Tag Archives: explore

Palace of Ver-sigh

The Palace of Versailles is lovely, especially in the first few rooms you walk through. After that, though, the loveliness seems to spread and average out until the whole place has a lovely ranking of “Average”. Gold room, after carpeted room, after fancy chandelier.

Grand Trianon Ballroom

After the main Palace, you walk through incredibly expansive, stunning gardens. Now, I really wouldn’t mind having a garden like that outside my bedroom window! We couldn’t figure out how it was kept so impeccably neat though: we saw one lone gardener who was mowing the lawn, but we never saw anyone tending to the perfectly cropped trees, or sweeping up fallen leaves. It must just stay like that naturally, from years of being tamed to do so.

Gardens of Verailles

And it really has been years. A visit to the Palace of Versailles is like a snapshot into history that you enjoy but would rather not see. It’s almost as bad as visiting a concentration camp if you have any vague idea of what actually happened in that place. Everything is extremely grand, even the dwellings labeled as “petit”, and they clearly didn’t spare any expenses. But as you’re craning your neck to see yet another golden chandelier, you remember that there were people in the streets not very far from that very room who were literally starving to death.

Marie Leczinska

Some other Marie (Marie Leczinska)

Now, I completely understand Marie Antoinette’s instruction to “Let them eat cake”, I mean, cake is absolutely wonderful, and everyone should be allowed to enjoy it, but the detachment that the French government and bourgeois had from their people is horrifying. Then again, so is the massive economical divide we see around us even to this day…

But enough of that morbidity. It was a gorgeous day, and we got to see and learn quite a bit from the visit. I had never been to this particular overcrowded tourist destination, but I am really glad we made that long journey – though the “journey” around the Palace itself felt far more extensive and excessive and had us walking many miles through echoes of the very first chamber we went into.

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Oui went to Paris

We went to England for his first time overseas. He wanted something exotic for his first time though, so I figured why not hop on over to Paris for the weekend. After all, it is just around the corner.

Surrounded by history is the city of Paris

Outside the Army Museum: Surrounded by history is the city of Paris. It really makes me wish I had taken the noble subject of History, even if only at school level

The city of love, of lights, of overpriced restaurants, too much vandalistic graffiti, and enough litter in the sheets to tower over Le Toer Eiffel. I guess that’s how it’s always been though, a city of start contrasts. Our visit to The Palace of Versailles highlighted how lavishly the French Bourgeoise lived, while the proletariat went starving. Walking through the narrow lanes and alleyways of Paris, and suddenly, out of the cobbled streets, will rise, gold and grand, some immense building of some significance or other. And then it’s back to uneven paving and spray painted tags, where some French kid thought he was being cool by cussing in English.

Paris is full of rebels, even if it is just a way for them to declare their undying love

Paris is full of rebels, even if it is just a way for them to declare their undying love

The first time I went to Paris, I went by ferry, and it gave a stunning view of Dover (and boats are always fun). This time, we caught the Eurostar, for £72 one way, and £56 for the return trip. I expected more from the train trip, but hey, it was efficient and it delivered us safely to Gare du Nord train station, a short bus ride from our accommodation. If only we knew how to catch a bus in France… Luckily, the French folk were really helpful, contrary to my limited past experience. I still don’t know how to catch a bus though.

Beauty is in the sunglasses of the South African

Beauty is in the sunglasses of the South African

We booked our accommodation through Air BnB, which is pretty much my new favourite travel website, on par in usefulness with Skyscanner.net, We stayed in a 6th floor, one bedroom apartment which had windows that would have been completely perfect if their view had been one of the Eiffel Tower. Also, if they had curtains, especialy with the sunrising at 5am, setting at 11.

Check: he's holding the Eiffel Tower!

Check: he’s holding the Eiffel Tower!

The highlights of this trip:

Day 1

  • Arc de Triomf
  • Champs Elysee
  • The Louvre (and getting in for free)
  • Walking to Notre Dame
  • Grabbing a Quick burger
  • Walking to the Eiffel Tower; climbing the 700 stairs to the second level and then catching a lift to the top
  • And finally catching bus home
The classic French dinner: Sirloin and Pommes Frites (French Fries). The irony that they are called Poms...

The classic French dinner: Sirloin and Pommes Frites (French Fries). The irony that they are called Poms…

Day 2

  • Oversleeping, meeting some Americans on a train, and waiting nearly an hour to get into the Palace of Versailles, walking through endless illogical halls-come-bedrooms then corridors of said palace, being very hot walking through the extensive and gorgeous gardens
  • Returning to town for a trip through the Catacombs,
  • Dinner in Paris
  • Sunset from the Sacré Cœur, and
  • An evening stroll home along Place de Clichy (think red light district and “cabaret”)

Overall, it was a really lovely trip. Quite an expensive expedition, but that’s what you get when you visit one of the most popular world tourist destinations. We walked 15km on each of the days, excluding the walk around the inside of the Palace of Versailles, and excluding walking around the Louvre. We were only there for 3 nights, but we really made the most of the limited time that we did have there.

Paris has this uncanny ability to be an amazing fantasy before you get there, somewhat awful and scruffy while you are there, and then still manages to leave you feeling as though you went to this magical place of beauty and excitement when you return to reality. It’s bizarre and I like it.

Castles and stuff

USA vs. UK? My friend went to the USA over the December break and she absolutely loved it, particularly when she got a whirlwind experience of New York just before the Polar Vortex hit (it’s quite a contrast to our Sunny South Africa Decembers). When she met me in London just afterwards, she was surprised at how less urbanised London was. Yet London is such a progressive city too, how can there be such a difference?

She was expecting more of the Starbucks on every corner (or Costa’s in UK) and big chain stores like Primark and H&M to pop up wherever you decided you needed one, but we ended up having to Google these places and then walk for ages (well, more ages than you would in NYC by the sound of it at least) just to find the shop you are looking for. One of my favourite things about the UK, particularly London, is how accessible everything is. One of my other favourite things about the UK is that they offer you this accessibility alongside all their rich history and heritage.

Dramatically viewing the scene.jpg

After the family festivities of Christmas, Kenilworth Castle opened their gates for free public access, as a Boxing Day treat. It was rather chilly, but the sun was cheerily brightening up the crisp blue skies, as it attempted to heat up frozen children noses. This may sound cute, but not when a particular “children” is moaning about how cold they are and how they want to go home because they have no interest in the ruins of a castle that held many royals (including PRINCESSES, sweet child!).

Kenilworth Gardens .jpg

Thankfully, the organisers also hosted a duck race. We felt very foreign when we heard about this: isn’t animal racing like this considered to be animal cruelty? It turned out to be a really fun event involving thousands of numbered rubber ducks going downstream. You place a bet on a number, and if yours makes it to the end first, you win! It was all very novel, and definitely worth celebrating with some mulled wine.

Duck racing .jpg

Castles are definitely one of the things you absolutely HAVE to visit in the UK: each one has a pretty unique story, and to think that people actually lived in those freezing stone halls with no electricity, yet still managed proper grandeur – it’s a humbling experience (as in: how badly do we really need it?).

kenilworth characters .jpg