A Travellerspoint blog


rain 19 °C

Day 15 European Tour
The Nouvelle Eve cabaret was “tre fantastique” it was a great way to end the tour. We had a 4 course meal including champagne followed by a show. The highlight was a dancing competition with volunteers/victims from the audience. We were happy to end the tour because it was a pretty frenetic pace and we were all exhausted both physically and mentally by the end. We had some interesting characters on the tour, we had one crazy lady I could write a book on her so more on her when we return. The pace of the tour was “leisurely” and I would revise that to full on. We were on the go from 7.45am most days which meant bags out and breakfast by an hour earlier. The tour was great no stress just get up and make sure you are on the bus on time and everything else was taken care. The tour director had a saying “maximise your time” and he sure did. We had some really good hotels and some really bad ones but we were on the go all day so we really only slept in them luckily for the bad ones for instance Florence we didn’t see the hotel until after dinner about 9.00pm after leaving Rome in the morning at 7.45 and spending the day visiting churches and piazzas before dinner.
Day 22
We were now on our own so we took the opportunity to catch up on some lost sleep and almost didn’t make breakfast. The kids would have slept through the whole day given the chance. We had a huge breakfast including Belgian waffles and then decided we had enough of culture and decided to hit the shops. Attached to the hotel is a small set of shops including a sports store that’s bigger than most Myers or DJ’s. But across from the hotel was the shopping mall called Les Quattra Temps, It is farking huge, 4 levels including parking and the metro station is incorporated in as well in fact all the metro stations have huge shopping malls attached and it took us a couple of go’s when using the metro to find the exits to the streets with getting lost in the maze of shops. It was about 5pm by the time we found our way out and returned to the hotel to dump the bags. We needed to pick up our TGV tickets so we then decided to attempt the metro system. Everyone was raving how this is the best system in the world! Well don’t believe it the Hong Kong underground shits on this system. Sure the trains run every couple of minutes but the stations are dirty they stink of piss and it’s a maze to find your way around.
Everyone kept telling me about the French but I thought they can’ be that bad! Well they are worse. We didn’t experience any of this arrogance in Nice but in Paris they will not get out of your way in the street and the service in shops does not exist you even have to put your goods you have bought into the bags. They get pissed off when you don’t understand what they are saying and they will not bother to explain it to you either. After we picked up our tickets from Gare de Lyon station we took the metro a couple of stops back to Chatelet to see Notre Dame but it was raining so we walked into a café ordered and sat down. Another waitress come up gave us menus and then asked what we wanted. I explained we ordered with the assistant behind the counter and she then got shirty with the ‘No you cannot sit here that is takeaway” so we got up and went back to the assistant we had originally ordered to say make the coffees takeaway and it was like she had never seen us so we ordered our coffees again, BTW Angela is freaking out saying let’s get the frog out of there when the waitress that threw us off the table says “oh if you are ordering coffee you can sit down” WTF! So we sit down get our coffees (which were crap) and Cristian then pens the little song “Tutte e Merde” sung to the yellow pages ad tune. I then ask for the bill give her the exact money and she is waiting for a tip!
On the way back we stopped at the supermarket which is in the shopping centre across from the hotel. My God what a mess it resembled a Hollywood disaster movie where people are looting the supermarket before the wave/meteor/volcano hits. By now it was 9.00pm so we stocked up on some snacks and then got the frog out there. BTW the beer and wine is dirt cheap, cheaper than water and coke, 0.60 euro for 600ml of Belgian beer or 2.5 euro for wine.
The next day we hit the city centre taking the metro to the Louvre and then making our way back to the Champs Elysees taking our final photographs and buying the final souvenirs.
Paris was strange so many beautiful sights and famous places but the Parisians are so far up themselves I’m surprised they see where they are going.
Tomorrow it’s Torino via the TGV Au revoir France and Benvenuto a Italia

Posted by rasci 09:35 Archived in France Comments (0)

French Rivieria to Suisse to Paris

sunny 21 °C

Day 13
Day 7 European Tour
We left Florence behind in search of beautiful south of France. After a long drive through Genoa, we crossed into the Principality of Monaco. Making our way into Monaco we drove along the main straight, it isn’t that wide, incredible to think Formula 1 cars are allowed through there. We got off the bus and made our way up to the main square, walking part of the Formula 1 circuit. It didn’t take long to get a sight of an exotic car. The main square was a filled with Ferrari’s, Bentley’s, Porsche’s and Aston’s. After filling up all the cameras with photos and videos of cars, it was time for Nice.
Going along the Bassa (lower) Corniche road we passed many towns including Menton, San Remo, Antibes and arrived at Nice mid-afternoon. The coast around Nice was spectacular, the water was a deep blue and the beaches were packed. It didn’t take long for us to decide it was time for a swim. We quickly realised though why Australian beaches are so good. The French call them pebble beaches, I call the rocks, and sharp rocks at that. After fighting for a spot on the shore, it was then the challenge of walking bare foot to the water for a swim. The water was warm but very salty and got deep very quickly. The final challenge was getting out, with the rocks digging in and the current pulling you out, it was not a pretty sight. Many of the Russians that were there would leave their shoes at the shore line, then when it came time to get out, would shout at their partners to throw them their shoes so they could walk out.

Day 8 European Tour
Day 8 of the tour didn’t start til 1 so there was time for an early swim and a look through the shops for souvenirs from the Cote d’Azur. On our way to dinner, taking the Alta Corniche road, we stopped at a perfumery where all the brands go to make their products. After Angela and Isabella stocked up on perfumes, face and hand creams, it was time for dinner at La Bergerie, opposite the house of former Juventus and French footballer, David Trezegeut. The restaurant was perched on top of the mountain overlooking the whole of the coast. Snails were on the menu, so Angela being the bravest of us all decided to be the guinea pig. Apparently they tasted like tripe. They must not have been too bad because nobody was throwing up.
Day 9-11 European Tour
We left Nice and backtracked our way towards Genoa to make our way to Zermatt in Switzerland. It was a visual feast up and over the Simplon Pass. Zermatt is a car free zone and we needed to swap the bus for a taxi ride from hell along a one way road with 2 way traffic and then onto electric taxis into beautiful Zermatt. It was threatening to rain all day but it waited until our walking tour through the town to come down. After the walking tour it was time for our fondue feast, cheese followed by meat and then a chocolate fondue with fruit. The Matterhorn overlooks the village but was shrouded in clouds for our short stay so we were unable to see the summit.
Next its onto Andermatt via the Glacier Express.
Day 12-13 European Tour
It was still raining when we left for the train station to catch the world famous Glacier Express. The ride through the Alps was hampered by the low cloud and rain but it was still an awesome experience crossing gorges with rivers several hundred metres below.
The sun was shining albeit briefly when we arrived in Andermatt 2.5 hours later and we headed for Staserhorn to ascend the mountain on the funicular and cable car. The mountain was shrouded in mist which provided a new vista every few minutes as the clouds moved across. The restaurant has a revolving floor which made for a dizzy lunch! We then headed to Lucerne for a lake cruise and then free time in the city centre. It was raining cats & dogs by this stage so we had to move from shop to shop by running and then hiding under verandahs or canopies. The Swiss like their watches and almost every second shop sells them. The tourist trap is a shop called Bucherer this place sells everything from Rolexs to Swiss cow bells and was wall to wall with Japanese & Spanish tourists by the time we got there. We only wanted to pick up our free souvenir Rolex spoons but you had to literally fight your way through because the Japanese do not have any concept of personal space. Switzerland has a fantastic freeway system with tunnels to enable tavel during winter when it snows. We travelled down the Devils Gorge to get to Staserhorn. It was an incredible set of switchbacks (hairpins) and tunnels in what seemed an almost vertical descent down the mountain. The rain was torrential all day but it was still fairly warm (luckily) but it did not dampen our spirits but that cannot be said for some of our fellow travellers.
Next its onto gay Paris!
Day 18
Day 14 European Tour
We arrived in Paris on Bastille Day lucky for us because that meant no traffic in the city. The Parisians were out in force lining the River Seine and any other vantage point to see the Eiffel Tower light show and fireworks. We had a very French dinner on the Champs Elysees before we joined 896 other travellers on a river cruise to see the all the famous sights, Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Pont De Alexander III, Pont de Concorde, Notre Dame. It was a fantastic way to finish off the day.
Today we climbed the Eiffel Tower to see the spectacular views from it and to be chased by Marochini selling 5 eiffel tower keyrings for 5 euros and gypsies with a hearing problem and couldn't speak but wanted 10 euros? It was really sleazy and I walked around holding my bum bag with both hands. I couldn't wait to get out of there. When we arrived at the Palais Versailles it was just as bad but they were not allowed inside the Palais fence so it was only a couple of hundred metres that we had to shake our heads and not make eye contact. The Palais Versailles gardens are amazing and so is the palace itself but the amount of people trying to work their way through the rooms was ridiculous and by the end I gave up on the guided tour and just wandered around. We then stop for an hour at the Arche D'Triumphe and ate some pastries we had bought earlier and watched the Paris traffic work its way around the arch. The rules here are give way to the right when you are on the roundaout crazy because they drive on the right but it seems to work. We even saw a couple of idiots trying to cross the road to get to the Arch lukily I didn't bet my son they would be killed becuase the freanch drivers hjust went around them. BTW there is an underground pass to get to Arch.

Tonight we go to a Parisian cabaret and then our tour comes to an end

Posted by rasci 07:42 Archived in France Comments (0)

Day 10

Day 4 of the European tour

Day 10,
Day 4 of the European tour

Already day 4 of the tour and we have been through 6 countries. It been a furious pace but we finally it to Venice and it’s a first 2 night stop. This has slowed the pace a little and given us time to catch up with the outside world.
We have been to so many amazing places and the camera is working overtime. We left London and headed to Dover to catch the ferry to Calais, luckily the channel crossing was smooth and no one lost their lunch. We then headed to Bruges it was only an afternoon stop but the place is amazing as I have commented on elsewhere the chocolate and the beer is fantastic to the point where we had a Heineken in Italy the other day and it tasted like crap, we are slowly readjusting the taste buds to Peroni.
We then spent the night in Brussels enjoying an the local dish of mussels with a beer of course and also enjoying more Belgium chocolate before heading for Germany. We travelled through the Rhineland taking in a river cruise where a german band of musicians boarded at a stop and gave us an impromptu concert before departing at the next stop. The next day we headed to Munich for lunch and arrived in Innsbruck by early evening. Just an observation the beer in Europe is cheaper than Coke and it is stacked by the checkouts at roadhouses along the autobahns. The autobahns in Germany are KILLA! Normal speed limit is 130kmh and certain sections are 250kmh and they are super smooth. Germany is so clinical, they all follow the rules nobody crosses the road unless the light is green and they only cross at the lights and they adhere to the road rules unlike Italia which is chaos but more of that later. We spent the night in Innsbruck, the place is postcard perfect and everybody cycles around my kinda place. We also stayed in an old world style hotel with real keys instead of plastic it was a welcome change from the chain hotels. Did I mention the beer is fantastic? The Alps are unbelievable the views are spectacular and all roads resemble a stage out of the tour de france or the giro d’italia.
Day 4 we headed down to the plains to Venice. After the order and control of Germany we have complete chaos in Italia. They drive like maniacs, the pedestrian crossing are a joke they don’t stop in fact they don’t stop full stop they will just go around. The hotel charges 1 euro? for the wi-fi but it doesn’t work in your room you have to be in the lobby or up on the pool deck and it only works intermittently. The bathroom is a work of art but not everything works. The shower nozzle is like a garden sprinkler I had the pleasure of being completely doused while sitting on the throne when Angela turned the shower on she was dry and the room was soaked. For those of you who watch the show the “IT Crowd” will understand the next experience. I was in the bathroom when I noticed what I thought was the clothesline and went about trying to find the point on the opposing where it would latch into. All the while I was trying to get Angela’s attention to show her as well. I gave up because the cord with a little red ball on the end wasn’t long enough. I then noticed flashing lights on the fancy keycard entry system and the aircon digital readout was flashing “HELP”. By then the kids had come in and where laughing there arse off because I had yank the emergency help alarm at least a dozen times. Unlike in the show nobody showed up (we are in Italia) to assist and I wasn’t carried away in a wheelchair to my wifes disgust.
Venice is jaw dropping, even after 35 years it still leaves you speechless as you cruise up the Grand Canal. Yes we had a gondola ride through the canals; we were in 8 boats with a piano accordion player and singer serenading us down the Grand Canal. Halfway through the ride one of gondoliers upset the singer which then triggered a tirade in the Venetian dialect which both Angela & I could not translate but I got the gist of it.
We spent today wandering the streets of Venice in the morning it is truly a magical place but the number of tourists is ridiculous you can’t swing a camera without hitting a tourist. It costs 1.5 euros to use the public toilets in Venice that’s obscene! First you have to find them then you have to line up and wait but they are clean and there are no freaks or weirdos hanging around. Venice was a magical experience.
Day 11,
Day 5 of the European tour
We finally reached Rome in the afternoon and after a short stop at the hotel we headed straight to the Centro Historica for a walking tour with a local guide. It was fantastic to be back in Rome after 35 years and be able to recognise the sights I saw then and of course all the other famous locations. The highlight of the walking tour was the Pantheon. It was breathtaking piece of architecture and to think I stood on marble where Roman emperors would have stood thousands of years ago.
A quick pizza and tartufo in Piazza Navona was enhanced by the Marochini (Morrocans but in reality they now come from Senegal) who sell counterfeit bags & watches playing cat & mouse with the Carabineiri (Italian Police). The Carabineiri would drive by and the Marochini would pick up their bags & watches laid out on sheets and walk off and return 30 seconds later. This would happen every 5 or minutes as the Carabineiri looped around the piazza until finally after about an hour a few Carabineiri set off on foot through the Piazza and the Marochini disappeared probably to the next tourist spot.
The Romans cannot drive. They have given up painting the lines on the road because nobody cares. The scooters use the centreline as a lane and the traffic is magnificent you have to be extremely unlucky not to be caught in total gridlock.
Roma is basically organised chaos I really don't know how anything gets done and I think the Romans don't either but it is a beautiful city.

Day 12,
Day 6
We arrive in Florence by lunchtime and after a quick bite to eat we are off to see the “David” at the Academia followed by the Duomo and the Church of the Sante Croce where the tombs of Michaeli Angelo and Gailileo are.
We wandered the streets in the afternoon getting ready for our return in 2 weeks. It was a pretty warm day so we were keen to have dinner and get back to the hotel to rest.

I am starting to get really sick of people trying to sell me crap. They just walk up to you and shove paintings, scarves, umbrellas & all other manner of rubbish in yor face and then expect you to pay. Rome was really bad for this especially around the Coloseum, there was even a Gladiator at the Trevi fountain trying to get you to pay for photos.

Tomorrow its onto Monte Carlo and Nice.

Posted by rasci 14:51 Comments (0)

London take 2

Day 3, 4 & 5

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Well we have done the tourist thing and jumped on the big red bus and toured the city with the other 4,999,996 tourists well thats what it feels like. It was really commercialised, I mean way over the top with lots of hard sell to see other attractions. After only a couple of days I have learnt that the Americans really need to learn to shut up or even better stay home. They are just like a hi viz vest they are so loud and in your face.

Part of the hop on hop off bus tour is a walking tour to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. They promised us a jolly good time so we chased this tour guide up the mall stopping at sites to be regaled with royal stories. Then we got to St James Palace and watched the guards come out and then we literally chased them along with the other 4,999,996 tourists up the mall to the palace. People were running, jumping, dragging their children in an attempt to keep pace with the guardsmen, an absolutely hilarious situation. I am not a monarchist and I think the Queen tried to kill me this day by placing a banana in my path. I hit this banana and bam I was off skating down the footpath arms flaying to keep my balance, luckily Angela threw out a lifeline and stopped me going down no thanks to my children who were laughing their arses off.

Having had enough of the sightseeing we hit the shops with the kids & Angela (and me) eager to spend some of their (and mine) cash. We navigated our way to Regent, Carnaby & Oxford streets by mid morning and found the going pretty easy even managing to find a half decent coffee & breakfast along the way. There is something wrong when breakfast comes with fries and something even weirder when the cafe is run by Italians! but that didn't stop Cristian.

The Londoners are spoilt for choice or the vice versa is we in Adelaide are being ripped off. We found plenty of bargains but the icing on the cake was the Ferrari store on Regent Street we were in red heaven.

Friday is our last day in London before our eurpean tour so its on to see the last few sights of London town

Posted by rasci 00:15 Archived in England Comments (0)


Day 1 and 2 of being within London.

storm 20 °C

We finally hit London town after a marathon flight. The flight was pretty good, we were on the A380 man it's big and we had the very last row of seats at the back. It's amazing how much you can put up with when your in a metre square of real estate for 12 hours and some ethnic guy is hukking a left lung every twenty minutes, some little kid is screaming his or her lungs out and everytime the fat dude in front of you moves you think the seat is going to break and fall back severing your legs above the knees. We did have some pretty freaky turbulence which coincided with me in toilet right the middle of it then the announcement and seat belt sign come on while I'm bouncing around thinking will I be found cheeks side up covered in blue loo dye by the hostie.

We have spent the day doing the tourist thing walking around checking out the palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and Big Ben. The heat of Singapore has been replaced with almost wintry London. The weather today was chilly this morning by our standards, but there were commuters sweating it up. It turned ugly in the afternoon with thunderstorms and rain which managed to ruin our sushi lunch in the park.

No use complaining about traffic in Adelaide after this trip because the traffic here is manic. The ride in from the airport the driver had a sat nav that beeped everytime we got close to a speed camera and it was beeping constantly. Never seen so many black S-class Merc's either.

Posted by rasci 07:46 Archived in England Comments (0)

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