Scotland here I come.
Wednesday 16th May I leave for Scotland. Taking a little bit of a diversion to get there. I'll be stopping in at Columbus Ohio, USA to attend a 3 day Rock Festival featuring Greta van Fleet, Breaking Benjamin, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, A Perfect Circle and TOOL.
Then onto London, 2 days in Paris, back to London to pick up a rental car and off touring Scotland.
I can't wait.
Follow me here, I'll give you updates as I can with plenty of photos and commentary of my travels.
I love travel, looking at other places, into other lives exploring off the beaten track, a casual beer in a little French village or a coffee in a trendy cafe in the middle of Paris. History and modernity sitting side by side.
I had intended to travel through France and then the UK for about 2 months or more without a set plan and depending on finances and how things went would determine the what and when. But after a fabulous 6 weeks I have decided that the time I've had is long enough away from family and friends. It was great to have a break and a good look around Paris, Dijon, Nimes, Avignon, Uzes and Capestang plus a side trip to Barcelona and London.
I love France and recommend that everyone visit in their lifetime. Go to Paris and do the usual tourist things, but then get out of Dodge, go see the smaller towns, stay in a little French village for a week and experience village life, its fantastic. We need more little villages in New Zealand, not cities and car parks, village squares and communities.
Be sure to go look at the art in these cities, galleries and museums, Picasso, Dali et al. Go see the history of civilisation, the Romans, the Vikings, Islamic and Christian, most French towns have this history mixed in with their everyday life, they take it for granted but it's fascinating to see where we have all come from.
Of course they also have scenery, beaches and (bloody) shops! They have nice food, cheap nice wine (and BEER) but terrible coffee although Cuillier in Montmartre makes nice coffee, plus nice coffee in Dijon and Barcelona (which I know is in Spain), but most everywhere else in France, nope!
They drink their beer cold thank god, Grimbergen Blonde is a mighty fine wheat beer, not seen in NZ yet, but if it does get there I'll be first in boots and all.
Transport is easy once you figure it out, and it's better to get frustrated figuring it out than ask a Frenchman, you'll inevitably get sent on a wild goose chase and be worse off than if you had not figured it out yourself.
Learn some French and they'll respect you, don't look too much like a tourist and be sure they know you are a kiwi, they like us kiwis.
Barcelona is cool, will go back to explore more at some stage and London was great with plenty more to see there too.
I'll be back Europe, Scotland is next! Home to recharge the bank account and plan the next trip.
Amusez-vous et vous voir tous les bientôt.
I took a Bus Tour leaving London at 7.45am which took us to Windsor castle to see the queen but she wasn't there, again!? Starting to think she's avoiding me?
Windsor Castle is very nice of course as you'd expect for the Queen's residence. Shame you can't take photos inside but got some great shots of the outside. We then headed to Stonehenge to see a bunch of rocks the druids left lying around. Unfortunately you can't get any closer than about 10m due to the number of tourists visiting each year they have had to make it viewing only, no touchy.
Then we stopped for lunch in an old english pub in Laycock and then on to Bath.
Bath is a nice little town, established hundred of years ago for the English gentry to holiday at and bathe in the natural spring baths. Of course he Romans had already found the baths centuries before that and bathed before the English got there. All the buildings are made form a local sandstone which gives then a yellowy/gold colour.
We then hit the road back to London arriving at 9.30pm. A long day, but a great day, highly recommended the bus tour, well worth it to get a quick look (1.5 to 2 hrs) at each stop and the tour host on our bus was great, very knowledgable, funny and entertaining all day.
My first time in London and I wasn't sure what to expect. I've always seen London as the place Kiwis go for their OE and the place we see on TV lots. So I thought I better try to do all the usual stuff. So off I went walkabout and visited the usual touristy places, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Westminster, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Fleet Street, Oxford St, Camden Town markets, Natural History Museum, National Gallery and Tate Modern.
London is easy to get around, the public transport just works. Once in the middle of London you can walk to quite a lot of places and walking along Soutbank, beside the River Thames, makes it easy to get to a few of the main attractions.
Big Ben was a disappointment as its undergoing major refurbishment works so is covered in scaffolding. The queen wasn't home at Buckingham Palace so no cup of tea for me. My favourite place was Tate Modern art gallery. I spent 4 hours just walking around soaking up the modern art, fantastic! I really enjoyed London and will definitely be back. So much to see, so little time.
Eurostar from Paris to London at 300kmh. Under the channel tunnel, didn't see any fish :p
Versailles, the palace of kings. My last thing to do in Paris. A reasonable train trip out of town and joined the masses, although not as busy as I thought it might be.
The Palace is huge and opulent and grand. Some of the colours and decorations are garish, but I guess when you have all the money, you do as you want.
A rather large estate, took me about 4 hours to walk around and visit most of it. I think you could spend a whole day if not longer there to explore every inch, but I saw enough.
Back in Paris for a couple of days before I head to London. The 13 hour overnight bus trip was a killer. NO SLEEP! So day one in Paris was me walking around Zombie like taking photos and having coffee!
I went to visit La Defense, the financial and business district of Paris. The New Paris. All high rise glass and steel and shops for Africa. Foudn myself lsot in one of those horrible shopping mall thngy's got out of there pretty fast.
Walked outside of the mall to find that it was lunch time and every single office worker in the area was in the La Defense precinct, the place was packed. The queue's to the food places were horrendous.
I hopped on the metro and got back to Montmartre as fast as I could and had lunch there, it was quicker.
Capestang it's been a blast. Quiet and relaxing, beers in the square, nice baguettes and Pain au Choclat.
Now for the 12 hour overnight bus back to Paris for a couple of days and on to London.
Built on an original church stated in the 11th century it has part Romanesque and part Gothic architecture as it was built over a period of time. It was never finished due to the plague and war and would have been the largest cathedral in this area had it been complete. It's quite impressive and gives a great view of the whole of Capestang from the top of the bell tower 43 meters up.