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8 July 2012

time travel - eurotrip part one

since mama has returned to oz, boyfriend and i have literally just done.. nothing. with the exception of his birthday on tuesday, where we went to the opening night of  'the amazing spiderman', we have been home and lounging everynight, and in bed by 10 with our new set top TV box in the bedroom. i have also been distracted with fifty shades of grey which i have been reading on my iphone thanks to the wonder that is ibooks. while i was reading (finished it in under a week) it, liz directed me to this hilarious blog post by cassandra, called fifty things that annoy me about fifty shades of grey. i must admit, after reading her top 50 annoying things, it was hard to read that book properly. not to mention that it was a bad excuse for soft porn, and by the end i really wanted to read twilight again.

to keep you occupied until the time comes where i resume my social life, i thought another instalment of the time travel diaries might keep your interest feigned. if not, i sincerely apologise.


Scene: the night before we're set to depart. Time: 4am roughly. Erica and Bex are still awake, chatting, eating toast and playing Words with Friends. Not ideal for a 10am check-in. As some of you may have seen on facebook, we overslept (iPhone alarm fail - nah it was me. PM instead of AM), raced to get ready, Paul dropped us at station and ... we had checked in an hour early. Cue the EuroStar customs crew giving us hard time ("where are you going? Why? Where are you staying? Who will you visit? Do you know people there? Business or pleasure? Etc.), but finally allowing us to board their "luxury" train. Please note: there is more room on the Melbourne Metro trains for luggage than the Eurostar, and its purpose is for international travel.

We arrive in Gare de Nord train station and make our way to the metro (tube/subway) to head to the hostel. Once checked in (oh hai cute French boy Sebastién who was too happy to accommodate our every request) we made our way through the district of Montmartre to the Sacré Couer cathedral where you literally can see the WHOLE Parisian cityscape from the top step. The top step of about 1,689,297,378,299 steps we had to climb. It was a bit overcast but we could see for aggggges and of course, caught our first glimpse of L'Eiffel there too. (Montmartre is the artisan district where Salvador Dali et al lived/worked. It is really quaint but elegant at the same time. The Moulin Rouge and red-light district are just down the road too. Heaps of tiny cafés and patisseries around. Crepes a plenty)

We walked around the area (down a different lot of 1,689,297,378 stairs) for a few hours, trying to avoid the many beggars and Nigerian "souvenir" men - unfortunately we were unsuccessful and managed to buy some hideous wristbands for "Goodluck" that were forcefully weaved onto our arms even through our persistent "NO's".. Rebekah even bagged herself husband (him: "I'll have that one" and pointing at her, her: "Uhm, no" *runs*) - lucky bitch. We were later told that they can become quite violent if you don't pay up, they've been known to pull knives on tourists who don't play along - so I think we did quite well for the €3 we gave them.

That night we had booked into see a show at Lé Lido on Lé Champs Élysées, but we were soooooooo tired after the day we'd had we really couldn't be bothered. Still, it was paid for and promised a free* (*included in the cost of the ticket) bottle of French champagne - so we went. Got all dolled up, hair and makeup, off to see some boobs on stage.
It was truly the most hilarious and amazing and disturbing and ridiculous thing I think I've ever seen. I was in an emotional conundrum (maybe it was the champers?). It was nothing like what the movie Moulin Rogue or what Dita Von Teese will have you imagine burlesque is like. Don't get me wrong. There was boobs. And "dancing" (Jason Lee would've had a field day on their atrocious choreography and out of time kicks). And BEAUTIFUL costumes. But as far as cabaret goes... Well, I didn't understand a thing. Then, after every act (there were 4) there was like quarter time entertainment. There was a mime (just weiiirrrrd). There was a glorified yo-yo-ist (as high as a kite). There were ice-skaters (THE BEST PART OF THE SHOW). there was an acrobat on hanging material (he was pretty cool too). What there needed to be was more champagne. Anyway, it was good fun.

The next day we did a walking tour of Paris and got to familiarize ourselves with where everything is. We started at Saint Michele and from there we saw Notré Dame cathedral, the Lovers Bridge (from the end of the last SATC ep where Carrie and Big make out) - so cool! Supposedly you're supposed to go there with your loved one and a pad lock and you "lock your love" to the bridge. Have some great photos too. And according to our guide there is an official "love lock remover", who comes round every few months and cuts them all off! Pity, so cute. Saw Louis XVI's "New Bridge" (its actually the oldest bridge in Paris, unsure why its called that.) , where King Louis commissioned to have the faces of his mates carved one by one into the bridge, after having his Royal Sketch Artist draw them all one night when they were all drunk. HILLARIOUS. our guide made the quip about KL16 being the actual inventor of Facebook, after tagging his drunk mates in a public forum. LOL! We then into the Louvre grounds and saw the pyramids and Arc, then to starbucks for a break - so Parisian! We then continued to the Palace Gardens and saw L'Eiffel from ground level, Opera House, the Paris "Eye", Obelisk, L'Arc de Triomphé, then walked the Champs Élysées to the Grandé Palais where the tour ended. All up about 4 hours. Afterwards Bex and I made our way back to L'Eiffel for some more happy snaps before heading off, getting lost, using the weirdest public loo ever, and making our way back to the hostel for what we thought were kebabs but actually werent, hitting up the minimarchet for muscador, Camembert and tuc for a boozy Thursday night in Montmarte.

The next day we headed off after our free breakky to Notre Dame. Dammmmmmmmmn that place is gorgeous. Being inside it is just breathtaking. The rose and stained glass windows are gorgeous. And to think it was nearly destroyed is just amazing. While we were in there we were lucky enough to see them hold mass. THAT was overwhelming. The whole service was in French, but after 13 years of Catholic schooling I pretty much had the gist of what was going on. It was really moving.. Weird, but you can't help but feel like that when you're in such a situation. Notre Dame houses the remains of JC's thorny crown, and on the first Friday of the month (the day we went) they're supposed to be on display. Unfortunately we were too early to see them which was a shame cos we had planned to goto Disney on Friday but swapped so we would see them. Every cloud tho, I did have an amazing crepe there. And a €6 instant coffee. ...... .. The crepe was good.

We then headed to Rue de Rivoli (shopping strip) as we were trying to book a Seine river cruise but were having trouble doing in online cos all the pages default to French. Now, Rue de Rivoli is about 10km long. We pretty much walked the extent of it trying to find the tour company. By the time we had it was after 3 and we were planning to do Lé Louvré that day too. We had about 4 hours to kill before the tour so we headed back up Rivoli, where we anticipated a much longer wait. We were in line for about 10 mins all up, but once inside, didn't know where to start! Naturally, Mona Lisa was first on the agenda - again, not too many people there so didn't have to wait to get a photo with her, the we took in the art from the Renaissance, Egyptian artifacts, Roman sculptures and finally Venus de Milo. After all that walking, we'd only seen a glimpse of what the Museé has to offer but we were TIRED and so went to grab something to eat (Crepes, again) before the tour. On the way out we got picked up AGAIN, this time by an employee of the Louvre who really just wanted to talk about himself, gave us his email address, phone number, asked for ours, (expected a FB add that night) started to get a bit creepy.. Maybe he was just trying to show some Parisian hospitality? Anyway, the tour started out on a bus and basically drove us to all the sights at night while there were lit up - SO PRETTY! unforch, not easy to get photos on a moving bus so boo. After an hour or so on bus we swap out to Seine River cruise where we spend the next hour or so. It was COLD, but so worth it. Saw the Eiffel lit up for the first time, then every hour on the hour she sparkles in fairy lights for 10 minutes. So. Fecking. Beautiful. Afterwards we went back down the Champs Elysees to visit the Arc de Triomphe at night and see the eternal flame, then headed back. We did a quick stop by the Moulin Rouge for token photo ops ('UUUUUUUGE line up. Couldn't have gotten in if we'd tried), last lot of Crepes for the day, then back to the hostel with another bottle of wine. Got talking to some of the others there til quite late in the night while filling in postcards - drunk letter writing is not my forté guys, so those of you lucky enough to receive one should feel a bit precious.

Saturday was EURO DISNEY DAY! note: if you ever plan to goto an amusement park, DON'T do it on a weekend. The line to buy tickets was about 35mins deep. Every line to get on rides was at least 50mins deep. There were kids. EVERYWHERE. man, even the dumbo ride had a line.. So.. We didn't go on any rides. It was far too cold to stand around in a line for a 3 minute ride. Instead we explored all the lands and souvenir shops and killed about 3 hours til we got bored and decided to go home... Not quite a fail cos we still got to see all the cool stuff and experience the wonder that only the Magic Kingdom can offer. And, we got Minnie ears - so that's a win :D when we got back, we decided to head back upto Montmartre via the back way so we could get these specific postcards we had seen there on the first day that we knew we would not find again, so once there we found a wee little French bistro and had our final French meal there. It consisted of Margerité Pizza, glacé (ice cream), and a bottle (carafe) of their finest (house) vín (goon). After the meal we went back to Sacré Couer to take some nighttime photos of it and the city. There, drunk, we ran into our tour guide from earlier in the week, Tyler (spunk, but a Yank, and we speak no Americano) who was obviously hosting a night tour of Montmartre but who stopped to yarn to us anyway. We were drunk. He, was not. Then we decided to goto the pub. Irish pub, in France? Hmm. €8 cider. And it was Magners not Bulmers. Odd. But the dude had on the A&J Stone cd so it wasn't all bad.
The next day would be our last. And potentially most frustrating. It all started with a new roommate (we'd had the room to ourselves til this point, thanks to Sebastién. He was so cute and apologetic while telling us he'd tried to get us the room alone again but "unfortunately" the hostel bad been booked out so he'd had no choice, naw!) staggering in at 3am, banging doors, turning on lights, stupid snoring like a stupid boy, and generally messing with the ambiance of the sleeping ladies within. Next, a whopping hangover, made more powerful by pharmacies that refuse to open before 12:30pm. Next, getting to the train station at 2pm to discover your train left at 11:30 and had you stopped to think about it, you could potentially have been on it (Why Erica, why would you leave Paris at 2:30 when you have to check in in Amsterdam at 3pm? Surely the train takes a few hours? No? Think about it? Idiot?). Followed by having to shell out €130 each for new tickets. Then an old man smelling of peppermint opposite you all the way to Brussels. And snorting/sniffing instead of blowing his nose. And refusing to give Bex her window seat. THEN getting to the Dam and realizing you don't know where you're supposed to be going cos the directions the hostel sent you have been deleted somehow, and having no way to find the address. Or boat-dress cos its a houseboat we're staying in. Or pay phone anywhere. Then walking 40 mins in the effing cold windy wind air along a canal thinking we could just FIND the houseboat if we followed the water, not knowing just HOW MUCH WATER IS IN AMSTERDAM. Then finding a servo and discovering free wifi. And realizing, had we walked the opposite way to which we'd came, we would have found it. Then calling a cab cos it seemed easier. Then checking in at 7 instead of 6 instead of 3, to teeny tiny room, with a teeny tiny window, no room to swing a cat and discovering the "facilities" on offer are ..... Less than desirable. The day was doomed from the start. So naturally, my first impressions of this city were not pleasant ones.

Today didn't start much better. Our "room" is under the dining hall and right next to the stairs. So, LOUD. you all know that I don't sleep well under particularly GOOD conditions, so... Yeah. The 12 South Americans wanting to party outside my door til the wee hours then wake up chipper as at 7:30 coupled with Bex's USUALLY bearable snoring left me with a mild case of the grumps and a bad case of the bags-under-eyes this morning. The breakky here was pretty good -heaps to choose from and verrrrrrrry Dutch. Cold meat selection, cereals, choc sprinkles for toast, choc spread for toast, choc toast... I stuck to cereal and coffffeeeeee. We were planning to do the same walking tour in the Dam that we did in Paris, but when we got to the meeting point, noone was there. We waited for about 20 mins and checked with the tourist office that this was the right place, but still no one turned up. So we grabbed a handful of maps and headed out on our own to explore. We made our way to Anne Frank house, where we had to line up for about half an hour, but so worth it. I've been reading and re-reading Anne Frank's diary since I learned about WWII at primary school, so I really wanted to go here. W O W. Again, overwhelmed. We weren't allowed to take photos, but to be honest there's not a lot left to take photos of.. The rooms are all bare after the Nazi raids, the way Otto Frank wanted them left, besides the original wallpaper and pictures Anne stuck on her walls.. There are excerpts from the diary and documents from the Frank family and their helpers all under glass to keep it museum-looking and then it gets interactive in some rooms with plasmas screens and videos of interviews with Mr Frank and Miep Gies and Anne's BFF Hanna on loop.. There was a model of the house and annex as it stood originally with furniture in it so you could get an idea of how they actually lived. Having not read the book for a while it was interesting to see that, and you can only really rely on your imagination otherwise. It truly was remarkable, awesome, horrible, saddening, maddening......

Both Bex and I had run into some money issues today so while we wait to hear back from the banks, we sit in our wee room, after spending the day trying to locate an ATM that takes VISA or MasterCard, listening to the water lap the side of the boat, dreaming of all the fun things we could be doing but will have to wait til tomorrow (hopefully) to do. I'm hungry, I think it might be noodle time. Oh, Bex is awKe now. So, until next time.....(send me money!)

so, have you been abroad? if so, where, and what is your favourite destination?

love, erica x