Archive for the ‘arc de triomphe’ Tag

Paris – A walk Across the City   12 comments

It was a glorious sunny Sunday after our visit to the Tour Montparnasse so we decided on a walk through the city to tick off some sites. The famous Champs Elysees is closed to traffic on a Sunday so what better place to start. We pitched into the Metro and popped out at the famous landmark at the head of Paris most famous avenue.

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Unlike the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe was much bigger than I thought. It was built by Napoleon so he could march through it – triumphantly – when he won the war. Just one tiny flaw in that plan. He lost. Still he got the dubious compensation of having his ashes paraded through it. Not the same somehow

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It sits in the middle of a vast and seemingly free for all traffic roundabout. It was scary just watching the traffic race around and especially the bikes nonchalantly wandering through. There was even one guy who sauntered straight across the lines of traffic without a care in the world. He could have been run over numerous times but he just gave a gallic shrug and wandered off.

The view towards La Defense

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The tomb of the unknown soldier and eternal flame

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We had thought about climbing to the top but we’d already had a great high view, there was a long queue and most importantly it cost money

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We headed off down the Champs Elysees

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Despite its fame I was underwhelmed. It is a rather grand broad boulevard but it’s just lined with expensive shops and hotels. I didn’t think it was anything special and there were certainly far better places we saw in Paris. We ate lunch from a cheerless chain sandwich shop sitting on the pavement. It was Sunday and all the bakeries were shut

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Things improved from there. We wandered down a side street and found the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais and they were rather grand. Both were built for the Worlds Fair at the same time as the Eiffel Tower

The Petit Palais

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The Grand Palais

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The Grand Palais appeared to want more of my hard-earned cash but the Petit Palais was free. Easy decision

It was very impressive both inside and out. It had a fine collection of art and paintings but it’s not really our thing

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We had a little wander about (the gardens were rather nice), used the loos and moved on.

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Next stop was the Place de la Concorde with its granite obelisk gifted to France by Egypt in 1831 and is actually 3300 years old

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It’s an impressive expanse and quite a feat to cross the flow of traffic to reach the centre. Fine views back along the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe

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This is the Fontaine de Mers. It was rather odd but I really liked it

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There seemed to be various mermaid types all with a keen hold on a fish. We called it the Fountain of Throttled Fish

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From our travels I can safely say is that they do fountains really well in Europe. Almost every square has one and they are almost always well maintained and either interesting, intriguing or simply magnificent. I’m sure the UK has great city centre fountains but I’m struggling to recall one

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Onwards into the Jardin des Tuileries. They were busy but magnificent on a sunny Sunday afternoon

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They are packed with wide avenues, perfectly manicured lawns and flower beds and more fountains and ponds

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Seating space was at a premium though so we admired while we moved through

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At the far end of the gardens is the Palais de Louvre and its famous museum. I’d had it my mind that the museum would be an imposing yet bland building but is absolutely huge and quite stunning

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At the centre is its famous pyramid. Again I had a preconceived idea that it would garish, modern and out-of-place but I loved it. To me it seemed an appropriate merging of new old and it’s certainly unique. You stand by it and know its The Louvre

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The fountains outside were also rather lovely and we sat outside and people watched for a few minutes and to rest our weary feet.

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We had decided well ahead of time not to go in. as I said fine art is wasted on us and the queues and high cost were not worth the expense. From what I’ve read even if you only have a passing interest in art, the collection is magnificent, varied and absolutely vast. I read that if you merely glanced at every piece within you’d be in there for 9 months

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We headed for home over the rather lovely footbridge, the Pont des Arts

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Fine views across to my favourite bridge the twin spans of the Pont Neuf spanning the Ile de la Cite

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And back downstream towards the Eiffel Tower

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As we headed back to the flat for some rest and recuperation before a meal out we passed by the church of Saint Sulpice again

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An absolutely splendid day in a beautiful city

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Paris – Tour Montparnasse   14 comments

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I like tall buildings and I like looking down on cities from the top of them. When I looked at the cost of going up the Eiffel Tower I wanted a better alternative. The Tour Montparnasse ticked more boxes. For the same price I could visit twice so I could see the view in the daytime and at night. It was walking distance from the apartment. And of course it was well sited for excellent view of the Eiffel Tower itself

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Its renowned as the ugliest building in Paris and you can see why when compared to Notre-Dame, the Basilica de Sacre Coeur or indeed the Eiffel Tower itself. I liked it though. It sits out on its own in a not particularly attractive part of the city anyway and doesn’t really detract from the rest of the feel of Paris. As smoked brown glass buildings go I thought it was quite stylish. 209m high and built in 1973 for you fact-meisters out there

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While we’re on that subject. The buildings I do find offensive are those that sit right in the heart of glorious historical cities and their architectural gems where no effort has been made to make them blend in. I lost count of the times when walking through a particularly glorious neighbourhood I’d turn a corner and there would be an ugly concrete block or sheets of plain glass right next to a renaissance building or medievakl church or palace. This was especially true and particularly galling in Venice and Rome where architectural gems abound and the city feels like a living outdoor museum. My theory is that these buildings are almost exclusively local authority, banks or hotels. The Town Planners who allow this should be shot. There I’ve said it.

And on the subject of High Street Banks, why do they have glass and windows anyway. Who goes window shopping at Banks. What do they think people are looking at. Point of Sale Literature displays for current accounts. Bloody hell! Rant over, sorry!

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Back to the story. We booked in advance but there was absolutely no need to. There was no queue at the ticket office and there were no more than fifty people up there. Which was a surprise for it was a glorious clear sunny day and the views were magnificent. The Eiffel Tower of course takes centre stage and as I’d hoped the Tour Montparnasse was a wonderful vantage point. La Defense where we went on first day is behind it here

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I like this photo as it shows the elevated section of the Metro. A bit Train-Spotty I know but I liked that section for some reason

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You can stay indoors and look through the glass but the best views are from terrace on the roof. The glass walls protect from the wind (and from jumping off), but there are gaps so you can take photos direct as it were. Here’s the Jones family looking summery

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And some zoom shots of famous landmarks. This is the Palace of Les Invalides and its gorgeous golden dome

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The Arc de Triomphe

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The Pantheon

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Basilica de Sacre Coeur at Montmartre. Me and TJS were massively chuffed when we looked at the photo later and realised we’d captured the Stade de France in the background! 🙂

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And the church of Saint Sulpice round the corner from our apartment

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Possibly the only photo of me from the entire holiday. Enjoy it while you can

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From up here you realise just what an immense city Paris is. This was especially true when looking down on some of the other cities we visited. Rome seemed especially and surprisingly small by comparison

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This is the cemetery of Montparnasse. We were all staggered at how big it was. Jean Paul Sartre and Serge Gainsbourg are in there somewhere

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Our apartment is somewhere in this shot. Right hand side of the road about 2/3 the way up I think

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This shot shows just how quiet it was while we were there. Going in the morning was a great plan. The sun was in the SE and most of the main city sights were to the north and west so the light was just perfect

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A view over the Jardin de Luxembourg to Notre Dame and beyond

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And over the Seine towards the Louvre and beyond to Montmartre

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Stylish ladies having a sit down with a weird teenager behind

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And a final classic shot across to the Eiffel Tower. The top one is from the roof terrace and the second one through the glass on the floor below

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I could have stayed up here all day picking out sights and features but there was more Paris to see. Satisfied with our experience we headed off to do more stuff for the rest of the day. In the evening we returned for our second visit to see the city at night

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It was much busier and we timed it just wrong to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle. The night-time views were still amazing though

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I never really got the hang of night shots with the camera. Most are a little blurry as I had the shutter speed low to allow enough light in. I probably should have pushed the ISO Sensitivity much higher so I could increase the shutter speed and reduce the shake. I need to practice more.

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I don’t think I could enlarge any of these for the wall but at this size hopefully they show just how great the views were. Saint Sulpice.

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Notre Dame

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Basilica de Sacre Coeur

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Our road, the Rue de Rennes

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The fair at the Jardins de Tuileries

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And last shot of course goes to the Eiffel Tower

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Late finish but well worth it. Stupendous views over a wonderful city

Paris – La Defense   12 comments

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For our first proper outing in Paris we headed for the skyscraper and glass towers of La Defense. It sits just outside the city on a small rise. It was the only area of Paris I’d been to before so I was keen to see it again for curiosity sake. I also remembered the Grande Arche and the views from the top being quite good. We hit the Metro and headed over there.

It’s a glittering palace of architectural styles and a lot of glass.

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The metro exit pops you out right under the Grance Arche.

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A stunning building with intriguing lifts that run in the open “hole” and a roof terrace on the top. We didn’t need much convincing to head on up

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The views from the top are exceedingly good although not as good as I remembered. You get a great view down over the towers but they somewhat obscure the views of the rest of the city

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It does give a good view of the Eiffel Tower with the Tour Montparnasse directly behind. More on both in later posts

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It must have been windy up there judging by TJF’s lively hair. We’d struck lucky with the weather. It had rained on the train through France and it rained all day when we left the city to travel on to Turin. In between our 2.5 days were gloriously sunny

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I’d say that with other lofty heights in Paris to ascend for city-scape views its probably not worth the expense to ascend the Grand Arche. Its impressive to look at though, up close and the view from the top of the steps leading up are almost as good

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We decided to take a stroll down to the wide pedestrian arcade towards the Arc de Triomphe to explore. There were loads of water features fountains and modern sculptures like this one

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Any many weird and wonderful shaped buildings. Its very like Canary Wharf in London and I like both immensely. I love sky-scrapers and tall buildings and in the 21st Century, architects seem to be trying outdo each other in terms of unusual shaped buildings. Not exactly in keeping with the older side of Paris but its tucked away from there and adds a different dimension to thecity I think. Also being primarily an office and business park it was deserted on a Saturday afternoon.

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The water features were just as interesting as the sculptures and buildings

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I found this one intriguing

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And this one looked like it was made from drinking straws

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One of the slightly odd things about the Grande Arche is its position. The avenue in La Defense and the buildings alongside it seem perfectly aligned with Avenue Charles de Gaulle that leads to the Arc de Triomphe. When you look back at the Arche it seems to be offset such that the centre is not pointing precisely down the Avenue but off at a slight angle. I’m not sure if this is deliberate or indeed if its just a trick of the light and shadows. I got the same impression looking from the Arc de Triomphe. Very odd

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At the end of the walk there is another water feature and you can look straight down to the Arc de Triomphe while watching the Metro trains slide underneath

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A worthwhile first outing and something different which we all enjoyed. Not exactly a classic area of Paris or likely an area for nightlife, bars and fine dining but well worth a visit.

The Metro station beckoned and it was time to move on to the most iconic of Paris landmarks

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