Hi everyone, it's Corry writing from Budapest, we've travelled a lot of the mainland since the last update. We did spend a week in Paris which was great, we stayed in one of the nicer hostels of the trip and met heaps of people we then were able to catch up with in Spain and Venice (mostly Australians of course). It was a little bit out of the main part of town and near a man-made canal where at night time if it was warm enough would be lined with people drinking wine and smoking until the early hours. On the first couple of days We saw all the touristy things there is to see around Paris on the first couple of days; the Eiffel tower, Arch de Triumph, Champs de Elysee. All were of course packed with tourists and young kids walking around trying to get you to sign their "petition" before demanding a donation. We did a couple of walking tours around the city, the first of which was of Notre Dame. Didn't see any hunchbacks but we learned a lot about the history of the building, including the importance of the book and how it saved Notre Dame from being torn down. The tour took us around the outside of the building and the guide gave us some of the meanings behind the various statues and artwork. After that we were able to go inside and see the rose window and everything.
On Wednesday we rented our little Renault and drove up north to the town Villers-Bretonneux to visit the Australian War Memorial for ANZAC day, or rather a smaller town about 4km's away from it for reasons I'll explain in a minute. Driving out of Paris was a nightmare but when we eventually got onto the highway it was a nice drive through open fields and scenery very different to Australia and America. We got to our town at about 3pm and parked in the town square, as all the hotels and accommodation was booked out for the night this was to be where we would sleep that night. We made use of the remaining hours of daylight and walked the 2km's to the Memorial for a look and then continued on to Villers-Bretonneux to check it out. There was Australian stuff everywhere! Every car had a flag on it or a kangaroo in the window, there was an Australian pub and another memorial, they really get into the spirit of it during April. Villers-Bretonneux was a town that was captured by the Germans during WWI and on the second ANZAC day was recaptured by Australian soldiers, effectively ending the Germans advancement in that area further west into France. We spent the night desperately trying to get some sleep although we didn't have much luck, Matt got about three hours in and I got one cramped up on the back seat in the fetal position. We got up at 3.30, downed half a litre of red bull and made the trek back up to the memorial in what surely looked like a scene from Dawn of the Dead. We had some great seats though in the second block of chairs from the front. It was about what you would expect from a dawn service, some school kids and officials got up for some readings and prayers, both national anthems were sung and Bob Carr was there to give an address. There was a surprising amount of French people there in fact, which was nice. It was a very memorable ceremony after which some went on to other services in the area, but of course we just wanted some sleep so we got back into our car and took off back for Paris.
During the rest of our time in Paris we visited the Louvre briefly. It wasn't really for us though so we spent about an hour looking around, saw the Mona Lisa and took off. Not very cultured of us I know but it just wasn't very interesting for us. We took another walking tour of some more of Paris where we were taken around the Opera house and given some stories behind the architecture in Paris and some of the famous stores and people who had visited. On one of our last days there we went underground into the catacombs and for a while we found it pretty anti-climatic just walking around old tunnels, we eventually walked into the rooms with piles and piles and piles of human remains. They were all neatly stacked piles of skulls and femurs and arms, oddly no rib cages or spines (that we could see). There must have been thousands of people worth of bones down there, and that was only the areas we were allowed access to! Very creepy.
We both liked Paris although it really wasn't our favourite place. I don't really know what to say about the big attractions because they're exactly what you'd expect them to be. Nothing really interesting happened at the Arch de Triumph or the Eiffel Tower, we just kinda saw them and moved on. The people were not as rude as they've been made out to be but they were by no means pleasant, and if you asked someone if they spoke English their face would always drop and then mutter "a little bit" and then speak it really well. As I said we're in Budapest after an abysmal journey here from Croatia, Matt will write a blog about Spain in the coming days and I'll write about Venice and Croatia so that we should be up to speed shortly. We've been enjoying some amazing weather for a change and are making the most out of the cheapness of eastern Europe, in a lot of places beer is cheaper than bottled water or coke. Five weeks today until we arrive home, it will be sad to finish the trip but we're both kind of looking forward to it at this point.