A Travellerspoint blog

London - 2 of 2

Adios Europe!

sunny 59 °F

After a quick Chunnel, we were in London for our last day in Europe. We met up with our brother-in-law, Drew, there for his birthday (and soccer match) and headed up to the London Eye. It was a great ride with excellent views of both the city and all three of our differing levels of acrophobia.

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Following a walking tour of Fleet St. and the Stran, we wandered through the northern portion of Old Town, hopping into a pub that was rebuilt in 1666 after the great London fire. Although a little gimmicky, it was completely authentic with 5 foot ceilings in the stairwell and ancient wooden everything, floor to ceiling. It struck me as little strange that coming out of a horrendous, city destroying fire that you would immediately build it back in wood. Hrmmm.

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After some extraordinarily inefficient use of the public transport, we walked back to our hotel and saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.

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Exhausted, fully saturated with sites and history, and battling international head colds, we were ready to be home. The following day we were off to the airport ...

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It was and may always be the most amazing trip we've ever done, and it was only made possible by our friends and family. Thank you guys so much.

Posted by skiddaddle 08:45 Archived in United Kingdom

Paris - 2 of 2

Best city in the world

rain 59 °F
View HunnyMewn on skiddaddle's travel map.

Our last day in Paris and we are both really going to miss this city. It was an early day because we wanted to hit up a number of sites before leaving for London the following morning. Elida's fascination with the macabre led us to the Les Catacombs, something I had strong mixed feelings about. Death + close quarters + drippy ceiling + giant me = sounds great! Then this happens ...

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Yup closed due to lack of ventilation. Nothing like suffocating next to an endless pile of bones. We still needed our fix of death so we headed to the famous Parisian cemetery Pere Lachaissez, where a number of notables are buried included Oscar Wilde and of course, Jim Morrison. It's an above ground burial site, with large tombs and very limited space. In some cases, family members were buried on top of each other. OH! and get this! You (or your family) actually rents the space. If you don't pay up after 15 or 30 years, you get exhumed and placed in an archived box in a building nearby. Youch! We strolled through the grounds on that rainy day and I have to admit that it was really peaceful. We met up with some Brits looked for specific graves, and had a good scavenger hunt with them.

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Off to the Sacre Couer next, a recent addition to Paris skyline. It's a church that sits on a small mount practically in the middle of the city, with a huge number of steps to get up to it. On our way it started pouring rain, so we ducked into a pizza joint for some food and our now customary bottle of wine. Just before heading up, we noticed the time ... and the steps ... and the large number of tourist loving parasites giving out free friendship bracelets for 5 euro ... and skipped it in favor of the Musee d'Orsay.

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The Louvre's collection ends at 1834 and that's where this museum picks up. It has an amazing amount of Impressionist masterpieces, including Monet's Waterlilies, Manet's Luncheon (with prostitutes), and Renoir's Bal du moulin de la Galette. I personally wasn't a fan of this era of art, but after getting up close I finally appreciated why it's so loved. Incredible stuff. And the museum is in a converted train station ... neato pants!

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We ended with a wonderful dinner and a final view of the Eiffel at night. You really have to try hard not to feel the romance of this city.

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Posted by skiddaddle 08:19 Archived in France

Paris - 1 of 2

We may move here ...

semi-overcast 55 °F
View HunnyMewn on skiddaddle's travel map.

We left Antwerp for the last time and headed to Paris, France. We arrived at our mini apartment overlooking Pont de Neuf, dropped everything off, and went in search of our first dinner café experience. We found one called Le Dindon En Laisse, which means “The Turkey on a Leash”. It was everything we expected: intimate, slow and relaxing. We had wine, a gloriously prepared duck breast, followed by a wonderful crème brule. We then repeated this procedure at every night for dinner, trying out new places. Some had better duck, others better wine, but all in all they were great! Everything they say about French cafes is true: you will sit extremely close to strangers at tiny tables, the service will be slow because they are respecting your dinner time and giving you time to talk lazily over each course. It was the perfect nightcap after a long day of site-seeing and became our ritual over the next five nights.

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It was rainy the next morning, so we decide to spend the day at the Louvre. IT IS EXPANSIVE! I mean, I know you know that, but it just can’t be as big as it is. We spent about 8 hours and saw maybe 1/16th of the collection. Paintings, sculptures, antiquities, oh my! Dinner that night included escargot. Check out the third photo, with me in the bottom right ... that painting is HUGE too!

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We woke up to a beautiful, sunny day in Paris the next morning and went to Notre Dame of Paris, located on a small island in the river Seine. It’s roots go back a thousand years, but honestly after seeing Westminster Abbey, there may not be a reason to visit another church (sacre bleu!).

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To save time, for lunch we stopped in a Mediterranean restaurant for shawarma stuffed full and topped with French fries. It was bigger than both of our heads and SO good. The French know their french fries! We ordered French fries everywhere we went from that point on.

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Off to the Eiffel Tower! It’s tall, and scary (edit: for Elida) but pretty amazing. From there we went to the Arch de Triumphe, which is also huge. Elida had had enough of the heights for one day so we didn’t go to the top of this one. Despite the long lines everywhere we went, we saw three major sites before 4 p.m., so we sauntered down the Champs Elysees and had some coffee and hot chocolate. We walked back to our apartment just in time to watch the sun set behind the Eiffel tower from the Pont de Neuf bridge. Here we bought some water color paintings from a street artist at the crepuscule. It was the quintessential Parisian day. Magical.

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Day three in France was spent at Mont St. Michel, located northwest of Paris on the coast. It’s an abbey built in 980 in the middle of the sea on a chunk of basalt rising from the seafloor. I can’t believe how much people wanted to kill each other back then, but yes it was fortified over the years. It is so vertical, that even leaving felt like you were still traveling uphill.

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Hungry again, we went in search of salt marsh grazed lamb. It was delicious, but honestly we couldn’t really taste a difference in the meat, even when we didn’t smother it in the creamy butter wine sauce provided.

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May I recommend that should decide to visit Mont St. Michel from Paris, you reserve your return tickets by train in advance. We did not. Realizing the folly of our ways, we strategically positioned ourselves in the front of our shuttle, so we could be the first people at the ticket counter back at the station. There we made friends with an older German lady, ex-pat, now living in France. She turned to Elida smiling and said in a thick German-French accent, “Your husband, he is beautiful!” and kissed the tips of her fingers just before opening them toward the sky. Chris turned beet red and changed the subject.

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That's right ladies, he's all mine.

After being dropped off, Chris sprinted to the ticket counter and urgently requested two tickets to Paris on the train, which was arriving in 8 minutes. They exchanged panicked looks and the agent immediately got on the phone to see what he could do. Meanwhile, the line behind Chris has grown, in this tiny train station. As the ticket man is busily clicking on his computer screen, our new French-German friend comes to the door of the platforms and signals for Elida to come over, exclaiming, “You must hurry, the train is coming!” Then she calls out to Chris across the station, “You must huuuurrryyy!” at which point the ticket printer jams. Chris cries out “PAPER JAM!” She again points to the train “IT IS HERE!!!”

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Somehow, despite this frantic scene, we sprinted onto the train, calmed down, and looked at our tickets for the first time. The agent had found us a way to Paris but not quite on this train the entire time. We had three transfers adding two hours to our commute back to Paris. When we got to the first stop, I (Elida) refused to get off. Chris kindly noted that there were enormous fines for what we were about to do. I just as kindly told him they were going to have to pry my cold, dead fingers from this train to get me off. We were stowaways on a French Train, so I sent my BH (Beautiful Husband) to smooth things over. And he did, making a new friend with the ticket inspector on the train back.

France was an adventure!

Posted by skiddaddle 08:05 Archived in France

Prague

"Prague, Check!" - Elida

sunny 55 °F

The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round.

The only way to get to Prague from Munich is on a bus. A 4 hour bus ride with no stops. You can imagine our excitement. If you’re wondering, yes it was worth it.

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We had entered a world of history generally not taught in America. Or maybe just not remembered in my case. Perhaps it’s because it was part of former Soviet Bloc (Iron Curtain), a fact that didn’t dawn on me until we spent our last evening at a café trying to learn some of its history on the internets (*cough* dorks!). I’m pretty sure they were Gozer woshippers at some point.

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The sites are amazing and walking around the streets you feel like you’re still in the 16th century. The Astronomical Clock was my favorite for sure, since it has accurately predicted the motion of the stars, moon, and sun for the past 400 years. And it’s got wooden figurines that animate every hour on the hour when the bell rings. At first it might seem gimmicky, but then you learn it’s been that way for the last 500 years. Come on!

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We tried Czech food our friend Pascal recommended. We gave steak tartar a shot (raw ground beef with a raw egg on top and mixed with spices. Except that it tasted like nothing, which didn’t outweigh the creep factor. No. Next out were beautiful pieces of pork and goose on horizontal spits that you slice yourself, accompanied by red and white sauerkraut. It looked and smelled like heaven. Unfortunately, I was reminded of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation when the family sits down to eat that completely dessicated turkey. It was that bad. Horrible. Flavorless. Chewy. Dry. It hurt your face and no amount of salt could help. You had to admire the creativity with which they destroyed that meal. My stomach has never been so depressed. I think I got depressed.

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In that light, we decided to put on the fancy pants the following night. We went to a Michelin starred restaurant (what what!?) and had, quite simply, the best meal of our lives. Each wine was paired with each course perfectly, and each of the five courses was prepared with meticulous care, complete with amuse bouche. We were eating art. One of the main courses was mouflon or, err, ram. We ate RAM for the love of god! And it was AMAZING!

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From Prague we were planning on returning to Germany to see the Rhine region, but we were exhausted and Elida caught a head cold, so we cut the Bavarian trip early and headed back to Antwerp. By the way, this trip from Prague to Antwerp is an excruciatingly long day (12 hours) of bus and train transfers that we do not recommend to anyone. Thank goodness there was a warm apartment with good beer and shawarma waiting for us when we arrived.

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Posted by skiddaddle 11:06 Archived in Czech Republic

OKTOBERFEST!!!

Munchen meine Hosen

rain 52 °F

After a glorious respite in Antwerp for a few days (and some glorious shworma), we hopped aboard several trains destined for Munich. It was time for the festival to rule all festivals: Oktoberfest. In true drunken tourist fashion, we donned the ultimate party gear.

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As we strolled through the grounds, me in my lederhosen and Elida in her dirndl, it became quite clear that my hosen was a wee bit short. One life experience I never thought I would have was hosen envy, but compared to the other dudes I was wearing antique leather hot pants. Elida was naturally smoking hot. It was also immediately clear that this festival was like the State Fair of Texas on steroids, except that people of all ages were absolutely trashed and we didn’t speak the language. We snagged some Kaaswursts (cheese filled sausages) and wandered into several tents.

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Each was filled with 10,000+ people and had the coolest themed decorations covering the roof, like clouds, birds, that kind of thing. In the middle on a stage, a decent sized traditional German band was rocking the glockenspiel. People stood on benches singing along to these traditional songs. The atmosphere was amazing! Unfortunately it was impossible to get a seat at a table (which means no beer and a really unhappy Willis), but luckily we were able to sit outside at a wet, cold table to get our first enormous beer.

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We had read that tables are easier to come by in the smaller, microbrewery tents and headed out to find one. In one of these tents we made a friend when he asked to share our table so he could eat the delectable chicken they serve at the festival. Pascal was a native and explained that he this was his 12th day of Oktoberfest. In other words, he had come every day for 12 out of the 14 day festival. He was so nice, of course everyone is after that much beer, and we parted ways after the tent kicked us out for a reserved party that night.

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Did I mention the HUGE steins!? I don’t know how you can drink more than two of these things.

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I mean, I did drink more than two and I don’t really remember what happened after that. I think I ate a 2’ long wiener.

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Hung. Over.

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Posted by skiddaddle 07:48 Archived in Germany

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