A Travellerspoint blog

Bill's European Adventure, 2001. Part 1: Paris

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Introduction

What follows is the travel journal I wrote during an Inter-railing trip around Europe I took with my friends Ollie and Julie back in 2001. Every detail whether insightful, embarrassing, naive or otherwise has been left in to add to the fun! Some notes will refer to receipts and other little things I attached to the physical copy, and watch out for references to about a dozen currencies that no longer exist :-) Bill, 2012.

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Aug 13

By chance, Ollie got the same Aircoach as me. The flight seemed quick, with the lack of any U2-style airport terminals in the part of Charles De Gaulles that we passed through being the only disappointment, and a momentary hitch of almost leaving the airport without or bags was quickly followed by a near miss with some scalper taxi man offering us a ride to the city centre; just got a shuttle bus to the train station and then walked from Gare du Nord to Woodstock Hostel, which was booked out so we stayed in the quite reasonable one-star hotel opposite*.

Wandered the streets later on drinking Stella Artois and Kronenbourg ‘demis’ (500ml), which cost a pricey £3-plus in L’Ecran, Le Commerce and Bar de l’Atelier. Sat on windowsill in hotel smoking and listening to ‘Radio Classique’ before bed.

P.S. On our walk around, we stumbled upon the hugely impressive Sacre Coeur, a massive church on the top of a hill, the highest point in Paris. Three French guys sang ‘You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling’ to the hippie kids sitting on the steps below staring at the Paris skyline.

*The Perfect Hotel, rue Rodie where the attached bill shows a three-person room cost 375 francs a night

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Myself and Ollie at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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Julie and Ollie outside the Louvre

Aug 14

Ordered black coffee by accident with our free breakfast, which consisted of a baguette and apricot jam but it turned out to be gorgeous.

Went on a mad sight-seeing binge, taking advantage of Paris’s amazing metro system and our appetite for long walks in the sun, seeing Notre Dame (the flying buttresses reminded me of Junior Cert history!), Palais de Justice, Musee d’Orsay, l’Arc de Triomphe (with the flame for the unknown soldier), the Louvre (closed, but the building outside was the most impressive thing anyway) and the Eiffel Tower, which we were too knackered to climb.

Had lunch on a boat on the Seine overlooking the Tour d’Eiffel. Complications with Julie’s friend meant a second night in the hotel split into two rooms this time. Drank cheap Kronenbourg and Konigsbacker out of the bidet in the room!

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Ollie admires the Hall of Mirrors

Aug 15

Devoted the entire day to Versailles – a slight mishap getting the wrong metro was an annoying but not too costly mistake (61f or 75-ishp for 10 journeys, and if you switch metros without leaving the station you only need one ticket!)

A 90-minute queue in the sun was worth it to see the amazing Hall of Mirrors where Louis XIV hosted festivities and where the treaty ending World War I was signed. Saw Louis XVI’s bed chamber – Marie Antoinette’s looked more comfortable! The sheer amount of gold and expensive paintings was amazing. Only had time to gander at the gardens, which are more gigantic than we thought.

After getting to Julie’s friend Elise’s granny’s apartment in Montmartre (‘bohemian quarter’, as she put it) we ventured to the African ghetto of Barbes, where after manky streets and drug dealers on every corner we reached ‘A la Goute d’Or’ where we had a tasty meal followed by the break in the heat wave of the last week that left us dashing inside the restaurant and watching the lashing rain for an hour. The waitress even gave us free hot milk tea to warm up!

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Julie finds a picturesque place for a photo

Posted by BillLehane 04:21 Archived in France Tagged paris france travel french youth student interrail Comments (0)

Updated - Photoblog: Occupy London

On the go images from the protest

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Update: Here's what the cathedral looks like now that the protestors have been forced to leave.

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I snapped a few early morning photos of Day 5 of the Occupy London protest outside St Paul's Cathedral.

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Posted by BillLehane 01:18 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london travel protests photos uk protest britain blog occupy Comments (0)

An expat journalist in Prague

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Photo Credit Walter Novak

Clean-shaven, ruminative and intelligent-looking, polite and neatly dressed. Such was the demeanor of the twenty-something homeless man I met at a Prague shelter under a motorway bridge for my first big story.

Something about him was so striking that I was glad his face made the cover of the paper that week, as it really highlighted the fact that not all homeless people are drug addicts, or even particularly uneducated.

This man, strangely, was also the only person at the table to speak even partly in favor of the idea of creating a new dedicated facility for the homeless on the outskirts of the city that had been widely condemned as a “homeless concentration camp.”

In the end, the plans were too much even for the then right wing-controlled Prague City Hall, and the project was dropped. It was also a classic example of a proposal falling foul of the court of public opinion, as aided and abetted by the media.

For an expat journalist, of course, the task of taking on a story like this is a tricky one. I did all the research, wrote the questions and eventually wrote the story, but my tireless Czech colleague did all the talking both inside and outside the shelter.

I have never worked as a journalist in another foreign country to which I could compare the Czech Republic, but it certainly seems like few people are bothered about speaking English here, even in senior circles. Nothing illegal about that of course, but it certainly makes the work of international journalism quite a bit tougher.

The romantic notion of heading out into the street, press card in hat, to interview a visiting top name at a city hotel for hours at a time is far from contemporary reality, moreover. I had one or two invites for such an encounter, but the fact is no reporter has the time for this kind of thing anymore, least of all when half of your job is editing the website (which of course remains live even on sleepy midweek afternoons :-) )

Perks of one sort or another do float around from time to time, but the chance simply to live and work overseas in your chosen field probably remains the top draw for me as I approach one year in the Czech capital.

While I picked up a number of informal regular beats as a reporter, including the doctor’s strike and the health service, the census, transport, foreign affairs, technology, tourism, labor affairs and others, the topic in question on a particular day can be almost anything.

It’s hard to generalize about 120 stories and 80-odd blog posts that I’ve written to date, but I’ve noticed a lot of times that some of the stories that stick out the most in many cases took the littlest work, and some of the most tortuously arduous ones were the most instantly forgotten.

Aside from writing the daily and weekly news briefs, a task which I will never tire of, my favorite gig is probably writing the lighter stories, which rightly play an important role in the agenda of any good news outlet. Some that stick out include the Czech man who got the name of a website tattooed permanently on his forehead in return for a seemingly paltry sum, the monkeys that went on the run and persistently evaded recapture, the Denver skiers whose record attempt ran aground on the slopes of Moravia and the auction of the country’s oldest wine bottle.

If any budding writers out there are looking for advice on becoming an expat journalist, my only advice would be to write copiously, keep an open mind and don’t limit yourself to any single genre or publication. And of course, have fun!

Bill Lehane is Web Editor/News Reporter at The Prague Post. The views presented here are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer.

Posted by BillLehane 05:58 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged prague travel the czech journalist republic post foreign writing journalism reporter reporting Comments (2)

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