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It’s been hectic
July 5th, 2006

Jess and I are sitting in an internet cafe in Cannes right now and she and I are going to try and remember what we’ve been doing for the last 3 or 4 days.

On the Champs-Elyses Immediately After Portugal Beat EnglandAfter arriving in Paris in the afternoon, we took a tour of the sights. Portugal had just beat England and the Champs-Elyses was … indescribably overrun with Portugal fans driving around with flags hanging out the window, honking horns and all that. Thankfully our coach is from Holland, and not England or it may have been slightly, messy. It was a real sight to see, we have photos!

Eiffel TowerThe next day we walked to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower… which was as hard as it sounds. The very top was too packed so it was closed off to the public. It didn’t take very long to get in however, I think the particular leg we walked up (SUD – South) only opened moments before we arrived. We got plenty of pictures – the view was fascinating. We had (several) obligatory kisses on the Eiffel Tower before running back down the stairs and rushing to the Louvre!

The Louvre PyramidThe Louvre was extremly busy and we had to rush as we only had a day to get to all the sights. We saw the original Virgin on the Rocks (the touched up version was in London), the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. I snuck in a picture and was basically jumped on by security… which was a little scary since having the camera confiscated would’ve been… rather bad. The Mona Lisa was ridiculously crowded and yes, as small and dissapointing as everyone says, but y’know, gotta check the box ‘n all that. After that, we rushed to Notre Dame cathedral, France’s most reverred gothic cathedral.

The cathedral was fascinating. I got some fantastic photos in there, the whole place was dark, lit only with candles and the natural light that came in through the gigantic stained glass windows… which, of course, were beautiful. We didn’t climb to the bell tower, surely the view wouldn’t have matched the Eiffel Tower anyway, and we needed to fit in the Musee D’Orssey.

In the Musee D’Orssey we rushed to the 5th floor for the Impressionism and Post-Impressionism section. We walked up the left side of the building, which had escalators going down and stairs going up. Little did we know the exact opposite happened on the right side of the building! Never mind… we sure have been getting plenty of exercise on this trip! I can’t stress enough that this is the first time we’ve had more than, 15 minutes to ourselves… dead serious! It’s very hard to maintain! Anyway, the Monet’s and Van Gogh’s were fantastic. A lot of stuff was unfamiliar to us, but still great to look at.

We left the museum and caught the coach back to camp for about an hour which was just enough time to get ready for the parisian dinner. The food was quite nice, but it must’ve been good because Jess ate the steak and it wasn’t minced up or anything! But she also tried the escargo so I guess this trip has been full of culinary adventures! Sparkling Eiffel TowerAfter that, some people went to a cabare show but Jess & I and another couple, Mel & Gilly went to see the Eiffel tower at night, which sparkled epileptically each hour (we saw it at 11pm) and that was gorgeous and we got some great photos. Very romantic!

After that we had a one night stop at a Chateux in the countryside, can’t recall the name of the place, sorry. But it was a great place. The facilities weren’t that good, but the view of the vineyard was breathtaking. That night we tried some french wine which was produced in the region and both drank a shot of Eau de Vie, (drink of life) otherwise known to the Contiki crew as “the bed wetter”. It’s 80% alcohol and smells like thinners. It was very funny watching the reactions of people drinking it who didn’t quite manage to keep it off their tongue. Kind of a dry heave effect.

View of MonacoThe next morning (at about 8:00) we left for the French Riviera. Needless to say, the bus was very quiet. On the way we stopped at Avignon for a quick stop off, it wasn’t particularly relaxing as I needed to buy some nice pants for what we were doing that night… which I’ll get to. We then boarded the coach to take off to our camp which borders Nice, Cannes and Monaco, somehow… not sure what it looks like on a map, and we had an hour to get ready before we left for a guided coach tour of Monaco stopping off for an hour at the Monte Carlo Casino!. The guided tour was fantastic. I would’ve taken about 20 or 30 photos out the window it just kept looking more and more fantastic as we scaled the hillside circling up to about a kilometer or so about sea level with views of the whole city. At the peak, we drank some champagne before heading off the casino.

The casino cost 10 euro each to get in and they checked our passports for some reason. It was fascinatingly luxurous, but needless to say the staff weren’t exactly impressed by us, despite us looking smashing if I may say so myself. We weren’t allowed a camera so you’ll have to take my word that the place looked brilliant; sparkling chandeliers and artwork. We exchanged 2 euros for chips, tried the slots, which was quite dull, and kept a chip as a suveniour. Someone on the tour (Spiro) exchanged 100 euro for chips, and sat at the blackjack table, with perhaps 20 of us looking. The looks on the staff’s faces were hilarious. The were whispering something which only Jess had a chance of understanding (one of the short list of French speakers on the tour) but it was too quiet. Anyway, Spiro got to 17 and sat, the dealer got to 16, drew another card and busted, scoring Spiro another 100 euro, which he left with, much to the applause of the group. He exchanged one chip, leaving the other as a momento. If I’m not being clear, this leaves him with a 100 euro chip, and no money lost. Brilliant. What a champ.

Today we have our first free day (without coach travel, which is having its air conditoner repaired, fingers crossed) and we are loving it! After doing our first load of washing since we’ve been away, we caught the train to Cannes and headed down to the beach and had lunch in a cute french cafe/restraunt. All I can say is thank god that Jess can speak French, most people find her attempts at the language charming which usually means that they’re more helpful than they would be otherwise, with only the occasional person just snubbing us… all good, all good.

Tonight we’re going to go to Nice to celebrate Mel’s birthday and watch the Portugal/France game which will hopefully (and almost certainly) result in a win for France which should be interesting! Great time to party with the locals!

We’re missing everyone and are extremely pushed for time. We both promise to call as soon as we can, but for the time being we’re feeling good, we’re still healthy, happy, getting almost enough sleep and seeing some amazing things. We are pinching ourselves from time to time, believe me!