336. Corralejo

IMG_5123 (640x480)As far as tourist places go, Corralejo, the main town on Fuerteventura, proved to be a dream destination. I say that based mainly on the fact we could get a room in a resort for the same price as a single bed in dorm of a hostel in most of Europe. There were also balmy beaches, a cute old town full of novel little bars and restaurants, and it was what I like to call “just the right amount of touristy.” There was enough infrastructure to support all the tourists (shops, bars, cafes, beach activities) but there weren’t enough people to actually cause annoyance. Win.

Highlights included finding a bar with mojito specials when the olympic closing ceremony was on, crazy cheap sales everywhere and coming across a music group doing some kind of Canarian drumming/percussion performance lead by a man who decided conducting was less important than dancing around having a grand old time!

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307. Picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower

IMG_3533 (480x640)In the most touristy of all things touristy possible in the world, we absolutely HAD to have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower.

It was the most hilarious sensation, being there right in front of the Eiffel Tower on a beautiful sunny day, in a lovely park that was absolutely PACKED with people. It was also at that moment that I realised that being in Paris is exactly like being in a giant postcard. Everything is exactly as you expect it to be, nothing more, nothing less. And you have seen it all before. So on the one hand its all very satisfying to finally go to all these places you have been wanting to go for a really long time, but on the other hand there are no surprises. None at all.

Almost as packed as a concert!

Almost as packed as a concert!

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The entertainment factor of the Parc du Champs de Mars, however, was a lot better than expected. First, the sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower thing. I’m not gonna deny it wasn’t novel and exciting. Second, the sitting around in a park with your bottles of wine and fancy French cheeses, and the drinking bit being all legal and legit, and the wine and cheese being so cheap compared to what you would pay at home.

Third, there’s all the extreme PDA. Everywhere we looked there were couples just all over each other, to the point where it was actually really funny.

So much PDA, which became quite entertaining as we watched them try to eat/drink in such an awkward and uncomfortable position

So much PDA, which became quite entertaining as we watched them try to eat/drink in such an awkward and uncomfortable position

 

Fourth, the wine hecklers. All afternoon, like many places all over Paris, there were Indian men coming up to us trying to sell bottles of wine (and cigarettes). At tourist destinations with huge queues it is usually bottled water and at some parks it is bottles of beer (I’m not sure how they decide, but apparently this one is a wine park).

Heckler's in action

Heckler’s in action

 

...and then not so much

…and then not so much

After we ran out of wine, we signalled one over to see how much he was offering, to see if it was worth it to not have to move to get another bottle. After he said €20, we laughed and politely declined. However, we had made the crucial error of displaying the slightest bit of interest, and he wasn’t going to give up easy. He then lead in with “well how much did you pay for that bottle?” and I guess he was expecting us to be a bit more classy, as his heart visibly sank when we told him it was €2. Still not keen though, to the great entertainment of all the couples around us I haggled him down to €6 for his bottle and it was satisfaction all round. However, as soon as the sun went down, suddenly out of nowhere (as if they had been hiding behind the trees) there were at least 30 more men wandering around trying to sell all kind of things. And by gosh did they get aggressive! There was some serious desperation among them, at one point they were trying to distract me by offering a free bottle of wine while their mates circled round eyeing up our handbags. Needless to say the magic was somewhat ruined after that. We could definitely understand how it was very much an illegal activity (we actually saw one guy getting arrested earlier on), and after the near robbery (lucky we were on our toes after the whole van incident) it definitely ruined that magic a bit.

Fifth, and most clichéd of all was when the Tower lit up. It really was quite magical, though I most definitely cringed when everyone started clapping. It reminded me of when people clap when a plane lands, a massive pet peeve of mine. If you don’t clap the waiter when he delivers you a coffee, don’t clap the pilot for just doing his job either!IMG_3574 (480x640) IMG_3586 (480x640) IMG_3596 (480x640)

We had intended to go up it the tower while we were there, but after a few wines and with the size of the lines in full view, the beginning of the process of putting it off every day for almost two weeks began!IMG_3520 (640x480) IMG_3516 (640x480) IMG_3519 (480x640)

 

306. An ode to the Velib system

IMG_3514 (480x640)Without a doubt my favourite thing in all of Paris was the Velib system. The velib system is a city bike system, where for €8 per week (or less if you are there longer term) you can pick up a bike from one of the stations all over the city and ride anywhere you want (so long as you drop it at another station within 30mins).

It was so much fun being able to cycle around the city and take it all in, with a really easy method of transport, and being able to get around so many different places so quickly. Granted there were sometimes some hiccups, like dud bikes, or being charged extra for going over time, or not being able to find a bike nearby when leaving a popular place at a busy time, but overall it was a fantastic system and I really loved it!

If there’s one thing I can definitely recommend in Paris it is grabbing a bike and cycling round to take it all in!

I wish it was that easy in more cities (many you have to live there or can only get a 3 month membership etc)

267. Canal Biking Through Amsterdam

Not content to merely cycle around Amsterdam like all the locals, we wanted to canal bike. Which is just a fancy way of saying go paddle boating in the canals. When we finally got a break in the weather (well, almost – we made sure to get one with a detachable roof for the drizzly patches), we were away!

For €20 euro between the three of us we were able to hop in a paddle boat from one spot, and drop it off at another an hour later. It turned out to be quite the workout, but we managed to achieve quite a bit of distance in a the time, and it was incredibly fun.

Tip for any others – if you don’t have even numbers of people, balance is quite the issue! Also, the steering is all but useless, so expect to be stuck going round in circles after you oversteer and have to keep correcting. There were even a few moments where I wonder how they even allow people to roam free in the paddle boats, as we were fishtailing up and down the canals getting in the way of all the other boats. At one point one of the enormous tourist boats came along, and in a mad dash to get out of the way we managed to crash straight into an outdoor platform of a cafe (literally banging in to the deck less than a metre away from the poor unsuspecting but nonetheless amused patrons). There was no graceful exit to that situation either, as we rebounded off it and wound up spinning in a circle. It was a comfort to know that we weren’t the only ones having trouble navigating the canals. Aside from every other canal boater faffing around going in circles like a headless, floating chicken; the big, long, tourist boats themselves make quite the spectacle trying to get around a corner. Not being able to make a sharp right or left, they have to pull out a (kind of impressive) 3+ point turn manouvre, popping in and out from under the bridges.

Finally, one thing that did not and will not ever cease to amuse, was the “No Parking” signs along the inner walls of the canals. What a way to commute to work! Apparently owning a parking space for your dinghy is quite expensive, though it can’t be more expensive than owning land, as many barges along the canals have been turned in to floating homes.