A Travellerspoint blog

Still Raining in Paris

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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.


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

Paris in the 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??


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.


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

Amsterdam - Trams and Markets

overcast 16 °C
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Day 51 Friday 5 November – Amsterdam's Trams & Markets

Overcast again, slight breeze and occasional showers, about normal for here this time of year. First order of business was to buy some post-cards and convert some US$ to €, exchange is about three for two US$250 converted to 170,00 €.

Walked along footpaths crowded with parked cars, parked scooters, parked bikes and miscellaneous construction equipment. It appears that the bike is king in Amsterdam, the only thing that has to give way to everything else is the pedestrian. Fortunately the traffic is generally light and it is quite easy to cross the road provided you dodge the bikes.

Walked to the North Markets to find that they are only open on Saturdays and Sundays, missed by one day. Back on the trams and found the Flower Markets – not to be confused with the International Flower Market where the wholesale deals are done. Lots of the most unusual flowers and bulbs and seeds available in dozens of stalls.

Bought a small gift and decided we should mail it home. Found a Post Office, operated by TNT, tucked away inside a book shop. Bought the carton, tram back to the hotel, pack it and address it and back to the Post Office. 20,00 € to send 2 Kg to Australia with delivery in 8 to 10 days.

Off to the 'flea' markets, numerous food stalls, fresh food, clothing and even some patchwork material for Jenny. Tried a variety of food items, herrings with onions and a dill pickle in a bread roll – yum !!! The fresh “fries” were great too, served in a conical paper cup.

Picked up some bread rolls for supper and then called into the cheese shop near the hotel for some slices of cheese and wedges of apple tart.

Tomorrow we're off to Paris, the stay here has been way too short and it has been the most 'interesting' city so far. Street after street of unique buildings, canals that break up the landscape and the most extensive public transport system.


Posted by greynomadm 09:03 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

On Amsterdam's Canals

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Day 50 Thursday 4 November – Amsterdam's Canals

There was a brisk wind with an overcast sky when we set off to find the south-side office of the Canal-bus company. We travelled most of their routes and covered many of the waterways that make up Amsterdam's 100 Km of canals. The structures date back to the early 1600s and most retain the character of the era.

Unfortunately it is difficult to take decent photos from inside of an enclosed cruise boat. It is also impossible to remember all the landmark buildings along the way.

We were well aware that there are a LOT of bicycles in Holland, we had also seen the extensive bike-paths but the impact of the multi-storey bike parks really brought the message home. Literally thousands of bikes stacked side by side wherever they can be anchored to a rail, a post or each other.

The house-boats along the canals are varied in style, appearance and condition. Some look quite derelict and detract from the scenic appeal of the canals. Others are well maintained and look quite comfortable. The city is no longer issuing new mooring permits.

There are hundreds of bridges across these canals, some of them for pedestrians only, others that open to allow larger vessels through. The cruise boats are just low enough to sail under them with just inches to spare.

Many of the houses are quite narrow, some of them extremely so. This stems from a time when the amount of tax charged was dictated by the frontage on the street. Some of these narrow houses are four stories high and over 30 meters deep. Most have hoisting beams to facilitate the delivery of furniture to the higher levels. Many 'newer' structures retain that feature.

I was caught short near the central station and followed the signs to WC. Imagine my surprise when I had to part with 0,50 € just to have a pee !!! After that I kept an eye out for public toilets and didn't see any, either 'pay as you go' or free.

Towards the end of the day we visited the Van Gogh Museum, not because of a great interest in the artist but because it was part of the Canal-bus package. There are four floors of paintings that reflect the life and times of the artist, no doubt more meaningful to those with an artistic bent.

There are over 20 museums listed on the public transport guide, it is unlikely that there is a human endeavour that isn't covered. There's even a Museum of Bags and Purses.


Posted by greynomadm 12:31 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

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