Saturday, January 12, 2013

Paris

OMG, it's now day four of Paris, well three and a half to be exact, and I still haven't updated! I just keep running out of time. 

I arrived around 11am at Orly and took two trains and three metro's and found the hotel easily. The street that it's on, Rue des Abbesses, is gorgeous. It's classic romantic narrow cobbled Montmartre street. the whole area is beautiful. 

I spent the first afternoon just wandering around the local neighbourhood. Sacre Coeur is just down the end of the street, and Montmartre cemetery at the other end. Along the way I found many pieces of street art, and this area is a positive gallery of this type of art. First up a piece of humour that is also a defacement of a public sign.

Then a classic piece of stencil work, and in the world of street art this includes their "tag".

The first night I went out to a gay bar for a drink, but that will be a whole other post. However after two visits now I can summarily say I do  not recommend La Champesle.

Tuesday was a late start, as in I didn't manage to leave the hotel till after 1pm, so my sightseeing that day was Galerie Lafayette. When I got there I found that the saldes (sale) started the next day, so I treated my visit as a reconnoitre mission. That evening I discovered even more exquisite food shops in my 'hood so didn't leave. My pre dinner snack consisted of the below.


The internet here is an arse, this is the third time I have tried to finish this and load images, but will give up and put images in when on a more stable connection.

Wednesday I marched off down to Galerie Lafayette to get the t shirt I yearned for, and stocked up on lingerie. I then walk over to the Pompidou centre, which took a while as the streets are covered in shops with the Saldes sign in place. Everywhere is on sale! I spent several hours in the Pompidou centre od'ing on modern art. The images are on facebook, it would take me a year to load them on here! 

That night I again researched gay bars and went over to a small wee place in Saint Michel. It turned out to be gay friendly, and the advertised jazz music wasn't on until much later, so it was one drink then back to Montmartre for dinner then bed. I had a plat du jour at one of my locals, only 10 Euro, simple food but the beef was divine.

Thursday was a roaming day. I again walked down to Galerie Lafayette, to get more lingerie and to look at boots. From there I walked for hours and hours (in the drizzle) slowly heading to the left bank and a particular patissier there. I finally found the shop full of sweet creamy badness, and had a chocolate eclair as my reward. Finally the rain cleared and I wandered back to the right bank and thought I'd stop in at the gay bar mentioned above for a drink. Once again I was ripped off, so Never Again. Dinner again was a plat de jour in the same place, this time a salmon lasagne. 

Friday I went to Versailles. What a stunning over the top amazing place. I spent hours and hours there and did the three main buildings. The gardens look like they will be amazing but as it's winter the beds are dormant and the statues all wrapped up. It started to rain as I was doing a last wander, so headed back to the train and the city. The next time I go I am going to take my running gear as the gardens are free and you can run for miles in beautiful surroundings. 

When I got back to the city I had one more hunt for boots and had success, yay new ankle boots with little buckles. With the prices at the moment I am tempted to buy more shoes. 

I was going to try another gay bar last night, but had drunk too many bubbles before dinner, so ended up staying indoors. I may attempt that bar tonight.

It is now Saturday morning and I have just navigated my way around a Parisian laundromat, so now it's off over the road to rescue my clothes. Au revoir.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Berlin

Again a delayed post, but c'est la vie. Berlin was hard. My flight was delayed which meant getting there in the dark and trying to sort out trains, but thankfully a kind Spanish girl helped me, and we got through on a mix of languages. It was cold and drizzling when I got there. 

I found the hostel fairly easily, but it was Not Nice. I guess for the average backpacker it was ok, but not of the standard I am used to staying in. 

On my first day I had a big walking plan mapped out, but the rain, wind and cold curtailed that, plus I was starting to succumb to some germs. After walking around as much as I could, I ended up taking a bus tour so managed to see most of the main sights. Not a lot of pictures as it was all out a rainy steamed up window.




I missed getting a picture of the last standing bits of the wall, but below are pieces that have been transported to around checkpoint Charlie.


I found the blue and purple above ground pipes fascinating, they are in quite a few areas including Alexanderplatz.


There was masses and masses of construction everywhere, both above and below ground. Huge new metro lines and stations being put in.

 I was staying in East Berlin in Prenzlauer Berg so it was an interesting area history wise, and to see how much transformation has been done in the 23 years post unification, as in other parts of Berlin. It was my sort of suburb, a mixture of offbeat, arty, and gentrification. One little highlight was below.

Time got swallowed in Berlin. I went to the ballet, a modern version of Peer Gynt, and spent time chatting with the man next to me about how avant garde the production was. At one point the stage was covered in sand. 

On the second to last day after brunch I was taken on a wee road trip to Potsdam. It was nice to get out and see a another place, and to go on an autobahn. The driver however was annoyed as it had a 120km limit, which I noticed he ignored as did the others that passed us. I had dinner that night with a group of eight people, and had many fabulous discussions and conversations. It was nice talking with such an eclectic mix of people, which such different outlooks on life and the world due to their mixed upbringings, travels and education. 

The last day was very tiring as I had had very little sleep. I had booked a hotel near the airport and went there as soon as I could and just chilled. 

I woke too early, but that ended up being ok. My last memorable experience for Berlin was the Dr Seuss breakfast in the morning.

You know, if you are going to serve green eggs, then you should at least have quality ham to go with it! 

I do like Berlin, just wish I could have seen it under more favourable circumstances. It really is an intriguing city.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sagrada Familia

A bit of a delayed post due to too much travel, bad weather and fighting germs, but Sagrada Familia - nothing else to say but goosebumpingly stunning. The visit was on 31 December, so I do like that it is the last thing I did for the year.












The food and wine finale for the year was a wee Catalan cava and tapas bar in Barceloneta, my favourite eat/drink experience in Barcelona. 

I had one more day in the city which I spent visiting Ms Gotlucky and wandering the city. 

Since then I have been to Berlin and fought germs, and now I am in Paris. 

To be continued....

Monday, December 31, 2012

Gaudi

Yesterday was Gaudi day. As I've been sleeping very late the day doesn't seem to start till after 1pm at the moment, though yesterday I did wake not long after 10am so managed a run first while my host was still asleep. 

We went to visit Park Güell, along with 10 gazillion other people. I'm told the crowds are normal no matter what day of the week, but it does spoil it somewhat, especially the first parts which contain the  most mosaic work, as you are unable to see it fully.. However, despite the masses it was still a fabulous place to visit. 

One of the houses at the entrance was under scaffold and mesh so could only see this one.

Walked through the market place area first which has ornate tiled mosaics on the ceiling,

Then rambled along the various colonnaded pathways.



As you get further up the hill and the park you get fabulous views of Barcelona including Gaudi's most iconic project.

After navigating most of the park we then went into the city again to see two more famous buildings. The first was Casa Batlló, which also had a reasonable crowd of people stading outside.


It would have been nice to go inside, but i was hungry and didn't relish the idea of being in a queue for over an hour.

A few minutes walk up the orad was another significant building Casa Milà, again with the crowd outside and the long queue to get in.


By this stage I was starving and dying of thirst so it was off for beer and tapas, and that would be a 750ml beer!

Today was Sagrada Familia, but that can wait till the morning....and I don't know why the formatting is fukked, but i can't be arsed trying to fix it right now.

Milano to Barcelona

It's now Sunday 30 December and I am on to my second full day in Barcelona. As I seem to have switched to Spanish time it's just after 1pm and only now going to head out in to the streets.

I left Milano on Friday but had most of the day free to wander aimlessly. It was a stunning sunny day so yet again another picture of the Duomo, but this time in full sun.


I then headed to La Scala, but the queue was about 3 hours long to get in, so just headed of walking without looking at the map. I ended up in the designer district but along the way passed two contrasting pieces of sculpture.


I then came across this end of town, just to name a few.


I then headed back in the general direction of Piazza Duomo and came across the panini shop where I had got a nice coffee the day before, so this time stopped for food as well.

Parma, rocket, tomato, mozzarella and olive panini. Very yum. Ater eating I headed back to the hostel for a while as I was totally exhausted by this stage. I'd had very little sleep the night before due to the other room guets not following hostel etiquette. At three I loaded the packs on my back and front then went to the station to catch the airport train. I ended up taking the one earlier than what I had booked and glad that I did, as it's quite a distance, and also meant I had time to eat and have a beer at the airport.

I arrived in Barcelona 15 minutes ahead of schedule, go Easyjet! Michelle was at the airport to meet me, so we took train, metro, and tram to the apartment, and finally got in around 11.

We sat up and had beer and chattered for quite sometime then off to bed for a much needed sleep.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Barcelona day one

I slept until after 11 am, and felt like I could have slept more but felt I was wasting precious sightseeing time. After a nice breakfast Michelle and I headed out to the streets, while Jen stayed in and worked.

We walked along the beachfront from the apartment to the city, and through the Barceloneta area. The weather is sunny and warm. It seems a winters day here is a bit like a summer day in Wellington. Along the walk we passed the olympic village built for the 1992 games, and this piece by Gehry.

From the waterfront headed up in to the city and started to wander through little alleys and streets. I needed coffee so we stopped at a small, yet very smart place for coffe and a "cake". It is called Bubo, and the patisseries were stunning. I had a "Big Mac", that is a macaroon bun, fondant cheese slice, chocolate covered ganache meat patty and caramel sauce.

We also had a lime tart that was multi layered. From there we walked more and more narrow streets and alleys and at came to one tiny enclosed square where the walls were all still pock marked form bullet and bomb schrapnel from Franco's reign. This square was used to assassinate people as it has only two tiny entrances so could be easily closed off.

From there walked along another alley, and through an archway which lead to some preserved columns from the Roman era.

From there our wanderings took us to a square which housed the city hall of Barcelona on one side, and the hall of Spain on the other. The City Hall of Spain was open which apparently was very unusual. It housed some exhibition of Asian pottery in the open areas, but we didn't look at it as everything else on view was far superior, for example a Miro sculpture.


Along the way we also passed Gaudi's first commission.


We then walked up La Rambla, and along the way went into a market. The market was just an overload of fabulous food of every variety, including cured hams at prices of up to 259 Euro per kilo. The mushroom stands were covered in these yellow and green ones.

A lot of places had these small cones of ham and cheese ready for you to take away and munch.

The seafood was also an overload of abundance, with much of it still kicking.
video

Today was all about Gaudi, but that is a story for another post.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Milano

I arrived in Milano around 4pm yesterday. The journey from Brissago was easy, the only tiring part was trying to carry my back pack the last section, so once I made the Piazza Duomo I gave in and got a taxi to the hostel. 

The hostel is lovely, starched sheets even. The only downside is that it has a very funky bar as part of it ,so sleeping was a bit of an issue at one point. 

After I settled in and had consumed two beers, one being my complimentary welcome drink, I then went for a wander around the neighbourhood. I headed back to the Piazza Duomo which was a hive of activity. There is a market, a Christmas market I think, going around the Duomo, which had loads of food stalls, a couple of which are below. The first being nougat, which I somehow managed to resist.

 Then there was masses and masses of focaccias, I didn't resist one of  those.

 Then arancini, which of course I had to try as well. (why is my arse exploding?)

 This is what they look like on the inside....

I then got back to the hostel just after seven to discover it was aperitivo time, which meant another buffet of food to try, this time free!

Today after finally waking about 9 followed by a leisurely breakfast, (finally muesli and yoghurt) I didn't hit the streets till close to 11am. The body is starting to tire at the moment. First port of call was of course the Duomo. Though the Piazza was heaving with people there was no queue to get in.

I could put up masses of pictures of all the stained glass but will show restraint, and only of the main altar. Sadly I had put all my coins in the box for the poor, so had no loose change to light a candle for David but I'm sure I will have another chance on this journey.


I then went off to do the highlight of the Duomo, and that is walk on the roof.


The intricacy of, and the amount of statues and carvings is just breathtaking. Also, once on the roof and walking another set of steps you can feel the foot treads that have been worn into the marble from centuries of people. Below just a sample of statues and gargoyles. I'm sure I've used up at least a gb on the Duomo alone!




I then headed back to ground and finally had my first coffee of the day, which was also my first in Italy. It was drinkable, bliss. I also went back to the focaccia stand above and got some lunch.

After that I went for a big stroll and thought I would take my chances at getting to see the L'Ultima Cena. I got a bit lost along the way, but as it was such an interesting lost it didn't matter.

I did eventually get to the Santa Maria della Grazie, and after enquiring found I could get in at  4.15pm. To view the Last Supper is reservation only, but I thought I'd try my luck. I ended up declining, as that was over 2 hours to kill and it really has been cold today, the first day for gloves. I instead decided to wander the streets by a different route back to the hostel. On the way I came across the museo della scienza, so in I went. I was fascinated by the Foucault Pendulum.


After that wee sidetrack I started to get very tired so thought I would go to the stazione centrale to book my train ticket to the airport tomorrow. That proved too hard, so it was back to the hostel collecting a vast amount of parmigiano along the way.

Now I am sitting in the bar at the hostel trying to decide if I go out and wander around again for something to graze on, or just wait for aperitivo time here and eat for free. So many decisions - to be continued.

Update: Aperitivo won. This is my wee plate of food,

Just a tiny sample of what was on offer.

Mind you, all drinks were 10 Euro. I'm now going downstairs to the hostel's bar for another drink and another round of food!
 
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