Saturday, November 17, 2007

Back to my trip - London to Paris via Dover

Hey guys

Sorry its been a while, but you really need to be in the right frame of mind for this sort of thing. I;ve now been back for longer than I went - how depressing. If only money wasn't such an issue in this life we lead, I'd be quite happy travelling the world, meeting new people & having new experiences for many years.

Despite all the place I managed to get to, there are so many more that I want to still see.


After exploring London (with lovely Fiona along to keep me company), I set out for France. The initial idea being to take the train to Dover, catch the Ferry & then try to get to either Normandy, France or Arnhem, Netherlands. Unfortunately, as it turned out, neither was really an option - so after getting to view the White Cliffs of Dover (didn't get any time to explore them unfortunately) I was on a Ferry across the Channel.

Once we arrived, it turned out there were very few people who needed transport assistance (myself & 4 US teenagers (a group of 3 girls & a single guy)).
Once past the passport checkpoint, we were on our own, out the front of the building in a small glass bus shelter like you'd find on the street for a regular suburban bus - with a very small timetable & nothing else. No taxi rank, no other people, no foodstand, nothing - very, very spooky).

Anyhow - Once we caught the bus, to the train station (again, very little information coming our way - ok it was a weekend, but still - this is Europe). Anyhow, we found our way to the train station - the Americans thought they knew best, said "See ya" & took off for the platform - whilst I headed to the Reservations desk. They all turned up a few minutes later a little sheepish - and (not for the first or last time on my trip) I uttered the words "You have to trust your Aussie tourist guide - he knows what he's doing!". It is so easy with American tourists around for us Aussies to look good.

Anyhow, caught a slow train from (whatever the small town is) to (another town I just can't remember) where we connected to the fast train (TGV) - which took us to Paris.

Arrived in Paris late evening (around 10pm), having left the Americans behind at that small town to catch a later TGV - there wasn't enough seats for them - I think they had a cheaper ticket or some such. Before I left I did clue them in on the New-Europe tours & that there was one in Paris - and sure enough, the 3 girls were on the tour the next day.

Anyway, late night, get off the train in Gare Du Nuer train station, Paris. Take my luggage to the luggage lockers (past 2 security guards & x-ray machine) and then it was off to find cheap accommodation in Paris.

What a HOLE.

The train station itself had about 30 "rent a cop" security guards around, along with a squad of 4 soldiers (proper army, full gear including automatic weapons & the appearance of happy to use them). As I found out the following day - during daytime, when there are more people, they have 3-4 squads roaming around.

Then, when I finally get out on the streets, you could feel the imminent violence in the air - the whole place just oozed "unsafe". All of my personal alarms were going off. Of the whole trip, Paris was the least fun, most threatening place I journeyed the entire trip.

I did have to giggle however when one of the first places I found was this:

After wandering around for a about an hour & a half, I eventually found a place for about 35 Euro a night (the next cheapest that was available was about 80. Whilst wandering around I did notice an inordinate number of a "not real sexy" bike. I turned out that Paris has a "hire a bike scheme". For short term use a bit too expensive, but if you lived in Paris it is too cheap over a year not to do. This is what one of the bike racks looked like:

All of the bikes have a lights & (I think) a minor power supply (for steep hills). When you got where you were going you just connect the bike up to recharge - if you were going to need it again within a few hours there was also the facility to reserve the bike (for a limited time). I really like the concept - very cool.

So - the next day I set off to find an internet cafe, so that I could find out what the start point & time was for the New Europe Paris tour (since I hadn't planned to be here, I didn't know the details). I knew that I had to be back to the train station about 2pm to ensure I caught the train to Koblenz around 4pm - I did not want to stay in Paris a second night (I never wanted to stay 1 night).

As I wandered around, I found my way down to the River Senne (?) - and on an island in the middle, I found Notre Dame Cathedral - pretty cool. I especially liked all the different gargoyles, really creative & most appeared to have the water run out their mouths or over their heads.
I would have like a quick 10 minute rain shower at that point to show it all working.

Eventually I found a internet point - very different to other cities, found out that I wasn't too far from where I needed to be. I did however stop for breakfast at a

cafe, and whilst eating some cheap crosiants & tea, noticed this advertisement - the French do have problems, however censorship laws are not one of them (oh, every where I looked from the train station when I stepped out was Neon signs advertising "sex". They really don't have the same taboos in this area that their neighbours across the channel instilled in us (Hmm, maybe it would've been interesting if France, rather than England, had colonised our country - downside,
we'd have to worry about what gender each word is - stoopid language to learn if you've never tried.

I found the tour, and wandered around & saw a heap of stuff. Not a lot of worthwhile photos in Paris itself, but here are some:

The Louvre - the pyramid bit that everybody knows is actually just in the very centre of the modern gallery, which was originally the Royal Palace (I think) - either way, a hugh, rambling structure that goes on & on and does look quite cool.

Some gardens - somewhere in Paris - don't really remember too much.

The hotel Normandy - as close as I got too the beaches (this is in Paris).

The girls from the day before. The stayed with this old Parisian guy who the met from a website called couchsurfing. They had a great night up drinking till late with him (and they really enjoyed the tour and thanked me for putting them onto it).

And to finish off, a nice shot of the river - river has been cleaned up in recent years, but the tour guide warned us "Especially you Australians who have a tendency to jump into any body of water you can find" that it is really, really unhealthy to go swimming in the Seine.

Catch you all later (I'm on Facebook now, so feel free to look for me - Simon Hoad (aka Hanbal))

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Slideshow went well, if low attendance

Well the Slideshow went very well. Not to many friends or CFA attended, but the family were there along with a few close friends and they all enjoyed it.

More photos coming to this blog soon.

Still contemplating life & the future, and considering change.



Saturday, November 03, 2007

Excited - tonight I share and catching up.

Well, my slide night is finally here.

I am really excited that I am finally doing this. Slightly concerned/ curious at how many people will turn up - but I'm certain it will be enough to make it worthwhile.

We recently bought seasons 1-5 of Stargate and are slowly watching our way through - really good decision. Really interesting to watch (I only ever caught occasional shows on TV - which I really enjoyed).

I recently acquired a radio controlled hovercraft - unfortunately it needs a more powerful engine to act like a real, all-terrain hovercraft. But its still fun. Needs a firm seal around the edges in order that it "float" on air before the 2 propellers can send it places.

SCA update - Despite a brilliant event at Romsey a few weeks ago I am still very "whatever" about the whole thing. Partly its a "I've been to the ultimate event, nothing compares and so not interested" and partly its just that our local "pond" has grown too small for me.
Most of Stormhold, Arrowsreach & Krae Glas stuff is weeknights which are no good for me - and Monthly Bash ain't exciting at all really. Oh well, we'll see what happens.
Made the decision when it started to be advertised that I won't be going to William Marshal Feast - haven't really enjoyed the last few years very much anyway & with them as K&Q obviously there won't be much for me in it. I think my CFA is also having its Xmas party the same day, so I'll go to that. I may yet make the tournament - not sure (given that I can't use my Glaive).

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