RSS Feed

Views from the Top: La Tour Eiffel and Arc de Triomphe

As a novice traveler, I was rather – how should I put this – ravenous in devouring the new experiences in a city. Suddenly, money is no longer a concern as long as I get to do EVERYTHING the city has to offer. Silly, I know! I religiously abode by the “you are here, so you might as well do it” attitude, which, suffice it to say, is not the wisest advice to follow (that is, except for Gaudi in Barcelona – you ALWAYS visit all of Gaudi’s works!). Needless to say, I spent a significant amount of money for entrance and/or climbing fees during my first trip abroad. And as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I climbed to the top of both the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. I know, I should have added Notre-Dame and Sacre-Coeur while at it, huh?

Since I already made the mistake of spending money unnecessarily, I’m going to share my experiences with you and hopefully it’ll help you decide which one to go up to. That way, you don’t have to make the same mistake I did. Unless, of course, you have money to spare. Actually, even so, I’d suggest you spend the extra Euros on macarons or other french pastries!

La Tour Eiffel (The Eiffel Tower)

Metro: Champ de Mars/Tour Eiffel or Ecole Militaire or Bir-Hakeim

Eiffel1

I really have nothing to say about La Tour Eiffel except this: It’s probably the most-famous landmark in the world, so GO!

The view from the first observatory deck of the Eiffel Tower.

The view from the first observatory deck of the Eiffel Tower.

The view towards Montparnasse from the higher observation deck.

The view towards Montparnasse from the higher observation deck.

The Arc de Triomphe as seen from the top of the Tower

The Arc de Triomphe as seen from the top of the Tower

Arc de Triomphe

Metro: Charles de Gaule-Etoile

Built between 1806 and 1836, the arch serves to commemorate the bravery of those who fought for France in the Napoleonic Wars. Underneath its vault sits the tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I and the Memorial Flame, the first of its kind in Europe.

DSCN2578

Located at the western end of Champ-Elysees, the monument is built in the middle of the converging point of 12 very busy avenues in Paris, making it one of the busiest round-abouts I’ve ever encountered (see picture above). You CANNOT jay-walk this and I advise you to not even try it. The view from the top, though, is definitely much better than the one seen from the Eiffel Tower.

Looking down Champ-Elysees

Looking down towards Champ-Elysees

DSCN2598

The view towards Sacre-Coeur

The view towards Sacre-Coeur (please pretend the crane doesn’t exist!)

If you want to hit 2 birds with 1 stone, I suggest you get off 2 stops earlier at Palais Royal/Musee du Louvre and walk down Champ-Elysees. It’s not a very far walk and you’ll have lots of things to entertain you along the way. Plus you’ll get amazing views of the arch as you approach it.

DSCN2622

Also, this is the chance to grab an authentic Parisian crepe from one of the stands that are ubiquitous throughout Paris. Take note, though, Parisians don’t EVER walk and eat at the same time. So, make sure you sit at the nearest bench while eating your crepes lest you risk being stared at (true story!).

DSCN2417

I no longer travel this way, though. I now pick and choose what I want to do/see, so I come out of the experience feeling more satisfied. I think the more you travel, the more you learn the how of traveling. But, that’s an entirely different post – next time, maybe!
What do you think? If you have to choose, which one would you climb? 

Beautiful Churches: Paris Edition

Quasimodo. Remember that guy? The hunchback of Notre Dame who fell hopelessly in love with Esmeralda, the beautiful and kind-hearted gypsy. He is the cathedral’s bell ringer and he lives in the bell tower of Notre Dame. Among his friends are the humorous gargoyles that keep watch over the city of Paris at the top of the cathedral. Aside from the Titanic, this was the more age-appropriate movie my parents took me to when I was a child. It captivated my imagination and it certainly got me infatuated with Notre-Dame de Paris. So, of course we had to visit it when we were in Paris!

Notre Dame, seen from across the Seine.

Notre Dame, seen from across the Seine.

Just like any other famous landmarks, the Notre Dame was packed with tourists and travelers alike. We had the opportunity to attend the International Mass on Sunday, which, while beautiful, was definitely the most distracting Mass I have ever been to in my life. Sure they closed off the main nave of the cathedral for the Eucharistic celebration, but that certainly did not stop people from using their flash while taking pictures around the interior of the cathedral. Disrespectful, much? That said, the church IS gorgeous and I highly recommend a visit when you are in Paris. However, it is not the only beautiful church in the city. If you have enough time, consider going into these 3 churches that are less popular, but just as stunning.

Sacre Coeur Basilica
(La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre) 

Metro: Abbesses (Line 12), Anvers (Line 2), or Lamark Coulaincourt (Line 12)

SacreCoeur1

Although getting to its entrance requires you to climb many, many stairs, the view of the city of love from the top of the hill makes it worth the climb! Its inside smells of old, musty wood, but make no mistake, it is very majestic. Photography is not allowed inside, so I don’t have any picture to show you. But, trust me on this – go to Sacre-Coeur and you won’t regret it! FYI – For those who are not able to climb the steps, there is a cable car available to take you up to the entrance of the basilica.

SacreCoeur2

Locals and travelers chill out on the steps of the Basilica

Saint Augustin Church
(Eglise Saint-Augustin de Paris)

Metro: Saint-Augustin (Line 9)

We had no plans of going into this church. In fact, we didn’t even know it exists! We had plenty of time to kill as we were waiting for our train to depart to Lisieux from Gare St Lazare. Not ones to sit around and twiddle our thumbs, we took a gamble and started walking around the area. We ventured into a small alleyway, through a playground, and eventually came out to the side of this gorgeous church.

Front facade of St. Augustin

Front facade of the Church of St. Augustin

One of my absolute favourite saints: St. Augustine. If you don't know his story, look it up!

One of my absolute favourite saints: St. Augustine. If you don’t know his story, look it up!

StAugustin3

The Tabernacle

The Tabernacle

 It is certainly an off-the-beaten-path landmark, but a beautiful one at that!

Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
(Chapelle Notre Dame de la Medaille Miraculeuse)

Metro: Sevres-Babylone (Lines 10 and 12) or Saint-Placide (Line 4)

Being the site where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure (then a Novice sister in the order of the Daughters of Charity) in 1830, this chapel is a very busy and relatively well-known pilgrimage site in France. Like the Met in New York, its humble and very simple exterior boasts nothing of the beauty inside the chapel. Because of this, It is tricky to find. So, pay attention when you are walking on Rue du Bac. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a statue of the Virgin with child over the entrance way.

Medal1

Why the miraculous medal,  you ask? The Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine imploring her to create a medal, which was distributed in 1832 during a deadly cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 20,000 lives. As the story goes, many cures were reported, along with conversions and protections after the distribution of the medals. Hence the name miraculous.

Inside the chapel

Inside the chapel

Chapel3

I don’t know about you, but I get a kick out of visiting the less-famous landmarks of the city. It almost feels like I have uncovered the city’s best-kept secrets *snickers*. Do you feel the same way? Do you make it a point to visit these relatively “unknown” landmarks? Share the wealth with me!

Paris: C’est La Vie

Dear World, Happy Easter! I hope you had a wonderful celebration this past weekend. I realized I’m SO DELAYED with my greeting – I’m not even going to lie, it’s because I’ve enjoyed myself too much over the weekend. It’s been a while since I’ve spent a 4-day weekend in town; I usually use those to go on a quick trip somewhere. Ah well, better late than never, right?!

***

Now that I’ve finished updating you with my most recent travels, it’s time to take you way back to when it all started: Paris.

Paris1

Outside a neighbourhood boulangerie. LOVE!

Outside a neighbourhood boulangerie. LOVE!

I can’t recall how Gaby and I started talking about going to Europe. All I remember was my pure joy and excitement as we were planning it. Call it the obsessive-compulsive in me, but I find so much fun in trying to figure out how to go from one city to the other, researching what needs to be seen in each destination, and hunting for the best flight deals (by the way, that was the best deal I’ve ever gotten to date: $560 for YYZ-CDG-FRA-YYZ). The fact that there is so much to see and learn out there continues to fuel my love of travel until today. It’s really why I travel in the first place.

And so, there we were, bleary-eyed, and having spent our first day marveling in the lifestyle of the rich and famous at Versailles, we returned to our hostel in Montmartre, gave into our jet-lag, and slept for 12-hours straight, only waking up at noon the next day.

With stomachs growling, we crossed the street and stepped into a cafe, outside of which sprawled a row of neatly organized round tables with sidewalk-facing chairs that are placed side-by-side (prime spot for people watching, right here!).

DSCN2986

Its inside was warm and cozy. Soft, yet audible, music reverberated through the restaurant; it had that distinct harmonica sound that is so quintessentially French. I find it humorous how mundane, every-day things, like the simple act of eating lunch in a restaurant, can be such a novel experience when you are outside the confines of  your comfort zone. Ah, such is the consequence of displacing yourself from the familiar into the unfamiliar.

DSCN2449

With this new found wonder and curiosity, we put on our travelers’ goggle and started to explore Paris on foot and via its highly-efficient-but-insanely-complex Metro.

Photo courtesy of mappery.com

Photo courtesy of mappery.com

We walked its cobble-stoned streets and its countless round-a-bouts, each one posing to be a challenge for us to jay-walk across.

Paris2

We made our way to the Notre Dame, trying our best to simultaneously capture both its monstrosity and its details.

DSCN2461

Notre Dame in all its grandeur

DSCN2554

Notre Dame as seen from its details

We walked along the Seine, passing by many makeshift booths, selling vintage posters, books, and souvenirs. In hindsight, I very much regret not buying anything from them.

DSCN2661

Our feet eventually led us back to Montmartre and there, on the steps of Sacre-Coeur, we sat among both locals and travelers, listening to the occasional burst of singing and guitar-playing, while marveling at the panoramic view of the city of love under the moonlight.

Sacre-Coeur Basilica

Sacre-Coeur Basilica

Paris basking under the moonlight

Paris basking under the moonlight

C’est la vie, indeed.

Have you been to Paris? Did you like it? I didn’t LOVE it, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time there (minus the fact that some parts of the city smells like urine. Ugh!). Do you feel the same way as I do about traveling? How every.single.familiar.thing becomes a novelty all over again? Did you get lost trying to navigate the Metro? If you haven’t been and now that you’ve heard (read) me wax poetic about it? 

Ottawa with the Locals: Discovering Great Foods in the Nation’s Capital

I’m going to admit it: I’m not a foodie-traveler. I believe it’s very important to eat local food when you are in a new place, but I’ve never actually researched them beforehand. I know, shocking! I mean, I research EVERYTHING before I go; from things to do to public transportation to hostel reviews, absolutely nothing is left to chance. That is, except for places to eat (Hah! I can’t even tell you where the logic is in that!). I guess I figured there are a ton of restaurants in any given city, so we can just wing it and walk in as long ad the menu and the prices look good. As a result, I always miss out on the hot/hip spots in the city, only finding out from friends after I got back or when I stumble across an article or a blog post weeks or months later. This is why it’s awesome to go to places where you have friends. I don’t have to do any research since they know all the best places to eat in their city (at least I would hope so!). It’s a win-win situation, really.

That said, I’m lucky enough to have several friends living in Ottawa: Rue, Vanessa, and Kainat among them. These wonderful ladies took me places and showed me a different side of Ottawa I otherwise wouldn’t find out if I were going on my own. Now, I’m going to share these spots with you and hopefully you’ll get a chance to try them when you visit the capital city!

For Breakfast:

French Baker 

119 Murray Street – Ottawa – ON – K1N5M5

Rue puts it eloquently: “Whenever you want to smell Paris, just step into the French Baker and inhale!”. A small store on the side of Byward Market, this bakery sells french-inspired pastries and artisan bread. You don’t even have to step inside, you will catch the delicious whiff of fresh baguette by simply walking past it! For something around $2.80, I had the almond croissant and it was pretty damn delicious (even after I dropped it on the floor)!

La Botega

64 George Street – Byward Market – Ottawa – ON – K1N 5V9

This small food market has everything you ever want from Europe, from cheese, to cookies, straight down to the authentic Italian coffees. We were there for a mid-morning snack, so I didn’t have any of their hot food. However, I’ve been told their $5 sandwiches is very popular, not to mention delicious, lunch item. Also, Kainat and I may or may not have spent a good chunk of my money on Milka chocolate bars.

For Lunch:

Saigon Boy Noodle House 

648 Somerset St. W. – Chinatown –  Ottawa – ON – K1R 5K4
Vietnamese Bun from Saigon Boy

Vietnamese Bun from Saigon Boy

Head to Chinatown and hop into Saigon Boy for a bowl of authentic Vietnamese noodle bowl. It’s definitely not better than Pho Hung in Toronto, but it’s certainly better than other Vietnamese places I’ve tried. The generous portion is also a bonus!

For Afternoon Coffee:

Bridgehead Roastery

130 Anderson St. – Ottawa – ON – K1R 6T7

IMAG1207-1

Located on the side of the Bridgehead Roastery in Little Italy, this brew bar is a unique experience for coffee-drinkers. For $2.55 you get to choose which coffee beans and which brewing method you want to try, with each method producing a different taste.

The different brewing methods offered: Syphon, Chemex, Clever, and Eva Solo.

The different brewing methods offered: Syphon, Chemex, Clever, and Eva Solo (not necessarily in that order)

When you go with a friend, it’s a good idea to choose exactly the same coffee beans but different brewing method. That way you get to actually taste the difference in tastes.

IMAG1200-1

Be aware, though, that it is a fully functioning roastery, which means their roasters run during the week. That said, it does get a little bit noisy in there, so it’s probably not the best place to be if you’re looking for a quiet coffee house.

For Happy Hour:

Mambo Nuevo Latino 

77 Clarence St. – Ottawa – ON – K1N 5S7

Who else would take me here other than Kainat, a self-professed lover of all things Spanish and European football-related?

IMG_3504

We each ordered a glass of sangria and shared a plate of patata bravas. The atmosphere plus the food instantly transported me back to greatest place in the world: Barcelona.

The Clocktower Brew Pub

575 Bank St. – Ottawa – ON – K1S 5L7

2 things you need to order: Kolsch Beer and Pub Chips. The beer was light and the chips savory, together they make excellent snacks to munch on while catching up with friends.

IMAG1208-1

For Dinner:

Homemade french onion soup

IMAG1179-1

I included this one because I have been wanting to have a bowl of French Onion Soup since I came back from Paris several years ago. So, when Rue asked me what I want to eat (as Vanessa is a chef specializing in European cuisine), I quickly requested she make French Onion Soup. And she delivered! Served steaming hot and topped with a cheese-smothered bread, it was nothing but DELICIOUS. Thank you, Vanessa!

What about you guys? How do you eat when you travel? Do you research your restaurants? Do you go by local recommendations? Or do you wing it like I do?

*Special thanks to my awesome friends: Kainat, Rue, and Vanessa, all of whom played the role of gracious hosts when I was in Ottawa. Natasha – I didn’t forget you; I’ll just have to spend some time with you next time I’m back in Ottawa!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 443 other followers