Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Arc de Triomphe, Paris France

After spending some time admiring the Eiffel Tower, we then moved on to see another famous structure in Paris — the Arc de Triomphe.

The triumphal arch is in honor of those who fought for France, in particular, those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. Engraved on the inside and at the top of the arch are all of the names of the generals and wars fought. There are inscriptions in the ground underneath the vault of the arch which include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I where the Memorial Flame burns and have made the Arc de Triomphe Parisa revered patriotic site. -arcdetriompheparis.com

It was a 30-minute walk from the tower to the arch and we needed a little break from all the walking we had done since the morning, so we opted to ride an Uber instead — the fare wasn’t too bad and it was a very convenient way to get to where we wanted.

We got dropped off by the driver right at the side of the arch, but for those walking to the monument it is said that there is an underground tunnel on the Avenue de la Grande Armee side of the roundabout/circle (where the monument stands central). This tunnel can be accessed from the Wagram exit of the Metro.

There was a short barricade surrounding the monument and a queue of people waiting to get inside. The fee to get in is 8€ for adults, 5€ for students and free admission for kids and teens below 17.

Like the Eiffel Tower earlier, we opted not to line up and were content to remain on the outside of the barrier. Then, after spending a bit of time gazing at the arch and taking some photos, we decided to leave and head off to Champs Élysées — Paris’ famous avenue lined with restaurants, shops and bars which was just across to where we were.

I cannot remember how we managed to cross the busy roundabout/circle… but somehow we did! When we got to the other side, we took some more photos of the arch at a distance and while doing so we observed that there were people who were standing (and taking photos) in the median strip of one of the pedestrian crossings of the avenue which was in front of the arch.

We decided to try it out as well to see if we could get some decent photos with the arch as our background. It was a bit scary at first standing in the middle of the street with cars going past to our left and right! But there were other people with us and the cars kept a bit of a safe distance so we were able to get our photos without any untoward accident and crossed back to Champs Élysées all in one piece!

Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Eiffel Tower, Paris France

It’s Paris’ most famous landmark… there was no way we were going to miss it while we were in the city.

We had started out our sightseeing that day at Fontaine Saint-Michel. We then crossed Pont Saint-Michel to go to the Notre Dame Cathedral then made our way back down the Seine River, after which we crossed the Pont des Art bridge to get to the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries then continued on walking to the Eiffel Tower from there.

It was a blistering hot day and it was quite a walk considering where we started from. Halfway between the Louvre and the tower, my feet were starting to get quite sore from walking since the morning (I *may* have not been wearing the best footwear for walking all day.. my fault.. hehe..) and I was starting to feel a bit of tiredness creep in (as I said in a previous post, I had just landed in Paris that day at 0700 and went straight to exploring the city). It came to a point where I was sorely tempted to ride a bike taxi when one passed by until the driver told us how much it was going to cost (20 euro per person) and we decided it was not worth it.

So we continued on walking… The top of the Eiffel Tower already within our view at this point — SO NEAR YET SO FAR!!! It was another 15-20 mins of walking until we finally arrived.

We did not go up the tower as we felt like we did not have enough time. We made do of enjoying its splendor while viewing it at its base. However, for those wanting the experience of going up and enjoying the city view from up top, you can visit toureiffel for tickets and prices.

There are also different “skip-the-line-tours” available (some including tours to other famous sites in Paris) — just look it up in google and compare prices.

It felt a bit surreal to be standing there in front of this very famous structure, seeing it in person for the very first time. It was an amazing moment, really… I mean, you get so used to seeing some things in films and photographs that when you finally see it with your very own eyes, there’s this few seconds of just being completely in awe of what’s right in front of you because it looks exactly the same but at the same time just so very different — no matter how good photo quality is nowadays, nothing will ever compare to the real thing.

Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Louvre Pyramid, Paris

As we were (unfortunately) only in Paris for a day… we really did not have time to explore the Louvre Museum. Known as Europe’s largest museum, it contains thousands of works from all over the world and would take days to fully explore.

“In fact, there’s so much to see that it would take at least 3 days to experience all that the Louvre has to offer.” uk.france.fr

We did, however, still pass by the main courtyard to get a glimpse of the Louvre Pyramid — the large glass and metal structure which now serves as the entrance into the main Louvre buildings.

A number of controversies previously surrounded the building of the Louvre Pyramid. There were many who were unhappy that Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei, was tasked with the project by then President Francois Mitterand without a competition being held first. There were also those who criticized that its modern style did not fit in with the classic French Renaissance style and history of the Louvre.

Fast forward to the present time… the initial contention it received from the general public has now somewhat subsided and it is now considered as one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and a Paris landmark in its own right.

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

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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Belmont Regional Park NZ 🌍

Because my #journeyto30 includes trying to be more fit and healthy (as well as hiking the Tongariro Crossing and Running in the Waitomo Marathon), I did some walking/jogging with a friend today at Belmont National Park.

There are a couple of walks that you can do within the park… each varying in difficulty level and in the amount of time needed to do them.

Our favorite one is the Korokoro Dam Loop — an easy grade walk that only takes an hour. It’s perfect for those days where you’re wanting some activity or exercise outdoors but not really looking for something strenuous.

Calm, quiet, peaceful and away from the crowds… it’s also good for the days you want to unplug from the hustle and bustle of everyday life (or social media as there’s no cellular service within the park).

HOW TO GET THERE: ( Information taken from the Greater Wellington Regional Council Website)

Via State Highway 2:

  • Cornish St – a 10-minute walk south-west from the Petone Railway Station via the pedestrian overbridge and Pito-One Road. Or take the Korokoro exit from SH2 and follow Pito-One Road to the park entrance.
  • Oakleigh St via Dowse Drive or take a No. 150 bus from Petone Railway Station or Lower Hutt
  • Stratton St via Dowse Drive. The park entrance is at the end of Stratton St
  • Hill Rd via Grounsell Crescent or take a No. 145 bus from Melling Railway Station (peak hours Mon-Fri)
  • Kaitangata Crescent, Kelson or take a No 150 bus from Lower Hutt or Waterloo Interchange to the top of Major Drive
  • Dry Creek via Hebden Crescent, near the SH2 and SH 58 (Haywards Hill) intersection. The park entrance is a 10 minute walk from Manor Park Station

Via State Highway 1:

  • Cannons Creek via Mungavin Ave and the Cannons Creek Lakes Reserve. Enter from the Cannons Creek Shopping Centre car park. Take a No.61 bus (Mon-Sun), 63 bus (Mon-Sat) or 64 bus (Mon-Fri) from Porirua Railway Station to Cannons Creek
  • Takapu Road, Grenada North. Trains from Wellington stop at Takapu Road station

For all other information, visit the Greater Wellington Regional site for Belmont Regional Park here: http://www.gw.govt.nz/belmont/.

For a list of all the other walks you can do within the park, click here: Belmont Walking Tracks List.

Bringing life back to a city: Christchurch NZ 🌍

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— Spanish Mission Revival Style Buildings in New Regent Street refurbished post 2011 earthquake.

When we went to Christchurch (back in 2014), the city was still greatly recovering from the massive damage caused by the devastating earthquake that struck just three years prior (February 22, 2011 to be exact). Damaged buildings and a lot of empty lots could still be seen all around the CBD area.

Amidst the general feeling of gloom that can be felt while walking around the city, however, were fun and interesting things that showed that although this city was brought down to it’s knees, it was picking itself up again and starting to move on.

Local artists were painting murals on buildings, like the ones below, to help bring back some color and cheer.

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Re:Start — a “mall” made from shipping containers,  offered a unique alternative for retailers to remain open and for people to shop.

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These big green couch and chairs that serves as a Transitional Reading Room Parklet located in Gloucester Street.

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Fancy a game of chess? You and a friend can play using this extra large chess set in the cathedral square.

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The Transitional ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral put up as a temporary replacement for the damaged Christchurch cathedral, that symbolizes the resilience and ingenuity of Christchurch and it’s people.

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The Chalice Sculpture still standing tall beside Christchurch Cathedral that was badly damaged during the quake.

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To end this post, I have chosen a photo that may represent something more serious and somber (compared to the previous photos above), but it is something that is exceedingly significant and meaningful.

This is an artwork done by an artist  named Pete Majendie. These 185 white chairs are a tribute to the 185 people who lost their lives during the 2011 earthquake and the individuality of each chair paid tribute to the uniqueness of each person represented.

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The Strawberry Farm: Auckland NZ 🌍

“You can’t buy happiness… but you can buy ice cream and that is pretty much the same thing.”

Last weekend…we were up in Auckland for a wedding. On our way to the airport on Sunday (for our flight back home to Wellington), our friend Jason took us to THE STRAWBERRY FARM in Mangere to try their strawberry ice cream.

Yum! Real fruit ice cream made from fresh strawberries picked from the farm… such a good treat on a sunny summer day! Give it a try the next time you’re in the area!

Pin for later! 🙂

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