Thursday, 16 January 2014

Paris, France: Déjà Vu

After nearly 7 months of travelling I was back where I started, Paris, the city of love (well for me it's the city of getting robbed). I checked into a hostel and was put in a 6 bed dorm with 3 Brazilian girls and 2 Mexican girls. The Brazilian girls couldn't really speak English and one of them snored really loud... Not quite a man's dream.

After a much needed sleep I went to the Louvre with my new Mexican friends, Fab & Stephanie, from Juárez, a border city with a reputation for being one of the most dangerous in the world... So I knew I was safe with these girls. They were very friendly and happy girls.

The Louvre is huge and you do need an entire day to see it all. The entrance is like boarding a flight with your bags going through an x-ray machine. Surprisingly the girls from Juárez made it through with no alarms going off. The Louvre is split in to many sections (paintings, sculptures, etc) with each section being split by country. The paintings are either religious or of boobies and in many cases both. The interior of the building is just as impressive as the art on display.

The Louvre, Paris
The Louvre

The Mona Lisa
I'm sure you know what this is

Inside the Louvre
One Room of the Louvre

Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo - Not quite the same as The Simpsons

Checking whether it is bath time

Wet T-Shirt Competition

After a long day at the Louvre we were off to check out the bridge with the padlocks and Moulin Rouge... Déjà vu.

Bridge of Love
Lock your love and throw the key in the river

Dos Mexicanas y un Australiano en Moulin Rouge

After a long day I was off to see my old friend, Lea, for drinks and snacks at her place. Freakishly it happened to be exactly 2 years from the day she hopped on a plane to Brisbane to commence her Australian trip.

I returned to the hostel at midnight, right as Fab turned 21 so I kicked off singing Happy Birthday, loud and bad.

The next day I said good bye to the Mexicans, left my luggage in the luggage room and went off to explore the city in Winter and take a few photos this time.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris
Arc de Triomphe

After a day of walking around I collected my stuff from the hostel and met my new Couchsurfing host, Stephanie, at a station in the suburbs. At the end of a fun and relaxed night at her place I discovered my tablet had been stolen from the hostel... Robbed twice in Paris!

The next day I visited my old hostel which was incredibly uninterested in my stolen tablet. I decided to use the day to take the photos I didn't take during my last visit. I also met up with Miren, my host from Rennes who I also met in San Sebastian,  for some drinks in the evening... Small world!

Notre Dame
Notre Dame de Paris

A King ready for battle

Jardin de Luxembourg
The French Senate in Jardin de Luxembourg

Paris Sunset

 I got incredibly lost in the suburbs on my way back to Stephanie's place. My phone also happened to die after trying to confirm directions. After 2 hours of walking around lost late at night in the freezing cold Stephanie pulled up next to me in her car. I apologised and we had a very good laugh about it.

The next night I checked into a hostel close to a major train station with a line straight to the airport. I decided to have one drink in the hostel bar. This turned into being shouted all night by a group of Brazilian guys and the bar continually giving free shots. I woke up 2.5 hours before my flight was due to leave still drunk. I had a quick shower and took off to the train station across the road. After seeing a screen full of delayed messages next to the airport trains and getting someone to translate the announcements coming over the speakers I established the trains weren't running on the airport line due to a power outage. And there was no ETA. I shared a cab to the airport with  US guy I had just met. We arrived at the airport 55 mins before my flight was due to leave and the taxi didn't take credit cards. I ran to check in and told the US guy to meet me at the desk so we could go to an ATM so I could give him my half. After checking in only 50 mins before my flight back to Australia was due to depart the American met back up with me and told me not to worry about the money... I made it!

After 7 months of travelling in 5 countries, meeting many new and old friends, eating amazing food, trying many different beverages and sleeping on 68 different beds, couches, floors, tents, overnight buses and a footpath it was finally time to return home.

Lessons Learnt:
Watch your stuff in Paris.
Travelling is awesome.
Don't drink the night before a big flight.
Make sure you know you way home if staying in the suburbs.
I will probably need a chiropractor one day.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Lyon, France: Tour de Lyon

After stepping off my second overnight bus ride I was back in France. Having experienced 6 straight months of travelling you might assume I have acquired some basic organisation skills but you would probably be wrong. Upon arrival in Lyon I only knew the metro stop and the address of my host. Lucky for me the bus station is attached to a metro station and the first Frenchie I asked knew the location of my host's street. I soon met my host, Lisa, a French girl that had only just returned from 3 months of travelling the US. She gave me a very friendly welcome and breakfast.

Lyon is the 2nd most populous city in France by metropolitan area. It has two large rivers that meet in the centre of the city separating the old town, the island city centre and the suburbs. It is also the headquarters of Interpol with their office being the only one located in the city's biggest park. Lyon is also very famous for Festival of the Lights.

French Alps
Lyon with the French Alps behind

Like many French cities Lyon has a city run hire bicycle system. I used these in both Paris and London. You pay a small fee for a card that is valid for a set number of days which allows you to retrieve a bicycle from one of the many stations around the city. Your first 30 mins is free so the idea is to return the bike to another station within the 30 mins then retrieve the same bike or another one. Lyon is a city built for bikes with all the main streets containing bike lanes... this was my mode of transport in Lyon.

I spent my days touring the city on bicycle, getting back into fitness, sleeping in the park, eating quiches, trying the very unique Lyonese food and hanging out with Lisa in the evening. We cooked, drunk wine, went on a tour, went running and shared many stories together. I also checked out La Basilica de Notre-Dame de Fourvière. The interior would have to be the most impressive I've seen in a church/cathedral but I haven't been in very many.

Riding the Red Lyon

A little island with deers and ostriches in the middle of the main park

The Main Square

A very interesting statue!

Amazing art on the side of the building. Each person is a famous person that has something to do with Lyon.

An old Roman theatre that has had many renovations
An Australian rollerblading shop!

Lyon was really cool and I racked up many hours of cycling during my stay. After 3 days it was time to say good bye to Lyon and Lisa.

Next stop Paris via Covoiturage with a German girl and a French girl that speaks no English.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Barcelona, Spain: NYE in Catalana

I arrived in Barcelona just after midnight on what was now technically New Years Eve. Once I was all checked into to the hostel I was informed that Barcelona was going to have it first fireworks NYE celebration since the new millennium celebration 14 years earlier. I was incredibly buggered and wanted to be well rested before NYE in one of the worlds most famous party cities so I was off to bed.

After the hostel finished going through a map of the sights with a group of us I only had one, although very important, question... "Where is the nearest 100 Montaditos?" I ended up at a Basque Pintxo chain for lunch that just happened to have 0.70 Euro beers and 1 Euro pintxos on Tuesdays. I decided to create my own NYE event on Couchsurfing starting at this bar at 8:30pm. My first day in the city and I'm already organising parties... what could possibly go wrong? Before the party commenced I met up with Pau, a Barcelona local that attended one of my CS BBQs while living in Brisbane, for a tour. On this tour I discovered it was a Catalan custom to wear red underpants on NYE for good luck. So once I returned to my hostel I went into the bathroom only holding a red pair of underpants and came out holding a blue pair... now I had a genuine reason to ask everyone "What colour panties are you wearing?"... and I did.

The Party!

About 20 people had confirmed their attendance. I arrived at the bar to discover it was now closed. The first person I messaged the bad news to invited me to hostel to help him drink a bottle of whiskey so I bailed before I met anyone. I managed to recharge my phone, reply to all the messages (well only the ones via spanish SMS and whatsapp) and reorganise to a central location 2 hours later. It turned out to be an awesome night that involved drinking in the street, a bar, pushing people out of a full so the doors could close, running to the fireworks while eating the 12 grapes in 12 seconds (one for each month, Spanish tradition), catching the fireworks, cheap pizza and a club.

That's all I've got
The next couple of days I just chilled out and changed hostels.

I met up with a Barcelona girl that I met in Nice a couple of weeks earlier for a tour and drinks. She has a very interesting and intriguing life. Her weekend "boyfriend" is a pilot  that flies between Dubai and different European cities. She is his weekend "girlfriend". She flies to a different European city every weekend for free with free accommodation... it's one way to travel on a budget.

The next few days I spent exploring Barcelona.

Christopher Columbus pointing the long way to South America

Barcelona is incredibly touristy and expensive compared to the rest of Spain but good if you want to party. Also, as with a lot of Spain the local language isn't Spanish it is Catala/Catalan/Catalunian (in Catalan/English/Spanish).

The bus to Lyon was cheaper than Toulouse so next stop Lyon, France!

Lessons Learnt:
Check a venue will actually be open before organising a party.
Regardless of whether you think something is right or wrong it can still be fun to talk about... in the case above I would probably do the same.
You don't need to be in a city very long to host awesome parties.