I have been busy touring around, and am just now getting the time in front of an internet-connected computer to update this journal and the gallery. Thank you all for your patience (well, most of you have been patient), and I'll hope to have more up soon.
A quick recap of recent events:
- The Italy tour at the end of October. Basically, all the entries for the second half of October are now available.
- A trip to Paris the first weekend in November, with Bri.
- Visitors in November; we show others around Bordeaux, now that we are experts.
- Another exciting ride through the Pyrenees, with our primary goal being the Dali museum in Figures, Spain.
The car has been returned, so we are not quite as mobile. The plans for the near future are to head up to Paris and prepare for the rest of the family to visit in December. We have our apartment until December 20th, at which time I'll be heading off for some travels with Laura (my sister, for those that have forgotten or don't know) before winging away to sunny South East Asia in mid-January.
Well, today I returned our plucky little Renault Clio with its first 12,700km. That is an average of 230km a day over the time we had it, which helped me realize why I still felt like I was moving even on days when we didn't go anywhere.
I can recommend the Eurodrive program to anyone visiting France for any extended period. It was hassle free (mind you, I didn't get in any accidents) and required almost no paperwork on my part.
Apparently this program is quite popular, and ends up making a signifincant contribution of cars to the French market. Renault deals something like 25,000 cars per year through this program, Peugeot 20,000, and another manufacturer (can't remember) some smaller amount. In Bordeaux, the cars are leased by a lot of surfers.
The guy I dropped the car off with was nice enough to take me back into town with him (in Bordeaux, the car had to be picked up and dropped off at the airport). He is a big fan of Canadians as he had a longtime Canadian friend who worked at the Paris embassy.
This is after the fact, but I just wanted to say congratulations to Adam and Erin on the birth of their son, Anson.
First up in our tourtoday: the Catacombs under Paris. They had these tunnels,
and at some point, the city was filling up with too many graveyards, so
somebody had the idea to exhume them all and put them underground. This
makes for a really interesting visit if you get the chance. The descent
is 20m via a tight spiral staircase, so you feel like you are very deep
underground (well, I guess you are, even beneath the metro). There are
bones from five to six million former Parisiens down there, with
accompanying engraved slabs with philosophical and/or pithy expressions
No visit to Paris is complete without a stroll along the Champs Elysees.
We made the famous walk from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe,
and were then ready for a couple of beers before meeting up with Nicolas
Nicolas took us to a restaurant called Entrecote, just off the Champs
Elysees. The specialty there is beef with fries with their tasty sauce
(which must be at least half butter). Very, very good.
Bri and I were treated to a walking tour by our host Nicolas. We several
of the usual Paris sights . . . the gallery offers a better recount.
Nicolas was most helpful in that he knew how to get us into the Sorbonne,
yet another oldest university in Europe. This was cool because I know somebody who went there (hi Megan!) and wanted to check it out, but it is
not exactly a place where you just waltz in to tour around. So we pretended
to be students (there was a conference of some sort, so it wasn't too tricky)
and checked it out. It's another of these places, like the university in
Bologna, where I can't believe people actually attend classes. But there
Nicolas then had to go home, and left us on our own to head to the Eiffel
Tower. I did not do well with the height, which was compounded a bit by
the fact that we only had enough money to take the stairs, as opposed to
the lift. It also meant we only went as high as the second stage, but
perhaps we'll get to the top next time.
That night, it was a gin and tonic party at Nicolas' place and we got to
meet several of his friends. One of the guys, Francois, would enter the
room, and lament in an over-the-top French accent "Oh que j'ai
soif!", which turned out to be some sort of in-joke with these
guys. It cracked me up every time he said it (which is a lot of times
since we all needed a lot of refills).
This was not the most exciting day. We got decent weather for our drive
back to Bordeaux, and collapsed at home after our 10 day road trip.
We got up early enough for a walking tour around Sienna. I got some
decent pictures and Brian happened upon some sexy grappa at one of the
local shops (also available: sexy pasta).
The day's plan was to see San Gimignano, then drive through Pisa (of course
to see the tower), pick Claus up in Genoa, and get back over the French
border to spend the night in Nice in preparation for the return to
Bordeaux the next day. As a lucky coincidence, I would also meet up
with a friend in Nice who happened to get in the same day.
The rain made this plan a bit more difficult. Our walking tour through
San Gimignano was quite wet, though it is a pretty little place. The drive
to Pisa (and in Pisa) was awful, with poor visibility and slow traffic
(not to mention confusing road signs; Italy makes France seem easy). The
Leaning Tower was . . . leaning . . . but we basically just stayed long
enough for a walk around the surrounding square and a couple of pictures
as we had to get to Genoa. This was again a bit slow, though the worst of
the rain was behind us. Claus got in on time, though, and we showed up
almost on time, so it remained for us to get lost heading out of Genoa
before finally making it to Nice. Genoa to Nice is a notable drive in that
it is almost entirely a sequence of tunnels and bridges for a couple
We found a hotel in Nice run by a British lady and her husband. These
sorts of places attract English speakers, so it maybe wasn't a huge
surprise when I returned from going out for coffee that there was a
drunken Australian guy making tea. He offered me some, and we had a chat
about our travels. He was on the road with two friends in a camper van
(the hotel was a special treat on account of one of their birthdays), and
they would basically just park it, or get a proper campground a couple
night a week, and of course drinking all the time. He was locked out of
the room as his friends had not returned (they got separated and he either
left or was asked to leave the bar, I don't think he really knew). I told
him I'd be visiting Australia next year, and he had a suggested itinerary
for me, with the insistence that I "definitely go to Tazzie" (he is
Tasmanian, which also accounts for his very thick accent; when I first got
there, I didn't catch what he was saying in French until I realized he was
speaking drunken Tasmanian English).