V is for Views

Today was our last day in our very central Paris location and also the last day of our Museum Pass so we decided to go and do the last few things that we had been keeping in the back of our minds. The first one was to climb Notre Dame and visit its famous gargoyles however upon arrival where we realized it was going to be about an hours wait minimum we reconsidered and decided to move on (to be honest my feet and legs were still punishing me for yesterday so I wasn’t totally devastated…).

The next thing on our list was the Centre Pompidou, a gallery for modern art. I am not a huge fan of modern art (aka I am not intelligent enough for it to be particularly accessible to me, especially in French) however the building itself is supposed to be rather unique and the views of the city would be worth a visit in itself. The bad news was that the gallery was shut. The good news was that we figured this out before we headed in that direction.

Plan C was to go back to the Latin Quarter and visit the Museum of the Middle Ages which was highly recommended by the book but which we had skipped the other day in favour for other things. After circling the building twice and walking through its pretty little gardens we came to the conclusion that it was shut for some kind of construction going on. So yeah, not so successful so far. The day was still early and Paris has so much to see that we were not short on things to do.

After wandering through a small street market and then through La Sorbonne we arrived at the impressive Pantheon (whose Dome was undergoing some kind of renovation), a huge building based on the archetype of an ancient temple that had gone through a few identity crises during its history. The building was grand and suitably beautiful on the inside but the best part of the Pantheon in my opinion are the crypts below which are open for a wander and which house the bodies of many great French thinkers, writers, revolutionaries and scientists. The Pantheon was rather reinvented during the French Revolution so the focus on secular heroes of history kind of made sense and was a nice change from the norm. People like Voltaire, Rousseau and Marie Curie (the only woman) all have tombs here.

Because we can’t resist a good pre lunch religion, we decided to take a look at the church that was beside the Pantheon and although we have seen a lot of churches, this one was one that stood out. It had beautifully ornate marble carvings as well as a central pair of marble staircases that I particularly loved. It seemed to be a popular spot for students of the nearby university. Luckily, where there are students there are always good lunch options so it did not take us long to find a busy little sandwich shop where we got a delicious cheap lunch.

Despite my reservations on French “”Jardins”, where grass is off limits, we decided to visit the much loved Jardins de Luxembourg. No doubt they are pretty, with the beautiful Palace at the head of the ordered and well kept flower beds as well as a few mirror like ponds thrown in for good measure. Still hasn’t made me fall in love with the French gardens but it was a pleasant way to wander away half an hour or so. There was also a rather sculpture fountain dedicated to Delacroix (he pops up everywhere in Paris) which was typically difficult to capture in a photo.

In the Lonely Planet, église st Sulpice nearby was mentioned as having rather impressive architecture as well as a small claim to fame in The Da Vinci code as one of the murder scenes. Exciting stuff so we headed towards its two Italianate towers that were thankfully high enough to make navigations rather simple. It wasn’t my favourite church interior (the fact that I took zero photos also makes it very difficult to picture it) but it’s exterior colonnaded entrance was unique and the homeless people begging on the steps with their tiny little chihuahuas sitting on ragged pillows easily come to mind. Oh, the one cool thing inside was that Just when you thought Delacroix wouldn’t pop up again, there he was in this church where he had painted two of a the wall frescoes. In typical Delacroix fashion, he had been asked to paint scenes with angels but chose to go ahead and do some battle scenes instead, which makes me love him even more.

Why see one or two churches when you can see three I hear you say? Good question so we thought we should visit one more. Our third church (st Germaine des Prés) was nearby and had a much humbler exterior than the one before but used to be the main church in Paris before scene stealer, Notre Dame went and stole all the glory. It was pretty adorable, relatively small with frescoed walls and a starry ceiling sky. Afterwards we sat outside with an old guy who was laughing away to himself as he fed the pigeons. It was kind of adorable.

After another stop at Laduree to sample more macaroon flavours we walked up to the Arc de Triomphe to conquer its stairs and get ourselves some panoramic views of this city we both had rather fallen in love with. The stairs were evil and slightly claustrophobic but the views up top were breathtaking. The city lay out in front of us and it was fun to pick out all the places we had been to, with views over to Montmartre as well as to la Defense where the big arch stood in clear view. Of course no view of Paris would be complete with out of favourite tower and here it had a centre stage. Definitely recommend the arc de Triomphe as both a great work out and also an awesome way to get your bearings on this beautiful city.

With out last night in Montmartre we couldn’t leave without a quick visit to the Moulin Rouge as well as the close by little cafe where Amelie works (what an amazing movie). We then ended the night back at our favourite spot, on top of Montmartre with more French onion soup and that delicious French bread (as well as half a bottle of rosé). I knew I was going to miss this area immensely.

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1. Crooked Pantheon
2. Inside (surprisingly quiet when compared to most of Paris)
3. Fraternité
4. St Étienne du Mont (I think)
5. Beautiful staircases
6. Luxembourg palace
7. Ditto but with added flora
8. Just sitting in some random street. I love it
9. Église St Sulpice
10. Arc de Triomphe
12. View towards the Eiffel Tower
13. View towards La Defence
14. Eternal flame under the arch
15. Those red windmills
16. Getting lost in the backstreets of Montmatre
17. Back at our favourite spot

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W is for Walter Scott

Be prepared, this post could be a bit lengthy, go and get yourself a cup of tea and a snack, you may need it. We only had limited time in Glasgow before heading to Edinburgh and wanted to make the most of our few hours in the city. We went to the central station so that we could deposit our luggage for a couple of hours (without this option I don’t think we would have gotten very far).

Our first priority was to visit Glasgow Cathedral as we both have a big interest in church architecture (but little actual knowledge). It was a bit of a walk but it was good to get a bit more of a feel for the city as it’s not one with an obvious collective style. It all seems quite random and disjointed at first but the more we saw, the more the city kind of made sense.

The cathedral was not disappointing. Large, gothic and dark in this blackened stone that seemed suitably ominous. Even more impressive was the view of the necropolis behind on a large hill. I had never seen anything quite like it (and for a while I had no idea what it was). After exploring the church and learning about the patron Saint of Scotland (St Mungo…) we headed across the courtyard to the museum of religion as it was free and seemed interesting. It was small and quick to go through but was better than I expected, covering art from all different major religions and cultures (including Aboriginal art!) as well as a good summary for the religious history of Scotland which was something I found really interesting.

We made our way back in the direction of the train station via the river that runs through the middle of Glasgow, similar to the Thames except even browner in colour despite the amazing sunshine we were lucky to have. We saw bits and pieces of beautiful architecture (most made with a very dark stone) amongst a lot of less attractive buildings and concrete and rubbish. It’s definitely a city that for me at least requires a little bit more patience to appreciate but one which I would be happy to return to.

We then grabbed bite to eat for a late lunch before jumping on a train to Edinburgh. It was a nice quick ride and our hotel was literally like 1 minute from the train station so after a coffee we checked in to our room which was nice and modern but very small. We didn’t want to try and cram to much into tomorrow so decided to spend the afternoon exploring. The first stop was another church (I don’t think we will be able to tell them all apart by the end of this trip). St Mary’s was a short walk away but was a beautiful church made from a similar dark brick as he one in Glasgow. It was basically empty which was perfect for exploring all of the ornate decorations and a painting display they had going on.

The highlight of the day was what we found whilst wandering through each little private chapel. In one was a family pew that was specifically dedicated to Sir Walter Scott (who had used it). Sir Walter Scott is part of my Scottish heritage and he is also a poet/novelist who is apparently quite popular in Edinburgh, where he spent a lot of his time. It was rather wonderful to find this random link to my family history in a church we went into on a bit of a whim. It turns out the city has a lot of references to Sir Walter Scott including a wonderful monument in the centre of the city with a statue of him.

We then realised we were quite close to Dean Village which we had no idea about but came up on trip advisor so we thought we would take a look. Today seemed to be the days or random discoveries and this one was well worth it. Dean Village is a little valley below the city, covered in beautiful bush and with a river running straight through the middle. It was a peaceful little cobbled haven that didn’t seem to belong in the middle of a city.

After dinner at a pub on the King’s mile (the historic road leading down from the breathtaking Edinburgh castle) we then embarked on a guided night tour of the underground vaults to learn a bit about the history of the city (and a few good ghost stories in the process). Edd and I keep to ourselves a lot so it was nice to do something a little out of our comfort zone.

Phew, I don’t know how we managed to fit so much into that day but it was great and well worth all the walking. I already knew at this point that Edinburgh was going to be one of my favourite cities.

A heads up: I had some trouble with this blogpost so below are the photos of Edinburgh (I hope they aren’t too slow to load). Il do a quick post separately with the Glasgow photos soon 🙂

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This last photo is Edd’s and is much better than my attempts to capture St Mary’s

T is for Takeoff

12 Things I have learnt in the last 27 hours of flying

1. There is bound to be a minimum of three crying children who will take turns to ensure there is never a quiet moment hence:
2. Bring earplugs (good ones)
3. 12 hours is a real long time if you can’t fall asleep but everyone else on the plane already has.
4. Edd makes a good pillow in the event where you forget to buy a neck rest and then the supplied pillow is mysteriously missing from your seat and the guy beside you has two.
5. Bring a damn neck pillow
6. If you choose the vegetarian meals it means that instead of ice cream you get bean curd for desert
7. If you ask really nicely you may be able to swap said bean curd for ice cream but don’t expect the hostess to be nice about it
8. For me personally, the only way I can get to sleep is with music or a movie in the background
9. Take a really amazing moisturiser cause after 24 hours with plane air conditioning your skin will inevitably hate you.
10. Trying to watch movies in sync with someone else is a challenge but it’s totally worth it (mainly so you laugh at approximately the same time)
11. Don’t accidentally start watching a movie that ends up having graphic nudity in it if you are easily embarrassed. If you wish to avoid awkward moments stick to re watching frozen 5 times (god I love that little snowman) 12. If the longest you have ever travelled on a plane is 3 hours don’t start with two 12 hour flights, basically one straight after the other

I am very very jet lagged and have had about 6 hours of sleep since Wednesday morning so I am sorry if none of this makes sense.