Tag Archives: Paris

Versailles, 2013

One of the main things I had wanted to do on my previous trips to Paris was to go to Versailles, but I had had never quite made it out of the city. When I watched the film Marie Antoinette, it inspired me further and I could not wait to see it for myself.

This time, my husband, daughter and I made the time to catch a train to the palace and take in the château. Despite it’s enormity and the cold weather, it was crowded. But from the moment we passed the statue of King Louis and entered the gold encrusted gates it was worth it.

There was a whole chapel inside the palace, long hallways with sculptures carved into the walls and winding staircases. The rooms all had ceiling frescos and detailed wallpaper. It was definitely decadent now, so I can only imagine what it was like before revolutionaries ransacked it.

There were enormous fireplaces, but small beds; elaborate candlesticks and chandeliers, but threadbare tapestries. Of course we went to the famous Hall of Mirrors, which had beautiful views over the gardens.

My tip would be to go to the Jardins de Versailles first as they would be less crowded in this order, and as nice as the house was, the gardens were much more impressive to me and more vast.

The hedges with statues on the North Parterre was so long and the lake-like fountain on the Water Parterre was so huge. But the most spectacular for me was the view of the patterned Orangery from the Latona Parterre.

Of course, I was also amazed by the famous Grand Canal. I couldn’t believe that there was such a big body of water in a garden. The fountain-obsessive in me also liked Water Ave punctuated with a fountain every few steps and culminating in the lovely dragon fountain.

And of course I loved the idea of the little hidden Three Fountains Grove and the large Neptune’s Fountain. I only wish that I had been here when all the fountains were flowing. How impressive a sight that must be.

I also wish that I had more time to explore the gardens. I could just imagine the parties that the kings and queens had out here. It would have been great to have had more time to see Marie Antoinette’s Estate too and imagine her there with her children.

But alas, my unhappy child would have none of it, so I suppose I will have to leave that fantasy for another day.

Related posts: Paris, 2013France 1997, Part 1: Paris,It’s a French ThingEurope, 2003 

Paris, 2013

After a tearful farewell with our friends in the new Brussels train station, my husband, daughter and I caught the TGV to Paris. The train was indeed fast.

At Gare Du Nord we were fast tracked to the front of the taxi queue due to travelling with a baby. Very nice of them, especially considering that it was nearing dinnertime. We were stying in a hotel next to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th Arrondissement.

On our first day we bypassed the subway with its many stairs and caught the bus into the middle of the city. We passed so many historic buildings on the way that I wondered why I hadn’t thought to catch the bus last time I was here.

First stop was the Eiffel Tower. No long lines for us with a little one, so we settled for the view from below instead and embarked on a walking tour of the city. Paris is a museum in itself after all.

We followed the River Seine, down Av de New York, past the tunnel where Diana died, recognisable by the Liberty Flame, to the gold-topped Ponte Alexandre III and Invalides.

Everything was strangely familiar, but also different and still impressive. Even though I had been here before, it was a different experience being here married with a daughter rather than with a friend and there were still new things I hadn’t seen.

There was the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais and a we took a stroll along the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. Place de la Concorde was larger than I remembered it to be and the Jardin des Tuileries were prettier.

We found the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Louvre and Pont Neuf, then called it a day as it was bitterly cold and we later discovered that we also had a teething baby.

That night was not an easy one with an unhappy baby which slightly took the edge off the romance of Paris, but cest la vie.

Oh, but the food! The awesome patisseries on every corner for breakfast, the fabulous restaurants for lunch and the local bar with traditional tarts for dinner. This was something we could all enjoy as a family.

Related posts: France 1997, Part 1: Paris,It’s a French Thing, Europe, 2003 

Las Vegas, 2011

From Cancun, it was an easy flight to Las Vegas. It was the second time my husband and I had been here. Even though we knew what to expect, we found plenty of new surprises.

We stayed in the middle of The Strip this time at the Monte Carlo casino. There were good views from hotel and many Italian statues and fountains out front.

The Cosmopolitan was the newsest casino in town with its open-air nightclub, Marquee, on the roof. We hit the Bellagio and took the time to look up this time at the beautiful glass ceiling and glass sculptures.

We took a closer look at the Venetian on this trip. I was amazed by how much St Marks Campanile, the Brige of Sighs, the Doges Palace and the Grand Canal with gondolas; all replicated the real thing so well.

While my husband gambled at the Mirage, I went to the Secret Garden to see the dolphins, white tigers and leopards. Then we went in to M & M’s World which had four levels, ending in an entire room filled with as many different flavors of the treat that you could think of.

We went to Blondie’s Sports Bar that had a cheerleader as its mascot and tried the tasty Washington Apple cocktail. At Wynn, we ventured behind the waterfall, saw the lake and went to the biggest buffet I have ever been to with cuisine from all around the world. The room was elaborately decorated and the best bit was the toffee apples and other yummy deserts.

Thinking ahead, we had pre booked a sunset dinner at Alize at the top of The Palms. The signature dish, the Lemon Sole, was definitely memorable. On the way out, we passed drenched drunk girls in bikinis at the slots who had just come out from the Rain nightclub.

It was all blue skies above the Pont Alexandre 3 inside Paris. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower for a view of The Strip by night with all the glittering lights. We could see people lining up for the famous Chateau nightclub and the Bellagio fountain show from above.

My pick for a show was Bite at Stratosphere, which turned out to be a lot of topless vampires. My husbands pick, O at the Bellagio, turned out to be a much wiser choice. Cirque du Soliel and water- what’s not to like? The clown also used me as a prop in his pre show, which was fun.

On our last day, we went to Old Vegas, awash with Mardi Gra beads and showgirls with a zipline running through the middle of it all. We saw the famous neon Vegas Vic, Sassy Sally and Golden Goose.

We found the Four Queens and the buffet at Fitzgeralds. My husband had the biggest win of his life with a straight flush at the Golden Nugget, while I was more interested in the waterslides inside the casino.

It was sad to see the neon gallery from demolished casinos and hotels. Here we found the Hacienda horse and Alladins lamp. I guess with a city that is always reinventing itself, there is bound to be some collateral damage.

Related posts: Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011, Tulum, 2011,  Chichen Itza, 2011, Campeche and Merida, 2011, Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

Las Vegas, 2007

We had pre booked a room in Las Vegas at The Stratosphere for $30 a night on a mid-week deal. It seemed like a ridiculously low price to me, but my husband-to-be (HTB) explained that the idea is to get you in and gambling- which is where the hotels make their real money.

The Stratosphere, located at one end of the strip, is one of the older casino’s that was recently revamped with the inclusion of 3 big scary rides- Big shot which shoots you up the tip of the tall tower, XScream which dangles you over the edge and Insanity which twirls you around while hanging over the edge.

I personally wasn’t insane enough to try any of them, but I did enjoy the view of wedding chapel road from the top and the planes whizzing by at eye level past our room. They also have a good cheap all you can eat buffet and an fantastic American diner called Roxy’s.

My HTB and I took a stroll along The Strip, which was deceptively far from one end to the other as the casinos appear larger than life.

We passed the demolition site that used to be the Frontier and the new Wynn complete with waterfall. The Sahara rollercoaster screamed past us as we walked by the tent of Circus, Circus.

Treasure Island had a big pirate ship out the front and we went inside Flamingo’s to see the real life flamingos. We continued past Bally’s and stopped to take pictures with the tiger and dolphin statues at the Mirage.

The Rialto Bridge at the Venetian looked fairly authentic, as did the Victory of Samothe statue and Trevi Fountain at Cesar’s Palace. The replica Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe at Paris looked just like the real thing, only smaller; and it was bizarre to see the Empire State Building right next to the Statue of Liberty at New York, New York.

It was definitely awesome to be able to revisit so many of my favourite monuments from other parts of the world in one place.

The fountain show at the Bellagio was everything it promised to be and more and I couldn’t believe that they had live lions inside the MGM Grand casino which was flanked by a huge golden lion out the front.

We passed the Planet Hollywood, Monte Carlo and the horse and cart outside Excalibur, concluding our tour at the Luxor sphinx.

Walking back, we were intrigued by Margaritaville and the life size dressed up M & M’s. I also stopped at the shops at Cesar’s Palace for my Zara fix.

Suitably exhausted, I headed back up to our hotel room, while my HTB stopped at the Black Jack tables downstairs. The next morning he informed me that he had broken even.

Related posts: USA Road trip, 2007, Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

It’s a French thing

This month is the French Film Festival in Sydney.

I endeavor to attend at least one film at this festival each year. I like the way that French films weave a story beneath a story between many characters that are connected in surprising ways; and the fact that they don’t sugar coat an ending.

I am a fan of the beautiful Audrey Tautou, particularly in the comedy Priceless and The Spanish Apartment and the talented Alice Taglioni as seen in Cash and Paris- Manhattan. I also like the setting in France of places I may or may not have been.

This year I am looking forward to watching Barbeque, The Last Diamond and Sex, Love and Therapy.

Paris is also one of my favourite cities in the world and I have been known to become obsessed with all things French.

I went to a French restaurant last month, own a cliché miniature Eiffel Tower (hey- it was the only souvenir I could afford and fit in my back pack, and I love it- ok?) and dream- perhaps naively- of living in a French Château for a month or more.

I drink my tea out of my French mug set, enjoy a long French style lunch with French wine and one of my best friends is French (of course, that’s not the only reason we are friends Frenchie!).

I like the sound of the French language, polite French people (yes you can find some of these in Paris despite popular opinion) and am currently toting a Paris handbag purchased in the city itself.

I watch French cooking shows, enjoy French supermarkets and would love to go to the Cannes Film Festival one May.

I have the entire OPI French collection- La Collection De France, enjoy eating crème brulee and my current blog profile picture is of me in Paris.

I have Eiffel Tower earrings, like reading books set in France and have a box of a lady at the Paris opera house which was the inspiration for my wedding dress.

If I knew anything about home decorating, I’m sure my place would be fitted out and filled with all things French country.

I have seen the view from the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Champs Elysee and lunched in Place des Voges.

I have seen the magnificent gardens of Versailles, walked along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and tasted wine in Bordeaux.

But still I hunger for more.

I want to see the canals of Colmar or Annecy, stroll around a castle at Mont Saint- Michel or in the Loire Valley and sip Champagne in Champagne.

I want to see the French quarter in New Orleans, walk around Montreal in French Canada and drink from coconuts in Bora Bora in French Polynesia.

Who’s with me?

Related posts: Europe, 2003, France, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, O-P-I don’t mind if I do, TV replays and Movie Marathons

Europe, 2003

Leaving my parents in England visiting family; I went to Barcelona to party with local friends Ernest and Jordi. Ernest and Jordi were students of Leigh (who I had stayed with last time I was in Barcelona). They had recently travelled to Australia and were now back in Barcelona at university.

This time, I stayed at Ernest’s house with his parents and sister. His mother, Lidia, took me to a modern flamenco show one night. It was very different to what I had previously seen of the traditional dance in Seville, kind of like the difference between modern dance and traditional ballet.

Ernest and Jordi took me to Parc de la Citadella which seemed to be a bit of a student hang- out. There were musicians, fountains and modern statues. We went to Zara and complained about how much the prices had gone up since the introduction of the Euro the previous year.

We went to Parc Guell for its famous view of Barcelona and I was in love at first sight with the place. I marvelled at the pillars, tunnels and ceiling detail underpinning the balcony and the brightly coloured gate houses. My favourite part was the lizard statue on the staircase.

As previously mentioned, the real life in Barcelona starts at night, and this trip was no exception. Most nights we partied too hard, got up too late the next day and missed the entry times for Gaudi’s other masterpieces such as La Pedra and Casa Balto.

We walked La Rambla at night and went to the Mercat del Born. I witnessed the best fountain show I have seen- La Font Magica at Placa de Espanya. The coloured fountains were magnificent and perfectly timed to the music.

There were many new bars on the beach were you could sit on a deck chair with a cocktail and we danced the night away at Otto Zutz nightclub.

I flew back to London for more bar hopping with my friend Selina who was living there with her boyfriend at the time and to travel to Weymouth to visit my grandmother.

Fog in London delayed my flight back to Australia in Paris for 2 days. I was put up in an airport hotel and eventually flown to Melbourne instead of Sydney, but there are worst places you can be stuck in than Paris, that’s for sure!

I went to Sacre Cour to marvel at the white washed building and a view of Paris that was new to me. I wandered through the Monmarte district taking in the artistic alleyways, Moulin Rouge and Monmarte Cemetery which was beautiful in its own way and full of cats.

Flying out of the ridiculously hard to navigate Charles De Gaulle airport on the way home, I hoped that I would never have to go through there again. The only way to get from one terminal to the next was by a bus that only traveled in one direction which almost made me miss my flight again!

This post was republished to the Social New England paper.li

Related posts: Vietnam, 2003, England, 2002, Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, England, 1997, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, Travel rememberings, I first started travelling

France, 1997, Part 1: Paris

After arriving in Paris, Sarah and I headed straight to the Eiffel Tower for our very own iconic photo of us at the monument.

Paris is like a museum in itself, so we walked to the Place de la Concorde roundabout and along the Champs Elysees taking in the many beautiful buildings and monuments along the way.

We found the Liberty Flame atop the motorway where Diana Princes of Wales died near the Pont Alma. Many flowers were still being laid after the recent tragedy.

A boat tour of the River Seine took us to see the sights of the gold- encrusted Pont Alexandre 3 and the impressive looking Musee d Orsay.

I was awed by the famous Pont Neuf and the pretty Place de la Bastille. It looked like the little houses on the Ile St Louis would be a nice place to live and the replica Statue of Liberty on the Ile aux Cygnes (Island of Swans) seemed bizarre and in the wrong place.

We alighting the boat at the Palais de Chaliot in the statue-filled Trocadero gardens.

On our second day, we headed back to the Eiffel Tower. It was such a strange feeling standing under the tower and seeing the structure up close. It was surreal to actually be in such a famous place.

We climbed the first two flights of the Eiffel Tower to save some money and then caught a lift to the top for unmatched views of Paris. We could see everything from the Arc de Triomphe to Sacre Cour. The whole city- built up and spread out on a grid system with the river cutting it in half.

Next was a visit to the gargoyles at the top of Notre Dame Cathedral- made famous to me by the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was plain to see where the movie had gained its inspiration.

After finally finding out how to get to the Arc de Triomphe without getting run over (there is a foot tunnel that goes under the road), we had another climb. From the top it was easy to see how all 12 roads of the Etoile fan out in a star shape- one all the way from Arc la Defense to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel .

That made over 1,000 steps up for the day, as well as many walks in between, so it was time out for us!

A day museum pass was purchased and we headed inside one of the pyramids to the Lourve. I was struck by the sculpture of jaguar and rabbit by Antoine-Louis Barye, and liked the tiger paintings by Delacroix; but my favourite was the Winged Victory of Samothe statue. We by passed the crowd in front of the Mona Lisa covered in a thick pane of glass and only saw it from afar.

Next we went to the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette was kept prisoner as she awaited the guillotine. The building outside was beautiful, but I didn’t understand much of what we looked at inside as all the signs were in French.

A local Parisian friend took us to the Jewish quarter for a falafel and the first square in Paris- Place des Voges. Absolutely beautiful.

We went to the modern looking Georges Pompidou Centre at the much newer and much odder Place Igor- Stravinsky and found the cute little La Defenseur du Temps clock with dragon.

Even after this first visit, I could tell that Paris was to become one of my favourite cities in the world.

Related posts: Belgium, 1997, Holland, 1997, England, 1997, I first started travelling, By special request, Home is where you make it, I first started writing