The Louvre

Well yesterday was the day for a trip to the Louvre.  Now before you go, go onto their website and download their app which has guided tours on, well worth it. I turned up at the Louvre at about 10am and the queues were HUGE, hundreads of people. Fortunately I had researched which entrance to go to and so headed across the courtyard and to the outside of the Louvre block to an entrance called the Porte des Lions, it does seem a bit of a distance from the pyramid but you know when you have found it because it has two lion statues outside.  When i finally found it there were only 15 people waiting…wow, yep myself and anyone that turned up there questioned whether this was the entrance to the Louvre and yep it was…wooohooo score!!! (As my son would say lol)

So, after security checks and buying my ticket I raced to the Mona Lisa (to try and beat the crowds) and it worked…I had access right up to her. It’s funny but even the narrator on the Louvre app says they don’t know why she is so famous, the painting style is typical of that era. Anyhow, she is behind protective glass and is a lot smaller than I thought., but worth going to see to check it off my list lol. 





From there I went towards the Roman and Greek statues section, this is where Venus of Milo is.  Amazing sculptures. Come and join me as I walk around the Louvre (spent over 5 hrs there and still didn’t see it all).





From there i went to Napoleon’s chambers…so much extravegance, but amazing:





Here is a selection of other pics I took…enjoy 🙂



At Napoleon’s coronation.

Marais and the Trip Advisor self tour

Marais is an old part of Paris with medieval and Renaissance buildings in it and it is still laid out like it was back then.  Now the interesting thing is this: Marais doesnt appear on many lists of places to visit while in Paris and to be honest…that is CRAZY!! I spent today following a self tour on the Trip Adviser app (gives you directions to some of the main highlights of the area) and I spent a lot of the time doing an awful lot of WOW!!! This is really a beautiful area with fascinating places to explore. I walked around the gardens of Sens Mansion which was built around the 16th century (and as you know I am doing this trip on the cheap so the fact this was free was a bonus) it has an amazing garden. If you can find the entrance to the building (yep i couldnt lol) then you can go in because this is a public library.


I then wandered around the Saint-Paul Village which was filled with cute shops.  The village is divided into a number of squares (all given a different colour) so make sure you go to each.  Eventually I got back onto the tour and headed for Sully Mansion (Hotel de Sully) on the Rue Saint Antoine. This is a 17th century building which used to be luxury private mansions when this area used to be habited by the aristocrats.  Now it is the offices for the National Monuments, so you can’t go in it but again you can wander around and trust me it is sooo worth the wander:



As you carry on walking on the tour you will find yourself in these archways which surround a garden.  This garden is the oldest planned square in Paris.  Further down you will come across Victor Hugo’s mansion (which you can look around).  Now an interesting reflection…you dont see street people much in Paris and yet under these archways was a large mattress with a guy asleep on it, it struck me the contrast …beautiful ornate buildings with the oldest square in front of him and yet here was an example of the poor of Paris.

The oldest planned square in Paris

From here i walked to 23 Rue de Sevigne to go to Carnavalet Museum (Musee Carnavalet) can i just say at the start here…WOW!!! This is a museum worth going to (and it’s free!!!) it is an extensive museum spread over two old hotels dating back to 1500s. It has  rooms decorated in the design of the times, art, history, jewellery and paintings over the entire room (yep entire…including the roof) I loved it and can’t recommend it enough.







After spending hours at the museum I set back out on my walk and ended up walking past a number of other great buildings and also the Jewish quarters of Paris (called ‘Pletzl’). In this area you can visit Picasso’s Museum, Musee Cognacq-Jay (another collection of arts), the Hunting and Nature Museum (yep those of you who know me know i wouldn’t go in there, but the write up says it is fun), Museum of French History (National Archives in Hotel de Soubise), and finally the Hotel de Ville (government buildings since 1300s, though only buildings from 1800s are standing here now).  



Well at the end of it I was tired, had a great time and really want you to go to Marais if you go to Paris.  Also, I highly recommend the Trip Adviser app for the self tours.  Hope you have a great day 🙂

Moulin Rouge, Montmartre graveyard, Montmartre vineyard

So, to get to the graveyard you walk up the main street past the Moulin Rouge…well I was kinda expecting the following pretty scene (but in daylight):

IMG_7777

but instead this is the scene:

IMG_7766

IMG_7768

IMG_7767Ok, I’m going to be honest here and say…it looks tacky, the signage is getting old and faded, the windmill doesnt look that good either. I have to admit I was a bit surprised and really let down, my expectations of it were from paintings and photos I had seen around, but it isnt anything special. Also note the very long queues outside of it (see pics) and there were many people taking pictures of it.

I moved on, not far from there is the turning to head to the Montmartre cemetary. Now, don’t do what i did and get to the end of the road and head up the stairs instead of entering the cemetery at the base of the stairs. This is the only entrance at the moment, the other one at the other end of the cemetery was blocked off.

The list of names of ‘famous’ people buried there was long, and the cemetery has laminated maps you can take around with you, just at the entrance on the left past the building (before the map on the sign). This is REALLY helpful because this cemetery is packed with graves, and it would be like playing ‘Where’s Wally’ if you tried to find certain graves without that handy map. The oldest grave i found was from the 1700’s. It was a peaceful place to spend some time (one guy was even asleep on a bench in there…well ummm I think he was asleep 😳).

IMG_7769

IMG_7771

IMG_7770

I headed to the Montmartre vineyard after this, it turns out that the vineyard is right by the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. The walk to the vineyard from the graveyard was really pleasant (here are some pics of the streets I walked through

IMG_7775

IMG_7774
It didn’t take me long to get to the vineyard from the graveyard (approx 15 mins) with a steep climb up a hill. The vineyard is on a small block of land on the corner of two residential roads, it is filled with grapevines, but is a very small vineyard. I personally wouldn’t go there again.

IMG_7772 from there I walked back up to the Basilique and then back down towards my studio. Again, as like last Sunday, there was a large number of police and army around the base of the Basilique.

Shopping in Paris

If you are a shopper who loves top range gear then Galeries Lafayette is the department store you want to go to. This is where you can buy Gucci etc. when you enter you will notice two things 1) the number of security guards at the door and 2) The beautiful center of the store which has a doomed stained glass roof and decorative balconies (worth going to see this alone, even if you don’t want to buy anything there).

IMG_7703

IMG_7702

Another thing to note, while shopping, is the toilets (yep i am going to mention toilets lol) in The main centres you will need to pay to go in (approx 1€). This isn’t unusual in Europe and is also done in the UK (though i remember as a kid when it used to be just a penny, hence the phrase ‘spending a penny’…inflation has a lot to answer for lol).

When you go grocery shopping, don’t forget to take bags with you or you will be charged for bags (even for the thin plastic ones) at the check out. I have got into the habit of always carrying a bag in my small backpack.

Another interesting thing was the cars plugged into electricity as they were parked, not something I have seen in Australia 🙂

IMG_7704

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I have been using Goggle Translate while here and i cant rave about it enough. Yes you will need wifi to use it but it is a really handy app. It allows you to type a word and it will translate, you can place you phone between yourself and someone and turn the app on and it will translate the conversation from both people, you can take a picture of the text (ie a food label) while out and it will translate the words in the scan/picture. This is definitely an app you need for travelling…love it!!!!

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 😉 )

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:

IMG_7687

IMG_7690

IMG_7694

IMG_7692

IMG_7695

IMG_7697

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 🙂 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.

IMG_7619

IMG_7621

IMG_7622

IMG_7623

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.

IMG_7635

IMG_7631

IMG_7634

IMG_7636

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.

IMG_7646

IMG_7647

IMG_7645

IMG_7642

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 🙂 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.

IMG_7651

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 😉 ). 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 😉 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.

IMG_7614

IMG_7617

IMG_7613

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 🙂

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 😉 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂 bit crazy lol. Tomorrow I start walking around and looking at the sights here.

IMG_7609

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! 🙂 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 🙂

To pack or not to pack this…that is the question

Knowing you are going to be in a cold and wet climate does guide you on clothes to take…top priorities are thermals and rain proof coat. But, having travelled around, in the past, with a heavy suitcase and paying the price for it, in particular Victoria Station, London, i am getting wiser. To get to Victoria Station from Heathrow Airport, UK you use the underground…all good except when you arrive in Victoria Station…there aren’t any lofts from the underground up to the surface, so you have to carry your suitcase unless there is someone kind around who can help you. Learnt my lesson well there lol. So, having been warned that i will be climbing steps in France, i am packing lightly. Also, will be using a backpack instead of carry on luggage. This again will make movement around train stations a lot easier. So, what to pack? Hmmm a few tops, couple pairs of jeans, gym work out gear (nope I cant leave that behind), a pair of walking boots (note to self: wear my trainers), 2 warm tops hmmmm now what…decisions decisions

APBPTK