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Paris

Paris, the city for lovers!  It is quite a beautiful place with the old structures jutting up next to new ones.  Before I met up with the walking tour I walked all the “TV” areas (and more) of Paris so I could get some pictures without being rushed and I must admit that when I came upon the Louvre, I got chills.  Maybe it was the idea of what it represents as given to us by “The DaVinci Code”; the final resting place of Mary Magdalene.  I just don’t know, but it was a bit emotional for me, seeing it for the first time.  I made it to the Louvre, the Obelisque and onward to the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile roundabout (which has 14 streets that merge into it and not surprisingly has the highest rate of accidents than any other part of the city) to see the Arc de Triomphe (which I believe there is an Arc in New York City that was modeled after the Arc in Paris) before heading to Place St. Michel for the guided walking tour.

Unlike free walking tours I’ve taken elsewhere, this one was sadly not very memorable.  The guide I believe was new, or rather for her sake I hope she’s new.  She seemed to make more of an effort in acting dramatically and putting on some sort of theatrical show than telling interesting stories.  There were little facts from each place that were interesting of course, but nothing that really stuck in the memory bank as being “really cool” or “oh wow!”.  It is really a shame given the rich history Paris has.  Bummer!  But at least I did get some more exercise during the tour, was shown a few places I probably would not have found on my own and most importantly, learned about the Versailles tour which I signed up for once the walking tour was over.

Pictures taken on the way to the walking tour meeting spot:

Fashion week was in town while I was in Paris and there were many temporary constructions going up to accommodate the event.  I never did notice any models or supermodels and what not however, but it was cool knowing it was going on.

The Louvre: home of the Mona Lisa (which apparently is disappointingly small and more famous for it having been stolen for 2 years than for any other reason); there are over 35,000 pieces of art in this museum!!  If one spent 8 hours a day looking at each painting for one minute after 2 months they still wouldn’t get through all the artwork!  Lesson for visitors: have a plan before you go of what you want to see!

Jardin des Tuileries & the Obelisque: the obelisque is an egyptian obelisk that was originally located at the entrance of the Luxor Temple in Egypt!  It is over 3,000 years old and has a twin that is still at the Luxor Temple in Egypt.  This particular one was moved to Paris in 1833.  Cool stuff! Thanks Wikipedia!

For 80 Euro you can drive one of these babies for a whopping 8 kilometers!!!

Arc de Triomphe: It does have a sister Arc in New York City!  I looked it up:)

Eiffel Tower: Not surprisingly when this was first erected the Parisians despised the very sight of it and thought it a scar on the face of Paris.  They didn’t see the use for it so the artist, thinking on his feet, said “of course it’s useful!  It can be used as a radio antenna!”.  It did function as such and apparently did work, as it warned Parisians of Hitler’s approach.  I went back to the tower the following day in the evening to snap the other picts as it got dark:)

Walking tour bits: Place St. Michel– a fountain depicting Saint Michael battling demons and keeping Paris safe; Pont des Arts– stop with the freaking love locks already!!!  There are apparently so many locks on this bridge that it is making the bridge unstable.  There is a movement in Paris to get people to stop adding locks, lol!!  So much for true love!  Though the bridge is getting unstable, it certainly didn’t stop anyone from walking over it; Notre Dame– Famous church actually located on a teeny island in the River Seine!  The gargoyles are there to scare away evil spirits and also function as drains to funnel rain off the roof.  Love the double function!

I know I haven’t provided as much information at this location about all the spectacular places in the city, but again, I write from what I’ve learned while there.  I could cheat and look things up, but then I wouldn’t be giving you an accurate account of my experiences.  Granted I do look up little things here and there such as I did for the Obelisk above (I was personally interested in what it was all about) but I don’t make a habit of it for sure.

On to Versailles

Back to Europe

Munich

Munich is absolutely lovely!!!  I was very shocked on how green the city is!!  Seriously they have so many parks in the heart of the city!!  I figured it would be much like every other city: drowning in nothing but buildings with a token park here and there.  But not so with Munich!  It is individual, full of history, character and very friendly and welcoming people!  There’s the synopsis, now here are the details;)

Before going to Munich, on a whim and on a promise, I shot off an email to Nikki whom I met and traveled with through the San Blas Islands in Panama.  In fact, she was the clever woman who coined “modern day pirates” to describe our sailboat crew:)

I say on a whim because though we had exchanged a few emails, we really hadn’t kept in touch a whole lot (I don’t Facebook) and since it had been so long since I’d emailed her, I wasn’t sure first whether she even had the same email, and second whether she would respond.  I had made her a promise long ago when we parted in Colombia however that if I ever made it to Munich, I would look her up!  So, about a week or so before going to Munich I wrote her an email to let her know I would be in town for the day.

I was humbled to hear back from her and even more tickled that she too had the day off and was able to meet me!!  The good in people never ceases to amaze me and it’s a blessing to know people who, even after years of no contact, extend a hand of friendship!!

I made it to Munich early in the morning and after calling Nikki agreed to meet her at a coffee shop near the Odeonsplatz underground station.  As I made my way out from the underground I could hear the joyous music of Oktoberfest celebrations and once out on the street was greeted by a lovely parade!!  I made my way along the road trying to get somewhere to take some pictures when a very nice group of people offered me a stool to stand on so I could get above the crowd:)  Thankfully one of them spoke a little broken English and I asked where the coffee shop was (all I could see was Starbucks and we weren’t meeting there!!).  Once directed and all the pictures were taken, I headed to meet Nikki.


Seriously it was as if no time at all had ever passed between us!  She looked just the same as she did before: fabulous!  And we had a great time catching up in each other’s lives and reminiscing on the good times we had during the San Blas trip:)  We hung out for a little catching up, then she proceeded to give me the VIP walking tour of Munich!!

First stop was just nearby, a place called Feldherrnhalle, which is where Hitler began the plotting of his Nazi regime before setting up in Berlin.  What is amazing is that as he began to take on more popularity and power, it was mandatory that people walking in front of this building had to salute to the soldiers standing in front to show that they were with Hitler.  If you walked in front without saluting you would get in serious trouble!!  So, for those who opposed Hitler, they would bypass walking in front of the Feldherrnhalle by walking down the street just behind called Viscardigasse.  Down this street today you will find a golden path laid out in bronze bricks symbolizing the path of freedom.  This path was walked by all who opposed Hitler.  It was their way of rebelling Hitler and what he stood for.

Across from this building is the Residence of Munich (Residenz Munchen) where the Royal Family lives and the lions statues guarding the entrance are rubbed by passersby for good luck!

The Residence of Munich leads onto the Hofgarten where there is a lovely little building topped off with a little monument.  Here they have many musicians who come to practice their skills and even monthly they put on a formal waltz dance event!!

From there we headed past the Art Museum and headed to probably the most interesting or at least shocking part of Munich… Surfers!!!  Yes, I typed correctly: surfers!  Apparently some very clever surfers wanted a way to continue to practice their skills and keep in shape year round without “chasing the waves” so they made their own!!  In the Eisbach river, just at the start of it where it flows under a bridge, several stones were dropped to the river bottom and eventually enough were planted in to create a wave!!  And due to the natural fast current through the river, the wave is large enough to basically simulate an ocean wave!  So darn clever!!!

This little surf spot is in a way the beginning of the English Garden (Englischen Garten).  The English Garden is the largest garden in Munich and it is even LARGER than Central Park in New York City!!

We made our way past the Japanese Teahouse (Japanisches Teehaus Kanshoan)

to an area where if you choose you could sit out nude

English Garden Nude Area
English Garden Nude Area

finally to the Monopteros.  This monument was once overrun by drug addicts but thanks to an increased presence of cops wandering the streets, the momument was abandoned by the addicts and spruced up for locals and tourists to enjoy:)

From the Monopteros it was on to the Chinese Temple (Chinesischer Turm) where a little beer garden was conveniently located, so of course we had to stop for a BEER!!!!!  It was here during a bit of a passing thunderstorm where I learned the history of beer gardens… Long ago when there weren’t any refrigerators, companies cleverly decided to put kegs of produced beer under trees that provided lots of shade (hence natural refrigeration).  So much beer was being made that companies would invite people out to these “gardens “with kegs of beer under each tree to drink the beer while it was fresh and cold!  All they asked was people paid for the beer, but otherwise you could bring your own food, etc.  So these beer gardens began to gain popularity as almost a social or fun day in the park so to speak with cheap, delicious beer, your own picnic and tons of other people to socialize with:)

After a few pints we walked our way to the Siegestor, a triumphal arch that has a statue of Bavaria on top leading 4 lions!  It was originally dedicated to the glory of the Bavarian army but today it is a monument and reminder for peace.  Absolutely love it!!

On we went past the University to perhaps my favorite building of all I had seen that day: St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)!!  Just absolutely stunning in my opinion and so playful!!  Notice the dragon climbing up the church and the timekeeper…

I could have spent hours looking at the church just discovering new things about it but alas we were getting a bit hungry, so we headed to a great restaurant, had some delicious local food then headed to Nikki’s where she graciously allowed me to crash for the night:)  However, NOT before helping her to fix her anklet!!  We had both purchased one in the San Blas Islands from the Kuna Indigenous tribe but sadly hers had fallen off.  She kept the beads and the strand however so I helped to affix it back on:)  Good times!!!

Repaired San Blas Anklet, yay!!
Repaired San Blas Anklet, yay!!

 

On to Berlin

Back to Europe

Areas Not Covered

Once the tour was over I headed out to see the places not covered by the tour.  Granted there really wasn’t much as we covered quite a bit!!  I was accompanied by another single traveler and together we headed toward the eye o f London.   We walked along the river Thames and viewed the Eye of London from across the street.  It is really MUCH more impressive at night!!  I only had the chance to see it in a nighttime view 4 years ago when I had a 16 hour lay-over in in London and opted to speed walk the city at night instead of just hanging about the airport.  So the pictures of the nighttime shots are from 4 years ago just after new year- not during the current trip of August 2014.

The Eye of London is currently Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel and each passenger capsule (which holds up to 25 people) represents one of the London Boroughs- 35 in total!  From the Eye of London we swung inward toward Piccadilly Circus, one of the best known areas for shopping, shopping and more shopping!!!  It honestly reminds me of Times Square in N.Y.C. since the streets are oddly angled in the center and there is a HUGE TV screen with adverts, etc constantly going.

Anyway, since I’m not a shopping fan I really didn’t have much business there… I just went there so I could see it during the daytime:)  Anyway, at this point it was quite on in the day and both myself and my companion were hungry.  So we set off to Brick Lane, which I had heard from several locals that it was THE PLACE to go for Curry.  Getting there was quite interesting however… We opted to hop an underground train which was no problem at all… However once we got out on to our exit we had a humorous time finding the street!  We walked out of the station and headed aimlessly down the road in the direction that the map “suggested” to go down.  I spotted a street called Brick Street and thought, hey, that must be it!

So down we walked… and walked… and walked… and walked…… The sceneries changed, the scents in the air changed and we thought for sure we HAD to be in the area!!  However, apparently we ended up in a Moroccan area and after several attempts to find someone who spoke English we discovered that Brick STREET was where we were and Brick LANE was where we were supposed to be… So back to the train station we went and lo and behold, had we taken a left out of the station instead of a right, we would have been on the correct street in all of 2 seconds flat!  It really was a good thing I had a patient person walking with me, otherwise the detour could have turned sour!!

Once on the correct path, Brick Lane stretched for what seemed like forever with endless Indian food restaurants on both sides of the “Lane” and each place had a huge banner that hung out front claiming they were voted the BEST Indian food from TripAdvisor in 20XX or the BEST value from TripAdvisor in 20XX and to boot each place also had a man standing in the doorway trying to lure each person in their place!  To be honest it was all just a little overwhelming and though we were hungry trying to choose a place sent my head in a tailspin!  We did eventually settle on a place that seemed to offer the best deal but honestly I wasn’t impressed at all.  The place was fairly packed with people who sounded British so I thought for sure that it should have been a good place.  But then again because we were ordering off the “tourist” menu and not off-roading from their full menu, maybe the quality wasn’t as good… who knows… Anyway Brick Lane to me personally was a bust.  Nothing that special and just over the top with restaurants!!

Once done with lunch it was beer time, so we headed back to the hostel for a little break, then to get a drink!

On to Edinburgh: Inspiration from Afar

Back to London Walking Tour

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