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and finally…Amsterdam.

We arrived in Amsterdam at about 4pm after an eventful train trip from Bruges which was delayed by almost an hour due, sadly, to a suicide on the system, and a mad dash to catch our connecting train in Brussels which thankfully waited for us!

The trip from there was super quick courtesy of the brilliant fast trains that run throughout Europe, thundering along at breakneck speeds. Mmm, any thoughts Australia?

Welcome to Amsterdam for the next three days…

Dope capital, and proud of it!

How convenient, 20 metres from our apartment is a bar!

We did the Heineken tour

and got a special bottle for Specks, who was always calling out for “UNE HEINEKEN” on the TMB!

The weather was diabolical, cold windy and pouring rain, but that didn’t deter the brave souls for experiencing the Heineken Experience.

On to the Rikjmuseum, the most famous museum in the Netherlands, and one of the finest in the world, cataloguing the history of Dutch art. The most famous piece, ‘the night watch’, by Rembrandt wasn’t hard to find!

For anyone who’s read Jessie Burton’s “The Miniaturist” (if you haven’t, do! It’s excellent) there’s an impressive miniature house.

A brilliant library room,

Yves Saint Laurent gets a gig,

Plus much, much more.

Out the front is the famous “I AmSterdam” sign packed with posture’s large and small.

Wet…time for a beer!

The next day was spent walking, and walking, and walking. The view down our canal, our apartment is on the right half way down.

Through the Jordaan region,

Amsterdam is one of the most bike friendly cities on earth. Look left, look right, look both ways again…they are the silent assassin’s!

back past the museum section,

And on to Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp, the largest open air market in the Netherlands.

Past more canals, they are everywhere, unsurprisingly! It being a canal city, and all…

Fabulous barges,

The morning view from our room.

Amsterdams favourite son, Rembrandt, and his famous ‘night watch’ in three D.

Wonderful canal houses.

Salty sailors in the red light district,

Over 18’s coffee shops everywhere, and all of them packed.

The red light district is pretty sad and seedy, but very tame during the day

Mind you, there were still plenty of ladies by their red doors, some were off duty!

Not everything was tacky!

We did a canal tour for an hour,

Past more beautiful canal houses

And a final walk, which surprisingly ended up at a brewery!

And one last beer to celebrate another fabulous trip.

Till the next one…

Two days In Bruge

Our time in Paris is up, on to Bruges…but not before one last look out the window,

then down 4 flights of stairs for the last time!

Metro to Gare du Nord

and off via Arras & Brussels to Bruges, a trip of about 3 hours.

Bruges is a beautiful medieval town, some may say a reproduction as most of it was flattened during WW2, but hey, it’s still very lovely.

We are staying in an outstanding B&B about 10 minutes from the centre of town, and it’s there we set off from after downing suitcases.

Surprisingly, we found a brewhouse, and partook of said products!

The belfry is the most obvious landmark, and site of the most memorable scene in the movie, In Bruges.

Dinner at a hamburger joint, then maybe a G&T or two in a fantastic gin & whiskey bar. They have over 230 gins to choose from, and when you do, they are presented in the most unique way. Rachael loved the glasses so much we bought two for home, plus a bottle, of course.

A very nice way to end the day.

Before heading out in the morning how’s this for brekky? Plus scrambled eggs and bacon! Fantastic B&B!

Bruges is so beautiful, maybe photos are all that’s needed?!

The Saint Salvator Cathedral was a huge surprise, stunning.

The canal ride was worth it…

The whale is made out of recycled plastic rubbish.

Finally bought a hat down a tiny lane, surprisingly on the tourist map, which we find out is because it used to be the red light district!

Plenty of these guys ringing the cobblestones.

Waffles on a stick!

Maybe another beer…

More wandering…

Time for a night wander

The most photographed spot in town, featured on all photo sites.

The belfry at night,

And the view from the top next morning.

340 steps up, on a very well worn path.

The bells play their majestic tunes,

Back on terra firma, for one last look before heading to our last destination, Amsterdam.

Last day in Paris

Our last full day in Paris started with Rachael running along the Seine, and me not! Only because my runners passed away a few weeks ago, of course?! I spent my time looking out the window.

Breakfast done we headed off by metro to the Canal St Martin, which runs for about 2kms, with a series of locks holding water levels stable, as it drops quite a bit as it heads downstream.

It’s a pretty cool spot, with a different feel to the rest of town.

From there we metro’d(?) over to the swish side, the 6th and the boulevard St Germain with high end boutiques galore, and overpriced Parisian cafes dotted everywhere.

Stupidly, we thought this was a good place to do a bit of shopping!! Mind you, we found a great bookshop and bought a TinTin & Asterix comic book in French, of course.

Time for a final walk around, and what better area than across to the Louvre, through the Jardin des Tuileries with its multitude of street hagglers…

Trinkets everywhere…

Then up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe.

Some of the best entertainment in Paris is watching the poses, of mainly the Chinese, and the eagerness with which they capture the moment. Inspirational!

So good!

Enough walking, time to head home and walk through some of the passages which the area is famous, along with the theatre’s, and cafes.

These passages are fabulous, full of interesting shops, selling all manner of antiques, old and rare books,

Canes shops with impressive door entrance,

Boutique food goodies,

Cafes,

Brick-a- brac

Wonderful stuff,

Our apartment entrance is just past Le Bistrot.

Phew…Spritz (again) then a tremendous street Thai meal to end the day.

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!