A Travellerspoint blog

Week 25: Portugal re-visited

We were really excited to get back to Portugal to see Emilia again, and it seemed like a fitting way to finish up our European tour – kind of coming full circle for us. We arrived in Porto and caught a little bus to Arcos de Valdevez and Manuel greeted us at the bus stop for a hair raising drive back to the Quinta (we’re pretty sure the car had no fuel as there was a lot of spluttering and stalling on the up hills).
The main idea of the trip back to Vale was to give Emilia a hand with the grape harvest. Normally this is a pretty big deal, and takes a full day with about 60 helpers. Sadly this year’s crop was terrible, about 1/10 of the normal yield. Emilia’s not sure exactly what went wrong, but for some reason the vines had a lot less grapes on them than usual, and lots of the grapes that were looking good earlier in the season dried up or rotted. The whole harvest was done in less than a day by about 10 people.
Emilia isn’t one to let these things get to her, so had plenty of other things for us to help with during the week. Two of her good friends Manuella and Branco (the fittest retiree in Portugal) from Porto were staying for the week to help her around the place, and we were put to work.
Despite Andrew not speaking any Portuguese and Branco not speaking a word of English they managed to get on really well during the week. They spent most of the time operating Emilia’s 100 year old still and distilling the old wine into brandy. They also spent lots of time outside fixing up things around the farm, and even castrating piglets (Andrew was concerned how fun Lisa found this – she was straight in there with the scalpel). One of Andrew’s favourite moments was when Branco was using sign language to tell him that Emilia had the pig artificially inseminated!
Lisa spent most of the week up in the factory helping Emilia and Manuella to make jams. They made Quince jelly, Marmelada (quince paste), apple and lemon jam and two types of pumpkin jam. It is quite a process, lots of jar cleaning and sterilizing, and then boiling the jam in the jars to seal them.
But it wasn’t all work. We also managed to get into watching the Portuguese football league. Branco is a keen football fan so we watched games with him whilst drinking 90c beers at the cafe a couple of nights. Emilia’s cooking was as good as ever, so we were again treated to some delicious Portuguese fare.
We also had to cook another meal for the group. This time we made spiced pumpkin soup, then roast lamb greek style with flat bread and salads, followed by walnut tart for dessert. Not quite typical kiwi, but the only meat Ben the “vegetarian” eats is lamb so options were a little limited.
Portugal was as beautiful as ever, and land prices are so cheap that Andrew has been doing some research on what it would take to buy property there. Apparently you can get a 5yr residency for buying property worth over 500,000 euro (a bit out of our league), or by having a business that employs 5 Portuguese staff (probably a bit out of our league too). He has been looking into small farmlets and they do seem pretty reasonable so maybe we will be expanding our property portfolio one of these days. Watch this space!
Time flew at Emilia’s as always. Before we knew it the week was over and it was time to head back to the UK. We got a lift with Manuella back to Porto on Sunday and she took us to see the suburbs near the sea where she and Emilia grew up, which was beautiful, then we spent the afternoon wandering around the old part of town. Porto is still one of our favourite cities to visit. It’s reasonably priced, beautiful and has great food.
What an amazing way to end our journey in Europe. We were feeling a little nostalgic as we climbed on yet another plane to head back to London.
The last couple of days in the northern hemisphere also flew. We managed to get in some sightseeing, and loved seeing the British museum with Yuri. We also had a last dinner out with Kate, Jo and Toby. We are really going to miss the range of things to do and delicious places to eat when we get back home.
So now the suitcases are packed to the limits and we are ready to head on to the Southern Hemisphere tour. Bring on Melbourne and Brisbane!

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Posted by Andrew and Lisa 16:24 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Week 24: Delightful Turkey

We didn’t know an awful lot about Turkey except that it was largely Muslim, and were not sure what to expect. We arrived at around lunchtime (after a surprisingly excellent Turkish Airlines flight – highly recommend flying with them). After checking in to our hotel we set out to check out the sights. Istanbul is a real east meets west country. Like Morocco there is the guy reciting the Koran over loudspeakers every hour or two, and people tend to dress conservatively, but the place is much more clean and less chaotic than Morocco. We found that the street and market vendors weren’t quite so pushy, and everyone was very helpful and polite. Istanbul has several really beautiful mosques, and we were struck by the beauty of the city skyline. The square which is home to the Sultan Ahmed (Blue mosque) and the Sofia Palace is particularly beautiful.
Our first full day in Istanbul we spent checking out the Grand Bazaar, which was huge. We were a little bit disappointed that a lot of the market sold fake designer wares, rather than just local handmade items. I think from that point of view the markets in Marrakech and Fes in Morocco were streets ahead. The streets themselves in Istanbul are a fantastic place to just sit and people watch. Food wise, we seemed to come across restaurant after restaurant with mostly the same kinds of food – donor kebab, and various meats grilled on metal skewers. We were surprised not to see any falafel at all.
The next day, we headed to the port area and caught a ferry up the Bosphorus canal, nearly to the mouth of the black sea. We ended up in a place called Anadolou Kavagi, and climbed the hill to an old ruined castle, where there were beautiful views to the black sea. The ferry trip itself took about 2 hours and was stunning. The city and its surrounds are surprisingly green, and the banks of the Bosphorus are lined with spectacular buildings. We hired an audioguide which told us a bit about the history as we were going. The little town we stopped at is famous for its seafood, so we were treated to a delicious lunch of grilled fish before jumping back on the boat and heading home.
The other highlight of the day was Andrew’s Turkish barber experience. We stopped at a local barber, and he got a complete going over. He was expecting the haircut and cutthroat shave, but the guy wasn’t finished yet. His eyebrows got trimmed, extra hairs on his cheeks were plucked using cotton, the guy got the scissors up his nose to trim the hairs there, and then he pulled out a lighter and singed off a couple of stray hairs on his ears! He looked like a new man afterwards!
The next day was Andrew’s birthday, and it was a long one. We got up at 5.30 and headed on a tram to the airport to pick up a rental car and head towards Gallipoli. The start of the drive was pretty stressful, the Turkish drivers are absolutely crazy – tooting, changing lanes with no warning and even creating new lanes. But we managed to make it out alive and got to Gallipoli about 4 hours later. We had actually done some planning for this day and it paid off – we found the Australian government page on visiting Gallipoli, which comes with a free downloadable audioguide which starts at North Beach, then goes south to Anzac Cove and takes you past several important places. The audio is pretty biased towards Aussies, but it gave us a pretty good idea about what things must have been like for the men. There are still lots of trenches around, and you are struck by the collosal waste of human life which occurred there. The actual area which was occupied by the allies seems so small, but being there you can see why it was so significant. We were pretty shattered by the time we got back to the hotel that night at around 11, I don’t think Andrew’s ever had such a long birthday! The hotel we were staying was really nice and incredibly close to the old town and markets. Although Lisa did manage to find a live scorpion having a dispute with a cockroach in our room when we got home one night! The city has a really good tram system, which seems just as efficient as the London underground but far less complicated! The city has over 14 million people so at times the carriages could be quite jam packed!
Our final day in Turkey was a bit more relaxed. We spent the morning again wandering around the old town, but the highlight was the trip to the Turkish Hammam. These are traditional bathhouses. Traditionally, they are separated into houses for men and women, but we wanted to go together so we went to one that has been adapted for tourists. We arrived, and were told to go and get changed – ladies into a bikini, men naked apart from a cotton towel wrapped around them. We were then led into a really hot steamy room, where we lay on a heated marble slab for half an hour or so.
We were then called away into a separate area for our bath treatment. We had a masseuse each, who scrubbed our skin, then covered us about 2 foot high in bubbles and massaged us. Andrew’s massage was pretty vigorous, he ended up with a couple of bruises on his back the next day! Afterwards, they dry you in a special way, then you go to a slightly cooler area to readjust your temperature before heading home. It was a really relaxing experience, and a totally new thing for us to do.
Turkey is a country we would definitely return to. We hardly feel like we had time to scratch the surface of Istanbul itself, and from our drive to Gallipoli it looks like the countryside could be even better than Istanbul itself. We found the people really friendly and accommodating, and the food pretty good.

We returned to England after another really early start to get to the airport in time. Someone had bought our van on ebay, so we had to get to Exeter to show it to them. It was going to be way more expensive and take way longer to travel to Salisbury and pick the van up via public transport than by renting a car, so we took off from Luton airport on our big journey in a tiny Fiat 500. We picked up the van in Salisbury and drove in convoy to Exeter. By the time we had arrived, we had been travelling for 18 hours and were exhausted. We were absolutely heartbroken when the people came to see the van armed with a damp meter (we didn’t even know these things existed) and told us that the back corner of the van was rotten and they didn’t want it. We must have looked as devastated as we felt because they gave us 50 pounds petrol money (pity money!). We drowned our sorrows in a ready meal from the supermarket and chocolate pudding, too exhausted to even drink the wine we got, and slept in a carpark.
The next couple of days were focused on getting the van sold – we didn’t want it hanging over our heads for the trip to Porto, and didn’t want to have to rely on friends to sell it for us. We decided to relist with a lower price and to be upfront about the damp. Andrew also found specialist motorhome dealers online and emailed them for quotes. Finally our luck changed and one of the dealers came to visit and offered us a pretty good price. He will have to spend a bit of money doing the van up, but he employs a panelbeater and the engine itself is good that we think he’ll get a good price for it in the end. The best part was, he came to us so no more driving around to places only to be disappointed.
With the van stress out of the way, we had a great couple of days in London seeing friends and a little sightseeing, as well as casting our votes for the election back home. Unfortunately looked as though both of our votes were wasted with the Conservatives failing to hit that magic 5%. Next week we are back with Emilia in Portugal for grape harvest, can't wait!

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Posted by Andrew and Lisa 14:15 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Week 23: Taking a break in the Greek Islands

After five months on the road we were in desperate need of a bit of a break. Cheap flights booked through the infamous Ryanair, Greek Islands here we come! The Greek Islands has always been somewhere we had wanted to visit, so the excitement levels were high travelling to Crete. Toby joined us for most of our time here, and we arrived in Chania reasonably late in the day. We caught a couple of buses and a taxi to get to Rethymnon where our hotel was, having slightly underestimated the sheer size of the island. The next day was pretty cruisy, we went to the beach, checked out the old town including the ruins of a fort complete with mosque on the hill. The highlight was definitely coming across a restaurant down a little alley encased in flowering bougainvillea in the old part of town and eating sensational Greek food, and enjoying the complimentary shots afterwards. These shots of raki became a bit of a theme as the week went on, every restaurant wanted to get you drunk it seems. The bar had been set high. We had a pretty quiet afternoon swimming and eating some more.
We had been in touch with Kate and her partner Toby, who were staying on the opposite side of the island, and thought visiting them would be a good chance to explore a little (also Andrew was missing driving a little), so we rented a car and headed to Hora Sfakion. On the way we stopped in a little town where Toby and Andrew decided to get into their first Greek coffee. The lady looked at them a little strangely when they said they didn’t want any sugar, but went away and came back with what can only be described as coffee scented brown slop – half a cup of sandy coffee coloured grit in the bottom, with thick brown liquid on top, then a layer of sawdust on the top. The boys were not enthused, but I guess they got their caffeine fix…It was great to catch up with Kate and Toby. They had just been to Santorini so were able to give us some good tips about places to go, and things to do. We had a nice lunch then a swim at the beach. This side of the island was beautiful too, with steep hills straight down to the sea, but was more barren than the northern coast. The bargains of the day were the Pocahontas towel, spiderman towel and Justice League ball we got all for half price at one of the touristy stalls. We spent some time checking out the monument commemorating ANZACs on Crete, and watching the NZ flag flying.
Our time on Crete seemed to fly. It was an early start the next morning to get to Heraklion, the main ferry port in Crete. We caught the fast ferry to Santorini, which was about a 2 hour trip, and arrived to utter chaos at the port. There were people everywhere, trying to sell us everything from rental cars and hotel rooms, to day trips and restaurant meals. We managed to locate the bus to Perissa where we were staying without too much of an issue. We were struck by how dry the island was and how barren. The island is a cresent shape and most of the towns are on the cliffs facing into the caldera, which is still a dormant volcano. Our hotel was on the other side of the island, which is much less steep and has beaches.
Andrew was fascinated by the grapevines in Santorini. The vines grow basically on the ground, train the trunks in circles so that when the grapes grow they are inside the circle and protected from the wind. It must be really hard on the back come harvest time.
We had an incredible time on Santorini, with amazing weather. We spent our first full day around Perissa, had a swim at the beach, walked up to a little church dug into the cliff above Perissa, and had dinner in a local restaurant. There is a pretty good local bus system, but we worked out that by the time we bought bus tickets for 3 we were better off having the flexibility of a car, so we hired one to help us get around (more driving for Andrew).
We went to a delicious restaurant on the hill one night, and were treated to an amazing view and even better food.
We also went one day for a walk between Santorini’s two most famous towns, Fira and Oia, which was about 12km long – it was pretty hot going too since we left in the middle of the day. The path was pretty good, with not too many ups and downs. We must have passed at least 10 little churches on the way. Apparently there are about 370 churches on the island altogether, not bad for an island of only 15000 inhabitants.
Oia was the most beautiful little village in Santorini, and the one you see in the postcards. It is perched on the cliffs and all of the buildings are whitewashed with deep blue roofs. Oia is famous for having beautiful sunsets, so after our big walk we treated ourselves to a dinner out and watched the sun go down.
The following day Toby had to catch a ferry back to Crete so that he could go home, so in the morning we went with him to check out the lighthouse and Red Beach – a beach which you had to walk around the cliffs to get to and was set against beautiful red cliffs. Even though it was packed with tourists it still managed to remain beautiful. It was sad to see Toby go, and unbelievable how quickly the time went in Greece. We spent our last night on the islands going to the outdoor cinema to watch Chef, which wasn’t the greatest movie ever but it was such a cool setting and the movie had enough funny moments it didn’t matter.
Our last morning we spent going on a cruise to the volcano in the centre of the caldera. It was a really strange experience, there was no “welcome on the tour” speech at the start, and the first part was more like we had just caught the public ferry, but the staff got much more friendly as time went on. The walk up the volcano was pretty cool, and you could smell sulphur everywhere, then they took us to a bay where there was geothermal activity under the water. We all jumped off the boat and into the water, then swam across to the bay. The water didn’t really get hot but it was definitely a lot warmer in the bay.
Originally we had planned to catch ferries between the Greek Islands and end up in Istanbul, but the ferry service was reasonably expensive and some of the long ferry routes only operated once a week, so we opted to fly directly to Istanbul via Thessaloniki instead. We spent the night there in a hotel near the airport, and ended up walking for half an hour on the side of a busy road with no footpath getting to the nearest town for dinner. But it was definitely worth it, we had a huge and delicious meal for two including starters for 18 euros, then the restaurant owners dropped us back to the hotel when they found out the next bus wasn’t for an hour. Talk about service! Istanbul and Turkey had a lot to live up to!

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Posted by Andrew and Lisa 10:57 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Week 21 & Week 22: Rainy old England

Cricket and catch ups

Our cricket watching in England didn't get off to a great start. We got up early in Calais to catch the ferry, and arrived to rain in Dover. Unfortunately it didn't get any better in Canterbury. We were met with two days of relentless heavy rain. On Monday we had planned to get about 3 weeks worth of laundry done, but after driving for half an hour to the laundromat realised it was a bank holiday and that laundry wasn't going to happen. We met up with Mike in the afternoon and had coffee then dinner out. The following day wasn't any better, and we didn't bother going to the ground. We found a closer laundromat that was open, and spent about 2 hours there sorting the laundry out. At the laundromat, the owner was washing bags of laundry from NZ cricket, so as we did our own washing we watched some other guy wash, dry and fold Michael's. We decided we were in the wrong careers, being a sportsperson has definite advantages.
Even in the rain, Canterbury is a cool old town, with awesome old buildings and more pubs and restaurants than people it seems. We ate lots of delicious food there, but the highlight had to be the pulled pork and salad, which we ate for lunch two days running. On the Tuesday night, we were getting a little cabin fever so went to the movies. On the way out, we came across a middle aged guy passed out in a pedestrian subway. There was an empty bottle of wine beside him, but he was un-rousable and also had hospital dressings on his forehead and chin. Everybody was just walking past him, so we stopped and called the ambulance. Turns out he is a local drunk, who cut himself deliberately last time he was in hospital and the doctors were trying to sober him up. But the night was freezing and we didn't know any of that. We're not sure what the ambos decided to do with him in the end, but we were regretting our decision to help when we were 5 minutes late getting to our park for the night and were locked out.
Wednesday was a gorgeous day, and we watched Mikes play a 50 over game against a really unenthusiastic Kent team. NZ A easily won the game, although Mikes went out early. One Kent guy didn't even bother to come out and bat. The local supporters we were talking to were disgusted with their side's effort.
On Thursday, we headed to Bristol. We had to pick up our suitcases from Mikes flat, and the van needed a good clean before we showed it to people. We stayed with Mikes' flatmates, who had even put new sheets on his bed and tidied the flat! Since Mike is now a famous cricketer he gets a massive baggage allowance going home, so we left him with a huge suitcase of stuff to bring back to NZ for us. Hopefully our Moccocan 'goods' don't give him any grief in customs.
On Friday, we drove to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see Janet and Bernard, an old couple we helped about 2 years ago after an accident on the East Coast. They live on a farm in the country, where they grow crops but their big love is horses. The family is heavily involved in the local pony club scene, and they also run a livery business. Their son Richard handles most of the livery business, and also coaches riders. They have an amazing set up, with show jumping area, a dressage arena and even a cross country course over the paddocks! Janet and Bernard took us for a big drive around the Cotswalds with them, to Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-on-the-Marsh and Bledington (great names!). Janet is a great cook, we ate lots of delicious food at their house. The next day, Janet took us into Stratford and saw lots of Shakespeare related buildings - his birthplace, his girlfriend Anne Hathaway's house and the theatre in town. We also toured two estate houses which are now run by the National Trust. Janet's daughter had season passes, so we borrowed their tickets and had a look around.
That night, we drove to Sutton, and left the van near Kate McNeill's flat. We stayed in her room, as she was in Greece on holiday, and chatted to her music star flatmates. On Sunday morning, we were ready for another game day! We caught an early train into London for a days cricket at the Oval. Jo and Scottie Kingan joined us for most of the day, and it was a perfect day for sitting in the stand in the sun. Mikes' teammates from Bristol had made the trip down and were sitting right behind us. As the day went on, they became more and more rowdy. Poor old Mikes took a power of sledging - I'm glad he didn't invite his enemies, his own teammates were pretty ruthless! Some of the great calls included: "he's got a water melon for a head" (to the tune of he's got the whole world in his hands), "I can't see the scoreboard because Mikes head is in the way"; "I'm not sure what is bigger Mikes head or the old gas frame" (see picture below); "WOM" (waste of money); "As close as WOM has got to a bird all season" (after chasing some pigeons off the pitch); "More runs than he's got for us all season" (after Mikes got off the mark with a single). Some great English banter, Aunty Bernie was not impressed. Dougie wasn't playing which was a shame.
Bernie, Jamie and James arrived in the late afternoon to watch with us. NZ looked to be in a great position - they rolled Surrey for just on 100, then were batting well. Mikes made a solid 18 but got given LBW about an over after James and Jaime arrived, the curse lives on. That night, all the cousins went out to dinner. It was awesome to see everyone together again, had been a long time, and I think it was the first time Dougie had properly met James and Andrew. The cricket boys taxied back to their hotel while the rest of us wandered back to the train station together to catch the tube like commoners.
On Monday night we stayed at Jo and Toby's and were contacted by a guy wanting to see the van. He lived miles away from London so wanted to see the van in Bath, and desperate to sell the thing by now, we agreed to meet him there. The forecast for the Oval wasn't great, so Andrew decided he would take a hit for the team and show this guy the van (he assured us he was very keen) while Lisa met Bernie at the Oval. So Lisa spent the day chatting to Bernadette, drinking cups of tea and watching the rain fall until about 4.30 when the rain cleared enough for play. And Andrew spent the whole day travelling. It took him about 4 hours to get to Bath, then the guy spent an hour going over it with a fine tooth comb, only to say he didn't want to buy it. So he then drove the van to Scott's place near Stonehenge, where we were able to store the van during our upcoming trip to Greece, and caught the longest train in the world back to London via Bournemouth. 14 hours after leaving Jo and Toby's in the morning he arrived back, exhausted and starving. Not a great day all round.
Tuesday morning, the sun was shining and we headed back to see day 3 of the cricket. The sun was shining, but NZ were just too slow getting the last couple of batsmen out, and didn't have time to chase the runs down. We had to leave before all the Surrey players were out because we had planned to catch up with Andrew's relations Steve and Sarah Holden, and their two children Lily and Freddie. We had a great time with them, playing with the kids and a delicious meal of Turkish. They seem to be thriving in London, and Freddie was pretty excited about starting school that week.
Wednesday was a pretty relaxing day in London. We wandered down to check out some markets, met a very hung over Michael for lunch, and then went into town to meet Mikes and Jaime for dinner at a Mexican place.
We've had a great week being able to catch up with family and friends. The cricket has been a bit frustrating with the terrible weather, but it has been great to catch up with everyone. Bring on Greece on Thursday!

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Posted by Andrew and Lisa 02:03 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Week 20: Our last week on the continent (for now..)

Mustard, champagne and gay Parisians

What a whirlwind this week has been!
We left Switzerland for France, a little bit sad that this was our last country to visit on the Continent before returning to the UK. We weren't really sure what to expect from Eastern France, but names like Dijon, Paris and the Champagne region had us eager to find out.
We started off staying at a small lake just on the Western side of Les Alpes. It was gorgeous, bush down to the water and lovely clear (but cold water). We ended up going for a run and finding a massive hill climb, so a chilly dip felt pretty good afterwards. Energised, and stoked to be in a country where we could speak at least some of the language, we headed towards Dijon the following day. We stayed just out of the town, near an old town called Beaune, and headed in the following day. We were really impressed with Dijon, lots of cool old buildings, really well kept streets, and heaps of mustard shops! The factory shops even had mustard on tap for tastings!
The countryside around the area was gorgeous also, lots of rolling hills and vineyards everywhere. The next day, armed with lots of mustard, we headed to Reims, heart of the Champagne region. We arrived reasonably late at night and on a whim Andrew suggested that we walk into town after tea, it had been a long drive in the car. We stumbled across the town cathedral and were lucky enough to arrive just in time for a spectacular light show. In Summer, each night the council puts on a show where they project lights and pictures onto the cathedral set to music. The whole thing lasted about half an hour, and several hundred people were wowed along with us.
We took some more time to explore the town of Reims the following morning, it was also packed with beautiful buildings. The town apparently was nearly levelled in both world wars I and II, so has had to be rebuilt twice in the past hundred years, but they have been really well restored and its history is really well preserved.
That afternoon, we headed for Epernay, home of Champagne! We wandered along the Avenue de Champagne, which is a street lined with magnificent buildings which are the flagship buildings for the various champagne houses. We did a tour of the Moet et Chandon Champagne house, which was amazing. Under the street on three levels they mature thousands of bottles of champagne, and we were taken through some of the corridors before doing a tasting. All in all it was a pretty cool visit.
Next stop on our whirlwind trip was Versailles, the royal palace just south of Paris. We had underestimated just how busy this would be. I think we hit a bad weekend, on a public holiday in the last week of the school holidays. We'd bought our tickets online, and thought this would save us some queuing, and I suppose it did, but we still waited about an hour just to get inside. The palace seems like the symbol of the French aristocracy, it is huge, really ornate, and complete with enormous paintings and beautiful furnishings. You can see why the working class people who were finding it tough to afford a loaf of bread might have objected and started the revolution! The famous hall of mirrors was beautiful, as was a huge room which had paintings of all of the famous French battles from about the first to ninth century. We spent the morning exploring inside the palace, and the afternoon walking around the huge gardens, which were beautifully maintained and on a massive scale. I don't think we even walked around half. There was a small vineyard, lots of vege gardens, ponds, lakes, canals, many fountains, and even a small english style village that Marie Antoinette had built to complete her English garden. With aching feet from walking around all day, we headed closer to Paris for the night, excited about seeing some more of the city the following day.
Saturday we set aside for Paris city. We had both been up the Eifel tower before, but couldn't go past a picnic lunch on the lawn in front after a stoll through the city. It's such a fascinating place to people watch, some crazy posing, couples getting wedding photos taking, and thousands upon thousands of tourists. We spent the afternoon wandering the streets soaking up some atmosphere, then had dinner in a little bistro. The dinner was fantastic, delicious steak for a main and of course fantastic desserts! We went up to Sacre Coeur church on the hill in Montmatre to see the city lights, then wandered up the Champs-Elysses to the Arc de Triomphe then across to see the Eifel Tower again at night. Another big day of walking but it seems to be the way we visit cities! During our wandering we came across several groups protesting everything from the current French government to Western involvement in the middle east to (we think) treatment of local African groups. I'm not sure about the validity of the other protests, but the African Parisians had a point, lots of them in Paris seem to be very poor, and we witnessed an old lady in a racist rant to a little girl on the Metro. It was terrible, and I feel so sorry for her if she has to grow up with that.
Sunday morning we went to see the Catacombs, something that we both wanted to do but hadn't had time the last time we visited Paris. It took us over 2 hours in line, but was totally worth it. Paris is built over old stone mines, and apparently the tunnels go underneath most of the city. A few hundred years ago some started collapsing, so hundreds of engineers had to stabilise and reinforce them. Not long after this time, the cemetery had to be closed because it was too full and was becoming a health risk. Someone came up with the idea of exhuming the graves of some 6 million Parisians and putting their skeletons in the underground tunnels, and then about 100 years later someone else thought that this would be a great tourist attraction. Since then, millions of people have made the 2km underground trek to check this out. It is just incredible, the tunnels have a 1.5m central corridor, then bones in stacks about 2-3m deep on either side. They are neatly stacked into designs, femurs with femurs, tibia with tibia, and decorative skulls in between. It somehow managed to be beautiful rather than gruesome.
Looking for something a little more conventional for the last afternoon in Paris, we headed to the Bastille market, which was crazy, lots of beautiful produce, and stall owners yelling over each other about their great deals.
Our time in Paris was all too fast, and we made the long trek back north to Calais, ready to catch the ferry early the next morning to see Mikes play cricket in Canterbury. It was a bit sad getting to Calais again, felt like a lot had happened since our last visit there. We're pretty stoked the Sundancer has pulled through with no major issues, and are looking forward to our last few weeks of holiday before going back home to reality.....

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Posted by Andrew and Lisa 05:28 Archived in France Comments (0)

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