In Barcelona

We are literally in a million dollar beachfront condo. I am speechless, we have a rooftop deck with an incredible 360 degree view of the Mediterranean sea and Barcelona. The place is small but completely redone, everything is brand new. Spent most of the day lying on the beach and drinking beers, the place is packed and the weather is great. The whole city is amazing, clean and there is loads to do. No baguettes, and no French language anywhere. Thank you Jesus.

Gonna try to see Indiana Jones in an English theater sometime in the next couple of days, and check out the zoo.

Catching the ferry to Ibiza in five days.

PS. I will write about the hotel train that got us here a little later, it was a gongshow to say the least.

Our zippy 206.

This one wasn't diesel. I think it had a 1.3 liter engine. Even with
the four of us, it hauled ass. I think I rode a motorcycle with a
bigger motor than this. Great car.

Cruising once again.

Our stroke of luck continues. After running out of time and all but
giving up on Mount St. Michel we caught a break. After returning our
car we headed for the train station to catch our Paris train. At the
station we ran into this random couple who overheard us speaking
English and asked us what we were up to. All they really wanted to do
is see Mt. St. Michel. Crazy. Since we still had a few hours till we
needed to be in Paris to catch the sleeper to Barcelona, we agreed to
rent a car again and split the cost. Brilliant, I was stoked. After
getting a little lost we were well on our way down highway A84. The
highways in France are silky smooth, the speed limit 130. The 150
kilometer trip took less than an hour. Our newly met friends were a
very young conservative couple from North Carolina. The accent and
all. They backed McCain, went to church and listened to country.
Even thought I dind’t have too much fun with them, they were awesome
to talk with and very interesting. Both aspiring school teachers. We
cranked some Trance and enjoyed the ride.

Mount St. Michel is a monestary in progress. It’s a little town, with
shops, restaurants and many attractions nestled on top of an Island.
The first structure was built in the 13th century and since then
constantly built up over many generations. We hiked up a million
stairs and even though only had about an hour to explore, completed the
whole tour. Even caught a mass at the monestary. I can’t belive human
beings built a place like this, it’s massive, almost out of this
world. Glad we were able to see this marvel.

Off to Barcelona.

Normandy.

We woke up early and rented a car. A little diesel Peugeot. After a
quick cup of coffee headed for Normandy. Having a car here is
indespensible, there is so much to see. The tourist map has what seems
like a thousand points of interest, countless museums, cemeteries, and
many kilometers of beaches. Juno beach was our 1st stop. The Canadian
center wasn’t all that interesting, it was rather dry. Some displays
on the walls and a short video clip. There was an interesting exhibit
about Canadians fighting in Italy just before D-day, alot of stuff I
didn’t know anything about.

I was excited to see some un-French food at the local diner and was
happy to order a hot dog. After a long wait I was greeted with a cheap
long weener, soaked in a very spicey mustard, served in a crispy baguette.
Grr, I would pay 20$ for a smokey.

After flying around some winding roads we arrived at Arromanches. The
museum there is devoted to all the logistical issues and the
technology used to construct the artificial mulberry harbour. The
harbour along with the breakwater were used to land troops and
supplies after the initial attack. Incredible stuff here. Longues-sur-
mer is where the German battery is located. It is the only remaining
coastal defense that still has its guns intact. This part of the
Atlantic wall is an engineering marvel. We walked inside all the
fortifications and took countless pictures. Bayeux was probably my
favourite place, the museum there is incredible. It houses tanks,
guns, all types of hardware. I got to see an MG42, an old German
howitzer, and all kinds of interesting electronic gadgetry. The 30
minute film that described German and allied tactics during the first
few weeks was awesome, something I have never seen before. We visited
the massive English cemetery there as well and checked out Pointe Du
Hoc. You could easily spend a week exploring this area and visiting
the museums but we just ran out of time. This whole area is something
that must be seen in person, no movie, book, nothing can describe the
feeling of this place.

The car had to be back early and we were over our mileage limit. It is
expensive to rent, gas is through the roof and they were charging for
mileage. Heading back to Paris then off to Barcelona on the sleepy
train.

Caen

When the kind people at Expedia promised me a hotel "in the middle of
it all", they were not kidding that this place is tops. Just across
the busy highway there is a gorgeous Peugeot car parts factory, to the
left there is an art nuveau farm tractor storage facility, some type
of a modern warehouse graces the view out of our hotel window and just
around the corner, just shy of the railway tracks there is this place.

Remember the Twilight Zone? Nice. Now smoke a big fatty, finish up a
bottle of gin, turn on your black and white TV and put on a classic
episode. Close your eyes now and imagine. This is the place. Right
here. A huge warehouse, a warehouse full of stuff. Mountains of it,
all brand new. It's a store, you buy stuff here. From books to
speedos, from a drill bit to baby toys, sheets of sandpaper OK, need a
2009 calendar, there is a pile. Nothing is organized and you are
simply free to do as you please, everything costs a Euro. Need a new
dress shirt, no problem, hairspray, a sprinkler timer perhaps? There
are no shelves here, no aisles, you just walk all over the stuff and
pick as you please. Fucked up to say the least.

Bye bye Paris.

After meeting up with the owner of our Paris condo and getting our
deposit back we hiked down the stairs, jumped in the metro and then
the train to Caen. It was an uneventful 3 hours, we drank some wine
and enjoyed the unusually pretty view out the window. Western France
is picture perfect, rolling hills, farms and very high end looking
villas. The circus started as soon as we arrived. Not knowing where to
go we begin to inquire about directions to our hotel. The guy at the
station had no clue, the lady at the taxi stop told us our hotel is
minutes away and to walk north. We doubted her and looked around for a
second opinion. The 1st bus driver pointed us to bus 6, the lady on
bus 6 told us to catch bus 1, the adamant bystander who overheard the
coversation guided us someplace other. Random young English speaking
girl enters the picture and gives us more contradicting info. Grr. Two
and a half hours later we take matters into our own hands and pretty
much decide to jump on whatever comes our way. Agh, our old friend
bus 6 comes around again, same driver and all. After a brief spat the
young dude driver admits to a mistake and informs us that his route
can bring us within a few kilometers, we could catch a cab from there.
Things are looking up. We cruise for about 30 minutes through suburban
Caen until we reach the end of his route where he lets everyone off
and loops back to the train station. Pretty normal. Hmm. Once the bus
empties he tells us quietly in very broken English to hold up. With
Marcie and I on board, he floors the super modern Volvo monster bus
and flies onto the freeway. After trying to tell us that he is going
to get in shit for this and after navigating some crazy back roads, he
drops us RIGHT in front of our hotel five minutes later. This was a
transit bus, on the clock. Whatta madman.

Our hotel is kind of sucky, its tiny. The bed is great, free Wi/Fi,
and it's clean. It's actually not sucky at all. There is an ultra
modern micro brewery about a 10 minute walk from here and a McDonald's
a few minutes further. Heaven. We have to be up around 6am tomorrow,
renting a car and visiting the d-day beaches and the museums. Very
excited, sad in a way. So much has happened around here. Love to all.

Ohh man I need a vacation.

The endless walking, the flights of stairs, the shopping and all the
freakkin’ museums are driving us bananas. If I see another bust, a
painting, a carving, a statue, or read another French pamphlet that I don’t
fucking understand I am going to explode.

On a lighter note, there is an art exhibit at Arc de Triomphe. We are
going late this evening, can’t wait to see night time Paris from up
above. Tonight is our last night here.

Thank you rubber shoes.

We have been through thick and thin. The rainy days, the beach sand
and the sketchy shower at the hostel. You have been so good to me,
kept me safe and blister free. Sadly trends prevail and you are being
replaced. I’ve kept you around as long as I could. I am upset to see
you go. Your comfort and eye catching color will sadly be missed.
Au revoir my good crocks, au revoir.

A quick tower tidbit.

As demonstration of the economy of design, if the 7300 tonnes of the metal structure were melted down it would fill the 125 meter square base to a depth of only 6 cm (2.36 in), assuming a density of the metal to be 7.8 tonnes per cubic meter. The tower has a mass less than the mass of the air contained in a cylinder of the same dimensions, that is 324 meters high and 88.3 meters in radius. The weight of the tower is 10,100 tonnes compared to 10,265 tonnes of air.

Stole this from the Eiffel Tower wiki. Read it, its cool.

PS. I forgot to add that we took the stairs down from the second level, legs felt wobbly.

More stuff

I will try to write a few words describing the last 3 days here in Paris. This blog is a little sloppy timeline wise. Today is Frday the 16th and we just spent the whole day navigating the corridors of The Luvre museum, more on this later. Two days ago we woke up quite early and since we were not yet familiar with the mass transit decided to spend a whole day just roaming around carelessly. With no real plans we packed our map, a backpack full of beers and headed south-west, the downtown core. Paris is quite busy but not nearly as bustling as Amsterdam or even Brussels. Most of the streets lead into some type of a town square decorated with a park or a statue of some proud dude on a horse, usually welding some type of a stabbing tool. This place is all about restaurants, tiny bakeries, even tiner shops with even tiner private residences on the upper floors. You always hear about Paris being a huge culinary center of the world, that may be so but I did not see any indication of such. There seems to be a place eat every few meters, what suprised me was that even after walking around for a full day I didnt find anything interesting. Most of the places looked the same, identical even, with very similar menus, similar specials, even the decor was nothing to write home about. Every place had a busy outdoor patio and a stuffy feeling, dark, uninviting dining area inside, we had a hard time choosing a place. Sandwiches, steak and fries and the usual boring appys, yawn. I am sure that Paris is filled with fancy restaurants, I believe though that they are off the beaten path and out of our budget. One additional tiny tidbit, all places were fucking expensive. I am not talking a few extra bucks here and there, I am talking 8 Euro pints of really awful peepee warm beer, served in an old scratched up glass. Not good, thats well over 10 golden loonies. Needless to say in addition to my compulsory steak tartare adventure and some apple ice cream under the Eiffel tower we have been cooking our grub at home. This brings up another little nugget of information. The grocery stores, even the little corner stores are DIRT cheap. 50 cents for a baguette, 1 Euro for for a little stack of sliced gouda, a pack of amazingly delicious ham was less than 2 bucks. 6 pack of beer around 6 Euro, juice, pop, desserts are merely 20 to 30 cents. The veggies are fresh, the stores modern, clean and full of variety. The economy here is weird, we bought a basket full of groceries including a 26oz of vodka for less than the cost of a couple of sandwiches at the corner patisserie.

Back to my story, the Notre Dame is massive, we were able to witness the tail end of a mass and light a couple of candles. The place is eerie, even when packed with tourists. Lots of stuff to see here, statues of crying people, dead people, beatings, people on fire, sadness and pain including the odd painting of torture… ….ya know, religion stuff.

Marcie saw the tower first, it is truely something to admire, whether you are ten block away or standing right underneath. It obviously TOWERS over everything in sight and it is way more spectacular than I could have ever imagined. The base of the tower was busy, but with an only thirty minute lineup and 24 Euros for the both of us we were ready for liftoff. The elevator ride up wasnt as scary as I thought and it was interesting to see pre 1900 lifts being powered by modern electronics and motors. There are three levels, the first two being pretty much the base of the structure and the very top housing the two restaurants and an observation deck with a spectacluar view. We jetted to all three levels and admired 360 degrees of Paris. How can you use words or even pictures to describe such an experience? The tower even lights up at night, shots out a rotating psychodelic rave laser and after 11pm or as they say here twentythreehundredhours starts to sparkle excidedly.

Everyone should come up here at least once in their lifetime, its pure magic, plus of course its a great place to make out.

In two days we are off to Caen, then the overnight train to Barcelona where Marcie, my really tanned and very hot travel agent has just scored us a beach loft. YAY.

PS. I will try to post about the Louvre and the Arc tomorrow, we are gonna oogle some Picassos tomorrow as well. My battle in finding an apostraphe on this keyboard has clearly been lost, sorry.

My turn ons include….

romantic walks to the liquor store and getting caught up in a Parisian rainstorm. Ohhh man, when it rains here, it RAINS. The showers come without warning, the rainrops are golf ball sized and when you finally realize what is going on……its all over. The sun comes back and everyone continues about their business. Reminds me of a 7up commercial.

France.

It takes six steep flights of stairs to access our place. Seemingly simple tasks such as running across the street to pick up a tomato from the corner store require a strong mind, body and a can of redbull.

Metro.

As massive as this whole place is, getting around on the metro is a piece of g√Ęteau. You never have to wait more than 5 minutes and most of the time the connecting train arrives in seconds. It all seems very organized, fast and efficient. Albeit smelly at times.

Very tired;

I am now two days behind with keeping up with my virtual travel diary. We have been so busy, being so crazy that by the time we are back home its usually well after 1AM and my weak body starts to shut down and eyes become loopy. Todays walk down to the Arc and yesterdays magical day on the tower will require some time to sink in. There is so much to say. In addition to figuring out how to insert a bloody apostrophe on this stupid keyboard thereby reducing the grammar mistakes, I will try to find some time to type out something interesting.

We are going clubbing on Friday, for the first time in Paris. ATB and Dave Seaman, praying for anyting other than shitty electrohouse thats has become so popular with the simple folk. Not sure about Marcie but I dont feel homesick at all, c’est fantastique. We booked a nice place in Caen, three more days in la capitale de la France.

Mr.Kat, If you are reading this, we miss you.