Location: Melbourne, Australia
We got into Tullamarine at 11am on Thursday morning. Our whole trip home, from Paris to Melbourne took a mere 41 hours..... and Michael did not sleep a peep the whole time. Crazy man. We were greeted in style, by the whole of Liz's family including both sets of Grandparents!!!! We will see Michael's family on the weekend. Such an awesome feeling to be home and see our loved ones. We were treated to lunch at the airport, then went our separate ways and were driven to Ballarat with Jude, Rod and Ben. Arriving home at about 5pm, we enjoyed relaxing in front of the TV, eating toast with grilled cheese and tomato and creamed corn, and just generally being looked after and not having to think! What a novelty!!!! We finally went to bed at 11pm - Michael had been awake for 53 hours....... what a little trooper! Our trip was absolutely amazing - we had the time of our lives, but is it great to be home.
Location: Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
Then the fun began..... we had 16 hours of joyous stopover time to kill.... we started by catching up on some internet work, then (perhaps a little hesitantly, is that wrong?!?!) headed into the main part of Hongers on the train. We wandered around this incredibly hectic and energetic city for a few hours, checking out all the little steep market lanes and sweating like pigs. How's this for sampling local cuisine: our meals today included Subway, KFC and McDonalds.....!!!!!! Fair indication that we are OVER IT. We walked in the stinking humidity a couple of kms to the Peak Tram and cruised up to the glorious views from Victoria Peak. By this stage we were starting to get deliriously tired, having been awake for over a day. But we pushed on and took some great shots and drank some nice coffee up there. Although it would have been great to stay there until night fell and the lights of Hong Kong starred, we simply couldn't do it and needed some different stimuli to stay awake. So, we decided to go to the movies! An interesting choice, one might say, for two utterly devastatingly drowsy beings, but nonetheless, apart from a few nodding moments by Liz (she was repeatedly nudged by Michael) the Bourne Ultimatum was exciting enough to keep us interested for 2 hours! At this point, we had had enough so caught our train back to the airport (and yes we forgot to walk down to the harbour to show Michael the lights of HK.....). A few hours later we were seated in our own little 2-seater spot on a very comfortable Cathay Pacific plane, and Liz was drooling even before taxi-ing had commenced! At one point (5am Australian time), Liz woke up to see Michael ordering yet another scotch and dry..... he just can't resist free alcohol!!! That, and the excitement of so many different movie and TV options just kept Michael awake for the whole 10 hour flight. Amazing.
Location: Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
We woke at 9am to another gorgeous Parisian day. By 11am we were all packed up, ready and rearing to get going. We checked out and caught the train out to Charles de Gaulle airport. It was surprisingly quiet out there, and although we had to walk a long way with our packs on (for the last time, so we didn't mind so much!) the check-in was quick and we had time to kill in the departure lounge. It wasn't too hard to work out how to spend our last 9 Euros; internet, chocolate, water and chewy did the trick. We were seated next to a young Frenchman, Cyril, who talked a lot about his upcoming Australian backpacking adventure. We flew at 2pm Paris time, and 10 hours later arrived, after a very short night (and no sleep we might add) in Hong Kong at 7am local time.
Location: Paris, France
Our last full day!!!! Sort of, before we start the long trek home anyways. Another sleep in by Liz as Michael went for free breaky, then we were out and about doing some final internet, shopping and sun-bathing. By 4:30pm we had totally had enough of crappy souvenirs, annoying tourists and angry shopkeepers shooing Michael out of stores
.. We went home and relaxed before getting ready for the last supper. Yesterday on the tour, Liz asked the guide for a restaurant that was really truly Parisian, so much so that it didnt have the sucked-in touro markups! He came up with the goods, and sent us to a part of Paris we hadnt yet frequented another bonus in itself. The restaurant was just near Bastille, so we caught the metro and found it easily. We were presented with a French-only menu, which helped to prove its authenticity! We assured the waiter we would be fine to work it out, but when he returned to take our order, we politely asked him to explain every dish on the menu!!! He willingly obliged, thank goodness, and we had a splendid feed. Then it was off to LEiffel Tour to watch the famed light show which occurs on the hour for 10 minutes. We got there in good time and during our half hour viewing managed to take 54 photos
.. obsessed is a good word to use here
The light display was good, but not as good as it had been talked up to be. Home to sleep off an amazing last night in Europe.
Location: Paris, France
All we had to do today was make sure we were up and at em by 12:30pm to meet Lisa and Seb and a free walking tour group in the Latin Quarter. A pretty simple task one would think. However it was a little tricky after a 5am wake-up call for Michael to listen to his beloved Hawks thrash Western Bulldogs (and then have to go back to bed) and Lizs continuing, if not strengthening tendency to despise mornings. It was such a gloriously hot and blue skied day when we finally made it to Place de St Michel. Our 4 hour tour took was really interesting even though we didnt actually go anywhere we hadnt been before. The guide explained the history and many intriguing facts to us along the way, so we now feel a much stronger bond with gay Parie. Cant believe how much of a difference the weather has made! Afterwards we went to continue our Parisian odyssey, through a French tradition that is possibly more like what the tourists here do than the actual residents
.. we bought baguettes, cheeses and bottles of cheap wine and watched the sun set on Paris from the grassy knoll of Sacre Coeur. Lisa and Seb picnicked with us as a final goodbye to traveling together (as they move on to more bus-abouting)! Apart from Liz again managing to spill red wine from woe to go, a lovely balmy evening was enjoyed by all with lots of laughs.
Location: Paris, France
The first day of our last few days o/s started with a big long luxurious sleep in, then a 12pm meeting with Lisa and Seb to suss out Moulin Rouge tickets. We ended up spending 89 Euros EACH for tonight's 11pm show..... that is like AUD$130!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hmmmmm. It does include half a bottle of champers each, and plus everyone we speak to highly highly recommends it, so hey when in Paris! We retreated to the hotel to enjoy our view for a while, then headed out for a stroll when the sun came out. Paris is a totally different city when it's sunny and we lapped it up. We ended up on the top of Montmartre, again, this time for shopping rather than just for the magnificent view. We had chicken salad for dinner in our room, then Lisa and Seb arrived at 9pm to check out our view and have a pre-show drink. At 10:20, many laughs later, we finished our dolling up and walked the 10 minutes through the red-light district to the infamous Moulin Rouge. We were greeted with the most incredible queue and couldn't understand how we were going to make it to our seats in time, however the Frenchies came through with the goods and we were in our squishy little seats, quite close to the stage but on a table off to one side, in good time.
The show was absolutely amazing. Worth every penny we feel! It consisted of not only the expected can-can dances, but beautiful music, singing, brilliant costumes, delightful colours (the girls were enthralled to say the least) and most of the dancers were topless (the boys attention span didnt wander too much either
)! In between dance scenes, we were entertained (to the point of tear-jerking hilarity) by a strong man lifting his female acrobat in all sorts of bizarre and wonderful positions, a uni-cyclist who could ride his bike up a ramp on one foot while kicking cups up onto his head with the other, a ventriloquist who had us all in raptures and Liz swimming in her own tears, and of course the famous nudey swimmer with the massive pythons!!!! It went from 11:30pm 1:30am without any breaks. It was great to share it with Seb and Lise too we had an absolute ball. We thought about going for a night-cap at the Café Chat Noir (famous black cat picture you see everywhere) but it was too exy considering we had just spent over $500 between us
So it was off to bed at 2am.
Location: San Sebastian - Paris, Spain
Hells bells were the words uttered by Liz at 7am the next morning as we rose and organized ourselves to get on the bus. The day started off with a bang as we trudged through the rain for 10 minutes to get to the pick-up point, during which time Liz actually slipped and fell over onto the hard tiles with her big pack on
.. A bruised bum, knee and ego resulted, plus wet pants- but no other injuries
We had really timed our hangover well, as the bustrip to Paris today takes um, a mere 13.5 hours. Okay. Apart from a few shady moments, we were generally fine, with a few naps, big bottles of water, entertaining videos and about 6 food stops. Yes, we ate at every stop! Mealtimes mean nothing at times of hardship like this. We dropped off and picked up people at Bordeaux, then at Tours in the Loire Valley. We were 99% sure that our friends from way back on the Northern Loop, Lisa and Seb, would be getting on at this stop. Sure enough, as we returned from McDonalds, there they were!!! It was soooo good to see them. The next 4 hours into Paris went relatively quickly, and we got off the Busabout bus for the last time in good spirits. We quickly checked into our hotel, and were delighted to find an incredible view from our window and balcony the Basilica of Sacre Coeur is right there in all its glory!!! Divine. We freshened up and hurried out to a nearby pub where we met Lisa, Seb and the hair of the dog. Ally and Drummond popped in for a quick hello and goodbye too. We had a great catch up and midnight meal of massive salads, garlicky potato crisps and for Lisa and Seb, snails. A change from our previous visits to Paris tonight it was balmy and warm enough to eat outside very comfortably. Gorgeous times.
Location: San Sebastian, Spain
Happy Birthday Dad!!! We woke expecting better weather, and we horrified to find it actually raining harder and more incessantly than the day before. It seemed as though our sightseeing (and beaching) would be put off for a few hours at least. First things first, we had to ring Roddells, so we stood in the rain trying to get onto the busy Hanton household landline for 15 minutes! Finally we got through, and had a nice chat with Rod, Jude and poor fluish Beno. We went to the internet to double-check the weather forecast, and were saddened to find that it has taken a turn for the worse
it wont fine up until Saturday (our last day) and then will only be 23 with clouds
.  We made a split decision to take our leave from San Sebastian on the morrow, and spend four days in Paris instead of just two. We changed our bookings and immediately felt more organized and motivated. If you cant go to the beach in San Seb, there really is not that much to do except eat, drink and spend money! The rain had increased as we headed home, abandoning all ideas of sightseeing. We met up with some friends, Ally and Drummond at the hostel and had a mid-arvo drink or two. Later on after a few new friends had joined us for some great chats and laughs, the tapas bars called us, very loudly! So out we went into the rain, but this time armed with Allys HUGE rainbow umbrella which nearly fitted all 8 of us underneath it. We took turns choosing bars to go into, depending on how the tapas (little snacky bits of food) looked. All the food is lined up along the bar, you ask for a plate and go along selecting which pieces you want to eat. Then you either pay for them before you eat them or afterwards, the latter being much more tricky to communicate and requiring honesty! We had some really nice ones and some not so good, but overall an awesome experience. After wed all had our choice of venue, we thought a purely drinking bar was in order to finish off the night. This seemed like such a great idea at the time! We found a cute little dark smoky place which offered cheap drinks, free shots and massive 1 litre glasses (fish bowls really
.) of cocktails
EEK. Although in retrospect this spelled DANGER, it really tasted very yummy and was such a novelty that we all chipped in to gobble it all up. 1:30am arrived quickly and saw us returning home and taking video of some of our friends doing ballet and chicken dances up and down the hostel hallway, being extremely quiet of course
Location: San Sebastian, Spain
The bell in the massive church outside our window chimed twelve times in a row before we got out of bed today! An awesome effort we feel. It seemed everyone in our hostel had the same idea, and for good reason it was pouring down outside. We pretty much just cruised around the hostel for the first little while, reading our books and showering etc. Liz went for a run along the boardwalk next to the ocean. We decided we needed one last load of laundry to be done, so we headed out to the laundromat, plus the supermarket and internet
. really exciting stuff..! We checked the weather forecast and saw it is going to fine up the day after tomorrow, so well stay on for our full five days here. This is meant to be our last-minute beach effort, and well be damned if we dont see some sun! After a brief siesta (dont worry, not more sleep, just reading!) we ventured out in the rain once again, this time for some shopping, of the window variety of course. San Sebastian is a small place, so we figure well do all our actual sightseeing tomorrow. The old town (where our hostel is located on 31st of August Street is absolutely gorgeous full of tiny little shops and tapas bars. We returned for a lovely home-cooked chicken curry and some socializing with fellow busabouters in the tiny little cramped kitchen that is common room, lounge and kitchen all in one. A lazy day was finished off with some yahtzee on the computer (Liz won 7-2), an uncontrollable bout of snorting laughter from Michael after our roommate bopped her head (harmlessly) on the windowsill, a major spill of red wine on Lizs bed by Michael (he really wasnt having a good night!), and a little taste of decadent dark chocky.
Location: Madrid - San Sebastian, Spain
Another interesting dorm night
one of our so-called mates decided to entertain his newly acquainted lady friend, in our room! Always a lovely surprise at 3:30am. Anyway, we woke a little bleary-eyed at 7am and got on the bus headed for San Sebastian. Due to terrible traffic, this 8 hour trip turned into 10, and we finally arrived in rainy cold conditions at 6pm. San Sebastian is meant to be our last stab at sun and beach before we come home
. So to find rain, grey clouds and cold winds was to say the least, quite disappointing. But it WILL improve!!!! Savings our pennies, we went to the supermarket to get ingredients for our home-cooked dinner and enjoyed eating with Ali and Drummond, some lovely Queenslanders we first met in our dorm at Barcelona. As we had scrimped our monies for the day, we felt quite validated in going out with them for some drinks, especially as our guide had mentioned two-for-one 3 Euro pints of sangria at one particular bar! We were a little perturbed to find out that it was two-for-one 6 Euro pints of sangria (ie. 3 Euros each), but the guide had been pretty ordinary all day, so we werent surprised that she was proven wrong, and plus it was still quite cheap! Once happy hour finished at 11:30pm, so too had we.
Location: Madrid, Spain
With our love for small cities, and even more those with city walls, we were quite henced by the idea of Toledo! So after breakfast, we headed to the bus station and about an hour later were just outside the small medieval township. Toledo is set atop a high hill, amongst a very dry and arid landscape. We climbed the hill, entered the city walls and were immediately taken by the beauty of the place. We made our way to the main square, and sat to have a drink, get our bearings and decide what wed like to see. Its hot here
., real hot, and there is a little touristy car-train that transports lazy (or less able) people around the sights and gives them a brief history. Normally, with cost factor and the guilt of sitting instead of walking, we would never think about this, but as we said its hot
., damn hot. We investigated, but alas
..it would not run again for another 3 hours
..so we set off on foot. We cruised the small, hilly, uneven cobbled streets enroute to some of the museums, churches and mosques that we wanted to see. Although it seemed we were cursed by the construction demon, as every sight we wanted to look at was closed. Nevertheless, it was a nice couple of hours in which we were basically able to see the whole city, from the outside at least. Upon arriving back, we set out to find Calle Sanchez Balderas, which is a street in suburban Madrid. We found it easily enough, and spent a good ten minutes taking shots of OUR name!!! It was a thrill to see the rare name of Balderas on a street sign, but that was easily matched by the disappointment of the cruddiness of the street
it sure is the dodgy part of backstreet Madrid! We stopped at the supermarket and cruised home for some internet and dinner. At night the hostel held a free Flamenco dancing class, but neither of us were in the mood for dancing, so had a drink and watched the many wobbling body-parts instead! Michael continued to have a few drinks and socialize with other Busabouters, whilst Liz had some Liz-time in the dorm room by herself.