24.05.2013 - 24.05.2013
Forgive me and my typing - it is painful on keyboards in France. The letters are in different places and it takes me forever to type! (Correction - I gave up after the next paragraph because it took too long so now I'm typing on the tiny iPod screen which is faster!).
Cologne was just fantastic. We took the train from Breda (the romantic notion of the trains here never get old). After arriving at the beautiful and giant train station, we walked outside to see an amazing church right beside us. It had an almost gothic feel - dark, unconventional design and monsterous. After a 30 minute walk, we met up with our friends at MTZ (the bar they played at) and while they were doing soundcheck for their show, Derek and I went to a nearby cafe for a drink. They sold beer and wine in Germany and other countries differently than North America - you can buy different quantities i.e. 200/300/400 mL of alcohol so you don't need to commit to huge amounts. Random observation. So we went back to the bar where the fellas were wrapping up and we all ventured across the street to a restaurant called 'Mango' or something along those lines. Great Italian food - pasta, pizza, etc but the waiter took the cake for ensuring we had a strange experience. He called one of the guys 'lady' when it came to take his order (he looks nothing like a woman by the way). Then Derek and I split a pizza and he kept coming back to the table and stooping over our pizza to see if he gave us the right one (which we were already eating). Oh the food service industry!
After killing some time before the show, we had a drink at MTZ and settled in to see the performance. It was awesome! Their new album sounds incredible and there were even some other Canadians there! After the show we made our way back to their hotel for some snacks and drinks in the hotel lobby. Then it was time for bed... Derek and I lucked out that the boys offered us the bed in the back if their (massive) VW van. Yes please! Anything to save money! So here we are... In the back of this van in the middle of a parking lot, downtown Cologne. Thank goodness for tinted windows - in the back at least. So it's 3:30am... Derek needs to get outside to use the bathroom and as soon as he pulls the door open the sirens and lights go off. Sigh... I mean it's a good thing it's so secure but a bit too secure for our needs. Let's just say at least there were empty cups in the van... Haha. We slept well and woke up at around 10am, went to the hotel for a tea and coffee, woke up the guys and they walked us to the train station. We had lunch together on the steps of the massive church and we were in our way!
Back to Breda we went and had dinner with Miriam and her step children. The next day Miriam took Derek and I to the province's capital, Hertogenbosch, for the day where we went on a really neat boat tour which took us under buildings and through neighborhoods. It rained but still was great! The rest of the day we walked around the city and got to have the traditional pastry which is a cream puff covered in chocolate. Why did I think I'd lose weight coming to Europe? I guess if there's one way to go, I don't mind cheese, chocolate, bread and wine! Hey, don't judge me. I'm a Dietitian but I like to indulge sometimes! Moderation is my middle name.
The next day Derek and I left early and caught a train to start the trip to Paris. We arrived around 2:30pm and easily found the apartment we rented for the next few days. It's so easy to get around in Europe. Efficiency is at its best here. We had 2 hours until we met up with the apartment owner so hung out at a cafe at the corner where we had our first glass of wine and cheese plate in France! We got the keys to our apartment and settled in for the night. The apartment was small but had everything we needed! Kitchen, bathroom, 2 beds (2 feet away from each other mind you), tv, Internet, computer - it was great. The only thing that was an adjustment was the shower. It was at least half the size of a regular tub and it was like a step so at the lowest part, I could hardly fit my feet in one direction (which isn't saying much because I have giant feet). When Derek showered he looked like a giant and could hardly lather up - it was hilarious. Arms and legs everywhere! We were so lucky with a grocery store a few doors down and made an awesome pasta dinner with a baguette and wine! Groceries cost much less here than at home and I love that you get groceries daily instead of bulk buying weekly or biweekly. Plus the bread is so much better than the loaves we eat at home... (Drooling).
The next morning we took the metro to the airport to pick up Monique and Trevin (our friends from NS that are traveling with us for 2 weeks). This was their first time to Europe so we were pretty excited for them to get here! We took them to our apartment and after they settled in, (not before Trevin wiped out in the shower!), we started walking around the city towards the river. We walked along and checked out the amazing city - the parks, streets, architecture - it's just beyond words! Then we got to the Louvre, kept walking to the Arc de Triomphe where Monique and Trevin (M&T) paid to go to the top (we are too cheap) to check out the view of the city. Then it started to rain... Naturally... So we took the metro back to our apartment and made dinner while it poured outside. M&T were so exhausted and crashed early, I can't believe they did such a full day their first day in Europe! Such troopers.
The next morning we got up, made lunch to take with us (sandwiches of course) and because it was still raining we took the metro the the Louvre. It took about an hour to get in (happened to also be a national holiday so was insanely busy) but was worth it. It's funny how it was my 3rd time in Paris doing all these things but it didn't feel that way at all! Also, I keep forgetting its Derek's first time here, after all this travel together sometimes I assume he was on trips with me that he wasn't. Oops! From the Louvre we went to the Eiffel Tower. It was just a little miserable out... Cold, raining. M&T decided to take the elevator to the top while Derek and I waited at the bottom. Yet again much too expensive for us with no jobs and 2.5 months left! What we thought would be a 30 minute wait turned into an hour and 20 minutes. We had to meet Rosie (our friend from the UK we met in India) at stop about 20 minutes away so Derek left to meet her and I stayed. Finally M&T came down - they said it was crazy, you took the elevator to the 2nd level and had to wait in another line to go up! Same coming down. They were only on top for 5 minutes because it was so stormy! Anyway, I didn't lose any toes so all was well. We jumped on the metro and met Derek and Rosie, grabbed dinner at a donair stand, visited for a while and parted ways. Then I took the crew to see the Eiffel Tower at night, which is my favorite part of Paris at this point. We were early so had some wine and beer waiting in the metro hallway (classy I know). Starting at 9pm, the tower is lit up for 5 minutes at the start of each hour. It's amazing... It's like a light show and the lights just go crazy! On holidays, they have all different colors and patterns. Derek, M&T loved it... Even regardless of the rain. We headed back to the apartment and packed up to leave the next day to Nice in the south of France.
Our train to Nice was a breeze, we didn't get to sit together but spent a lot of time sleeping anyway. We passed through Cannes where the film festival was actually happening and made it to Nice. Our apartment was only a 5 minute walk from the train station and was gorgeous. It had a loft bedroom, futon, full kitchen and bathroom (regular sized!). We stayed in the first night as the travelling was exhausting. The next day, The weather was amazing. Over 25 degrees and sunny with blue skies. Perfection! We walked the few blocks to the beach and soaked up our time there. They have an awesome boardwalk which we took advantage of, walked to one if the coastal points and up 90m to an old fortress area from the 1700's. The view from the top was indescribable... Blue water, blue skies, mountains, sailboats. Just wow. There was a full functioning park at the top as well where lots of school children were playing on the park equipment.
After walking down to the beach, we went to the local market parallel to the beach and had open faced sandwiches at this little stand. The owner was thus woman with huge personality - she obviously knows her stuff because her stand was really busy. They have a local specialty called 'socca' which is a crepe made on top of a fire put in a metal drum on a huge pizza pan. Then it's drizzled with olive oil and scraped off into pieces where it's rolled up into a wax paper cone and you eat it out of that. The market itself was incredible. Think of a pedestrian road with Cade's and restaurants lining either side but a road in between for the market. They sold meat, seafood, fruit and veg, bread, candy, olives (yes, there was an entire olive stand with tons if varieties from all over the world), olive oils, soaps, crafts, jams, flowers, etc. I could've stayed all day. I LOVE markets, they show you so much about locals and their culture.
We took another walk back to the waterfront and sat for a bit looking at the ocean and boats... Rough life I tell you! Then we walked back to the market/cafe area and found a cafe with gelato, M&T went for a walk to check out some shopping nearby while Derek and I read our books. Love the cafe living. We all started heading back to our place, bought some groceries and made dinner - fajitas, very French haha. For dessert we went to a creperie next door and had Nutella/banana crepes which were delicious. How could they not be?
We left the next morning at 6:55am to head to Venice so it was an early night. The trains were a breeze yet again and after an 8 hour day of travel, we made it to Venice! That was yesterday so we are here now! When we got in, we took the vaparato (boat bus) from the train station to our apartment which is on a completely different island than the main group of islands. It's called 'Giudecca' and has about 7000-8000 people living here. Our apartment is the best yet, costs $30/night each and has a huge lift bedroom, incredible kitchen, tv and private courtyard area. We walked along the water - keep in mind the buildings are only about 10 feet from the ocean. Google it, it's so strange! When the tide comes in, the waves crash onto the walkway... There's no shore, just ocean that drops right down. We found a great restaurant on the water and had wine, pizza and pasta finished with tiramisu and it was all made in house. So good!
Then we walked to the other side of the island and saw all the lights from other islands, I didn't realize that Venice is made up about 120 islands with a total population of 220,000! There are parts that are sinking and apparently not all the sewage is treated do flows into the ocean. I guess when it floods here, tourist swim in the streets but they are really swimming in disgusting water with sewage. EW.
Today it's pouring outside... It's also cold and windy so we aren't going out yet. The other 3 are playing cards while I take forever to write this with one finger on the iPod. We are hoping it clears up tonight as the boat bus runs until 4am so we could head over in the evening and we also have most of tomorrow before we leave.
Ok, I need a break! That's all for now