Diary Update 18...Champagne and Paris (again!!)

Trip Start Dec 10, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Hotel De Ville

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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Day 347 - Thursday 8th February - Epernay - Champagne
Well it started out a lovely day with a blue sky so we thought we may just quickly pop into town to go up the Arch de Triumph before we head out to Champagne...however as we were waiting for the bus the cloud started to roll in and we thought we had better get going out to Orsay to take Misty back out to get something fixed...the new grill they put on her had completely rusted already so we think they did a dodgy job and they also have to replace the front fog lamp that fell out as they did not put it back properly...neither of us was looking forward to having to go through explaining this through sign language. We arrived and most of them were off to lunch and we tried unsuccessfully to explain it to one of the guys there...we ended up having to wait until 2.30 when the original guy who fixed it came back from lunch....no problem he said he would fix it within one hour...two and a half hours later it was fixed!! We headed off in peak hour traffic to Champagne...what was a 180km drive that should take 2 hours ended up taking 4.5 hours because 2.5 of that was stuck in the crazy Parisian traffic where we only managed to cover 80kms in that time....aagghhh you just have to love it....at least we can make a snack whilst driving!!!  We found our way to Epernay (all the time doing very bad Kath and Kim impersonations ....Epernay!) and found our little designated motor home aire beside a massive cathedral for the night. Another UNO tournament was held to the wee hours of the morning.
Day 348 - Friday 9th February - Epernay
We managed to ignore our alarm again and had a nice little sleep in to 10.30...it's so hard to wake up when it's cold outside and we are all snuggly and warm!! We found our way to the tourist office, which was closed but nevertheless it was conveniently located opposite the massive head quarters for Moet and Chandon...which is where we wanted to go anyway!! Talk about lush baby...this place was 5 star!! Because tourists are rare this time of year, we managed to score our very own personalized tour of the Moet and Chandon cellars (or caves) which go for about 100kms beneath the streets of Epernay...the also create Dom Perignon!! Our guide was a lovely lady (with a very strong French accent so Gemeah did not understand half of what she said but nodded politely anyway!!) Well we felt very posh because normally you only get to have your tasting in the cellars; however we got to sit in Napoleon's dining room and drink our Moet!!! Yes we have the pictures to prove it!! We also learnt that as Australian's we have not been saying Moet problem...we tend to pronounce it very uncouthly as "Moey" but it is actually "Mo...et"...as in etiquette!! There you go!!
We set of in search of internet and the post office and explored the town. We came back at 3.30 to find that Misty had got her first ever parking ticket!!. Problem was we had a ticket and it still had half an hour to go...they must be blind... Wayne said to ignore it but Gem was out to get it sorted out...Gem suggested that we go and ask some construction workers across the road where the Police Municipal was....Wayne laughed and said "good luck" as if any of them would speak English... Well Gem went off anyway and low and behold after using her basic French to introduce herself as a non French speaking Australian and telling them the problem...one of them was able to speak perfect English and said "Welcome to France, Madame...this is crazy you have got a parking ticket...but that is France...so welcome" he also gave us directions to the police office. We managed to find it and Gem communicated the problem in her basic French, but soon we found out we were in the wrong Police office and we had to go down the road...again we found it and Gem was able to communicate the problem and they very cute and sexy police officer. said "O.K no problem I will sort it out!!" That was that...success!! Given our poor command of the language!! It was also rather amusing that the construction worker could speak English and the Police officers couldn't. Tonight Wayne got his internet game fix whilst Gem went shopping in town...we decided to stay another night and were glad to see we had been accompanied by some German motor homers for the evening.
Day 349 -Saturday 10th February - Epernay, Reims to Paris
O.K another drama today. After sleeping in to midday...because it was raining of course...we took of in the direction of Reims, driving through all of the wine yards. Reims was a bit boring though as it is more a modern city as it has been rebuilt twice...the Cathedral was impressive but we could not work out how to get there so we decided to keep driving to Paris. However, once on the motorway we passed a shopping centre and thought it would be easier to stock up on groceries here than try and stop somewhere in Paris...so we tried to find somewhere to turn off the highway...no chance...there is no turning around on a toll road. We thought we had found an exit to turn of but then we had to stop as some poor lady had taken the exit too quickly and hit the concrete pillar in the middle and spun her car around...Wayne got out and helped push the car to the side of the road and found that they were O.K and getting help on the phone. Next we found that we did in fact have to pay the toll to take this exit despite telling them that we just needed to turn around...so we turned around thinking that we did not have to pay the toll to get back on the road given that we had gone 2 meters...but no...we had to pay the toll again...NOT HAPPY JAN!!! Were not talking cheap tolls either, the tolls in France have been the most expensive all over Europe!! Anyway we drove back, got lost, could not find the shopping centre... so headed back to Epernay...we found another big hypermarket and Wayne proceeded to buy half of the alcohol section...justifying it because this would be our last week in France and we should live it up...5 bottles of expensive Champagne, 5 bottles of red wine (he even bought red wine over 5 euro which is expensive in France!!) and of course more beer. We found our way back to the wine yards and took a back road as Wayne wanted to get out and take some pictures of the hand carved sandstone markers that show which section belongs to Moet and Chandon and Verve...each vineyard marks whose grapes belong to who. Anyway we were discussing where to pull over because the ground looked muddy and there were some other cars on a particular side of the road so we pulled over there....BAD MISTAKE!! After getting his numerous pictures we went to drive out and soon got Misty stuck in the mud as the ground was so wet (or it could have been from the sheer weight of all the alcohol on board!!) ...we tried everything to get her out...putting rocks under the wheels, chocks under the wheels, reversing, going forward but because Misty has such a big arse she just kept getting stuck deeper and deeper...we were nearly crying as we did not know what we could do (we remembered Mick and Tara did the same thing in their Hymer in a corn field and got out by putting leaves and corn under the wheels...however there was not corn in site and no follage on the vines!!). Gem suggested walking up further and asking a couple of the guys in the wine yards if they could help us...but no Wayne thought this was a stupid idea because he had already checked out their vans and found that none of them had a tow bar (and of course being male he can't ask for help)...anyway Gem went up and approached one of them and used her usual "I am an Australian, I don't speak any French....can you help me" line.... Well the guy did not speak any English but we managed to understand that calling the police for help was useless according to him...Gem managed to tell him that we had a tow rope and he raced up in his van and got out to help...lucky for us his van did not have the normal plastic bumper but a big strong steel one... so we tied up the tow rope and attempted to pull misty out of the mud backwards...Gem was praying hard as at first Misty did not budge (it is not easy to get a 4 tonne vehicle out of the mud) and thought the rope was going to snap...but the prayers must have worked as she soon came loose and was back on the road...we said many "Merci's" to the man and tried to give him an Australia present but he was too embarrassed and said no.... we were so happy that we had managed to get out and we did not have to sleep on the side of the road in Moet and Chandon's wineyards...despite the fact that we had heaps of Champagne to drink!!! We were on our way and soon got back to Paris where Wayne cooked up a storm and we celebrated with a bottle of Moet and Chandon Rose Imperial !!
Day 350 -Sunday 11th February - Paris
Off to find Bastille today where apparently some of Paris prettiest makerts are held. It was raining which was a bit of a bummer, but we found the markets and Wayne had a good time looking at all the wonderful produce...yet again. We were also entertained by a funny Afican dude who could juggle whilst making funny faces and balancing a gold fish bowel on his head!! We spent some more time waling around the streets just taking in the atmosphere of the city.
Day 351 -Monday 12th February - Paris
This morning we went to the top of the Arch de Triumph to take in the view...it was spectacular. It was also rather amusing standing on top watching all of the traffic try and get around it without running into each other, as there are no lines on the road and they all just seem to weave in and out at random and just missing each other. As we were leaving the Arch de Triumph there was this gorgeous little man dressed up in his full miliarty uniform, medals on display and funny little hat...he looked very French and very cute...Gem said "bonjour" as he walked past and he proceeded to have a whole conversation with her in French of which she did no understand a lot!! We spent the rest of the day exploring the very funky area of Hotel De Ville and went shopping and walking around the streets. One thing we love about Paris is just the huge number of bizarre and interesting people that are around...we would love to be able to take some photos of them and catch the details in their faces but are too scared to ask!! The sad thing is also the huge number of homeless people here, it is estimated that there are about 3 million...which blows our mind as that is twice the population of Brisbane!! They are everywhere though and some of them just sleep on the sidewalk. We went past one guy the other day who had everything set up on the sidewalk, a tent, his lounge, a carpet and coffee table.
Day 352 -Tuesday 13th February - Paris
Last day in beautiful Paris today and we had planned to go to "Centre Pompidou" which is the modern art building today, but unfortunately it is closed on Tuesdays. Nevermind, we set off for a walk from Hotel De Ville to the Eiffel tower and took in all the street venders and shops. We decided to celebrate Valentines Day on Australian time and go up the Eiffel tower tonight as we did not want to go up in with the millions of others tomorrow. By the time we eventually got to the Eiffel tower it was dusk, which was quite good as we got to see the amazing view from the top at dusk and then at night. It was spectacular and we had a big snog! We went out to a yummy dinner of Frinese which is what we call French-Chinese.
Day 353 -Wednesday 14th February - Paris
O.K we are pathetic...we just can't leave and we should have because it is pouring rain. We got back into Chatelet area and Gem dropped Wayne off at the internet café and then proceeded to visit the modern art builing, which took hours in itself and Gem was very excited to see some weird and wonderful art and some orginals by Picasso, Dali, Matesse...all the guys she studied. We finished off a great day by attempting to go to the movies on the Champs de elysee but kept getting lost trying to find the right movie theater...we eventually found one that showed the "Version Original" which meant that it was in English. Had a great time and then said goodbye to Paris for sure this time!!
Day 354 -Thursday 15th February - Paris to Brugge
So this morning it is definitely goodbye to beautiful Paris this morning and even worse the weather this morning is perfect. So it is goodbye to France the land of fine fine food (the best in all of Europe), a beautiful language, great diverse scenery, beautiful towns, dog lovely friendly people, dog lovers, the best wine and the best baguettes! We love it and are so sad to leave!!
Next it was back to Brugge in Belgium where we first started our tour on the continent. Now that we are seasoned motor homers we actually managed to find the motor home free aire rather than paying for camping....even better it was so close to the city...and absolutely packed with about 40 motor homes...we have not seen so many out in Winter!! Too tired after a long drive to go into town tonight so we crashed.
Day 355 -Friday 16th February - Paris to Brugge
We walked into town and we had forgotten just how stunning this little town was...even though this was our second time here we were blown away at its beauty. Wayne was excited to be able to eat some more Belgium Fritz, stock up on Belgium Beer, and visit the many Belgium chocolate shops. Despite having a great day in Brugge, today was officially a sad day though...we have sold our beloved "Misty"...don't get us wrong we are happy that she sold so quickly (within 2 weeks) and at a profit (how is that! we have had transport and accommodation for over a year and still made money on her and didn't even have to do a reno!!). Another Aussie couple saw her advertised on the internet site and we have struck a deal...it is great for them as they won't have to go through the ordeal of setting one up as she comes with everything!! They are not coming over until the 20th March but have relatives here so we are going to drop her off in the English Midlands.
After a full day in Brugge we crashed tonight.
Day 357 -Saturday 17th February - Brugge to Calais
Woke up to a lovely day in Brugge and spent most of the day walking around and buying a few more souvenirs for family...and of course some chocolate for ourselves. Despite it being winter this place is packed with tourists and it has such a lovely atmosphere as the all the horse drawn carriages (full of tourists) parade through the streets. Tonight we drove to Calais and spent our last Euro's on some dinner and petrol and then managed to find the Motor home aires, which was great as we had not seen this very pretty part of Calais as we normally catch the train through the tunnel. However, as so many motor homes use the ferries this aires was in front of the beach and next to the ferry terminals...which was loud but awesome as we could look out our window and watch the ferries go past and into the English Channel. We said our last goodbye to the continent which was quite sad...we are sure we will be back again though!!
Day 358 -Sunday 18th February - Calais to Sandgate
Had to get up at 6.30 in order to get to the channel tunnel in time. French customs were their typical selves and just waved us through and this time the English customs did not give us 20 questions but just came in and checked the bathroom to make sure that we were not smuggling any people into the country!! Half and hour later we are in England and because we gain an hour going back we thought it was too early to rock up at Mike and Caroline's door at 7.30 as Wayne had told them we would be arriving at 9.00am. So we went back to the great spot where they had previously showed us to park Misty...which is overlooking the Sandgate beach and English Channel. We had a bit of a snooze and Wayne managed to turn the alarm clock off so we slept to 10am. We later met up with Mike and the boys went out to the movies for the day while Gem did 2 weeks of washing and diary/blog updating!! Wayne cooked up a storm and then the boys managed to get themselves very drunk drinking a dozen 12% Belgium beers!
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