Well its been a while since my last update! Been absolutely so flat out I havent had enough of a time to actually sit down and write it. I now know why people say when I get home I will need another holiday to get over this one haha..
Well as of tonight we are halfway through our journey and still having a blast but am starting to struggle with the rate things are going - Some days I think we are doing 15kms odd on foot - And today I reckon we did 1000 odd steps in various things..!
Where were we last time? Thats right we were about to go on a tour of the red light district in Amsterdam! We got to the location of the tour (Called Randy Roys Red Light District Tours) and we hung around for a bit and some guy comes up pulling out a peice of paper saying 'you here for this?' Yea quite low key, and we were a bit concerned when we gave him 50 euro for the 4 of us, then he goes 'im just going inside to see if there is others' and we thought we had been fleeced! Thunkfully the guy was really cool, and the tour was great, a mixture of district info, the prostitution trade in Amsterdam, and some history of Amsterdam/Holland at the same time. Well worth it and would recommend as a fairly cheap walking tour.
And of course the way we were going with the brewries no visit to a city would be complete without a tour and we decided to visit the Heiniken Factory. Unlike the others we had been too where history was the main focus, they went all out here in the techo dept and also showing the proper way to pour the beer (including why its good to have a decent head) and also tasting which was cool. Amsterdam overall was really cool just walking around and starting to get a grasp on just how low Holland is! Jumped on a nice canal boat tour to see how it looked like from the water (I liked it better walking alongside the canals)
Our next stop was a little bit different as we were going off to stay with some of bens family friends out near Gouda. They live in a beautiful little cottage with a thatched roof but as it was quite small, they had organised for Jo and myself to sleep in the neighbors sleephouse (similar to a little barn - Catch the pics on picasa you will see what I mean)
Very VERY hospitable people and had a blast with them the 3 days we were there. They took us around the cities of Den Haag, Rotterdam, and of course Gouda. One of the highlights of the time there was definately when we rocked up to a pumping station (Where they live is actually 6 metres below sea level!) and as they could speak dutch managed to get us a tour! What I really loved about this was actually learning how much effort goes into keeping the majority of holland from drowning!! It really blew me away and to think this task now done by nice and efficient pumping stations used to get done by windmills! On the subject of those, we did also go to a place that have 19 still functional windmills pumping away within a 10acre or so area - Very awesome as before I left the only thing I want to see in Holland is a working windmill :)
Then it was off again and something exciting was coming - being on a train going 300km/h. And my god it is fast. YOu start to think and hope the train is locked onto the train tracks haha.. Our first real use of the eurail pass and geeze it is nice being on 1st class on these babies (On the eurail pass, if you are over 25 you cannot get one for 2nd class anyhows).
Our next stop was the romantic city Jo kept telling me - Paris. What I have started to realise by now is the first day in a new country is that dont take first impressions in until we have discovered more, as in both Amsterdam and Paris have not been great impressions on us with the first half days in each. This is mainly to do with the language barrier I beleive, and a little bit of overcaution setting in. I was not so sure when we first come in - The majority of the outskirts coming in were littered in graffiti, and straight off the train needed to piddle - The toilet can you guess? - 1 Euro to use the bathroom! No wonder most of where we went specially the undergound smelt like piss the entire time. This coupled with as I was having the most expensive piddle of my life, no less than 3 scammers come up to the others trying to say they were from somewhere trying to pry money. We were at this point feeling a little miffed about what really this city was about and was it really any good? We got to the hostel and we were staying really close to Sacre Coeur so we dropped the bags off and went up for a look. The massive building on the hill really looked awesome and maybe the good things of the city were upon us. Not so, as we started the walk up the hill to get there, we were harrassed and things forcefully put onto Sams arm then demanded payment for it (was a wool band or something similar - we were then harrassed up the entire hill, and partly overtiredness we were over it already - We wanted out.
After settling in for the night we ventured out again and went into the centre and this I can now see where this city comes alive rich in history, and the obsession of things being in straight lines, etc. We started with a neweurope free walking tour which for the price was well worth it!! The guides work on tips so we gave our fair share and come away with one of the best overviews of a city we could have had!
It is such a shame that every monument is dogged with harrassing salespeople and scammers. That and the metro smelling digusting. Up till now we have not had the level of harassment as we have had so far in Paris. Of course no visit to Paris it complete without being up top of the Eiffel Tower. The tower was quite massive, but I still thought for some reason it was even bigger again. Was still a blast and even though my wobbly knees didnt make it up the top, it was great to be up there, as skyscrapers are limited to one part of the city you really do stand above it all up the top of it. We really did a lot this day and our legs felt it for sure!
So today we thought we would take it easy and go into a few things, mainly take the metro and try and take it easy. We it this is an easy day I would hate to see a long one!! Started with Arc de Triumph in the middle of the most craziest roundabout I have ever seen. I think it is supposed to be 7 lanes, but regulary I saw cars 11 wide at least, and you dont know how many lanes there actually is as the french govt think it would be an eyesore to paint lines on the road!! It seriously was a free for all and I beleive no insurance company will cover you for an accident on it. Back to the arc, seriously - Everything in this city is on a MASSIVE scale - This thing is unbeleivably big. I dont know but after scaling the bloody 200 or 300 odd stairs to the top I was absolutely knackered. Great view from the top however :)
Decided then to have a look at the catacombes but unfortunately the last go through for that is at 4pm, and we were right up front of the queue next to go in when they basically shut the door in our faces! Talk about rude!! Ended up finding the panthenon close by and from the outside it looks impressive but inside I was blown away with the amount of work building some of this s*** would have taken. It is intricate, large and just really really impressive. A tour was just going as we got there and we got to even go to the top of it inside and out and the views here were good also. Another 300 off steps haha..
By now we were feeling like locals so off to the shops we went for a few baguettes, some cheese, meat and beers and went to watch out front of the eiffel tower going from light to dark. To start with it was boring but then ended up really spactacular when all the lights come on, even at 9pm a massive sparkle show of lights for 5mins really topped it off and well worth sitting eating and drinking in front of it having a picnic!
Yesterday was seeing a little small amount of the Lourve (Apparently, if you spent 30 secs looking at every exhibit there, it would take over 2.5 weeks 24hours a day to see it all). We saw the Mona Lisa (I still dont see what is so special about this painting), strolled through the egyptian exhibits, and in the late arvo we made our way by train down to Nice. We arrived about 10ish pm and found the common room here pumping so we stayed up for a bit and enjoyed 1 euro beers! (Bloody cheap even by aussie standards!). Today I am enjoying a full chill day staying in the Hostel.. The view from the top of the hill is pretty impressive.. Hope everyone is doing well back home and look forward to catching up with everyone again!