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France

Still Raining in Paris

rain
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Day 54 Monday 8 November – Paris and more Rain

Cold this morning but at least it isn't raining – yet! We head off in the direction of the Gare du Nord (main station), to look for a market we passed yesterday, to check on EuroStar check-in procedures and to pick up on the HoHo bus.

We find the market, but guess what ?? Open from Tuesday to Sunday. What's today ?? Our lucky day, it is CLOSED.

We walk back to the station and find the EuroStar area, we'll have to be there at least 30 minutes before departure and need to check through French and British Immigration and Customs. We collect 'Landing Cards' and enquire about luggage, same as the other Euro trains, take it with you.

Back on the street we make our way to the HoHo stop and are greated by a blast of wet Arctic wind. Decide to spend 10 € on some folding umbrellas to have with us on the HoHo. Jenny's was faulty when she opened it so it was exchanged, mine looked OK. Back at the HoHo stop we discuss our options, stay here and be battered by the wind or head back to the hotel.

We opt to return to the hotel and use a pair of the remaining Metro tickets. We start at the main station, travel one stop on line 4, switch to line 2 and travel two stops then switch to line 12 and travel one stop. It all works, we travel in the correct direction and make the required connections. The Metro service is great, lots of stations, frequent trains and most are not too crowded. Even for us foreigners the directions are not too difficult to follow.

On the surface it is a different thing. We (more correctly I) get lost. First the umbrellas are blown inside out, mine rips and Jenny's won't collapse, so we ditch them. The we seem to walk in circles and find the relationship between the street names shown and the names listed on our map bear only a passing relationship. You'd have to be here a while to appreciate the different abbreviations used and to understand why the same proper name can be used for a boulevard, a street and a lane.

With no sun to provide a sense of direction and no visable landmarks we resort to asking locals for directions. Most are helpful, some shrug their shoulders, others ignore you.

The combined effects of the weather, the chaotic layout of the streets, squares and alleys and the mountains of garbage still strewn across the footpaths leave me with a VERY negative opinion of “Gay Paris”. It is a place I won't be visiting again in a hurry.

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Posted by greynomadm 04:55 Archived in France Comments (2)

Paris in the Rain

rain
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Day 53 Sunday 7 November – Paris in Rain

The day started overcast and chilly, it deteriorated to cold and wet. We walked to the Sacré Cœur but used the Funiculaire for the significant climb up. We walked around inside this spectacular cathedral but were not permitted to take photos inside. The views over Paris are impressive but with the overcast sky and threatening rain the photographic results are not all that spectacular.

Wandered down lanes and narrow roads down to the Bd de Rochechouart where we were expecting to start our Hop On Hop Off tour. We walked back and forth looking for the landmark to identify the location – don't even think of using street numbers. At 10 the Tourist Information booth opened and we asked for assistance “It is over there but you are too early”. So we stand around for another half hour with no sign of the bus. Back to the booth, could they please contact the phone number on the voucher. Reluctantly the call is made and “This stop on the yellow route is cancelled for today's event.” Thanks a lot !! Where do we pick it up then ? The Central Station.

We walk for about 30 minutes and after a number of false starts find the stop, just as their yellow route bus pulls out. We stand in the strengthening rain and wait for the next bus, another 30 minutes. The yellow route bus arrives and the rain sets in and we head off to the transfer point for their green route. A number of us get off and the sky opens up seriously!! We find an unused flower stall across the street and take refuge there. About 30 minutes later a bus arrives, guess what ? Yellow route, same as we'd got off, the green bus hadn't turned up. Some of the sodden clients were none too happy, but back to the flower stall. Finally the green route bus arrives, standing room only. Great way to see the city, only the footpath visible and all windows fogged up. The weather is NOT their fault but no shelter, no additional bus, no explanation or apology.

We stuck with the bus until it arrived at the Eiffel Tower and got off to use the fancy automated toilet. Yes it works, yes it is free BUT it is sloooow as it works through its cycle. Meanwhile we continue to get wet. Decided to use the river cruise option and enjoy the warmth and shelter of the boat. We got off the boat just short of its return to the start and walk along part of the Avenue des Champs Elysées to the Place de la Concorde. The rain had eased but we decided to head home and we found our way to the Metro. Quick clean and back to within a block or two of the hotel.

Nice hot pasta dinner and back to the hotel after a long hard day. Battled for an hour to connect to the WiFi network and finally gave up.

By the way, the strike by the garbage collectors appears to be over and the streets are being cleaned up. Just imagine a garbage truck in a narrow one way street, picking up what looks like 2 weeks of piled up garbage. Now add to that a hundred cars trying to use that street. How happy were those drivers??

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Posted by greynomadm 04:51 Archived in France Comments (1)

Amsterdam to Paris

rain 17 °C
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Day 52 Saturday 6 November – Thalys Train to Paris

Weather was pretty much as it has been and should be expected, it would have been nice to leave Amsterdam in sunshine. As some wag observed “There's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” Fair enough but it hard to have all possible conditions covered.
Joined a fair sized crowd on platform 14a and as advertised the Thalys Train pulled in some minutes before the departure time. This train appears faster and more plush than the one that carried us from Frankfurt. With hardly a murmur we were dashed down the track heading South. The car was largely unoccupied.

Our second stop was Rotterdam and there the sparse occupancy was dramatically changed. A large number of tall thin Hollanders overflowed most of the empty seats. Jenny and I speculated that they may have been a basket-ball team.

The guy who occupied the seat across the aisle from me was seated next to a young Asian lass and was soon explaining various features to her. Their common language being English I benefited as well. Some time later the ticket lady came along to check tickets and the Asian girl couldn't produce the required codes or evidence. The Dutchman helped as best he could and asked additional question of the the staff member to ensure that the Asian girl was aware of what her options were. The end result was that she had to pay for a ticket but he confirmed that if she could find proof of her original purchase she should be able to get a refund. A totally unselfish and friendly gesture on his part.

I later chatted with him and found that the group were on a company outing to Paris for the weekend. They are an IT consulting company www.2e2.nl.

We arrived in Paris and received directions from a helpful Tourist Information person who showed us how to get to the required address. Just a 20 minute walk – well, that's as may be but the rain was quite heavy, the footpaths narrow and strewn with garbage bins. There were also frequent street crossings and we weren't confident with the Paris traffic.

Found our hotel in a narrow lane and were told that check-in would be not before 3 pm. We were given directions to a cafe and it was suggested we could have a meal. Interesting menu and serious prices, 11,00 € for a Club Sandwich seemed a bit steep. Returned about 3:40 and checked in. The room is adequate and recently modernised.

Sorry for the limited photos, there just wasn't the opportunity.

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Posted by greynomadm 10:11 Archived in France Comments (1)

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