Posts Tagged With: countryside

Rudeness, Pickpocket and Scam Alert!

The dreaded day is here.  The day Soleil  7th arrondissement, péniche, houseboat, Paris, France, River Seine 7th arrondissement, péniche, houseboat, Paris, France, River Seine and we part.  The day we leave our smurf bust. Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found The day Fifi stays behind.  She certainly has made herself at home.  Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found, Fifi, cat, black cat The last day when I look out the window or off the deck and will be reminded by the Eiffel Tower that I am in Paris.  Eiffel Tower, 7th arrondissement, péniche, houseboat, Paris, France, River Seine, window, room with a view
Eiffel Tower, 7th arrondissement, péniche, houseboat, Paris, France, River Seine, window, room with a view

I didn’t want the day to come but it’s here.

I very unwillingly pack.  We cross the plank with our luggage and place it in the garden.  One step further from our beloved péniche.    Fifi huddles behind it, probably because of the shade, but I am sure it is because she wants to come with us.Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found, Fifi, cat, black cat, departure  Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found, Fifi, cat, black cat, departure Soleil, péniche, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, Eiffel Tower, paradise found, Fifi, cat, black cat, departure

I pick her up and go to our neighbor in the boat next to us and ask him if she is his and what her name is.  Fifi is now Yaya.   I think Fifi fits her better.

Up until now we have felt nothing but safe and have been on the receiving end of helpfulness and courteousness.  We walk to the station of Passy Paris, France, metro, Passy where in one swoop all that changes.  We are carrying substantial luggage that can only pass through the gate so I show our ticket and our luggage and ask the attendant how we can go through the gate.  He says it’s not free. I continue to smile and say I understand but how can we input the ticket for the gate (it has no slot)? Not free.  I know. How? Validate through the regular entrance and he’ll open gate.  I do.  He does not.  He is rude, nasty and unhelpful.  Had it not been for a passenger on the other side who opens the gate from the inside we would still be there.

Onward to the train (metro).  Two young women enter our wagon and stand at the entrance. Plenty of room behind them, but as I go in, one moves towards me. In French I ask her what she is doing.  Arreter!  Stop. She continues forward.  I avoid her and go towards the back.  They exit at the next stop and I look down and the zipper of my bag is open.  Fortunately nothing in that compartment for her to take, but it frazzles me a bit.

Onward to the Gare du Nord where we are going to buy tickets to our destination: Amiens.  Gare du Nord is a sea of clashing currents of human flesh.  Busy at all times.  A bit overwhelming to most.  No information booths are manned and we can’t find where to buy the tickets so we go to the machines.  A tad confusing and we must look it because we are approached by a lovely young lady who tries to help.  No, thank you.  Move onto another.  She follows and when we are about to put our credit card in she says that it  doesn’t accept foreign cards and we can pay her and she’ll put hers in.  I don’t think so!  We safeguard our credit card and move far from her.  It’s a well-known scam that has been going on for years.

We finally get to a ticket booth for SNCF but can someone figure out this billboard for me please? Gare du Nord, scam, confusion, train station, SNCF

Gare du Nord, scam, confusion, train station, SNCFThe train has little stars on the floor and I am ready to go into bliss zone again.

The countryside train travel, France, Amiens, Gare du Nord, countryside  train travel, France, Amiens, Gare du Nord, countryside shows up and in no time (about 2 hours) we arrive at the Amiens, SNCF, train station, France Amiens station. Amiens, SNCF, train station, France   Amiens, SNCF, train station, France  Bigger than I thought it would be..

Amiens, SNCF, train station, France

We are close to city center so after checking in we walk to town.  It’s about 8 pm. Amiens City Center It’s still light outside on a still mild night and no one is out.  Amiens city center, France The city seems deserted, yet it is beautiful and quaint.  Our stomachs (okay, really just mine) is clamoring for food so we sit at a pizza place Amiens, pizza place, Via Pizza,  and the entertainment comes to us.  A local theater group is walking through the plaza where we are, with the audience in tow. Theater, French theater, France, Amiens, entertainment, street theater Theater, French theater, France, Amiens, entertainment, street theater  They stop with the police blocking the road Amiens theater as the actors perform. Amiens theater Theater, French theater, France, Amiens, entertainment, street theater

My pizza arrives and yes, that is an egg in the middle.  Via Pizza, Amiens, pizza with egg, France More than one pizza is served like that.  I avoid it and eat around it.  I accompany it with my favorite drink:  Schwepps tonic which is not that commonly available in the States in restaurants but is here.  Schweppes, tonic water, Amiens, France, Via Pizza

I decide to not remind myself that it has more calories than a Coke and enjoy every drop.

Amiens Cathedral, France, church, cathedral The cathedral is ahead.

We will walk there after dinner. Amiens Cathedral Through the side streets we go ’cause that is the way where many a surprise has been had and today is no different.  Australian Bar, Amiens, France, Aussie bar in France An Australian bar to satisfy my partner’s craving for his country though this one has Latino music blaring and a soccer match showing.  Is it crazy that I find this perfectly normal?

And then the cathedral, which is quite a beauty, intricately adorned with sculptures on the outside, The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, and quite huge.  The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church,The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church,

The plaza it is in is not bad either and the side streets are charming.  The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, plaza

The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, plaza   The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, plaza

 The carousel is closed and the streets are empty.  The Cathedral of our Lady of Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France, cathedral, church, plaza

It is time for us to go home.  Amiens  Amiens

We will explore more tomorrow… or maybe we will just chill.  🙂

Categories: 7th Arrondissement, Amiens, Amiens Cathedral, Eiffel Tower, Gare du Nord, Paris, Port Debilly | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Oi Goi Oi!

Again my eyes open early though I can’t capture a sunrise on my lens due to the fact that the hotel is in a very busy area of Ho Chi Minh City.  Not much of a sky to see here.

After our morning ritual of coffee, breakfast and climbing on the bus we are all set for our day-long trip to Chau Doc via Cantho.

A few hours in, most on the bus need either a coffee or a bathroom  break so we stop at the Vietnamese version of a Starbucks.   Much more relaxed atmosphere than the chain, with much better coffee!  They use this aluminum coffee filter and place it on top of a glass, one-third filled with condensed milk.  They pour hot water on the filter of ground coffee beans and when the condensed milk and freshly brewed coffee meet, the result is heaven to the taste buds! Don’t know how these people remain thin!     

There are hammocks all over and when you order your coffee they will bring it to your selected hammock.  We congregate around some low, small tables so we can chat.  Again, Vietnam unexpectedly is providing me a flood of memories of my childhood and my country.   Hammocks are a standard in Paraguay.  Rarely will you see a back yard that doesn’t have one.  The shade from the trees they are usually tied to, providing a perfect setting for a siesta and shelter from the brutal sun, while the hypnotic side-to-side swing helps keep the flies away and you sound asleep.  But no time to sleep now.  I do not waste the chance to go back in time and space and lie on one, nonetheless.  I recall, while I do so, that it takes a bit of balance to climb on!  

After a few more hours (observing daily life alongside my window)  

and a stop at a lotus plantation

we arrive to Cantho   and it’s time for lunch near the river.   

Lunch of vegetable soup,  steamed shrimp with mango sauce,

stuffed pumpkin flower   and crispy pork with mushroom sauce, is divine.  Heavenly coffee, divine lunch… there’s an out of this world theme in this post. 🙂

There is a market on the side and I buy yet another scarf and t-shirt.   Our guide has taught me to say “Oh my god!” in Vietnamese and when I exclaim:  “Oi gioi oi!” when a vendor quotes me the price, I get a look of total surprise and the most charming  of giggles  as she calls the other vendors and has me repeat it.  This was me just before I said it.  They are having a ball.  Didn’t get me much of a discount but it did make for fabulous interaction.

A short distance from there we climb on scooters for another of what my tour company calls UFE’s (Unforgettable Experiences).  Scooters and drivers wait for us to take us to a bird sanctuary at the other end of the town, Banglang.    Didn’t spot many birds.

They leave us and we walk through town.  My “inside quietness” surfaces as I photograph their faces, their houses, their town.   


Back to bus.   Karaoke or Internet anyone?  

Long Xuyen is our next stop where we visit the Cao Dai Temple.  Not a promising start…  

Then a surprisingly pretty building…  

Then puzzlement when I see the monument in front with a reverse swastika embedded. Turns out that the reverse swastika, which happens to have a Buddhist influence, is sacred to many Vietnamese.  The swastika (a Sanskrit word) is also a tantric symbol to evoke ‘shakti’ or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness.

Cao Dai is a religion that aims “to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.  Cao Dai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers form a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without.”  May get my vote on that premise.   I am mesmerized by its colors and by its principles.  About 2 million people practice it in Vietnam.  Persecuted by the communist rule, it gained in the ’80’s its acceptance.

Back on the bus.  Am really liking crossing the countryside.  We are taking this route so as to be near the Cambodian border.  Tomorrow we are cruising from Chau Doc, Vietnam to Pnom Penh, Cambodia on the Mekong River.

On the way we view a bit more of daily life.  School is out and some girls are in the traditional ào dái dress, used as uniforms in the school. They are heading towards the local ferry which will take them home.  A lot of life takes place on the river; they are so dependent on it.  

We arrive to the Dong Nam Hotel in Chau Doc.  I take a shower and again get on the bus to go to dinner at a local family’s house.  It’s actually a bakery by day and at night she hosts small dinners for tourists.  I try taro and rice soup –purple in color with what to me was a pretty strange taste.   Egg noodle with seafood –great.  Stir-fried morning glory (a plant not the same as the one in the US which is not edible) –delicious!   Catfish cooked in a clay pot –good.

When we arrive it was pouring. First downpour in almost 20 days of travel. It reminded me so much of the storms that hit Asunción and used to scare my mom so much. Ay Vietnam, what are you doing to me?  You have generated so many memories!

The rain brings in a visitor that was not invited to the table.    Mom did not like them; I liked them less.  She got accustomed to them; my aversion got stronger.

Back to the hotel.  The rain is steady and strong and turns into the prequel of dreams of times long gone.

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cantho, Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Long Xuyen, Ramblings, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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