Our flight left very early on the 27th February 2012, so to avoid the hefty taxi bill in the morning, we went to Gatwick airport the night before. The 5 hours wait was spent sleeping on the floor, which was surprisingly more comfortable than we thought it would be! We boarded our flight and before we knew it had arrived early in Amsterdam. We decided to stay one night and went through to the Eurolines office to buy the bus ticket to Paris. After that was done we roamed the streets enjoying a familiar place and had our Holland treats from Albert Heijn (cheese rolls and karne melk). Merijn and Els finished work around 5pm, and it was awesome to see them again and catch up over a few bottles of wine.
The next day we crawled out of bed a little later than planned, but it actually worked out perfectly to visit Anne for lunch. She was working on her apartment the last time we had been in Amsterdam so it was really great to see it all kitted out and looking homely.
Our bus left that night at 11pm from Amstel station. We had been told that it was a busy ride and should jump onto the bus as soon as it arrived to make sure we got a seat together. We did as was suggested and got nice seats right up front of the bus. The ride was relatively dull so we nodded off now and again, with a short pit stop for a good stretch at a petrol station in Belgium. Before we knew it we were in Paris at 6am with nowhere to go!
|Rolling around Paris...|
Our first step was to get into the heart of the city itself as the bus station was about 15km northeast of the city centre. A very nice man started talking to us while we were at the map trying to figure out the transport system. He’s a salesman for a hotel in the city, but had free maps and a couple of good points on where to go. It’s just a pity that we were both so rude to him in the beginning and eventually he said “I’m for free, the hotel pays me, I just want to help you!”
Free map in hand we headed into the subway, bought our 2 day public transport travel pass and figured out what stop to go into first. We found the hotel he suggested, but having done a little research before we knew we could find somewhere cheaper. Back onto the streets of Paris (now 7:00am) we headed to our first tourist spot – the Bastille – to find a coffee shop with free wifi.
|Top of the Bastille|
Now understanding where we should head for cheaper accommodation we lugged our bags around (which was not fun) and eventually found a place which we thought was our best deal. They allowed us to leave our luggage there until the room was available, so off we went to explore Paris! Woodstock Hostal is located in the 7th Arridosement (neighbourhood) of Paris about a 10 min walk from the Sacre Cour. We figured getting a panoramic view of Paris and seeing this world renowned church would be a good place to start!
|Steps up to Sacre Cour|
At the bottom of the steps we were instantly spotted as tourists and before we knew it had two guys from Kenya tying bracelets onto our wrists telling us stories about ‘Hakuna Matata’. We eventually got it through to them that we had been to their country and wouldn’t be purchasing their artwork – jeepers we did better at avoiding those guys while we were in Africa!!
The church was incredible, and we were thrilled that the entry was free! We marvelled at the architecture and spent ages staring out onto Paris trying to figure out what direction the Eiffel Tower was – until we spotted the map pointing all the tourist spots out! Feeling super hungry now we went on the search for food and head closer to the Seine River to catch a glimpse of the symbol of Paris!
|View from Sacre Cour|
Doing our usual of wandering in the general direction we think we should be heading, we passed tons of beautiful architectural designs, pretty streets and occasional historical buildings. It took a few more turns and twists than we needed to and we bumped into a protest along the way before eventually stumbling upon the Louvre!
|Protest we stumbled into|
|Odd decoration on a wall...but we like it!|
|Attempting an imitation|
Nick spotted the Eiffel Tower first…but it was quite cloudy so we could only just make out the top. As usual we stood amazed, took tons of usual tourist poses and lapped up the few rays of sunshine that were sneaking through the clouds in the Tuileries Garden.
|Our first sighting of the Eiffel Tower!|
|Busy square with lots of tourists|
|Spot the tourist ;)|
At one stage we found ourselves on one of the bridges over the Seine river entertained by the never ending attempts of the ‘ring scamster’ on all passing folk. He obviously doesn’t really concentrate on the faces and people he tries to scam, because after about 10min he tried to scam us again!
The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up on washing (unfortunately something that sneaks up at the most inopportune time!) That night we crashed hard after a delicious cous cous meal. Much more of Paris was waiting to be explored in the morning, so we jumped into bed to get ready for the early start.
|Seine River (Notre-Dame in the distance)|
|Stunning open pass|
|City of Looove|
|Fountain where Meryl Streep lost her phone in "The Devil wears Prada"|
|Arc de Triomphe|
|"Age of Aquarius..."|
The breakfast included in our rates was a little disappointing, but with tummies full we headed off to the train station to check times and charges for the train to Barcelona. From there we followed the Seine river past a zoo with furry creatures and kangaroos! We arrived at the Notre-Dame square with the other billions of tourists and joined the long queue to enter the church. There was a service going on, so we wandered quietly through.
|Such pretty architecture everywhere!!|
|Queue to get inside!!|
|Quite a statue!!|
|Next year Notre - Dame will celebrate its 850th anniversary|
Our lunch baguette was delicious as we continued our stroll along the river, passing a way more convincing ‘ring scamster’ and listening to the different international languages being spoken by all the tourists. The Eiffel Tower was more tucked away than either of us expected it to be…having come from along the river on the South Bank, but as we passed the last block of flats we were overwhelmed by what an impressive site it is! It was still quite cloudy and missy and the tip was still hidden, so we decided we would save going up the Eiffel Tower for the next time we visit the city (and we will be back!).
|Nick's Bridge :)|
|Lock your love in Paris|
|Peek a boo we see you!!|
|Cool vintage car used for food deliveries|
|Spotted the SA flag|
Having gone back to the hostal for a bit, we waited for the sun to set before heading back to the Eiffel tower to enjoy the lights at night! To get another perspective we also went to Champs Elysees to view the Tower. It was so beautiful that we stayed down there for quite some time. Our last site we planned to see that day was the Moulin Rouge, as it was Saturday night the bars were really busy and the streets were busy with people enjoying the weekend.
|Our room in Woodstock Hostal|
|Spectacular lighting on the Eiffel Tower|
|Eventually got it right!|
|Uhhhh....where are we again?!|
That evening for dinner we bought a bottle of wine, baguettes (with ham, cheese, bacon bits and tomato) and sat on the steps of the Sacre Cour enjoying listening to the music coming from nearby cars and watching the lights of the city sparkling!
|Get in my Belly!|
The next morning we took it easy, packed up our gear and headed down to the train station to buy our tickets. We put our luggage into storage at the train station and went in search for China Town! Unfortunately, we did not really research where it was so landed up wandering through a huge graveyard, through the streets of South Bank Paris and relaxed in the sun at a huge park. The more we wandered the more amazing buildings we bumped into, its difficult to explain each one!!
|Chilling in one of the many parks|
|hehe one for you Mrs V|
Our train left at 21:53pm from Austerlitz train station. The reclining seats were great, except that if the person in front of you also wanted to push their seats all the way back they were basically lying in your lap! Nodding off to sleep to the rocking of the train we made various stops before arriving in Port Bou, Spain.
We caught a local train from Port Bou to Barcelona which took about 2 hours. It was a pretty ride past the snow topped mountains, Spanish coastline, fields of plantations and small towns/ villages. By the time we got to Barcelona it was 10am, we found a tourist office, grabbed a map and headed down to the Marina. We bought our ferry tickets across to Palma and decided to find a spot with internet to catch up on emails etc. After all the walking over the past 5 days our feet were feeling a little battered and bruised, so we didn’t wander too far from the Marina in search for wifil. We found a great sports pub with interesting and old sports memorabilia and had a beer and shared a pizza for lunch.
|Lots of travelling...not much sleep = Crash!|
|Snow capped mountains|
|Rolling around Barcelona!|
|Killing time before our ferry to Palma|
The ferry ride across to Palma was great, we got to lay across four seats and spread out more comfortably.
|Before we realised the 4 seats behind us were available!!|