Paris 2

Continuing our virtual tour of Paris, let me take you to another iconic place in Paris….The Louvre Museum….

Louvre Museum

Located in a huge palace that was once home to the kings of France, The Louvre Museum displays thousands of artworks, many of which are masterpieces. The Louvre Palace occupies a vast expanse of land on the banks of the Seine River. The museum started functioning in the palace as early as 1793. The museum does not occupy the entire palace; part of it being occupied by allied offices. The present day Louvre Palace is a complex of wings and pavilions , many of which have been subjected to various phases of modification, destruction and reconstruction.

It is impossible to cover the entire museum and so, it is better to focus on a particular gallery of one’s choice such as Classical Sculpture, Renaissance art,17th century French paintings, Egyptian antiquities and so on…

The most famous and popular exhibit is of course the Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1505.

To get the most out of a visit to the Louvre, one can join the guided tours available where the guide who is also a historian provides commentary on the masterpieces.

Another peculiarity of this museum is that though it owns more than 6 lakh exhibits, only around 35 thousand are physically displayed and the rest can be viewed online.

Entry to the museum in the courtyard of the palace is through the Glass Pyramid…another structure that has grown to be emblematic of Paris. This iconic structure was built in 1983 and has provided a modernist appearance.

Some pictures from Louvre….

The Louvre Museum and Pyramid

A closeup of the glass pyramid

The stairway leading to the inside of the pyramid underground

Inside the Louvre Museum

One of the beautiful ceilings inside the Museum

Some of the displayed artworks

Some pictures of famous exhibits at the Louvre :

The Mona Lisa….the most famous of the lot

The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Greek Sculpture)

Venus de Milo depicting Aphrodite the Greek Goddess of Love

After this treat of artwork, we visited the Opera House…

Palais Garnier Opera House

Another important sight was the Palais Garnier Opera house commissioned by Napoleon. Built with ornate exteriors, this building in baroque style appears very impressive. It hosts variety of events like ballets, classical music concerts and other gala events. It also houses a museum dedicated to opera.

Palais Garnier Opera House

The Notre Dam Cathedral

An impressive monument of Gothic architecture, it has ornately designed exteriors. The stained-glass windows are also very beautiful. A fire in 2019 caused extensive damage to this architectural wonder.

The Notre Dam Cathedral

After a lot of history and architecture, we decided to visit Disneyland for some kiddish fun!

Disneyland Paris

Located around 30 km away from Paris, this entertainment resort houses theme parks, resort hotels, a shopping complex, and a golf course! The layout of this park has been designed on the lines of the parks in California and Florida. It is dedicated to fairy tales and Disney characters.

Though the rain played spoilsport that day, we did manage a pretty decent visit there…some pictures…

After a fun filled day at Disneyland(partly spoilt by the rain) we headed back to the hotel . The next city on the itinerary was Brussels….a short and sweet visit enjoying some waffles….see you next week with the pretty waffle lady….

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Paris 1

Travelling to Paris

Continuing from where we stopped off last week….Dover

We travelled to Paris by a ferry crossing the English Channel. At Dover, our tour bus drove on to the lower deck of the P&O ferry and parked there. We alighted and climbed up to the upper deck of the ferry. As the ferry left the shores of Dover, we could see the white cliffs of Dover at a distance.

The cliffs as seen while crossing the English Channel

On board the ferry crossing English Channel

We arrived at Calais , the port on the French side of the English Channel. At Calais, we boarded the bus back and were driven to our hotel in Paris.

One of the first sights that welcomed us at France was not such a pleasant one. The dark side behind all the glamour and pomp was obvious!. Potential immigrants to UK desperately trying to get into any vehicle crossing over. I understand this is a common phenomenon and leads to even loss of life sometimes. The desperation to get across the border, lands some of these people in difficulties. We do read off and on about the calamities that befall some of them!!

After some time to check in and freshen up, we boarded our bus again for dinner at a restaurant followed by a visit to the Eiffel Tower to see the lighting up of the tower.

Lighting up of Eiffel Tower

As soon as it gets dark, the Eiffel Tower’s golden lighting switches on automatically thanks to sensors. In addition to the structural lighting, a beacon also comes on.

In addition to this the sparkles come on for 5 mins at the beginning of each hour till 1 am.

The lit up Eiffel Tower (the rain water added a reflection too!!)

The Sparkles and the beacon!!

Since we are at Eiffel Tower, let me take you through some day-time views of the tower. (We actually did this the next day as part of the city tour)

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is the most visited tourist attraction in the world!

It was designed by Gustave Eiffel for the Paris Expo in 1889 which marked the centenary of the French Revolution. The Eiffel Tower was created as an entrance for the expo.

There is an interesting anecdote about the survival of this tower. It was initially dismissed as a monstrosity when first unveiled ,as the artist community, felt that it would destroy the beauty of Paris. But Gustave insisted that he would build it in two years and he actually managed to do it. When the lifts were not ready, it is said that he climbed it manually and hoisted the French flag. Such was his determination.He was allowed to retain the tower for twenty years to enable him to recover his costs. The understanding was that after that time it would be brought down. Eiffel thought of a clever plan and installed radio antennae on the tower. Once the antennae were regularly sending signals, the anti tower lobby relented and the rest is history…..

Now ,this very same tower has become emblematic of Paris

The tower is made of sturdy iron rods weighing more than 10,000 tons. On arrival at the base, the sight of the four massive pillars is awe inspiring. These legs of the tower house various facilities like ticket counters and lifts and a wide road passes between the pillars. Inside one of the pillars is an old steam lift preserved for posterity!

The base of the tower with massive pillars

The Eiffel Tower

An elevator ride (or 360 steps to climb for the brave ones) leads to the first level at 57 mts height. This level has a gift shop, cafeteria, washrooms and an outdoor viewing terrace.

View from first level

View of River Seine from the first level of Eiffel Tower

Another elevator ride takes one to the second level at 125 mt. This level has similar amenities as the first level and offers views of many important landmarks in Paris. The balcony is covered with glass to prevent suicides and accidents.

View from second level of tower

At the second level of The Eiffel Tower

The next view is from the final level of 276 m. which can again be reached by an elevator.

View of the Les Invalides ( shrine where Napoleon’s tomb is located) from last level

After a detailed visit to the Eiffel Tower, we were on the Champs-Elysees.

Champs Elysees

Champs-Elysees is the most monumental boulevard in Paris. 1.9 km long and 70 mts wide; it was once a desolate marshland. After the 17th century, the place was gradually developed with elegant buildings bordering the boulevard.

Broadly divided into two parts by the Rond-Point intersection; the lower part has the Place de la Concorde ( Concord square) and the Petit Palais. The upper part extends up to the Arc de Triumph and is lined by luxury shops, hotels, cafes, cinemas and theatres. It is a popular meeting point for Parisians.

Though the place has an upscale aura about it, there are more affordable stores and restaurants too.

The Champs Elysees with the Arc de Triumph at one end

Typical buildings lining the Champs Elysees with high end shops

Arc de Triumph

This arc is dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the French armies of the Revolution. It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 and completed in 1836. This 50 mt high arch features bas-reliefs with larger than life size figures which depict the glorious return of the French armies.

At the foot of the arch is the tomb of the unknown soldier. The Flame of Remembrance is kindled here every evening at the tomb.

At the Arc De Triumph

The Tomb of the unknown Soldier and the Flame of Remembrance

Place de la Concorde (Concorde square)

This octagonal square was the heart of 18th century Paris. It was the scene of several historical events including the execution of Louis XVI and Mary Antoinette. It was also part of Napoleon’s triumphal route.

It is one of the most attractive squares in the city and offers great views of many Paris landmarks. The center has an Egyptian obelisk and has beautiful fountains.

It is a busy intersection too with heavy traffic.

The Concorde place with the obelisk and a fountain

A typical building surrounding the Concorde square

I must mention here that as we were driven around Paris, I was surprised to find walls defaced at many places with graffiti. We do not hear about these things and the actual sights can be an eye opener. Our guide also warned us to be careful with our bags and wallets at all points of time. So there is a dark side to this place. Perhaps our colonial mindset makes us think that the grass is all green across the oceans. But that is not true…a dark underbelly is very much a reality!!

See you next week with more pictures from various locations in Paris. Till then , keep your comments going and subscribe below

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London 2

Continuing my series from London , today we visit few more important locations…take a look….

Wembley Stadium

This “Home Of Football” was opened in 2007 and hosts major football matches including home matches of the England national football team. With 90,000 seats, it is the largest stadium in UK and second largest in Europe. It has a circumference of 1 km. It is owned by the English Football Association.

Its signature feature is the Wembley Arch , which , apart from adding aesthetic value also supports major part of the weight of the roof.

It played a major part in the 2012 summer olympics in London hosting many of the matches.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium by night

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is an iconic landmark of the London built across the Thames river. The Neo-Gothic architecture and the lifting central sections make it special. It was built to give better access to East end of London which had expanded its commercial potential in the 19th century. It was built between 1886 and 1894.

This 240 m long bridge has two towers , one on either end connected at the upper level by horizontal walkways. The central bascule can open to allow shipping .The bridge deck is accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians whereas the towers, upper walkways and engine rooms form part of an exhibition.

The Tower Bridge

Driving under the arches of the Tower Bridge

The lower portion opens to allow shipping

The Shard

The tallest building in UK, the Shard is a 72 floor skyscraper also referred to as the Shard of glass. It is a glass clad pyramidal structure with a viewing gallery and observation deck called The View from the Shard.

It houses a 26 floor office complex, 3 restaurants, 10 residential apartments and the viewing gallery.

The Shard

Thames River

Just like the Tower Bridge, pictures of London are incomplete without the Thames River. Flowing through most of London ,it is 346 km long and is the main source of water to London city. It is also used for navigation purposes.

Around 50 years ago , this river was highly polluted and declared biologically dead. But there has been a turn around and is now one of the cleanest rivers. The installation of oxygenators or bubblers to increase the dissolved oxygen levels has been a turning point in this river’s history.

The Thames river

Waterloo Bridge

This is a road and foot traffic bridge across the Thames and commemorates the victory of the British in the Battle of Waterloo. Due to its strategic location, it provides great views of the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster.

Waterloo Bridge with the London eye , Big Ben and Westminster in the background.

Trafalgar Square

A public square, Trafalgar square commemorates the victory of Britain in the Battle of Trafalgar. The square is lined by iconic buildings like the National Gallery and has multiple sculptures and a central high column. On top of the column is the statue of Admiral Nelson who led the battle of Trafalgar. The area is called Charing Cross.

The square is the location for many gatherings and political demonstrations. New Year’s eve celebrations are also popular here.

Trafalgar Square

The Trafalgar Square column with Admiral Nelson’s statue on top

The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square

St Paul’s Cathedral

One of the most famous and recognizable sights of London, is a working church with hourly prayer and services. Located at the highest point in the city of London, is the seat of the Bishop of London. It has a magnificent dome which is one of the biggest in the world. It has been hosting many important ceremonies of the royalty and notably was the venue of Princess Diana’s wedding.

The original cathedral was destroyed in a fire and what we see today is a rebuilt cathedral.

St Paul’s Cathedral

The British Library

The national library of the United Kingdom, it is one of the largest libraries in the world.

The entrance to the library

Lord’s

Lord’s cricket ground, called Lord’s in short is referred to as the Home of Cricket and houses the world’s oldest sporting museum. Named after its founder Thomas Lord, it hosts various cricket matches. When we visited, it was the 200 years of Lord’s . Some pictures…

200 years of Lord’s

Entrance

At Lord’s

The Lord’s Pavilion

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

Founded by the sculptor Marie Tussaud in 1835, the wax museum in London is bigger than many others world wide. It displays wax figures of popular personalities. Some pictures…

The royal family

With Sachin

Natural History Museum

A treasure house of exhibits from various ages, a visit to this museum is a very educative experience. It has one of the largest collection of exhibits ; some of which belonged to Charles Darwin. Its exhibits are displayed in various sections like life, earth, wild life gallery etc. Fossils of dinosaurs, virtual reality shows and experiences of geothermal phenomenon are some of the unique sections. A huge blue whale skeleton takes center stage here. Some pictures..

The Natural History Museum

A blue whale skeleton…an exhibit at the museum

After a long but entertaining day of hip hopping through London, we returned to the hotel. Our next destination was Paris.

We travelled to Paris on a P&O ferry crossing the English Channel. The ferry leaves from Dover on the England side to Calais on the French side.

Our tour bus took us to Dover passing some beautiful English countryside on the way.

Typical English countryside

At Dover we also saw the famous white cliffs of Dover.

The White cliffs of Dover

Around seventy million years ago this part of Britain was submerged by a shallow sea. The chalky skeletal remains of a type of alga were deposited on the sea floor and these subsequently became the white cliffs as we see it today.

For ancient mariners, these white cliffs signalled their arrival at UK while crossing the English Channel.

The White cliffs of Dover….

At Dover, we boarded the ferry to Calais…see you next week at France…

Well friends, this is my blog number

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London 1

Starting my series on Europe from London. For this Europe tour, we were part of a tour group unlike my earlier tours.

It was a bright and sunny day in London and as we were landing at London, I got a real bird’s eye view of the city. The Big Ben, Westminster Palace ,Thames River, London eye and various bridges across the Thames were clearly seen…take a look..

Bird’s eye view of London

Beauty in uniformity….beautiful rows of houses as we approach to land

After a late evening check in at the hotel at Wembley, we started our tour of the city next morning. That was not a bright and sunny day as you will realise from some of the pictures!

Some of the important locations we visited….

The Big Ben :

The Big Ben is the nickname of a huge bell that hangs in the clock tower at the north end of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. By extension, the clock and clock tower are also referred to as The Big Ben. The main clock chimes every hour and the quarter bells chime every quarter hour. (The clock used to chime every hour but since 2017, this has been restricted as some restoration work is on). The clock tower in which the bell is located is called Elizabeth Tower and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tower is 96 mt tall and there are 334 steps to the belfry. A special light above the clock faces is illuminated when the parliament is in session.

The tower is a British cultural icon and is often used as a symbol of UK. It boasts a Gothic Revival style of architecture. All four nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales) are represented on the tower. The construction was completed in 1859.

The Big Ben

The British Houses of Parliament :(Westminster Palace)

The featured image of this blog is of the Westminster Palace.

The Palace Of Westminster serves as the meeting place for the House of Commons and House of Lords….the two houses of Parliament of the UK. The palace is located at Westminster on the banks of the Thames River in central London. It is the center of political life in the UK and is often referred to as Westminster.The clock tower and Big Ben are part of this palace.

When it was initially built in the 11th century, it served as the primary residence of the King of England but was destroyed in a fire. The construction of the present palace started in 1840 and continued for almost 30 years with delays and cost overruns. Following the second world war,( when the palace was hit by bombs on several occassions), extensive repairs have been carried out.

Casual access to the parliament is restricted and requires prior permission and tickets from an MP.

The Palace of Westminster on the banks of the Thames with the Big Ben at one end

Buckingham Palace :

It is a Royal residence and seat of administration of the monarchs of the UK and located in the city of Westminster. It is often the center of state occasions and royal hospitality. It is the focal point of the British for occasions of rejoicing and mourning.

Originally known as Buckingham House, the building at the core of today’s palace was a large town house. It was expanded by three wings around a central courtyard in the 19th century and became the London residence of Queen Victoria in 1837 and was called Buckingham Palace. The palace has 775 rooms and a large private garden. The state rooms which are used for official entertaining are open to the public each year in August and September.

When paying state visits to Britain, foreign heads of state are often entertained by the Queen at the Buckingham Palace.

The palace has ornate gates in black and golden colour and is adorned at the entrance by the iconic Queen Victoria Memorial.

The Buckingham Palace

Queen Victoria Memorial at the Palace entrance

Change of Guards ceremony :

This is a formal ceremony in which a group of soldiers hands over the duties to another set of soldiers. This ceremonial parade of sorts spans the Buckingham Palace, the St James’s palace and the Wellington Barracks.

During the ceremony, the Royal guards come from outside and enter the palace. An exchange of flags takes place. There is an accompanying band and mounted soldiers too.

The public can line up along the roads here and watch the soldiers march by and also see the hand over and take over ceremonies. Some pictures from the change of guards ceremony

The Change Of Guards ceremony

Westminster Abbey :

It is one of the United Kingdom’s most remarkable religious centers and the traditional place of coronation and burial for the British monarchs. Situated just next to Westminster palace, it has been the venue for some of the royal weddings too.

The Westminster Abbey

The London Eye :

Also called the Millennium Wheel, this observation wheel is located on the banks of the Thames river. When it opened in the year 2000, it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. Subsequently it was over taken by many others. It has 32 ovoid and airconditioned passenger capsules. It does not normally stop for passengers to alight or board. The speed is slow enough for passengers to walk on and off it. The slow speed also helps easy photography.

It provides breathtaking views of the city. Some pictures…

The London Eye

One of the capsules

Entrance to the capsule

Inside the capsule with the Palace of Westminster in the backdrop

View of London city with the Thames and its bridges from the capsule

This is my first episode on London city. Next week we continue with more sights from the city tour. Till then, do comment and subscribe below