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A long weekend in Paris: Sorry Mum, no proposal

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Woke up in Paris.  No big deal. 

 We decided to head to Paris over the August long weekend as we figured that we would need at least 3 – 4 days just to skim the surface.  One of the bonuses going at the end of summer as well is that you can get some pretty decent deals on hotels and flights while the weather is still 20+ degrees.  This heat even managed to provide a pretty epic thunder and lightning storm on our first night that kept us awake as it was roasting hot in our petite hotel room so let ourselves sleep in.  Fortunately, we had already decided to knock off the tourist spots closest to our hotel in Montmartre so headed up the steep steps to the Basilique du Sacré Coeur.  
 
We had been in a fantastic Basilica in Montreal, Canada and were starving so chose to head to a food market away from the tourists.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find the area but stumbled upon a fantastic bakery and devoured the yummiest quiche and pastries for a mid morning snack.

Tried the metro out for the first and last time as we decided we would rather walk or bike and enjoy the sights between destinations rather than roast in a metal tube underground.  Fantastic way to get around though if you are short of time.  Stopped at Place de la Concorde and strolled along des Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe and up its 284 steps until we had spectacular but grey views across the city.

The sun came out after a recharge back at the hotel so we enjoyed an early evening walk down to the Louvre when the sun came out.  Crossed the Seine river at Pont des Arts bridge with all the padlocks signifying couples love.  Makes me wonder who is still together after all those years or were some just a flash in the pan and moment of Passion when they clicked closed on what was probably a very similar evening. It was also confusing that we came across another bridge exactly the same.  Who started this trend and are people even locking them in the right place?

 
Finished the day with half a dozen garlic and pesto Escargot (snails) as a starter at dinner.  Really, what’s the big deal.  They were delicious and no different to eating mussels in New Zealand I think.

Morning at the Louvre.  I must say that while it was great, I have been to better museums.  The highlights were definitely the statues while Adela liked the Napolean III rooms.  It was quite hilarious watching the other tourists that were obviously only there for Mona Lisa who after the 30 second photo-op with her would try to spend the rest of the time looking interested but failed miserably and would leave just as quick.

Grabbed a fistful of pastries and baguettes and lay in the sun next to the Eiffel Tower over lunch soaking up the suns rays.  However the heavens opened up and we ended up under a tiny leaking shelter with some French Michael Jackson tribute singers and dancers who took to the rain like ducks to water.  I love when you travel that anything can happen.  They proceeded to entertain and weird us out at the same time for the next 20 minutes until fortunately we could escape as the sun came out again. 

We cycled back down at sunset and climbed to the 1st floor of Eiffel Tower to end our second day in Paris.  The other tourists seemed content to line up for over an hour to catch the elevator up while we waiting no more than 5 minutes grab our tickets and use these wonderful contraptions called stairs to walk up.  It really is a beautiful and I can see why they call it the City of Lights.

That morning we had joined the locals and hopped on the Velibs.  Basically you pay $1.70 for 24 hours and use the bikes, which are located about 300m apart on the streets all across Paris, for 30 minutes at a time for free.  You just have to wait 5 minutes between uses which is perfect as you can cross huge distances such as between Montemartre and the Eiffel Tower in that time and then spend more time sightseeing at either end of your journey while enjoying the natural streets vibe and personality that you don’t see from the metro.

Back on the Velibs the following morning to the local food markets near the Bastille.  Beautiful jambon, fromage and oeuf (ham cheese and egg) crepes for breakfast.  Oh man they were delicious and I wish I had discovered them on the first day!  Although my waistline thanked me that I had not as our bread babies from all the baguettes, croissants and pastries were already in force.

 
Unfortunately that made us late getting to Notre Dam so we joined the rest of the daft tourists who show up late to extremely popular and busy attractions and traipsed into the church.  Mass was being held so free entry.  Bonus.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get as many cool photos from inside and outside we stood no chance with the zombie hordes in the way.  Damn you tasty crepe for making us late.  

This lateness had a knock-on effect with an hour long queue at the Catacombes to the south of the Latin district.  For some reason the Catacombes were not listed in our top 10 guide book nor was there information about them easily found elsewhere.  I had heard about them through a friend and am glad we visited.  

They were amazing and freaky and scary and moving all at the same time.  The entire self-guided tour lasts on average 45 minutes, although we took over an hour, as you wander in caves and tunnels under the city itself.  Approximately 6 million Parisians skeletal remains were dug up when the city ran out of room in the area to bury them so they were literally thrown in to the abandoned quarry tunnels.  They were then rearranged after a few years and now lay stacked in patterns and shapes in the multitude of tunnels.  It is a definite must see in Paris but get there early as they close at 4pm.  

 
I felt like my limited French had been holding up okay until our last night.  I managed to order us a bottle of Rouge and for our starter I ordered what I assumed was breads and dips and a roast vege salad.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I thought I had done a pretty good job explaining that we would order our mains after the starter.  But unfortunately the waitress didn’t think so.  She brought out a main size plate of green beans and roast vege salad.  That’s it.  No meat.  No sides. Just the green beans for Adela.  She had mistaken that we wanted them as main dishes.  I was too proud to correct her and the meal was actually tasty enough any.  Fortunately we finished of with a flaming creme brulee that was divine. 
 
Starving in the morning, either from our late start or “light” meal last night, we stopped at one of the first cafes we saw for a scrumptious breakfast of coffee (pure hot chocolate for me), orange juice, a baguette and a croissant with jams.  Although it was tasty it ended up being quite a touristy cafe and we spotted a local cafe just a block further down an alley for cheaper.  

Spent the rest of the morning at the Army Museum at the Invalides Hotel which was built in 1671 for injured and sick soldiers.  Now its a very interesting war museum that contains history from the 17th century through World War 2.  The museum also contains the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte (not Dynamite) who led part of the French Revolution.  Very interesting visit and one of the highlights of the trip.

 
We loved our time in Paris and I am glad we did as I had huge expectations and fortunately was not disappointed.  However a few things did not get the nod, including the Louvre and the ridiculous crowds.  I guess I can’t complain too much though as we were adding to the same crowds at the same locations!  However, as much as we loved it I don’t think we will be back to Paris as we feel like we have experienced everything we wanted to.  In saying that though we are already planning our next trip to explore the rest of France and I look forward to working on my French so that we can enjoy more tasty treats such as green beans.

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. treadmill reviews

    September 27, 2011 at 3:42 AM

    Much appreciated for the information and share!
    Nancy

  2. Sam

    February 3, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    I got a few sneaky photos in the Catacombes too. The spookiest part is how they’re arranged in artistic patterns, its not just stacking for practical storage but weird human bone art. I found that odd but interesting. Haha, perhaps the waitress was just messing with you. “I’ll bring these kiwi tourists a big plate of beans, that’ll get em wondering how good their French really is!”…

    • Cole

      February 6, 2012 at 9:16 AM

      Apparently the catacombs were originally just filled with bones then someone actually went through and arranged them all! That is creepy! Haha and I bet the waitress was just messing with us 🙂

  3. Cathy Sweeney

    February 3, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    Sounds like a very nice few days in Paris. I haven’t been to the Catacombes — should really do that next time. You really enlightened me about something too. I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know that you could take stairs to the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower. I just thought there was the elevator and we didn’t have time to wait around for that. Thanks for the tip!

    • Cole

      February 6, 2012 at 9:14 AM

      Thanks Cathy! No worries about the stairs, we didn’t know about them either until we asked someone else 😉

  4. Caro from Passport and a Toothbrusg

    February 5, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    I miss France!! Made me so anxious to go back (5 months to go!)! Love the idea of the Velibs, a great way to explore any city!

    • Cole

      February 6, 2012 at 9:14 AM

      The Velibs were awesome. Most of the major European cities are so well made for biking. Unfortunately the UK has not caught up yet!

  5. dtravelsround

    February 5, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    I’ve been once to Paris … wasn’t overly impressed, but your post makes me want to go back and give it another shot. I think my problem was I had been traveling solo for nearly a month by then and wasn’t in a great frame of mind. I would love to go back and try it again now that I’m older, wiser and more patient. Still don’t speak any French though!!

  6. Andrew

    February 6, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    We did a weekend in Paris this past September that was nice. Did nowhere near the amount of stuff you guys did, but had a great relaxing time. We actually stayed just around the corner from the Catacombs and say the big lines, but with no interest in going in.

    • Cole

      February 7, 2012 at 9:16 AM

      The Catacombs were cool I reckon, although a bit creepy. Hopefully you will go next time!

  7. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    February 8, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    I only had 5 days in Paris. That wasn’t enough!

    • Cole

      February 8, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      We were only there 4 and would love to go back. So many other places to see 🙂

  8. cheryl

    February 11, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    Looks like a lovely long weekend. I’m dying to get to Paris! 🙂 Never been yet.

    • Cole

      February 12, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      Pack your bags and go Cheryl! It is an awesome city 🙂

  9. Ele

    September 22, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    I had a great plate of snails in a small restaurant (name escaped my mind) near the Parthenon. Might have been a tourity place but I didn’t feel I was ripped off. I didn’t see the catacombs, so one thing to return to paris for. + Per Lashais (spelling?) cemetery.

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Europe

Amsterdam Food Guide

If you think of Amsterdam you don’t think of food. However if you try the food here in our Amsterdam food guide you might get lucky.

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Amsterdam Food Waffles

We are total foodies and our travelling has allowed our passion for food to grow considerably (not to mention our waist lines)!  We love trying new food when we visit foreign countries and always make a huge effort to eat the local cuisine. Check out some of the food we ate below in our cheap and delicious Amsterdam Food Guide.

Amsterdam Food Waffles

We had heard from a number of people that the Amsterdam food was nothing to rave about. To be honest food was not really our main interest in visiting but then again neither was an Amsterdam Peep show and we ended up enjoying that!

However we were pleasantly surprised. I think the people whom we had talked to had it wrong. Sure Holland doesn’t really have a local cuisine but once we got over this fact we realised there is still some damn good food to be had from the various Amsterdam Restaurants.

Amsterdam Food

The best meal we had was actually next door to the Red Light district in Chinatown. Crossing the canal to the east away from the neon lights your nostrils are attacked and your mouth begins salivating from the delicious smells wafting along the narrow cobbled streets.

As we walked into Bird Thai restaurant the enticing aroma hit us instantly leaving us drooling in anticipation. It was definitely up there with some of the best Thai food we have had. We went for the classic Green curry, fried rice and duck combo.

The Green curry was so flavoursome with the richness of the coconut milk blending perfectly with the traditional spices.  The duck was cooked to perfection and for the first few minutes of the meal all you could hear was the crunching of the crispy outside layer as we devoured the duck in minutes. Needless to say the fried rice was a taste explosion too!

Cheap and delicious Amsterdam food is easy to come by. With hangovers and munchies affecting your hunger it is no surprise that there are an abundance of Fast Food chains and takeaways in Amsterdam. In fact it was actually more the way that the fast food was served that surprised us as you could buy it out of massive vending machines at Febo!

Amsterdam Food Febo

Hidden workers stand behind the vending machines churning out burgers, fries and sausage rolls so all you has to do is insert a Euro and “hey presto” you have a hot meal in your hungry hands.

Then there were the frites stores which seemed to be on every corner. The first thing you noticed about these was the tantalising smell. There is nothing like the smell of chips straight out of the fryer and covered in salt to get you tummy rumbling. Served in a triangle cardboard carton and covered in mayo which meant that that you couldn’t reach the chips at the bottom without covering your greedy fingers in sauce. Just a tad annoying!

But there is nothing like hot chips to warm you up on a cold day.

Finally, while hot chocolates are not typically food I feel they still deserve a mention especially because the usually come paired with waffles! Ahhhh the perfect breakfast.

Amsterdam Hot Chocolate

We loved nipping into a cafe or bar like Cafe Bar Eddy in Amsterdam to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate. It literally tasted like they had melted chocolate down and added cream. Heaven in a cup. And the choice of waffles was daunting as you could have whatever you wanted. Fruit, chocolate, syrups, cream or all of the above!

If you are heading here then don’t expect to find an array of traditional Amsterdam food. Instead treat yourself to a hot chocolate and waffle for breakfast, grab a quick bite from a vending machine and sample some of the different cuisines found near the Red Light District.

If you stick to this Amsterdam food guide then your taste buds will have a great holiday too!

If you have visited before then what did you think of Amsterdam food?

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Europe

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Check out our guide for the first timer in Amsterdam visiting a coffeeshop.

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How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Before getting started I just want to clarify that we are not drug users. We don’t condone using illegal drugs. And we are not telling you to go and smoke weed in Amsterdam. BUT, our goal of this travel blog is to help advise, educate and provide travel tips for ALL situations. So if you are headed to Amsterdam then we hope our guide to smoking weed in Amsterdam will help you out.

And check out this smoker friendly accommodation for your next trip.

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam Coffeeshop

When you tell people that you are visiting Amsterdam then they immediately think of one thing and one thing only. Weed. Dope. Herb. Buds. Spliff. Whacky Tobbacky. Pot. Marijuana. Cannabis. 

Call it what you will but just know that the biggest name for it is “ILLEGAL”.

Yes it is actually illegal to smoke weed in Amsterdam. But for now the Netherlands government do tolerate smoking in designated “coffeeshops”. This is slowly changing as the Government tries to moderate the tourism drug trade and in 2013 there will be new laws which we won’t go in to now as they are continuously changing.

In the meantime if you obey the rules, are not a moron and use our guide to smoking weed in Amsterdam then you are going to be fine.

Smoke weed in Amsterdam

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Don’t smoke weed in Amsterdam in public such as on the streets. There are over 300 designated coffee shops where you are tolerated to smoke weed. These places are regulated and everything is done in the open.

Don’t get confused and try to smoke in a koffiehuis (coffee house) which sells coffee and light meals or a café that is a casual restaurant and/or bar.

The coffeeshops are super easy to spot with marijuana leaves in the windows and Bob Marley paintings on the doors. Not to mention the smell wafting through the cold breeze. There will also be the usual tourists that have stupidly over-indulged and are glassy eyed.

We visited one of the five Bulldog coffeeshops when we were in Amsterdam and had no complaints. We even enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate while we were there!

Bulldog Coffeeshop in Amsterdam

Buying weed in Amsterdam

As long as you are over 18 then you will be allowed to buy up to 5 grams of weed in the regulated coffeeshops. Plus you have the added security knowing that your marijuana is not going to be laced with anything else if you are attempting to buy it off someone on the street. And who knows, they might be setting you up to get busted.

We were (and are) total amateurs and had no idea what to do once we actually stepped foot in the coffeeshop. But quickly sussed it out. There will generally be a “dealer bar” with full menu’s and everything for you to choose. So if you are an expert you will probably know what to order! Prices will of course vary by quantity (grams, bags, individual joints) and quality.

For a beginner ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy like we were. Ask the staff what they recommend and what effects each type has. They will know then that you are a newbie and will guide you. Just know that they are very accustomed to tourists who don’t know exactly how to go about the whole process.

What we found out is that it is actually perfectly fine for you to visit other coffeeshops and smoke weed that you have already purchased somewhere else. However, it is considered rude not to at least buy a hot chocolate or coffee if you do this. Coffeeshops do also have some of the best coffee in Amsterdam.

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Don’t be an idiot

Number 1 rule: Don’t smoke too much weed in Amsterdam! Even if you are a pot loving hippie from a commune you are probably going to find the marijuana really strong in Amsterdam. Just take it slow.

If you are enjoying a drink as well then again take it easy with the booze. All the coffeshops won’t sell you beer as well as cannabis.

EAT! Don’t go drinking and smoking on an empty stomach as cannabis lowers your blood sugar level and this can turn a fun day into a disaster if you haven’t eaten recently. Check out our Amsterdam Food Guide for some quick eating tips here.

A final word of warning, please watch out for the spacecake! Eating cannabis will knock you on your ass and is much stronger than when smoked.

Finally, enjoy yourselves and for goodness sake obey the rules, laws and customs while you are smoking weed in Amsterdam.

If you have an addiction to drugs then reach out and seek some help.

Check out these Weed Products for your next travel adventure.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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