A Travellerspoint blog

Saint Malo and Mont Saint Michel


View Chris and Jade Taylor's 2010 Europe trip on CJTaylor's travel map.

We took a very packed train from Paris Montparnasse station to Saint Malo. Our interest in going to Saint Malo was because of it being close to Mont Saint Michel and when Jade was a teenager she saw a film based there called Spring. Saint Malo is in northern France, in Brittany. It is a sea side town popular with English tourists due to it's proximty by ferry to Portsmouth. The city was destroyed by about 80% during WWII and was carefully restored by locals to what it looked like historically. We walked from the train station to the old city, which is right next to the sea and a marina. Our accommodation, Hotel de la Nautilis, was in the old city, with a friendly and helpful owner who ended up assisting us to book accommodation at our forthcoming destination of Bordeaux when we were having difficulty finding a place. After dropping our bags off there, we went for a walk atop the city walls and in the old city which has many restaurants, boutiques and patisseries. Seafood and crepes are popular. We walked on top of the city walls for some time, which goes around the circumference of the entire old city, with fantastic views of the beach as you can see from the photos. In summer the beaches are packed and wealthy French have holiday homes by the sea. We went for a walk along the beach and on a walking track and admired the Breton architecture. That night, we relaxed in our hotel watching the few channels that were in English - a British game show with Durham University versus Oxford (guess who won), Antiques Master and Jamie Oliver versus fat American kids (not the official title). The next day we took a bus to Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, which is famous as rocky tidal island and sixth century stronghold with an amazing monastary. We were lucky enough to witness a service conducted by monks and nuns singing medieval hymns. Unfortunately, Jade started to feel sick during the day trip with a swollen left neck gland and feeling nauseous. At first, she thought it was from all the smokers who stand very close to you in public places. But by the next day she still sick and suspected an infected wisdom tooth (the left lower wisdom tooth which hasn't yet erupted). Jade also blamed some Rockford cheese that we ate on the train, which may have somehow gotten through the gum (it is a very strong cheese).

Posted by CJTaylor 11:21 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris


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We arrived in Paris by bus about two hours late at 6:30pm. Luckily we had already booked our accommodation near the city centre at Avia Saphir in Montparnasse. Jade practiced her recently learnt French asking for directions. The room was small and a little loud due to the traffic outside, but it was in a good location and relatively inexpensive for Paris. The next day we decided to have a walk around the city to see some sites. The first place we came across was the Dome Church where Napolean is buried. After getting some glimpses of the Effiel Tower we heading towards it thinking that it didn't look all that big. However, when we came up to the tower, its size was more than we had imagined. There were thousands of people queing up at the base of each pillar waiting to go to the top of the tower. Each pillar has lifts and stairs, giving the tower four access points. (A few days after we left Paris where saw on the news that thousands of people had been evacuated due to a bomb threat). Next, we headed along the River Seine toward Notre Dame. Along this river is where many monuments, palaces, museums and government buildings are located. Because the monuments are concentrated in the same area, Paris seems grander and richer than any other city we had been to so far. At Notre Dame, we joined a walking tour of the Latin Quarter, which is where the University of Sorbonne (which was the University of Paris) has been located since the middle ages, one of the earliest universities in Europe (founded in the 11th century). After 10 hours of walking around the city we decided to go back and continue to explore the city the next day. In our hotel, we watched TV which was showing Jurassic Park dubbed in German. Most English or American movies are dubbed in French, but for some reason there are channels where movies are dubbed in German (go figure). The Untouchables was also on and it was sad to think that the French are not able to hear Sean Connery's accent unless they seek out special cinemas. While in Paris we did three walking tours in different parts of the city which were great (the company Discovery Tours only accepts tips). We spent 4 hours in the Louvre, it was a maze and it took about 2 hours just to get orientated to the place. Around the Mona Lisa was swamped with people. One place we really loved in Paris was around Montmarte, where we happened upon a bakery which had the best bread we'd ever eaten, a type of roll with tasty green olives. Despite the French (only kidding), we enjoyed our 5 days in Paris and certainly could have spent more time there.

Posted by CJTaylor 11:03 Archived in France Comments (0)

Brussels


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We took a 4 hour bus ride from The Hague to Brussels, which was spent reading and Jade practised some French. We were a little confused about how to catch trams and purchase tickets (no ticket offices were open when we got in) so we had a free ride on a tram to where our accommodation was located. Our accommodation was B&B Reyers / August Inn - a family home with a young professional couple with a newborn baby and toddler. It was a large house, nicely decorated, and our room was the theme chocolate. Brussels is mainly French speaking - Dutch is spoken in the north of Belgium. Most signs are in French and Dutch and sometimes streets or tram stops have two completely different names. The next day our hosts provided a lovely, simple breakfast, and we took the tram into the city. The shops were just starting to open - the first thing we did was to buy a box of assorted Belgium chocolates (and consume them). We looked around the city, including the Grand Place, and spent some time on the internet pre booking our accommodation for Paris. In the afternoon we took a tram to the outside of Brussels to go the Royal Museum for Central Africa which has a section on colonisation and King Leopold. On the way, our tram abruptly stopped and then we saw a series of police cars pull over on the median strip. The tram driver got out to look at the tram that had stopped in front of us. Apparently there was a man who pulled out a gun on the tram in front but nobody was hurt.

Posted by CJTaylor 06:58 Archived in Belgium Comments (1)

Utrecht, Delft and the Hague.


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We arrived in Utrecht and walked to our accommodation after getting a bite to eat in the city centre. Because of having difficulty finding accommodation in Utrecht, the day before we booked a hotel slightly above our budget being 79 euros for the night. Called Hotel Mitland and located just outside of the city next to a lake, we had a relaxing stay there with our room overlooking the lake. It also helped having access to the sauna, steamer and pool, and a complimentary rubber duckie which has since been posted back to Australia. Utrecht is one of the oldest towns in the Netherlands with 13th century canal wharves below street level, and the home of Dick Bruna the author of Miffy the rabbit. It was quite busy in the city centre because it was market day. But outside of the city it was quiet with flower markets, large boulevards and miniatature sheep in pastures. The next day we took the train to Delft for a 2 night stay. Our interest in Delft came from Delftware, the artist Johannes Vermeer and the book about the painter - Girl with a Pearl Earring. We checked into the Soul Inn, whose owner lived in England during the early 1970s and who is a bit of an ex hippy, with the decor of the B&B being inspired by that era. Our room was Titanium, with absolutely wild wall paper - http://195.242.98.241/?id=33&app=8&x=0

The owner was friendly and we had access to a coffee machine in the foyer where music of the 1960s and 1970s was played. In Delft we went to the Het Prinsenhof museum which gave us a better understanding of the Netherlands history, the split between the Catholics and Protestants, the Nassau and Orange royal lineage. It was enjoyable walking around the beautiful city and canals, looking around the town square and in the new and old church. On our second day we hired bicycles and rode from Delft to the Hague. We spent most the day riding around the city parks and green spaces, past residences of the rich and royals. It took a little getting used to the Grandma style bikes but they were actually better and easier to ride than the mountain bikes we hired in Britain (even with 3 gears).

Before talking a bus from the Hague to Brussels, we went to the Mauritshuis Museum which was a really well presented art gallery with Vermeers Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft paintings.

Posted by CJTaylor 06:35 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Amsterdam


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We arrived into Amsterdam via a bus we caught from the ferry terminal. We headed straight for the tourist office at the Centraal Train Station in order to find accommodation. After about 1 hour we managed to book accommodation for about 70 euros a night, a canal tour, tickets to the Anne Frank Huis (house) and transport cards for 48 hours. After checking into our hotel, we went out for lunch which was pizza at an Italian restaurant. After lunch we walked along the canals to the city centre for a couple of hours, orientating ourselves to the city. Amsterdam took a little to get used to at first, it is a busy city with cars and bikes seeming to go in every direction in a chaotic fashion. The footpaths seemed to have been sacrificed for bike lanes, so whenever you walk you feel like you could be run over. It is a beautiful city teeming with canals, Renaissance and modern architecture. The beauty of the city was further seen during a canal cruise which took us through the new and old parts of the city, showing off some of the best aspects of Amsterdam, such as the 16th and 17th century buildings and bridges, numerous houseboats, the canal gardens, and tradtitional sailing boats. We also went to the Anne Frank Huis. This building is where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis from 1942 to 1945 in an annex of a jam factory that her father originally owned. If you have read the diary or watched the 1950s movie this museum is great as it shows the rooms that the 2 families lived in for 3 years. We found Amsterdam easy to get around and to communicate in, as almost everybody speaks English. The city quickly grew on us and by the time we left we did not want to go. However, we made plans to explore the country, so on the morning of the 4th of September we left Amsterdam.

Posted by CJTaylor 06:16 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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