Paris!

Bon soir!

I’m falling behind again in this blog- I completely neglected to write anything in France, and it’s only now as I sit on a Japanese train that I’m even thinking about it! It still hasn’t really set in that I’ve left Europe- or that I’ll be home in less than 3 weeks, on that I’m about to see Emma and Ally, or that I’m in Japan…

ANYWAY: Paris was brilliant! I really see why so many people really love that city. Although maybe it was just France I loved in general, who knows. My entire knowledge of Paris comes from Imi and movies, and of course from Madeline. Walking around the city it was just how I expected, except that there is no flag on the top of the Eiffel tower- Madeline lied to me about that one. And despite what everyone says about Parisians, I found that no one was that terrible or particularly rude. I thought Parisians were more like the Germans, just not overly friendly. Either way it was such a grand city to walk around in, with the very manicured lawns and old buildings. I really noticed how well kept all the gardens were, all the branches of the trees were clipped and the hedges all had perfectly straight edges.

I’ve never really ‘got’ French food before (in that I’ve never been like ‘OMG I love it’). But it must be said that we ate VERY well in France, I can also see why the French tend to be wine snobs- French wine is very tasty indeed. I even quite enjoy reds these days. But anyway back to the food, it is all quite fatty, and I still haven’t been sold on paté (or duck actually), I am however far more fond of lamb and pork these days, and I’ve found myself quite enjoying the stinky French cheeses. On my first day I went to the Christmas markets and bought some churros- not realising that I would get 9 of them all to myself! Needless to say, after such a heavy snack I was in the mood for a nice, cleansing salad and that’s what I ordered for dinner. At least that’s what I thought before my salad arrived and it was more like a cheese plate with a lettuce garnish! Delicious though :D

 It was great to meet up with mum and graham again, and to be staying with an old friend of mum’s- it’s always weird to meet people who have known her long before Ellie and I were born. It makes me wonder what my relationship with the girls will be in 25-30 years. If one day my children will be spending a week in Berlin with their Aunty Imogen :P.

Anyway, for my first day in Paris I went to the Lourve with two country boys from Gympea who were also staying with Galenya at the time. My oh my that place is HUGE. It’s just as everybody tells it, you can get lost in that place. It’s free the first Sunday of every month (as are most museums in paris- HOT TRAVEL TIP), which I’m actually very glad of because I would have been disappointed if I’d had to pay. Of course there was tons of really amazing things in there but when it’s that large and crowded it’s a bit too overwhelming. It wasn’t long before I was suffering from art fatigue. Plus, I prefer more variety in my art galleries- I know it spans millennia, having all the ancient Egyptian, Greek and roman stuff, but there’s only so much ancient things I can take in. I much preferred the Musee d’Orsay. I visited there a few days later, although both of them were just absolutely gorgeous buildings. Either way in the d’Orsay there were Van Gogh’s, Monet’s, Manet’s, Cezanne’s, Le Trac’s- Much more the style of art I’m in to, and they had some interesting ancient type things as well. If you’re going to see one museum in Paris I’d pick the d’Orsay (and I recomond stopping to check out the view out the old clocks).

I managed to make it up to the eiffal tower too! On mum’s last night Galenya took us for a drive around tour of Paris’s main tourist attractions, so we drove through the Lourve, down the Champs Elysees (supposedly Europe’s most beautiful street), around the Arc d’Triomph and to the tour Eiffal. When we got there we managed to nab a parking space right out the front so we hopped out to look around. After much photo taking we happened to notice the non-existent queue to go up the tower and jumped on the last elevator up to the top. It was good fun, and Pairs at night is a really beautiful city. I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to live my childhood dream of climbing up (I always had it in my head that I would want to climb the Eiffal tower), but there was no convincing mum and Galenya at midnight to climb 1,003 stairs :S and even if I could the top was closed that late at night as well.

Anyway so France was actually pretty great- despite what everyone says about Paris being a massive tourist trap I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself and found it to be a fun and charming city- one I’ll definitely head back to when I get the chance :D

But I’ve been in Japan for 2 and a half weeks now, so all this France stuff feels like it was a lifetime ago! I’ll put in an entry about Japan soon too (although realistically it won’t be up until I’ve already come home). Can’t believe I’ve only got 3 days left :O!!!


berlin

It’s great to be back in Berlin with my little imichen! When I first arrived from the lift I got up here she’d specially bought a whole bunch of lovely cheeses and crackers so we finally got to have our cheese and wine night (even though it wasn’t on a train as originally planned). And her new apartment is lovely and her flatmates are class!

She hosted a massive new years eve party up here last night, the theme was black and white- so everybody dressed in black and white, but as is customary with imjim there was a secret rainbow theme (that she actually told everyone who came about so it was like the worst kept secret). Anyway so all the decorations and food and drink for the party were rainbow themed. It was a huge success there was dancing, drinking (lots of sangria, I accidently bought grapefruits instead of oranges but it didn’t matter they were delicious :D), eating, confetti (which is currently everywhere!!!) oh and my favourite part- FIREWORKS.

It was good fun; we started the night with a German fortune telling game that’s traditional on new years eve. 6 of us had a little metal figure that we melted on a spoon over a candle, when it was all melted you poured it into a bowl of cold water and then when it was set you fetched it out and determined what shape it was and from that you told your fortune (luckily we had a little pamphlet that told us what each shape meant). Imjim went first, she melted down her little piggy figurine and when she tipped it into the water it came out looking quite like a fish. Unfortunately for imi the fortune symbolised by a fish was “you need to wash more” :P I was up next, mine came out looking like a swan that was in diving in to the water. Our pamphlet didn’t have any info for what a swan meant- it did however have swine or bird, I chose to have ‘bird’ as a fortune and mine was “don’t fly to high”. Not really a great fortune, but much more prophetic than “wash more” or “buy a lotto ticket” (which a free fortune cookie I’d had earlier in the day told me was my fortune).

Then it was just socialising and drinking.. Oh and later in the evening there was a mini food fight which imi joined with much vigour and enthusiasm. I think she smashed cream balls into like 6 peoples faces. I’d been in the kitchen making my pizza pinwheels, and as I came into the kitchen carrying a tray laden with a fresh batch of baked goods Imi smashed me right in the face with a cream puff!!! It was on like donkey kong, I put the baked goods down (as no need to waste delicious pizza pinwheels), then I grabbed two cream puffs (which btw are called happy dickmans) and smashed them right back at imi and smeared them straight into her face… It was definitely her comeuppance :D

Unfortunately I may have been a bit too enthusiastic with my revenge and imi needed a shower before she could rejoin the party- and it was only 5 mins till midnight!!! :O

She missed the countdown, but was out only 5 seconds later and still managed to join in the fun of new year- including all the hugging and champagne drinking. And of course the fireworks XD.

I never got to set off my fireworks in Stirling, they’re still sitting in the drawer in the kitchen- but here I finally got the opportunity. I can tell you that setting off your own fireworks is like 10 billion times more fun than watching a big spectacle of fireworks. None of ours were that big and extravagant, but it didn’t matter. We went down to set them off at like 12.30 and let me tell you that was a dangerous time to be on the street (or a fun time if you love fireworks as much as I do!). Everyone was just down in the street setting of tons and tons of fireworks, boys in apartments were throwing them at people below. It turns out I was especially brave with fireworks and a bunch of imi’s German friends told us they’ve never seen girls be so daring with them- which of course we both took as massive compliments. I was so sad when we ran out. But when we made it up the 5 flights of stairs back to imi’s apartment and we once again had light it became apparent that I was filthy. Braving Berlin winter in a singlet was not the smartest idea, if only because my neck, arms and face were covered in soot from the fireworks, my right side was totally black. But that didn’t stop me from joining the group of boys launching firecrackers out the window :P

The party was the main focus of my time in Berlin, around that I just hung out with imjim and saw what life in Berlin could be. I’m still thinking about moving there to do my Masters. We visited the university campus that I’d be going to- it was really nice. When we got off the train imi and I both felt like we’d stepped into a country town, it was the other side of the city but it felt like we’d taken a day trip. I suppose it’s because German’s love their nature so much- there were trees and greenery everywhere! And unlike the rest of the city there was more space and houses and less apartments. So anyway that uni is definitely an option :). Imi’s apartment was lovely too! And the people she lives with were very friendly. I think after living with 7 people and seeing imi in a share house I definitely want to move into one when I’m home.

It was really sad to say goodbye to imjim, We’ve been friends for 10 years now, and in that time the longest we’ve been apart was 2 months. Now it’s going to be at least 9 months, probably closer to a year :(. I hate that by this point in my trip I have to say goodbyes and really mean it. I’ve never had a thing about saying goodbye before, but now that I’m having to say them to such good friends and it’s going to be for such a long time- it really sucks!

Alas, it’s on to Paris! :)


Spain reading break part 2

I said goodbye to the girls at Granada and I headed on to Seville when they headed home. Seville was also a beautiful city, but it was more European and didn’t have the same character as Granada.  It was also a lot quieter to be travelling on my own again. I met and hung out with more people than I had done with Larissa and Tiffany, but hanging out with someone for the day isn’t quite as fun. I found things weren’t as interesting without someone to share them with…

Hmmm that makes it sound like I had a terrible time in Seville, which is not the case at all! It really is a beautiful city, I saw all of it from the top of la giralda- the clock tower that is a symbol of the city. I also had some great times- my first night I joined the all you can drink sangria on the roof of my hostel for 2 euro, and made friends with the considerable Australian population of the hostel, whuch led to a fun night of bar-hopping in Seville.  There were 2 girls working in the hostel on their gap year who were coming to Sydney Uni next year who took us to tons of cool little bars and then, as is customary at the end of an evening, they took us to the best kebab shop in Seville :P

I also met an American girl who is living and teaching in the south of Spain for a year, who gave me all the details for her program- that sounds AMAZING!!! She’s having her accommodation paid and receiving a wage from the Spanish government to teach English in a primary school over there and she didn’t even need any kind of teaching qualification. The catch is you can only choose what region you teach, not what town/city. Either way it’s food for thought. She took me back to her hostel where they were putting on a great dinner for 5 euros- I love it when there are things like that on. I also networked with the walking tour guide, who was originally Moroccan, and he said if I’m interested in living and working there he’d be happy to help me out setting up/finding a place- I’m making connections worldwide!

Oh and Seville had this awesome modern art gallery. It was in an old building that was originally a monastery and then became a ceramic factory, or maybe it was the other way round…. Anyway, the gallery itself wasn’t anything special, I thought the works were a bit HSC project-y but it was worth going just for the building! It’s amazing how it’s set up- it’s got a fair amount of the original building and decorations but then there’s just all this modern art stuck up on the walls too. And it was only like 2 euros. Actually Seville was a very budget friendly city, all the attractions were less than 5 euros and the food and drinks were cheap too! Oh and I finally got to realise my childhood dream of going in a hedge maze :). They had one at the Real Alcazar, unfortunately it was impossible to get lost since it was evidently a maze for midgets and I could see easily over hedges :(.

After Seville I had one more night and day in Malaga on the way home, I met some guys at the hostel and managed to experience the club scene. It was an interesting night, that ended in me throwing someone’s phone out the door - but that’s a story for another time …

I spent my last hours in Spain working on my tan- and soaking up the last hot beach day I’ll have until I’m home- not long left now, just over 4 weeks :|