A Travellerspoint blog

Thursday we headed for the hills

and found quaint villages to explore

sunny 31 °C

Today was about exploring the region east of Avignon, renowned for hilltop villages, lavender, vineyards and olive groves.

We were in the car and on the road by 10.00 am. Lunch and grapes packed up for the day ahead.

We headed for Gordes, but our first stop was sitting in a traffic jam just as we headed out of the Avignon town proper. (That is the Avignon outside the town walls) We presume there had been an accident. As we sat at a road junction with traffic going no where, police and ambulances navigated the jam down one of the cross roads.

Once we got going we drove through an area almost like Earnscleugh. Stone fruit orchards, vineyards and dry barren looking hills in the background.

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We stopped off at Abbaye de Senanque. An abbey near the village of Gordes.

We wandered around and took a few photos. To the general tourist, it is iconic for being a spot to photograph fields of lavender. For the Cistercian or Bernardine monks it is their life, home and a place of worship.The Abbey was foundered in 1148, but I have to say the buildings looked remarkably new.

Sadly for us tourists, the blooming lavender of the spring had long since been harvested.

Below are our photos on the day and a photo flogged from the internet of the lavender in bloom.

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We then headed over the hill to Gordes. By the time we got to Gordes, it was knocking on lunch time. We parked up, and found the village square, resplendent with a beautiful tree for shade and some steps to sit on. It was a gloriously hot day, and sitting in the shade with our lunch was great.

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We then set out to explore the village. It really was quite picturesque. Great views over the surrounding regions, and the village itself was very quaint. Step narrow streets, and cafes sprawling out onto the narrow streets.

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We then headed for Roussillon, another hilltop village, but renowned for its red soil, and Ochre coloured buildings. As I said a hilltop village, and equally as stunning as Gordes, but so different.

We spent a very pleasant but very hot couple of hours there as well, including the obligatory ice cream, and then headed to Menerbes. You guessed it, another hilltop village. Beautiful as well, but not as spectacular as the other two.

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There were other villages to be seen, such as Saint Remy de Provence and Les Beaux. But you can only see so many hilltop villages in a one day, so it was back to Avignon. It was such a glorious evening, and the thought of retreating to our dark apartment was too much to bear, so we headed for the town square, to one of the many cafes for a de-brief of the day’s activities, aided by a couple of the sponsors products, then home for tea.

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Posted by Touringteamf 11:43 Archived in France Comments (1)

Wednesday we headed for the Mediterranean

and we passed up some shopping malls for sand, sea and salt.

sunny 30 °C

Hi excitement. We’re off to the beach. Originally we thought we might go to Nice, but that’s 3 hours away, so we decided to just head for Marseille, just over an hour away.

We made our lunch, and headed south. We set the French navigational version of Helen to the Avenue that had the beachie bit at the end of it. Trouble was I didn’t specify what end of the very long avenue we wanted to go to. Helen assumed we wanted shopping, so when we got to Marseille we headed right rather than left.

We got completely lost. We had no map, no Smartphone, so we pulled into a car park building, parking on the 6th level underground. Thought we might see a Kiwi coming back up the other way we were that deep into the ground. Emerged back into the sunlight and sort help.

I saw a likely looking bloke to ask for help

“Bonjour”

“Bonjour”

“Parlez-vous Anglais?” I said in my best French

“Well I’m from England.” he said.

Pommie git, he was no use!!

We walked on and saw a couple of Gendarmerie. They promised they could speak English if we talked slowly.

“ W h e r e c a n w e f i n d a T o u r i s m O f f i c e ? “ I said slowly but loudly.

They gave us directions to the Tourism Office, where we got a map and directions to a beach. The Tourism Office was in a very nice looking part of Marseille, with a Marina and ...... you guessed it, shopping malls.

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No time to linger. We were getting hungry and looking forward to the beach.

We made our way back to the car, emerged back up to ground level and headed off. Once we got to the general area, we had about 4 – 5 small beaches to choose from. We chose the first one we saw.

What luck, just in time for lunch.

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We had lunch, and while the girls rushed to the Mediterranean Sea, Marg and I settled back and enjoyed the sun.

And of course the girls enjoyed playing in the sand.

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An hour or so later, we all went for a walk around the other beaches, to decide we had chosen wisely. Ours was the best. It had sand, warm water and was free. Not all other beaches could claim the same benefits.

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However the last one had a nice place to sit to have an Ice Cream.

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Back to our beach, where we all had a swim and a bit more sun.

We packed up at about 5.00 pm and set sail for Avignon, arriving back around 6.30, just in time for pre dinner drinks.

A great day!!

Posted by Touringteamf 12:09 Archived in France Comments (2)

Tuesday was explore Avignon day

and we were blown away and hit the wall

sunny 29 °C

Today was explore Avignon day.

The historic part of Avignon is totally enclosed by 4 km of city walls, located on the east side of the Rhone. Avignon and the east side of the Rhone were once ruled by Italy, and was a Papal stronghold. The west side of the Rhone was ruled by France. So it was a strategically important city.

So fortifications were essential, and the entire historic city is still within the fully intact walls. In the 1300s Avignon became the Papal home. For 100 years, 9 Popes resided in Avignon, in an attempt to improve relationships with the Kings of France. Presumably they still didn’t trust each other!!

Anyway, this had a huge influence on Avignon. The biggest attraction is the Palais des Papes.......The Palace of the Popes. We went in and had a look. There are two adjoining palaces. The old and the new. The old is 700 years old and the new is only 650 years old.

The palace was originally big and lavish, but over the years, it has become big and plain, due to subsequent inhabitants whitewashing walls, and flogging tiles etc. The Papal entourage returned to Rome around 1400. Since then it has been used and occupied by the local dignitaries and mostly the military.

Once again we had an “audio guide”. We probably spent 2 hours inside. The girls were keen to hear and see everything. It didn’t photograph all that well from the inside, but here are a few shots.

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After that we headed home for lunch, getting lost on the way. High buildings, narrow streets, and no apparent town planning meant all streets twist and turn, and no land marks can be seen. We walked in a full circle ending up were we originally got lost, but that was no help at all because we were still lost.

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Decided to go in a different direction and hey presto, we made it home for lunch.

After lunch we forged on to see the Pont du Avignon, or as it is also known as, Pont St Benezet. It is the iconic bridge over the Rhone. It was built in 1177, it formed the link between the then Italy and France. It was originally over 2km long. (The Rhone has an island in the middle of it at Avignon, so the bridge spanned the river and the island) Anyway King Louis VIII destroyed the French side. Obviously felt threatened. What he didn’t destroy, the Rhone did. Now only small part of the bridge remains.

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Anyway we got there without getting lost, but passed on the “audio guide”. We ventured out onto the bridge in a howling Avignon gale. They even have a name for the wind in Avignon.... The Mistral. It has blown non-stop since we arrived. At times it felt like were about to be blown off.

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After the bridge we headed back into the main square and purchased an ice cream from a shop with 58 flavours. We had intended to see another museum after that but we had hit the wall.

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Avignon is a great looking city. It is an old city within city walls. But within those city walls it is all shops and bars. It is almost an open air mall, but it was taking its toll. Hot, windy, narrow streets, the frequent waft of a struggling sanitation system, and a very dark apartment meant Avignon was not delivering what we had hoped. Our apartment has only a few windows but with shutters to block out the sun and heat. But not at all welcoming and homely.

So rather than go home, we wandered around some of the streets looking at shops. Mackenzie got very excited when she saw a Delishoes.

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We then visited one of the many outside cafes in the town square. We whiled away a pleasant hour and headed back, feeling better for the experience.

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One thing we noticed whilst having a drink was how much the French loves their “erie”s

They have Brassierie, Patisserie, Boucherie, Creperie and finally we noticed a few more.

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Couscouserie (really??), Tarterie, Sandwicherie and Boulangerie.

Tomorrow we are off to Marseilles for the day. About an hour away, and on the Mediterranean coast...... the Return of the Buddha!!

Posted by Touringteamf 23:13 Archived in France Comments (0)

Monday we ventured out into the surrounding districts

saw aqueducts, lovely villages and a Roman arena

sunny 31 °C

A bit slow to arise on a stunning Avignon morning. We had breakfast, and I shot down to the “supermarche”, got supplies for lunch, and dinner. We made a picnic lunch and headed out in our rental (Audi) bound for the aqueduct know as Pont du Gard. A UNESCO world heritage site, and listed as 6th on France’s top historical sites.

Wow. What an engineering feat. It was built nearly 2,000 years ago, and was part of a water supply system that delivered water from a spring in Uzes to Nimes, 25 miles away, for 500 years. For me the engineering feat is greater than anything else I have seen. The rock was quarried 600 m away. It is 320 m long and 50m high. The water flowed through the top level, taking it across the Gard gorge on its way to Nimes.

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The craftsmanship is amazing. Beautiful in construction, stunning in engineering and it is still standing after 2,000 years. Today’s throwaway society has a bit to learn. Apparently it took 5 years to build. (not sure how they know that). In New Zealand, by the time we got planning approval, raised the money, got resource consent, sacked a minister or two, got health and safety sign off, the Romans would have had the thing half built.

On our way out, we stopped to look at what looked like a very old Olive tree. There was a stone plaque with an explanation. A kind French lady translated it. It was planted in 908 (again not sure how they know) in Spain. Was transplanted to its present site in 1988 (presumably to help commemorate the acceptance into the UNESCO world heritage).

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As you can tell, the region is very arid. It looks more what I would picture Italy to look like. I guess we are very close to the Mediterranean. The blue sky, the heat etc reminded me of the hills behind Alexandra.

We watched a movie about the history of the aqueduct, had our picnic lunch and moved on to Uzes. A lovely looking village with a great village square, ringed by trees and modern looking buildings. (Probably only 400 yro)

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We also saw the “Straight Up and Down” Tower of Uzes.

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One of the things the Avignon region is famous for are the fields of lavender, that look spectacular in full bloom.

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Unfortunately, now that it has gone into autumn, the flowering has finished, so I took a couple pictures of post cards!

We spent an hour wandering around Uzes, and then set out for Nimes. Again another Roman town. The town itself did not inspire, but it is home to 3 significant sites, including the Arena. The best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world. Small in comparison to the Collosseum, but still gets used as an arena. (20th biggest Roman amphitheatre ever built)

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We had an audio guide to guide us around. It set the scene of about 100 AD and a full day’s “entertainment” at the Arena. Lions, gladiators, fights to the death between condemned prisoners etc. No mention of popcorn.

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By then it was time for home. Got home around 6.00 pm. Went down the street for an ice cream, home for tea, a bit of blogging and Modern Family “On Demand”.

A great day, and in awe of what the Romans could build.

Posted by Touringteamf 00:01 Archived in France Comments (1)

Sunday: sun, swimming, shopping and relaxing!

sunny 31 °C

Sunny Sunday morning in Avignon..

Once we were organised we headed off on foot down town to buy our groceries and look at the produce markets. Rather than going directly to the supermarket we decided to have a look at the market first then buy what we else we needed at the supermarket. Down the main street, passed the supermarket and on to the produce market. The market was huge selling everything from flowers, fish, meat, vegetables to bakery items.

We thought that things were slightly over priced and returned to the supermarket....unfortunately it had just closed for the day (1pm). Across the road from the supermarket was a bakery shop selling fresh salad buns and cakes.

" We'll get something here, take it home and have lunch then go to the market again" said Peter

"Ah, Dad the markets close at 2pm" said Madison

"Right, well we'll buy lunch here, eat it in the square and then head back to the market" said Peter

So that's what we did. It was lovely having lunch in the square, a lot of people milling around, some eating outside at the restaurants, others just there for a drink in the sun. We finished our lunch and headed back to the market...you guessed it..they were in the middle of closing up and the doors were locked!! This was about 1.45pm.

Oh no, what to do. Luckily we found another supermarket close by that was also in the throws of closing but we managed to just get in and grab a few essentials to tied us over until tomorrow when we can do a proper shop.

We went home, unpacked the groceries and decided to head out in the car to have scout around and take the girls swimming at the Palmerarie that they had spotted yesterday when we went out with Marie. It is best described as a "hotel" type complex with pools attached. Snacks, drinks, meals available when required with an olympic sized pool, dive pool and sun loungers for your use.

En route to the Palmeraire we stopped off to make enquiries about a river cruise on the Rhone. There wasn't much information around so we will check that out tomorrow with the information centre. Onto the pool...great excitement for the girls. Peter was unable to enter the pool in swimming shorts and had to borrow a pair of the pools speedos - not sure why this was, maybe shorts are seen as a hazard when swimming?

The girls had a great time, diving, swimming and lounging around the pool. We finished our time at the pool with a bowl of hot chips which is always good after a couple of hours in the water.

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The swimming is on the other side of the Rhone River from where we are staying in the old walled town of Avignon. It was basked in sunlight as we left the swimming complex. Here are some photos:

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A lovely day relaxing in the sun.

[Hi it's Peter here. You may wonder why there are no photos of me in my very brief speedos. As you would imagine, my body was transformed into a temple so no photos were allowed. The temple may have resembled a Buddha type temple rather than a Greek god type temple, but it was a temple nonetheless!!]

Posted by Touringteamf 00:08 Archived in France Comments (1)

Au Revoir Paris....

Bonjour Avignon!

sunny 28 °C

After a wonderful week in Paris it was time to move on to our next adventure...Avignon.

We packed up all of our gear, ordered a taxi and negotiated the narrow steep stairwell with our heavy cases and back packs.

When we arrived out on the street the taxi was there waiting for us. The driver was from Moroccan descent but was born in France. He would have to be the best taxi driver we have had on our trip so far. He was obviously a huge sports fan and knew all about New Zealand sports. He was well versed on the achievements of Valerie Adams and a huge fan of the All Blacks, Jona Lomu in particular. Most people that have spoken to us about New Zealand have all mentioned Jona Lomu.

We had our train tickets validated at the station and then spent a while trying to find the correct platform and train. Once on board the double decker, duplex train sped off at about 120 miles an hour. The trip itself was very smooth, you would hardly know you were moving. We arrived in Avignon 2.5 hours later. When we stepped out of the train we were hit by the heat.....it was lovely and sunny with a cooling breeze.

We collected our car from Europcar hire (the same firm as the London hire) - I must say this hire was a lot easier and quicker than London. We were on the road within half an hour. It felt odd with Peter driving on the left hand side of the car and even odder us travelling along the right hand side of the road - something we will get use to I guess! The drive to the apartment was lovely, past the beautiful Rhone River.

The owner of the Avignon apartment is Marie and she was there to meet us when we arrived. She kindly helped us in with the bags (only the first floor this time!). After a quick tour of the apartment she offered to take us around the area in her car and point out some highlights of the region. It was great although a little challenging at times as we spoke little french and she spoke little english - we managed to work it out though and had a few laughs along the way.

Marie dropped us back "home" and we decided to head into the town on foot to buy our groceries. We wandered around the town looking at the shops and sights. As luck would have it the annual Avignon Harvest Festival is on at the moment so we decided to take a look at that first before getting our groceries. We climbed the steps to the Palais de Papes where most of the action seemed to be.

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The views were stunning from walls of the palace.

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Again, we wandered around taking in all what the festival had to offer. They even had men there pressing grapes and we were able to try the freshly squeezed juice....tres bien!

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There were many food and wine stalls with music playing. Since it was getting close to 7pm we decided to have our tea at the festival and grocery shop the next day. It was lovely, pate entree, spit cooked beef, ratatouille followed by a slice of rhubarb tart, nectarine tart, fig tart and grape tart which we shared amongst ourselves.

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Just before 9.30pm a band playing music from the Blues Brothers started on the main stage. They were very good. We sat and listened to them for a while then slowly made our way back down the steps through the township towards home. On our way we passed street buskers performing their acts. It was great, a real party like atmosphere.

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Back "home" and away to bed to rest and get ready to explore Avignon.

Posted by Touringteamf 02:31 Archived in France Comments (1)

Arty Friday

then snails, frogs legs and creme brûlée

semi-overcast 20 °C

We were up, fed, watered, groomed and out the door before 10.00 am for our last full day in Paris.

I was keen to go to Montmartre to see the street artists and hopefully buy some art work.

We wandered down to our local Hop on Hop off bus stop and slowly made our way into the centre of town, where we had to change onto another line. We decided to walk for a bit, and found a Post Office to get stamps to send a few post cards.

We got back on a bus and got off at Moulin Rouge, a quick photo and a chance for Madison and Mackenzie to do some Marilyn Munro type poses on a street vent. Bit hard to get the right look in shorts and tee shirts.

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Anyway we wandered up through the lower village of Montmartre with beautiful food stalls etc, and made the final push up the hill to the artist’s square. What a beautiful sight. A small village square with the outside and inside of the square taken up with cafes and bars, with the artists set up right round the square.

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We took our time looking and wandering. The painting that caught my eye after the first circuit was this one. But at 2,500 euro, I don’t think so. Took a quick photo when he wasn’t looking.

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By this stage the girls were looking longingly at the Crepes menus in the cafes. So we took a table and had lunch.

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It was then time for some serious art negotiations. The bulk of the pieces were much closer to our price bracket, between 200 - 300 euros. While I entered the fray the girls ventured down side streets etc.

There was a woman playing an organ grinder and I dragged myself away from the artists and we stopped to watch her for awhile.

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In the end I made a purchase, just as Marg came back to say they had found several shops with 100s of paintings. Having completed the deal, it was too late to back out. Anyway went and had a look at the other shops and yes there was some lovely stuff, and plenty I didn’t like. On reflection, we’re still pleased with what we got.

Time was getting on so back down the hill and on the bus. We wanted to go out and see the Bastille, and we had to get to Notre Dame to change bus lines again. We probably should have walked because the Hop on Hop off bus, while good, is very slow.

We got to Notre Dame about 5.00 pm and we still wanted to get a couple things from the souvenir stalls around there. We had to be back at our apartment at 7.00 pm to meet the owner to get our sizeable security deposit back. By the time we had done the souvenir thing, it was 5.30 pm and decided to flag the Bastille and walk home along the Seine.

It was a beautiful evening, the first bit of good weather since we left Stratford upon Avon. We strolled our way home, stopping to watch the passing parade etc, and got back just before 7.00 pm.

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Coralie Andre, the apartment owner turned up soon after. She actually lives in the apartment, but vacates it when it is booked. She is an actress. She was a the main character in a TV French comedy than ran for 2 seasons, does TV commercial work and is currently rehearsing for a stage play. By the sound of it, she is on the cusp of making it, but not quite there.

She stopped and had a drink with us out on the balcony and refunded our deposit.

Our plan in Paris was to go out for diner one night, and as this was our last, it was to be now. We were keen to try snails and frog’s legs. Our street was littered with restaurants so we picked one with both on the menu.

The snails were good, but were swilling in garlic, there isn’t much else to taste. They were good though. The frog’s legs look like chicken wings, and are very bland. Only minimal garlic this time. They were good as well, albeit bland as I said.

Our mains were huge but average, so we went for the classic French dessert Creme Brûlée. Yum.

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After that we strolled back down to the Champs de Mars, to get one last look at the Eiffel Tower in all her evening glory.

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One last comment on Paris and our apartment. Paris was great. Yes it has some unsavoury areas, and yes there a few rats scurrying about looking for food at night around the Eiffel Tower, but it’s a pretty good place to immerse yourself for a few days. The French were surprisingly helpful. If you at least try to speak French they will try to help. Of course a bit hard when you really only know the odd word.

Our apartment was great. It was a “normal” Paris street, as opposed to a tourist hotel area etc. It was out of the main shopping area, but very handy to the Seine, Museums, and the Tower.

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Being described on the internet as a Loft with a View, it was certainly that. Trouble is up 4 fights of very narrow and step stairs.

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Lugging up 4 suitcases was a challenge, but the view was worth it. Sure the view was mostly roof tops and chimneys, there was also plenty of sky, so it felt open and airy, and of course the balcony and la Eiffel.

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Posted by Touringteamf 00:57 Archived in France Comments (1)

Thursday we hopped on and off the bus

and saw Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe

overcast 17 °C

Today we stayed in bed until 8am, which is quite late for us. We got up and had our breakfast and Skyped Aunt and Grandma. We got dressed and headed on down to catch the hop on hop off bus.

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First stop; Sacre Coeur. We unfortunately missed our stop so we had to back track a bit. We walked down a lane that was just choca-block full of souvenir shops (oh and a trés grandé chocolate shop - with Macarons). We saw the Sacre Coeur and I was quite surprised at the size of it - it was HUGE - also, there were many, many stairs.

Finally we got to the top of the stairs and we had an excellent view of the whole of Paris. You could even see the Skyscrapers in the distance. We walked inside the Church (which was as nice as the outside)and had a bit of a look around. We lit a few candles for our Grandparents. We then walked back down the stairs and back through the shops.

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Dad wanted to go to Montmartre to have a look at the street artists. He thought is was at the bottom of Sacre Coeur. So down the steps we went, but Dad couldn’t find the Montmartre village square anywhere. We found an information centre and she told Dad it was back up the hill. Dad could tell by the looks on our faces that Montmartre would have to wait for another day.

We jumped back onto the next hop on hop off bus to our next destination.

Second stop; Lunch. We did plan to go to Notre Dame first, but we were all hungry. We passed a very traditional looking French shop and thought it was perfect. Nearly $70NZD for (The original) 4 french fries, 4 burgers, 4 bottles of water and 2 complimentary cokes. McDonalds must have known we were coming as they were playing music from my favourite band, 5SOS. It was like we never left home.

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Third stop; Notre Dame. We finally had arrived at Notre Dame. We didn't really spend too much time there though. Just a couple of photos and we were off.

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Dad wanted to buy a painting from France and there were lots of stalls selling artwork up one side of the street. The other side had lots of souvenir shops. Madison and I went up one side and Dad and Mum went up the other.

On the way we went passed a "lock bridge". People buy padlocks, write a message on them, lock them onto the bridge and they throw the key into the Seine. Most padlocks declared undying love for each other. Madison and I had heard about it, but Mum and Dad hadn't heard of it. I wonder how many people have several padlocks declaring undying love?

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After a few souvenir buys later we were on our way to finding a bus stop that would enable us to catch the hop on hop off bus to the Arc De Triomphe.

Fourth stop; Arc de Triomphe. We had finally arrived. We took the bus up through the Champs Elysees and jumped off to get in and have a look.

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We noticed some people standing in the middle of the road taking photos. We, on the other hand, stood safely on the footpath to look at the amazing Arch. Nek minute Dad yelled ‘Ahoy’. We turned around to see what he was looking at. He had seen a woman fly fly through the air, after being hit by a motorbike. A Woman lying on the ground. Uh-oh. People were taking photos of her lying on the ground. We walked past her on the crossing and then underneath the road on a path that took us (safely) to the Arc de Triomphe.

We tried very hard to get a picture of the whole thing, but it was just too big! It is an amazing monument, instigated by Napoleon. There is unknown solider buried there from WWI and there has an eternal flame burning there ever since.

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It was very cold and crowded so we decided to meander back home.

We got off the bus at the Eiffel Tower and walked all the way home (with a look in a few shops of course). We had an early tea (7.30) did some blogging and had an early night.

Posted by Touringteamf 23:24 Archived in France Comments (0)

The Louvre and Eiffel Tower part 2

a view from the top

overcast 20 °C

Thanks mum for writing the first part.

Anyway after the tour we wondered back to the Apartment taking our time, because the next tour didn't start until 3:00pm.

We had a home made lunch consisting of baguettes, feta, ham and tomatoes. We saw that it was half past two. Dad rechecked were we were supposed to meet.

Uh oh! We were suposed to met at Palais De Chaillot!

We thought we met at the Tower itself! So we quickly left and started to march down the road.

We just got there in time huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf! The tour guide told us about the history of the Tower.

From the Palais De Chaillot we had an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower! Top to Bottom.

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I was feeling a little giddy (again) looking at the Tower. 321m high, no big deal!

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We skipped the 4hour long line and walked into the elevator. I said I’ll go up to the second stop not the summit!

When we were going up, Mum was leaning into Dad not watching anything (Fear of Heights)! The guide said, going to the second level (Where we were going) is the worst part because it is on a diagonal lean.

When we stepped out of the elevator it was soooooo COOL! The view was so beautiful with a 360 degrees view of Paris! I could see Sacré Coeur up on a hill, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees!

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Our guide walked us round the whole 360 degree view, pointing out the famous bits of the view, with some brief background on each one. She then left us to do our own thing.

I just couldn’t wait to get to the summit, looking up it wasn’t that far up! We were only 80m so I probably should of known…

I persuaded mum to come up too. After a half an hour wait, we were in the elevator. Since the elevator had glass walls Mum couldn't look anywhere! The elevator ride was really cool because we could see EVERYTHING! I was a wee bit scared because I didn’t realise it was another 241m until the summit!

Once again I loved the view it was super amazing! The Eiffel Tower was so cool and so worth the creepy elevator rides. Mum loved it too and I think we were quite brave going to the summit!

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When you go to the Eiffel Tower make sure to go to the top it’s really cool. You can also have some wine and beer at the top! We also saw Gustave Eiffel’s office where he used to take his daughter. I just loved the view and I couldn’t get over it!

Here are some Fun Facts:

The Eiffel Tower is re-painted every 7th year by hand, because it is iron and it rusts!

It was built in 1889 for the First World’s Fair in Paris.

They still paint it the same way as they did in 1889

It used to be bright red, then orange, then yellow but since 1968 it has been brown

2.5 million rivets hold the tower together.

To paint the Tower you need 60 tonnes of paint!

It was supposed to be temporary but it still stands (duh)

Gustave’s family decedents still get money from the Tower (about 2million euro a year). They get 7% of the income as per the original agreement he made with the Government at the time.

7 million visit it a year

You can’t get out of the Tower before someone tries to sell you some Paris souvenir junk

When they paint it they don’t close it down

It has more than 20,000 lights

It is the tallest tower in Paris

It is the second most visited sight in Paris, first being Euro Disneyland!

It is also the most visited Structure in the WORLD!

The Eiffel Tower is ranked the 27th tallest building in the world (25 being the Sky Tower in Auckland!)

Thanks for reading my blog post

Madison

Posted by Touringteamf 23:44 Archived in France Comments (2)

Wednesday - Tour of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower

Part one: The Louvre

overcast 19 °C

With a full day ahead of us we were up early today and out the door by 8.30am. Our first scheduled tour was for three hours at the Louvre. We walked briskly down the streets of Paris passing iconic monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, La Concorde, La Grande Palais, Les Invalides. Pont Alexandre III bridge and the river Seine on our travels. Amazing really.

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We arrived at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel just in front of the Louvre to meet our guide.What an impressive sight, if this was anything to go by the Louvre was going to be stunning. The Louvre buildings certainly were stunning. Amazing architecture spanning over 60,600 square metres!

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We were fortunate enough to have the same guide as the Musee D’Orsay tour the day before – Caroline. After gaining entry to the museum we headed off on our tour.

The Louvre is the biggest museum in the world and one of the world’s most famous museums but its history is not so well known. The medieval remains in the basement level recall the origins of the palace as a fortress. The Louvre then became a royal residence until Louis XIV decided to move far away to Versailles along with his court. Louis XIV still used the building to store his private art collection, as did his successors. It was not until the French Revolution that the Louvre became a museum open to the public (1793).

Unfortunately you can’t hope to see everything in just three hours. Caroline did a fantastic job. We saw many interesting things and heard a lot of history behind the Louvre.

Some highlights were:

• Seeing the original walls of the Philippe Auguste's fortress of 1190 which are below the Louvre as we know it today. It wasn’t a royal residence but a sizable arsenal with a moated quadrilateral (seventy-eight by seventy-two metres) with round bastions at each corner.

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• Visiting Napolean’s III Apartments within the Louvre. These rooms were not lived in by Napolean himself but used by visiting VIP’s and his courtiers. The decoration is a bit over the top but worth seeing. Also on display was Napolean's throne.

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• Venus de Milo – the famous ancient greek statue dating from about 100BC.
It is believed to be Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty (or Venus to the Romans). The statue is made from marble and stands at 6 foot high. Unfortunately the arms from the statue were lost after its discovery. It was found on the Greek Island of Milo hence the name.

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• The Nike of Samothrace – another famous Greek statue dating from about 190BC. The statue stands at 8 foot and is also made of marble like Venus de Milo. This statue also missing her arms unfortunately as well as her head!

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• Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss – another marble statue which has great detail. When you look at the statue it is hard to believe it is made from marble. The wings seem translucent, and the fabric draping around Psyche seems to be of different weights and textures. Amazing how the sculptor achieved this with stone.

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• Mona Lisa – hard to miss this one out. The Mona Lisa took a bit of patience to get in and see. Her portrait hangs on a wall all by itself. It is difficult to get in close to see it as it is surrounded by hordes of people. We were surprised at the size of the painting – it was relatively small to what we had imagined it would be.

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Our guide Caroline excelled again, not being art people she described the paintings and sculptures together with the background around the art and its artist. It made us look at art in a new light. The guided tour was well worth the money. For sure we didn’t see everything there was to see but who could with 35,000 exhibits on display! As I said before, the Louvre itself is a piece of art from its original walls now beneath the ground to the palace that stands today and the glass pyramid. We managed to see a lot more than what is here on the blog and unfortunately like many things the photos don’t do the exhibits justice – you really need to see them in person to fully appreciate them.

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Posted by Touringteamf 13:43 Archived in France Comments (1)

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