Summer Holiday 2007
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The trip down to London was largely pleasant. The lunch break was ruined when the service station we stopped at had a power cut, and I had to wait an hour for a pizza that never came. I was also rather worried by the guy who spent most of the journey on his phone, with certain phrases cropping up repeatedly, such as "geezer's dead" and "George has an alibi, I don't."
I spent the night on the streets of London. My next bus drove onto the Eurostar. I'd had so little sleep that I slept through my first ever trip through the Channel Tunnel, which was disappointing.

I got to Paris with almost an hour to catch the 16:00 bus to Luxembourg. However, the last bus to Luxembourg was at 15:00, and I'd been sold a useless ticket. I was told to go to the Gare de l'Est and catch a train from there, and that I would be refunded for it. I duly went to the Gare de l'Est, only to be told that all the trains to Luxembourg were sold out. Instead, I bought a ticket to Brussels. Only after I had handed over the money was I told that it would be leaving from the Gare du Nord.

I must have looked terrible at this point, which may explain why a woman who was finished with her metro day ticket came and gave it to me.

From Brussels I caught the train to Luxembourg, and finally got home at 23:55.
Friday after
I agreed to meet Ben in town for the Grand Duke's "Birthday". He was very late.

At 3am the heavens opened. The street, which was filled with revellers, became a river. I went home.
Flora, who had a huge cancerous lump on her head, was put to sleep.
I took the train up to Schiphol. For the first time ever, I had my very own hotel room.
I gave myself 90 minutes to get to Amsterdam Central. I knew there was a bus stop near the hotel, but just to make sure I asked at reception. I was told that no such stop existed, and that I would have to take the hotel shuttle bus to the airport and catch another bus from there. Sure enough, the bus I caught from the airport went via the stop I had originally intended to use. I ended up being 30 minutes late. Yes, I spent two hours on various buses.

The meeting was fun. We found free ice cream. We went to the Hard Rock Café. We had a traditional group photo. We went on a canal tour, before returning to the station. I took a photo inside the station but was told by a security guard to delete it. I had no idea why there even were any security guards, and joked about terrorism.

I decided to take a more interesting route home, but decided to backtrack after getting bored during a wait at one stop. With that, and accidentally getting on a metro train in the wrong direction, I ended up getting even more bored during a longer wait at another stop.
I took the train to Paris, arriving at 18:05. I knew Doug and Michael wouldn't be able to pick me up for several hours, so I took as long as I could to get to Saint Denis station, our rendez-vous.

I wandered around Saint Denis for a while. It was a bit ghetto-y. I bought a bottle of Mirinda, which appeared to be Pepsi's answer to Fanta. I could tell from the label that it had been imported from an Arabic-speaking country, and it was a very disturbing shade of orange.

I waited for hours at the Gare de Saint Denis. It began to get cold. It was also getting dark, and as I pointed out to Michael in a text, the area was "not exactly exclusive." The later it got, the more I found myself wondering where exactly those riots took place.

I called to find out what was taking them so long, and it turned out they couldn't find the station. A few calls later, with them still unable to find me, I was told to get to the Stade de France station, where they were. This was no problem, as the ticket barriers at Saint Denis were mysteriously missing.

When I got to the Stade de France station, they weren't there. I phoned them again, and was told that they had finally found the Gare de Saint Denis. Despairingly, I lay down in the middle of the forecourt and waited.

By the time we got to the campsite, there was no chance of us checking in. We slept in the car.
Doug and I put up the tent while Michael slept. Afterwards, we went into the village to buy some provisions. We found a supermarket called Shopi, and proceeded to form a religion around it.

Later, we went to Chantilly and tried to find the Château. Not knowing what it looked like, I wondered aloud if every grand-looking building we came across was the castle. We eventually found it . It had a moat with fish and ducks, wallabies, a non-fluffy boar, and a large number of paintings.

While wandering the grounds, we saw a herd of about 5 deer crashing through the trees onto the path ahead of us. They galloped onto the bridge, round a corner, and out of sight. It was an incredible sight, so of course none of us managed to get a picture.

On the way home, we found that the bridge between Chantilly and our village was closed. Instead, we went south and took another.
We drove to Fosses/Survilliers via the southern bridge and tried to find the RER station. It took us a while, and when we did the next train was cancelled.

We eventually made it into Paris. First we walked along the Champs Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Then we went to the Eiffel Tower, where it rained. We saw some birds attacking a tourist, before they came and posed for a chip.

I'd been to the Eiffel Tower before when I was small, but vertigo had kept me from enjoying it. This time, I did better, and even took pictures from eight compass directions. We took the lift down to the first level, then took the stairs down.

By the time we got to Notre Dame it was closed.

The next stop was the Jardin du Luxembourg, where Michael got all pissy about taking a picture of me in front of the French Senate building.

Michael needed his nappy changed, so we took him to an internet café. We were hungry, but I had decided that all the restaurants would be overpriced tourist abusers, so we ended up going to Quick.

We went home via the northern bridge, which had been recommended to us. On the other side of the bridge we got hopelessly lost, and turned to the GPS. The GPS had been programmed to take us to a post code, which is exactly what it did. Unfortunately, the point in the post code to which it took us was in the middle of a field, which we only discovered after several kilometres of dirt track.
We drove to Parc Asterix - via the southern bridge, of course. When we got there, it was a beautiful sunny day. The moment we were through the ticket barrier, the downpour began.

We saw dolphins, and went on some wet rides, among others.

I bought a wild boar soft toy, who would later become known as Boarnard.

Back at the campsite, I discovered I'd managed to put my brand new sunglasses beyond repair. This was not quite upsetting as Michael's repeated attempts to torture Boarnard, however.
In the morning, we packed and set off for Dijon. We spent ages stuck on the Paris ring road, but at least we had geek humour to keep us going.

We spent the evening wandering around Dijon, before finding a restaurant to eat in. Michael had snails.
We went to take a tour of a Unilever mustard museum, but it was closed indefinitely.

On the bright side, I had the greatest panini ever made.
We set of for Geneva, the part of the holiday I was most looking forward to. On the way, we stopped in a rest area because the engine was overheating. Doug unscrewed the cap of the water system and a fountain of black stuff erupted out of it. Doug had breakdown cover, so he phoned Direct Line, who told him he had to have the car towed off the motorway.

I cut my foot while pushing the car towards the tow truck. We were taken to a garage, where after much telephoning we were told that a Taxi would be arriving in two hours to take us to a hotel.

We were dumped in an Ibis in the middle of a commercial estate.
After spending the morning in our hotel room, we were very bored. Doug and I went for a wander. None of the shops were open. I bought a panini for lunch.

In the evening, Michael joined us for another wander. None of the shops were open. I bought a panini for dinner.
The shops were finally open, and we went to Cora for food and entertainment. I bought a copy of the first Harry Potter book in French. Doug bought Night Watch on DVD for us to watch on Michael's laptop. We found some very cheap wine.
We were finally taken away from the hotel, and dumped at a car rental place in a small town called Dole, a place with outstanding civic pride. Rental for our needs was far too expensive (€3000), which Doug explained several times to Direct Line before they finally agreed it was a bad idea.

We were booked on a flight back to Edinburgh, which left from Geneva the next day. In the meantime, we were to stay in a hotel. After maybe an hour in the cold, wind and rain, and a few more phone calls, we were sent back to the Ibis.
We were put on a taxi to Geneva, for which the fare was impressive.

We were in Geneva for less than an hour. Two hours later, we were back in Edinburgh.
marks a link to a picture taken by me, © Alister Thomson 2007.
marks a link to a picture taken by Doug, Michael, or a random stranger.

Copyright © Alister Thomson, unless otherwise specified.