Paris (again) 2011

July 12, 2012 at 10:00 am | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Moving slightly ahead of the year behind we come to a return to Paris from way back in August 2011.
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This was a brief stop over on the way to Germany (coming up next) and I was mainly aiming to chill out and wander around.
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I did want to go to the catacombs but unfortunately the line was literally around the block so that unfortunately didn’t happen. Guess I’ll have to come back again!

Luckily the Jewish Museum was an alternative that offered a good background to the Jewish experience in Paris, from the earliest days to today, including modern and religious art. Remember to pick up the audio guide as there’s limited English.
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Next stop is Cologne (Koln).
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Pictures at Flickr

Something random.

July 10, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Posted in General, Random | Leave a comment
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I’ve been seeing the following referral search term crop up quite frequently:

“famous roundabout in paris”

Finally I plugged it into Google.

what the?

I was quite surprised to see that my post was the top result! Random but sort of cool and sort of weird as it was created two years ago and it’s a rather random search term.

If there are any SEO experts out there who want to explain that’d be cool!

And for future reference the roundabout is the Arc de Triomphe. ūüôā

Might need to go back to Paris now.

Also in other random news get yourselves over to Diamond Geezer‘s blog. He very kindly included me in a post of blog roll links. Thanks!

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 Рpresumably 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.

Jardin du Luxembourg (22)Jardin du Luxembourg

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.

Jardin du Luxembourg (10)

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.

Kings Cross (2)Kings Cross

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.

Notre Dame (56) Notre Dame (2) Notre Dame Notre Dame (6)

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.

Eiffel Tower (4) Eiffel Tower (5)

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.

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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.

Montmartre 1 Montmartre 9 Montmartre 6 Montmartre 7 Montmartre 8 Moulin Rouge

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 РThe 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.

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