tor

S&S World tour

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Tor, the duty free allowance for tobacco is reducing at the end of this month

Phew, at least alcohol is staying the same.

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Tor, the duty free allowance for tobacco is reducing at the end of this month

I know, 50 cigarettes. Hilarious. Why even bother having a duty free allowance?

I will continue to stock my humidors so that when they finally get around to banning tobacco all together I will have my lifetime supply.

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Day 24: Cleaning Up

Last full day in Sweden and so time to clean the apartment up. A relatively simple job as we are fairly tidy people most of the time. The one exception to the simplicity was caused by our propensity for celebrating with beer. Al had quite a few beers the other night after passing his grading and on the way home stopped by a supermarket with the brilliant idea of making his own polser & meatballs when he got home. The idea was so brilliant that he bought quite a lot of sausages and meatballs. The sight of his bed made the idea less brilliant.

We are not wasteful people. My vision went a bit blurry at one point and that is when I decided that maybe we could leave the sealed sausages and meatballs for the next tenants.

Our trusty cycles have been dropped off and for once I did not have my camera on me. This would be the one time that my favourite bus was stopped and I could have taken a photo. The bus goes to Stabby, whenever I see it I make the sounds of Roberto from Futurama. Oh well. One photo I shan't have. I do have an excellent bus photo though. There is a company called "Welcome Incoming Services". Google image search it and check out the logo.

Hooray! a goatse logo with appropriate slogan!

Tomorrow I head for Halden to meet friends for a Leonard Cohen concert while Al heads straight for Malmo in preparation for our attack on the continent. This means I get duty free as Norway is not part of the EU. Excellent.

The process of cleaning & preparing to leave lead me to an interesting observation. Either I have dropped maybe an inch in the waist or my shorts got bigger when they were washed. Hoping for the former. If so I suspect it is because of the bike riding mostly. I remember an article claiming that helmet laws are troublesome because people stop using bikes for various reasons. I feel this is accurate. I doubt I will ride a bike back in Sydney.

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Day 25: Party People

The Swedes spend their time doing arts and crafts during the Long F*cking Winters as a way of staying happy until the 4 week summer commences.

The Norwegians own the depression of winter and hide in their basements drinking home distilled spirits and listening to emotional music.

Leonard Cohen has a huge following in Norway.

In Sweden the sun was out and that inspired people to go to the park and engage in Angry Swedish Hugging.

In Norway the sun was out which inspired people to migrate to a tiny town and wait for the dark of night before holding a concert outdoors in an old castle.

Leonard Cohen had a love affair or something with some Norwegian lass at some point in time (I am quite the student of Leonard Cohen) and he wrote a song about her called "Marianne". My Norwegian friends consider this a bit of an alternate Norwegian Anthem. So did the other 10, 000 Norwegians standing in a castle in the freezing summer night (Halden has a population of about 30, 000 - I expected the hotel to have been burgled whilst we were at the concert).

The absolute frenzy of standing still astounded me, the energy with which hands were kept in pockets and lighters not held aloft was infectious in it's raw emotional power.

I expect they didn't sing along because they didn't want to overpower the old man's voice.

ahahaha it was actually a pretty good night even if I was so under dressed that a girl gave me her jacket. Disparaging comments regarding the lifestyle in Australia having knocked the Viking out of me were made.

A History Lesson! I am in Halden. It is one of two towns mentioned in the Norwegian Anthem. The Cowardly Swedes attempted to invade it 6 times between 1658 and 1814. When you look at a map of Norway the border does this weird jump out into Sweden to keep Halden in Norway. This is information I gathered from Wikipedia (although for some reason every time I insert the "Cowardly Swedes" phrase someone removes my edit, bastards).

What Wikipedia won't tell you is the important bits of the history, a local historian informed me of these details.

3 of the attempted invasion failed because no one could find the place, most Norwegians still freak out and insist on GPS equipped cars to get here.

1 of the invasions got started okay but the Halden people changed the name of the town which confused the Cowardly Swedes.

1 of the invasions technically succeeded however the invaders couldn't organise transport for a return to Sweden and so claimed they were the natives all along.

1 of the invasions was actually just a death metal band on tour.

The historian was also something of a cultural anthropologist and advised me of many things regarding the differences between Swedes and Norwegians.

Swedish Vikings were all traders and not good honest rape and pillage types.

Swedish girls are not very attractive.

Swedish men are not stylish or indie, they are all gay.

Swedish people work in Norway at bars and hotels a lot because they are generally subservient and desire to be slaves to the mighty Norwegians.

Swedish akvavit is like water and maybe I would like a little of the good honest Norwegian akvavit he has right here in his pocket.

Swedish polser is called korv and it is crap, have you ever seen korv wrapped in bacon like this delight we have before us.

Cab drivers are all Swedish, don't deny it, you're Swedish, you invading bastard.

At this point he had a wee bit of a reflective quiet moment in the back of the cab which was a shame as I felt my education had only just started.

Currently I find myself in the position of the 5th invading force, getting out of this town is trickier than it would appear. As I am travelling back to the land of Cowardly Swedes and Ugly Women with bad sausages this could be seen as a sign from God.

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Day 26: Options, there are few.

The predicament I suspected I was in was only partially true. Leaving Halden for Malmo was not as simple as most travel has been and I had a single mid afternoon train option. I spent a couple of hours wandering the streets of Halden, this was an excess of time required, they have a Swede Proof Castle and that is about it. However my favourite graffiti artist or his sentiment has been here before me! "I just painted a f*cking train". Granted not as humorous as the Swedish variation, maybe it was one of the earlier pieces in the series.

A quick train ride from Norway to Malmo via Gothenburg to meet Al.

When you walk into a train station and think you know where things are (e.g. lockers, tickets machines) and they aren't there it is confusing for a moment. Then you realise you have never been to this station before. I think my brain might have crashed. Oddly enough I found Norway mentally taxing where Sweden isn't so much. I think this might be because I can parse out Swedish if I work on it and generally get the gist of what is going on but it is a conscious decision. Norwegian sounds like stuff I should understand and so my brain devotes a lot of energy to trying to understand everything happening around me. Given my friends and the nonsense they crap on about this was probably an awful waste of energy.

Fortunately for foreigners that have the same issue with English Al and I only ever converse on topics which are mentally stimulating, our witty and trenchant observations doubtless enlighten all around us.

My team was playing tonight in the something or other cup. Avid fan that I am I dragged Al to a pub in Malmo to watch the game. A dingy little English pub with two games being broadcast on multiple screens. After a few minutes Al kindly pointed out I was watching the Newcastle game rather than the Liverpool one. This explained why he was getting excited at points which seemed rather mundane to me.

For my fandom I have a couple of behaviour templates to model myself on. Al watches a game with only slightly more exuberance than a Norwegian at a Leonard Cohen concert. There were several other football fans in the bar however. Mostly they were sitting alone. I had to consciously choose to parse out what these gentlemen were saying about various fellows on the screens and their sexual habits, familial lineage and so on.

Edited by tor

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Day 27: Life on the Tracks

Big Trip Day Today!

Malmo -> Copenhagen (just so I can go on their bridge)

Copenhagen to Utrecht (overnight trip, easier than a flight due to all our armour)

The bridge was interesting but a bit of an anticlimax. Plus all my photos managed to be of the bridge struts as they whizzed by.

In Copenhagen they have an amusement park in the centre of the city, "Tivoli". We had a few hours to kill and had a peek around. Al got all excited and was tall enough so he went on a spinny rollercoaster thing. Then we had a Danish breakfast: Pork ribs, potato and coleslaw. I am wondering if "Frokost" means something else in Danish. Chilli plum sauce was pretty good. The local brewery does a vienna red which was beer of the month and one of the better red's I have had in a while. Strong hop flavour which often gets neglected in the style but I think is needed to accentuate the heavy malts.

Being manly men (i.e. males not in Sweden) we sat drinking our beer watching the people (girls) go by. An observation was made that Danish girls are nowhere near as pretty as Swedish or Norwegian. Further it was observed that all the attractive girls were riding bikes.

Hypothesis 1: The attractive girls are on bikes so they can escape the clutches of roving males easily.

Hypothesis 2: The girls on bikes are local and the ugly walking girls are tourists.

Proving either hypothesis required capturing some of the attractive girls. Hypothesis 1 gained some weight due to relative velocities.

We caught one of the City Night Trains. Overnight trains which have sleeping compartments. The plan was to get a first class compartment and travel in luxury to Utrecht and train with some Dutch people. Our random itinerary meant that by the time we booked the first class compartments were all full. Instead we got a 3 berth cabin. Anyone in a similar situation I would recommend making an alternate choice, get a hotel overnight and get first class the next day or similar.

Previously I have mentioned that doing things you did when you were 18 brings those brain patterns back and impacts other activities. The 3 berth cabin took me right back to being a drunken smelly 17 yr skateboarder riding the rails like some kind of Euro Hobo. The lack of wifi meant I had to use my phone and it was so sketchy I stopped using it meaning there were no adult distractions. The bottle of Gammel Dansk (bitter herbal spirit Anders referred to earlier) I had did not help things. The bottle of Scotch was definitely something it would have better not to have found whilst fetching glasses for the Gammel Dansk (even as a euro hobo I prefer my booze from a glass).

The third berth was taken by a girly Swede. He had an intimate knowledge of EU duty free laws. They are vast. From memory 160 litres of beer, 10 of spirits and other equally extravagant volumes are allowed. However, and this is the useful bit worth repeating, the duty free allocations are debatable. The basic idea is that it is a volume which is for personal use. Apparently if you are having a wedding and can show the wedding registration you can legitimately take more booze because you will need it. Or, the Swede pointed out, you could just say "I am Australian" and they will allow any volume of booze on self apparent grounds.

I must also point out that the trip so far has been an elaborate sham. I have convinced Al to come to Europe and taken him around the place getting him to trust me more and more. When I suggested that we go to the dining compartment to kill a few hours he naively said yes. Oh I am a cunning devil. We got to the dining car and sat down just in time for Rick Astley "Never Going To Give You Up" to start playing.

Most. Elaborate. Rick. Roll. Ever.

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Man, awesome rickroll. :lol:

Hypothesis 1: The attractive girls are on bikes so they can escape the clutches of roving males easily.

You shouldn't have dumped your trusty steed.

I'm going to hong kong next week but your posts have inspired me to consider a six month trip early in the new year. Ms clown is smiling on the idea. :)

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Day 28: (Singing) Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer

I am not sure what the tune for the above is but apparently when I get close to a bar I start walking faster and singing that under my breath. We went to Kulminator. A tiny bar that was the entire focus on stopping in Antwerp. The beer menu is not the largest in Belgium but it is easily the best. The beer cellar is better than many small companies server closets. The cats I can tolerate.

The crazy cat lady with a side interest in beer happily brought our beers to our little hideaway out the back in the garden. This is not a beer garden. It is just the garden out the back of the bar. Reminiscent of gardens out the back of a Newtown terrace rental. Empty crates of beer strewn about, random bits of furniture that can tolerate the elements and the aforementioned cats everywhere.

Despite being tempted by the Chimei Blue tasting board (a bottle of this years product, a bottle of ten year old and a bottle of 20 year old) we went for:

Tripel Karmeliet: My favourite trippel. Very sweet with a subdued hop dryness. Mouthfeel is rich with a hint of graininess. On tap. I consider this a great dessert beer (but will drink it any time). It has the sweetness that a dessert wine might have but the hops dry it enough that it doesn't become too syrupy. The hops are reminiscent of Duvel but turned down a lot.

Christmas Something or Other: I took a pic of this but can't quite read the label. Any review of the beer therefore becomes somewhat pointless but I will soldier on. Brewed in 1995, almost zero carbonation. Rich brandy nose with caramel and some spice. Quite a thin mouthfeel and initial flavour matches the aroma but in a much weaker fashion. Insanely long after taste which accentuates the brandy flavours.

Oude Geueze: This was not Cantillon but I forget which one it was. I specifically asked for not Cantillon as Al had never tried an aged geueze before and I wanted a mild introduction for him. Geuze is often used to make the flavoured beers which are usually called Lambic (Kriek, Peche and the alltime great Framboise) as it is a light, yeasty and sour beer which can carry the sweetness of the fruit flavours. Aged geuze doesn't typically have the fruit flavours and is just yeasty and sour. Really sour. In the case of Cantillon very surprisingly sour. The crazy cat ladies recommendation was a good one as after a couple of mouthfuls Al mentioned that it really grows on you.

We had stopped our train journey earlier in the day to train with the Dutch. That was a good training session which went a wee bit longer than their usual and also afforded us a chance for a shower. The combination of 15 odd hours on the train and then 2 hrs training meant the rather high alcohol hit harder than usual and we went to have some meat grilled by foreigners served beside local beer (Duvel). With typical gusto the foreigners grilled an absolute bucket load of meat: entrecote, lamb, chicken, sausages and rump. The little coal heater required its own table beside us. Spurning the salad as foolish space filling comestibles and only acknowledging the chips enough to avoid offence being taken we did battle with the meat heap.

Embarrassed, we stumbled back to the hotel full of protein.

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Day 29: Travelling Tip

Hotel rooms often have those keycards which you have to put into the socket for the power to go on. If you are travelling with lots of battery heavy type stuff this can be an issue as you go out and none of it charges.

Handy Travelling Tip #1

  • Go to vintage cellars
  • Sign up for their loyalty program
  • Wait 6-8 weeks for your card to arrive
  • Go to Europe
  • Get a hotel which uses keycards
  • Put the Vintage Cellars loyalty card in the power slot
  • Take keycard and go out safe in the knowledge that everything will continue charging.
  • Have a beer to celebrate

For the advancement of Travelling Science I would like to test this with other loyalty cards but I only have the one here and the unwieldy time frame makes experimental replication tricky.

In the interests of sanity (trying to wash the stench of euro hobo off) we have decided that Antwerp will be a 2 day stay.

This gave us time to watch Liverpool play Arsenal. Liverpool lost. Al was sad and went back to the hotel for a sleep to get over it.

I have been working a fair bit over the past few days and managed to switch myself back to Sydney time. This means I am currently feeling a bit jet lagged. So I got a tan in Scotland and got jet lagged on a train. Setting new records!

One of the advantages of being in a screwed up personal time zone is getting to watch unusual tv. CNN & BBC had got boring so I flicked through channels. Sylvester Stallone has a hilarious french dub in the latest Rocky movie. there is all the guttural flavour of his voice in English but it is still in French. Somehow it actually makes the movie a bit more watchable. Not much more though. It is still an awesomely bad movie.

Edited by tor

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Day 29: Travelling Tip

Hotel rooms often have those keycards which you have to put into the socket for the power to go on. If you are travelling with lots of battery heavy type stuff this can be an issue as you go out and none of it charges.

Ideally they will be credit card sized, but are usually not. Ripping up the cardboard at the back of the notepad provided and stuffing it in usually provides fully charged equipment and keeps the room at the desired temperature on return.

edit - tomorrows tip; how to smoke and not set off a smoke detector.

Edited by zaph

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Ideally they will be credit card sized, but are usually not. Ripping up the cardboard at the back of the notepad provided and stuffing it in usually provides fully charged equipment and keeps the room at the desired temperature on return.

A folded cardboard coaster nicked from the kids' souvenir stash also works well, I've found. :)

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A folded cardboard coaster nicked from the kids' souvenir stash also works well, I've found. :)

Righto so every one knows this trick except me :)

Actually when I worked it out I looked at it thinking "how on earth did I not think of this before".

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Righto so every one knows this trick except me :)

Actually when I worked it out I looked at it thinking "how on earth did I not think of this before".

It only works till housekeeping comes to make up your room.

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Day 30: TGV

Antwerp to Lyon in 5 hours. Wheeeeeeee. I do like trains.

People can, and do, say a lot about the French driving style. Al didn't say much but the occasional "gggnnnnnnnggghhh" from the cab back seat as the driver cheerfully practiced his English with me and my French with him made me realise he hadn't fallen asleep back there. I will not hear a bad word said about the French parallel parking skills. Cars are parked so close to each other I have no idea how they get out. I have watched a few people drive off with a country bumpkin smile on my face.

Once again in a country where I can't speak the local language at all (common) and the locals generally can't speak mine (not so common). This gives me more impetus to go pick up enough half arsed skills in other languages. Even the ability to faintly understand what the waiter is saying would be useful.

For dinner we went to a recommended Bouchon (Le Garet on Rue Garet). Bouchon are little bistro type places that sell traditional local dishes.

The entree of local salad specialities seemed a good idea. 5 huge bowls holding at least half a kilo of "salad" each arrived and the waiter rattled away what they were. Didn't understand a word. Take what you want from the bowls and eat with bread and wine.

Later google translation of the menu revealed what the salads were. Pork Sausage with a dressing is not what I would usually call a salad, I can see it taking off though. Head Cheese in dressing, Lentil salad, Tripe in dressing and Tendons in dressing.

Sometimes it is best not to understand the waiter and just eat. Although tendons I just can't appreciate.

My main was "Tête de veau ravigote", a warm terrine according to my translation, Jaques Chirac either loved it or hated it, assuming they wouldn't say he hated it on the menu I opted for he loved it. Actually a slow cooked calves head with potatoes and a mustardy sauce with egg in it. Blissfully non lingual I munched away happily.

Tomorrow:

Wine Tasting Tour! 10 Beaujolais in half a day! I have been training for this!

If I survive the wine tour maybe a wander through the secret tunnels and a hunt for a boudin noir.

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It only works till housekeeping comes to make up your room.

I always hang the do not disturb on the door anyway so avoided that particular issue.

I always hang the do not disturb because an easy way to reduce the volume of laundry is to always be nude in the room :)

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... Tripe in dressing and Tendons in dressing.

...

My main was "Tête de veau ravigote", a warm terrine according to my translation, Jaques Chirac either loved it or hated it, assuming they wouldn't say he hated it on the menu I opted for he loved it. Actually a slow cooked calves head with potatoes and a mustardy sauce with egg in it. Blissfully non lingual I munched away happily.

Hahahahaha! laugh.gif

Are you sure the waiters weren't playing their national pastime prank on you: "let's fool the Englishman to eat crap food!"

Tête de veau... you need to learn the children's song Alouette!

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Day 31: Ohhhhh Fancy eh?

Today was an attempt at being cultural and fancy. We probably bit off more than we could chew but I would like to lay some of the blame with the Lyon Tourism Board.

Lyon is famous for its Traboules apparently. These are little "secret" walkways through buildings. Effectively shortcuts that people made over the years so you don't have to walk around a block. Cultural but also it has an element of half arsed laziness which appeals to me: "I am sick of walking around the block and am going to spend tons of energy making a walkway through the block so I never have to do it again". Sounds about as smart as half the things I do so I was interested.

The Tourism Board gave us a handy map with highlighter scribbles showing a recommended path to follow. We followed it. Up a funicular to a big old church, success! first two highlighted things on the map achieved. I only give us a small tick though as the church is visible from my hotel room and dominates the skyline so our navigational skills were not taxed.

From there we had a look at the ruins of an amphitheatre. It was next door but we did almost screw this up (my fault, I prefer walking downhill and will happily lie about maybe having seen a sign "just down there", Al stood firm and we looked at the ruins). I tap danced on the stage because I always love the echoes that come back in those amphitheatres. My tap dancing skills are not as good as Al's navigational skill but another small tick.

Then we wandered somewhat vaguely through some insanely skinny and steep streets. We might have got a bit distracted as we missed the mural we were meant to see somehow. The streets were very steep and we couldn't figure out how we had missed it so we only spent a small amount of time trying to rectify the error. Interesting note, a GPS signal in really skinny streets has a habit of putting you blocks away from where you are.

Street signs got us back on track to see some Traboules. Most of these have doors and the doors are closed. The Tourism Board advocates just pushing on doors and seeing if you can get in. This seems highly irresponsible to me. Fortunately "excuse moi" sprang to mind quickly enough and I don't think we offended anyone much. Unfortunately the Traboules we found which appeared to be actual Traboules (i.e. were not the door to the back of shops or restaurants) were not really an awful lot more than small corridors which all looked pretty similar.

A little disheartened at the lack of pirates and gold piles and huge spiders stalking small antipodeans we moved on to the next item on our map (but still bravely trying to imagine silk merchants taking shortcuts for the excitement that mental image offers). A Red and White light house type thing. At this point Al asked me to take a photo of him for his family in case he died. Those steps were steep and there were a lot of them. The term "Death March" gets thrown around a lot but I believe that was the mindset by the top.

We spent half an hour looking for the Red and White lighthouse thing. In the end Al announced that it was "probably that". "That" being a slightly taller than normal white bit of a house which also looked like it had a large fire in its, not so recent, history. I pretended to be impressed by it but the steps had drained much of my acting skills. Al tried to be disgusted at my lack of cultural appreciation but the stairs had drained his outrage.

Walking back down to the city we observed a group of tourists where the girls were pretending to be models in front of a shop window that was mirrored. That seemed to be quite fun for them. More fun than the cultural delights and points of interest surrounding them anyway.

We decided that the Lyon Tourist Board are a bunch of creative people that realised they had a hard job to do as they had no tourism things and so they simply made up a lot of stuff and drew the maps knowing stupid tourists would blame themselves.

The rat cunning of this ploy impressed us considerably and we stepped lively to the mini bus we would take to the Beaujolais tour. Along the way I had to buy new sunglasses. Many of the shops were closed. They apparently close at 1300 til 1400 because they can. We were really impressed by this and have dreams of implementing a similar thing in our lives!

Spirits considerably enlivened by the French cunning and self interest we launched ourselves into our cultural afternoon of the Beaujolais tour. Actually we both had a wee bit of a snooze on the mini bus but only while it was on the highway. Once it hit the, frankly, beautiful vineyards we were refreshed and ready to look, listen and learn. I would crap on endlessly about the 10 cru and 2 other types of Beaujolais but you can read that elsewhere if you don't know _and_ cared. Suffice it to say that Beaujolais is a light bodied fruity wine which I have always liked. The vineyards do look stunning from many of the vantage points.

Returning to Lyon the rest of the tour (6 others) fell asleep. Al and I hit our second wind! A restaurant we had seen while hunting for Traboules looked interesting.

I can read most of a menu now that I know a few names to look for “Firemans apron” is tripe but I didn’t even know the french for “firemans apron” let alone what it meant. I can only assume some of the other things are tripe as well. Al is still struggling. I guess I have an advantage from all the cookbooks I have read over the years. Despite this linguistic skill the idea of choosing a menu based on two words seemed delightful. "Gourmand Menu". We had just drunk a lot of wine and figured close enough.

Langoustines, Asparagus, Prawns, Layered Pate, Foie Gras, Salad Lyon, Roast Duck, Beef in red wine, île Flottante, creme caramel then a wee bit of cheese.

A bit more wine.

We felt haughty and also very full and possibly would not have been allowed to drive in any other country, here I think it would have been acceptable.

We hope the haughtiness will be with us tomorrow when we head to the Home Of Haught: Paris.

Edited by tor

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Day 31: TGV Picnic

Today we shall ride the thunderous TGV from Lyon to Paris. Al has given up trying to say "Gay Paris" because I giggle too much when he says it. He has reverted to a good strong aussie version of the pronunciation. In an attempt to forestall a complete reversion to Aussie Bloke we stopped in at "Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse". This makes it sound planned, it wasn't, I just saw the sign and realised what I was looking at.

Les Halles is a standard feature on any cooking show that visits Lyon and, given Lyon's gastronomic fanciness in this day of offal eating being cool, plus the name Bocuse most shows get there if they can.

It is about 5 aisles, each about 100 m long of food shops. Charcuterie, Cheese and Fish dominate but bread, wine, olives, stuff in jars, foie gras & caviar and patisseries (bloody macarons! I still don't understand how they became so damn trendy) are also present. We wandered through looking at everything and taking a bunch of purty picatures. Then formulated a plan (by our standards) and executed it with breathtaking efficiency (by our standards).

Plan: We will picnic on the TGV.

Execution: Couple of bits of bread, some roquefort & epoisses, a bottle of chateau neuf de papa, some jamon iberico and a locally brewed tripel (my favourite style of beer).

Superior Planning Skills: Immersion into french culture meant we also grabbed a bottle opener and some knives.

Shame I won't get to use this bottle opener very often at home, it is one of the good ones with the swing bit for the final cork withdrawal. When I used to work bars we all dreamed of owning one of these like the cool sommeliers we knew.

Al has been complaining a bit about stereotypes over the past few days. No one will bloody well insult us or be rude! The same lack of living up to stereotypes occurred here where my dodgy french / sign language was met with smiles and helpful suggestions. The cheese guy even switched to English and informed me he intends to set up a cheese shop in Melbourne. If this happens Melbourne will get a pretty nice guy but the nice guy will lose access to a lot of the cheeses he obviously loves so much due to import laws regarding raw milk cheeses.

If raw milk cheeses kill people why are there still Frenchmen around?

I digress.

To the TGV. Al went to get tickets while I guarded the luggage from roaming bands of gypsies and vagabonds. The 6 foot long things wrapped up in Japanese patterned material seem to keep the vagabonds away so I feel rather superfluous.

Al returned. So. Damn. Excited.

A Frenchman had abused the whole room of people wanting tickets! he called them all retards.

Al surmised it was because they had turned up too late for the train which was in 5 minutes.

I asked if he had lost the plot, jumped in a masculine way onto his desk and yelled at them.

Al said no, he had actually put it on one of those "red dot words going across it" signs!

The insult was "froggy froggy froggy RETARDEZ froggy froggy froggy 5 minute froggy froggy".

Sadly I advised him that the board was likely saying the train was 5 minutes late.

Our train was late too but only by a couple of minutes, it was very full and eating smelly cheese seemed a touch rude so we drank the beer alone. In Paris there are parks a plenty. We strolled from our hotel in the 6th to the Trocadero (3 tourist points: park strolling including watching a game of chess, Eiffel Tower & Trocadero) which was only about 3 km on the map so about 6 km in our rather haphazard navigational style which is always pulled off track by "oh look, something shiny, wait where are we?".

The Trocadero fountains were fixed last year or the year before and we spent an hour watching them, there is a change every 5 minutes. By then a picnic seemed to small for dinner and too large for pre dinner, the picnic is shelved til tomorrow.

Steak Frites! a Paris tradition. The first(?, I might be making this up) restaurant (Le Relais de l'Entrecôte) to sell only steak frites has 3(?, again do not turn to me for facts) locations and one is right next door to the hotel(!, this is true though). Excellent shoe string fries, nicely cooked steak in slices all drenched in a butter sauce which had a hint of curry and anchovy. The dish is a touch small but when you finish it they top it up with another serve. The web site recommendations warn about the rudeness of the waitresses but proclaim their efficiency. We were excited. Another food achievement _and_ rude French people?, !.

When we asked for medium rare steak the waitress made a bit of a face and I said "recommendez vous?" (loosely translated "me man want know you recommend yes?" - this actually counts as advanced french for me) she became effusive in her delight of the steak cooked medium. We went with her advice and concur she was correct. When the last frite was wiping the last bit of sauce from the second plate she asked if we wanted dessert. "Nope we're good thanks". "Not even a profiterole to share for the lovely couple?" the romantic couple next to us started crying from holding in the laughter.

And that is the closest we have come to an insult from these indolent obnoxious people.

Stupid French can't even work hard at their stereotypes.

Tomorrow:

Checklist Day! A frenzied day of minutely planned, to the second timed, exhaustively researched check boxing of Paris' tourist attractions! Actually I think we might go the Louvre then watch cars from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. If it is crazy enough we might get a cab ride through as well. So that kind of counts as detailed planning for us.

Edited by tor

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So people in "Gay Paris" think you look like a pair of poofters?

If so we fall definitely in the "Bear" camp. Large sweaty hairy fellows that we are.

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Day 32: Checklist Day

One of the advantages of a place like Paris has over, say, Lyon is that their tourism board have an easy job. We booked hotels here based on alphabetical order on a web site, next door to the hotel is the bistro that all the cool people between the wars hung out at. In the past we have diverted our tracks whenever we see something that looks like something. Here everything is something.

In future when choosing a destination for tourist type activities I might ask for data on the stress related illnesses suffered by their tourism board staff. Actuarial Tourism. The next big thing.

One of the advantages of being tourists like us is that we are so damn pleased with ourselves on arriving anywhere that it doesn't have to be that good for us to be happy. If something is good we probably didn't mean to be there and we are infectiously excited with our serendipity.

Merrily dispensing happiness and serendipitous excitement we strolled the sites of Paris.

Many of the other tourists were having a harder time of it, at Le Louvre one larger gentleman was valiantly supporting a wall as sweat dripped onto the slippery floors and his cardiac system visibly vibrated his chest. The stairs up the leg of the Arc de Triomphe were causing bitter mutterings which, being American, echoed well and were destroying the moral of the ascending party.

Until we arrived! "Don't worry dude, these walls have been standing for years, they don't need your help though I dare say they appreciate it", "These stairs are nothing to the death march of Lyon and this time we know there is something at the top". Cheer was produced in quantity.

Tourism boards should probably pay us.

At the Pantheon "Great guys of the Nation (and some chicks)" crypts each one has the names of the interred carved into the wall outside. Unlike the rest of the names Louis Braille's was smeared with finger marks. Some jokes are too obvious and we avoid being predictable.

Al has a woeful knowledge of history be it cultural, scientific or religious. As most of the placards are in French I have had to explain what many of the things we are gawping at are.

He was not aware that the breakaway cyclists on the last day of the Tour de France ride up the Champs-Élysées (named for a horse which won a lot of races) on the gutter because the cobbles are so nasty. Le Deluge, a popular subject at Le Louvre, being a famously rainy day in the French riots of 186mumble where the umbrella was invented was not taught in his history classes. The fact that Jesus was a fan of Game Of Thrones and had a pet dragon in his younger days had also escaped him. And I cannot forgive his lack of knowledge regarding Hammurabi's famous programming style.

I have a woeful knowledge of history be it cultural, scientific or religious.

I apologise to those fellow tourists that started listening to my pronouncements.

Km Covered: ~10 on foot (today alone)

Items Checked off List:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Trocadero
  • Pantheon
  • Le Louvre
  • Arc d'Triomphe
  • Last bit of the Tour de France including the corner with the Egyptian needle
  • Random church 1, 2 & 4
  • Church 3 which turned out to be Notre Dame
  • La Rotonde Montparnasse (crepes with bitter chocolate for breakfast)

Lessons Learned:

Queues for all the above check list items are _vastly_ reduced from previous forays into Paris. I suspect this is because we are in Autumn now. However the weather is nice and if you get a Museum card (30 odd euro) you get to bypass all the ticket lines often with your own special VIP entrance. For the Louvre we just walked straight in, zero waiting!

Refrigerators in French hotel rooms sometimes do not work very well. Smelly cheeses can be very smelly.

Wifi in French hotels may exist however it may only be available in the lobby.

Edited by tor

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Are the Paris side-walks still littered with dog sh*t?

No. There have been dogs around but nowhere near the volume I faintly remembered and the dog sh*t has been close to non existent.

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Day 34: French Ladies Of The Night

(I used Day 31 twice so have fixed day numbering here, this was not another day lost to science as occurred in sweden, just a typo earlier this week)

When we leave the hotel room / bar / tables etc I check my pockets for the 4 things I always carry and that I have my sunglasses in the neck of my T shirt. This involves a quick series of pocket pats followed my a neck pat. Al calls this my OCD Gypsy dance. I relate this only to indicate how far our in jokes have gone and how indecipherable this post may be.

During yesterdays Tourist Spot Check List Achievements I got into a bit of a bad habit of saying "Ohhhh" and "Ahhhhh" in a somewhat cynical slacker fashion, I am a product of the 90's I guess. Outside the Notre Dame we stopped for a beer and a French fellow actually said "Oh lalalala". I almost wet myself with laughing. I guess that mitigated the $12 price for a beer in some manner.

For dinner we had Italian (6 course degustation, matched wines at a reasonably fancy establishment in a fairly fancy suburb: AU$120 per head - oh food is _so_ expensive here).

Attempting to translate 2 languages at once lead to a side track conversation (translating "Fruits de mer") about what fruit of the sea would actually be? seaweed maybe? and what animal would do the pollination. I suspected that maybe the sea itself would carry the pollen analog. This resulted in us singing "The sea is the bee of the sea" for a bit between courses.

The jaunt today was largely going through various shops to look at things, many photos of concept electrical cars were taken, I am not a car freak but some of these really were beautiful pieces of engineering, standing out amongst the various car brands was Mercedes which was a boring showroom with nothing of interest. Some of the shops had young ladies spraying passers by with various perfumes. As a result we did end up smelling like some kind of parisienne whores.

Crepes have been high on the list of "food seen at stalls and added to list of things that must be tried". Especially Nutella crepes. Stopping at La Rotonde to try some may not have been a super smart idea.

La Rotonde is the bistro I mentioned earlier where lots of the great inter war years artists (Picasso, Modigliani, Dali), writers (Hemingway) and thinking people types (Lenin & Trotsky maybe?) hung out and to this day a lot of the intelligentsia types meet there for coffee. In the past artists that couldn't afford their bill would leave a piece of art until they could pay. Picasso and a few others have done works set in the bistro. It still has an awful lot of interesting art hanging on the walls.

Sitting there reeking like parisienne whores and, apparently, looking like a romantic couple then having crepes delivered attracted a few comments from a couple of cabaret type ladies. When the (probably) salacious French obviously wasn't working they switched to some of the best English we have heard here and one of them asked if she could join us for our crepes. I of course said yes, meeting the local people like that is always interesting. The waiter wasn't having any of it. I believe his comments were along the lines of "she'll chew you up and spit you out you fat little Englishman".

We had training with the local French club. Getting there required 2 changes on the metro. We achieved this easily illustrating our competence at travelling. We had a travelling chant: "to,4,6,8 who do we appreciate? Picard" as we were using the 4,6 & 8 lines with a change to a line headed for something that looked like Picard, close enough that nerd boys would remember anyway. This illustrates the toll travel has taken on our mental faculties.

Dinner post training was Japanese made by Chinese featuring French ideas: Beef and Cheese yakitori anyone? Jean Reno ordered takeaway while we were there but he sent a driver to collect it. That would have been an awesome Tourist Check List Item to have collected.

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Day 35: Ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch chunnel!

The planned TGV picnic was finally consumed. A breakfast of Epoisses & Rochefort with Belgian beers and fresh bread while hanging out the hotel window smoking. I feel I could take to this version fo the French lifestyle. I shall call it Fancy Euro Hobo. In conjunction with Actuarial Travel & Invented Tourism I think I am on to a winner of a business model.

A mini theme of the trip has been riding trains which are interesting (over the bridge from Sweden to Denmark, the TGV etc) so obviously the Chunnel has to be done. Al got in trouble at customs because he bought his ticket a few hours before he travelled (so did I), didn't know the address we were staying at (neither did I) and generally looked dodgy I guess (I always look scrupulously honest which probably saved me). Once the customs men were satisfied Al was no threat to English Homeland Security we jumped on out little wagon and sped through the countryside. Riding first class (because we are men of leisure) means you get a wee meal and a wine to go with it. I got an Australian shiraz. I assume the wine is chosen by some English people that haven't forgiven the French for 1066 or something.

Today is the last day of our holiday proper, tomorrow we both start the flights home.

And. It. All. Came. Crashing. Down.

The desire to see anything interesting has left us completely. Unless you count the bottom of a glass. Several times.

Oh I forgot, last night at the French styled Japanese made by Chinese we had farewell Sake. In the bottom of each glass was a rude nude picture. The poor Frenchman who had been insisting he was not gay despite accusations from his countrymen received the only rude nude dude picture (and a fancy specimen of a dude he was too!). The French lass with us traded glasses with him so he would not feel too intimidated or maybe for her own reasons.

When the glass had been drained the rude nude pictures were no longer visible. Like I ever need a reason to refill a glass!

Both of us carrying a few injuries from training, biking and walking meant we looked like old men staggering the streets of London in search of a bar. A bar was found opposite a Bus Terminal. Sitting there amongst the youngest and poorest travellers of Europe only made us feel older and more broken. Much beer was drunk (Bombardier mostly) and a couple of medicinal scotches (Talisker, slightly peaty, tangy iodine, perhaps a target for future visits) and then a visit to the local chippy. Battered sausages & chips for me, a piece of haddock for Al. The selling point of the haddock was that "it was bigger". Indeed it was. Huge bloody thing. My sausages were also advertised as jumbo and indeed they were. Some curry sauce (with raisins) and mushy peas ("Oh I think you'll only want one serve between the two of you") rounded off the starchy banquet.

Giving up on any further social activities we headed back to the hotel. Reasonably expensive with tiny rooms that were crammed full of gadgets. Vibrating bed, massive tv, ipad, stereo etc. I was too stupefied to really examine the options available and lay on the bed mindlessly watching American sitcoms. Then I noticed the shower. It has a clear glass wall so that you can see the three different shower nozzles from the wall to wall vibrating bed. I fear we have obtained rooms in an upscale brothel.

Edited by tor

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