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!

Amsterdam

I’d like to start this entry about Amsterdam with some glowing praise for the low cost carrier, Transavia, that brought us here. We really weren’t sure what to expect, but found the service to be top notch & friendly and due to the friendliness we were rewarded with some free snacks towards the end of the flight. This is in stark contrast to the service we have received on the three British Airways flights we have taken in the past 10 days. One is a low-cost carrier, the other claims to be full service.

They were even selling a knitted bear in their colours onboard, so we had to have him and he will be our new mascot around Europe.

Our first point of call in the city today was for a bite to eat, which turned out to be a harder task than you might think. There were a lot of cuisines on offer, but I was really only after Dutch, and I finally found that at Haesje Claes with a stamppot… a mashed potato dish.

Following lunch we had a nice coffee at Andalucia before heading to the Rembrandt museum, and then stumbling into what is known as the ‘red light district’.

The following day we were due to meet my father for breakfast in the airport in-between his early-morning arrival on Cathay Pacific and mid-morning departure on Vueling, however a delay to his first flight resulted in him missing his flight, with the following flight fully booked. He ended up on a KLM flight to Barcelona later in the day, affording him a chance to have lunch with us at the Rijks® Restaurant. A review of which can be found here.

Dee-Anne and I then took a small tour of the Rijksmuseum, seeing among other art the Van Gogh ‘self-portrait’ from 1887, Vermeer’s ‘Milkmaid’ and Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’. By the time we were ready to set off the weather had turned, resulting in some awful delays on the way back to the hotel and then the airport. We did manage to check-in on-time, to find the flight was delayed!

My review of Amsterdam… this is a hard one! I always thought I’d love it here, but actually found it hard to navigate (public transport), expensive to navigate (public transport) and not as user friendly as some cities I have visited. It’s also becoming quite clear that for such an advanced block of nations that Europe claims to be, the amount of litter on the streets and percentage of those that smoke is extremely high. Australia feels like a hospital in terms of cleanliness in comparison.