Arriving back in Germany from Russia was quite a contrast, no custom forms no immigration forms, just front up with your passport, they stamp it and you are in! quite a different in the mind set of the two countries. It will be interesting to see the progress in Russia.
Well I arrived on the island at about 10.30 at night, was met at the airport, the only one on the flight for the hotel, so the driver who did not speak one word on the very long trip to the hotel thro a built up area all the way, except to tell me the obvious "Working Girls" that we passed in one suburb were "ladies of the night". He gave me a very good sample of the driving that I was to experience whilst on the Island.
Arriving at the hotel I realized the type of tourist came to the island, there was dance music playing and a lot of English of my vintage and older, were dancing the Maxina, a '30 to 50's dance.
Outside I found the "Argyle pub" and several other very English or Irish names, obvious they wanted to make their major visitor feel total at home with UK names & UK beers & food. I later saw a advert for staff and the only thing listed was "Fluent in English" that tell it all!
Later I found that Malta started becoming popular with the British when the Suez Cannel opened and really took off in 1964 when the hotels started being build, now the hotel manager says that 80% of the island economy depends on tourists and this is the first thing you realize once the new day starts.
The first shock you get is when you change your money, the Maltese Lira must be the highest valued currency in the world, one ML = 5.25 NZ$, one ice cream was ML1, a burger was ML1.5. In a way it was good marketing sense because with the costs being small in Maltese units you think you are spending little, unless you think about it constantly. For example 55c as they call it is worth $NZ3.00
I found the price of items extremely high and had this confirmed when some Scots that were there commented on how expensive it was, now I think UK is expensive, so when they thought it was expensive well….everything is expensive including groceries bought in the local supermarkets.
I found that the island was so small that getting a rental car, considering the price, was not a practical thought, however IF I was considering do a full documentary Photo coverage of the island it would have been necessary, if I would have had the nerve to drive is another debate.
So I ended up buying a multi day bus pass, value wise I doubt that I saved any money, but it proved to be very convenient, instead of finding the small change all the time.
So over the next two days I went to the limits of the island in all directions, and found that most of the island say 50% was built on, or that was the impression I received. What with Hotels, apartments, timeshare well to all adds up to a lot of building.
Went out to fishing villages, that were ready for the tourists, areas of old defense and old prehistoric villages, but unless you were a sun starved Pom that wanted to sit in the sun and get a tan three days does it. It was interesting that the Scots made the same comment.
There is a quaint sight, in seeing, all the old Bedfords buses and riding on them, but that wears out quickly, it is interesting see large signs urging "No Smoking" and the driver puffing away, it was interesting watching a driver light a cigarette, answer his cell phone while driving around the corner, I guess all of the religious signs in all the buses keeps harm away.
Went past a few very nice golden sand beaches, already early in the season, and with the World Cup on (which stopped a lot of tourists traveling) there were a lot of umbrellas up almost touching, goodness knows what it would be like once the tourists arrive, we are spoilt in NZ were if we can see someone else on some of the beaches we think how crowded it is getting, OK I know in Auckland is getting like Europe, but you can still find beaches where you have space.
A down side of all the tourists is in a few shops there is very lackadaisical approach as to if they will bother to serve you, if you walk out someone of the over million tourists per year will walk in!
Because of the World Cup on there were some very good deals available for package holidays the Scots got 12 days D,B&B including the flight from London less than 300. so once the have them there for the like of 12 days they have to spend the money!
The hotel was good, wonderful breakfast, good service in the hotel, it is just once you step outside into the other business that the service drops off.
The Popeye village was worthwhile and was a good illustration of what could be done, or could have been done with the Lord of the Rings villages that were build and removed by NZ govt orders, spoke to a French person who the only thing they knew about NZ was that the wonderful scenery, in the Lord of the Rings film, that they had seen, was NZ.
I wonder how many from around the world would have traveled to NZ to visit the Village… well we will never know!
On the way back from the Dingli Cliffs I was passing thro Mdina and heard some church music, so got off the bus and walked thro all of flags and banners and found a impressive Church parade with all of the Catholic Church Priests, Nuns, lots of others in all sorts of uniforms, a large group of first communion children, a large band leading the procession and a larger one at the destination, the impressive large church, a full band in uniform, a real dose of pomp and ceremony.
I went back the following day to look at the things connecting the disciple Paul to the area, and they were weak unless you were a real believer prepared to take the churches word on everything!
Here I am in Paris in the famous Montmartre area, I arrived on Sunday and went out for a quick walk and returned to the hotel to repack my suitcases. Then off to a restaurant for a evening meal, Monday I was out walking for a hour then found I was tired, I then considered that I have been on the go for two months now at full speed so thought it was about time I had a rest for a day.
Tuesday, I wandered over to the Port de Montreuil area to see some New Zealanders friends that arrived from Malaysia today, they had had a good rest on the way so were ready to go so we wandered over to the Les Halles area and walked past the Louvre and looked at the Centre Georges Pompidou art center, then Barry wandered back to the hotel and I went into a Internet Café to check up on my email, either my modem is burnt out or the phone line at the hotel is not compatible.
Eventually I arrived back to my hotel, did my laundry, I tried shaking my clothes but that did not work so I had to use the old fashioned washing method.
Tonight Barry & Di came across to this area and we went out to a Italian restaurant just around the corner from my hotel. There is a amazing amount of restaurants this area so you have a terrific choice of how you will eat and what you will pay.
After dinner I walked back to Opera Metro past some of the most magnificence department shops in the world, after leaving them I did some window shopping and some of the woman's fashions and dress designs were absolutely out of this world.
Wednesday, wandered thro the shops and was delighted in the range of clothes that took my fancy, if I continue to travel I must make a point of shopping for the latest in clothes. (my style not THE LATEST!)
Some of the women's fashions again impresses mw again today, the shops would send a normal women into a shopping frenzy!
The prices for both woman's and men's clothes seem to be very good ( Dept stores, but others do not seen to be too bad considering ) in fact they look much better than NZ, of course you still have to get here and the bus fare is a little more than into the city.
It was interesting to walk down rue de Rome and see all the violin etc repair shops and wind instruments, there were shops selling these new & second hand and a lot of sheet music shops, that is one thing I like about the old world how similar trades are together, it is better than in the new world wandering all over the city trying to find someone that will undertake your job. Of course that only applies to the old businesses things like computer are scattered like everywhere.
Wedding dress shops are close together and it is very impressive the styles and the beauty of some of the designs. There are also some good looking Mother of the Bride dress shops so if you are thinking of marriage and want a dress well what better reason would you have to come to Paris, you of course could have the honeymoon first come to Paris buy the dress and if you are still speaking when you get home get married in a Paris creation, if not well you have had a good holiday!
Cell phones are a must right around the world, every country I have visited, and that is a few in different cultures & systems cell phones are in use EVERYWHERE, by all ages, except perhaps the 70+ age group.
I have found it is a MUST to buy a good map of wherever you go and not rely on the giveaway maps you get, they are useful for the major main streets but to find the places you want I have found you need more detail, which you have to pay money for!
Three hotels I have found that are in good locations for the more or less center of the city are the ibis hotel Sacre-Coeur H694@accor-hotels.com the ibis Montmartre H697-GM@accor-hotels.com the first was Eu 70 the second Eu 80 bed only and the one I am at in Montmartre, Hotel Place Clichy they are updating to the internet in Sept of this year firstname.lastname@example.org . I would probably stay at either next time with the Clichy being closer to the Metro and if they have updated things it would be good with all other things being equal.
Talking of internet I have found there are quite a few internet café's about but you have to really look for them, do not count on the hotels to know where they are! There is one around the corner from where I am, which is within sight of ibis Montmartre, on the corner of Rue de Clichy and Rue Ballu, the price seems to be about Eu 3 per hour.
Thursday, I went walking and ended being out for 16 hours, first I started to walk from my hotel down to Place de l'Opera, looking for a restaurant, but I realized that my guide book that I bought in NZ "At a good price" was out of date,
Top marks, Ivan, but it was a good walk so I carried on down to the Seine and walked along that for a couple of miles then thought it was time to head back up the hill to go to Montmartre, to have a look at the Sacre-Coeur after 34 years then to head to the Artist colony round the side.
Passed a lot of leather.... bag, purse, wallets breif cases etc shops, very small shops all packed with their specialties, seemed to be Chinese owned, saw a nice men's "Shoulder Bag" for Eu 22 saw what looked to be the same bags shops in the main street for Eu 68, they were in the Rue Beaubourg close to the Arts et Metiers metro station. good range of ladies hand bags at GOOD prices.
On the way there I looked into a couple of shoe shops, because I like full leather lined shoes, and there is a bit of a problem getting these, and the price looked good, and found a beaut pair that I wore all day Friday without problems, then it was on up the hill, past all the junkie shops that were set up for the massive flow of tourists to the Sacre-Coeur, yes it was as impressive as when I first saw it 34 years ago.
YES it had changed now they have several Café's in the center with all of the Artists around it's edge.
I had a good look at the artists work and it was interesting how many had no real contact with their client just let them sit there and painted away quietly. There were all levels of ability and it was there I found the French do not have much of a sense of humor, some of my jokes developed lead feet, but perhaps it was my jokes!
I eventually found one that did very nice work and he had a good sense of humor with the banter we had when he was wanting me to sit for a portrait, he said he would really like to do a drawing of me as he like the character I had in my face, I wondered if I liked that, my face getting old enough to have character, but Oh well.
He got me thinking having a portrait drawn so I had a good look at his sample than wandered around them all looking at their samples and if they were working their style and the likeness they were achieving, so in the end I felt the guy who thought I had "character" was in fact the best artist there, so I went back and of course he was not there so I waited.
Also waiting were a couple of young American girls of about 18-22 and we got talking and one of them also liked "my Artist's" style so when he returned I decided to let her go first to check out his ability to create a likeness, he was good!
So when he was finished I approached him and he was pleased, he said it was a pleasure to do a real portrait, most of what he did he said was "Babes" and when I observed later, yes the whole setup was aimed at young ladies, that was what most of the samples were.
It turned Davy was Malaysian English, in Malaysia till he was 7 then brought up in UK. Had been drawing portraits there for 20 years, told him I was a portrait Photographer, so we had a good little bit of banter going on together.
Davy, did, I think a good job, I am very pleased with it and will probably put a copy of it on my web site, although I will have to think about doing that on my Photographic web site. It cost Eu 50 for about one hours work, and I was pleased with that.
While I was waiting for him I had a conversation with a woman with a 120 SLR and a heavy lens, I had seen her earlier when I had arrived & told her I admired her perseverance, told her I would not an have done what she was doing, it appeared she had lugged it all through Italy, found out she was from Sacramento, and here husband had sold Ted Sirlin his current building, yes it is a small world.
Davy told me he had a friend who was a New Zealander, who was a photographer, so later, after he did one more portrait after mine, we went down the hill to the pub where the NZer was ensconced, with his dog under the table, yes he was a photographer, but left NZ at 18 now 38, was "finding him self" in Paris so he could make a world wide name for himself, his name is Wayne Plant so watch for this name in the future, he has a lot of good ideas.
Davy "my Artist's" by this time was getting a little nervous and sure enough his phone went with his wife threatening him with bodily harm, listening to his side of the conversation so he was off to make a appearance at home so then Wayne, the NZ'er, & his friend & I drank on for a while then his friend started getting nervous also with women problems!
However it was agreed that we would all go out to eat at a trendy little restaurant 20 minutes walk away, that had some interesting photographs on display. Well we got there and people were lined up, drinking, standing on the footpath, they did not take table bookings, but it was a pleasant surprise by the time the friend arrived with his partner & sister, who was in town to do auditions for becoming a actress, the table for five was ready.
So it was a good meal, with good conversation, and it was 12.20 when we got outside with the last metro train going in 10 minutes, with me with at least with one train change, I did not have a show, so it was time for a taxi, and where did I put that card with the hotel name, it was in my other wallet at the hotel, so I pointed out about where I wanted to go on the map and we were off, no I did not want to get out there,
in the middle of the sex shop area, but on up the road.
Eventually we found the hotel, as I did not have enough change he worked it, so he got a bigger tip that what he should, but Oh well, is not that what we are supposed to do to keep their economy going?
Talking of the Sex Shops they are now all around the Moulin Rouge, with touts out the front, and that is one of the downsides of being a male traveling by yourself, you are a target for every sex situation you can think of, and a few you can't, the best was is to pretend they are not there, that you can not hear them, and they loose heart very quickly, at with the pace I walk I am "Gone". One guy stepped in front of me to get me attention as as he was small I kept striding and he jumped back with a fright, obviously that had not happened to him before.
Up and thought I can not leave Paris with out seeing the L'Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower again so with my new shoes on and a metro ride to the Arc then walked to the Tower, yes it is a good walk, and again the impression is MASSIVE, with a smell of new paint, there was, I was told a one hour 20 min wait to go to the top so I went wandering, however talking to the Woods later it seems they went at about the same time and went to the top without waiting, so it depends on the moment you are there.
Down the gardens in front of the tower I was a couple photographing each other so I did my photographer trick and did one of them together, we got talking, yes they were from Denver, yes the knew Don Feltner, so again it is a small world!
Looked at the map and thought I will see if I can walk back, after yesterday I was a fraction tired, but off I set, back, I found almost all the way I had come, then I was into new territory, stopped at the big M for some chips and a large diet coke and then on again and waller, there was a shop I knew so it was only 20 more minutes up the hill to the hotel stopping to replenish my supplies at a supermarket, then to down load the emails and spend the rest of the afternoon answering the ones that needed replies and tap out this missive.
It has been hot and humid today, the locals tell me that it is terrible in Paris in the summer with this type of weather, I think today has been the hottest day of the trip.
Almost everyone in this country smokes, at all ages, so you will find that the small café's they all light up, the ice cream vendor will have a smoke in his hand.
France evidently has the loosest laws on dogs of any country in Europe. You can take a dog anywhere! So there are a lot of Paris land mines on the footpaths so you need to watch where you walk otherwise you will "Step in it"
On my previous visits to France I wondered where all the beautiful women that there are supposed to be in France, well they are all in Paris, and the standard of dress is very impressive with the better dressed set!
Never ask a Frenchman to recommend a Restaurant, they take food far to seriously for normal people.
The traffic in Paris is hectic to say the least, parking is impossible, and where some people park, is incredible. I have seen active parking wardens writing tickets and I have seen several wheel clamps on cars. I have almost been knocked over on crossings when I attempt to cross on a green light, someone running as the light turns red traveling at a high speed whips in front of you. I have been told it is illegal to hit a person on a crossing, a ECC law, the French drivers know nothing of it!
With the car bombs going off round the world, I assume is the reason I saw two cops with body armor, pump action Shotgun, mirror on a long arm to look under the car, they were going over the car carefully looking under, and in the car before it was let into the car parking building, now was it normal, I did not stick around to find out, was it happening everywhere I have no idea but it was interesting to see it in one location.
There is a lot of begging in the street, you see the same ones in the same location every day, they look mainly of Turkish or similar origin, it is interesting in my travels I have yet to remember seeing a Chinese doing this in their new country, they just put their head down and get on with making money.
Went off to the Flea Market at "Marche Aux Puces de Saint-Quen, very interesting, say many things that needed rescuing, just as well that I live on the other side of the world! I have a feeling that a lot of the people standing with the one item for sale many have just liberated it from a capitalist restricted ownership.
There were also many high quality antique shops with many beautiful examples of old furniture, chandeliers, paintings, etc. It was a good walk there and back and with my sore heel that was enough walking for the day. I was also told that there was another good flea market out at Porte de Montreuil which would have required a double metro ride and I have been trying to walk everywhere.
SundayBarry phoned and said he & Di were going to the Musee d'Orsay, which I would describe as a large Art Gallery. It was build in a old Railway Station and what a magnificent building it is. It was full of well known art works by the world famous artists like Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, and all the others. We spent about three hours and just as I was feeling "Cultured out" Barry made the same comment, in a slightly different way so we wandered out and decided to do a boat trip on the Seine, one where you can get on and off at different stops.
My thought of the boat trip, after, was that it is not a sunny day project better on a overcast day, and possibly one would see more from the top of a double decker bus.
So down one stop and we got off to search out a café for a late lunch, found a good one that did not break the bank and we found a nice dry white wine.
Back towards the boat "Station" passing the super popular restaurant "Fish" owned by a NZ'er, and at the crossing by the river we were held up by a type of "Round the Bays Marathon" but with roller skates, there were thousands of people of all ages and watching some of the people of all sorts of experiences. They had police on skates, it was a very impressive sight.
Back on the boat, with all of the sunshine and heat it was time to think of where we would get of to head back to out hotels, all both decided on the Louvre stop, so then Barry & Di headed off to the Metro and I decided to walk back, well with the sore heel & the heat it almost killed me, but I made it, just!
Packed up early and took a cab to the Peugeot agent across the other side of town, Why does there always have to be drama's with me? I placed a nice "bomber type jack" on top of my case thro the handle so it would not fall out, what did it do? Fall out, when did I miss it when I got across the other side of town!
The next bit of drama way the taxi driver said this street does not exist. I found out later they changed the street name three years ago and of course no taxi driver updates their street directories, partially the size of Paris that often do they.
Well I got there! This car rental system they have in France is where you get a brand new car, registered, insured for a max of 175 days, for what I think is a very reasonable price. The story is that apparently the tax on a new car is very high and on a second hand car low, do not know the figures… so they rent them to non European residents, register the car in the tourists name, and they have a second hand car in a matter of less than 175 days.
However there was one guy there who notified them that there was going to be another driver, so they put the car into the other drivers name didn't they, and they need his passport, because the ownership papers where in his name, this of course meant he had to be the one that returned the car, so there are a lot of traps for young players.
So you need to check everything! He was trying to get upset but his voice did not make it serious enough, he was saying the right words, but they were not making a impact, people were not running around, they were all calm and orderly.
The Car has ZERO Kms on the Speedo I have never seen on with nothing on the clock!
Any how as I left he was still there and he was there before me! No real problems getting onto the motorway and by luck, I will not make any other claims I was heading in the correct direction. If you suffer from hay fever stay away from the motorways around Paris they have a lot of Privet growing and it was all in bloom, that along with lots of white clover!
At the moment the fruit shops are full of cherries so I have been having my share and someone else's, very reasonably priced. From a supermarket I bought two sandwich's and a plastic box of cherries I guess ¾ kilo and the cherries cost less than the sandwich's, makes you think does it!
Bought some more tonight at Calais from a green grocer, there were three men serving fruit behind the counter, interesting how the old way take longer to die out in Europe.
Staying the night here in Calais, you can buy a return ticket for the next day for a fraction of the cost of a one way ticket on the same day. Hope it works OK!
About 75 kms out of Calais I was passed by about a dozen Porchse, all the latest models, four Ferrari's, new convertible Jag's, a Ford GT40, a TRV and goodness knows what else, they looked impressive, I was cruising at 150 in a 130 area and the left me standing! That is the way to see Europe, if you can afford it!
Well it was going to be another hot day in France, possibly in the 30's so it was time to move to a cooler climate so to England was the obvious choice!
Set off to the ferry early and was first in line, then first on the boat, then first off the boat, to RAIN. While on the boat I found that over the weekend Le Mans car races were on which is why I saw all of the exotic cars on the road returning home!
So as I was heading north on the M25 via the Dartford tunnel I again wondered was all the fuss was about then I hear the Pom's talking of the bad traffic on the M25, I think I have struck it once in all the years I have been doing the M25. different story, I guess, if I had to do it everyday, or at certain hours I bet!
Ran out of the rain by the time I reached the M1 turnoff and the sun started shining and from then on it was a beaut day! This story of England have one fine day for summer is not correct, according to the car radio this was the second fine day in a row! With the ten feet of snow in Queenstown NZ and snow on the flat in Canterbury NZ finally it is looking like I am in the right place, for a while I was wondering.
So I was well on the away to Knutsford, near Manchester some 262 miles away. I wanted to check out the travel clothes that they sell there and at other branches throughout England.
I wanted to do this first because I was intending to leave a suitcase at Carvers (the caravan storage coy in Bedford, that I had used for many years to store the various motorhomes I used in Europe) and if I could get all of these fancy clothes that you can wash and wear well I could leave more at Carvers.
Well I got there at about 4.30pm and discovered there was nothing worth while travelling that distance, they had no non crease jackets to fit me, the woman said "we can get it for you and send it to you" and I explained I was going to be on the move so that was not possible. Then I tried something different on and that did not fit, guess what the woman said " we can….." I must not be to hard on her I think she is one of these new robots that have been programmed and that was just part of the program!
So it was time now to find a hotel so back onto the motorway, South towards Bedford that was my next planed stop. After about one hour I stopped into a hotel on the motorway, but when I found they did not have a internet connection it was on to the more expensive Holiday Inn. I thought, tomorrow, I will have to be more economical with hotels, it can't be too hard finding a reasonable one with a phone in a room, how much more basic can you get than that?
Well I was to find out that you can get more basic than that by not having a phone in the room and still charge £50 a night!
Wednesday I set out early to go to Carvers, of course they were closed on Wednesdays. So I went on to Hemel Hempstead to see Jack & Terri Hedger, from NZ, they have been in UK for seven years and he says they will be pleased to return to NZ. He is from the UK and said he never liked the place!
Spent a bit of time with them, then went off to find a hotel, it was then I decided I would have to become better organized than this, I must have traveled about 60 miles around every hotel I could find and they were all full except the last one!
Well after spending two nights in England it was becoming obvious that I either would have to plan on returning early to NZ or get a cheap caravan and car and do the caravanning bit again
Thursday 20th June
I went to Carvers, looked what i had in storage, looked at what they had for in caravans for sale and liked the dirty caravan that had been stored outside for a couple of years, they had a price of £2000 with a awning, I thought possibly £1500 without the awning, another factor was that I was going to send the stuff I had in storage home to NZ with the Hedgers in their shipping container, When I looked at all the stuff I had in storage here from the motorhomes, thought what will I do with this back in NZ?
Then I re-looked at what I had been paying for hotels, a min of £50 a night plus breakfast, lunch and dinner. And it seemed that B&B are almost this price as well, if you can find them, I decided that my decision, after doing my sums again, to buy a cheap caravan was the correct decision.
But I thought first I should check out the prices, before I buy, so I set off to Gunthorpe, 80 miles north, where I had bought a caravan in the early '90's, it was quite a drive, I found the cheapest one was £2300, it was very clean and it established a price and made the one at Carvers look better.
So it was back towards Carvers & another hotel, where I looked through some Auto Traders found some caravans, rang them through the pay phone & they all had sold, or sounded pretty bad! Also checked out the cars that were advertised and again they had been sold.
Friday drove to Carvers and of course Graham was away for the day, off to book into another hotel and that took ages to find one & back to Carvers to see Graham, the woman who owned the caravan was not in when he rang, but she dialled 174, recognized his phone number, rang him while I was checking my emails in the car, Graham then said get your cheque book out the caravan is yours!
Well I am now the proud owner of an Abby Lincoln caravan. Did the deal about 11 am today, them looked at a Ford with a tow bar that was only 12 miles away, he brought it here, for me to look at.
I got him down to £600 and there were a few things wrong with it which you would expect for the year & price, but as we were pulling away to go and get some money he told me of another small problem and that tipped the scales.
I asked him to let me out & I would get back to him when I got the money. There is no rush to get a car to pull the caravan I can take two or three weeks if I have to by staying in the caravan park at Carver's.!
I still have the Peugeot 206 rental to run around with, I see a clause that allows me to return the car early if I wish, after all, all they want a foreigner to own the car for a couple of days to make it second hand, so they can sell it with lower sales tax!
Today I have been moving into the caravan, unpacking all of the gear I had in storage, thought I had kept a beaut electric grill, but can not find it and one ot two other bits! O Well
Some good news I found some Jim Beam that I had with the gear in storage, I have checked it out and it has not gone off!
Found a caravan accessory coy 12 miles away so I have been through there three times today to get a few things that I did not have and that was not with the caravan, I bought a larger capacity water storage & waste tank than what I had last time as they were the problems when I had the first caravan all those years ago that got on my goat, going to empty the waste & get more water morning & night.
I did not take the awing, I figured I would never be bothered putting it up, besides it was a lot to carry with you, I have, so far kept a porch awing which could be handy if it was raining, but I saw one on another caravan on this pitch have its porch awing blown over today and it is extra to carry as well, but I will see when I put it up what I perceive the problems will be.
Did my first grocery shopping today from Sainsbury's, it is always interesting going to another grocery shop, they have their own system & their own arrangement as to where things are, took me ages to find the vinegar, finally asked a shopper and she directed me to the opposite direction that I was moving.