A Day at Versailles

My mum and stepdad will be going to Paris later this year and mum was asking me about the places I saw, and things I did, and food I ate so that they’d kinda know what to expect when they get there. They haven’t been to Paris yet so they’re quite excited about the whole adventure (I have been and I’m still excited). I spoke to my mum the other day and she asked me about Chateau de Versailles. I said it’s a really beautiful place and they need to spend one whole day to fully appreciate the palace. I went to Versailles last year and, honestly, I no longer remember what trains I had to take to get to Versailles from Paris (it’s quite easy really, you won’t get lost, Just get on the RER Line C – it’s the last stop) but I remember getting off at the Versailles platform, crossing the road (I was just following what the guides were saying), turning right and walking past a small shopping centre selling souvenirs and knick knacks, turning left on the next main street and then going “Oh My God” when I saw what lay before me. Versailles literally and figuratively took my breath away. Continue reading “A Day at Versailles”

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The Catacombs of Paris

As I have mentioned in a previous post, my overseas trip last May was the most unplanned of all my travels. I seriously didn’t have a detailed itinerary and just went where my feet took me. On my first day in Paris, my host gave me a map of the city and while I was perusing the ins and out of the Metro, I noticed that, situated at South Western part of Port Royal were the Catacombs of Paris. Being the macabre person that I am (I admit that – I love Zombie flicks and other scary films – however those who know me can attest to the fact that I’m as bright and cheerful as a sunny day in January) I desperately wanted to see this place. I’ve read about the Catacombs in text books and I think we discussed this briefly in one of the many history classes I had to take while I was at Uni.

Continue reading “The Catacombs of Paris”

Shakespeare is <3

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Last night, I went to NZSO’s Shakespeare in Music performance at the Michael Fowler Centre. Apparently, this year marks William Shakespeare‘s 450th birthday so the Orchestra is celebrating it by holding several concerts focusing on music composed for Shakespeare’s famous plays.

Some of Shakespeare’s plays, below. Papa’s favourites were Othello, Hamlet and Macbeth (I couldn’t find Coriolanus so no picture of that). Mine’s Merchant of Venice. King Lear’s probably the most depressing of all, followed by Romeo and Juliet (which probably is his most popular play) – photos taken using my reliable P&S camera, so excuse wonky horizon lines.

I was given comps at work and it was a shame to put the freebie to waste. The wind was howling at Wellington but that didn’t deter me from going, and I’m glad that I did because the whole concert was just … superb! I admit that I’m not a classical music aficionado and I wouldn’t be able to identify Bach from Beethoven but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate fine tunes when I hear it. And last night’s concert was just great! It’s actually one of the few times I’ve attended such an event where I didn’t yawn.

Mendelssohn (who apparently composed the very popular Wedding March for the play Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Strauss (who composed music based on Macbeth) are now among my favourite composers. The journey to self-discovery continues!

ANYWAY – this little excursion brought back memories of a much bigger trip done not so long ago. Last May, I went to Oxford and made sure that I found time to visit the Bard’s Abode at Stratford upon Avon. I missed my train but managed to catch the next one so, I was still able to spend a few hours exploring the town where William Shakespeare was born.

I would have wanted to visit all five homes on the tour book, but only had time to see one (his birthplace). Shakespeare’s family appeared to be well-off. Their house was quite big, had several rooms and even had a bed in the living room!

According to the guides, back in those days, placing your bed in the living room was a way of showing off wealth. You’re telling everyone that you can afford to buy a bed to keep yourself warm. Interior

Sadly, I wasn’t able to visit Anne Hathaway’s cottage so I’ll have to schedule a trip sometime in the future to see that. I shall end this entry with a photo of the Birthroom Window.

Birthplace Window
Birthroom Window

According to the text (which you may not be able to read, it’s at the bottom of the image): “This window was formerly in the birth room of Shakespeare’s Birthplace. It became traditional for pilgrims to etch their names into the glass as a symbol of their visit. The earliest recorded date on the window is 1806. Famous names written on the glass include the Scottish writer Walter Scott; the philosopher Thomas Carlyle; and two great Shakespearian actors, Ellen Terry and Henry Irving.”

HAPPIEST BIRTHYEAR TO THE GREATEST PLAYWRIGHT OF OUR TIME!

Pont Des Arts (love lock bridge)

To be totally honest, my recent trip to Europe and the United Kingdom was probably the most ill-planned of all my travels. I normally have every little detail mapped out: I’d have a plan of action for every minute I’m away and I would follow that schedule to a “T”. Yes, I’m strange like that – I really think I’d make a great contender in The Amazing Race – except that I’m diminutive and can’t carry a giant backpack the way those contestants do. BUT — I digress.

As I was saying … when I went away last May, I seriously didn’t have any plans whatsoever. All I knew was that I’ll be in these cities on these days – and even though I had “must see places” (for Paris these were the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower) – I kinda just went with the flow and let myself be surprised by what I would discover.

Continue reading “Pont Des Arts (love lock bridge)”

One Night in Paris (and then homeward bound)

Now in the plane heading to Singapore from Paris
Now in the plane heading to Singapore from Paris

I’m now at the waiting area of the Changi International Airport (Singapore, for those who don’t know), awaiting the boarding call for my 2nd long-haul flight for the day – the flight that will take me back home to New Zealand. I spent a night in Paris after a gruelling 11 hour train ride from Venezia Sta Lucia. In the future, I think I’d rather pay extra than go through that ordeal again. I swear, my soft-sleeper bed on the train from Beijing to Datong (and back) was much more comfortable than this one! There were 6 of us in a room so can you imagine 3 beds on top of one another? And, get this, for the first 3 hours of the train ride, we didn’t have power nor air conditioning. EW!!! Okay, I’ve done that, won’t do that again.

Anyway … I arrived in Paris at 9:30 am (surprisingly on time, considering the delays at some of the stations), and managed to make my way from Gare du Lyons to Lamark Coulaincourt (where my hotel is located) in good time! I think I was able to check in by 10:15 or 10:30. That’s not bad considering the train station is across the city from the hotel.

After checking in, I went out to have lunch (I opted to have steak – I’m already craving for MEAT!), got back to have a bit of rest and then explored Paris one last time before I left for the bottom of the world. I went to La Concorde, Tuilleries, The Louvre, the Love Lock Bridge, The Grand Palais and went on a bike tour (I was the passenger, not the biker) of Mairie, a less-touristy locale in the City of Lights. I wanted to stay up until I saw some of the lights the city is known for, but I had to prepare for my 2 x long-haul flights back to Middle Earth.

Here are some random snapshots from my walking tour:

So there, my grand holiday is done! It’s back to the grind on Monday, time to pay off the bills I’ve incurred during the last 4 weeks. I would love to travel this way again, Paris is just adorable. The next time I’m there, I hope I would be able to see the sights at night. I would have wanted to but I’d rather play it safe. I wouldn’t stay as long as long as I have this time though. Bah! It’s too early to plan my next trip. I haven’t even gotten back yet! Must make it through the next long-haul flight first.

Anyhu — I’m halfway home – see you soon New Zealand. I’ve missed you so. 🙂

Arrivederci, Venezia!

Whee! I'm on a real Gondola!
Whee! I’m on a real Gondola!

I normally compose my entry about the last place I’ve visited on the last night I’m there, but because the situation in Venice was different from my previous trips, I’m writing this the day after I’ve left the city of canals. You see, I left Basel at 12:35 pm and endured a 7 hour train ride to Venezia Sta Lucia (includes train change in Milan, and another one at Venezia Mestre – where I missed my train, luckily, trains to Sta Lucia come regularly). I arrived in Venice at about 8:30 pm (see above) – I just had enough time to dump my things at the hostel (I a very grateful for Carolina for going out of her way to pick me up at the Rialto Station, even if it’s after work – so I wouldn’t get lost), grab a bite to eat and then promptly collapsed into dreamland.

The went on my “Explore Venice” project on the next day and half, and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. The place really is wonderful. There are so many streets and alleys – and it’s all so charming. You really do need a map though – I can’t remember how many wrong turns I’ve made before I decided to get a map from one of the street vendors so I’d find my way out of their intricate maze of walkways (and even with the map, I’d still get lost – and to think my sense of direction is pretty much spot-on).  I got on a boat to Murano (got on the boat going on the opposite direction so I inadvertently got a tiki-tour of Venice before going to Murano), I went to St. Marks Square and, obviously, got on a little Gondola. I had a great time – I got sunburnt even more though – and lost about half of my body weight through perspiration. I swear it was SCORCHING!

Here are some photos taken between 8:30 pm on Monday, 9th June, until about 5:00 pm on Wednesday, 11th June.  🙂

I left Venice on Wednesday (11th June) on the 7:20pm overnight train for my 7th and final stop in this overseas adventure. I’ll relay my *ehem* ordeal in the overnight train in another post – this is just for Venice. 🙂

Bis Bald, Basel!

Cooling down by dipping  my feet in the waters of the River Rhine
Cooling down by dipping my feet in the waters of the River Rhine

In about 5 hours I will be, once again, boarding a train and will head off to the 2nd to the last stop of my journey. I’m actually still lounging around in bed, savouring Basel’s atmosphere as much as I can, without having to go out – Basel had a scorcher of a weekend with highs up to 32C! In the last 3 days, I swear I wanted to either just jump into the Rhine or wallow in the cool waters of every fountain I see. It was sooo warm!!! It’s not bad – I know I will miss the warmth once I set foot on NZ soil – it is, after all, the middle of Winter in Aotearoa when I return in a few days.

So … Basel. What’s Roger Federer’s hometown like? Well, the city’s just exactly like it’s most famous citizen – quietly unassuming but definitely packs a wallop. Basel’s not a mainstream tourist-y town which was great. For me, I didn’t have to stand in line to see attractions or jostle my way from one place to the next. You can walk around in silence and admire the scenery in peace.

The city’s quite small – you can wander about on foot (pretty much what I did) and get lost in all the little alleyways and passages. Every time you turn a corner, you are greeted with charming shop fronts or quaint architecture – there’s always a little something waiting for you here in Basel.

So that’s Basel. What I liked most about the city is that you can drink from almost all of the water fountains; and that they don’t put the watches and jewellery away after the store closes. Was able to admire various expensive watches from the window display while walking around at night. Yes, I’m shallow like that.

Anyway … I get back to NZ, and when I find the time, I’ll post more information on and more photos of Basel. Right now, it’s time to prepare for my next destination.

Bis Bald Basel!