Friday, September 28, 2012

Greetings from London

It's been a busy 48 hours. I had to say goodbye to my tour group. We have now gone our separate ways into the big wide world- no Tour Director, no Driver. I have got some new Facebook buddies from the trip. It was great having a young crowd on the tour- tended to hang out with them the most.

Yesterday I had a clear day in London and went on the London Eye. It was very relaxing. I met a Chinese lady who asked me whether I could take her photo and I asked her if she took mine. It was reciprocal.

After this I took the train from Waterloo to Knightsbridge where Harrods is to start my Vintage tour around London. We went round Traffalgar Square, the Embankment area, Round Buckingham Palace and saw the ceremony for the guards men putting away their horses. After this we had a harbor cruise along the Thames River.

After this the bus took us to Harrods where three of us had afternoon tea. I met these two South African ladies in my tour who invited me to join them for afternoon tea. They were from Pretoria. One of them lives here and is a Social Worker. Having afternoon tea at Harrods was a real highlight for me. We had Devonshire tea and scones, plus Champaign. There was a computerized grand piano playing it's own music. The dining area was huge with starched table cloths and napkins, with chandeliers and beautiful floral displays.

After my day out I caught up with Mark outside St Pauls Cathedral. I am starting to get my head around the Tube Stations and destinations. I do miss my car to take me round. I am starting to like London, but it's not my all time favorite city to visit. I have to say Liverpool was much easier to get around.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Greetings from Amsterdam

Well tonight is my last night with the tour group. I am in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is what I have imagined it to be. There are proper cycle lanes for cyclists, house boats and canals. When we arrived we had 45 minutes to have some lunch. We were dropped off in a nice area where we could get something from the markets and then have some time for souvenir shopping, I bought some ornaments: miniature clogs, a picture and a windmill. After the souvenir shopping we went to a diamond shop where they cut, smoothed and set diamonds into rings, necklaces, etc. We were shown the process and were shown the different types of diamond sizes and values. Most of us were too poor to pay exuberant prices for this luxury. After this we did a canal cruise in downtown Amsterdam with my tour group. We went past Anne Frank's house (diary fame) which has been converted into a Museum. The houses along the canal are very different. They tend to be a number of stories where the kitchen is on the first floor, the living area is on the second floor and the bedrooms are on the third floor. This afternoon we were given some free time to check out down town Amsterdam. We walked to the red light district area and smelt the unique smells this area has on offer. I was not interested in going into a coffee shop and trying out Space Cake, or sampling anything illegal. It was interesting to walk round, but settled for a hot chocolate and a piece of Dutch Apple cake at McDonalds.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Greetings from Rhineland

Today has been a long day of traveling and more traveling. We left Switzerland early and arrived to Germany. I am now in Rhineland Germany. I am having a one night stop over. It is dark outside and feeling tired. I am not going site seeing with the group. Just having an early night. Today we did a 1 hour cruise along the Rhineland River. It was very relaxing. Tomorrow I am off to Amsterdam. Last full day with the tour group and then on Wednesday I head back to London. I have thoroughly enjoyed the tour, even it was a little rushed at times. I have seen the snapshots of Europe and seen amazing landmarks. Must go off to bed. Up at 5:30am tomorrow for a new adventure in Amsterdam.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Greetings from Lucern Switzerland

Today I started the morning off with a lake cruise. I am simply loving Switzerland. It is quiet and easy to get around. Switzerland is not the cheapest. This morning was grey and murky. Not a typical Switzerland post card day. We went along the lake and saw these beautiful Swiss Houses and a Jesus Christ statue mounted onto the rocks. The main area is called Swan Square. Lots of beautiful white swans floating on the water.

After the cruise we went to Mt Titlis. Mt Titlis was amazing. It was beautiful country side. Took lots of great photos. We went on one main gondola ride and two larger sized gondola rides. The two gondola rides were full of people. The height was very high and I felt a little light headed. It was due to the altitude. After I listened to my tour director give instructions I went on the Ice Flyer. The Ice Flyer was cool as it took us to another mountain. At this mountain there were toboggan rides. The rides were free. I took the challenge and went down. It was so much fun. I went twice and me being the true blooded kiwi competed against my fellow Aussie travellers. I bet them.

After this we went to the ice cave. This was a cave made out of ice in which you could go through. There were some really cool ice sculptures inside the cave.

Then we had lunch. I had some Goulash Soup, a croissant, a sprite, and some fries for 26 Franks. It was an expensive but nice lunch.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Greetings from Lucern Switzerland

Hi everyone,

I am in the country of where Swiss Watches, chocolate and cheese are made. It feels like ages since I was on. Yesterday we drove from Vienna to Salzburg. It was a lovely drive. Salzburg is a lot smaller than Vienna. We went to a square in down town Salzburg. This weekend is a long weekend as they are celebrating October Fest- a beer festival. There lots of market stalls selling beautifully made souvenirs which are made in Austria. There were lots of people wearing their native costumes. I also bought a pastry filled with this meringue mixture. It was very rich and sweet. The pastries and sweet treats are to die for!!! The diet will begin when I get back.
We also went to a church in the middle of the square. I have bought a book of Salzburg so I can remember the names of the places I visit. We had a local guide that showed us where parts of the Sound of Music was made. We drove past the church on the way to Salzburg where Maria Von Trapp got married. Its neat going to places where movies were made.

Last night we went to an Austrian concert that had people yodeling, playing the accordian, dancing and playing unique string instruments that are across between a harp and a xylophone. Beautiful music. We also saw the artists wearing traditional Austrian costume. One of the funniest acts was when this older woman started yodeling then in the middle of her song she started mooing like a cow. She had a deep mooing voice. I think she was a cow in her past life.

I took some photos and made some movies.

Today I went to the Swarovski store , which they specialize in crystal ornaments and jewelry. I couldn't resist and bought a necklace which is very cool as I can change the crystal to match the outfit that I wear. I hope the Swarovski store in New Market has the crystal that fits my necklace. If not it's online shopping.

I am now in Switzerland. It is an expensive city but staying here for two nights. I have been impressed with the city so far. They have white swans on the Lucern River. Tomorrow I am doing a harbor cruise and going to Mt Titlis. Mt Titlis has a chair lift and has panoramic views. Feeling better not tired of my group yet. It's a bit like big brother-27 days - 7 days a week with the same people. 16 hours a day of travel and spending time with each other. Pleased I have my own room- well and truly worth the money.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Greetings from Vienna Austria

Thanks so much for your comments, Room 5. Congratulations to those who have done well in Maths- pleasing results be proud of yourselves.

Today I did a city and sites tour around Vienna. We went to Johan Strauss' house where he was brought up. He is a famous composer who composed the Waltz. Go onto You Tube, and have a listen. It's a well known track, used in advertising as a backing track.

We also visited this area which had beautiful buildings. It was known as the Winter Palace / Imperial Palace. It stores the white horses that are used for performances. The horses are actually born black, but turn white over time.

I have been pacing myself at the moment Mum and Dad. I'm not exhausted yet. Just keep going and going. We do have some down time, which I write post cards and update the blog in between times. The nights out have been wonderful and atmospheric. A great way to explore and learn about the culture.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Greetings from Venice, Italy

Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for your messages especially Quaid and Aryan who commented on my last post. Thanks so much for your lovely letters Room 5, I enjoyed reading them. By now you should have received a post card from London and one should be on the way from Pisa Italy.
Soon you will be on holiday, so keep putting in your best effort into your work and aim very hard to get your work finished before next Friday. I am looking forward to seeing you all in a months time.

Today I was in Venice. Venice is famous for St Marks Square and the Basilica. Today we went to a glass blowing factory, where they made all kinds of glasses, vases, jewellery and ornaments. The glass blowing was fascinating to look at. The guy made a Vase. After this the man took us into the sales room. He introduced us to the glasses and wine glasses they made. These were very expensive and I thought not suitable for me. Then he pulled out a tray for the ladies which was full of Venetian glass necklaces and matching earrings. I bought a pair of earrings with a matching necklace. More of a purple/pink colour which suits me. So far I have been pleased with the souvenirs I have picked up as they have been locally made. I've been mist impressed.

After this we window shopped around St Marks Square. Then at 11:15am we met Truus our tour director and she took us to the Gondolars. It was fun going through the canals. The tour director grouped the young ones together, which was great and she organized each group to have a bottle of champaign each to make the trip even more memorable.

After this I did some independent site seeing on my own. I went to the oldest cafe in Venice to have lunch. The cafe was called the Florian. It was expensive, but I had the cheapest thing off the menu which kind of reminded me of home: a ham and cheese toasted sandwich. I had a hot chocolate to go with it. I had it sitting down inside their beautiful dining area as there was a lot of beautiful art on the walls. I was prepared to pay to have lunch sitting down and to have a toilet stop. In parts of Europe you have to pay to use the toilets, so going to the Florian Cafe, I could kill two bird with one stone. I really loved how men in white jackets served you and how formal it was.

After this I bought a Gelato across from Square. Today it was high tide and the water came up from under the cobble stones at St Marks Square. It was amazing how puddles appeared from no where then the square became flooded. Luckily there were platforms people could walk along.

After this I took an excursion to an island called Burano. This island had these cute brightly colored properties along this lagoon. This area is famous for lace making. I bought a table cloth for the flat and some matching napkins for 42 Euros. The table cloth is machine made, but is machine washable which is handy. Beautiful table cloths. Another great day out and yes I think I am sold on Venice as well. It's Shoppers Paradise I have discovered and yes I have purchased a medium sized Venetian Mask. It is jester shaped with bells on on with lots of red and gold glittery paint. It is made in Italy and is ceramic. Can't wait to hang it up in the flat. When I get back my flat will have a taste if Europe in it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Greetings from San Marino Italy

Hi everyone,

Today I spent the day on the ferry traveling from Patras Greece to San Marino Italy. It has been a relaxing day-catching up on lost sleep, finishing reading my book and generally taking things easy.

I am having a great time. I have arrived in San Marino. I am staying up on a hill over looking San Marino. San Marino is a little village type area. Tomorrow morning first thing we will be independently explore San Marino. I want to climb to the top of the village hills and take photographs of these landmarks which show up beautifully at night. We only have three hours here until we go off to Venice. It will be about a 300km ride.

Better end this. Off to bed now.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Greetings from Patras

Hi everyone,

I have managed to find my iPod. It was tucked away on the bus. I have to say it was my fault- I put it down to tiredness, and being a little on edge/ vigellent over our possessions. It was not in the netting area where I thought I had placed it, it was in between the table tray and the seat in front of me. The confusing thing is that we rotate seats every day depending on what side we are on - 2 forward or 2 back.

I feel I just need to relax a bit, take my time packing up, rather than rushing.
You live and learn.

Today I am going on an overnight cruise to San Marino, back to Italy. Greece was a fun place to visit. The Greek food was delicious and full of flavor. The Greek people were very friendly and seemed to be more fluent in English.

This morning visited the Acropolis and the Pathenon. These were amazing landmarks of Athens. I visited the Olympic Stadium which was built in 1896. We also went to Government house and saw the changing of the Guard. I have to say that I am pleased I visited Greece, but simply loved the Greek Cruise I took yesterday. I would love to explore the islands more. They were beautiful, so relaxing and safe.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Greetings from Greece

Today I took an Aegean Cruise to explore three of the Greek Islands. These islands were: Poros, Hydris and Argina. The cruise was for twelve hours. I loved this cruise as I got to see the small islands which looked loved and cared for. My favorite island was Hydris, as there were donkey rides through the village. There weren't many donkeys so I went on a horse through the village with it's owner guiding it. I had a member of my tour group do this with me. The horse was lovely and knew exactly where to go and was very relaxed. Then I walked down to the ocean area and saw some of my group swimming in the ocean. I didn't go swimming as I didn't feel comfortable swimming in the deep water without a life jacket/belt.

The Greek Islands are beautiful. When you get out of Athens you really do appreciate what Greece has to offer. Each island was different. At Argena I chose the bus tour around the island. I visited an excavated temple built around 400BC and a Greek Orthodox Church. The art in the church was amazing. Took lots of photos.

I have to say the people in Greece are very friendly. One thing that has really upset me at my hotel is my dear and darling iPod has gone from my room. My iPod is my relaxant and blocks a lot of noise on the plane. Yesterday after I checked in I left it on the table while I waited for my luggage. I decided to get some groceries. When I came back, my suitcase was in my room, but today I turned my suitcase, day pack, room upside down and it's not there. So annoying but lesson learnt. I miss it horribly, but worse things happen. Glad it's not my money, bank cards, passport taken. An iPod can be replaced.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Greetings from Athens Greece

Hi everyone,

I have just arrived to Athens Greece, which was a four hour drive from Olympia. Athens is a very sad derilect place at the moment, due to the political corruption. There are half built buildings, buildings which have been vandalized and nicely maintained buildings. There is a lot of rubbish everywhere. My room balcony looks out to a roof full of rubbish.

I am looking forward to getting out of the city and going on my harbor cruise tomorrow around three Greek Islands.
Unfortunately we are not going to Santorini the most photographed island with the white buildings and blue ocean. But I am sure the other islands are just as good. I am finding that when you get out of a busy city, the places of interest are better and much more scenic.

Yesterday we arrived to Olympia. Olympia is a small village area famous for the Ancient Greek Olympics. This area of Greece was easy to get around. There were lots of souvenir shops and it was very safe. I bought a pashmina Greek scarf with the traditional Greek artwork on. The art work means eternity, ever lasting.

This morning I did the archeological site tour. It was very interesting because we got to see the remains of the temples, stadium, race tracks, swimming pool, etc. After this tour I found a post office and sent two large parcels of souvenirs back to New Zealand. Postal facilities are very hard to find here. Stamp shops are a mission, postal shops are even more of a mission. After I posted my parcel I bought these gold earrings in the traditional Greek pattern.

Tonight I am going to a flavors of Athens Dinner with my tour group. I am enjoying the dinners out and I have a great tour group. If I need anything from the supermarket we go together as a group. We all tend to look out for each other and the group is very inclusive.

Food prices in Greece are very cheap:
Today I bought:
A bunch of grapes
2 bananas
2 peaches
1.5 litre bottle of water

In total I paid 2 Euros and 15 cents.
Very cheap, but I wonder whether there was any tax I paid on these goods.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Greetings from the Adriatic Sea

Hi everyone,

I am now on a ferry sailing to Greece. The ferry has everything: a Casino, 2 restaurants, a swimming pool, ATM machine and WIFI. Today we had an early start and had to get up at 5:15am to leave the hotel at 6:45am. We had a five hour bus ride to get to the ferry terminal on time. From there we caught the 1:00pm ferry. It was running late so we left around 3pm.

Tonight I have to share a room with another solo traveller. I was put with somebody who snores, but I complained and negotiated to be put with someone who does not snore. I am sharing with a 76 year old Canadian lady. She is very kind and thought it would be nice to open a bottle of wine when we got to the cabin. Everything was going well until we had the wine. After a few mouthfuls I felt queasy and needed food. She had a lot more than me and needed help to her room after the first hour. When I went back to the cabin I found out that the wine had 38% alcohol and I am certain it was spirits she picked up. I am fine at the moment and my room mate is just resting in the room. All I can say is that it pays to read the labels.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Greetings from Rome

Hi everyone,

This is going to be a short posting as we have to be up early tomorrow at 5:15am wake up, as we are catching the ferry to Greece. I've set the timer for 4:45am so I can have my shower, pack everything and make sure I have everything in my over night bag. I am looking forward to visiting Greece and it sure will be a high light of my tour.

These last two days have been historical ones. Yesterday morning we drove from Sorrento to the City of Pompeii. This was a very interesting site, as it showed how the Romans lived in the past. Living was extremely rough. After visiting Pompeii we drove to Rome. Rome is famous for the leader of the Catholic Church-Pope Benedict. Pope Benedict lives in Rome and a lot of his speeches ate filmed in Rome.

Today I visited the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. We had a guide called Christine and she showed us round. Did you know that Michael Angelo painted ceiling and surroundings of the Sistine Chapel. Michael Angelo's speciality was in creating sculptures but his first ever painting was done at the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling paintings in the Sistine Chapel told stories from the bible and the characters were painted in such a way that they looked like they were in 3D.

We also walked through this Tapestry room, which the tapestries told biblical stories. They were so fine and delicate. After this we went to the Basilica. Inside the Basilica Cathedral the artwork was done in Mosaic. We were allowed to take photos as the camera flash does not affect Mosaic Artwork.

After this we went to the Coloseium. The Colloseium was used for productions. It was a bit like an outdoor theatre. It was very interesting to climb up the top and to look down.

In Italy I have noticed the temperature is a lot higher. Most people have siestas in the afternoon from 1-4pm. A siesta is having an afternoon sleep/rest, as the weather is so hot this time of day. Retailers close shop at this time, go home and sleep. Then after 4pm retailer re-open shop and continue to work until 9pm at night.

Dinner times are interesting here. Most of the Italians have dinner between 8 - 10 pm. It is mainly light. Lunch is to be seen as the big meal of the day.

Tomorrow I am off to Greece. I am not sure whether the ferry will have Wifi. So Internet maybe out for a few days. Looking forward to visiting Greece. On Wednesday I am doing a cruise round the Greek Islands.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Greetings from Sorrento, Italy

Hi everyone,
I am simply loving Italy. I love the warm weather, the food and the beautiful blue of the Mediterranean Sea. Yesterday we Took a city and sites tour around Florence. At every city we stop off we get a local guide from that area who speaks English and takes us around the city. Its very well organized. We combine the tour with a bit of bus travel as well.

After this we met Truus the tour director and she took us to a leather jacket shop in Florence. It had more than leather jackets. It had shoes, wallets, belts and it offered free engraving on all leather goods.

This was a genuine Italian leather store and the leather was treated. In Italy there are a lot of counterfeit goods sold on the streets in down town Florence. There are a lot of guys selling fake imitation paintings. If you the tourist gets caught purchasing a painting from these guys you get fined heavily by the police.

When these guys see the police coming they escape very quickly and not be seen until after the police have gone. There are a lot of beggars in your face here- more in the way of female women wanting money. They look poor but they are very good at playing the game.
There was a pregnant woman going round each of us wanting money while we were listening to the guide. An hour later she was seen smoking.

While I was in Florence I purchased a leather jacket. I thought it was a good investment as my black tailored coat is looking a bit shabby. It is very smart and I can dress it up and down. It is black and it will go with anything. It has a button front and is a bit like an anorak. It has two side pockets and a belt that I can wrap round if I wish. It is a classic style and wouldn't out date. I got a nice Italian guy serve me.
The jacket cost $334 Euros, which would be the equivalent to $560 NZ dollars.

After this we drove to Florence we went to Sorrento. Sorrento is a beautiful cliff top village. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.

Today I took a day trip to Capri. Capri is a beautiful sea side area which you have to get the ferry to take you there. The streets are extremely narrow here. We took a mini bus to Sorento, then caught the ferry to Capri. Capri is a touristy area. Nice food souvenir shops, restaurants. The guide took us round. Then we took the chair lift to the highest point of Capri and came down to the village area. We had lunch there. Then we took the bus round the bay area. The guide recommended us to do the boat cruise round the island. The boat ride was fabulous and we went through this cave.

The Young Italian commentator was very smooth. He took a real liking for me out of all people. Probably because I was the younger one in my tour group doing harbor cruise.
There was a lot of banter in my group over the Italian man. All good.

Must go, going to a traditional Italian Dinner tonight.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Greetings from Florence Italy

Today we made the drive from Nice to Florence. It was a 690km drive. The drive was lovely. The villages look amazing in the country side. Hardly any animals here, the main product grown here are the grapes for wine. The houses are cottages, that look in their natural colour-more earthy tones - terra-cotta. Just like the movies.

Today we visited a perfume factory just outside of Nice. It was very nice. We got to see how the perfumes were made. Did you know they employ around 150 people to be the nose. These people create the perfumes and are not allowed to eat spices, garlic, or wear perfumes as this impacts on the actual perfume.
I bought some French perfume called Belle Cheerie. A sweet smelling perfume. If we bought the perfumes in bulk we would get a discounted rate. So I paired up with two others and I bought one perfume while the others bought four perfumes.

After this we spent some time driving and we crossed the Italy border. We stopped at a service station restaurant. Ordering at this place was absolute chaos. We first had to line up and order our food in Italian. Then we paid for it. After this they gave us a receipt. We then had to line up again, give the receipt to another person serving and then we got our food.

I had a piece of pizza. It was plain, just tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. It tasted good.

After a 1.5 hour drive, we arrived at a bus stop and took this kiddies road side train to Pisa. I took lots of photographs of this magnificent structure. I also went to a souvenir and bought a cushion cover of Pisa, a Pisa statue and some post cards.

I am now at the hotel and I am having an early night. The hotel in Florence is a bit rumpty-outdated and I've got a B Day in my bathroom. Tomorrow I am going to the Cestine Chapel. Looking forward to a day full of site seeing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Greetings from Nice

Hi all,
I have made it to Nice-a 690km ride from Barcelona Spain. I am at the hotel And I am going off with my tour group to Montecarlo. We will be driving along the French Riviera to see the Cathedral and the Royal Palace. We will also be stopping at the Casino and having dinner there. I have to say I love the French food here. Lots of flavored and colour.

Tomorrow we will be stopping off at a French perfumery. I am tempted to get some perfume as I am not sure when I will be back here. In the morning we head to Florence and will stop off at Pisa. In Italy we are going to an Italian leather jacket store-a department store. If there is something tailored in black I might just purchase one. Depending on price. I am enjoying my tour and today I paid for all of my optional excursions in cash which came to 1273 Euros. A lot of meals and entertainment are included in this price. I feel as the tours are being offered I am going to take every opportunity and do them. At the moment I am fine, buying bottled water every day, taking the 4.2's and watching what I'm eating. I am pleased I had some days in the USA and the UK before my tour. Some of the people in my tour group only had 2 days in the UK before the tour started. I feel you got to give your body lots of rest before starting an action packed tour. Some people in the group have had upset stomachs already and it is only day 6. Must go, off to Sorrento tomorrow. I just love these hotels in Europe they have free Wifi in the rooms.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Greetings from Barcelona Spain

Spain has definitely won me over. I would love to come back here again, there is so much to see and do here. I have to say I like it more than Paris. Paris wasn't a very clean city-lots of rubbish and dog droppings everywhere. Today I went to Montserrat which is a big mountain in Spain which has a monastery on top. The views were incredible and the scenery here is beautiful. It was like a village which housed monks and nuns in the past. It has become more like a tourist attractions where you could look inside the church, chapels, outside areas.

One thing I love about Barcelona is the Spanish archetexture-mainly by Gaudi. There are patterns on buildings, some in a mosaic pattern. This morning we went on a city and sites tour and stopped off at this Catholic Church. The church is having work done to it. On this church there are statues on the church building which depict biblical stories such as the last supper, the nativity scene, the crucifiction, etc. It also has a sudoku showing numbers adding to 33- the age Jesus Christ died. I have never seen a church with statues on the outside before telling a story- all I can say is that the churches are a bit like maraes. As the art tells a story. We also drove past the 1992 Olympic Village up to this vantage point where we had panoramic views over looking Barcelona. It was a lovely place. Shortly after this we went through the Marina area and Catalona Square- the city area. The marina has beautiful beaches where the Mediterranean sea runs through. The weather is much warmer and today out of all days I am wearing my shorts-first day in my holiday.

In downtown Barcelona there are a lot if cute villages which incorporate old and new buildings. In the past horses use to be ridden through alleyways which linked to the villages. At the villages there are beautiful statues and gargoyles sticking out from buildings. A lot of artwork has a religious element such as the twelve Apostles.

Tonight I went to a Flamenco Show. It was different but I like the French Cabaret more. The Flamenco Dancers danced with lots of emotion and tended to stamp their feet and clapped in time with music. The dancers tended to compete against each other with the stamping of feet. It got rather monotonous after a while. But I am pleased I went to the show. Must get some sleep. Up at 5:30am tomorrow -heading to the French Riviera. Traveling another 600km's.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Greetings from Barcelona Spain

Hi everyone,
I have made it to Barcelona Spain. We left the hotel at 8:45am this morning and got here at 5:30pm. We had a one hour lunch break and a few toilet stops along the way. Today I had an interesting experience going to the toilet. We had to squat and pee down this hole. It was the most revolting experience and being a beginner at this my aim wasn't good. I wished I had taken off my cargo pants. A few sprinkles got on me and I have been feeling grubby all day from this educational intrepid experience. Also no toilet paper either. Luckily my Kleenix tissues I keep in my pocket have been very useful for other things.

Today has been a long day traveling from Bordeaux-south of France to Barcelona Spain. The ride was very scenic. There aren't the animals here on the fields. There is mainly grape vines for wine making and paddocks full of sun flowers. The sun flowers are used for making oil. The villages look beautiful and there is always a church in a village.

During the journey we stopped of at a castle called Carcassonne. This is an open air castle which has villages inside. I loved visiting this place as it was small and reasonably easy to get around. I bought a French apple tart and a baguette with lettuce, tomato and Brie cheese. The cheese is to die for here. Love it. At the village I saw beautiful handcrafts and I bought a table cloth for 12 Euro. It is for a round table 180x180cm. I hope it's not too big for my table, but it was the smallest for the round table cloths. I also went by the diagrams and number of chairs and this appeared to have 2-4 chairs-hard when you are away from home picturing my table. The table cloth has a nice lavender pattern, quite classy with a bit of gold. I know I wouldn't get this at home. It's quite amusing so far: I have bought oven gloves from Harrodsburg in London and a table cloth in the South of France. I sure have the kitchen theme at the moment. I also bought a french overnight bag
for when I go to Greece and sleep on the ferry. Will take my school bag and overnight bag with me. Today I also booked the rest of my optional excursions. I have decided to do all of them. It seems a lot of the cities have pick pocketers in them and I feel it is worth peace of mind to go out on an excursion in a group rather than exploring a busy city on my own. The optional excursion will cost me 1316 Euro which includes some dinners, entertainment, cultural festivities, cruises, visits to cathedrals, museums and palaces. Got to make the most of it. I think if I came here again I would probably take more cash with me than using a debit card. The warnings I have had from people are that you have to be extremely where you withdraw money from, there are skimmers here, pick pocketers here. Observe the area first. The card is a bit of a pain. I have mainly withdrawn money from the small village stops rather than in big cities. All good here, loving the food, champaign and having my own room at the end of the day to go to. The single supplement has been worth it. Must go and check out the swimming pool at the hotel. Looks flash.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Greetings from the South of France

Hi everyone,
It has been a long day-600km's from downtown Paris to Bordeaux the South of France. On the way to Bordeaux we stopped at a market. It was lovely, the market sold fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, sausages. At one of the markets there a beautiful goat and the owner was into selling cough lollies and cheap toys. We were all interested in the goat patting him. At the market i bought these macaroons. There were lots of different flavours to choose from, such as: strawberry, orange and chocolate, caramel, citrus, lemon, etc. I managed to go to the ATM machine while I was there and yes it was in English. A lot of these ATM machines have a maximum rate that you can withdraw from. My tour director said 750 Euros from the machine. Food is reasonably priced here. The majority of the tour group went to McDonalds for lunch. At McDonalds I had a chicken and bacon burger combo which was 7.50 Euros which would probably equate to the same at home. I am now at the hotel. It's in a slightly better area about 1.5kms from the centre of the city. I have to say the streets are not clean here, rubbish everywhere but no rubbish bins. I am going off to dinner shortly to try some more French cuisine. The champaign is beautiful here, very sweet without the horrible after taste. I am sleeping very well here. I have decided to do most of the optional excursions that my tour is offering. You only live once and I'm a long way home. I was told that if I paid through VISA that I would get the bill in two months time, which I would well and truly be back at work. Will aim to pay for everything in cash but if the worst came to the worst there is the credit card. Was told today it was Fathers Day. So Happy Fathers Day Dad, I hope you had a great day. I hope to fly down to Christchurch for Labour Day weekend if there are any cheap fares.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Greetings from Paris

Hi everyone,
Today is my last day in Central Paris. Today I am going to Bordeaux which is 600km's out of central Paris. Here are some facts I found out about Paris:
The Eifel tower was built in 1889.
It was planned to be built in Barcelona. It takes 60-70 gallons of paint to paint the Eifel tower.
Last night we had a welcome dinner in the tour group. It was amazing. When we walked to the restaurant it was like going into a cave. We had to walk downstairs and the restaurant looked like something during medieval times. We all sat along a long table with these high wine colored chairs. We had a five course meal. The first course I had was French onion soup. The Australians beside me had frogs legs and snails. They kindly offered me a sample of their food. The frogs legs tasted like chicken and fish. The frogs legs had a texture like chicken but had a very strong fishy after taste. Glad I didn't order them. The snails tasted ok. They had a very strong garlic flavor.