A Travellerspoint blog

January 30th

London


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Well I've hit London and it's terribly cold. It doesn't seem much colder than Paris or Amsterdam but your extremities feel it a lot more.

I arrived here last Friday and did a bit of shopping along Oxford Street before catching up with Euan, an old school friend from my time in Canberra. We didn't do much that night, deciding to stay in.

The next day we got up quite early and walked along the Thames past the London Eye, meeting up with a mate of his. It was quite good just walking around taking in the city and the Thames. That night we went to a house leaving party of one of Euan's friends in what I found out once I got off the tube was a dodgy area of town called Mile End. We stayed until around 2am before heading off to this great but overly crowded Jazz Club, catching up with Euan's girlfriend and making it home around 5am.

Getting home late we didn't wake up until early afternoon and although we planned to go to the pub with one of Euan's mate's to watch the Spurs v Man U FA Cup match, it wasn't going to happen. Instead I watched it at home. Later on we met up with Euan's mate who we were supposed to catch up with earlier and went to a great Pakistani restaurant followed by a few brews afterwards.

On Monday I had a client meeting I had to go to so didn't get to do too much but yesterday I went to the Tate Modern. A fantastic museum which used to be a mill of sorts (from memory). I walked around looking at abstract expressionist, cubist and all sorts of modern art before making my way back past the London Eye to another Dali exhibition. Unfortunately, it was a lot of what I'd already seen in the exhibition in Paris but it was good nonetheless.

I then headed across past Parliament House and Big Ben to Westminster Abbey. Dad, you will love Westminster Abbey, it's an amazing building. Walking around looking at monuments to past kings and queens including the likes of Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Richard II and St Edward the Confessor who funded the Abbey. The chair that all kings and queens of England have been crowned on since the 11th century is also on display. You then walk to the Nave which is the main entrance to the Abbey (that which you see on TV) and walk right up, past where the choir is seated and where all royal ceremonies i.e. weddings, funerals and crownings takes place. In all, I probably spent about two hours just wondering around.

I then headed up to Trafalgar Square, in front of the British Museum which unfortunatley wasn't full of birds as apparently they were getting tired of all the bird shit. After spending about 20 minutes there I headed up to Picadilly Circus, what you could probably call London's answer to Time Square with massive neon billboards lighting up the entire area.

I then caught up with Euan and went to a Championship match (one below the Premier League) and watch Charlton at home to Stoke. Stoke being in Staffordshire, I should've really gone for them but with the way English football is I wasn't going to do that. It was a fantastic experience as the pitch is obviously played on a proper football pitch rather than a converted football/cricket ground. The atmosphere was amazing and the game good to watch, with Charlton scoring a goal late in the match. We then headed home which was good after an eventful day.

Today I got out of bed quite late so I made my way to Buckingham Palace and took some tourist shots. Unfortunately I missed the changing of the guard but I've heard it's not that great anyway. I then headed up The Mall, London's answer to de Champs-Elysees through the admiralty arch, past Trafalgar Square again and got on the tube to the Tower of London. I called talk about the Tower of London for ages, but I won't. Needless to say it was an awesome experience, it being the house of kings and queens since the 11the century and built on an old roman fort. It has seen the execution of several queens (including two of Henry VIII) and countless others. It is also the home of the Beefeaters, with 35 of them and their families actually living there. It is also the home of numerous crown jewels including the main ones.

I would write more but I'm already late to catch up with Euan. We're heading off to Camden for dinner and to maybe watch a couple of bands. I'm not sure if I'll write another blog before I go but I have to say I really like London and am looking forward to my last three days here.

NB: Unfortunately it looks like my photo quota limit on this site has run out so I can't upload any pics but for those on Facebook you'll be able to have a look

See everyone see

Posted by MrEden 30.01.2008 10:28 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

January 24th

Paris


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Unfortunately my time in Paris is coming to an end. To say the least it is a beautiful city. Unlike Rome which has fantastic landmarks but dirty urban areas, Paris too has its amazing landmarks but all the other buildings are also beautiful. No matter where you go there are coblestone streets with beautiful, clean houses, nearly every corner you turn is a picture.

Anyway, moving on. The first day I arrived it was late in the afternoon so I thought I'd leave the major sites to yesterday so instead I walked around the area near Gare Du Nord, the main intercity train station. Had dinner (including crepes, ohhhh the crepes) and a few brews before having an early night as I wanted to do a lot on the proceeding day.

The next day, I made my way in to the city, (in public transport that is incredibly easy to use) to the Louvre. I stood outside the world's biggest and most visited museum for about 15 minutes just admiring the beauty of the building, which was once a royal castle, before heading inside.

The museum is massive, I walked around for a little over four hours and even then I walked through some areas without taking it all in, it's not any wonder when it houses 35,000 works of art at any one time. The number of works of art that are noticeable is one thing but the inside of the building, for the most part is like a palace, opulent in every way. I made my way to the Great Hall and before I knew it I was looking at the Mona Lisa. It wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be so I made my way to the front within a minute.

I walked around in awe at the museum, the sheer number of works of art and their beauty and the timeline in which they were all created, from Egyptian up to modern art.

As it was still quite early I decided to walk de Champs-Elysees as it is a straight line from the Louvre. Walking through the gardens at the Louvre, past the Luxor obelisk. I walked towards the Arc de Triomphe slowly taking in the passing cars and the citylife that surrounded me.

I finally got to the arc and watched as cars frantically made their way around it, dodging each other. I walked through the underpass, as trying to dodge the traffic is obviously not recommended. Looking at the various battles the french have taken part in and the tomb of the unknown soldier. I made my way to the top and what a view it was. It becomes apparent very quickly how everything is designed around the arc. There are 12 main roads leading off it, hence the massive amount of traffic that goes around it. It was something else to behold a perfect 360 degree view of Paris at what was now twilight. Looking back up de Champs-Elysees to the Louvre or over to my side at the Eiffel Tower that was now lit up to the main CBD of Paris, it was an amazing feeling.

Having walked from the Louvre, up de Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and seeing the Eiffel Tower what seemed relatively close I decided to make my way over to it. Walking through the streets passed numerous embassies and past an Italian who was trying to get rid of "genuine" Versace bags out of his car because he had to go back to Milan (sounds like the speaker scam in Australia but a little more classy), I was starting to think I headed in the wrong direction only to turn a corner and see the Eiffel Tower standing in all its glory.

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The size of it didn't do it justice from the Arc de Triomphe but crossing the Seine and standing less than 100 metres away it is a massive structure, still the biggest in Paris. As I was about to cross the road a spectacle of lights, what can only be described as watching camera flashes going off over part of the tower starting to light it up even further. Unfortunately, the top level is only open on weekends but I was able to make it up to the second level. Standing here the view of Paris was even more breathtaking then on the top of the Arc de Triomphe. By this time it was getting late and my feet were sore from all the walking so I made my way back to the hotel.

Today, I decided to venture to Montmarte, which became an epicentre for bohemian culture aswell as a plethora of well known artists including the likes van Gogh; Matisse; Renoir; Degas; Toulose-Lautrec and most recently (and my favourite) Dali. Speaking of Dali, there is a museum showcasing some 300 works of his called Espace Dali, which I obviously went to and spent close to an hour just looking at numerous paintings and sculptures inspired by his paintings. I had wanted to purchase something of his but with prices starting at around $1,000 I decided against it.

Following my trip to to Espace Dali, I made my way to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. A grande basilica, it was constructed in the area in response to the Paris Comune of the early 1870s, with Montmarte being the area they organised themselves. Based at the highest point it served as a way of enforcing the church and state in the area by offering a daily reminder. It is yet another great spot to the view the Paris landscape with the inside amazing.

I walked back down the hill in to the "city centre" of Montmarte where artists can be found painting in a quadrangle surrounded by bistro's and crepperies, so I stopped for a couple of hours, reading a book, having a few coffees and then on to a few wines.

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I then made my way down to the main street where the number of sex shops would nearly put Amsterdam to shame. I walked by the Moulin Rouge before deciding to head back to Gare du Nord and have a slow dinner.

Tomorrow I'm off to London which unfortunately means my vacation is coming to an end.

Posted by MrEden 24.01.2008 15:40 Archived in France Comments (6)

January 20th

Amsterdam


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Apologies for the delay in getting this blog up but have had a fun few days in Amsterdam. Having arrived late last week and late at night, I went back to Phil's place, a Dutch mate who spent a year in Australia where we just relaxed.

The next couple of days were taken up going to see a couple of business partners and one customer so I didn't get much chance to see the city until Friday afternoon.

By this time Phil had finished work so we went out with a couple of his colleagues to their local stomping ground for a few beers. It was good spending some time not doing the standard touristy things as David was set to join us on Saturday afternoon. However that changed late at night when we decided to walk through the Redlight District. The streets were very narrow and filled with windows with red lights at the top and near naked women standing in them offering their "services". Phil was saying it used to be much bigger but they've made it smaller in recent times.

Being in Amsterdam, we had to hit a coffee shop which was very surreal as you walk up to the counter and presented with a menu of the different marijuana you can buy. As they say when in Amsterdam do as the Amsterdamers so we had a joint and walked passed Dam Square and Phil showed me a few other sites of the city.

David joined us the next day and again went to a few pubs, different nightspots, back to the Redlight District and to another coffee shop. We stopped off at a typical Amsterdam take away place, called Febo which has these vending machines which dispense deep fried food and hamburgers.

The next morning we spent most of it doing some souvenir shopping and walking around the city centre. I should add that the whole time I was there it was raining, not pouring but more than spitting, enough to be a mild nuissance, it wasnt' until today when I left that there was blue skies. We caught up with Phil and his girlfriend Sofia and decided to head to the coffee shop made famous by Oceans 12. We stayed there for a little while as it was a good atmosphere and were playing some classic Pink Floyd.

David left us the next night so Phil, Sofia and I decided to get some dinner and just relax for a quiet night at home which was good after a couple of big nights. That leads me to Paris where it's about 6:45pm on Tuesday (4:45am in Melbourne). I'm just about to hit the streets and have a look around.

The other thing I should note about Amsterdam before signing off is the sheer number of bikes. What they say is true! Everywhere you go there are bikes everywhere and no matter what the weather is like, people generally get around by riding. The other thing is the trams, it's a city much like Melbourne with trams running everywhere. In fact, they use the exact same trams as us.

Anyway, that's enough for now. See everyone in a little over a week :(

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Posted by MrEden 22.01.2008 09:24 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

January 16th

Venice


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Well today I left Trieste by train for what would have to be the most beautiful city I've seen ever, Venice. Hopping off the train I got on one of the ferries, called a vaporetti, winding through the Grand Canal was a memorable experiece. Watching trademen work and move around in their boats, other ferries ferrying by with the odd gondola carrying tourists. Locals only seem to ride gondola's for important occassions, I dare say as an antiquated tradition.

Stepping off the ferry near San Marco's Piazza I tried to find my hotel. After walking around the narrow labyrinth of streets for close to 30 minutes I asked a local where my hotel was only to find out it was a mere 50 metre's from where I departed the ferry. My location is perfect! Literally 2 minutes to the major sites, what can I say, I lucked out.

Having dropped off my luggage in my room I immediately set out trying to take advantage of every minute available as I'm only here for a day. Unlike the places I've visited thus far, just walking around in the alleys is an experience unto itself, getting lost is a joy in this city. Crossing over the numerous bridges in the canals, walking past boutique fashion shops, glass shops and the numerous ristorante's is a fun way to spend the day. I made my way back at dusk to properly take in San Marco's Piazza and the Doge's (Duke's) Palace.

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Posted by MrEden 15.01.2008 16:15 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

January 14th

Trieste


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Well I sit here writing this just a couple of hours before David and Belinda's wedding. Today is my last full day in Trieste which has been nice. I haven't got up to a great deal here but it's been good to just relax, enjoy a coffee in the numerous cafe's and have a pizza (or two) and see some of the city.

It's a beautiful city and unbenownst to me, was the place where James Joyce wrote Ulysees, they have several statues of him around the city. It is also home to the largest piazza outside of Rome and is glorious at night, as you can see from the picture below.

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There's also this awesome port you could say, where small boats pull up all around you, pretty much in to the city centre, while you sit and have a coffee

We also went to a castle in the area, which although not massive was great to walk around. The castle was built by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor's brother in the mid-1800s and also served as a base for the Germans and later the allied forces during World War II.

David's family have been very accomodating having gone around to his aunt's house for dinner on a couple of occassions. Although I understand next to nothing of the conversation it was good to spend time with some locals.

Tomorrow I head to Venice for a day which should be something to remember.

Posted by MrEden 14.01.2008 04:35 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

January 11th

The Colosseum


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As we missed the Colosseum on the preceeding day and because our flight to Trieste was in the afternoon, we decided to head back there in the morning. Heading out of the station, the Colosseum hits you straight away. It doesn't have the same power as looking at it from afar and walking towards it but grand nonetheless.

Walking around, it was disappointing to see some modern graffiti. Why people are possessed, or think it's "cool" to vandalise one of the world's greatest monuments is beyond comprehension but once you look past it, it was a great experience. You can clearly see where the Emperor and senators would've sat and how a class structure would've taken place back in Rome's glory. You can also see how modern stadiums have used the Colosseum as a blueprint especially in areas such as seating. The Colosseum, which at capacity could seat over 50,000, could be cleared within 10 minutes.

In recent years they've built a wooden structure which represents the area on which the gladiators would've fought.

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Posted by MrEden 12.01.2008 11:46 Archived in Italy Comments (3)

January 10th

St Peter's Square, St Peter's Basilica, The Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum at night.


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David, Belinda and I made away to the Vatican with plans to stay no more than half a day, which went out the window about 4pm. Although I'm a religious fence sitter, it's hard not to be moved and dare I say, in awe of this small piece of Rome. Although you can't really see much getting off the train and walking towards the Vatican, that quickly changes as you walk through what seems like hundreds upon hundreds of columns in to St Peter's Square and see the only remaining obelisk of Roman times in Rome. It is here where your breath is almost taken away by the sheer beauty of the Vatican. Atop the columns are statues lined with popes of bygone eras with St Peter's Basilica at the centre of it all.

We made away in to St Peter's Basilica, walking by a few Swiss Guard on the way. Apart from the sheer height of the entrance the ironic thing is that you enter the Basilica through a small wooden door which is very humbling. The main door (called the Holy Door) is only opened for great celebrations. In case you weren't aware, the Bascilica is built atop the burial site of it's namesake with the altar directly above his presumed grave. Hence why a lot of the Pope's are also buried below the church. I was surprised to learn that a lot of lay people are also buried in or around the Basilica, with even a few women buried, the most notable of which was Queen Christina of Sweden who abdicated to convert to Christianity.

As you look directly up the centre of the Basilica you see the main altar with four massive bronze pillars (the bronze was apparently taken from the Pantheon). Directly below the altar is the apparent tomb of St Peter, with stairs (cordoned off) leading down to it. Below is an image of me in front of the altar

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Inside the Basilica are numerous tombs of Pope's with two Pope's embalmed and on display, one of which being Pope John XXIII (who was responsible for the Second Vatican Council)

We then went underneath the Basilica and saw the tombs of numerous Pope's, the most notable (for my generation) being Pope John Paul II, who incidentally is buried very close to the supposed tomb of St Peter. Which I assumed was an indication of the work he did during his life.

After this we headed to the Sistine Chapel which one could say is at the back of St Peter's Basilica and is part of the Apostolic Palace, the residence of the Pope. To get to the Sistine Chapel you have to go upstairs and downstairs, through numerous rooms which takes a good 30 minutes to get too. Along the way you pass through numerous rooms with frescoes painted by the likes of Raphael, Botticelli and of course, Michaelangelo. I wasn't actually aware but the Sistine Chapel is where the election of new Pope's is undertaken in a conclave of the College of Cardinals. To say the least, it was an amazing experience. Looking up at what is arguably the greatest piece of art was a moment I will never forget.

By this time it was quite late but we headed to the Coloseum as we thought it might still be open. When we got there it was evident that it was closed but it was great to see it lit up at night. We headed away from the Coloseum towards the Monument of Vitorrio Emanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy. It's a massive structure and quite impressive but it just doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the classical architecture close to it.

Posted by MrEden 12.01.2008 10:07 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

January 9th

Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and the Spanish Steps


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After a tiresome journey, I got to Rome around 3pm on Wednesday. Heading in to Rome on the express train I have to admit I was a tad disappointed, the apartments and surroundings are far from awe inspiring. Trying to avoid jet lag David, Belinda and myself decided to hit the cobbled streets of Rome almost immediately.

First up, we headed to the Trevi Fountain. As we were trying to find it, we walked down this street and it wasn’t until we heard the cascading water did we realise that it was at the end of what seemed like a backstreet. Surrounded by deli’s and tobacco shops it was here where Rome’s true splendour first showed herself. Although not massive the fountain itself is amazing.

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Having got our bearings and feeling confident of navigating the labyrinth of streets, we headed to the Pantheon which was little more than a 10 minute walk away. It's surprising just how close a lot of the landmarks are. Looking at the Pantheon you can see where the likes of the Wall Street Exchange got their inspiration. The outside is lined with columns while the inside is circular. Built as a temple to the Gods in Roman times, it's now used as a Catholic church. It was weird because mass was being conducted when we went in with tourists walking around snapping pictures. The ceiling or better put, the dome, is another feature hard to forget. The centre of the dome, a reasonably small circle, is completely open to the weather so had we walked in on a rainy day, it would've been raining in the centre of the Pantheon.

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We then decided to move to the Spanish Steps which again, was a reasonably short distance. Unfortunately, the well known flowers that can often be seen in images of the Spanish steps weren’t out and as such didn’t give the steps the grandiose feel it is well known for. There was also scafolding at the top of the steps which further reduced it's splendour but it was good nonetheless.

Posted by MrEden 12.01.2008 09:52 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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