A Travellerspoint blog

September 2016

....and, Relax!

Days 108, 109 110 Singapore

rain 30 °C

After 4 months of travelling we have booked 4 days at Marina Mandarin to relax and recuperate a little - a ploy to delay the inevitable reality of going home.

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We set ourselves no plans other than to linger over buffet breakfast, snooze, catch up on sleep and rest. This was the perfect place.

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It rained every day but we didn't mind. It was cool to see the storms roll in as we hadn't seen rain in months.

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We did venture out to explore a little, but 30 minutes later we decided it was all too much and quickly retreated to the safe haven of our room.

The hotel sent us a lovely surprise of some bubbles and choc covered strawberries which was a wonderful way to enjoy our first afternoon.

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We watched movies - Blazing Saddles was a great tribute to Gene Wilder, totally politically incorrect in today's times.

Lazed by the pool and reflected on what has been a magic 4 months.

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Now off to the airport, on last check in and we're home tomorrow.

Thanks everyone for coming on the ride with us - its been a blast!

Buen Viaje!

Posted by tszeitli 23:10 Archived in Singapore Tagged relax Comments (2)

Viva Le France

Days 103, 104, 105, 106, 107 Paris

sunny 30 °C

We caught our 2 km taxi for $20 are happy to be leaving Tanger.

Upon entering the Airport, through two security checks just to get in the front door (which was painless and not a bad idea) the check in process of this small, disorganised, ill planned, costly airport is crazy.

There was a queue to get to the queue for check in. After checking in you had to go back out the same gate, against the ever growing tide of passengers wanting to check in. Then you join another "queue" that isn't really a queue, more a group of people congregating at the gate before the door to the Passport Control hall. There no signs or explanation as to why you can't proceed through. A staff member seems to be allowing some people to proceed through, but there's no apparent system, and everyone looks at each other bewildered. Like all good lemmings, once a few people decide to kick off, the crowd follows and we're swept into Passport Control.

Its a small airport with only 3 gates. We hoped to use our remaining Dirhams on some water and breakfast. Normally croissant was 1 MAD and in the airport it was 11 MAD. 1.5 litres of water is normally 6 MAD but a 500ml bottle was 12 MAD. Sadly we only had enough for a small bottle of water and one croissant.

By this stage, we are getting most eager to get out of this place and our flight is called. As we board, what people were carrying onto the plane and shoving into overhead lockers had to be seen to be believed. It seems they think shopping bags don't count in the carry on limits and the lockers are full about halfway through boarding. Plus, just to make things more interesting, people travelling together aren't seated together. Jen and I are seated in same row but in the middle seat on either side. Families were spread out making for a chaotic dance as women tried to sort bags, husbands and kids up and down the crowded aisle.

Once in the air, it was an uneventful flight and we were glad to arrive in Paris. Having enjoyed about 6 weeks now of 35+ degree heat, we were looking forward to Paris being a bit milder. However, checking the weather the night before the forecast is 3 days of 36 deg C, no chance for a break from the heat.

We both feel like we've rounded the bend and are now enjoying a little culture treat before heading home.

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Jen was here last in 2011 and I was here in 2008, but very briefly. Jen knows the place pretty well and had tour responsibilities but it was a chance to see Paris together. We are still suffering from tummy troubles but we ventured out to pick up our museum tickets.

Next, Jen had an idea to buy a pretty dress in Paris as a treat. Our AirBnB was in Royal Village between Gucci, Prada and Dior. The staff at Dior warmly greeted us even though our outfits look like we've been travelling for 4 months. Telling them we're in the market for a pretty Summery dress, we are escorted upstairs to womenswear, offered a champagne and the assistant says "oh, I will get some things that will suit you". She shows Jen half a dozen classic French Dior cocktail dresses, all beautiful and stylish. I could see Jen trying to work out what they may cost and she raises the courage to ask the assistant before attempting to try anything on. The assistant looks at the price tag of one of the dresses and the number of around €2400 is all we heard. That squashed that idea quick smart. Jen was prepared to splurge but sadly not that much. Fortunately, Jen had found a little shop having a sale and found two little numbers very reasonably priced.

Whilst Jen didn't get a designer dress treat, we got a designer dessert treat!

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We also rediscovered how extremely expensive Paris is. Dinner consisted of a club sandwich, quiche and water for 50 Euros about $75.

We were able to catch up with Lisa, a friend of Jen's who used to live in Moscow but recently moved to Paris. It's a warm night and doing the Parisian thing of sitting on the side of the road out front of a cafe drinking Champagne and catching up was a lovely way to end our first night.

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As we're on our Honeymoon, Jen organised a photo shoot with a local photographer. It was a nice treat to get us photographed together in Paris at the end of our trip - especially as Selfies in Paris aren't quite enough. It was a fun morning and love that we have some great photos.

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Right, photos done, time to hit the best of the art galleries, Musee D'Orsay and Musee de L'Orangerie - a couple of Jen's favourites. We decide to skip the Louvre. We've both been before and we've had sufficient quantities of Renaissance art during this trip. Its now time for the Impressionists and beyond.

Musee D'Orsay is on the banks of the Seine almost opposite the Louvre. Its an old art deco train station beautifully converted into a museum and makes a great backdrop for displaying some of the best art work in particular impressionist work.

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The first salon features classic paintings from Morocco and the Sahara. We stand silent for a few moments, taking in the images and processing against images we've seen with our own eyes.

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Its a lovely feeling revisiting a place we both know, relaxing a bit, knowing that its okay to take our time, and not have to discover everything.

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Musee D'Orsay has been rearranged and expanded since Jen's last visit but her favourites are there - Degas' Little Dancer.

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All the Impressionists, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Sisley, Renoir, Millet and numerous others. Being in Australia you do not get to see art work like this.

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The main attraction was the Gauguin and of course Van Gogh, Jen's other favourites Hay Stacks and of course, Starry Night.

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A room full of instantly recognisable master paintings. Having seen lots of Picasso on this trip and how prolific he was, painting until his death in his 90s, we ponder what the world would be like if Van Gogh hadn't been plagued by mental illness and his family kinder to him, helping him live longer than his late 30s. We may have an even greater body of work to admire.

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After Musee D'Orsay, we walk through the the most French gardens, Jardin des Tuileries and the Musee de L'Orangerie. This building was originally a glass house for the Royal Orange grove and has been converted into a gallery. Monet had specifically requested this space to house his gift to the People of France, who he decided needed some joy after WWI and a peaceful place to escape the bustle of Paris. The main attraction is Water Lilies in two oval shaped rooms, with filtered natural light, and you sit down and try and absorb the size of these paintings.

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Below Water Lilies is an excellent collection of 19th and 20th century art we enjoy very much.

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That night we had a lovely catch up and dinner with friends, Pauline and Jeremy. I worked with Pauline during my time on the Boyne Smelter Project. It's always to great to catch up with friends while travelling and Jen and I have been fortunate enjoy wonderful time with many friends during this trip. And after travelling for 4 months, nice to have someone else to talk to :-)

Pauline tells us some great stories of her time with Rio Tinto and having to work in Guinea, East Africa while the Ebola virus was rampant. She is amazing and hope she and Jeremy can come back out to Australia for a visit sometime soon.

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Our full second day in Paris as organised by Jen is to revisit one of her all time favourite places in Paris, the Musee Rodin. We've been lucky everywhere we go as there are no queues and Paris is actually quite quiet. Rodin is famous for his sculptures in bronze and the first thing you learn is the process to take a plaster sculpture and create a bronze one. I never realised how complex and time consuming the process is in particular to make the miniature plaster version of the full size version. We start walking through a beautiful and peaceful garden full of bronze statues all with an amazing story. Jen loves walking through them and telling me all the facts about them. I never realised Jen was such an art buff but this place is special for her.

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The favourite ones:

The Thinker

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Burghers of Calais

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The Gates of Hell representing Dante's Divine Comedy

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The Three Shades

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Inside the museum was the most famous piece the "The Kiss".

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It's next onto Palace de Invalides. The building used to be a hospital during the past wars but is now a museum for a history on the wars that France has been involved with starting in the late 1800s. This was going to be quick but we wanted to see the display on the first and second world wars. It did take far longer as the information and displays were very detailed and we could have spent a lot longer. The photos depicted very well how horrific it would have been in those wars.

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The final place to see was a visit to the famous short little fella called Napoleon Bonaparte's tomb located in the Chapel des Invalides. Jen was winding me up saying this is some thing special. I walked into the church and the look on my face says it all as I see this huge hole in the middle of the church and deep inside is a massive marble coffin that contains the ashes of Napoleon.

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It seems a little over the top, even for the first emperor of France after the revolution in the mid 1800's. I expected a small coffin and statue in the corner but it's massive. It dominates the hole and the church.

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We then take a walk and see the absolute musts of Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Both are icons and no visit to Paris is complete without a visit.

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The queue up the Eiffel Tower is, as always, too long, and preferring the view of the Arc de Triomphe, we head over to the Arc and went to its top for the iconic photo shoot.

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We were not finished with our tourist activities and the last day was a trip to the Palace of Versailles located about 30 minutes south west of Paris. First time in Paris we had to queue up in line that went for about 300 metres and took 45 minutes to get through.
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It's a massive palace but tourists are well organised so we were able to get through in about 2 hours. The palace is very impressive and was the home of the royal family from the 1600's to the mid 1800's. Over that time it was continually expanded to its current glory and now the building and gardens are a main attraction.

The hall of mirrors is the most famous room and the most elaborate in the Palace.

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Through Louis XIV' bedroom and dining room where his every move was monitored by courtiers.

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Lunch is a selection of treats from a French Patisserie including an icon of days growing up in Melbourne, the Snot Block. It was delicious.

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We get back to Paris, do a mini walking tour along the Seine, past Notre Dame, stand in my footsteps from 30 years ago and finish off with a boat cruise.

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Love locks must be the bain of municipal bodies everywhere!

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Well that ends our travels and our Honeymoon Odyssey, wrapping up 4 months of adventures and a very special time Jen and I had together.

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Tomorrow we overnight to Singapore to be plain tourists hanging out in a fancy hotel - air conditioning and a comfy bed here we come!

Posted by tszeitli 20:33 Archived in France Tagged art honeymoon paris france le viva Comments (3)

Blue Morocco

Day 100, 101, 102 Chefchaouen to Tanger

sunny 28 °C

We recovered from yesterday's mountain climb up to the Medina of Chefchaouen.

It also was very hot so we were going to use time to plan out Paris, blog writing and quietly enjoy our last days of Morocco. Our Riad is lovely and a lot larger than the ones we had been in before and Chefchaouen's Medina is again very different to previous ones.

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All the houses are painted blue. We spend some time walking the narrow streets that have all the usual shops, e.g. Carpets, clothes, pottery, perfumes, bed throws, blankets, clothing, bronze stuff etc. etc. The main square is tiny compared to the one in Marrakesh, far more touristy and no snake charmers. This town is one that the Moroccan tourists seem to frequent. We spend the hottest part of the day just chilling out in the Riad and being very lazy which everyone else seems to do.

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The door to our Riad
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We do some simple exploring and head in the up direction towards the start of the river. The Medina is on the side of the hill and instantly it has a look and feel as if you are in the Greek Islands like Santorini without the ocean.

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We decide to take our days here easy with a one km walk up hill to the look out opposite the Medina. It starts from the river outlet and where they wash rugs in cold water.

The lookout is nice and away from the crowds so we just sit there and take in the moment. It's our 100th day so we reminisce of what we have done in that time and start to think about heading home and the things we want to do.

We then do a climb up to the back side of the town and get another lookout over the town and mountains. The area is strewn with rubbish and one thing we are getting tired of is how much rubbish there always is around the places we visit. If there is one thing that has disappointed us is how local people have disregard for trying to keep their area clean. Jen's big issue is the amount of stray cats that wander the street throughout Morocco.

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On our way down we get invited for coffee by a fellow, who claims he is travelling to Australia for 6 weeks and just wants to chat to us, offering us tea. As we were a little parched from our hike and welcomed a cool place to sit down, we accept. He just happens to have a carpet shop. He is one of the most sophisticated salesmen we've encountered. He assures us we don't have to buy anything and just wants to chat with us. His stop is adorned with Aussie souvenirs and a tube of Vegemite (it looks old and unopened). First, whilst his English is good, he only learned from the television so can't read it and asks Jen to read a thank you note in his book from a traveller who bought rugs, saying how wonderful he was. The book just happens to be his delivery book with records of rugs he's shipped around the world, flipping through asking us to see all the glowing stories written by shoppers. We explained that we'd already bought our rug and our suitcases were full. We asked more about his Aussie plans, but we are confident the trip to Australia was a rouse and his testimonials of tourists just like us buying at least 4 rugs were fabricated. He was determined though to convince us that need to buy more as gifts. Having only backpacks was not an excuse as he will ship to where ever in the world. We resist his persuasive powers and we leave after 45 minutes, refreshed, we extricated ourselves fortunately with all our money.

It's our last night in Chefchaouen and we dine on the roof top over looking the square and the kasbah feeling very satisfied of our adventures in Morocco. It is a funny site to see so many large Eucalyptus trees growing.

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Next day we planned to leave for Tanger in the afternoon so we did not need to rush. It gave me time to have a haircut Moroccan style and in the previous day had sussed out one that looked respectable. The guy is very funky and did a great job, very meticulous (even sterilising the blade by burning off alcohol) and all for the cost of $3.50.

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This time it's a down hill walk to the bus station but our bus is an hour late. We are further delayed as we had to change our bus for some reason we don't understand and arrive in Tanger around 7 pm. People have warned us that it is not the greatest place and just a big port town for people to try and get across to Europe. The bus station is also a place we don't feel comfortable and after 2 taxi rides (cost of 230 Dirhams = $40.....very expensive) of about 20 km we get to our hotel 2 km from the airport. We have a flight at 6.30am next morning and enquire about getting to the airport next morning. We are told there is no shuttle bus and at 4.30 am you have to get a taxi for the cost of 150 MAD and you can't walk as its too dangerous! What the! So basically to travel say 22 km it has cost us around $50. Travel tip, don't go to Tanger.

Posted by tszeitli 05:03 Archived in Morocco Tagged blue cats tourist gastro hill_town Comments (3)

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