A Travellerspoint blog

DAY 142 - Saturday 19th September - Paris

View EMMA & ELLIE'S EUROPEAN ADVENTURES on emmabrown1014's travel map.

After a 142 day experiment i've definitely come to the conclusion that a memory foam pillow is not for me! I've tried to get on with it, i really have, but more often or not i a) miss hugging a feathered one b) wake up with a sore neck or c) wake up with an aching lower back as i'm putting my shoulders on the pillow so not to get a sore neck!!! Maybe i'm just not using it right but after all this time i think i know i'm a feather kind of girl!

So the information that i've managed to conjure up is that the charity bike riders will be in Paris by the afternoon and they are finishing at the Eiffel Tower...that's all the information i need right?!! Okay, as i'm only a street away from the campsite i wake up before 8am so that i can be knocking at their door for when they open, that way i can warm myself up with a shower straight away and put the 2 loads of washing on...chores to be done ever before we hit the city! Just after 8am and i'm in with the receptionist looking at me in which to wonder where i'd come from and what time i started this morning so i was with them at the crack of dawn...nope, just me being a cheap skate as it means i can use the shower and toilet this morning as well as tomorrow before i go for just the price of a one night stay...again the simple things in life, and of which you take for granted!

She is slow at checking me in as she's dealing with one of the cleaners with printing a sheet off of some kind as i try to stand away from them just in case (with the lack of baby wipes and deodorant applied this morning with the promise of a shower) the smell is wafting. Finally she's checking me in and i ask for a night, a day travel ticket and 2 tokens for a wash, and 2 for a dry...she asks if i've been here before as i seem to know this place. Yep, sure have and she retrieved my details from the nights i stayed here for on the 2nd and 3rd May; and there i was in the system to pull on up. I still remember those dates as a) it was only a couple of days into the trip and b) Day 3 will always be remembered for the blood, sweat and tears day of my lost phone, the pour down to sunshine weather and my baboon's toe by the end of it with a bus driver who refused to allow me on to get back to the campsite at gone 9pm at night.

We park up a few patches down from where we were before and i see that they've finished off one of the shower cubicles they were doing when i was last here. So with only free internet in the cafe area, and too expensive to buy, i put on the £3 charge for my contract allowance use as i need to keep track of a) where they are and b) if i miss them then i'll need to contact them, with the hope that they are using their phones in France! Washing tokens, after waiting 45 minutes, were finally ready at reception for me to retrieve as she didn't have any when i checked in, then it took a while to find the place. I went to the new shower block where they normally are and nothing, a cleaner pointed me down to reception to tell me, reception said that it was after the bungalows on the right but all i found was an old shower block which is no longer in use as its locked and dirty looking, so then back to the cleaner who told me that reception would let me know....circles here guys!! Finally the cleaner walked me down the pathway and pointed to the brown bungalow and to go left down there, but that's the old dirty locked up shower block. If only i'd gone to the side of the building then that would have made much more sense as there they were!

There were only 2 of the 5 washing machines working and those 2 were being used darn it...on a schedule here! One finishes in 9 minutes and the other 14 so i hang around as i would like to put the loads in whilst i have a shower, so not wasting too much time. One finishes and just as it does the cleaner, who was at reception this morning, came in and transferred them into the dryer (without putting it on) as she looked at the other that wasn't finished and left...so it wasn't the tokens that were required, it was that she needed to use them first, sneaky! So one load in and as the other finished and she hadn't come back so i put them in the dryer with the others and left them there whilst i went to the shower. Luckily i was hanging around as there was a couple who wished to use them and then two lads rocked up in their black VW van...nope, this is all mine!!

Shower done and i head on back to find the loads were pretty much finished but the dryer by the cleaner hadn't been put on as yet...you snooze you lose as i'm not waiting for yours to be put on and then finish to put mine in...as the zeros came up on the washing machines i took her wet cloths out of the dryer to put mine in, just as the lads came to use the two now free washing machines. Dryer on for me but luckily i stayed to check all was okay as i put everything of the 2 loads into 1 as it seemed to be big enough....but the wheel thing wasn't moving, just the heat you could hear blasting on out and the smell of burning. Erm, is the dryer broken as i'm not sure i can dry these wet clothes in this weather, and to make matters worse i actually have no clothes to wear as i was down to nothing...i'm here wearing shorts and a vest t-shirt with a jacket on to keep the cold away!! I take a few items out, the heavy ones like the towel and the duvet, and then the wheel started to turn, phew! Half an hour later the next goes into the dryer and we are done...ready to head to Paris!!

At the bus stop we only have to wait a few minutes until bus number 101 pops on round to pick us up and take us to the station. At this time its 12.30pm and i'll be in Paris by 1pm which means i should have enough time to walk through Paris and see them at the finishing line...all going to plan at the moment. At the point of the bus turning up Ellie decides to have a poo whilst the doors are now opening...come on Ellie, poo it on out!! With the poop bag in hand its thrown into the bin next to us (very handy, thanks Ellie) and i'm just about to step onboard when the doors close. Come on, you have to be kidding!!! The bus needs to swing all the way round as its a dead end here to go back the way it came in and so i flagged it down when he did...but he waved back and kept on moving as i was crossing the road in-front of it so he could open the doors. No such luck!!!

I HATE PARIS!!!! All swear words were coming out of me, directed mainly with the bus driver in mind, and i wanted to Room 101 that bus once and for all as when i tried to return on it the last time I was here the driver refused to take me...different driver but same bus! I look to the bus timetable and see that they are running every 15 minutes which means that there must be 2 buses running whilst one is at the station one is here as its only about 5-8 minutes down the road. And so i wait, and wait and wait for over 20 minutes and wonder where it is...then i see that i was looking at the weekday timetable and not Saturday's in which they run every half an hour...so one bus only for today and another 10 minutes to wait!! Now i really was cursing him as when i looked onto Facebook at 12.05pm Mel posted a picture saying that they only had 32 miles left to do and by my calculation it could be touch and go if i would see them at the finishing line.

A few minutes to go until the bus is back and with it being the same driver i decide to give him the benefit of the doubt as when i was picking up Ellie's business was he really taking note of who was around and then thought he knew me as he waved back with a smile as i waved to him...we'll see. I hear the bus and as i look up i see that it is the same driver and as i boarded he looked at me with sorrow in his eyes as asked if i was actually wishing to get the bus when he was last here, as now 30 minutes later i'm still stood where he waved to me. Yes, i said. He apologised so much that i forgave him and Paris, as he thought that i was just out walking Ellie and not wishing to catch the bus. Okay, so instead of a leisurely time to getting to the Eiffel Tower its a quick march as i've come all this way that i have to see them ride on through!

At the station i remember that once the ticket has popped back out for you to retrieve it that you push the barrier open...noted from the last time i got confused! Onto the train and then i really didn't know which stop i should be getting off at as last time we stepped off at Gare de Lyon but that was on the other opposite side of Paris to the Eiffel Tower was. I google and as luck would have it i manage to find a site in which is like the london one at home stating where you are, where you'd like to go to (accepts places, not just train / train / metro / bus stops) so with Tour Eiffel (googled French saying) i had the quickest route and Charles de Gaulle was the station now to get off. All things are easy when you have your data roaming on but at £3 a day to use it, and the data goes down quite a lot and expensive afterwards, i've had to do things the old fashion ways with real maps!

Charles de Gaulle comes and we are off, well wander around aimlessly as we go through the labyrinth of tunnels from the platform to get out. Finally i manage to do so and as we step on outside we see the top of the Eiffel Tower and headed in that direction. As i did a man asked me where it was and i said i'm heading just in the direction as i saw it and pointed that way...don't think he took me up on that offer as he walked off in the opposite direction i think to ask someone else who did more than a finger point guess...can't see why! Looking at the Tower it didn't seem too far away so instead of taking the two buses the planner stated we walked instead. Its now 1.45pm and i'm hoping that i haven't missed them, but at 12.05pm when the photo was uploaded they were no near their bikes and i wondered if they were having lunch first. So say they left at 12.30pm, doing 10mph on average they'd be in Paris by just after 3.30pm so we still have time...unless they are doing 15mph on average and therefore cycling the last part in two hours?!? How fast are they cycling?!!? One thing i do know, from googling any company that does this as i couldn't find anywhere on their Just Giving page or on Facebook which one it was, that it seems they meet up somewhere in Paris to then come in as a group to the Eiffel Tower as there will be different fitness levels, just how fit were this group. Well Mel hadn't done much training so i'm going with a low fitness rate and therefore slow cycling speed!

Its 2.30pm and i've made it to the Eiffel Tower at least...but now i'm left wondering where do they come from when they get here?!?!? With a 1000+ tourists and four roads surrounding the Tower how am i going to spot them, now this isn't quite where i thought this one through...and worst of all, what if they are already here and i've missed them?!?! I check Facebook and nothing....so if i was them and at the finishing line i'd put something up surely of this massive achievement, or is that just me?!? So i head to the centre spot where you can look up into the midst of the Tower and i'm thinking this isn't a great place to meet as its just packed here, no room for people, never mind people on bikes. So next i go to the road which is quieter and away from the main road by the River which they could ride into, and where the tourists buses park. Could it be here, and one of these bus picks them up to take them to their hotel as i've seen a coach with a bike rack on the back before...but these don't seem big enough for a bike rack, and just how many cyclists were there anyway on this thing?!?

So next plan....i ask a walking tour guide girl who's getting ready to receive her group and i ask her in her experience where the cyclists would come from, which road? She didn't know exactly but assumed that it would be the main one by the river...okay, she's kinda on the same lines of me. So i sat on the river bank looking at the main road that goes past the tower with it being on your left or right hand side but where would they stop afterwards?! I google London to Paris and that's when it struck me, all 3 routes that it suggested came over the bridge from the other side of the river to which i'm on and then they were directly facing the Eiffel Tower as they crossed it. That's a much better view with it being in-front of you and then you turn onto the this main road to go around it...they have to come over the bridge. So just as i'm crossing the road to the side that they'll be riding on, i see a group of around 20 cyclists come on over the bridge, doing a whoop whoop at the traffic lights as its on red with the Tower in front of them and then turned right. As i was at the red signal myself to cross the road to where they were i tried to look at each of their faces but i didn't recognise Mel, Michelle or Wendy, but mind you they were all wearing the same green top with a purple logo on it (started with M the charity), with helmets and sunglasses on!!

As they turned the corner i raced over to see that the support van behind them said Skyline and so i googled them of which they do do the London to Paris bike ride it shows. So is that the only group doing it, have i missed them, if not then is this the route they'd come...so many questions!!! As i look around to see where they went i ran over to the Tower and over to the gardens on the other side but i don't see them...where do they stop?! I race on back as i don't want to miss them come on over if that wasn't them...but if it was them then i'm standing here for nothing, waiting for nothing...and how long do i stand here waiting for nothing?!? I also don't want to contact them as if they know i'm here then that's the surprise over!! So instead i put on a photo of Ellie under the Eiffel Tower onto Facebook as they'll only be looking at that after they've finished, and then see that i'm here to contact. But there's a lot of but's in my calculations!! Its like those books i read as a child that if i wanted to use my dagger (turn to page 52), gun (turn to page 71) or magic potion (turn to page 25) to kill the dragon then you'd have a sneaky look at all to see if your choice would kill you before making another!

Okay, so i see from the bridge that over the main road, through the crowd underneath the tower, and half way into the gardens beyond, a line of green t-shirts. Think i've found the group that went past me! So i run on over as if its not them then again i need to waste no time in finding out so that i can race back to the bridge to see them...whenever that may be! I see one of the organisers and as i speak to him i already know from passing the cyclists that its not them, and also that they are wearing one charity t-shirt and my three are doing it for three separate charities. I ask if this is the only bike ride group and he knows that there are others behind him, okay so behind is a good start. He doesn't know who else and as i ask him if the bridge and this meeting place was the ride they'd do also he couldn't speak for the others but that's mainly the route in. Okay, i think i'm getting somewhere...quick Ellie to the bridge as we don't want to now miss them!!

At the bridge we stand and after 45 minutes I see a group of cyclists but they all wearing the same tops and from the picture Mel put up they were all wearing different ones...not sure its them but i get to see all of their faces as they passed. Nope not them. Hour later and another group go on past...nope, not them too. The one bonus is that this must be the main route in, there isn't another one you'd wish to come from as you want to see the Tower in-front of you as you cross the bridge. As I look over to the gardens to both groups (seems to be organised maybe as they are spread out so they can use the same area to take photos and see their supporters) at their time of coming into Paris they stopped where the first group did. Okay, think i've definitely got this.

After scanning Facebook feeds, and looking at their pages separately in case it didn't come up for some reason on the feed, I see that Michelle says that they here, they've made it to Paris...they are at the Louvre at 3pm. At this point i'm cursing Mel so much as she said the Eiffel Tower, and why would you stop there...the Tower is the main symbol of Paris is it not?!? Didn't quite make sense but i ran over to the bus as with it being a 45 minute walk i wasn't feeling in the mood for that! Just as i was about to walk onto the bus i saw a message back from Michelle as i said that Mel said the Eiffel Tower!! Luckily i could step back off as the message said that they are finishing at the Eiffel Tower, just that they are having a drink whilst they wait for the others to join them and they'll come in as a group. Now that makes sense! As she's on Facebook she will be able to see the picture and comment i've put up of us being in Paris so i told her that i'd stay where i am and wait by the bridge to see them cross over. Right...at least i haven't missed them!!

So back to the bridge once more and we wait whilst i hear and see an English talking couple and a woman talking about if this is where they'd come into...i'm guessing they are here for the same! I go over to talk to them and explain that from my now expertise knowledge, and inside information from someone in the group via Facebook, that they are waiting for the others before coming on over and so yes this is the right spot to see them and that they'll meet up in the gardens across the road. So we wait...and wait...and wait...and then myself and Ellie go for a walk up and down the bridge to stretch our legs and upon our return we come back to a relieved couple and the woman as they thought i knew something and left as they couldn't see me no more! Nope, just stretching our legs! They ask for an update and i mentioned that the reason i decided to stretch my legs it that the people i'm here to see one of them has just put a picture up on Facebook of them all sitting down having a glass of wine at 3.24pm!!!

And so we waited, and waited, and we chatted as as it turns out she's waiting for her husband to come on through with the couple being her parents-in-law. She also mentioned that there were around 150 of them, wow 150!!!!...and so we waited, getting a bit nippy now as the sun is nearly setting!! Finally near to 6pm they come on through, we can see a group of cyclists at the traffic lights ready to come on over the bridge from the other side. They spot their son and her husband, its them....but where are mine?!? This has to be the group but mind you with 150 cyclists they are not crossing that red light at the same time to turn onto the bridge. So the next load come...nope, then the next...nope, then the next...nope. Come on, you've got to be here somewhere!!! Finally i see Wendy cycle on down and as i do i hear 'BROOOOWWWNNNIIIEEEE!!!! from half way across the bridge, 'MEEEEELLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!', i shout back!! With some of the other supporters here, we were the only ones to make such a fuss, and in a loud way for the whole of Paris to hear! Lots of turning heads i noticed from the tourists. As Wendy comes up to the lights on red, near to where i'm standing, i did think that just 150 yards away from the finishing line that she may have needed an ambulance instead and not finish her challenge as when she went to high five me, as she couldn't keep me hanging, she nearly fell off her bike!! Then i thought the same when Mel arrived as Ellie nearly knocked her off her bike as she was jumping up and down pleased to see her!! Michelle being behind all this commotion managed to go round us so she's safely through...reminds me of bit of the Tortoise and the Hare!

The lights are on green and off they head but at least i know where they are heading off too and so do i, there they are finally at the meeting place where other supporters are waiting and photos being taken of the massively amazing challenge that they've taken on, and succeeded. Well done all!! Turns out Mel had a tear in her eye with her wine in hand (!!) when Michelle was confused over my message of waiting by the bridge to see them that she said i couldn't be as i was in Germany somewhere. She was adamant and went to look at her phone to get my itinerary out to see where i was meant to be but after Michelle showed her the photo i put up that's when it hit her...yep i'm in Paris!! One of the ladies they were riding with said how nice it was for me to surprise them at the end whilst cycling to the meeting point, and as she did she then was in tears herself as her husband and child surprised her too! So photos were taken, with sore legs and sore bits needed to just endure one more thing, and that was the cycle to the hotel they were staying at!

I took the map from Mel of the hotel and walked on over where i used their toilet and had a quick drink with them at the hotel bar before they all walked as a group to the other hotel where the remainder of the group were staying (so large the group they were always split up during the days of cycling) but on this final night they get to all sit together in one hotel restaurant and celebrate. That's when i said my goodbyes and let them have a few drinks to soften the pain and celebrate their amazing achievement. So back to Charles de Gaulle, even though we walked further away from their hotel to the others from the station i decided to walk on back to see Paris at night. Now the last train home was after 11pm sometime but the last bus from the station to the campsite was at 10.40pm so i needed to get a train at around 10-10.15pm. After leaving them at 8pm i had plenty of time to walk there...didn't i?!

So there i was, ready to walk straight to the station but i could see the Eiffel Tower lit up, so you really have to go and take a photo of that at least. Photos taken, toilet used, the flashing of the Tower began which said that it was 9pm, having a good hour to walk to the station just a 25 minute walk away. Then i faffed around taking more photos, photos from across the bridge, photos of Ellie but the light wasn't quite right. Then to the station i walked down the most expensive street in Paris as there was the Four Seasons Hotel looking grand in front of me with a Lamborghini outside in a blue electric colour and gold trim on all corners of the body stuck out. Finally i see the station and i'm certain that the last time i left Mel in a major city that i wouldn't have a disaster in getting home. This time i'm catching the train and not having to walk the length of the city and taking me over 6 hours to do so as the 6 hour drive here yesterday was enough!!!

Platform found and so far so good, next train coming in looked like it was delayed but we still had time to catch that bus...just, but being the last train coming in at that time the bus will wait to return us. At the stop we head on out and walk to the numbered 101 bus stop at the end of the others but no bus but its only 10.38pm so maybe its not quite here yet. Yet there's no one else at this bus stop also behind me that's come off...hmmmm. As i've been here before i look to the electric board and it states the line was terminated...erm, what do you mean terminated?!?!? Now this is the story as i know it, the people i speak of here may say differently in a court of law, but the story goes something like this. I asked the receptionist this morning what time the last bus was, she mentioned 10.40pm i'm sure; when i asked the bus driver what time the last one was (the one i got off this morning) he said 9.20pm, or was it 8.45pm...he was confused of his own timetable!! I took the word of the receptionist but what i did have to say in their defence is, a) i had half an hour at the bus stop this morning to look at the timetable b) i looked at the timetable that the bus driver had in-front of him as i asked him the question but listened to him instead an then took no notice of him. I remember seeing 22-- but not the minutes, just the hour, that's the other reason why i took no notice of him.

The last bus, as it turns out, was 10.20pm so i needed the train before mine, then i would have been home safe and sound but why would i change a habit of a lifetime with being in a major city and something going wrong! Luckily as i've done this bus trip 3 times now, and i always look on out to see my surroundings, i took the road of the route and began the walk back. It was only a 5-8 minute bus drive as i've stated previously of which there were only 5 stops and moved slowly due to the majority of the route being on narrow roads so can't be too bad. I walk over the bridge and turn left into the narrow roads, so far so good as i come across stop number 2 and there is a map on it of which i can see the campsite up and to the right. I take a photo just in case i get lost but it only took less than 20 minutes to walk back so all is good...until i remember that the campsite shuts at 11pm!!!!

Now does the whole place shut at 11pm, i have a code to gain access but is that only until 11am as there is a gate in which is in-front of the barriers to get back in...does that apply to pedestrians also?? As we're now into quick march mode i go over in my head of the half an hours wait for the bus this morning to see if i can remember any way into the campsite should it all be locked up. The time is 10.58pm and i'm just turning the last corner, under the railway bridge, and its right there on the right hand side in the cul de sac the gate. Bang on 11pm and i see a guy at the security gate who's out with his keys and i don't look back as i'm through and i don't need to see if my journey may have ended with closed gates and no where to sleep if it all went wrong....lets just put that down as an issue that needn't be addressed!

Posted by emmabrown1014 05:02 Archived in France Comments (0)

DAY 143 - Sunday 20th September - Paris to Mons

'Dude, Where's My Car!!'

After not getting to sleep til midnight it was a lazy morning to wake up at as we've had a busy couple of days continually being on the run doing something. Mel i knew would probably need some sleep after a nights drinking, a 4 day bike ride and breakfast to consume after all those calories burnt. Nope she's up, showered and ready as she texted at 8.15am to say so! I'm already half way there, showered, ready, just need to pack up the van, checking to Ellie's morning routine and so we are off...well not quite as quickly as that because a) i threw away the map Mel gave me as to where her hotel was after we walked to get there yesterday and b) ...there are 15 Novotel Hotels in Paris....15!!!

After scouting through the addresses there is one in which i recognise and curse TomTom as it doesn't recognise the street name but hold on...it does recognise that there is a Novotel Hotel on this street and so that is pressed! Only less that 30 minutes to get there as we are both on the same side of town and as i pull near to the hotel entrance, well into a dodgy spot that's really sectioned off and i see a police station and policemen all around so probably not the best place to do so, but Mel is already at my door as she'd seen me drive on down.

So where to go in Paris, and best to drive into the city at least, as the hotel was a good walk away from anywhere to see. As Michelle was chatting yesterday she mentioned the things that they rode past and the one that wasn't mentioned was the Notre Dame so we headed on down to there. Notre Dame on our left and there's no where to park as the car park is for a height less than mine surprise surprise. So over the bridge and we come back on further on down but where TomTom wants to take us is closed after that. So we drive on round....finally we spot a place and there's just enough room for me to sneak on in. The person behind me didn't think so as they stayed where they were indicating where i was pulling into...haha, in your face, i'm in you're not!! Child, i'm such a child!

We head over to the ticket machine and Mel starts to read what the digital display says as i'm getting the coins from my stash for such occasions. Now Mel's French is very good, and maybe i could have interpreted what it was saying, but as she was reading it in a slow manner i decided to press the language key on the meter instead and up popped the English translation that clarified what Mel was trying to say...that Sunday was free!! Made me laugh when i saw her face as i pressed it to English...i've been to many a ticket machine to know that a flag symbol means language and more often than not the first time you press it it translates to English!

So we are only a minutes walk from the Notre Dame and so we don't need to worry about where we've parked the van as we clock that we need to be back there and ready for the off at around 12.30pm, therefore getting to the train station for 1pm to check in. So on the agenda is a walk around this side of Paris with an early lunch before needing to get her back and we do just that but not without bumping into a few people for Mel to say hello to! In the middle of Paris and she's saying hello, so it can only be those who cycled with her and they must be doing the same as us...as this is the one thing they didn't cycle past yesterday.

We have a stroll around and i'm trying to remember the cute old streets of Paris in the middle of a museum (yes i know there are lots of them) and Bastille...but i remember the route i took, albeit backwards from when i did it in May, but we don't quite manage to find it so that we can have lunch there. Nice walk anyway (!) and headed on back to the Notre Dame and the River whilst looking at some cafes but the majority of them were packed outside, which wasn't good for Ellie, or the really cute ones off from the main streets were very expensive. Well what do you expect of the cafes and restaurants by the Notre Dame and in the middle of Paris. There was though on the Riverside that we walked down before, along the side of the Notre Dame, a food festival being set up so we wandered back on there. Here there were food and drinks on stalls being sold and a sit down restaurant area ready to take lunch orders.

Turns out the prices weren't too bad also and as we were the only ones with another four people, out of about 100 of which could be seated here, sat down. This was an early lunch and our order came out so quickly with a glass of red wine to drink it with. Perfect as we are outside, the sun is shining, we're by the river, music being played and have the Notre Dame as the main view. What more to do on a Sunday morning?! The lady playing the Accordion made me laugh as she was dressed up in the French attire of a blue and white stripped top with a beret on her head and whilst playing she got everyone to clap and sing along, and so we did! It was only then that i saw that this place was absolutely packed and therefore it was best decision made, an early lunch!! As we chatted away, catching up and reminiscing the Italian adventure, she mentioned that her brother read my blog too...its so random the people i hear that do, he may have given up after being bored with a day or two of reading them but he clicked on in which is so lovely to hear.

With this place rammed it meant that Mel had to miss out on her dessert of cheese, of which we ordered, but from taking seconds for our mains to come the dessert wasn't looking like it was coming any time soon from the waitresses run off their feet. So we went to pay for what we had and walked back to the van...well tried to as the road i thought we parked on suddenly didn't look right at all as we were parked on a slight hill with shops next to us...this wasn't it. So the clock is ticking even louder now as after enjoying the ambience of where we were so much we already left it later than planned. Latest check in was 1.15pm, of which before we gave ourselves 15 minutes and now we've given ourselves nothing!

We walked the way in which we remembered TomTom tried to take us but couldn't after being blocked off by the police, we remember that the road bought us to the entrance of the Notre Dame...so 'Dude, Where's My Car', we need to to get on that train and out of Paris!!! Finally up ahead we could see the van, we were on the wrong side of the River and the best bit of having a high car is that you can spot it amongst others! So TomTom inputted for the station and we'll get there just after 1pm with Michelle saying that they've haven't even opened check in as yet so i think we are safe...that is until TomTom decides to take us own a no entry street to the entrance of the train station just 300 meters away. And so we have to go on round....time is ticking! This time we forget TomTom and follow the signs which i believe meant you could drop someone off in seconds at the departure area for the station we arrived at 1.12pm. Mel was out of that door and into departures with those little legs of hers and hoping a) that the soreness doesn't hinder her and b) check in is right inside that entrance!!! There's nothing more in which i can do, so fingers are crossed and i set off, to where though as i hadn't thought this far ahead!

All i put in is Mons, Belguim so at least i can get away from the departure drop off point and out of Paris for now, and then i'll figure out exactly where i'm going. With coming to Paris i know that i need to change my itinerary slightly but i don't know which town or city to head to first. Finally out of Paris i pull on over and it seems that Mons was correct in my thinking as it means i'll start straight up north of here which is the furthest south of Belgium i'll come to and just east of Lille i'll visit next week, to then head in a anti-clockwise direction to Bruges where i'll meet Mel once more the following Tuesday. What i was due to do originally was from Bingen head up to north of Belgium and head in a clock-wide direction, so not much of a massive change. At this time i'm texting Mel to triple check that she's made it okay...yes she's in!!!!!! Phew!!

TomTom inputted again with Mons and the toll roads of France taken off so with a near on 4 hour drive it doesn't matter so much as the view and scenery of France hits me once more and i really do enjoy travelling on through and seeing the villages as i do. Into Belgium and the roads suddenly change again to that rickety feeling, like on bridges that you cross...they really don't pave their roads very well here! I have to retract part of that statement though as further on down it did get smoother so i'll see what its like to further in i get into this country...maybe its just the outskirts! I pull up to a place in the guide of which i could rest my head in the city of Mons, therefore in the morning i'm right where i want to be. What i didn't realise was that i'm parking up outside what use to the an old residence of Van Gogh...this man certainly got around in Europe as he's been everywhere i have! With the bed on down it was time to relax and sleep...Belgium adventures are about to begin.

Posted by emmabrown1014 05:49 Archived in France Comments (0)

DAY 141 - Friday 18th September - Neuwied to Romantic Rhine

... to Paris 'I Drove All Night (well day to night) To Get To You'

Quite quiet on the banks of the River here and after hearing the rain stopping early doors i was hoping that we'd at least got some sun in today...and i woke up before 7am as there was light peaking on through the blinds. Could it be, could it be the sun?! And there it is, the sun on a cloudy, but not rainy cloudy, day....time to do the Romantic Rhine. Well i'm guessing as romanic as it can be with having Ellie for company, not sure its gonna have quite the same effect! Couple of more blogs done, breakfast consumed, Ellie has a walk on the riverbanks and we are ready for the off. There was a shower i could have used today but i wasn't feeling the look of them, baby wipes will do until the next stop. Still haven't quite figured out where that next stop will be though as i don't know if to stop half way to Paris or just go the whole hog...i'll see how i'm feeling whilst driving.

So the Romantic Rhine is the most famous section of the Rhine, running between Koblenz and Bingen...yes i'm going to Bingen again, for the third time, well second time as the first wasn't the real Bingen!! Thought i would do it once and for all and finally get it ticked it off my list. The river Rhine carves its way here through steep vineyards-covered hills topped with countless castles and ruins. This river, as i think i've stated before, was an important trade route into central Europe as it stretches from Switzerland through Germany and all the way to the Netherlands, and so its been important since the ancient times with a string of towns grown up along the banks.

Koblenz first and we park up to take a quick tour of the town but we can't linger too long as its an hour to get to Bingen and then we need to see how long its going to take to get to Paris...as i'm not exactly sure how far away we actually are. I have a guess at near on 5 hour drive but that's a guess from just looking at the map...i'm waiting until i'm actually in Bingen for TomTom to tell me, bit of a surprise for me to wait upon. Photos taken and then we head off down the river and stop, and stop, and stop, and stop some more to take more photos with a quick walk down one bit for Ellie to stretch her legs. Now this one hour road trip is taking nearly two with all these stops in tow!

Finally we make it to Bingen and i input Paris into TomTom...what is it going to be. Its like the Wheel of Fortune as to wonder where it'll stop....and it stated 523km with a 6 hour drive, gonna be a long afternoon and evening for us Ellie! It could have been an hour or so quicker, but with the same km's, as one route was taking us via the tolls and i ain't going on any French toll road as they are expensive i seem to remember! Been a while since i had to put in no toll roads into TomTom as Germany and the Netherlands don't have any. So not knowing how long i can drive for i just whack in a nice looking campsite about 45 minutes out of Paris and see if i need to stop before then...take it as it comes.

Germany vacated, Luxembourg we get the cheapest petrol ever (!!) passing on through, via part of Belgium and then finally we get to see the France sign...well at least we're in France although the rain has been constant since we crossed the German borders. That's a bonus for me as we're inside driving and its not fun being outside in the rain, but i think of Mel, Wendy and Michelle cycling with a flicker of lightning i see and feel for them! Therefore i think that's what made me not notice the 5 hours i've been driving, its gone kinda quickly so i decide just to make the extra hour all the way into Paris but i change the campsite instead.

As it was getting late, and probably 9pm when i get there, there's no point staying at a campsite for the night and one in which i don't know if i can leave my van there to get the public transport into the city tomorrow as it will be better to do that than to park it and wait to see them at the finishing line with not knowing anything of timings of them cycling or where to park. So i input the one i stayed at on nights 2 and 3 of the trip as i know that there is a bus which takes you to the metro and from there into the centre of town. Into Paris and i remember its a Friday night...as for the traffic!! It was so so slow but mind you it was for an accident in one of the tunnels the delay so i could have made it a bit quicker as i was stuck there for 30 minutes when i've already had enough of the 6 hour drive now!

So over 6 hours and 4 countries later (!!!!) we are parked up outside McDonalds as i just need something to eat after being on the move non stop, and a quick check on Facebook that they are on schedule to get to Paris by tomorrow! I head to the campsite but i don't park on up in there as i find a well lit residential street, round the corner, which is off from the main road so it'll be quiet too, At 8am tomorrow i'll be through those campsite gates to use the showers and to wash my clothes, as its that time, instead. Whats the point of paying for the night when all i'm paying for is the bit of grass to park up to sleep on as i can use the facilities tomorrow for paying for tomorrow nights stay instead! So after all that my bed is made very quickly and i'm off to sleep. Tomorrow i just need to figure out when they are due in and where exactly they are riding on through to get to the Eiffel Tower! Nothing like planning!

Posted by emmabrown1014 03:18 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

DAY 140 - Thursday 17th September - Dusseldorf to Cologne to

... Bonn to Neuwied 'Houston We Have A Problem'

So being in an industrial estate i was expecting the noise of cars, vans and HGV lorries passing on by and so there it was, at 6am, and i could here an HGV lorry. Managed to head on back to sleep again though as it was only the odd HGV lorry or vehicle that passed, seems to be that where i'm parked there isn't a lot of activity going on as i'm in the middle of parallel streets which next to me were the main roads so you'd only come down this street if what you needed was on it. So from 8.30am we were up and had a walk of which for Ellie we've gone from being at a beach at the North Sea yesterday morning to todays morning walk around an industrial estate! Don't say i don't spoil you!

With a few blogs written up we head off just before 12pm and input Dumbledore into TomTom...i've got to stop calling this place that!! Dusseldorf i mean TomTom! Don't know if you remember the blogs from way back when for when i was in Northern Spain mentioning the fact that i call cities, villages or towns by the names i think they look like with the spellings, well i still do that as you see! So we right turn out of the car park and onto the road, turning left before making a turn to the right onto the main one...that's when i got flagged down by a policeman. I was only 150 yards into my journey, should have stayed where i was!

He was still dealing with a car in-front parked up as he flagged me down so i parked up behind them and wondered what they were doing, were they searching random cars in an industrial estate, checking details of those cars looking usual but the car in-front was a normal German car with a German numberplate. Few moments later i put my window down as his colleague had finished with the one in-front of him and came to address me. 'Sprechen sie Deutsch'...now i had to think long and hard about this one as in my head i was thinking he was going to say Dutch, but was that deutsch, did it sound German the sprechen, was it sprechen he said...there was a long long pause! What was also going through my head at the same time was 'What Country and I Actually In'?!? I play that game quite a lot, especially now with the closeness of borders and time i'm spending in each country as with Italy i was there for about 45 days. So i remembered i was in the Netherlands yesterday, drove in and out of Belgium, back into the Netherlands before reaching....Deutsch, yes i'm in Germany!!

Er no officer i don't speak German, after all that! I was ready with our passports etc but what they've pulled me over for, as they did with the 2 cars i could see in-front of me, was that i didn't completely stop at the stop sign. Was that it...that was my crime?! Apparently we need to come to a complete halt at a stop sign here, even though you can see a good 500m of no incoming traffic coming your way. Main reason stated was because of the cycle lane i had to pass from the stop sign and onto the main road. Well with a €10 fine its not so bad and i have a little chat to the man as he states that its dangerous not to stop because of the cycle lane, so many accidents occur. He states that bicycles are a problem like in the Netherlands but i corrected him on this one as i told him i've just come from there and its the best system invented, i felt safe with the cyclists there than i have done any where else.

Don't think he's been to the Netherlands so think i beat him on that one, and the cycle lane here that i saw didn't look so bad, they have enough space for cars and bikes on both sides. So i asked him 'if this is a problem then is that why you are here at this junction, as the accident numbers are so high'. His answer 'er, i don't know about the accident rates on this particular junction'; so basically what you are telling me is that you policing a junction that you don't know is a hot spot that needs protecting but what i do know without you telling me is that this is a prime spot for people not to stop fully and you can get €10 of each of them! As i'm thinking that his colleague flags down another who rolled so near to a full stop that it was ridiculous to pull him over, but he did. What i think is that these €10 a piece you're picking up, and i've seen you pick up €50 in just a couple of minutes of me being here, is that this is your weekend drinking money with the rest of the lads from the force!

Fine paid and i'm off once more, and one thing that i'm glad for is that they didn't mind Ellie being on the front seat. I just don't know what the protocol is with dogs in cars in Europe but he laughed when he saw her and stated that dogs should be the drivers and not humans. Didn't know quite where he was going with that but I smiled anyway to be polite...and he was a policeman! What did make me laugh is that Ellie was absolutely fine with him as i spoke to him through the open window but as soon as he mentioned a fine she went into barking mode, told him that she wasn't happy about it either!

Well Dusseldorf in the end came and went as from the van there wasn't much to see and with the rain coming on down once more i didn't fancy getting wet. This isn't on my list of what to see in Germany, it was on my itinerary as it was a major town / city that i was passing...and i'll keep on passing it now. So Cologne was next and this was one place in which to park on up as there is a cathedral to see. Although i got a little confused as there was a statue on the main motorway just as you entered the city, a statue with a bear on hits hind legs standing up with the wording of Berlin underneath it. The last time i saw this exact statue was in, well funnily enough, was in Berlin!! This is Cologne and i've not made a wrong turn somewhere?!

Parking space found and we walk over to the Cathedral of St.Peter and St. Mary which stands on the banks of the River Rhine and is Cologne's most impressive landmark. Its easily the greatest Gothic Cathedral in Germany and has been for many centuries. Construction began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, more than 600 years to complete and is one of the largest in Europe. One thing i can say of this large, magnificent cathedral...it needs a good wash!! It was so black and dirty looking that it needs a clean of which they'd done a tiny bit and think they've got a good 100 years left on the contract to do so with that cleaning company!

So Cathedral done and next on the list is Bonn which again was one on the list of the itinerary as it was a major city but not one on the list of what to see whilst researching Germany. And i keep driving as there isn't really that much to look at here but before i moved completely out of the city i need petrol so TomTom is instructed to find me the nearest one. As i do i'm still debating whether to find a parking spot and have a walk around but first i see a petrol station, one in which i've not heard of but a) its cheap and b) everyone is heading on into it and looks modern enough.

So petrol in and i head off to the cash payment till to pay...but 'Houston We Have A Problem', they don't accept any of my cards, not a one of them! Erm, please tell me that there is a cash point machine then near to here! Luckily he says that the Shell garage just a 100 yards down has one, why oh why did i just not go to that one and lesson learnt once more, go to petrol stations you've heard of as they'll always accept your cards...these random one off's may not! So off to the Shell garage and i look around outside for the ATIM machine and nothing. I look inside and nothing...outside...nope still nothing! I ask the man behind the counter and he says he's the cash machine...okay then!

So this is a cash machine that's new to me as when i put my card in the normal card machine that you pay petrol from he put in the amount i wanted. Then as it was thinking, which took ages and had a queue now of 4 people behind me, i could here a machine start to whirl. He had a slot behind the counter where the money came out like a cash point machine would...very random! Well money in hand and i go back to where i left my van at the petrol pump so that i can pay for the petrol...i ask again what card is it that i didn't have as i didn't quite understand him the first time. Hasten to say that i didn't understand him the second time either!

So after that debacle i decided that the van tour of Bonn was enough and so to head over to a place near Koblenz which is the start of the Romantic Rhine of which i'll start in the morning. I got to the car park and it said it had the internet...it lied! And for only a euro more there was a place by the river and not situated in a car park by a supermarket like this one. By the river is a much better setting...so Neuwied it was. Its here that i realised i still have things to learn on the camping know how as it stated it was a euro to plug into the machine to get electricity, of which there were 6 of them. Number 6, the one i started with, wasn't working and as i flicked through on the machine of the others available it had varying numbers of kwh's stated and so i went for the one which was the highest as i thought that was the one to make sure had enough power running on through. Nope what i realised was that when i put the euro in that the amount went up and so there was some power left in there from those before me i could have used without inputting mine as they hadn't used it all...euro lost for no reason!

A man in his little van pulled on up not long after and told me the payment of putting the money into the envelope and slot it in the box by the door to the building that was close by...noted, and now its time for dinner, blogs, few chapters to read and then bed as i was still debating what to do tomorrow as tomorrow could be a very very long day but i needed confirmation of something first and that's when i saw it on Facebook...Mel had made it to Croydon for the start of her London to Paris trip with Wendy and Michelle so i'm off to Paris tomorrow so i can see them for their final leg coming into the finishing line of the Eiffel Tower! Okay so the plan has changed, tomorrow the Romantic Rhine before heading to Paris once more...Day 3 of this trip is when we were last in Paris and this time i'm not going to lose my mobile phone, or have a baboons bum looking toe with tears by the end!

Posted by emmabrown1014 02:19 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

DAY 139 - Wednesday 16th September - Noordwelle to Antwerp

... to Dusseldorf 'Runaway Train'

Being by the coast you can certainly feel the coldness seeping on through so we are up early to try and warm up somehow...well i'm thinking of that very nice warm shower / toilet area not far from here! Shower gear in hand and as the rain is drizzling i run on in to enjoy not only the heat of the shower but also of the shower block itself as when you're getting out of the shower you don't need to wrap that towel around you to keep the heat upon you. We did though have a shower issue and one that i'm glad i was the only one in the block of 4 cubicles for, as i will explain.

So again we have the time limit on how long you can be in there...but no token, no one off opportunity, just that it lasts for 6 minutes but you can put it back on again. At least you can do that here. I'm in and I can see we are down to 5 minutes left, but the most annoying things about these time limits is a) it takes 30 seconds on average to heat up and b) on most of them you can't stop and start them in-between bits. Then suddenly i notice 2; where did minutes 3-4 go?!? Where does the time actually go as i'm not even finished off conditioning my hair or put any body wash on yet!! So quickly on and just as i was about to wash it all off it stops as with 1 being stated on the digital box in-front of me, i thought i had 1 minute left...nope it meant i was in the last minute already! So dashes come up on the digital screen and i await for the 0 to re-appear so i can press start once more and so i wait...and wait....and wait....and then i'm left wondering if i need to leave the cubicle for it to set back to 0 as its on a sensor maybe??

So i get all of my things together and with a towel around me (still with conditioner and body wash on) i head into the cubicle next door and this is where i'm glad i'm the only one in here as someone watching me will be wondering what on earth i am doing! So i settle myself in and then i remember i've forgotten one thing so i head back next door again and its then that i actually see the dashes change back to a 0...oh man!!! Well i'm in the other one now so i press start and have another 6 minute shower but i only needed 3 and after this 3 i tried to press stop but nothing, it kept on coming so as i tried to towel myself dry whilst not getting the towel in the spray still heading my way!

As i head on back to the van the rain is still drizzling and i'm not sure if its gonna get any better so in the lightest of rain we head over to the beach so that Ellie can get some run and play time before we head on back to the road and into Belgium for our first time. Once again she's a greyhound on a track after that rabbit and then celebrating by wriggling herself in the sand...i am glad i'm not OCD when it comes to a clean place as this van with this rain and sand and mud it doesn't take much to see it dirty! Breakfast eaten but just before we head off to Belgium i do my list of what to see when i'm in the country as even though i'm heading to West Germany afterwards, and then back into Belgium, there maybe something on route that's best to see now. Don't want another Fussen moment when we actually drove past the Fairytale Holby castle in Germany that i was meant to see as the non toll road took us that way and having to drive all the way back to it after doing Austria!

List done and i do it right until my very last day, all the way to Calais and so this is it, this is my last list. I have a moment...but then quickly we head on off for a drive to see the Delta Project which are a series of constructions built between 1950 and 1997 in the provinces of Zeeland and South Holland to protect large areas of land from the sea. The works consists of dams, sluices, locks, dikes and storm surge barriers which have been declared as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. We have to cross the Zeeland Bridge to get over to the land that takes us to Belgium and after a road works traffic jam we drive on over and its one of the longest bridges i've been on...although i think the one in Lisbon is still the winner on this one. As i see we are 1km from Belgium my thoughts turn to Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's famous Belgium detective, who everyone thinks is French as he speaks...so that reminds me, they speak French here!

Into Belgium and i feel like i've just put myself on the runaway train ride at Chessington World of Adventures as these roads are so rickety that the whole of the van is vibrating at each yard i take. Its like Southern Italy all over again when the roads were poor but are they poor here or do they like to use that track road thing where it bumps you up and down to slow you down? Or did someone use the wrong concrete and instead of using this at steep bends and hills (where normally used) they planted it here?! After 10 minutes i'm left wondering if we'll ever come to a smooth road again and glad of the fact i'm only in Belgium for a few hours before back on Germany / Netherlands roads once more!

Into Antwerp and we park on up quite easily by the River and just a few hundred yards into the city. This place is known for its vibrant nightlife, its funky bars and restaurants with numerous festivals and you can see that...well through the rain pouring on down as soon as we stepped foot out of the van! We managed to get to the main square and then the golf ball sized drops appeared and everyone, even those with waterproofs and umbrellas, were taking shelter where they could in doorways and cafe's outside seating areas. Its strange, like in a lift, when you have people just suddenly stopped and standing still next to each other...do you talk or just look down and wait silently until the rain passes. Silence here seems to be the most popular. The rain wasn't passing anytime soon so as soon as it turned to a light drizzle again we were off, although i do wonder why we bothered to take shelter as i was drenched and my face was so wet that raindrops were falling from my nose constantly so that i had to keep flicking my head to get them off as there was nothing dry to wipe it with. Ellie was doing her shake shake dance for quite a while!

So as we wander around i can see why the Belgium's call this the 'capital of cool' and if you know your fashion, of which i certainly don't (!!), then this is where Antwerp Fashion Academy produced a group of avant-garde (nope not a clue what that means too!) who made a big splash of the fashion scene in the 1980s and became known as 'The Antwerp Six'. It still churns out new, hot talent and i'm left wondering why name them the Antwerp Six as it sounds like they've caused a riot in town not designed dresses! As shopping really isn't my thing then the compact area of Antwerp is where i spent most of my time in the midst of medieval buildings with modern architectural landmarks. It certainly loves its art here too and Rubens is eternally linked around you as he was born here nearly 400 years ago and he left his mark on this city. Oh and diamonds, you could see diamonds stores like you do in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and Covent Garden...what's more surprising though is that more than 85% of the world's rough, and 50% of the cut, diamonds are traded here. One thing i did notice a lot of, but saving myself for now, were the chocolates, the waffles and the beer...got time when Mel comes here to do all that, or have a little pre-start in Brussels instead.

As we just can't get wet much more, as everything is sodden, we head back to the van where i get Ellie towel dried as best i could and i change into some dry clothes...but again, not sure these wet clothes will be dry anytime soon! As i put on the heat in the van you come to that annoying thing that even though you want heat the car wants the air con on for the windows to de-steam as with the heat of you and the coldness of outside condensation hits...so air con it is until we can get a constant temperature running through. That though wasn't coming anytime soon! With heat i can't see out of the window to drive, with air con i still get the shivers as i drive...don't know which is worse!

So from Antwerp we head off to Dusseldorf and with it being a good near on 4 hour drive back into Germany i decide to park up close to the city and start exploring once more tomorrow. The rest of the day was keeping dry, warm and out of the rainy weather as it was still beating on down....not getting out again until it stops! I find a place just a few km's out of town, its in an industrial estate but there is electricity to use and we are off the road with not many people parked around here, tucked up in the corner. This will do where we can have tea, warm up still and then rest our heads ready for tomorrow. Not exactly sure what tomorrow we'll do, maybe we will see one town, or two on the list or...who knows!

Posted by emmabrown1014 01:08 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

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