First Time in Europe
5th May 2012 - 10th May 2012
Hello again. This latest ramble related to my first trip to Europe comes to you via the Eurostar travelling to Paris. I was going to say this is without question the fastest I have ever travelled on land. However - is take off and landing on a plane the same or faster?
I last wrote in Edinburgh – a beautiful city. We drove to Newcastle, which like Cardiff, is a place that internationally does not get its dues. I’ve only ever heard it as a boring city, but with a very lively football community. Football was the main reason we went there, but we were pleasantly surprised by the whole city. There is a number of good looking buildings and monuments, as well as a handful of pleasant bridges crossing the “mighty” Tyne River.
The football was brilliant. St James’ Park is great fun. The fans are extremely loyal (they were still selling 52,000 seats per game when they were relegated two seasons ago) and very vocal. The result did not go our way. It was an honourable 2-0 loss to Manchester City – very significant for the final results of the season. I’ve always followed English football (although sometimes not as closely as I’d like) and the occasion lived up to my expectation. It’s unlike any other sporting atmosphere I’ve experienced in New Zealand or North America.
Our visit to Weybread, near Norwich, was beautiful. This tiny village where Bridie’s aunt and uncle are living gave what I thought was a genuine taste of English village life. The pub where we had dinner was just a lazy 600 years old!
But London. Now THAT city is outstanding. There are just a handful of cities around the world that possess a tangible energy on the streets. I’ve experienced it in New York and Chicago – and it clearly exists in London.
Nowhere was the pace of life better demonstrated than on the underground. I enjoyed using the tube – except when it got particularly busy. Initially, the congestion surprised me. I always thought rapid transit was immune to capacity problems, because they can just add more trains. However, after using the tube I discovered they had already done that! I literally don’t think they can add any more trains because they need some sort of separation between trains.
Oh my goodness – we are already in Paris! Wow – that train journey was so fast. It’s like being teleported. Because I know what that’s like?
I’ll leave it there for now. Quickly though – Paris is amazing. Another city like London and New York, where you can feel and almost touch the energy on the streets. More on it later.
Song(s) for this portion of the trip: “London Calling” – The Clash
Best site since the last blog: Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. Both Bridie and I ended up taking our rental car right through this area thanks to our over ambitious GPS. We’ll be watching our credit card for a new 20 pound congestion charge from the city.
Cliché proven true: The ladies really dress up to the nines in places like Newcastle and Edinburgh – the equivalent of wedding attire for Kiwi or Canadian women. Jeans and a nice top are not generally nice enough for a night out. Also – they really take Hen’s Night’s seriously. Your night isn’t worth its salt unless all the guests are wearing matching uniforms/costumes.
Surprise: Meal servings are not small, like I had been led to believe. In fact, I think I’ll go further. American gets a bad rap due to large portions. But I have had plenty of giant servings in Europe and the UK.
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