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Travel adventures of the Cooks Exploring the UK and Europe, no plans, just each other and our backpacks.

France

FRANCE | Monday, 7 January 2008 | Views [792]

Next stop on our travels was France, and we decided to try and see a few different city’s in the country which everyone claims is so brilliant! Trying to describe France is difficult. Lets just say it did not impress me! Even though we have had some lovely experiences, I still have an overwhelming feeling of dislike towards France that I can’t shake no matter how had I try. I cant say that I haven’t enjoyed myself, but I can say I am in no rush to return.

I have tried to write down the positive things about France, but somehow seem to get stuck on the negative, so lets just get that our first. French people in the majority (well the majority that we came across) are rude, arrogant, pushy and extremely unwelcoming! If they aren’t pushing you on or off the train, they are acting like you don’t exist. When it comes to speaking English, even though it is the law that all French children must learn English from age 5, therefore most people in France should be able to speak a fair amount of English, they refuse! Now I Don’t expect that everyone should speak English because I do, but its so frustrating when you are trying to ask a question and the person is so busy trying to tell you over and over again that they do not speak English, that they cant stop to listen and try and work out what I am saying using a combination of the French I know and English! And then when they finally realise you are not going to give up, all of a sudden they can speak quite a lot of English! Funny that!

The other thing that I wasn’t bale to get past in France were the huge amount of homeless people everywhere you go, every corner you walk around you come across another dodgy character lurking in the shadows. But unlike the homeless people we have at home, these seem rather privileged, most with “houses” set up in an alcove, complete with fullsize mattress, loads of blankets and more belongings than we are travelling with! No matter where we went, I always felt we were in the bad area of town.

And then to top it all off, the French railways have decided they don’t like travellers with Eurail passes, so all of a sudden our passes have become almost useless, as they only allow a very small number of pass holders on any train. We have been stranded in Marseille for three days not able to get a seat on any train, even thought trains to Paris leave every hour! Our only way out was a 6am train on a Sunday morning, but then we are unable to get a seat on the Eurostar to London, so now have to spend 2 days in Paris before we can return home!

But whinging aside, we did see some nice things in France. While we were in Lyon we decided to take a day trip to Grenoble, the capital of the French Alps. It was quite a gorgeous little town, and had a fantastic cable car that ran to the top of the Bastille Fortress, with amazing views of Grenoble and the Alps. We had a great lunch in a restaurant up the top of the mountain and a good time exploring the fort. It turns out many of the good times we had in France were spent exploring Forts. Lyon Itself did not have too much to excite the average tourist. We did manage to find Lyons version of the Eiffel Tower, and a Basilica (some sort of Church) right on the top of the hill with great views of the city at night.

From Lyon it was off to Marseille, with a 3.5 hour train trip on a very dodgy and very dirty local train as we weren’t able to get a seat on any of the high speed (1 hour) trains that week. We went into Marseille with high hopes that it might make up for Lyons Downfalls. Unfortunately not! And now at the end of our rail adventure Marseille keeps the title of my least favourite city. Fortunately I had found another great hotel deal and we were in a new self contained serviced apartment, so we were able to cook some decent meals and relax in a little comfort and space. The Old Port was an interesting excursion with several fortresses around it that we were able to explore, and loads of restaurants (none with an English menu). On our second day in Marseille we decided to take a boat trip out to an island with a fort/castle called Chateau D’If, and spent most of the day out of Marseille. The Chateau was really fantastic, and apart form the rain which tried to dampen our spirits, we were able to have a great day and take loads of photos. On our way to the Boat we walked through the Old Port Fish markets which were crazy with some of the strangest seafood I have ever seen, including massive flat head, eels, and some very odd looking shellfish. I would have taken photos, but if you got too close to the market they seemed to force you to buy something, and they weren’t people to be messed with.

From Marseille it was off to Paris for a night before we could finally get a train home. I have to admit I came into Paris very reluctantly, and with a very poor impression of France. First impressions confirmed my current opinion. Paris was dirty, smelly and full of extremely rude people. But then we went to the Champs Elysee. Wow!!! What a difference, talk about pumping all a city’s money into a select few areas, the streets sparkled! And it was just pure beauty everywhere you looked. After visiting the Arc De Triumphe we wandered down the Champs Elysee to the Grand Palace and across a gorgeous bridge to take our first photos of The Eiffel Tower. Paris was slowly moving up in my opinion!

That night was spent at the Tower, and I think I have almost equalled the record for the number of photos taken in one place( I think Murren may be slightly in the lead). I expected the Tower to be impressive, but I didn’t expect it to be anywhere near as impressive as it was. We didn’t have to line for too long, and went right to the top of the tower, Cloud was setting in and at the top we were right in the clouds, so were not able to see too much, but the views from the first and second levels were amazing! I couldn’t get over the beauty of the tower, and we spent our last night of our Eurail adventure taking silly photos and laughing like we hadn’t for quite a while! Turns out France could be fun! But I don’t think ill be in too much a hurry to return!

Today we head off on the Eurostar back to London, and I must say I didn’t think I would be so excited to return to London! But the thought of a clean underground system, and people speaking English, and people smiling and being friendly (well friendly in comparison) is something to get very excited about!

Tags: Sightseeing

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