Thursday, September 27, 2007

23 & 24 Sep - Paris

View our photo's of Paris
Hotel address - Hotel Parisiana 21 rue de Carvour, Paris
Cost - 85 Euros per night for a double room with private bathroom
Metro stop - Gare du Nord or Gare d'lest
Comments - Close to main train stations with easy access to the airport. Hallways and room smelt very musty however the room was large and newly renovated. Not the best area, would probably not stay here again.

Sun 23 Sep
Mum is in hospital very sick and I am too wooried about her to continue touring around Europe. So we are returning to Paris on the midday train. We contacted our Travel Agent, and she has rebooked us on tomorrow's flight from Paris back to Perth.

We arrived into Paris at 11.15pm and arrived at our hotel about 12.30am. We had booked a hotel near the Gare du Nord so we didn't have to walk too far from the station and so that we are on the RER line to return to the airport. It was a typical French hotel and our first impression was not good. We had requested a quiet room on a low floor as I had read in the hotel reviews that they didn't have a lift and the hotel in Florence was quite noisy.

We were given a room on the first floor and as it turned out the section of the hotel we were in did have a lift - but not to the first floor! So we took the lift to the 2nd floor and walked back down a flight of stairs. The hallway was narrow, dark & shabby. On entering the room smelt quite musty, but luckily it had been recently renovated and the bathroom was clean and the bed was firm. Mark opened the window which looked out into a central courtyard - so no traffic noise, hurray and the room quickly aired and was quite pleasant. It had satellite TV was we were able to pickup CNN & the BBC, unfortunately the only thing on was sport! But in the end we thought the hotel was quite reasonable for the price and location and the staff were friendly and helpful.

Mon 24 Sep (weather - overcast but warm in the morning, a shower at lunchtime and fine again in the afternoon)
We had a sleep in this morning then queued at the rail station to buy our metro & RER tickets. Took the metro to see the Arc du Triumph and then wandered down the Champ des Elysee to see if we could find the Club Med office where my friend Veronique worked 15 years ago when I was last in Paris. I had lost contact with her as she had moved and I no longer worked for Club Med. The last time I saw her was in Bali about 1997.

We found the office building but the Club Med office and closed. There was a sign in the window redirecting us to the new office 1 block further down and around the corner. I didn't think Vero would still be there after all this time, however Mark talked me into going to the new office to ask.

Well blow me down who should walk around the reception desk to greet us but my friend Vero!
She was over the moon to see me, but very sad that we didn't have time to come to her home amd meet her family. She is still with Alain who I met 15 years ago and they now have 2 children, both boys, Theo and Tom.

Luckily it was lunch time and Vero was due to go for her break so we all went out to lunch together. A lovely 5 star seafood restaurant right next door to the office. Expensive but great food and even better company! We chatted non-stop for an hour and a haf and Vero was late getting back to work. It was sad to leave but we now have each others contact addresses and emails and will stay in touch so that next time we visit Paris we can get together and meet the family.

Mark and I walked down to the Eiffel Tower and queued for tickets to ride the cable car to the second level. Luckily the queue wasnot too long and we didn't have to wait too long. The view from the second level was fantastic! We decided to walk back down and when I saw how puffed everyone was walking UP I was very thankful we rode up and only did the downhill walk. The walk down was great as on every turn there was a poster providing information about events that had occured on or around the tower since it was built.

At 5pm we caught the metro back to the hotel to collect our luggage and make our way to the airport for our return trip home.

We are thinking of just doing 2 weeks in Italy & the Uk next year, or when we come over with Luisa to help her celebrate her 50th Birthday in Lucca, the town where her mother grew up.

Friday, September 21, 2007

20 to 22 Sep - Florence

View our photo's of Florence
Hotel address - Hotel Eden di Miceli Beatrice & C, via Nazzionale 55/157 R, 50123 Florence. Tel: 055.483722
Cost - 110 Euros per night for a double room with private bathroom
Location - 300 metres from the main train station and walking distance to all the main tourist attractions and museums.
Comments - Our room was on the 1st floor at the front of the hotel. The room was quite large with a seperate bathroom. However the curtains were not heavy enough and the morning sun streamed into our room very early. The staff were all spoke English and where extremely helpful. We would highly recommend this hotel, however we would ask for a room on the back side of the hotel (away from the main street) as it tended to be a bit noisy on Fri & Sat night and first thing in the morning.

Thurs 20 Sep (weather - cool in the morning & evening / warm and sunny during the day)
Spent the morning checking our email and calling home. Went to the Uffizi museum but didn't end up going in as the ticket queue was 3 blocks long. I can't believe how many tourists are here in Florence (yes, I know we are tourists too, but September is traditionally not one of the busy tourist months). We wandered around the piazza and looked at the statues in the Loggio (need to check the name) - an outdoor museum.

We wandered over the Ponte Vecchio and looked at all the gold jewellery - Mark was very happy that I didn't find anything I liked! Then we climbed the steps to the Michael Angelo Piazza which is on the opposite side of the river and provides a stunning view of Florence. Took lots of photos then walked back down to the city and past the Duomo, there was no queue (what a miracle) so we wandered in and had a look at the stained glass windows, organ pipes and the frescos painted on the domed ceiling.

Even though it was 5pm and we knew the museum was closed we decided to wander up to the Del Academia museum to see where it was, as we'll try to get there early tomorrow morning to see if we can beat the que! On the way we discovered a "slef serve pizza restaurant" and decided to try it for dinner. It was cheap and the food was OK but we wouldn't rush back. Very popular with the backpackers!

Fri 21 Sep (weather - cool in the morning & evening / warm and sunny during the day)
Got up and went to the Del Academia museum where Michaelangelo's statue of David lives but the queues were so long we decided to give it a miss for today.

We visited the Galleria Michelangelo (21 via Cavour) which houses the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. This museum has over 40 working models of mechanical building, flying and war machines exactly reporduced from Leonardo's codices. Some of the exhibits are interactive so we were able to handle the models and see them working. Pretty smart little bugger and he did art and poetry and stuff too.

Caught a train to Pisa, had lunch and checked out the leaning tower. Still got quite a lean despite the straightening they gave it recently. The next available walk to the top was 2 hours away, so we decided not to take in the view from the top. It'd be just my luck for the bugger to fall over anyway so not too dissapointed.

Jenni and I both did the trick photo thing pushing the tower over and trying to hold it up. Wandered on over to the old walls of Pisa and got some pics of Jenni and the very large locks on the city gates then wandered back to Pisa station for the train back to Florence.

Back to the hotel for a rest before heading out for dinner at 9pm. Our first restaurant choice was not good as a pommy couple advised us to leave before we ordered. We took their advice and found a magic little restaurant just 10 metres further down the street - Il Messere Ristorante Giardino Interno, via Guelfa, 98/100 R. Tel: 055.471967 http://www.ristoranteilmessere.com/). Magic pasta and cheescake to die for. Back to the hotel for a sip of vino from the corner store at 5.5 Euros a bottle, not bad either. Just finished updating our blog (midnight) and time for bed.

Sat 22 Sep (weather - cool in the morning & evening / warm and sunny during the day)
Mark is in seventh heaven, we found a cafe that does bacon & eggs for breakfast. We couldn't believe it as we had been looking at heaps of menus trying to find somewhere, and this cafe is three shops down from our hotel on the opposite side of the street. Too bad we didn't spot it earlier. Breakfast was great, except for the toast which was like wooden slabs. We'll be back tomorrow for omlettes!

Caught the 10am bus to San Gimignano, except that it didn't depart until nearly 11am as they had sold heaps more tickets than there were seats, so they had to put on another 2 buses! Chatted to some American students that are doing a BA in fine arts and are staing in Sienna for 3 months studying Italian art & learning Italian as part of their degree. Wow, wish our Uni degrees were like that!

San Gimignano is a walled fortress built on the top of a mountain. The church is obviously a popular wedding spot as we saw 2 bridal parties leaving the church and having photos taken in the main piazza. Had a lovely lunch in a cafe in the main piazza and then climbed to the top of one of the fortress towers for a stunning 360 degree view of the countryside, rolling fields in all directions.

Returned to Florence about 5pm and went back to the hotel to put our feet up for an hour or so before dinner. Went to the same restaurant as yesterday for dinner (Il Messere) and it was just as good! A great little find.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

17 to 19 Sep - Geneva

View our photo's of Geneva

Mon 17 Sep (weather - a bit overcast with sunny patches)
It is Francine's birthday today and she went to work so she can celebrate with all her colleagues. The girls went into the city to spend the day window shopping, as everything is very expensive in Geneva, so they can't afford to buy anything.

We took the rubbish down to the basement before going into town and Francine showed us the compulsory nuke shelter under the builbing, very impessive with 8 inch thick concrete doors, food stocks and air vents etc. Francine has her room down there filled up with excess furniture shoes etc, she says thats ok because there are plenty of other rooms. They also have funny gun laws here, Alex showed us his Gloc pistol and the AK47 they keep in the wardrobe, even if you are not in the military here you have to keep up your shooting practice at the range, if you have a gun licence you can carry guns loaded, if you dont have a licence you have to carry your ammo out of the gun.

We spent a quiet morning updating our blog & uploading our photos to the web, then took the tram into the city (about a 10 minute trip). We visited Francine's Bank and met her boss and said hello to all the people we met the first night we arrived. Then went to the station to book our train to Florence and the overnight train from Venice back to Paris. With the World Rugby being on while we are here everything is heavily booked, so we need to book ahead.

In the afternoon we walked around the old city of Geneva. The streets are so quaint, cobble stones, very narrow & steep. Someone was moving house in one of the streets we went up and they remove the furniture via the window and balcony using a special conveyer belt/lift. I hope they are insured because if they drop anything it's 3 floors to the street below.

We all met back at Francine's work at 5.30pm and had drinks with all the staff to celebrate her birthday, then went to the Cohiba Cafe again for cocktails and dinner. The food and company was fantastic and we ate and drank and laughed alot.

It started to rain before we left so we got a bit damp going back to the tram. Because we were drunk, stupid & had our arms full of flowers and presents we decided not to buy tickets as it is only 4 stops and we hadn't seen an inspector the whole time we've been here. However we discovered that crime does not pay, because blow me down the ticket inspector boarded our tram and we had to pay 80 francs for not buying a ticket. That'll teach us not to be dishonest as the fare is only 3 francs each. Francine tried to tell them we lost our tickets, but they didn't believe us so in the end after much haggling we paid up. We laughed all the way home. P...ssed and wet.

Tues 18 Sep
Had a sleep in this morning. Tara & Jessica packed their bags as they return to Edinborough today and I checked our email to discover a message from my brother advising mum was in hospital. Gave mum a quick call to say hello and see how she is.

Had breakfast (brunch) at a cafe next to the French border, then drove out to the airport. It was sad to say goodbye and Mark is joking about coming back again next summer to take Tara's excess lugguge home.

After the airport we went back to the train station as one of the reservations we made yesterday was incorrect. Had McDonald's for lunch and returned to Francine's for an afternoon siesta and to update our blog.

The 3 of us went to a Lebonese restaurant (The Caravan that passes, or something like that when translated into English!) in the city for dinner and then an early night as we depart for Florence at 9am tomorrow.

Wed 19 Sep
A bit of a rush to get packup and get to the train station, especially as it was peak hour traffic, but we made it to the station ontime and Francine new which platform we needed. The train departed on time (8.50am) - as all Swiss trains do. Our train is called a CIS not sure exactly what this means, but it's not as fast as the French TGV train. We meandered through the hills and countryside before going straight through the mountain - yes thru the mountain...12 miles of tunnels thru solid rock. Glad I didn't dig the tunnel!

Arrived in Florance at 3.45pm and walked to our Hotel, the Hotel Eden. No garden but still quite nice. Had spaghetti for dinner - when in Rome (or Florence) do as the Italiens do...etc. Bought a bottle of local red wine and fell into bed to watch Italian TV. Couldn't understand a word!

Monday, September 17, 2007

14 to 16 Sep - Geneva

Fri 14 Sep (weather - warm and sunny)
Arrived in Geneva at 5.20pm and Francine met us at the station. We piled ourselves and luggage into her car, a bit of a queeze but we managed.

Francine's apartment is very big by European standards. 3 bedrooms, lounge/dining, kitchen, 2 bathrooms and a balcony.

We went to a friend of Francine's for dinner to celebrate Francine's birthday. It was a traditional Brazilian meal of beans and rice. When we arrived people were dancing and having fun. It was a great night, everyone was very firnedly and made us feel at home.

Sat 15 Sep - This morning we had coffee and croissants at the local market place, then did a walking tour of Carouge the city where Francine lives. It is only 10mins from the centre of Geneva by tram. The buildings are very old and quite magnificent.

We returned to Francine's place to meet her brother Melo and his wife Sheila. They are off to Sicily tonight for 10 days holiday with Francine's mum and dad.

Had an afternoon siesta and then went to the Cafe where Ben (Francine's son) works for cocktails. Cohiba Cafe - 12 rue de L'Arquebuse, Geneve. Got home at 10pm and had a late dinner - Aussie spag bol!

Sun 16 Sep - Today Francine drove us up into the Swiss Alps. Melo has a chalet in the alps so we drove along the lakeside and out into the country. It's about a 1.5hr drive to the Chalet which is just above Villers, a well known ski resort. We had to walk up the road to the Chalet as it was too steep and narrow for Francine's BMW. The view was spectacular and we all decided we would love to have our own chalet in the alps.

We returned to Geneva and took a walk along the lake to see the famous Jet D'eau up close. The girls went out under the fountain and got soaking wet as the wind changed direction and dumped heaps of water on the walkway. This water jet is awesome. Its 116 years old, pumps 500 litres of water a second at 200 kmh 140 metres high with 2 650 horsepower pumps. Sure beats the average Aussie lawn sprinkler, see the pictures at piccaso.

Walked thru a Geneva shopping area with $1200 boots and $2000 brief cases etc, but didnt buy anything. Came home and the girls cooked pasta and omellette, very nice.

Friday, September 14, 2007

12 to 14 Sep - Lyon

View our photo's of Lyon
Hotel address - Hotel Premiere Classe Lyon Part-Dieu, 75 Boulevard Viver Merle 69003. Lyon
Cost - 89 Euros for the first night and 59 euros per night for the remaining 2 nights for a double or triple room with private bathroom.
Location - 3 blocks from the main train station, but quite a distance from the city centre, the river and the old city of Lyon. However trams, buses and metro provide easy access to all these areas.
Comments - Staff spoke English and were friendly and helpful. The room was quite small and the shower very tiny, but the room was clean, modern and quiet.

Wed 12 Sep (weather - cool in the morning & evening, beautiful & sunny during the day)
After consulting our internet research and the local tourist map we decided to spend the day exploring the old city. Lyon is the 3rd largest city in France (pop. 413000) and is set in the Rhone Alps region on the Rhone and Soane Rivers.

We bought a 1 day travel ticket that gave us unlimited travel on the bus, metro, trams & the furnicular. We took the furnicular up the hill (in the old quarter) and visited the ancient Roman ruins, the roman museum and the Basilica Fourviere Cathedral which provides a spectacular view of the city below.

Had lunch in the vieux quartier of Lyon, then Mark and wandered the cobblestone streets and looked at the Italian Renaissance architecture. The Mark & I headed back to the hotel for our afternoon siesta while the girls went shopping. The girls came back to the hotel to collect us and we all went back into the city for dinner & drinks.

Thurs 13 Sep (weather - cool in the morning & evening, beautiful & sunny during the day)
Bought a 1 day Lyon City Card (LCC - 19 Euros per person) that included transport, entry to a heap of museums and a river cruise.
In the morning we visited the Lumiere Museum (25 rue du Premier-Film, or Place Ambroise Courtois. Metro D, stop: Monplaisir-Lumiere) . Lots of old cameras and projectors, and lots of black & white cinematography running. The museum is the Lumiere brothers original home - very opulant, we think they were well to do even before they invented cinema.

We had lunch in the city at a cafe beside the Soane River then boarded the ferry for a tour of the river (Tour - Ile Barbe duration: 1hr). Lots of ancient buildings from medieval times with walled fortresses to fancy castles. The tour encircled "Barbe island" which was supposed to have been the home of barbarians in medieval times.

Went to look at a silk weaving factory, but got our wires crossed as the place we went to was only a boutique that sold silk, not a display of how they did it. As it was 5pm and they all close at 6pm we went for an apperitif instead and watched the crazy uni students carry on in the plaza!

Siesta time for Mark & I so we headed back to the hotel, while the girls continued to sip cocktails and window shop.

We were all knackered, so we had a "Quick" dinner near the hotel and an early night.

Fri 14 Sep (weather - still warm and sunny)
A lazy day today as we catch the train to Geneva at 3.30pm. A late breakfast and a visit to an Internet cafe to update our blog. Guess where the girls are? Yep shopping!

10 to 11 Sep - Paris

View our photo's of Paris
Hotel address - Citadines Voltaire Republique, rue ?Parmetier (9e)
Cost - $448.00 for 2 nights for a double room with private bathroom, kitchenette with a stove and a fridge. Nice to be able to have tea & coffee in our room and a frdige for Mark to cool his beers!
Metro - Parmetier metro station 1 block from the hotel.
Comments - The staff spoke English and were very helpful and friendly.

Mon 10 Sept (weather - A little cool in the mornings, but warm - mid 20's and sunny by noon)
Today we explored the Left Bank and visited Notre Dame Cathedral. We also visited the Louvre and said hi to the Mona Lisa - along with a couple of hundred other people. Dropped into Napoleans appartments but he wasn't home.....so we just wandered around his opulant chambers and oogled at the size and glamour of this period.

Mark is impressed with the scale of the buildings and the architecture. He expected it to be bigger and older than our buidlings at home, but was still surprised.

Explored the streets around our hotel and had dinner at a typical Parisian cafe.

Tues 11 Sep (weather - another beautiful sunny day in both Paris & Lyon)
Caught the train to Lyon at noon. It is only a 2hr trip by TGV so we arrived in Lyon at 2pm. Mark clocked the train at 240kph - and was very happy!

We checked into our hotel the Premiere Classe Lyon Centre Gare Part Dieu. The rooms are small but clean and comfortable. Then wandered down to the Tourist Office to find out about transport & sights.

Took the bus to the airport at 6pm to meet Tara & Jessica. Dropped their bags at the hotel and went into town for dinner. Our hotel is about 2klms from the city centre however the public transport is fantastic. Even better than Paris as they also have trams as well as the metro & buses.