A Travellerspoint blog

New Years in Paris

And a sunny day of sight seeing :)

sunny 7 °C

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Well our first full day in Paris was absolutely gorgeous! The sun was out as we strolled along the streets of Montmartre and down past the Opera house to find some breakfast. We stopped at a little patisserie and had coffee and croissants and tried very hard to remember to order in French and say merci instead of thankyou. After sitting and people watching for a while, we headed down to the start of the Champs-Élysées. There were lots of little Christmas stalls at the start with lots of tempting waffles and chocolates and these all of a sudden turned into beautiful big white buildings housing brands like Versace and Burberry and even Ferrari, with the flash cars parked in the display windows. They obviously take a lot more care to keep this area of Paris clean as there was a lot less rubbish on the sidewalks and the buildings looked less 'well worn'. At the end of the Champs-Élysées is the imposing Arc De Triomphe, a huge archway in the middle of a ridiculously busy roundabout. The air is filled with the sound of car horns of people attempting to exit the roundabout and camera flashes from all the tourists standing around watching, not to mention the music of buskers taking advantage of those tourists. We walked down under the street to come up right underneath the Arc de Triomphe and take some more photos looking down the streets branching off and to watch the crazy traffic for a while before heading back down the other side of the Champs-Élysées to take a closer look at the Grande Palais and the Petite Palais.

After photos of these we headed towards the river so that we could walk past all the stunning bridges and managed to find one where couples come with a lock that they have written their names on and clip it to the bridge for good luck. We stopped for lunch along the way and after that headed onto the little island that houses Notre Dame. The line up to get inside was crazy long so we were there for a while but it was worth it to see those stained glass windows again. Didn't see the hunchback though which was disappointing ;)
Being in here did make us frustrated with tourists again though as it very clearly has pictures everywhere to be quiet and no flash photography but there were heaps of people just talking and laughing and flashing away like they couldn't care less that they were in a church. Grrrrr......

After Notre Dame we walked back to our hotel for a rest before heading back out to find dinner. Ended up at a little diner type place where I had a Camembert baguette... Sooo good!! Back home then for an early night in preparation for our early morning to line up for the Louvre.

We arrived there at 8:30 the next morning expecting a bit of a line but certainly not the one we were faced with! Luckily it was moving pretty quickly so we were soon out of the freezing cold wind and marvelling at all the art work and relics. My favourite section was the same as the last time I came - the Egyptian part :) It also still amazes me how crowds of people rush past all these beautiful pieces, crowd up so close that they are being crushed and pushed around, just to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. On the wall opposite it is a beautiful piece called the wedding supper which would be about 5m x 4m and is incredibly intricate but no one looks at that because they're all looking at the ugly chick in a tiny frame opposite it. Makes no sense to me.

After we had spent a good part of the day at the Louvre we headed back home to have a rest so that we could make it to midnight! I can never sleep during the day so I did some washing and read a book and finally we all got dressed up at about 8pm and headed out to a restaurant near our place for dinner before climbing the steps to get to Sacre-Couer, where we had been promised beautiful views of the fireworks that go off along the Champs-Élysées and the lights display on the Eiffel Tower. We got there - bit before 10 and there were already lots of people so we found a spot next to an English speaking group of 4 Americans and 1 Canadian and they were so much fun and shared their umbrellas with us, as it was raining pretty heavy by 11pm, and we played games and chatted and the time passed a lot quicker than I was expecting. They had heard about the 'awesome lights display' as well but when it came midnight all we could see was the Tower sparking (which it does every hour at night anyway) and then some fireworks which were so far in the distance we couldn't even hear them.... Needless to say, a big disappointment, but we all decided that at least we certainly wouldn't forget this New Years Eve! So we said our goodbyes to our new friends and marched back through the rain and the crowds to our hotel where we have slept in till about 10am and are just dragging ourselves out of bed for another day in Paris :)

Hope everyone back home had an exciting night and I'm looking forward to seeing you all in 2013!!

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Posted by clairebear89 02:40 Archived in France Comments (0)

Last Day In London, First In Paris

Survived The Chunnel :)

semi-overcast 10 °C

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Well our last day in London dawned raining, no surprises there, but we headed out anyway to see all our last minute sights. Our first stop, after Starbucks of course, was Harrods. Once we made it to the toy area we were stuck there for a long time and didn't want to leave without taking half the shop with us! So much Paddington Bear and Sylvanian Families and Lego. Oh and the books... Don't get me started on those!! I need another suitcase to bring stuff back home :/ Anyway, we managed to drag ourselves away eventually and looked through a few other sections before heading back out and carrying the tube to Buckingham Palace. Renae was unimpressed with this building compared to the others we have seen but we still took some photos and marvelled over the fates and the fountain in front of the palace before heading back to the tube. We have decided that all other tourist bar us are painful and that French are the worst (big call from me as I have always assumed Americans were the worst). People who just wander around in the tube stations or speak loudly on their phones on the tube or push in line are in the millions over here and that, we have decided, is the biggest turn off to living in a place like London. Don't get me wrong, I love visiting here, but a week is definitely long enough!

So after Buckingham we headed out to Camden to check out some markets which had been recommended to Renae by friends back home. Wow, what an experience! So many people calling out to us and so much cool stuff mixed with so much rubbish! The stalls went on for about 4 blocks, 3 rows deep on each side of the road. We really enjoyed walking around for about an hour and found some cool presents to bring home to people, but then Renae's foot was getting pretty sore so we left and went back to our hotel for a quick rest. We were also surprised by the amount of weed being smoked in public, so that's an interesting point to note about the other types of people at these markets ;)

After our rest we went for a stroll through Hyde Park and had lots of fun watching all the little dogs interact and laughed so much when one still a soccer ball off some kids then ran around barking like crazy while they chased him. Made us homesick for Moët and Charlie though! After that we headed to a little pub that was just down the street from our hotel for a good old English Pub meal on our last night in London then went home, packed and watched a movie as we fell asleep.

This morning we got up early to be on time for our Chunnel trip to Paris. I had learnt from last experience not to be late for these so we ended up sitting in the station lounge for about an hour! But that was ok because at least we weren't stressed. The journey went off very smoothly and we were impressed by our Tetris skills when we moved people's luggage around to make ours fit (another example of the human populations stupidity - if your suitcase is small, put it above you head not in the large luggage rack!!) but it fit a little too snugly and I broke one of the straps and 4 of my fingernails right off as I tried to pull it out.... so that was fun! We managed, however, to find our way to our hotel in about 20 minutes of walking and then decided to wait the half hour till the time when Ash said she would get there before we went to find lunch. 3 hours later we were ready to eat each others limbs and certainly Ash when she got there so were very excited when we finally got to head out for some food at 6:30pm after last eating some cereal at 8am! Pizza for dinner was delicious, if a little inauthentic, and then a stroll up to Sacre-Coeur to look out over the city. It is absolutely beautiful and Renae and Ash also got their first peek at the Eiffel Tower over in the distance. We then walked through Montmartre to see the Moulin Rouge. Not quite as romantic looking as in the movie but still a good spot to take a pic!

We are now back in our hotel room where we thankfully have free wifi and are all immersed in sending messages to people back home before we head to bed, ready for an early morning and day of seeing beautiful Paris. Good morning to everyone who wakes up and reads this :)

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Posted by clairebear89 11:50 Archived in France Comments (0)

Tower of London, St Paul's, Temple Gardens and Wicked!!

Oh... And rain and tube strikes

rain 3 °C

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On Thursday we woke up to another fairly miserable looking day (surprise, surprise) but were at least comforted by the fact that the underground would be working again! After being closed on Christmas Day and a driver strike yesterday which caused the buses to be ridiculously packed we were very keen to get back on the tube! In typical fashion though, there were a number of lines closed due to maintenance work so we had to replay our journey and walk ages to get to Tower of London from the closest open station. I never want to live in London!!!

Anyway, once we got to the Tower we were really excited to get inside and keen to learn heaps on the Yeoman tours. These, just our luck, were not running because of the rain so we were all packed into a chapel to have a 30 minute history lesson by one of the guides before we were left to wander the buildings as we chose. Luckily we had a really funny guide who them told us the best places to see so we headed off to explore the Tower Green (where Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were executed), the Bloody Tower (where two little princes were murdered and then buried secretly under the staircase) and the Crown Jewels and Military Museum. All of this was extremely interesting as we both love British history, particularly Tudor times, and we were very happy any time the rain decided to take a break. After we had seen all there was to see and were thoroughly sick of rude tourists pushing in (particularly French ones!) we set out in search of a Fish n Chips shop as Renae was craving some. We walked all the way to St Paul's with no luck so after admiring that impressive building and taking quite a few photos we headed into a Starbucks on the corner to grab a coffee (I was dying for one by this stage of the day) and to take advantage of their free wifi to look up fish and chips shops in the area. Luckily there was one just around the corner so we stopped there for lunch before heading on to see the Temple Gardens and the imposing law buildings around that area.

The Temple Gardens are one thing that I really remembered from our last visit and I was again in love with the gorgeous little system of parks and fountains dotted between the buildings. The main gardens were closed, however, so that was another strike against London! We had been planning to try and get some last minute, cheap tickets to The Lion King for either tonight or Friday but they were both totally sold out except for two separate tickets at over £90 each! So we gave up on that plan and decided to go for our second option of Wicked :) We procured some decently priced tickets for tonight so rushed home to get all dolled up for our big night out (particularly exciting considering we have been living like we are allergic to the dark and often home by 4!).

I have listened to the soundtrack of Wicked so much that I was half expecting to be disappointed by the live version... Wow was I wrong! The sets were incredible, the costumes extravagant, the orchestra pitch perfect and the cast, particularly Ephaba and Galinda, were unbelievable!!! After Elphaba finished singing Defying Gravity I decided I could die happy :)

So that was our day, how was yours?

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Posted by clairebear89 02:54 Archived in England Comments (0)

Christmas in London

sunny 7 °C

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Christmas in London with amazing new friends, ridiculous amounts of food and beautiful weather. What more could you want? But I'm getting ahead of myself... back to the day before -

By Monday we still hadn't had time to buy each other Christmas presents yet so we headed into Oxford Street to check that out first and on our way we stopped at a Starbucks to grab a coffee and a free fix of Facebook! (After finding out that it would be £17 to have wifi in our room just for a 24 hour period we have decided to visit Starbucks more often and just use theirs) Renae's friend Ash met us in Topshop and it took us long enough just to look through the 3 massive levels of that! We then headed off to find Victoria's Secret and again spent ages in their ooing and ahhing over everything. We wandered around Oxford for a while but then decided our plan of splitting up for an hour to get each other a present would work better at a mall so Ash told us how to get to the closest Westfield before she left. We definitely looked like little Aussie tourists when we saw how massive this place was and I think Renae did manage to get lost despite it's figure 8 set out, purely because every store front was so huge and impressive that it was tricky to tell them all apart. After our present mission was completed we began the even harder task of picking up a few items from a supermarket to bring to dinner for Christmas.... The place we ended up at had such massive lines to pay that there was a manager walking around handing out free chocolates to keep everyone happy! We survived that experience (some of you will
find that difficult to believe as you know my patience levels are certainly not my strong point) and dropped our purchases back home, wrapped up our presents and then headed out again once it got dark (probably about 4pm!) to see Big Ben and Westminster. At this stage of our time in London, the end of our second day, we decided we were masters of the tube and feel like locals as we confidently change lines and find platforms . I will let you know when that falls through and we manage to get stuck in the door or lost in the underground system!

But I digress... back to Big Ben! I had forgotten just how impressive the Houses of Parliament buildings are and when you walk up the stairs from the underground and find yourself looking directly up at them and Big Ben, it really does take your breath away. Joining the hundred others already gathered there, we took lots of photos and looked across the Thames to more of the city before heading towards Westminster. At night time they have it all lit up from underneath which gives it such a spooky and gothic look that we again stood for ages before I had the great idea to walk around the building. "We'll just go down this street", I said. "We can see the back of it", I said. Three dingy little streets later and I gave up and decided that these were probably not the streets to walk through at night time so we found our way back to the road. No harm done for those parents or fiancés reading this :)

We walked along the Thames until the next tube stop and took photos of The Eye on our way and then headed back to Hyde Park corner to see the Winter Wonderland. It was basically just a big Toowoomba show, or probably closer to The Ekka, but it was nice to walk through there on Christmas Eve and start getting excited for Christmas. We headed back to our hotel then to call home for family Christmas time on our dodgy wifi that cost £5 and only worked in the lobby. We just talked really loudly to annoy them all ;) Was great to see everyone's faces before falling asleep on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning came and it looked quite gloomy outside but we were very excited to open our presents and go downstairs to use the hotel computer to check our Facebook and see how everyone's Christmas days had been back home. To our amazement they actually shut down all public transport on Christmas Day here except for taxis, so we then got ready and got in a taxi to take us out to Ash's place, where we were planning to spend the day. The taxi driver was so rude though that he told us he didn't even know where the place was and when we said near Wimbledon that it was miles away and we were crazy to be catching a taxi there and that he couldn't help us. Friendly chap. So we headed back inside and did some more research as to where it was and after google maps saying it would take about 40 ,minutes and the cab website saying it would cost over £100 to get there and back we had given up. Ash then said we could stay the night at her place, which we figured was a waste of our hotel for the night but at least we'd be doing something on Christmas Day, so we grabbed our pyjamas and headed out to get another taxi. This time we had a lovely old man who put the address in his GPS, said it would be about 25 minutes and then headed off. Well actually to be honest he was typing that all in as he was driving like a maniac. It seems he has made a game out of beating the GPS expected time of arrival, so we made it there in good time, with only a few pending bruises from being thrown against the doors and with a fee no where near what we expected.

We had brunch at Ash's place and were joined by her friend Jason, who is another Aussie over here working for a year and then when he left and while Ash had a nap, Renae and I went for a walk to see Wimbledon Stadium, which is only round the corner. It was a big complex but we were more impressed by all the cute little houses we found on our detour on the way home. We then all walked over to Ash's friend's place for dinner. Kinga (a beautiful Polish girl) and Ben (a really funny Kiwi) had set up their dining room with a big, real Christmas tree and beautifully set table and candles and carols playing and they even had an Aussie flag hanging up in the corner! They were absolutely awesome people and had prepared a big Polish meal for us, which we gladly ate after only having brunch and walking a lot. We then talked for ages, Kinga has done a psychology course so was really interesting to talk to and being from Poland she had so many stories to tell us about their history, particularly during WWII and how Poland is still playing catch up to Western ways and a new government. So for those of you interested, I have another history lesson prepared on Poland for you! :)

I would gladly have stayed there talking and dancing (and at one stage all trying on different moustaches which Ben had been given as a present) all night, but they had to work in the morning so around midnight we walked back to Ash's house and crashed after a very enjoyable Christmas Day.

It is currently Wednesday morning and I am sitting out on the lounge, typing this and waiting for the girls to make an appearance so that Renae and I can head home and get changed before finding a Starbucks where I can post this ;) Hope everyone had as merry a Christmas as we all did and a relaxing Boxing Day!

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Posted by clairebear89 06:04 Archived in England Comments (1)

London :D

So excited to be back here!

semi-overcast 7 °C

02CF89FA2219AC68175EDD7997B7A007.jpgWe have arrived in London!! After our second day in York turned out to be a bit of a write off thanks to heavy rain, waking up this morning to see the sun peeking through the clouds was very exciting. We are still so blown away by the fact that seeing sunlight seems to be a rather rare occurrence over here, in winter particularly, but that isn't stopping us from being optimistic about the weather this week :)

So the last time I blogged was our first night in York before we set out to find dinner. We ended up at a really nice Italian place (chosen because we had walked past a Jamie's Italian restaurant that was booked out and were therefore craving pasta) which had a huge amount of staff to wait on just us and one other party of people, one of whom had a seriously painful laugh! We had an early night after our little dinner date and I finally managed to get a full night of sleep despite our hotel being opposite a night club :/ In the morning we went down to breakfast in the lobby and realised how miserable it was looking outside but thought we would soldier on and headed out in search of the Viking Museum. It took about 5 minutes walk before we were drenched so we were very happy to reach the Jorvik Viking Centre. It was a very cool place and we learnt a lot but unfortunately for Renae it apparently smelt really bad in there so she was relieved when we left. After wandering around in town and shopping for a little bit we decided to make it a rest day and headed back to our hotel for a few hours to read and call family back home. We ended up back in town at night for dinner at The Slug and Lettuce, a pub chain which had a really great atmosphere despite the table near us of real loud mouth guys who thought they were pretty hot stuff with their thuggish lack of neck and thick accents. The funniest thing was that they, along with heaps of guys here, were all wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. They seem to be far more acceptable over here for men then they would be back home! We ended up back at our hotel for another fairly early night to watch Bride Wars and eat chocolate :)

This morning we left for the train station after breakfast but then had to sit there for an extra 20 minutes in the freezing cold waiting for our delayed train. Once again there was no room for our bags (should have gone 1st class!) but at least it was only a short trip down to London. Even though it wa freezing cold, the sky was lovely and blue so we really enjoyed the train ride and the scenery on the trip. We arrived in Kings Cross Station and sorted out our travel card for the week. We have decided it would be best to pay a little bit more to have unlimited travel on the tube for the days we are here rather than worrying about planning our days around buying tickets. Our hotel is right near an underground too, so that is really handy! It is a very flash looking place but unfortunately does not have free wifi so we will really be struggling for the next week, particularly on Christmas, with not being able to contact people easily! So after checking in we headed out to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Putney to visit Renae's friend Ash, who is working there on a trip from Australia. Burger was amazing!! Particularly since we had not eaten since Breakfaat and this was dinner... And after catching up a bit with her we came back to our hotel, walked through Hyde Park for a bit, got scared because it was rather dark and headed back to our hotel to settle in for the night :)

I am currently typing this in my notes section and hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to find a Starbucks with wifi which I can use to post it on the blog! Sorry to those people who send us messages over the next few days and don't get a reply, and if I don't get another chance to say it then Merry Christmas!!
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Posted by clairebear89 05:25 Archived in England Comments (0)

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