Forgot to add on the experiences in Ribaeuville that when we came back to the hotel after our night out there (the night before the wine tasting) we caught the hotel proprietor in flagrante, in the middle of the lobby, watching porn! Andy and I observed different aspects of this before the channel as swiftly switched. He heard the enthusiastic moaning and I saw the … well, I think you get the idea. Highly amusing

Baden Baden is famous as a spa town, it´s hot mineral springs renowned for their curing abilities. More recently, BB was the site of a battle of Collossi: Andy´s prudish English nature and the spa´s tradition of naked bathing! And quite a battle it was, when you add in that going in nude would have meant that we didn´t have to go back to the car for our stuff! In the end, prudishness (and frugalness) won out when we found a newer, cheaper spa pool with no nudist requirements.

Oh and I must add the world´s largest cuckoo clock. It was the size of a house, but failed to impress Andy. The nearby myth-infested Mummelsee was much more interesting.

Pforzheim was a brief sojourn into nostalgia for me. Not much to see there, so on to the next stop of Konstanz, a pretty little town on the Bodensee. (In the background I hear Andy cackle: “Aaah! You used to live in a flat like a tramp!” but I´ll give it no heed!)

We shared our hostel room with two contrasting characters. One superfit guy who was cycling from Germany to Barcelona who was quite chilled. The other? Well… He was of the much more rotund variety… a smelly, and ate too much garlic sausage, farted throughout the night, got up at 5am to do the world´s loudest smelliest shit taking him about twenty minutes and the sounds horrified even Andy! He then proceeded to take 2 hours to pack his shit up, rustling carrier bags the whole time! Combine that with the attacks of low-flying mosquitoes and you can imagine we didn´t get much sleep!

Right, we´re off to the Zugspitze now so we´d better get going. I´ll try and edit this post sometime in Munich.

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Visiting a vineyard in the heart of the Alsace region – Nice
It’s , the 9th best winemaker in the world according to Decanter magazine – Excellent
Being shown around the tour and the tasting by the eldest daughter of the vintner – Outstanding
Having her uncle and co-proprietor keep popping over saying “You think that’s good, you must try this one!” and offering us a number of unreleased Grand Cru Rieslings…. Priceless!
Next stop was the Black Forest! (Five border crossings so far to get there) and Germany’s highest waterfall in Triberg. Next up, Baden-Baden, ultimate spa town of Germany. This roughing it lark is really hard work…
The Arch-Duke still hasn’t caught up with us, so we’ve escaped the oubliette again. Better keep moving…

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I was seated next to a group of Americans in the cafe this morning. Here is what I overheard: “These French people listening to us must be be like us listening to Mexicans talk.”
Naturally this amused me….

One of the most common objections I hear about France in general is that it is common for women not to shave their armpits. On considering this I decided it was time for this survey.

Paris has been blessed with lovely weather for the last few weeks, so the time was ripe for me to conduct this survey. The Parisiennes kindly obliged me in this endeavour by wearing halter tops, bikini tops and other skimpy items of clothing that allowed me to surrepticiously inspect their armpits.

The Subjects

For this survey the armpits of women aged between about 15 and 50 were inspected. The total sample size was in the region of 25 subjects. Naturally only visible armpits were inspected, no clothes were ripped off and no Parisiennes were harmed in this experiment.

The Results

From the sample size of 25, only two women had not shaved their armpits recently. On one of these two the underarm hair was not as much of a detractor as the hair on the face. Mustaches are just nasty.

Conclusions

From the results of the survey, it can be concluded that 92% of Parisiennes who show their armpits in warm weather have also shaved them. So, if you want to avoid that underarm jungle, look before you touch.

I was late getting into work this morning. Someone had… wait for it… set fire to the train! I sense a conspiracy! Anarchist pyromaniacs begin their reign of terror!

Having received the exciting news that my flat in Paris had finally been arranged, I proceeded to leave work early, about 19:00, so I could meet the landlord to have a good look at the place before moving in. With the meeting arranged for 20:00, this should have left plenty of time to travel there on the underground system. Unless of course someone sets fire to the train you are on. That phenomenon has been known to cause delays on trains from time to time. Not always of course, I remember one story a few years back where there was a fire in the freight train tunnel underneath the English Channel. The fire was started by a lorry that was already on fire as it entered the tunnel. This does not speak well for French customs officials. I can just imagine the exchange:
“‘Ave you anysing to declare?”
“A fire.”
“Oui, c’est bon. Move along.”

But anyway, back to the night in question. Having the journey interrupted by an inconsiderate pyromaniac, I was pleasantly surprised by the response of my fellow travellers. The news was greeted with shrugs, gallic of course, jokes and a general movement toward creating car pools and taxi shares for everyone to get into town. No anger, no screaming at officials, merely acceptance. This does beg the question of how often this kind of things happens of course.
I ended up getting a lift from complete strangers who had been driving past and heard the news on the radio that there were problems. So they stopped by, picked up some people and took them to the centre of Paris, even offering an evening meal to my co-passengers and myself.

The apartment itself is lovely and I will be spending my first night there on Wednesday. I shall be sharing it with a colleague from Poland and one from Germany, so I’m sure it’ll be… amusing.

As I sat in a restaurant seeking inspiration for the next instalment of this travelogue, my muse graced with a large family of American tourists on their first night in Paris. Having come to this city to see the sights, experience the culture and taste the cuisine, it was only natural that they come to the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory. To watch them order was the first highlight. Despite the protestations of the waiter that he was from New York, the patriarch of the family proceeded… to … talk… very… slowly…and… en-un-ci-ate. Or maybe I misunderstood the exchange and all New Yorkers are mentally retarded? It might explain why the waiter also proceeded… to … talk… very… slowly…and… en-un-ci-ate.
My favourite part of the conversation that I was rudely eavesdropping in on, was the exclamation by the eldest daughter of the family, when she realised that Wow! They were in France and they were eating french fries! What a coincidence!
I nearly choked on my beer.

And so, without further ado, I present you with:

Paris – A Visitors Guide

1. Upon arrival you may wish to take a taxi. Go to the taxi queue and politely ignore anyone along the way who offers you a taxi. These touts operate illegally and make their money by picking up unsuspecting tourists and charging them triple.

2. Remember this simple axiom. The Parisian tourist board loves the money tourists bring in. Parisians themselves like the fact that they have work because tourists come to their city, but they hate tourists themselves. This will explain a lot of things you see.

3. Never wear sandals. Remember my story about the dog crap?

4. You will have a hard time as a vegetarian, even the salads have meat in them.

5. Unless you are rabidly anti-smoking, allergic to smoke and literally prone to dying from the inhalation of second-hand cigarette smoke always ask for a smoking table at a restaurant. They are the best tables and, in some cases, the only tables. Otherwise you will be stuck right at the back, next to the kitchens or the toilets or even, as in one case, asked to sit outside in the pouring rain. It isn’t worth it.

6. In the popular areas, although the waiters and waitresses speak English, they will pretend otherwise. So don’t speak to them as if they are idiots or insult them, they will understand you and make you suffer. I’m sure you can imagine what can be added to a cream of mushroom soup.

7. I have observed many American tourists blatantly ignoring what is on the menu and ordering what they fancy. Here some advice: You are not in Burger King. If the menu is hand-written, the chef has compiled it himself, based on what is fresh on that day and what he feels would be a good culinary combination. To ignore this and to order a variant or something completely different is to insult the chef. Remember what I said about the cream of mushroom soup.

8. Yes, the Parisian MacDonald’s does sell beer, they do called a quarterpounder a Royale, and they just call them fries not french fries. Get over it.

9. No, you cannot see everything in the Louvre on one day and the trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower is not worth it. If you want a great view go to the Tour Montparnasse instead.

10. If a local says or does something you disapprove of, fit in. Sneer at them. No more is needed.

What true travelogue does not speak of the culinary delights and disasters? My lunch today consisted of stir-fried beef in a red wine sauce, served with potato puree. Very nice indeed. There is little that can be said against the restaurants of large companies in Paris. Dublin, however is a different story. [Cue flashback]

Last week I did the unimaginable and went jogging. A truly dangerous escapade, not just for the risk of injury from the flailing elbows of my fellow joggers, nor even the fact that those who drink and smoke, like myself, are better off watching and deriding exercise than actually participating in it. No, the true risk in this activity came from the location; a lovely little park in the centre of Paris… completely surrounded by busy roads full of psychopathic drivers whose vehicles pump out so much pollution I’d be better off smoking. At least cigarettes have filters.

So there I was, jogging away, happy as a pig in poo, surrounded by hardcore health freaks. After a while I realised that the reason I was getting funny looks were because of the Guinness T-shirt I was wearing. If only they knew that I had only chosen that one because I don’t own one with a cigarette theme. The irony would have appealed to me.

Ah, Paris again. How I have missed the obstacle course that is a Parisian street covered in dog crap. Paris is certainly not the city for chronic sandal wearers. Nor a city for vegetarians, for that matter, as chefs in Paris believe the vegetarian option is a sprig of parsley on a nearly raw steak. You can’t really fault them for their priorities.