Saturday, June 15, 2013

Adventures Past #2: "Goodbye White Cliffs"

# "I am an opera singer,  I sing in foreign lands...  I've sung for Kings in Europe... and emperors in Japan!" - Cake #

10 years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to take a 2-month break
from "my day job" at the time and embark on an epic trip around Europe...
My travelling companion was the person who little did I realise then
would one day become my wife,
and we were travelling with the Busabout network.
I wrote a collection of articles en route and sent them back home
to the Northern Cross newspaper via small net cafes all around Europe...
These are those scribbles from the humble pen
of a wannabe European correspondent...
(C.G.Allan, Summer 2013)

(Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin - Sunday 15th of June, 2003 to Tuesday 24th June, 2003)

Our European adventure has begun!  We began in Paris where we stayed in the Montmarte area.  It
Montmarte was where one of
our favourite films was set...
was rush hour when we arrived and it was a real culture shock to step off our cosy coach, where everyone spoke English, onto a French street bustling with mopeds and pedestrians who were all in a hurry to get somewhere.

Once we settled in and muddled our way through the supermarket, scouring our memories for our GCSE French skills, we found our way up to Sacre Coeur - the Church of "the Sacred Heart" which sits on top of a huge hill overlooking Paris.

10 years later and Busabout are still going strong!
It was personally, a daunting experience to see such a huge city.  It seemed to dwarf London in my estimation.  Suddenly two months away seemed to be a massive undertaking...  Alison said that she shared these feelings so at least we can both help each other whenever we feel homesick or just need reminding that this is meant to be a holiday!
Along the way I collected
souvenirs small enough
to carry in a rugsack!

Our second day in Paris helped to remind me of just that!  We did all of the touristy things like visiting Notre Dame (not as impressive as I expected) and the Arc d'Triomphe (where there's an average of a collision every six minutes!)

We have four days in Paris when we eventually end our trip and we have some ideas of what we'd like to do then... By the time we got back on the Busabout coach to go to our next stop - Amsterdam - we felt a lot more relaxed.

And Amsterdam was kind to us - it's really quite the opposite to Paris because it's smaller (you can walk across the city centre in an hour or so) and mostly everyone speaks English.
Van Gogh - a troubled artiste... Truly inspiring.

We bought an "Amsterdam Pass" which gave us free tram travel and also got us into various attractions for free. The Van Gogh Museum was something we didn't want to miss and so we went there on our first day.  It was a really humbling experience actually seeing original works by this artist in real life.  And although they didn't have my favourite work of his - the street cafe at night - I found a new favourite in his portrait of his room.

The Anne Frank Museum was also a must on our visit to Amsterdam.  Alison knew a little bit more than myself about her story but actually standing in those cramped, once-hidden rooms and reading extracts from her diary was a moving experience for both of us.
Seeing Anne Frank's scribbles
was an eerie experience.

After three days in Amsterdam we were picked up once more by the coach to on to Berlin.  The youth hostels we've stayed in so far have been good but the Berlin "A&O" hostel was a little less desirable.  This was mostly because we were on the top floor and had to lug our bags all the way up!

We did a brilliant walking tour of Berlin on our second day here and found it helped us to appreciate what seemed at first glance to be an "ugly" and delapatated city.  The tour lasted for five hours and we were told a lot about its history.  The post-World War II parts of this were the most interesting to me as I knew nothing about this being the centre of the Cold War conflict before visiting this city.

Next, we headed to the Czech Republic and Prague, where it was eye-opening to see just how different it actually was to how everyone back home warned us it might be...

Our first steps into Europe... From here, we headed east,
hoping for more adventure - and we weren't disappointed...
TO BE CONTINUED...  NEXT MONTH!

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