Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day Six- Parlez-vous fran├žais ?

Hey all,

Here is your next installment of the travel journal.  Sorry it's late.  Enjoy this day of touring thorugh this beautiful country.

We left our hotel early...and omg, was it hard to get up.  We were exhausted and still not quite over our jet lag.  Our first stop was Belgium...just because.  LOL   We haven't been there before and we decided to at least cross the border to say we'd been.

We crossed the border, YAY, and went to the tiny town of Andinkirk and De Panne.  We wanted to eat some Belgium waffles, but it was so early none of the restaurants were open.  We looked and looked, but had to settle for coffee and Belgium chocolates.  We did come across an amusement park that totally cracked me up.  It was called Plopsaland.    Everytime I say it I laugh.  Plopsaland.

Afterwards we headed on to Paris.  Stopped at a quickie mart for food and we were totally amazed at a machine that dispensed wine like soft drinks.  Would you like white, rose or red?????

Got into Paris later than we wanted.  We didn't have a city map, just a regional one and it was difficult to know where we were.  We did see a lot of Paris you might not normally, but traffic was insane and so were the drivers.  Scooters are HUGE over there and they zip and slide around you and take their lives into their hands every second.  There are even scooters with roll bars--I kid you not--so you know there are accidents.  

Parking in Paris is hard as well.  Finding lots and spaces that a car will fit in.  Jonathon was a bit hesitant over some of them, but we finally found a place and thankfully started using our feet.  We went first to Notre Dame Cathedral.  When I was in college, I was with a singing group who performed at this church and I have fond memories of it.  I was looking forward to showing it off to Jonathon and was pleased that it was open and you could walk in.  The church is magnificent...filled with history and beauty.  You could spend hours wandering and looking at all the dead people there.  But, alas, we only had a short time and we were off again.

Our next stop was the Effiel Tower.  It was a fair distance from where we parked, but we walked along the river Seine and it was nice.  We passed by the Louve, the mini arches (no...not McDonalds  LOL), the Royal Palace, and some very odd book sellers.  They display their wares in big metal boxes attached to the side of the wall next to the street.  Apparently, they've been doing it since olden times and it is a city institution.  There were also street artists which was enjoyable to see.  Not many, since the weather was iffy, but enough to add to the flavor of the city.


Got to the tower just before dark and we went up to the hightest floor.  I'd been here before, but I didn't remember going to the top of the tower.  Once I did, I remembered why I HADN'T!  LOL  The elevator was terrifying!!!  It shimmied and shook and I had my head buried in Jonathon's chest the whole time.  I thought I was being a baby, but he said it was scary for him too and he isn't afraid of heights like I am.



It was worth it though...the city is beautiful from up there.  We got to see it at dusk as well as full dark and the lights were lovely.  Everything is laid out before you, and you can spend hours just gazing at the city.  We stayed up there for about an hour, but we were getting hungry so we regretfully came down and headed for our next destination, Champ de Elysses and the Arch de Triumph.  


We had dinner at this sidewalk cafe--something I'd always dreamed of doing--and it was wonderful.  The cafe was called the King George V and we tried everything French.  I had snails.  OMG yummy, and Jonathon had Beef Bourgonouis.  We tried two types of wine, and I, who am NOT a wine drinker, actually liked mine.  It was a perfect night.  Cold, so we snuggled together under their heat lamps, ate and people watched.  


One of the most interesting things we saw was this game they must play in France.  Bottle rolling.  Seriously, it must be a game because as we were sitting there we watched this bottle roll by.  When it bumped into someone, instead of picking it up or tossing it away, each person it came near either moved out of the way so it could keep going, or if it was heading for a wall or gutter, they'd move it so it was rolling down the street again.  We watched it for the longest time.  Totally amazing and we were in stitches over it!  LOL


After the meal we walked for awhile, enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris at night.  It is a magical place and made for lovers, so Jonathon and I took every advantage of it!    We did some last minute souvenier shopping and headed back to our car, fat and happy.  It had been a long day, but filled with fun and new sights.  As we left the city, we promised ourselves we would come back again and stay for awhile.  Taste a little more of what the city of love has to offer and bring back more memories.  


Next stop is the beaches of Normandy!  See ya next time with more!


Hugs,


CJ

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day Five- We're off like a Herd of Turtles

Hey all,

It's time to leave London and move on to another part of the world.  Ready?  Here we go!

We got up at a decent hour and did a quick run down to a place I'd always wanted to see.  I love teas and one of my favorite brands is Twinings.  We often use it at home and when we are at Epcot, we always go in and see what kind of new treats they have at their shop there.  So Jon and I stopped at their main store on Strand Street in London.  It is only open during the week, so we had to wait until today to go. I was looking for a special tea pot, but they didn't have anything I liked, so I wound up getting a  glossy wood tea caddy instead.  The shop is very small and narrow, but it is filled with the scents of tea.  Lovely.

We headed back to the hotel and after one last visit to the computer, we grabbed our luggage and headed to pick up the car.  Now THAT was an adventure...carrying luggage on the tube.  Luckily it wasn't rush hour.  That would have been interesting.  LOL

We made it to the Hertz agency and after a computer glitch was fixed, we got our car.  We thought we were getting an economy, but the car we actually got was nice and roomy.  Great!  Not so great.  Have you ever tried to drive in European cities in a bigger car?  Bloody impossible unless maybe you're the queen!

But after a nervewracking hour of "is that bus too close?" and "am I on the right side of the road this time?" we made it out of London and we headed toward a place I'd read about in a bunch of novels.  Brighton Beach.

Now I've read about this place in romance novels as well as a few mystery ones.  I was always curious about it, so we drove down to take a look and see the ocean.  It was well  worth it.  Brighton reminds me very much of Santa Cruz Boardwalk or Coney Island.  A pier on the shore with a carnival and rides, restaurants and great fishing.  Nothing was open.  Wrong time of year, but we walked the pier and the beach, collected sand and took some pictures.  It was fun.

The beach wasn't sandy, but instead made up of pebbles from the size of beans up to the size of a tangerine.  Very odd, but beautiful in its own way.  After our walk we had our some yummy fish and chips and then headed off along the beach road towards Cliffs of Dover.

Now that was an adventure.  The road was very narrow and picturesque, with small hamlets and villages along the way.  We lost light about half way through, but it was a nice drive until then.  Then it got scary.  The road has a tendency to just stop because people park in it.  Not on the sidewalk, but right there...where the lane should be.  Jonathon was totally stressed by the time we got to the ferry terminal.

But there was a bright spot that became a running joke for the rest of the trip.  Now we in the states are used to signs that warn of falling rocks or deer in the road, but I've never seen one like this before...

WTF???  It took us awhile ( I think we were in Ireland) before we realized it was a "Be Careful of Badgers" warning sign.  It's amazing how different yet the same our two countries are.  The exclaimation mark was what threw us.  LOL

By the grace of God, even with the narrow windy road, we made the last ferry of the night.  The trip over was pretty quiet.  Not many people.  Only problem was this family with a bunch of monster kids that couldn't settle and kept the crew jumping to keep them out of trouble.  After a quick ride, we landed in Calais, France and after some snarled tempers because we got lost, we found a motel I'd researched online and fell exhausted into bed. 

We have an early day tomorrow.  We're headed towards Paris and want to make a quick run up to Belgium first.  Why?  Just to say we did!
Take care and I'll see you next week!



CJ England

Friday, May 1, 2009

Day Four- Let's Go Shopping!!!!

Hey all,

One thing about vacations is bringing home souveniers.  And I'm VERY good at it!  LOL  In fact, we brought extra suitcases just to have something to pack it in.  Today was our shopping day.  We'd done so well the day before that we had a bit of extra time so we decided to have some extra fun.
After uploading some pics to our photobox, we went to a newer attraction, The London Eye.  This is sort of a huge ferris wheel, but instead of cars, it has large glass enclosed gondolas that can hold close to twenty people.  It is VERY expensive, but it is a great way to see the whole city.  The ride lasts about twenty minutes and moves very slowly so you can see the city quite well.


I'm not sure if I'd recommend this experience to everyone.  It was fun and since we had the money, we did it, but it is definately NOT for those on a budget.  There are other ways to see the city, but I have to admit, seeing London from a bird's eye view was extraordinary.  If you are interested in doing this, save up the money...and enjoy.

Afterwards, we boarded a bus and headed out to somewhere I was really looking forward to...Portebello Row.  Remember the movie Bednobs and Broomsticks?  With Angela Landsbury?  This song sung as she is shopping is one of my faves...

Portobello road, Portobello road
Street where the riches of ages are stowed.
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road.
You’ll find what you want in the Portobello road.


You can see the actual performance at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqY1lHJYIgY


Anyway, we travelled through the rain in a red, double-decker bus to get there.  Now THAT was an experience.  They drive so damn fast and it was slick and...  Well, let's just leave it at that...shall we?   It was closing as we arrived, but I was able to find a couple of cool little antique-type souvenirs to remember it by.

Then we had the bestest coolest part of our day...  I got to meet one of my biggest fans and good friend Emma!!!  We met her at yet another shopping mecca of London, Camden Market.  This place is huge and filled with trendy boutiques, craft tables, food carts and antique dealers.  A great place to spend LOTS of money and you can literally get lost there.

We met Emma at a little cafe and had a cuppa with her.  We talked and laughed and had a wonderful time.  Then we all walked around and looked at the shops together.  It was so much fun, we didn't want it to end.  I wished I had another day just to wander around and get to know her better.  If I get to go back to London, I'm going to plan to spend a whole day with Emma!  We'll have a blast!!!!!

We ended our day with a popular nighttime adventure.  A Jack the Ripper's tour led by Donald Rumbelow, who is, as the Jack the Ripper A to Z puts it, "internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper."  He was great.  Really interesting and very informative.  We walked all around the area where the killings took place and it was like being inside the story of Jack.  I got so many ideas for a book, I was on overload by the time we finished.  It was spooky and actually parts made me feel a bit ill.  Not sure if it was my empathic gifting that was picking stuff up or something seld, but I was really glad when the night was over.  We had a drink in a pub where it is reported that some of the prostitues worked and then once it was over, we went and had dinner at a place called Giraffe's...a around the world type food place.

Since we were heading out of town the next day, we grabbed desert and headed back to the hotel to pack.  Our time in London had come to an end, but it had been a wonderful adventure packed three days.  We visited kings and queens, churches and markets and loved every minute of it.  My vote?  London is a great place and totally worth a visit!!!

Next stop on our itinerary???  FRANCE  Can anyone say...ooo la la???  See ya next week!


 CJ England