Europe 2017 Travel Diary: River Seine, Paris.

The River Seine — one of Paris’ many important landmarks. It flows right through the heart of Paris and borders 10 of the city’s 20 arrondissements, thus we were able to pass by it a couple of times throughout our day in Paris.

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My first good view of the river was while we were crossing Pont Saint-Michel bridge on our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral. I had just landed in Paris 0700 that morning after a 30-hour flight from New Zealand. I should have been feeling tired…but I was too excited that I didn’t feel the least bit tired at all. Paris! What was once something I used to only see in photos and movies, I was finally seeing with my very own eyes!

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Of course, we couldn’t resist the photo opportunity that presented itself so we quickly snapped some photos when there weren’t a lot of people walking over the bridge.

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We saw a couple of boats leisurely going up and down the river — most of them boat tour cruises allowing tourists a different take in exploring the city.

On our way to the Louvre from the Notre Dame, we went down a set of stairs by Quai des Grands Augustins near Pont Saint-Michel to get closer to the water.

From there, we continued on walking by the riverside… passing under both Pont Neuf and Pont des Arts bridges.

“The Pont Neuf is considered to be the oldest stone bridge in Paris. Henri IV ordered it to be constructed in 1578.” – Parisinfo.com

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“The Pont des Arts, also known as the Arts Bridge, is a work between the Institut de France and the Musée du Louvre. Built between 1801 and 1804, it is the first iron bridge in the capital.”  Parisinfo.com

Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Notre-Dame de Paris

The setting for Victor Hugo’s novel: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was made into a Disney animated film in 1996 with the same title.

I grew up watching the Disney film. I had a soft spot for poor Quasimodo… hated the evil Frollo… and loved Esmeralda’s kind and caring nature. 
Having watched the movie (many times) when I was a kid, I could not pass up the chance to see the famed cathedral in person.

Unfortunately, we did not have the time to see and explore the inside of the cathedral. The line going in was pretty long and we were only in Paris for a day. Nevertheless, I was still quite happy to have been able to at least admire it from outside.

Hoping one day I will be able to come back…❤ 

Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Work It

May 27, 2017 at Jardin des Tuileries.

Three girls with a camera and a tripod. There was bound to be lots of photo op moments. This was one of many. 

We were walking around the Jardin des Tuileries when Rea suddenly exclaimed, “This is it!”. “This is what?” Glaire and I asked. “I think this is where Heart Evangelista took one of her Paris photos!!!”. 

Heart is a famous female celebrity back home in the Philippines. Rea wanted to recreate a picture of her in Paris that had more or less the same background — a long pathway with tress lined up on both sides.  

“Abtik! Abtik!” — Rea’s favorite expression when she wanted us to hurry up, prompting us to start doing some poses. Glaire and I settled for walking towards the camera while Rea clicked away.

We look quite serious here, but it was actually pretty difficult to keep a straight face while doing this. Few seconds after this particular shot, we were all doubled over laughing out loud. 

Some people near us and some who were walking by gave us funny looks, probably thinking we were very weird. We did not care one bit. Haha! 

EU2017 Travel Diary: Outset

 

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May 27, 2017 — Arrived in Paris, France. It was bright, sunny and REALLY WARM.. such a contrast from the cold and windy winter weather I left behind in Wellington (NZ). I had just come from a very long flight — 12 hours from NZ to Hongkong and another 12 hours from Hongkong to Paris, but I was too full of excitement that I didn’t feel the least bit tired.

This photo was taken just as we were setting out to explore the city. To my left is Glaire, a friend of mine who I’ve known for 8 years now. We met while volunteering in one of the rural hospitals back home (Philippines). The lady a little bit to the back is Rea. She’s Glaire’s friend (both of them are currently living and working in Singapore). I had just met her that morning, but we hit it off pretty quickly and it felt like we’ve been friends since forever.

Together in our next two weeks in Europe we would be chasing after trains, walking ’till our feet got sore, and drinking lots of wine! — details of which are going to be for later stories. For now, we’re going to start from the very beginning… Bonjour Paris!

 

We May Want To Be Alone… But We’re Scared To Be Lonely. (1 minute read)

There are times when we choose to be alone. It provides us with a sense of comfort…  a form of solace from all the noise and chaos of the outside world.  When life demands a lot from us and societal pressures become a little too much, all we want to do is unplug and disconnect — be in our own little bubble where we wish nothing can reach us and we can just be… no pressures, no worries, no expectations.

But no man is an island… and no matter how much we crave our solitary time it is still within our human nature to crave a sense of connection with someone. It need not always be in a physical sense… we can all be fine and happy to be by our lonesome, but deep inside we still need to feel that somehow our existence matters to someone in this world.

We may have gotten so used to the feeling of dealing with things by ourselves… We may have built high walls around us and project that we don’t need anybody in order for us to avoid being hurt, but most of the time that’s just a façade we keep up and at the base level we still want someone to care.

We want this sense of security that we get from knowing that we matter to somebody, enough that they will be there for us when our walls come crashing down… when even our own selves cannot understand the jumble of thoughts in our minds…when our inner demons threaten to overwhelm us …

We need someone to pull us out from the darkness. We need someone to accept us when we feel like we can’t even accept ourselves. We need someone to help us put the broken pieces back together again.

So yes…we may want and choose to be alone… but we’re scared to be lonely.

We may want to be alone... but we're scared to be lonely.

Tongariro Crossing: Mangatepopo Carpark to Soda Springs

I have decided to break down my Tongariro Crossing post so that I can get into more detail without making things too long and too dragging. There’s a total of six parts coming up, each post discussing one major section of the hiking track.

First up is Mangatepopo Carpark to Soda Springs. We woke up early Saturday morning and drove from our motel in Taupo to Mangatepopo carpark, which was the end point of the hike — ( took about an hour ).

We were to be picked up by a shuttle, which we organized beforehand, to bring us from the end point all the way to the start of the trail. We arrived at about 0700 and were supposed to be picked up by 0720 but due to some mix up with our shuttle company, it wasn’t until around 0820 when we actually went on our merry way. We “officially” started our walk at around 0900.

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We were lucky that the weather turned out to be really good during our trip — it was all gloomy and wet days prior to this, and back to raining quite heavily again now as I am writing this post.

With the sun shining high in the sky that day it wasn’t long before all the layers at the start of the walk (see first photo above of us wearing our puffer jackets) got shed off one by one… Down to a thermal on the above photo and then down further to my tank top on the photo below in just a few minutes. Haha.

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The first part of the trek was fairly easy — mostly flat ground with proper walkways and some walking boards over the damp areas. This was the least challenging and tiring out of all the sections (Average time to complete it is about 1-1.5 hours ). If you do the hike in the future, savor your time here… things will only get harder, I tell you. Haha.

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By the time we arrived at Soda Springs, we were still feeling pumped and full energy.

From the main track, Soda Springs Falls can be seen. We initially debated whether we do the side track going to it or just carry on to the next section of the track. As it was only 10 minutes away from where we were, we decided to just explore the waterfall area anyway. There was no proper pathway going to the falls and the ground got more wet, and muddy the nearer we got and we had to climb up onto rocks as well. Three in our group, who were just wearing normal sneakers, decided to stop at a certain distance while two of us who were wearing hiking shoes were able to to go all the way.

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After some photos, we then went back to the main track where we had a quick water and toilet break — Just a bit further along was the last set of toilets which we would come across in the next few hours so we thought we’d make use of it. After that… we then went on to the next section: Soda Springs to the South Crater, where the infamous Devil’s Staircase was awaiting us.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Tick ✔

 

WE DID IT! Conquered this 8.5 hour trek (19.4 km) comprised of some really steep climbs and gravelly downhill slopes — Mt.Ngauruhoe (photo below), which is one of the features of this hike, is also known for being a film location for the Lord of the Rings movie! Our bodies and feet are now very sore but I’d say it was all worth it. Tongariro Alpine Crossing ✔✔✔

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Punting at the Avon: Christchurch NZ

When we visited Christchurch as part of our road trip down the South Island back in 2014, one of the activities that we did while we were there was Punting on the Avon.

Punting refers to boating in a punt —  a flat-bottomed boat, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water with a punter generally propelling the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole.

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There’s two departure sites for this  punting activity in Christchurch. There’s the CITY one and one at the PARK. Ours was the one at Hagley Park, starting off from the historical Antigua boating sheds. Price is 28 NZD for an adult and 12 NZD for a child.

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Each boat can sit a maximum of about 10 people. As we were the first ones to arrive for this batch, we had more of a choice on where we we were going to sit. I loved where I was seated! — At the very back and just a little above everyone else, right in front of the punter.

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We had a leisurely ride down the river with the Botanic Gardens around us. The overall mood all calm, peaceful and very relaxing.

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