A Travellerspoint blog

November 2010

October 21st

Paris to Rome

semi-overcast 6 °C

I decided that even though i`m not much fussed on museums I might as well go and have a look at a highly over rated picture called the Moaning Lisa... or was it Mona Lisa... ah well. I got up later then I had hoped and only just met up with two of the Aussie lads that who I was going with to the Louvre. We all arived at 10 am which was a full 2 hours later then we had planned.
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As it turned out the Pyramid entrance had been closed fro staff meetings and was due to open at 10:15am so we ducked under the ropes and waited at the head of the queue for the 3 minutes it took to open. It was pretty awesome a s there was a queue at the other entrance that would have taken between 30 and 60 minutes to get through. Within 10 minutes we were in the Louvre and headed to the Mona Lisa. Thankfully there weren`t a lot of people in front of it so I got a picture of myself in front of it. I would have posted it here but when I saw the state of my hair in the picture I figured there was no reason to make the Mona Lisa look any better!
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We then checked out some cool art and loads of boring stuff and even more boring stuff. Who would`ve thought that there could be so much information in one place. Within two hours my brain was overloading. We headed out in search of a restuarant which the New York Times stated as having the best falafel in Paris. We located the joint and headed in for some falafel. It was pretty good but I love my meat!!! We wandered around the Jewish district for a bit and then wandered back to the Bastille monument. I bid farewell to the Aussie blokes and headed back to the hostel. After spending what seemed like forever booking a hostel in Rome for the night I figured I had enough time to get to the Eiffel Tower, go to the top and head back etc. WRONG!!! I headed to the Eiffel Tower and finally arrived an hour later. Looked at the queue, looked at the time and jogged back to the train station. I eventually arrived back at the hostel an hour later, hurridly checked out and ran back to the train station. With less then two hours to catch my flight, I got off at the right train station, headed out of the wrong exit, crossed several busy intersections and arrived puffing at the bus stop to see the bus I wanted heading up the road. I bought a ticke¸t, stowed my gear in the next bus and grabbed a seat. The estimated time to get to the airport was one and a half hours and I had ohh lets say one and three quarter hours before my plane left. I began to sweat a little as we waited and waited and waited. Finally the bus was full and we were on our way. From the estimated time of arrival to my departure time was 10 minutes. I prayed about it, and basically left it at that as there was nothing further i could do. We then got stuck in peak hour traffic and then were stopped by the police. We finally arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I grabbed my gear and jogged into the airport, talke my way to the front of the queue, flew through customs. As i was hurridly re threading my belt into my pants and re-attaching all the rest of my gear i turned around to look at the electronic flight board to see that my flight was running 30 minutes late.

Posted by classique 23:14 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

October 20th

Walk about in Paris

overcast 7 °C

After a late start I a caught the metro and headed to the Sacre Coeur. I arrived and walked up the hill Montmartre hill. As I reached the bottom of the steps leading up to the Sacre Coeur hill I saw the beginning of the hawkers and con artists. At the main entrance was the customary guy selling Eiffel tower figures, then as I reached the second set of stairs came a bunch of guys trying to give you a free bracelet, which normally once they have tied onto your wrist turns out to be attached to their wrist. They generally then ask for cash and if you refuse pull out a knife. From my understanding most people then pay even though the knife is to cut the bracelet off. Needless to say I wasn't having a bar of that one! I continued past as they called after me saying it was gratis and moved to the next stage in the gauntlet. I began to climb the third set of stairs to meet gypsie looking people who are faking being mute and try to get you to sign a petition. Once signed they then want some money as a donation. I walked on by and arrived at a viewing area from which you can see a lot of Paris.
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I wandered up the last part of the way past more hawkers and beggars and entered the Sacre Coeur which turned out to be smack dab in the middle of a service. Tourists were walking in and out but were asked to be quiet. Nuns were singing in harmony and the priests were getting ready for mass. After watching for a bit and wandering around I headed back out to find entrance to climb the tower. After waiting in line for a long time, with only a few people in front of me I reached the front of the queue. I had my 10 euros ready and fed the notes into the automatic machine which continued to reject each note that i pulled from my wallet one by on. After five minutes of solid trying I had pretty much given up when suddenly the machine accepted my notes and pumped out the ticket. Unfortunately there was no other option for buying a ticket. I inserted my ticket into the turs style and headed up. As I was heading up it occured to me that the machine might be programmed to let people in with a time delay between each so that the single file width staircase didn`t get to crowded. The views from the top were pretty amazing but flipping freezing. Heres a pic of me at the top. Unfortunately there was no one there to take my picture so I set it on auto timer in the only safe spot.
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By the time i couldn`t feel my fingers any more i decided it was time to head back down. I jogged down most of the stairs to attempt to defrost again. When I reached the bottom I decided that the Notre Dame was my next place to check out. I headed back down the hill and stopped to watch a few people playing a game. Its where the have a ball under one of 3 small caps and move the caps around moving the ball from one to another. The same two people stand on each side of the guy with the game dropping in 50 and 100 Euro bets and winning double the money. Then a unwise tourist gets sucked in and places a 50 Euro bet and while he`s obliviously passing over the money the main guy moves the ball from the centre spot to the outside and makes himself 50 euros. Both people on either side of the guy, one being a woman, looked like you wouldn`t want to mess with them. I continued on down to the train station and headed to the next train station. Before I even got there everyone was kicked off the train and then another train came and every one was kicked off that one as well. People were talking in french and most of the people headed off so I left the station and walked the last part of the way to the Notre Dame. I found that the Notre Dame was actually free to enter. Here are a few pictures from the outside and inside.
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I then continued my wanderings and managed to find the Pantheon and a cool church. As there was a charge to enter the Pantheon I decided that it wasn`t worth the money and continued wandering. I found this epic church which had a really cool internal staircase.
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I got back to hostel and had dinner with the Aussie guys again before heading to Montparnasse to catch the view of the Eiffel tower lighting up on the hour for a couple of minutes. We arrived a bit later then we thought we would, eventually found the entrance, paid our money and headed up to the 56th floor. We then took the steps to the roof and enjoyed the view of Paris by night. This was like a dream come true. It was made even better when some Chinese tourists arrived and were running from one side of the roof to the other yelling with sheer delight! At 10pm on the dot the Eiffel tower lit up wit flickering lights that were beautiful to watch. My camera couldn`t catch the beauty of the moment but heres a picture or two from the roof top of the Montparnasse.
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I was still getting over my joy of being on the roof top when someone came up and advised us that we had to head down as it was closing down for the evening. We headed in and spent quit some time taking pictures on the 56th floor. As we headed to the other side to take some pictures we realised that everyone was gone and the staff were packed up and heading out so we headed to the escalators and dropped down to the 1st floor.

Posted by classique 12:47 Archived in France Comments (0)

October 19th

Paris walking tour

all seasons in one day 7 °C

After an amazing nights sleep, a couple of chocolate filled croissants and a coffee, I headed out to join the free walking tour of Paris. I jumped on boards the metro with plenty of time to spare but by the time i arrived at my stop I was running out of time. I had forgot my map and only had a rough Idea on where the meeting point was so I blindly walked up one street and down another. Just as I was about to give up I saw the Aussie guys I had organized to meet up with for the tour. I crossed the road to Place Saint-Michel just in time to join one of the two tour groups. In freezing icy weather with occasional rain showers to increase the delightfulness of the day we headed off across the Seine. We were shown a building with bullets damage in the front of it from resistance fighters in WWII. Then we headed to the Pont Neuf bridge which is the oldest bridge in Paris
We also wandered around the Louvre and were told how the pyramids came to be. It was raining cats and dogs off and on. As we entered a covered area near the Louvre a guy came up selling umbrellas for 10 euros. I thought that was a bit steep but as we were leaving the covered area back into the rain I bartered another guy down to 5 euros. Armed with my budget umbrella which was made from something like recycled match sticks I braved the rain and wind as we headed to a Starbucks close by. Half an hour and 5 euros later we hit the road again in search of more interesting sights. We ended up heading to this park which was originally the front gardens of the palace. Park_in_Paris.jpg
After visiting a few other sites like the Orsay Museum, Place Del la Concorde and a few others we ended the tour at this bridge which has a nice view of the Eiffel tower.
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We noticed coming onto the bridge a vivid police presence so we asked the guide to ask what was happening. It turned out that the uni students had organized a march/riot. The police had vans upon vans parked everywhere. Down the side streets they had vans with fold out riot screens to block any one headed in that direction. With the plan to stay and watch we headed over to the Les Invalides which houses Napoleon. After finding out the entry fee we decided to give it a miss. The march still wasn't happening so we headed off to get some bus tickets. Later in the afternoon we headed past the Bastille monument on our way back to the hostel. Just before we reached the hostel the guys showed me the bakery that they had breakfast at so I headed in to try some baking. I purchased a couple of items and my favorite was something that looked like a chocolate cup cake but had a guey chocolate inside. I've never eaten a cup cake or whatever it was that tasted so delicious!
Later in the evening whilst eating dinner we saw how the riots had gone with smashed telephone booths etc. I personally think that the Parisians must not have enough fun ways to let their hair down so they organize a riot or two.
After dinner I headed out for a couple of catch up drinks with Mohammed who I had met in Krakow, Poland earlier in the year. Fountain_in_Paris.jpg

Posted by classique 08:59 Archived in France Comments (0)

October 18th

Paris

semi-overcast 5 °C

Suffice to say I didn't get any sleep last night either, I caught the 4:30am bus to the airport. As I had arrived with plenty of time up my sleeve I headed to the cafeteria for some breakfast. I headed through customs and lined up to board the plane. I got on the plane and found that the back seats were still free so I grabbed a seat right there. Ryan air open both the front and rear doors for people to enter and exit the aircraft from and if you are closest to the front or back door you are generally one of the first to get off the plane. At 7am I was on my way to see the city of love. I tried to get some sleep on the way but it didn't really happen. Once I opened my eyes, looked out the window and saw the alps rolling out before me.
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I arrived in at about 9:30 or so, grabbed my carry on bag and walked straight past an unatteneded customs terminal and straight to the ticket office to buy my bus ticket to take me to Paris which cost 15 Euros. I loaded my bag into the hold and climbed onboard. The bus journey took about an hour and a half. We arrived into Paris and were dropped off right next to a train station. I walked over to the train station, bought a one day pass and headed for my hostel. After checking in and leaving my bag in the lugage room, I headed back to central Paris. I walked up Champs-Élysées which was filled with elite shops and spent some time window shopping. If my budget hadn't been so tight I would have bought some coats and sweaters which were smick and reasonably priced. As I walked toward the Arc de triomphe I was blown away by the amount of police and police vans. There must have been at least 25 to 30 vans parked on the side of the road with 6 coppers each. They were all parked on the side of the road talking to one another. I eventually arrived at the Arc de triomphe roundabout and watched in awe for over half an hour as the traffic flew in and slammed on brakes, bikes swerving around the traffic, cars and trucks weaving thier way through. I found out later that this is the only place in France where your car insurance is not valid. As I was standing watching the circus of traffic I suddenly realised that some one was close to me. I turned to see a woman bending over and picking up a ring. As she started to stand up again she looked at me with the gold ring in hand. I instantly said no, no no no! She again beconned the ring and once again I said no no no no, turned around and walked off. I watched as she walked acrross the road and began the same procedure with another couple of foriegners. As soon as I saw her picking up the ring I remembered the scam from a book that I had read in Canada. I laughed as I thought about how it had been tried on me! The actual arc de triomphe was surrounded by barricading stopping anyone from actually accessing the arch itself. I then headed in the direction of the Eiffel and eventually stumbled upon it.
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For the next hour or so I walked upto and around it looking at it from different vantage points. I headed over to the queueing point and found a line that looked like it was about an hour long. I walked over to the opposite corner which had a very short queue and enquired what the difference was between the lines. Apparently the long queue was to take the elevator to the second and top levels. The corner that I was at was to walk to the second level. I was through in less then 10 minutes and climbing the staircase to the first level. There was a lady who was climbing up the staircase, with her mother and daughter, who was scared of heights. She made it up to the first floor though which was pretty impressive. As I was climbing the stairs I stopped from time to time to watch the painters hanging from cables and scaling up and down the tower painting it brown in that spot. It is painted every 7 years and it takes 60 tonnes of paint and over a year to paint. I arrived at the first level and checked out the view as well as reading the information boards on how the Eiffel was built, how it changed over the years etc. I then climbed to the second level. By this time the wind was really blowing and as I had left my jacket back in Tuscany it was getting rght to the bones. Every Parisian was wearing jackets and scarves. Heres some great pictures.
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After relxing and taking in the view for a while i decided to head back as it was freezing cold. I got to the train station and was trying to figure out how to get back when i bumped into 3 aussie guys who were also staying at the hostel so I joined them and we headed back together. We had a lovely french/Turkish dinner from the diner next store, bought a couple of beers from the local corner store and eventually hit the sack for an amazing sleep!

Posted by classique 02:53 Archived in France Comments (0)

October 16th

Rome

semi-overcast 21 °C

With all my bags packed I wished the guys a good week, jumped into Ugo's car and we headed off to Sinalunga. We arrived at the train station early. I purchased my ticket and headed to the cafe for a cafe latte. As I got to the halfway point of my cafe latte Ugo told me that the train that had just turned up was headed to Chuisi, so I dumped the cup on the counter and jumped on board. No sooner had I said goodbye the train pulled out of the station. I arrived at Chuisi at 9:30am. I checked the departures board and went to platform 4 to await the 9:35am train to Rome. After waiting for 20 minutes I went inside the terminal and realised that that train must have been cancelled. So I ordered another cafe late and worked on updating my blog for the next 2 hours until the next train was due. Finally it arrived and I was on my way again. Two and a half hours later I arrived into Rome's Termini train station. For the next two hours I endeavoured to find how to get to my hostel. After some lunch, and some cash conversion I purchased a metro day pass and headed off to my hostel. As the train stopped from suburb to suburb I watched as all the nice looking people got off one by one. I finally arrived at the station which was at least 20 minutes from the centre of Rome. I hopped onto a bus for the final leg of the journey to the hostel. With big factories in major disrepair and lots of unmown yards etc. it really felt like the slums of Rome. I finally arrived at the hostel, checked in and headed to my room. I pulled out the sheet of paper which I had had to sign when the money got changed and looked over it. After spending some time working it out I realised that they had not charged me 20 Euros and 5 Euros but 20% and five Euros. The total cost to change five hundred Canadian dollars had cost me seventy Euros. Needless to say I was floored, especially considering how tight the budget for Rome and Paris were to begin with. I locked up my gear and headed to the bus stop. Half an hour later I got off the train at Colloseo station and walked out of the station to see my first sight of the Colosseum. It was already five in the afternoon and even though the Colosseum closed at six I decided to head in for a look around. There were no queues so twelve Euros later I was heading up the steps inside the Colosseum. The inside was as good as I had hoped.
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With a bit of imagination one could see where the emperor had sat, where nobility had sat and where the common people had sat. I climbed the staircases to the highest open spot in the Colosseum and admired the strength and beauty of the ruins. Finally the stewards came and advised the hoards that it was closing time so I headed down to the next level and wandered around for some time whilst talking to a Canadian guy that I had met. We headed out of the Colosseum and wandered aimlessly down the road checking out the sights as we went. We found the Pantheon but it had already closed. After some time we found a restaurant and sat down for a bite to eat. I had pasta carbonara to try and keep it affordable. After dinner I bid him farewell and headed back to the hostel as I was worried that I might miss the last metro train back.
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I felt slightly less confident on this train ride as it was after 11pm and the people seemed a tad seedier. I arrived at the station, walked out and found two police officers and two military guys keeping a look out around the station.
Eventually back at the hostel I changed and headed to bed. The common room/dining room was above my 12 bed room and the seemed to be a constant chorus of scraping chairs. Finally the scraping finished and a few minutes later nine more people teamed into the room. Ahhh. sleep, i think, finally set in. And it was short and sweet as not long later two of the guys started snoring. I found it quite humorous as when the the first guy stopped snoring the second guy would take his place and some times one would snore out and the next would snore out and so on etc. I was really hoping at least one more guy would start snoring so I could hop out of bed and try to conduct a snoring symphony with a huge crescendo! Needless to say sleep was not a thing for me that night.

Posted by classique 02:45 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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