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Day 19: Zoo Zurich and Far Too Much Cheese.

The unrelenting heat continued well into the night, the asthmatic building air conditioning doing nothing to calm the flames. Our fitful sleep was brought to its end by the blinding column of light emanating from the bathroom, the bathroom clear bathroom door an aesthetic choice more than a practical one. Even as we stepped out into the building proper the temperature only dropped a few degrees but it was enough to grant us some brief respite. The breakfast offering was meager but filling enough although not enough to abate the simmering hatred that I was brewing for our lodgings.

But once we left things started to improve.

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Zoo Zurich is perched at the top of Zurich proper, meaning we’d need to ascend no small height to get there. Thankfully there’s a tram line helpfully named “Zoo” that takes you all the way to the top and provides a great view along the way. It was interesting to note how the increased altitude meant more affluent the neighborhood was with apartment buildings giving way to old money houses and astonishingly large plots of land without a house in sight. Once we reached the top it was a short walk to the entrance of the zoo itself and onto our adventures within.

It was your typical zoo, although obviously much better set up than many others that I’ve seen. Strolling around all the exhibits took us the better part of the day, staying longer at the ones that interested us and breezing past those that didn’t. Of course some of the enclosures were a little heart breaking to see, with many of the great apes confined to places that just didn’t seem big enough for them. That coupled with some rather obnoxious visitors did make my wife and I both feel for them. All I can hope for is that our patronage helps in improving their situation.

Of particular note were 2 attractions: the elephants and the Masoala hall. As far as great animals go you really can’t go past the elephants and their massive enclosure housed several specimens, including a young calf. My wife and I both exclaimed when we first saw them, something which a pair of American tourists responded with “We said that too!”. It’s not like I haven’t seen them before, indeed I rode one as a kid (a circus came to town with them, something I no longer support), but seeing them up close really never gets old.

However they paled in comparison to the Masoala hall which is a giant artificial jungle that plays host to numerous plant and animal species. Indeed the photo atop this post comes from an encounter we had in there, the chameleon just hanging off a nearby try that many people had walked past without noticing them. It even contains a board walk which takes you to the top, a rather harrowing adventure but not for the height but for the heat. At the top was a roasty 35 degrees with 80+ humidty which soaked us both to the bone in minutes.

At the very beginning of the walk through the hall my wife noticed a leemur that jumped quickly out of sight when I looked at it. After we reached the end of the walk (which finished in a beautifully air conditioned aquarium) we decided to walk back through hoping to catch them again. As luck would have it we did, seeing 3 of them jumping between the trees. My wife was elated and we left the hall happy.

My wife had been hoping to do a tour of the Lindt factory as she’d seen some tours available on a couple sites. So we went back to the hotel to figure out which one we’d do. As it turns out there’s no such tour to be had, there’s only a factory outlet nearby that’ll sell you Lindt for a small discount. Deflated my wife decided it wasn’t worth the effort and instead we spent the afternoon lounging in the oven of our hotel room as we plotted our next moves.

We’d settled on fondue for dinner, wanting to indulge in some local cuisine again. We found a local place that came well recommended and settled in for a night of cheese and bread. It was delicious but honestly I don’t think man was ever meant to have that much cheese as a meal, even if it’s accompanied by bear and some salad. Satisfied we waddled back to our hotel room to settle in for the night.

Tomorrow we make for Mount Rigi, the so-called Queen of the Mountains. The weather prediction for tomorrow is rather grim but I’m hoping our luck, and maybe the altitude, will give us some good views over the surrounding countryside. That’s likely going to be a full day in of itself so we haven’t planned on doing much further. Not that I mind doing nothing, especially considering the number of days that we’re starting to rack up abroad.

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Day 18: Auf Wiedersehen Berlin, Hallo Zurich.

Our alarm went off at a leisurely, but not yesterday’s leisurely, time this morning. Today we had nothing more planned than a simple train journey from Berlin to Zurich, our only train journey that had us connecting onto a different route. Buoyed by our success in navigating Berlin’s train network we decided to catch that into the main train station as well, eliminating the need for an exorbitant taxi ride. So once breakfast was out of the way we checked out and began our short trek to the closest train station and our journey to Zurich.

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Getting on our first and second trains proved to be no issue. We’d already caught the same train numerous times over to get us around the middle of Berlin as they all seem to share the same route within the more touristy areas. The second was a train that was very comparable to the Thalys one we’d caught some days prior, being quite new and outfitted with free wifi. However as we got closer to our arrival time I noticed that we weren’t really close to anything I’d call a major station, nor had there been any announcements over the intercom. The time kept ticking away until it past it, and continued to do so until we arrived 20 minutes late.

This posed something of an issue for us as our connecting train was scheduled to depart not 15 minutes after our original arrival time. Try as we might to get to the right platform in time we arrived nothing, our connecting train apparently bang on time. So there we were in the Hanover train station with nowhere to go, the efficiency of the train system cutting us both ways. Undeterred, although a little anxious, I made straight for the ticketing station to figure out where we’d go from there.

The ticketing station runs on those RTA style booths that print you out a ticket with a number on it. I left my wife behind whilst I went in search of wifi, figuring this was a problem I could solve with a little Google-fu. Thankfully these trains run every 2 hours and another one was due to leave in the not too distant future. However for the Eurail pass you typically need to reserve trains before you board them, especially the high speed inter-city ones. Thankfully the ticket clerk was more than able to help us and not 20 minutes after our delayed arrival we were booked on another train.

The rest of the trip was largely uneventful, the German countryside slowly fading away to the rolling hills of Switerzland. The quaint little towns, usually flocked on all sides by crops or vineyards, were a picturesque backdrop to the relative calm of the train. Our 2 hour delay meant we were getting in at around 10PM at night although the city was far from asleep, the Euro cup match ensuring the streets were still filled with people. We managed to find a quiet Italian place to have dinner (one that didn’t have a TV out in the open) which my wife enjoyed thoroughly.

Our hotel room is, unfortunately, likely to be the worst of this whole trip. I’ve stayed in rooms this size for work and thought it was too small even for one person. We’ve barely got space to have our bags open on the floors, the desk is built into the wall with a little pouf for a chair and, to top it all off, it isn’t air conditioned. Considering we’re hitting 30+ degrees now this is going to be an issue and I’m honestly surprised that the reviews I read didn’t reflect these problems. Live and learn I guess.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading out to Zoo Zurich as we’ve heard it’s one of the best in Europe. Then we’ll be taking our fill of Swiss chocolate, something my wife thoroughly appreciated when I returned from my last work trip to Geneva. If we do much more I’ll be surprised, especially with this unrelenting heat dogging us at every turn.

Time to sleep.

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Day 17: Topology of Terror, Beer Garden Fail and Deutsches Technikmuseum.

We were keen to build on the successes that we had the day before, not wanting to let the momentum we had recovered pass us by. That didn’t stop us from ignoring our alarms however, only rousing from our slumber by nearly 10AM. Since our hotel would stop serving breakfast at that time it was something of an issue, until my wife pointed out it was the weekend and thus breakfast would be served until later. I’ve long since passed the point where I’m able to track days well, something which I think is both a luxury and a curse when it comes to long duration travel.

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Since our tour guide advised us to go to the Topology of Terror rather than any of the other World War II museums we decided that would be our first stop. The exhibition hugs one of the last few remaining sections of the Berlin wall which itself is across from the former Nazi Ministry of Ministries. It’s part open air exhibit and indoor information center and covers nearly all aspects of the Nazi regime. Walking from one of the wall to the other you can trace the history of the movement and what led to Hitler’s rise to power. It’s both a mournful and infuriating experience, the things we can see in hindsight seeming so obvious now. I cannot honestly say if our world is better prepared to face something of that nature again, especially with the roots of similar movements appearing all over the world.

We didn’t spend as much time inside the exhibit however as there’s really only so much horror you can endure in a single day.

Our tour guide from yesterday had mentioned that Prater Beer Garden was worth visiting so we decided to head up there for lunch before deciding what to do with our afternoon. When we arrived however we found out that we were either too late for the lunch time crowd or too early for the nightly punters. The garden was basically deserted with just a handful of families sitting at a few of the tables. That combined with the fact that the food didn’t seem too appetizing we decided to leave in favor of an Italian restaurant that had tempted us on the way over. It was there we had a very reasonably priced lunch washed down with some great local dunkel lager.

We had a few options for how to spend the remainder of the day and eventually settled on visiting the Deutsches Technikmuseum. Now I know this is somewhat contrary to my previous advice from the day before however I thought the technology museum might house some peculiar German technological curiosities. For the most part it was alright (the cut open steam engine pictured above being the highlight) but I found myself disappointed upon leaving, mostly because their space exhibit was just a couple of rocket engines. I think that’s cemented my opinion on museums for a while now.

Afterwards we headed back home for a little bit of rest before we headed out again. Even late into the night I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry and floated the notion we simply grab a few things from a local supermarket. My wife had wanted to get a curry wurst before we left Berlin since they seemed to be everywhere. So we walked down to a local curry wurst place to check it out but my wife lost interest when she couldn’t see anyone else ordering one. Instead we walked into the supermarket next door and procured us a very healthy dinner of cheese, 1L of beer, crackers and some curry sausages which satisfied my wife’s cravings.

Tomorrow we make a beeline out of Berlin for Zurich in Switzerland the only European country I have visited before. I don’t have very fond memories of the place, thanks to the dengue fever I contracted in Singapore  unleashing it’s fury on me whilst I was there, however I’m determined not to make a repeat performance. As with Berlin we’ll only be there for a couple days before departing again but I’m sure we’ll find enough to occupy us between the town itself and the mountains that surround it.

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Day 16: Return to Form.

Last night we made the decision: we’d be going on a tour no matter what. Unfortunately the tour group we wanted to use, Fat Tire (came highly recommended by friends of my wife), had just redone their website. Whilst I’m sure everything worked fine on the developer’s machine it rejected both my credit cards numerous times over. This meant our only option was to either phone them, something which I didn’t want to bother with, or we could rock up at their shop bright and early and hope that there was still space on the tour we wanted to do.

Luckily, there was.

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My wife had said that she was pretty sure she could make it through a Segway tour and as it turns out they’re quite a lot less popular. Consequently the group was much smaller, a grand total of 6 of us including the guide. We also managed to get paired up with another 2 Australians who happened to be on the tail end of a work trip. I made a right fool of myself by not recognizing their accent straight away (they, of course, recognized mine), answering “Australia” when they asked where I was from. As it turns out they were from Sydney and worked for Bayer. I didn’t press them for more details than that after my initial gaff.

The tour was a great little introduction into Berlin and the history behind it. I noticed on our journey in how much of the city looked new when compared to other European cities we’d been in so far. I didn’t make the connection between Berlin and the war though which is why much of the city looks new. Of note where the buildings that were left as is, like the Berlin Cathedral pictured above, which still bore many of the scars that war inflicted on it. Germany never wants to forget the tragedy that it wrought upon itself and the world, it seems.

We visited quite a few other points of interest like the longest section of the wall that remains, the holocaust memorial and the Bradenburg gate. Our guide was very knowledgeable on a lot of things, of interest to me specifically was the history of Prussia and it’s interlinks with Germany. You see whilst I’m a 5th generation Australian (yeah, struth mate) my last name is actually Prussian in origin. Whilst I’m not entertaining any notions of royal lineage, I mean what royalty would’ve come to Australia willingly, it’s interesting to see where your roots come from. Especially in a place like this where its history stretches back so far.

Once we were done with the tour we settled in for some lunch at a local beer garden to plan out the rest of our day. I definitely wanted to go back to museum island to check out the Berlin Cathedral and the nearby museum. The cathedral was well worth the time we spent there however the Altes Museum probably wasn’t worth the price of admission. Sure there was some interesting artifacts but after you’ve seen collections like what the Louvre has you kinda feel like the smaller places probably aren’t worth it unless you’re interested in something specific.

We had planned to go to the Topography of Terror afterwards but by then we were both starting to fade. So we decided to head back to the hotel for a quick break before heading up to another beer garden that came recommended by our tour guide. However the weather turned on us, bucketing down rain and likely ruining any attempt to drink beer outside. Instead we settled on a local German restaurant that did some very good traditional food.

Tomorrow is in a bit of a flux but I’m sure we’ll work out something once breakfast is done. It’s great to be back on form again, even if my feet are starting to complain again. I’m also sure now that 3 nights is a good sweet spot for seeing a good number of cities in Europe as it gives you enough time to see the things that really matter to you. Sure you could spend longer but thinking back to our USA trip all those years ago I can definitely remember having a lot of “filler” days in places we spent 4+ nights in. Of course we could’ve had even more time if I hadn’t listened to a certain friend about taking the train everywhere but hey, when in Rome right?

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Day 15: Vaarwel Amsterdam, Hallo Berlin.

My wife stirred long before I did which I took as a good sign. She said she was still feeling pretty rubbish, unfortunately, but at the very least she did seem to be in a much better mood. We managed to get through breakfast and packing up ok, checking out of the hotel and getting into a taxi without incident. Once we’d found our way to our platform, long before our train was due to arrive, my wife started to feel ill again. It’s a pattern that would repeat itself over the course of the day although, thankfully, we had a whole first class cabin to ourselves for the majority of the trip.

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Unfortunately the train ride wasn’t as luxurious as our previous one was, being more like a budget airline than anything else. Our Eurail pass granted us first class seats however there were 6 of them to a cabin. Throughout the trip we had various people come and go in the 4 spare seats we weren’t using although none of them stayed longer than an hour. This was great for my wife who could curl up on the seats and get some additional rest. We drew the ire of the conductor who told us we hadn’t used our Eurail passes correctly, something which the first train we boarded neglected to mention.

The trip over was uneventful, spent mostly reading through my book and playing a couple games on my phone. This train was also bereft of any Internet connection as well, something that torpedoed my plans to post yesterday’s blog and, possibly, catch up on that Mirror’s Edge Catalyst review I had lined up before I left. It was nice to see the transition from The Netherlands to Germany however, the landscapes dotted with wind farms, small towns and various other things of interest.

We arrived in Berlin late in the afternoon (which would be the dead of night at home, something which my body clock is still coming to grips with) and made our hotel. I was a little worried that we were out in the sticks somewhere as I thought I spied our hotel from our train on the way over. By the looks of things though we’re pretty well placed with most of the things I want to see a short train ride away.

I’m hopeful that my wife’s condition will have improved enough by now for us to really sink our teeth into Berlin. I have to admit I was a little disappointed by how little we did in Amsterdam, even if it was a rather relaxing time. Berlin is definitely one of the cities that I wanted to see a lot of and, since we’ve really only got 2 days here, we’re going to have to make them count. Even though our new hotel would be nice enough to while away the hours in I’m certainly not looking to make a repeat performance.

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Day 14: Housekeeping.

With my wife in such good spirits from last night I had high hopes for today. We could leisurely make our way to our bike tour and finally see the other side of Amsterdam that we’d heard so much about. However the look on my wife’s face as we woke up told a story I didn’t want to hear: she was struggling in just the same way as she was before. I figured we’d try to make our way through breakfast at least before calling it quits. On our way back up to our room though my wife called it and slumped down on the bed, crippled by nausea and pain.

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I stuck around for an hour or so to make sure she was ok before I left to do a small tour of the surrounding area on my own. Our hotel was right next to a local park, one that many had said was worth a walk through. The quiet rustling of the trees and low ruckus of children playing in the distance was a nice background to me hunting for photographic inspiration. There wasn’t a whole lot to be found there unfortunately although there might be a few shots in there that will keepers if I put enough work into them.

Afterwards I headed back to see how my wife was doing. She was still bundled up under the covers and didn’t stir when I opened the door. After a while she woke back up and said she was feeling a little better although her face was still that same distraught look that I had seen earlier that morning.

I decided to take care of our laundry then since she wouldn’t be up to doing anything else for the rest of the day. After a few wrong turns I did manage to successfully find the laundromat that came highly recommended on Google. The reviews were spot on too, our week’s worth of clothes washed, dried and folded for €17, a bargain compared to what any hotel would charge. On the way back to pick it up later in the day I did manage to snag a few more photos, one of which adorns the top of this post.

Upon returning with 2 bags of fresh clothes my wife seemed to be feeling a lot better and so we decided to get ourselves some takeout from a local Mexican place. It reminded me a lot of Zambreros from back home, the imagery and designs very reminiscent of each other. The food was very good and the cheap Trappist ales that I picked up at the local supermarket even better. It was a nice way to cap off our final full day here in Amsterdam, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I first booked our holiday.

Tomorrow we’ll make our way to Berlin by train. Hopefully our second train journey will be just as luxurious as the first although I’m sure there’s as much variability in trains as there is with planes. We likely won’t get up to much else as we won’t get in until 7PM or so, one of the few downsides when it comes to long distance train travel. Still it’ll give me time to catch up on my reading and maybe a few other things that I’ve neglected.

Honestly it’ll probably just be nice to not be walking all day for once!

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Day 12: Netflix and Chill.

After what happened yesterday we were keen to not make a repeat performance and so left the day wide open. It started off well with our hosts gleefully showing my wife the lactose-free milk they had procured for her however she was in no state to make use of it today. “Tomorrow then!” he exclaimed as he cheerfully darted back to the kitchen; there seemed to be nothing that could put a damper on his happiness. My wife however, still reeling from the events of the day before, decided that she’d probably spend the better part of today in bed whilst I’d catch up with our friends who happened be in Amsterdam the same time as us.

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I spent the better part of the morning tracking down a set of hair clippers to fix my hair cut from the day previous (as well as to get my beard under control). After visiting 2 different Bokkers (a small department store that dots the streets of Amsterdam) I found myself a set for cheap and took them back to the hotel. My wife, whilst feeling better, decided she’d continue to stay in and I arranged to meet my friends in the city for lunch. I left her the laptop just in case she felt up to watching something.

Lunch was spent reminiscing over our varied travel adventures, enjoying Amsterdam’s laid back ambiance and indulging in a €5 pizza place that made suspiciously good food. The dreary afternoon weather started to get the better of us quickly however and we all retreated back to our various places of residence to escape the new cold breeze. I returned to find my wife in very good spirits, seemingly shaking off the last of whatever had been ailing her for so long. After we spent a good few hours watching various shows on Netflix I asked if she was up for dinner and we settled on a small bar not too far from us.

We were just settling into our dinner when my friend and his girlfriend accosted us; they just happened to be staying nearby and had frequented our chosen place numerous times before. We ended up staying back for far longer than we originally intended, sharing various stories and talking about how much Canberra had changed over the last 3 years (they are expats who are on their way home). It was a nice way to round off the day, especially considering my wife was able to keep her dinner down without a hint of nausea about her.

Tomorrow we’ll make one final attempt to ride bikes around Amsterdam before turning our eyes to our housekeeping duties. We’ve been here almost a week in Amsterdam and we’re starting to run out of fresh clothes to wear. Thankfully it seems like getting that sorted shouldn’t be too much of an issue here but it will still likely mean a good chunk out of our day. Still I’m hopeful can finally get to see the city as the locals do it and maybe have a little time spare for ourselves at the end of it.

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Day 11: No Battle Plan Survives Meeting the Enemy.

The sun peeked out from behind the tall blinds, streaks of light shooting across our bedroom floor. Today was the day, and it was a good one, the day when we’d finally do something that my wife had been wanting to do ever since we left on this trip: ride bikes together. I had roused us early to make sure we had enough time eat, get ready and walk to our meeting point for the biking tour group. Whilst we left a tad later than we had wanted to we still made it to our destination with time to spare, a small group of people indicative of us being in the right place.

Then things took a turn for the worse.

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My wife has unfortunately been battling with some form of bacteria ever since she got back from Indonesia last year. We had talked to doctors before we left about it and they had found it to be some common form of bacteria that’s typically harmless but for some it causes all sorts of issues. To rid my wife of it they prescribed some general antibiotics with the caution that it’d make things worse before they got better. She had been putting off taking them because of that but decided it was best to start just before we left Canada. She’s at the tail end of the course now but it seems that’s when things really start to go south.

So we made it to the bike shop to pick up our rides and Rebecca was almost doubled over with nausea. She said she wouldn’t make it but urged me to go on without her. Not wanting to leave my wife alone in such a state I asked if we could delay our tour by a couple days (which they have done for us, kudos We Bike Amsterdam) and sought about trying to get us a taxi or Uber back to our hotel. I got her back and in bed, the poor little thing not wanting to move an inch lest the nausea take hold.

With her safe and sound I figured it was as good a time as any to get my hair cut as it had become a wild mess over the last couple weeks. The barber I found turned out to be closed so I spent the next half hour trying to track one down. I eventually did and they were able to take me in right away. I should’ve been a little more forthcoming with what I wanted however as I ended up with a very…let’s call it “European Gangster”… look. It’s nothing a trim with a pair of clippers won’t fix, however.

I returned to the hotel to check on my wife who had barely moved an inch since I had left her. She was feeling a lot better however and we thought we’d try for one small thing to see how she fared. We made our way to the Anne Frank house only to be greeted with a line rivaling that of the Paris Catacombs and figured our time would best be spent elsewhere. After I got her settled back in bed I went out and sourced us some dinner from the local supermarket. This was where I came across Chimay Blue for the low low price of €2, an opportunity I found hard to pass up. Thankfully my wife was able to keep a good amount of food down and we whiled away the night watching Police Academy movies on one of the local TV stations.

Right now I’m hesitant to make any plans due to my wife’s condition. Tomorrow is the last day of antibiotics and so hopefully we’ve got no where else to go but up from here. So I may end up going solo for most of tomorrow, something I hadn’t really planned for. Not that I’m wanting for lack of choice here though as there’s plenty I haven’t seen yet and my camera has barely felt any love. Hopefully after tomorrow though Rebecca will be ready to tackle our 3 hour bike tour as it would be a real shame to miss out on it otherwise.

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Day 10: Au Revoir Paris, Hallo Amsterdam.

Way back when I was planning this holiday I made sure any travel days had as much slack in them as possible. My paranoia about missing something and throwing the whole holiday out of whack was strong back then and, unfortunately wasn’t made any easier by this morning’s events. You see I’ve never really used the train as transportation, save for a few scant trips around Sydney back in my youth. So the notion of crossing country boundaries via a land based transportation system was foreign to me and, even with the reassuring words of my friends that trains were “the way to go” in Europe I was a tad anxious at the prospect.

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Arriving at the Gare du Nord in Paris I was greeted with a similar level of bedlam that I’ve come to expect at airports of similar size. Then a sinking feeling hit me: was 1 hour enough to navigate this mess and find our train? We initially hopped in a line that appeared to be leading somewhere only to be told that it was for a train to London. A few more helpful people later and we’d activated our Eurail Pass and found the line for our train which was departing in about 20 minutes. So whilst I might have panicked initially really there wasn’t much to worry about.

The train ride from Paris to Amsterdam, which I’m told is monopolized by Thalys, was amazing. The seats were the size of business class seats on any airline and there was more than ample space between rows, even for someone of my stature. The food service was generous with the hostess coming past multiple times in our 4 hour journey asking if we wanted drinks or snacks. Best of all the ride was smooth and incredibly quiet. Basically it’s everything you wish air travel was, save for the fact that for longer trips it loses out on the time factor. Now I wish I had known about the overnight train between Munich and Rome before I had booked the hotels as I think that would’ve been quite the treat.

We arrived late in Amsterdam late in the afternoon and quickly made our way to our hotel which is located right next to the Van Gogh museum. It’s an older establishment, essentially being an overgrown bed and breakfast, but the woman who greeted us at the reception was kind and incredibly forthcoming with information about where we should go. After we got settled in I established contact with an old friend and former housemate who we’d arranged to meet here and we began the trek to meet him at the halfway point.

We met up at a place that reminded me of a lot of the bars in Melbourne, a place called Kriterion, The beers there were extremely cheap and the quiet ambiance of the back street it faced a nice backdrop for sharing our current travel stories. It wasn’t long before we all downed a couple beers and were looking for some food which led us on a winding tour of the surrounding district. We eventually settled on an Argentinian steak place that did their signature cuts very well although the beers and drinks had a distinctly weird taste to them. Satisfied with our dinner we parted ways for the night, although I’m sure this won’t be the last post where I mention our friend.

It will probably come as no surprise that I was struck by the number of bikes, both those in use and locked up on the streets. This is a town that was made for bikes, the distances between places short and the streets built around them. What also took me aback was the similarity of architecture from street to street, enough for a new tourist like myself to get lost in (and I did more than once). There are colourful and unique places to be sure however in general most streets had a very similar look and feel to them.

Tomorrow we’ll finally do something we’ve been wanting to do since we landed in Europe: a bike tour of the city we’re in. Our hosts here at Hotel Fita had good things to say about the tour we chose so hopefully we’ll get a good look over the city proper. After that we’ll probably visit the Anne Frank house as our host had said that it was much less busy in the afternoon. Potentially after that I might be swayed towards a night of debauchery with my friend, a known fiend for finding interesting places to drink in foreign countries. Should tomorrow’s post come a little late then you’ll know why and you should probably not assume the worst.

If another day passes however, send help.

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Day 9: Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and The Pantheon.

Not having a firm schedule is a blessing…most of the time. My alarm that went off at 7AM (unchanged from yesterday because I had simply forgotten) but we didn’t make it out of our room until 2 hours later. This is something of an issue if we wanted to catch breakfast in our hotel which stops getting served after 10AM. Still we made it with time to spare and spent the next hour or so making final preparations before our trip to 3 of Paris’ big attractions. The first stop: the famed shopping street of Champs-Élysées.

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The street of the Champs-Élysées is quite impressive, harboring a massive 2 lane highway that’s surrounded by high end shops on either side. Whilst they were great to gawk at we didn’t end up buying anything from them, likely due to my long relationship with Internet shopping which has ruined me for travel purchases. Still I love a good browse and there was definitely some interesting affair on display. The highlight would have to be the people peddling 20 minutes in a Ferrari for the low price of €90. I declined of course, I far better things to spend my money on than a short joyride that would be equivalent of a month’s worth of petrol for my trusty Volkswagen back home.

The Arc de Triomphe is an impressive structure, towering over the intersect that snakes around it. We decided against ascending to the top since it didn’t seem worth it, especially compared to the view we got at the Eiffel Tower the day before. I have numerous pictures of it that are ruined in some way by…ugh… people. I’m sure a bit of work in Photoshop could see them removed but I can’t help but think how much easier my photography life would be if people weren’t a part of it. We didn’t spend too long here before trekking off to our next destination: the Notre-Dame de Paris.

The scale of the cathedral really cannot be understated, it’s an incredible structure especially given its age. The religious aspect was, of course, completely lost on me and indeed I’m sure many people would mistake the awe of something so huge for some kind of religious divination. Regardless it was still worth the visit, providing ample photographic opportunities and a place of quiet respite after the couple hours we’d spent traipsing up and down the Champs-Élysées.

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Around the time we finished up at Notre Dame we decided to find ourselves some lunch and, burned by our experience with a restaurant near a main attraction the previous day, decided to go for a short walk. We eventually settled on a nice little Chinese restaurant which had an amazing lunch special, far too much food for the amount of money we paid. After an hour and a half we pulled out the metro map we had again to see if there was any other sites we’d want to see before we called it a day. As it turns out we were only a couple streets away from the Pantheon so we headed on over to check it out.

It seems Paris has a thing for massive structures as the Pantheon was, yet again, just awe inspiring to see. I was surprised to learn that it housed an experiment that proved the Earth turns on its own axis, a pendulum suspended from the roof that precesses gently throughout the day. Even more surprising was that, in the crypt below, was the remains of Marie and Pierre Curie, the husband and wife pair credited with many advances in the fields of radioactivity. Standing next to her grave I couldn’t help but wonder how radioactive it was since I’ve long heard reports that her office is still highly contaminated even to this day. There were no signs however so I’m guessing it’s relatively safe.

With our day thoroughly completed we headed home, angling for a simple supper of pizza from a small shop down the road and wine from the hotel lobby bar. The pizza and wine were both surprisingly good, especially considering the price I paid for both. I have to admit something of an ulterior motive with this, wanting to recreate an experience that some of my friends had relayed to me when they had visited Paris some years ago. Whilst it wasn’t exactly the same the essence of it was still there and I can definitely see the attraction to simple Parisian foods and their accompanying booze.

Tomorrow we will say goodbye to Paris and move onto Amsterdam. Like all good trips it seems that just as we were getting comfortable with our host city we’re bound to leave it. Strangely though Paris was meant to be a sort of throwaway for us, a short stop to get us started in Europe before we moved onto the real parts of Europe we wanted to see. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time here however, finding much to enjoy in Paris’ sights and attractions. I guess the real test now will be how the other European towns we have scheduled stack up and whether or not Paris can stay on top.