Here is a logical place to start since this is where we arrived in Europe, and where we spent the most time. It was my second time visiting Paris, and I got to see all the sites again, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Chateau Versailles, Champs-Elysee, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Montmartre, and this time I also visited the Musee d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower at night, the top of the Arc de Triomphe, the towers of the Notre Dame, as well as wandering around the town a bit more in general, and taking photos in better locations. We arrived at the end of Summer and were expecting the weather to be pretty warm, but it didn’t turn out to be much better than the weather I had last time when I was there in the middle of Winter, although the last two days we were in Paris, the weather was much nicer, warm and sunny. We spent quite a bit of time at the shops as well, mostly Galeries Lafayette which has a beautiful ceiling but probably not enough seats (for weary legs). Yes, the metro is a bit smelly and food is a bit expensive, but still like Paris, it’s a beautiful city with many sights to see and things to do, and full of very stylish and beautiful people. Although the opposite is also most definitely true, we were staying in a flat in Montmartre for the first four days of our visit, and on our last night returning home there was a guy peeing on the entrance to the flat complex, nice. Unfortunately due to ill health (not to me!) we weren’t really able to try any proper French restaurants, only managing to visit one small place in Montmartre, L’Homme Tranquile, which was nice enough. Otherwise we ate a lot of cold baguettes, to the detriment of Emmy, we did a little bit of shopping, mostly at H&M (lol), but picked up some smaller items at various other shops. Getting around on the metro is pretty easy, but unless you’re going to be visiting a lot of different places during the day and jumping in and out of the metro you may as well just get bulk one-way tickets rather than a Paris visitor pass. Hey, entry into France at the airport this time was a breeze, plenty of staff and no questions asked.
Regarding the sights, it seems the Towers of Notre Dame are the longest wait, an hour and a half from arriving at 10am, you have to make your way up a tiny spiral staircase until you eventually get to the top level where you get a great view of Paris, you are allowed five minutes up the top, and you better hope it doesn’t rain up there because we were caught up there without an umbrella and some very cold weather. The Museum Pass that we purchased was quite handy as it allowed us to get quicker access into the Louvre, although as I said, it didn’t help at Notre Dame, nor at Chateau Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe was good, the Eiffel Tower we pre-ordered the tickets online so avoided the horrible queues.
Hey, a quick mention on Cathay Pacific, great flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong, but from Hong Kong to Paris (and back) the planes just are no good, the seats don’t recline and they’re older. We also had a pretty nasty flight from HK back to Melbourne, the plane was good, but the flight was very turbulent, maybe there was more turbulence in the air, I don’t know, any way, I reckon we’ll put higher priority on flying Singapore next time. That’s all for now, I’ll leave you with a bunch of pictures, I may add some more information here later if I think of anything.
So I got back on Monday after a flight delay that left us in Hong Kong and Shanghai for a forgettable day. Apparently Iceland received record snowfalls this Winter, so we didn’t get to see the best of an Icelandic Winter, oh well I was expecting snow any way, and we did get a couple of clear days to see around Reykjavik at least. I wouldn’t exactly call Reykjavik a city, it’s more like a town considering that you can walk from the suburbs to downtown in 25 minutes, but it has all the amenities, didn’t see the night life at all, but that’s not a big deal considering I’m currently sober :D. What I found a little amazing was that even in Patreksfjordur, population about 1000, they have proper 3g coverage and broadband internet, it’s about as remote as you can get in Europe I would think, and yet they pretty much have all the amenities. I did have a pretty scary ferry ride from the Westfjords to Snaefell before driving along some dark and dusty roads back to Reykjavik. I am thinking that I’ll go back in the future, probably in late Spring/early Summer time, although I would like to go again perhaps in the late Autumn/early Winter to give myself another chance to see the northern lights, in a better location with a clearer sky, that would still be ideal.
As for Paris, in the little time I spent there and without actually getting around the downtown area too much and especially not seeing the night life, I could tell that it was a place that I would definitely really like. It’s such a busy place and the people (especially the girls) are very good looking :D, they must be so vain, or just really lucky. There’s no shortage of anything it seems, although the Vietnamese food is certainly not as good as Melbourne from what I tried. The metro system is great, just like the one in Mexico City, and they have use-once tickets as well as the re-usable card, they know what they’re doing. Winter there was not as cold as I expected, there were a couple of cold days right around 1-2 degrees, but then the two days before we left were about 10 degrees and positively balmy! Any way, I bet it’s an especially magnificent city in the warmer weather.
And now the rant, bloody Air France, and bloody QANTAS, I can tell you, I will not be flying Air France again if I can help it, and I won’t be flying QANTAS unless they have super special deals that are so cheap as to be insane not to buy, also I have frequent flyer points that I will need to use rather than waste. Air France got all the passengers on to the plane on time, and then sat there waiting (for half an hour with no information), then drove out to the runway and waited again for half an hour before finally notifying passengers of a maintenance check that needed to be done, then finally after two hours we finally took off. Initially they were telling us on the plane that we would arrive only thirty minutes later than the initial arrival time, so passengers with connecting flights need not worry. After a bit of sleep, and checking the flight route and destination details, it became apparent that we were not going to arrive in time for our flight, and in fact we were arrived exactly two hours late, ten minutes after our particular connecting flight was due to leave, so they made up no time at all. On the plane, the cabin crew told us to go talk to the ground staff for further information, so a bunch of Aussies with connecting flights to Melbourne and Sydney were possibly expecting that we’d walk through and be lead to our boarding gates by someone only to find that our QANTAS flights had already left. So Air France, who were operating a flight for QANTAS from Paris to Hong Kong did not do anything to help those passengers that had connecting flights with QANTAS to get on their flights on time. Instead they provided us with $90HKD worth of food vouchers for the airport and half a night’s stay in the airport hotel. Air France obviously working with their partner airlines only, provided us with airfares to get back to Melbourne, but not until over 24 hours after we were meant to.
So we were stuck boarding a second rate plane with China Eastern Airlines to Shanghai bright and early in the morning and spending the whole day there until a flight in the evening back to Melbourne. OK, China Eastern Airlines didn’t actually seem so bad up until then, apart from the service being a little abrupt. They were running on time and everything, and with a whole day in town we decided to head out to see what Shanghai was about, I didn’t see anything that I would say will warrant a return visit. Any way, our flight was meant to leave Shanghai at 8.15pm, but it was eventually delayed by over and hour and we eventually took off, they also never gave us any indication of how long it would take or what time we would arrive in Melbourne. So QANTAS having bailed on us,is now pretty much on my boycott list, and Air France, I should have known, I guess we’re fortunate to be back in Melbourne in one piece.
But the rant is not over! For some reason, the airport in France (Terminal 2 at least) seem to think that it’s a good idea to only have one person working the departure desks (and arrival desks when we arrived) which makes for a lot of waiting before you can enter or leave the country by plane, get to the airport early! Maybe it has to do with the financial crisis and they are cutting costs. Now rant over, and we can look at some pretty pictures! I will hopefully start posting pictures on flickr this weekend.
Iceland is in the Arctic right? Well, I’m off to Paris first anyway for my first taste of Europe and a properly cold Winter, New Zealand was cold but it was only really cold on top of the mountains. Well, I’m now here in Gay Paris, and it’s anywhere between 1 and 5 degrees celsius, Iceland will be around 0 degrees with snow as far as I can see, beanie time! Arrived a couple days ago and have seen the Eiffel Tower (didn’t get to the top because it was overloaded apparently) then walked down the Champs-Elysees and saw the Arc de Triomphe (I didn’t have a tripod with me so I couldn’t get a decent shot of it (why didn’t I bring The Pod?!?!), anyway, it’s all very cool here, the people are so European! It’s very busy and a bit hectic, I guess that’s what makes this a big city. Anyway, we’ve only got a few days here, leaving for IcyLand on Thursday (Paris time) and will spend three weeks up there visiting baby niece and wandering around trying to capture the northern lights.