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Light and Colour in Paris

Some months ago I read, in a French blog I follow, about an impressive new visual arts show and subsequently saw some initial, glowing, reviews for it…so today we get to judge it for ourselves.

Atelier des Lumières is an immersive exhibition of the works of Gustav Klimt plus a shorter exhibition by an artist working under the pseudonym, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and an even shorter contemporary work called Poetic_AI.

Images are splashed onto the walls and floors of a huge old warehouse, with a soundtrack mix of classic and contemporary music thundering in the background.

The whole experience is mesmerising, images flashing before you, changing shape and form, swirling to the music.

Light and shade.

Washing over and around you.

The room is so large the crowds seem to just blend in, people standing, leaning on walls, or just sitting on the floor letting the scenes before you play out.

It really was incredible, lasting about 45 minutes, on a continual loop. Stunning

Back in the light we caught the train back into the centre of town, wandered around and grabbed a bit to eat.

Then made our way onto the Ile de la Cite and Saint-Chapelle with her wonderous stained glass.

We visited five years ago but one wall was being rejuvenated, so we were keen to see the whole shebang.

Ther are 1113 scenes depicted in 15 stain glass windows telling the story of mankind from Genesis through to Christ’s resurrection.

Once again, a visual overload. Truly the most wonderous chapel you will ever see.

Sensory overload complete, we stagger back towards our apartment, passing typical Paris life.

More wandering…

Afterwards a spritz, then dinner in a fantastic wine bar near home, run by a very enthusiastic wine lover. It was a great end to a ripping day. Cheers!

Street art and The Panthéon

It’s another beautiful day in Paris, perfect to finally visit one of Frances most revered sites, Temple of the Nation, the Pantheon.

Once a Christian basilica, Napoleon 1 decided to honour the great servants of the state in the crypt, while the nave was reserved for worship.

Victor Hugo was the first interned upon his death in 1885, the huge basilica seeming to be the only place worthy of holding his remains.

Honours were thus granted according to criteria that has evolved with changes in the regimes.

Nowadays, French men and women are honoured here depending on the desires of the President of the French Republic: politicians, authors, scientists, Resistance fighters, etc. With many having been moved here from their original place of burial.

Its quite humbling to be walking amongst some of the most important members of France’s history; Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Alexandre Dumas, Louis Braille, and Emile Zola amongst the many.

Even the heart of Leon Cambetta gets a special mention!

A local street artist, Christian Guemy, who goes by the alias C215, has commemorated some of those laid to rest here with a series of stencil impressions around the streets of the Pantheon…

…so map in hand we set out to find as many as time permits.

Rachael still looking!

Maybe some hints at the Sorbonne?

Still going…

Phew, that will do! Street walking is a great way to get a better feel for an area and we’ve had a lot of fun wandering the streets of the Pantheon and the Sorbonne, the centre of learning in Paris.

Time to walk home, all the while seeing more street art.

Before walking up Rue Montorgueil, regarded by some as one of the best streets in Paris. Not sure why? Its nice enough, but we’ve seen plenty better.

At the end of the street, quite the disturbing image! My childhood heroes, can it be true?

Time for a rose in our apartment, then one last meal with the Thompsons before they head off. We picked a great Italian bistro around the corner with the biggest pizza’s ever! Ah, street eating in Paris, doesn’t get much better than that!

Downtown Paris by day, Montmartre by night.

I’d like to say we were up and at it today, making the most of the beautiful weather, but, non…we slept in. Oh, and Rachael was very keen on checking out the washing machine.

So, a bit slow out of the blocks, but finally after croissants we headed towards the river Seine. We wandered past a flea market then on to Jardin du Palais Royal, a typically structured park lined with elegant trees, brushed stone paths and a lovely central pond with water feature, surrounded by Parisians reading and relaxing.

Rachael does Parisian quite well!

On to the Palais Royal with confusing queues, and a fancy metro entrance,

Past the Louvre, with spectacular dressage posing,

…and ridiculous(ness) from those that should know better!

Past the little Arc de Triomphe thingy, with the quick entry to the Louvre on each side which no one uses…

…past a naked women or two!

…and first port of call, on Cards recommendation, is Musée de l’Orangerie which houses works of art from Monet with his water lilies, thru to Renoir, Picasso, Matisse and others of the impressionist and modern classicism school.

The whole collection, outside the huge Monet’s, was donated to the state by an art dealer and collector, Paul Guillaume and his wife, Jean Walter.

It’s hard to imagine the wealth that has been bequeathed; its an incredible gift to Paris.

The museum is reasonably small, so navigated within an hour or so, and well worth the visit, with some beautiful works of art from some of the leading lights of the late 1800’s to early mid 1900’s.

We strolled down the Seine, and over to the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais opposite. I only post this photo of Winston Churchill in front of the Petit Palais because it took about 10 minutes to take, courtesy of a lovely looking elderly Chinese tourist, who stood in front of Winnie for most of said 10 minutes taking selfies from every conceivable angle. So exhausted was she from her photographic pursuits, that she needed to rest on a park bench close by afterwards, capturing her exhaustion with a few more selfies for the collection!

Here ’tis…

I’d love to tell you the Grand Palais was spectacular, and it is from the outside, but at €35 each to check it out we bailed.

We retraced our footsteps back to our apartment for a regroup before meeting Amanda & Paul for a ‘ lonely guide’ artist tour of Montmartre.

Montmartre is an old bohemian artist colony, high on the hill with Sacré Cœur as it’s needle point, but is mainly taken over now by tourist cafes and gentrification.

Still, the metro still has its old signs, and there is still a charm about the place, especially when our lovely guide, Amanda, directs us to places of interest.

First stop, the love wall, 230 plus ways to say “je t’aime”.

Onwards, and upwards, with some street art…

…and some friendly artist advice!

Up more hills…

…beautiful old cafes,

The oldest, and only existing vineyard in Paris,

Man climbs out of wall!

Oh dear, artist and disciple!

On to the beautiful, ethereal Sacre Cœur…

With magnificent views from the tower…

Then on to dinner on the hill, with the cathedral as our watch keeper!

A great finish to a special day with very special friends to share it with.

On to Paris

Our time in Chamonix has come to an end, a fascinating town filled with shops, cafes, hotels and a bit of ritz. Even a small casino Specks managed, surprisingly, to spend some time in!

One last walk around town while Rachael, Amanda & Leeanne went for a run…

Breakfast, then a quick look at the local market. We took a wide berth from this cheese stall after Lucy informed us that a cocker spaniel had jumped up, licked the rind of the cheese then ran away. Not to be perturbed, the owner simply wiped the rind with a tea towel and continued selling his fromage. What dog????

There it is!!!

Here’s something for Dan, St Bernard owner!

Then we all slowly drifted off to various points of the globe.

Amanda, Paul, Rachael & I are on the same TGV train from Genève to Paris, a fast train which only takes 3 hours to travel the 450kms between the cities. Who would have thought a fast train could work? Food for thought, Australia?

Our train left bang on time with only one problem on this 30 degree day, someone forgot to turn on the aircon! Phew, stuffy and uncomfortable much!

Finally, after about 2 hours, the right switch was flicked and the rest of the trip felt way more relaxed!

Hello Gare de Lyon, and the metro system with its colour coded and numbered lines. Much looking at multiple colours all seemingly blended to one, before we all finally deciphered the maps secret code, bought tickets and headed into the jungle.

We bought 5 day tickets, which we thought was a sensible option until Rachael lost hers while pulling my phone out of her pocket. She realized this as we were stuck on the longest travelator on the metro system. She knew where she’d dropped it but couldn’t get off this infernal walking machine!!

Finally, we’re off it, Rachael dashes back in the forlorn hope of a miracle retrieval, and low and behold…ta-da!!! There’s a few spritz recovered!

Our accommodation is very cool, inside one of Paris’s famous old ‘passages’, enclosed glass roofed arcades. Ours sits on the fourth floor looking down on the glass roof and surrounding apartments.

Dinner was pretty much straight outside the passage, with Paul & Amanda…Paul very happy with his beer!

Its been a long day, more about ‘passages’, our neighborhood (very cool) and more to come!

Chamonix, rest and reflection…and dinner!

We’ll, we’ve finished our circumnavigation of the Mont Blanc massif, the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) and what a wonderful time we have all had, scrambling up hill then back down dale, all the while following that gliding, cat like navigator, Ismael.

As a group we were very well prepared, having trained hard on the massive mountain ranges around the Mornington Peninsula(!), but it was still a tough challenge, abate with a stunning backdrop to gaze at while regaining breath and equilibrium.

Here are a few reflections on the walk, and what may be required to do it in comfort, and fewer blisters!

# You can’t train too much. No one ever failed from training hard, and you won’t have to worry about recovery each day. Also, train as much for going down hill as up. Down hills can be a killer on the knees, quads and hips.

# Wear good comfortable boots. We saw folks wearing sneakers, and when it rains (and it will) sneakers get wet…and when they are wet guess what happens? Blisters. No fun!

# Prépare for all weather conditions. We only had one day of rain, but when it came so did the wind and it got cold. Good wet weather gear, and warm layers will make for much more pleasant dinner conversation.

# Speaking of clothes, I can’t speak highly enough of super-fine merino t-shirts and tops. They don’t smell, ever! And buff’s are great, as a neck warmer, head band or wrist band.

# Poles! Almost everyone carried them, most used them, and those that did agreed they help…and Ismael uses them all the time, so they must be good!!

# Voltarin was the drug of choice! Plus magnesium and/or Endura mixed with water.

# WiFi isn’t great in all places, so just talk to people and forget the phone.

# The track is well signposted, and incredibly clean. Everyone seems to respect the environment and it shows.

# Don’t expect to lose weight on this walk…the food, beer and wine are much too good to ignore.

# Chamonix isn’t the cheapest place in France, so maybe save yourself some grief and buy your gear before you get there. There’s plenty of choice, with a lot of dollars signs attached!

# Bring a camera, it WILL get used A LOT!

# Enjoy, take your time, soak in the beauty, talk to your friends, laugh, eat, drink…have a fabulous time in an incredible environment.

# Thank you No Roads for organising this wonderful walk, from Peter and Irene to all the staff in the office, a very well run machine! Thanks to Ismael for gliding us (I mean…guiding us!) effortlessly, he has a great passion and respect for the alps and it shows. And, of course, thanks to all our walking team. It was an experience of a life time which we loved, and loved doing with you all. You are all great friends and we love you all.

SO…what now for the rest of the day? How about a bit of paragliding?

Tony, Leeanne, Lucy, Gemma, Rachael and I slid off the side of a hill to soar around the side of the alps for 30 minutes or so. Exhilarating!

Lunch, shop, then maybe a drink or two on adjoining balconies.

Then a special treat for Liz, Rachael and I as we had a reunion with one of our trek buddies, Mike, from our last No Roads trip to Nepal last year. It was great to catch up with a ripping fella, and meet his wife Deidre, who then braved dinner with a bunch of Aussies at a fabulous restaurant in Town, Munchies.

If you visit Chamonix, go to Munchies. The best meal of our trip.

Now, on to Paris to continue our fabulous adventure.

Day 10 – Argentiere to Chamonix

(6 hours)

Our last day, and a solid one to complete the TMB, with a climb of about 1100 metres up to Lac Blanc, then down to the chairlift and back to Chamonix.

It was extremely humid, with thunderstorms predicted, making the climb all the more difficult with plenty of breaks to mop the brow!

Once again the views prevailed the pain.

On top of the world, sort of!

The first lake was an oasis of calm, with wonderful reflections.

And a photo opportunity or two…

Then some iron ladders and wooden steps up to the refuge and Lac Blanc.

No more climbing, it’s all downhill from here.

Maddy, the inspiration for this trip, and an inspiration herself, looks very happy to be here.

Tony got a new phone before this trip and has almost blown it up taking photos.

Down we go towards the gondola ride to the valley.

We were lucky, the predicted thunderstorms didn’t eventuate.

After the gondola, a lovely, lazy 20 minute stroll along the river back to Chamonix.

…then, a beer!

And our farewell dinner at The Cap Horn restaurant.

Before a few night caps at The Bar, in the main drag…

With shenanigans from our Tigers supporting crew…

Then time to wrap it up…

Day Nine – Triente – Argentiere

( 6 hours – 18kms)

Once again our group promptly hit breakfast at 7.30 sharp, followed by the 8.30 bus to our starting point of Triente, snuggled down in the valley with ominous mountain ranges surrounding us on three sides.

The weather in the valley was cool but we are expecting hot and humid conditions all day with the threat of thunderstorms and foul weather forecast for tomorrow.

With this in mind there is a real chance that we may have to abandon our walk a day early, so all were very keen and excited to be hitting the track.

Said track went straight up, switchback after switchback, cool breeze turning into a humid swamp, turning a rough enough climb into a sweat box challenge.

Regular short breaks to mop down, before finally reaching the Col de Balme at 2191 metres, and the border between Switzerland and France.

More Aussie border excitement, lots of photos, spectacular views and a lovely cooling breeze.

Maybe a selfie?

A leap of faith…

Finally, a leisurely walk to our outdoor dining room, baguette and brilliant valley/mountain views, with the Mont Blanc Massif on our left.

Probably the second most spectacular lunch spot.

Chamonix is the village at the end of the valley, Argentiere is below us.

The afternoon walk followed through the pine forest, before a short ridge walk to our destination of Angentiere, in the valley above Chamonix.

One glance at the pharmacie in town gave reason for the sweat feast!

No time to waste, there’s a bar directly across the road from our hotel!!

We had a lovely meal at our hotel, with Ismael informing us that the weather forecast for tomorrow wasn’t too bad, and we would be able to complete our epic journey.