However, my old school friend Jenny lives there, and it was time for a visit, to catch up with her, her hubby, and finally meet her kids.
|Horizontal pipe organ (shades of The Goodies?)|
|Amelie with chocolate ice cream - perfect|
Anyway things settled down into the more expected routine for the next two days; basically hanging out with Jenny and her two girls, Amelie and Laila, and her husband Christian in the evenings.
|Laila with leaves|
The weather was a bit grey again, but it wasn't raining, so on the second day Jenny and I hopped on bikes (with a trailer for Laila) and went for a little ride. There were autumn leaves and mist and deer. We finished the day off by stuffing our faces at the local Chinese restaurant. Later, Christian produced some single malts which went down extremely well.
So all up, Germany was pretty good to me. It struck me as slightly messier than Switzerland, but I think Berlin is a relatively un-German city. Rheine was certainly more sedate and organised. The people seemed relatively friendly too (as long as you obey the numerous rules – don't you dare disrupt the supermarket queue or stand on the bike path though!).
I'll definitely have to come back and explore more some day.
And then, I was off to Paris. I got there a day late due to the French deciding to have a rail strike. You have to love them – any country that throws up rioters who sets fire to cars in protest of having to work more than 32 hours a week gets the thumbs up from me.
|Pere Lachaise cemetery|
|bumming around the Eiffel Tower hur hur hur|
On Saturday I hopped onto the metro and found my way into town for an exploratory wander. I started near Notre Dame and ended up taking in a selection of Parisian landmarks, like the Louvre (from the outside), the Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe. I finished up at the Trocadéro and Eiffel Tower, both of which were quite photogenic in the failing light.
In the evening Nick's girlfriend cooked up a lovely curry, and on Sunday some friends of theirs popped over for a very civilised crepe-based brunch. In the afternoon we headed out to the cemetery again and this time we sought out the famous graves of Jim Morrison (boring) and Oscar Wilde (much less boring), before I headed off to ascend the Eiffel Tower.
|Eiffel Tower – or IRON MAN?|
Anyway, I took my time looking about the tower. Also I took my time ascending to the top, because there was another enormous queue on level 2. And I love big groups of people *so* much. The view from the top was spectacular, and the freezing wind bracing.
|bum OF the Eiffel Tower?|
I had one day left in Paris, and after tossing up various options I decided to visit the Louvre, because it would really have been a bit silly to visit Paris and not do that.
|Paris by night|
|Horus making shadow puppets in the Louvre|
I was getting pretty tired of the crowds though. The Pergamon in Berlin was quiet, like a museum should be. The Louvre... was not. I had to resist the urge to strangle people more than once. Still, I figured I would explore one of the other wings and go see the silly Mona Lisa while I was there.
Perhaps it's an amazing work for all sorts of reasons that I'm not cultured enough to understand, but I've always found it underwhelming in pictures. Reality was no different. There was (for example) a cool painting of a lion eating a chubby infant, while the horrified mother looks on, waving her hands in the air, that I found much more interesting (and amusing, but that's just me).
Oh look here it is:
(I can only imagine that the boob was sort of conveying that the infant had been torn from it, and not that the artist was being gratuitous)
Next time I think I will check out the hunting museum, which, in place of huge crowds, apparently has an animatronic talking pig.
Anyway all up, Paris has a lot to offer, but I'm so not a big city guy, and I doubt I could live there. Bonsoir, Paris! See you again sometime, preferably in summer when everyone has buggered off to the South of France!
Huge thanks as usual to my lovely hosts, Jenny and Nick! I'd be a lot poorer, culturally and financially, if it weren't for everyone looking after me here.
Update: the complete sets of pictures are now up on flickr.