Ashley Zoch

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


We arrived in Antwerp via the fast train from Paris. The train was fantastic - quick and comfortable. It's much better than catching a plane. We stayed at a little hotel right next to the Cathedral of our Lady.

Cathedral of our Lady.

Antwerp is a quiet little town. We spent the morning looking through the catherdral and the nearby square and then wandered around the shops and sampled a good variety of Belgian beers (and waffles). Of particular note was a small beer cafe behind our hotel with an eerie collection of 400 relgious statutes that appeared to have been collected from churches. Apparently it was the owners collection and the building itself was built in the 1600s.

Statue of Brabo & the Giant's Hand.

We finished up in Antwerp this morning to catch a train to Amsterdam where we have just arrived.


We spent out final morning in Paris wandering through the Bastille area in search of a market. We encountered a group protesting cluster-bombs outside the station, complete with a band and pyramid of shoes (?). We found the market and had a quick walk through the produce stands and trash & treasure flea market (more trash than treasure).

Standing outside the Pantheon.

We headed back past the hotel De Ville towards the Pantheon. On the way we found a nice little jazz trio busking complete with street piano and Louie Armstrong style vocals through an cone amplifier.

At Foucault's Pendulum inside the Pantheon.

The Pantheon houses tombs for many famous French including Marie Curie and philospher Voltaire. It also houses the first large scale pendulum constructed by Foucault to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.

A band at Bastille.

We finished up the day with a nice Japanese meal while we took care of some washing at a laundomat near the hotel.

Jazz Buskers in front of the hotel De Ville.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

And Two Stealthed Rouge

Sadly that title is a World of Warcraft pun.

Thursday morning we trained up to Montemartre. The train system here is really quite fantastic. I don't think we've waited more than 3 minutes for a train and the interconnecting lines are very handy. We passed through the usual shysters (with some con involving tying some string around your wrist) and spent some time at Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. We spent the moring wandering around the quaint (but pretty overrun with tourist shops) Montemartre district, finishing up at the Moulin Rouge. It might be pretty fancy inside (we didn't go in, despite some confusion over the state of clothing on the women).

Sacre Coeur.

We had a bit of a lazy day planned so we wandered around town outside the Gar de Nord rail station (where we booked our ticket to Belgium) and the old Chaletet section of town (where we had a nice pizza by the river and wandered through a book market).

Moulin Rouge.

Phew! That's a couple of hours worth of internet cafe blogging but I'm up to date. Sorry for the spelling and factual inaccuracies. Its a French keyboard and a very slow old computer.

Two more for the full Turtle Tour

Thursday morning (after bringing my medical expenses up to 150 euros to date) we headed off to visit the Louvre. Stories from previous travellers had indicated that I would be pretty much placed on a human conveyor belt following crowds throughout (once I had passed the 4 hour queue to get in). It turns out that this could not be further from the truth (mostly, and possibly due to the season).

Outside the Louvre.

We arrived quite promptly after opening time and were delighted to head straight in, past the famous glass pyramid and straight into the French sculptures. We made our way through a good portion of the collection at a nice pace. We saw the Mona Lisa (from 15 feet away, behind thick glass, with 1,000 rude photographers) which was underwelming, the Venus de Milo (which was wonderfully close) and thousands of amazing paintings, sculptures and everything else.

An enormous Italian.

I think we achieved the best we could with the time we had. It's been many years since I have studied art history, so much of it was just looking at nice pieces rather than understanding their importance. I would love to spend time in various sections after digesting much more about them, but sadly I doubt I will get to visit as often as I could if I were living nearby. In the end I decided the experience wasn't so much about seeing the art, but seeing the Louvre itself and the sheer size of its collection. It's an exquisite place to house such a fine collection and I'm glad people are still willing to spend the resources to have such a place.

Darren & I in the Louvre - photo (c) A nice Indian Gentleman.

We finished the evening with dinner at a little chinese place (which wasn't bad at all) and a few drinks in the Latin Quater (as per the doctor's orders - although Darren seemed to be following his orders more closely than I for some reason). I enjoy the little quirk that they face all the outside chairs towards the roads in the bars and cafes here (instead of around the table). It makes from good people-watching.

A little Mona Lisa.

We closed with a night visit to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees (which doesn't look as crazy up close).

Venus de Milo.

Michaelangelo and Leonardo down - Donatello and Raphael to go (I'm sure we'll find some in Italy).

Arc de Triomph.

Could a little wine hurt?

I woke up Wednesday morning to find the leg hadn't improved any (this has a happy ending by the way - to remove any sense of suspense). I decided it was a good idea to go to the doctor rather than risk it becoming a problem. The hotel directed me to a very old and formal looking doctor's office across the road. Unfortunately I couldn't be seen until 5:30pm so we decided to head out for some sight-seeing.

Statue of a guy whose name I should have written down.

We started the morning at the Jardin des Plantes (garden of plants?) - the botanical gardens of Paris. It wasn't very exciting however the nearby buildings and statues were all wonderful. We made a fairly short pass through the gardens and ended up at part of the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle. We hadn't planned on visiting however a quick look through the door at the sheer number of skeletons changed out minds.

Museum of Natural History.

It turned out that we had stumbled on the Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy which houses an incredible collection of skeletons of almost anything you can imagine. Even cooler were the old glass and wooden cabinets and hand written plaques for each. We wandered through the rather eirie floors (including a collection of 'monstres' - siamese twins of various animals) and revelled in the mad scientist nature of it all.

Garden of Plants.

We spent the afternoon at the Eiffel Tower, which is a remarkably beautiful piece of iron-work engineering, and across the road at the Trocadero fountain. Coincidentally they were showing off the new EA Sports video-games, but even I passed them by in the interest of not being a total nerd.

Gorilla Bones.

Back at Gobelins I arrived for my doctors appointment and was amused to see the process differed from home. The doctors all appeared cheery, greating each patient in the waiting room and seeing them out with a handshake and an 'au-revoir'. The 'keep you waiting' bit appears to be the same though. I got in to see the doctor and went through the usual language charades before he advised me that he spoke a little English. I explained the situation and suggested a course of antibiotics as per my normal doctor. He agreed, wrote me out a perscription and with a handshake I was on my way. A cold and souless thought crossed my mind as we were parting company - "can I drink alcohol while I'm on these anti-biotics?"

Of course you can drink, this is France!

He smiled and bid me au revoir.

Elated with my victory (and pumped full of anti-biotics) we headed out to the Cafe le Relax for a few drinks and a yarn with the very likeable bartender (with a delighful 'ello 'hello like demenour) and a saucy middle aged barfly who might have been his wife, sister or just a regular.

Eiffel Tower.

And to celebrate my new found sense of wellbeing - a cyclops cat from the 'Monstres Simples' section...

Unable to Comment.

Ghosts & Gobelins

We arrived in Paris early Tuesday morning and caught a train from Charles de Gaulle airport to our hotel Residence les Gobelins just south of the Latin Quarter. After dropping off our bags and settling in I confirmed my suspicion that an old war injury in my leg was playing up. A little fevered, swollen and sore I decided to keep an eye on it and hope that things would head south and leave me bed-ridden for a few days.

Residence les Gobelins.

In order to keep us awake until a reasonable hour we headed to rue Mouffetard as suggested by our hotel owner. Mouffetard is a nice little market street with cafes, bars and plenty of places to grab a baguette or pastry. We propped ourselves outside a cafe with a cigarette and cafe au latte in grand Parisienne style. We smoked and drank and people-watched until the novelty wore thin and then headed out to the Notre Dame cathedral for an easy afternoon stroll.

Shakespeare & Co Bookshop.

Darren had earmarked Shakespear & Co bookshop for a visit after reading about its history amongst Paris based writers. We popped in for a look through (one of the few English language bookshops we've found) and witnessed the nice girl behind the counter handle an 'intellectual' looking for 'something to change his life'. We followed up with a nice walk around Notre Dame itself and then back through the touristy alley-ways off the 'left bank' of the Seine river to our hotel.

Darren picking up some reading material.

I decided to have an early night and rest the leg while Darren braved a traditional french resturant meal. Gobelins appears to be a great selection for location. The hotel is perfectly suited to our needs and pretty much everything is a short walk or a quick ride on the incredibly efficient Metro train system.

Outside Notre Dame Cathedral.