A Travellerspoint blog

Paris, the high life

sunny 23 °C

Sat 2nd July
Tourists in Paris, just us and about 1 million others, a pretty normal summer day in Paris. 
Started off pretty quietly with a classic breakfast in the hotel - located in the stone walled cellar which only seats about 12 people, we were served orange juice, croissants and milk coffee by a very little old gentleman.
Booked on a open air bus tour, get on & off at whatever stop you want. Got on to an empty bus, easy to find a good spot but by the time we were 1/2 way round  1 of the 4 possible routes, the bus was packed and spent most of the time stuck in traffic. No quiet weekend here!
Each passenger gets some earphones and you plug it into a console next to the seat and pick whichever of the 10 languages you are happy with. Listening to the tour in Polish gives it a whole new perspective.
Cruised / lingered past all the famous landmark sites although when the bus gets stuck it is always in front of a chemist or bus stop.
We seemed to circled the Eiffel Tower a number of times I guess to get the 'look' and best photo opportunity from all angles. Viewing it from the bus the people in and around the area looked like ants scurrying around,then later we became one of those ants.
So the day was spent walking and admiring the enormity of all the buildings,places of interest and the learning more about Paris.
The day ended with the compulsory drink sitting amongst the locals and tourists in crowded bars, both sitting facing out onto the street watching the passers-by. Happy hour ( must be a french term!) begins at 17.30 - 21.30 and for 5.50€ you can get 1/2 pint beer or a choice of cocktails.
Meal time is also a circus with many bars and cafes having staff out the front encouraging you to eat at their establishment. We were taken by one such gentleman, whilst eating at a table on the pavement we were entertained by the antics of this fellow. He also was 'poking fun' at the staff across the path as he was filling his restaurant and they only had a few in their restaurant.
Highlights and interesting tidbits:-
a. When getting on buses/trains forget basic etiquette - push on
B. Can travel around by bus, foot, or Segway, these looked pretty cool but the guide didn't let them get far away.
C. Beware of young poor looking girls they pretend they are mute approach you with a clipboard wanting you to sign. If you do this they then create a raucous amongst their cohorts and rob you!
C. Whilst meandering around you can be approached by dark skinned men who offer make a string bracelet for you and before you know it they have it around your wrist completed. You ask 'how much?' and they say whatever you wish to give. One lady had a 20€ when she asked for change they ran off with her 20€.
d. Others will approach you and ask if you had dropped a ring whilst having your attention, rob you.
E. Around the popular spots such as the Eiffel tower there are men with small buckets filled with bottles of water selling for 1.00€,others selling bottles of wine or beer for 5.00€. Lots of men walking around selling trinkets.
F. If you are doing the Open Bus Tour be prepared for some delays at stops, usually for no reason, just bus driver having a breather.

Luckily for us we did not get sucked into any of these scams, combination of rudeness and care with our bags and good luck.

Surprising we didnt see anyone we knew, surely someone from our town was traveling in Paris!

Highlight, probably breakfast in the cellar and seeing just how big the Eiffel tower is. A worry was all the army guys walking around the place, in full gear including machine guns.

Posted by Susan23611 12:37 Archived in France Comments (0)

Off to Paris

all seasons in one day 22 °C

Friday 1 July 2011

Another cool morning. Whilst the accommodation was clean and neat, it would be very noisy during peak time as there are wooden floors throughout the building.
Breakfast the usual Dutch spread - cereal,cold HARD boiled eggs, juice, tea, coffee and the traditional selection of cold meats and cheeses. Am afraid cold meat and cheese for breakfast has not been one of my favorites.

After breakfast a short walk around the city till it started to rain and we made a quick dash back to the hotel and waited til the showers passed. After the short rain shower once again we dragged our bags along the cobble stones to the train station to catch the train to Amsterdam where we caught the TVG to Paris at 1.16pm. 

A very busy service with stops at Rotterdam, Brussels and Paris. On reaching each stop an announcement was made 'That they regret to inform us that there are pickpockets working the train and beware!' Am pleased they informed us.

Arrived at Paris train station at 4.31pm,what a welcome! A very busy place, people rushing to platforms including dogs.

We made our way to the Metro section and caught the train to Odeon station, on the south of the city in the Latin Quarter. The train was packed,pushed on and stood nose to nose with a dog. I was very pleased to get out of there! 

Out of the station it was as busy, many people on the streets again rushing and many others mingling at Cafes and Bars. We checked into Hotel Delavigne, a small hotel tucked away off the main roads. Then wandered down the street for a drink and meal. A small Cider and 1/2 pint of beer 17€, it is Paris I guess! Most of the restaurants have their menu with prices displayed. If you want to drink outside then you have to put up with a constant fog of cigarette smoke.

A delicious meal of Duck Salad with duck meat, duck "gizzards" and foi gras, although Sue stuck to Chicken Caesar Salad.

Posted by Susan23611 23:16 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Secrets of Leiden

sunny 24 °C

Ede to Leiden
Woke up to another cool and very pleasant morning. After an early breakfast, we walked the 20mins to the train station where we took the Intercity train to Leiden, via Urtrecht. Took about 1.5 hours.
After booking a hotel and getting tourist instructions from the tourist info centre, we took our bags round to the newly renovated and originally named City Hotel, Leiden. Armed with camera, map and water bottles, we began our 1/2 day walking tour of Leiden, locating and reading about famous landmarks and historical events on the way. Apparently the town has been around since the 1300's and was regularly attacked by the Spanish. The town boasts one of the earliest universities, starting in about 1575 and which starred Einstein as teacher at one time.
One major event occurred in the 1600's when a barge full of gunpowder exploded just near the town centre, killing hundreds of people & reducing most of the town to rubble.

We walked through a windmill which was rebuilt on the site and now serves as a Museum. For €3.00 we were able to walk through the internal part of the mill. The ground level was typical of a residence of that time. As you climbed the stairs to the various levels you get the picture of how they operated the mill to grind the corn to make the flour.

Some interesting facts:-
A. The windmill was invented by the Arabs and the invention most probably brought to Holland by the Crusaders.
B. The English Pilgrims once settled in Leiden then were run out of town and ended up in America. Both Bushs and Barack Obama have connections to the pilgrims.
C. When the Catholics came on difficult times they were forced to give their church to the Protestants.
D.Many famous painters such as Rembrandt did some of their training in Leiden.
E. Alms premises were built to house- widows of clergymen and their unmarried daughters, orphans and poor.  The poor were housed as long as they bathed at least once a month!

A nice happening while we were sitting alongside a canal in the centre, eating lunch, was 2 canal boats tied up and a wedding party got off and wandered off, down the street, probably to a lunch reception. Certainly not a common sight in Griffith.

Returned to our hotel mid afternoon in order to track down the elusive Laundry, and to our amazement ( & also to the hotel receptionist), there was one almost directly across the road. Run by a little old lady, as you would expect in a laundry, as we were loading the clothes in, she set the wash cycle, chucked in a generous handful of washing power and told us to come back in 1 hour. Sure enough after 1 hour the clothes were washed & dried & I suspect if we had offered more €, she might have ironed as well. Sue was happy, clean undies to last another week!

Finished off our walking tour with a cider at a Cider House, very refreshing after a long walk. Located in 1 of the piazza's ( a triangular square!) it was a good spot to watch the locals on pushbikes and tourists wandering about.

A bit cool for alfresco dining so we had a quick meal inside a cafe in the square and retired not too late.

Events for the day was Peter walking into a cement overhang whilst trying to read the map (suddenly had stars all over it!), and Sue suffering from effects of 1/2 liter of cider and a glass of rose! Also watched some council employees confiscating some illegally parked pushbikes - cut the padlocks off with a portable grinder, took a photo of the offending bike, then chucked it onto the back of a little truck which was piled high with other such offenders, parking police are the same everywhere!

The town of Leiden definitely worth the visit, well organised town and caters well for tourists interested in history.

Posted by Susan23611 08:51 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Ede, a quiet place

rain 18 °C

Wed 29.6.11

We woke to a much cooler day 16C and misty rain. The weather gods are confused! We chose go to the Tile Museum in Otterlo,whilst listed in the promotional material of the region, it was not familiar to the staff at the Info Centre or even the bus driver, lucky for us we found a local who heard of it. It was a 20 min bus drive to Otterlo and the museum is tucked away in a suburban street.

The Museum has 12 rooms with each room having a particular theme or era of the tile.  There are tiles dating from 1500's with such intricate detail. Many homes and businesses gone by had featured walls at fireplaces, in kitchens and butcher shops. It was also common practice of employees of large manufacturing businesses to commission a Tile piece of the buildings and give it has a gift to their employer as a celebration of a particular milestone. The pieces were very beautiful and real.

In some of the pieces the notes suggested that the painter was not a true professional because often people or animals were not in proportion eg; elephant alongside camels were smaller in size. I don't think this took away from the beauty of the art though!

Otterlo is a little village of rural setting, as you wander around the village there is a lovely aroma of cow poo!  For example as you look from the entrance of a lovely bridal store you can see and smell the cows grazing nearby. Otterlo is also the home of a famous wildlife park of 5,000hec. A very famous and popular attraction with wildlife and like the Dubbo Zoo you can wander around on foot or bikes.There is also a famous Art Museum.  Due to the wet and cold weather we did not visit.

Whilst Peter spent the afternoon at the uni I explored the surrounding streets of Ede,  lined with tall leafy trees a real sense of peace, cars,bike riders and walkers all getting around in a peaceful way. People seem to be very garden proud, very neat gardens mainly evergreen shrubs with a smattering of colour. I happened upon a school lots of trees and the speed limit was 20km.

I forgot to mention that I was wandering the streets with our dirty washing over one shoulder looking for the laundromat. After 2 hours of walking,stopping, enquiring and getting confused looks, there is not one in the entire town! Maybe the hotel needs to update it's service specs

On recommendation of a local lad the place for a good hearty meal at reasonable price was Villas Brutus,an Italian restuarant. Apart from the 'tacky' decor it lived up to it's recommendation, good selection,size, tasty and well priced. No night life in Ede on a Wed night.

While Sue was wandering the streets like a homeless washerwoman I went to Wageningen University, about 1/2 hour south Ede. The uni is a world famous Ag uni, catering to about 6000 full time students. 
The uni is very modern and since 1986 has restructured its courses and has a closer working arrangement with private companies and industry.
As it was almost end of semester, it was pretty quiet. I had a meeting with 1 of the researchers who filled me in on how they are carrying out effective research in horticulture, very interesting. 

Posted by Susan23611 08:49 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Enkhuizen to Ede

sunny 32 °C

Tuesday 28.6.2011
We caught the train to Ede a 2 hour journey, first stop Amsterdam,then to Urtrecht  and finally to Ede, took about 2 hours, too easy this train travel in Netherlands although if you buy the tricket from one of the few manned stations, they charge an extra 10%. A very warm humid day 1 Euro bus fare to the centre of town (Centrum) were we sought accommodation choices at the Tourist Info Centre. We booked into the Hotel Paasberg for 90 Euro including breakfast. As the centre is about 2km from the train station, there are lots of buses to ferry people around, both to the town & surrounding towns and villages.

Ede is a regional centre and is literally in the centre of the Netherlands. There is uni, hence our visit, and lots of parkland. A much younger town than Enkhuizen, the houses stand alone and more modern looking. As you come into the town by train along the train track there is a smattering of community gardens. The town has lots of trees around the houses and public areas.

After checking in I wandered down the street whilst Peter went to the Training College.  I spent couple of hours wandering the street. It is a piazza like surrounds,very modern shopping centre with an array o boutique shops and many clothing and homeware stores. All kinds of shops that you would typically find in a regional centre. No real Dutch flavored goods/items to be bought. There were 2 specialised chocolate n cafe type shops. Not unusual as Dutch are known for makers of dark chocolate.

Stopped for a coffee n muffin 4.60 Euro same in Griffith would have been $8. Visited the library complete with a very large Regional Theatre. great set up you can sit around read the papers (only in Dutch tho), have a coffee and Internet access for 6Euro/hour.

Whilst wandering around noticed The Lucky Store- the equivalent to our Bargain Buys store in Griffith- same stock same cultural group operating it.

We completed the day with a few cool drinks at the Hotel and dinner at an outdoor cafe.  It was the place to be very busy. We had the day's special chicken,beef or pork with salad n rice for 9.95 Euro-good value.

Stayed hot and humid till a dramatic thunderstorm late in the evening, lots of noise and light but only a little rain, just to cool things down.

Posted by Susan23611 07:55 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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