Friday, 7 July 2017

Visions of America


Wednesday 21st of June (Summer Solstice- Day 0)

It has been a fun and interesting start to my holiday in the USA.
My flight from Guernsey was interesting, since I shared the journey with my friend Andy Gill who was on his way to Berlin, and then Gottland in Sweden to watch the Island Games. I also chatted to two interesting Dutch ladies I met at the departure lounge in Guernsey airport. They were both administrators one of whom had a friend in Guernsey whom they stayed with. I think they said they live on the outskirts of Amsterdam but I could be wrong. At Gatwick it was extremely hot and I became somewhat discombobulated on arriving at the hotel due to the heat.
My hotel room was nice and I waited a day until my flight to Boston.
On the flight I sat next to a lovely couple from Kent who gave me tips on places to visit and things to see in Maine (they had been there a number of times before.) There was also an annoying bearded hippy type of person with long hair and a pink t-shirt buzzing around before, and on the flight who managed to tread on my foot on one of his excursions around the plane.
On arriving in Boston our flight was delayed by a further ten minutes because there were no available sky bridges to allow us to disembark. The airport is low lying and on an island by the sea in Boston.
I waited half an hour and caught the bus to Portland, where Gina picked me up from the bus station. By now it was about 11 pm local time and I had been awake for about 24 hours solid. Gina drove us back to her place, and I had a snack and went to bed.

Thursday 22nd June (Day One)

First day in America! Today Gina was at her work still. Although the American parliament she is involved with had been due to cease for the summer break Gina had explained that due to unfortunate problems it would continue until at least the end of the week, and perhaps also into the following week. This was a bit of a blow to my plans because I had been hoping Gina and I would hang out together and she would show me around and do touristy things with me.
Gina went to work and I decided I would go for a long walk to a nearby Town called Sabbatus, which is on a lake. A store had been recommended to me by a lady I chatted to as we were about to get on the plane in Gatwick, which her Grandfather owned. On the way to her work Gina dropped me off on the “Main Street” which in America is just like any other road. First, I went along to Verizon and negotiated a special deal for a SIM card for the three weeks of my stay. I walked along the road which was very busy and initially tried to go North but found the pavement disappeared when I tried to cut across the two sides of the triangle to save time. I had hoped to cross the river North of Lewiston/Auburn (the twin town) but instead had to retrace my steps and go south until I got to the main river crossing. Here I took photos up and down the river which was extremely scenic. I was also getting closer to a building Gina later informed me was the Catholic Basilica, an extremely impressive building.

So back to my journey, I crossed the river and sat briefly at a war memorial to the fallen on the west bank, just north of the road. This was very moving. I then proceeded through the Town, stopping at an Irish bar (Pedro O’Hara’s) for a water top up, until I got to Sabbatus road which goes East out of Lewiston/Auburn. I walked along here in the lovely warm sunshine and the traffic gradually got less busy. By about 2 pm the sidewalk had disappeared and I had to walk along people’s front lawns by the road to avoid the traffic. There was numerous roadworks along this road. At 2 pm Gina came along and picked me up, her work had finished early. She drove me along to the Store recommended by a young lady I chatted to at Gatwick airport before I boarded my flight and we did some shopping. Then we briefly drove along the side of the lake (“Sabbatus Pond”) and looked at one of the little lakeside communities. Afterwards we went and collected Gina’s dog Rosie from her Dad’s place. Rosie has taken a shine to me and when I am resting on my bed in the evening will get on the bed next to me and lie there until I pet her. This is very relaxing and companionable.
We were both very tired and went to bed at about 8:30 pm. I slept until 5 am the next day.

Friday 23rd June (Day Two)

I spent the morning at the local parliament building where Gina and her fellow politicians had meetings and voted on various topics. This was interesting especially when a lady sang a rousing rendition of the American national anthem, and everyone swore allegiance to the flag.
Gina drive us down into the town (Hallowell just south of Augusta) and we had lunch at a pub/restaurant. The waitresses were all young and attractive. I didn’t tip enough and a waitress sent me the wrong way down the riverbank walking trail. Then Gina went back to work and I started my afternoon perambulation along the riverside.
At first there was a track to follow but as I went further North the track vanished and I cut inland on the main road. This was not as nice although the traffic was fairly light (relatively speaking).
I followed the road North and got on Route 104. Once I had cleared the town this took me deep into the countryside and there were many nice and expensive houses. I even saw solar panels, (passive and photovoltaic,) on the roof of one house. There were also beautiful reed beds by the roadside. Gina’s session went on longer than I expected so I had to stop at a house and ask the owner to fill my water bottle, which she did.
By about 6 pm Gina had finished work and texted me to ask where I was. I couldn’t really explain to her how to find me so I had to knock on another house door and ask the owner to speak to Gina on my phone! He was very helpful and Gina arrived ten minutes later. My left foot had a blister but luckily it hadn’t popped yet. I also had my first insect bite.
We collected Gina’s dog from her Dad and went shopping. I was exhausted by now. We went home and had a snack for supper, and I slept heavily.

Saturday 24th June (Day Three)

Sad to think we are now past the solstice and the days are getting shorter!
Today we got up and drove to Portland. We were in a bit of a hurry and dropped Rosie off at Gina’s Mum’s. We parked nearby the boat trip pier and had to pay $5 an hour to park. Gina paid this but I paid for her boat trip. I have overspent on this holiday and need to reign back in my spending!
At first the boat trip was lovely, it was sunny and we slowly went out of the harbour. But as soon as we got out the harbour a strange combination of wind and tide meant we still had to go slowly because we were meeting a heavy swell (i.e. large waves) head on. The boat lolloped and dolloped over each wave, dropping off the end of the wave with a horrifying lurch. At first, I was on the top deck with Gina but I soon had to go down below. Moving around was a bad idea, since my motion combined with the ship’s motion induced motion sickness. I was soon throwing up over the side. This happened five or six times until my small intestine was empty, and I was dry wretching. Then my stomach actually went into spasm. Soon after we thankfully turned around and heading back towards the harbour. The journey immediately got much more pleasant, since we were surfing along with the swell instead of battling against it. I even enjoyed the last half hour but could not face any food when we got to dry land. Gina was not seasick and had salmon at the sushi restaurant in Longfellow Square, Portland. Annoyingly some young American ladies were sitting at the next table talking loudly about their “issues”. Get it all off your chest why don’t you! Then we drove back to Gina’s Mum’s and I met her sister and brother, Michelle and Chris. They had been working hard all day doing some landscaping/gardening work. Rosie was a bit manic having been left on her own all day. I had supper (potato salad, olives, boiled eggs) but still haven’t had a beer since I arrived. Gina and I took Rosie for a walk in the evening and when we got back her landlord was sitting on the porch and asked us to join him for a beer. I said I didn’t drink but really I was so exhausted from today that I didn’t feel like socialising. Also my stomach was still feeling rough and I couldn’t face alcohol. He seemed nice enough and had one of those voice activated speakers playing music, and a dog called Rocco which he assured me wouldn’t bite me! Rosie nipped his dog trying to defend me. We went upstairs and relaxed the rest of the evening. I had to get my emails working again on my phone and laptop because Apple have now made it so that you need to have a 2-stage sign in for iCloud. This was confusing and took a few hours to sort out.

Sunday 25th June 2017 (Day 4)

We rested most of the day and in the evening went to partake of lobster with Gina’s Dad, Sister and Brother. The meal was lush and there was plenty of it. Lobster is a local delicacy in Maine and is locally caught, served with lemon juice and a little seasoning. Bob put on a grand spread for us and stomachs were soon filled again.

Monday 26th June 2017 (Day 5)

This was an amazing day, the best day of the holiday so far. We drove to a carpark about 2 hours north of Auburn in the mountains. Some random people helped us to find the start of the trail where there was a sign board. We started walking in the shady forest, and the dog was going mad and racing about like a rocket! I took some videos and Gina and I took photos of each other. The path gradually got steeper as we ascended Tumbledown Mountain. After two hours, we were literally rock climbing in places. The view was fantastic. We finally got to the legendary pool at the top which rumour has it, is an extinct volcano. I swam in the pool which was lovely and refreshing but not freezing. We chatted to some other people around the pool and descended by a different path. I was very tired by the time we got back to the carpark. We picked up some shopping on the way home (tins, cheese, crisps etc.) and retired feeling happy after a successful day’s walking.

Tuesday 27th June 2017 (Day 6)

This was a difficult and trying day. The weather looked rainy and Gina was still having to go to work. I decided to take the bus and go into Boston and look around. The weather was rainy at first but soon became almost unbearably hot as I was walking around and was drenched in sweat. It was impressive but chaotic and disorganised, on a massive scale. I couldn’t find anything and constantly got lost. I did not see one cultural or historic point of interest. It was just so busy and frantic I had a job staying on two feet and not being run over. I walked around for three hours, and okay, I did see Chinatown. Again, I thought this was excessive and too big. However, the silver lining, when I had run out of water and couldn’t find a shop selling bottled water, was a nice Chinese lady who GAVE me her emergency water bottle and wouldn’t accept any money in return!
I decided to take the bus home early, and while I was eating met some people whose family had worked at Faslane in Scotland. I chatted and we swapped names.
Somewhere on this journey home I lost my beautiful sunhat which I had purchased in Herm. What a disastrous day! Gina was home when I got home but soon left for a meeting. I have twelve mosquito bites from yesterday despite putting on insect repellent. I think it had been washed off when I went for the swim in the mountains.

Wednesday 28th June (Day 7)

At first, I had a complete blank about this day but I think I rested, made preparations and stayed home at Gina’s. I remember I walked around Auburn, walked to and back from Axis Health Foods and Hannefords supermarket. I changed my flights to an earlier date and went to the library to print out my new tickets. I also phoned Concord coaches who said my ticket is valid any time, I do not need to change it. I think I will take an earlier bus (1:35 pm from Exit 75, Auburn,) to the airport on Thursday the 6th in case there are any “issues”. Gina and I drank a couple of beers at home in the evening.

Thursday 29th June (Day 8)

This was a fantastic day. Not only was it my birthday (46 years of age!), Gina dropped me off at Enterprise car rentals and I picked up my vehicle for the next five days. I then drove up to China Lake and went kayaking with Maine Boat Rentals ( ) for two hours. This was great fun although it was hard to steer the kayak in a straight line! I was not sure why this was- at first, I went South down the lakeside and the boat was pulling towards the right. I then turned around the boat was still pulling towards the right! Hence, I had to paddle extra hard on my right-handed paddle strokes. In one hour, I had gone down the shore away from the little dock, and back again. I rested for ten minutes then went along the shore in the other direction. The owner had come out and recommended I go under a bridge into a sort of reedy area. He said I might see turtles and could pick my way through the reeds. I had already seen numerous dragonflies, very pretty. But I got to the bridge which was a low concrete affair and decided against going into the reed beds. Instead I carried along the shore. I disturbed some fishermen who looked decidedly miffed. Oops. I carried on along the other side of the lake from the depot and then crossed back towards it from the opposite shore. The boat was still pulling to the right! For every 5 strokes I had to do four with the right paddle and one or two with the left. I got back to the dock/depot and lay on the wooden pontoon and rested for ten minutes. I checked my mobile phone. No signal. I got back in the kayak and paddle right across the lake to the other shore. This took bout 15-20 minutes. I carried on for ten minutes up the other shore and paddled back. Now the kayak was still incredibly hard to steer in a straight line but I wasn’t sure if it was pulling to the right still. I got back, total time spent on the water 2 hours fifteen minutes. Kristen, one of the owners, a lady from Florida, very kindly took some photos of me in the kayak on the lake. This whole adventure cost only $30. I then had the hour-long drive back to Auburn. I enjoyed the driving and navigation was assisted by my phone, which was now working again. Overall, I would give this entire experience 8/10.
Later that evening after Gina came home from work we went to the Thai food place for my birthday meal. I had Thai green chicken curry and a spicy seafood soup to start with. Excellent place, thoroughly recommended although the ambiance is a bit off.

Friday 30th June 2017 (Day 9)

I was a little hung over today and lay in bed until about 10 am. It seemed to take me a long time to get fully awake today, and I did not venture out until about 12 pm. I went shopping, spending the token Gina has very kindly given me for my birthday, visited the LA Museum (with interesting facts about Auburn/Lewiston’s industrial heritage and manufacturing past,) and also went to the cinema to watch Despicable Me 3 (a kids film, but since it was a bit rainy outside I thought, “Why not?”) I also tried to get refunds for all my camping week tickets today because I had decided to go home a week early. It made sense because I had not realised the reason I got so many bites on Tumbledown Mountain was because I went for the swim at the top in the mountain lake and forgot to re-apply insect repellent afterwards. Also, I wanted to start packing for my house move in the spare week I would have after my return home. Finally, I might have saved money, (because I wouldn’t need to rent the car for another week,) but that hasn’t turned out to be the case. In fact, I have spent more by returning early, because Gina’s work did finish and she could have run me around! I just did not feel equipped for a week’s camping, as I had planned to do in my final week, so decided to call it off and return early.

Saturday 1st July 2017 (Day 10)

Today I decided I would hire a mountain bike and go biking on a mountain! I used Roy’s Bike Rentals and was given a pristine machine, state of the art front suspension mountain bike. Mount Apatite was only 20 minutes away, and it had trails, so I went there. I was not disappointed! There were steep climbs on the granny ring, rocks and roots to navigate around, mountain ponds and downhill stretches where I was hanging on for dear life! So exhilarating, in the damp sweaty humid forest (it had rained the night before.) I had thought I might spend all day meandering gently through the woods but by about 12 pm I was exhausted and returned the bike back to the shop, thanking them very much. In the evening when Gina returned from work we sat on the porch with her house mates to watch the torrential rainfall, and shared some whisky and beer. Maine’s weather system is such that there are equal amounts of rainfall in both the summer and winter months.

Sunday 2nd July 2017 (Day 11)

Today I decided to drive to the beach and go for a few swims, and maybe spend all or part of the day there. Gina recommended Pine Point beach, and the navigation system on my phone took me all the way there, with only one little hitch near Auburn where I turned the wrong way onto a road and had to go on a 4-mile detour. Nothing too serious!
The weather, as it was 95% of my stay, lovely and warm. At the beach, it was hot but not unpleasantly so. There were lots of attractive women on the beach! I went for two swims and read my book, having lunch on the beach. I thought I heard some French people so asked the husband where he was from- Canada! I forgot some Canadian people speak French.
By about 2 pm I was tired of the beach, the sea was very cold and I was worried that no one else was swimming any distance from the shore, maybe because of sharks (?!) so I decided to go home. When I got to the car it was scorching hot inside and my phone was almost too hot to touch. This is caused by the fact that the resistance in a wire (or battery) goes up as it gets hotter. I was lucky it did not catch fire! Next time I will know to switch phones off in hot cars. Even if it might not have caught fire, at the very least it is very bad for the battery for it to get that hot.
I drove home but at first could not get a signal on my phones’ navigation system. Luckily after a few miles I was able to link up and then it was plain sailing back to Auburn.
After I got back I met Gina and we went to Pat’s for supper. This was one of the best meals I had had so far in America, the lobster also being at the top of the list. Gina’s sister and brother were also eating with us, and I was shown around the beautiful traditional family home afterwards.

Monday 3rd July (Day 12)

Chris and I, (Chris is Gina’s brother), went to the Boothbay Botanical Gardens. We took Chris’s car and he drove. It was about an hour’s drive and as we approached the countryside got more and more scenic. At the gardens, we ate our lunches when we arrived in the carpark. (leftovers from the dinner at Gina’s Mom’s (Pat) the day before.) We wandered into the gardens which were spectacularly beautiful, and a few minutes later realised we should have paid. We found the ticket office, it was $8 each and they gave you a sticker to wear to prove you had paid. We saw most of the gardens including some ponds, rhododendron garden, children’s garden and ‘wild’ sea scape area garden. Boothbay is right by the sea. We walked around but at one point got a lift on an electric float, like a large extended golf cart. I saw numerous plants and flowers that I recognised, half-recognised or had heard of. Some species were brand new to me and I was impressed by the cleanliness, neatness and orderliness of the entire garden. We drove home and by now I felt I was really getting to know Chris, we were getting along very well.
In the evening, I was invited to Pat’s but decided I really didn’t want to do any more driving that day. I went down to a pizza place Chris had recommended. Gina got home very late but at last they had agreed a government budget, hence avoiding a potential government shutdown. Gina had not been due to work the last two weeks and we had planned to spend the time together. However, as fortune would have it, I had an entertaining time on my own anyway (but it would have been better with Gina.) I also booked a room at a nearby hotel for my final night in America (the 5th) so I could have my own space and prepare for the long journey home!

Tuesday 4th (Day 13)

I think we ate at Gina’s Dad’s today. We ate moose, which tasted a bit like beef steak, and salad, and Gina prepared some potato salad. The moose had been killed by some of Bob’s friends and was delicious. Bob told us he works for the Red Cross. We exchanged stories about travelling.

Wednesday 5th (Day 14)

We drove Rosie to the dog park so she could run around. Later we went to a strawberry farm and picked our own strawberries. In the evening Gina cooked a lovely dinner of salmon and stir fry vegetables. Gina drove me to the hotel at about 8 pm, I dropped my bags off and we went straight out.
Gina and I went to a pub and had a drink. She had a beer and I had a non alcoholic beer. We said goodnight and walked home.

Thursday 6th (Day 15)

I woke early in the hotel and read a magazine until about 6 a.m. The room was functional, basic and decorated in an archaic country fashion. I got up and checked my bags were packed correctly for the day’s journey ahead.
I met Olga, the hotel proprietor, for the first time and she cooked scrambled eggs, watermelon and a slice of cake for breakfast.
Gina came to pick me up at 10:30 and we drove the ¾ of an hour to Portland.
Once in Portland we parked the car and mooched around the city. We stopped at a health food shop and I bought organic apricots. Then we stopped at an Italian delicatessen and bought tomatoes, cheese, salami and bread. Gina got a coffee at Starbucks and we went to sit on a park bench and eat lunch. After lunch, we wandered along the harbour and Gina went into a pet shop. She didn’t buy anything. We walked down the pier to where the whale watch cruise had started and looked at the boats.
Then we walked back to the car and she drove me to the bus station for about 2 pm. She got lost on the way and I had to use my phone to navigate. We got to the bus station soon after and said goodbye.
I waited at Boston Logan airport until my flight was called. There was a long queue of people wating for a long time before they let us board. Then the flight sat on the runway for half an hour before we took off. We had been told with the tailwind the flight would only take 5 hours. But it took seven with all the messing about.
I watched my film, read my book and listened to my music. I sat next to a couple from Brighton who were very ‘coupley’ although at first, I did get some conversation from them. I got one hours sleep and arrived at Gatwick at 9 am local time, 4 am Boston time.
I would have had a long wait until 4 pm for my next flight, because I had deliberately left extra time in case of delays. Aurigny very kindly let me change my flight to an earlier flight. I was ratty, and exhausted having been awake for about 30 hours. However, I was soon home and could relax again.
What an amazing trip! Such a mixture of different elements. I met some great people and without fail, Americans were friendly, helpful and polite. What a great country- what a great people!!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Saturday 11th May 2013, Paris, France

11th  May 2013 (Saturday) 
Awoke early this morning (5:30 a.m.) from an incredible dream that I was in my car down on the beach watching dozens of large dolphins with their sleek bodies arching over and through the surface of the sea. There were nearby swimmers and boats watching too. Then a bit bizarrely I realised in my dream my car had been engulfed by the sea and was floating! Somehow in the illogic of dreams it turned around in the shallow surf so I was facing up the beach, however the tyres could find no traction! I was thinking desparately "Who can I ask to give me a shove?!", then I awoke. I think what triggered this dream off was Gina saying I should use my car less, combined with watching the sleek well groomed beautiful girls at the Crazy Horse. Plus at Versailles Palace I was enraptured by the fountain featuring the God Neptune and his chariot of white horses, which mythological creature I remembered having learned about in my childhood years.
Today had been another hectic day of visiting people and journeys. Gina and I met at Le Champ du Mars Tour Eiffel and went onwards to the RER A line which runs east-to-west across Paris, in order to get down towards Boissy and stop at Champigny, near Xav's house.
Once arrived we were treated by Xav's family to a sumptuous meal outside on the terrace overlooking the gardens. The kids played in the garden, and Xav's friend Patrick arrived (who also gave us a lift to an appropriate Metro station on his way back home later.) After the delicious meal and much conversation, along with my attempting to alternately translate English into French for Xav's parents, who speak no English, and French into English for Gina,who speaks no French, we went for a small walk along the river Marne. Xav's daughter Mila was supposed to be having a nap, but was obviously over excited so we let her play instead. On the way back she started screaming hoarsley, so Ellen went a different way home to try to placate her. Once back to Xav's home, we looked at maps and planned our assault of the Metro. Gina was staying at her new French friend Florien's, and I was heading for Clamart to see another French friend the next evening.
  A long metro journey followed, and I kissed Gina goodbye. Then I went onwards to the end of the blue "13" metro line, and caught a bus along to the hotel.
  After a quick bite at a Greek restaurant, I settled into my hotel room, not quite sure of my plans for the next day, but sure I had put maximum effort in and had maximum enjoyment today.

Friday 10th May 2013, Paris.

10 May 2013  II
Today I awoke late, at 9:30 a.m. and made my way down for a shower. This involved more queueing, presumably the prime Parisien occuption!
  Luckily there was a sliver of soap left in the shower from yesterday, (since I still hadn't managed to purchase any,) and I had a brief shower.
  I was due to meet Gina at 2 pm, so after performing my ablutions I headed into Town and after numerous enquiries and having woven my way through a throng of vehicles which seemed to move to no pre-set plan or rhyme or reason, incudling and vegetable stall selling organic vegetables, for this was the Place du Marche Notre Dame at Versailles, and its famous Friday market, for the afformentioned square was littered with market stalls and traders of all shapes, colours and descriptions, including the aforementioned organic veg stall, who attempted to indicate on my map the way to the Sisters Cafe or some such nomenclature. Anyway by high roads and dry roads I found my way to the Concession restaurant, atop the hill buy the main Palace, so it was here I purchased my morning's repast of lovely French Paysanne omlette, in the nick of time, before I collapsed with hunger and exertion.
  The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough, I parked the bicycle at Porchefontaine station and made my way into Town to meet Gina.
We had problems meeting since there were at least 4 entrances to this massive combined station. However once we met we went for a coffee and decided to attempt nothing too strenuous, so we merely walked about 5 or ten blocks on various shopping missions in the vicinity of Champ de Mars de Tour Eiffel.
 Time passed quickly in pleasant conversation and we dined briefly on entrĂ©es before Gina went off to meet her 'beau', Florient, whom she had met on the plane from the USA to Paris, and who had told her he worked for the Socialist Party and had once been assistant to the French Prime Minister or President, I forget which!
 I made my way back to the camp site by about 6, mooched around and had supper, met and chatted with a Dutch family,  was in bed by 10:30 p.m. and slept soundly.

Next Day's Diary Entry: Paris, May 2013

10th May 2013  I
Yesterday (Thursday 9th) was an extremely busy and full day, one might even say, manic.
I waited at the campsite for Gina to arrive, for it was her I was waiting for; yet I say waiting, but 'twas not really waiting, since it took me until when she arrived to get up, washed etc. and other wise prepared for the day's activities.
Then we rented bicycles from the campsite and trundled up the hill to the Palace of Versailles, for 'twas here we were bound.
  As we approached I started to become horrified by the hoards of people also flocking, like us, in a Palace-bound direction.
  However swallowing my bile, we soon parked the bikes and made our way through various queues which we joined and left seemingly at random, 'till eventually we hit upon the plan of just doing the gardens.
 Once inside the gardens, we were struck with hunger and the need to perform toilet-orientated bodily functions, which necessitated another half hour of queueing.
  These tasks accomplished, we headed on down the garden path, circumnavigating the statue of Neptune and his chariot of white horses envelopped in spumes of spray from the fountain he was situated around.
  Classical Baroque music spread through the gardens through hidden speakers, of the period.
  A long walk later, we found ourselves at the Trianon, home of Marie Antoinette. There were more queues, and fellow citizens riding various modes of transport, including bicycles (which made us wonder whether we could have bought our bicycles in,) some golf buggies, a mini "train',  and even a few cars.
  Again not wishing to queue we cirumnavigated the expansive grounds of the Petit Trianon, which was complete with its moat and in some places, the remains of a wall could be seen.
  Once at the back entrance we paid more Euros to enter the site. At this point I was feeling guilty because Gina had mentioned she might like to see the main house. However I thought the queues excessive so persuaded her to carry on our "garden tour" of the Palace.
  Once inside we saw the ornamental lake, dovecotes, beautiful little bridge befitting of a Monet painting, some flowers beds and vegetables, beech hedges and beautiful trees.
  We approached the Petit Trianon and circumnavigated it, discovering that you couldn't actually go inside. We saw the interior through dusty, grime smeared windows and it actually looked quite delapidated. There were barns and gardener's lodgings of various descriptions, and even a small summer "salon" signposted as the Games Room.
  Then we got lost looking for the exit, and found ourselves in a small beech hedge maze. We retraced our steps, since we did not want to be too late returning to Town (I had tickets for the Crazy Horse that evening,) and funnily enough passed long queues of people all heading back in the opposite direction. This was odd, though we got some views of some of the preserved interior, for instance, the small chapel.
 Then we waited a long time for a seat on the small articulated trolley/train, places on which depended on other people getting off at the appropriate stop. For a long time, 3-4 trains worth of people came through and very few people got off. We crept to the front of the queue and then it was our turn to pay yet more money to be carried the 2 kms back to the main entrance at the main Palace, for by now we were foot-sore and weary.  We passed back by the Grand Canal where pleasure boaters rowed ineffectually, and the marble statues and gods and demi-gods. All too soon our afternoon's treat was over, and we were back on the bikes heading for Huttopia camping. 
  I showed Gina my tent, and dropped some private affairs off to be stored safely at Reception.
  Gina and I got the RER train into Town, Gina got off first, and I went one more stop onwards.
  Alighting, I walked the length and breadth of the Avenue George V and shortly found the venue for my evenings entertainment, and after a swift repast, entered this esteemed establishment.
  The show was heart-stoppingly beautiful, amazing, titillating and arousing, with much sound and colour and naked flesh. The girls were truly stunning, with some atheletes and gymnasts amongst them performing feats of agility and strength, within the contraints of sleaziness. Something to be experienced and savoured.
  I returned afterwards to my tent, somewhat stunned and bemused by what I had seen, though visually from a male perspective it was extremely satisfying.

Guernsey To Paris, May 2013

8th May 2013
An eventful day, which started off very early and involved my initial flight to Paris being cancelled. It transpired there were only 3 of us making the connection to Jersey and onward to Paris, so although the fog cleared by about 10:30 we didn't go, because the flight from Jersey to Paris had already left.

So then we (Mum had arrived to pick me up from the airport) had the headache of trying to get me on another flight. First of all we tried Condor, but discovered it would not get to St.Malo before about 9 pm. So that was out since i didn't fancy spending the night in St.Malo.  So then we tried Flybe, and were pleasantly surprised when we discovered we could get a single (I kept my return with Blue Islands) to Paris for £235. This, combined with a half-cost refund from Blue island, and maybe a £70 refund from an insurance claim from Rossborough, would bring the trip budget back within the realms of sanity.

When we get to Paris I am not sure how to get to Versailles, since it is quite a way out of town, but hopefully someone will suggest and economic way to get there, or as a last resort I could take a taxi. I have also spent about £30 on food and drink, some of which I will also hopefully be able to claim back from Blue Islands.

I have been in touch with Xavier, and earlier, Gina, the latter of whom I am meeting at SNCF Montparnasse station tomorrow at 12 at the Information desk.

I am looking forward to Paris and have used the additional time spent waiting around to read up in my Rough Guide to Paris e-book on my iPad.

I must say it is lovely to be in the air again, I do love flying!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

22nd and 23rd March and Home to Guernsey!!!

I honestly loose track of the days when one is hopping in and out of time zones! Anyway we went to the Sky 100 tower which is 490 metres tall and went up it in a lift. At the top, whilst obviously high up, the view was restricted by fog.
I bought a whistle, met my first ever Russian family, and we descended and entered the "Elements" shopping centre. There was a watch for sale for £30,000. The price of jeans began at £200, way beyond our already tottering budget. I went ice skating, and there was an amazing Chinese lady doing spins and jumps, so elegant and fluid. After a substantial lunch we toured around some more and finally took a taxi home. The place was so big it took half an hour to find the exit and taxi rank. The taxi driver couldn't find our hotel, and dropped us a couple of streets away so had to struggle through the filthy street air to find it. Luckily we had maps!
At the hotel we chilled out (as I say at this stage we were trying not to spend too much money,) and late had dinner and i went for a free swim in the hotel pool, which was lovely. We got an early night since we had calculated we needed to get up at 5 a.m., have a snack for breakfast and leave the hotel by 6 a.m.
You were able to check the luggage in at the underground station 10 minutes drive from the hotel, hence saving hassle. They then transported it to the airport for you and put it on the plane. This took a while to suss out but is actually quite a good system. Once at the airport we went up some escalators and checked in and walked along to where we took another train to the terminal. Unfortunately we were now flying Cathay Pacific, not as enjoyable and Air New Zealand. Then seats were designed for people of smaller stature, for example. The food wasn't as good, neither was the steward care, and there was no Middle Earth themed safety announcement!!
After approx. 12 hours we arrived in London, took our connecting taxi to Gatwick and caught the little Aurigny to lovely Guernsey where Dad picked us up at the airport.
Good to be back after our "around the world in 50 days" New Zealand adventure!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Arrival in Hong Kong, meet an old friend and Repulse Bay!

Tuesday 19th, Longest Day: Auckland to Hong Kong
This day we set off from the hotel and went into Auckland. We went up the Sky Tower and to the Auckland War Memorial Museum (see photos.) Then Becky picked us up and took us for some fish and chips and back to her place for a cup of tea. Then she took us back to her hotel where we collected our bags and I had a change of clothes. She came in the airport with us and we chatted until it was time to board the plane, a Boing 777, at about mignight.
Once on board the staff kindly charged my i Pad and mobile phone for me since I had forgotten to charge them. They fed us and I watched my film on my iPad until about 2 a.m. NZ time, when I fell asleep. At about 4 a.m. I awoke and had a snack and a drink. Then they served breakfast. We arrived after 11 hours in Hong Kong at 6 a.m. local time, with the time difference.

Thursday 21st March: Equinox!!!

Yesterday we arrive in HK, disembarked and took a taxi straight up to our French friend, who we hadn't seen for 25 years', apartment on Hong Kong island. We caught up, showered, met his wife and one of his children, then he drove us along to Repulse Bay where there was a lovely beach. We strolled along the sea front, went to a cafe and had a Guiness which I shared with Mum. then he took us into the City to a wonderful restaurant where they serve genuine Cantonese food. I even tried eating with the chop sticks, and I must say I actually prefer it to a knife and fork! After ten minutes I was reasonably proficient with them, and the main benefit is no nasty metallic taste when eating so you can appreciate the subtle flavours of the food better. Stefane, an old friend of mine from when I was at school and often went on "exchange" with two French kids from Rennes in Brittany, then drove us to our hotel. We said farewell and checked in. That evening we ate in the hotel and sank into our welcoming beds, having only had 2 hours sleep the previous night on the flight.