Monday, September 19, 2016

We're back in Freiburg!

Windy day in Freiburg and children fly kites of course.

A bit sadly, we leave Paris for Karlsruhe, uneventful and comfortable train voyage (which we will appreciate, read on). We stayed overnight there next to the City’s garden and zoo. 

Like the white faced ducks
Lovely spot to relax with the water park and it was a cool spot on a hot day. 

Admittedly not the best picture, tried, but they are wonderful to see - REAL pink flamingos on a lawn!

Offenburg to Freiburg not so comfortable. It’s a two hour train trip normally and it took us about five hours. We got to Offenburg to find out we were stuck there indefinitely due to a blockage on the track between there and Freiburg. It took an attempt at three trains, the fourth to got us to Freiburg, the short story. We didn't find out the cause of the blockage.

More detail, we were ordered off the original train, onto another, which was hot and extremely crowded. Then told to get off again and directed to another! We missed, now the third train, because there was no ramp, then onto another, fourth, and success! we’re headed to Freiburg. The process of changing trains meant lugging suitcases along the long lines of trains, seeking shade on the platforms, in and out of numerous elevators and waiting in the hot sun for our turn to board. We travelled with another person in a wheelchair and her companion, who were clearly as uncomfortable as we were. 

Train personnel were shaking their heads at the snafu and did their very best to help us make smooth transitions.

I don’t know the numbers of how many passengers can fit on the train, these were ICE, Inter City Express, but when you get the large number of people crossing platforms with baby carriages, wheelchairs, and large pieces of luggage it’s a melee!

Upshot three failed attempts and one successful one to get to Freiburg. Ouch, we made it, tired but happy.

Karen McCann, says the measure of a true traveller is how you handle interruptions and snags in your journey, we did well today, just shrugging and smiling to the helpers indicating to them “sh*t happens”. Travel is not always smooth and one has to “roll with the punches”.

In Freiburg, I get a very grumpy taxi driver from the station to the hotel, almost left without loading my suitcase, then deposited them on the road to the entrance of the hotel, not even the curb, no tip for him! Get into the hotel we stay at about twice a year. She is alone on the desk so no help to get our heavy bags to the room which I had to handle since Bruce was driving from the train station to the hotel. At this point Lexi who has endured all this with us is getting very unhappy, she knows we are close to the room and yowling to be let out of this damn box immediately! Stat! Mom!

The Central as we have known it has changed some. Slightly grumpy receptionist although she is efficient, just doesn’t have the sunny disposition the others have. The next morning the owner/manager gave us a very warm greeting, as did a waiter and the food manager, so we felt back at “home” again, maybe not changed so much. The breakfast buffet is more than what one usually gets in Germany, this one includes  a cooker for fresh eggs to be done as you like them and a hot tray with scrambled eggs, green onion topped, bacon and sausage. Most breakfasts are cold cuts of meat and cheese without the warm options. In fact when the guest breakfast is finished, they feed their staff.

Our flat partners Dawna and Erwin next day picked us up and took us back to our flat for our ritual glass of champagne or sekt as it is called here. We talked at length and then went for lunch in Bahlingen, next to a place we have frequented before, just next door, this is called Zum Hecht. Food and service very good  on an outdoor patio, very pleasant. It’s mushroom or pfifferling season so they had a special menu, of course. Back to the flat for more conversation and drinks, always good to catch up with them, as you’ve read many times before. 

The bad news is we’ve lost our house cleaner without another in clear sight, not withstanding the efforts of D & E to find one. Need to import Rocio from Sevilla! Not practical of course, but I don’t think house cleaners value their work as much as I do on the receiving end. They think of it as a boring, dirty job when I appreciate it so much and we’re not really dirty people! We don’t host wild parties, just live in a place and need a freshening up of the floors, dusting to keep the place in good condition. We pay for cleaning in places we rent as well to make sure to keep it in condition for the owners. It’s an extremely valuable service for us, mostly me really!

Thursday, D & E have left and we move into our flat. I have to say we are getting very proficient at the arrival and leaving process, (pats on the back). We have unpacked and done a shop, ready to relax in about two hours time. Lexi does her prowl around, almost visibly pleased she knows where she is and sits in her favourite spots, one of which is on top of the fridge.

All for now, Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Place de Vosges and wandering

Walked/rolled to Place de Vosges and it is a beautiful square surrounded by buildings, first place in Europe that all the house fronts were built in the same design in 1605. 

The arches under all the buildings either hold restaurants or art galleries. Art galleries were full of what looked like very expensive art, large sculptures and paintings that would cost the bomb I’m sure! Large statue in the middle of the park with fountains on the four corners, fountains were built in 1825. 

The park is gated, linden trees line the park and gate. Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, Hunchback of Notre Dame lived there.

Bruce learned something new about Paris today, he had never been to this square. There are passageways between major streets, while we haven’t walked down many, that’s another venture.

Getting there we got slightly lost, and walked further than needed, a lot further really, read that on this blog before? Walked through what looked like a club district, cobblestoned streets which we haven’t seen to much of here. We lunched at Royal Turenne, Marais District. I went to the toilet which was an adventure in itself, not usually, but here, access to it is through the narrow space where the food comes out of the kitchen. Wait staff were coming and going with large trays and yelling at each other orders, while us women were just trying to get to or back from the can, it was a melee.

Lebanese Restaurant, great food, great service!

Technology beats me again, darn it! Well not quite. Needed to add money to my cell, it’s a German SIM card, although should have brought my Spanish one since Ivan talked me through making it a European one, didn’t, left it in Sevilla. Part one - I used to update it at a phone store; Part two - found I could do it at a bank ATM, easier; Part three - that doesn’t seem to happen here in Paris, tried about six different ATM’s; Part four - and final, remembered I could do it through online banking. Whew, done.

Liked the clematis, not quite the ghost.

Met our host Sophie today and she helped us get a taxi to our tour that you've read about. What surprised us is that it took a conversation of about ten minutes to do so. Very glad she was available to help, we’d have been unable I think. Services like this seem to be available for everyone, no matter what language, but truthfully they are not. Sophie said she found it difficult as well so I guess it's not all about my inabilities. 

Window display in shoe store
The following week they displayed ballet shoes of famous dancers, some looked very well worn. This is the store I certainly have never had the lithe figure to do ballet but I do appreciate this store's marketing.

Peering down an alley to find this building, did they run out of bricks?
Cousins like Pigs, advert for a vaudeville show
Couldn't resist taking a picture of this poster, so bizarre, the show has good reviews though.

Those are some of our wanderings in Paris, thoroughly enjoyed. 

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Boat or Bateaux Tour on the Seine

Pictures on this blog post are cloudy and rainy because it was, but I'm including them anyway, there were fifty one of them, serious editing done, almost half of the Eiffel Tower and you'll see what remains, not much!

Tour day is Monday September 5th and the taxi for Bruce’s chair comes, takes half an hour to get to the dock through downtown, the heart of Paris. Raining so wasn’t shown at it’s best, but passed Notre-Dame, L’Assemblée Nationale and Musée D’Orsay and probably others I didn’t recognize. Get out of the cab and know we are close to the Eiffel Tower, turn around and there she is! Wow! What a feat of architecture! It’s looks lacy and beautiful! 

I'm just calling this romantic, no other word...

Aside, we were in Sydney, and I was there to see the Opera House, turned the corner and unexpectedly there it was! Same feeling I had today to see the Eiffel Tower, surprise, wonder and complete stomach dropping awe!

On the boat, lunch was four course, starter, main, cheese, dessert with white and red wine, water and coffee, I’m so full! Delicious every bit of it, all cooked on board they say, and service was exceptional. This is Bateaux Parisians and we highly recommend this tour. It is two hours, non-stop, others are like a hop-on-off which would be good as well but with Bruce’s chair the only ramp available is at the Eiffel Tower stop, so no hopping for him, (not much of a rabbit this gent) This option fit the best. Did I say I’m so full! Know I did, for me to eat dessert is almost unheard of but I did and enjoyed it.

See link below for a write up of many of the bridges.

We paid for a window seat on the side of the boat, going under all the bridges (there are thirty seven) was very interesting to see the many different styles, built in different ages. One was built using the bricks from the Bastille, that’s recycling! 

Many boats docked along the piers from sleek to almost sinking, even a lighthouse boat!

There was a singer aboard who serenaded us throughout lunch. She sang Ava Maria so beautifully it brought tears to my eyes, my mother’s favourite. 

She sang New York, New York next to the Statue of Liberty, okay a bit corny, but really well done. I'd guess you didn’t know there was one (smaller mind) on the Seine, certainly I didn’t.

She sang Édith Piaf’s, La Vie En Rose, which we both cringed at, hearing it so often badly mangled by accordion players in Sevilla, a treat to hear it done well and in Paris.

Dome of Les Invalides, military hospital, tomb of Napoleon, built 1671

It drizzled the whole day so actually it was a good day to be dry on the boat instead of dodging the rain while walking around, just not the best for pictures. 

See what I mean, cool effect though

Well, I’ve seen the monuments I wanted to in Paris and can now leave satisfied. Yes, just a peek, nothing extensive, but enough for me. 

We've got a week left here and more to do before going to Freiburg. "Chat" soon.

Cheers, Bx2 & Lexi Cat

Friday, September 2, 2016

Visit to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery

We walked into the 20th arrondissement or district to visit the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery. You might ask why? And probably are, because it is a beautiful park and full of history. 

The Pere Lachaise Cemetery is a fascinating place to visit, beautiful, tree lined cobbled lanes move you from one alley to the next. 

Paul-Jacques-Aime Baudry
There are many famous people buried here, like the fellow above who was a French painter in the 1800's.

Chopin, Oscar Wilde, musicians, composers, writers, famous French families, you name it and right up to this century, such as musician Jim Morrison.

I don't know the significance of the concrete ball but liked it.

It is on a hilltop and spreads downward with many steps in the parts we saw, Bruce in his chair prevented him from seeing it all, but we saw enough. 

Fairly typical of them

Rows upon rows of these structures

Read more about it in the above links. We packed a picnic and sitting on a stone bench to have our lunch, alternative bench was wooden and lichen covered, I thought if I sat on it would collapse, read instead of green butt, cold butt. 

Ceramic pillow, pretty!

There are no more "phone-booth" like houses anymore, it is all granite slab and we wonder (a bit ghoulishly) how they are opened to admit a new member. Did see one with handles on top, but only one, my friend Jay probably knows. Some of the sites are meticulously taken care of, some are almost falling down. 

She looks like she has a bit of attitude I think.

Around the cemetery are all businesses associated with the "business", undertakers, florists, ceramic artists, etc. 

So that was our enjoyable visit. The day was perfect weather wise and walking along the tree lined paths, seeing the flowers, it was a true walk in a park.

Some things I've noticed that are different here from other European cities we’ve been in. Most, almost all, apartment complexes have a number/letter pad for a coded entry, then regular key to get into the flat. This flat has a tricky key and if you can’t get it done there are outside shutters that you can operate also with a key to seal the place up. Like in Sevilla many have courtyards but they aren’t as elaborate, no water features but many have gardens. Streets are tree lined and even in mid-August there are lots of brown leaves on the ground. They run water though the drains in the streets in the mornings, perhaps to clear the drains of the leaves, not bachles but just running water, helps to cool the city down too. 

It seems like people here, at least in the neighbourhoods we’ve visited have taken a “happy pill” or “happiness lessons”. With what Paris has been through and it’s "reputation" I expected something a little less in that department, not so. People will even say Bon Appetit while walking by your table, they smile at strangers, waiters and store people are polite. This is our experience so far. 

I went into another boulangerie for a baguette for our lunch and found a different system of handling cash payment. There are two slots to put coins and bills into and return change. It is used to sanitize the shop keeper from money, I assume, since they don’t wear gloves when handing you your fresh bit of bread, good system really. Carrying the baguette back, I felt "French", sometimes just it's just wrapped in a napkin. It seems every second person has one in hand or bag.

There is a large company here called Deliveroo, logo is a kangaroo, they do home or office delivery of food on motor or push bikes. The writer of FAQ has a sense of humour, read "Why they don't accept cash". I had to look it up because riders go by the cafes we've been in very frequently.

While we haven't seen the big sights, we're booked on a river cruise next week so we'll see the most famous from the water. Looking forward to that.

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat, who is not wearing a beret.