A Travellerspoint blog

Bordeaux

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We left Chenonceaux bound for Bordeaux and up until now we had become accustomed to the small quaint old French country village look and feel, Bordeaux changed this. The really neat thing about many European cities, Paris included, is that the old buildings of the early eras still stand today. It seems something very common and popular in Europe and especially what we notice in France is to take an old building and revamp the inside with modern furnishings and décor. When we arrived in Bordeaux this for the most part was still common but it appeared that it was more modern and there were much younger people. We stayed in the Hotel Majestic and had no real complaints to make mention off. As we began our search for a dinner place that night we noticed a lot more discos (night clubs) and much more pubs. We stayed clear of these and found a small Chinese buffet to eat at and left. We didn’t find much to get excited over in Bordeaux maybe because we didn’t look around much or possibly because we don’t like to disco!

Posted by sethnmon 11:03 Archived in France Comments (0)

Chenonceau

semi-overcast

We visited the Chateau de Chenonceaux today which is a gorgeous castle just below the small town. Luckily we entered the park as it opened when practically no one was there. This large park has full gardens, a bistro, and plenty of land to walk through so you can easily spend several hours there and the surrounding back-country vineyards are beautiful as well for when you come out of the park! After we had finished walking through the park and seeing the castle we had lunch at the bistro and it was outstanding.
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Posted by sethnmon 11:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

The TGV to Chenonceaux

semi-overcast 65 °F

Bathroom Terror
Today we got up, checked out, got some breakfast and left for the Metro. After an hour of Metro travel time we reached the train station. Upon arriving at the train station I realized I had to go to the bathroom pretty bad so searched for a "toilette." After looking around awhile I found it and also found that it costed 50 cents to get in (85 American cents to relieve myself!). After a little confusion of how it worked I deduced that you had to put the money in the machine and it would then let me through the turn style entry that looked more like an amusement park ride entrance than a bathroom. That much was easy enough but then the real problem arose. As I was leaving I walked to the turn style gate and hit it square in the sweets! Apparently the turn style didn't go backwards. Well I then tried the little door that was next to the turn style and to my amazement it was locked. Terror crept through me thinking "I'm trapped in the bathroom." Finally after a bit more looking around I found the button to push to reverse the turn style so I could go back through. Thank God, I could've been there for hours!
The TGV or the Train a Grande Vitesse
The TGV is France's high speed rail service and by high speed they mean it. This Train has been recorded to reach almost 200 mph and it felt truly this fast. It's interesting looking out the window at a freeway with cars on it and to be zipping by them like they're standing still. Cool! It was a comfortable ride and took only an hour to reach our destination-Chenonceaux.
Arriving at Chenonceaux
We simply got off the train and walked through the little town that seemed nearly empty and found our Hotel. Later we found that this little town is in fact nearly empty as it is not yet season. Two hotels are open for business and two restuarants are open for dinner and lunch. Sometimes it is nice to only have two choices to choose from. We are staying at the gorgeous Le Bon Laboureur. Tonight we walked down to the other hotel that was open and ate dinner at Le Relais Chenonceaux. We have to say we've eaten dinner at only two places we have been really impressed with. The first place was Le Sarladais on 2 rue de Vienne in Paris where we had a duck meal and the infamous Cassoulet. The second place was here at Le Relais Chenonceaux and there we had vegetable soup, and salad, a Salmon meal, and 'yes' a crepe! This crepe had ham, cheese, vegetable, and all kinds of good stuff on it and it was amazing! The service at both restaurants was outstanding and put Monica and I immediately to rest and the prices were fair. Despite the rumors we've heard about small French portions these two restaurants totally defied the sterotype and served very large portions. At Le Sarladais we could've fed a family of twelve with the food we were given!
For the pictures below you may be wondering why there's one of Monica washing our clothes in the bathtub. Well, we asked the hotel if they had a laundry service to do some clothes we need soon. The hostess, of whom was very kind I must say, printed of a paper that listed the service. It seems that the hotel wants two dollars and sixty cents to wash one single piece of my underwear! If you add all the clothes together this could would end up costing well over one-hundred dollars! Why bother spending that kind of money when your pregnant wife can do it for free!
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So far so good...tomorrow we're off to see the castle!

Posted by sethnmon 11:29 Archived in France Comments (1)

Funny and Not So Funny Things

leaving Paris behind for a while

sunny 60 °F

Today we spent most of our time strolling around Paris talking about where we will go when we leave tomorrow and making arrangements to do so. We leave tomorrow morning and will visit, via the fast train, Chenonceaux, Bordeaux, Carcasosone, and Avignon which will take us through almost all of western and southern France and then later we will go to Normandy and back to Alsace which will take us through most of the North. As we purchased tickets we continued walking through Paris and taking the Metro to different places. We've walked and walked and walked some more. No matter what we try to do, traveling by metro or walking, we still seem to be putting in some 11-12 kilometers a day.
Some Funny Experiences
Watching everyone scurry like mice through the metro is pretty interesting. I just haven't ever seen people moving so fast with maybe the exception being in London metro. Still it's kind of funny when you step back and watch everyone!
Walking through the reeeaally rich and prestigious clothing shop avenues is funny. Everyone on these particular avenues are looking at everyone else and when they see me and Monica coming can tend to make faces of disapproval. It's even funnier when you walk into a store and the clerks inside look at you with an expression of "your not supposed to be in here are you" on there faces. Maybe next time this happens Seth will give one of them a big fat bugs bunny kiss on the nose and see what happens! Maybe he'll get to see what a French jail looks like!
Learning the French language has moved to new level today. As our vocabulary grows we desire to be able to say more than "toilet, eat, I want, thank you, and goodbye" so we are pressing in to speak and learn more. Monica is funny when she starts inserting Spanish accidentally to each sentence. She may say "yes, I would like one more water" and it will turn out "si, je voudrais uno mas eau" Seth is funny because he starts forgetting his vocabulary and starts adding an "eaux" to every word hoping it will sound Frenchy enough to get him by. A sentence that is supposed to be "S'il vous plait, est-ce que vous avex une chambre (please, do have a vacant room) turns into "S'il vous pleaux, est-ceaux qeaux veaux avez une chambreaux?" We're working on it and hopefully we'll get it right! For now we'll take the French people laughing at us and continue the journey.
It wasn't funny at the time but Seth was paying for our lunch at a chinese food place and as she was giving back our 4 euros (about 5 bucks) in change Seth said accidentally "c'est bon" (it's good) translated "no thanks keep the change" and she responded in surprise "merci, merci" Monica looked very disappointed in me and I just hoped they needed the money!
Sometimes Not So Funny Experiences
Sometimes we notice a definite change in attitude with how we are treated. Sometimes we simply don't understand the etiquette of some particular activity and the host of the activity doesn't care to teach us but instead simply gets angry or snooty about the fact that we haven't followed the unspoken rules. This and there's always the people that simply see you coming and make an immediate judgment call on who you are and choose not to be friendly. I have to feel that these kind of people, which I must admit we haven't met to many of thankfully, must be ones that haven't traveled much in there life or else they'd know how culture shock works and how uncomfortable it is to have someone act this way to you. These unfriendly types seems to be in every culture and it makes me really much more sensitive to the person "invading" my comfort zone in my culture or country. That still doesn't take away the fact that I wanted to punch that last guy who did it to us.
Another not so fun experience was toting our luggage through the Metro tunnels up and down stairs and all around. We would've brought just backpacks but we had to bring suitcases for other good reasons. Oh well...good exercise! ....For Seth

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Posted by sethnmon 11:27 Archived in France Comments (0)

Accident on the Boulevard de la Madeleine

never a dull moment

overcast 57 °F

Just after writing all the catch up on the previous days we decided to go get some dinner. We were walking down the Boulevard de la Madeleine and suddenly heard a scream. We quickly turned our gaze to see a young guy sliding his motorcycle/moped on it's side with him behind. He quickly jumped up to his feet in the middle of the busy two lane city street and ran over somewhere I (Seth) couldn't see. I said to Monica "oh he looks okay" but still we began to move to the accident. I was still looking to the street when my wonderful wife exclaimed "no Seth, someone's down.....GO SETH" I quickly went to the scene to find many people looking on at a girl lying face down on the ground and a good samaritan helping already, checking her vitals. I stepped in and despite the language barrier was able to convey to her friend, who was understandably looking very upset, to tell her not to move and most importantly keep her head still. Monica and I helped keep her head from moving and assessed that the blood covering her hair was not pumping out from any gash or wound and that bleeding was not a priority. I explained to her friend these things while we were aiding. The victim was voice responsive and I asked her friend to ask to see if she was mentally alert enough to know her name. Thankfully she was and so the young man who had hit the girl with his motorbike had already called the emergency services and they were already coming down the road. They swept in and took over and we walked away. Just as a matter of interest if the victim or her friend should happen upon this blog we would really like to know how you are. Anyway, what an end to a day. Monica and I sat down after to come down of the adrenaline rush and to assess what we learned and what we might have changed. We continue to be grateful to the Wilderness Medicine Training Center for the excellent First Responder class that we took almost two years ago - Thanks Paul!

Posted by sethnmon 12:28 Comments (0)

From Saudi Arabia to Egypt and then to France

Another trip away from the sand pit

overcast 55 °F

From Saudi to Egypt
The Flight from Saudi Arabia to Egypt at 2pm likened more to a rodeo than an airplane flight. The strong desert winds that beat against the plane in the afternoon and die at night felt like an amusement park ride, no kidding! Along with this, the night before we left Seth got sick with a flu bug and got to take it with him on all the plane rides. The count for "sneezes on a single flight" in the World Record books was broken on Egypt Air flight 799.
Egypt
We arrived into Cairo, Egypt and despite the sexy glamor of the media not following Egypt too much anymore we learned that the violence and the troubles still rage and clash. We didn't drive anywhere near Tahrir Square and interestingly enough life seemed to meander on somewhat normally outside the middle of Cairo and Tahrir square. This is not to say that the recently publicized events of Egypt's "White Revolution" were hidden. We spoke to an Egyptian information clerk at the Cairo airport and an Egyptian sales clerk at the hotel we stayed in overnight for our layover. The bottom line is that the road for both Tunisa and Egypt is going to be a very long and difficult one for recovery. Egypt will not and cannot simply take a constitutional template from the west and start plugging in their thoughts on unalienable rights and equal access and allowances of property and speech. This is going to be a very strange rebuild and reform and the people understand it is a very unstable and sticky situation. The message we received in our discussions was that this was Egypt's accomplishment, Egypt's revolt away from corruption, suffering, and malevolent dictatorship, and they, with no one's real help are going to get up from it. Even when the word "democracy" came out (don't be fooled) it was a democracy that wasn't going to mirror western democracy. What an eye opener to the TV watcher to talk to some of the citizens of Egypt and hear there own thoughts. I felt somewhat at a loss of words for what to say other than we hope and pray that things will iron out? We can only wait and see but for now Egypt is being run by the military and armed Egyptian military personnel were visible on street corners and the people are afraid of what may lie ahead. The information clerk related to us that there are strict rules and curfews that have many Egyptians concerned. Egyptians who may have strolled out at night for an evening walk (this being common for a desert culture) are instead confined inside their houses. Like I said we can learn what we can and hope for the best but as far as Monica and I we feel we got a good perspective in our short visit.
On to France
The next morning we flew the four hour flight to Paris and got to our Paris hotel... Hotel L'Ouest. This place for the price is a very nice newly remodeled hotel that looks much like the hostels we stayed in Peru but better. Many people (Americans) may have walked out of this place pretty fast just judging by the small space but let me tell you that small spaces in Paris are a part of life, instead you need to observe how the space is used. With Hotel L'Ouest t is used quite nicely. The room is equipped with a wall mounted flat screen TV, a closet to hang clothes, a Queen bed with about three feet of clearance on each side, a desk, a stool, and two bedside tables that all tastefully match the rooms decor. Now we don't judge a room on the decor but usually on two things, the bed and the bathroom. We have been to five star hotels where the stinkin water didn't drain out the tub and to small twenty dollar a night hostels that had a bed that we sank to the middle off. This was in no way like those experiences thankfully. The bathroom and everything in it works great and the bed was healthy to sleep on! Yipeee! The only difficulty was street noise which is common to a large city but noise we're not quite used to.
French Living: what's not to like!
What we have noticed is that if you try to get down some French catch phrases then they in turn will honor your attempts and will most likely return with English. Between the two of us, Monica and I are doing pretty well learning French and it is making things much easier. We took a walk down to the main prestigious avenue that runs through the middle of France called "Avenue des Champs Elysees" where many of Paris's major monuments and Museums are located and WOW seeing is believing! The only thing I can say is it's huge! Roman columns built by Napoleon, Huge museums (the Louvre) and massive gardens (looking a bit brown right now) line the street. We have also begun to eat at the little brasserie's and cafe's that are so abundant here as well. mmmmm...More to come.....with pics to come also
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Posted by sethnmon 12:14 Archived in France Comments (1)

Run For Your Life

Machu Picchu 18 April 2010

sunny

The view behind our hotel - this is the world behind the touristy facade that is Aguas Calientes.

The view behind our hotel - this is the world behind the touristy facade that is Aguas Calientes.


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Lets Go to Machu Picchu

Unlike many people that go to Machu Picchu we really didn’t care to see the sun rise over the ruins. So we slept until 7am, had breakfast and then headed off on our hike to the ruins.
Over the Urubamba River with Machu Picchu up above.

Over the Urubamba River with Machu Picchu up above.


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Most people take a bus up to the ruins but you can walk up the over 3000 stair trail to the top. We were told for the first section we could either walk along the bus road or along the train tracks which would cut off about 15 minutes of the hike so we chose the train tracks. As we walked along the tracks we got to see how they were put together and noted that must be why they are not currently in use.
Here we go...

Here we go...

Going Up

Going Up

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and up...

Does Monica look pooped or what...

Does Monica look pooped or what...

What a view!

What a view!

Still going up.

Still going up.


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The hike was strenuous and beautiful. It took about 2 hours. We met our friends at the top and walked around the ruins for about 2 hours before heading back down.
large_152.jpg159.jpg0166.jpgWe made it!

We made it!

They don't look too bad for having hiked for 4 days!

They don't look too bad for having hiked for 4 days!

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Time To Go Back Down

We were making our way quickly back to Aguas Calientes along the same train tracks when half way through one of the two tunnels Seth heard what sounded like an earthquake or a train. We both looked up at the same time to see a bright light moving straight toward the tunnel. After Seth yelling and expletive and “run” we turned and sprinted back towards then entrance of the tunnel as the conductor blew his horn. We made it out (obviously) and clung to the side of the embankment outside the tunnel as the train roared by and surprised tourists waved at us.

Let’s just say we didn’t meander through the second tunnel.
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We later found out that a once a day rail service had been restarted – not sure what the chances are of being in the middle of a tunnel for that one time of the day. Even though we can’t believe we had this experience the other part of us can’t believe they are running trains on these tracks.

It seems in this country along with most other third world countries the policy stands as “use it and abuse it until it’s all used up regardless of safety.” Also, “if something breaks – fix it, but just enough to get by”…. Scary.

We were pretty pooped but our train back did not leave until 6pm so we ate lunch and wandered around town until then.

We made it back to The Green House uneventfully.
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Posted by sethnmon 03:42 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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