Saturday, July 31, 2010

Prancing in Paris!

Our trip to Paris began poorly. Unbeknown to us, beggars are everywhere and will do little chores for you (the kind that we in Australia do out of kindness) and expect to be paid. Then there is the whole language barrier issue. So within minutes of arriving via Eurostar in Paris we had an elderly gent hail a cab for us.....then expect payment. This would have been fine except that we had no Euro coins on us, just a handful of large notes that we'd taken from the ATM. Naturally, the guy got irate and started yelling at us in French. Then he snatched a ten pound note out of my purse as I tried to find him something for payment. It got quite nasty after that and we ended up having quite a tense few moments before it was resolved. We then had a taxi ride to our apartment (5 streets away) which cost us a fortune. All of this, we ended up putting down to experience, but it definitely shook us and was a terrible introduction to Paris!

The rest of the week in Paris, however was great. The Superteen's asthma disappeared immediately. We loved the picturesque buildings and interesting food and we loved visiting places like Montmartre, Giverny, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysee etc. Although we had been warned about arrogant and rude French people, to be honest we found them, on the whole, to be courteous and helpful. One lady behind us on a bus started translating for us and the driver when we were trying to find out if we were going in the right direction. Our apartment was trendy and very close to a metro stop (and the headquarters of Ella Bache which was interesting!), and although food was expensive everywhere, we managed to find places nearby that sold cheap fruit and groceries.

BEST SIGHT-SEEING EXPERIENCE......I loved our day visit to Giverny and Monet's Garden. It was absolutely beautiful and gave a real impression (lol!) of a French country town. DH however loved Montmartre. He says that sitting on the steps outside the Sacre Coeur, listening to street performers and taking in the view was a fantastic experience.

OTHER THINGS WE DID.....We did go to the top floor of the Eiffel Tower, went to Euro-Disney, and spent a day going to the museums and art galleries. The Musee D'Orsay is brilliant if you want to see originals of familiar works of Monet, Renoir, Van Gough etc.

CULINARY DELIGHT.....Paris is supposed to be the food capital of the world although we kept our eating simple as we had a couple of hungry kids with us everywhere we went. We loved the local croissanterie which had gorgeous pastries. We did have dinner at a creperie near Notre Dame which was delicious. We were amazed at how much the French love sugar and Nutella! We were also thrilled that gorgeous French cheese was so inexpensive there compared to home. There was also a gorgeous patisserie in Vernon near the train station that stopped at and the food was just mouth-watering. Unfortunately, I don't know the name of the place.

THE KIDS RECOMMEND.....Disneyland Paris. For both of them, this was the highlight of their trip. For me, it put a huge hole in our budget but was an experience that we'll never forget.

BEST TIP......Buy your Eiffel Tower tickets on line before you leave. This saved us a huge wait. We also loved the tip that most museums and art galleries opened their doors for free on the first Sunday of the month. This saved us a lot of money and we saw the Louvre, Musee De L'Orangerie and Musee D'Orsay.....a full day of fun!

NEXT TIME.....I would like to do a boat trip on the Seine perhaps. And maybe spend more time sitting at a Parisian side-walk cafe (it freaked us out that Europeans always sit side-by-side facing the road at these cafes). We would also do Versailles, I think.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

London Calling

We arrived in London tired after our long flight and basically went straight to the hotel room to sleep.

The following day, we stumbled our way to the nearest tube station with our luggage and then to the apartment that we had rented.
We stayed in Kensington which is a short tube ride to the city centre and near a little reminder of home.....Westfield London! (Yes, we spent quite a bit of time cooling off here!). Our apartment was small but clean and serviceable and thankfully on the ground level so we had no nasty stairs to climb!

London itself was busy, smoggy, noisy and full of people. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen so many people in my life. Thanks to our common language though, we had little trouble finding our way around and did manage to see quite a lot of sites.

Our first day of sight-seeing was spent on an open-topped bus...worth the money and helped to orient us. We also went to many other landmarks including Madame Tussauds, Harrods, London Tower, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. On one day we hired a car and drove to Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge. Having our own car space was a delight after a few days of crowds. We all loved Windsor - I can understand why the queen prefers it to Buckingham Palace. We arrived at Stonehenge as the sun was starting to drop from the sky and thought that it was just beautiful.

Our impressions of London were mixed. We really liked the people and loved that we could manage our way around it so easily. The weather was hot which surprised us as we'd heard the it wouldn't be. We found costs not unsimilar to ours....some things cheaper and some more expensive. We did, however find the air there not so great....the poor Superteen had terrible asthma there that stopped almost immediately after we left!

BEST SIGHT-SEEING EXPERIENCE.......I loved our car hire day. The English countryside is just beautiful and we wish we'd seen more of it. We drove through towns that looked like they were out of Hansel and Gretel!

OTHER THINGS WE DID.......Buckingham Palace, London Tower, London Eye, Madame Tussauds and we rode across the Tower Bridge on an open-topped bus.

CULINARY DELIGHT.....We ate at a London pub. The food choices are so typically English. DH, however did insist on having the cold beer....he wasn't game to try the luke-warm stuff!

THE KIDS RECOMMEND......Madame Tussauds. They loved it! They particularly loved getting their photographs taken next to famous people and I blushingly admit that Miss Ten and I paid for an official one next to Robert Pattinson. Pity they weren't real though!

BEST TIP.......Morrisons grocery stores are much cheaper than Waitrose!!!

NEXT TIME.....We would stay in the country! It is so gorgeous.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Singapore Stop Over!

We are back in Australia, after almost a month of frantic traveling. Unfortunately, internet connection was not consistent and was often timed, so I've waited until we returned home to post about our trip.

Singapore was our first stop on our holiday. My DH had insisted that we only spend a night in Singapore.....a decision which we argued over and which he later regretted. Singapore is actually a fantastic (although hot!) place and had so many interesting things to see and do.

About a nine hour trip from Brisbane, we loved the diversity of the culture represented in the city and we loved the fact that the Aussie dollar was strong there. It was one of the few places that we decided that we would return to one day.

With it's national language being English, it was easy to get information in Singapore and the accommodation that we had at the Novatel there was brilliant. Certainly, if you were looking for a safe, clean place for a quick holiday, I would definitely recommend it.

BEST SIGHT-SEEING EXPERIENCE.....we took a trip on a bum boat down the Singapore River and this was lovely. We got to see all of the sights in a short space of time and with commentary!

THE KIDS RECOMMEND.....The bum boat tour. We all enjoyed it!

OTHER THINGS WE DID.....a trip to Singapore would not be the same without a trip to Orchard Road. We also went to a place called Bugis Market for cheap clothes and the most fantastically cheap fresh juices!

CULINARY DELIGHT.......the buffet breakfast at the Novatel was the best that we had on the whole trip. Don't miss it!

WE LEARNT.....that you cannot hail a cab from the street in Singapore. You have to wait at a taxi rank!

BEST TIP.......Singapore airport is a fantastic place and even for a few hours stop over, you can purchase showers, do a tour of the city, get a massage and see a movie.

NEXT TIME.....we would visit the Changi memorial and go to the world famous night zoo.
We would also stop in at Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling cocktail!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hello From Rome

Finding internet overseas is difficult....especially when you are relying on an ipod with limited capabilities. I suggest that if you are traveling, an iphone or small laptop would be worth the investment!

At present we are in Rome. Our holidays have been long and filled and we are very tired. The heat here is massive. Many days have been 40-plus degrees celcius!

We started our trip in London some 3 weeks ago. Then we spent a week in Paris, then a flying trip to Venice and Florence and now Rome. I will post more when I get back to Australia....I have heaps of photos to put up, too!

In the meantime, say a little prayer for our flight back to is a very very long one!