Basilique du Sacre-Coeur and Pigalle

Walking up the steps to the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur today made me realise I am getting fitter. I managed to get to the top without looking like someone who should be offered an oxygen mask lol (ok the other day I was recovering from a bad virus I had brought with me from the USA…well that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it πŸ˜‰ )

Today the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur was a lot busier. I heard mainly French and other European accents. There were still guys trying to give you a tread bracelet and again I said ‘Non!’ But this time one of them grabbed my arm (fortunately for him I just pulled it sharply away, my self defence training would say grab his fingers and bend 😳). I read up about what these guys are doing. It seems it used to be kids that did this in the past, and once you took the bracelet they then demanded payment :-/

Later I walked towards Pigalle to try to find a place that sold a large mug (a girl needs a large cup of tea in the morning). Once i got to Pigalle station the shops changed from places with the normal tourist souvenirs to sex shops. The area past Pigalle is the sex trade area and also where you find the Moulin Rouge. What surprised me, was that this change in shops didn’t happen gradually it just suddenly changed and yet there were still couples and families walking down the road past all this. As a friend said to me today…this is all part of the French culture.

Here’s some photos of the area around the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur:

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Sunday/Monday in Paris and some observations after Coppenhagen shootings

Woke up and went to make my morning cup of tea (yes i am soooo British), but I had ran out of rice milk 😦 . So out i went to the shops only to learn that shops close on Sunday’s in France. It used to be like this in other countries but shop venders have managed to change things so that they can open on Sundays. Sunday originally was set aside as a day for God and so there were strict regulations on what could be sold on that day etc. As time has gone on, people have objected to it and shops have been allowed to open. I personally like the fact that shops are closed on Sunday.

I noticed yesterday (Sunday) that all the roads leading up to the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur were blocked to traffic by police cars, and there was a significant police presence around. I don’t know if this was because of the shootings in Coppenhagen or whether they had received a warning. The streets were pretty empty of people, but today (Monday) the streets have many groups of Muslim men hanging around (Montmartre appears to be a high Muslim area). As a Christian chaplain that has evangelised Muslims i am tempted to go and talk with them, but as a western woman travelling alone I know that wouldn’t be a good idea at the moment. People are scared here in Paris, scared another event will happen here and they openly talk about it. I am being cautious but not letting it influence me too much.

Walking around Paris – part 2

Having explained earlier…I like walking πŸ™‚ so this outing was going to be a long one. With water bottle in hand (Australia has had it’s impact on me, where we always travel with water lol) I started by getting the Metro from Anvers to Charles de Gaulle. As soon as you come out onto the street level you are faced with the Champs-Elysees running both directions and the Arc de Triamphe in front of you. To get to the Arc walk to the underpass and it will bring you up under the Arc where you can look around and also see the Arc in all it’s detail. This is definitely worth visiting. For a small charge you can also go into the Arc. I didn’t this time, but will later.

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From the Arc, I looked around the skyline and spotted the Eiffel Tower, so figured I could walk there. I didn’t have the SIM in my phone working yet which meant i didn’t have a map app to help me, so I just followed my nose and headed in the direction of the tower. After going down a number of side roads I came out to a bridge crossing the Seine river, the Eiffel Tower was on the other side (I have to admit I was pretty pleased with myself at having found it lol). Now, full confession time here (and I will probably offend a few people as well as all of the French people throughout the world :-/) I didnt find the Tower as big as I thought it would be. I had kinda imagined it to be this huge towering structure, but in fact it is quite small. Yes it is beautifully made with some wonderful details on it, but it was about a third to half the side I thought it would be 😳 Is it worth visiting? Yes, so that you can tick it off your list but in all honesty it isnt something I would be dying to go back and see. After taking the typical photos of it, I headed off back towards the river and walked along the Seine towards the Louvre.

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This was a really lovely walk, very peaceful but it does take some time. I crossed the Seine further down and walked through Tuileries. I can’t recommend this enough, very beautiful buildings and statues on each side and really worth the walk.

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I got to the Louvre, which was busy even in winter, and had a look around the outside. The buildings are really worth seeing. I also found out that you can enter the Louvre free on the first Sunday of every month, definitely worth noting if you are on a budget like me πŸ™‚ After arriving at the Musee du Louvre I headed north to get back to Anvers. This walk took me along a major shopping area and again past some beautiful buildings.

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Finally after approx 4 hours of walking I had done a loop from Anvers to Charles de Gaulle down to Tour Eiffel, along the Seine to Musee du Louvre and back up to Anvers. Was it worth walking rather than using the Metro all the way? Absolutely!! I saw some wonderful places that I would have missed if I had just used the Metro (and it’s good for the body πŸ˜‰ ). Now I have a list of places i want to re-visit.

Walking around Paris part 1

Having spent a number of hours sitting on a plane (sitting still for a while isnt something i find easy lol) i chose to spend the last couple of days walking.

The studio i am in (in Montmartre) is right behind the Basilique de Sacre-Coeur. A catholic church on top of a hill. Now, for those of you that don’t like steps…you may want to drive to the top. Otherwise you will be walking up a fair number of steps to get to the church and see the view. The view is fantastic, right across Paris. I’d recommend you do it on a clear day so that your view isn’t blocked by smog etc. you can just see the Eiffel tower (and i mean ‘just’ ie only the top of it is visible above a house).

If you walk around to the left of the church and take the lane on the left, you will end up in Montmartre’s artist square. A square which is full of artists ready to draw a portrait of you (a variety of styles are available from a sketch of you, to a cartoon). This square is surrounded by coffee shops, so if you decide against immortalising yourself in a picture, you can watch others doing it πŸ˜‰ There are also many lanes and alleyways to wander down, so if you aren’t good at getting your bearings (like me) make sure you have your phone with you so that you can use your map app to find your way home. I didn’t have a French SIM yet, so kept a note of which buildings i had to turn at to find my way back to the studio.

Yesterday i bought a Lebara Sim, bought it for 9€ (which gave me 7€ credit) and added 10€ to it so that i could upgrade to the 3G data package. This will give me plenty of data to use maps, internet etc. i also use an app called Line (free phone calls anywhere in the world and free txt). This is a great way to keep in contact with family and loved ones.

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The trip starts…

The flight with Delta, from PDX to Amsterdam was good, though I would highly recommend you don’t ask for vegetarian meals…yuk!!! Probably the worse airline meals I have ever had lol. The flight was on time for my connection to Paris with Air France. I have to say…both airlines have really friendly crew…I was very impressed by them πŸ™‚

Ok, so call me ignorant but…I thought that maybe Paris would have signs in more than French, like some other capital cities around the world. But, be warned, they do but not in English. I was glad i had my directions for the trains in french…made matching the words easy and yep i managed to negotiate 2 trains and the links πŸ˜‰ thank goodness for the French classes at school.

The people here are sooo friendly, but remember…it is polite to say bonjour before you ask questions and au revoir when you leave. I found people here went out of their way to help me. Strangers putting my suitcase on the trains and off again, people asking if I needed help (I must have one of those faces that says O.o I’m lost lol πŸ™‚

Shopping for groceries was a little intimidating as all packaging was in French. Unfortunately I eat gluten free bread (pans sans gluten), rice milk (boisson au riz) and am a vegetarian…so big learning curve. I found that the health food shops and big supermarkets had the food etc I needed..smaller ones don’t seem to cater that much for special diets.

My international adapter, that I bought from eBay, didn’t work here so it was back out to the shops to try to find one. I popped into a chemist, just on the off chance, and they had exactly what i needed πŸ™‚

One thing i noticed while out shopping; the French pedestrians don’t seem to obey traffic lights, and tell drivers off even when the driver has a green light πŸ™‚ bit crazy lol. Tomorrow I start walking around and looking at the sights here.

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2 more days to go until i fly…

Suitcase is kinda packed..still changing stuff around to make it lighter. I booked my flight from Germany to Paris yesterday, for my return trip to the USA in April. The latest flight to Paris was 10pm :-/ but my flight to the USA isn’t until 7:40am, so i have been checking out if Paris airport is safe to stay overnight in. From all that i have read, it appears it is, but people recommend you go to Terminal 2E. This terminal is newer with more police patrols and less homeless people in. I fly out of Terminal 2F which is opposite, so staying for 9 hrs in Terminal 2E will be really convenient. I’m excited about the trip. Read today that Airbnb (a website for accommodation and the people i have booked my studio with) also have people who run activities that aren’t that expensive, ie come and learn to cook the Parisian way for $29 – pretty cheap! πŸ™‚ so i may do some of their activities. Also discovered the app Tripomatic, great app with maps of the places to go and sightsee etc (from the most popular to the lesser known). Next post will be from either the airport (flying KLM (aka Delta for this route)) or from France. Will let you all know what the airline and route was like πŸ™‚

The first blog of many…I hope lol

Travelling from Australia to the USA after the death of my mum, the admittance of my dad into a dementia home and the break down of my marriage was in a way a new start, a chance to think and regroup. During this time I hoped I would spend more time with God, reconnecting to him after finding that I wasn’t speaking to him as much as I had been before.Β  Why hadn’t I been speaking to him? Well in honesty because it hurt, I found that I felt like a child sitting at his feet not wanting to look up at him because, I knew that when I did, I would start to cry over all the things that were happening and I wasn’t sure I would stop crying if I started.Β  So I kept my face looking down and didn’t speak to God much.Β  I knew he was always there, loving me and holding me close, but it was hard to look up.Β  To the world I kept a typical ‘stiff upper lip’ of my British culture, smiling and trying to help those around me, few knew what was happening in my life, I didn’t want to burden people and also because we Brits don’t cry in front of people, we are private people.Β  So, after all was packed away in Australia I came to a remote farm in Washington state, a beautiful, peaceful farm with no tv (my initial reaction to that was ahhhhhhh!!!!) and silence.Β  I have always been a busy person, mentally and physically.Β  Loved learning and also challenging myself, so to just ‘be’ was a new experience for me.Β  To sit with no music/tv/anything but nature and God was something that I thought would be too hard at times.Β  But, as the last 5 1/2 months have slipped by, I have found that I crave the silence.Β  My aim was to start writing a book about ministry; what really happens in ministry and how can we help ministers and their families thrive and not die in it.Β  Instead God has spent this time talking to me and teaching me.Β  I started looking up again at his face and yes the tears came, but with it came the healing of the pain of all that had happened.

During my time here I also found a best friend, someone who means so much to me and now knows me better than anyone in the world. Someone who let me cry on their shoulder and encouraged me to look up to God again. I will miss them terribly when I leave.Β  Thankfully there is always the Line app so I can keep in contact πŸ™‚

So, why this blog.Β  Well the aim of it is to share with you my travels, what God teaches me, reflections on ministry, advice on travelling alone as a woman and the fun times I encounter.

My tentative itinerary is as follows: head to CostaΒ RicaΒ on 10 Feb, stay there till 11 Mar then head to see my son and his family in Germany and their new baby.Β  Then head to UK to see my dad and sister, head over to Amsterdam to see one of my students and then back to my son’s place, and do all this with minimal cost, because I am not working at the moment :-/ By the time I am back in Germany in April I hope to have an idea what I will do from then on lol. So, please follow me on this adventure into the unknown.