Posts Tagged ‘rent-a-bike’

…To Paris?

Posted: September 8, 2010 in France
Tags: , , , ,

After forgetting part of my Europass (questionable still if it was even required…)  and busing frantically back across town, we finally made it onto the train to Hannover.

Upon arrival, we hit another road bump. Our EURail passes had not been activated and the ticket windows were closed for the night. We were told it might be possible to have them activated on the train, so we threw caution to the wind and gave it a try. We were in luck, the Ticket Master activated them for us.

BUT.

It turns out, France was on strike – no government services. They wanted to change the retirement age to 62 instead of 60, and the French people wouldn’t have it. So no train service in France. This resulted in our train going to Mannheim instead! We arrived in Mannheim around 3:00AM (a 5 hour train ride from Hannover), and then got onto a shuttle bus that would take us to the train station in Paris.

Our shuttle bus to Paris!

We arrived in Paris at around noon. Longest trip thus far! Managed to sleep on the bus though.

Paris EST Train Station

We tried renting bikes again… and it worked this time! Unfortunately about halfway to the arc I got a flat tire. Traded it out for another bike after a few kilometers of bumpy riding.

Renting a bicycle

The Arc!

The weather was miserable, raining on and off, but altogether it wasn’t that bad. We did get soaked a few times though… After making to the Arc we were a bit more comfortable navigating Paris streets… Drivers are crazy though, so, when in rome… We weaved in and out of cars on our bicycles and made it to our destinations a lot faster! Next up on our sightseeing was the Eifel Tower!

Man it's big

We climbed the stairs as high as we could (cost 3.50E!) and then took an elevator (5.00E) to the very top! We also ate some stale bun sandwiches from the restaurant in the middle. Here are some pictures:

Stale over-priced sandwich...

Looking out from the Eifel Tower

Quite the view!

Now when we said we were going to Paris I decided I wanted to do something. So I did. Here it is – The sign was just ever so convenient!

Ta da!

We continued our trek with two new rent-a-bikes and made it to the Lourve!

Heinz next to the glass pyramid

Myself by the glass pyramid of the Lourve!

We continued on and made it to the famous church of Notre Dame!

Notre Dame!

Not the biggest I've seen...

After Notre Dame we made it back to the train station where we left our bags. Thankfully it was pretty much a straight line from the church to the station. We got our bags, ate a cheap dinner and started looking for hotels. The first 8 we checked were all full, and pricey. We found one with one vacancy for a 4-person room for 102 euros, we took it (just in time too, more people came in right after us!)

The hotel room is actually pretty decent, four beds, a nice bathroom (complete with bidday), but it’s getting late and we have a train to catch tomorrow morning to Belfort!

Hotel room

Good night everybody! Remember all pictures (not shown in blog) can be found on the Picasa account! Check them all out here; but be warned, I didn’t go through them because I didn’t have time. You’re seeing everything on my camera! http://picasaweb.google.com/jamie.hobson

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The Never Ending Journey
After 56 hours without sleep (well except for a few catnaps along the way) we have made it to our apartment! I threw together this timeline to show how it all went down…

Timeline of our journey (click to see fullsize)

Toronto Airport

Shaken not stirred.

After saying our goodbyes to our respective families, we explored the Toronto Pearson Airport. At a Rum Bar we drank Vodka Martini’s; shaken, not stirred. At a Duty-Free store I also picked up a Canada long sleeve shirt as I was lacking some Canadian swag; Heinz however still has none… We boarded our plane on time, and buckled down for the 6.5 hour flight.

The Flight
Our chosen airline was Jet Airways – India’s largest airline company. And we must say we were impressed. Over the flight I watched Prince of Persia, The Karate Kid (2009) and Iron Man 2. The dinner was quite good, chicken, potatoes, broccoli and bread. They even gave us complementary alcoholic drinks (half and half screwdrivers)! They said we could have as much as we could handle – (we had about 2 each, they were very strong). We landed in Brussels around 2AM our time, 8AM Brussels time.

Brussels
After waiting in line for about an hour, we were cleared through immigration very fast. We explored the airport and found the train station in the basement. We bought tickets for 5,10€ to the main station in Brussels. We explored Brussels by foot, and made it all the way across the city! It was a very nice city – the so-called Capital of Europe apparently! Here are some pictures:

Some crazy statue thing...

Map of Brussels with our walking path

Heinz climbing some statue...

Double Cappuchino

12th Century Church

Organs in the church

Inside the church

Foundation of the old church the new church was built on!

Flight to Berlin
We got back to the airport around 5:00PM – four hours before our flight to Berlin. We ate dinner at “Quality Burgers” and I must say… they are not quality burgers. Yuck.

We managed a few catnaps in the airport, and about 1 hour before we were set to take off, we noticed our plane had changed terminals. TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AIRPORT. Luckily we still had time to make it to the right terminal. The plane was very small, maybe 50 passengers tops. Here’s a picture:

Plane over Berlin

Our home for 5 hours

Berlin
We arrived in Berlin around 11PM at night. We tried getting a taxi, but we had too much luggage so no one

would take us. We wandered back into the airport and out another exit, where a van taxi was waiting, we asked if we could get a ride and he said yes.

It cost about 23€ to get to the train station the “Berlin Ostbahnhof” –

The next train wasn’t until 4:59AM. We found some benches and set up base camp to wait out the next 5-6 hours. There was a McDonald’s in the station, but it didn’t even taste like McDonalds. We managed a few catnaps again on the bench, and then when Heinz left to the bathroom a German lady came over and asked if she could use the other bench – I explained that my friend was using it but she said something like “Ich mache schlafen” (I need sleep). So then we had one bench. No more sleep for us. We watched a few episodes of HIMYM, but still there was about 3 hours left before the train.

So much waiting. In the last hour we went to a Kebab restaurant and bought some Mickey’s of alcohol – some Wodka for me, and some strange whiskey for Heinz. We sat in the bar waiting for time to go by – the owner knew a bit of English. A drunken German man came in and demanded a beer, and started ranting about Berlin in German, he tried talking to us and in the end we think he was speaking some English, but he was very hard to understand. He finally left and then we finished our drinks and made our way upstairs to the train tracks.

The Train Station in Berlin

Train to Braunschweig
The train made one stop in Magdeburg – unfortunately our train was late and we missed our transfer to Braunschweig. We waited for an hour at the train station (I got a Kaffee Weiss mit Zucker – white with sugar). Got on the right train, and an hour later we were finally at our destination. We took a taxi to our apartment building.

Ian sleeping on the train

Waiting for our final train

The Coffee Machine!

Arrival in Braunschweig
The taxi cost about 13€ to our residence – unfortunately, the residence had no lobby. We found out we had to go all the way back into the city to the International Office to get our keys. We stashed our luggage under a staircase in one of the apartment buildings, and walked all the way to the office, getting lost most of the way. We finally made it and were told to go back to the residence to the middle building where the office is. We signed some contracts and took a taxi back to the residence. We met some German and Spanish students who pointed out the office to us. The Hausmeister Helmut Busse didn’t speak any English, but we gave him our papers and he gave us some keys and took us to our room.

Our Apartment Building

The Apartment
Wow! The apartment is actually really good! I got the bigger room out of the two, and its bigger then my room at home! The beds are very prison-esk however… Must be good for our backs right? We settled in and met some of our flat mates. The 2nd floor of our residence has 3 sections. Ours, and two 8-person flat shares. Our apartment has two rooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. The 8-person room shares contain one bathroom and one bedroom per person (with a locking door) and then a large shared kitchen. We made friends with the one side, haven’t seen anyone from the other side yet. The friends we made were going to IKEA so we tagged along.

IKEA
I’ve never been to an IKEA, but as far as I could tell it was the same style as the ones back in Canada. We bought 99€ worth of bedding, pillows, clothes hangers, cooking stuff, a shoe horn and towels. Our friends told us which bus to take, and we separated. We made it back to the apartment and set up all our stuff.

Sleep
We made a light dinner of baguettes and joghurt and went to bed. We slept about 14-16 hours.

Here is a video of the apartment:

Apartment in Branuschweig! from James Hobson on Vimeo.