Europe 2013

From my Contiki European Experience tour.

  • Day 4 – To Château de Cruix

    Day 4 – To Château de Cruix

    This was a rough bus ride. We drove a while and ended up at the Chateau de Cruix. There was a great wine tasting here. Though the cheese was great the wine had trouble going down after puking so much the night before.

    After dinner we had an easy nighty and skipped the party. We also went to the town Napoleon rallied the troops on his final return from exile.

    Journal entry from 2013

    The beads of water are dropping on my head in a nice warm shower as I awaken to hear the alarm sound that it is time to get up a begin the day. I am sitting in a stand up shower stall at the ibis Budget hotel in Paris. As I emerge from the shower to pack up to meet up with the tour group. I see the victim that the room has become. Where my bed was there was the remnants of of the Parisian dinner experience including the 5 bottles of previously consumed red wine on the bed and the bed of the person I was supposed to be sharing a room with. Though in reality he didn’t use the room that night, as in many nights of Contiki after a night on the town, he has stayed in one of the ladies rooms. Breakfast like usual was typical European so not the greatest but would do. I remember waiting on the bus for the hotel to notice what happened and make me pay for everything redecorated in the wine, but never happened. The bus moved! I was free! No, wait OMG, the bus is moving, breakfast does not want to stay down. I must keep it down, I was not going to be the one singled out in front of 52 other people for losing my breakfast. Then the morning song blares the pumping vibes of One Day/Reckoning Song by Asaf Avidan. “One Day baby we’ll be old.” for me that sounded like today, this was the worse hang over my 30 year old self had ever experienced.

    After an about two hour drive that I slept through, we at Château de Fontainebleau which was an impressive looking palace with a big garden, that I could care less about. It was where Napoleon after exile returned to form up with his army to reconquer Paris. This is where I have one of only 2 photos from the day. Though all I cared about was finding the store and using the toilet and restocking on some water. Being in France and able to read French turned out to be a benefit here, as I remember several Australians in the group becoming the next victim of sparkling water.

    After returning to the bus, we drove several more hours to the Contiki special stop over in Theizé just north of Lyon. The first excursion before we unpacked for dinner and the night was a wine tasting. I really don’t remember much other than listening to how they harvest and make wine and my tummy, yelling “I’m warning you, you better not be thinking about it!” There was samples of cheese freshly made as well that was incredibly good and I sipped at the wine, then chugged the little glass to make it gone, and then had to find the toilet fast. My tummy do warn me, not to do it.

    After dinner was going to be the “P” party in the basement. I just wanted to die so I just laid down a bit and then went slept a very good sleep.

  • Day 3 – Paris (a.k.a. the last day I enjoyed wine)

    Day 3 – Paris (a.k.a. the last day I enjoyed wine)

    Start by going to the Arc de Triumph with the group then ditched them and explored the entire Champs-Élysées. Of special note was the amazing pastry in the back alley. Then from near the Louvre took the Metro to Bonne Nouvelle (Good news). I got out and seen 2 amazing Arches. Then want to the Musée des Arts et Métiers. The place was amazing. I saw a Kilogram and a satellite. After that I walked down to the Hotel de ville and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Caught the Metro again and went to Rodan’s house but ran out of time so walked back to meet the coach. Then went up a lot of steps to the church on the hill. Then the Parisian dinner where thought it was a good idea to polish off 4 bottles are wine. The fish dinner and onion soup was great. Then went to Nouvelle Eve and was very drunk, had a few glasses of Champane. When clapping I spilled a glass on Catherine. When show was over, we went to O’Sullivan’s but I was too drunk to be let in so I went to the hotel. Where I passed out and woke up with vomit all over. I then slept in the shower.

    Continuation of a series from a Travel Log I found from my 2013 Contiki trip.
    Me at the Arc.
    Me at the Arc.

    This day is by far one of the most memorable that I have ever had while travelling, I would say of this trip as a whole but this was also the trip that originated “the Amsterdam story”. Let’s start with the beginning, why did I ditch the group at the Arc? Mainly because they wanted to wait in the line to go to the top to take pictures, and it was a long line that had not opened yet. I do have photos, just not from the top.

    From there I did walk down most of the Champs-Élysées, before cutting through a building to go to the back alley (Rue Ponthieu) where I found Boulangerie du Colisée. Going back to Champs-Élysées I took a picture from the middle of the street looking up to the Arc, before jumping on the Metro. I was taking the 9 train from FDR to Strasbourg Saint-Denis as “The Plan” but the plan did not exactly work out because I seen the “Bonne Nouvelle” station when the train stopped and I just had an urge to get out and see it, and mostly take a picture of the sign.

    Me at Notre-Dame
    Me at Notre-Dame

    I just looked up the Arch that I told myself I was fortunate to get off at Bonne Nouvelle or I would have missed. As it turns out was “Statue St Denis” at the Metro station I intended to go to and would not have had to walk an extra 10 minutes to the Musée des Arts et Métiers.

    If you have not seen this museum, it is amazing and totally nerd fest, but with amazing art. There were measuring things to measure anything you could imagine and every type of technology that made possible the last two hundred years. Ther building itself is an old church and is one of the best attractions that no one tells you exists in Paris. Google Street View also has the entire inside of the museum.

    View from Basilica of Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre.
    View from Basilica of Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre.

    The church with a lot of steps was The Basilica of Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. This is an amazing view of Paris and filled with con-artists and pickpockets. There are 222 steps to get to the top, it was windy, cold, and wet both times I was in Paris to see this.

    After this we went to a restaurant for a fancy dinner. I do remember that we sat at a long table and had an amazing dinner. There were five sets of bottles of white wine, red wine, and water on the table. The water and white wine were well enjoyed. I came up with the mission that we should not be wasting any of the wonderful red wine, so I finished off the remains of all five bottles of red wine. This was going to be a huge mistake.

    Unknown restaurant in Paris.
    Unknown Restaurant in Paris.

    As I left the place I remember getting feeling a bit intoxicated and started stumbling down the street with the group headed to take an obligatory photo in front of Moulin Rouge before going to the Cabaret show at Nouvelle Eve.

    At the cabaret show there was free sparkling wine included in the admission, and despite better judgement, I drank some more. I don’t remember much of the show after the first number, I have two blurry pics that show nothing, and I do remember spilling wine all over Catherine who I was seated next to.

    Upon leaving the show the group headed to the O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub, that I remembered from the 2010 trip to Paris, although this time I could not get in. Surprisingly, the bouncers don’t let in “very polite” over intoxicated people. My group convinced me to get into a taxi. I remember that this taxi driver was not very French, and I had insisted that drunk me only spoke French, so it ended up being a 35€ taxi ride back to the ibus Budget hotel. I remember saying “45 Rue du Dr Babinski” over and over at the guy in a drunken French accent.

    When I got into my room, I vomited all over the bed and cleaned the sheets and slept in the shower. So nervous that I was going to be charged an extra cleaning fee since I also vomited on the roommate’s bed.

    Picture at Moulin Rouge
    Picture at Moulin Rouge, also last picture ever in that shirt before it was succumbed to previously consumed red wine.

  • Day 2 – To Paris

    Continuation of a series from a Travel Log I found from my 2013 Contiki trip

    Got up early and started the bus journey. Met the ferry and had breakfast.

    Finally made it to Paris. We did a city tour by bus, had some snails then spent the night going up the Eiffel Tower. I took the stairs. It was difficult, but easier than the 1st time.

    I did not want to go to the very top but like what the hell and did it anyways.

    Then it was 12:30am by the time we got down and took a taxi home.

  • Europe Trip Travel Log 2013

    This morning I was cleaning out some old notebooks and I found a travel journal I started during my 2013 Contiki trip to Europe. This was the trip that I added Monaco and Liechtenstein to my list of travelled countries.

    Day 1 – London

    Great flight. Heathrow went quite quickly. I thought that I had food poisoning on the flight as I was very gassy.

    Then I went to the Royal National dropped off my bags and then explored the city walked across Westminster Bridge seen the London Eye and Parliament. Then went to Canada Water to pick up a few items at the mall.

    Went back to the hotel & checked into my room. Then I met my roommate Probin from Regina, SK. Went to see Westminster and Buckingham Palace. Then back to the Royal National for the meetup and drinks at London Pub.

  • Finally got around to framing my Contiki group photos.

    Finally got around to framing my Contiki group photos.

    Finally got around to framing my @ContikiCAN group photos. #Whirl2010 #Experience2013
    Finally got around to framing my Contiki group photos.

  • The most miserable place on Earth! Rome.

    The most miserable place on Earth! Rome.

    The Face of Truth
    Fountain Replica of The Face of Truth

    There is not a more fitting way to start this post than with the Face of Truth. The truth about Rome is that it is the most miserable place on Earth.

    This was my 3rd visit to Rome and it seems to never get better. Rome has a very limited  Metro system so getting around is not the easiest although unlike many other cities Rome is very consolidated into 2-hour walk to anything. The charm about Rome is its history as the centre of an ancient empire. Though when you get to see the real Rome most of the ancient ruins beside the Coliseum, a field where Circus Maximus was and the Pantheon there is really not much left to see of that empire. The only real remaining Empire left to see is that of Christianity and Catholicism.

    When it comes to food, Rome is very lacking in its own identity. It adopts styles from other Italian regions and International Inspiration. On my first night in Rome, I went to a place called Piazza Navona which was loaded full of people eating at all the restaurants that circled the Piazza. I went through a couple of allies and found Ristorante Ottavio. I was small, quaint and “Roman”. In typical fashion, while travelling I ask the server what is really good to try. The gentleman says that the lobster is very “fresh and wonderful”.

    I then ask him how fresh it is. He quickly leaves and brings back this poor almost dead looking lobster that to most who have never seen a real fresh live lobster before would be very thrilled.

    So instead I ordered a pasta dish that was much more amazing than the plate that that poor unfortunate lobster would eventually have ended up as. While in the Piazza I saw a Seagull catch a Pigeon in mid-air and fly off with it in its beak. This had me thinking that given the number of pigeons and seagulls that we have in Saint John that this is just further proof of the miserableness of Rome.

    Rainy Day at the Pantheon
    Rainy Day at the Pantheon

    Though Rome does have many sides and moments of wonder. Earlier that day I was on a walking tour of the area and as I approached the Pantheon the skies just opened up and dumped as much water as it possibly could on the crowds of tourists and street people who with amazing speed switched from selling collectibles to selling ponchos and umbrellas.

    That being said it did not rain for very long just long enough to get completely wet and leave enough water to make it more humid as being evaporated by bright sunshine that rapidly came out.

    The Trevi Fountain was amazing as usual and like Pigeons in King’s Square or like any other old thing in Europe was over packed with crowds of people.

    And the Coliseum and Roman Forums have not changed a bit since the last time I have seen them in 2011.

  • My European Experience 3

  • I haven’t died… yet.

    I haven’t died… yet.

    It has been a while since I posted anything and it is not like nothing has happened.

    Eiffel Tower at Night
    L'arc de Triumph

    I took another amazing trip to Europe. The goal this time was to see amazing new things that I would not have seen if I actually planned the trip. It may not be a surprise to some of my loyal readers that I have a short attention span and my plan for Paris was simple. Do the Eiffel Tower at night, then on my full day go to L’Arc de Triumph, go in Notre Dame, and see Rodin’s House. What did I end up accomplishing? Just the tower and arc from my list.

    As it turns out I was going to walk down the Champs de Elysee to get to see the Charles de Gaulle statue and get on the Metro. As I walked down the street I noticed these mini malls and started to check them out until I found one that near the end had a back entrance to an alley. It was in this ally that I found the most amazing baked thing with raspberries that has ever entered my mouth. I should have taken a photo or wrote down the name of it… but it didn’t last long enough. At this point I realized that I spent way more time than I though I would have so I finished the street and made it to the metro. I never did find that statue but I got this amazing photo.

    Champs de Elysee

    Then I get to the Metro station and I have to transfer twice to get to the Arts et Metiers station. Though I never made it there. Why not you might ask? It is because I ran into a station that the train stopped at nearby called Bonne Nouvelle. For those readers that know some French will know that the name of the station means Good News! What type of explorer would I be if I missed the opportunity to visit Good News. So I got off and then made it to the street and got my bearings to the general direction I needed to go. Then as a continued to walk I found a little hidden gem not one but two really cool old arches that were even more impressive than the main three of Paris.


    Then finally after a 20 minute walk to where I was supposed to get the train to, I finally arrive at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. As i make my way around the building to the entrance to the museum I get the amazing welcome that many poor immigrants to the United States got to experience over a hundred years ago. It was a bronze cast of the plaster model original that was used to size to scale the giant version of La Liberté éclairant le monde (Statue of Liberty) that welcomes people to New York harbour. This museum has the original plaster version inside the converted church that is now basically a church of science and engineering. The name of the museum is a little deceptive because it translates to Arts and Crafts but there are amazing gems in this place including a kilogram, a satellite, every measuring item that you can imagine. Very old adding machines up to the Cray-2 (world’s fastest computer 1985-1990). Very old to almost new but obsolete technology. It is a geek’s nerdvana.

    After the Museum it was time for some lunch then grab the train to Notre Dame because I had a plan. As I started walking down the street passing station after station looking for a Baguette sandwich that I was craving I realized that this was probably the only place in town where there was no food cafés or I just stuck at noticing things and missed them. Finally I find one and it was the best ham and cheese sandwich that I ever had (at that time and for about a week until I hit up Rome).

    By this point I was at the City Hall and enjoyed the square and was getting tired but I could see the Notre Dame in the distance so why not just walk the rest of the way. As I get there my feet are tired because I had new shoes and my gel insoles were still in my bag at the hotel. I see the big line and figure why not take a few photos in front of the church and the head to the Rodin House.


    I then get in the Metro and make it to the Rodin House but by the time I get there my time is up and I need to walk back to the pick up point. I went back to the hotel to get changed then we headed out for dinner where I really enjoyed some wine and great French food. Seen a cabaret style show. Then tried really hard to debate some very good points, lose a stupid argument, and headed back by taxi to the hotel for some sleep and then a really long shower to relax.

  • IG: Europe Trip 2011/2013

    IG: Europe Trip 2011/2013

  • Ninety-Eight Days but I’m Not Counting

    Ninety-Eight Days but I’m Not Counting

    It is really cold today. It has been less than a month now since I booked my next trip.

    On my last trip my old reliable large suitcase met it’s last days from the cobble-stone sidewalks of Rome. That’s right I have to move on with life and break in a virgin suitcase on this trip.

    My new suitcase is slightly larger and a harder case. I bought it at the Zellers liquidation sale. It’s biggest problem is there is only one outside pocket. I’m undecided still on whether or not to by a new dangly thing. My last one was given to me buy my old friend when I had forgotten my previous on prior to my first WordCamp trip.

    On an interesting note to me anyways, I was cleaning off my dresser and under the pile of junk was my dangly thing. I tried guessing what was in it as it felt unusually bulky. I thought it might have been the baggage tag for my last Toronto trip. I was wrong. (Even though some people think I would never really say that.)

    The tag in my dangly thing was the luggage tag from YSJ to FCO via YUL. (Saint John to Fiumicino (near Rome) via Montreal).

    Personally I find Rome to be one of the worlds worst historic cities. From all the thieves to the difficult sidewalks to the crazy drivers to the very long lines almost every city in Europe is better than Rome. Though perhaps my views would be different if I ever found true love in Rome. We will have to see May 6-8th.