Ooo la la Pari!
We arrive in Paris with enticing glimpses of the Eiffel Tower and can’t wait to start exploring. We head to our hotel via the subway and realise that we can do most of our sight seeing this way. The metro is great but I think our earlier training on the London train system has definitely helped us and soon we are fairly confident in getting around. The Arc de Triumph. is our first stop, then a nice walk in the sunshine to the Eiffel Tower. It seems amazing to be here at one of the worlds most photographed structures and to think it was only supposed to be temporary but everyone loved it so much it is now a permanent part of the Paris skyline. We sit eating an ice cream before heading for the Moulan Rouge. Shane asks the question he always asks so many times during our travels – “how far is it and how long will it take to get there?” This question has been asked many, many times and I have always answered “I’ve never been there so how would I know.” But this time I reply ” well, the last time I came here it took about 45 minuets so we need to add an hour as I was much younger.” Shane sits there for a while obviously absorbing this information and then looks at me a little puzzled until the penny drops – I haven’t been here before so I don’t know. I’m laughing and he is saying all sorts of things but, fingers crossed, I have cured him. We find Moulan Rouge just across the road from the train station and I check out the inside – hard to believe this all started with a bunch of working girls kicking up their heals for fun. I really need something to pick me up so a quick beer at the Harp an Irish Sports Bar. I know we really shouldn’t be in an Irish pub in Paris but it is kind of nice talking to people in English for a few hours. I move into dangerous ground with some Sangrias and the walk home hardly bothers me at all. The next day we continue with our foot tour to the Notre Dame and the Louve. It takes us a while to find the Mona Lisa but definitely worth it, although the crush to get to the front is insane – I’m surprised Shane stuck with me but then he was hanging onto my bag as if his life depended on it, which was around my neck, while I took pictures – he seemed to be very concerned about pick-pocketers being everywhere. To complete Pari we hop on a bus and head around the city by night – spectacular! Very special way to end our holiday.
A magical day begins just like any other but then something happens and it turns into a day you will never forget. On our way to Fecamp, on the west coast of France, I meet a young girl travelling the same way and check with her if it is the right bus. We have a bit of a chat and laugh as we struggle with each other’s language and then at our destination say “au revoir”. We walk into the station and she follows us to tell us she wants to take us to our hotel. We meet her father and he asks if he could show us some sights. We are overwhelmed by his spontaneous generosity he shows two perfect strangers. For the next hour and a half he shows us the sailors church, the bunkers that are still left from the war, the cliffs and talks about his life. We are so grateful and even though the time was brief a real connection was made. Shane and I then set off for the cemetery and it is all up hill – of course. We have a little trouble finding Uncle Noël and the people at the cemetery try to help us not knowing any English at all but are so delighted when we finally understand and make our way to the soldiers graves. It’s quite an emotional experience as you look at the ages of these young men when they died and to think about the ultimate sacrifice they gave for all of us. Shane’s uncle is in good hands, the area has been set aside in the bigger community cemetery and is well maintained, only about 35 graves, with beautiful lawn and little flowering shrubs. His story is quite sad as he was on his last mission, only the pilot survived and he ended up marrying one of the French resistance girls who helped keep him safe and bury the others.
We return to our hotel to find a card from our new found friends, wishing us well and hopeful that we may come back for a longer visit. We are so happy to have their names and address to contact them when we are back home.
They have given us a restaurant to try and we made sure we booked before heading out. When we arrive the outside of the restaurant is packed up and at 7:30 the doors are closed. It feels very intimate as the inside only has a few tables and even the family who run the place are sitting down enjoying a meal together. They say “bon appetite” when our food arrives. The sea food is amazing, crab, smoked herring, cod, sea bream and to finish creme brûlée and lemon sorbet.
i would love to stay another day but sadly there is a train strike and so we do have to try and get back to Rouen in case the trains stop running completely. After all we can’t miss getting back to Australia, can we?
The view from the top of the hill overlooking the shoreline of Fecamp
Chapelle Notre Dame de Salut, church on top of the cliffs overlooking Fecamp for those lost at sea. This was never bombed as both the Germans and English used it to show the way.
Our new friends Stephanie and Daniel
Very difficult to walk along the beach but the cliffs are magnificent!
Shane doesn’t sleep at all last night, too worried about going to sleep and missing our plane to Paris. It is an early start at 2am and sad to farewell Daniel but our holiday is nearing an end and we must start making our way home. At Paris we are very impressed with all the assistance us foreign English people can get – helpers are everywhere. We have decided to drop off our big bags and continue with a couple of back packs until we go and though it does cost more than expected I am relieved not to be dragging them around. we get the train to Rouen which is a name you have to say with force through your nose so it comes out something like Rue but I still can’t get it right. We are worn out and pick the one of the closest hotels to collapse in. I start doing some research and find out Joan of Arc is much revered here – her imprisonment, torture, trial and ultimately, her death all happened in this place. There are bridges, streets, and a museum just to make sure you don’t miss it. Her story is well documented and an interesting tale of an amazing life, though ended tragically to soon.
We enjoy a walk through the streets, the buildings are quite different to anything else we have seen in Europe, wander passed the Notre Dame of Rouen. (Notre Dame’s actual meaning is Our Lady – referring to the blessed Virgin Mary so most French towns have a Notre Dame of something.)
We do come back here after Fecamp and enjoy a walk along the river Seine before heading to the hectic crowds of Paris – one more quiet night in the country before battling the crowds, the metro and other tourists.
Notre Dame Of Rouen. The intricate architecture of this church is something to see, lots of attention to detail, arches, statues big small and really tiny.
The last of the castle of Rouen and the tower left. This is where Joan of Arc was imprisoned and tortured. She was also tried and eventually burnt at the stake.
Joan of Arc Bridge over the river Seine
gate to the Prague Castle
The colourful buildings of Prague from the Castle grounds.
An interesting statue, of course the crucifixion but also the gold letters in Jewish writing saying Holy, holy, holy – bit of a long story but to do with the on going persecution of the Jewish people who lived here – forced to do things to avoid death to themselves or to their community.
From the Charles Bridge looking toward the Prague Castle.
Usually I don’t do a take two but Prague is pretty special and we have set out to have quite an adventure today. Shane has actually agreed to go on an electric bike tour of Prague – just because he knows Daniel and I really want to do it. First we head down to the square for some markets, a light lunch and go to a Shisha bar. To put everyone’s minds at rest these have no nicotine and are just a nice flavoured smoke, ours was grape, so no naughty business going on here. Most of the tour is on bike tracks but initially we are weaving our way through traffic and negotiating bridges, cars and pedestrians. These bikes are so good and do all the heavy work for you so we are able to much further than ordinary bikes or, our usual mode of transport, walking. the guides are wonderful, pouring their stories into our lives and making the tour so very interesting. Pointing out various other sights and some very interesting activities – tight rope walking in the park. We learn about romantic facts – the 1st of May is lovers day and many people flock to parks and gardens to sit under the cherry blossom, our guide says he has never done it and thinks that love should be more private than crowds of people pushing and shoving to get spot. I do get – shall we say ….. Lost again, or rather I think the guide says 15 minutes of free time not realising he will show us around for 15 minutes. So I wander around oblivious, taking photos and then I make my way back to the bikes and the guide says ” your son was worried about you not being with the group”. (Oh dear, I hate upsetting anyone but I do have a bad reputation for being in la la land at times.) I have a nice chat to our guide about the Czech Republic, the protestor saying the president took his house and various other stuff as the rest of the group come back. I have to say I am not the only one gone astray and we are ready to set off having to leave one of our guides behind to wait but just before we take off he finally shows up. We set off again passing the old castle walls, under the Charles bridge and back to the bike shop. We are very pleased with ourselves.
That night Shane is very tired and his legs don’t want to take another step so Dan and I venture out to eat at a local recommended restaurant. It is so hard to choose from the ver extensive menu but finally I decide on the rabbit and Dan has a ‘mixed grill’ of pork, duck and other things. Both meals are delicious topped off with a local Riesling that I enjoy immensely.
The next day we watch the State of Origin at a Irish Pub, very bizarre, and happily watch NSW win the series. Then once more to the Lokal for more beer and a schnitzel. A sunset stroll across the Charles Bridge completes our time in Prague.
Shane and I don’t get much sleep as we have to be up by 2:30am to go to the airport and Paris. Oh well, plenty of time to rest when we get home.
Prague is one of Daniel’s favourite places and at first glance it is colourful and brimming over with a welcoming atmosphere. It is a bit of a mad dash to catch the walking tour but so glad we did. Our guide Petri is Czech so has first hand experience and shares her knowledge generously. Gruesome stories of clock makers being blinded, ghost stories of haunted churches, spiritual signs and visions of how Prague even came to be and about an artist with an interesting slant on the world which makes us all want to look. We were educated on their tumultuous past, the recent split with Slovakia, the building architecture and how changing to euros will effect them. Names that seem so complicated roll off her tongue as she recalls the history of martyrs and the human sacrifice that is part of this country. The Czech Republic became independent of Russia by peacefully demonstrating, over 300,000 people in Wenceslas square, taking keys out of their pockets and shaking them in the air, “give us back our country”!
Our tour goes for almost 3 hours but we seriously don’t notice the time and I would highly recommend this to anyone coming here.
We watch the special astronomical clock go through its hourly paces, not terribly exciting but as it goes every hour it is much easier to see than the one in Munich.
It is time to find out the real reason Daniel likes this place so much and we are off to a beer hall called Lokal and the beer is tanka. This simply means that the unpasteurised beer is delivered within hours of brewing In 2,000ltr tanks. Inside these pressurised tanks are big thick plastic bags which are filled with beer and the high pressure forces the beer to the tap, full of flavour and without the need to carbonate. The result is crisp, clean flavours that is fresh and goes down easy, perhaps a little too easy.
We also enjoy the famous Chezk goulash with dumplings, washed down with more beer of course.
The Astronomical Clock – apparently the most underwhelming tourist attraction in Europe – I thought it deserved better than that.
David Cerny, an interesting political artist creates the Two Pissing Men. Features a map of the Czech Republic and he created it as he is “always pissing people off ” – his words.
Another sculpture by Cerny, you can actually climb up into a cavity inside the woman and be born again.
Munich has a different vibe to the other places we have visited in Europe. It has been modernised due to the Olympics and yet still has many gothic style buildings which sets the scene for the nature of the city. A real mix of old and new with many cultures from around the world catered for.
We embark on a walking tour with Daniel covering the justice building where members of the White Rose group were tried and beheaded for protesting against the nazi regime. We see the famous Marienplatz Clock which goes through a special routine at 12 noon and 5pm. (Shane and I end up doing a dash through the streets to try and make the 5pm time slot with a very friendly local showing us the way just to see it. We just make it with 5 minutes to spare and I thought it was pretty special so worth the effort.) The church built by two brothers is amazing, the Asamkirche, dedicated to a monk who drowned in the Danube River, which started off as a private place of worship but public demand won over and it was opened up for everyone to enjoy. The inside is opulently decorated and every space is filled with golden statues, spiral columns, decorations and to top it off a beautiful stain glass window to allow the sun in to subtly illuminate this place of worship. Fountains are on nearly every street corner and square in the town and since I love a good water fountain I am overwhelmed. They look so amazing, different shapes, sizes and just lovely workmanship.
Of course our tour is not complete without a visit to the most famous beer hall the Hafbrauhaus and it is something to experience. I can only imagine what this place would be like during Octoberfest as this place is quite full now. A band comes out to play and music fills the hall with people clapping and singing along. We also try one of the huge pretzels and beer, beer beer. We walk around for some more sight seeing and end up at a beautiful beer garden that we may have spent a little too much time in, Shane enjoys a pork knuckle, Dan some sausages but it is very difficult for me as I am not a huge fan of pork – whoops can’t mention that here
The next day we head to the English Garden, interesting name but just because of the form of the garden rather than the location, and it is huge 3.7ksq so you definitely need a packed lunch to get from one side to the other. It is a very beautiful, peaceful and relaxing place to enjoy with music drifting around from a variety of buskers and musicians. Here too is a couple of bars – after all no English garden would be complete without a German beer hall!
We booked a train from Munich to Prague and guess what – it turned out to be a bus. I imagine we were quite a sight with Daniel striding out in front with his phone to locate the bus station with Shane and I running along with our back packs and suitcases rolling down the footpath, Very exhilarating and we did make it.
The Justice building in the background of a very popular fountain.
Shane loves the markets but could only look.
A very small section of the English graden
Friday the thirteenth and three countries in 8 hours – not bad really. We decide the train trip will be a nice way to,travel and see the country side. We are not disappointed and Shane is very interested in the crops and looks carefully at how they grow their absolutely delicious tomatoes hoping to pick up some tips on the way. So much of the scenery is like picture postcards, a little village nestled into the valley, a church at the centre, beautiful green hills folded in around the outskirts and in the distance snow capped mountains.
Verona is our last stop in Italy and we are hopeful of getting tickets to Munich but prepared to stay here a night if necessary. We have no trouble and just an hour to wait. The ticket person asked if we wanted to reserve seats and then I thought she said for €50 so I said no thank you. Dan tells us to jump on as quick as we can to find a seat but with so many reserved signs it was too difficult so Shane and I get seats until the next stop while Daniel goes exploring. Soon He is back and takes us to a seat further down the train but in those nice little room ones with about 6 seats. We have the whole thing to ourselves and plenty of room for all our stuff. Shane and I are sure we shouldn’t be here and in my mind I’m already making up excuses and hoping we don’t get fined or worst still thrown off the train. A long 20 minuets later the ticket officer comes, smiles happily, stamps our ticket and while Shane and I breathe a sigh of relief, Daniel enjoys saying ‘I told you so’! I just could believe the absolute chaos in the other section of the train, no room for bags, people clambering to get seats and just down a couple of cabooses we are spread out relaxing. Shane is still wondering why anyone would reserve seats, not for €50 and Dan says it was 4.50 Euro. I’m glad I miss heard as I would have missed getting these seats.
4:30 in the afternoon and we arrive in Munich and the accommodation is the best yet – a lovely apartment and nice and close to the station – we are slowly learning the tricks to travelling.