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Lunch at Harrods Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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Diana and DodiToday we went to Harrods and had lunch at the Rotiserie counter in the Food Halls. I had half chicken, Ian had half duck, with baked root vegetables. Accompanied by Harrods’ Lager. Dessert followed at Moretti’s gelato counter.

It feels like such an indulgence, but the food is just so good. We had lunch at the Seafood counter a few years ago and just had to do it again.

Harrods is like no other store in the world. Others try to be like it but none of them compare.  It’s truly one of a kind. Anything you could possibly imagine, and so much that you probably couldn’t, you can get there.

Pictured is the memorial to Diana, PoW and Dodi al Fayed, son of Harrods’ owner. Originally this was placed in a window on the street, but it caused traffic accidents. You can see why. Now it’s in the lower ground floor at the bottom of the stunning Egyptian excalators and a tourist attraction.

Tonight we’re having dinner with Gerry and Andrew. It’s still too fucking hot.


Aren’t we faaaaaaabulous? Monday, 29 June 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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PriscillaWe’re just back in from seeing Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Musical. It’s the fourth time we’ve seen the show, having seen it in Sydney twice and Melbourne.

It’s interesting to see the development of the show since the first time we saw it a month of so after the world premiere.

Tonight a few of the Australian references are gone (the “I still call Australia home” kid was replaced by Tinky Winky; the Monte Carlo was a Ginger Nut biscuit), and some parts have been tweaked, trimmed, or added (there is now a Kylie medley where before there was just ‘Confide in Me’).

One ABBA reference has been inserted: when the Aboriginal tracker comes across the broken down bus, there was a line “let’s put the ABBA back in aboriginal!”  As I wrote elsewhere a couple of years ago, all the ABBA references from the movie have been removed or replaced by Kylie.

Jason Donovan was great in the role of Tick/Mitzi, though at times he seemed to be concentrating hard when he had to sing and dance at the same time. Oliver Thornton as Adam/Felicia was a lot more Guy Pearce from the movie than the actor who had played the role in Australia, especially in the arms and chest (if you know what I mean!).

And of course Tony Sheldon, the only import from the Australian cast, was just faaaaaaaab as Bernadette. The role fits him like a glove. Or should that be fits him like a frock?

Today we visited the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum at Whitehall. A fascinating look into WWII history, some of which is exactly as it was left when the lights were turned off and the doors locked on August 16 1945.

Then we took a walk through St James’s Park to Buckingham Palace. You just can’t go to London without taking a stroll to Buck Pal.

Afterwards a trip to HMV on Oxford Street. Another one of those things you have to do in London. Didn’t go too mad on the “4 for £20” specials for a change, though we did pick up a few CDs, DVDs and books.

Dinner in Old Compton Street before the show gave us two interesting stories: the prissy French queen who walked in, sat down, and asked for the air conditioning to be turned off because it was bothering him, and the Eastern European slapper in the skimpy dress who wrapped herself in her pashmina because she was cold. It was 30 fucking degrees outside (at 6 pm) and not that much cooler inside, despite the air con.

Has anyone seen Godot? Sunday, 28 June 2009

Posted by Ian Marks in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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Today started fairly quietly as it was time for me to watch the omnibus of Coronation Street.  So many characters I don’t know and story lines that have moved way on but who cares, I got to watch my favourite soapie on english TV.  It is a bit sad I know but who cares what others think!

Waiting for Godot - Theatre Royal HaymarketThis afternoon it was off to the Theatre Royal Haymarket to see Waiting for Godot.  I’m not a Beckett fan but this cast was such a dream cast we could not help but see it:  Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup.  It was one of the most amazing plays I have ever seen.  Because of the friendship between McKellen and Stewart, playing the roles of the friends Estragon and Vladimir was very easy between them.  It was so beautiful to watch and I had no idea the play was so witty.  Of course having such heavy weights in the cast means that the work is superb.  I cannot rave enough about it, I’m sure I missed the sub-text of the play but I don’t care it was a thing of beauty to watch.

So we wandered away from the theatre afterwards, had some dinner and decided to have an early night.  Our theatre visits have begun and set a very high benchmark for the rest.

Helter skelter Saturday, 27 June 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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On Brighton BeachToday we took the train down to Brighton for a day trip out of London.

It was a lovely sunny day down on the south coast, and apparently better than in the city where there were storms and flooding.

We took a walk along the beach, if you can really call a coastline of pebbles a “beach”. Bizarre.

Stopped along the way to have fish & chips. Just something you feel that you have to do on Brighton Beach. Yum!

Helter SkelterThen we wandered up to Brighton Pier and took in most of the rides at the end. Some pretty wild rides and lots of fun. Some of them all the wilder because of where they are at the end of the pier.

I even took a slide on the helter skelter (and no, I didn’t get to the bottom then go back to the top of the slide). Woohoo!

Back to the beach we took a ride on Volk’s Electric Railway, apparently Britain’s first electric railway, which follows the beachfront from just east of the pier to the marina. Very cute and fun.

Heading away from the beach we walked around the gardens of the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Dome, then wandered The Lanes, an older part of the city now filled with boutiques and restaurants. Stopped off for a couple of pints, as you do.

Back to London we headed to Covent Garden for dinner, perhaps not the best part of town on a Saturday night – so many people, so much beer! Had a very nice dinner at a place called Navejo Joe and shared a fajita platter.

Today I turned thirty-sixteen. To those who sent birthday wishes by email, SMS, Facebook or MySpace thanks very much to you all 🙂

Disneyland Paris Friday, 26 June 2009

Posted by Ian Marks in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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It turns out that Marne la Vallee – Chessy, the station at Disneyland Paris is only 35 minutes from Gare de Lyon in Paris.  However the queue to buy the tickets took 45 minutes!  But that’s Paris and we eventually joined a train for the quick trip. 

After jumping the complimentary hotel shuttle we arrived at the Sequoia Lodge, a huge Disney hotel.  We joined the check in queue and starting chatting to the girl managing the queue.  We talked about whether we’d been to Disneyland Paris before, where we stayed and the differences between the hotels.  The lady checking us in had much the same conversation with us.  Then it got a little odd – but good odd.  The queue girl and check in lady were talking about something (in French of course) and then we got a VIP pass for breakfast, so we could show up at any time for our included breakfast.  The the check in lady says “I’ve given you a good room”.  We then find our room on the top floor of the hotel right in the centre.  But calling it a room is doing it a disservice, it was a suite with views across Disneyland Paris including both parks.  We were both gob-smacked at the room and disappointed that the best room we’ve had on the trip will be the one we spend the least amount of time in.

Sleeping Beauty CastleSo we spent three days in the parks having a ball.  We started with our favourite: Pirates of the Carribean.  It is a little weird in french and this one hasn’t been “Depp-isized” so its still got all the original bits without famous faces.  There were the usual rides although the parks are considerably smaller than original Disneyland but still lots of fun.  The french version of some rides has actually made them better – Space Mountain comes to mind.  Busy three days though and very tiring.  It became very obvious that the Italians are already on their summer holidays and there were thousands of them in Disneyland Paris.  The problem was that there were so many who couldn’t speak french and got very indignant with people who couldn’t understand them and seemed to just try and push there way through.  They were also so cheap, vouchers for everything and made sure they got everything, right down to getting meals for children sound asleep at the table in the restaurant.  I almost got into a punch up with one scraggy woman in the queue at Pirates of the Caribbean – don’t try and sneak past me in a ride queue, I know every trick there is!

The restaurants were very disappointing – just huge barns for people to eat in.  Its get em in, feed em and get em out.  However on our last day we went to the restaurant Blue Lagoon which is in Pirates of the Caribbean.  It was actually a lovely restaurant with good service and nice food but the thing is it is in a ride!

So we had lots of fun acting like the over-sized children we are.  We wandered off to the Eurostar terminal for our trip to London.  Amazingly it was a painless exercise that went very smoothly.  The train ride was very comfortable and efficient as we zoomed through the french countryside and dived under the English Channel.  So now its London’s turn to  be shocked and horrified at us!

Au revoir, Paris Monday, 22 June 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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Abessess Metro station entranceToday is our last day in Paris. So we wandered around a bit, catching up on some sights.

First we took a walk down Prominade Plantée, a former railway viaduct that has been turned into a park. Quite lush and lovely!

Then we hopped the Métro to Montmatre, to see the view from the top of Butte Montmatre plus to have a look at this historic bohemian part of Paris. Quite lovely and unique but with a split personality. Parts of it are very touristy, including the square where we stopped for lunch, but turn the corner and it becomes very local and doesn’t seem to have been touched by the tourist crowds at all. We stopped off at a café that was off the beaten track and very popular with locals, many of whom seemed to be regulars.

We also took a stroll around the infamous Pigalle area. Non-stop sex shops, peep shows and plain sleaze. Got as far as the Moulin Rouge and we’d had enough.

Then we headed back to Tuileries for another stroll through the beautiful gardens and a couple of beers in one of the cafés. Ah!

Tonight dinner at a café on Île St-Louis. One thing we’ve come to notice, almost all the cafés have pretty much the same menu. After dinner we took a stroll around the banks of the Seine and across to Ïle de la Cité.

Tomorrow: Disneyland. Au revoir, Paris!

Sipping champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower Monday, 22 June 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.

Cheers!It’s been a busy couple of days for us.

Saturday we visited the Musée National d’Art Moderne at Centre Pompidou. Some interesting and provoking modern art plus a special exhibition of women’s artwork. One common theme was the graphic use of genitalia.

Yesterday we visited the Musée d l’Armée and Naopoleon’s Tomb at Hôtel national des Invalides. The museum had a very interesting and well-laid out exhibition on the two world wars, stretching the history right back to 1871 when France lost territory to Germany.

Since we were in the neighbourhood we headed towards the Eiffel Tower. The line for tickets wasn’t all that long and appeared to be moving quickly. It turns out that the first line is just for security checks, then you line up for tickets, then you line up to get to the lift. It didn’t take as long is it looked in the end.

So we took the lift up to the second floor and changed to the lift to the third. Despite warning signs at ground level that there were long waits and overcrowding, we walked straight in to a lift and then up to the top.

What a spectacular view!  It feels like you can see forever. And how glamorous – there is a Champagne Bar up there, so of course we had to imbibe. What could be more Paris than sipping champagne with the whole city at your feet?

We ended up spending around four hours on the tower, looking at the views from the three floors, seeing various displays and exhibits on the first floor, and just taking the the structure itself, which is stunning. We even took the stairs rather than the lift from the second to the first floor. A bit easier than those stairs in the Arc de Triomphe.

We’d spent so long on the tower that night was falling and we were quite hungry, so we stopped for dinner at a café just off Champ de Mars. We could still see the tour and were treated to the twinkling light display that comes on the hour at night. Scroll down or click here see a short clip from Friday night.

Arriving back at the apartment, the most bizarre scene: a whole nightclubbing thing going on in the streets, first behind Hôtel de Ville when we came out of the Métro station, then filling the street in front of the apartment building. Doof-doof till 2 a.m. Does this happen every Sunday?

No, I’m not at work Saturday, 20 June 2009

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Look at what they’ve had to do at work while I’m on holiday. Apparently the people that I deal with every day at work didn’t get the message that I was going to be away, though I told the entire workplace in an email before I left. Poor Phil who has been using my desk has had to bear the brunt.

An ATM would be nice Saturday, 20 June 2009

Posted by Ian Marks in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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We decided to go to the Musée d’Orsay yesterday morning, but first needed to get some money out.  Well trying to find an ATM can be a difficult thing in Paris.  We walked quite a long way but couldn’t find one.  So that would have to wait.

Musee d'OrsayI was quite excited about seeing Musée d’Orsay not just for the art but for the building.  The former magnificent train station has been turned into the most stunning museum ever.  The galleries on the ground floor are set out to evoke the feeling of trains in the station and it is done superbly.  It could easily have turned into a comical train motife but it hasn’t the restoration of the outside to the clock at the end of the hall that only the French would put such a magnificent thing in a train station.  We spent many hours looking at the works of art and ogling at the building.

After the Musée d’Orsay we needed to do something really spectacular. You can’t get much more spectacular then the Arc de Triomphe.  The only and I mean only down side is the 284 steps to get to the top.  But the view from the top up and down the Champ Élysées is wonderful.  We wondered down the Champ Élysées and finally found not one but a bank of ATMs!

After a trip back to the apartment to change it was time for our dinner cruise.  We were to meet the boat on this little island in the Seine called L’ile aux Cygnes which turns out to have the small French Statue of Liberty on the end.  Bit of a shabby island for the lady, but still a popular spot for people to visit.  Our cruise passed much as expected, reasonable food, amazing views.

After the boat docked we went to look at the Eiffel Tower all lit up.  The was a spot in the middle on the Bir-Hakeim bridge that provided excellent views.  The tower all bathed in gold light with its search lights spinning around the top is truly one of lifes great sights.  But then at the stroke ofr midnight the tower errupted into this sparkling jewel with lights flashing on the surface that make it look like a gold jewel sparking in the night.  The crowd gathered at Trocedero to see it erupted in cheers, it was one of those nights when you could not be happy.

So there we were riding the Paris metro at 1:30 in the morning, something I would never do at home.  But isn’t that part of a journey, doing things you wouldn’t normally do?

Eiffel Tower at midnight Friday, 19 June 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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