Local Heart, Global Soul

April 24, 2014

Playing At Being The Train Driver…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One interesting thing about my hotel being out at Bercy Village in Paris is that my metro stop is Cour Saint-Émilion.

Ok, nothing too interesting there, but the line that this station is on is.

Paris Métro line 14 is the only Paris Métro line to be completely automated since the opening of the line. Automated in this case means driver-less!

There’s already an indication that something a little different is going on as soon as you descend into the station: instead of the usual “open” space between the platform and the train, there is in this case a massive perspex wall he whole length of the platform that has sliding doors in it at various intervals.

This is to stop passengers from falling onto the tracks. When the train comes into the station it’s programmed so that the train doors match up with the sliding doors, which once the train is stationary, open automatically.

After a short pause both the platform doors and the train doors close and the train departs. Because the trains on these lines have no drivers, it is possible to nab a seat in the very first carriage and if you are quick, a seat right at the very front by the glass window that faces down the tunnel. The glass was very thick, but I managed to take two little video clips from one of these front seats (which I had all to myself because it was fairly early on a Sunday morning and the train had very few passengers).

The videos give you the same view of the Paris Métro that a train driver would have, and I at least thought that that was rather cool. (I must have “geek” written all over me LOL). From the Paris Métro website I learned: “The line opened in October 1998 and the Line 14 tunnel passes underneath seven Métro lines, the sewers, Clichy-Capucines, four underground carparks and over two RER lines and on average 450,000 passengers take the line on working days.

Usually the line operates without problem but there have been several accidents. While the platform doors prevent access to the rails, they are susceptible to electric outages which have halted service entirely. Fortunately these incidents have been comparatively rare.

I liked the station at Cour Saint-Émilion, I was just a few short stops from the city centre and getting around Paris from this area was easy and relaxed. so much so I’d be keen to come back to this area on any future trip to Paris.

April 23, 2014

The Restaurant In The Famous Location Doesn’t Necessarily Have The Best Food…

Filed under: France,Paris,photography,Restaurant and Cafe,Reviews — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I suppose there are pros and cons of taking an organised tour.

If you don’t speak the language of the country then obviously it might be rather daunting to organise your own accommodation, plan your own transportation and schedule your own visits and excursions.

If your holiday days are few then maybe it’s more efficient to be whisked from one place to another by a chartered bus company and through the “fast lanes” that are made for big groups at some attractions.

It’s a well known fact the for example at Tour Eiffel, there is a fast track queue and separate entrance for the bus tour tourists, everyone else visiting on their own has to be prepared to queue sometimes for several hours in the  slow lane that snakes out at the foot of the tower.

Since I couldn’t join my friends tour group for Tour Eiffel, this is one of the reasons I didn’t go, the other bigger reason was that I have been up the tower with Himself on an earlier visit and it’s a special, very romantic and personal experience.

I certainly had no wish to play gooseberry to my friend and her husband, especially considering that this trip came about because it was a celebration of a special wedding anniversary. There is a time and a place to share with your friends, Tour Eiffel wasn’t one of them.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I was though, invited to join them and their bus tour for a group dinner on the banks of the Seine. I took at taxi there because insurance rules from the tour bus company prohibited me from going on the bus with them (as a non member of the group I was not covered in the unlikely  event of an accident.)  Luckily we arrived at the restaurant at roughly the same time and being an extra at one of the groups tables wasn’t a problem.

I actually had an an advantage, the tour group could only choose from a set menu designed for larger groups, I had free range of the “usual” menu.

Whilst the company was excellent I have to admit that the food was less than inspiring. I think this is a classic case of a restaurant  taking a few liberties because they know these guests are “one off” diners, their tour passes by for one night and the restaurant knows they will probably won’t returning. The menu is also far from true French… there are accents and nods to it of course but I for one would not be returning here again.

Since I ate here back in 2009 and I had already talked about this place to several Parisian friends, who in later years remarked that they thought that this establishment has had a change of management, I won’t put the name of this restaurant here on my blog.  The reason to write about it anyway is that all of my French friends said that most of the places that line the Seine are tourist places, and they don’t consider the food good enough in the majority of them to ever eat in them themselves.

It’s a lesson to us all, the location in any famous tourist location (anywhere in the  world) isn’t necessary the place the locals want to eat and if you want amazing food: follow the locals if you can.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

April 22, 2014

An Experience You Will Always Remember: Make No Bones About That…

Filed under: France,History,Paris: Catacombes de Paris,photography — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The recommendations of a local can take you to some rather strange places.  In this case, whilst in Paris in the spring of 2009 very, very strange indeed.

I was advised from one of my French friends that this was indeed a tourist spot, but since it’s further down the list than the Louvre, Notre-Dame, Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe etc many short stay tourists never make it here due to time constraints.

The reason I’m in Paris is to meet up with an American foodie friend and her husband, as they spend three days in Paris with their tour group and after our lunch it was rather a laugh to surprise them with the news of our next destination:  “Catacombes de Paris” (The Paris Catacombs).

We learn from the guide  that much of the stone that built the beautiful Paris buildings was quarried from deep under the city streets and that many centuries past cemeteries were located in the central city and not out around the city limits, which became problematic once the city grew and the graveyards became full.

Solutions were tried, such as stacking graves and then once that had reached it’s limit old bones were exhumed and stacked into the cemetery side walls: some of which then collapsed under the sheer weight  and so it was clear that a better solution must be found.

The Catacombs website (link below) tells me: “Disused quarries were chosen to receive the remains; the City of Paris had in fact just completed a general inspection of the quarries, in order to strengthen the public highways undermined by them. 

The transfer of the remains could begin after the blessing and consecration of the site on April 7th 1786, and it continued until 1788, always at nightfall and following a ceremony whereby a procession of priests in surplices sang the service for the dead along the route taken by the carts loaded with bones, which were covered by a black veil. Then, until 1814, the site received the remains from all the cemeteries of Paris.Since their creation, the Catacombs have aroused curiosity. In 1787, the Count d’Artois, the future Charles X, made the descent, along with Ladies of the Court.  In 1814, Francis I, the Emperor of Austria living victoriously in Paris, visited them. In 1860, Napoleon III went down with his son.

The Paris Catacombs re-opened on June 14th 2005, after several months of closure for building work. The lighting has been adjusted, the vaults strengthened and the walls of bones put back. 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The official name for the catacombs is  l’Ossuaire Municipal. (The Municipal Ossuary)  Located south of the former city gate (the “Barrière d’Enfer” at today’s Place Denfert-Rochereau), the ossuaries holds the remains of about six million people.

We take the stairs into the gloomy darkness below… my point and shoot camera severly struggled in the low light so this is one place you really have to see in person: nothing can prepare you for the amazement of this place…

Do check the website if you plan to visit, since the entrance is rather unassuming and directly off the street there are for instance no public convinces on site, the temperature below ground is 14°C, with 130 steps down and 83 steps back to street level there is no accessibility for people with reduced mobility, the tour is unsuitable for young children or for people with heart or respiratory problems, and children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

That said I would take my children once they are old enough, this is an amazing experience, it’s history at it’s most stark and real, these bones are from real people, there’s a certain profound reverence and respect that falls on the visitor as they journey through the tunnels. It’s a place that  no amount of  photographs can do justice, you have to get the feel of the place by going there.  One thing is for certain, it’s an experience you will always remember: …make no bones about that.

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The walls by the visitors are actually stacks of bones…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Robespierre (1758-1794) is famous enough to get a special side chamber to himself…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/

CATACOMBS
1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy – 75014 Paris
Open daily from 10am to 5pm, except Mondays and public holidays. Last admission: 4pm.

Tickets go on sale on site only, no online booking available.

 

April 21, 2014

If This Is not As old style Parisian As It Gets, I Don’t Know What Is…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

French friends, especially fellow Foodie ones who are from Paris are understandably fussy when it comes to recommending a place in the city to eat.

I asked several of my French friends for advice on which establishments would be worth squeezing into our short and busy schedule and one name popped up more than once,  so after meeting up with my American friends at Place de l’Opéra I started dragging them through Parisian traffic towards where we were now going to have lunch: ” the Bouillon Chartier”.

I had been warned by my French friends that getting a table at Chartier could be tricky, trying to go there in the evening would probably involve standing in a queue in the street, so with this in mind I thought it best to try and go there for lunch.

It turned out that my American friends  had a little trouble finding  our meeting place of Place de l’Opéra, so were running late, which turned out to be fortuitous because we ended up missing the lunchtime rush at Chartier  and got a table easily.

The Bouillon Chartier is rather literally an “old style” Parisian eatery, it was established over one hundred years ago in 1896 and the style of the food and service is little changed.

Our waiter was an older gentlemen dressed in the legendary black “uniform” with the white apron on top,  my American friends asked him questions in English and were immediately rebuffed in French, so it was left to me to stretch my French skills when trying to translate the menu.

With a multitude of specific expressions that stumped me and a lot of  detective guesswork,  he either took pity on us or couldn’t bear me torturing the French language any longer and with a withering glance of frustration in my direction  he switched to English and explained the bits of the menu I hadn’t managed.

For some reason my camera just couldn’t deal with the low light inside, maybe I had it on the wrong settings (or more realistically probably just plain ineptitude)  but seriously my photographs really let this place down. Do click on the restaurant’s website link at the bottom of my post to see the amazing interior, it really is stunning.

Once our waiter started speaking to us in English I did grab the opportunity to ask a question that I was really curious about. It came about because I noticed rows of little boxes at various intervals and I was curious as to what they were there for. The reply surprised us: these were the little boxes where regular patrons of the restaurant kept their own personalised and monogrammed serviettes. Many of the boxes ran in families and even through multiple generations. If that’s not as old style Parisian as it gets, I don’t know what is.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

http://www.bouillon-chartier.com/en/

April 20, 2014

Singing The Praises Of The Place de l’Opéra…

Filed under: Art,France,Paris,photography,Statues — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There are many amazing landmark places in central Paris, not just the top ten tourist destinations but also stunning buildings and famous locations that are historical landmarks in their own right.

Paris has a history of human occupation that dates from the Bronze Age so it’s hardly surprising that there are many buildings that are centuries old and the styles in the streets reflect this. Back in 2009 I took the opportunity to take a three and a half hour fast train from the Hague  in the Netherlands to Paris to meet up with an American Foodie friend and her husband as they spent three days in Paris with their tour group.

I’ve been walking around the Montmartre area this morning while my friends went on a Seine boat trip with their tour group,and we’ve arranged to meet at one of these beautiful Paris landmarks: The Place de l’Opéra.

Wikipedia tells me: “The Place de l’Opéra is a square in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, at the junction of boulevard des Italiens, boulevard des Capucines, avenue de l’Opéra, rue Auber, rue Halévy, rue de la Paix and rue du Quatre-Septembre.

It was built at the same time as the Opéra Garnier (designed by Charles Garnier), which is sited on it and after which it is named. Both structures were part of the Haussmannian redesign of Paris under Napoleon III of France.” The Place de l’Opéra is a stunning building and while I wait for my friends to arrive I get out my camera and start taking photographs…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

April 19, 2014

Set Up Your Easel And Paint Me A Picture Of Place Du Tertre…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

After leaving the peace and relative quiet of Le Parc de la Turlure behind the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur, I’m passing by the tourists who are walking up the various sets of steps up the hill on their way to the Sacré Cœur.

I back-track a little bit as I take the road that goes completely around the back of the Basilica,  a few streets further and I’m already at my next destination.

It’s a little square perched on the side of the hill, here are mostly shops, cafés and restaurants at ground level with apartments above.

The day I visited was a sunny spring day in 2009, the place was heaving with tourists and the crowding on the street made worse because  in one restaurant a film crew are filming: their equipment is stacked on the street, microphones on poles are over their heads, the film crew are trying to work as the tourists try and squeeze past,  it’s probably just “another day as usual”  in Place de Tertre.

The Place du Tertre is a square made famous over a century ago by the struggling artists who used to live here. Picasso was one of a long list of names and it’s a place where then as now, easels were commonplace on the pavement as the artists worked. I had intended to go today to “Place du Tertre L’Espace Salvador Dalí”  which is just around the corner, it was recommended to me because it has an excellent collection of  Salvador Dalí’s drawings and sculptures but I spent longer in the Le Parc de la Turlure than I had intended and now the film crew and the crush of tourists have made walking so slow that I think I will come back to the Dali museum on a future trip when I have more time. I’m due to meet up with my American friends in a little while so content myself with checking out the artwork on the easels for sale.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The film crew on the street with their equipment… vying with the passing tourists…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

April 18, 2014

One Of Paris’s Little Secrets…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Most tourists visiting the famous Sacré-Cœur only stay long enough for a few photographs of the front and a quick peek inside.

In one way that’s a good thing because it means that one of Paris’s little secrets might still be a little bit of a secret for a little while longer.

Back in spring of 2009 I was in Paris visiting American friends who’s tour group were spending three days there, we had been internet friends for several years and now was the perfect moment to meet up in person.

If you take a short walk around the side and back of  the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, then you will find yourself facing a little green gem in the heart of the Montmartre district: a little park called “(Le Parc de la Turlure)”.

It’s not big by any means, but even on this warm spring day the shade and beautiful setting is a more welcome and it’s surprisingly peaceful!

In fact it’s so peaceful that after making myself comfortable on one of the stone benches I was in grave danger of falling asleep!

There’s a wall-of-water type fountain that makes the sound of a rushing stream, and nice seating in the shade so I did wish I’d bought a picnic lunch. After a nice rest  I started walking again, now on the other side of the hill that I had come in at, back into the Montmartre district. I didn’t take all of these steps (yet) but at if I had chosen to at least the walking would have all been down hill!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 17, 2014

Zooming In, You Never Know What You Might See…

Once a detail fanatic, always a detail fanatic… blogger or no blogger back in the Spring of 2009 I still filled my camera with close ups and as much detail as I could manage. This trip to Paris was no different, here is a photographic post on the stunning detail of Sacré-Cœur…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Gargoyle? No, just a cheeky imp…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 16, 2014

Sacré-Cœur, So Much More Than Just A View From The Hill…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Sacré-Cœur / Sacred Heart of Jesus Basilica) is one of the most visited and photographed places in Paris.

Stand on the steps outside and “people watch” and you will see everything: bus tour guides trying to keep their group together and on schedule for the next destination, trying round up the stragglers who want “just one more photograph” or souvenir.

There are school trip parties of either fairly young children or teenagers, the first distracted because they would rather be in a playground somewhere and the later  looking bored because these things aren’t really cool but at least a day out is better than a regular day at school and stacks of homework.

You see the obvious stereotypical types too: backpackers, the retired couples, the singles, the best friends in Paris, the lovers, the kids on family holidays getting their dose of culture and then there are the hawkers, buskers, gypsies and somewhere blending in, the pickpockets too.

Sacré-Cœur basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. It was a was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. and was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919. Sacré-Cœur has it all, it’s beautiful and so imposing that even then you are driving around the Paris ring road it’s sometimes possible on a clear day to catch a glimpse of it in the distance. The American friends I came to Paris to meet are busy with their tour group at the moment so I’m alone and can wander as I please. I join the hordes and turn my camera to the beauty of the Basilica. I might not have been a blogger  back in May 2009 when I took these photographs but I was still very interested in beautiful buildings and taking photos.

One thing everyone wants to see when they look out over the Parisian landscape is la tour Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower). Tourists peering desperately into the distance as they search don’t realise that you can’t see it if you are standing  looking out at the city directly in front of the Sacré-Cœur. You need to follow the curve of the road to the right and a 3-4 minute walk around the corner, past some tall trees on the hill will suddenly bring  tour Eiffel into view. Voilà !

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

af1r sacre coeur (Small)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacr%C3%A9-C%C5%93ur,_Paris

April 15, 2014

You Choose: Sweat The Steps Or Take The Funiculaire…

Filed under: France,Paris,Paris: Montmartre,photography — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I have severe asthma and use a portable nebulizer.

Whilst hiking around the hills of  the Paris area of Montmartre  is possible with plenty of stops to take photographs, if I want to walk for longer on any given day I need to be  wise and take any short-cuts available. It’s because of this that I’m heading for another Paris landmark: the funiculaire.

Wikipedia tells me:  “The Montmartre funicular is an automatic funicular railway serving the Montmartre neighbourhood of Paris, in the Eighteenth arrondissement. It is operated by the RATP, the Paris transport authority. It was opened on 13 July 1900 and was entirely rebuilt in 1935 and again in 1991.

The funicular carries passengers between the foot of the butte (outlier) of Montmartre and its summit, near the foot of the Sacré-Cœur basilica. It provides an alternative to the multiple stairways of more than 300 steps that lead to the top of the Butte Montmartre. At 108 m (354 ft) long, the funicular climbs and drops the 36 m (118 ft) in under a minute and a half. It carries two million passengers a year.

The Paris city government voted to construct the Montmartre funicular in 1891. Initially, operation of the funicular was subcontracted to Decauville through a concession that ended in 1931. Thereafter, the Société des transports en commun de la région parisienne (STCRP) took control, and this was nationalized together with the Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris (CMP) to form the Régie autonome des transports parisiens (RATP), which continues to operate the funicular today.

The original funicular was water-powered, using a system of cisterns of 5 m3 (180 cu ft) each that were filled or emptied to move the cars and to compensate for passenger load. In 1935, the system was converted to electricity. The funicular was completely rebuilt by the RATP in 1990–1991.”

Open every day from 6 am until 12.45 am, transporting 6,000 people a day, or around 2 million a year, I entered one of the two carriages and became yet another tourist who was very grateful for the more restful  lift up the hill, whilst the more hardy sweated their way up the steps.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montmartre_funicular

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