Around the World a Bit at a Time

Travels: Past, Present and Future

Archive for September, 2004

Walking, Walking Walking the Streets of Paris

Posted by Leanne on September 30, 2004

James didn’t emerge for breakfast, but, as a result of a false start where I went for a walk, but took a wrong turning and accidentally ended up back at the hostel, he poked his head out the window at me and joined me for the day.

Then we walked. And walked and walked and walked and walked and walked.

We walked from the hostel, near the sacre coeur to the Louvre, we walked from the Louvre to the Centre Pompidou, where we stopped for lunch and James got accused of being Australian. We walked from the Centre Pompidou to the Notre Dame, from the Notre Dame to the Eiffel tower, we went up the Eiffel Tower in a lift and walked down it. We walked from the Eiffel tower to Place de la Concorde, and finally to the Arc de Triumphe. Then we got the metro back to the hostel.

As soon as we walked through the door, James disappeared again making my new courtyard friends convinced that he was actually my imaginary friend who never really existed.

That night I met Martin and Diego from Argentina and introduced them to each other and the fact that they had their nationality in common. I met Hugh, who made us drink wine, and Ethan and Megan who were my new (jetlagged) room mates from Houston, Texas. There were others whose names I never found out and together, we all went for a walk along the Moulin Rouge strip.

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge

According to my diary from that day, this was ‘fun’

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Brussels to Paris

Posted by Leanne on September 29, 2004

The train to Paris didn’t depart until the afternoon, so we spent the morning back on the tour bus where we could appreciate the beauty and Grandeur of Brussels without the worry of homelessness getting in the way.

A much less stressful journey to Paris ensued and we found the Woodstock, where we would be staying for the next three nights with ease.

The Woodstock was how I had expected hostels to be. Whilst the place in Amsterdam was a hotel with bunkbeds, the Woodstock was less polished, but full of character. It was smaller and had a friendlier backpacker feel to it.

We were placed in separate rooms, so while James disappeared to his, I dumped my bag in mine and sat outside in the courtyard where I met Nao, from Japan and Mark, from Australia amongst others.

Three hours later, James still hadn’t emerged and I had no idea which room he was in. I was in a new city and the urge to explore was starting to take over so I bid farewell to my temporary courtyard friends and ventured out onto the streets of Paris. A few minutes later I found myself at the top of the steps to the Sacre Coeur. As I looked down over nighttime Paris from one of its highest points, the sprawling city was breathtaking. Through a gap in the trees, I could see the top of the illuminated Eiffel Tower.

I felt a little sad that noone was there to appreciate it with me, but ultimately lucky to be there at all. A few minutes later, I was back in the hostel courtyard hostel where I rejoined the courtyard travellers.

I liked it there.

Paris from Above (Eiffel Tower)

Paris from Above (Eiffel Tower)

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Brussels

Posted by Leanne on September 28, 2004

We caught the train to Brussels very early and arrived at about 1pm. As we didn’t have any accommodation booked, we tried to find a Youth Hostel mentioned in my guide book. And got very very lost, which led to getting very very annoyed and very very stressed at the prospect of spending a night on the streets.

Finally, after going around on the tour bus one and a half times (tourism and navigation combined!) we found what we were looking for and also found out that it was fully booked.

Brussels from the Bus

Brussels from the Bus

Several hours later, back at the tourist office we booked into a 4* hotel, just round the corner from la grande place and took the hit to our wallets in return for the luxury of a bed for the night.

After a shower to wash the sweat and stress away, we both cheered up considerably. We went for dinner, where I tried to speak French, but it didn’t really work, because James was speaking English and so was the waiter.

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Cracks

Posted by Leanne on September 27, 2004

It was our second day in Amsterdam and so we walked into town. James, who had done nothing but complain and be moody since we’d left York went back to the hostel to sleep all day soon after that so I wandered around aimlessly, at least feeling appreciative that I was there.

Multi Storey Bike Park, Amsterdam

Multi Storey Bike Park, Amsterdam

I did manage to get him back into town that evening for a few beers, on the understanding that he would be able to make a stop at a ‘coffee’ shop and we could see for ourselves what the red light district was really like.

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Amsterdam

Posted by Leanne on September 26, 2004

The first time I ever went travelling was on a whim, because I had decided that I needed to be more spontaneous. Spending my days hauling a rucksack around the world on my back had never appealed to me in the slightest, yet that is what I found myself doing for 3 weeks when I booked an InterRailing pass with the intention of seeing a bit more of Europe

The original plan was to head out on my own, which scared the hell out of me, so I was quite pleased when a younger colleague from my student days at Pizza Hut decided that he would join me in order to burn off a bit of inheritance money and get himself out of the house for a bit.

That was how I found myself, at 6am on 26th September 2004 queueing up at the check-in desk in Gatwick airport to be booked onto my flight to Amsterdam

After having tried to sleep at the airport all night, James started to get cranky, claiming lack of sleep as his excuse (the snoring coming from the bench next to mine all night seemed to suggest otherwise) and I started to wonder whether out travelling partnership would last very long. Still, when we arrived in Amsterdam after the short 30min flight, I felt glad that I wasn’t alone.

I was feeling surprisingly awake – the surreal, announcement interrupted sleep I got at the airport must have done me more good than I thought.

My introduction to Amsterdam was breakfast at Burger King (which, several years on is a bit of an embarrassment) and a double decker train from the airport into town. This excited me from the outset. If they have double decker trains, what else was there in store beyond the confines of the airport?!

As we travelled through the suburbs and into the city, the scenery struck me as being very futuristic and, well, boxy with not much character. Still, I needn’t have worried because the actual city proved to be much more beautiful as we found when we travelled to the hostel by canal bus.

Amsterdam Canal Network

Amsterdam Canal Network

Our hostel, the first I’ve ever stayed in, was situated on the edge of Vondelpark, which is where I sat in the autumn sunshine shortly after checking in, writing in my paper diary about James who had checked in and decided to go to bed at 1pm . Hmph. I, on the other hand was excited to be in a new country. I wanted to make the most of my short time in Amsterdam.

Vondelpark was just how a park should be. It was full of running people; cycling people; people on rollerblades; couples out for a Sunday afternoon walk in the park; busy cafes; street(or park?) performers; children playing out.

When James finally awoke, we spent the evening at the Comedy Café near our hostel, filling our tummies with beer, just like we would have done if we were back home in York on a Sunday night…

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