Back from Holiday
Just got back from overseas. Here are the e-mails we sent out from our trip -
Our trip - Paris - Day 2
Dear All, I'm just trying to get used to this French keyboard, dang it. It also doesn't seem to want to do line returns. Anyway, we're just starting our second full day in Paris. After a very long and fortunately uneventful flight we arrived in Paris to find a nationwide transport strike. We were just waved through customs, my belief is that the officials knew that we would be unable to escape the airport for sometime, so any contraband would have revealed itself by the time we got into Paris proper: We managed to get to our hotel by taxi, only to have to wait for three hours until the room was ready. We spent some of this time following the strikers who were marching in the main street just past our hotel to the Republican Square. I got some nice photos (I hope) of the protest and also of the bouncy castle that the protestors were curiously not availing themselves of: We could finally check into our room to discover that the Hotel Little gets its name from its shower recess. We have to grease ourselves up to be able to exit its tight confines which unfortunately removes all benefits of the shower. However this experience stood us well in getting on a Metro carriage in peak hour the next day. The next day - we went to the Louvre in the morning and probably saw about 0.5% of it - so we're going back. We will be going to Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower today. Better end this before my time is up. Having a great time.
Am continuing this from a cybercafe with a better keyboard (but still zwith keys in wrong place.)
Notre Dame is awe inspiring but a lesser known church Ste Chapelle has astonishing stained windows. Somebody should clean them up.
Will post from London next, where they will hopefully have normal keyboards. Au revoir. Iain and Llyn
Our Trip - Day 9 - London
Another week has flown by and it's time to let you all know that we're still having a wonderful time. And, yes, London has normal keyboards.
When last we conversed Llyn and I were about to visit the Eiffel Tower - well, we finally found it after getting off at the appropriate Metro station. You'd think that something like the Eiffel Tower would be fairly easy to find, but on leaving the Metro station we could only see a sign pointing vaguely towards it. Using our limited knowledge of Parisian geography we went to the bank of the Seine (where we thought the sign was pointing) to find - no Eiffel Tower. This was getting silly. Then we noticed, over the other side of the road, behind a building that was next to the Metro station a huge mass of girders, looking vaguely Eiffel Tower shaped. Then we crossed the road to find the girders disappearing into the sky and forming a rather familiar shape. Next time we're in Paris I'm taking a metal detector.
The Eiffel Tower was also the first queue we have encountered so far. There are barriers set up to limit the number of people entering the top of the Eiffel Tower so it doesn't overbalance and collapse into the Seine taking the French Tourist industry with it. Also the French either don't know how to queue, or it infringes on the Liberte, Fraternitie, Equalitie equation which may explain why they all try to enter the same place at the same time. Unfortunately the metal barricades reminded me too much of a sheep run and I was paranoid we were going to be drenched and docked at the other end.
The view from the top is wonderful and reveals an amazing piece of city planning that Sydney could have learned from. Paris has a modern business centre (Le Defence) but it's way, way, way over the other side of town from the historical centre of Paris. One has the impression that if the Eiffel Tower was in Sydney it would be surround by high rise hotels and banking headquarters.
Enough about the Eiffel Tower.
The next day we walked to the Pompidou Center, a building that looks like it's turned itself inside out. It contains a fair amount of modern art but not a whole lot of substance. Though it does have a couple of Tanguy's - one of my favourite surrealist painters. Our favourite work is actually outside - a mechanical fountain designed by Jean Tinguely and Niki de St-Phalle that appears to contain all the losing contestants from Robot Wars (and Mae West's lips as well).
From the Pompidou Centre we inadvertantly followed the path of one of the mobs during the Terror to St Eustache (another bloody church) and then on to the Musee D'Orsay, another gallery we didn't see enough of. Though we did get to see the Impressionists and it has more famous (or at least recognisable paintings) then the Pompidou Centre.
The next day ( and our last full day in Paris) was reserved for a guilty pleasure - Parc Asterix. Yes those indomitable Gauls have built their own answer to Eurodisney. Due to our tender constitutions we didn't go on the more violent rides, but we did get a photo of Llyn with Asterisk and Llyn did get to meet a Golden Eagle after a falconery display. Mostly Parc Asterisk is very much like any other amusement park, only with the rides adapted to the characters from the books. Still it was fun and we hope to return there with kids who can go on the more bowel clenching rides.
The next day - London!
We took what is the equivalent of a short domestic flight in Australia - Paris and London are only 40 minutes apart by air. Again we were handwaved through Customs (we're bound to get a rude shock in Bermuda) and after meeting up with my old housemate Alison we were out of the airport in ten minutes.
Llyn has been trying to get rid of a cold that resurfaced in Paris, so we spent the next day just catching up with Alison and taking things easy, but we did get to go to Tesco's.
The next day - the British Museum. Like the Louvre it's just overpowering - there's far too much to see in one visit. We saw the Assyrian lions again and the Elgin marbles and the Sutton Hoo artefacts and then pretty much called it a day. Llyn calls the condition "visual skid" where you just can't take anymore in and you've reached the point where you're just glancing at priceless treasures.
And yesterday we finally got to use our London Passes and visited the Cutty Sark (who used to be a regular visitor to Australia), the Royal Observatory where we saw the most important watch in the world - H4 designed by John Harrison (for those who've read or seen Longitude) - a device that enabled Australia to be settled, so we're very grateful for its existence. We found a nearby church was designed by John Hawksmoor (one of my favourite architects) and held the body of Thomas Tallis (one of Llyn's favourite composers) and then we were off to the Tower of London. We were given a tour by a beefeater with immaculate comic timing and then saw the Crown Jewels - gosh they're purty. After too many damn stairs, we went home.
And today, more bits of London (St Paul's, Westminister Abbey and the Globe Theater) and then tomorrow we're off to Edinburgh.
Write to you again when we get back.
All the best,
Iain (and Llyn)
Our trip - day 16 - London / Edinburgh / London
How’s life without a head of state?
Anyway, enough of your news. After knocking off the last installment, we headed off for Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. There was a very lonely anti-war protest still outside, that was good to see. We went to see the dead monarchs in Westminister Abbey and Llyn stomped on a few (like Oliver Cromwell) just to make sure they were dead. We took a ride on a double decker bus. Whoopee! Then we visited St Paul’s which is currently undergoing restoration and refurbishment (apparently they’re going to put a Starbuck’s under the dome) and then down the Millennium Bridge to the Globe Theatre on the Southbank to meet Alison (ex-flatmate who we are staying with in London).
Alison had kindly arranged tickets to Richard II for us at the Globe in thankfully covered seating as, in true London spirit, it started raining on the groundlings during the performance. The Globe is a faithful reproduction of the original Elizabethan theatre which means, minimal protection from the elements and hard narrow benches for seats, for those gentry which can afford them (such as, well, us.) Fortunately the toilet facilities weren’t Elizabethan.
The production was good, but Mark Rylance’s Richard II was a little too effeminate for our tastes. Still it was much better than what else was on in London’s theatres – Toyah Wilcox in “Annie Get Your Gun” and two musicals based on popular bands – “Our House” based on Madness songs, and “Queen – The Musical” which speaks for itself. As “Queen – The Musical” was co-written by Ben Elton it made sitting in the open air watching a 300 year old play even more attractive.
The next day we took the train up to Edinburgh. We met an Australian couple on the way up (when I say met, I mean they were sitting opposite us – we’ve had a weird run of other Australians whilst we’ve been in the UK, we appear to be encountering more than the statistical average.) We were met at Edinburgh station by my distant cousin Joss, who is a living advertisement for life in Scotland (she’s in her eighties, going on forty.) We took our gear up to the car where we met Mac her husband and then off to their place in the charming village of Roslin, just outside of Edinburgh.
The next day, off to the Castle. We stopped by and saw Greyfriars Bobby, both his grave and his statue before the Castle. When we got to the Castle it started to rain heavily and we decided to revise our itinerary to include more roofed establishments. We had a taste of haggis in a nearby tourist trap (it was nice, but nothing to write home about, so ignore this sentence, I guess) and then off to the nearby whiskey centre to get drunk and pick fights – or rather pick up a souvenir for Llyn’s mother. Walked to the nearby National Galley and saw some great paintings by Scottish artists we’d never heard of, and some by Titian who we were familiar with. Then a long walk down the parade of tourist traps known as the Royal Mile (we were able to resist everything except the fudge shops, the Museum of Childhood and a second hand children’s book store) before winding up at the Queen’s Gallery for the Faberge exhibition (which we didn’t know was on, so it was a real bonus.) Mac met us at the bottom of the Royal Mile and took us for a drive around Arthur’s Seat (who must have been really, really big if his seat is anything to go by) for some views of Edinburgh before we headed home.
The next day (I’ve really got to stop starting paragraphs with “The next day…”) Joss took us on a tour of the border lands. We saw a wind farm (or as we call back in Australia, Parliament. Get it, Parliament? Oh, suit yourselves), a stately mansion (unfortunately there was no Batcave I could find, but they may not let tourists in that area) and a lookout known as Scott’s View as it was Sir Walter Scott’s favourite view. And we could see why. There was a huge statue of William Wallace (who really doesn’t look much like Mel Gibson, despite the Braveheart impersonators that hang outside the castle to chase away English tourists) and then a picturesque trip home.
The day after that (is that better?) we visited the nearby Roslin Chapel. Joss is a guide there, so she showed us the crypt and took us up the surrounding scaffolding to the roof. Roslin Chapel is our favourite church next to St Chapelle as it contains several knights templar, a few carvings of Green Men and possibly the head of our Lord, Jesus Christ (well, according the guys in the nearby pub.) Behind the Chapel is Rosslyn Castle in a Enid Blytonesque landscape, but try as I might I just couldn’t manage to overhear smugglers saying “Blah, blah, blah, secret plans, blah, blah” so I gave up trying. In the afternoon we visited the Botanic Gardens that were really quite nice despite the absence of man-eating orchids.
Our last day in Edinburgh was spent at the Castle, where we found that the Edinburgh Tattoo is performed in an area roughly the size of a postage stamp. Then down the bit of the Royal Mile that we missed and into a pub named after John Logie Baird (kind of a pilgrimage for me.) The train journey to London took twice as long as expected. We met a marine who had just returned from Basra who was 19 going on 40. He was good company as we were delayed for two hours whilst a jumper was scraped off the track outside York. When we finally got to London the Underground station was closed due to a security alert. I knew I had left a bag behind somewhere. We had to take a bus to make our connection out to Alison’s place which we finally reached without further incident.
Yesterday we visited the treasures room at the British Library (a holy site for Llyn and pretty much the same for me.) She tried to make off with Jane Austen’s writing desk by replacing it with a laptop, but the guard wasn’t fooled. After this I must relate that I dragged Llyn across the Thames to the National Film Theatre only to find that their bookshop had been closed for at least a year and replaced by a glass cabinet. Llyn says the look on my face was priceless. Our next stop was the Tate Modern. Lovely building that somehow got filled with modern art. Then back to Alison’s place to catch up on some Buffy episodes that we had missed.
Today – off to Bermuda. Woo Hoo!
Iain (and Llyn)
Our trip - Day 20-something - Los Angeles written by Llyn
As just about everyone knows, Iain and I had to
separate at Bermuda. He's home now, and I'm in L.A.
with my friend (and Peter E's intended) Jenny.
We didn't like the separation bit, so imagine our
reaction when Iain gets home, and finds out that he
can enter the US. Excuse me, I'm going to find an US
immigration official to kick....
Iain will be doing a bigger update on Bermuda, but for
the record, Bermuda is lovely when the sun is out (2
day out of the 4 we were there). The wedding was
lovely, the bride beautiful and the groom handsome
(stop blushing Ross). The reception was magnificant,
and I've had some great fish. Luckily, the one day of
sunlight and gentle breezes was the day of the
wedding, so Julia didn't get blown off the point
(unlike the next day, which was fine but very windy.
The sparrows at the place we had lunch at, were flying
backwards, due to the strong wind).
A warning to anyone attending weddings overseas: don't
combine alcohol and jet lag. No good. Falling asleep
with your face in the soup is not done at these
US Customs starts in Bermuda, so after a hurried
goodbye to Geraldine (who went beyond the call of duty
and got up at 4.30am Bermuda time to get me to the
plane), I got frisked. Well, they looked in my
suitcase and carry-on bag, and decided I was not a
"risk". HEhehehehe, little do they know.....
No problems getting between planes at JFK. Long walk
though. Arrived in LA and was collected by my friend,
Jenny (Peter Eisler's intended for those in the know).
Met her family, and her cats.... All are very lovely
people (that includes the cats).
The next day we went up the mountains behind LA to a
cabin that Jenny's family has. The views and the light
is magnificent. We watched a video (Brotherhood of the
Wolf, interesting, but very silly in places), looked
at the night sky (finally, it's been cloudy everywhere
else). The next day we went up Mount Pinos and looked
at the views of mountains and pines, and I saw my
first blue jay (none of these birds in Aus.).
Jenny's 13 year old nephew is really sweet, and keeps
insisting that I go to the zoo to see the Australian
animals in case I'm homesick.
We drove back to LA, and I went to Borders. Not much
different to home really. Got a just out book by a
favourite author, and something for Iain...
We are off the beach today, will try to contact Ben,
and I fly out to Australia at 11.45pm (yurk!). Land at
7.30am Sat. I can't wait to see Iain. Miss him
Also looking forward to my own bed.
Llyn (and Iain if he were here)