I left my relative and moved to my Aunt and Uncle’s yesterday. My grandmother’s niece is very nice, and very welcoming, but I didn’t know her at all before this week. So I’ve moved on to relations I’m more familiar with. I do plan to see her again though.
In the morning I had thought to go to Christiania, but I took a wrong turn and ended up back on Stroget, sipping hot chocolate and people watching. Still cloudy and rainy, so I didn’t have a lot of chances to interact with the locals.
In the afternoon I took the train out to the suburbs and my uncle picked me up. We drove to his house and I saw my aunt for the first time in twenty years. We spent the rest of the day having tea and talking. A while later my cousin arrived. She’s nearly my age and it has been just as long since I’ve seen her. It’s been nice to catch up with relations. This has been a big year for long lost relatives.
Today my uncle took me to the Experimetium. It’s like the Odyssium, but bigger and better. Unfortunately it has the same problem: Too many kids hogging the fun exhibits. The water area was especially cool, and I dearly wish I had a chance to try the lock system. But no. Little children like to play with plastic boats in water.
The highlight was the dark tour. It was an exhibit you had to pay more for. Essentially you are made blind and have to interact with the world this way. The area is pitch dark, so you can’t see. You’re given white canes and then an actual blind person guides you through a park, a house, a street and finally to a café where you can buy drinks. I barely recognized the currency with light, so I had to let my uncle pay.
A late lunch of steak tartar. My cousin arrived again and we had dinner. Oh, and there was tea with wienerbrod. I am thoroughly stuffed.
I got to reminisce with my cousin about our grandfather. We have different memories of him. She could see him often, but not for long. Whereas I lived with him for a month, once a year. However, our common memory is that he was scary. But he was such a force of personality. I miss him.
Danish woman are attractive. I want to meet some. The guide book I had on Copenhagen said the best club was Rust. It caters to an older crowd, so it sounded promising. My relative didn’t think there would be many people out tonight because it was windy and raining. At midnight I got up, dressed and walked there. It took about half an hour. It wasn’t bad to start, but the rain got heavier and heavier.
She was right, there weren’t many people there. But I think that had more to do with the locked gate than the weather. I wandered to a bar that I remembered being recommended, though not highly. A bar that features drinking more.
I found myself in my usual mode at bars where I don’t know anyone: Wallflower. When I was thinking of going though I talked to a girl. Woot! A Swede who learned English in Ireland. It was a weird mixture of accents. We talked for some time. When she and her friend were leaving some men nearby high-fived me. They thought I was going to get very lucky. Sorry.
Honestly though, Danes look better than Swedes.
My mother lied to me.
I’m staying with my grandmother’s niece (there might be a better way of saying that) in Copenhagen. She’s very nice and is spoiling me rotten. Before I came, I was told that she lived far away from the interesting parts of the city. Not true. She is dead center of the tourist maps. There is a huge church covered in all the guides outside my bedroom window. (I better watch what I wear when I open the curtains in the morning.) This place is great!
Today I did a walking tour of the area. I went to the Stroget (walking streets) and looked at the shops and statues there. I tried to do all the things I used to do the last time I was here, so I made sure to check out all the toy stores. (I don’t know if I like the direction that Lego is going.) Unfortunately Tivoli is closed for the season. I did walk around it. It is not as much fun.
I also did the tourist things. For instance, I found another civic monument to climb; The Round Tower. This is only 35m tall, and I was told there are no stairs. And it is mostly a spiral ramp, but at the top there are 58 steps. Looks like a fun/dangerous place for a skateboard. I took some pictures from the top, but they aren’t going to turn out well. The weather has been cloudy with occasional rain. All my pictures will be depressing.
When I was young and my mother was driving to Copenhagen (usually to take my sister and me to Tivoli) I remember driving past a canal with colored houses. We never stopped. Now as an adult, I know it to be Nyhavn. I can stop and look. But there isn’t much to see.
I saw the Gefion fountain. When I first saw it I didn’t know the myth it was portraying. Now I do, but it seems smaller.
I did the requisite tour of the Little Mermaid.
The ferry crossing from Germany to Denmark. I had a chance to have wienerbrod and I took it. It was disappointing. It should be warm.
I’m sitting next to two Brazilians. I preferred the company from Berlin to Hamburg: A friendly German businessman.
The weather outside is cloudy and windy. I dutifully took some pictures but they aren’t inspiring.
Yesterday, I loaned my camera to a trio of young women and asked them to take pictures while I was doing karaoke. While downloading the pictures to my iPod today I noticed they took several pictures of themselves too.
I´ll leave the description of those ones as an exercise for the reader.
The other day, at the German restaurant, I had schnitzel in the Hamburg style.
The receipt called it “Hamburger Schnitzel”. Technically correct, but I feel like I’ve eaten at McDonald’s.
The roommate of unknown origin is Spanish. He is in Berlin to run the marathon this weekend. He claims to have run one in 2:35. I guess there is always someone faster.
This train, for instance, is faster than any I’ve been on. It makes the 300km journey from Berlin to Hamburg in 90 minutes. You can see the turbulence. Leaves are blown away by it. I feel a little nauseous from the leaning in curves (or is it from looking at scenery go by) but I wish I could go this fast when commuting between cities in Canada.
Surprisingly, the Germans make a good quesadilla.
My sense of direction is getting mixed up. Upon leaving a museum I started walking home. Then I (luckily) stopped for a rest. (I don’t want to kill my ankle again.) I looked at the apartments across the street and noticed the satellite dishes were pointed the wrong way. They should be facing the equator. Crud! I’m the one pointed the wrong way.
Then I got back to the hostel and went for a wander without a map. It ended poorly.
I miss the gird system.
Subways don’t help either. You come out of them with no idea which way you are facing. Berlin’s metro is still much better than Paris’ labyrinth. Each station was a two part maze. One maze to actually find the station. Another maze to find your train in the station. Berlin has non-cryptic signs to help you out.
I met my friend for lunch. I know him as a world famous DJ, but he does have a regular job. So lunch was all he had time for. He works right next to Checkpoint Charlie, so after I saw him off, I checked it out in more detail. I saw the Topography of Terror presentation on the Nazis. Then the museum on the wall.
It was all very depressing.
After the same roommates for two nights, the Brazilians have been replaced with a Peruvian and a Colombian and one of unknown origin. I don’t feel I can trust them. Especially when I returned to the room to find the door open and only a sleeping person to protect our belongings.
Berlin seems to be a party city. After all the museums and sightseeing, the best reason to come here is to go clubbing. Unfortunately, the best clubbing is on the weekends. During the weekday, there isn’t as much to do. So Sunday is the worst time to start being in Berlin.
Mind you, I can’t totally blame my timing. My local friend recommended a club that I could go to. It doesn’t really start being interesting until 1:00 AM though. A combination of fear of bars and that I was falling asleep at midnight meant that I didn’t go.
I took it easier yesterday and used the metro for transportation. I ended up in Charlottenburg palace, now a museum. But I didn’t find any compelling reason to go inside. There were no masterpieces I had to see, and the Egyptian exhibit had moved away.
Instead I wandered the gardens. They were very nice. It was hard to get Japanese-free pictures though. They tended to swarm. I would have liked to see one get attacked by the swan he was trying to pet. All that happened was him getting nibbled on the shoe.
This evening in the bar there weren’t many people I knew. So I started talking with two Italian girls who barely knew any English. Gestures were used a lot. They weren’t having a good time at the place, but I hope I improved it a bit.
They fled the scene while I was getting a drink.
I got directions to a nearby German restaurant. The guy at reception tried to convince me more Germans eat at Thai or Chinese places and that is where I should go for authentic German cuisine. Nice try.
I took the wrong way.
By the time I realized I was on the wrong street and made it back to the hostel it was too late. I have a phone call at nine o’clock and I want to be German punctual for that.
After, I will make attempt two for dinner.
I got a phone card so I feel more connected now. I phoned my local acquaintance at the wrong time. I need to phone back at nine. I did phone my parents.
I didn’t do much today, but I did do a lot of walking. After spending an hour and a half nerding on the Internet I discovered, as I walked back to the hostel that my left ankle hurt. I’ll rest it for awhile, but it has no right to give out on me.
I went to the Guggenheim museum because it is free on Mondays. After looking at it, they need to start paying people to visit. It consists of two rooms, and the smaller one is a gift shop. At present they are exhibiting a contraption made of plywood that appears to mass produce grass.
I then walked to the Jewish memorial. 2711 stone blocks laid out in a grid pattern. It would be a fun place to play in. It might have even been a playground. I don’t recall anything marking it as a memorial (I didn’t look too hard.) Not even names on the blocks. If it was on grass or dirt instead of cobblestones it would be ideal for tag or hide-and-go-seek. I wish they had made it a maze as originally intended.
I walked around Tiergarten, then to the Reichstag. After waiting in line for 45 minutes I got to go to the globe on top. It’s probably prettier at night, but I was there then, so I didn’t want to wait.
My roommates for this night are three Brazilian men and a Taiwanese girl?! I was not aware these were mixed gender dorms.
In the middle of writing my journal last night I found I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I closed it and went to sleep. For awhile. It’s hard to sleep bolt upright in a chair. You can’t stretch out because the car is filled with people.
On the bike tour I found myself trying to keep my eyes open.
I left the train station and took a bus to my reserved hostel. However the 2007 travel guide I used incorrectly stated the address. Actually it stated it fine. It just didn’t know it was no longer two hostels but one. And I went to the wrong location.
I was early, but I could store my luggage. I then walked to the TV tower, (The East Berlin attempt at Germany’s highest structure. Built by Swedes.) and joined the Fat Tires bike tour. It was well worth it. You ride bikes through Berlin, stopping every several hundred meters to see a new historical monument. And we saw them all. Old history (Brandenburg gate), Nazi history (the carpark over Hitler’s bunker), Communist history (Checkpoint Charlie) and current history (The new Reichstag). The guide was interesting and had good anecdotes. We stopped for lunch in Tiergarten. (I tried a diesel, but not even Coke can disguise the taste of beer.) The tour was also affordable.
I still have to figure out what I am doing tomorrow.
This evening I hung out in the hostel café and spent time discussing politics, treatment of aboriginals, Euro as an oil currency and other things. I represented the Canadian view against an Australian and an American.
I’m going to bed now. Hopefully I can sleep myself better. My roommates are three pre-university Australian boys and a Brazilian man.
Some background: Escaliers is French for stairs. Specifically the ones you climb a step at a time, like on a staircase. Not an escalator, although they sound similar.
To climb the stairs to the Eiffel tower you get in the line marked as “Escaliers – Stairs”. It is a much shorter line than the elevators. Most of the people in front of me are young and fit.
Except for the couple directly before me. This couple is middle-aged and overweight. Their chubby right hands each hold a plastic cup filled with beer. His hair is styled as a mullet and covered by an NFL baseball cap. I suspect they are Americans. They look rather dumb, but that may be me projecting. Or maybe not.
They dutifully wait in line, although the male does make forays around to investigate what is going on. Some glimmer of suspicion may have crossed his mind. Eventually the woman asks and attendant if this is the line for the escalator?! The poor Frenchman must hear the word for stairs and agrees.
I did the right thing and let them know there wasn’t an escalator here. I robbed myself of some good entertainment.
I saw the Contiki people off at 7:30 in the morning. My roommate slept through it. Most were hungover. I hope the ferry crossing to England isn’t too choppy. (Or do I?) When I took a farewell picture and said goodbye to the crowded bus, they chanted my name. I felt special.
I am now alone in Paris and I noticed the leaves starting to change color. I’m going to return to Canada in a different season.
I only started functioning after noon. I went to a nice internet café and caught up on my email and a bit of blog transcribing.
Then the Paris catacombs. Because those monks in Rome did not sate my need to see skeletons. The site was near my hotel so I walked there. Then down some stairs, quite deep. It starts out as a standard dungeon crawl then you come to where the bones are stored. And there are a lot of them; Stacked all along the walls. Not much of an artistic attempt but there are occasional moments. No flash photos, so it is hard to take pictures. Before the bones I got someone to take my picture. She then dropped the camera, lens first. It seems all right except for a small dent.
The exit was a third of the way back to the hotel. Then I still had four hours to kill.
I walked. I saw. I climbed.
The Eiffel tower. It took an hour to walk there. (Along the way a pigeon relieved itself on me. They are the lackey’s of the Pope. Just look at Venice.) Then I paid and started climbing.
329 steps to the first level. 671 total to the second level. 18 steps between the two floors of the second level.
After the climb, there wasn’t anything else to do. So the metro to the hotel. I grabbed my suitcase and then took the metro to the train station.
Right now I’m hurtling to Berlin. My coach is a poorer one. The ones with beds were already taken. My roommates are two Americans and three women from former Soviet states. They talk to themselves in a language I don’t know.
Yesterday evening there was a cabaret show and dinner. It was an optional excursion and easily the most expensive. I decided to pass on it. Most excursion meals have been more drinking binges, and the actual food isn’t always that great. You have to draw the line somewhere.
I had doubts when the bus driver said it was the best of all the excursions.
I still did something. After the cabaret they were going to go to an Irish pub and have a farewell drink. It was even next door to the Moulin Rouge. I would have dinner elsewhere and then meet them at midnight.
That was the plan.
It was also the night the Irish team was in Paris for the world rugby match. It didn’t matter who won or lost, the bar was filled with drunk Irishman. Real authentic ones too. Imported direct from Ireland.
The bar was way too crowded for the Contiki people to have a farewell party. It was a wall of people. Some got in and went to the back. Others fled to another bar across the street (where they charge 7.70€ for a Coke. We were split up and I wasn’t having a good time.
I guess this proves the vacation hasn’t worked yet. I haven’t loosened up. One thing goes wrong and I just want to leave. We were on the other side of town so we had to leave in groups via cab. So I waited with all the drunk people, slowly getting cranky.
I didn’t get to bed until 4:30. After falling asleep, my drunk roommate, who for the first time had his own key, knocked to be let in and then snored loudly as he got to sleep and I didn’t.
I might have enjoyed today more if I had not spent a large chunk of it queuing in line and trying to figure out the subway system But now I have my train tickets up until October 8th. I’m going to be using the Chunnel to go to Britain, and it is a LOT cheaper if I return from whence I came. So maybe I won’t go to Portugal but instead spend time in the Netherlands or Belgium.
I went to the Louvre today, but I left before I got overwhelmed. (I saw a few masterpieces, but there are many I missed.)
Arc de Triumph. Champ des Elysee. Pont Alexandre III. Notre Dame cathedral. I saw them all today. Now I am tired.
While on the Pont Alexandre III bridge, this local girl found a gold ring near me. It didn’t fit her, so she offered it to me. If someone had dropped it, I thought it should be left there so the original owner might be able to find it. So I put it back. The girl then asked for money for cigarettes.
Then, half an hour later, I watched almost the exact same thing happen to a co-tourist. Except my grifter spoke better English.
I’ll try and see more tomorrow. My train doesn’t leave until 8:00 PM. I think I’ll try for the catacombs. Maybe I’ll climb the tower.
We had a surprise today. After dinner we were given a tour of Paris in the bus. It was dark enough so that it was near impossible to take a decent picture from a moving vehicle. We did stop off at a telecommunications tower to get out and take pictures. It is quite pretty at night. And on the hour, it sparkles. I got stoked about the plan to come back tomorrow to go to the top. I was looking forward to climbing the stairs of another civic monument.
That plan is now shot to hell.
After we got back on the bus, the tour guide made an announcement. We were going up it now! At night when the lights of Paris are beautiful. At night when they don’t allow people to climb up the stairs.
Well worth it.
It’s a lot like a bank. You wait in line to go to the second level. There you wait in another line to get in the elevator to the top. Spectacular view! You can’t see distant landforms, but it truly is the city of lights.
After lingering at the top, I took the elevator back to the second floor. From there I could take the stairs down. You do get an interesting view from that perspective. I took a lot of pictures.
Then we continued the bus tour.
The next “stop” was the Arc de Triumph. Which was described to us as the craziest roundabout in the world. Then the William Tell overture was played in the stereo and the bus charged into the circle. We cut off several “lanes” of traffic as he headed for the inside. (That may have been how we are supposed to drive it…) A few circles and then out again.
We took a wrong turn on the way back to the hotel. So the bus did a poor U-turn. We sort of got stuck in it so our headlights beamed into a parked white van where some people were having sex. They waved back.
Apparently white vans with candles are the Parisian equivalent of Amsterdam’s red light district.
Our bus driver got lost coming into town. He drove around in circles in a roundabout while the tour guide phoned for directions. He is still an amazing driver and has gotten the bus through places I wouldn’t think it could.
He was stymied when he drove us back from dinner. The narrow gate into our hotel was made a little narrower because someone had parked their car poorly. It got poorer for the parker when a bunch of guys off loaded from the bus and bounced the car out of the way.
We think it may have been a gendarme’s private car.
Lyon looks pretty. We aren’t staying for long. It is the gastronomical capital of France so we went out to free dinner. I.e. We choose whatever restaurant we want. No herding us here. We got an authentic French meal. Right down to the expectation of a lot of time. Our main course arrived twenty minutes before we had to run to catch the bus. We didn’t really get a chance to enjoy it.
I wanted the French onion soup but my mother makes a fantastic one, so I should try something new: Salad Lyonnaise; Cesar salad with no dressing and a poached egg on top.
Frog legs. I can now say I have tried them. Tastes like chicken. But also cooked in too much oil. I felt too greasy to have more than two.
I don’t remember the salmon or the mousse. I was inhaling them so we could get to the bus.
We stopped in Avignon for lunch. This was my second time here. The first time was about twenty years ago. Although I remember it being bigger and more crowded.
They still haven’t fixed the bridge.
Have I been to Nice before? Shrug
Why would they even have a raw egg in their hotel room?
It was a Russian tour group though, and a pair of girls was responsible: I have not been compensated or apologized too. No surprise.
Our tour guide was mostly getting angry with the other one to amuse himself. He had no expectation of money.
We stopped at Fragonard to see how perfume and other scents are made. Cute women work there.
I bought some cologne. Apparently I need another souvenir/thing to carry. I’ve never used cologne, and I’m not even sure how.
A thoroughly unpleasant day is over. I’m not saying it was totally bad, but enough happened
Monte Carlo was nice enough. We had a lovely French dinner, and two bottles of wine at each table. (That may have been a mistake.)
Afterwards we went to the Grand Casino. I went though the motions and gambled. I hate gambling, but I felt I needed the experience. I had 25€ to spend, and I gambled it all away, winning only 10€. I’m not a lucky person, so this was expected. I kept one chip as a souvenir.
I also crept out at one point to take pictures of fancy cars and an important turn in the Formula-1 race. We left at 10:30 on the tour bus. That was an important bus to catch because a taxi back would cost 70€. One couple did stay behind to keep gambling. I hope he gets lucky.
In the financial sense of the word.
When we left, the bus driver took us along the course, acting like a Formula-1 car. (Not very well.) Peel away from the start, and do heavy shifting.
When we got back to the hotel we spent some time talking outside the entrance. Apparently too loudly. The practice here seems to be different from where I’m from. Instead of yelling at people to be quiet, you are supposed to throw water out the window (oh god, I hope it was water) followed immediately by an egg.
Did I mention we had dressed up in our finest clothing for the night?
I got the egg all over my dry-clean-only pants. My new leather shoes also smell eggy now. I have no idea how to clean leather shoes. A later volley hit the hotel manager. He was not happy.
I watched my tour guide arguing with another tour guide over compensation, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s still nice to see.
I’m just glad this day is over with. The tour is nearly done, so I’m feeling maudlin. And upset.
I shouldn’t have sunned on the beach. I spent too much time thinking. No good can come of that.
I took out six bicycles today. At least that is what I was told. I wasn’t paying attention. I was lying on the pavement trying to asses my current medical condition.
I was rollerblading with co-tourists on the promenade. There is a bike lane but it is only marked by paint on the road. I believe I was trying to go around a crowd of people and drifted into the bike lane, where I met a convoy coming the other way. I avoided the first but impacted the second. I saw my sunglasses fall under a car and the next thing I know I’m lying on the ground.
I was the only person to rent protective padding in our group.
My back looks the worst I’m told, but I barely feel that. Although it does look like there is a tire tread on it. My shoulder is sore from muscles being pulled the wrong way. A few knuckle scrapes, and otherwise fine. The bike riders looked mostly okay. One had a lip that was bleeding. They spoke French to themselves and ignored me. After awhile they moved on. We continued on ourselves to the end of the promenade and then back again.
I got up early today and went for a jog along the ocean. It was cool, but a few hours later you wouldn’t be able to say that. Then back to bed.
After the morning accident I had a crepe lunch. I think the restaurant owner thought I was American because I was overcharged 3.50 Euro for a small pitcher of tap water. Same as a bottle of Coke. Crepe Suzette was the main course and a citreon crepe was dessert. Lunch of champions.
In the afternoon, apart from doing laundry in the bathroom (with detergent this time) I went swimming. The water was nice, but choppy. It was hard to float and my shoulder was hurting. The beach was made of smooth rocks, so it wasn’t too pleasant to walk on. I still laid on it for half an hour.
Now off to Monaco.
Yesterday, to get to Nice we had to keep going up and down huge cliffside roads. My ears kept popping worse than an airflight. On arrival everyone conked out. I’m surprised I didn’t. They almost all went for a nap. I had four hours of semi-sleep and I wanted to do stuff.
So I set out and climbed the Le Chateau park. It’s a large hill next to the sea with the remains of fortifications at the top. The best part was the cascade; a series of waterfalls on the western side. I also got some decent photos from up there. Someone was practicing the flute in the park, so for most of the time I was hearing the tones of “Meet George Jetson”. I came down on the other side and walked through the old town. I got back a bit before dinner. It was just at the hotel but it was easily the best meal of the whole trip: Salad, quiche, potatoes, carrots, a spiced chicken, and a sundae. Fantastic.
Then a tour of the old town and drinking. I packed it in early because a group of us planned a run for the next morning.
The coastline here is so beautiful. Then I asked the tour guide about it. He said it was an awful place. Dirty, smelly, and the people are rude. A port city.
So all the worst qualities of France and Italy in one place.
I tried to take pictures, but those through a window from a moving vehicle are almost always poor.
Hopefully Nice will be nice. I’ll blame the tour guide for that pun.
If it weren’t for the tower, this place would disappear off the maps. I took pictures, but I never got the one I wanted: The tower standing straight with a decent amount of myself in the frame. I got random passersby to take pictures, but you can’t really tell them that their photo skills suck, do it again, and do it right.
Like jet-lag, hangovers appear to be something that happen to other people. Mind you, I drank a lot of water. I also don’t recall sleeping. For four hours I was awake. I just felt too wired.
I expect the crash to happen in an hour or so.
The South African was asking me details of what happened last night.