Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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

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 πŸ˜› (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 πŸ˜›
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 πŸ˜›
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 πŸ™
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 πŸ™‚
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 πŸ˜›
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 πŸ™

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 πŸ˜›
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