The Imperial War Museum

January 27, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, photos, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Saturday afternoon I took the Northern line down to Elephant & Castle and the Imperial War Museum.

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My what big guns you have!

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The museum grounds also feature a Tibetan peace garden and a walk through England’s native trees.

Most of the museum is free with the exception of the occasional special exhibit.

Once you enter you’ll be in the main atrium, which is filled with a variety of modern armaments from nuclear missiles to turn of the century aircraft and artillery.

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The keyword here is modern. The IWM only covers British involvement in conflicts from The Great War to today. According to their Information Desk more historic wars can be found at the National Army Museum. I just hope this doesn’t mean I’d have to find the National Maritime Museum for their perspective on the same events.

After browsing the big items on the ground floor head downstairs to the history of World War I and II. Both cover the causes, battles, home front, resolution and repercussion to these wars. Generally, this is done through large font summary texts as well as smaller descriptions for the items in the display cases. While obviously not an in depth analysis they will provide a general sense of the time. However, as I’m passingly familiar with the events I’d have preferred some more information… in the larger text as that’s all I was reading.

Both War exhibits feature and ‘experience’ portion. The first is in the trenches – it’s like you’re a part of a giant diorama. The second is the London Blitz, where after spending a few minutes in the shelter you walk out into a blasted street with audio characters talking about the impacts. Both are OK but if there’s a line up you could easily skip it or try again later.

The lower ground also features post-WWII conflicts in fairly sparse displays, for example the Falklands has only one screen, Vietnam has three and the Irish “troubles” are about a third of a screen. Although in fairness the Cold War display while brief was relatively comprehensive.

After finishing here head up to the First Floor. Here you’ll find a few more large armaments as well as a display on survival at sea for the merchant navy, the Victoria & George Cross display (it seemed closed) and an exhibit covering the Secret War of intelligence agencies and covert units. While the exhibit is well set up it was too brief. I realize that there may be some classified materials but presumably they could have made more of the efforts undertaken during World War II and the Cold War. By efforts I really mean gadgets.

Next, on the second floor are two sections dealing with art from the two world wars. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to walk through here. Also on this floor was a temporary exhibit looking at propaganda posters. At this point I was starting rush a little so I only glanced at the posters without reading the explanatory text. However, there is quite a range from the allied and axis powers and well worth a visit.

Level 3 brings us to the Holocaust and is for ages 14+. The exhibit is well done with a history of Jews in Europe before Hitler, the laws used to separate the Jews and other minorities from the larger society and the eventual extermination. Videos of survivor testimonies and other artifacts of the period makes it a moving and reflective experience – particularly so close to Holocaust Memorial Day.

The final part of IWM is on level 4 and titled “Crimes Against Humanity” and is recommended for those 16+. This is not so much an exhibit rather a learning centre. You can sit and watch a 20 minute video outlining the whys of crimes against humanity as well as possible means of stopping or reducing them or you can sit and use the interactive screens to learn about various crimes past and present. The video is top level, which is handy for those with short attention spans, while the database content appears to be quite comprehensive.

While all of the big guns might infer that the IWM glorifies war this is not the case. Rather it covers the causes, effects and aftermath with the last two levels highlighting the worst consequences. At best it might be arguing for a more proactive humanitarian intervention approach.

The museum takes a while to get around. For the history buff you’ll want to devote a serious chunk of time. I was only perusing and it still took me about 3 hours. While there you can hire an audio guide but I stopped using it mainly because it was using up a lot of time and only adding a little bit of colour with the summaries and anecdotes. Fortunately, there is enough text next to each exhibit to get the jist so you don’t need to rely on pacing around in circles while the audio guide plods on. 

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The Imperial War Museum is well worth a visit. It’s interesting and is well laid out but the time commitment and relative distance from the city centre and its hub of museums and attractions will make it more difficult if you’re only on a short trip.

Absolut Ice Bar

January 26, 2008 at 10:30 am | Posted in General, London, Out and About, photos, Random, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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London’s Absolut Ice Bar situated on Heddon Street near Regent Street in Mayfair is, as the name implies, an ice bar.

Absolut Ice Bar (6)

For £15 you’ll get 40 minutes in the bar, a free drink and an incredibly snazzy cloak with gloves helpfully attached to the cloak.

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The bar is kept at -5C and is made of Swedish water and sculptured by artists from the famed Ice Hotel.

My imagination didn’t exactly live up to the reality. I’d like to blame James Bond for false expectations of ice buildings. I had thought the room would be larger and contain a few sculptures.

The ice bar actually consists of a metal floor (presumably non slip), ice walls and around the pillars and a few alcoves with ice benches covered in fur to sit on.
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The sculpting takes place predominantly along the walls with such things as this informative and mildly concerning text.
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At the bar your first drink is free (refills are about £7). You’ll be able to choose an Absolut Vodka drink served in your very own square edible ice cup. Good thing you’ve got those gloves. The price of the drinks relative to the volume of liquid in your cup isn’t very good value for money so I only had my complimentary drink.

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Perhaps because of this I felt that 40 minutes was more than enough time.

The cold – at least while wearing the cloak – didn’t cause too much discomfort so you shouldn’t have any concerns about freezing. My camera on the other hand was not so lucky. The cold sapped the energy out of my battery making it almost unusable by the end.

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Maybe I should just stop taking photos.

I’m glad that I went to the Ice Bar I had a great time with my friends and it is something to cross off my list – especially as I never went to the ice bar in Sydney. However, unless you’re a die hard ice/vodka fan, on its merits the ice it is not worth the money.

For the real experience going to Sweden and the Ice Hotel may be the better experience.

Temple and the Inns of Court

January 25, 2008 at 1:17 am | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Last weekend I visited the Temple district during its open weekend as part of the 400th anniversary since being granted freehold over the land. Although the Temple and the Inns of Court (Inner and Middle Temples) had been around since the 12th century. There are two other inns (Lincoln and Gray) but these weren’t covered in the open day and weren’t really discussed – are they the ugly duckling of the legal world?


So what is the district and why should anyone care? The Inns of Court are colleges used to train barristers in the esteemed study of law.


Due to war and fire damage Inner is a modern reproduction whereas Middle has retained many of its historic buildings, specifically the Middle Temple Hall – a fine Tudor period building.


The Temple where the area gets its name was founded by the Knights Templar and is well known for its round shape, effigies and unfortunately, its use in the Da Vinci Code.


I arrived mid afternoon in time to take the 45 minute guided tour. There were surprisingly large numbers of us and the guide had difficulty projecting her voice. It was a little disappointing that people who chose to come later and join this mass complained about this problem. Amusingly at the end of the tour a random passerby started talking loudly on her mobile and the crowd almost in unison began shushing her.

The tour was quite reasonably interesting as we heard about some of the area’s history and the challenge of imposing secular rather than canon law on society. I’m glad I went on this before striking out on my own.

After the main tour I took the time to check out some of the other buildings. The district is home to many law firms and barrister’s offices which were open in addition to the main halls. Unfortunately, these offices were just that offices and being a white collar worker looking at desks, files and meeting rooms on my weekend is hardly my idea of an engaging time. Presumably if I was more knowledgeable of the previous barristers who’d worked there or more interested in a legal career I would be more interested.

I did take the opportunity to talk with a Middle student and he advised that there was no real rivalry or differences between the Inns, which seems somewhat unlikely given the age of the institutions but I’ll accept his statement. He also suggested that Middle had a better scholarship program, apparently they will interview all applicants who submit on time.

During the open day there were considerably more Middle volunteers than Inner and it certainly has the better hall so at very first blush I’d be inclined to join them but Middle’s symbol is the lamb. Whereas Inner has Pegasus.


Clearly Inner has the trump card.

Or does it?

Middle has quite an impressive library with some of the earliest globes, the largest US law library outside of the United States and a copy of the original Declaration of Independence.

The police were also running various bicycle demonstrations. I must be missing the connection with the Inns of Court.

The Inns of Court are located adjacent to Fleet street and close to Temple and Blackfriars underground stations.

While the open day was a one off there may be other events during the 2008 celebrations that will interest you.

Tower Bridge

January 24, 2008 at 10:30 am | Posted in General, London, Out and About, photos, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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London’s Tower Bridge is not just another bridge but fits within the ever growing list of bridge based tourist attractions. Unlike many other cities (like Sydney) London will soon be home to its second bridge attraction. I know! Who knew that a means of transit could produce such a niche industry.


What does the exhibit offer and is it worth the £6 entry fee? The short answer is a bit and maybe.


The slightly longer answer is 2 brief videos of the history of the bridge, entry to an old (working) engine room, oh and access to the walkways between the towers overlooking the city.


Honestly, I’d never really thought about the age of the tower and as its architecture blends with the nearby Tower of London I had assumed they were of a similiar period and it had simply been upgraded. I wouldn’t say I was surprised that it had been constructed in 1894 rather it was more of an ‘oh that makes sense’ moment.

Clearly, the designer’s intent of matching the surrounding area worked well. At least on this oblivious idiot. Although in my defence I don’t remember any pictures or videos with the bridge being raised plus it was only the towers themselves I’d thought of as old not the entire construction.

The engine room, which is outside of the towers is interesting for your inner engineer. Personally, whenever I saw the diagrams of the piston and gear movements I was having flashbacks to any number of intelligence and personality quizzes. If big machinery isn’t your thing you can skip this section but after paying your entry fee you might as well get your money’s worth.


The walkways feature sliding windows so you can take unobstructed pictures.

Down to Canary Wharf on one side.

Towards Westminster on ther other.

I was there in the early evening (in winter it looks a lot later) but the Tower’s are relatively low and their obvious position over the river means that the Thames at night will impact on cityscape style photos. Daylight would obviously rectify this problem but I am happy to have gone when I did as I have plenty of photos of the city skyline and this was an opportunity to see it at night.


I prefer the views up to Westminster as there was more to see on either bank and across the river with London Bridge, St Paul’s and HMS Belfast to name a few.


For the views and a little bit of history (as well as alternative designs) the cost at this London attraction is reasonable and if you’re not planning any other high rise sightseeing worth the visit.

I should also apologise for the blur in these photos. My camera is not good with night shots and any kind of movement. Might be time to upgrade…

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

January 23, 2008 at 10:34 am | Posted in General, London, Out and About, photos, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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It may be a replica but that doesn’t detract too much from Shakespeare’s Globe at Southwark near the Tate Modern and over the river from Saint Paul’s.


Unless you’re going to a show you should pay the £9 allowing you access to the museum and the 45mins tour. Otherwise it’s about £4 for each part.

I arrived about 20 minutes before the tour and this was just enough time to do a quick whip around the museum. The museum discusses the history of the Globe (and its reconstruction), theatre in Shakespeare’s day and surprisingly the theories of whether Shakespeare wrote the plays were delved into.

There were also sections on clothing, artisians and music in the theatre but I only glanced through them so you may want to devote a little more time if you’re interested in these topics.

Touch screens as well as a few video screens are also available for more information.

Lastly, on the ground floor before going on the tour you may be able to take a few minutes and watch some stage combat and chat to the actors.


At the beginning of the tour I was a bit concerned that the guide was only going to reiterate items from the museum but this wasn’t the case. Although my lack of intensive reading could mean this isn’t entirely accurate.

Although there were quite a few of us on the tour the guide projected his voice well and was friendly and engaging. He gave us a brief overview before taking us into the ground floor of the theatre with progressively more information as we moved higher into the Globe.

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Apart from the sprinkler system, concrete floor and fire escapes (oh health and safety you are so irritating) the building is largely the same as the original and was constructed using methods and materials available to Elizabetheans. Quite the task.


While the theatre predominantly runs Shakespeare’s work they also develop their own original perfomances which they use to explore the theatre’s unique open space and natural lighting.


For the actor or English major the Globe will be particularly interesting but for everyone else it is only an average exhibit. Despite the history of theatre and the excellent efforts of the staff it is difficult to significantly upsell the fact that at the end of the day it is only a building.

A lack of extensive historical information about the Globe means that there are only limited contemporary anecdotes and these could have brought the theatre even more to life.

Day 4 Paris Trip: The Latin Quarter and the Jardin du Luxembourg

January 22, 2008 at 10:30 am | Posted in Anime & Manga, books, Comics, France, General, Manga, Out and About, Paris, photos, Tourism, Travel | 6 Comments
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The last day in Paris was spent with a journey to the Latin Quarter and the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens).

I’ll start with the gardens first. I walked and used the Metro but you might prefer to ride a bicycle. Throughout Paris are bike rental stations  –Velib -where you basically hire it and can return to any other station. For the safety conscious they don’t come with helmets.

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Meanwhile, the gardens are home to the French Senate.

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Extensive grounds.

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Chess games alongside the sleeping homeless.

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Flower beds and bare trees – presumably the place would be spectacular to walk around in spring.

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Or you could play tennis.

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Overall, the gardens allow for a relaxing stroll around the grounds. A pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Even in the slight chill there are plenty of people taking the opportunity to sit around, contemplate, chat or have lunch.

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I’ve often complained that London lacks any trash cans and I realise there are safety concerns but it wasn’t until Paris that I realised why even the clear bag option may not work.

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Then again perhaps a slightly thicker non explosive/metallic material would still allow for a clean and safe environment?

Once out of the Gardens I took to the Latin Quarter in earnest. Home of higher education for the esteemed university La Sorbonne. Thus almost completing my pained and over stretched analogy of a trip of highs.

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Or more cultural highs at the Pantheon. Or, rather I’m sure there would be if I’d actually gone in.

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Or the high from finding a real life manga cafe in Paris – near a number of other comic/DVD/book shops. After all it is a university student district.

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The blue shop is Album comics but while trying to find the URL I stumbled upon the Boulevard des Bulles which is the same area.

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As the masthead indicates this is Boulinier and on the right down the small Rue Serpente (with a yellow awning) is the small but potentially interesting AAAPoum.

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Another books shop I stopped in was Shakespeare’s (towards Notre Dame). A well known second hand English bookstore where the staff actually live in the shop. As you walk around you’ll see the folded up beds and the sparse belongings in small piles so as to not disrupt the customers.  

And now a last smattering of photos from the Latin Quarter. Definitely a worthwhile part of the city to get lost in.

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After leaving the Latin Quarter I picked up my bags from the hotel and headed to the station, Gare du Nord, for my final high. The high speed train.

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Arriving back in Kings Cross.

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Overall, I liked Paris, despite warnings I was not prepared for the distances involved. Realistically, I could have packed more in and left a day early but in part this holiday was about taking things relatively slowly and chilling out a bit. For the most part this was accomplished so the next time I make it to France I’ll be able to travel further afield.

Now that I’ve dipped my toe into Europe I doubt it’ll be too long before I’m back on the continent!

More photos on Flickr!

Day 3 Paris Trip: Notre Dame and The Eiffel Tower

January 21, 2008 at 10:30 am | Posted in France, General, Out and About, Paris, photos, Tourism, Travel | Leave a comment
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I woke up late on day 3, got ready quickly and headed to my next stop in the high places of Paris Tour (having done the culturally high yesterday). My first stop was the Notre Dame cathedral but first I made a detour by a popular crepe maker so I could get a life supply of Nutella smeared onto a crepe and later my face.

I’d originally planned to go to the Notre Dame via the Hotel de Ville – seat of Parisian government – so I could try the temporary ice skating rink that had been set up outside. Fortunately I didn’t have to embarrass myself trying to skate as I didn’t bring any gloves and these are apparently a necessity. I’m not sure why as the ice wasn’t exactly frozen.

Hotel de Ville (6) Hotel de Ville (4)

At any rate I walked over the Seine to the plaza in front of the cathedral before walking in and doing another quick loop inside.

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Not a whole lot of content although there is an audio guide you can pick up if you like. I also paid a few Euros to look through the treasury or a sample of the treasury. It wasn’t very interesting but I felt obliged to go in after coming all the way.

The high ceilings reminded me of St Paul’s and I assume when I get there, Westminister Abbey, as well. While impressive it didn’t live up to expectations and fantasy.

On the other hand the real reason to go (unless you’re here for prayer) is to climb to the top and look out over the city. I had to wait about 20 minutes before beginning the climb. I was relieved to be in the middle of the pack as I doubt I could maintain the pace for that long. Luckily, for those who do tire out completely there are alcoves to stop and let others pass. Priests in the cathedral’s hey day must have been pretty fit with all the stair climbing and bell ringing!

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Once you reach the top, take the requisite photos and move over to a bell tower. After navigating the small wooden stairs you can admire the bell and think of Quasi Modo.

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Of course, there are also the cathedral’s famed gargoyles!

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Afterwards you cross to the second tower and climb up to the viewing platform with even more views of the city.

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Lastly, you’ll climb all the way down and back to the cathedral’s courtyard.

I now made my way down through the Latin Quarter (more on that tomorrow), the train and my next stop the Eiffel Tower

I knew the Eiffel Tower was large but I never appreciated how large or how much it would dominate the city skyline.

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It wasn’t until I stood right under it that I began to comprehend its enormity.

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My other reaction to its sheer size and all those nuts and bolts was thinking about giant robot anime shows but that’s probably just me.

Even though it was late afternoon there were still quite a few people lining up. I’d been advised to walk up to the second level as this line usually went faster than the elevator queue. Walking up the Eiffel Tower was an experience and later on the return journey I felt a surge of accomplishment. Though that might be adrenaline as I was running down to catch the light show.

I’m getting a bit ahead, let’s rewind. You can walk around the first level or continue walking up to the second level.

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In retrospect you can keep going as the views won’t shift dramatically between the two but in terms of a sense of completion I walked around the sides first before moving up.

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On the second level I saw a woman who’d joined the elevator queue while I went for the walking option, so perhaps climbing isn’t a faster option or taking my time on level 1 was were I lost out.

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Level 2 doesn’t take that much time to walk around and as dusk was rapidly setting in I was eager to reach the top.

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Having only paid for the stairs I needed to purchase an additional ticket for the viewing platform elevator. After waiting in line for a few minutes I was whisked up to the top and looking out from the elevator was amazing as the city expanded and glowed below.

The elevator was just the warm up for the main attraction on the viewing platform, which is divided into enclosed and an open area above.

Eiffel Tower (29) Eiffel Tower (25)

Originally I’d wanted to see the city in daylight but as with so much the unexpected turned out to be the better experience. Paris is a relatively flat city so while there are these excellent vantage points dotted around you can almost be excused for thinking you were at the same spot and there is only so much of an expanding city you can look at before it loses its intrigue. That is until you’re on the Eiffel Tower at night.

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The city lit up looks fantastic. I’m going to misuse the term here but in this context it really is a city of light.

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Only the blustery wind and the extremely long queues to return to Level 2 put a dampener on my mood.

But this was short-lived because as I climbed down the Eiffel Tower’s light show began and it looked incredibly picturesque all lit up and with bulbs flashing everywhere. Unfortunately night images of the Tower are copyrighted by the authorities.

I know it’s a tourist cliche but the Eiffel Tower is definitely worth a visit. I would suggest at the end of your trip because you’ll be able to look out over the city at everywhere you’ve been and hopefully reminisce about all of the good times.

Onto day 4!

More photos on Flickr.

Day 2 Paris Trip: The Louvre and the Marais

January 20, 2008 at 2:44 pm | Posted in France, General, museum, Out and About, Paris, photos, Tourism, Travel | Leave a comment
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One of the big plusses of coming to Paris at the beginning of the month is the free museums. On the first Sunday of every month many of the city’s top museums are free. Going to the Louvre was a clear choice for free entry and a good way to spend a rainy and windy day. Check out the comparison between Saturday and Sunday in the below photos.

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Perhaps because of the weather the line to get in was quite small, which was handy given the sheer size of the Louvre. My Time Out guide to Paris helpfully suggested only trying to see 2 collections. Presumably this is to get the most out of the art but a momentary flash of stubbornness and a tourist’s desire to see everything meant I was pacing through it all.

Tiring but rewarding.

Personally, I found the statues across all periods and places the most interesting with the life like and epic proportions fascinating. Although the enclosed garden in the Greek/Roman section was the most well organised. By the end it did feel a little disquieting with thoughts of the White Witch from Narnia abounding in my head.

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With the exception of the occasional sword the Decorative Arts collection was the least interesting. While the intricate work is commendable there is really only so many plates, cups and upholstery I can look at without completely switching off.

What about the paintings? Well, there are a lot of them. I took a mercenary approach to most of the galleries and walked quickly through each section, glancing at most of them and only looked in depth if it was a striking piece. I realise this means I haven’t truly appreciated the artwork but sadly with limited time and only a passing interest in art this method seemd to work. Although I may not be any wiser for it.

Louvre (26) Louvre (28)

Perhaps I’m just a Gen-Y who needs instant gratification?

No, it’s probably the no knowledge of art reason. This is pretty clear after seeing both the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. I wasn’t awed and I don’t understand why these pieces are valued so significantly above the others on display. Perhaps someone can tell me?  

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I was going at a medium pace and this slowed to an amble in some sections either due to other patrons or where there was a worthwhile piece of art.

Obviously if you’re like me then a quick pace around might be an option, if you’re more interested in the art then hire an audio tour or go on one of the tours and if you love art then there’s a good chance you’ve already stopped reading. If not you may want to devote quite a bit of time so everything sinks in.

After the Louvre I had lunch and rested up for a while before heading over the Seine.

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Unfortunately, while I’d beaten the queue at the Louvre this wasn’t the case at the Musee d’Orsay.

Seine (14) - Musee d'Orsay Seine (15) - Musee d'Orsay

Considering my earlier overdose of art, the weather and the line I opted to walk back through Paris, to the metro and the district of Marais.

Marais is located within walking distance of the Hotel de Ville in the centre of Paris or on the Metro. A well known Jewish and gay district it is filled with a host of bakeries and cafes but very few of these had internal seating and the weather really prohibited strolling and eating. I did end up eating a bagel at one of the larger cafes and while I wasn’t a fan there were lots of people inside who presumably would disagree.

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(taken on my last day – hence the slightly better weather)

Paris 359

Now with the bulk of day two done I returned to the Grands Boulevards, grabbed a quick bite and caught up on some sleep.

Onwards to day 3.

Photos on Flickr.

Day 1 Paris Trip: Montmartre, Arc de Triomphe and Chammps D’Elysee

January 19, 2008 at 12:44 am | Posted in France, General, Out and About, Paris, Tourism, Travel | 4 Comments
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On the first weekend of December I took the new Eurostar from Kings Cross to the Gare du Nord in Paris. This was my first time on the continent and I was excited to journey to the city of lights. After arriving in the cool crisp early morning air I began my first day with my backpack and a walking tour in mind.

I made my way with false confidence to Montmartre in the west of the city and a quick 10 – 15 mins by foot from the station. If you get lost look up and use the iconic Sacre Coeur Basilica. Sacre Coeur is a beautiful building perched atop a hill overlooking the neighbourhood and the city. You will have to avoid the tourist touts that line the main entrance and the lower tiers but the views make up for the inconvenience. Within the Basilica you and the other tourists will be able to trudge around the inner periphery looking at various exhibits – albeit with limited content in any language. I was surprised to find that despite an impressive exterior the inside of the Basilica felt smaller than anticipated. No photography is allowed inside though.

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Around the side of the Basilica is the ground floor access to the dome. There’s no cashier and you only have to pay a few Euros into the ticket machine to get to ascend the stairs. It was while I was climbing that I began to regret not going to the hotel first as my backpack was starting to wear me down. The dome had only a few tourists making it a peaceful retreat to look out over Paris.

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After Sacre Coeur I wandered around scenic Montmarte having a quick bite of croque monsieur and coffee before walking further down to the red light district of Pigalle. Granted during the day it had a different vibe but its sheer size puts Sydney’s Kings Cross and Soho combined to shame.

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I thought I’d walk from Pigalle down to the Arc de Triomphe. It didn’t look that far on the map but I was wrong, so very wrong. Paris is an incredibly spread out city and buying a 3 day metro pass is an affordable and efficient means of getting around. On the other hand ambling around (this ended up becoming a trudge) I did get to see the city.

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Eventually I made it to arguably the world’s most famous roundabout – the Arc de Triomphe. It is also the second monument in my journey to feature views over the city and only cost a few Euros. Walking up the Arch to the viewing platform was tiring and now I began to seriously contemplate my level of fitness and pondered doing a regular bout of exercise in the future. (It’s now mid January and I’ve not exactly made strides on this in the moment declaration).

Arc de Triomphe (22) Arc de Triomphe (5) Arc de Triomphe (10) Arc de Triomphe (14) Arc de Triomphe (11) Arc de Triomphe (3) Arc de Triomphe

After climbing down the Arch I was at one end of the Champs D’Elysee one of the most famous avenues in the world leading down to the Louvre museum. Before reaching yet another icon you’ll pass a cavalcade of smaller ones – at least if you’re a consumer – as the avenue features more shopping and high ends stores than you can poke a stick at. However, I’d imagined the avenue to be one long shopping strip but this isn’t the case, perhaps a third is shopping, the middle section feels more like a any other road and the final area was predominantly culture/ government related.

Champs d'Elysee Champs d'Elysee (9) Champs d'Elysee (8) Champs d'Elysee (13) Champs d'Elysee (24) Champs d'Elysee (21) Champs d'Elysee (25)

I was leaving the Louvre for a later day and now made my way north through Grands Boulevards before finally laying my backpack and my head down at the hotel I booked through Eurostar – The Hotel Brebant.

The hotel is a little bit pricey for an average quality hotel but it is located centrally and the room, bed and bathroom are all decent enough. The staff can speak English and are reasonably helpful. For an additional fee you can have breakfast at the hotel but I never tried this as there were plenty of eateries nearby.

Day 2 to follow soon.

Photos are up on Flickr.

HMS Belfast

January 18, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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At the end of Autum my housemates and I ventured down to the Thames to check out the historic HMS Belfast. Now that the Cutty Sark is down HMS Belfast has secured the monopoly on the historic ship market. Unless you count The Golden Hind.

Belfast (8) Belfast (43)

My housemates and I made our way down south bank of the Thames in the late afternoon to the floating museum that is the Belfast. After paying a somewhat hefty £10.30 adult entry free (including free audio guide) we walked over the walkway to the ship itself.

Belfast (35)

As the audio tour began so too did the difficulties. Apparently not all of the guides are the same. My virtual guide was a woman with a penchant for talking whereas my housemates had a male speaker who was faster and then there was the ‘for more press …’ addendums. Perhaps the attendant heard my accent and decided I needed the English for Australian edition?

Belfast (15) Belfast (27)

The tour and ship itself was pretty interesting. The tight, bare corridors with their mannequins and props attempted to highlight the existence and working life of the Belfast’s sailors. The ‘ground’ deck was quite dull but as you progress deeper into the bowels of the ship, through areas such as the engine room and armory, the scale of the ship and its human inhabitants began to take shape.

After going under the water line you return to the main deck and into the tower (?) where you’ll get views of the Thames and a sense of the command and control functions housed within. Oh and you can sit in the Captain’s chair and look out onto the river. Like a real captain!

Lastly, the ship has a few resident cats which you may see and presumably if you’re allergic you may need to check with the attendants.

Belfast (44)

HMS Belfast is fun to wander around and there is extensive information but the primary drawback is there is only so much time you can spend in any of the rooms whereas the audio guides with or without the additional content usually exceed the amount of time I was willing to spend and pacing ad nauseum around the same small room is not my idea of enjoyable.

For navy buffs a trip to HMS Belfast would be hard to miss but for everyone else it’s not a guaranteed success.

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