jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 42 [12 Mar 09] – Paris

Posted in Paris by jn82 on March 13, 2009

There are so many great sights to see in Paris, but as we had very limited time in the city, we decided just to visit those which interested us and were very famous. The first one today was to the Catacombes. This probably is not as famous as the other tourist attractions, but it interested us very much, as how often is it you get to see millions of human bones neatly arranged and placed into purpose built underground tunnels? After a bit of touble finding the Caracombes from the train station due to no clear markings, we decended 20 metres underground, below Paris’ metro, sweage and water systems. A further 500 metre walk later in a dark, damp and cold tunnel, we were greeted by the remains of an estimated three million of French people from centuries past, whose bodies had been exhumed from grave sites around the city when the city needed more land to build stuff on.

500m of tunnel like this before the prize.

Notice the arrangement of bones and artistic placement of skulls to form two lines, how neat.

Even more creative, I think these are skull men?

Very neat. Bottom section bones facing one way, middle section skull divider, top section bones facing another way.

I thought this would make a good post card for Halloween or something.

Big cross of human skulls.

After seeing this, I guess that if you had to stack and arrange millions of bones and skulls, you might as well make it look nice so you can open the place up as an attraction to the public. The creative and neat arrangement of the bones was really something very unusual and interesting. You might think I actually played with some of the bones, but I will leave you to guess about that part.

After the Catacombes and a cheap chinese lunch, we headed to the Lourve, probably the world’s most famous art gallery. It is impossible to finish the Lourve with one visit or maybe even ten (we were told that if you were to spend just 30 seconds at each exhibit, it would take a consecutive four to seven months to finish the entire Lourve), so we just decided to catch a few of the more well known art pieces, as well as French, Dutch and Flemish oil paintings.

The inverted pyramid, probably one of the bigger draws of the Lourve to me.

Da Vinci code nerds would know what this is.

Venus de Milo.

Victory wings.

This is (GAY) Spartaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

French crown jewels. Not impressive at all.



Boob job?


Over the years, the Lourve has had many famous and expensive art pieces stolen from it many times, and this is probably one of the reasons why.

Siesta time.

Oh yeah, there is also this picture of a rather unattractive women with a sly smirk on her face people were crowded around. Have no idea what the big fuss about it was but if everyone takes a picture I guess it must be pretty famous or something.

The sly woman of the Lourve.

The final stop of the day, and probably the one with the real WOW factor, was the Eiffel Tower. This is a really weird tourist attraction as it was never meant to be anything more than a monument for the 1889 Universal Exhibition held in Paris. It does not really do anything (other than serve as a point for radio antenna transmission, which is why it was allowed to remain to stand towards end of the 19th century), and has no real history behind it. However, neither Paris not her skyline will be the same without it and it is truely a one of a kind icon. It is said to turn a profit of around 47 million € annually nowadays, after paying the nightly 4,000€ electricity bill for the lights.

The Eiffel Tower, from across the river.

Instead of take the lift straight up to the top for 12 euros, we decided to walk up to the first and second floors (which cost 4 €), and then take the lift from the second floor to the top (costing another 4.20€), as we felt that to get the true Eiffel Tower experience, we will need to climb the tower (and not only because the queue for the lift from the ground floor was insanely long). The tower has a total of 1226 steps from ground to the top, of which a maximum of 668 can be reached by foot till the second floor, from then on you have no choice but to take a lift if you want to go to the top. The views from the third floor landing (tower top) extend for around 42km!

Token view from the first floor landing, with Sacré Cœur at the highest point.

668 steps later, we’re on the second floor landing.

Token second floor landing view of the river Seine.

Insane views from the third floor landing of the city and the Seine.

City planning?

The Arc de Triomphe.

Now just to put things in a bit of perspective about how much you can see from each of the landings, here are three pictures taken of Jardins de Trocadero.

Comparative view from the first floor landing.

Same view from the second floor landing.

Now from the third floor landing.

After that was done with. We decided to head back down and reach our viewing point by 8pm, as once an hour on the hour at night the Eiffel Tower starts to sparkle with white lights, in addition to the orange light it already had on when it becomes dark.

View of the tower from the base at night.

The Eiffel Tower at night.

Disco time!

Paris is often said to be one of the most overrated cities in the world, along with Sydney. Now I am not sure whether that applies for a short visit or long stay/move, but all I can say is that if you are in the city for only a few days, then it is one of the most amazing places to be, and all the attractions you have seen on the tv or movies really do live up to their expectations and hype. The amazing system of metro and train public transport systems, the walk down Champs-Elyssees to the Arc de Triomphe, spending an afternoon in the Lourve, climbing the Eiffel Tower to enjoy its views, and a day at Versailles, all very cliche no doubt, but still an excellent experience!!

Links to today’s pictures here.


Day 41 [11 Mar 09] – Paris

Posted in Paris by jn82 on March 12, 2009

What a difference a day (and good weather) makes! We got up today and after a free breakfast at the hostel, headed to St. Michel metro station for the free walking tour conducted by the folks at New Europe tours. The weather today was very good, with lots of sun, minimal wind and no rain at all. The walking tour would last for just under four hours with a lunch break in-between, and covered the outside of many of Paris’ well known tourist sites.

Notre Dame de Paris.

Pont Neuf, ironically the oldest bridge in Paris.

Jason Bourne hid behind the “M” in The Bourne Identity when he went to meet Conklin on the Pont Neuf.

The Lourve.

3,000 year old Egyptian Obeslisk.

At the top of the Champs-Elysees.

The walking tour ended around 3pm, and we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon walking down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. Champs-Elysees is an insanely straight avenue with lots of shops on both sides of it, and it leads straight to the Arc de Triomphe at the end of it. There are twelve other avenues which lead to the Arc de Triomphe, making it appear as if the Arc is the central point of a star. Very interesting. We were pre-warned about lots of pick pocketing and snatch theft which occurs along the Champs-Elysees, but there was none of that today fortunately. All the way down we could see the Arc de Triomphe getting larger and larger in our view, and this is probably the most famous real iconic sight we have approached on the trip so far.

Up close and personal with the Arc de Triomphe.

For the girls, this is the Louis Vuitton building towards the end of Champs-Elysees.

After finally reaching the Arc de Triomphe, we paid the 9 euro entry fee, and climbed up over 300+ steps in all to reach the terrace, where there was a very good view of all the twelve avenues which terminated at the Arc as you walked around the edge of the terrace. It was also here where we got our first un-obscured view of the Eiffel Tower.

View of Champs-Elysees.

The most famous icon of Paris, the Eiffel Tower.

Insane traffic below where there is a nine lane wide round-about which feeds into twelve avenues radiating away from the Arc de Triomphe.

After the Arc, we went for a quick dinner, and then joined up with the folk with New Europe tours again outside the Blanche metro stop, this time for an 8 euro two hour walking tour of Montmartre, the “original Paris”. It was a very nice tour and we got to see lots old buildings and streets, including some buildings used in the Amélie movie!

The Moulin Rouge, our starting point.

Café Amélie worked at.

Van Gough’s apartment was the second window from the left on the second floor.

The Agile Rabit, where Pablo Picasso paid for his meals with sketches of the waitresses initially, then monthly art pieces, before he was famous.

Sacre Coeur.

Maison Collignon, where Amélie did her grocery shopping.

The tour ended around 8pm, and we were even given a free beer at a nearby restaurant. After that, we just headed back to the hostel as the day was pretty long and we were a bit tired. All in all a pretty good day.

Link to today’s pictures here.

Day 40 [10 Mar 09] – Paris

Posted in Paris by jn82 on March 12, 2009

Got on the 10.20am TGV from Tours to Paris this morning, and got into Paris around 11.40am. On the train, I had a “brillant” idea to head straight to Versailles from Paris Montparnasse, the train station we would pull into, after dumping our bags at the luggage lockers there. The reason for doing so is that Versailles would be at least a half-day trip out of the city, so we might as well do it right after we get to the station and save the commute to any one of the train stations which have trains to Versailles, then have the next two whole days to explore the city. What seemed in theory to be a good idea was actually a pretty abysmal one. Firstly, Montparnasse’s luggage lockers were under renovation, so we could not leave our bags there. The dude at the information said that Versailles would have luggage lockers, so we headed with our bags to Versailles Chantiers station. Upon arrival there, we found out there were no luggage lockers there! It was raining, but we decided to just trudge to the chateau in the rain with our backpacks. Around 15 minutes and getting slightly drenched, we got to the Chateau de Versailles, and were the only two fools with backpacks there. All around us were the hundreds of tourists who had came in their warm and comfortable tour busses, and many Japanese girls dressed in their high heels and leather jackets flashing their Chanel handbags around.

After finally dumping our bags at the luggage deposit and paying the 13.50 euro entry fee, we went into the main palace building to walk around inside. The interior of the palace was pretty similar to the chateaus we saw in the previous two days, except for probably the Hall of Mirrors and the art museum. The only “wow” factor was the size of the palace building which you could only appreciate from the outside, as apart from that, the detail and architecture of the exterior was pretty normal and what you would expect of a palace.

Some King’s bedroom.

Another kings bedroom.

Hall of mirrors.

Some other room.

Yet another King’s bedroom.

1842 hall, the art museum.

At the front of the Palace of Versailles.

At the rear of the Palace of Versailles with the grand canal in
the background.

The weather was still pretty bad by the time we finished walking around the water parterre and the gardens just behind the palace building around 5pm, so we decided to head back into Paris and check into the hostel. I thought it would be good if we could go back to Paris by another SCNF train station, Versailles Rive Driote, as that would drop us off at a train station in Paris nearer to the hostel, Paris St-Lazare, thus resulting in a shorter metro ride from the station. However I made a mistake and we ended up catching a train from the much nearer Versailles Rive Gauche into Paris. The ride itself was not really bad, but it was on a much older surburban train which made many stops before reaching the stop we needed to get to in Paris, as opposed to the faster TER train we were supposed to get on (similar to the one we took from Paris – Versailles) which would have made no stops in-between. So what was supposed to be a 15 minute train ride ended up as a 45 minute one. Anyway we finally ended up at the hostel, and checked in. The quality of the hostel is another point to complain about, but to make a long story short, this is basically the worst hostel we have ever stayed in, both for this Europe trip so far and the Northern Territory trip we did in December, and also one of the most expensive at around 26 euro per person per night in a six bed room. Among other things, there is no free internet here, the bathroom smells a bit and has no shower head, and the room has no lockers or anywhere to hang our clothes.

I hope the rest of Paris will be better, and that our stay here will be not as bad as the first day.

Links to all pictures here.

Tagged with: ,