Day One - Flight out and drive to Giverny =
Boarding and customs were normal; I thought I could sneak my small pocket knife keychain on board but no, that wasn't allowed, so I had to give that over to me mommy before boarding.
Vancouver was normal, boring, and the flight lasted a billion hours.
I watched 2.5 sucky movies=
Australia - plot was blurry at best (stop the what to save the who?) and starred some creepy naked kid who would stare right into the camera and "sing you" to somewhere or something, not sure... ooookkkkk
Twilight - dear god! Plot spoiler= the vampire can't read her thoughts because she HAS NONE. For some reason vampires have shiny diamond skin, and the jail bait star wants to hang out with "vegetarian" vampires......ugh.
Plus some other movie with branden fraiser who somehow makes things come alive when he reads books, I got halfway through before the plane stopped in Frankfurt.
Oh yah, on the iternary it said I would arrive at 0830 in the morning, instead I arrived at 1830, a small change im sure. In the Frankfurt airport I made an 80$ 10 minute phone call to Paris to say I would be late picking it up (no one speaks fluent English in Europe).
After having some 10$ shot glass sized coffee and grabbing a German tabloid to gawk at we made it to Paris, uneventful. Once there I called the car company, they picked up us ("Wee sir, vait outzide unnd fur le green titty car") that was my instructions. Anywho, made it out, picked up the car, and started on the road to giverny.
I asked the gps to avoid the toll roads, it cost us an extra hour, but the view was worth it. The roads in that part of the country do not have protective medians on the side; it is just concrete, then grass followed by a steep ditch. We drove by several small villages down a small highway, I was fighting with the gps with sylvana, I didn’t figure out a good spot to glue the gps and whenever I tried to look at it, syl would back it away. I guess it was my fault, I just asked her to tell me when there was a turn. I just wanted to see how long I had to go, etc. and didn’t want to bug her every 5 seconds to cater to my every thought.
Made it to the manor house, B&B, whatever you wanna call it. We drove by it first, but was pleasantly surprised when getting there. It was a picturesque 16th century manor house surrounded by a bubbling brook, exotic animals (miniature kangaroos, ostrich, pony, pigs, geese, llamas as well), and a lovely walking trail around the home. We unpacked our luggage in the room, which was decent sized, but no bathroom, we had to use one down the hall (they didn’t design it as a hotel 500 years ago for some reason) and walked out to search for dinner.
The map of the town was tiny, but confusing of course. We wandered up some "main road" till we found 2 restraunts, one packed full of people, and another empty. We chose the empty one, and had a great dinner. Some sort of salad that made my tongue taste things it never tasted, the tiny little onions had flavour the started small then grew up to what felt like a little spicy explosion in mah mouth. The guy there didn’t know any English, but with my shitty French managed some sort of conversation. Plus we were all red eyed and fucked up from the billion hour flight with no sleep, and stanky too from not changing or showering/shaving.
After that we wandered back to the hotel, whatever, thing then slept.
Day two - Monet’s garden and Rocamadour
We got up early for a morning walk in the gardens, around 730, to see the animals. The ostrich freaked me out, the thing was huge and looked at me funny, plus the only thing separating it from me was a 2 foot wide brook. Syl was too afraid to go near it; I got a closer look then backed off to take some photos of the house, the animals, and of syl in the garden.
We were the only ones in the house (ill call it that from now on), and had a great cold breakfast prepared by the lady. Oh yah, a family lived there, she knew English, the husband was the maintainer of the place and knew no English, but they seemed nice. the place had some stupid stuffed animal that would whistle every time you walked in "Woooot wweeewww!" like a cat call or some shit, kinda annoying cause the first time I thought it was there 5-6 year old daughters doing that to me. The rest of the house doors were left open to allow for air to go through, probably, some of the rooms were nice, the biggest one had these huge camera light set up (porn filming of course) but it was a pretty sweet house.
We got some of the bicycles and rode around town looking for Monet’s gardens and house, but we were confused by the stupid map. It was like a 10 minute walk from the house, so we left the bikes back at the house, and eventually found the entrance; it was off some street in a stone wall.
of course there was a fee, and following the ticket agent we made it to the gift shop, which was once some other building im not sure, it wasn’t new and the sitting couches were god knows how old.
it was still too early in the season to see all the flowers and shit in bloom, but it was still green and nice, we toured threw Monet’s gardens, saw the trees, bridges, the lily pond (no lilies), (oh yah, you gotta get to the lily pond through an underground passage under the street, the entrance off the street is shut.
It was nice, but had a bunch of annoying tourists everywhere hogging the photo ops, most were German, and the rest were old folks some god knows where.
Monet’s house was nothing special, only thing interesting was the room specifically designed to air out his paintings, and they kept the same furniture and placement as it was when he was alive. He had a thing for Chinese porcelain and Japanese framed art.
After that we walked toward some antique shop, but it looked like a closed garage, so we didn’t bother going in. I saw some neat decorative metal thing people have outside their homes to keep the shutters open (they tie a rope from the shutter to the metal thing). It looks like some 18th century lady with a bonnet or something.
We walked over to the church where Monet was buried, but it was closed, all the had was this massive picture of Monet on the church, and scaffolding all around it, so we gave up on that. Besides, we were late for checkout.
The sob's only took cash so there went 80euros out of my 500 spending money. We got on the road for the 7 hour drive to Rocamadour. We decided to take the toll booth way cause it saved us some time.
Oh yah, toll booths in Europe are fucking expensive, I must have spent over a thousand dollars in fucking toll booths in my 3 weeks there.
The drive down was painful; I was still fucked from the flight. We passed by several places worth seeing (I think) but instead decided to press on to Rocamadour. We were stuck in traffic cause they were doing repairs....BBBoorriinnngggggg
Getting off the highway was nice, and the scenery changed to a hilly tan/grey atmosphere. We passed by a few nice towns (each one I was like "am I there yet? - thank god for the gps, without it the trip would have been impossible).
we passed by an abandoned military base (I would have liked to explore that - but maybe after I leave the military and getting charged for trespassing would not be as much of a scandal). Then to the town, we were lucky to have the last parking spot available at the hotel.
Like most hotels in Europe, the lobby is large and spacious, and the rooms are complete shit. This moron in from of me was deaf and wouldn’t move when I asked him too. So, I pushed him out of the side, with him gasping "OHH mon dieu!" Fucking moron, cant you see the place is tiny and I have a ton of luggage. Ok, I was grumpy at the time, syl knew that. We threw our shit in the room and started exploring the town.
I don’t think Rocamadour has changed much in the last 500 years, except for a few additions. It’s like composed of 2 parts connected by a steep staircase (le grand ecasse or whatever the fuck it is in French). The stone stairs had fossils imbedded in it; it was the beginning of our uphill climb that was our trip in Europe.
The fortifications and some buildings were crumbling with age and neglect, only the gate entrances remain along with the old buildings, and on top of the hill is a fortified church. Going up the hill you pass by 19th century placements marking the 14 or so stages of the cross. Near the top of the hill is a cave dug out in the 19th century (fuckers gated it off) with a religious table thing, whatever the fuck its called, at the end, I think it had to do with where Christ was buried in the tomb then was resurrected.
There were several gated off caves that lead no where, stunk of urine, and had crumbling bits of whatever lying about all over the place. Getting to the top is a make up of the cross Christ was nailed to; the church area was walled off (low walls, with iron doors attached. Don’t go exploring the bushes or anything, unless you want to find dirty bits of women's underwear and maxi pads. uugghhhh
the old church itself cost 3 Euros to get in; we had only 5 in change, so instead of abandoning each other we decided to bail. we walked down another area (the place is full of twisty foot paths leading every which way - not enough time to explore any of them).
oh the old 10th-11th century church was still functioning. it had these ancient iron chains (like the ones you hang ppl from the roof in dungeons) there, plus a small sanctuary with a statue of Mary or someone important to Christians, decorated in gold and jewels (I think - it could have been a fake who really knows). the church itself was large, and felt ooooollllldddd. paintings from the early middle ages were still existent outside the church. for some reason there was a undecorated silver colored bowl in a glass case in the middle of the church. I think the church staff knew I was eyeing their goodies and were giving me the stink eye.
after leaving that we searched for a place to eat. they're all good, but instead of getting one with I view, I made the dumb choice of going in this dank dark place. I cant remember what I ate, but I think it had special "Rocamadour cheese" whatever that was.
the people still used flower pots that must have been almost 500 years old, and lots of their statues decorating the place must have been from the same period.
there was a neat guard house down the hill and up again, on the only road leading out of the place, the spirit was willing but after a couple beers I didn’t feel like any more hills. I could have spent a few more days there exploring.
the next morning, we got on our way towards Lourdes.
day three - Lourdes.
well, this place didn’t do a good job of trying to convert me to Catholicism. pilgrims are weird people. some dressed up in the order of something begging on the streets, most were there as a short pilgrimage. the streets were tiny medieval ones, most were one way only, and they change the one way sign every two weeks for some unknown reason.
we arrived on good Friday, traffic was torturous, the gps kept sending us down one way streets, we couldn’t find our hotel and there I scratched the car twice, once trying to reverse in a tiny street and another trying to get out of the stupid parking lot (covered in dog shit).
I first went in to cancel the reservation cause we couldn’t find parking, I was told the hotel had a lot, so I took the guy in the hotel on a round the city tour to where I parked the car (if I took a side street I could have gotten there in 4 minutes, not 20 minutes, whatever). the "parking lot" was a tiny one way incline behind the hotel, which once was stone blocks, but now mostly grass and dog shit (the hotel guy stepped in some). we unloaded some luggage (not the one with me pillow - ill regret that later), up the tiny elevator to the tiny room with 2 beds (sorry syl!).
we visited the church, whatever Lourdes is. man, it's grandiose. tons of huge statues of saints, a giant golden crown on top, inside is a huge mural of Bernadette (some little girl) with her arms open smiling.
we didn’t know where the hell the spring was (I think the miracle there is she made water come out of the ground there) so we took the hard route and went up the hill. another 87 stages of the cross mural there, we encountered a group of people lead by a priest speaking English, syl stopped and walked with them. it was pouring rain (of course, it always rains on good Friday) I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, syl was in a white skirt). we walked the entire way up the hill with these group of people (old white guy priest with a baseball hat - african/indian/western European pilgrims with him). the priest would describe what each part of the cross represented and what it should teach us about how we should live, said some prayers, and repeated the hail Mary the entire time in-between stations.
finally at the end they repeated the same prayer about 100 times (I just remember an African woman repeating over and over "Christ with his wundafull passsiioonnnnnn” I was quite wet, tired and cold by the end, and alittle fed up with everything.
afterwards we had dinner at some cafe near the river (there’s a river there, umm...the church thing is on one side, the town is on the other. I had some bland chicken with bland fries; syl had fish (good Friday).
that night we went to a small cafe for a couple of drinks. we started a conversation with the bartender (who spoke English French and Spanish well) and an elderly British man, who is now retired and spends his time volunteering with the church to help pilgrims become comfortable in Lourdes. also, we met a small group of family members from Spain there, they seemed nice enough, and recommended visiting Grenada (yah someday).
we were quite drunk when we left, and ended back up at the hotel, where the hotel owners and staff were gathered around talking. me and syl were drunk, I stayed and talked with the owners, had some more wine, (they gave me one beer free, but I had to pay for the second). and eventually struck a conversation with a large red headed lawyer from Ireland, who tried hard to get me to understand his faith. nice guy, he meant well, but reciting bible verses isn’t really my way. he wrote out this long long psalm and gave me a medal and card of some saint I forget.
that night the pillows destroyed my neck, I fell asleep ok but after a few hours woke up with the worst pain imaginable. I had to wrap my neck in hot towels and try to sleep a few hours. I think it was a sign, because there I lost the medal and card given to me.
when about to leave, syl couldn’t find her little bag with her passport and Canadian perm. residence card. it wasn’t in the luggage, near the computer where she was last night or anywhere we could think of. we made a police report and were going to head to Toulouse to get new papers, before starting the trip again, from somewhere. I was very upset because these things should be looked after very closely, and even with alittle to drink, they should be next to you at all times. and vowed that this would be the last trip we take together. after some time, we went back to the hotel, and the owner found the bag around 5am next to the computer and held it in a safe place.
the stupid wife of the guy swore she never had a purse. when trying to leave the parking spot, this fat large annoying frenchfuck was parked in front of me, so I couldn’t leave. she woke him up; got him to drag his ass out of bed and move his car (he should have given his keys to reception). I got the car out, scratching it really bad cause the fucking driveway was super narrow, steep, impossible to see anything with the shitty mirrors, plus after a night of drinking then having to deal with syl losing all her papers really was a low point in the trip.
ok, after she got her papers back we ran out of that stupid hotel (oh by the way it was the smallest, dingiest, smelliest of the places I’ve slept in, comparable to those prison cells in st jean Quebec.
we saw the chateau Lourdes (I think thats what its called), it was a nice place I guess. nothing really special about it, cept for this silly make up of the places along st James walk. good views of the city there.
we went back to get some magic water from Lourdes, filled up then was on our way to Pamplona.
day threee - Pamplona
long uneventful drive to Pamplona, through the Pyrenees mountains. we stayed at a holiday inn in the industrial district of the city. a modern hotel, designed for human beings, with internet, and room to park, it was like a HUGE relief from that cramped damp shit hole in Lourdes.
we did nothing cept head to the mall nearby for food. they had some star wars thing going on, kids dressed up as little Jedi, and older kids, young adults in make up doing activities with them.
decent sleep, I put in the coordinates to see one of the things I made the trip down for - the ruined town near goni.
day four - trip to Pamplona
free breakfast at the holiday inn! it was decent too, and on Sunday so everything else was closed. it was a supposed 40 minute drive to the ruins at goni, so we started.
a twisty mountain road lead all the way up to little goni, a town of no more than 100 people. all the towns leading up were completely deserted of people. im sure people lived there, but none were in sight. oh wait, yah, each town has a sad little scruffy old man wandering around the town. every tiny town in Spain has one of these guys.
the highway up was ok, till a bit before goni, then it turned into a shit road in the town. the gps lead us to a tiny road that lead into the mountains, but, the stupid thing was locked shut with a warning sign "ABSOLUTELY NO ONE ALLOWED!"
dammit. ok, whatever who cares about stupid ruins, we drove out towards ponferrada. uneventful drive really out there. We took the back roads. we had no reservations there so we drove around and found something that looked like a modern hotel, the AC Ponferrada (AC is like a poor holiday inn for Europe). Price is similar but no breakfast and the fuckers charge for parking,
that night we went out and had a few drinks, this bar I went to have some swings instead of chairs. people were all locals. Spanish people usually look at foreigners like they’re covered in shit. everyone smokes in the bars, they aren’t very friendly either. if they don’t know you, they wont talk to you. like Argentineans, you gotta try hard to get something out of em, but these ones are worse. the rudest I think was in Alicante, or guadamar or whatever, man if looks could kill.
I don’t see why Europeans have the right to be so snooty. they are still the same people as north Americans, just that they lived in cramped poorly kept little houses built a billion years ago. I can understand the pride that comes from the magnificent pieces of art and architecture, but these were done centuries ago. their modern work can be quite poor, the IKEA type of thing. cheap, efficient, basic. nothing special.
the cab driver told me the reason Parisians are insane is because they have to wait for everything. I agree with that about Europe in general. conveniences we have in north America are rare in Europe. self checkouts, fast food, drive throughs, supermarkets.
France has a supermarket, e leclerc, which dwarfs anything ive seen, even Costco. but it's too damned big; they missed the point of super markets. the convenience of having everything, but no getting lost in a labyrinth. im not sure what the turn around rate is on their products, but it cant be that fast.
grocery stores resemble that of those in the middle of nowhere in Canada. not much available other than food, cleaning supplies.
gas stations are about the same as in Canada. prices about double what we pay, and thats the cheap gasoil diesel compared to the reg ol gas.
fast food is non existence, ive only seen one burger king and a few McDonalds. I had mc d's once outside of Lisbon and it was nasty shit. I had something called a "too bacon” and syl had a "too cheese” no one understood English or Spanish, except the manager who spoke alittle English, he was this African dude with a huge head. im not sure what he thought I said, but I ended up with twice as much food as I wanted. oh yeah, back to ponferrada.
not much else that night, had a few drinks, I think that following Monday was a public holiday cause the streets were packed with people drinking and kids playing.
I think along the way up we visited a well preserved Roman Villa. I would have rather lived in a Roman town than a medieval European town that’s for sure.
day 5 - ponferrada and las medulas
interesting day. of course, being Monday, the castle of the knights templar was closed (fuckers) but we got inside the ancient church there. we made it out to las medulas after alittle while.
first we stopped at an abandoned car repair station to look at some ruins of a castle guarding the road. beautiful place, the castle is still sealed shut, there is a way in through the roof, but it was a heavy steel door and I had no gear to get in/out. plus, I couldn’t do it alone with just syl. anyways the area was beautiful in the Pyrenees. no trees, just tall brightly colored bushes. there was another castle at the top of the hill there. we made the trip up to find it closed like the templar’s castle (Monday). we walked around it; I just took a few pictures, enjoyed the scenery then started on our way to the medulas.
ummm what to say about them. they were old roman mines, not a very productive one, in comparison to the other ones the Romans had, but still gold was way more precious back then than it is today. what they did was channel water over hundreds of kilometres, into pools on top of a mountain. beforehand, they would dig tunnels all over it, when the water was channelled, it would soak into the earth, then collapse under the weight of the water, where the debris was filtered by (around) 15-20,000 workers to sort out the gold from the useless stuff. I think the percentage of gold was an ounce per ton of dirt. after the Romans were no more, the indigenous people kept to tending livestock and harvesting chestnuts, which they still do today, the medulas are full of chestnut groves, strange piles of smooth stones everywhere, and paths that lead every which way throughout the mountain range.
all thats left of the mountains are dark orange pointy dirt peaks, tunnels, and caves. I managed to get the courage to climb up some of the peaks, but the rain made it quite treacherous and I was already coated in orange mud (my backpack still has some of it on). We walked through some abandoned sifting areas (very well preserved, it looks like it was only abandoned a few decades – not centuries – ago), several caves and saw one spring dedicated some goddess (spring was dry). We ate lunch in one of the tunnels, overlooking the valley. Inside was graffiti scratched into the mud walls, who knows how old they were. Only some places I could find dates on them – like in Versailles – graffiti was dated as early as the 18th century, and went up from there. Anyways….
We walked thought the rain back to a small shop owned by a local guy, got some little souvenirs and went to eat some tapas (lunch meat on top of bread – tapas means “lid” in Spanish, so the meat is like the little lid of the bread) and some water. Oh yes, in Europe water is just as, or more expensive than wine. The girl at the little restraint reminded me of a friend we have here named Mara, a crazy stocky girl full of life. At the place there was a tiny dog that kept begging us for some tapas (no way!)
We checked out the visitor’s information center (closed from 1-3pm apparently), saw a movie that described the whole thing, and then limped to the museum. It was a waste of money, the items on display were pretty pathetic, but gave some good info on what to see in the area.
Drove to the pre roman hill fort – one little wall barely taller than myself and part of a tiny hut is all that remains. Great view from the place though. We left around 9 then started the 5 hour drive to Porto.
The entrance to Portugal was interesting, before the EU the borders were actually guarded, and we passed by an abandoned concrete building which we assume was the border. One side of the river was Spain, the other, Portugal. I also noted a huge increase in whore houses (club this or that) not dance clubs, those are called discos. Anyways…
Good god the drive sucked. Windy through the mountains, and would pour rain. Which sucked even harder in the pitch black surrounded by tractor trailers. While there was daylight the view was beautiful, and more time was needed to fully appreciate the drive. That’s the toughest part about it, do we drive during the day so we can see everything on the countryside, but we miss all the open things in the cities we visit, or do we drive at night, miss everything, and get to see the city shit? Mostly, it was somewhere in the middle. Drive late morning; arrive early evening, that way we get to see alittle of everything.
Whatever, we made it to the hotel around 130am, the roads in that part of Porto definitely didn’t change in centuries, it felt like the car was going to shake itself to pieces on the cobblestone roads.
The parking spot was normal for Europe, tiny tiny tiny fucking tiny! The room was a 3 star (yah my hairy ass it was) it probably hasn’t been updated since the 1970s…and…well, the whole place just sucked. Who cares, early the next morning we started wandering around.
Day 6 – Porto
Started heading towards the water (downhill, right?) we went into a tiny café, got breakfast (only 2.90 Euros for both – the cheapest we got in Europe). Asking for directions was strange, seeing as the dude there doesn’t know English/Spanish/Italian or French (what the hell do Portuguese ppl speak anyways?!) but from a series of hand signals and babbling we found out where to go, sorta.
We went down to some bridge, and some creepy guy started staring at us and started to follow us. I gave him the meanest stare I could and kept walking. We eventually made it to some old church/fortification, which is now some hospital or something. Plus, the local police station was there, and magically the creepy dude stopped following us after we ran into about 50 cops all decked out with mp5 sub machine guns. That sure made me feel better.
No one was awake when we got out, only short people. Very short people. Only later in the morning did the average/tall people wake up. But before we thought Porto was overrun with gnomes.
We wandered until we found the oldest cathedral in Porto- which dated back to about the 8th or 7th century – just after the western roman empire imploded when a group of pissed off poor people sacked and overthrew the system.
The cathedral was nice enough; the biggest thing I remember from that place is the tile decorations (18th I think) depicting all sorts of shit, none of them religious of course. The treasury and other stuff was very nice, amongst the finest ive seen in Europe.
Afterwards we got some info at another visitors info place, wandered threw a few streets, trying to make it to the clergy’s tower. We saw it fine from the cathedral but got lost in the stupid streets. We made it to a giant square, walked the wrong way for a bit then got directions to the tower.
The tower itself wasn’t fantastic from the inside. From the outside it was wonderfully decorated, you know I kinda like the baroque style, really gaudy and fancy. Though I prefer the simple and childlike early medieval shit, it makes me think I have the talent to be one. Anyways, the tower was about 80 meters in the air, and it took awhile to drag my fat ass to the top.
Once at the top there were no protective guard rails (except those built 350 years ago – and they went exactly designed to protect the stupidest person from falling down). The ticket guy was this fat old man who gave me an angry stare cause of my American pig dog accent. Fuck you fatty and let me up the tower!
Ok, after ive had enough vertigo and stairs for the day we went down, found a shop where the guy spoke English and bought some port wine. I opted for some of the cheaper stuff that will still increase in value fairly well. Damn, I think the port wine appreciates faster than my stupid rrsps.
After we got the wine, we thought it would be ok to cross the bridge then head back to the car from the opposite side of the river thing. Oh yea, Syl pointed to some church on the other side of the map and said ‘I wanna go here.’ Hell no im not walking that far and inch on the map took us like a half hour! After she said, ‘no I don’t wanna walk there I just wanna visit” yah ok we’ll just go park in the giant multi story garage they got right next to the place, and the drive there is just threw an insane labyrinth, plus there’s nothing special about the church that the cathedral didn’t have, but surreee!!!! Ummm, so syl got pissy with me and we didn’t talk for like a half hour.
Yah, k, so the bridge. Jesus. I thought the tower was a test in vertigo. The railing was about 3 feet high, the bridge walkway was slick wood, and it was pouring rain out. Nice view though, it must have been at least 400 feet above the water’s surface. We made it across that thing then walked over to this huge old building on the opposite side of the river, we thought it was a monastery or something. No car traffic on the bridge though, only a tram.
It wasn’t, and it was closed, like so many things we wanted to visit. And it was still raining. Hard. Ugh, well I didn’t have the balls to try that stupid bridge again and opted to head down towards the first bridge (creepy dude’s hideout). We walked by this army barracks, the soldiers there had your average camouflage but wore bright red scarves (oookkkkk). Their equipment looked to be at last 35 years old, so they would be on par with what us Canadians got!
Out of sheer luck we could reach other bridge by walking along. This one was way better than the first one, but had car traffic. we went into some café up the road, had your average croissant/orange juice combo then made it back to the hotel.
Fucking parking. It took me like 30 minutes to get the stupid car out of the garage the damned thing was so tight, and the fucking streets were clogged with parked cars, not even 6 inches to spare. And the bastards park everywhere, even crosswalks, they don’t care.
Finally made it outta there then started the road to Lisbon. Which was pretty boring, I tried to avoid the pay highway (France raped me horribly) and ended up on a stupid road with no water views (they always make the highways just out of sight of the water – those insolent pricks!) threw endless tiny towns, the only stores were this: pottery/ceramic barns, cafes, taverns. That’s it. In every town. Does every town need a pottery barn? In Portugal = yes. Yes they do.
After an ass numbingly long ride we made it to our hotel in Lisbon. Thank god another holiday inn. A place with clean showers, bed, included breakfast, the people spoke English, and they had internet. Syl was supposed to meet her friend, but I was so cranky cause of the scratched car, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go.
After the passport incident I figured it best if I tagged along with syl. We took a cab to the train station, met her friend there ok, then had dinner at some place along the waterfront. My tongue had a tastgasm from the awesome pork steak thing I ate. Oh they have this gay lemon flavoured beer there, it tastes like toothpaste. Her friend was nice enough, kinda quiet and weird though. I saw the very first gay man on stilts outside the place.
Instead of the train we just took a cab back, which was soooooo fucking expensive. Next morning we eventually made it to some museum, cathedral after circling the block several times without finding parking. The museum was pretty sad, only a few things on display from some roman pottery plant (Portugal has a hard on for pottery I think) and a few gold armlets from the indigenous peoples. I gotta say its strange seeing indigenous people being white, being in a place where my little old ancestors looked like me, instead of what we got in North America.
Anyways, next was Seville I think. We passed several walled medieval cities, which looked like they haven’t changed or grown in over 500 years, very beautiful and would have liked to explore them further. We passed by italica, but was way different that I thought, cause it was totally fenced off and no where to park (stupid me, expecting parking anywhere in that continent).
After giving up on that we made it to our hotel (somehow) which was on the river, nice place. Nice ppl there, shit room. We unpacked then drove into Seville to see what was so great about this place.
If you love tourists, mostly in high school groups, and cutsie shit, Seville is for you. My experience in that place was walking a billion hours, getting lost, and a group of high school girls dancing to Celine Dion songs acting like what young girls do – complete retards.
Still, perhaps I am being alittle too critical. Maybe I went into that place expecting more. I never even heard of that place till I was in San Francisco. I was at a bar, drinking alone, and started talking to this group of people. There was one girl there who knew Spanish, and said she spent a year in Seville. She was really a bitch though, she told me what I learned in university was a bunch of bullshit and really came off as a gold digging annoying kind of person I wouldn’t want to converse with. When I told her I haven’t heard of Seville she was like ‘omg you said you studied Spain and you don’t even know Seville, what the hell are you?!’ well sorry lady, maybe because nothing ever happens there…that could be it.
Ummm, in the city itself we almost went in to see some flaminco dancers, but didn’t go cause it was too expensive and syl didn’t feel like it. For her, that sort of entertainment is meant to compliment dinner or drinks, not to sit there and stare, gawking “wow-wee Lurleen, look at em people wearin funny cloths makin clappin noises.” Still, it is a decent place and can not be seen as a low point in the trip.
The music…hmmm what can be said. The most popular song I remember was on the radio. Some guy with an African accent would say something about people moving, then the chorus was the sound of someone being repeatedly kicked in the balls. You can hear the Arabic influences of the moors in the music today.
Well ok, we got back to the hotel after getting lost in Seville, next morning went to Italica and actually found some parking. Italica is a great little roman town, very well preserved (its no Pompeii but who is counting). Crossing the gate you go straight ahead into the coliseum/hippodrome, whatever. Apparently the place once held 25,000 spectators, but from looking at the place it looks like now it could maybe hold 2000, maximum. Its very well worn down and is crumbling to bits but you could tell it was a fantastic place once. They had a set up for naval battles, and all the bells and whistles you would expect at the one in Rome.
The only visitors there were groups of school kids, elementary-middle school age. From what I remember, the place was kind of a rich getaway place for Rome’s elite, more or less. I mean, it had a huge entertainment set up, but a nearby town of an estimated 15,000. anyways, most of the town though needs excavation, I would love to spend a year or two helping out. They have maybe ¼ of the place uncovered. The security was rather poor and I in advertantly crossed the line and was walking through some ruined homes. I discovered some mosaic tile floor fragments, an iron bit of something I have no idea what it is (im guessing it was meant to tie down shutters), my family thinks its rebar…it isn’t. what was interesting was the huge amount of shell fragments around the place, most imbedded in stone. These were probably decorations on people’s homes. I read that the town was once near a river and this could have been a source of the town’s wealth and resources. The river dried up, and the people left to the site where Seville is at over the years.
For some its old bits of junk lying around, for me it was the jackpot! I was so nervous someone would stop and arrest me, anyways, they were tiny bits of crap anyone could pick up from the walking paths.
The homes were very modestly sized, but I suppose when you are out all day you don’t need a huge home. There are beautiful mosaic tile floors still very well preserved (not as well as the one in northern Spain but whatever).
Anyways, from visiting there I know that next time I visit ill find places even more remote and uncovered, away from the crowds, and search those areas. The big touristy sites are fine and good, just for the experience to appreciate their importance, but the real good stuff is found off the beaten path. You will find that the large tourist things are nice, but are not necessarily the best to see, instead they can be viewed as a representation of what one can expect.
Right, ok after italica we tried to visit a nearby monastery, that was huge and dwarfed everything near it, but it was closed for repairs. I think we had lunch at a mall, the food was shit and the bread so hard it cut my gums, the server girl reminded me of my sister in law – someone with a fiery temper but this I think is just a long term case of impotent rage.
Alright, off to Cordova. Uneventful drive, made it to a Moorish palace. The place was in total ruins, but some things have been glued together over the centuries. For early medieval works, the moors were superior craftsmen than the rest of western Europeans. If you want proof that innovation, progress and wealth are natural phenomena in cultures, look at the middle east. They’re like the 18 year old kid in 10th grade, they picked a grade they liked and by god they’re stayin there.
To= Genghis Khan, From= Western Europe: Thanks for killing all those Muslims and Eastern Europeans, you really gave us some breathing room to catch up to the rest of the world, I.O.U.
Oh, right, before that we tried to get into our hotel. No parking within a 5km radius. IF YOU ARE IN CORDOVA DO NOT GO TO TRYP LOS GALLOS HOTEL THAT PLACE HAS NO PARKING.
We went there later, around 7pm, the city was retardedly jam packed with cars, worse than every other city we have visited. The half brained hotel staff suggested we double park and block in other cars. Yeaaa right I’m not doing that. I was too tired to claw and scratch my way into a that place but the traffic was too nuts. I gave up, accepting the 110$ loss on the hotel reservation (note to self: try not to reserve hotels online, but instead do the research on places and rates, and pay them a visit to see it for yourself, usually the best places we stayed at we walked through first before paying).
We drove for another couple of hours before hitting a tiny place named Lucena (an ancient town – today has about 45k ppl, founded by Jews – known for its bronze and pottery production). We stayed in this lovely 18th century manor house, converted into a hotel, but the room we got had a wheelchair bathroom.
It was real fun having a shower while sitting on a steel chair. Dinner was nice, the restaurant was connected to the house. I think we watch ‘the OC’ in Spanish for a bit. Ok that’s not important. The next morning there was a bronze store next to the place, we got a few lamps, things there.
Next was the trip up to Alicante, with a small stop at Xiquena, which was the highlight for me on the trip. It was on a few off roads, got stuck behind a shepherd and his flock (from what I saw on TV it happens to everyone on road trips in Europe). The castle itself is in ruins, plundered over the centuries, but still a beautiful place to visit.
It once was a prison, but I would need several weeks to clear the area and get a better look at actually where the prisons were. The only things remaining are some sections of walls, and most of the rest is grown over. From what I gathered on the area, only some small pottery fragments remain (still coated in green glass – and from some similar exhibitions at the Louvre indicate that the remains are from when the castle was being used – the mid-late 1400s). The castle is situated on top of a rocky outcropping, with other fortifications and tower ruins in the area, but are now no more than heaps of rocks.
I won’t get into the details of it, but was well worth the time. Very little car or people traffic there. From looking at the graffiti, there are lots of hobo/hippy types that stop and sleep there over the years.
The road to Alicante was a bit longer than I would have liked, the hotel was nice and by the beach, we actually got a parking spot. Oh, we never stayed in Alicante, the town, it was a small place named or something (either means “river of sand” in Arabic or “guardian of the sea” in Spanish – ‘Guadamar’. Both are apt names of the town).
The beach there was really nice, white sand, water was a bit chilly but it was still early spring. I think we stumbled upon the retirement center of Alicante because it was mostly old naked people walking around. Coming from Victoria BC this wasn’t such a huge shock to us seeing that kind of unpleasantness.
We arrived a bit late, around sunset, and went back for dinner at this place called “Pablo’s” or some such. We ate way too much deep fried mysterious sea creatures and wine. He gave us this free bottle of magic herbal liquor. After a couple shots of that my hand suddenly became skeletonney and I was saying “omg my haAAAAAnnnnddd is sooo boney heheheh”
Ummm other than that nothing out of the ordinary.
The hotel front doorman/manager was really friendly, saved us a free parking spot. I felt genuinely welcome (a rare experience in Europe) and is one of the few places I would happily go back to. I think the name of the place was Eden Mar. The price was fantastic as well.
The next day the weather was perfect beach weather. Good cause the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plains. Syl didn’t want to leave the beach, I don’t blame her. But after noon we got some oversized overpriced ice cream then started the trek towards Barcelona.
The trip there was uneventful, there were a few nice castles worth taking a look at about 200kms south of Barcelona. Somewhere along the way up to Barcelona, there is this group of people who live inside the hills. At first I was wondering what the hell was going on, I could only see what looked like doorways dug into the side of the hills, but nope, instead of normal homes the ones in that part of Spain decided to throw out things like windows and traded them in for the protection of living in a pile of orange dirt. I dubbed these people “the hill people” (very inventive I know). Makes sense, why build a rickety home on top of a pointy hill when you can just dig inside it and not worry about the thing falling over. That, or they’re some sort of goblin/ogres there. Probably goblins, they were too short to be hill ogres. I also remember there being a basketball court built next to the highway – with no school or other building around it for miles. It must have been for their special Olympics b-ball team. I heard a couple of years ago they sent in normal (not “special”) people to be their special Olympics team and still lost, but were later called out and were made the laughing stock of the basketball world.
Of course we got lost getting to Sylvana’s friends apartment. They said they lived in Barcelona, they don’t. It’s some city on the outside of it, I cant remember the name. By miracle we actually found a place. Their neighbourhood is a working class area, they seem friendly enough, but cant speak any English. They were friendly and inviting. They had two children living there, one was a young man around the age of 17, who was gone most of the time with his part time job of working at a place like chucky cheese, the other was a little girl about the age of 5. She was scared of me at first, but at the end of the trip I couldn’t get her to leave me alone.
The wine plus the road lag put me out quickly there the first night. The inflatable bed was one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had.
Oh yea, the guy of the house likes to call his 0.5% lemon flavoured spritzers “beer.” That threw me off for a second, but whatever, if he wants to call that beer who am I to stop him.
The next day we did a quick tour of Barcelona. Uuuummmmm its an average large city. The deal with this place is: 1. strange melted style buildings done by some artist I’ve never heard of (famous for making this stupid lizard sculpture – we bought some souvenir of it). 2. submarines.
The city is very metropolitan, clean, and the locals there are friendly enough. The pronounce it: “Barth-a-lona” which was strange to me. The dockside was interesting, it had these schools of huge fish.
It has a large group of people from south-central America living there, and they had a reputation for being dirty, ignorant pigs amongst the Spanish nationals. Well, compared to how prim and proper the Spanish were, yes I can understand their point. There was this group of fat Mexican kids who spat on the fish saying “see, look them fish will eat anything u throw at em’” Ugh, nasty.
Ok, so after that we were back on the road, heading towards Marseilles. The stop in Barcelona was a refreshing break, to talk to other people and have someone else show us around, being lost and wandering is fun for a bit, but after 2 weeks of it was getting tiresome.
I started getting tired and decided that the larger town of Beziers, France would make a good place to stop. Ummm, no it wasn’t. My experience there was encountering large groups of African gangs, seeing obese African prostitutes, and single French men driving sub compacts doing 90km’hr on tiny medieval roads flashing me gang signs “je suis trot gangster pour vous!” yeah, sure buddy. The gps lead us to a hotel that wasn’t there, and we gave up on that town. Too bad, im sure it would have been nice during the daytime, cause, you know, scum is allergic to daylight and only bloom at night.
From the highway the town looked beautiful, all we could see is a huge castle bathed in light, with small lights of what appeared to be a tiny medieval town next to it. Ummm, nope, I see now why castles had such high walls, to keep the riffraff out.
So we sped outta there and found, somehow, some motor inn a few miles away. The next day we ploughed into Marseilles. Of course, finding the hotel was a nightmare. The gps is only accurate to within +-250feet and it makes a difference when the place is crammed with tiny unmarked places. I parked on a side street and gave syl the gps and said “go nuts, find it, pretty please!” she found it eventually, and was pleased to find the parking garage was navigatible, the staff knew more than 10 words of English and took some time to show us where to go, what busses to take, etc.
Interesting that Marseilles is the oldest city in France, the earliest remnants of people living there go back over 32,000 years – and has been a noteworthy place throughout human history.
That day I wanted to see Chateau D’If. It was the place where the Count of Monte Cristo (spelling?) was held in the book I was so fond of as a kid. Well, it was supposed to be a highlight of the trip. And the fucking thing was closed. The wind was too high or some shit – fucking French pussies. Instead, we went to the Frioles islands, and I don’t regret that.
It was like 12 Euros return to the islands, took about 30 minutes to get there, and we got close enough to the chateau I could see all of it well enough to be satisfied.
The island itself is pretty small, and can be wholly explored in a single day- but would need weeks to really get a good look at everything. We arrived around noon – had lunch (the server was nice – but my shitty French made things difficult – I think I asked her when the last bottle (instead of boat) left). Very few people live on the island – cars are not allowed, there is still a French military outpost on it though – but it appears to be a communications/listening post – nothing with any teeth.
The fort there is a mix of 18th century French stuff and 20th century German stuff. I think in 1944 the Germans put some large bore artillery pieces on the island, today all that remains are some steel frames, concrete turret holes and a few bunkers.
We were attacked by hundreds of sea gulls there, who kept yelling “GAW GAW GAW!!!” and diving down on us. Man, they were foul tempered fowl. We had to avoid some areas cause of the damned birds chasing us off. Syl hurt her knee when trying to crawl down some concrete embankment.
We started on the north side of the island, worked our way up the hill, through the fort, down a huge hill to a beautiful cove, (where we forgot our camera on a park bench), walked up another huge hill to the remains of a large military hospital (that is now closed, boarded off with warning signs all over it). The only car on the island was there – this tiny rusted Citroën.
After that we were exhausted and limped back. Oh yah I found some roof tile fragment that had a bee on it. Wow.
We had some coffee and crepes, served by this chubby girl showing too much cleavage (normally I wont complain, but the acne was a turn off). She laughed at me when I asked for the “salles de bain” – or washroom, and was corrected to call it “les toilets.” Ok, whatever.
After getting back on the mainland we tried to catch a few more sights but they were all closed. So we caught a bus back to the hotel and that was that.
The next day I tried to get the oil changed on the car, I managed to find out where a Peugeot dealership was, and when I got there I asked to get the oil changed. The people at the rental place said to change it every 6000kms, I was at 5 and wanted it done earlier, but the staff said it didn’t even needed to be looked at until at least 10,000 and to go away. Ok, fine, I tried.
Next on the ‘to do’ list was this so called abandoned medieval village high up in the Italian mountains, with a final destination of Genoa, Italy.
We had some time and decided to take the back roads. They were tiny, windy, and packed full of senior citizen tour busses. We made it through Monaco.
I don’t get the big deal with that place. My experience with that is a tiny little road leading down hill, no sights, tightly packed with cars and country club-esque people-I-don’t-know-but-certainly-hate tourists everywhere. The highlight of that place was a fat, old, dirty little man on a moped swerving in front of me (I’m in a car – you’re on a scooter, who will win…?) pointing at a bus, then giving me the finger.
We made it eventually to Balestrino, Italy, that so called abandoned village. The village is up a single lane tiny road into the mountains, who knows when the road stops. Google earth is deceptive here, it looks like the place is off an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere. Nope, the town is very much alive and well, but small. They just stopped living in the medieval part and moved higher up. I can see why, the old town is dangling on a 40 degree cliff, and is over 500 years old. More like an abandoned small block of homes.
Additionally, the whole old part of town has been bought by some crazy person who plans on renovating the whole place. For some reason, when people moved, they left all their shit there, so the place is strewn with pots, pans, whatever. It was cleared out in a hurry that’s for sure. The locals are real nasty as well. I would say fuck the fences and explore the place had I not had a car or wife to worry about.
We took the hard way down, the road was no larger than both tires of the car, and we averaged about 5km/hr through olive groves, vineyards and the whole thing as an exercise in terror-management and vertigo.
Next was the unpleasant drive to Genoa. Tunnels, bridges (each with a name), turns, hills, toll booths, insane traffic. The best way I can think of driving in Genoa is a full on bar brawl. Just everyone grabbing whatever they can, hitting everyone else, you got a guy swinging from the light fixtures, someone so drunk they’re still dancing, the band still playing, you have a few passed/knocked out people on the floor no one is paying attention to and the situation is just chaos. No picture that, in cars, and that’s driving in Italy.
Passive aggressiveness worked well there, I really got a lot of people mad at this douche bag who kept honking at me. The hotel was fair enough, built around 500 years ago (when Genoa was a world power). The city is beautiful and worth looking at. Ahhhh I’m trying to think of one thing to see there, but there isn’t. we saw a few museums, nice antique shops and stuff like that. Oh! The museum we went to had an ok collection of artwork from the cities heydays, but the staff were very jumpy people. You had a very laid out route everyone must follow (that is not displayed, you are just barked at and pointed where to go by uppity staff members). The museum we visited was bombed by the British Navy in WW2 (thanks, you asses, probably the same geniuses who thought the Germans were hiding out in Monte Cassino) and mostly destroyed but was rebuilt over the years.
You can tell a lot about an area by the look of its churches. England and France likes the tall peaks with grey stone, same with Portugal, Spain uses short ,square like churches with rounded tops and rust coloured stone, Italy is similar to the Portuguese but I find their work to be more delicate and fine. Ok, whatever. The cathedral in Genoa was not mind blowing, the only interesting thing in there was some repair ladder they were using that must have been over 200 years old, and is still in use.
After Genoa was the long trip to Chamonix, France. The gps gave us about a 5 hour drive using the toll booths, or over 9 hours with a ferry ride if we didn’t use toll booths. I was strung out and decided to take it in the bum and pay for the booths. The idea of a crazy trek through the mountains taking ferries to get to where we wanted was intriguing but I was too tired.
It was a trip through another series of tunnels (the last one took us almost 30 minutes – 50+kms of one tunnel all surveyed with radars and cameras), but going into the Alps was worth it. Well, the cost for that one tunnel was like 80$ - and the goddam thing was built 30 years ago.
The road going there was nice: Castles, waterfalls, snow topped mountains, rivers, all the nature stuff we see in Canada but bigger and with the culture and history to go with it as well.
Soo, Chamonix was a decent find, a real alpine village set at the foot of the largest mountains of Western Europe. We did the right thing and instead of booking a place here online, found out some choices and scoped the area out before going in and reserving. Even on the low season, parking was retarded. If I ever go back to France I’m renting a tank to just squish all that badly parked cramped tiny little car parks and make places human sized. Seriously, what the hell, why must everything be designed for dwarves?
That night we stayed at a Best Western (if you visit Europe stay in familiar hotel chains – they are competitively priced and are designed to sleep human beings). The lady at the front desk was very kind, she reminded me of one of my French teachers from St.Jean Quebec. This teacher would always exclaim (whenever we said something outrageous) “Ohh Monsieur!! Monsieur! “ Tsk tsk tsk!” Hilarious.
The town was nice, picturesque. Food/dining was stupid expensive, water came only in bottles and cost around 7euros per litre. We weren’t allowed in the casino cause we didn’t have passports on us – ha – ok – I see your little casino will do fine on its own. I don’t understand how a place that offers nothing in return for what customers pay (they go in with money, leave with none, and the casino gives them nothing in return) have the strictest rules about who they allow in. Sour grapes? Naaahhh
I liked the place because the weather was nice and cool, it wasn’t crowded, the views were beautiful and the staff spoke English and were polite.
The next day, I walked in the wrong direction and ended up going to the wrong lift to see the top of the mountains. Poor Syl and me dragged our asses up huge hills to make it to one of the lifts. We saw an old man actually trying to walk up the hill (you can skip the ticket and take the path up) – he was obviously near death and was looking at a nobler way out then passing away in bed. Ha, oh ya, people would paraglide from the top of the mountain to the bottom – somewhere. We would see several people strapped to the back of what I can only hope was a trained instructor, gliding down the hills (all taking similar paths) but I was scared just seeing other people do that. I’d do it, if it were free, but I’m too cheap to spend lots of money on something I’ve done before.
The ticket price was like 12 Euros each, for maybe 20 minutes of views. WE got off and crawled back to where I saw another gondola take people up a higher slope. We were indifferent, but went up to the ticket counter anyways. It cost us like another 75 Euros to get a pass up that one (the annoying rude woman at the counter said we could use our new expensive pass for the train ride as well (a lie), so I fell for it).
We waited for awhile then crammed aboard the gondola, full of asshole Germans and pushy frenchies. The views were awesome going up. We stopped at the first place, kind of of a step one up to the Aiguilles du Midi. From there we waited around, then took the second car up to the peak.
Yeesh! Cold, and scary. That’s the top. When first getting off the cable car we walked through a small tunnel then out to a ice covered wooden bridge – and nothing down but pointy rocks, snow and about 12000 feet down. I was sucking air pretty hard, all those stairs and the thin air was making me tired. But it wasn’t that bad. We were about a km below Mont Blanc, which was the highest mountain in the Alps. Too bad cause you could reach Mont Blanc by cable car but it was closed that day (an annoying pattern I’ve noticed).
Words can’t describe how nice it was from up there. It was probably the greatest view I’ve seen, and I’ve seen some spectacular things back in my flying days. The little 75+ Euros spent didn’t mean a thing when standing up there.
We say what looked like insane crows flying up that high all around us, I later found out they’re called Alpine Coughs – similar to the crow though.
After calling it quits for the Alps, we set off for Auxerre. The drive was uneventful and actually found the hotel and parking space the first try. The staff was ok (she was too busy most of the time eating and talking to her bf to care much – that’s cool). This was our second room where we got the “special” bathroom, this one was better cause it was designed so that water wouldn’t leak into the bedroom when taking a shower. We unpacked then explored the little town.
Auxerre is a nice little town about an hour or so outside Paris. The cathedral there dates to early medieval times, and it’s decoration is more ornate than that of Notre Dame. Actually, it looks like it hasn’t been toyed with much over the centuries, cept once when those protestant scum Huguenots captured the town in the 16th century they smashed up whatever the filthy peasants could get their hammers on, and so some of the church is damaged.
Joan of Arc visited that place, and there were a few statues of her there, the crypt has some nice early medieval artwork still. The townsfolk are very friendly, when I say hi they actually say hi back! Can you believe that shit?!!!!!!!!
The museum was closed first day cause it was after 6 or whatever, and closed the other day cause it was around one pm (lazy bastards close the museum because its close to lunch – yeesh).
Ahhh, ok, not much else, so the next day we were off to Paris. We took the back roads, not much to see, but the countryside was greener.
The final days - The Battle of Paris = getting in was easier than Cordova or Genoa, but once you were it, it gets crazy. The GPS took us to near the hotel, but if was full of one way streets and insane people. I made a wrong (I thought) turn into a bus lane and when I cut back this skinny girl with really short hair pulled up next to me and started screaming. I looked at her trying to get her head to explode with my mind but it didn’t work. She eventually got honked at herself then drove off. I illegally parked where courier trucks did, but got shooed away eventually, so I was doing strange loops for about a half hour and sent all over the damned place. I gave up then went down the bus lane to the only entrance to the parking spot to our weird hotel “Mister Bed City”.
I think they called it Mister Bed City cause the hotel chain is called Mr Bed, and it is in a city. Wow. The neighbourhood – Bagnolet- is poor and most of the people are African immigrants. Still, it is connected to the tram which made the place standable.
First night we had a Parisian hotdog (at a restraunt across the street – the place was shady, everyone looked at us like we were zombie/kkk/commie-nazis and one of the bartenders went outside to “guard” the door while we ate, then only went back inside after we paid. It also had a playboy themed pinball machine).
After than we got some 3 day tram passes then went to see the Eiffel tower. The line-ups for the elevator part of the tower was mental, so we went to the one where u pay half the price and walk up yourself. There were a couple of army dudes sporting FAMAS (ive never those before – apparently it is quite popular with the French). Africans hawking the same Eiffel tower merchandise (small ET key chain – 1eu. Large ET thing – 5eu. Some stupid flying toy), the police chased a few of em off. On the way back we say some bolt away as fast as they could and figured the cops were chasing them. They weren’t as bas as the ones in the Dominican Republic – now those ones were god awful, you couldn’t even give them a tiny bit of eye contact or they will harass you.
650 flights of stairs we dragged our bloated corpses up, but the views of the city were nice.
The next day was Versailles and the Louvre.
Versailles = Huge sprawling make work project, not well suited to walk through. Inside the palace was nice, unfortunately most of the furniture was not original to the palace, and are only period pieces. We seemed to have missed a wing, be damned if I know where it was hidden. I think now retrospectively that it was where the huge crowd was bunched up. The staff there were extremely rude.
Oh yea, getting there was fun, NOT. It was guess work, but apparently we fared better than this Argentinean couple who took the wrong train the day before and ended up in the middle of the city. Once I figured out, basically, what the signs and schedules meant it was a pretty easy guess (still a guess though). This Japanese guy approached me and asked where it was also – in English (most likely a request by his father who was watching closely).
Oh ya, we got the tickets to the place from a dude wearing a bad 17th century costume with a powdered wig. If you can’t trust a guy in a powdered wig, who can you trust, right?
I’m so glad I did, it saved us hours in the line up and my feet were killing me.
I gotta say that the palace is indeed a place to be if you wanna show your guests just how big of a cheese you are. The place is enormous, and stretching out all over a couple of hectares.
Afterwards was the Louvre, I think, all the stuff we did in Paris kinda blends in over awhile. The Louvre was basically a smaller version of Versailles located in central Paris. If you don’t know what the Louvre is, then too bad, I’m not telling.
I don’t understand the hype over some artwork, like the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Both are wonderful pieces of art, but are not extraordinary. That’s the main gist of the stuff to see in these huge cities, what they have to offer isn’t the best, but shows a good overview of what was available.
That night (I think) we had a sunset river tour of the river. Very nice and we saw stuff that we couldn’t have seen without it. There was a group of German school kids on board, I wanted to throw this fat obnoxious one into the river.
Notre Dame is basically the same building outline as the Cathedral in Auxerre, just with less medieval decorations. There is a 19th century statue of Charlemagne (looks like how I pictured barbarians of the 9th century – bikers with axes).
The catacombs were interesting, and quite macabre. About 2kms of dark tunnels decorated in human bones. Skulls were piled up to form crucifixes, piles of leg bones stacked 6 feet high, and a few altars scattered here and there. People of all ages, all their bones scattered throughout. Interesting, isn’t it, we all will end up as that one day, just another small pile of bones, so why worry about anything, it will just end up like that anyways!
The story = underground was a quarry for building stones. As Paris got larger, and the need for stones increased, it caused a few cave ins and the whole area was in trouble. Plus, another plague hit the area overloading the crowded graveyards, so what they did was dig up their dead and tossed their bones underground in the disused tunnels. Eventually it caught on this may be disrespectful, they arranged the bones into something ‘decorative’ and put a few altars in the tunnels for good measure.
At the end there are a few stories of some of the catacombs residents, most are sad stories of people who were executed during the French Revolution.
At the end, some guy checks your bag to see if you stole any human bones.
Next was the church of the Sacred Heart. Ummm, getting there was annoying, the place was surrounded by thousands of freaks, the church itself was not extraordinary, and the immediate area was surrounded by shops selling the same garbage. One restaurant we passed by was completely empty and they were starting to set the table. We started to go in when some guy in bad English said to me “sorry, sir, but the restaurant is full” I laughed in his face, waved to the empty seats and said “yes, I can see that.” That made me feel like a big man.
We tried escargots for the first time that night; it was pretty good, a little slimy but tasted like blue muscles.
We also went to the Arc De Triumph. That was annoying as fuck. Getting there is possible only by one underground path, the rest is surrounded by the largest roundabout I’ve ever seen. We could only find the path after I asked some girls with thick eastern European accents (when I started speaking in French they said “umm je no French, no” so I asked them in English - much better, speaking in a language you are familiar with is like breathing and that was such a relief! – that happened once more, this older lady approached me and asked in atrocious French how much the river ride cost, I was happy to reply in English). Anyways, back to the Arc.
Ok, you pay like 5 Euros for the privilege of walking up another huge flight of steps to see the from the top. Syl didn’t want to pay, cool , so I bought myself a ticket and went forward, thinking she would trail behind me and wait for me to run to the top then go back down. I went as fast I could to the top (man what a workout! – the elevator was busted so I dragged my ass up more stairs) saw the sights then went right back down. No Sylvana. I walked all around the place and she wasn’t there. Thinking no one would run back across the tunnel to the other side of the street I waited there for about an hour. Maybe she bought a ticket while I was going down the other side (there is an up and down to the Arc – go up the left side, go down on the right). After that I gave up and circled around the outside before giving up, then saw Syl standing there, on the other side of the street. Oye, I was mad.
That was about it for Paris. When it was all over we went to our hotel (near the wrong airport – fucksakes that mistake cost us almost 300$ man I can make some stupid mistakes). We ate at an all you can eat buffet, the owners couldn’t understand a single word I said. They thought I said pizza when I was asking if they accept Visa. There was an IKEA across the road, but seemed to be a warehouse, some bitchy woman started jabbering at us like an angry squirrel when we started to walk in.
I hope that the taxi driver we had from our hotel to the airport dies a slow painful death. He ripped us off royally. The other taxi driver who took me from CDG airport to the hotel has a less painful, slightly faster, demise, for saying he would show up on time when he never did. Can’t trust taxi drivers.
Getting on the flight to Frankfurt was simple, but getting from the one terminal to another was a pain in the ass. We had to run to get there, and the line-up threw customs was stupid. To get the customs stamps done we had to get by these 2 officers who I swear were whacked out on sedatives. One line was held up by someone who had no idea how to speak any language other than his own. He couldn’t even act it out. When the officer would ask him a question he would just stand there, stare straight ahead, and look really scared. In the flight, fight or freeze mode, he was hardwired for option 3. This fat woman behind us started asking everyone in the line “can someone let me up, please my flight leaves in 20 minutes!” We were on the same flight so don’t worry fatty. What a shitty area, we were paraded around like farm animals once threw customs. Man, Germans are assholes.
Flight back was uneventful and were glad to be back in Canada, Syl less so cause she had work the next day. I watched some kids movie with Branden Fraiser “Ink Heart” it was pretty generic and lame, 2 depressing German movies, one had no subtitles and all I knew it starred some blonde girl with a huge rack – the movie was dumb she was naked in the first 10 minutes of the film and the rest was a huge tease! The second was subtitled and called ‘The Decline of a Family” – based off some book similar in theme to Charles Dickens writings of the time – everyone important dies, their lives suck balls and it ends up them losing everything because of bad luck.
I noticed after I go to a place where people don’t speak your language you become more alert when you hear someone speak something you can understand.
Ok, that’s it.