04.04.2010 - 04.07.2010
We arrived back in Paris after only 2 1/2 hours on a high speed train. Thalus trains move so quickly that we could barely catch a sig on our beeper (LOL The Hangover) I mean blackberry. Upon arrival in Paris we felt extrememly confident hopping onto the metro. This is the only city that we decided to split up so, our return felt comfortable and safe. We followed the directions given to us via email by our hostel and boarded the metro. Whenever we wait at the metro with our big packs attached to our backs I say a little prayer hoping that the train will be mostly empty. It usually isn't but I back in and beep regardless. I don't understand how even without buying anything our bags manage to feel heavier and larger with each stop on our journey. The provided directions were detailed and precise but what they didn't tell us was that we would have to climb a circular staircase with 92 stairs to even exit the metro station. Once we exited the metro we then had to walk up 36 stairs to the street that the hostel was located on. We arrived at the hostel and checked in. The nice man behind the desk then informed us that our room was on the third floor. After ascending 54 more stairs, we arrived at our room. Our hostel is clean, the staff is friendly and the internet is free. Breakfast is included but in order to get breakfast you have to go to the bottom floor eat and come up those 26 stairs. This means if we wake up, eat breakfast, then get ready for the day, sightsee (venues without stairs), return to the hostel and chill in our room for the rest of the night (which we never do) that we are doing 236 stairs every day.
Our first night back in Paris we layed low. We got caught up on the ever so popular blog, did our laundry at the Laverie (doesn't going to the laundromat sound so much more glamorous when you say it in French?), took a hot shower and turned in for the night. The next morning we ate breakfast and set our sights on the Musee du Louvre. We dedicated an entire day to this, one of the world's largest museums. DaVinci's Mona Lisa is probably the most famous piece at the Louvre so we fought the crowds of Japanese and teenage tourists to see that right away. I had always imagined the Mona Lisa to be a large, detailed painting of this mysterious woman. It blew my mind when I was finally able to see her. The painting itself was quite small. It was encased by thick glass surrounded by a wood railing and further baricaded by a red velvet rope. I am glad that I was able to spend a few moments gawking at this work of artistic genious. We spent the next several hours wandering around the huge former royal palace admiring as many of the 35,000 pieces of art and artifact as we could. A few of my favorites included the Venus de Milo, a beautiful depiction of the godess Aphrodite and an ancient Egyptian statue of Ramses II. The list of masterpieces displayed in the amazing coridors of the Louvre goes on and on. The thousands of years of history exhibited here are a true testament to progress, genious and beauty. When we were museum'd out we decided to take advantage of the sunny day and spend some more time in our extremely comfortable semi reclined lawn chairs in the Tuilieries Garden. The clouds were moving quickly though the air exposing the sunshine just enough and a cool breeze rushed through the sunbathers making the air crisp and clean. There were lots of friends exchanging laughs as they walked, lovers exchanging smooches on their picnic blankets and families creating memories everywhere you looked. It made me realize that life no matter where you go is great and it is the people that surround you that change you every moment.
When the breeze turned into wind we left the gardens to return up the hill to our hostel in Monmontre. We made a fantastic dinner for less than €5 and enjoyed our room roomate free with the windows open. Scilence and fresh air are always welcomed in foreign countries in awkward hostel rooms. It is hard to focus on a good book when all that you can think of is "have they showered in the past week?" or "are they talking about me in that unknown language?"
The next morning The Chateau Versailles was on the agenda so we woke up, packed snacks for the road and found our way to the more suburban (vs the metro) RER trains. Our quick journey took us to the masterpiece of King Louis XIV. He didn't like the French people or the city of Paris too much so he built an amazing palace and equally impressive gardens in the city of Versailles as his own personal escape. When we arrived at the palace we were told that we would have to wait for 2+ hours and pay €20 to even walk through the doors of the palace. We made a fantastic choice and opted to stroll through the 1,000 acre gardens instead. The day couldn't have been more beautiful. We have had many cold days on this trip so the sunshine and blue skies as far as the eye could see made us extremely happy. The weather along with the perfectly manicured gardens were breath taking. We walked around for a while until we found Le petite Venice. Since we had such a terrible taste in our mouths for Venice we decided to park it by this man made lake for some sun and fantastic conversation. Besides the swans that kept eyeing me up (**reminder, I HATE birds) it was an amazing afternoon. We said our goodbyes to the golden gates of Versailles and made our way to the Eiffel Tower to grab one last crepe. It was a beautiful Tuesday evening so there were entertainers, street vendors, about a million tourists and pick pockets everywhere you looked. We enjoyed the entertainment, scenery and a delicious sugar and creme crepe before heading back to the hostel for one more yummy cheap dinner.
Rise and shine came early the next morning knowing that we had a night train booked for that evening. We ate breakfast, packed, did some internet-ing (thank god for free internet) packed groceries for our looming train ride then found a cinema that was showing the new movie, Remember Me in English. We wanted to see if Robert Pattinson was more than just the pretty face that we admired in the Twilight movies. As an actor he was more than just Edward Cullen. We were impressed with his portrayal of a brooding, emotionally distraught 22 year old Tyler Hawkins. Cat and I didn't say a word during the movie but emerged from the theater with puffy cry face from bawling during the last half of the film. After composing ourselves, we took the nearest metro to the train station.
We figured that the curse with night trains would be broken on our third try. We were convinced that the travel gods had punished us enough with our overnight train first from Venice to Vienna then from Berlin to Paris so, we one up'd our preparedness from Berlin and came packing snacks, just-in-case meals and stocked a few bottles of wine to ensure a comfortable ride. Then we found out... OUR TRAIN HAD BEEN CANCELLED due to a Paris train strike. Various attendants for the train company attempted to subdue our anger by directing us to other train attendants who spoke less English than the last. We ended up finding someone that told us to wait for an announcement about where we were to meet the bus. Around the time that we were expecting the announcement Cat and I decided to be annoying Americans and ask AGAIN about the status of our travel. The one person that spoke English then told Cat that there were busses waiting on the side of the station and that Cat should tell the other Madrid bound passengers immediately. We quickly found the bus that we were looking for, dropped our bags and got on. This bus looked nice but after taking a second glance at our seats I realized that it was much smaller than most chartered busses. No one was up to speed on where we were going or when we would be there so, we just got as settled as possible and made friends with the older English couple sitting behind us. We made light of the situation, chatted for a while, then I took a very uncomfortable nap. After our first stop at a truck stop somewhere 4 hours outside of Paris, we dipped into the first bottle of wine attempting to subdue the anxiety attack that I was about to have. Before we started this trip I came upon a head phone splitter. It's a little gadget that you hook into your Ipod that splits sound for 2 sets of headphones. This came in handy as we enjoyed our bottle of wine. The other passengers of the bus were starting to fall asleep so we lip synched to random balads, musicals and rap songs to eachother for a good hour and a half. We then got drunk and tired so we eventually fell asleep. I don't think that I have ever been as uncomfortable than I was on that bus at any point in my life. The lights were on, it was stuffy, reaked of body odor, children were crying and I was contorted into a seat fit for a 12 year old. At one point while Cat was open mouth sleeping, I even resorted to standing for over an hour. The night crept by and at 9am we pulled into another truck stop. Every red eyed passenger rushed to the counter for espresso before heading to the bathroom and back to the bus. When I returned to the bus I overheard an English woman speaking Spanish to the only man wearing a name tag on our bus. She was saying "But we're all going to Madrid". It turns out that Madrid wasn't the final destination of this bus ride. We were bound for a train station in a small Spanish town about 400 Kilomiters outside of Madrid. We all waited in anticipation of where we were going next. About an hour later we pulled into a tiny train station and were hearded onto an empty train. We arrived in Madrid an hour later. After again gathering our belongings, we marched up to the customer service desk at the station. Luckily we ended up fighting for compensation or acknowledgement with two families who spoke English. We all had to speak to the one customer service attendant that was able to converse with us. He was extremely patronising and didn't provide any type of solution to our problem. At one pont one of the English dad's pulled out his camera to document the situation. The Spanish Policia didn't like this much and demanded that he erase it or he would go to jail. After bantering back and forth for a good half an hour, we got the man's name, exchanged information with the other English speaking families and decided that dealing with the situation via Cat's hate email would be better. When we left the office I made the observation that security guards and police officers had gathered near the exit. They were probably worried that one of the non espanol speakers was going to go off. Gotta be impressed that they were prepared... I almost did.
Cat and I found the metro,headed to another train station and booked our tickets for the next train to Malaga, the next stop on our journey. We wanted the issues of the past 24 hours to be behind us as quickly as possible. The train ride through the Spanish countryside went by quickly as I narco'd and Cat watched a movie provided by the train. I couldn't help but think about how comfortably I could have slept on that train as opposed to the bus provided. We exited the train confident that our bad travel jou jou was behind us. Again, we followed the directions given to us by our hostel which instructed us to get on one bus then transfer to another bus. It gave us the bus stop where we were supposed to exit and the hostel should be just across the street. It seemed easy enough but nope... it was a bit more interesting. The first bus went well. We got onto the second bus quickly and were anxiously awaiting our stop to flash across the screen. When we thought we had gone to far Cat asked the bus driver where our stop was and he then informed her that we had passed it about 5 or 6 stops back. We got off of the bus and started walking in the direction from which we came. About 4 gallons of sweat and 45 minutes later, we found our hostel.
As soon as we checked in, we dropped our heavy backpacks, kicked off our tennies and ran out to the beach to enjoy a chat and the sunset. As we lounged on the beach we couldn't help but say... "Watch out Malaga. We have arrived!"
Till next time know that we are safe, happy, healthy & lathered in sunscreen on the beach.