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A long weekend in Paris: Sorry Mum, no proposal

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Woke up in Paris.  No big deal. 

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 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.
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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.
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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.  
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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.  

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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.  
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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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Europe

My Insane The Red Light District Tour of The Amsterdam Peep Shows

Have you ever wanted to visit an Amsterdam peep show? We had the chance to go and embraced it with open arms. Check out our experience here

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Amsterdam Peep Show

An Amsterdam peep show in the red light district is a must, like visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Okay, slightly different. But you have got to go for the erotic experience!

And if you have ever wanted to visit Amsterdam, then more than likely, you are going to be interested in checking out a peep show in the red light district. It might be a worthwhile tour, to check out Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

Amsterdam Moulin Rouge Red Light District

Something about the red light district brothels draws the punters and tourists alike in. Maybe the bright red neon lights illuminate the darkened alleyways that pull them in like moths to a flame. Or the bars and coffee shops that let a certain smell waft lazily across the glistening canals.

Or maybe it is just the fact that sex does sell.

My Amsterdam Peep Show Tour

When we visited Amsterdam with a couple of friends, we spent what I now consider an embarrassingly long time in that same area. The fact is that we seriously could not get enough. Then we headed over to Germany, where high-class escorts had us covered.

Not like that, of course!

We couldn’t believe that everyone is so open and carefree about what is, for all intents and purposes, window shopping for sex. The number of guys knocking on windows and being ushered behind the curtains of every room was staggering.

However, we have not enticed ourselves to fork over 50 euros but were intrigued enough to want to check out an Amsterdam peep show. I want to clarify here that it was Adela that was the keenest. I didn’t want to let her down, so I went along with it…

Amsterdam Red Light District

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shaynekaye/4792525797

Visiting the Amsterdam peep show

Much to our surprise, there is only one Amsterdam peep show left in the whole city back in 2012!

The very name initially “Sex Palace” is situated on the banks of one of the main canals in the heart of the red-light district on Oudezijds Achterburgwal street. Walking under the neon flashing lights into the entranceway, your senses are assaulted by sights, sounds, and disturbingly smell.

All around the walls are posters and screens showing ladies in various states of undress and positions. A whiteboard lists the movies you can rent out for your viewing pleasure in one of the many private booths. But we were only there for one thing:

The circular structure sits slightly to the left of the entrance with a dozen small doors along its walls.

Those small doors lead into equally small rooms no larger than a traditional UK phone box. A small covered viewing window blocks your view forward.

The money box clinging to the wall to operate the viewing window only accepts coins. But don’t worry if you only have notes as they handily have a large coin machine dishing out 2 euro coins for ease of watching.

Once you close the door and chuck in your money, the viewing window pops open for 2 minutes and allows you to view the large, slowly-rotating stage on which a scantily-dressed woman displays herself. She could have represented any country in the upcoming Olympics with her flexibility!

Amsterdam peep show Sex Palace

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I was cracking up laughing the entire time I was in there because you can just make out the rest of the “audience” in the opposite booths. I even got a little wave and smile as the girl slowly revolved past my window.

The Amsterdam peep show was a little bit creepy. But even though we were there late on a Saturday night, the booths were making a roaring trade. From the hen parties to the couples, nearly everyone else was there for the same reason as us. To check out one or two rounds before heading back into the night giggling like school girls at a sleepover at what we had just done.

On the other hand, the shifty-eyed single men skulked away to their respective viewing windows again and again with pockets full of coins.

If you ever get the chance, we highly recommend taking the plunge and visiting an Amsterdam peep show. Just make sure that you are always respectful of the women in the performances and the ones on the streets!

Top 10 Amsterdam Peep Shows in 2022

  • 1 | Stripclub BonTon
  • 2 | Male Strip Show in Amsterdam For Women
  • 3 | Casa Rosso Sex Shows
  • 4 | 5D Porn Cinema
  • 5 | Moulin Rouge Amsterdam
  • 6 | Bananenbar
  • 7 | Sex Palace Peep Show
  • 8 | Hospital Bar
  • 9 | Club LV
  • 10 | La Vie en Proost – Lapdance Bar in Red Light District

Have you ever been to an Amsterdam Peep Show or a Sex show? Tell us about your experience.

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Paris on a Budget: Best Cheap Eats in Paris

While Paris used to be regarded as an expensive city, you can now enjoy Paris on a Budget. Use our guide to find the Best Cheap Eats in Paris.

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Although Paris has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities globally, the rumors are now unfounded. In 2012, Paris dropped ten places in the Mercer cost of living survey. And with the Euro looking weak, now is probably a good time to find cheap flights and discover the city of love on a budget.

Eating in Paris can catch a lot of tourists out. Avoid the expensive restaurants serving fancy dishes like salmon wellington and snooty maître d’s on the Champs Elysees and follow our guide for the best cheap eats in Paris.  Spend less on food and possibly splurge on friendly hotels in Paris instead!

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Girl eating croissant in Paris

Best Cheap Eats in Paris

Best Cheap eats in Paris, Eiffel Tower at Night, Paris

Head to the Marais

Famous for its selection of ethnic eateries, the trendy Marais area of Paris is perfect for picking up a quick snack.

Check out L’As du Falafel, where you can grab a flatbread bursting with golden fried balls of falafel, smothered in hummus and accompanied with red cabbage. For €4 to take away, you can’t argue with that. Simply head to Chez Hanna down the street for equally tasty food at similarly low prices if it’s too busy.

Best eats in Paris, The Louvre, Paris

Enjoy an Oriental baguette.

Vietnamese food is popular in France, and nowhere can you see the fusion of two cultures more clearly than at Saigon Sandwich in the Belleville district of Paris.  Their specialty, banh mi, is light and crusty French baguette filled with flavors of South East Asia.

There are only a few options (poulet, boeuf, Maison, and unique), but for €3 ago, you could happily sample them all.

Find French food on the cheap.

Believe it or not, there are some restaurants specializing in French cuisine that won’t see you stumbling into your overdraft. Les Temps des Cerises is one of them.

Described by Yelp as a “Dive Bar,” nothing could be further from the truth.  Run by a cooperative, it attracts a distinctly bohemian crowd. The menu is small, but the food is prepared from ingredients that sing with freshness and high quality.

View from the top of Arc de Triomphe

Eat like a local celebrity …

Rumour has it that Pierre Herme, one of Paris’s most celebrated pastry chefs, visits the Belleville restaurant Le Baratin. The prices are surprisingly low for the delicious Argentinian fare.

Time Out Magazine recommends the tuna carpaccio with cherries or the spicy basque lamb. Pop in at lunchtime for the prixe fix menu. At €18 for three courses it’s hard to complain.

… or eat like a local office worker

Bistro Victoires is a favorite amongst Paris’s locals. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and the wine list leaves a lot to be desired, but when you sit down to enjoy some of the best steak frites in Paris, all else will be forgiven.

Portion sizes are enormous, and the waiters often remind patrons that if they order a starter, they won’t be able to tackle the main course. Despite being a famous location steps away from the Palais Royal, it still manages to be a hidden gem.

Champs-Elysees Sunset

What are your tips for finding the best cheap eats in Paris?

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Europe

Travel Tip: Train to Pisa from Florence

Whether you spend a half-day or full day in Pisa, we recommend that you Train to Pisa from Florence. It’s the fastest and cheapest way to get there.

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train to pisa

Traveling by train is one of the best ways to see the beautiful countryside of Italy. The train from Florence to Pisa takes about an hour, and the journey is stunning. The route takes you past vineyards and medieval villages, through tunnels and over bridges, with breathtaking views of the Tuscan hillsides. You can even see the Leaning Tower of Pisa as the train approaches the station.

Woman traveling by train looking out of window

Upon arrival in Pisa, you can explore the historic center and visit the famous cathedral, before enjoying a leisurely lunch overlooking the River Arno. With its stunning scenery and convenient location, a train trip from Florence to Pisa is a great way to spend a day in Italy.

Leaning tower of Pisa, HDR, Italy

How to get to Pisa from Florence

You have a couple of different options for your own half-day trip to Pisa from Florence depending on how you like to travel. But if you are like us and enjoy travelling around Italy by public transport, then you will definitely want to train to Pisa from Florence.

Train to Pisa from Florence

Florence and Pisa are less than 100 km apart and the easiest way is to train to Pisa from Florence. The entire trip one-way takes approximately an hour depending on your route with no transfers.

Trains leave from Florence S.M.Novella for Pisa Centrale a few times every hour. The closest train station to the leaning tower of Pisa is Pisa San Rossore, but it’s not worth the extra time or transfer required. Pisa itself is small and it takes less than 30 minutes to walk to the leaning tower from Pisa Centrale.

Plus you get to explore more of the city such as the River Arno lined with beautiful stately homes.

Pisa River, train from pisa to florence

If you want to book online then a one-way ticket by train to Pisa from Florence will cost from €7.80 (US$10.40) in 2nd class. It is important to make sure that when you are searching online via the Italian train booking site, Trenitalia, you search for “Firenze” rather than Florence.

The train schedules are very easy to understand so we recommend booking your ticket from the self-service machines on the train platform. The return journey is just as easy in reverse. Just watch that you don’t miss the last train around 10pm most days and carry cash with you for the ticket.

Finally, validate your ticket before boarding the train. We forgot a couple of times but used the typical “I’m a stupid tourist” line to get out of any fines.

Bus to Pisa from Florence

Another option is to catch the bus to Pisa from Florence.

There are two main bus companies, Terravision and Autostradale, run regular buses to and from Pisa Airport and Florence Airport into the Florence city centre, they don’t actually go into Pisa itself. The train to Pisa from Florence is so reliable, fast, and cheap, that you may not want to consider this option.

However, there are some advantages to taking the bus. You will see a lot more scenery from the window of the bus, and it’s definitely cheaper; sometimes you can find fares as low as 4 Euros, especially on Fridays.

Travel Guide to visiting Pisa from Florence

Driving to Pisa from Florence

If you have hired a car or scooter in Tuscany then you might look at driving to Pisa from Florence. However, even though the distance is less than 100km, the trip will still take approximately 1 hour.

Aside from the fact that the train to Pisa from Florence typically takes less time than driving, you also have to avoid the crazy Italian drivers. Not to mention trying to find a carpark in two of the most popular cities in Italy. Impossible.

Travel to Pisa from Florence by train, Leaning tower of Pisa HDR

Guided Tour to Pisa from Florence

If you have been enjoying the sunset in Florence and all the city has to offer then you might want to take in a guided tour to Pisa from Florence. Not only do you get a great guide to learn all about the history of the area, you also don’t have to worry about getting to Pisa from Florence.

You might want to check out this guided tour around Pisa or get a little bit more adventurous and try out a segway tour in Pisa. Perfect for the family and it will keep the kids entertained between stops.

If you have a whole day, and haven’t managed to fit in a hike around Cinque Terre, then we recommend looking into the Pisa and Cinque Terre day tour. Lasting roughly 12 hours, you will travel from Florence to Cinque Terre, with a 2 hour stop in Pisa to see all the main sights.

We also reckon guides help you get the best photos, as they have seen all the poses.

Adela funny jumping Pisa

Tell us below if you have taken any funny photos in Pisa!

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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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