Wandering Paris in the Sunshine

Jacob once again came up trumps and recommended another Sandemans walking tour. This was our third, and at 3.5 hours they are a tiring, but great way to see and learn about the city. Walking tours

Clelia let us know where our local supermarket was, and despite it being a small doorway and looking like a pharmacy, it opened out into a reasonable size supermarket. We stocked up on supplies, dropped them back at the unit, and headed back out into the Metro.

We had rather hoped we would be able to negotiate the ticket purchasing ourselves, but alas we asked for help. We knew we wanted three three day three zone tickets. The ticket lady couldn’t speak English, we couldn’t speak French. She plowed on in full flight French, perhaps oblivious to our ignorance. Then she cottoned on and called out to the the people in the turnstiles queue if any spoke English. One girl stepped forward, helped as much as she could until she to go. Then another turned up and we worked through the problem. The ticket lady was getting really excited by now, very keen to help us as much as she could and she ferreted out a Paris map, full of discounts for travellers. We parted friends. 🙂

We made our way to the square to meet the tour, then found we were 70 minutes early, so wandered some tiny lanes, which we later found were the Latin quarter. Cass bought a backpack, and we all enjoyed a waffle and coffee.

Tour guide was Sam, US born 26 year old who has lived in France for 6 years.

And the sky was blue. Lovely and unexpected.

First off was the big famous historic Notre Dame Cathedral. Plenty of people were lining up to go inside. We didn’t.

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Next came a stroll alongside the Seine River., and a walk over the special bridge where people buy a lock, write their names on it, declare their love and chuck the key away. Buskers included musicians, painters and scammers. A bustle of humanity.

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Then along came the Louvre. It’s now a huge huge museum that if you spent thirty seconds on each display it would take seven years to see it all. And a sprint from one end to the other takes 12 minutes in an annual race. What we learnt about Paris is that the central city region is mostly a park, and all the close city buildings limited to seven stories. Only in the distance can you see the tall gleaming modern skyscrapers Jacob and I saw at Le Defense train station and Le Dome shopping precinct.

The city centre is alive with people. It’s surrounded by museums. Anyone under 26 gets free entry to museums. Art, education, and culture are held with esteem. Quite a different culture than the normal western cities.

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Then a bit further along we get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triumphe. You can see the skyscrapers in the distance. Traffic was crazy, and a plan is to visit the great circle of 12 roads converging on the the great Arc, where the is a crash each thirty minutes. More famous, this is the road where Cadel Evans rode to victory in the 2011 Tour de France.

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At the end of the tour, we tipped Sam, then joined him at a restaurant that sold snails and frogs legs. Jacob tried the latter, the rest of us had less adventurous fare. He took us past Napoleon’s memorial. They like him here.

We squeezed our way onto the crush of the metro at 6:30pm and arrived home just after 7pm. It’s hot, crowded, pushy, and something to be endured. Better than more walking at the end of a nearly four hour tour.

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Koblenz to Paris

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I liked this!!

Zooming at 300kmh, click for the video.

We left Koblenz, our home town for three nights. Pleased to get out from our B&B Hotel which had no laundry, no kitchen facility and expensive breakfast, but as far as the town went- we liked it.

The train followed the Mosel River, the home of the Moselle wine region then over to the Saar river valley. This really is a nice way to see the country. And if you’re keen, you could catch the all stops train and get off at a village that attracts, spend an hour or so And catch the next train, generally an hour or so behind. They probably have hotels or proper B&B if you need to sleep off the wine tasting.

Lunch was a kebab in Saarbrücken and then we caught the last ICE train for our holiday. After leaving the town limits and finding smooth track, we felt a push in the back from the sedate 100kmh and it didn’t stop acceleration until it reached 300kmh. This is some experience on a train and exceeds take off speed for big planes. I saw it top 315kmh at one stage.

After not very long we arrived in Paris and we still doing 200 kmh on the outskirts. Jacob and I left the rest of the camels at the main station with back packs and headed off across the city to meet Kat to pick up the key. Two metro trains, about 15 stops each way and we arrived at a train station called La Defence. We came up at least 3 levels before finding ourselves in a multiple story shopping centre with many many shops on each level. Somewhere in here was Starbucks. Somewhere. …

At last a lovely tall blond girl came to greet us, which made us very pleased indeed. After an exchange of instructions on how to look after the cat, and the important key to Marie’s apartment, she helped us find the Metro station again and 40 minutes later we found the daily again.

After gathering the family and food we were lining up at a ticket booth when a ?German man and his son came along and gave us his two unlimited train passes that expire on Sunday. Wonderful!! He was leaving and obviously couldn’t use them up. They seemed to work okay, but we had our concerns when we came across four armed Police with an aggressive looking muzzled Alsatian heading towards us. We breathed again as they breezed past, unconcerned by the camel train.

After another four stops a change of tracks, all done underground and achieved by negotiating a series of up and down round and round routes, then onto route 11, we eventually arose from the underground to the Paris dusk and made our way to the apartment.

Marie normally lives here with her cat. She is Julien’s sister. Julien is my veggie oil friend that looked after us in the south of France. I met Marie and her travelling mate Lucie in Perth when they came to Australia. Julien bought a van for his sister and I helped fix up the van for licensing, meeting Marie and Lucie along the way.

Julien’s girlfriend is Virginie and she has arranged for us to stay with her cousin in Normandy on their farm. We are very fortunate to have these connections.

Rhine river cruise

Wednesday October 12

Today we spent six hours on a ferry traveling at 11kmh from Koblenz to Bingen.
Then we caught the all stops train back towards Koblenz and got off at Bacharach, a delightful little village squeezed between the mountains and the river.

Along the way we saw lots of castles, lots and lots of vineyards on really steep hills, lots of barges carrying lots and lots of stuff, rain lines running both sides of the river with some trains carrying cars from we guess Frankfurt.

The pictures tell the story.

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Koblenz with Tinny

When Jacob was traveling in Europe several years ago, he ended up in a shared hostel dorm with four girls. Doing the best he could to survive such a dreadful situation, he made friends with them and by all accounts they all got along just fine! Phew, close call.

One of them was Tinny who hailed from Koblenz. She spent several months in Fremantle, meeting up with Jacob, and he took her Margaret River and cousin Robyn’s wonderful home at Karridale.

So today, she returned the favour and showed us around her delightful home town. Situated at the confluence of the big European rivers of the Mosel and the Rhine, the join is called German corner and has another huge statue of Emperor William. This guy is popular.

Click this link to see a little movie of German Corner

We had a great day wandering around for the afternoon, lovely town.

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The river is used to carry huge bulk loads, from coal to garbage and no doubt many other things too.

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Hannover and travel to Koblenz

Hannover Day 2 and traveling to Koblenz

Day 2 in Hannover had a leisurely start, and we walked the 1.2km to Chris’s apartment arriving at 1pm. We spent the morning catching up on reading, blogs, Facebooking and other relaxing activities.

Walking over to Chris’s, about a kilometre, we noted it was midday and how long the shadows were. This is what 52* north latitude is like in October

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Again Chris generously and courageously let me drive her car whilst we followed closely behind Hermie and Chris. This time there were a lot more small villages needing careful placement of the car to avoid a big bang and big problems. The family again were my extra eyes and ears, looking in the odd spots for other cars – opposite to what we are used to, and reminding me which lane to turn into when turning corners. This has been a really helpful preparation for Caen in a week – thanks cousin Chris!!

So off we tootled to a big castle. It wasn’t all that old, just a couple of hundred years, but looked the part. We had a coffee break whilst we waited for the tour and got to enjoy that special experience of carrying the English audio with us whilst the guide spoke in German. We had two head sets to each machine so I was attached to Kerry with a cable for most of the tour, which was of course very informative. For some time not so long ago, the city state of Hannover shared their royalty with the royal family of England, traveling back and forward to keep a check on both their kingdoms.

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On the way back we strolled through the only Catholic village in the region for our daily dose of gold plate, statues, and crosses. I’m pleased it makes them happy…

The village old too, like Blomberg.

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For our evening meal we travelled into central Hannover to a Paulaner Bavarian pub for Stein’s or Mass (1000ml) of beer, schnitzel and apple strudel and thanked Chris and Hermie for spending their weekend with us. We got the impression they liked having the friendly Australian relatives with them. Regaling them with stories of the wide brown land, blue skies and Aussie lifestyle, our next assignment is to look into immigration criteria. This happens with most people we show pictures on the iPad to!!

The hostel had a few squirrels around. This was the original European red Squirrel, not the larger aggressive US brown squirrel that is displacing them.

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Monday October 10th, is our travel day. We weren’t able to find any accommodation in Koln, but Jacob managed to book up a double and triple room in Koblenz, not far from Koln. Apparently it’s a nice enough place to stay for the three nights we need to be there before we travel into Paris on Thursday. A bonus is that a travel friend of Jacob’s goes to Uni in Koblenz. They met in Ireland, then again in Perth where Jacob showed her the sights of the city and took her to the south west. He’s pleased she is recalling all of this and happy to meet up with us and be our local tour guide. Having Jacob’s experience along once again comes up trumps for us!!

I was able to buy a group ticket at the hostel for the train ride this morning. €8,40 for five of us, for the whole day within the inner city circle. Good value, and cheaper than two single tickets. This got us into the hauptbahnhof, central train station to find our train was going to be late into Hannover due to vandalism on the line closer to Berlin. So off the hunters went in search of sustenance and found coffee at a McCafe, as you do. The train is crowded, and we can’t sit together. Several people are standing for the long journey, which fortunately stops now and again so they can grab a vacated seat and the new journeymen have to stand. It’s another fast ICE train, though I’ve only seen it cruise at 200kmh so far.

The other trick for the train journey is to make sure you get into the second class carriages where we belong, and also in the correct section of the train. This train has travelled from Berlin, picked us up Hannover, and will be traveling to Dusseldorf and the old West German capital of Bonn. The front half of the train goes to Dusseldorf and the rear goes to Bonn. So you have to be well prepared when getting on the train to make sure you are in the right section, otherwise your journey can take you to unplanned places. Somewhere the train will split, and we will alight at Koln, which is on the way to Bonn. As the train is very long, perhaps 16 carriages, it’s a long walk from one section to the other. They have lovely maps of the train make up, and labels on the platform defining section A, B, C, D, E, F, G etc., along with paper and electronic boards, so it’s not hard to get it right.

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Station announcements are generally in English too, which is handy, but are often disconcertingly much shorter than the German version, so we hope we are not missing something important. Fortunately a quick ‘sprechen sie English’ to a friendly looking local will help sort things out.

Koln cathedral is regarded as the biggest in Europe, taking up some 1000 sqm on ground footprint. It indeed a building to behold. Long thin windows on the towers add to the impression of height for the main towers, which at 137m are already tall enough.

Inside, the cavern is broken into many areas for more intimate worship. Plenty of stained glass, plenty of really old stuff, a big gold gasket that would suit a spot in the Raiders of the Lost Arc movies holding pride of place at the head of the cathedral, and an underground crypt that no doubt holds the bodies of many of the former Archbishops and Cardinals. Indeed, it is an impressive building that cannot capture the grandeur of.

This video might help get an idea.

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Traveling on a regional train to Koblenz, we follow the Rhine river. It’s a big wide river that carries big wide long barges carrying heavy things along the river.

As the rain clouds go away for the afternoon, it’s quite nice really.

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