Bath Experiences: In the neighbourhood of the Circus

Another iconic Georgian architecture in Bath, designed by John Wood and completed by his son, is the Circus. John Wood, the senior, apparently had surveyed Stonehenge and ensured the diameter of the Circus was the same, as he believed that Bath had been the main Druid centre of Britain. The circular space surrounded by townhouses is in the vicinity of a couple of Bath’s museums.

IMG_0749.JPG

Turning off one of the three entrances to the Circus, onto Bennett Street and walking a few steps brings one to the Assembly Rooms and Fashion museum.

IMG_0739.JPG

The Fashion museum, housed in the Assembly rooms, was founded by designer Doris Moore in 1963 and initially opened as the Museum of Costume with the private collection of Doris. It is now owned by the Bath and North East Somerset Council.

I was handed an audio guide before I started my walk through the collection. The interesting collection started from fashion during the Tudor period and how a man or woman living in 1600 would have dressed for different occasions. In this post, I share what I learnt about the evolution of fashionable wear in Bath, during my visit to the museum.

This linen waistcoat, is thought to have belonged to Lady Alice L’Estrange, wife of a member of parliament during James I’s time. The waistcoat, worn over a petticoat and loose gown, is considered an informal dress worn at home in the 1600s.

IMG_0639.JPG

The open robe, worn with a silk petticoat designed to be seen, was the formal dress for social occasions in Bath during the 1730s, the heyday of Georgian Bath.

img_0640

The brocade woven silk closed robe was the alternative choice for a lady of fashion in the mid 1700s.

IMG_0669.JPG

By 1800, there was a huge demand for simple muslin, produced in Scotland with lightweight cotton fabric from India.

IMG_0690.JPG

Crinoline came into fashion by the mid 19th century, and a lightweight printed cotton dress with a separate bodice and skirt worn over a cage crinoline, was considered fashionable day wear. At one point, the cage crinoline was halved and became the bustle though I still can’t quite imagine how women sat on chairs with the bustle or full cage crinoline.

IMG_0707.JPG

The collection continues on till present day, but I didn’t find them as interesting as the 16th to 19th century fashion.

Emerging from the fashion museum, I asked about the Assembly rooms but they were closed to visitors that day, as there was a function taking place. I returned to the Assembly rooms on another day, and though the rooms were being set up for yet another function, I was allowed to have a look this time. The Assembly rooms, opened in 1771, were purpose built for an assembly – an 18th century form of entertainment. The two main rooms were the ball room and the tea room, with the octagon room connecting both.

img_1555-2

Ball room

IMG_1559 (2).JPG

The octagon room was originally intended as a circulating space, where guests could listen to music or play cards. A new card room was subsequently added and which functions as a cafe today.

IMG_1569 (2).JPG

Tea room

I walked around the three rooms, trying to imagine what Jane Austen would have observed on her first visit to the rooms.

On Bennett Street, opposite the Assembly rooms, is the Museum of East Asian Art.

IMG_0745.JPG

The museum’s website states that it is the only museum in the UK dedicated to the arts and cultures of East and South east Asia. The museum’s collection, of around 2000 objects spanning from 5000 BC to-date, is housed in a restored Georgian townhouse. While the museum was interesting, I was a bit tired after having just spent several hours in another museum and so I briefly browsed through sections of the museum. Of the different objects on display, the ruyi scepters caught my eye. Apparently, ruyi scepters have had various uses in Chinese history from being a conversation stick, where the person holding the ruyi scepter could talk, to being a backscratcher.

IMG_0555.JPG

After exploring the museums near Circus, I decided to stop for lunch at the cosy family run restaurant, Same Same but Different on Bartlett Street. The restaurant’s website proudly announces that they only use local Bath based suppliers for their food, which in turn is made from scratch.

IMG_1586 (2).JPG

I had their tasty soup of the day with toasted bread, though I think they are more popular for their all-day breakfast/ brunch menu from what I observed from the orders placed at adjacent tables.

The Circus is certainly a neighbourhood that one needs to walk around, admiring the 18th century architecture. Dropping into the Assembly rooms to see the primary public rooms that provided entertainment to the visitors to Bath in the 18th century is also not to be missed and if you have time, and the interest in the evolution of fashion in Bath over the last 400 years, do explore the Fashion museum.

IMG_1684.JPG

Disclaimer: The Bath Tourism Office kindly gave me a complimentary pass to Bath and regional attractions, for the purpose of this post. This pass allowed me free entry to the Fashion Museum and Museum of East Asian Art. All opinions are my own and I only recommend experiences I have enjoyed.

[I am linking this post to City Tripping #59]

Wander Mum

Amazing Roma – an open air museum

I had booked a hotel close to the Trevi fountain so as soon as I had checked in and dropped my bags in my tiny room, I headed out for a walk to the fountain. While I had seen lots of photos of the fountain on the web, it still did not prepare me for the first time I saw it in front of me. The narrow streets leading to it suddenly widening and there in the middle of a sort of junction, right on the side of a historical building was this elaborately carved fountain.

trevi

As I walked about the streets, it felt like walking around an open-air museum. This post is a photo tour of the visual treat that Rome turned out to be.

DSC01165.JPG

Piazza di Spagna

I visited the Keats – Shelley house overlooking the Spanish steps. This is the house, where John Keats died at the age of 25. The library in the house, with its collection of 8000 volumes, was not there during Keats time. The house also showcases English writers, such as P.B. Shelley and Mary Shelley, Lord Bryon etc. who made Italy their home during the early 19th century.

DSC01199

While in the other cities, I had for most parts had a loose itinerary that I modified according to my mood, it was not so in Rome. I felt the city’s past called out loudly to the visitor and claimed one’s attention. I felt that I had to visit some of the historical sites and ended up packing in a whirlwind tour in my three days there.

The next day, I visited the Colosseum, the Roman forum and Palatine Hill in the morning and the Largo di Torre Argentina in the afternoon. Having had to memorize the first part of Antony’s famous speech at Ceasar’s funeral, from Shakespeare’s play, during my childhood and having spent hours practicing voice modulation on that speech, I felt I needed to see the place where Ceasar was assassinated. In the midst of a bustling place surrounded by modern buildings on all sides, the tiny square with the ruins of the theatre of Pompey where Ceasar breathed his last is closed off to the public but can be viewed from the outer perimeters.

DSC01297.JPG

DSC01268.JPG

DSC01296.JPG

dsc01300

DSC01293.JPG

It was a very hot summer day in Rome so I stopped to enjoy a lemon granita on my way back to the hotel. Granita became one of my favourite food during my time in Rome.

On my third day, I visited Vatican city in the morning and then wandered about the city in the afternoon, visiting Circus Maximus, which was the largest venue for public games in ancient Rome.

DSC01427.JPG

Circus Maximus

DSC01446.JPG

DSC01452.JPG

Aventine Hill

DSC01450.JPG

I ended my day with a visit to Altare della Patria (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel, the first King of unified Italy).

DSC01463.JPG

DSC01466.JPG

DSC01492.JPG

National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

I guess when one visits Rome for the first time, one does tend to try and pack in as much sightseeing as one can fit. Hopefully the next time I visit, I will take a more leisurely pace to enjoy the city better.

[Other posts part of the travelogue of my 2008 travel around Italy – Torino, Venezia, Firenze, Siena and San Gimignano, Vatican City]

I am linking this post to City Tripping #47, hosted by Wander Mum and Mummy Travels.

Wander Mum

A few hours in Vatican City

Continued from Firenze

While I had planned to visit Vatican while in Rome, I had not thought of getting a ticket in advance to go for the sunday service at St. Peter’s Basilica. Looking at the long queue, I knew that I would not be able to get a ticket on that morning.

DSC01333.JPG

dsc01341

However, with the queuing people intent on getting inside the church, the square was becoming less crowded. So, I decided to sit outside in the square and take in the atmosphere, while watching the service on the giant screens set up in the square.

After an hour or so, I was ready to visit the Sistine chapel and only the chapel, as I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with all the artwork at the Vatican museum even before I had visited the chapel. I made my way into the chapel, which was packed, but I managed to find a seat on one of the benches lining the edges so that I could take in the artwork on the walls and ceiling of the chapel.

After the visit to the Sistine chapel, I felt like I needed to get out of the crowded museum so started walking away from Vatican city, till I reached Castel Sant’Angelo on its outskirts. The castle had been commissioned by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. I loved the views from the top of the castle.

DSC01386.JPG

DSC01392.JPG

DSC01394.JPG

DSC01395.JPG

DSC01406.JPG

DSC01418.JPG

How was your experience of visiting Vatican city?

[Linking this post to City Tripping #46 , hosted by Mummy Travels and Wander Mum]

MummyTravels

Special Six: Beijing Experiences

During my travel around China with half my APLP cohort, I had the opportunity to explore a little of Beijing in-between our meetings and discussions. So, in addition to the must visit Forbidden City and some of the places in our Discover Beijing challenge, I highly recommend the following special six Beijing experiences which I enjoyed most.

1. Relax at the Summer Palace

We had a free morning on the day of my birthday so some of us decided to visit the Summer palace. After a delicious breakfast of steamed dumplings at a local specialty breakfast place, we took two cabs to the palace ensuring that one of the two Chinese speaking people in our group was in each of the two cabs. After getting our tickets, we walked around the summer palace.

The summer palace, a World Heritage site, has its origins dating back to the 12th century Jin dynasty though subsequent dynasties have added to the original structures and landscape designs of the 2.9 square kilometres palace area.

IMG_3614.JPG

Photo credit: Mami Sato

DSC07890.JPG

 

DSC07891.JPG

DSC07893

After wandering around the temple and going up to the summit of the Longevity hill, we walked down to the lake area, where the boats were. A few of us decided to go for a boat ride on a self-paddling boat,instead of waiting in the long queues for the large dragon boats.

IMG_3627.JPG

Photo credit: Mami Sato

DSC07904.JPG

DSC07923.JPG

DSC07924.JPG

DSC07930.JPG

DSC07931.JPG

Despite the heavy smog, I enjoyed my visit to the Summer Palace. The palace had a very pleasant and tranquil vibe and I would recommend walking around the palace and taking the boat trip on Kunming lake.

2. Visit Peking University 

Peking University in Haidian district is considered China’s leading university and it has a very interesting history. It is China’s first modern national university founded in 1898. It replaced the ancient Imperial Academy, as part of the hundred days’ reform. Therefore, the university campus area has an interesting mix of ancient structures and modern buildings which make it a very fascinating place to visit.

DSC07737.JPG

DSC07740.JPG

DSC07744.JPG

DSC07745.JPG

DSC07747.JPG

DSC07751.JPG

I was most intrigued by the beautiful lake, as you can see from my photos above.

DSC07758.JPG

DSC07760.JPG

DSC07765.JPG

DSC07767.JPG

DSC07770.JPG

DSC07776.JPG

I was also fascinated by the pretty buildings with their intricate roofing and creepers weaving themselves along the walls and the green trees besides them.

3. Enjoy a special dining experience at the Red Capital Club

The Red Capital Club at 66 Dongsi Jiutiao Dongcheng district is an interesting dining venue in a historical Hutong neighbourhood. Said to have been the former home of a Manchu princess, the club has been restored and designed to preserve the lovely architecture as well as create a museum dedicated foremost to the Communist party of the 1950s as well as a tribute to the Qing dynasty. The club is a kind of living museum and one can choose to stay at the place or just enjoy a meal and explore the club’s public rooms.

According to Lawrence Brahm, the founder of the red capital heritage foundation, who also founded the NGO Himalayan Consensus Institute in 2005 and the Shambala Serai Group of social enterprises in 2011, the foundation established in 1999 is the first social enterprise in Beijing. The Foundation restored a few homes, including the club venue, in the Dongsi neighbourhood and converted them to sustainable businesses, which has led to the heritage protection order being given for the neighbourhood.

IMG_1733.JPG

Photo credit: Michelle Taminato

DSC07783.JPG

DSC07786.JPG

DSC07784.JPG

IMG_3542.JPG

Photo credit: Mami Sato

IMG_1728.jpg

Photo credit: Michelle Taminato

IMG_1734.JPG

Photo credit: Michelle Taminato

The restaurant menu is in line with the theme and boasts of using recipes that were favourites of Chinese leaders across the centuries.

4. Browse through the collection at Bookworm, a delightful bookstore

Bookworm at Nan Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang district, is a place with a lovely vibe. It is a coffee shop/ English bookstore/ library/ event space all rolled into one store. We were there on the afternoon of my birthday, for a little gathering held at the event space of the store. While waiting for the event to start, I enjoyed browsing through the books as well as enjoying my coffee and tiramisu treat.

IMG_3653.JPG

5. Walk around an old Hutong 

During our time in Beijing, we stayed in an old Hutong neighbourhood. While hutongs are considered to have been introduced in the 13th century, they obtained a distinctive flavour during the Ming dynasty when neighbourhoods were planned in concentric circles with the Forbidden city at the center and the aristocrats and high ranking officials closer to the Forbidden city and the merchants and artisans in the furthermost circles.

IMG_3583.JPG

Photo credit: Mami Sato

IMG_3568.JPG

Photo credit: Mami Sato

IMG_3569

Photo credit: Mami Sato

IMG_3571.JPG

Photo credit: Mami Sato

IMG_3575.JPG

Photo credit: Mami Sato

IMG_3576.JPG

Photo credit: Mami Sato

While many hutongs have now given way to modernization and been replaced by modern buildings, there are still some old Hutong neighbourhoods and if you decide to stay in a guesthouse in such a neighbourhood, you are in for a special treat as you walk around the old neighbourhood.

6. Enjoy a traditional tea experience

We had our final morning in Beijing free for doing anything we left for the last minute. Our group broke up into smaller groups to go for some sightseeing or shopping, as per their interest. I was not in the mood for sightseeing or shopping but I was interested in visiting a traditional tea house, before we left China. My room-mate decided to join me in this little trip to Lao She tea house, near Tiananmen square. The tea house is named after the Chinese novelist, Lao She, who was famous for his 1957 play ‘Teahouse’.

The tea house was an interesting experience and I enjoyed the jasmine green tea, which was in the form of a dried ball that blossomed as hot water was poured over it.

DSC08256.JPG

DSC08259.JPG

DSC08260.JPG

My recommendation is that you do go through the tea menu carefully and ask for recommendations from the tea guide as the tea sold here is very expensive and several are along the USD 500 price range. I personally preferred to focus on the tea as it is an experience in itself and forego the food or snacks or the theatre performance, which can add to your hefty bill. After trying out this special flower tea, I simply had to splurge on a small gift box for home.

Have you tried any of these six special experiences? Which experience was your favourite or which would you like to try out?

[I am linking this post to
*Monday Escapes #41, hosted by My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase
**City Tripping #40, hosted by Mummy Travels and Wander Mum
***Wanderful Wednesday, hosted by Snow in Tromso, Lauren on Location, The Sunny Side of This and What a Wonderful World ]

Travel Monkey

Wander MumWanderful Wednesday

Travel Notes & Beyond

An afternoon in the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, a World heritage site since 1987, was the site of the Chinese Imperial Palace from the 15th century Ming Dynasty to early 20th century Qing dynasty. The Forbidden City houses the Palace museum, one of the most visited museums in the world. As the Forbidden City contains around 1000 buildings, one would need to visit the place over a few days to visit them all. My friends and I simply walked along the central axis from the south gate to the north gate taking in the structures along the way.

DSC07819.JPG

DSC07822.JPG

Close up view of the city wall and its intricate roofing

Walking into the outer city through the Meridian Gate, one has a a lovely view of the Gate of Supreme Harmony. During the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor held morning court sessions with his Ministers here while in the later Qing dynasty, it was used for ceremonial functions only.

DSC07829.JPG

view of the Gate of Supreme Harmony from the courtyard of the outer city

I saw the movie ‘The Last Emperor’ after my visit but I would recommend your seeing it before your visit to the Forbidden City, if you haven’t seen it yet. The movie, filmed mostly at the Forbidden City, provides an interesting glimpse into the life of the last Emperor of China, who abdicated in 1912.

DSC07826.JPG

Bridge over the Inner Golder Water river

Crossing the little bridge, we entered the Gate of Supreme Harmony to come across the center of the complex, three halls on a marble terrace. The largest, the Hall of the Supreme Harmony was the venue of important official ceremonies.

DSC07831.JPG

DSC07833.JPG

Sun dial on the terrace of the Hall of Supreme Harmony

Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the smaller Hall of Central Harmony, where the Emperor used to rest before or between ceremonies. The third of the halls in this square is the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which was used for rehearsing ceremonies.

DSC07836.JPG

Throne at the Hall for Preserving Harmony

Beyond the Hall for Preserving Harmony is the inner city, the home of the Emperor and his family. The center of the inner city had another set of three halls – the Palace of Heavenly Purity which was the official residence of the Emperor, the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, the official residence of the Empress and between the two halls was the Hall of Union.

DSC07838.JPG

Palace of Heavenly Purity

Walking beyond the inner city halls, we came across the Imperial Garden. A key hall within this garden is the Hall of Imperial Peace.

DSC07844.JPG

DSC07845.JPG

I found that I liked the Imperial Garden best because it not only seemed tranquil, but also had the atmosphere that people had been happier here than they had been in the ceremonial halls in the outer and inner courts.

DSC07843.JPG

My friends, Michelle and Emma, were happy to reach the end of our walk through the Forbidden City and eager to find some place to eat as they had skipped lunch and were very hungry.

Exiting the Forbidden City at the north end, we came across a major bus stop as there were many numbers marked on the road and different buses would stop at the number corresponding to its bus number. Intrigued, we decided to take a bus to ‘Wangfujing’, as I recollected it was a shopping area nearby and bound to have restaurants.  After talking to other commuters, we found that the bus to Wangfujing was 103 so we waited at the stop, which had the number marked on the road. However, when a bus which was not 103 came by, some of the people we had asked earlier indicated that we should get in. To make sure that that bus went to Wangfujing, I asked the driver, “Wangfujing?” and he nodded but didn’t take the money I gave for our three tickets. He pointed to the back so we went in. There was a person shouting at the back, which was presumably the conductor of the bus. It was not really different from the crowded Sri Lankan public buses, where the ticket conductor would keep shouting for people to move so that more people could be fit in yet remember with ease if each passenger had paid for their tickets and not. So, the experience was not a culture shock to me as it was for my two friends.

We were not sure which stop we had to get down and we knew it was not so far away from the Forbidden City stop so we kept asking if it was the stop for Wangfujing at intervals. When we came past an area, where we saw a sign on one of the stores that said in English ‘Wangfujing road’, we immediately got out of the bus at the next stop and and walked along the main road till we came across a restaurant. We walked into it and found that the staff were undergoing a briefing and prep talk by their manager before the restaurant opened for the evening but they were courteous and asked us to come and sit inside and gave us the menu. Fortunately, there were English names printed under the Chinese names and we were able to order our dinner without problems.

DSC07858.JPG

After dinner, when we emerged from the restaurant, we saw the pedestrian street across the restaurant was lined with lighted stalls and crowded with people. We decided to walk across the street, which I later learnt was the Wangfujing snack street located in Dongcheng district. A place where commercial activity has taken place since Ming dynasty. Though we did not feel like eating, as we had just had a full dinner, we decided to try out one of the candied fruits.

DSC07859.JPG

DSC07860.JPG

DSC07861.JPG

I would recommend eating at Wangfujing snack street so you will need to time your visit there as it seems to come alive only after 6pm.

We decided to take the cab back to our hutong. This was the first time that we were taking a cab without a Chinese speaking friend in the cab with us but we felt ok as we did have the hotel card, written in Chinese, with us. We did find it difficult to get a cab to stop for us though and several of the cabs quoted an inflated price of 100 yuan for the ride back to our Hutong. After refusing a few cabs, we finally managed to negotiate the price down to 60 yuan. We were quite proud that we had managed to negotiate with a cab driver, who didn’t know English, using some basic Chinese words mainly numbers and short phrases that we had learnt during our stay.

This little half-day trip during our stay in Beijing was a memorable one.

[I am linking this post to:

*City Tripping #39, hosted by Wander Mum and Mummy Travels

**Monday Escapes, co-hosted by Extraordinary Chaos and Mini Travellers]

Wander Mum
Extraordinary Chaos

Special Six: A Day in Ho Chi Minh City

Following our visit to Hanoi, my friends and I traveled to Ho Chi Minh city where we spent 24 hours in the city. We fitted this day in between our travel to Hanoi and Siem Reap because one of my friends had Saigon on her travel wish list. While we did not have sufficient time there to explore much nor go on the Mekong delta cruise, which I was keen on, we did have a lovely day in the city where the traffic, especially that of scooters, at junctions is crazy. I mean that literally.

These are my special six highlights that I would recommend for anyone traveling to Ho Chi Minh city for a day.

Walk through the Old French quarter starting from Notre Dame Cathedral and ending at the Opera House. The stretch of road we liked best was Dong Khoi street, which is filled with fashionable boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants. We spent a lot of time at several of the shops on this street as I was travelling with two shopaholics. My shopping recommendation is to buy some beautiful silk scarves and shawls at Khai silk at 81 Dong Khoi. I did most of my gift shopping here.

Notre Dame HCM.JPG

Side view of Notre Dame Cathedral

DSC03867.JPG

Central post office

Opera House.JPG

Municipal Theatre/ Saigon Opera House

Eat at Nha Hang Ngon at 160 Pasteur, which is close to Dong Khoi Street. We met up with a former colleague and friend living in Ho Chi Minh city at this restaurant, which she recommended for local Vietnamese cuisine. We especially enjoyed the rice paper wrapped spring rolls here.

nha-hang-ngon-sodishy-2a.jpg

Photo credit: Justin Condon @ So dishy

Visit War Remnants Museum. Any first visit to Ho Chi Minh city needs to include a visit to this museum. I am not keen on war memorials or museums but we decided to visit this museum to learn a little about the Vietnam war from the Vietnamese government perspective. The museum will make you emotional and some photo exhibits are too gruesome to watch. We left the museum pretty much drained of energy.

Read The Sorrow of War (original title – The Destiny of Love) by Bao Ninh and translated into English by Frank Palmos, over some coffee at a local café or at an international chain like Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Or, just relax and enjoy the coffee there and read the book after your visit like I did. Bao Ninh, was part of a 500 member youth brigade during the Vietnam war and one of the ten in his brigade who survived the war. The book’s protagonist is a 17 year old youth, Kien, who goes to war with ideals and a dream of a happy future with the love of his life and fellow-classmate, when he returns from the war. The novel takes you through the abrupt memories of Kien and is basically his lament of his twice lost love and the human cost of war and what he terms the lost generation. The book won The Independent’s Best Foreign book prize in 1994.

Sorrow of War

Source: Amazon

Explore Bui Vien Street’s night life and cheap eats and get a custom made ao dai stitched overnight for you at one of the tiny tailor’s shops on the street. I am not sure we would have visited this famous backpacker street, if we were not staying at Beautiful Saigon in this neighbourhood. We soon realized that this place was one busy place in the night with crowds of travelers frequenting the eateries lining the street and shops open late into the night.

Browse through Ben Thanh market for cheap souvenirs and street food. While the current Ben Thanh market structure is an early 20th century construction, the site has been known for its street market commercial activity since the 17th century. It is an interesting place to visit.

Which of the highlighted activities would you enjoy most? If you have visited Ho Chi Minh city, what was your favourite city highlight?

To view this article in the GPSmyCity app, please follow this link on your iPhone or iPad.

I am linking this post to City Tripping #35, hosted by Wander Mum and Mummy Travels.

Wander Mum
A Hole In My Shoe

Special Six: Paris Highlights

Travelling for the first time to Paris, when you are in your early twenties, is an enchanting experience. A magical age, when you are at the interface between shedding one’s youth while still retaining some starry eyed dreams such as an enchanting trip to Paris. So you can imagine my delight when my mother told me that she was transferring the prize, she won in a raffle draw, to me. Yes, her prize was a return ticket to Paris. As one of my friends had moved to Paris with her family, and had extended an open invitation to stay with them when I visited the city, my accommodation was also sorted out. In the autumn of 2002, one of my then top travel wishes on my bucket list was fulfilled.

I diligently covered all the trails that I had read and dreamed about. From my week in Paris, the following six remain my treasured experiences.

  • Walking around the arrondissements:

Walking must have been my favourite activity in Paris. This was years before my road traffic accident so I was able to walk long distances without easily tiring. I enjoyed wandering around the arrondissements on the left and right banks of river Seine, namely the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th arrondissements, simply taking in the vibes of the places I passed by. I enjoyed coming across both expected and unexpected pleasant surprises. Coming across the pretty Église Saint Julien le Pauvre, a Melkite Greek catholic church built in the 13th century, was an unexpected surprise as I had not marked it on my walking route previously.

Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre

Another unexpected pleasant encounter was the black cat that came to greet me as I looked around Shakespeare and Co.

Cat at S&Co

I did expect to be impressed by the medieval Gothic architecture of Notre Dame cathedral and I was.

Notre Dam

Walking around the lovely streets of Paris, I especially loved it when the delicious smells of a bakery would waft past me and tempt me to stop and try out some delicious baked treat. I came away from Paris with an impression there was a bakery on every corner.

  • Sacre Coeur and Montmartre

Simply breathtaking. There are no other words for it. I had seen so many photos of it, prior to my travel, and had been anticipating the visit here a lot. My friend and I explored the place, taking the funicular up and later, climbing down the crowded stairs on our way back. Making our way down to the tiny square, stopping for an ice-cream cone, and then meandering around Montmartre and of course, visiting the Place du Tertre.Sacre Couer

  • Sorbonne

I really enjoyed walking around Sorbonne. Christine, another of my friends in Paris and a former colleague from my gap year of teaching in Stockholm, was also in the city then. Since we had planned to meet up for lunch, I had asked that we meet up at her favourite neighbourhood in Paris. We met at Sorbonne, her alma mater and walked around the beautiful place. It was at a cafe here that I tried out French onion soup for the first time, as Christine recommended it as the quintessential French cuisine.

Sorbonne2

  • Musée d’Orsay

I was enjoying walking around a lot that I did not particularly want to go into museums and have the day pass by indoors. However, I am glad I decided to visit this lovely museum housed in a former railway station in the 7th arrondissement, based on the strong recommendation of my research supervisor. The museum was smaller, easily navigable, than the overwhelming and crowded Louvre and I was able to enjoy the painting collection better.

Musee d'Orsay.jpg

  • River Seine cruise

I have always been partial to cruises, whether on a lake, river or sea. So of course, I had to take a boat cruise on the River Seine, which I enjoyed very much.

River Seine cruise.jpg

  • Eiffel Tower

I had expected that this would top my favourite list, before travelling to Paris, and this was one of the first places I visited. My friend had actually discouraged me going to the top of the tower, mentioning that it was not all that great an experience. However, since I had wanted to go to the top of Eiffel tower for a very long time, I didn’t mind the long wait in the queue for our tickets. I felt sorry for my friend’s nephew though, who was fidgeting the whole time, so it is probably not a great idea when travelling around with kids. I did enjoy visiting the tower and I even visited Montparnasse tower to have a different view of Eiffel tower from its top.

Eiffel tower.jpg

Eiffel closeup.jpg

Six plus One highlight: My friend’s family were keen to take me on a day trip out of Paris, though I was content to simply continue exploring Paris’ fascinating arrondissements. After some discussion, we agreed on the Palace of Versailles. When we arrived there, we saw the immense crowds and the ticket counter for the palace tour had a very long queue in front of it. I did not want to wait in the long queue nor did I think that my friend’s nephew and niece would appreciate the wait either. So, I suggested we take the palace gardens tour instead, since they had anyway visited the palace before, which turned out to be a lot of fun. We ended our trip with a picnic and some rowing on the lake, which everyone including the kids enjoyed and left me with a wonderful memory, of the palace of Versailles as a lovely day trip out of Paris.

Boating on Versailles lake.jpg

I found my first visit to Paris enchanting, though I know if I were to revisit now, the focus of my exploration would be different.

How did you find your first visit to Paris?

[I am linking this up to City Tripping #33, hosted by Wander Mum and Mummy Travels]

Wander Mum