A Travellerspoint blog

May Day!

Jardin du Luxembourg

Our warmest day yet in Paris (or Eurpoe, for that matter). We were greeted upon arrival at Jardin du Luxembourg by hordes of police, and around the corner, thousands of marching unionists in May Day 'celebrations'. Sumathi and I remarked that on such a nice day back home, people would definately not be using their day off to march - we'd probably be at the beach, in the pool or at a bbq (or all of the above!)

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Luxembourg gardens, that famous Parisian park, more than 500 years old, once open only to royals; home to the octagonal lake upon which children (young and old) sail tiny boats; countless games of bouilles, chess, football; and where Parisians generally flock to for some peaceful reading time, snoozing time, jogging time or entertaining time. Our packed picnic lunch hit the spot once more and was really nice to feel the culture and see the 'beautiful people'.

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Cycling Paris

Our first experience of controlling vehicles on the right side of the road - came today although the experience was.. by push bike!

Paris has loads of bicycles stands which are credit card operated, and for about one euro you can obtain one day hiring rights. We picked ours up just outside the park and made our way through the Left Bank, winding around the marching socialists, around the Pantheon avoiding one way streets, and across the Seine to the famous Notre Dame cathedral.

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Notre Dame de Paris

It seems the masses have descended on Paris for the long weekend, and the queues at Notre Dame proved as much. Surprisingly though, the line moved swiftly and we had a look inside, with its tall stained glass windows and ancient interior. Hard to comprehend that the building is nearly 900 years old. The identity the landmark shares with Paris and France is such that distances are measured as distance from Notre Dame.

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Île de la Cité

Warm day, public holiday friday - Paris' most popular ice creamery was teeming with people, with a line to match the one at Notre Dame. Except it wasn't moving as fast! The wait was well worth it, with the 'Salted Butter Caramel' proving an unexpected hit.

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Last eve in Paris

Spent the last evening in Paris back in the same place as the first. Initial plans to see Montmartre at night hit a snag, after alighting to find it looking more Kings Cross than Kirribilli. We made our way back to find our crepe stand from night one (Ed: The best! Mich's Sandwiches - near the fountain of St Michel), and walked the streets, crepes in hand, sorry to leave but sure to return.

Posted by deepaksuma 15:38 Archived in France Comments (0)

We're in Louvre!

We had the privilege today to visit one of the world's great museums - what's more, it's housed in one of the world's great buildings! The Musée du Louvre, with its great collection of paintings, sculptures, ancient artefacts, was once a royal residence and much of it has been restored or preserved exactly as it was in its heydey.

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We were surprised to learn the Louvre's collection not only includes French art but artefacts spanning much of Europe, Asia, and a particularly large collection of Egyptian antiquities (which, in the manner of display really outshone Cairo's museum, despite Cairo's obvious superiority in the wealth of items on display).

Upon entry, we were dismayed to see that most of the signage and notes were in French only - and promptly picked up a multi-media audio-guide each. This phenomenal device, about the size and similar functionality to an iPod touch, has English audio commentary, themed music, guided tours, and maps (e.g. a 'Where am I?' feature).

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Sumathi and I embarked on the 'Masterpieces' guided tour, and as per instructions on the audio-guide, we followed a trail around the Louvre taking in pieces such as the Venus de Milo, Victory of Samothrace, and of course, the Mona Lisa.

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One thing struck a chord - as to why these pieces were as famous as they are. To an untrained mind as my own, I felt that there were much better (or at least equally good) works of art around the museum that got hardly the recognition as these three examples! The audio-guide explains that the pieces are famous for the way they were found, the way they were displayed (e.g. The Victory, and Venus de Milo were both displayed in the Louvre in prominent places and as single pieces of art on their own); or had controversial pasts (the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1910 by an Italian cleaner, and returned a few years later by the Italian government). This was much the same way Tutankhamun is so famous despite being a fairly insignificant pharaoh, the discovery of his tomb intact catapulted him into infamy.

Another beauty called Angelina

Weary and sore footed, we stumbled over to a Paris institution known as Angelina, a cafe famous for its patissieries, macaroons, and above all - its hot chocolates, widely recognised as the best hot chocolate in the world.

In years gone by, the elegant cafe probably had no place for an unshaven, shorts and flipflop wearing fella like me, but with Euros in hand, we were shown to a table and, voila, within minutes were swimming in this heavenly concoction, and I can begrudgingly say its worth every cent of the E6,90 they charge you for the privilege.

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Subway Soiree

Whilst catching the metro out tonight, a man with a violin broke out a few verses - and he was damn good! The metro system seems to be a good gig for buskers, be it on the trains or in the stations.

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Familiar faces

Was great to catch up with Sanjay Verma, former Aussie now Parisian resident, of Capgemini and ASE fame. Sanjay wowed us with his swanky pad, his kitchen pizzazz (cooking up, as he put it, that very French dish of chicken Fajitas), and his knowledge of French (I picked up 'whats your problem', and 'another of the same'), sharing some whiskies down Rue Montegueil (food market by day, pub strip by night). Thanks Sanjay for a fun night in/out!

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Posted by deepaksuma 15:18 Archived in France Comments (0)

Big Day, Big Tower

The Big Day

April 29 - Both Sumathi's birthday and our wedding anniversary! I've frequently been told that should I ever forget it, I wouldn't live to see another day :)

We're fortunate enough to spend today in the romantic city of Paris, and we took the opportunity to savour with one of the world's great monuments - the Eiffel Tower.

The morning was spent heading over to the local fresh food market, amazed at the quality and variety of breads, fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and gourmet products sold. We picked up a few items for our picnic lunch, and as Cecilia had been kind enough to provide us a bottle of champagne, we were all set for a lunchtime picnic in the gardens.

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The colossal tower is a real treat to see, particularly on a beautiful bright day. The story of it being initially erected amongst great angst, and on a temporary basis for an exhibition - only for it to be greatly admired and kept up on public demand - all adds to the romance and charm of the famous structure.

We took our obligatory pictures, and even found a spot which allowed us to set up our camera for timer shots - coming up with a couple of pearlers!

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After enjoying our picnic and pounding some more pavement checking out the surrounding area, we head home for an afternoon snooze.

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Glittering by night

Having seen the tower during the day, we decided to make a pit stop at the monument on the way to dinner to watch the sunset over it and catch the light show, where the tower is set up to glitter. Of course, what better way to watch a 9pm sunset, and keep hunger at bay, but with a steaming Nutella crepe!

The Tower lit up slowly with its golden glow, we didn't really know what to expect when the glittering suddenly began without notice - and it really was a sight to behold.

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An exceptional French dinner at Chez Clement was a real treat (particularly dessert!). Capped a 'monumental' day!

Posted by deepaksuma 01:06 Archived in France Comments (0)

Avenue des Champs Elysees

Got the walking shoes on this morning and headed into town, making our way firstly from Gare St Lazare to Place de la Concorde, the large public square that marks the beginning (or end) of Ave des Champs Elysees. What better way to celebrate the glorious sunny morning with an energy raising Nutella crepe and gaufre (Waffle)?

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The Concorde is chock full of statues and monuments, and is surrounded by nice gardens and buildings. Its size has to be seen to be understood - but with traffic (including buses) weaving its way around from seemingly every direction in some form of organised chaos, we hopped over to begin our walk up the Champs Elysees. On our way we had an up close look at the large obelisk gifted to France from Egypt, where it had stood in Luxor's Carnak Temple (where we stood just a few short weeks ago!).

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The 'Champs' is a pretty six lane road which is used for French Military parades, but day to day serves as a busy thoroughfare and swanky shopping and restaurant strip. Bloody long walk though! We were rewarded with a refreshing shower that quickly turned itself into an elegant little sunshower - which seemed pretty apt given where we were.

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The reward for the long walk was the Arc de Triumph, a huge white arch built during Napolean's conquests. It now serves as a sort of war memorial, with flame burning for the unknown soldier.

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Sacre Cour!

With the afternoon fining up and a clear blue sky, we took the Metro straight over the Montmartre - home of the famous cathedral of Sacre Cour (Sacred Heart).

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Perched up on a hill overlooking Paris, we climbed up to check out the famous building up close, and see some great views over Paris and enjoy witnessing this magic moment:

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On the way home, we also happened to stumble by this fine establishment:

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Posted by deepaksuma 17:15 Archived in France Comments (0)

Arrivée Paris

Paris - First Impressions

We had an early morning departure from Glasgow, and after a smooth arrival, we worked our way around to the RER (train) station to get into central Paris. Waited in various queues to try and get ourselves tickets - and finally obtained our very own NAVI cards (complete with photograph), loaded with a weekly ticket on any form of public transport within Paris's inner 6 zones.

Cecilia, our host in Paris, had prescribed us very good instructions on how to reach the guesthouse. Our route was to be RER line B to Gare du Nord, RER E to Gare St Lazare, then a suburban train to Becon Les Bruyeres. A few hiccups at Gare du Nord resulted in having to do several loops, and a more difficult transition at St Lazare - when we couldn't find the suburban trains, and ended up at a Metro station instead - held us back and we only arrived at our Cecilia's place by 4pm. Good workout though, backpacks in tow, left us pretty exhausted.

Cecilia was absolutely lovely and welcomed us with a warm embrace, big smile and open arms, but soon we were resting comfortably.

In the evening we had our first night on the town, heading into the Latin Quartier for a stroll and some dinner. Paris was stunning, with beautiful architecture and a lively buzz, and with sunlight till 9.30pm. Spots of rain couldn't dampen our mood, however a downpour had us ducking for cover, next to.. a crepe stall! Steaming hot crepes in hand, the rain eased enough to allow us to walk around, grab a quick 'menu' (fixed price) three course meal for 11 Euro (we greeted everyone with our only French greeting 'Bonjour' - only to later find out that this is 'good morning' and 'Bonsoir' is the equivalent evening greeting :P), and we headed home damp but thrilled at the prospect of 6 more days in the magical city.

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Posted by deepaksuma 16:51 Archived in France Comments (0)

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