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James's Travel log

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This is an ongoing, rambling project that should be finished the day after I die. Until then, feel free to read about some of my zany adventures, both in Canada and in other places.

Log entries 41 - 50 of 117 Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Mar 11, 2005 07:00 PM Strolling around London

Strolling around London We had breakfast at the hostel, which meant toast and cold cereal, but it was better than nothing, then headed out to meet my buddy Steen.

We went to see the Imperial War Museum, only 2 blocks from the hostel, then met Steen at the London Eye. The line-up was too long, so we headed to Leicester Square and wandered around a bit, then had lunch at Wagamama’s, a fusion Japanese restaurant.

Then we headed to Walkabout Pub to watch the England-Italy rugby game. We quaffed a few expensive pints and watched England hammer the Italians thoroughly.

Then we split up and headed back to our hostel. We had dinner and turned in early.

Mar 10, 2005 07:00 PM Exploring Brittany

Exploring Brittany We checked out of the hotel and headed to St. Servan, as we were looking for a keep that we had seen in pictures of St. Malo. We found the Fortess de la Cite, which the Germans had used to defend St. Malo in 1944. The bunkers there were still full of shell and bullet holes and one of them had been turned into a small memorial museum.

We asked around and found that we wanted the Tour Solidor, which was only a short walk from the fortress, so off we went. We found it with ease, but again, luck was against us as it was closed the whole week for renovations. We left St. Malo and headed for the Dinard airport, but stopped at an Intermarche supermarket and bought our selves some drinks nad sandwiches for our flight back to London. Then we headed to the airport and waited for our flight. For almost 2 hours, we were the only two people in the terminal.

Ahhh, Ryanair. Their inflight magazine says that 99.4% of their flights arrive on time. Well, I guess on my second flight, I was lucky enough to be in that .6% that don’t. The plane didn’t land until 10 minutes before we were supposed to depart. It then took 45 minutes to unload and turn the plane around for departure.

Then, instead of boarding passengers according to their passes, it became a free for all and Jason, myself, and an American we were talking to were literally the last three passengers on board the plane! This despite the fact that the three of us and been the first passengers in the terminal. Then, it took them 2 hours for the plane to get its engines started, as the airport’s truck that started the engines couldn’t generate enough airflow to fire them up. They finally got them started and we headed off for London.

We landed in London almost 3 hours late! We had planned to meet my friend and go for a beer or something, but because we didn’t get into London proper until 10:30, it didn’t make sense. So we checked into the hostel and went to bed.

Mar 09, 2005 07:00 PM Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel Again we checked out early and got in our car and drove towards St. Malo. On the way, we planned to stop at Mont St. Michel, an abbey from the 9th century. On our way there, we took a short detour and stopped at one of only two German military cemeteries in all of Normandy. It was a stark contrast to the Allied cemeteries, very dark and forbidding.

Then we headed to Mont st. Michel. The abbey was truly incredible, but at the same time was a bit of tourist trap. One fellow traveller we met told us it was the biggest tourist attraction in the NW France, and second only to perhaps Euro Disney as a tourist trap. Well, he was right.

Don’t get me wrong, it was spectacular and well worth the detour, but the first 500 metres of the town is filled with tourist knickknack shops and museums, all replete with hawkers trying to lure tourists in. My advice is to run past them all on your way in, and maybe check them on the way out.

After spending several hours touring the town, we let and headed for our destination of St. Malo. We got there and walked the castle walls and checked out the town’s narrow streets. It was remarkable. Then we went to the cathedral where Jacques Cartier is buried. By this time it was almost 6pm.

Mar 08, 2005 07:00 PM Touring the D-Day beaches

Touring the D-Day beaches We got up, had breakfast, and headed for Pegasus bridge. On the way, we stopped at a shopping centre with a Carrefour, so we could buy food for lunch. At the entrance to the mall was a tepee! We walked around a bit and had a laugh or two over other things we saw, bought lunch, and then left.

After walking around at Pegasus bridge, we headed down the D-Day beaches until we got to the bunkers at Longeurs.

By this time it was the almost 3pm. We headed inland to Bayeaux, then headed east for Caen. We went looking for the Abbey Ardennes (where Canadian POWs had been executed by the SS shortly after D-Day) but to our dismay could not find it, even though we spent 2 hours looking for it.

Disappointed, we headed back to our hotel and had dinner.

Mar 07, 2005 07:00 PM Heading to Normandy

Heading to Normandy Well we were up early (about 5pm), so Jason figured why not go see Notre Dame. So we checked out of the hotel early and headed for the train station. We got to Notre Dame moments after it opened at 7am and we poked around and took a few pictures outside in the grounds. Then it was off to the Hotel les Invalides, which opened at 10am.

We got there early and waited patiently outside, then ran through the museum and stopped at Napoleon’s tomb. I thought it was creepy but Jason seemed to enjoy it.

Then we hustled to the St. Lazare train station and just made our train for Caen. A pretty, young lady with her son sat by us, chatting. Her son got sick while she was holding him, but she took him to the bathroom and changed him. We all had a little chuckle about it, and a male passenger across the way told us we’d never forget our journey on French trains.

We got into Caen at about 2:30 and picked up our rental car, a Renault 307. We immediately left Caen and headed for Brettville cemetery, where two of Jason’s relatives were buried, having fought and died in the D-Day campaign. We laid poppies and Canadian pennies on their graves and then left.

We headed for the beaches and got to Juno Beach at about 5pm. The museum was closed, but we walked the beach and looked at the monuments, then headed back into town to find our hotel. It took a while, but we found it. Then we headed off to the port to find dinner.

Mar 06, 2005 07:00 PM A day in Paris

A day in Paris When we got into Paris, we went straight to the Arc de Triomphe. We accidently bought tickets to go to the top, thinking we were paying a fee to walk underneath the Arc. Because of our large backpacks, we could only go up one at a time. While I watched our packs, Jason went up. Then he reciprocated and I went up top. The climb was 284 stairs, which wasn’t difficult in and of itself, but because it’s a spiral staircase, when you get to the top you are a bit dizzy if you run like I did.

The view was actually quite good from the top and I took some pictures, then went down to the gift shop. The lady running it had gone for lunch and I wasn’t about to leave without at least looking inside. She got back quickly and I looked around. Then I headed back down and we headed off to our hotel.

The Hotel Innova was a great choice. It is right next to the Pasteur station. From the hotel, it was a short walk (10 min) to the Hotel les Invalides. Unfortunately, it was closed because it is closed for the first Monday of every month. Crushed, we headed off to see the Eiffel Tower, which was another 10 minutes or so by foot.

Personally, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed seeing it. Back home I thought it was a tacky tourist trap and had little interest in it. But when I got there, I was pleasantly surprised by the wonder of it all. It’s a trap to be sure, but a pretty one.

Then it was back to the hotel and time for dinner.

Mar 05, 2005 07:00 PM Vimy Ridge

Vimy Ridge We got up at early and headed to the train station, hoping to find a bus to Vimy Ridge. Vimy Ridge is the sight of a major World War One battle that Canadian troops fought and won at great cost. The French government later ceded the land to Canada in perpetuity in gratitude.

After waiting for over an hour, we found out that there was a bus but it would take almost 2 hours to get there, even though Vimy Ridge is only 25 km away. Therefore we decided to splurge and take a taxi. It wound up costing about 26 Euros each way but it was worth the trip.

We got dropped off at the monument and walked around, taking pictures of the monument. We walked around the park, filled with French civilians jogging and enjoying the outdoors. After a bit, we got to the network of trenches that had been preserved. We met a group of Canadians who helped to run the memorial, giving tours and taking care of the sight. We got a free tour of the tunnel system under the park. Generally, tours aren’t offered in the winter months, but they made an exception because we were Canadians.

The tunnel system under the battlefield was extensive, and several have survived intact. The guides then showed us around the rest of the park, giving interesting tidbits about sites around the park.

We then headed back into town and decided to look around. We went to the town hall and got a tour of the catacombs under the city. While not as extensive as those in Paris, they are still worth a visit. The tour took about 45 minutes and cost only 4 Euros (2 for students). And they offer it in English, French and Spanish!

We walked around the Petit Place for a while, and then headed back to the hostel to change. Then it was off to Carpe Diem for dinner. Yummy!

Mar 04, 2005 07:00 PM A day in Antwerp

A day in Antwerp We landed bright and early in Eindhoven at 8:30 and made our way to the train station. There we bought tickets to take us to Antwerp. The train ride was relatively uneventful, except that from the train, traveling through the Netherlands felt like living in a toy train set. Everything was small, clean and orderly. Very cool, especially as I loved trains as a child.

We arrived in Antwerp at lunch time and quickly found lockers for our bags. Then we headed off to explore Antwerp. My buddy Jason had originally thought that stopping in Antwerp would be a waste of time, but once he saw the Cathedral of our Lady, he was sold. What can I say but breathtaking! I had seen pictures of it on the ‘Net, but they never did it justice. We wandered around the city and saw the rest of the town centre, including the Steen, the Grotemarkt, and the Stadthuis. The architecture was unbelievable!

Then we got on the train again at about 5pm and headed for our next stop, Arras. After changing trains several times, we arrived there at 7pm. It took us about 30 minutes to find our hostel. We checked in, then it was time for a quick meal and then bedtime, as we hadn’t slept in almost 48 hours!

Mar 03, 2005 07:00 PM A blitzkrieg tour of NW Europe

A blitzkrieg tour of NW Europe Our plane landed pretty much on time at Heathrow, but the line up at Customs was average I guess. I think we waited 30 minutes or so. Then we headed out, thinking we might get to see something before we headed to Stansted airport for our early flight to Eindhoven. When we spoke to an Underground employee, we found out it was almost 2 hours by train, so we headed there straight away.

One of the funniest things we saw was that the subway line from Heathrow ends at a station called Cockfosters. Too funny! We finally arrived at Tottenham Hale station to transfer to a UK Rail train to Stansted Airport, where we figured to spend the night as our flight left at 6:30 am.

The station master helped us buy a ticket, but the train had already left and he wouldn’t give us a refund, so we were forced to head back into the city to Liverpool Street Station to wait for the 4:30 train to Stansted. We got there about 12:45, and the guards promptly kicked us out at 1am.

We spent the next 3 hours shivering outside the station (of course London had had an unseasonable cold snap with snow no less) in –2 weather. We finally got on board the train and headed for the airport. Unfortunately, the train broke down, not once but twice! A trip that should have taken 30 minutes instead took 80 minutes!

Now I know why my friend in London thinks British Rail sucks (I agree with him too).

Needless to say, we had to run across the entire airport and only just barely managed to check in on time for our Ryanair flight to Eindhoven.

Then it was a mad dash through security and the airport to get to the gate in time. And we just barely made it!

Aug 28, 2004 02:00 PM Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park We broke camp by about 9am and headed north into Glacier National Park. After getting gouged for $20 US just to transit the park, we drove the Going-to-the-Sun road to Mt. Logan. The summit is over 2000 m (6664 feet), and it was quite chilly up there, even for a Canuck.

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