France

Days spent – 10 days (18 June 2016 to 24 June 2016 and 11 July 2016 to 15 July 2016)

Places visited – Amiens, Paris, Marseille, Arles, Nice

Books read – Homage to Catalonia (unfinished)

Things done – Amiens Cathedral (including light show), Jules Verne’s House, Picardy Museum, The Somme, The Somme Battlefield tour, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Catacombs, Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacre Coeur, Arles Theatre and Ampitheatre, Nice beach

Highlight(s) – meeting Jiong, Amiens light show, Catacombs

Lowlight(s) – (most) French people and cost

Costs – £780.39 (£78.04 per day)

So, bonjour France, my first stop is Amiens.  I try not to have a closed mind and stereotype a place before I get there but the first thing I see in France is a man walking out of a boulangerie with a baguette.  Yeah, I’m in France!  It turns out I’ve accidentally booked a hotel that is about three miles from the centre, this equals a blister, damn!  The worst thing is, after dumping my pack because there’s nothing to do where I am I decide to head out for a beer.  The first place I find that’s suitable is… all, the, way, back, to, town…  Where I find a suitable Irish bar and get chatting to a Northern Irish guy called Phil.  After the football has finished he mentions that there’s a light show at Amiens Cathedral so we pop along.  You may have seen the video I already posted on this but it’s very impressive, to see it in its original thirteenth century state is really something to behold.

By day it is also quite impressive and it’s actually the largest church in France (Notre Dame, Paris is actually fourth behind, Reims, Strasbourg and obviously Amiens).  After that I head to Jules Verne’s House, where I get inspiration to read ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, more on that to follow as I read it in Spain!  Subsequently, it’s such a nice day that I choose the even longer route back to the hotel via the Somme, thankfully, one hundred years on it looks like this…

The following day I arrange to go on a Somme battlefield tour (more Irish people here!).  The weather is dreadful, proper horrible English day, which I think is appropriate somehow.  We visit a museum, some memorials (Thiepval and the Australian memorials are both very impressive, if that’s the right word to use, I’m not sure it is), a battlefield left as it was after the war and Lochnagar Crater.  It’s quite humbling to see it all when you think about what happened there.  Thankfully, I don’t have to walk back to the hotel as I’m off to gay Paris.

First things first, it’s to an Irish bar as England are playing, there are many more Irish people here oddly enough! After celebrating a 0-0 with Slovakia (because it meant we got through) an Irish guy laughs at me and says “You’re celebrating that?  That was poor and you’ll get a difficult draw and you’ll go out next round…”.  Well, the joke’s on him because we get an easy draw with Iceland…

At the Arc de Triomphe I meet Jiong.  I need to thank her for a lot but firstly for finding the underground passage to the Arc, without her I would probably have risked life and limb crossing the Arc de Triomphe roundabout!  We do some other sites in Paris together and when at The Eiffel Tower Jiong says “Would you like a photo here?” Which translates to ‘Please could you take a photo of me here?’.  So I take a few and we have a look at which point she says “The Tower’s not straight”, I look up and think ‘hmm, it looks pretty straight, I’m not in Pisa yet.  We scroll back through some photos then I say “Look, that one’s straight!” followed by the awful reply from Jiong of “That’s because I took it!” Ah bugger…  Oh, how we laughed! Anyway, also thanks for being an awesome travel buddy and see you in Barcelona…

Jiong heads off for Spain and I head for the Catacombs.  You can’t really get an idea of the scale of the place without being there.  Six million Parisians, that’s twelve million femurs!  The history of it is also quite interesting.  The mines that yielded the stone to build The Louvre and Notre Dame et al. were starting to undermine the city so they gradually reinforced them to stop this happening. After that, Paris had another problem in that its cemetaries were full, so King Louis XVI decided to move the people into the former underground mines and start a new cemetary on the outskirts.

It seemed a shame to go to France and not have escargot (that’s snails to you uncultured folk!), I wouldn’t say I’d have them again but the remainder of the starter was divine.  I also tried foie gras which is very nice but quite pricey.

Speaking of pricey, if I had to sum up France with one word I’d probably use that one!  I paid €9.60 for a beer in Paris and what makes things worse is that that may have been for a half litre!  The cost in the summary shows the contrast between France and London (and Spain, Italy etc. to follow), although the direct comparison is a little unfair.  In France, I did some costly tours that I didn’t really do in the UK and I also ate at places with Jiong that I wouldn’t normally have eaten at.

You may have noticed I haven’t talked much about French people yet, this is mixed!  On the good side when travelling via Blablacar to Barcelona from Paris with three French people I didn’t understand much.  But when we hit traffic outside of Barcelona I exclaimed “Merde!” and got congratulated on my good French!  On the bad side when ordering a beer in a bar in my best French the bartender may have asked me something about glasses (it was my second) which I couldn’t understand and she got annoyed.  But I won’t get on my high horse because us Brits are bad in this regard also.  In fact, we aren’t all that different really.  Sure, they drive on a different side of the road and speak a different language but we both seem to be trying to win the ‘who can be the most pompous and obnoxious’ competition.

Strawbs – written 21 July 2016, edited 24 July 2016, published 24 July 2016

You weren’t expecting me to post a normal photo of the Tower were you…?!

The Louvre

Felt bad for this ‘guy’ whilst I was there…

Catacombs bones

Lochnagar Crater 

Actual WWI trench

A Roman ship they recently found in sediment of the Rhone,  quite interesting

Napoleon’s dining table!

Nice by night and to finish on a very sour note, the attack was about one mile up Promenade des Anglais.  How dare he do it on a road named that.  Not in my name!

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Author: ipwstrawbridge

Travelling the world

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