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Greg Eden’s Travel Diary

Friday, 26 Sep 2014

MapDay 31 travel home
Getting out of Paris is chaotic. We organize a charter at a cost of 36 ($54). A taxi would cost about $100aud. We have to pick up 5 others, 4 from the city and 1 from Montmartre. The driver takes us through narrow streets, some cobbled, and and hour later we are out on the ring road that goes around Paris, the perifique. The traffic is moving at about 2kph. Smog is becoming a real problem in Paris and recently they had some days when only certain cars were allowed into the city and public transport was free. Eventually we get out onto the main road to CDG and we are finally moving. Having left our hotel at 8 we get to the airport about 9.45. The airport is chaotic too with long queues at border control. We just have to be patient. At the departure lounge there are no seats available. We bump into Peter Hurrell and family as they are on the same flight to Singas. Finally we get onto the Singapore Airlines A380 and I sit next to a friendly Aussie girl and we talk for quite a while. The trip seems to go quite quickly especially as we don't get any sleep. We both watch the Robin Williams movie Dead Poets Society. It is a brilliant movie and he is a huge loss to the arts. Singapore Airlines has a special section in their entertainment package dedicated to Williams. Very smooth trip and we arrive in Singapore just after midnight, book into the transit hotel (given to us by the airline for changing our flights) and have 6 hours sleep. We wake fresh for the last leg to Adelaide but we still have 5 hours to kill. We buy some stuff (perfumes, scotch etc). Thinking back we had a lot of amazing highlights on this trip. Most were the sorts of things that most tourists on package tours would never experience and that's the advantage of doing it the way we have over the last 5 years we have gone to Europe. Highlights were 1. Cycling - doing 10 days on the bike with Mal and Kerry, the descents into Santiago de Compostela and Cudillero, the climbs of the Covadonga and Agliru ( the hardest ride ever and by a long way), talking with Neil Stephens and Cam Meyer from Orica Greenedge, riding with Allan Davis (winner of Tour Down Under in 2008), riding again with former Belgian pro Eric de Clerk, riding around the vineyards of St Emillion on a beautiful Sunday morning, rides around the centres of Barcelona and Madrid, the super steep descents of the hills around Sollares in Spain. 2 Food - to me the Spanish win hands down. The paella in Barcelona, the Italian in Oviedo, the Pinxtos in San Sebastian, tapas in Sevilla, the meal in the hotel in Santiago. (the  pinxtos bars in San Sebastian were amazing), the Creme Caramel in Biarritz, paella in Granada. The Spanish wine, especially Roija was also much better than the French wines in our view. And it is really quite cheap (food and wine) in Spain.  3 Music - this was a very special trip for music. The street procession in St Emillion to mark the start of harvest, the jazz club in Madrid (the Ignasi Terraza trio were absolute masters of their art), Mozart's Requiem in Notre Dam Cathedral Paris (the absolute highlight of the trio for me), the Chopin Museum in Paris (especially touching a piano he actually played and seeing the plaster cast of his hand), Yanael Quenel playing Mozart in a church in the Latin Quarter of Paris, 4 the Sights -the celebrations and fireworks prior to harvest in St Emillion, Ronda and it's history and high bridge, walking aimlessly around Paris (there are always new things to see), the Luxembourg gardens, the mountains of Spain, the views from the Agliru, the vineyards of Bordeaux, the stark hot rolling hills of southern Spain, the Pantheon in Paris and numerous others 5 Other - driving with Mal and Kerry through Southern Spain (mostly fun but a bit hairy at times) Kerry singing "if you're happy and you know it" in the back seat while Mal was driving, Mal's jokes, the ride through Bordeaux, the hotel in Ronda and the views from our room in Sanxenxo, the guided walking tours around Barcelona and Paris. We sure packed a lot into 4 weeks. The only low point is the increasing news of terrorism and the advance of ISIL and the very frightening prospect terrorist groups training fighters to go back to their home countries to carry out terrorist activities, especially western countries. Also the news that came out of the UN that Australia has, per unit of population, amongst the highest representation of fighters of any country in the world. One of the few things that we heard about Australia on French TV was that the Australian Government had joined with the US lead coalition and had committed to air strikes across Syria and Iraq. This now draws us onto the radar of the terrorists. They would have expected the retaliation from the west and it gives them even more reason to carry on with their atrocities. As we flew over Iraq and Afghanistan on our way back from Paris i did at times think of the Malaysian jet that got shot down and wondered what the next big thing might be. I felt a sense of relief that we had survived Paris, where terrorists are rumored to be targeting innocent people. The Obama led coalition of nations against terrorism is heartening but the fact remains that facist organizations like ISIL are growing and continuing to attract recruits from peaceful democracies. It's getting scary to travel and Europe is in the firing line. Will we come back again? It's a question that hasn't exercised my mind until recently. Things will have to improve before we go back again. I think tourism in Europe be quite adversely affected in future. There is no doubt that countries like France, Spain and Italy are hugely dependent on tourism. The feeling of relief is even greater as we start to fly over the Australian mainland. Up until recently it was our ambition to travel overseas at least every 2 years in retirement but we might need to rethink that. It is such a huge pity as Europeans are such welcoming people and have so much to offer. Time will tell. A positive to finish off- on the A380 from Paris to Singapore I successfully sent my first text message ( to Josh) from a plane. We were 34,000 ft up over Iraq. The flight home was smooth except the landing in Adelaide because of high cross winds. The pilot had to abort the first attempt but the second was successful. The trip to Lincoln was very bumpy when we came down low and the landing had the palms sweating!! home safe though.