“Hi everyone I have had some complaints about our lack of contact, so I am going to attempt to cover all that we have done in the last few months in this one email. We haven’t done much in London, so I guess I’ll focus on the trips that we have been doing around the place. Our first trip (since the last email) was a weekender to Paris. Peter Laidler, a friend of Jon’s from school has been living in Ireland and had come to London on his way to Amsterdam on a holiday. He said that he would be in Paris for the weekend, so we decided that we would not be able to contain our jealousy, so invited ourselves along. We also ran it past 4 of our Aussie friends here in London and the idea attracted an overwhelming response, everyone wanted to come. So we booked our Eurostar (train) tickets and were due to leave the following Friday night. Most of us had to leave work a little early to get to the station on time, except one of us, Emma, not well known for being on time. When she was phoned a 6pm, the time that we were all supposed to meet she was still at work, not realising the time. That was only the beginning of the comedy of errors, she bought the wrong ticket, was asked by the inspector to pay the difference, realising she had no money on her had to queue in the Friday night cash machine line, then queue again to pay the extra for her ticket. She arrived about some time later puffing, with only 2 mins to spare until boarding time! We took our seats in the train, and the journey was quite pleasant, except for the fact that the foot-and-mouth outbreak basically prevented the food car from selling anything at all, especially if it contained meat! We arrived at about 11.30pm and stood in the Taxi line for ages and finally got a taxi to our hostel. The hostel was ok except for the archetypally rude and inflexible French man who was on the desk. After waking up Pete who was already in the hostel, we checked out our rooms which had carpeted walls and a rather open plan bathroom arrangement, ie: a shower in the corner of the room (luckily it had a shower curtain). We woke up in the night to the sound of a group of adolescent French school children who though that 4.00am would be a good time to run loudly down the corridor. Little did we know that that would not be the last of them . . . After a breakfast of baguettes we went out to discover gay Paris. Our first stop was a river cruise along the Seine. It was rather pleasant, although cold, and we had a good view of many of Paris’s landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and lots of apparently famous bridges. After lunch we hit the shops, although with Prices higher than London we didn’t buy much. We then walked to the Eiffel Tower to climb it (well, catch the lift really) in time for sunset. The sunset was somewhat wet, but we had a pretty good view of the city. The group had at some point in the day gained an extra person, as some of the group had met Jackie, a kiwi, on a tour bus. This proved the camaraderie between the Southern Hemisphere countries, and she joined us for the rest of the evening. We then set out to find a French restaurant; we were looking for frog’s legs and snails, but had to settle for crepes. We weren’t disappointed though, the food and service was excellent and we left suitable full, and perhaps a little drunk as well. While Jon and I helped Jackie find a cab the others headed back to the hostel. They wanted revenge on the French school children, so went to their rooms and were a little louder than usual. The French man on the desk took it out on me and Jon, saying that there were some poor tired school children in the hostel who were sleeping (little darlings). Again we were woken up several times in the night by them until Jon put his head out the door and gave them the serving they deserved, which sounded even more vicious considering someone was yelling at them in a foreign language! After another baguette breakfast and yet another run-in with a different French guy on the desk, Jon and I set off alone to check out Paris. We caught one of the open-top tour buses (not a good idea to sit upstairs in winter) and we spent most of the day hopping on and off the bus, always sitting upstairs in a quest for better views. We saw the overrated shopping strip of the Champs-Élysées, the square where Marie-Antoinette lost her head, the Notre Dame cathedral etc. Paris is a nice town, with many more historical monuments than you would expect (there is more than just the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame), and I believe with the beautiful river and the street stalls would be better enjoyed in summer. It was indeed very cold, and you should keep away from the French people! We made it back to the train at the end of the day where we met the others and headed back to London. When we arrived the tube line to our house was closed off, and we joked that it must be another bomb, but it wasn’t until the next morning that we heard that the IRA had bombed the BBC building, in the same suburb as our house! Our next trip, 2 weeks later was to Amsterdam. Jon and two guys he works with were sent on a work junket on the Thursday and Friday, so of course I met them on Friday night and we all stayed for the weekend. Jon’s boss’s girlfriend, Marion, was also there. Amsterdam for me is up there with Munich and Berlin in the favourite city stakes. It does have a little less history (well we didn’t see much evidence of it anyway) than Germany, especially Berlin, but it has a similar laid back atmosphere. The city is built on a swamp, so has lots of canals, similar to Venice. Because the land that the city is built on is so soggy most of the buildings sport a noticeable lean, which makes it look quite comical! The city has over 1 million bikes, which is a lot considering the population is only 700,000, and they are chained to every single solid structure in the city. Most of them are old and rusty to prevent them from being attractive to thieves. Most people ride to work and everywhere else for that matter, so the traffic in the city is minimal. We did attempt to go to Amsterdam’s favourite tourist attraction, Anne Frank’s house (for those of you who don’t know Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who wrote a diary about living in a hidden room in someone’s house to prevent being herded off to a concentration camp) but because of the lack of other things to do in Amsterdam the line was way too long to face. So instead we went on a canal cruise, and just ate and drunk for the rest of the time. It was a very relaxing weekend and we had a very good time with Marion and the guys from Jon’s work, and we intend to do some other trips with them soon. The following weekend we went back to Australia for Jen and Marty’s wedding. I won’t go into the details of Australia, because you all live there and it might be rather dull. But we had a great time and were glad to catch up with everyone, but next time we hope to do a slightly longer trip! The wedding was also perfect and we had a great time (although for some reason we didn’t feel so well the next day!) After we got back we were both grounded with food poisoning, which we got simultaneously, and it wasn’t too pleasant. After thinking that we were both going to die in our flat in London and that nobody would find us for weeks, we pulled through and are both ok. After being back to work for only 5 days it was Easter, so time to go away again. We wanted to go somewhere hot, like the beach in Spain, but every other person in England had the same idea, so every flight under £600 was booked out. We went to Edinburgh instead, which wasn’t quite as warm, but it certainly has character. The first thing you notice is that the people are actually pleasant, and although they have funny accents and many of the guys wear skirts. Actually it is only the ones with bag pipes that wear skirts, and they are present on every street corner within coo-ee of a tourist. The second thing you notice is the amount of shops which sell tartan, kilts and other Scottish wool products. Once you get past that though, the city is very cool. Much of the 14th Century buildings have been preserved, and the castle which is at the centre of the town is very cool, although you begin to get a little bored of castles after a while in Scotland. We saw almost all there is to see in Edinburgh, the old town, the Grassmarket (basically a street full of pubs, we saw a lot of it), the new town, the castle, the palace, a few museums. We even went on a evening ghost-hunting tour on Friday 13th. The tour goes underground to some recently discovered 14th Century buildings in which poor families used to live in one underground room. Of course there were no ghosts, just a few stalactites hanging from the ceiling. We also went on a tour out to the highland and Loch Lomond. We saw about another 10 castles, had a rather uneventful cruise of Loch Lomond, and heard some rather interesting stories about Scottish legends such as Rob Roy of recent movie fame. It was a very good day, although we were a little disappointed that we didn’t see more of the highlands. So that’s about it for this chapter in the Jane and Jon travel saga. Stay tuned for future episodes that will include Bordeaux wine tasting and camping in Devon. That’s all folks.”
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