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Published: September 2nd 2010
Episode 3: Paris and Belgium
Thursday September 2 , 2010 (by Craig)
Hello everyone. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Thanks to all who left comments (Rodd, Leon; Colin et al).
We left the Loire Valley last week and headed by train to Paris. Before leaving, we spent half a day at two of the nearby chateaux (medieval French castles/palaces). Chateau Villandry was amazing, primarily for its magnificent manicured gardens, which looked like a huge patchwork quilt of colours. The best gardens Ive ever seen anywhere (Google Image: Villandry). The whole of Loire Valley is world heritqge listed ; if you come to Paris, be sure to go south by 2 hours to see the chataux here.
We spent a weekend in Paris. We had seen all the major sites in 2005, so this time spent time pottering about soaking up the atmosphere one day, then going out to the Palace of Versailles the next day. This world famous palace in 35 minutes by train from the city centre. There was an old guy on the train wandering the aisle playing the piano-accordion and then asking passengers for money. It was all very quaint and French at first but became annoying after 15 minutes. Ross said to me:
"I wonder if he takes requests?"
I said: "Maybe so. What would you request?"
"That he pisses off to the next carriage."
Versailles was full of people but was excellent; esp. the hall of Mirrors and the vast fountain studded gardens.
Ross and I love Paris : the food, the atmosphere; the energy and buzz of the people; the culture, history and architecture; all combine to make the city our favorite in Europe. We stayed in Le Marais, the heart of gay Paris; and spent many a while in outdoor cafes watching all the beautiful people waltzing past. I finally had some escargot for dinner on our last night. The food and alcohol were admittedly expensive. We ended up drinkig Rosè with dinner as it was the cheapest option - we adopted the Rosè index when looking at menus out front of Restaurants - if the rosè was over 12 Euros; the place was too pricey.
We have spent the past 4 days in Belgium. Stopped briefly in Brussels - threw our packs in a locker and went to sus out what is billed as the most beautiful town square in Europe (Grand Place). It was brilliant. Then on to Bruges (pronounced "Brouge" as in Rouge from Moulin Rouge. ) This canal riddled town is Belgiums top tourist attraction. It too was excellent: After seeing all the sights in Bruges, we descended upon "Beer Beertje", a legendary small pub for sampling Belgiums word famous beers. We really did intend to have one or two white beers (our favourites), truly we did, but we met a great American couple and ended up trying a large number of beers ; ending with the excellent Trappist beer, Chimay Blue. We had intended to phone Steve in Amsterdam later that night but could barely find our way home to the hotel let alone use the Belgian phone system.
We tried all the cliched Belgian food - fries with mayonnaise (crap); waffles (not bad), chocolate (good) and last night had mussels with frites (fries again).
So now we are in Antwerp; which has been a lovely surprise. Beautiful town square and the best atmospheric pubs we have so far encountered. The church bells chime a lot, which Marja mentioned in her blog.
The weather has been good to us: either sunny or partly cloudy since we arrived here in Europe some 12 days ago. Temps about 20 - 24 degrees. We have not encountered any significaznt rain at all (yet !)
We leave today by train for Amsterdam, where we will stay with Steve McDonald for a few days before heading to UK.
Note that I can be contacted via my yahoo email.
Bye for now
Craig (and Ross)
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