Paris

What kind of (train) ticket machine in a developed nation only accepts coins? The answer is all the machines in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle T2. No to AMEX, VISA, or paper money and right next to the machines a broken paper-to-coin machine to boot. I’m sorry Paris, but that’s a fail in my books. We did eventually find another coin machine and were able to head into the city.

Arriving two hours earlier than expected it was no surprise that we couldn’t get an early check-in, but they happily took our bags to allow us to go for a wander around the city. We probably ended up walking a little too far for Dee-Anne’s feet, that were already sore. From Gare de Lyon, we headed across the Seine, towards Notre Dame, where we stopped for lunch. I built up all my courage and ordered something I’ve never had before… escargot! I was glad I finally sucked up the courage, as they tasted no different to clams or mussels, getting their flavour from the sauce they were cooked in.

This was followed by a lovely steak tartare, One of two I had while in Paris.

A museum I love to go as it brings back childhood memories is the Pompidou Centre. So I took Dee-Anne there and despite her sore feet I felt she really enjoyed the experience. There is a LOT of art held there and we really got a taste of different styles. This was especially useful in the end as the day we had planned for The Louvre turned out to be the one day a week it was closed. Having such a short trip we couldn’t reschedule it as the only other free day was at Disneyland and we’d pre-booked tickets for that (not that it mattered as it seems they didn’t have a visitor cap – leading to ridiculously long lines).

As I alluded to before, Disneyland unfortunately didn’t have a visitor cap per day, as far as we could see. This lead to nearly an hour wait times for some of the basic rides, and one thrill ride has nearly a 2-hour wait. To me, that detracts from the experience and would make me less likely to come back. I understand you can buy fast passes and if you stay at the on-site hotel you get early admission… but the fast pass system broke down part way through the day and there were some very irate guests who had paid and now felt ripped off. I may not have been able to understand French but I could pick up on how they felt. Dee-Anne really enjoyed it though, and bought some pins to trade with the cast (what they call staff members).

After a little stop off in our hotel room we headed out that same night to check out a few more sights, such as the Sacré-Cœur, Moulin Rouge and eventually Eiffel Tower. We didn’t climb the stairs to the Sacré-Cœur, go to the show at the Moulin Rouge or go up the Eiffel Tower though.

No post concerning the Eiffel Tower would be complete without the obligatory lightshow video.

Next time we’re back we have a lot to still see and do, including The Louvre, climbing the Arc de Triomphe, seeing a show and drinking more champagne.

On leaving the city, we nearly got ripped off by the public transport system again, but I spent the better part of an hour trawling through webpages to find that while the RER B would take me from central Paris to Orly airport for €25 each, and is the preferred method, I could also take Metro 7 to Tram 7 for €3.80 and only spend an extra 15 minutes travelling. They don’t make this information easy to find though, and this week has shown me that public transport in Europe is expensive and complicated, but there are ways to cheapen the deal!

Our trip back to Barcelona/Sitges was with Transavia France. Ground staff were awful and the terminal past security was very limited in its offerings. However the cabin crew did a great job considering the seatbelt sign never turned off (bad weather) yet European passengers seem to not have an issue frequently standing up and disobeying the signs. In Australia this almost never happens and you see people get in a lot of trouble when they do disobey the crew. In Europe they seem very lax about dealing with the problem. The crew did their best though. So it seems the grass really is greener in Australia!

Australia to Europe

I started my journey to Europe on Wednesday the 11th June, and although I got there on the 12th, I spent the next 24 hours travelling to the first actual pit stop, Florence.

Dee-Anne saw me off, driving me to the airport and then herself home. I didn’t get an upgrade, but the seat next to me was blocked and I had the First class lounge to look forward to in Sydney. The food there was well worth the 14 hours in economy I was to suffer on the way to Dubai. I think I nearly had an upgrade at the gate, but after some typing into the computer, there was no seat change for me.

First lounge delights

I ended up having 3 starters, the buffalo mozzarella with roasted red capsicum, grilled sesame tuna with red cabbage & salmon tartare. As none of the mains really interested me, I finished with the chocolate croissant bread and butter pudding, which was to die for! Along with some Champagne and a massage, I was well prepared for economy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The flight turned out to be fairly easy to survive, with another frequent flyer onboard, and a combination of sleep/talking to the FA’s a productive way to pass the time.

Emirates impresses

At Dubai I had another massage, and another impressive dinner, octopus carpaccio, saffron cashew chicken & umm ali (a traditional Egyptian dessert, about as local as I could find – that was amazing). Only downside was the top Champagne offered was simply Moët.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the gate for the final flight to the UK my boarding pass beeped though, providing some respite in the final 7 hours being in the comfort of business class. Having only travelled economy on the A380 in the past and other than on an A330 to Perth trying a skybed in the day, I’d never really had the experience of sleeping in one. Unfortunately, not a lot that’s positive, other than it being lie-flat… I found it very exposed to the aisle, very little privacy. Still, better than economy.

With the flight on time, I met mum at arrivals in Heathrow, she having arrived on an earlier flight from Hong Kong. The Tube to St Pancras took an hour… but once there we had a bite to eat, and even some Champagne, while waiting for our Eurostar connection to Paris.

In Paris, we had to change stations in just over an hour, and with the traffic it was a tight connection, but we made it from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon, and onto the Thello overnight sleeper to Milan, which now we’ve experienced a 4-berth, would be happy to avoid doing again! Cramped and awkward would sum it up.

Cramped 4-berth
Cramped 4-berth

Luckily the train from Milan to Florence was much nicer, higher speed (we reached 292 km/h) and we didn’t have to sit next to strangers. It did mean we arrived well before our checkin time though (to the apartment), but that’s another story.