After several years of hinting to my other half that I wanted to visit Paris with no success, I took it upon myself to have a trip of a lifetime with my best friend. Who says you need a man?
by RLB2 on August 17, 2011
The Pantheon is one of the must see sights in Paris, it was built by Louis XV when he recovered from an illness and decided he wanted to rebuild the ruined church of Saint-Genevieve in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Unfortunately by the time it was finished France was a different country, the Revolution had transformed the political landscape. They decided to change it's use from a church to a mausoleum for the internment of great French intellectuals. Twice since then has it reverted back to a church, but now it stands as a temple to those great intellectuals.The magnificent building stands proud in the Latin Quarter, surrounded by buildings of the famous Paris-Sorbonne University. A glance up onto these buildings and your will see the slogans of the Revolution written - Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite (liberty, equality and fraternity), it actually feels like you are stepping through a part of history as you approach the front of the building. We wandered up the steps at the front and through the columns to the entrance. Once inside I was gobsmacked by the sheer size of the interior columns, dome and frescos on the walls. Just wandering round was magical and because of the sheer size of it even with lots of people wandering around it was really peaceful. The spring sunlight was beaming through the windows and picked up the dust in the air causing to play in the air.We wandered around taking in the atmosphere and then headed into the mausoleum, which was quite busy. I must say that as much of an honour as it was to pay my respects to some of the greats of history, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire & Louis Braille, I found it a little disrespectful to turn their final resting places into a tourist attraction with visitors traipsing through the mausoleoum in their droves. I suppose it is amazing that these great people are still held in such high regard and everyone while we were there was very courteous and solemn.Upon resurfacing we wandered around the other side of the Pantheon and learnt about Foucault's pendulum, which is famous because it was in the Pantheon that Leon Foucault demonstrated how the earth rotated using a pendulum hung from the central dome. The original pendulum is held in the Musee des Arts et Metiers and a replica is hung in the Pantheon.All in all a really amazing building that is well worth a visit if you are ever in Paris.
I've been wine tasting in several countries, including here in the UK and I've never been disappointed. So I couldn't visit Paris and not try some lovely French wine could I? As I have said in the other reviews in this journal we bought the Paris Pass for our two days in Paris and one of the things we could do was wine tasting at O Chateau. I jumped at the chance and we booked in for an afternoon tasting session (and if you're reading the whole journal then you'll know that I needed a glass after visiting the waxwork museum). You don't have to have the Paris Pass to enjoy this attraction though, they have there own website and if you are visiting Paris I really would recommend booking in for a session to experience some of the wines of France....and maybe even purchase some to take home. You can't book the same 1 hour session that we had without the Paris Pass, but there are plenty of options and given my experience they all seem to be worth the money. For 50 Euros you can get a 2 hour session that lets you taste 5 wines and a champagne.Back to our session, we arrived early and the venue was really easy to find, it's quite near the Louvre so you can combine the two things together in one day if you want. We were taken through a lovely quiet bar/restaurant area to the wine cellar tasting area. We were the first people to arrive so just waited on some nice comfy seats and then were shown through the a room with a huge dining table , where we all took a seat. We were in a group of around 25 people, all were English speaking and we were soon introduced to our English speaking sommelier who was really lively and friendly, as well as being knowledgable. We tried 3 wines, a red, a white and a rose all from France. Each wine was introduced using a map of France that showed the area the grapes are grown and our sommelier explained how the wine was produced. We were then given a taste, which was actually a very generous glassful. Our sommelier showed us how to taste the wine properly, by passing oxygen through your mouth (we looked very silly trying to do it!). We were then asked what we thought the wine tasted like, before being told what she thought it tasted like. I liked the fact that we weren't told what the wine was supposed to taste like, we could make your own minds up. The wines we tasted were all really nice although I didn't buy any bottles to take home. We had a really fun time at this wine tasting and it only took one hour. The venue was nice, the staff were friendly and we got try some superb wines. If you're in Paris, get yourself along to O Chateau!
I don't know if it is just me, but there is something about waxworks that really creep me out. Perhaps I watched a little bit too much of the X-Files when I was younger, but whenever I see any I keep expecting them to come alive and chase me. Hmmmm maybe I just have an overactive imagination, who know's? All I do know is that if I had been on my own then I probably wouldn't have gone to this waxwork museum in Paris. The friend that I was travelling with was really quite excited about going here and seeing as it was included in the price of our Paris Pass I thought what harm can it do? (actually the harm that it did was take up 2 hours of our trip, so that's not too bad is it?)The blurb on the Paris Pass website says that 'The Musee Grevin will astound the visitors with it's dramatic lifelike scenes of historical and modern Paris'. I wasn't astounded, it was quite average really. The outside of the museum is pretty weird looking,it is a bit out of place on boulevard Montmarte, so you can't miss the red front or the archway entrance. It felt like we were walking into a cave or tunnel and all we had to do was flash out Paris Pass and we got straight in. It's a good job really because the cost of an adult ticket was around 20 euros, definitely not worth it. We stood in line for a good 20 minutes waiting to get into the first part of the museum. There wasn't anyone there to ask about why there was a hold up and no signs to explain (not even in french). I was getting a little frustrated because we had a wine tasting session booked in a couple of hours of time and I didn't want to have to race around the museum. Just I was considering walking out the door above us was opened and we entered a circular chamber that went dark once we were all in. After a few moments a light show began to welcome us to the museum and because the walls were covered in mirrors it made it look like the room was a massive hall. It was a pretty amazing optical illusion and i read in the guidebook that it was originally put together in the 1920s. I think it might have been the best part of the museum.The various sections of the wax work museum were laid out well, it was easy to follow, but to be honest a lot of the waxworks only had a look of who they were meant to be (see the pictures). I also didn't really get what we were supposed to do. I know that you wander round and look at them, but about halfway round I thought why am I taking pictures of all these waxworks, it's not like they are the actual famous people. I suppose that was just me, because everyone else seemed to be having a good time. Even the kids in the place were having fun, so I suppose that I am a spoilsport. Suffice to say that I enjoyed the wine tasting afterwards much more than this waxwork museum, which was average and I think there are plenty of other things to go in Paris that are better value for money and much more exciting.
So when you go to Paris, I'm imagining that most people want to climb the Eiffel Tower. Now don't get me wrong we did that too and it was amazing. However, it was also very busy and we stood in a massive queue so by the time we got up there we weren't in a good mood. It also meant that it was quite late by the time we climbed down and went for dinner. So after checking our guidebook we were pleased to see that the Arc de Triomphe was open until 10pm. Off we headed on the metro, which has a stop right near the Arc de Triomphe, found at the western end of the Champs -Elysees, all we had to do was wander through the pedestrian tunnel under the road that surrounds it and we were right there at the base.It was totally dark when we were there and the tomb of the unknown soldier was the first thing that we saw and it was quite moving. There is an eternal flame lit all the time in remembrance of all those that were lost and unidentified in both world wars and that was twinkling in the night. After a quiet moment paying our respects we headed up the lift and stairs (there are only 46 so it's not too bad) to the top. There is a small museum/exhibition in the area where you come out of the lift, called the attic. It gives you all of the information about when it was built and why, which was really well laid out. I didn't spend so much time looking at all this because I knew quite a bit about the monument and also had read my guidebook before going to Paris and was eager to see the view.So off I skipped to the terrasse to be hit with a spectacular view of Paris at night. Then just as I thought it couldn't get any better the Eiffiel Tower lit up and was sparkling in the distance. Truly magical. In fact a bottle of champagne and my lovely man could only have made it better. Forget being on the Eiffiel Tower for romance, go up th Arc de Triomphe at night when the whole world is sparkling, not only is it quieter so more intimate, but you get to watch the Eiffiel Tower in the distance and when it lights up every half hour it's fantastic.Also very obvious at night (and I would assume during the day as well) is the strategic importance of the tower. It was placed at the centre of a dodecagonal of avenues, that were built after the French Revolution by Napolean Bonaparte. These avenues were designed to be long, wide and straight, which ensured that not only could troops be depoyed around the city very quickly, but it was almost impossible for riots to bunch up and create blockages like during the French Revolution. All in all a very clever idea and I was struck by how effective it must be.We stayed on the terrasse until 10pm and the final call to go back down and had I thought it was a worthy use of our evening. We ended it by wandering down the Champs-Elysees having a look in the various shops and cafes. All in all a great experience and something that can be fitted in on an evening if you don't have time during the day.
by RLB2 on August 16, 2011
I'll begin this review by saying that, one, I am not really an art connoisseur of art, but I know what I like. Two, I don't speak french and three, I'm not the best person with a map. If you combine all of these things together you get one frustrated tourist and one annoyed friend in the Musee du Louvre. Now having said that we did get round and see all of the masterpieces eventually but I did find the process quite stressful, to the point that I was wondering whether it was worth it. We had read all the advice about visiting the Louvre, including arrive early, don't try and get round everything, just try and do a small section etc etc. We were in Paris in April and we had purchased something called a Paris Pass, which meant that our entry to the Louvre was included and we had a queue jumper. We arrived at the Louvre around 9.30am and wandered into the central courtyard (the one with the pyramids made famous by the movie The Da Vinci Code). We had walked straight past one line of people but then noticed that there was another across the courtyard. So after asking we found that the first line was in fact the queue jumping line...crazyness...it was longer than the other line. Anyway we got in without too much hassle and then we were presented with another problem...the map. I had real difficulty with the map, it wasn't that easy to figure out where everything was and then when we had worked it out it wasn't very easy to navigate around the place. Things were not signposted very well and we did end up going in circles a few times. The other problem we had was that some parts of the museum were closed off for various works and finding an alternative route was almost impossible. It took us almost 30 minutes to find the most famous painting in the place, the Mona Lisa (or La Jaconde)!!The Louvre is massive and there really is no way that you are going to get around everything in one day, and you won't enjoy anything if you try. The day we were there it was pretty busy with Chinese and Japanese tourists in very big groups. We decided to just try and find the main exhibits that were marked on the free map, so it would give us a nice overview of the main exhibits. This included the Mona Lisa, The Seated Scribe, the Nike of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo. We also had a good look around the Egyptian, Roman and Greek areas. The art itself is outstanding, amazing, beautiful, intriguing and a whole host of other things. Your own opinion of the various pieces will probably differ from mine, but I don't think that anyone can disagree that the setting that they are all in is magnificent. The Louvre was a palace and you can really imagine what it was like when it was first built. Wandering around some of the less popular galleries was pretty amazing. Outside too the architecture was fabulous, to the point that I couldn't quite believe that I was there.My top tips for a visit to the Louvre are:1) Arrive early, possibly before it opens to ensure you are the first in and can get to where you want to go first.2) Avoid the advertised top exhibits, they will invariably be packed and you'll just end up not enjoying the experience.3) If you want to go and see the postage stamp sized Mona Lisa, by all means do, and when you are getting stressed about the crowds pushing and disappointed because of the size, turn around and feast your eyes on the Marriage at Cana, I promise you will not be disappointed.4) If you want more than a stroll around the museum looking at the various works of art, then purchase an audio guide from the desk as you walk in. Unless you speak and read french very well they really are a must have.5. Wear comfy shoes that have grip on their soles, my friend wore sandles and spent the whole day slipping around on the marble floors.6) Finally, don't try and do it all, you will not manage it and leave feeling frustrated and grumpy, just choose a section and enjoy. Think of it as an excuse to visit Paris another time!
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