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Dear Diary II,                fickle weather, MIA trains & a nice hike..

                                                                    20~26 May 06


CHAMONIX / MONT BLANC is surely on the tourist trail as I got lotsa company running at Lyon station from platform-to-platform, train car-to-car, only to be told it was the wrong one again. Reassuring to get lost in numbers though. Eventually we got to St Gervais where a little train took us into the northern French Alps where we could see beautific snow-clad mountains if we peered real hard through the fog and rain.


Thus it was far from SUNday at Mt Blanc. Cablecar people said 'no open' whole day due to 'strong winds', so I went to take the cogwheel train up to see La Mer Glacier instead. Brrr, cold. Rain had stopped. I tried cable car again but twas open only half-way up to Aiguille du Midi (3842m), how come not half-price too? Bit of snow fun up there and saw 2 suicidal chaps leap off the ledge - paragliders those, cool.


So conned. Barely one hour after I got down, the fog lifted, the sun emerged shining mockingly, and the blue skies panned out.


The cablecar probably goes all the way to Pointe Helbronner in Italy now, but I ain't gonna pay again. Used my free train pass to go up to a place called

Vallorcine   instead that appeared to be a 'mad-cow' place  ,
then back to my hostel in glorious sun looking ridiculously overdressed.


Had been puzzled by the French's prevalent gambling habit until I read that "Casino" is a grocery chain. It's also becoming a "pain" to eat bread all the time. Brasserie's no lingerie place either.


Someone from Samsung-land commented my Creative MP3 player looked bulky, time to chuck the fossil out of my valuables bag.


AVIGNON in Provence was not quite the quaint walled city I had imagined. V hot & dusty. Kamikaze cars everywhere. Impressive Palais des Papes palace built over 2 popes but only structure intact, mostly empty chambers inside. Pont d'Avignon bridge in that French nursery rhyme runs halfway into the river here.


Paid pilgrimage to Vincent van Gogh's place, ARLES. He's all over alright, in tourist garb, not a single painting of his here however and his studio had been destroyed in WWII.

The winding streets make much nicer paint subjects than the colossal but cruel Roman amphitheatre now-matador arena. Musée Réattu here has got many cool Picasso sketches, hey just realized his weird faces are actually twin ones, the original 2-in-1 creator!

My French vocab increased dramatically, esp in train lingo where Lonely Planet left out the most important word: Supprime! (cancel). My 3 trains to Lourdes: 1st Supprime-d; 2nd Retarde-d (delayed) 40 minutes; it was a miracle (pun unintended) that I finally made it to LOURDES.

First impressions - tacky hotel place. Quite a sight however to see the sheer religiousness of the masses at the Sanctuaires Notre Dame de Lourdes, esp the elderly and wheel-chaired. The cathedral looked like a castle and mega queues to touch the Miraculous Cave and to dip in the 'miracle' pools. Male-Female ratio for the pools should be 1:16 instead of 6:11, judging by how the male queue disappeared after 1 hour while the female queue doubled. I settled for holy water bottled from the taps across the river.


Visited nearby 'eye-problem' place in the Parc National des Pyrénées called CAUTERETS. Great Valley de Lutour hike here, even though I didn't make it to the final lake destination. One too many photo stop along the beautiful woods,


      crystal-clear river,                            boulder-bedecked meadows,


            beautiful cragged peaks,             into valley with snow mountains ahead,


      PLUS 'less mad' cows & an extended lunch break of berries crepe hot choc
      at a deliciously-named Le Fruitière Hotel mid-way in the hike, no kidding.


                      Nicest hike I've had in ages

The French should have stuck with that new law allowing employees to be terminated, in particular striking traffic controllers be Supprime-d. Getting out of Lourdes proved as difficult as getting here. Yep, train cancelled again. At this rate, they'd run out of strike quota by the time World Cup cometh. Sorry En Hui, gonna be v late for that welcome dinner you are preparing... to be cont'd.

* Windows @ Avignon, French Alps train & Chamonix church.

Diary :    1  !  2  !  3  !  4  !  5  !  6 

© Ong Hwee Yen 2006
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wee nee

Enjoyed reading about yr recent Europe trip and the picts... the flowers, the scenery...please load more! France has never been one of my "must go" list of European countries but now, i changed my mind. I will constantly visit to see new paintings (which by the way, are great) and your other travel updates.


Am TOTALLY impressed by the number of towns you got to and this not a driving holiday!! Just reading the French names makes me want to be there, let alone your great travelogue! As for the French, believe me there are nice ones ...

ah choon

really really enjoy your travelblog. very funny + brings back the memories of backpacking Paris ...


i had an enjoyable time reading your travel updates twice and particularly the photos ! am sure u had a great time and ur photos brought back memories of my trip to stockholm, copenhagen and oslo for me. =)

Sze Chiung

Hi Yen,
After 6 yrs, I accidentally came across your website again. In 2002, I left a message in your guestbook after seeing your Rockies pics. Just gone thru your journal of France & Scandinavia. Very entertaining, very nice pics. Wish I could travel that long like you! Was this your last trip?

Other europe stories:
Gaudi - Barcelona's Famous Son & Charming Geneva.