Round 3; off to Europe

I do love being in Paris but every time I am there, and especially this time, I am in shock at how grubby it is. Be that as it may it is still Paris; City of Light. We arrived on the Eurostar at about 10 o’clock on a Friday night after what was a chaotic start at St Pancras.

Actually the best part of the Kings X. St Pancras thing was the Italian pizzeria just near Kings X and the busker at St Pancras who we listened to for half an hour or so. The train ride to Paris was all good though. The taxi line, at Gare de Nord was, as usual, long so we walked, hauling our wheelies, the 2km to our hotel in the Marais (you gotta stay in the Marais). It didn’t take that long and was fascinating and fun at that time on a Friday evening once we had cleared the station and its inevitable retinue of beggars, pick pockets, and downright dodgy characters milling around.

We were in Paris for two nights as it was only ever going to be just a pit stop to top up on Parisienne atmosphere after a week in Scotland. On Saturday we did the usual walk with this time the only obligatory part being a quick visit to make sure the Notre Dame had almost burnt down…confirmed.  It looks a bit sad without its spire.  And of course the best chair in several cafes to people watch and drink expensive  but palatable Chablis.

Lunch at a weird but fabulous little fish restaurant/wine bar, a mooch through the amazing kitchenware shops and dinner at a strange restaurant with a flamboyant french owner, a melancholy Thai woman chef, and a Michelin recommendation. Another story for around the kitchen bench at home in Auckland. The food was good but it was strictly a local.

We headed off to Gare de Lyon on Sunday to catch the TGV to Marseilles. Great ride again. And Marseilles never disappoints as a rough looking but pretty good neighbourhood, part North Africa, part France, part something else. Too many tourists but they seem to stick to a zone within about 100m of the old harbour and there is other, much more interesting stuff, going on beyond that.

We visited Marseilles the first time in the 1990’s when we gate crashed Linda’s brother Colin and his wife Doris honeymoon and sat in the back seat of Colins Audi on their drive from Frankfurt, where they were living, through France. We stayed in Marseilles with them and it seemed to us in those days as very very dodgy. They finally got rid of us in Marseilles by dropping us off at the rail station and telling us we could reach London by catching a train to Paris.

We visited a second time while we were living in Sofia. We had no mortgage, kids at home and independent, and more money, and were maybe more grown up (50 something rather than 40 something) and so for the obvious reasons it all seemed much nicer that time.

Anyway this time, we had a wander down memory lane and a night in a hotel before catching more trains to Milano. It was SNCF (French) to somewhere and then Tren Italia (Italian) to Milan. The Italians have a different philosophy to the rest of Europe regarding trains. The Italian side ran late. Didn’t matter as we had found a rather nice Bistro near the station where we had to transfer.

We had booked an apartment near the train station in Milan for a couple of nights. That all went well and the apartment was nice but Milan was hot. Really hot. And therein lies the path to the next instalment. We had no real go forward plan and 30plus degrees for another month seemed like a few degrees of warming too much. I still don’t recall how it happened (could have been the overall effect of the restaurants we ended up at or it could have been heatstroke) but the day we checked out of our apartment was the same day we checked into SAS on a direct Milan to Oslo flight. WTF?

We were supposed to be in Italy and we end up in some cold Nordic country that starts further north than Scotland ends? We even booked the last available motor home in all of Scandinavia for two weeks due for pick up the day after we arrived so that we could drive even further into cooler climate zones. We had never been to Oslo and were both surprised. I don’t know now what we were expecting but it’s a very cosmopolitan European city. Anyway, the Norway adventures are in the next instalment.

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