Archives for posts with tag: France

My recent Christmas holiday included Paris as our real travel destination. Paris is a city that I am quite familiar with having lived and worked there some years ago. It is a big, bustling, but also coy city. You might question the description, coy, but the majority of Parisiens keep to themselves and lead their lives in the midst of the Napoleonic grandeur doing their own thing.

So you can imagine my shock when we arrived only a few days in the wake of the tragedy of Charlie Hebdo. When the incidents occurred, we were over at Disneyland Paris and you could see an immediate and overt increase in Police and security presence. So when we got to the city centre for our last night before returning home, there was an uneasy feeling pervading the fabric of the city. Like I said, most Parisiens do their own thing and lead their own lives most of the time. Quite often neighbours have only one thing in common, that they are neighbours. But Charlie Hebdo was on everyone’s lips, and when red beret soldiers in flak jackets are walking around flaunting their automatic rifles around the prime tourist destinations something was up.

But I was not going to let that stop me or my family from touring the beautiful city of light. We stayed at the Pullman, Eiffel Tower and I wanted to walk around the locale of my old office. The tower itself was only a block away, right on our doorstep. Capturing it never gets tired.

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The Seine itself was quiet, but that was not surprising given it was the middle of Winter. As always there were several canal boats unassumingly moored on its banks.

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I was shocked to find the big ‘Je Suis Charlie’ banner draped on the Palais de Tokyo. Normally these pillars hold the banners for the latest exhibition of modern art.

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At Place d’Iena, the location of my old office, both the French and European Union flags flew at half mast in solidarity.

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I was surprised to see electric car charging booths on quite a few streets. I am a keen fan of Elon Musk’s Tesla, but these little electric buggies were new to me as were their berths. Maybe Australian politicians could learn a thing or two from where France is going with clean and sustainable transport. (I still want the Tesla – Model S P85D please…)

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Did I mention there were Police everywhere? If you look to the end of the platform you can see several gendarmes – they were everywhere.

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When we emerged out of the metro at the L’Arc de Triomphe, the first sight we were greeted with was… three burly gendarmes making their presence felt on the Champs-Élysées.

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The L’Arc de Triomphe itself was bearing the projection of solidarity for the whole city.

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Paris remains a city in love with movies since the time when Lumiere gifted the world with his new performance medium. There are more cinemas in Paris than there are pubs in Dublin.

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We were making our way to a restaurant that I dined at regularly when I was working there. Though it has changed hands and has a new proprietor Oscar remains a great restaurant which is well patroned by the locals. I think most tourists in Paris are hoodwinked by the overpriced eating establishments when all it takes is to walk off the main streets to find fantastic food and wine at half the price without the BS. The team at Oscar made us feel welcome even when we were dragging two children and a wet pram into their restaurant – so I (and many others on tripadvisor) definitely recommend this place to dine.

Even with all the unease and tension, the city remains the city of light. And when my boy saw the Eiffel Tower light up and glitter for the first time, for a brief few moments the tension was pushed away.

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Hopefully the next time I visit it will be under a different set of circumstances.

Addendum: I wrote this post last night and overnight tragedy befell Copenhagen too. Two worlds are colliding right now; one secular, modern, and liberal (but not necessarily without religion or morals) against the other ultra-doctrinal, intolerant, and archaic. Neil Degrasse Tyson tells us that colliding worlds are not a good thing at all.

While I am not in Paris for St Valentine’s Day, I imagine that a few more locks will be added to the Passerelle Debilly today.

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This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Doorways. Very late to the show this week, and the first time in a long time that I have posted to the travel theme.

I love doors and the efforts that people go to as a decorated entrance to their [choose type of construction] house, castle, temple, church, apartment… And I have so many door photos in my travel stash – no wonder my wife wonders what I shoot at sometimes. Here is my go…

Starting in the Royal Palace of Bangkok, Thailand. Yes that is real gold!

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Still in Bangkok, but really a world away, is this beautiful entrance into one of the buildings at Jim Thompson’s house.

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A little further east, to the beautiful city of Kanazawa, Japan. This is modern Japanese architecture at its best, and I love the curtain pattern.

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Further east, to the heart of the country is the imposing doorways at Nijo Castle in Kyoto. This was the power base for the shogunate for centuries.

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Over in Europe, and I could have done this whole post on doorways in the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia. This was my favourite with intricate carvings.

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Across the pond by ferry, and this was the doorway entrance to our hotel in Helsinki, Finland on the same trip. The ceiling paintings are the highlight.

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In Paris, France, there is a treasure trove along every street of doors – modern, classical, and some antique. But this caught my eye in the 8e arrondissement. I love the metal work and the little critters all over the “branches”. Someone wealthy lives here!

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In the Mediterranean, the stunning island of Santorini, Greece has doors of all shades including pastels. Beautiful island…

 

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The historic university town of Cambridge, United Kingdom has some eclectic architecture. But these three simple entrances were what caught my eye.

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Finally the door with all the irony in the world. It was not the door so much at the Rockefeller Center in New York City, USA – but the stone carvings on either side. The symbols of communism at the very centre of heart of capitalism.

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This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Gardens. When having a look at my past travels I found a whole load of photos from Gardens in the different places that I visited. Some were grand, others were small. I guess I find solace in a little bit of nature – controlled. What I really enjoy discovering is where there is a mix of urban environment with botanic endeavours. The other funny thing about this theme is that my family name is probably derived from the French word for garden – jardin.

Sydney, Australia (my home town), is where I am going to start. The Botanical Gardens marry the harbour with the city and with the skyline immediately adjacent. It provides for an interesting background.

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Brisbane, Australia, has a similar location for the City Botanic Gardens. But its gardens are more tropical in nature.

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Asian destinations have gardens aplenty, which I think is deeply rooted in many Asian cultures. In Kanazawa, Japan, you will find one of the three best gardens in the whole of the country – the Kenrokuen Gardens. They are stunning and right in the heart of the city, adjacent to the remains of Kanazawa Castle. It was too bad that it was such an overcast day, but I was fortunate that I was on the Western side of the country as the rest of the country was in the grips of a typhoon.

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Singapore is called the Garden City, and for good reason. It’s tropical climate is perfect for botanical ventures. My new favourite gardens in Singapore are the Gardens by the Bay (which I have posted about before). The “super” trees are something else.

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Going to Europe and France maintains a rich legacy of its past with the many formal (and geometric) gardens. One of the most famous in Paris is the Jardin de Tuileries. They used to make tiles for the buildings in the city at this location. Just don’t walk on the grass!… and yes that is the Tour Eiffel in the background.

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The Château de Versailles, just outside of Paris, has the most amazing gardens I have ever seen with its fountains and the hedgerow mazes. I recommend this far better than spending your time queuing to see some overly ornate interiors that are only for royalty (or other hob-knobs). Here you must definitely keep off the grass!

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When I was in Athens for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, I did appreciate the effort that the Greeks put in to build the Olympic venues (though it possibly bankrupted the country). The main Olympic Park, OAKA, had a garden of a different kind with its tree lined boulevards, ponds, and steel structured agora designed by Calatrava. Night time was surreal in the park. Unfortunately the park is in a state of ruin as the bleak economic situation takes its toll on the country.

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What continues to surprise me when visiting big American cities is how the locals have gone to great efforts to build gardens in the heart of their home towns. In Washington DC, the most beautiful of all the presidential memorials is the Roosevelt monument. It is very understated and is quite the opposite to the overly grand structures located around the rest of the National Mall.

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San Francisco is quite a site, and not too dissimilar to Sydney in many respects. There are plenty of Gardens here too, but the ones I like the most were those surrounding that infamously steep bit of bitumen – Lombard Street. Even the surrounding houses got in on the botanic act.

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But in all my travels, by far my favourite garden to visit has been the New York City High Line. It is a garden that has been built by a collective of locals who regenerated an elevated railway line. It is a fantastic example of urban regeneration, but it is special for me as it was one of the first overseas destinations that I took my boy soon after he had started to walk.

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Great theme this week Ailsa! I had quite a few more, but that is enough for this post.

 

The insomnia of July is about to dawn upon my household. My wife is already complaining that her husband will be lost to cycling on another continent. But let’s face it.

The Tour de France has arrived!

And the Australian television station who has been brought us ‘le grand boucle’ for the last 17 years is primed and ready again to bring us the 100th edition. They have been showing a pretty cool advert to get us all pumped.

Even Google thinks its a great idea to showcase the race with a doodle on its homepage.

Vive Le Tour! Allez Cadel!

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