Friday, October 12, 2007

Grande Finale

At Epernay, home of Champagne.

Last night we went to the Moulon Rouge. the 11 pm show was packed, on a Wednesday with the line to get in stretching over 200m! Judging by all the busses leaving after the 9 oclock show this session is booked out 3 months ahead by the tour companies. Lots of fancy costumes and dancing plus some comedy, juggling, acrobatics and plenty of scantilly clad nice young ladies. The show had something for everyone. My favourite was the swimming pool scene.

Today did some last minute souveneir shopping and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. An old style burger went down a treat. Also the memorabelia was good. A couple of gems for you Lawrie. See photo below.

Kate then went to the Opera House but could not go into the main auditorium due to a rehearsal. Judging by the photos the entrabce halls and stairways were impressive. The building was built designed by Garnier, who also designed the Monte Carlo casino. No photos allowed in the casino but this shot in the opera house gives you an idea of what it is like.

Opera House
Monte Carlo casino

Later in the day we went to the Pierre Lacaisse cemetary to see Oscar Wildes grave site. While we were there we stumbled upon the grave of Jim Morrison. There were a steady stream of visitors paying there respects which was good to see. Just a few people around, not a crowd. What was not so good to seee was that there is now a barricade around the grave and a security guard nearby. This was not the case when I was here 20 years ago. Seems like some people will not let Jim RIP.

Tonight we will stroll down the Champs Elysee as we have not seen it at night. Then a quiet dinner as we are both buggered from a big day and night yesterday.

Apologies for the photos, you may have to twist your neck to see the, properly. I cannot rotate them as this PC is in french and I have no hope.

We are really looking forward to giving Loz and Moz a great big hug tomorrow.

Cheers Dave


Here is the shot I got hanging out of the window in the Italian Riviera. Not bad from a moving train.

Some people we have seen that we recognise, do you?

Professor Julius Sumner Miller

Neil Craig

Bickus Dickus (from Life of Brian)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some photos for you

The start anfd finish line for the Monaco Grand Prix.
From near the Palace Royale in Monaco.

View from the top of Mt. Titlis

Here are (hopefully) some photos from the previous days. Today we have visited Epernay. Toured around the caves of Mercier and Moet and Chandon. Learnt a lot about how the champagne is made. Tasted Vintage and Non-vintage bubbles. There are Kilometres of caves under Epernay storing champagne.

We slept well lqst night. Very quiet street andthe bed is almost like ours!

We are off to the Moulin Rouge tonight for an 11:30 show.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Kate and Dave's Excellent Aventure: Money, Money, Money#comments

Kate and Dave's Excellent Aventure: Money, Money, Money#comments

Dad, it was an american, who else. We talked about framing the photo and showed it to her but she still didn,t understand. We asked her to take another one but put this one on the blog for a laugh.

On the Road Again

Well, we hqve left Monaco, and have found our way back to Paris for our "last fling". The hotel we have booked does not have internet access, and we have found this internet cafe newt to the Laundry where we have had to do some washing. I have left Dave guarding the 'lavage' to jot down a few notes for you, so again I am sorry, that there are no photos!

The keyboards here in Europe have a different for,at to the ones back home, so I will need to proof read what I have written. For instance, the A and Q have been swapped, and M is next to L. I also need to press 'Caps'(?) to get numbers and full stops to register, and look hard for the question mark! They probably do this on purpose so that you spend more time on here!

The train trip was lovely, but instead of us having to rush for the train, we got there 20 minutes early and hopped on board right on time! No rushing this time! We got into Nice, and that is where the problem started. There was a technical difficulty with the train, and it was 70 minutes before they could get us another and before the rest of the journey began.

We arrived out of the Metro station near our hotel, and felt like we had entered the Ghetto. Another thing was that we did not know exactly where we needed to go to get to our hotel, but after asking a couple of people, who couldn't help us, We asked a taxi driver who couldn't speak English, but could point us in the right direction. We have been very lucky so far with the accommodation, but I think that this is the worst. Unfortunately we couldn't afford the Ritz, but this will be OK. The bed is firm, but the pillow feels comfortable. It smells a little, but I have just bought some lily blooms to make it smell better!

Hope you are all well, and can't wait to see you on Saturday night. I am not sure if I can upload images, but will ask on the way out.

Love to all, Kate

Monday, October 8, 2007

Money, Money, Money

Bonjour from Monaco!

We had a good train trip, although we realised thay we had only reserved one place on the train! When we got to Milan (no problems when you follow a proper map – see posting from Busseto) the first class carriages were all full and Dave being a gentleman, let me sit in first class, although the only real difference was the leg room. (Dave did not deliberately book first class but somehow that is what we got, C’est la vie)We travelled through the rural countryside which we have become accustomed to over the last couple of days, and then began to clime through hills, scenery reminiscent of the foot of the Swiss mountains. We came across several tunnels which teased us like Dave changing channels on the TV. Every time we got used to the scenery, another one came up, and took the lovely views away from us. I did not count how many there were in total, but certainly more than you could count on four hands. I knew that we were heading downwards, and wondered if the tunnels would take us all the way to the sea. I was pleasantly surprised the when we reached Genova, the Mediterranean was there before us.

I made my way down the train to rendezvous with Dave for a picnic lunch (more wine and bread and butter), to find him to be the sole inhabitant of his compartment. I went back to get my things from first class and we enjoyed each other’s company once again.

The coast line was once again interrupted with several tunnels, but is was wonderful scenery. At times we traveled so close too the sea, you could just about touch it! Dave took several photos and videos from the moving train, and was particularly pleased with himself after discovering this shot:
Why? Well if you zoom in-----

Monte Carlo is amazing! The amount of money and richness of wealth is incredible. Outside the casino, we saw several VERY EXPENSIVE cars. All lined up in a row were Ferrari, Carrera, Mercedes, Maserati……
Here is Dave in front of a lovely Porsche.
(Having trouble with loading photos and our net time is nearly up, will send some from Paris).

Today we walk the Grand Prix track and tonight we frock up and suit up for a visit to the world’s most famous casino. The old Dirty Harry line comes to mind ‘Just ask youself one question, do you feel lucky, well do ya punk.?’


Well here we are in Busseto, a nice little village about 1 hour south east of Milan. That’s 1 hour as the crow flies. We took 2 hrs 40 mins to get here from Milan Railway Station.
Took nearly an hour to get out of Milan. Europcar gave us a manual, not an automatic as booked. I did not argue as we were lucky to gat a car at all he was that busy. As it was, we had to wait half an hour for a car to come in. Actually, having the gear stick on the right, nd driving on the right was not too bad. The worst thing was going to the wrong side of the car to get in. Also going for the seat belt over the right shoulder. These habits are hard to break.

The directions we downloaded from the net were GIS navigating directions and were atrocious. Instead of sending us to Busseto and them going to the Bed & Breakfast address it took us via a torturous route to towns we did not even need to be in and then on detours down side streets to bypass the town centre! It made everything so complicated. In the end we followed the road signs to Busseto and took a punt that we could find the B&B. Just when we were about to phone the proprietor (who does not speak a word of English), we came across the street we needed - much to our relief.

This is after missing our train out of Paris. We were instructed to leave the apartment key in the room and shut the door behind us when we left. We did as we were told, only to find that the door at the bottom of the stairs was deadlocked and we couldn’t get out of the building. We were trapped in the stairway! No one was home in the building and a few urgent calls to the property manager who thought we were dumb tourists who could not unlock a door, and we got some assistance from the real estate business next door. This was only after we asked him to phone them. Not until too late for our 10:30 train.

In between these tribulations that make traveling so interesting we had 2 fantastic rail journeys into and out of Switzerland. I lost count of the number of tunnels and the Gotthard tunnel was so long we were in it for seven and a half minutes.

The 36 hours we had in Lucerne were magic. We got in after 10pm due to missing the train and the town was almost deserted. The weather was fine and still and the lights reflecting off the water were gorgeous. The next day it was fine and sunny and perfect for going up a mountain. We decided to go to a big mountain with a funny name, Mount Titlis. We got the train to Engelberg at the top of the valley and then caught a series of cable cars to the top. The summit is in the snow even at the end of summer and is 10,000 feet or 3000m high. The cable cars alone took us up the height of Mt Kosciusko. The last cable car was the world’s only revolving cable car so everyone gets to see the full view. On the way back down, we shared the cable car with a Dutch woman and her dog. She gets a season pass for the cable cars for her dog at $350, same price as children!

Our stay here in Busseto thus far has included a trip into the township for two dinners and a walk around the town. We found the tourist office and got ourselves a map from a not too friendly woman. This town is famous for being the birthplace of the composer Verdi. As luck would have it, there is a Verdi Festival on in the region, and tomorrow we will be attending a free concert for “Romantic Guitar”, held at the ‘Teatro Verdi’. We have also been on a drive to the town of Cremona, in search of a new instrument for me (Kate {only joking}). This is where Amati created the violins which we still base the shape on today. There was a special exhibition of some of the instruments which he made, dating back to 1539! The other famous violin makers from this town were Stradivari and Guaneri. We visited the Stradavari Museum, and hope to see some of his instruments and others tomorrow. With a bit of luck, they will be played whilst we are there.

The lady who runs the B&B is lovely, and is trying very hard to converse with us in Italian and broken English. We are trying hard to learn some Italian whilst we are here to help her too.

We will post again when we can, either Monaco or definitely in Paris.

Mitch and Lawrie, the picture of the park is the Piazza in Cremona where we rang from with the guy cracking the whip!

Scene from the train just out of Lucerne.

Lucerne at night.

The Swiss Alps from Mt Titlis.

At the famous Lucerne bridge

Cremona Piazza

Some imitation Stratovaria violins etc. (Not allowed to take photos of the genuine ones)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Internet cafe

Gday Mitch, Lawrie and others.
We have found an internet cafe in Cremona for a quick post. We had some words and photos to send on an MP3 player but the PC will not read it so here is a quick update.

Had a great time in Lucerne. Got in at night and it was warm and still and very peaceful with almost no one around when we went out for a nightcap at 11pm. Next day was glorious weather for sightseeing and going up a mountain which is what you do in Switzerland. Magic views.

Now staying in a lovely B&B in Busseto. The host does not speak English, but she is lovely and is learning English words as fast as we are learning Italian. Playing charades and using an English/Italian dictionary has helped us to share infomation on several things about our homelife, and we all ended up in fits of laughter when she thought I meant that we have snakes as pets, not fish! My charades did not do the job there, but eventually got the message across.

Have seen original violins, violas and cellos made by the great masters here in Cremona dating back 450 years. Some of these are still played today - amazing. Unfortunately we missed the maestro playing the Stradivari violins yesterday. Hope you can work out the picture of Dad eating pizza which we sent to Nanna and Grandads mobile, boys!

Saw some Stradivari violins today (4 in one room!). Only 600 of them still in existence. For me it is a bit like seeing the Mona Lisa, I cannot quite appreciate the finer points of the art and look at it for hours but it is good to satisfy the curiosity and actually see one.

Climbed up a 112m high tower this morning for a view of Cremona and the bad smog. About 499 steps according to Kate.

Looking forward to cathching the train again to Monaco. Hopefully we dont get lost along the way to the train station in Milan in our hire car, but this time we are not going to follow the GPS directions!

The hire car is a small diesel Renault, but it is a nippy little thing. Must be a turbo diesel. I am already driving like an Italian, no indicator, no patience and sitting in the middle of the road unless there is a car coming the other way. A car in Milan was double parked out onto the road and had retracted his wing mirror to reduce the chances of it getting knocked off by passing traffic. Not much room to spare on Milan roads. I found the best thing to do was sit right behind the guy in front and follow him which worked quite well as there is always someone turning right, left or going straight on.

Will try to put something on in Monaco in the next day or two.

Hope you are all well,
Love from Kate and Dave

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Walkabout - c'est manifique!

DB here.

Started the day going to Gare De Lyon to reserve seats for our trip tomorrow. Only realised last night that reservations were compulsory on SNCF fast trains. This set us up for a walk through the Latin quarter as this is one area we have not explored with our destination being the Tour Eiffel.

It seems that every time we cross the Seine to the left bank it starts to rain. Luckily, despite the forecast it only was wet for half an hour this time. Stumbled upon the Jardin des Plantes (Botanic Gardens) and had a good look around. Took a couple of photos for Jill. The Institute of Pierre and Marie Curie, and a statue of someone else, who I (Kate) think might me a famous chemist.

Dave had a good look down a man hole, where there was some action going on, and water flowing further down the street. It was here that we needed to pull out the spray jackets and brolly.

Further down the road we came across the Pantheon and then the Palace de Luxembourg and associated gardens. These gardens were very nice indeed and the palace building was impressive.

After the most Parisian Bon Marche upmarket department store we finally got to the Tower for a view in the daytime. Spent an hour or so in the vicinity just enjoying being there.

Our week in Paris has come to an end and we had to get 'home' to pack for the trip to Luzern. After packing we ducked out for dinner at about 10:30 to a local restaurant. There are so many to chose from it is ridiculous. I have never been to a city with so many food shops. The little Cantonese restaurant was the best oriental food since Uncle Geoff took us to a Thai place in south central LA (at least there were no bullet holes in the front window at this place).

We have been very fortunate to have Wi-fi in our apartment here in Paris and I am not sure what Internet access we have in our other accommodation. We will try to find an Internet cafe, but probably wont be blogging every day. Bon Soir for now!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Garden of Eden

We have the Metro system sussed really well, but the trains are a different story!

Today, we went on a day trip to Monet's Garden in Giverny. We needed to get the Metro, train and bus to get to our destination.
We arrived at the "Gare Saint Lazare" in plenty of time to get tickets and good seat on the train. The first problem we had was getting tickets for the train, as the machine did not want to accept Dave's credit card. After a few tense moments we went into a booking agent at the station with only seconds to spare, and had to run to get on the train. We then found some lovely seats, and sat to recover from our 50m sprint. The train made it's way through the suburbs of Paris and we enjoyed watching the lovely, old buildings go by, giggling over our ticket troubles and very pleased that we made our train. Our joviality stopped when the conductor came along and checked our tickets. He began speaking to us, and it was then we suspected something was amiss. We were sitting in first class, and we should have been in second! He was kind to us, realising that we did not speak his language, and looked more annoyed at the
smelly French guy who had also made the same "mistake". We made our way through to second class to find that there was standing room only. We did not mind as half the journey had gone by and it was only another 30 minutes to our destination.

When we got to Vernon, we had to get the bus to Giverny. The bus driver was excellent, but made the whole bus full of passengers very nervous when she tried to turn into a narrow street with cars parked either side. She received a round of applause when she made it through with millimetres to spare. I'm sure that she just nudged one of them, but later in the day, we went back to see, and there was not a ding in the van!

We made it safely to our destination, and walked up to Monet's Garden. Words cannot express how fantastic this place is, and all I can say is I understand how Dave's Mum,Mary loved this place and also to say that Annie Wynen, you simply MUST put this on your to-do list! I am sure you would be able to tell us what all the flowers are.

These Dahlias were the size of a small basketball.

There were rows and rows of these gorgeous Rudbekias(?)

Pity the Irises weren't out.

A sea of Nasturtiums.

The very famous lily pond with magnificent reflections.

DB here-The gardens were a nice peaceful place. In fact most people were wispering like they were in a church. For gardeners this place is like Mecca I guess. I enjoyed the place and it was a marvellous place to read my book (The Perfect Storm) while Kate had a closer look around.

After the tranquil gardens we strolled through the town and despite it being well after lunch we avoided the cafes right near the exit and wandered into town. Low and behold there was a real local car boot sale. Lots of stalls selling lots of junk and some nice stuff as well. Managed to find a pub and had an excellent lunch in the open air (yes, the weather has turned for the better) with lots of french locals enjoying what might be the last good days of the warm season. Had trouble getting the busy waiter to get us the bill and had to run for the bus as we did not want to miss the 5:32 train back to Paris.

Bought the tickets at the station, and hopped on when it arrived. The conductor can along and we were pleased that this time we had sat in the correct class. He did not look happy with us. We were not sue what we had done wrong this time, but the penny dropped when he said a word that sounded like "validate". We should have validated the ticket at the station, even after the lady had sold it to us! He said another word the sounded like "dishonoured", and he wrote something on our ticket before giving it back to Dave. He walked off, and I wondered if he was going to come back and throw us off the train or fine us or something, so I looked up in my phrase book for some replies. Luckily, he did not return!

We have decided to get take away tonight and rest our weary legs, as well as book accommodation for our return, sort out some of our things, get ready to pack up and move shop tomorrow night.