandered off to the next one, which did πŸ™‚ Annoyingly Switzerland still uses their own Swiss Francs (which is fair enough – Switzerland has a great financial history of being independent – how many movies mention this? :P) so I took a stab at what I’d need for 3 nights, which worked out to within 2 francs!
I was planning on going up to Gimmelwald in the alps, but the last cable car (which you need to get up there!) goes at 6pm, so a night in Interlaken it had to be.
I watched the remainder of the game, had some McDonalds because everywhere else was shut, got some sleep, then got up early (9am) to head on to Gimmelwald. Walking to the station the scenery was already amazing, and paraglider after paraglider kept landing in the field I was walking past.
Getting some picnic-y stuff from the co-op I got the train, then the bus, then finally the cable car up a sheer cliff to Gimmelwald. The scenery kept getting better. Mountains back home have NOTHING on the swiss alps. Cliff faces over a kilometer high, rushing creeks everywhere to be seen from the snow capped mountains yet to melt after what was apparently quite a long winter.

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08-Jul-2010 13:23, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 100

After a wander around the town, and a quick snack, I decided to try my luck at the local youth hostel. I had emailed them a couple of days ago but figured a walk in was worth a shot. My heart sank as I walked in – the receptionist was talking on the phone ‘Sorry we’re all booked out tonight…. Yes tomorrow too, sorry’. I asked anyway and she was like ‘no we have 6 beds actually – we get a lot of walk ins, and just had a cancellation of a group of 4’.
I found this quite amusing, but I have got the picture that a lot of hostels have a similar principle and always save a couple of unreserved seats for the single stragglers without a booking. OK sure the hostel was full of about 60 high school kids from the states,but I could put up with that.
Happy to have somewhere to sleep I appreciated the scenery all the more, and took a quick snap from the patio to upload to facebook πŸ˜›

From the porch

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From the porch

Gimmelwald has escaped development due to a supposedly bogus ‘avalanche zone’ classification – even though the nearby town of Murren has been significantly built up and is actually higher up the mountain. Lots of mountain huts, many hay barns, the occasional bed and breakfast ‘pension’ and a multitude of romantic little chalets. It’s hay making season at the moment, with glorified lawnmowers and hay trucks not much bigger than a car scooting around the place.

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08-Jul-2010 18:34, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

To get some supplies for my planned hike up the Scilthorn the next day, I headed to Murren and stocked up on some ham cheese tomatoes and pears. Unfortunately they were out of bread (reasonably priced bread at least), so I had to make a trip via Murren the next day anyway. The walk from Gimmelwald to Murren is advertised as 50 minutes. The walk back is advertised as 30. In reality it’s about 20 each way, along a sealed track, dodging the occasional motorbike or hay truck. Down a few switchbacks and I was back at my hostel. Grabbed a pizza and a beer and sat outside to avoid the school children πŸ˜›

And so hiking time. The map the hostel had given me said it was about 5 hours. The first sign I saw said 7. By Murren that was down to 5. It took me maybe 4 and a half. It took me a while to realize it, but I was actually walking up a ski run! They had barriers and stuff up to stop the wayward skiers from barreling over the edge. As I got higher there was still snow around! I hadn’t expected to be going that high myself. Before long I actually had to walk through some, which my shoes weren’t exactly designed for, but it was still mid 20s so the small amounts that did get in them dried out pretty quickly.

More snow walking :(

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More snow walking πŸ™09-Jul-2010 14:32, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

It turns out that the peak I thought I was climbing was actually hiding the one behind it which I *was* climbing. Up and up, beyond the tree line so it was just grass rocks snow and water. The path was well marked and eventually I came to the final leg – a narrow spit with sheer drops each side for about 30 meters and then up to the restaurant on the peak of the mountain.
The restaurant had been built as the cable car to the top of the mountain was finished in the 1960s, and is (or was? it wasn’t clear) the highest revolving restaurant in the world, at just over 3000 metres.

The top in sight. And a paraglider!

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The top in sight. And a paraglider!09-Jul-2010 14:45, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

If it looks vaguely familiar you may have seen the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” – where this restaurant was a major setting. The film was actually shot here before the restaurant opened to the public in 1969, and it was actually ‘destroyed’ in the movie. They have a room where at the press of a button you can watch sections from the movie which include the restaurant.
Having some more of my picnic I then started down, and followed a different sign, which actually had Gimmelwald on it, and a time of only 3 and a half hours! The path was much steeper, switchbacking across a grassy rocky hill, crossing a creek occasionally. This was obviously a less travelled track, narrower, and gown over with grass at times and flowers everywhere – not a ski run πŸ˜›

Flowers everywhere

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Flowers everywhere09-Jul-2010 13:10, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 100

Getting near the bottom of the hill and I had two choices – Gimmelwald in 1 hour, or Gimmelwald in 1 hour and a half via ‘Spruce’ – which I vaguely remembered from conversation the previous night was a waterfall. Easy choice – and was rewarded by the track going behind and around an amazing waterfall hidden away in what is presumably a spruce forest πŸ˜›

Coming out of the forest and there was Gimmelwald spread below me.
Turns out I’d missed the quicker route in the morning because I’d taken the ‘shortcut’ towards Murren. Given I needed bread anyway, and it led to a nice circuit rather than retracing my steps it worked out OK. But only 3 and a half hours back vs. the 5 or so on the way up.

Back at the hostel, and Lasagne time! I had judged my money well and after the lasagne had just enough swiss franc to pay for the bus and train back to Interlaken – but not enough for the cable car. I’d already decided to hike down from Gimmelwald to the bus stop anyway, and didn’t find out just how close I was to this until I got to the bus stop at the bottom cable car station. It was a nice hour walk, past a whole lot of extremely high waterfalls – not as much water as Spruce, but falling 3 or more times the distance! When it joined up with the main creek the water was this strange bluish-white.

Amazingly clear and amazingly flat

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Amazingly clear and amazingly flat09-Jul-2010 17:24, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 100

Not just from the rapids – I think the colour is also due to the fact it’s molten snow. It was a very strange colour for water.

The previous night I’d looked up various routes to get to Munich from Interlaken – there was no direct train, and it really depended what time I got to places as to what as quicker. Getting to Interlaken and using the terminals there it turned out I only needed one change though. Going via a town called Karlshrue onwards to Munich I headed!

Barcelona

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Each new city makes me realise how unfriendly Paris is for tourists. Barcelona, follow signs to metro, bang there’s a map you can grab, buy a T10 – ten tickets for the price of about 6, and headed off to the hostel I’d booked a couple of days ago. The reviews on this one were particularly good saying they ran sangria / tapas / barbecue nights – a great way to meet people no doubt.
True to their word, when I arrived there were signs up for a barbecue that night. So I got settled in (Hooray for free wifi again), wandered down to the supermarket to get some beers and hung outside on the patio chatting to people while we waited for our food πŸ˜› Ended up running into Dan – one of the Americans from Madrid! Although we didn’t end up talking much.
The barbecue was brilliant. Only 4 euros I was expecting to have to cook and stuff, but the staff did it all for us – didn’t even have to do dishes! Although I did stack some at least. In the process plans were made to head out to a club in the city called Apollo. However, being Spain, we couldn’t leave just yet and had a rather tame game of kings – with no cup – instead just a version of ‘I never’ with 5 fingers, so after you had done 5 of the things you lost and had to scull. The questions were not exactly revelatory though.
When we finally did head out, we just made it for the last metro train – at 12.30 – which was lucky because the hostel was a fair way out of town. Get into the city and spent probably an hour wandering the streets asking people for Apollo. Everyone kept saying it was too early for it, but we got there about 1.30 and queued for 20 minutes, paid 10 euros and headed inside. The music was apparently ‘alternative’ – but was worse than some of the clubs I’ve been to back home – sure they put on some OK songs which I guess could be called alternative, but they mixed them badly and there wasn’t really much of a dancing atmosphere. Someone who actually knew the place then dragged us down and around this strange path outside the building and back in to a more house music sort of place which was a bit better.
We ended up catching a taxi home around 6. Heading up the huge row of steps to the hostel we ran into two girls also from the hostel. Not feeling entirely up for bed yet we ended up joining them.

Random group on the stairs at 7am

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Random group on the stairs at 7am06-Jul-2010 07:23, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 160

Mandarins, I had to have one.

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Mandarins, I had to have one.06-Jul-2010 07:16, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 5.6, 24.8mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400

I got one

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I got one06-Jul-2010 07:18, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400

Their english wasn’t brilliant being from Germany, but we seemed to get along, and before I knew it another couple of hours had passed and plans were made to meet around lunchtime to go do some sightseeing – specifically La Sagrada Familia – the famous temple by Gaudi. Silly me, despite going to bed at 7.30 am couldn’t sleep that well and woke up at 10.30 and got up anyway. After some breakfast – cereal and milk left by previous people in the hostel and so in the ‘free’ basket – I caught up with some internets before Anja and Wiebke (the two German girls from the random morning on the stairs) turned up, and we headed into the city. Wiebke was Anja’s younger cousin – only 15 – and was having a short holiday with her during their summer break.
We attempted to catch the bus into the city – as the receptionist at the hostel had said it takes us right past La Sagrada Familia. However, it was extremely difficult to follow where the bus was going – as we didn’t have the route on a map. We eventually figured we’d gone too far and got off to find a metro station and get back on track. Sadly La Sagrada Familia was mostly covered in scaffolding, but it was still a very interesting piece of architecture.

Temple de La Sagrada Familia

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Temple de La Sagrada Familia06-Jul-2010 14:53, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 100

Looks like fruit on a pole!

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Looks like fruit on a pole!06-Jul-2010 14:55, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 5.6, 24.8mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

The front

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The front06-Jul-2010 15:00, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 100

Conversation was interesting at times when I said something they didn’t understand, and Anja occasionally having to translate for Wiebke, but it was fun and after La Sagrada Familia we continued through the city, visiting a few more Gaudi buildings, and going inside one – Casa Batilo. By myself I probably wouldn’t have – as it did cost 13 euro, however I was very glad they convinced me. The architecture was like nothing I had seen before – every single surface was an art piece and almost no straight lines in the entire building.

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06-Jul-2010 15:57, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 640

Casa Batilo (another by Gaudi)

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Casa Batilo (another by Gaudi)06-Jul-2010 15:44, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

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06-Jul-2010 16:00, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 400

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06-Jul-2010 16:00, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.02 sec, ISO 160

Through the glass (audio guide told us to!)

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Through the glass (audio guide told us to!)06-Jul-2010 16:22, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.02 sec, ISO 100

The audio tour they had was brilliant- I got it in English and the two girls got it in German obviously. It was amusing to see that the english speaking often finished before the German – I guess that means english is more efficient? πŸ˜›

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06-Jul-2010 16:30, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 160

The rooftop

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The rooftop06-Jul-2010 16:31, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

I was there :P I like this one actually.

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I was there πŸ˜› I like this one actually.06-Jul-2010 16:34, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

Arches

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Arches06-Jul-2010 16:40, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

After the casa (literally ‘house’) the two girls wanted a break, and so McDonalds it was. Apparently almost every meal they had had so far in Spain was McDonalds, which was slightly sad – we fixed this up later in the day however.
We then took some advice from the hostel receptionist (who had actually marked off an entire walking route for me!) and wandered down La Rambla.

La Rambla

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La Rambla06-Jul-2010 20:15, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200

World famous, I could immediately see why. The streets were lined with static art performers — but not just the standard painted statues, but other weird and ridiculous things such as pirates, Indians, headless horsemen, conquistadors and Romans. My favourite was a table with a mannequin sitting next to it. The mannequin was missing it’s head, and painted all bloody, while the table had a persons head sicking out of it – as though it were the mannequins – obviously it was someone sitting underneath the table with their head out,but it was very cleverly done. A close second was a standing man with a fake arm holding a cane attached to his feet – as though he were leaning on it slightly. His actual arm was instead inside a fake head – which looked nearly identical to the actual persons. As such it looked like the man had two heads, one coming out of his torso.
I wasn’t game to take any photos as obviously they expected money if you did.

Ew...

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Ew…06-Jul-2010 18:00, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.02 sec, ISO 100

The girls got some postcards and we continued down, past portrait artists and buskers to the christopher columbus column at the end of the road.

Christopher Columbus

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Christopher Columbus06-Jul-2010 18:19, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 100

Wandering out onto a boardwalk which goes to the mall, we sat on the edge,dangling or feet and wondering at the very strange buoys floating nearby – in the shape of a boy, with their hands on their groin and a red star painted there.

Odd buoy...  Or is it boy?

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Odd buoy… Or is it boy?06-Jul-2010 19:08, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 5.0, 20.18mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

The girls then wanted to find a garden maze which was in their tour book. Having nothing better to do I decided to follow, and we headed off on the metro yet again. It was a good thing I’d got my T10 after all. Wandering around near the station we figured fairly quickly that we had the wrong address – and the maze didn’t actually have an address associated with it- only a street name -not even a metro station nearby. We scoured the map, and nearly giving up I finally spotted the street name in the far top right corner of the sizeable map. It looked as though the garden itself was off it! Undeterred we headed to the nearest metro station and wandered up the road,eyes peeled,and did eventually find it – at 8pm when it shut at 9. We luckily still had time to complete the labyrinth and headed back into the city for a Chinese restaurant the girls had found on google maps.

The maze

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The maze06-Jul-2010 20:15, Apple iPhone 3G, 2.8

Me

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Me06-Jul-2010 20:17, Apple iPhone 3G, 2.8

The girls - Anja and Wiebke

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The girls – Anja and Wiebke06-Jul-2010 20:19, Apple iPhone 3G, 2.8

After determining said restaurant did not actually exist – at least not at the address they had, we settled on a pizza restaurant and had (surprise!) pizza, together with a nice bottle of Italian Pinot Grigo. Exhausted we headed back to the hostel, to exchange facebook and email details and then to bed.

Lagos to Barcelona

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

So after some breakfast I caught the train back to Lisbon. Strangely this time I had to pay a reservation, even though on the way down the conductor had just accepted my Eurail pass. 4 Euros is hardly a big deal though.
I arrived at the Lisbon hostel around 4, and the guy who does reception was actually there! I explained, he got me the thongs – which he wasn’t sure about and had just left on the floor in the room, and then said I was welcome to stay for the day until my train to Madrid came! Great! Free wifi while I wait! πŸ˜› I had considered going to do some more sightseeing but the tower I wanted to go to shuts at 5 so it wasn’t really worth it.
The hostel was empty except for the receptionist at the time… so I did some planning, and caught up on some blogging. I had hoped to meet some of the people who had been here before, and eventually, around 6.30, Serina (from UK) and Regina who had been to the castle with us turned up. Needless to say they were a little surprised, but happy luckily πŸ˜›
We chatted, ate some food, and Regina then had to leave to catch a bus to Madrid. The Australian girls then turned up as well, I cooked some more frozen pizza in a microwave, and ate some of Serina’s breakfast quota of bread beans cheese and ham toasted sandwiches (I wasn’t going to but she insisted! I say breakfast quota jokingly though πŸ˜› ) Then off to catch the sleeper train back to Madrid. Not after a facebook add here and there which hadn’t quite happened when there earlier.
At the station in Lisbon, and low and behold, I run into Andrew and Will again. However, after my horrendous experience on the way to Lisbon I’d booked a couchette this time, whereas they were sticking with the seats. Quick hellos, a phone number passed on for the hostel I was staying at as they hadn’t planned anything and we jumped on the train. The couchette was great. At 31,90 euros (they use a comma instead of a decimal point, weird) vs. the 7 for the seat, it was comparable to a hostel bed and MUCH more comfortable. Had a chat to the guys in the cabin, wrote some more blog stuff, and dropped right off! None of this waking up 10 times in the night with a stiff neck. I can’t imagine I’ll do it every time, but it was actually a better sleep than some hostels – consistent background noise which was relatively quiet. Lagos was unsurprisingly noisy at nights πŸ˜›
However the train was running nearly an hour late, and as such I missed my connection to Barcelona. 10 euros down the drain, and as the next two trains were booked out, a 3 hour wait to boot. Made it there eventually though, an uneventful train ride.

Lagos

Friday, July 9th, 2010

It turned out that Will, and a friend off his, Andrew, both from Christchurch, were also heading down there. They were cutting it fine with the train time though so I left before them to get to the station. At Tunes, where we had to change trains I did run into them again – turns out they had made it with about a minute to spare. Bit close for my liking. We arrived in Lagos and headed our separate ways however – they were going up to a festival out of town somewhat, I had booked a hostel in town. We were both heading for Barcelona on the same day as well, so it was possible we’d run into each other again.
It was clear immediately upon arrival this was a tourist town only. Walking from the station and there were booths everywhere promoting various water sports, or trips to the Grottoes. I found my hostel easily enough – it was a large affair, seemed to be condusive to group bookings, and as I discovered later that night – condusive to drunken parties.
For the day I headed back into town and found a nice little Indian restaurant and had an ‘Indian Kebab’ – basically curry on nahn bread – then found a bar to watch the football. I think it was the Holland game, but the one later that night – Uruguay v Ghana – stole the headlines.
Later in the afternoon I headed to the train station to book tickets to Barcelona. Amusingly I ran into Andrew and Will again, they were doing the same thing. We chatted and they left to go back to their festival, I found a supermarket for some frozen pizza.
With my cooked pizza I was lazy and watched the football at the hostel in the evening.
One BIG problem with the hostel was you had to pay for WiFi – this was new for me… I paid for a couple, but at 1 euro an hour it wasn’t something I wanted to keep doing indefinitely. At some other hostels, hanging out in the common area surfing the internet was an OK way to meet people amusingly enough.
I was debating going to bed early (meaning midnight), but the 3 guys in my room – friends from Sydney – invited me down to the courtyard, and I had a couple of drinks there before heading out to a bar. Bars in Lagos…. wow. Firstly it seemed as though there were 10 on every street. Secondly – no security. Thirdly – beer bongs in a bar?! As we were walking there one of the guys said – ‘we’re finding you a girl tonight! got any condoms?’ Gives you a bit of an idea… my reply ‘Sorry mate, girl back home – you can have two for me.’ For the three in my room (whose names I don’t remember and don’t really care) it seemed shots where the go. Three shots later and it was my round, yet somehow they had all disappeared. I found that a little strange – normally it’s the reverse. I made a token effort to find them but I think they may have realised I wasn’t quite down with Lagos’s night scene – at least the parts of it I’d seen so far.
I have no issue with going to a bar and having a couple of drinks etc. But it seemed as thought he sole purpose of it was to pick up chicks / guys (depending on your preference) – not just to have fun. Their reply would no doubt have been ‘but that IS fun’
Anyway, I headed back to the hostel, and never saw the guys while they were awake again.

I got up relatively early (omg 9am!) and grabbed some breakfast, then headed out for a walk. Lagos may not have a nightlife to my liking, but it certainly has a coastline! I wandered past countless beaches, and essentially climbed down cliffs to get to some more.

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03-Jul-2010 16:42, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 100

The grottoes

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The grottoes03-Jul-2010 16:27, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

Annoyingly I had left my thongs back in Lisbon though… The best one I found involved the most cliff scrambling, getting to the bottom to discover it completely empty. Around to the left I found a few caves, and the tide was low enough, so I went in one and had a short nap… which turned into a longer nap for about an hour.

Caves

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Caves03-Jul-2010 15:24, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

View from my cave

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View from my cave03-Jul-2010 15:31, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

In that time only two more people turned up – a young couple in their canoe, who upon reaching the beach promptly undressed. Definitely more nudists here than back home I think. I did skip one beach when I saw at least 12 or so…
Unfortunately the peace at this one was ruined eventually by a small cruise ship turning up, which proceeded to play loud music and have someone sing happy birthday and run drinking games via a loudspeaker. I moved on. I made it far enough that I was back at a big beach again, and so found a cafΓ© and grabbed some lunch. Of course the football was on there too, and I watched the first half of Germany v. Argentina. Silly me decided to keep walking at the end of the first half though, wish I had’ve stayed to watch the demolishing they gave them at the end. Ah well.
I took the inland shortcut back, intentionally getting somewhat lost, and in the process ran across what seems like a roller-blade time-trial. It was actually quite organised with a loudspeaker and everything. The track was a small obstacle course – and little Portuguese children were set up in pursuit fashion, racing around with parents cheering them on. It was somewhat unexpected – Lagos had seemed almost entirely made up of tourists until then.
Earlier in the day I had gone to pay for more wifi access and the receptionist let me in on a little ‘secret’ – that just down the road there is free wifi on the street. I wasn’t able to find it in the morning, but on the way back I spotted it – a ‘cultural centre’ with a courtyard, which was just open to the public with free wifi. There was a bar but it didn’t seem as though a purchase was needed to just hang out there. Not quite feeling the Lagos vibe, I spent the better part of the evening there, and did have a beer or two just to be polite πŸ™‚
For dinner I took a recommendation from the little tourist map – and found a 5 euro meal that was full size. Great stuff, and I did talk to a few people, but decided in the end I’d get another early night, head to Lisbon earlier in the day and try and get my thongs back, instead of spending more time in a town I hadn’t really enjoyed so far.

Lisbon

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Can I have too many highlights in one trip? Regardless, Lisbon has to be added to the list. While sure the seat on the train there was absolutely terrible (who designs a seat where in normal sitting your head HAS to lean forward? And you’re supposed to SLEEP in it??) the hostel was absolutely brilliant.
I got in to Lisbon at around 7.30am local time (got me confused for a bit as my watch said 8.30 and hadn’t realised Portugal runs an hour behind Spain) and hopped on the metro (again so much better than Paris) to find my hostel. While I had booked it a while ago, I had got the dates wrong with the whole fiasco with trains from Paris to Madrid. I had emailed them to change it, but getting to the hostel at 8am to discover no answer at the doorbell.
After going for a wander and a short nap in the nearby park (and spotting some awesome graffitti)

Awesome graffiti art

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Awesome graffiti art30-Jun-2010 10:53, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 200

I came back around 9.30 to discover still no answer. So I rang the number and the woman said that it was fine about the date change and a guy would come in 15 minutes to check me in. Meanwhile someone finally answered the door bell and I was able to get into the hostel.

It turns out that besides a couple of hours a day to clean and check in / check out people, the hostel is basically left entirely to the guests. It was a single floor of a block, and only had about 24 beds. This made it awesome because you got to know everyone and so, 3 hours later when the guy to check me in actually did turn up (although he just let me keep the key I’d found on the bed, and said to pay later as he didn’t have enough change – so it was all a bit redundant :P) a group of 9 of us decided to head on out to the beach.
After some eventful times trying to buy tickets – it seems half the city had the same idea – we ran into a guy who one of the girls had met previously. He had a few mates at the beach as well and suddenly we had a party πŸ™‚ Late afternoon someone had the smart idea to grab some beers from the shop on the beach and we were off. It was a little strange however – as in Spain people don’t start drinking until late, so we were the only ones drinking. This was made obvious when it was my round and I go up and he knew I wanted 9 beers because of the bucket I was holding. He chucked in a 10th for free as well πŸ™‚
After some genuine peri peri Portuguese chicken and some random guitar playing with a guy on the beach, we decided to head on into the city. The first bar we went to reminded me somewhat of Madrid as well – spilling out onto the streets.

I had some vodka strawberry drink – with real strawberries, however they didn’t crush them at all, meaning it basically tasted of straight vodka. I endeavoured to remedy this by crushing them myself πŸ˜€
The decision was then made to head to a club. Apparently it was walk-able distance so while the girls got a taxi, 4 of us guys headed off. Unfortunately for some silly reason it had been decided we knew how to get there even though we had no map and no local with us. I hadn’t realised this and after 5 minutes of what must have been aimless wandering the decision was made to just go back to the hostel instead. At the time this somewhat annoyed me – I’d been someone working myself up for the whole night thing, to suddenly find it wasn’t going to happen, and then we spent 30 minutes at some random food place which was obviously open 24 hours, when I would have just preferred to be going back home already if that’s what we were doing. I realised I was being a bit irrational at the time but I couldn’t help myself >.< This feeling was compounded when we started heading back. The only one who knew where to go only knew a 'scenic route' and so we spent at least an hour, possibly two, having an impromptu tour of Lisbon. Again I should have just given up and enjoyed the sights, and I *did* take a few photos, but my mood was not the best. I think we gt back around 3am....time for bed.

The next day began lazily. It was amusing just hanging around at the hostel and meeting the people coming in, in much the same manner as me, slightly bemused at the lack of reception and the fact that it didn’t really seem to matter. A guy called Steve rocked up, he was sleeping below me, and we got to talking and he had somehow discovered that Midnight Juggernaughts, a band from back home, was playing in Lisbon that night at Lux, a local club. Being somewhat of a fan myself sounded like a great plan! First things first though, and late afternoon Steve (from Sydney), Will (a guy from Christchurch), Regina (a girl from near Munich…*****) and myself headed out on a self guided walking tour of Lisbon, towards the castle which dominates the south portion o the city.
Winding up through narrow streets and staircases was awesome, passing locals just chatting in the streets and finding a dead end to have to double back and find the next way up the hill.

Just random street on the way to the castle

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Just random street on the way to the castle01-Jul-2010 18:30, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 100

We managed to get a ‘group’ entry fee to the castle as there were four of us and wandered around taking photos as you do πŸ™‚ Besides the Tower of London, this was my first castle, and it was left essentially as is, where as Tower of London was someone tourist-ized (another made up word!)

Me

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Me01-Jul-2010 19:04, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

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01-Jul-2010 19:27, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200

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01-Jul-2010 19:21, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 100

Over Lisbon. Check out the ripoffs of Rio and San Fran.

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Over Lisbon. Check out the ripoffs of Rio and San Fran.01-Jul-2010 19:00, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

We took a scenic route back, through the older sections of the city, passing a few churches along the way, and this awesome narrow street with a tram, which came so close to the walls at times you had to press yourself against them to avoid being hit by it. Footpaths were rather narrow obviously, and the road is used just as frequently anyway.

More churches

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More churches01-Jul-2010 20:22, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

Church

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Church01-Jul-2010 20:16, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

Tramway

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Tramway01-Jul-2010 20:08, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200

Random streets are awesome

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Random streets are awesome01-Jul-2010 19:56, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200

As we headed back we discussed dinner, and bought some meat from a random butcher along the way. The hostel had a recipe book with some traditional Portuguese dishes in it and after a quick perusal we decided on a bean dish and went to grab some ingredients from the supermarket, together with some fruit and wine for some Sangria. We all chipped in to help cook (and make Sangria πŸ˜› ), and the kitchen filled up with others from the hostel. Of course there ended up being more than the 4 of us could eat and so it was shared around, and some other food was added. An awesome meal! Me and Steve also ended up recruiting the majority of the hostel to come with us to Midnight Juggernauts and a group of about 15 headed out on the Metro at 11 to Lux, a club right on the waterfront. We were worried we might have missed them, but figured that the late start to events in Spain and Portugal should hold true, and right we were – with about 30 minutes before they started when we arrived.
The stage they had was quite small and made it rather intimate – obviously being an Australian band, the majority of the crowd would not have known the music they all still seemed to be enjoying it. For their encore they pulled a random up from the crowd to play the drums which was quite amusing.

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02-Jul-2010 02:05, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 4.0, 13.79mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 400

After they finished we headed up to the rooftop, and was quite surprised to find the band up there as well! I actually had a short conversation with the lead singer, and we had a group photo taken… although I have to wait until one of the Australian girls from the hostel uploads it to Facebook unfortunately. It’s the kind of thing that simply wouldn’t happen with them back home as they are too big of a name. (although not ridiculously so)
We then headed down the the club itself. It was somewhat of a new experience for me – DJs at clubs back home are generally just regurgitating well known songs, slightly altered but not much, and their mixing consists of changing the speeds until they match and fading. Sure you can get good ones occasionally – but it is rare, or it’s at a festival. This one at Lux was great though – yes there were still hints of well known songs but most of it was original it seemed, and it made it all the better.

Crusie ship hey?

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Crusie ship hey?02-Jul-2010 01:17, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.5 sec, ISO 200

Just a little club :P

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Just a little club πŸ˜›02-Jul-2010 05:36, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 800

About 4am a consensus appeared to be reached, and we grabbed some taxi’s back to the hostel. I wasn’t to get much sleep, as I had to catch a train down to Lagos in the morning.

Madrid

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Madrid was significantly easier than Paris. Arrived in Chamartin, and BAM there’s a metro map to pick up. Too easy.
Headed in to the station I needed for the hostel I had booked. I went on a limb with them – they had only 5 reviews and so were unrated. They had all the facilities though and I turned up there and apparently they had only opened a week ago!
The staff there were great however, offered me a map and to point out the various sites. There was a *little* bit of construction going on still, but nothing major. I had a great little 2 bed room for only 20 euros a night, and for two of those nights was actually alone! Prices were apparently cheaper to get the people in as it had just opened though.
After catching up with Bridget I headed out with a couple of Americans to watch the USA game at a very American bar. I got a hamburger with chips and the guy was a rather stereotypical US guy. While there we met up with a couple of Peurto or Costa Ricans (yeah I kept getting confused between them, which ever one is near the US) who one of the Americans had met in Barcelona who were now in Madrid. So after the game, to help drown their sorrows at losing we bought a few beers and went back the place the ‘ricans were staying at. They attempted to teach us a rather confusing game that was a cross between 500 and hearts. You wanted to win the point cards, with aces worth 13, threes 12, sevens 11, and picture cards 10, and there is a trump suit.
We gave up after a while and headed out in search of a club.

Random night out in Madrid

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Random night out in Madrid27-Jun-2010 02:46, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400

The first place we found was a dingy little bar on a corner. It certainly spilled out onto the streets πŸ˜›

Crowd in Madrid streets

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Crowd in Madrid streets

It did however have 5 euro pints of sangria. Yet their sangria consisted of red wine, ice, solo, coke and sugar. Not exactly entirely authentic. I think I only got through about half of it… gave the rest away and we headed out again via two metro stations and a taxi to another club. This one was an ACTUAL club, not a bar. We discovered fairly quickly it was actually a gay bar in the gay district. This seemed to horrify the americans but was not something new for me. There were still enough heterosexuals around the place to not be fighting the men off πŸ˜›
The usual night life in Spain is eat dinner around 10pm. Get ready, have a couple of drinks, and go out at about 12. We succeeded in this. We even succeeded in the next bit – which is stay out until the Metro re opens in the morning at around 6am. Strangely enough I was still awake, and after some consultation with a local and a map, discovered that despite the convoluted path we’d taken the previous night we were only 10 minutes walk away from the hostel I was staying at. No metro for me! So I get back to the hostel around 6am and go to bed at 7 – why did I even pay for the first night at the hostel? πŸ˜›
Better part of the next day wasted I eventually made it out to watch the England Germany game. It was a VERY entertaining game, and while England where denied that goal it probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome. I do hope they do something about electronic detection of these things though. I wandered to the supermarket to get some crappy microwave food and bummed the night at the hostel.
The next day I decided to finally do something productive and headed on out to the Royal Palace. The receptionist recommended I visit the Egyptian temple nearby as well, however having just been to Egypt I wasn’t all that keen πŸ˜› Wandering past a few parks I came to the palace.

The north face

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The north face28-Jun-2010 15:16, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200

More royal palace

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More royal palace28-Jun-2010 12:43, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

More palace

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More palace28-Jun-2010 14:56, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

While not particularly massive or anything it was quite tastefully decorated and fit into it’s surrounding gardens and grounds very nicely. After waiting 30 minutes to get in, the inside of the royal rooms was breathtaking. Unfortunately they recently changed their policy of no flash photography to no photography at all, so I couldn’t get any pictures, but the amount of detail in every single room boggles the mind. Each room had it’s entire ceiling painted, and was a masterpiece in it’s own right. The furniture and furnishings everywhere had carvings and gilded edges or trappings. There wasn’t a bare wall to be seen without it having some artwork somewhere, be it a vase, an embroidered couch, a clockwork statue or a polished mirror framed with gold. Some rooms even had themes. One in particular I liked was the porcelain room, with little porcelain figurines inlaid on the wall, with the joins and screws covered by plaster vines which traipsed around the entire room.
After all this the royal armoury kind of paled in comparison – however it had a similar collection to the tower of London’s, but it was more complete and methodical, with entire sets with horses laid out in chronological order, which I believe the tower of London is aiming for eventually. Unfortunately the descriptions in the armoury were only in Spanish so I didn’t get as much out of it as I would have hoped. The visit was well worth the 3 or so euro I paid with my ‘student’ card.

Palace explored I headed further afield and attempted to find entrance to the gardens to the west of the palace to get a shot similar to one of the post cards I had seen. With no obvious way in I headed north instead towards the Egyptian temple. A quick wander past it convinced me it wasn’t worth seeing – a mere 3 meters high πŸ˜› and I headed south again, this time further west and followed the fence line around until eventually I did find the entrance to the palace gardens.
These gardens where interesting, in that while there were pars of it which were clearly quite well tended, there were also parts left to go semi wild, which added quite a nice character to them. After getting my postcard shot (sort of, seeing as the fountains weren’t going)

Favourite shot of the palace

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Favourite shot of the palace28-Jun-2010 16:04, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 160

I continued wandering, and had a short siesta in a nice little shaded grove.

Old stairs

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Old stairs28-Jun-2010 16:52, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.02 sec, ISO 200

Then headed onwards continuing my own personal walking tour (seeing as Sandemans one was cancelled last year due to various reasons – specifically some tour guides didn’t like them doing free tours and ended up assaulting two tourists who went on the tour!
Anyway, over the river to discover a rather strange artwork, then back up following a cable car from underneath, to find it heads to some amusement park. Not of interest to me I headed back to the hostel and had another lazy night, this time of microwave pizza.

My final day in Madrid…. needs to be filled in. If I can’t remember I guess I just bummed at the hostel. What a waste πŸ˜›

When I left to catch the train to Lisbon I had to walk as there was a train strike. Coincidentally (I think not) this was a day that Spain was playing Portugal in the world cup. My walking route slowly got more and more congested and I realised I was walking straight past the Madrid stadium, which had 4-5 big screens set up around it, and therefore a few thousand people as well, drinking their sangria.

The huge crowd gathered for the Spain Portugal game - outside the stadium

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The huge crowd gathered for the Spain Portugal game – outside the stadium29-Jun-2010 20:57, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 160

I decided to take a detour instead of shoving past them with my backpack and all. Got to the station in about 45 minutes and was able to watch the majority of the game there, on a crappy small screen but hey.

Watching the game at the station

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Watching the game at the station29-Jun-2010 23:11, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 5.6, 24.8mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 800

Wish I had have worn my rip off Liverpool top as it had Torres and #9 on it, which happens to be the same number he wears when he plays for Spain. Happily enough the game ended about 10 minutes before my train left, So I got on to one of the worst train seat yet…

Paris!

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

The next morning I got up at what I thought was 7.30 to catch the train to Paris. Unfortunately I’d forgotten to change the time on my phone and had to wait an hour and a half instead…
However, on arrival, armed with a list of hostels to visit, I headed through the station in search of a map. They were not forthcoming unfortunately. In the end only found a bad metro map and headed out to the streets to see if I could do better there. With the help of a few bus stops I wandered slowly in the direction of Aloha hostel. Not having a map one me when I don’t know my way around at all is not one of my favourite ways to spend time.
Mum ended up ringing while I was still wandering and she tracked my progress on Google maps and I eventually found the hostel, and low and behold, despite being booked out online they had a bed for two nights. I settled in and watched some football.
I can’t even recall who was playing at the time, but a few others from the hostel where around too and the conversation wandered to playing. I mentioned I played indoor, and the guy next to me asks where. Apparently his brother plays at Carlton Baths for a team whose name sounded familiar. Then I twigged – it’s what my team (now the Golden Monkeys) used to be called, which means his brother must be Ben! Totally blew me away meeting Tom, the brother of my teammate, on the other side of the world in a hostel I only picked by random chance. We linked a few dates and apparently we’d even met at Ben’s birthday the previous year in Ruffy!
Needless to say we got to talking, and as I’d spotted an add for a ‘Cafe Oz’ in one of the various brochures the hostel had (and a map! yay!) who were playing all the world cup games, with the final group match for Australia that night, Tom and myself resolved to head on over to find it. This turned out to be easier said than done, so luckily we’d allowed a good hour before the game started for us to wander in circles before we finally found it, grabbed some kebabs from across the street, then headed on in to get a good vantage point.
One of the ads for a different Cafe Oz location (they’re a franchise similar to walkabout in the UK) mentioned free shots for wearing a soccerroos top. Sadly this didn’t hold for this one πŸ˜› Still was a great game, and getting the second goal so quickly had everyone on the edge of their seats, maybe we COULD get the 4 goals we needed to progress! Sadly it was not to be and we headed back to the hostel. Victorious but not quite enough.
We still had time to kill when we got back to the hostel so we decided to have a late night wander down to the Eiffel Tower. Unexpectedly when we got there there were thousands of people on the grass drinking and partying away! We later found out this was likely a world cup regret party… with France and another nation which eludes me, having bombed out recently. As we were walking suddenly a cheer rang out and the tower lit up, sparkling like a christmas tree! Can’t say I was quite expecting it. The clock had just struck midnight, although the tower lights up every hour after dark apparently. After the obligatory photos we headed home.

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24-Jun-2010 00:58, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.8 sec, ISO 200

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24-Jun-2010 00:58, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.8 sec, ISO 200

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24-Jun-2010 01:02, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.4 sec, ISO 200

Had to do it

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Had to do it24-Jun-2010 01:05, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200

There were thousands of people there

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There were thousands of people there24-Jun-2010 01:09, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 1 sec, ISO 200

The next day we resolved to do the Sandemans free walking tour – the same company as the one I did in Edinburgh. The hostel organises a guide to take those who want to do it from the hostel to the tour starting point, and so about 7 of us were congregating in the foyer waiting, and got to know each other a bit. The tour itself was great as expected, showing us where all the major sights where, so we can go back later if we desire to actually enter them. Our guide actually made a fairly strong case for avoiding the Louve which I found amusing.

Fountains!

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Fountains!24-Jun-2010 11:47, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 100

I'm in ur boat, showin u puppets

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I'm in ur boat, showin u puppets24-Jun-2010 12:18, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 100

First stone bridge in paris

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First stone bridge in paris24-Jun-2010 12:30, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200

Jedi Knight King Henry the 4th

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Jedi Knight King Henry the 4th24-Jun-2010 12:37, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 100

Jason Bourne was hiding behind the S in one of his movies.

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Jason Bourne was hiding behind the S in one of his movies.24-Jun-2010 12:43, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 5.0, 20.18mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

At the end of the tour, most of us from the hostel accompanied the guide to a little cafe (which no doubt gives her kickbacks but hey) and had some cheese & meat platter together with some wine, and SOOOO much bread. Very tasty. Plans were made for dinner that evening, a late dinner considering this cafe was around 4pm already, and various people had to swap hostels due to rooms not being available and so forth. Seems I needn’t have worried about finding a bed in Paris – it just sometimes involves hostel hopping.

With a few hours to kill before our planned dinner around 8, I wandered in search of a bar to watch the NZ game. I had originally planned to go to Cafe Oz, but the late lunch ran a lot later than expected and so I settled for a cute little place near the hostel, with only mysel and 2 others watching. NZ well out performed expectations at this cup, coming away undefeated – if only Italy could have pulled off a miracle and won their last game,then we would have been through. The NZ game ended 0-0, the Italy game ended 2-3 against them. It was not to be.

And so around 8pm, 5 of us – Tom, Beth from Adelaide, Jess from Sydney, Sarah from Canada and myself met up at Notre Dame cathedral and wandered in search of a place to eat. It did remind me a little of Lygon st back home – the hawkers out the front cafes and restaurants spilling into the streets. We ended up with a cute little restaurant with a 15 euro menu and a free glass of wine because we were a group =) Sounds even more like Lygon st.
Beth knew a little french and we ordered our meals, together with some frogs legs and snails, which I was a little apprehensive about, but, when in Paris…

Notre Dame from the front

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Notre Dame from the front24-Jun-2010 21:11, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100

Snails and frogs legs!

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Snails and frogs legs!24-Jun-2010 22:02, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 125

Snails!

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Snails!24-Jun-2010 22:05, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 800

Frogs legs!

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Frogs legs!24-Jun-2010 22:07, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 640

So for those curious. Snails: no flavour – only the flavour of what they are cooked in – in this case garlic. The texture of a particularly tough mussel. Frogs legs: Reminded me of quail for it’s size, chicken for it’s texture, slightly fishy flavour. Both were quite passable, so it’s all in the mind, very glad I tried them.
My actual meal – stewed mussels (like 40 of the things!) chicken breast with mushrooms, and gelato to finish it off. With the wine and the french delicatesses, the 15 euro meal came out at 25, but it was worth every cent!

Next our plan was to climb he Eiffel tower at night. Beth ended up going home due to a particularly bad chest infection she’d been struggling with for the last week, but the remaining 4 of us hopped on a metro and headed on over. Unfortunately, on arrival we discovered that while the tower is open until midnight, the top level shuts at 10.30. We decided against mediocrity and headed on to the grass me and Tom were at last night – much less crowded this time. A series of bad clichΓ© photos later, involving star jumps posing and asking randoms passing by to get all 4 of us, we sat down and were accosted by a (for want of a better term) wine merchant πŸ˜› Sarah played along but he actually got down to a reasonable price of 3 euro for some sparkling wine, which I ended up popping about 10 seconds too late – after midnight and the tower had already lit up.
Of course it tasted terrible, and he probably made a 2 euro profit from us, but we can’t complain – champagne at midnight in front of the tower – yet another clichΓ© moment, yet so worth it.

Tower at night again

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Tower at night again25-Jun-2010 00:27, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 200

And so we headed home, one from the same hostel, now split between 3, myself and Sarah still at Aloha, but Tom and Jess having already moved on to check in to different ones. Fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

My final day in Paris started very lazily. The only real plans for the day was to go to the Arc du Triumph. And that ended up being about all I did do! Double checked all my accomodation was OK for Madrid and off I headed. Sneaking in on a student fare yet again (Yay for STA youth card – even if I’m not a student people assume I am) and spent about 2 hours traffic watching. Their roundabout rules appear to be the reverse of Australia – you give way to people entering the roundabout i you are on it. Although that could just be around the Arc. Our guide the other day was saying the Arc is the one place in France where all car insurance ceases to exist as soon as you enter the roundabout. It doesn’t affect again until you leave. So you are really taking your life into your own hands. Another saying is the good drivers only get scratches…

Crazy traffic

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Crazy traffic25-Jun-2010 16:01, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200

The Arc itself is huge. Pictures don’t do it justice – but when you have two levels of museumy displays inside the thing you realize just how big it is.

Inside the Arc

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Inside the Arc25-Jun-2010 16:41, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 800

The unknown soldier's tomb

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The unknown soldier's tomb25-Jun-2010 17:20, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

The whole arc

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The whole arc25-Jun-2010 17:43, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200

So back at the hostel with a couple of hours before my train was due to leave, I ran into beth and we both apparently had a craving for asian, so wandered down to the nearest take away and satisfied our need for stir fry, and sortly afterwards it was off to catch the overpriced train to Madrid.

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24-Jun-2010 15:00, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 8.0, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 160