Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Paris

Posted: August 2, 2010 in Travel

In the past the majority of January I have spent in the sun dressed in shorts and t-shirt.  January 2010 however I was living in England, where a unusually cold winter had hit western Europe.  It was considered a warm day if the temperature got above 0 degrees.

Mum was over from Australia visiting so we decided to go to Paris.  After massive delays at the Eurostar terminal due to a train getting stuck under the English Channel, we made it to the French capital, greeted by snow and an average temperature of minus 5.

The underground Metro system took us from the Eurostar terminal directly to the Blanche stop in Montmartre, where we would be staying.

The Moulin Rouge @ Montmatre

 We stayed in a really nice apartment with a view of… the Montmartre Cemetery!!

Montmatre Cemetery

Day two of course involved checking out some things around Paris. The first of these being the Louvre.

The Louve Pyramid

Once inside we admired the hundreds of Italian and French paintings until I gave into curiosity and followed the crowds to view what must have been the smallest painting in the building.

The Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

I have never studied art at a high level, or even had the desire to learn the basics of art theory.  Therefore I am completely unqualified in saying “There is nothing special about this painting”.  Closer inspection for an explanation was made difficult as there were 5 security guards, a thick bulletproof glass cover, 5 metres of floor and perhaps the biggest obstacle of all, a velvet rope between me and ‘the masterpiece’.  I’ve got two suggestions for the Louvre interior decorator – maybe you should put Mona in a smaller room to make her look more extravagant. Also, if you’re trying to show off a tiny painting don’t hang this directly behind it-

Behind Mona

Yes, it is a painting so big it wouldn’t fit in the camera shot.  Remarkably it was only one of many giant paintings scattered around the Louvre.  After some time however even the giant paintings started to lose their appeal to me. Luckily I stumbled across the best exhibition of all at the prestigious French museum…. the Egyptian exhibit!  Not only did it contain some of the oldest and quite clearly coolest artifacts in existence, it also had next to no tourists clogging up the corridors, and blinding me with their nonstop flash photography.  What was in there? Stuff that was 3000 years old including: examples of the first form of written language, giant statues of gods with animal heads, sarcophagi, and a couple of fully preserved mummies.  We struggle to preserve food for more than a month, yet here is a 3000 year old body sitting in the middle of the room for everyone to see.

Egyption Mummy

We left the Louvre and were greeted by fresh snow and darkness.  We also got our first glimpse of the Eifel tower shining across the River Seine.

River Seine

 

Shining Eiffel

We dashed across the river into the  Musée d’Orsay for a quick viewing of the works of my favourite artist Claude Monet.

Water Lilies - Claude Monet

Also featured was Renoir

Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette - Renoir

Also, arguably the most famous piece in the building, Van Gough’s self portrait.  Like the Mona Lisa, I don’t really care for it much at all. Regardless here’s a ‘I’m a tourist that saw things and here’s the proof photo’.

Van Gough

It was time to get some hot food and catch up with fellow Tasmanian Kieran Ollier and his lovely French girlfriend Clara and her equally as lovely mum.  We hit up a Montmartre bar for beers and some banter.

The Pub

We were then ready to head out into the cold and up to the summit of Montmartre to have a look at the Sacré-Cœur Basilica (yes I did copy and paste the spelling from Wikipedia).

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

 

In a day we’d managed to cover art, beer, extreme weather, and religion.  What to do with day two? Royalty, gold and wealth!

We got on the train and headed to Versailles to visit the Chateau de Versailles.  The palace was the centre of political power in the late 1600s for around 100 years until the French Revolution began and the royal family were forced back into the centre of Paris.  After that it didn’t serve much of a purpose other than looking pretty.  There is some serious artwork lining the walls and roof, and everything that doesn’t have a painting on it is coated with gold.

Hall of Mirrors - Versailles

 

Versailles grounds

Upon arriving back in central Paris we had a look inside the amazing Notre Dame Cathedral.  Admittedly this is one structure that I wasn’t dying in anticipation to see.  However, as soon as I first saw the monstrous Gothic structure rising out of the snow, I was instantly glad I made the effort.

Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame

Our final day in Paris, what was there left to do?  Check out one of the weirdest looking giant structures in the world of course.

 

Eiffel Tower

 

Eiffel Tower

 

View from the top of The Eiffel Tower

Nothing really needs to be said about the tower, apart from ‘don’t visit it at the end of the day as it’s a long walk to the top’.  Once you’re at the top though you’ll have a fair amount of time to accumulate some energy for the walk back down, as you’re going to be mesmerized by the 360 degree view of Paris.

On the final day in Paris there was one last thing to do before heading to the train station… have a coffee.  Have you seen that French movie Amelie?  Remember the coffee shop

Well that is The Café des 2 Moulins and it’s just around the corner from where we were staying in Montmartre.

The Café des 2 Moulins

After the coffee was consumed it was time to head back to the UK.  Thanks Paris for being amazing, while not feeling crowded and touristy, and thanks mum for taking me there and experiencing it with me.

 

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On Boxing Day mum and I continued our trip through the English countryside, namely the counties of Devon, and Cornwall.  First stop was Clovelly

Clovelly is nestled amongst the trees on a Cornish cliff-face overlooking the Bristol Channel.  It has a population of a little over 1500 people, plus a few donkeys.  Due to the steep cobblestone slopes and limited vehicle access, deliveries are often made by lowering sledges from the upper carpark.

The secluded village located in North Devon used to be a fishing village in the early 1900’s, however it is now more of a tourist attraction.  Containing only a pub, coffee shop and post-office, the village has an overall feeling of detachment from the rest of the world (in a good way).  After writing that I realised I said post-office and detachment from the world in the same sentence…….. I knew what I meant though.

Clovelly

Clovelly

Decided to spend the night at Newquay as it is only 200 kms away from Clovelly.  Sources told me that it’s a city popular for surfing, sandy beaches, its night-life, and end of year exam parties and stag nights.  Sounds exactly like Brighton, minus the sandy beaches…. and surfing.

Had the best fish and chips thus far in England, perhaps ever.  At breakfast the next morning what was behind window in the dining room was revealed. Cliffs and the entrance to the sea, a stunning view.  No surfers, drunks, or grooms tied to trees in sight.

Newquay

Newquay

We got on the road for another day of driving.  First stop was Tintagel, the alleged birthplace of King Arthur.  Saw the remains of Tintagel Castle, got in the car and left as it was freezing.

Tintagel

Tintagel

The next stop was Boscastle, a small fishing village with a population of less than 1000.  Boscastle harbour is a natural inlet, which is quite spectacular as the water comes right up to the buildings of the village.  A result of this unique harbour design was the 2004 floods, which left 94 residents stranded on the roofs of their houses until rescue was provided by the Royal Air Force, and the Coastguard.

My sudden change in attitude towards English cuisine continued as I sank my teeth into a Cornish Pasty for lunch, in a cafe next to the Boscastle Witchcraft Museum… yum.

Boscastle

Boscastle

Boscastle

Boscastle

We left Boscastle and drove to Launceston, the illusive historical capital of Cornwall.  Reasons for driving here should be obvious to most people reading this.

The road to Launceston

Arriving in Launceston however it was evident that there was a lot more class to this town than its Tasmanian counterpart.  Launceston has a castle, a ‘Bavarian style’ town hall, rolling hills, and a maze like ‘blocky route’ through the historical centre.  With a population of only 8000, its not going be the first returned result for a Launceston search on Wikipedia anytime soon,  however it is a much more relaxed and picturesque Launceston,and definitely a welcoming surprise.

Launceston Town Hall

Launceston Town Hall

Launceston Castle

View from Launceston Castle

Next we drove through Plymouth, which was useless.  A massive city, with uninspiring modern architecture, and slow moving traffic.  Then onto Glastonbury to see the Abbey…. which was closed.

Glastonbury Abbey

Returned to Sherbourne for another night at the Eastbury, and another meal at The Half-Moon, before getting on the train the next day for the trip back to Brighton.

Yes it’s true, a drive through the English countryside is more relaxing than a drive through a random part of Australia.

Bath and English Christmas

Posted: December 26, 2009 in Travel

It was Christmas eve eve, time to make the journey to Hannah’s house to have Christmas with her family.
Arrive at 9am. Train delayed due to ice. Fifteen minutes later train cancelled. Christmas travel is brutal. We manage to get a later train that day, which is packed. 3 hours standing in a train aisle like sardines. It seemed the train guards desired only one thing for Christmas – tetris. Instead of adding extra carriages to the train, they decided piling additional passengers into the aisles was a more logical solution.

We arrived in Yeovil, and headed to the car rental site, where we met mum.
The car was a Holden Astra… er, Vauxhal Astra
We then dropped Hannah at her parents house. This was quite surreal as it had been some time since I had stepped into a place of residence that didn’t share a common wall with the next-door neighbour.
Mum and I headed into Sherborne. We stayed at the Eastbury, and ate at a lush old pub called the half-moon.

The next day we were guided by the voice of Ken (gps man) to Bath.
Quite an amazing city. A city established as a spa resort for the Romans in 43AD. The highlight of course being a trip to the Roman Baths, which contain heated water from the only naturally occurring hot springs in the UK.
Stayed the night at the Hilton. Watched some Christmas movies, and got not a lot of sleep in anticipation for Christmas.

Bath

Bath

Bath

Bath

Got on the road early, destination – English Christmas @ the Hart residence.
English Christmas is very much the same as Australian Christmas. Differences include: not being able to go outside, turkey is the main meat, and epic Christmas tv special episodes, after the compulsory afternoon nap in the lounge.

Christmas

 

Christmas

An all round good day!

Nysha navigating a map as big as her. In front of the Reichstag.

After a 1 hour plan trip on Easyjet (jetstar equivalent) from Gatwick, I arrived at Berlin Sconefeld on the 29/9/09.  I was greeted by Mendel, Nysha, and Jakob!

After a quick bus ride to the centre of Berlin I arrived in Mendel and Jakob’s spacious inner-city apartment.  What to do next was obvious, consume some cheap (but brilliant) German beers, and catch up on the past 11 months.

The next day we went to The East Side Gallery @ the Berlin Wall.  Mode of transport – The Berlin bicycle.

We then stopped for cocktails

Then returned home to organise a hire car for the trip to Munich.

The car we booked sounded big, a Fiat 500.  But as you can see it quite clearly is not.

For a 1.2 litre four cylinder it didn’t travel to badly.  We took notice of the lack of speed limits, and watched the Volvos, Mercs, and Audis overtake us at 200kms/h.  After half an hour of fighting our instincts to drift to the left hand side of the autobahn road we decided to do as the locals do and floor it.  The 500 easily did 130km/h average for the 600km trip, top speed around 165km/h.

We arrived in Munich amped for the big day of big beers, big pretzels, and small amount of personal space that was to be endured tomorrow.  So we did as any sensible group of tired people in need of rest before a day of drinking in the sun would do…. stay up drinking with our hosts to ensure a total amount of 3 hours sleep on the floor.

We arrived at Oktoberfest in the best of spirits (especially Mendel).

We lined up to get into the Lowenbrau tent.  We got inside but there was nowhere to sit.

Instead we found a nice place to sit outside in the sun, surrounded by hordes of Italians.  Moods were low, energy levels were even lower, Italian desire for patriotic song was at an all time high.  We waited and waited for the beers to be dropped at our table.   

Finally the skilled bar women delivered.

Next was breakfast, a pretzel to feed all four of us.

After two steins, we met up with some friends at the Augusteiner tent.  After 1/4 of a stein Nysha decided to get some rest,

after half a stein I was ready to head home for an afternoon nap.

At this stage Mendel was at 3/4’s of a stein and ready to kick the party into gear.  We left him and headed to the train station.  Before we even arrived Mendal gave us a call and said he was on his way.

We had a nap, hit some bars in the evening, waited 30 minutes for ‘the best currywurst in Munich’ then returned to bed.

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The next day we took a walk around the central city of Munich. 

Neues Rathaus (New City Hall)FrauenkircheMarienplatz

  The remaining days in Berlin after the drive back from Munich were left for a tour around the city with Nysha.  Our guide being the Berlin city map, as well as the underground train map.

Here is what we saw-

West/East Boarder – Checkpoint CharlieCheckpoint CharlieGraffitiJewish MemorialBrandenburg Gate

And that concluded my first, and hopefully not last trip to Germany. Check my facebook for the rest of the photos