September 18, 2008

Parisian prison break (photo edition)

After five brutal days in our own personal prison (Bellebrune's Opal Autos) we celebrated our release by hotfooting it to the City of Lights...

Above: Our new home for the next four nights was Camping Bois de Bologne, the only camping ground in Paris' city limits. Ace (oh, yeah, Ace VANtura won the naming contest BTW), looked very out of place next to the monster motorhomes that filled the park.

Above: The Arc de Trimphe was the first major sight of our trip, and a very impressive one at that!

Above: We covered some serious ground on foot on our first day (we reckon it was about 18 kilometres) first walking from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower...

Above: ...where we treated ourselves to a picnic lunch of baguettes filled with deli meat, cheese and tomatoes (they truly rocked!) and red wine. The mood was somewhat 'dampened' when I spilt red wine all over my new Top Shop skirt — a moment which will forever be referred to as The Red Wine Incident.

Above: Craig 'Gordon Ramsay' O'Shannessy whipped up some chipolatas and salsa back in the van.

Above: We descended into Paris' 'underworld' for a sticky beak at the Catacombes. Filled with human bones from an exhumed cemetery, it's safe to say the experience was kinda freaky... And no, I haven't seen a ghost, after a summer in England, I really am that pale!

Above: We made like true Parisians and spent our Sunday in Jardin du Luxembourg. The French sure know how to make a good park. We ate our budget lunch of Vegemite sandwiches (otherwise known as the Lucy Special), before following the music and stumbling across an orchestra playing for free (which is how we like it).

Above: Of course there was also a stroll past the famous Notre Dame and Louvre, but we didn't end up entering either as I (Lisa) was in Sinus City.

Above: We ended our visit with a trip to the Eiffel at night. As Kylie Minogue would say, 'Wow, wow, wow, wow!'

September 13, 2008

The first five days and the worst five days!

Ah, here we go. Cynical Lisa's being a drama queen as usual...

Hang on a minute! At least read the next two sentences before you go passing judgment, buddy...

We crashed in France. On the first day of our trip.

And to add insult to injury, we then had to spend five showerless days living in a mechanic's carpark in Bellebrune, aka the middle of friggin' nowhere!

The nightmare began at about 8.45pm on Monday September 8, 2008. We were travelling along a quaint country road on our way to Rouen, our first point of call, when kaplunk! The ball joint on one of our front tyres broke – meaning we lost all control over the steering and veered off the side of the road and into a ditch.

Good times.

The first car to drive past was driven by a farmer who spoke no English (just like everyone in the other 10 cars that passed us), but he knew someone who did, so he drove us five minutes away to a local B&B where the English-speaking owner called a tow truck for us. Eventually the truck came, and thanks to our new personal translator, we organised to sleep in the van in the parking lot of the garage.

The next four days were pure hell. We wiled away the hours by playing Travel Scrabble, reading Lonely Planet's Europe on a Shoestring, reading the Scrabble rules (if you use all your letters in one turn you get 50 bonus points!), doodling in a notebook and watching the mechanics walk back and forth from the office to the shed. Oh, and we may or may have not eaten tongue when one day they took us to a restaurant for lunch and we had no idea what we were ordering.

Communication was also a slight problem, seeing as we only knew about five words in French (but boy did we use those five words a lot!), so we had to get a little creative with our gesturing – at one point I drew a wheel and a window and ticked both of them to say that we wanted to proceed with the repairs, and it seemed to work.

The highlight of our time in Bellebrune was when the receptionist gave us four eggs one evening to cook for dinner (aside from the tongue incident, we had been existing off some bread and tins of baked beans we bought before we left the UK). Yes it was that bad.

Finally, on Friday September 12, 2008, we were given the all clear to leave Bellebrune and the parking lot we called home. So, after five days and $AUD1750 (mega ouch) worth of repairs, we were finally on our way to the City of Love, and very much-needed showers.