Life in the Highlands

Hello and thank you for looking at my Blog...i hope you enjoy my site. I'm pretty new to this but hope to keep it all updated with the progress of my garden. I've really enjoyed being able to start everything from scratch and the hard work has been worthwhile. I hope you enjoy seeing my progress too! Feel free to leave comments it's always nice to get feedback.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Prior to walking the Camino de Santiago, i spent some time in France. This was my first trip and i wasn't sure what to expect. As i flew into CDG airport, we circled the Eiffel Tower and Paris.
In the space of an hours flight, i was catapulted into having to rely on getting by with my very rusty french. First hurdle was to get myself, using public transport, to the centre of Paris.

For the unitiated to France, things are as automated as far as possible. In Paris they do tend to have a good level of English but they always appreciate you making the effort to speak in french, even as was the case with me, if you are murdering the language. I found the trick was to really throw yourself into it. The French are very expressive and a lot of communicating is done with body language. It's really quite liberating once you get over that British reserve.

I managed to get my bus ticket and whilst waiting for the bus i had a brief conversation with the driver as there was a driver change so had a ten minute wait. Eventually i was transported to Opera where i still had quite a walk to Le Louvre. Donning my backpack i set about finding the BVJ hostel i had booked into. This was to be my first hostel experience.

Now if you haven't been hostelling, you may think it's for the young. If you are travelling alone it's a good way to meet people of different nationalities. You don't have to be young, and some hostels do offer double or single rooms. There are basic facilities, they are clean and well run. I was in a four-bedded room with three other girls from Czech Republic, Korea and Argentina. I was amazed at how well we got on and how much you help each other. I stayed three days with the same girls before we all went our seperate ways. What amazed me was the give and take that goes on, the willingness to help each other with the language, sharing our experiences and knowledge or to go sight seeing. It was a nice start to my break and forthcoming pilgrimage.

My plan was to travel the old Pilgrimage route from Paris to Bayonne stopping off at Orleans and Bordeaux. This way i would get to see a bit of France and wind down, and practice my french. Nothing was prebooked except for my Paris stay so it was totally spontaneous and flexible.

Paris is a wonderful city. The first thing that struck me was how neat and tidy everything and everyone was, it was indeed, tres chic. The bus drivers and police are immaculately turned out and black was definitely in. Not an unpressed shirt in sight. They really took a pride in their work. It was a very warm day compared to Scotland but everyone was still donning their winter coats. The architecture was fantastic, i could have explored all the side streets endlessly. It definitely gave me a sense of excitement.

Louvre is amazing and surrounded by so many historic buildings. I was intrigued to see how the glass pyramids fitted in with the older buildings, but somehow it worked. The large glass pyramid looked like it was floating on water from certain angles.
At night Paris becomes illuminated. La Tour Eiffel becomes an amazing shimmering light display every hour on the hour for ten minutes. The display dominates the Paris night sky. The Eiffel Tower lights up every evening from sunset to 1am, the lighthouse on the tower top sends out its light beams during the same hours. There are 20,000 bulbs that light up the Tower illuminations.

The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 for the Universal Exposition celebrating the centenary of the French Revolution and is called after Monsieur Eiffel who designed the tower. It is built on the Champs De Mars.

Apparently the story goes that when Hitler visited the elevators broke down just before he arrived so he would have had to climb the 1665 steps to the top. He chose to admire the tower from the ground.
Franz Reichelt designed and tested the first parachute by jumping 60 meters from the Eiffel Tower. The parachute failed and Reichelt fell to his death. However, the autopsy showed that it was fright that had killed him not the injuries sustained by the fall. The jump was filmed by the British Media at the time.

I spent a wonderful day touring the Gardens at Versailles. When i walked towards the Chateau i was amazed at the size of the building. It positively dwarfed Buckingham Palace and was far more ostentatious. Versailles was designed as a palatial centre of government for Louis XIV.
I couldn't believe the queues to get in at 10am, but they are very quickly and efficiently dealt with.

The Garden's where amazing, if you could call it garden it was more like a large park, not surprisingly i spent most of my visit touring the gardens. Avenues project from Louis XIV's palace towards distant horizons, enfolding town, palace, garden and forest. There are immaculate parterres, great basins, an orangery, a vast collection of outdoor sculpture and some of the grandest fountains which have ever been made. I made good use of the petite train to get around. You need a day for the gardens. I spent hours wandering around and exploring the gardens of Marie Antoinette. The Petite Trianon and Grand Trianon were again very ostentatious.

Only a small part of the chateau is open to the public; the State Apartments of the King and Queen, and the Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors was the most impressive part i felt and photographs don't do it justice as part of the appeal is the way the light reflects and dances on the mirrors.
This is where the treaty of Versailles was signed.

Notre Dame sits on Île de la Cité an island formed by two meanders of the Seine. An impressive Gothic style building. Notre-Dame has had an eventful history over the centuries. Crusaders prayed here before leaving on their holy wars and it was here that Joan D'arc was canonised.
The cathedral, is first and foremost a church and several masses are celebrated each day, which visitors can participate in.
Notre Dame has some wonderful stained glass windows. The South Rose window is beautiful and was a gift from King Saint Louis. The rosette is dedicated to the New Testament and depicts the twelve apostles, as well as Saints and Martyrs.

The Cathedral has a long history of music, and still plays a major role in the influence of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. They continue to have weekly and monthly organ recitals and concerts given by the choir. I went along one evening to listen to the Gregorian chants and it was amazing!
Still lots to see in Paris, so planning another trip at some point!

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home