A Travellerspoint blog

July 2011

A day in Paris

Okay so a day is really making it a short trip.

semi-overcast 25 °C

Today we leave for Rome. It is an early start, 5:30. The walk to the train is quiet and the air is fresh. The train is on time and we find seats together for our ride to Paris. Paris is a zoo. I guess it is rush hour at the Gare, but signs are well marked and we find our way on the metro to Gare Lazare where we find there is no luggage storage. We walk back one stop to Gare de Lyon and get rid of our stuff for the day.
We walk and walk and walk. We check out all the tourist sites.... the Eiffel Tower, the Champs d'elise, The Arc de Triumph, The Notre Dame Cathedral and the Obelisk. The city is preparing for the Bastille Day celebrations coming up. The one main road we walk along will be closed soon to cars and opened to walkers, bikers and rollerblades. One wonders where all those cars will go.
Traffic is entertaining. They move into the intersection as long as the light is green and then block traffic when it changes. The French use their horns way more than the Belgium’s and then are less likely to stop for pedestrians.
A lunch/breakfast in a nice little cafe sets us up for the day. We have our cheese and crusty baguette, Roger adds a bowl of tasty onion soup and both Roger and Tracy have their coffee. Without asking a carafe of warm water appears on the table. A snack along the walk back of a crepe with nutella keeps us energized. We finally find a grocery and stock up on fruit, cheese, crackers and wine for dinner on the train.
Along the Seine are many sellers of old books, movie posters, coasters, magnets and prints. Their wares are stored in great boxes that are attached to the stone railings along the river. Near to the Eiffel tower there are many sellers who are coloured. They carry their wares are have them on a cloth on the ground. Some calls Police and they grab cords that are attached to the corners of their cloths and their display becomes a bundle as the cords tighten and they walk away.
I am at times overwhelmed by the smell of urine. Washrooms are few and far between and cost 50 c. While one assumes that it is men who for the most part are peeing on the streets we also witnessed one family who had their child pee on the sidewalk.
Time to collect our bags and head to Gare De Bercy and catch our train. The door to our coach won't open, but we gain egress through the next car. It is a sleeper for three. One family must book them, and then the gender can be mixed otherwise only men or women occupy the sleeper. There is ample room for our luggage, a little cabinet with a sink and a travel pack for each passenger. It includes toilet seat covers, water, soap, and little paper slippers. Our beds are made up around 9:30 and we are quickly asleep and we sleep well.

Posted by Mari Anne 05:06 Archived in France Tagged paris train rome gare bayeux bercy Comments (0)

Sicily

What to do today?

sunny 28 °C

No plans... lets see what happens. A much more relaxed day! A light breakfast after a bit of asleep in. We met up with Charlotte, an activity director who was on the mercury two years ago. We had a good chat and did some of the onboard activities with her such as trivia, lawn games, bocce, and wii.
Grandma wanted to go ashore to get some postcards and stamps. Postcards accomplished within a few minutes of the port, but no stamps. The bank where you buy them closed at 12:30 as it is Saturday and the tobacco shop said finito, so.. Grandma was hot and wobbly on her feet so we took her back to the ship. The sellers at the port entrance are fairly pushy and one gelato store were very pushy, but rather funny and friendly.
Lunch today for me was salad and Indian food. It was tasty, but seemed a little on the cool side temp wise. More fun and games and then some cloths washing, a cool drink and a few quiet minutes to read while Roger joined the seniors for wine.
It is hot and humid here in Sicily in the port of Messina. Days as getting shorter as we sail south. We pass the Solstice just this side of the straight of Messina.
We are planning for our sea day tomorrow and further ports. Charlotte has sent us up some priority passes for the tenders in Santorini and Myconos so we can get off the ship quickly.
We were able to get in a few dances before the band packed it in for the night and moved up to the Sky Lounge for Karaoke. Tracy, Roger and I sang Can't By Me Love and Roger did I'm Gettin' Married in the Morning. Quite a huge group gathered for the night and only those who put in their requests early actually got to sing more than one tune. There were a few good singers, a few almost good and a few really bad. Grandma and Doris stayed up for the event.
The clocks go ahead tonight so time to pack it in.

Posted by Mari Anne 05:05 Archived in Italy Tagged cruise change sicily time karaoke gelato Comments (0)

Rome and boarding the ship.

You can get there from here... er here from there.

sunny 28 °C

A train, a plane, a limo and a ship. We must be in Italy!!! First of all the sleep was great. We had a tier or three beds. Tracy had the top, Roger the middle and I volunteered for the bottom. It was a bit hot, but with the door closed it stayed a bit cooler. As 10am rolled round and nothing looked likea a city like Rome we finally heard that we were running a couple of hours late. Rumors of strike circulated, but nothing confirmed. A quick call to Roma cabs assured us a ride when we arrived.
On the way to the airport we learn that Joyce and Doris' first flight is late and their second one has been changed. We divert for our first real Italian Pizza. Roger had a vegetable thing that looked like Swiss chard and had a bit of heat. Tracy and I had a Margarita Pizza and it was good.
On to the airport, but they take forever to show and no luggage when they do. We send them back and wait, wait, wait. Joyce returns to tell us they almost have their luggage. We sent her back. Time kept passing. You are supposed to board 1 hour prior to sailing, it takes an hour to drive to the port and it is passed three o'clock for a five o'clock sail. Out they come. We gather up the luggage and load them in the taxi for a wild ride to the port. At times she was going 140 to 150 kph. However we do arrive in one piece. We are the last on the ship and they are packing everything up, in 5 minutes they would have been closed we passed many of port staff leaving as we came up the dock. We have the passes get on board and when we board they take our photos and they crack open a bottle of champagne. It goes without saying we tipped well.
Our luggage arrives quickly and we are unpacked and settled. We pick up the seniors and head to dinner. Ahhhhhh. A little table for six and the one seat is empty. They don't tend to have the big round tables. Lots of tables for four that can be pushed together. Our waiter is Adrian, the assistant is Paolo and our sommelier is Carlos. I have the Spanish white fish, which is tasty. We split up after dinner and Tracy and I check out the library before we join the others at the show. The first night is always a taste of the entertainment coming up for the cruise. Then we hit the dance floor and stayed until the band called it a night. A black fellow came onto the dance floor and danced working his way closer to Tracy, however when he asked who she was traveling with and she says my parents, he quietly said, oh and fairly quickly went to find another dance partner. LOL.

Posted by Mari Anne 05:03 Archived in Italy Tagged train italy roma late cabs baggage strike handlers Comments (0)

Juno Beach

A chance for Roger to visit Juno Beach where his dad landed on DDay.

semi-overcast 19 °C

  • I expect it will be an emotional day.

It was a great day. We picked up bus tickets for the coast and spent the morning in Bayeux. First a bag of fruit from the farmer's market and a visit to a garden fast food place where we had a drink before visiting the Bayeux Tapestry. This is the history of William the Conqueror; formerly know as William the Bastard. Quite an amazing piece of work. We were given headsets with the narration in English. We started the narration and were able to pause it as needed so we would not get ahead of the story. Some people had theirs very loud and did not seam to get you can stop and start. There is also a Japanese painted scroll that depicts Japan's history. We lunched on fruit in a park and then visited the British Graveyard. So many young men and so many buried here without names. It is cool all the plants and flowers that are planted and tended around the stones.
We caught our bus, which was only 14 euros return, and we were at Juno beach in about 50 minutes. It is a windy wonderful drive through pastures and little villages. We paid for a tour that would go shortly so we found Bill's brick in the memorial as well as Tracy accidentally finding some of my relatives from NB while we waited. Marisse from Montreal was our guide and we were introduced to the history of the Canadians in Normandy. All but one on our tour was from Canada and most were from BC. One lady at emerg in Bby just after my mom left, but she knows the Doctor we had there. We explored a remaining bunker, learned of the German Fortifications and occupation for the days leading up to and following dday. The beach has changed a lot since then and great big sand dunes now cover the area. One of the bunkers has sunk into the sand and has a building built on top.
We returned to the Juno Beach Centre to view the exhibits. Roger was looking for more information when I looked over his shoulder and saw his dad's picture. I was stunned to see the photo of Granddad sitting on his tank on the cover of the 2009 anniversary book. Roger later spoke to Nathalie, the director of the centre, who had chosen the photo. She took Roger's photo with him holding the book. As well she brought up a photocopy of a temporary exhibit they had with Roger's dad's photo as a major part of the display. We of course bought a copy of the anniversary book.
We finished our visit and after picking up a baguette and cheese and frits we walked the coast line to Berniers Sur Mer about 30 minutes away to where Bill actually landed to see the memorial and walk on the beach. This was most amazing to think what life was like for people during the occupation.
We then learned we would have to walk back to catch the bus by the Juno Beach Centre, as it does not go this far at this time of day. No problem. We walked back, had a jug of Sangria and caught our bus back to Bayeux. This time the trip only took 30 minutes. Slightly tired we giggled our way back to the hotel where we did some wash and got ready for the next day.
More time should be spent exploring and either a rental car or a guide would be a good choice. For us the bus was fine because we saw all that we wanted right there.

Posted by Mari Anne 12:56 Archived in France Tagged beach canadian wwii bayeux juno Comments (0)

Say Good bye to Brussels And Hello Bayeux

Two Trains later we are in Bayeux

overcast 18 °C

Thoughts on Brussels.
No stop signs at most corners; drivers are just expected to stop for pedestrians.
Controlled crossings existed in the busier town area.
More smokers, but July just introduced no smoking in pubs and restaurants.
Where are the seniors?
Buses take your ticket, close the doors and go. You'd better be holding on.
They keep telling me Europeans are all about fashion. Not from what I saw in Belgium...I could have been in Vancouver.
They don't pick up their dog's business on sidewalks.
Belgians can drink anywhere.
They are more relaxed.
Even at fast-food places you pay after you eat, but Tracy thinks you still pay first at Mc Donald’s.
You never take your coffee out, you sit and drink it.
Toilet stalls all have doors that go from ceiling to floor, so they have lights in each stall.
Whatever country Asians are from, they are all called Chinese.
Sundays and Mondays are not the best days to find places open in Brussels.

Tracy is packed and we headed down to catch the tram to the train station. Brussels station is quite large but we figure out where to go and its not long before we are in our reserved seats. The train is fairly full and there are many young families. The train leaves on time to the minute and arrives in Paris on time. The challenge then is to get from Paris Nord to Paris St. Lazare. We make it with only one wrong turn. The signage is lacking unless of course you know exactly what you are doing. The train station is a little more challenging, no place for people to sit, no obvious information booth, and three different screens with the different trains. You have to figure out which screen will display your train, but we get on and make our way to the second-class cars. We have no reserved seats, but we figure out there are yellow tags above the reserved seats and find three together, with no yellow tags and we don't get asked to move. We also never get asked to show our tickets on the train. We validated them on the platform. This train is a little less smooth, left on the nose and two hours and ten minutes later we are in Bayeux. Out comes the handy GPS and we make our way to the hotel just as the rain starts.
The hotel is full, located right in the middle of the old part of the town. Our room has three single beds; rather funny as it is our 31 anniversary.
Not having had a normal meal all day we head out for dinner, but the restaurants don't open up until 7 pm. So ... guess the most common type of restaurant...Pizzerias. Yup, we wanted Crepes, but ended up at a pizza place. Roger had the meal of the day which started with a meat platter, followed by turkey and pork and fries covered in a sauce. Tracy ordered a vegetarian Pizza, I had a galette with warm goat cheese and walnuts and we all got salad with a great dressing that tasted of horseradish. We ordered a cider of Bayeux, but they recommended another local cider that was better and we did enjoy it. I tried to order tap water, but no luck. Tracy and I finished off with a mint ice cream with bits of chocolate floating in crème de menthe. Roger went to stick his spoon when the server came by and told him no and moved it away from him. She said he was to eat his fruit salad and leave our dessert alone!
We took a wander around the town getting lost, but finding someplace that was open that sold us a bottle of wine. Out came the GPS and we were home in ten minutes.

Posted by Mari Anne 13:28 Archived in France Tagged trains beach hotel e bayeux juno Comments (0)

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