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Published: August 1st 2008
As Joey on Friends would say...toot de la fruit! Richard is rather caught up in lying around with his foot up so after a week or so of this it is my turn to get the blog up to date.
With heavy hearts and sun browned limbs we said goodbye to San Sebastian and headed to Bordeaux, our second to last Busabout stop. The bus was absolutely packed with idiots crammed in for a long day to Paris - 8am to 9pm. We were smart to break this up with a couple of nights in Bordeaux.
Once again we weren't staying at the Busabout accommodation so had somewhat of a walk to find our hotel. Once again the bus didn't stop at the hostel so we had to rework our map and totally guess where we were going.
Our hotel was really lovely, a wee bit out of town but with all those little trimmings we'd missed in hostels - towels, tissues, television...
The afternoon we got there we managed to find a shopping centre nearby with what became my favourite supermarket of all the supermarkets we've encountered in Europe - Auchan. A two level supermarket where
each level is so huge you do actually get lost. We stocked up on snacks for the afternoon, including plenty of wine and cheese. Imagine my delight to find pick and mix mini cheese that was extremely cheap and with a highly interesting collection to choose from.
With the wine opened and breathing (very important when you have made an investment of three Euros) and the cheese oozing into room temperature, we caught up on some laundry, with the help of a lovely French hairdresser from next to the laundromat who spoke no English - but the laundromat owner on the other end of her cellphone did. I took some chevre along for the wait and only managed to convince Richard he wouldn't like it by having him try some.
Clothes clean, we settled into the hotel room for Bordeaux, camembert, roquefort, chevre and other French delights, plus a nice big dose of CNN, the only English language channel we could find. Needless to say, after two days of relentless Barack Obama in Afghanistan coverage we became happy to take in some Tour de France with French commentary.
Next day we had a wander around the town
- there was some sort of thing going on where all the shops could spill out onto the street with specials and sales, so there was a market feel to everything. We made our way to some sort of monumenty fountain and basically just walked until we were bored. Yes, we should have taken a day trip to some vineyards, but being plebes we were content with playing guessing games in Auchan's wine aisles, which we paid another visit to on our way back to the hotel. More pick and mix cheese, please! We decided to eat out that night at a nice looking bistro down the road.
Being unable to decipher the wine list, which looked as though nothing was available by the glass, we settled for beer and a nice long discussion about whether we should splash out on the Cote d'Boeuf, or giant enormous steak for two if you can't understand my shocking French. In the end we didn't order it. I started with marinated salmon and went on to have duck confit, while Richard settled on gazpacho, yes, something we should have tried in Spain but didn't, and something called Bar Grille, which we hoped
was some sort of grilled meat. When the waiters realised we really weren't going to order any wine, their demeanour deteriorated drastically. As did ours when we saw people being served wine by the glass. Arses.
Salmon and gazpacho dispatched and devoured, imagine Richard's dismay when Bar Grille turned out to be a whole, small, grilled fish, somewhat trouty looking.
Giggling into my delicious confit I watched as he struggled with what looked to me absolutely yummy. Of course Richard not being a fan of duck either the prospect of swapping wasn't possible. However as he got further and further through he decided it was actually quite nice. Hurrah! Look what happens when you have no idea what you're ordering! He was compelled to admit that had he known what it was he would never have ordered it but did in fact kind of enjoy it. Unfortunately there are no photos as this was kind of a sort of nice place and I was too intimidated to break out the camera.
Next morning it was back to the Busabout hostel to be picked up for a long trip to Paris. Pointblank refusing to go for a walk
with my backpack and get hot, sweaty and stinky before the day is even underway, we got a cab. Lovely pain au chocolat for breakfast from a chain store bakery called Paul, highly recommend their sandwiches and pastries. Imagine my joy when I saw our guide for the day was my favourite. Yay! Our last Busabout leg and we had both our favourite driver and our favourite guide!
We had another stop in Tours, chateau country, where a few more people got off. I picked up a chocolate brioche from a shop that sold nothing but small plain brioche, enormous plain brioche, colossal plain brioche and small chocolate brioche and had a queue snaking out the door. Good spotting.
Finally, some time between 8 and 9 that night, we arrived in our final European destination, Paris. Back into the familiar St Christophers Hostel, secure in the knowledge that the bus does actually stop right outside and into a 10 bed dorm. Now I must digress and explain something. As a couple, normally when you check into a dorm you end up with a top and bottom bunk. Richard being big and unwieldy as well as injured half the
Waiting for an accident
We watched for about 20 mins but there were no accidents. It was a Sunday which may have had something to do with it?
time, I always got the top bunk. Knowing this would probably be the case at St Christophers, I requested two bottom bunks when we checked in. We got two top bunks. Richard went back down and asked to be changed to the bed underneath mine while I sat on my top bunk and seethed. Not exactly being small and wieldy myself, I was absolutely, unequivocally sick of clambering up and down tiny, shaky ladders and getting knocked about in the process, not to mention not being able to just sit down on my bed. If you're going to get up there you have to commit to it, you know. Grrr. Three nights of clambering.
St Christophers has the best breakfast of any of the places we stayed. Not just because it's free. And not that it's eggs and sausages or anything. It's actually just cereal and baguettes. But the baguettes...oh my god. We spent three mornings ecstatically cramming in buttered baguettes, delicious like you probably couldn't believe. Yum.
After our first breakfast we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. We had absolutely no intention of going up but you know, you gotta go see. We wandered around the bottom, spotted some very interesting buskers (if you're lucky Richard will put the video up) and hung out in the park people watching. We then moved on to the Arc de Triomph, why can't I remember how to spell any of this properly? And from there went for the compulsory wander down the Champs Elysees all the way down to the Tuileries gardens. It was all wonderful. We stopped at a restaurant in the gardens for lunch to cure our steak craving which had been tailing us since Bordeaux. It wasn't an amazing steak, but it was covered in butter and came with bearnaise. It was the bomb. As was the creme brulee I had after. Nummy num num.
On our way home we walked through to the Louvre and past the Pont Neuf to size up what we'd need to do to actually get into the Louvre the next day.
We'd decided we'd eat dinner at the hostel restaurant and I was expecting burgers and nachos and the usual crap. Astoundingly enough they had a duck salad on the menu complete with a slice of foie gras for just 8 Euros. That was damn good. Plus a free basket of the same baguettes you get at breakfast. Yee haa.
Next day, our last in Paris, was a big day. LOUVRE day. We made our way there via Notre Dame, where we happened to arrive just before midday. We got all excited about hearing some sort of complicated bell ringing and clock striking of midday. Nah. It was just...normal. We didn't want to queue to go into the cathedral so we just sort of hung about outside, getting more dusty. Richard had a bung foot by this time after rolling it on the pavement in Bordeaux so we were taking things slowly. Back past the Pont Neuf and down to the Louvre, where the only (short, fast) queue is for security to get into Francois Mitterand's big ugly glass pyramid. Once you're in there are literally dozens of ticket counters and machines and zero queues. Uffizi take note!
With Richard's sore foot and penchant for boredom in galleries and museums, I just chose a few essential sections for us to go through. The map is a bit confusing so it took us a few detours to find what we were looking for. In the grand gallery outside the room where they keep the postage stamp, oop, I mean, Mona Lisa, are four or five Leonardo da Vinci paintings in a row which to me are far, far more exciting than ole Mona, including my favourite da Vinci, St John the Baptist. We also saw the Venus de Milo and of course plenty of my other favourites. We were content with passing through the Mona Lisa room, it's hung high enough so that you can see it without having to battle the hundreds of tourists and other munters. I was a bit dismayed to discover on the back of the wall Mona is on is hung one of my favourite Titian paintings, no doubt ignored and glazed over by departing Mona pilgrims. Bah.
I also enjoyed seeing some really awesome David works that I'd studied at university and hadn't quite understood how big they were, in the same way most plebes don't get how small the Mona Lisa is.
By this time the Richard foot was quite bothersome so we headed back via the crepe stall we'd discovered our first time in Paris.
Leaving Richard in his (nice, comfy, easily accessible, bottom) bunk for an afternoon rest I went back down the road to my second favourite supermarket chain, Monoprix, to pick up some snacks for the next day's bus ride back to London. I was missing chevre by this time so made sure I grabbed a couple of small ones.
That night it was back to the hostel restaurant for dinner, where the plat du jour (dish o' the day) was, ta da, duck confit, yes please, hook me up! I also thought I'd better sample their creme brulee, a little over cooked but still nice.
We'd made sure to book a bus the next day that DIDN'T leave at 8am, as we were well over that, instead it departed at a more reasonable hour of 11.30. Getting up in the morning I noticed an unbearable smell of feet coming from near the end of our bunks. Took me a couple of hours and breakfast to work out it was the chevre I'd bought the day before, in the food bag with our other snacks hanging off the bunk ladder. He he. Realising it would be more than a bit pervasive on the bus, I sat down at the bus station and scoffed it. It was very gooey and so many different kinds of excellent.
More on the bus trip, return to London and adventures since in the next instalment. Richard should be putting some photos on this one soon.
Hope you're well! And having chevre envy!
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