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Tag Archives: Walks

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!).

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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? 
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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?!

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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

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Notre Dame in all its grandeur

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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.

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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? 

An Afternoon at the Museum

At a glance, the exterior of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (a.k.a. the Met) gives no hint to show the treasures it contains within its galleries. I mean, its exterior doesn’t have the jutting crystals of Toronto’s ROM (not that they’re beautiful or anything. On the contrary, I think they’re hideous), nor the glass pyramids of the Louvre, nor does it resemble a cupcake’s icing as donned by its sister museum down the street, the Guggenheim. Aside from the souvenir stalls and food vendors lining 5th Ave., it really has nothing special to distinguish itself as a state-of-the-art museum. Plus, prior to my visit, I only associate the steps of the Met (not even the actual building) as Blair and Serena’s meeting place in Gossip Girl (yes, I watched Gossip Girl up until season 3. You can stop laughing at me now!). Heck, most of what I know about New York I learned from that show. For example, Brooklyn is over the bridge (duh!) and Butter is a (fictitious or real?) posh restaurant that even Blair Waldorf had difficulty in getting a table. Anyways, my point is, I wasn’t terribly excited to visit the museum until I was inside and started going through its galleries.

I told you – not very impressive exterior

We intentionally left our entire Sunday afternoon empty as we knew we were going to do one of the museums included in our CityPASS. Despite the fact that MoMA houses Van Gogh’s Starry Night, I persuaded Julie and Natasha to go to the Met instead (or maybe they had no idea about this, but that’s beside the point). We walked over and enjoyed a quick street performance before we went inside to the air-conditioned Great  Hall (whoever invented the AC, THANK YOU! I owe my sanity to you. NYC is  NOT fun in the 30+ heat!).

NYC street performers: Free entertainment!

Did you know that the Met dates all the way back to 1866? The idea was conceived by a group of Americans in Paris who wanted to bring the arts and art education to the American people. The museum first opens its door to the public in 1880 and has since expanded both its collections and its buildings. Today, it covers roughly 2 million sq.ft. with over 2 million objects, tens of thousands of which are on display on any given day. In short, it’s impressive. Really.

I highly recommend getting the audio guide to help you appreciate what you are looking at. Trust me, it’s the best $7 you’ll spend in Manhattan! We followed the Director’s Tour on the audio guide, which promised to give us a general view of the entire museum and show us the highlights of each gallery for 90 minutes on each floor. This is a lie. Read that again. This is a lie. You absolutely cannot go through one floor of the Met in 90 minutes. We spent around 5 hours and we didn’t even come close in covering the entire museum ground. Most of the time, we flew from one gallery to another.  Below is a list of my favourite parts from our afternoon at the museum.

The Great Hall designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt

The name reminds me of Harry Potter

4 things you need to do here: 1) Profusely thank the good Lord for the existence of AC. 2) Buy your ticket or get your CityPASS validated. 3) Get your audio-guides. 4) Most importantly, grab a map of the museum. I thought I would never get lost in a museum before, but, alas, the Met proved me wrong.

 

The Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing

The government of Egypt gifted the temple to the United States in 1968 to recognize the support they gave to help save Egyptian arts from the rising waters of the Nile. It is an example of a Pharaonic temple and it was built in 15B.C. I can’t even begin to imagine how they transported the entire temple from Egypt to the States.

The Charles Engelhard Court in the American Wing

An expansive atrium with beautiful statues glowing under the streaming sunlight – this was my favourite gallery in the entire museum!

The facade of the house imitates that of the Branch Bank of the United States originally located on Wall Street. The house itself contains period rooms and interior decorations in the Americas. Directly opposite is the entrance columns Louis C. Tiffany designed for his country estate in Long Island.

Tiffany’s Columns, Facade of the Bank of the United States, and… statues

Medieval Sculpture Hall

Designed to mimic a church, this gallery houses a complete spanish choir screen from Valladoid Cathedral of 1763. It also contains many religious statues, sculptures, and paintings.

Carroll & Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court

I’m sure they are all VERY valuable works of art… I just couldn’t stop laughing at them…

With seemingly silly sculptures from 17th to 20th centuries, we definitely had the most fun here. I think Julie and I would have gone crazy were it not for Natasha’s reserved composure.

Leon Levy & Shelby White Roman Sculpture Court

I apologize for the lack of pictures in this gallery (and in every gallery following). At this point, my brain was positively fried and over-loaded from processing all the information from the audio guide and I just lost interest in taking anymore pictures. But, still, there is something about Roman sculptures that is so royal, romantic, and grand. I love them.

Modern & Contemporary Art Galleries

I have no words to describe the works of art contained in this gallery. I’m sure, though, all of them are astonishing works and very… artistic.

As much as I tried to understand Modern Art… I just can’t.

As I’ve mentioned before, these are only the highlights of our one afternoon at the Met and it is by no means a comprehensive guide to the museum. If I were to do it again, I’d probably spend an entire day in there with a lunch break in between. Heck, even if I do that, I probably still wouldn’t be able to cover the entire museum. All the information I have above I gathered either from the audio guide or from the Met website. Pictures are mine, though, taken with my camera or my phone (I know, my phone camera continues to surprise me too!).

So, should you go to the Met when you’re in NYC? I say yes, give it a chance! You may even learn a few things here and there!

Has anyone else been? If so, what did you think of it?

San Diego: An Unexpected Beauty

Prior to my trip to San Diego last year, I barely knew anything about it. I didn’t know that it’s supposedly the city with the best weather year-round (said by some locals we ran across) or that it’s located so closely to Disneyland (or is it Disney World? Whatever. One of those – Sorry, I’ve never been a big fan). Or that its world-famous zoo has PANDAS! Or even the fact that it borders with Tijuana, Mexico and you CAN (though not recommended) cross the border for a day-trip! Pssh… Forget all that, I didn’t even know which state it’s in! Yes, it’s shameful, but I’m pretty ignorant about a place… until I decide to make it into a destination, at which point I’d do all my research and cram everything I gathered into my brain.

They were right, though, the weather was beautiful – the sun was shining brightly and the temperature hovered around low to mid 20s (Celcius) making it the perfect day to walk through the city.

We started our day with a stroll through Balboa Park, a massive public garden with a zoo, ampitheatres, fountains, museums, and buildings with stunning Spanish architectures.

Spanish/Moorish architecture

We head over to the Botanical Garden with a reflecting pool on its front yard. Apparently it’s one of the most photographed building in the entire park. I’d believe that – Despite the fact that it somewhat reminds me of the west-coast version of an igloo.

See, I told you – it looks like an igloo!

The Botanical Garden itself contains a variety of flowering plants: from bizzare-looking orchids to plain, old lillies and herbs.

I came home to find hundreds of pictures of flowers inside my memory card. Say, how did those get there?

After strolling through the length of the park, we continued walking to downtown San Diego to catch the noon mass (precisely at 12:07PM, no less!) at St. Joseph Cathedral.

Say a prayer & light a candle

From there, we made our way to Old Town for a Mexican lunch and a quick stroll through the Historic State Park, which, I think, was built more for a tourist attraction rather than the purpose of preserving a lifestyle.

Pretty!

Although we had to cut our sight-seeing short as we needed to make our way to University of San Diego for our retreat that evening, the city did more than enough to leave an impression on me.

San Diego, you are unexpectedly beautiful!