What happened to Italy?

  • Jul. 12th, 2009 at 7:42 AM
honeyelle: shows coloured pencils with "i live to create master pieces" (Default)
3.42pm (Brisbane); 7.42am (Cinque Terra)

I had planned on writing on the train yesterday, but of course, something came up. A big something. But let me start from the beginning.

On Friday, we were still at Beaune. Dad and I visited the Hotel-Dieu Hospice, which was visiting, but I think I might have enjoyed it more if there was less construction happening. It took us about thirty minutes to go all the way through, so that was our morning taken. (I also had to return my bike, unfortunately.) As a family, we decided the Friday would be a rest day, merely because we were travelling to Monte Carlo (Monaco) on Saturday and had to prepare ourselves for that. I am not the best traveller in the world. Travelling makes me tired, even if I sleep all the way from Destination A to Destination B.

Saturday, we got to the train station on time, only to find that the train we wanted was no longer running. Beth and Mum's stomaches dropped to the centre of the Earth. They were thinking we'd just try to get trains all the way to Monaco, even though we'd miss our own booked trains and all of the other fast trains were booked out. I didn't even think of all this. I heard only a little bit of the conversation with the station attendant, as I was not next to Mum and Beth, but for some reason I immediately thought of a taxi. Obviously, Mum and Beth talked to Patrick (the taxi driver who drove us from the station to Rue Fauborg St-Martin) and found another taxi driver willing to go to Lyon's train station.

After a detour, two hours of watching the GPS and 340€ later, we arrived in Lyon, before our train made it in and got onto our booked trains.

We arrived in Monaco sometime in the afternoon.

Monaco, I thought, was similar to Las Vegas. There are casinos everywhere and it's a very glitzy place. It isn't. There are only a few casinos, all in the same spot – where the snobs drive up their cars and get stared at by the people waiting for someone famous to arrive. (I didn't see anyone famous.)

We went into one of the casinos, not to anywhere the tables were because we weren't properly attired, but we played the pokies as Beth had never gambled in her life. She won 40€ on top of the original 10€ Mum gave her. I didn't win anything, but I think it's because the machine went cold after paying out to Beth.

We went back to our itsy-bitsy hotel (where the showers were awfully small) and slept.

The next morning, after breakfast, we made our way to the train station. Next to our train it said “siprime”. Because none of my family speaks fluent French (unfortunately) and the word wasn't in our phrase book, we ignored it until 10.00am – twenty minutes before our supposed train. Usually at about the twenty minute mark, they also put up which platform the train will be arriving on. When this didn't happen at 10am, I went to ask another train attendant what's happened to our train. It turns out that the Italian trains were on strike. I was told we can take a train to Menton, a fifteen minute cab ride to Ventimigla and then try to figure out what to do from there.

We did exactly that. But in Ventimigla there are no buses to Genova directly (where we were trying to get to, to then get to La Spezia). We were told we could hope town to town to Genova. We hopped on a bus to San Remo (without a ticket because we didn't realise the bus driver sold them or that we had to get them beforehand; and we couldn't pay when we got off as their was no one at the bus depot), hopped off at the bus depot and supposedly there was a bus to Genova. We waited an hour and forty-five minutes. The bus did turn up, but wasn't letting anyone on – whether they had tickets or otherwise; the driver took on extra people in Nice and therefore the bus was full.

In the end we took a three hour, 400€ cab ride to Montorosso (Cinque Terra). Which is where I'm sitting now, looking out my window at the view.

This account, unfortunately, does not include all the people we met. In particular, one Swedish lady at the bus depot who spoke Italian and English. We seemed determined not the leave us without knowing how we were going to get to Cinque Terra. She rang her friend, who's a cab driver and got a guaranteed 400€ fare compared to what the drivers at the taxi rank where charging (500€). I feel that we could've made it through the day without her help, but would've paid much much more money doing so. We were so grateful Dad gave her one of his drawings.

Riding & Chateaus

  • Jul. 9th, 2009 at 12:08 PM
honeyelle: shows coloured pencils with "i live to create master pieces" (Default)
8.08pm (Brisbane); 12.08pm (Beaune)

I haven't written anything since the train ride. I was going to on Sunday, however, I've been distracted. Distracted how? I've been reading Sookie Stackhouse novels. I know, right? More vampires. More female heroines. More bad writing. But I have stopped. After four books, one a day, I have stopped reading because I read about Eric and Sookie and Beth tells me there isn't anymore Eric/Sookie for a while. I love Eric. He's the only reason I read the books. (Beth even drew a comic about it.)

When we got into Beaune on Saturday – Beaune, by the way, is in the Burgundy region of France (where they make all the wine) – we headed into the markets. Beaune does markets how markets all over the world should be run. Firstly, walking down the main street, there are the bits'n'pieces part: clothes, music, shoes, underwear. At the corner, going from the main street into the town square (not a Stars Hollow town square with grass and a gazebo; although there are a few of them around too), but a bare, sectioned off area purely designed for markets, the corner holds all the roasted chicken sellers – we bought one and it tastes almost like turkey. We were asking ourselves why Australia wants to ruin chicken so. Then turning into the market square you are hit with fresh produce. All sorts of fruits and vegetables – much fresher than the fresher type we could obtain at Australian markets – and even some more unusual stalls (there was a purely olive stand, a stand with dates – Dad's favourite – and a stand of dried fruit). Inside the hall, next to the market square, the hall is air-conditioned to keep the cheese cool. A hall the size of a high school basketball court hall housed all the cheese you could ever want. Most of the market sellers were really good with the fact that we knew nearly no French, but we did ask in French “Do you speak English?” Some say yes, some say no, some say a little (and a little compared to my knowledge of French is a lot). The cheese lady knew none, so we pointed, but, then a French couple who spoke English helped us out, and even suggested a cheese we should try. We bought some Haribo lollies from a good-looking guy who's grandmother didn't speak English, but he did. Haribo, Beth and I first tasted in Disneyland, is the best type of lolly available. I especially like the crocodiles with the jelly on the top and the cream, softer lolly on the bottom; like the race-cars we have at home. We came home to Mum, who didn't get the see the prettiness of the market because she had an awful headache, and showed her what we bought for so little money.

I can't remember what we did that afternoon, but I think we relaxed. Travelling days take it out of us, me especially.

Beaune as a whole has been a relaxing time. There isn't anything you're supposed to see in the region, just the vineyards. The day we arrived was cloudy and a little chilly, as was the next day. Not like Paris at all. Paris was hot. Europe was hot. It has suffered a heatwave. Oh, Europe. You should visit Australia in the summer-time. That was not a heatwave.

On Monday, we woke up early (although the sun was already up) and it was a bright day. It was not cool. It was not breezy. It was the perfect day to bike ride. Which is exactly what we planned on doing. We were collecting our bikes from Floran (the bike renting man) and riding through the vineyards. By eleven in the morning, we had sunscreened up and were ready to ride. We rode through Pommard, Versay and into Mersault at which time we missed the chateau I wanted to visit in Pommard. It was also then we realised that the bike track, a very easy riding track to follow, there were signs for twenty kilometres, didn't take you to the chateaus directly, you had to find them once in town. We looked for Chateau de Mersault and found it at the base of the town on the east side. It looks similar to the house from the Longborn house in Pride and Prejudice, but then, quite a few of the chateaus I looked at on the internet looked like the Longborn house. We walked around the grounds, nibbling on lunch (as we weren't actually allowed to eat lunch on the grounds) and I took a few pictures. On the way back to Beaune (Mersault is 8.5km away on the bike track), we found Chateau de Pommard and decided to come back on Tuesday to see it. It was a perfect day for riding, no breeze or anything.

On Tuesday, I rode to Pommard three times (Pommard is three kilometres away from Beaune). Tuesday morning with Beth to make sure that we could get on a tour. (Chateau de Pommard was the one chateau that I really wanted to see.) It turned out that we didn't need to book, but just show up. We rode home. A couple of hours later, the entire family rode to Pommard. Our tour guide spoke English rather well, but it was heavily accented and sometimes hard to understand. The wine cellars underneath the buildings were cold and held an enormous amount of wine. The wine tasting itself, was not my cup of tea (I'm not a big wine drinker), but I found it was worth the 17€ it cost to get in. The Dali exhibition was rather spectacular, in my opinion, although I was a little disappointed I didn't get to see the inside of the chateau.

After visiting both Chateau de Pommard and Chateau de Mersault, I think I liked Mersault's grounds better.

On Wednesday morning, the rest of the family took their bikes back, but I kept mine. I've become addicted to this cycling thing. (Tuesday night, Dad and I rode to Pommard and back again because we felt like a sunset ride. Gosh, that was breezy.) When I go home I'd like a bike, or at least clean up the one we have. I rode to Pommard in the early afternoon and then again in the late afternoon. Both times it was breezy. It got breezier as the day went on and the ride to Pommard because almost impossible the wind is pushing against you so hard. Pommard is also on higher ground than Beaune. So the ride back to Beaune is very easy, a cruise downhill and all you have to worry about is hitting the stone fences at the corners. (I can't turn very well.) I've kept my bike again for today because I want to go for another, hopefully easier, ride today. But I've been looking out the window today, it seems like the wind starts up in the afternoon.

Over the past couple of days – I can't remember which days exactly – but we've had some French pastries. Citrus flavoured treats are my favourites. But we also ate at a pizzeria – we didn't want to spend the money it would cost for French cuisine when we didn't know what French cuisine is, save for the snails and the frogs legs. We had two pizzas and we decided they were better than the Santorini ones, though I can't remember what the Santorini ones tasted like since I was very dead to the world.

It's now 1.38pm. I have new sunglasses, I have chocolate (not exactly wanted by me, but I seem to eat it all the same), and I have my grades (which turned out better than I expected). All in all, I'm feeling pretty good.

While in Paris...

  • Jul. 4th, 2009 at 8:20 AM
honeyelle: (writing in notepad)
4.25pm (Brisbane); 8.20am (Paris)

When I cut myself off, basically mid-sentence, last time, I was going to Paris. Now, today, I am leaving Paris. So I have missed Paris and the last day in Santorini on this journal. I feel rather bad about that, but I lost my routine of writing a journal entry at breakfast because there was no where nice to sit for breakfast.

So, June 30: our last day in Santorini. We planned on doing nothing. No sunscreen, no walking, no getting sweaty. Just a day of relaxation looking at the view. You can imagine how well that went down. At about two o'clock in the afternoon, Mum and Dad decided they'd like to walk around the peak out the front of our view – Beth and I found a church on the first day on the otherside; I believed there was a lookout point from the top, we were going to find that lookout. The bugs on that walk, compared to the first time I did it, it was like the plague. There were so many bugs. Little ones that weren't around before and you can't see them except when walking the track. Once we got to the other side where the paths diverge into two, Beth went ahead to see if the path went to a lookout. It didn't look like it - the path was probably made by all the people doing what we were doing: seeing if a lookout was really available. Because there was no lookout point, Mum and Dad thought they'd like to see the church.

The walk back though. Gosh. It was easier for Beth and I than the first day – I wasn't going to die that day. Mum, however; she was struggling. It was a tough lot of stairs, I have to admit. I just kept to my mantra, “Thighs. Thighs. Think about your thighs.” I had to think of something besides my calves which hurt the most when climbing stairs.

After the walking, we showered, dressed and went for dinner again. More Greek cuisine; not as good as the night before though (at least in my opinion). We figured out I'm allergic to sesame seeds. (The men that worked and had friends at the tavern seemed to come together for a smoke and a chat. It wasn't a tourist type of restaurant, it was the type of restaurant that the locals would visit to have a chat with friends.)

We went back to the villa, packed and fell to sleep for the next day's travel.

July 01. Travel day. Up early for plane out of Santorini. Six hour trip to Paris. Then, Paris. Oh, Paris. I do not want to stay in Paris when I live in France for my year. Coming into Paris was hard. Mainly because we got really irritated with our travel agent. She validated our Eurail pass for only the three weeks she thought we'd need it. Which meant we couldn't get our free ticket into the centre of Paris. (What I don't understand is why the woman in the ticket booth couldn't change the validation date for us.) So that cost us 34€. That's about 60-70 Australian Dollars. That's a bit of money that we didn't need to spend. The next bit was the train. When we got off at our station, the train was packed and we'd learnt from the previous stations that people will just push people they don't know to get onto a train. Mum, Dad and I got off okay. “Where's Beth?” I said scared that my little sister would get lost on the train by herself. Yes, she's seventeen. Yes, she probably would've been okay, but we had no way to contact her as Dad and I had the mobiles. When the beeper sounded someone would have had to jump on with her. Dad made for the door, and Beth was getting off and the beeper sounded and then we were all okay and laughing because, good lord, Paris public transport is great, but everyone uses it.

First day in Paris was finished with Subway and McFlurries.

July 02. Boo's 18th birthday. Disneyland. (I forgot to say it when we woke up, but she also forgot.) Mum and Dad did a 'hop-on, hop-off' bus tour around Paris – we weree told it was very hot. Beth and I went to Disneyland. We caught a train by ourselves; when you have no luggage it is very easy to do. Once we were on the A-line train (the one going to Disneyland) we felt we were very capable of catching trains and finding our way around the stations.

Disneyland itself, though... I reckon Beth and I should've done a couple of days. We were exhausted after six hours – four-thirty in the afternoon – and we'd only done Toon Studio in Walt Disney Studios, and Fantasyland and Adventureland in Disneyland Park. Fantasyland was by far our favourite park – the architecture of the buildings is just a dreamer's playground. Our favourite rides were: the Cars-inspired ride in Walt Disney Studios where you sit in a car and it spins round at different speeds looking as if it will hit into another car; the Mad Hatter Teacups where you sit in a tea cup and there is a solid metal in the middle which you need to turn to spin the teacup (the faster you turn it, the faster the teacup spins); and the Magic Carpet ride which was where you sit on a magic carpet and the person in the front moves the carpet up or down, and the person in the back tilts the carpet. The ride with the never-ending queue was Pirates of the Carribean. Beth and I didn't really do that many rides – lines were long (it was school holidays) – but we enjoyed the atmosphere and looking at the buildings. I enjoyed the day; I go to take some great pictures (none with characters because I'm nice and let the little kids go first and then the characters have to go) and hang out with my sister.

July 03. The Batobus tour – must-see Paris sites day. While Mum and Dad drove past the main tourist attractions on the the 'hop-on, hop-off' bus tour the day before, we thought we should see the important ones as a family. Plus Dad really wanted to see the Musée d'Orsay (and that was a stop on the boat tour). We hopped off at the Lourve first, mainly because I wanted to see it. I had the camera again today (it doesn't bother me), and took some pictures because otherwise people wouldn't believe I'd visited.

Next stop was the Eiffel Tower. We didn't go too close too it – there were so many people. SO MANY people. I took some photos and Beth got to see it, but we didn't go up the top – which was fine.

Final stop was Dad's Musée d'Orsay. It was still a busy museum, but no where near as long a queue as the Lourve. By this time it had been almost six hours since anyone had last eaten. Us girls had started to get hungry, but Beth and Mum were the really pale ones. After we paid an exorbitant amount for lasagna, Mum said I got a bit of colour back, but usually my hunger disappears after I sit down. (Drinking water doesn't help, it makes me feel a little more ill because I have nothing in my stomach.) We walked through the museum for another hour and Dad and I went back to the Van Gogh room while Mum and Beth waited at the exit and we left. There was a bit of impressionism; although my favourite paintings were on the first floor of the girls carrying water buckets on their heads.

Once we left the museum, we split up; Beth and Mum on the boat, Dad and I walking. Both pairs heading towards the same place – Hotel Cluny (which I haven't mentioned split us up onto two different levels and had tiny rooms for sleeping only). Dad and I got back first, early enough that we had pastries and Dad had a coffee. We almost missed Mum and Beth because the lights wouldn't change and they'd think they got back first.

We came home, had our salads and pastas from Monoprix (something like the French version of Marks & Spencer) and fell asleep.

July 04. Today. Right now (9.34am) we're on a fast train (TGV) heading towards Dijon, out of Paris towards Beaune where we will be staying in a convent and bike riding to chateaus.

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