The first cemetery that we visited, at the Brighton Beach end of ANZAC Cove on the edge of the landing zone. Walking through the rows, reading the names and ages of the young men who perished, it's just heartbreaking.
"Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives...
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours...
You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from far away countries
wipe away your tears,
your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well."
- Ataturk 1934
The Sphinx - a landmark named by the ANZACs during the campaign.
The ANZAC Memorial at North Beach.
A statue of a Turkish soldier who rescued an ANZAC soldier - they say that he picked up the injured man in no mans land and returned him to the ANZAC side during a battle.
I wake up at four and can't get back to sleep, the alarm goes off at six and we pack up the last of our stuff before going to meet the taxi, which drives us to the airport through the morning traffic. We do the usual airport stuff - security, passport control, we're almost pro's at this point! It takes a little longer to get through the passport check than we had figured on - the line was massive! I was less than impressed to get to the front of the queue, only to be ignored by the guy serving, who was busy talking to the other guy and texting! Seriously, you have one job.
We make it through to our gate and grab some breakfast from the only cafe. It's average, but it is airport food after all - you can't expect too much I guess. We hang out at the gate, and about half an hour before we are due to fly out they announce that our 11:50 flight is delayed until 12:45. Ok, no worries. We keep stuffing around, reading books, browsing duty free, etc. I start to get a bit jumpy about the thought of missing our connecting flight. It was about this time that Willy pointed out the guy sticking what amounted to duct tape on the nose of the plane. Seriously? With Malaysian Airlines track record you'd think that they'd be just a little sensitive about their public image. Now I do understand that it's not exactly duct tape, but it's still not a great look for those due to board the plane. Especially one delayed to to "technical difficulties". I wanted to offer my chewing gum as well, but apparently they wouldn't find that very funny.
12:45 starts to get nearer. We get told that our flight is now delayed until 15:00. Oh great. We'll either miss our connection or have to go directly from one plane to the other. Neither is super ideal. They pack us into the plane at 14:30 - we fly out at 15:30. During this hour sitting on the plane with no cell reception, charging options for phones/ipads, or in flight entertainment options, we sit in thirty four degree heat with no aircon, water, or any other drinks. To say that I was unimpressed would be an understatement, and I felt for those traveling with small children.
The one really lovely moment from this time in purgatory was listening to an Australian woman in her late twenties talking to an elderly French woman. They were having the most gorgeous conversation, and I would love to be able to become as wonderful a conversationalist as the young Australian. So, so lovely, and I was so happy to witness it.
Finally we take off. The best part of this is not the flying, it's the aircon kicking in. Neither pair of headphones work properly, so I spend most of the flight watching movies and listening to music with one ear. We eat some crap food, attempt to sleep, and pray that we miss our connection as twenty four hours straight in these cramped conditions would be awful.
We don't miss our connection, they just delay it over an hour for us. We land in KL, get marched straight across the airport to the next plane, and get squished back into those god forsaken seats. I have to say that I am so pleased that I am fairly little, flying economy as a tall or larger person must be horrendously uncomfortable. The second plane is much better though, there's USB charging available, the screen is better, the seats are nicer, and the cabin crew seems to no detest us. We do however get even worse food on this plane. Fish and rice for three meals in a row gets a little tedious.
Finally, after flying for about twenty four hours straight, we land in Auckland! Willy's parents kindly pick us up, and before we know it, we're home. It's so, so good to fall asleep in our own bed.
Our alarm goes off at seven thirty, and this morning we are on a mission! We arrive at the Louvre around eight thirty - half an hour before opening, and are confronted by a line the same length as the one from yesterday. More people are arriving by the minute, and as we can't defer it another day we hop in line. Half an hour later and I would estimate that there were a good thousand people in the queue, which now extends around the square. Apparently the Louvre is free today. Oh gosh...
Once the doors open, we get in pretty quickly. It's so weird to enter the pyramid and the area below reminds me of the entrance to the Vatican. We grab a couple of bulky audio guides and head up to the Mona Lisa before that room fills totally to capacity. I don't really get the obsession with that painting, it's lovely but some of the other works are just so much more interesting - in my opinion.The standouts for me are the collection of French paintings, which as a group I think I prefer to the Italian, the ceilings, and the room that contains Napoleons jewels. These are all incredible, and I feel privileged to have been able to see them all in person.
My very favourite part is the collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts. I was obsessed as a child and to be able to revisit this obsession as an adult was quite special. I spent a lot of time listening to the commentaries and peering into display cases in room after room after room, poor Willy.
On our way back to the audio tour return, we found ourselves under the Louvre, surrounded by ancient stone walls. Turns out that we were walking through the moat of the fortress that had previously occupied the site. The more you know.
I hate to say that I almost suggested ditching the Louvre. We have seen so many wonderful museums, but our eyes have been glazing over at the thought of any more of them. There are only so many museums, churches, ruins, that you can appreciate in a six week period! I am forever thankful that we didn't skip it. The Louvre is by far the best museum that we have visited, it's just so incredibly impressive. It's definitely in a league of its own.
After the Louvre we walked up to Montmartre and took the obligatory photo outside of the Moulin Rouge - we toss up going to the show, but at two hundred euros each it's a little much for this stage of the trip. We follow the main road, past the strip clubs and sex shops, and I browse another market full of junk. The last little stretch before our metro station is horrendous. It stinks of urine (not unusual in Paris, but this was especially pungent), there are homeless folk everywhere, there's a lot of rubbish, and just before the entrance Willy spots a large pile of vomit. Gross.
I was prepared to find Paris naff, filthy, and a bit disappointing. Despite it being dirty, smelly, touristy and expensive, I have to say that I have enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I would totally come back. I did however find it quite depressing - in a different way to Berlin, but depressing just the same. The poverty level here seems high here, higher than Turkey or Italy, which I know is unlikely to be accurate but that is certainly how it appeared to me. I don't know, maybe I just expected it more in the other places so it shocked me less.
We enjoy our last dinner just around the corner from the hotel. We both have veal, Willy's comes with fries but mine comes with half a plate of green beans. The beans are cooked to within an inch of their life, but yay vegetables! I am so looking forward to having consistent access to balanced meals. Tomorrow we hop on the plane, take us home!
Oh goodness. The problem with a big night is the next morning becomes a write off. We drag our sorry selves through the works around nine, shove some food and coffee down our throats, then hop on the tube for one of the rougher rides of our trip. I think we're both green by the time we get off the second train. Back to breakfast, I discover that the closest thing to a pie that I have eaten since NZ - it's a baguette filled with mince, tomato, and cheese. It's served hot and I think that I may have fallen in love with it a little, although it certainly has not replaced the pie by any stretch. Also the coffee here is pretty terrible in general - there are notable exceptions, but yeah, in general it's expensive and yuck. Gotta feed that addiction though, eh Willy.
Eventually we come face to face with that iconic glass pyramid. One problem though. The line is over an hour long. Yikes. Willy and I look at each other, I am pretty sure that at least one of us (probably me) would melt during the wait. We decide to rain check the Louvre, and head off down the river in search of Notre Dame.
The biggest problem on this particular day (beside our desperate need to go back to bed) is that we have been so spoiled since we left Italy. There just haven't been queues in Turkey or Germany, no matter how amazing the attraction, or what time of day you arrive. In fact we've been virtually alone in some of the most fantastic places. So yeah... We had kind of forgotten how to play the game. Foolish.
At Notre Dame we are faced with another long queue - of course, but at least this one is moving quickly. We hop in line and before we know it we're being pushed inside. Now... It's a very nice church, I enjoy reading some of the history and seeing the progression of the building over the centuries, but... It doesn't come close to my experience in Venice. Not that I was expecting it to, but you know, we always live in hope. The architecture is wonderful, as is the artwork, but yes, at the end of the day it didn't stand apart from the rest. Except of course for the gargoyles, they were super cool! Took me back to a cartoon that I used to watch as a seven or eight year old which was called Gargoyles and was my favourite for a while. Had a little nostalgic moment.
A woman approached Willy outside the church, wanting him to sign a petition. We looked at each other, it didn't make sense to me (it was in English and was pretty much nonsensical) and I watched the woman closely as Willy began to sign. A second later an older French woman came past, she grabs our eye, points to the woman with the petition, and says "Pickpocket". Ah crap. Of course. At that very instant, another woman with an identical "petition" jumps me. There are now two of them and two of us. The old womans comment rings in our ears. They start demanding money. We leave quickly with all that we came with, thank goodness. That's the first time that we have (knowingly) faced that, despite having already traveled other places that are notorious for it.
We top up Willy's caffeine levels at a nice cafe, then hop on the tube. The Catacombs have a two hour (plus) long line, and quickly becomes one for our next trip. One of the markets is next on our list. We emerge from the tube to find ourselves surrounded by less fortunate Parisians and a lot of hawkers. We stick out like a sore thumb - despite this I manage lose Willy for a minute and have a minor freak out. This joins the small handful of places where I have felt unsafe. We find each other fairly quickly but I hold onto him for the rest of our visit. We make our way down the two blocks to the market, passing hawker after hawker the entire way, all selling small amounts of everything. I wonder how much of it is stolen - the more accurate quandary is probably how much of it isn't. We are virtually shoulder to shoulder with randoms the whole way. I keep a hand on my bag and take a keen interest in my surroundings. There aren't many tourists here. We sure ain't in Kansas anymore.
A short while later we arrive. It's mostly crap, but I do buy a dress and a pair of harem pants - I needed them for the ride home, not doing a second long haul flight in jeans. Hell no. A man approaches us to try and sell us an iPhone and gold chain. It's so totally not stolen. Cough. We roam for close to an hour before heading home. Our area isn't the nicest but I don't get scared there. We walk down a street that we hadn't previously explored and ended up at a cross between a restaurant, pub, and bar. We eat our dinner sitting by the window at a table with a red checkered cloth. It's an ok meal too - Willy has roast duck, and I have the salmon pasta. They come with entrees (mozzarella and tomato for me, a selection of meats for Willy) and there is so much food that we can't finish. I hate wasting food, but you certainly could not accuse them of being mean with it.
We collapse into bed around ten, almost looking forward to sitting on our butts for twenty four hours in the near future. It's been a big few weeks!
I wake Willy up around eight thirty, we sort ourselves out for the day and head to the main station that we had seen the night before. This cut out a bunch of pointless tube changes and lets us enjoy the sunshine. After trying to buy tickets in three different places, we finally manage it and get bustled on to a train full of tourists like good little non French speaking sheep. Baaaa.
Being a sheep is again the only option available to us when the train stops unexpectedly on the way to Versailles. An announcement blares through the train, the Frenchies get off, and the rest of us sit there looking at each other. Eventually some kind man who knew a little French, bustles the rest of us dummies off the train. We become two bodies in a sea of people making their way to the next platform where a train awaits. Mass confusion takes over the crowd at this stage. Is this the train to Versailles? One of its stations has Versailles in the name. I tell Willy that it's the wrong train, we head up the platform and wait for the next one. Thank goodness I am right.
We eventually end up at the right stop. As soon as we get out of the station we get bustled across the road to buy tickets, where of course we stand in a line. Hanger has set in by this stage, we missed breakfast and we aren't coping. Luckily for us there's a sandwich bar next to the ticket agent. We buy two sandwiches, a cappuccino, and a double espresso to go. Two minutes later we are eating our yummy rolls while waiting in the line for Versailles, and boy is there ever a line. I would hate to see this place on the weekend or in the middle of Summer. It's about twelve when we finally get through the gate, what a mission.
This place is HUGE.
I love Versailles. Definitely one of my favourite tourist attractions, and absolutely the best palace that we have been to. The rooms in the castle are intense with their lavish decoration, however most of the furniture is not original as it was lost during the revolution. One of my favourite parts was the little farm that belonged to Marie-Antoinette - it's an English village complete with full sized cottages with thatched roofs, a lake, and lots of different kinds of animals. I played with the goats briefly, but there were also donkeys, pigs, a dog and various birds. The one group of creatures that I didn't enjoy were discovered as we walked across the little stone bridge - all I could hear was a sort of bubbling noise. There were people dropping bread into the water near us, so we poked our heads over to have a look. The lake under the bridge was a sea of large fish, all clamouring for food. I have never seen anything like it. They were so big, there were so many of them, and they were all half out of the water in the pursuit of food. It was so loud and totally bizarre to see. There was one other creature that we saw at the farmlet but we don't know what it was - Willy pointed out the weird creature who was busy eating all of the berries. It sort of looked like a possum, but it wasn't, and definitely wasn't scared of people. I didn't make friends with that one.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the gardens, and ate ice cream sitting by the "grand canal". It was a lovely warm day, and chilling out for a while was lovely. Eventually we had had our fill and we wandered back to the train - it was much more straight forward getting home!
The All Blacks were playing that night, so we got changed (it gets so cold here at night!) and went to find a bar that was playing it. We stumbled upon a place that was just around the corner from our hotel, we sat down and quickly discovered that it was owned by an Australian guy. The Aussie and his English bar man were hilarious, the music was good, and the food was ok. Slightly embarrassing game what with all of the ball dropping, and Dan Carter cost me a shot with his dodgy kicking! We had far too many beersies, I played darts with some Parisians, and it was just the most fantastic night. One of the best of this trip for sure.