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Showing posts with the label France

Paris in Winter

If winter is about grey skies, showers and chilling temperatures, then there's all that in Paris in January. So why go at such an inhospitable time? Because Paris in winter is moody (great for photo ops), less frantic, the bi-annual store sales are irresistible, and you don't have to fight with the swarm of selfie indulgent tourists.

There is no absence of color beneath the threatening cloud cover.

These pastel painted houses were my neighbors during my stay in Paris. I counted five visitors here, myself included. 

I was at once elated, captivated and saddened to see Notre-Dame de Paris again. Elated that I could behold her in festive finery, captivated by her timeless beauty but saddened by the reality of the threat of terrorism.  For a moment I felt fear when I saw policemen dressed in combat gear with high powered rifles patrolling the cathedral. We shouldn't have to accept this as the new norm. But life must go on.

The sixth of January is the feast of the Three Kings. The …

Themed Travel Ideas for Summer 2017

Church of Santa Maria, Jeronimos Monastery, Belem

Saint Malo

Ramparts of Saint Malo
The stone ramparts of Saint Malo stretches 1,754 meters and wrap around the old town known as the intra-muros. A stroll along these ramparts is a walk through the history of this city which traces its origin to the arrival of Maclow, a monk from Wales, in the 6th century. Saint Malo is named after him. 
Le Grand Bé
There are exits to the beach below from the ramparts. It's possible to walk to the islands of Fort National, Le Petit Bé and Le Grand Bé when it's low tide. But high tide has a way of rushing in and leaving unsuspecting visitors stranded on the islands. It's best to check with the tourist office for the times when it's safe to walk to the islands. The waters of La Manche may rise as high as thirteen meters and pound the walls of Saint Malo. The oak tree trunks lining the seashore and which form the breakwater can attest to the might of the waves. 
Grande Plage
On a cold and intermittently wet November day, the Grande Plage was bereft of peo…

Mont Saint Michel

"The following morning at dawn I went toward it across the sands, my eyes fastened on this gigantic jewel, as big as a mountain, cut like a cameo, and as dainty as lace. The nearer I approached, the greater my admiration grew, for nothing in the world could be more wonderful or more perfect". Guy de Maupassant, The Legend of Mont Saint Michel
Mont St. Michel from the causeway
It's hard to forget the first time I saw Mont Saint Michel from the bus window. I saw its fairytale like silhouette from a distance and I was captivated. So this time around, I waited with bated breath as the bus approached Mont Saint Michel but alas, we took a different route and I didn’t see the Mount until I had walked up the causeway from the new village that grew in recent years. Our bus from Dol dropped us in front of the tourist center where free shuttle buses ferry visitors to the foot of the Mount. I opted to walk the 2 km distance so I could see the Mont from afar and feel its magic. It was…

Rue Thermopyles

Rue Thermopyles
Rue Thermopyles takes its name from Thermopylae, that narrow pass in Greece where a great battle was fought in 480 BC between a handful of Greek warriors under the command of Leonidas and the 150,000 strong Persian army under Xerxes. But that's the end of the similarity - a narrow street. Rue Thermopyles is a tranquil neighborhood with trees climbing up the walls of its houses and covering some of them in rich foliage. The cobblestone street is lined with potted plants.


If you continue walking to the end of the street and make a right, you will find these two charming homes one of which is nearly hidden from view by trees and shrubs. In front of these homes is the Alberto Giacometti Park, a small square which is a nice extension to Rue Thermopyles.

Paris is a big city with staggering urban growth that comes accompanied by the cacophony of modern day living. It's refreshing to find a haven such as Rue Thermopyles, a little piece of "country" in this …

La Coulée Verte

Viaduc des Arts
La Coulée Verte or the Promenade Plantée is a 4.5 kilometer trail on what was once an elevated railway track that was decommissioned in 1969. The trail begins at Bastille and continues on to Bois de Vincennes. The Promenade has been planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. Every section has a landscaping theme such as the bamboo grove or the fountains. There are vine covered trellises and enough benches for those who wish to read their newspapers or chat with friends or just hang out.  
Of the flowers on the trail, I saw white roses and dark pink double impatiens. There were many shrubs with tiny flowers - one which I noticed looks similar to jasmine but minus the scent. And I was delighted to see holly, so perfect for this season. It's amazing to find many blooming plants this late in the fall. 
 Bamboo grove
I met several joggers along the trail which promises to be a good, long run all the way to Vincennes and back. But walking has its rewards. The path is flank…

Exploring Montmartre

La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre
It's been awhile since I visited Montmartre so after seeing the "wall", I went up to the Basilica of Sacré Coeur for a view of the city of Paris. Many years ago I took the stairs to the Basilica but this time around I opted for the easy way up which is by funicular. The fare is similar to the metro. So it's best to buy a carnet of metro tickets if you're staying a few days in Paris.

In front of the Sacré Coeur a crowd of people spilled down the long flight of stairs. Street entertainers were having a field day, in particular, a young man who climbed up the lamp post and played with a soccer ball, oblivious of his precarious position as the crowd cheered him on. Across the horizon Paris lay in a haze. It was a gorgeous day to be outdoors.

Walking through narrow streets I passed cafés buzzing with activity. I thought I'd go down Rue Lepic to the Café des Deux Moulins and try their crême brûlée which is now called Amelie

"I love You" Wall

I didn't see the elevator at the Abbesses metro stop so I unwittingly went up the stairs which winds up 118 feet (or 200 steps according to Wikipedia). Abbesses is one of the deep stations in the Paris metropolitan system. I had to stop twice on the way up to catch my breath and rest my leg muscles. It was quite a climb! I heard the people behind me panting and moaning. We were definitely in Montmartre, high above the rest of Paris. And I came for a specific reason - to see the "I love you" wall or Le Mur de Je t'aime at Place des Abbesses. I had read an article about it on Valentine's day and I was intrigued. How serendipitous that I had this chance to be in Paris! The wall is just behind the entrance to the metro station.

Le mur is made of blue tile and scrawled across it are over 300 greetings of love in 250 languages. I recognized a few like Iniibig Kita and Te quiero. I did a search to find out about Ljubim te and learned that this is a Slovenian/Serbian gre…