Friday, May 13, 2016

Getting to the start via Vancouver, London and Paris

Traveling from Hawaii is always a feat of endurance and the journey to the start of our Spanish adventure has certainly been that. The first leg on Canadian airline West Jet took us to Vancouver where we decided to get out of the airport during our long layover and experience the city.

Vancouver is a beautiful city and it was a good thing that we had our walking shoes on as we walked 10 miles/16 km seeing all the different districts.

After breakfasting, we starting a walking tour is the old Gasworks district of the city which amongst other things boasts a handsome steam powered clock.
This ornately designed clock weighing over two tons was the first of it's kind and whistles and chimes once an hour.

A walk through the historically rich Chinatown ensued and we learned a lot of history simply by walking along and reading information available on signs posted next to various attractions. For example there was an explanation of the meaning of all the motifs painted on the archway leading into this district.

I always enjoy being in cosmopolitan cities with a culturally diverse population. It gives the city a richness and adds to the flavor of the experience.

The Downtown section includes a blend of old Art Deco and new modern glass high rise architecture, giving it a gorgeous feeling of contrasts.

From the Waterfront we ambled along Coal Harbour enjoying the views of the water and snow speckled mountains of the north shore of Vancouver on the other side of the Harbour. 
The waterfront was bustling with active people out jogging, cycling, roller blading and walking to and from Stanley Park, the stunning green space located along the waters edge giving one fantastic vistas of the city and the opportunity to admire some ornate native totem poles.

Onwards from Vancouver we flew on the red eye to London Gatwick where we spent a glorious afternoon catching up with my wonderful son Ian.
After lunch and a few hours of talking story at a pub and coffee shop we continued on to Paris, arriving at midnight after a quick flight across the English Channel.

No more flying now. Finally we were on foot with only our backpacks, ready to crash for the night so that we could enjoy the city of Paris the next day in the company of my friend Nakita who is meeting us here.

We awoke to an extremely misty Paris and enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast, fueling up for the trek ahead. Widespread rain with thunder and lightning is forecast for the next few days. Oh happy backpacking! I'm already grateful for our trekking umbrellas.

Bonjour from the city of lights. Such a fabulous day in a new city! We certainly made the most of it. What a treat seeing Nakita again! 

We started out with champagne and macaroons at the Galeries Lafayette, a shopping mall like none you've ever seen  before beneath an exquisite domed ceiling.
After toasting to our most excellent good fortune of being able to be there, we made our way to the rooftop to enjoy a misty view of the city.

As the weather cleared up our walking tour continued past the iconic Eiffel Tower where we almost got ripped of by a bicycle taxi driver who quoted us one price and aggressively changed his quote after a few meters of the ride. We simply jumped off and walked away, giggling about the encounter later on.

After another 30 minute walk uphill we came to the Arch de Triomphe, a magnificent landmark monument, after which we savoured a delicious lunch overlooking it from a sidewalk cafe.
Jumping on and off the metro underground train saved us many miles of walking, although we still managed to walk 11 miles with heavy packs on our backs.

Sadly, we only got to see the exterior of the Louvre Museum but time was if the essence and we couldn't dilly dally too long as the three of us still wanted to see the Notre Dame Cathedral. 

A roll of thunder sounded and the heavens opened up making us feel extremely grateful for having our trekking umbrellas in our packs.

The cathedral made famous by the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, really is a work of art and a pleasure to admire from all it's angles.

Walking along the bank of the Seine River at the end of another fabulous day was the best way we could have ended our very eventful one day visit in Paris. One of our take homes is how friendly and helpful the Parisians we encountered were, contrary to what we had heard from other travelers in the past.
Au Revoir as we board our train to the Spanish border town of Irun to start hiking El Camino del Norte.

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