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France

Day 22 - Au Revoir Europe

Reflections on our brief sojourn around northern Europe

sunny 23 °C
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Today is our last day in Paris and Europe and tomrrow we take the Eurostar to sunny old England.

So I thought today was a good time to reflect a little on Europe (well the little bit that we saw in the short time that we had).

As a person that has a big personal space need it didn’t take long to bring back memories of previous visits where the sense of bustle brings a high degree of vitality that soon turns to “hey dude move over”. I certainly miss that sense of space that I have when I am in Australia. I still haven’t managed to fit by big fat arse into the small space allocated in most Parisian cafes and end up moving chairs and tables around so I feel more comfortable. I think that’s why French (women – book reference) don’t get fat – you can’t fit into the chairs. The amount of walking up and down stairs and between connecting metro stops also helps keep up the cardio levels (I still don’t know how people in wheelchairs get around). Walking the streets it is a case of negotiating passages between you and on-coming traffic. So that lack of personal space is one thing I am missing, but I love the vitality that these busy, hectic cities generate. If I was to live and work here – then it may be a different story, as you can often see the look of sheer tiredness on some people’s faces as they go about their daily life.

While never in your face, the reality of living in a potential terrorist hotspot is always omnipresent. In all countries there were some serious big military boys with big guns prowling the hotspots. Glad they are there, but again coming from Australia where the threat is so low, it does stand out when you see then literally on patrol. There were several times in Brussels where the metro lines were closed down on the orders of police. Don’t know exactly why they were closed, but if terrorist related, it can become a source of hatred on behalf of locals. Still in all the time so far, I have never felt in any way threatened or I should cross the road here. Maybe it is a tolerance that you learn when live check by jowl for so long. There were certainly plenty of screaming loonies, but they mostly let it out and moved on.

The people have been exceptionally nice. The Germans, quiet and reserved, but give them a beer and a football match and they become mad as cut snakes. The Dutch I love, mainly for their tolerance and libertarian nature and you wonder why such trails develop in one country (is it religion, education?). Also every time you ask someone on the streets, they always answer so nicely and with a genuine warm smile and not the “not another stupid tourist looking for the coffee house”. Didn’t have a lot of interactions with the Belgium people this time around. Of all the races they looked the most weary and probably reflecting their lower economic status. Very impressed with the French, when you sit and observe their interactions with each other you see a politeness to their way of life. The social etiquette of their language and the mannerisms of hellos and goodbyes makes for interesting observations. While all cities have their beggars the Parisian beggars often are accompanied by dogs and cats, which pulls at my heart because of the loyalty these animals have to their owners, sitting there all day by their side.

Weather makes a big difference. Today is a sunny warm day (23) after a slow gloomy start, but it just makes such a big difference to how you perceive a place. Most days have been overcasts, without being gloomy or sunny and it has only rained once or twice very lightly. So we have been lucky in that regard, but it would make or break your perception of places if it was dark and gloomy most days.

Would I like to live here? Not at this stage in my life. If I was young and had languages then yes it would be a great place to live. But for now it is au revoir Europe.

Posted by Neileeann 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Day 21 - Running out of juice

overcast 21 °C
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Well I am starting to run out of juice!

Didn't sleep well last night and was a bit slow out of the blocks today. Wanted to see the Museum of Paris, because it has one of the best representation of the French Revolution. Funny that there is no dedicated museum to this important event, not only in French history, but European history. Even funnier that once in the museum they suddenly close down various wings. And so it was today. I was half way through the section on the French Revolution and I was informed that it was closing for a couple of hours (presumably so it can have lunch) and I had to go elsewhere within the museum. It would make an interesting stat to see how many paintings there are in Paris, let alone Europe, because I reckon I must have seen at least 2,000 so far and I would have only scratched the surface. Without any real English translation it was fairly uninteresting, other than seeing the opulence that the wealthy lived in prior to the revolution. A pity because I think this revolution still holds many lessons for our society today – Liberty Fraternity ad Equality are still powerful ideas.

Decided to combine breakfast and lunch and had a Stake Tartar, red wine and coffee. See this meal served numerous times before and it is a bit of a French stable in the cafe, because it is so easy to prepare. It was a beautiful meal and having the time to slowly eat it with a good glass of red made it even more enjoyable.

After lunch I really didn’t do much. Walked around the older part of Paris (Latin Quarter) for a while, but I think I am a tried little boy and I headed back home about 3pm for a beer and a rest.

Posted by Neileeann 07:38 Archived in France Comments (0)

Day 20 - Magnificique

overcast 21 °C
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Didn't do too much today.

Went down to the Notre Dame and Ile de la Cite this morning.

Strode up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Truimphe at lunch time.

Finished off with dinner at the Eiffel Tower.

Just another day in Paris.

Posted by Neileeann 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Day 19 - A sojourn to Rouen

rain 20 °C
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Firstly the show last night was good, but it was what it was. It was a show put on for tourist with a mix of few different styles - dancing, singing, acrobats, illusionists and a laser show. It hit the mark of what I expected. It sold itself as being a bit more upmarket than Moulin Rouge and the seating was a small table with a desk lamp and bottle of champaign upon arrival. From what I had read the Moulin Rouge was a bit of a sausage factory in pushing you in and through, but it may have been a bit more bawdy in its routine. The table next to us had a marriage proposal with the engagement ring being brought out after the cancan dance and spotlighted with the light from the mobile phone – how very modern.

Afterwards we walked back to the Metro station and made our way back to the hotel. There was a big concert in the square near our hotel, so we stayed and watched that for a while. Again the French are very polite and non-aggressive. I my bang on about this, but my experience in Australia at such public events is that you will always get a few aggressive drunks. But so far on this trip, no matter how drunk, they seem to exercise very good self control and you never feel any threat.

Well today was the last day of our Eurail ticket, so we decided to use it one last time and took a sojourn to Rouen (http://www.rouentourisme.com/Default.aspx?tabid=2508&language=en-US). It is most famous as the town where Joan of Arc of executed. Given Lee-ann has a strong affiliation with Joan it seem like the place to go. It is an hour and a half train trip north west of Paris and I was really impressed with the town. It has a strong Tudor architectural style that just lead you down one street after another.

Putting on the planning hat, it has a city population of 110K and still supports a metro system, has a major cultural centre and many other cultural facilities that would put cities 3 times their size in Australia to shame.

After a good day out we made our way back to Paris and had a quick bite to eat and drink, before retiring back to the hotel for a night in.

Posted by Neileeann 10:50 Archived in France Comments (0)

Day 18 – Small k kulture

sunny 23 °C
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Firstly dinner last night was superb. We found a square that had numerous bars and a bit off the main strip. We were attracted to a bar that had the Le Coq out the front, so we set up shop in there. Beautiful meal and nice to have a meal without chips for once. After dinner we had deserts and before long we were on the cognac. Kind of slipped too easy into the French way of life. Should have started a rendition of the La-Marseillaise.

I have to say that the Parisians have been exceptional in their hospitality. Most have gone out of their way to make the language work and it has been a far more easy visit that my last time 30 years ago.

Well today was a leisurely day, participating in small k kulture. Our mission today was to walk around the Montmartre area, which is where all the old artistic lived at some time in their lives. Like a lot of other places in our travels Paris is quiet flat, but the Montmartre has one of the few hills. So what do you do when you have a hill – you build a catholic church on it to be closer to god. The Basilica Sacre-Coeur is an impressive church and just the void and artwork is enough to humble any human who doubted the power and supremacy of God. However, he still haven’t cracked this little black duck!

After that we wandered our way down the hill via the narrow streets filled with artists, shops and food places and eventually settled in near the Place the Abbesses for a drink of red wine to while away the time.

From there we made it down to Pigalle, one of the more famous red light districts of Paris. Took the happy snap outside the Moulin Rouge and eventually made our way back to the hotel.

Tonight we return to the red light district to see a show. The La Nouvelle Eve (http://www.lanouvelleeveparis.com/) is the sister show to the Moulin Rouge. It is not so racy (they keep their knickers on), but from what I have read it is a more comfortable venue and not the sausage factory that many have said about the Moulin Rouge. Time will tell.

Posted by Neileeann 17:00 Archived in France Comments (1)

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