Geneva

Early start for us as the turtle trail headed off into the dark streets at 6am, shared only by the garbage collectors and street sweepers to catch our 7am train to Lyon, then change onto a coach to Geneva.

A turtle trail? A family of five Aussie backpackers walking in a line…

The French countryside and villages came to life away from the urban cramp of the old city of Marseilles.

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And nuclear power stations next to wind and solar farms made an interesting contrast.

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Traveling with dogs is not uncommon, this girl with a pack and extras bigger than herself had two dogs in tow. Remarkably all the dogs seem quiet and well behaved.

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After our couple of hours wait at Lyon, we boarded our bus. For some reason the train wasn’t running. Along the freeways we zoomed and climbed up into the alps, popping out of the tunnels into what appears to be thin air, with only the obvious lack of free falling being some reassurance that there was a highway below us.

After dropping our packs at the hostel in Geneva, we set off to explore, with Jacob in the lead. He was in his element, figuring out tram routes and following his ‘pocket guide to Europe’ for ideas of where to go.

We had no idea where he was leading us, but we found the famous water jet on the lake – a big big fountain jet of water going high into the air. And we also the delightful older part of the city with the intriguing narrow alleys and quaint shops.

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People here find many interesting ways to get around, whether it is the smartly dressed office worker carrying her jacket and roller blading down the middle of the street, followed by a scooter, push bikes and everything else.

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Variations of al fresco dining:
Mini restaurant with two tiny tables on the sloping sidewalk.

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To a mall full of diners taking advantage of the long days and pleasant weather.

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We like Geneva!

Cassis and Marseille

Julien and Virginie continued to be a great help to us, supporting out very tentative attempts at French and laughing in a kind way at our miserable failings!

Seems like our various credit cards are not that compatible with the toll road systems, or much use when trying to book online. This is an annoyance, not yet a problem. We’ve been able to get cash out, and buy items (beer) at a supermarket, but they do not work as smoothly as they do on the Australian systems, often needing a signature instead of a pin.

I also discovered that leaving data on is a bad thing with the iPhone. At home I get a gigabyte per month and hardly use Anything. Julien got me a French Orange SIM card, and they count there data use by the minute, not volume. So €35 went overnight. That’s $50. So now we are traveling without the data benefits, like maps, that I though we would get.

However, these are minor annoyances and part of the learning experience.

We drove via Cassis on the coast from Hyres to Marseilles today, and arrived in time to have an authentic north African cous cous meal in a local Muslim restaurant. A few pieces of fruit have done us for dinner!

We were impressed with extraordinary coastline around Cassis, with 400m sheer drops into the ocean where Julien plans to rock climb. He is looking forward to climbing up the cliff and arriving at the top amongst a throng of bewildered tourists at the lookout at the top of his climb!

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Marseilles is Virginie’s home town. It was founded some 2600 years ago but expanded in the 18th century. Tiny streets, highly urbanized living and surrounded by scenic mountains, it’s an interesting place for sure. We took a little tourist train, I.e. A truck pulling trailers, around the city and up to the imposing Marseilles cathedral for our first cathedral experience of this trip.

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After a four hour hike yesterday, the one after the picnic, and heaps of walking today, with the weather in the high 20’s, we are tiring easily. The tourist train was a welcome respite.

Alarms are set for 5am in the morning so we can catch our train to Lyon, then coach to Geneva. We didn’t book until today, not realizing all the high speed TGV would be booked up, so it’s a slow train, and a coach that will get us into Geneva mid afternoon instead of midday like we had planned.

We’ve said goodbye to our friends now, so are on our own until Hannover in a couple of weeks.

The flight of the long night

First off, I reassure you we have arrived safely at our destination.

The flights were really; smooth, good food, good service. But what a long night!

We’d had four hours of darkness before leaving Perth at 10:30. Eleven hours later we arrived at the huge Dubai airport where it was around 5:30am, and the sun rose around two hours later. So that’s 17 hours of darkness.

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Dinner, or breakfast, or lunch. Nice whichever.

It was exciting seeing the land whenever we could through the clouds, the expanse of arid country over Iraq and into Turkey, the big cities like Istanbul. Jacob speaks highly of Istanbul and I’d like to get a bit closer than 12km next time.

We arrived right on schedule at Nice to be greeted by fellow Landcruiser owner Pippi and Sylvia, and our old veggie oil friends Virginie and Julien.

Pippi and sylvia had driven from Genoa to Nice, then delivered us to Hyres, all up some three hours one way, and all because I delivered a new super turbo to him. Very generous, as have been everyone we met- apart from the grumpy American that sat next to Kerry on the first flight!

Right now we are packing to go to Marseilles, and yesterday we had a little stroll which I’ll tell you about later.

First we had a picnic on the beach

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Then we started on a 90 minute walk, the scenery was nice.

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And the water sparkled blue when the sun came out.

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But the hills got steeper, and more of them, so the 90 minutes blew out to double that and our hosts discovered that what we thought was a walk was a stroll along a grassy boulevard with coffee and ice-cream, and that unfit old people make their walk a lot longer than planned. Ah to be 30 again!!