Thursday, April 29, 2010

OMG the Eiffel Tower...we are in Paris!

On all my train journeys I invariably fall asleep. However this journey was different I stayed awake out of excitement simply because I had to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower as we entered Paris. You could say I was bouncing in my seat like a little child, singing 'Everybody wants to be a cat' (Tanaya rolls her eyes here and pretends not to know me). Well that's a song from the animated movie 'The Aristocats' and it's from this cartoon lie my first ever memories of Paris. O'Malley romancing Dutchess on the roofs of the houses with the Eiffel Tower in the background.... Oh how romantic!

As we approached the city, you could see the Eiffel Tower rising in distance. I was so overcome by emotion. Now this was a dream coming true!

It's quite late when we enter the city, but it looks like early evening. We disembark at the Gare du Nord, Paris and to our surprise the Hotel is next door. Awesome. No getting lost in the first few hours. After checking in and realizing how late it was decide to keep the sight-seeing for tomorrow. Goodnight Paris!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 19: Exploring the waters in Marseilles

Had breakfast, packed our bags, left them at the reception and off we went to explore the seas. Woohoo a boat ride out to If-Castle. Departures are from Quai des Belges to If-Castle. Take the first boat out as this will give you more time on the island. The cruise was a fantastic experience. You get to see the marina and various boating activities ay the bay. 

25 minutes later we are at the docks of the island and make our way to the castle. If-Castle is said to be built by Francois I in 1524 and became legendary for the prisoners held hostage here and a rhinoceros immortalized by Durer, or its imaginary prisoner, the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.Roaming the corridors, you just can't help but feel spooky.
Clicked some pictures and then we went back to the dock to await our return back. Had to wait a while and guess what I made an interesting friend here. His name is Lyons, and he is a seagull. He posed for me and all I can say is that we connected. 

On the journey back we spotted jelly fish in the water. Lots and lots of them. Once back at Point Vieux, we got our bags from the hotel and made our way to the train station Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles. We board the TGV at just 3 Euros and head to Paris! Paris baby Paris.

Day18: Making the most in Marseilles

The most important thing to do when you are new in any city is to visit the Tourism Office and ask for a city pass. In Marseille, a city pass will bring you discounts on entries to museums, cultural services, transportation and much more. You can opt for a day pass or 2 day pass, which will come at a cost of around 25 Euros. Click here for the latest rates.

After sorting our passes out we head to take  the tourist train to Notre Dame De La Garde. The trains cute, like a toy train and the ride is super fun. You can catch it at Quai des Belges old port, opposite the La Samaritine cafe. Quite an interesting ride up hill, the route has a 45 degree angle slope at one point. 

Having reached the Notre Dame De La Garde, you cant help but feel so serene. The place is so peacful compared to the rest of Marseilles, and the view from the top is spectacular. What's amazing about this Basilica is the gold statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the entire city. Entering the basilica, you notice the interiors having an overpowering Romanesque-Byzantine influence. The domes, multicoloured stones, mosaics and ships in gold fit perfectly in this Basilica which was build by Napoléon III. 

After spending a good half day here, we waited for our ride back to the bayside. I was not particularly hungry but we had decided to savour the local cuisine once at every place. The local specialty here is Bouillabaisse., a fish soup containing various kinds of cooked fish and shellfish and vegetables, flavored with a variety of herbs and spices. I personally hated it, the smell is overpowering but Tan says it's yummy. 

Having stuffed ourselves, we then decided to make our way to the Musee De La Moto. However this place is on the outskirts of the city and getting there involved taking a super crowded local bus. Fun, but it reminded me of the buses back home. Good thing was we could poke fun in Hindi. A long walk from the bus stop brought us to the door steps of the museum. And voila the entrance is free! Anything free while you are on a budget trip is good.

The Musee De La Moto houses a unique and historic collection of motorcycles since 1885. Spread over four floors and with over 300 cycles, bikes and scooters, you can find the likes of the Harley Davidson's, Ducati's, Vespa's and much more. All in all it was an awesome experience. Check out my pictures and the fun time I had with the motorcycles.

We had to wait almost an hour to get back into town and the place is pretty deserted. I can honestly say I was totally freaking out but trying not to show it. I was so releived when the bus finally arrived.

Back in town, we decided to grab a hamburger at the bus depot and something weird happened. Someone paid for my meal. I insisted on paying the vendor but he absolutely refused. Psychos. Anyway from here we proceeded to the Fashion Museum, which we then learned was closed till July! Damn. So we decided to take a new route back to the hotel and guess what? We got lost. hahahahaa. After roaming around in circles, we back tracked to the Tourism office and stuck to the route we knew.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day 17: Marseille

Time to say bye to Lyons and head to Marseille. After breakfast we head out to Gare de Lyons Part Dieu to book ourselves on a train to Marseilles. There’s some time to pass so it’s time for Haagen-Daas ice-cream. I opted for a strawberry sorbet and oh my… the portions are humongous. It took me like forever to finish it.

We take the TGV and it’s a mere 3 Euros, thanks to the Eurail pass. Soon we were at Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles, and using the metro jumped off next to our Hotel.

Our stay was booked at the Mercure Eurostar on Rue Neuve Saint Martin. My first impression? Where is the French romance! This building is so boxy and rather sterile. After settling in, a small walk to the supermarket saw us picking up our lunch and dinner. It’s a way cheaper option than dining out. The owner of the supermarket was glad to meet Indian girls from Bombay, and then came the classic question “Do you know Shah Rukh Khan? Bollywood?” Duh! And the followed a proclamation of his love for Bollywood.

Early evening we walked about trying to locate the Tourism Office, unfortunately it was closed by the time we reached there. However the bay side is lovely. Boats docked, sea gulls and the Notre Dame on the hill. Beautiful. We simply took in our surroundings for today and people watched. So much fun.

Dinner was in the hotel with the little snacks we prepared before snuggling in to watch a movie called ‘Trade.’ Bon Nuit.

Day 16: A rainy day in Lyon

It started off as a rainy day, so after breakfast we decided to chill for a while and I went back to sleep. In Lyons we stayed at the Campanile Lyon Centre - Gare Part Dieu Hotel. Decent and cozy it provided the perfect room for a short stay. By mid morning we made our way to the Fouviere. By now we figured out how to use the Metro in France. The ride up to the Fouviere included a ride on the verticals. The reason they are called so is because the cables run vertically up the hill and at a crazy angle.

At the top of the hill sits the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. The Fourvière is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who is said to have saved the city of Lyon from the plague in 1643. Enter into the basilica and you will be amazed with the Byzantine influence in architecture. It also draws influences from Romanesque architecture. However the exteriors are more gothic in nature. In whole the glass painted windows, mosaics, the crypt of St. Joseph and candles offered, all add to a very serene atmosphere.

Stepping out we took in the view of the city. Beautiful! After spending a good hour here on a rainy day, we made our way to Bellacour and off we went for a river cruise on the Saône River. The cruise included a trip to the Ile Barbe island. This island, a quaint little thing is the only inhabited island in Lyon. In the 5th century, one of the first monasteries in Gaul was founded there. It later became a powerful Benedictine abbey. Today however only the Romanesque Notre-Dame remains with a few old buildings.

Back on solid ground, we then lazed around Place Bellacour taking in the musical activities, food stalls and people just generally having a good time. Bliss! We indulge in the local sandwiches before we hop aboard the bus to take us back to the hotel.