A Travellerspoint blog

July 2007

Paris and Marseille

sunny 30 °C

Written on July 30...

Let's start with my last 2 days in Paris. I have a few more pics to post, but they're on my memory stick, which is not with me right now, so later. Here are some relevant ones from my camera.

I first visited the Chateau de Versailles, which was, unfortunately, quite a disapointment, as it was undeniably nice, but not exactly as breathtaking as I had imagined. I think we're better off just seeing it in movies, where it's fully "made up". In real life, for logistics reasons, large sections of each rooms are left empty (so tourists can walk through), and quite a few rooms are not completely restored, so it's just ok... Fortunately, despite the enormous amounts of people, it didn't seem too busy and the flow was fairly steady. Furthermore, the audio guide included with the price made it interesting, with anecdotes, and explanations of the various pieces of art in each room, as well as the purpose of the rooms. Nevertheless, it wasn't worth, in my opinion, the 21.45E it cost me....
I only took a few pics, here are the most interesting...I have some from inside, not really worth it...I think that the Appartementsde Napoleon at the Louvre was a more accurate rendition of the splendeur of the time than what they have put at Versailles (almost nothing survived past the Revolution). They are nevertheless actively working on restaurations, so it might get better over time.


I spent most of the last day on the metro, as I kept changing my mind and forgetting silly stuff. So my initial idea was to go to the train station to get the tickets that I had bought online, but realized, once there, that I had forgotten my credit card (required for ID), so that was a wasted trip. I then decided to go to the Picasso museum, but once there, I realized that my mind wouldn't be at ease until I got those tickets printed, so I set out to find an internet cafe (I can print them there), which was quite far and a whooping 1.50E/15mins!!! So anyway, I printed my ticket and then decided to go up the Eiffel tower instead of the museum, so I set on the (rather long) train journey to the tower, only to arrive there and find the longest lines in history (it was a Saturday, and on top of it, the 1st day off of summer vacation for most French people -they actually get a full month off here, which means that most shops are closed for 1 month!!!), so I decided to skip going up the tower (after all, I only had a few hours before having to go back to take my train, so time was an issue) and head off to the Archeological crypt of the Notre Dame Cathedral, as it was the next "most interesting thing to see" on my list. This place was quite nice, and is located under the Notre-Dame parvis. It showed the evolution of Paris (originally only on the island) that you see here, which stil exists (but was quite enlarged over the centuries,a nd is now somewhat buried in the "large Paris", but the Notre Dame cathedral is still there, and so is the marker as "Km 0" of all the roads to/from Paris.

The area is quite large, and was made into a museum as it is one of the only places in Paris where we can see the evolution of time, as it's function hasn't changes much over the centuries (church parvis and "main road", while the rest of the place was, sequentially completely destroyed and re-built several times.
This is a set of what the crypt looks like.


It showed the old port walls, many house structures, a section of an old street (the level of the are was raised by as much as 4meters over time), ditches, etc. A section of particular interest was about the aqueduc that the romans built, as well as a house heating system, where the floor of the houses was raised over what I would describe as piloties, and a furnace provided heat that was distributed to the floor through these piloties. How cool!

Anyway, since I still had a couples of hours left, I went back to the Picasso museum, which I realized onlyupon entry in the first gallery, that I had been thinking Van Gogh the whole time (even though I was saying and seeing Picasso).. I'm not much of a abstract fan, so it was a bit of a disappointment to have spent 6.50E on this, and the exhibition was only ok for me, although it was nice to see his progression (the exhibition is mostly in chronological order).
Here were my 2 favorites (I'm still amazed that we are allowed to take pics in museums here!)


It was funny to talk to Julien and Damien about my sights and stuff in Paris, as is typical for anyone living in a city, they were not aware of the many things and had either never been, or not in a very long time, to most of the sights...hehehe

So I left Paris for Marseille later that day, on a TGV 1st class ticket (bought on sale for cheaper than a regular ticket)! hehehe Le grand luxe!!!

I arrived in Marseille late at night (11:30) and had not done my homework properly on "how to get to the hostel", so I decided to take a taxi. It cost me an arm and a leg!!! 18E to be exact!!! I started sweating at 12E when I realized that we still weren't near! No need to say that I will NOT be taking another taxi on this trip FOR SURE!!! hehehe, I made it after all, only to find out that everyone in my room was sleeping, that my bed hadn't been cleaned and that there was no room key for me as it was broken! Joy! I settled in the room anyway and tried to sleep, but it was freaking hot (no wonder why all the french come down here for their vacation!), my nose got really stuffed (still fighting this cold) and I had a really hard time breathing, so I didn't sleep much at all... oh well, I was more than happy at the prospect of staying with the cousin of my friend of a friend (her name is Maëlle) for the 2 following nights.

I moved in with her yesterday and slept like a baby. She has a great place, faily small but perfect for 1 person and a sofa that turns into a bed, which is awsome.

Marseille is a puzzling city, as the old part is very pretty, as you can see here
The Vieux Port:


Let's sneak in the only one of me taken recently

A fountain called "Lavie":



but at the same time, there are a lot of vacancies (shops), buildings not so well kept, and the most intense regroupment of immigrants from the Magrehb (Maroc, Tunisie, Egypt etc) that I have ever seen. This is the only town so far that I have visited where the "kebab and donair" shops outnumber the "bakery/sandwich" shops. I bought some great halva and could have bought a beautiful Morrocan plate if I have the space in my luggage.
I also met some Marseillais who weren't very happy with the turn the city has taken, and were very vocal about it...I can understand to a point, as I hear more arabic spoken than French, but at the same time, once again, when asked how things could be improved, they have no solution, no suggestion....

On the topic of differences, everything between the Qc anf the French is different, but close! It's so funny! For example, a napkin is a tissu, a laveuse is a lave-linge, a soie dentaire is a fil dentaire, the girls are nanas... and there are countless examples, none of which come tomind right now (of course). So whenever I ask for something new, I try different words and sequences until we pinpoint the "French" way. hehehe

Other random thoughts:
The milk sold here is almost exclusively the sterilized type (which can be kept on the self for months)....I am yet to see fresh milk.

Something that surprised me: the French drink almost exclusively rosé (wine) during the summer months... I wonder in which proportion they drink white and red during the winter months...

If you, or your kids plan to visit France, make sure they do it BEFORE they're 25 yrs old as they get SIGNIFICANT discounts and free entry on all museum, train passes, etc. It would easily have cut my "visiting" costs by half!!! crazy!

Well, that's that for that,

Posted by Mistrale 08:02 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris, la ville des amoureux....

It's quite nice to be here.... up until a couple of years ago, it had only been a distant "it'd be cool, but I'll probably never go there" type of place (pretty much like everywhere else I've been to on this trip-but Paris is always special)

overcast 20 °C

Written on July 26…

I have a ton of pics, so I’ll simply post them and comment along.
Let’s begin with the last few pics from Tours…

Le Château de Tours...

This is now a museum (free entrance! yay!), originally built by a rich bourgeois, and now a fascinating place with artefacts all the way to prehistoric times! Very instructive on this region of France (and how France became France - got the name from a family that ran the region for a period, called Francs).



Ah, le Loire river (fleuve en français), the only fleuve that's never been made "boatable" (too shallow) left in France.

I left Tours with Ze-Bus, a service that I strongly reccomend, very cool way to discover France, for all ages (leaving Tours I was with 2 girls a bit younger than me, but getting there, there were 2 old ladies, at least in their sixties, as well as people in their 50'ies). Anyway, we stopped at the Grandes Caves de St Roch (!!!, funny coincidence, as my father was named after this Saint). This is a wine houses that produces mainly bubbly, exactly as per the traditional method (aka Champagne). The Champagne name has been trademarked so harshly, that no one else can use it at all, thus having to call their champagne "bubbly-as per the traditional method). (Apparently even the Chanel had to recall a perfume they had called Champagne!!) This place is quite remarkable, as it is almost entirely underground, in caves created when they were digging for rocks to build the castles of the region! The result, is a vast network of chambers, over 3km long (!), 30m underground, at a constant temperature of 12celcius.

For 2E, we got a guided tour of the premises, where they ferment the wine (2 fermentations, the 1st in a big tank for 30 days, the second in individual bottles for 1-2 years). They produce approx 1million bottles a year, and the tour obvisouly ended with a degustation! hehehe. Anyway, the tour was further enhanced as they recreated a bit of history to show visitors how the blocks of rock were orgiginally cut and taken out the cave (they took "carrotte" samples to find where the best rock was, then would carve around, we're talking activities over centuries, so tools changed over time, but compared to our standards, remained very basic. For example, they could dig around a certain block, then insert pieces of wood on the side, then wet the wood so it would swell, thus separating the block of rock from the rest! They would then cut it into smaller pieces and roll these out fo the cave - thus why the floor of the cave is always at a slight angle down toward the exit.

After the castle building phase, the caves were abandonned, and people discovered that the environment was ideal for mushroom growing, thus that became a new use of the space. Some smaller caves were also given to workers, who used them as homes (many are still occupied today). Eventually, someone though of the caves for wine making, so tanks were built inside the caves to hold the wine, etc.

This cave also had the following area, dedicated to Saint Roch

This is a statue of the saint in question, who was a pilgrim, known to cure diseases (plague) in people. He was called to the region when the vines got a disease that threatened to kill the entire industry and miracuously cured the vines, thus re-establishing the wine industry in the Loire valley. He is facing away as he is a pilgrim, always turning his back to the world and moving toward a sacred space. I thought it was a nice story!

Moving on, we went to the Chateau Chambord, which is known to be one of the most extravagant castle of France, built over 20 years by the king. Leonardo Da Vinci designed a special set of stairs, with 2 stairwells built side by side, but in a way that one can never see anyone going up or down the other stairwell...pretty cool. The castle has an enormous number of everything: fireplaces, chemines, window, balconies, etc. For some reason, the king only stayed there 42 days (!!!) before deciding to move to a town nearby and (obviously) build another castle there. I am not aware of an official explanation of such a short stay at the castle, but I think it's because The Chateau de Chambord is located so far from everything (in fact there was nothing there when the location was chosen. A little village was built to serve the needs of the castle! Talk about extravagance ) that is was too difficult for guests to get there, aka got boring...I don't know, just a guess. To this day the area is all farming, except for this massive tourist attraction.
A few of pics


I really like this pic... I find it so peaceful...

While leaving, we saw this
hehehe, the new castles of France! Funny timing, as I had heard on the news a bit of controversy surrounding the fact that many nuclear powerplants in France may not really meet the reglementation regarding resistance to earthquakes....hmmm, there are reactors like this one spread throughtout France.

We then arrived in Paris, where the driver of Ze-Bus (her name is Nadege, she's the founder of this small co)took us for a litle drive around town and I took the following pics.



It was such a good intro to Paris, with the gorgeous sunset!!
The first tow pics are obviously the Arc de Triomphe, and this last one is a menisque offered by some Egyptian "high guy" to Napoleon...I don't have much info yet, but I plan on going walking around there today, so I should know more soon.

I then met up with Julien, my super host here. He has a great place, a very comfy couch, a super friendly roomate and just overall such hospitality! A great place to stay! (not to mention internet access..which I why I'm still here at 13:53, updating the blog when I should be out!-but it’s ok, I have enough time to see everything I want)

Yesterday was my first day in town and it's indeed very very nice. It's undeniable a big city, but as I had heard, it's big and it's not. There are a bazillion metro lines, whiwh means that one can get anywhere and everywhere quickly and, really for a tourist, the landmarks are quite easy to find and there aren't THAT many (well, there ARE, but one can eqsily decide the palces that he/she most wants to see)
So yesterday I walked around, visited the Eglise St-Germain des Prés

and the Louvres. Many many people had told me not to bother with the Louvres for various reasons, but I didn't think I could reasonnably come to Paris and not go there, so I waited until 6pm (reduced rate to 6E) and am totally happy to have visited. It's true that it's only a museum like any other, but at the same time, it's really not! For one, it has 60,000sqft...not exaclty a standard size museum, and it was the Royal Palace for thousands of years!!! It therefore has a great history behind it, which is highlighted by a couple of exhibitions ( unfortunately, the "History of the Louvre" exhibition was closed - to my great dismay), but the "Louvre Médiéval" was opened, where they show original sections of the building, with the donjon, other sections. Very cool!
The sheer size of the building and number of different rooms made orientation sometimes a bit difficult (kinda like a treasure hunt I felt! hehehe) Anyway, as a result, anyone "on the move" had their nose solid in the map of the museum (me included). It was funny to see!

I also visited the VERY extravagant Appartements de Napoléon.



I used to be annoyed at the Catholic church for being so rich (all the gold, precious stones; etc), but seeing the castles and reading about habits of the Monarchy....I think it's outrageous the life of opulence they lived while the people often was so poor! This sentiment will probably only be re-inforced by my visit of the Chateau de Versaille tomorrow! No wonder there was a revolution and hte Monarchy never made it's way back in France!

Let's begin with pics of the outside of the building, which is absolutely massive and entirely coverely in fine carved details...for some reason, I focused on the glass pyramids more than the rest...




Then some "must see" once inside (it’s very great that we were allowed to takes pics for most of the exhibitions!!):

Venus de Milo, from an unknown sculptor, she has become a chef c’œuvre because of the unusual angles of her body (semi twist, as well as the drape almost falling from her hips).

La Joconde, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, as everyone kept telling me it's small, and not that nice....they're wrong! It's a normal size (I had come to expect something like 1x1sq feet-that's why I post this pic, to show you the size) and it is actually quite mesmerizing (despite the crowds constantly around it)...some people say that it's really a man, etc....I don't think so, in real life, there's something that pictures don't capture...a sort of feminity....not to mention the frame, which is gorgerous, seems like fine carved wood...

This is called Les Noces de Cana....but I wonder if it's not was we have come to know as The last supper.....At first glance, I giggled, as Jesus (or the guy in the middle), from the angle I initially saw it, had a face, quite comical, that said "oh fuck, what have I put my self into this time!" hehehe, from other angles he looks peaceful or sad....

Les Joyaux de la Couronne....more opulence! There's a diamond there that 640 carats!!!! and a broche (approx 10cm in diameter!!!)with thousands of diamonds given by a king to his son....who the F needs that!!! (well, clearly, need was not an issue here!)

There was also a great exhibition of an Egyptian medical parchemin written on papyrus recently retrieved from a private collector (one of 7 known in the world), dating back more than 4000 years!!! Pictures were not allowed, but there was a ton of information on the medical profession in ancient Egypt, and we could feel the excitement of the archeologists through the various descriptions, explanations and translations of the document. Very cool.

This concludes my visit of the Louvres. I obviously didn't see everything (it's impossible), but picked what I think are the best bits and therefore was very happy with my choice. There was a lot of people, but it never felt too crowded, which was also great.

Last pic, I was on my way to the tallest building of Paris, so see the town at night, but at the same time I didn't really want to go (the 9.5E to get up is outrageous - in my opinion) as it would have put me badly over budget. As I got off the bus, I got this great view of the Eiffel tower (the main thing I wanted to see at night, so I took this pic for free! yay!). Anyway, I'll see Paris from the top the the tower (my 5E rule is kinda out the window here in Paris) today.


Last adventure of yesterday -but not least- has to do with the metro. I was told that I should get a "Carte Orange" which, for 16.20E/week, gives unlimited access to all metro and buses for a certain period of time. I was also told to bring a picture, as the card has your pic on it...alright, I still have some left from Thailand. I go to the counter and ask for a carte orange....the guy tells me "it's only good till Sunday", I leave on Sat night, so I said ok. He gives me a little coupon....I'm like..hmmm, no card, no pic...the system must have changed.... so I take my little coupon and use it all day to get access to the metro. Toward the end of the day, I get to a random control station, where they ask for proof of access. I show my little coupon, and the woman asks me for my Carte Orange...I point to the little coupon and say it's there...she starts explaining that this is the coupon, but to use it I must have the carte orange, with the pic and all...I play dumb and ask why the guy at the counter didn't tell me this, bla bla bla, I'm only a tourist here for 4 days, etc. She says I should have known, and the fee is 40E (!!!!) payable on the spot, cash, credit or bank card (!). In my head I decide there's no way I'll pay that, and luckily, I only had 2E left on me (and my bank card hidden in my purse, but I didn't tell her that), and no ID (as I left that stuff hidden at Julien's), so I keep gently but firmly arguying with her, until she called her supervisor, we talk a little more, repeated the same story, and he let's me get away with it (hehehe).
So anyway, I quickly added my pic to the card she gave me and am now fully compliant (except that the Carte Orange is not for tourists, that's something else she kept repeating), as we should know that we must buy a more expensive card (F that!). I'll probalby be able to get away with it if it becomes an issue, but I think it'll be fine....hehehe freaking French and their stupid rules! I had often head about their stupid/overwhelming bureaucracy and got my first glimps there! Hehehe

Well, off to visit more of Paris!


Posted by Mistrale 03:02 Archived in France Comments (0)

What's next, and other random thoughts

semi-overcast 20 °C

Written on July 22...

Ahhhh, finally I have a plan!!!

Arrivée à Paris le 24 en soirée (Ze-Bus)
Départ de Paris le 28 en soirée pour Marseille (train)
Départ de Marseille le 31 pour Lyon (train)
Départ de Lyon le 4 pour Grenoble (train)
Départ de Grenoble le 8 août en mi-journée pour Londres (Ryanair).

A flight from Grenoble was 1/5 of the price of a train back to Paris than Paris-London! Crazy!
This plan only gives me a few days in Paris, but I've heard it's very expensive there, and anyway, I figure that even if I never get to visit all of France again, a visit of "Paris only" remains highly possible, so it's all good. On a bright note, I get to visit beautiful Marseille, where apparently the Mistral blows (hehehe, since this could be misinterpreted, FYI the Mistral is a wind in France, cold and strong! :-P, so anyway, I'm somewhat anxious to see the reaction of people there when I tell them my name !!!! hehehe

I then heading to the town of Lyon; which is apparently quite beautiful and worth visiting, then off to Grenoble which I like for the name (and it's in the Alpes, and a friend of a friend; the girlfriend of the guy I'll be staying with in Paris, lives). I'll only be in London for a couple of days, but seeing how bad the Euro is already hurting me, and the fact that French people tell me they can't afford it there (!!), I hope to survive the 2 days in London (hehehe, should be ok). Then, finally, it's home !!! yay!!! well, kinda, mom's place for a while, then move to residence... which I'll eventually call home for sure.

So anyway, couple of stories I want to remember:

We sometimes hear of the immigration tensions in France, but I have to admit that I have only seen a couple of examples of it. 1- I overheard a few homeless people talking and they kept repeating "les arabes et les noirs"... alright, whatever. 2-Then in Bordeaux, I kept buying water at this convenience store, so the guy (clearly from arabic descent) and I started chatting once. He said "vous êtes québecoise?", I said yes, and I asked if he was french, half joking, expecting a "mais bien sur!" or something. His answer surprised me, as much for the content, as for the speed at which it came out. He said "nooon! je suis Tunisien", so I said "vous n'êtes pas français?", he said "no", I asked if he was officially a French citizen, and he said "oui, mais vous savez..." ... wow, it was a clear display of "feeling of non-assimilation" and it made me wonder if our "minorities" in Canada would have the same answer... I left it at that, but almost asked him why he came and stayed here then (but if you've ever met someone from a 2nd or 3rd world country, it's almost the national dream to go live overseas, so it was kind of a stupid question. It would have been better to ask if he knew what was awaiting here before coming....as this is something I wonder every time I take a cab driven by an Indian, or go to the Dry-cleaner, etc).
Anyway, the 3rd incident was in the tram. The system is as follow: you buy a ticket at a stand at the tram stop, and validate it on the tram (by inserting it into a little machine in the tram). The system is basically control-free, except for the controllers, who, like in Vancouver, roam the trains, and most of the time you don't see them, but sometimes they just appear and check everyone's ticket. Well, 3 black teenagers had their ticket but didn't validate them (once validated the ticket is only good for 1 hour), when they saw the controller get on, one of them rushed to the nearest "validator-machine" and proceeded to validate the tickets. The controller saw him do it, so he said that this wasn't how it's to be done, and they had committed an infraction and bla bla bla! I honestly don't know if he would have done the same if the culprit was a middle-aged white woman (i.e), but they black guy argued for a while and they said, "c'est ça, c'est parce que je suis noir!" I was unfortunately getting off at that point, so I didn't hear the response, but I also don't think that it was entirely justified (the it's because I'm black comment).... this is, so far, the extent of my witnessing of "racial inequalities", despite the fact that the hostel in Bordeaux was in a clearly impoverished black/arabic neighborhood (aka ghetto'ish)

To finish on a brighter note: hehehe in La Rochelle, I realised that I hadn't had any cheese yet, which is sort of a crime when in France (in my mind at least) hehehe, so I bought a slice of brie and some bread, ate most of it for lunch and put what was left in my bag. Later that day, I kept getting whiffs of stinky feet, and happened to be wearing my sandals which sometimes give me "not so good" feet odour (hehehe) so back at the hostel, I washed my sandals and my feet, but was puzzled by the fact that neither stunk... whatever, I then went to bed and had yet again a nasty whiff, re-smelled my feet... everything was good so I went to sleep (note, I always sleep with my purse next to me on the bed). The next morning, I had to pack for the trip to here, so I started loading and unloading the stuff in my purse, only to take out the cheese and bread and get a REALLY strong feet scent! hehehe it was the cheese which hadn't kept too well in my bag!!! hehehe end of story! hehehe


P.S. Laundromats are FREAKING expensive here!!! Like 4-6E for a load!!!!!!! I had to do too much laundry for my usual system (wash the clothes of the day while I take my shower (clothes not on me of course!! I have a bar of clothes soap that I bought in India, and just incorporate clothes washing inbetween "me" washing) so I decided to do a load at "the bargain price" of 6.2E for wash and dry, for a load of up to 8kg... I though "I don'th think I even have 8kg worth of clothes..." so I washed everything I have with me... it's good to have all "machine-washed and dried" clothes for the first time in months!!! hehehe

Posted by Mistrale 06:29 Archived in France Comments (0)

La Rochelle and Tours

with pics...

sunny 21 °C

Written on July 21 …

Well, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I only have enough (barely enough), to be in the towns I visit, aka, not do any sort of activity or visit or tour that require any form of payment (I’ve put a 5E limit, but realistically, nothing is less than 10E, and even that’s rare). I feel much better now that that’s settled (kinda like when I decided I wouldn’t eat Kristen’s sweets anymore - it’s liberating) as I don’t feel like I should wonder if an activity is worth it or not, if I should do it or not, if I’ll regret it if I don’t do it…. Now it’s so very simple, if it’s more than 5E, it’s not happening. As such, I’m somewhat only scouting for my next visit (where I’ll make sure to have a budget of 100E/day, as opposed to my current 40).

So anyway, here are a few pics from Bordeaux. I’m not taking very many pictures, as people are not very remarquable (just like us really, at least on picture) and, well, a building is a building… and once again, you can easily go to Qc city if you want to get the feel (travelling has really made me realize that we have it all in Can, except for India, most of I’ve seen/done so far I could have seen/done, with light variations, somewhere in Canada!).

"Si j'avais les ailes d'un ange, je partirais pour... Québec!" (French-QC song)

It's nice to see the contrast of the new tram in front of the old cathedral.

This was a fairly common sight, the old street names used to be carved in a brick of the house at the corder of that road. Here we have the original name "Rue Royale", which was renamed "Rue de la Liberté" during the revolution (Freedom fries anyone?? hehehe), and is now something else.

This is just a building, called Place des Douanes (Bordeaux used to be the most important port of the region, and this place is right in front of the water) where the buildings still have the same function as hundreads of years ago!!! I visited Bordeaux on a walking tour (before ,y resolution to not tqke more tours), and I must admit that it was very interesting to hear about the history and purpose of certain landmarks. For example, the guide talked about the architects that designed that part of town, a fqther and subsequently his son, why the buildings qre in the shqpe they are, etc. I forget most detqils, but it was very interesting.

Anyway, I then visited the city of La Rochelle, which was very pretty, but mostly (read: entirely) living off tourism, which means that everything is overpriced and geared toward families and couples. This brings me to my second resolution for when I come back, it’ll definitely be with someone, preferably a “my man”, as Europe really feels like a place to visit with someone. I’ve met quite a few other lone travellers, but I know I would be having a better time right now if I was with someone I’m close to. Anyway, no biggie, as this is only a “scouting trip”, right? . Back to La Rochelle, here are a few pics.


La Rochelle is known for it's fort and port, and has always been known to be a bit of a rebel town, electing a mayor while everyone was still under the monarchy, being protestant when all of France is catholic, and stuff like that. It was also the capital of France (or was it Bordeaux...?) for a while, until it was moved to Paris.

Anyway, undeniably, the best time was to watch, over and over again, parents getting angry with their kids (who indeed literally bounced off the walls)… travelling with young kids… hmmm maybe not such a good idea! Hehehe I don’t know if the French have too high expectations, or if their kids were really that bad (I’ve seen quite a few who actually were!!) but it didn’t seem fun for them. All I could hear as I was walking around was “don’t do this, come back, do that, that’s IT, it’s the last time I tell you!, no you’re not getting this or that or that or that! Hehehe good times! Hehehe

Last pic of La Rochelle, simply because I hadn't seen a nice sunset in a while:

I still had the bad cold in La Rochelle and felt very bad about coughing and tossing and turning (being in a room with 5 other people), so I barely slept both nights. However, I must mention that I was in a room with French girls (for the first time), actually I should say women (late 20’s and mid 30’s), which was sooo much better than being with the younger people of before (I’m not much in the party mood, can’t afford it) and these women actually wore normal clothes (as opposed to the “skankyness" of the younger crowd).

I left La Rochelle on the Ze-Bus (I LOVE that name, it’s actually how the French sound when they try to say “the”hehehe), which dropped me in a town called Tours, where, oh how wonderful, I have a single room!!!!! For 18E/day (aka pretty much same price as the other Auberges), this Auberge de Jeunesse only has single rooms (actually becomes a student residence during school time)! I’m staying here 4 nights and couldn’t be more ecstatic about my accommodations!!! Furthermore, they don't kick us out during the day (all the other places so far would block access to the dorms from i.e 10-4 or 11-5 for cleaning -which was kind of annoying, specially for sick me). Now I can, sleep in, go back for a nap anytime, toss and turn, blow my nose as loud as I want (I’m still quite sick), cough, go to the bathroom (shared, but whatever) as often as I want, all without bothering anyone at all. This type of room is pretty much what I’ll have for the coming year in Residence at U of Montreal, so I’m happy to see that it’s totally satisfying!
So anyway, I’m starting to feel better already (or maybe it’s just the medication I got at the pharmacy…) and I think I’ll be fully back up and running by the time Ze-Bus picks me up on Tuesday. We will then go see some castles, before getting dropped off in Paris, where I’ll probably be staying with the boyfriend of a friend of a friend (sounds sketchy, but is not! Hehehe). That should allow me to save a bit of $$ (aka not go over budget for once!), while meeting some French people (they are sooo funny to hear when they speak, they sound exactly like in the movies, with their “oh la la” or “c’est la galère” hehehe. After 4-5 days in Paris, I still have 7-8 days where I have to decide where to go…. I plan on finalizing my itinerary on Monday at the latest, buy all my tickets and reserve all my hostels, and just enjoy the rest of the trip.
Tours is known for being a student town (big U here), as well as the main centre for the Loire region. It's nice to be in a "real" town (not only touristic), and just walk around and stuff. I heard that they have a 7E card which grants access to all the museums, as well as a walking tour of the old town... it exceeds my 5E limit, but by so little, and for seemingly such a good value! I'll let you know what I decide.

Well, that's that for that.

P.S. It's freaking cold here!!!! It'd kind of ok in the sun in the afternoon, but there's always a cool breeze and it gets freaking cold as soon as the sun disappears! It's apparently once of their zorst summer in years, and I agree, it does't feel like summer!!

Posted by Mistrale 06:38 Archived in France Comments (0)


Vive la France!!!

sunny 30 °C

Written on July 17....

First of all, I thought that the keyboards in Spain were messed up, but the French one take the cake!! There is pretty much not a single key in the same place as "our keyboards", which means that I type like a grand-ma who's just been put in front of a keyboard for the first time!!!, with the exception that my fingers automatically go for the "old" key location on pretty much every keystroke! arrgghh!! You thought there were a lot of typos in my blogs before!!! (well at least it forces me to read them before posting them... I guess! but what a pain!!!) Furthermore, they've configured the PC here (at the hostel) so that we basically can't do anything with it other than Internet and Word... aka hid the Start button so we can't play in the control panel...

Anyway, other than that I'm very happy to be in France and I'm totally enjoying being able to understand anything anyone says at anytime! It feels so free and easy!!! Well, free in the sense of "not trapped", not in the sense of inexpensive, because free it is not!!! Gees!!!! I didn't take surfing lessons in San Sebastian because they were 50E/day, so imagine my face when I heard that a day of going around wineries and wine tasting was 85 (!!!!) E !!!! I could have gone on a 1/2day for 30E, but by the time I had wrapped my head around the idea, the tour was full... oh well, I guess I'll gust have to go in the Okanagan (or whenever I come back to France, which is bound to happen anyway); So instead I took a walking tour of the Old Bordeaux, which was quite nice and instructive. I got a few decent pics to post some other time (the PC here is -not surprisingly- locked in a wooden box).

However, despite my relief at being in a country where I can fully communicate, I must admit that I'm very tired...it may be from the massive cold that kept me in bed all day yesterday (or maybe I got the cold because I'm tired...), but I think it's still the "having to plan transportation & accommodation in a foreign city, pack my stuff and go every other day" syndrome... It doesn't help that I didn't have a guide book yet (until today) and that the one I ended-up with it not that great at all... I found out that there is a reason why Lonely Planet is so widely used, it's because it's BY FAR, the most comprehensive and useful and user friendly guide out there!!! Coming a far second is the Michelin guide, but it barely compares... Unfortunately, I couldn't find a single edition of LP France, in English or French, anywhere. It seems the French prefer to sell guides for every single region separately (not exactly useful!!!), so I ended-up with a Reader Digest guide; with decent maps and a stupid little tourist blurb on every region/city (no "how to get there" or "hostel/hotel listings" though!!!), so I feel a bit left alone on the "find a place to stay" front. Luckily, the Auberge de Jeunesse are everywhere here, and apparently invariably the cheapest option; so I just find the one in my next destination, call and book (knock on wood, been lucky so far with bed availability). However, in these places, I always end-up in the dorms, which I also think I have to get used to. I find sharing sleeping quarters with 4 to 6 people a bit draining, but I'll get used to it I guess (double unfortunately, in the Auberge de Jeunesse, they separate girls and guys dorms, so I don't even get eye candy...That must be why my batteries are so low! hehehe

Nevertheless, the French people are very nice, very friendly and welcoming. Today I got a hair cut (at the only "no name, not fancy and therefore not expensive" place I found. It was a small salon, and my hairdresser had been there 17 yrs! She knew all her clients by name, their history, the whole thing! So cool!!!
Well, that's that for that, heading off to La Rochelle tomorrow and from then I've booked a "kind of tour", with ze-bus; where they drive around a loop, through certain cities, and we get to get off wherever we want and stay for however long we want in each city, and just hop on the next bus (generally a couple of days later). Furthermore, they reserve places in the local Auberge de Jeunesse for us, which I hope will alleviate my "fed-up'ness" over the next 4-8 days!!

Posted by Mistrale 11:25 Archived in France Comments (0)

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