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round-the-world in 2005

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July 05 - July 23, 2005

Bread, cheese and wine - just what we have been hanging out for.

Eiffel tower

05 Jul 2005 Paris, France

Glitzy Paris
We did not get as much sleep as we expected on the bus - we had to get off at 1am for a couple of hours as we crossed the English Channel - arriving at 8am in Paris. We could not check in to our hotel until 2pm, so we dropped off our luggage and walked down to the Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle and the Conciergerie - some beautiful old buildings in Paris. Late afternoon we could not find the tourist information office, so went on to visit the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. We climbed the stairs of the tower to the second floor for some great views. Before we knew it, it was 10pm and we had not eaten. It stays light for so long it is hard to get used to it.

Paris Olypic bid

06 Jul 2005 Paris, France

And the winner is ...
We moved to the hotel next door, then walked to a nearby cemetery (Cimetiere du Pere Lachase) to pay homage to the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Chopin. At 2pm was the big announcement of the winning Olympic city for 2012, which Paris was a favourite. We waited amongst the expectant crowd, to join in the excitement and to be part of history - unfortunately London won. We spent the rest of the day exploring the magnificent Louvre museum, an amazing amount of artwork, sculpture and more in one absolutely gorgeous building.

street artist

07 Jul 2005 Paris, France

Today we maximised the extensive metro system to get around. Just as well as the weather was pretty bad, cold with drizzling rain all day. We first went to the Montmartre area - home to Moulin Rouge and the Basilica Sacre Coeur high on the hill. The area was featured in the movie ‘Amelie’, old cobble stoned streets full of artists and cafes. Very French! From there we visited the Catacombs - an underground network full of bones from exhumed graves around Paris - very eerie. We returned to the Arc de Triomphe and walked down the Champs Elysees, which was not too interesting until we came across a strip of red carpet. The tension built as we waited for the celebrities to arrive. After an hour of waiting we saw some people but no one we recognised. Back to the hotel for a home prepared meal and a cheap bottle of French wine.

Medieval street scape

08 Jul 2005 Dijon, France

Dijon mustard
We only just made it in time for the train to Dijon. Once there, we went straight into a self-guided walking tour, following the owl around town - a great way to orientate ourselves. There were some fascinating buildings from the middle ages, and a free but still quality museum to see. We have landed in the middle of as festival again. We had a nice evening listening to a contemporary French band in the park.

Traditional dance

09 Jul 2005 Dijon, France

Lazy day
As it was forecast for rain all day we postponed our cycle tour for tomorrow. Instead we decided to rest and recuperate. We still had lots to keep us busy though. After some internet and shopping, we had a glass of wine and a siesta - we are trying to assimilate with the locals. In the evening we saw another band in the park.

French winery

10 Jul 2005 Dijon, France

Tour de France
It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for riding. We hired some bikes and set off at 9am along the ‘Route de Grands Crus’ a route through the small villages around the Burgundy area. It was not long before we were pedaling alongside lush green fields of vines. Each quaint village was just a kilometer or two apart. We were initially disappointed that there appeared to be no wineries open for tasting, until we realised that the cellars were in the towns, and that the words for free wine tasting were ‘degustation libre’. In Gevery-Chambertin, we visited a small dark cellar under an old house, and purchased a bottle for lunch. We stumbled across a forest path, perfect for our picnic. We continued cycling a total of over 25 km for the day, before jumping on a train at Nuits-Saint-George for a lift back to Dijon.

Avignon sunset

11 Jul 2005 Avignon, France

Festival again
We sent our first package home today, a box of souvenirs and gifts. There was not much time for anything else before we caught the train further south to Avignon. The streets of Avignon are alive with holiday goers and festival activities. This lovely walled city which was once the Papal residence, is surrounded by the river Rhone. After walking through the lovely town in the afternoon, we sat by the river to enjoy our dinner and some beer on this warm summer evening.

private dancer

12 Jul 2005 Avignon, France

Popes and Pop
Another very windy day, though hot again. We spent all morning touring the ‘Popes Palais’; where some popes lived over the 13th and 14th centuries. Nearby there was a nice cathedral and park. Mid-afternoon we went back to our accommodation for a refreshing swim in the public pool next door. Even at the local pool, French women go topless, as common all over Europe so far. After freshening up we went back into town for some free street theatre. As part of the festival, there are lots of buskers and groups promoting their shows on just about every corner. Back at the dorm - separate beds in separate rooms again.


13 Jul 2005 Marseille, France

Ferry Good
Clare sat by the river reading her book, while Rob scooted around town looking for a place to burn photos onto a CD. At midday we caught a train to Marseille on the coast, from where we were catching a ferry to Corsica. We had a few hours to kill, so we stored our bags and walked around the old part of town. Marseille is a big busy port city, with some nice historical buildings, mixed in with some less than desirable areas. The slow boat to Corsica left at 7pm, arriving at 7.30am tomorrow morning.

Old Fort

14 Jul 2005 Corsica, France

Bastille Day
Since we are budget traveling, we had to sleep in chairs instead of the luxury cabins - and consequently our sleep was less than ideal. We arrived in Corsica ready to be met by our French friend, Sylvie, who Rob had met on his US trip in 1995. Unfortunately Sylvie did not receive our last email, so was not there to meet us! Not to worry, we explored the town of Ajaccio. The markets near the port and a short walk around the narrow street was all we had time for before getting picked up by Sylvie after work. Today is the French national holiday ‘Bastille Day’, so there was also a military parade on. We went back to Sylvie and Daniel’s lovely home in the hills for a shower and siesta. We enjoyed a wonderful home cooked meal, which was a fantastic change to our usual cuisine. After filling up we ventured into town to watch the fireworks, and afterwards we were lucky enough to be treated to some fanciful ice cream down at the wharf by some friends. We learnt a little about the kissing culture today - twice, starting with the left cheek - we met so many people today we had lots of practice.

Les Calanches

15 Jul 2005 Corsica, France

Beach Hopping
We caught up on our sleep again, then borrowed a car from Sylvie and Daniel. We got caught in the post-bastille day sales traffic, a nightmare to find parking, plus we got lost in the one-way streets of Ajaccio leaving town! We drove up the coast on narrow mountain roads past small towns and beaches. We stopped for a swim a couple of times on beautiful quiet beaches, unfortunately no waves. We reached a little village called Piana, and just north of here we drove along a very narrow and windy road through the spectacular ‘Les Calanches’, which is an unusually shaped rocky coastline. Back at Sylvie's we had another rare home cooked meal provided by Daniel. We are getting used to the Mediterranean meal schedule - a late lunch with dinner around 9 or 10pm.

View from town of Tolla

16 Jul 2005 Corsica, France

Run to the hills
We had to vacate our beds as our hosts were expecting more visitors, luckily for us they offered us their holiday retreat in the hills. We followed Daniel for half an hour into the mountains behind their place, to the hillside town of Tolla. Their other home turned out to be an old stone cottage in a sleepy village, perched on the hill overlooking a huge lake - a perfect location for relaxing. The town has no shops to buy food supplies, so we drove the narrow road half an hour further along to a larger town, but alas they had no store open either. Instead we had an ice-cream while watching the ‘Tour de France’ with some vocal locals. We headed back to our home empty handed, then drove down the hill to the lake for a swim and some dinner at a local restaurant.

Boule players

17 Jul 2005 Corsica, France

Today was a day of lazing around - a holiday from our holiday! At 8am the bread van arrived with daily supplies, we did as the locals do and purchased a baguette for the day. We took the morning driving back to Ajaccio for some other food supplies, since there is nowhere here to buy food. After lunch we enjoyed a small 650ml beer each and then took an obligatory siesta. We had a paddle and a swim at the lake before cooking ourselves dinner. Our lovely old French lady neighbour always wants to visit for a chat, but unfortunately for her she speaks no English, but this was maybe fortunate for us!

Clare Sylvie and Daniel

18 Jul 2005 Corsica, France

After a breakfast of croissants and cereal, we tidied up the retreat house, before heading back to Sylvie and Daniel’s. They were heading to Corte, a village in the centre of the island, to go the university. We joined them to enjoy the view along the way and visit a nearby gorgeous river to cool down in. We came home for another French meal washed down with some Corsican chestnut beer.

Relaxing at Daniel's place

19 Jul 2005 Corsica, France

English waterfall
We woke early and drove inland for about one hour to begin our hike to the ‘Cascades des Anglais’. We walked along part of the GR20, an internationally renowned hiking trail, to the falls. We also took a scenic detour along a track up a mountain but ran out of time and turned back before the top. Back down the hill, we had a quick dip in the cold waters of the cascades to refresh ourselves. We returned to Ajaccio to try and book our ferry off the island, but to no avail. We had the house to ourselves so we cooked up some curry and watched some of the ‘secret life of us’ dubbed in French! Clare called her relatives in Italy, but the only English speaking person was not home so there was a difficult conversation with little exchange of information. We need to let them know that we want to visit next week.

Ajax moon rise

20 Jul 2005 Corsica, France

Our first job was to sort out our ferry to Italy. After a few phone calls we went back to a travel agent we visited yesterday - but this time with Sylvie. Yesterday they told us it was not possible, but with a translator we had no trouble booking our voyage. We made lunch for Sylvie and Daniel, then went back to town for some shopping and dinner. We had our usual indecision about where to eat, but in the end we found a place which served up some local cuisine for the right price. We tried some cured meats and wild boar. We did not make it to the recommended look out point in time for sunset, but the view was great and the walk around the point in near darkness was very peaceful.
View of casltle on hill, Bonifacio

21 Jul 2005 Bonifacio, Corsica, France

We unfortunately had to leave our wonderful hosts Sylvie and Daniel. The delicious home cooked meals, car to borrow and home away from home was a welcome break from our hectic travel schedule. We took an early bus to the most southern town in Corsica, Bonifacio. It is a small town contained mostly within old fort walls, perched behind limestone cliffs on a hill. We found the cheapest bed in town, then walked up the hill to explore the old town and check out the spectacular views. We hiked to a small secluded beach for a swim, and finished the day making dinner in our room and writing postcards.

Island arches

22 Jul 2005 Porto Vecchio, Corsica, France

Wrong date
We continued up the east coast of Corsica to Porto Vecchio. The cheapest hotel in town was closed for the afternoon, so we found a little old lady, who spoke no English at all, who had a room for rent. It was contained in the fort walls of the old city, with beautiful views of the gulf from the balcony. The beautiful beaches of this area, we discovered, required a bus trip which we had no time to get to there and back. Disappointed, we were left in this small town but kept busy doing shopping and internet. We made a big boo-boo by booking online our Italy train from Naples to Crotone on the wrong date, and don’t seem to be able to change it. It is only money - but we hope we can work it out. A few local brews on our balcony and we soon forgot about it!

Ferry acroos the Mediterranean to Italy

23 Jul 2005 Porto Vecchio, Corsica, France

More Ferry Fun
We walked around town discovering the few sites of interest. When we returned to our room, we discovered Clare’s towel was missing from the line, possibly taken by the cleaner. We checked email again and heard the news of the Egyptian bombings, not far from where we spent a few days on the Red Sea. Having just missed being in London for their attacks, we are feeling fortunate, but wary of the dangers everywhere. We arrived at the ferry terminal at the time we were advised, but found out it did not leave for another four hours. Time to sit under a tree and read a book - there is nothing else to do. The ferry left at 5pm headed for Sardinia then on to Naples. We found some seats, let’s hope we can stay in them to get some sleep.


next we ferry over to Naples in Italy.

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