Travel


I had an amazing time in the desert and I did the best piece of writing that I’ve ever done about my time there. Which you will never read. The only thing I will say about it is this:

Before I left for the desert, I was talking to a man who told me, in smiling, broken English “Maybe you find yourself…”

And I did.

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I’ve tried a couple of times to explain this place, but the first attempt became a mass of details no one could possibly care about and the second was self serving to the extreme. I’ve given up trying to desrcibe the trip from Portugal to Morocco as the memory is completely overridden by the deluge of sights I’ve seen since. Don’t get me wrong, I still remember everything, but it’s difficult for me to capture the feel of something that’s seems so distant.

I’ve been in Morocco for just over a week now and it’s hard to overstate my satisfaction. This place is incredible and it’s difficult for an inferior wordsmith such as I to really capture the feel of it. I’ve been to four cities/towns so far and each has been incredibly different. Tetouan is notorious for the swindlers and crooks of a town close to the border which is the first stop for so many naive travellers. Caught unawares it’s easy to see how someone could be taken in by a confidence man. I managed to escape without too much damage to my wallet … and a couple of rugs.

Chefchauoen was next. Hash capital of Morocco (and maybe the world). Grown in the Rif mountains it’s impossible not to visit here without smelling it on the air. For the first day you get approached by all the dealers, after that they know your face and don’t bother asking again. Most are making an easy living bringing it down from the mountains and selling it to tourists, but there are scams to be aware of. Oh, so many scams. When you see how many people have to scrimp and scrape every day just to earn their daily bread, it’s hard to begrudge them an illegal drug trade. Surely the benefits far outweigh the effects and yet it still carries a harsh sentence if your caught. Despite being a drug capital (and it’s main pull, evidently), Chefchauoen is a beautiful place. The whitewashed houses are tinged with blue, unlike the rest of the country. High in the mountains this faintly azuelean town rests amongst peaks, the medina stretching away up the side of a mountain.

From Chefchaouen I took the five hour bus journey to Fes. It passed through many other places on the way, any one of which would have been at home in the landscape of Fallout. This is a beautiful and interesting country with many magnificent sites, but the level of litter and rubbish just discarded along roads and shanty towns makes it seem far dirtier than it is. Every object is used to it’s last degree, but once it’s finished with it’s simply put down and forgotten. Pits of rubbish show where once a shanty town lived until it became too polluted for even the homeless.

Arriving in Fes, I headed straight for the hotel but could immediately tell this place was unlike the other two. The largest and most densely packed of the three so far, Fes was a mass of people coming and going constantly. Pushing through the tiny streets of the medina, I made my way to the hotel. With a tiny veranda above a restaurant it was perfectly situated five minutes from the bus station outside of town (ten for a fully laden traveller). I had dinner across the (tiny) square on a terrace looking down on it all. Walking around Fes I managed to finally snag a taxi to take me to the Ville Nouvelle. A place so completely different from the medina that it’s stands apart from it’s medieval sister like another city.

Transport from Fes was a very comfortable journey on a sleek modern train. A double decker coach as operated by the French company ONCF. I’ve never seen a double decker train in England, but they are everywhere on the continent and since so much of Morocco was French territory (at least for a while), it makes sense that they should be here too. Despite it being the equivalent distance as getting a train to Edinburgh (from home, of course) it still cost less than £8.00.

Rabat was next. After deciding that Meknes could be missed I headed for the capital. A little bit further south and on the coast, Rabat is the capital of Morocco. Again, it’s as unlike the previous three places as anywhere could be. A modern city with a high street as close to being European as any I’ve seen here yet. However, just a short walk down the main thoroughfare brings you to the medina. As well as the traditional maze of side streets it has wider than normal avenues where the sellers ply their trade. Dozens of outlets and stalls mixing the modern forgeries of fashion with the traditional Moroccan goods as well as. Many legitemate businesses have baskets out front with hundreds of pirated films in, it’s not fought in any way, it’s just a way of life. There is no industry to export modern cinema to Arab countries so it’s pirated and subbed and sold at fifty pence a go without impunity. Contrasted with this are the traditional wares of a Moroccan merchant. Handwoven rugs, jelabas, sweaters, silks and sundries covering every facet of the shops they inhabit, every piece different and unique. Every ten feet I see another item I know would be perfect for someone I know and wish I could buy it. The limits of my endurance only stretch so far however, and my backpack can only take so much stuff strapped to it before it becomes unwieldy.

I sit writing this at a desk in my hotel room listening to my £150 mp3 player blaring Rob Zombie’s Dragula (recently released on Rock Band!) whilst below, a purveyor of goods offers his wares to the patrons of the cafes in the square. The waiter gives him the leftovers in a doggy bag in passing. It might be all he gets today. I think of my ever shrinking bank account and consider it a fortune to the beggars and denizens of the street. Walking twenty feet through the medina means facing men with misshapen legs from birth defects and women sat motionless, hand outspread (one woman in Chefchaouen merely repeated “Ola! Dinero!”, meaning “Hello! Money!” to anyone passing).

I’m in Casablanca right now, and it’s just as disapointing as everyone said. No moodily lit bars with light jazz in the background, no smart talking, chain smoking English rogues with an attitude (well, maybe just one). You’ve seen Casablanca, right? Well it’s nothing like that. It’s just North Africa’s biggest port town. It’s ok for a stop over, but not much else. Tomorrow I head on to Essaouira, on the coast. I’m gonna crash there for a few days.

I’ll be out of touch for a while.

I sit here, the very image of Spider Jerusalem (albeit, considerably hairier). Hopped up on painkillers and dope, a beer fresh from cooling in the river by my side, a roll up between my lips and a tiny computer in my lap. Music from an album released six days ago warms my ears as I sit, not in a sprawling Metropolis (ala. Spider), but in a clearing behind an old Roman mill. If it wasn’t for the music, I would be able to hear the sussuruss of water as the Rio Sever, through the trees behind me, idly floats on.

Rio Sever

I sit amongst ancient terraces in a hammock set up between a Cork Oak and an Olive tree. Ahead of me the terraces go up until topped by a ring of trees. From my view they seem to stop suddenly as though there is nothing behind the top terrace. All I can see through the trees is sky. It’s like sitting at the top of the world in The Garden, before the fall. I can picture a snake appearing from a tree with temptations (which I wouldn’t/shouldn’t/couldn’t resist in my current Jerusalem-like state).

It’s late in the afternoon as I sit here. The tiredness of a job well done and time well spent relaxes me as much as the intoxicants (almost). Most of the day slogging a ton of stones (literally and backachingly, I’m not exaggerating) into cement mixers to make a solid platform for a “shed”. The base of which was bigger than the house I use to occupy. This all took place a at a neighbours house (who lives about ten kilometers away). The three of us, Richard, Pete (another helpexer) and I, went over and, with three others, all helped this guy build something. I’ve never experienced that kind of community in England, and yet all these people helping out were English. An expat community that is more generous and open than any street in Britain.

Auf Wiedersehen Pet

When I think of everything I left behind, at home and at work (yeah, right), the friends whom I miss, the duality of simple and complex possibilities of everyday working life. I remember all the good things I miss about back home and still, I am happier to have left it behind to pursue this. It was totally worth it.

I had to walk three kilometers to get to the nearest internet in order to post this. It happens to be in a bar (thankfully,after that walk, in that heat) which does the delicious little chickens pies native to Portugal. So I sit here, with a beer and a pie, and give you this, a slice of my life.

And now I go back, to collect wood, for the stove in my room. The day ends reading by candlelight with a fire crackling gently away, lulling me towards sleep.

Candlelight

This place is beautiful, and I love it here.

And now your asking yourselves, how much of that was true?

It’s been a while since the last real update on what I’ve been upto and I’ve almost forgotten what to write about. I’ve had a little over three weeks on the farm here and it’s been incredible. I’ll give you a run down of a typical day…

I get up between seven and eight depending on what we’re going to be doing that day. We start off with a breakfast, which usually takes about half an hour, then we’ll work till between ten and eleven when we have another coffee/tea break. After the break we work for another couple of hours until twelve or one, depending on how hot it’s getting. Once the afternoon heat kicks in around that time, we stop for lunch. Lunch is almost entirely made of home grown stock (about ninety per cent of the stuff we eat is grown on the property). After lunch we take a siesta which can last for the rest of the day if there’s nothing else to do and it’s too hot (the highest temperature here so far has been forty degrees, but it’s usually about thirty six to thirty eight degrees Celsius). Siesta’s can last until dinner time in the evening (we usually eat at about nine when it’s a lot cooler, temperatures are still in the twenties at night). Sometimes if it cools down enough we do another hour of work before starting the evening meal. Occasionally we’ll have to go out to one of the local towns to get something in particular on the afternoon but even more frequently we’ll be invited to a social event. I’ve been told it’s usually only the summer months that Richard and Cathy are invited out so much, but in the last three weeks I’ve been to a ton of parties and gatherings of their friends.

I keep referring to this place as a farm, but a more accurate descriptor would be “smallholding”. Quite simply, Richard and Cathy bought a huge property (which is actually in a Natural Park, though that’s not the same as a National Park, there are restrictions on what you can do on the land) with ancient buildings on it and are renovating them while at the same time becoming more and more self sufficient. Richards main project at the moment is working on an old Portuguese mill (it could possibly be Roman or Moorish but no one knows for sure as the whole area contains a ton of ruins from both periods). Cathy mainly looks after all the crops and animals on the property. There are four Hens (for eggs), three chicks,(raised for meat), two Guinea Fowl (for eggs and eventually meat), three Geese (to mate and then for meat), two dogs and two cats. In the past they’ve also kept pigs, which were raised for meat and are planning on buying more piglets soon. Up until a week or so before I arrived they also had a donkey called Morris, unfortunately it fell and impaled itself on a spike and had to be put down.

As far as amenities go, there is everything you might expect. However, it’s slightly different here. The only electricity comes from some solar panels at the cottage which is at the top of the hill and quite a walk from where we currently work and eat. There is no electricity at the mill and once it starts getting dark we sit by candle light until bedtime. They have no internet, but do have a phone line down to the mill (which is currently broken for some unknown reason). The bathroom isn’t finished yet, so the shower and toilets are outside. There are two compost toilets on the property, which is literally a toilet seat set over a wooden box over a hole in the ground. Eventually, as it decomposes, this is used on the garden. The only shelter from the elements is a wooden structure set up for privacy. The shower is also outside, but since there is no electricity to heat water, it is a solar shower. Basically, there is a rather long black pipe which snakes it’s way around the property from the water tank (also used to water the garden and for washing up etc) which heats up during the day as the sun is on it. This may not sound effective but it definitely is. If you try and have a shower the sun is at its peak you will get scalded by the water. You have to wait until early evening when it’s cooled down a bit to safely take a shower.

The kitchen (again, currently unfinished, they’re looking for a wood fire stove before they can finish it off) is in a small room in the mill. It’s basically a larder with a gas cooker in which is used for most meals. However, outside there is also a permanent barbecue and an old style bread oven which is occasionally heated up for making bread, roasts, pizzas, stews etc. Every meal had been incredibly good so far, having home grown vegetables at every meal is amazing.

So far the work I’ve been involved in has been incredibly varied. While two other helpers were here (Tine and Conner, an engaged couple) we spent nearly two weeks working on restoring an ancient water channel to bring water from the river to the gardens. The channel is half a kilometre long and was full of holes, which needed filling and silt, which needed clearing before the water could be let in. The channel itself was originally Roman at the start, but was extended by the Portuguese later on to bring the water further than the mill it originally served. All up and down the river are ruins of mills which were originally Roman but were still used up until a hundred years or so ago. In fact, one mill on Richard and Cathy’s property was used as recently as about twenty years ago by the old owner’s grandfather. Unfortunately the roof caved in on it a couple of years ago and it’s currently inaccessible.

The rest of my work has been watering the crops using an old irrigation style where the water is made to flow along worked channels, oiling the frames of the windows in the mill, using a strimmer with a two stroke engine to clear areas of overgrown plants, digging out a wheelhouse (where the wheel of the mill would be) to turn into a compost toilet, moving an electric fence (powered by a solar panel) and geese enclosure, pruning olive trees and grape vines as well as other little things here and there.

The area of Portugal I’m in is so rural that it is reported to have one and a half people per square kilometre. The local town of Marvao holds the title of being the highest inhabited town in Portugal. On visiting the castle, which is slightly higher than the town, Richard took us up to the highest point of the highest inhabited town in Portugal. The view was amazing as you could see for miles around, as well as into Spain, which is only a few miles away.

The people here are also amazing. Most of the local Portuguese are of the older generation and they’re fantastic, nothing like the old people you find in England. There are seventy year old men who still walk a couple of miles to their gardens (which are rented, which is why they aren’t on their own property) and spend a few hours watering it all, before carrying sacks of produce home again. Then they repeat the whole thing again in the afternoon. These are hard working people who have spent their entire lives working this way and would be astounded at the kind of laziness exhibited by most English. The older women still go to the local washing place to wash all the clothes by hand and gossip with each other. There is an incredible air of community about these people that is sorely missing in Britain. Every greeting is effusive and heartfelt and goodbyes are long affairs with much kissing of the cheeks and hand shaking. It’s hard to adapt to after years of English stoicism. I’ve also been introduced to a lot of Richard and Cathy’s friends from the area who are a fantastic bunch of people. Some of whom are English, but there are a mix of nationalities in the area as it seems quite a popular place for ex pats of a number of countries.

If I’ve missed anything out that you want to know, leave a question in the comments and I’ll answer it when I can …

Just a quick update. I’m living on an amazing farm in Portugal at the moment with an English couple. Along with another couple of helpers, we’re working on clearing an old waterway that’s half a kilometer along to get water from the river to the farm. The food is nearly all homegrown and it’s always fantastic. I’ll try and get some pictures of us hard at work and upload them later but it may be a while as they have no internet and only electricity in one building from solar panels.

More updates in a month or two … probably…

The journey continues…

From Paris I needed to head west to start thinking about entering Spain. I didn´t really have a plan how to get to Portugal and was just assuming I´d figure it out on the way, what a debacle that turned out to be… but that´s a story for a different time. There´s a few places to cover before Spain.

    La Rochelle

I took the train from the Montparnasse station in Paris to La Rochelle. I didn´t know anything about it but it was alot closer to Spain and I figured it would be a big enough place to get a connection to Irun (just over the Spanish border). I was wrong, it was a reasonably small place on the coast which was a popular tourist destination but not a major travel hub. I spent a fantastic three nights on a camp site here using my tent for the first time.

A few things you should know about setting up a tent:

  • Always, always, set it on flat ground. Make sure when your looking at your plot that you check the area for the flattest bit. I spent three nights sliding towards the entrance to the tent on my sleeping bag.
  • Always, always, check the flat surface for mislaid objects. I assumed the lumps under me were all rocks and hard ground until the second night when I discovered they were mostly left tent pegs. It was much more comfortable when I´d moved them.
  • A sleeping bag is not sufficent when used on it´s own to protect you from hard ground. Definitely bring a sleeping mat, inflatable mattress or collapsible bed.

I had totally forgotten how to camp properly in the intervening years since I last did it. Still, despite the restless sleep, it was fun being back on a camp site.

La Rochelle is an old harbour town. It was recently modernised substantially when they removed the fishing operation and pedestrianised the town centre. Now it´s full of restaurants and little souvenior shops. It´s a beautiful little place and I spent a happy few days just walking round the cramped streets and sitting on the docks watching boats come and go.

After La Rochelle, and continuing my quest for Spanish access, I went to Carcassonne. Alot further south, and in between two of the better access points to Spain, Carcassonne was an easy decision. Especially considering I wanted to see where the game came from. If you didn´t know (and most of you won´t), Carcassonne is an old strategy game that was made into an Xbox Live title.

    Carcassonne

Carcassonne is amazing, probably my favourite after Versailles. When I arrived it was still very hot and summery, but within half an hour a massive storm broke out of nowhere and suddenly torrents of rain were coming down. I spent and wet ten minutes waiting for a taxi to get to my hostel (the busses had finished earlier in the day as it was saturday). The storm got so bad that on the way to the hostel we passed a tree that had fallen in the street after being struck by lightning. It was a big tree too, it took out a couple of parked cars and was laying across half the road. Further on the driver had to skirt a massive puddle in the road, but still the water came above the base of the four wheel drive we were in. By the time I arrived at the hostel though, the rain had stopped and it started to clear up. I was staying in a little hostel run by an English woman ten kilometres from Carcassonne itself in a typical little French town called Preixan. It was called Sidsmums Travellers retreat and was basically a converted wine cellar serving as a dorm with the upstairs set out as a full kitchen and rest area. They have cabins available for rent too out the back and it´s such a nice quiet place to relax in. The lady who runs it, Jan, gave a bunch of us a lift into Carcassonne on the sunday. She doesn´t normally do this on sundays but most of us were only there for that day and it was our only oppotunity to see the city.

The modern Carcassonne is just the same as most French cities, it´s only just big enough to call it a city. With it pedestrian shopping areas, cafes and souvenir shops it´s pretty similar to most places. The jem in it´s crown though, is the fortress on the hill on the edge of the city. The original city of Carcassone sits above the town but can´t really be seen from the streets until you get to the bridge which connects the old to the new. Once on it though, you can see the Fortress in it´s entirety, it´s fairy tale spires standing out against the lighter colour of the original stone. It´s a completely original preserved fortress that´s stood there since 1209. Before that there was always a fortress on the hill since the Romans in 10BC, but it was never permenant until the 1200´s when they rebuilt the original walls with stone. The oddly contrasting Disney-esque spires weren´t added until the late 1800´s when attempts were made to restore the disused castle as an historical attraction.

Walking around inside the city it came as a great surprise to find that people were actually living in there still. I thought it was purely an attraction and that there were only shops and kiosk insided the fortress walls until I came across a family barbecue next to the entrance to the actual fort. On one side of the wall is the museum inside the fort, on the other was some gently sizzling steaks and a guy in an apron with a beer. Imagine living in a tourist attraction? I wonder at the cost of real estate in a historical fort…

Once again I got in to the pay section of the fort by being under 25 and a citizen of the EC. For your money you get to walk the inner ramparts of the fort and get inside the fort itself which has a museum. After walking round for a few hours I still had some time to kill before I was due to get picked up. This was conveniently timed as there was a reenactment of a Grand Tournament about to start which I went to see. I wasn´t really expecting much, I just thought it would waste some time before my lift arrived. It turned out to be awesome though. Everyone in the show was in character, it wasn´t just some guys jousting. It started with the introduction of the knights and the queen and then there was some falconry. The second part of the show was the four knights doing tricks. They started off hitting targets with small axes and spear as they rode past, which wasn´t that impressive. Then they took turns spearing small hoops with a lance which were held out for them. This clearly took skill, it was like that bit in A Knights Tale where they try and train Heath Ledger. After this they put a handkerchief in the dirt and each rider galloped past and picked it off the floor as they went. Everyone oohed and aahed at that. Half way through them taking turns though the bad guys turned up and that´s when the real show started. After alot of posturing by each of the contenders they jousted each other with lances that actually shattered upon contact. When they fell from the horses they would take up arms and fight until one of them won. Obviously it was all staged and the outcome plain to all, but it was still fun seeing them joust for real. I´m pretty sure the bad guys were meant to be English, even though it was all in French and I couldn´t understand what they were saying. More than once I was tempted to cheer for the bad guys. When it was done, they took their applause and left the arena doing a series of tricks on their horses, like hanging off upside down and riding out backwards.

That´s enough for now, I´ll tell you all about getting to the farm in Portugal after I´ve arrived. Hopefully it won´t be as difficult as getting to Spain turned out to be…

That last post was a bit out of place cos I forgot to mention a few things that happened before so I’m editing it to expand on it. Eveything that was previously in it that some of you may have read is in italics, so just skip that bit.

In the beginning… No wait, that’s a different story. I’ll start at the airport.

I was expecting to get on one of those massive jumbo jets you see, that seat about two hundred people. I was to be disappointed. The craft I got on both legs of the journey, from Newcastle to Southampton then to Amsterdam, was tiny. It didn’t even have proper jet engines, but was a single propellor plane. Meaning it had propellors on each wing, not one on the front like the name implies. Still, it was small and sat a maximum of seventy two people. On both flights I was seated next to the wing and could see through the window to the props and landing gears. The only thing that kept going through my mind was visions of the Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. I kept expecting a gremlin to appear and tear apart the wing. Still, everything was fine and no William Shatner impressions were forthcoming (because he was in that episode… see?)

    Amsterdam

Amsterdam was entirely different than what I was expecting, and yet at the same time it filled in everything I imagined it to be. First let me get it out of the way (because I know some of you will be wondering) I did not make use of the red light district, though I did walk through it.

As a city, Amsterdam is incredibly confusing. Almost every street around the centre contains restaurants from around the world. You can get English, French, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Uruguayan, Spanish or Argentinian food from neqrly any street. There were a few others to, but I forgot. I did have some incredibly good falafel one time, which was one of the cheaper things to eat.

Amsterdam is an incredibly well thought out and planned city. I never knew before, but most of the city was planned exactly how they wanted it. First laying the canals and then selling the plots of land in between to people who wanted to build a home. The canals themselves are centred around the Centraal Station (yes, it has two a’s) which is situated on the Amstel River, and expand away from it in concentric rings. So, whether by design or not, all the canals bend North towards the major landmarks and the station. This is an incredibly good way of finding your way round the city. If only I had known at the start of my visit and not as I sat on the bank of the canal on the evening of my last day. Still, I managed to find my way well enough without this little trick.

The hostel I stayed at was definitely appropriate to the price. Despite that, it was quite a decent place to spend a few nights considering it’s location near the city centre too. One thing I thought was truly brilliant not to mention was when I was waiting for my Zune to charge. The only power outlet was in the hallway outside the dormitory, so as I sat and waited for the zune to charge (whilst playing FF7 on my PSP) a French guy came out of the dorm and sat a little way down the corridor from me with his acoustic guitar. Which he began playing. His friends (who weren’t currently sleeping) came out and sat with him. I’ve never felt so bohemian in my life. It was definitely one of those strange moments in life.

As Amsterdam is quite a small place (everything is within walking distance of the centre) I had seen most of the city in the first day so I decided to check out the rest of the area. A short train journey away was the town of Haarlem. Possibly a little better than Amsterdam, in that it had all the charm of a dutch city without the many (many) sleazy outlets. It felt more like a uniquely dutch experience than Amsterdam which can come across as an amalgamation of cultures. However, on my last day in Amsterdam I found a nicer part of the city than I had previously wandered. Searching for the Anne Frank house (far from the red light district) was a much more wholesome side of the city.

I caught my prearranged overnight bus to Paris and managed to get a little sleep, even though the bus driver stopped every couple of hours and insisted on announcing it over the tannoy. I’m sure I can’t be the only one who was planning to sleep the whole way.

    Paris

Paris was amazing, a completely different experience than I was expecting but it was incredible in a different way. It’s a much bigger city than Amsterdam (much much bigger) and so took a while for me to find my way around. I managed ok in the end though and visited most of the typical tourist sites. The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Champs Ellysee, The Arc de’ Triumphe and Notre Dame all fell under my watchful gaze. With remarkably bad timing though, I managed to arrive the day the Tour de France finished up in Pari. I did not know this at the time however and completemy missed the whole thing! This also happened in Amsterdam. Belying my usual timelieness I was able to completely miss out on Chris Cunningham (the weekend before my arrival) and Dizzzee Rascal (the weekend after my departure). Both of whom aould of been awesome to see.

The Eiffel Tower was a lot bigger than I was expecting, as well as incredibly busy. There was no chance I was going to stand in one of those queues for hours to go to the top. Besides, I have it on good authority it’s a little disappointing. I managed to get alot of photo’s of it though. Far more than I realised upon going back over them. The Louvre was typically busy, but the queues moved very quickly and I got in free too. The Louvre (as well as the Chateau de Versailles) is free to anyone from the EC who is under 25. Which was good. I saw the Mona Lisa, like everyone does, and checked out the rest of the renaissance paintings as well as the sculptures from Italy. I was disappointed that there was a lack of Napoleonic era displays. For some reason I thought the Louvre contained historical exhibits too but it doesn’t. It’s just Art. There was, however, a new exhibit displaying tribal art from Africa, the Asias and Oceania which was interesting. The other part I enjoyed was the look at Napoleons Apartments. While not actually having anything to do with the wars (I find so very interesting) it was a strange look into the mans personal life.

My favourite part of my visit to Paris was actually outside of Paris at Versailles. I think everyone learns about The Treaty of Versailles in GCSE History, but never before had I considered what it’s namesake was like (except of course, in relation to Marie Antionette). The Chateau de Versailles is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was by far alot busier than the Louvre. The ticket queue was at least an hour long, but I managed to bypass it. Again, being under 26 and having an EC passport meant I got in for free, so I could just go straight to the queue for those with tickets (yeah, there were two queues). So instead of taking about two hours to get in, it only took forty five minutes. The palace itself was amazing, seeing where the Kings, Queens and Dauphins of France slept and ruled from was incredible. The best bit however, was the gardens. I don’t believe I will ever be able to describe them satisfactorily with words, and the many pictures I took (before my batteries ran out) will never do them justice. The gardens are beautiful and have to be seen to be believed. The Grand Canal at the bottom of the gardens was so big, you could rent a row boat on it (and I spent an amusing ten minutes watching a young lad trying, and failing, to row a boat with three girls in it. He was sat the wrong way round for five minutes before someone convince him he was facing the wrong way). I spent about three hours walking round those gardens and still didn’t manage to see everything. Now it may seem a bit silly to you that I was so entranced by a garden, but you have to understand, these are the same grounds that Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV walked around. The same place where the French aristocracy ruled and were eventually deposed from. It was incredible to see.

Well, that’s enough for now. It’s at least a bit better than before where it was more of a footnote. Hope your enjoying reading (all one of you apparently) and sorry if it’s not got enough sex, drugs and rock’n’roll for you, but that’s not how I roll. More soon, promise…

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