Exploring the City – Getting Started

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You’ve seen them.. the urban explorers.. Huge packpacks..2 cameras hanging around their neck.. walking stick, hiking boots, a battered map in their hand.. The epitome of the modern day adventurer. You’re just waiting to hear them say –

“Livingston, I presume?”

But what are they doing? They are taking the same old picture of the Eiffel Tower …following the same herd to and across the Charles Bridge .. joining the masses in front of the Parliment Building..

Parliment Building in Budapest, Hungary from the south side of the river.

Parliment Building in Budapest, Hungary from the south side of the river.

If you are going to see iconic landmarks in a city, a map is hardly neccesary. Just look for the biggest conglomeration of people with cameras and tag a long.. and make sure it is, at least midday because adventure may wait for no man, but it can,by God, wait until after breakfast..

Arles, France

Arles, France at Sunset

Don’t get me wrong.. seeing the landmarks is one of the reasons we travel to different cities.. Can you imagine going to Paris and NOT seeing the Eiffel Tower..or the Arc de Triomphe .. or the Louvre?  Of course not..  But exploring a city is so much more…

It’s side streets and back alleys.. it’s small hidden cafes and a neighborhood bakery. It’s an open air market with vendors yelling unintelligible things in very loud voices.. It’s watching the sunrise over a new place.. and sunsets with new friends..

Ok..with that being said, there is no “wrong” way to explore during your vacation..some ways are just more right. Let’s go over a few of the different ways you can see what you “must see” and still have a relaxing vacation..

Budapest - Bridge at Twilight

Budapest – Bridge at Twilight

1. Walk.. walk..and walk some more…  Walking, by far, is the most common way to get out and about.. Map or no map, walking allows you to enjoy more of the sights, sounds and even, the smell of your surroundings.. walking gives you total immersion in your enviroment..but it takes the most time and energy..  Granted, you can add the subway or buses to save time, but that’s not really walking ..is it?

2. Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tours …  My opinion, the next best thing to walking… You “hop off” at your destination..take photos..explore the surrounding area (I have been know to walk to the next stop) … and “hop on” the next bus to the next spot.. There is no tour, the bus is just a ride between landmarks.  Most cities have some version and most are fairly inexpensive. Whenever I visit a new city, at least one 24 hour period is devoted to seeing the landmarks..and I usually choose this way to do it.

3. Bicycle … This is another good choice but it takes common sense, a degree of caution and, in most cities, nerves of steel.  It is a fairly quick way to travel that still allows you to enjoy your surroundings, even more so going uphill..which usually morphs from cycling back to just walking.. only this time, walking AND pushing..  My biggest complaint about this is taking care of the bicycle..if you want to go inside a museum or gallery, you have to lock it up.. carry your helmet ..

4. Guided Tours … My least favorite of all ways … They have their place,of course, but just not my cup of tea.  I took a mountain wine tour outside of Batumi, Georgia that was very enjoyable..even though the tour guide spoke only Russian and I understood only one word in 10.. Still, the tour was fun, the other “tourists” were pleasant and a great meal was included.. Still, having to move when everyone else moved, stop when everyone else stopped and, even worse, was having to pass up on great photos because noone else wanted to stop..

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Eiffel Tower — Nightime from a Boat

Packing for a day trip can be as much an adventure as the actual trip .. we’ll talk about what to pack..and why.. next time..

Until then  HAPPY TRAVELS!

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Interesting Entrance to a playground in Kyiv, Ukraine

Interesting Entrance to a Playground

Shot of the Day – Paris (The Wall for Peace)

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The Wall for Peace — 54 feet long, 45 feet wide and 30 feet high — is bisected by a walkway that offers a perfect perspective that has attracted  tourists since 2000, when it was built for the city’s millennium celebration. It was orginally supposed to be a 3 month installation that has been standing for almost 14 years.

The word “peace” is inscribed in 32 languages and 12 alphabets on the glass and 20-foot-tall metal columns standing sentries on either side.

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Happy Travels

 

 

It has the

Shot of the Day – Paris

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Most commonly known as Sacre-Coeur Basilica, or simply Sacre-Coeur, from high atop Montmartre, The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris stands watch. It is a popular and well known landmark with unparrelled views of the city spread out below.

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Paris – The Louvre

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After several stops, we found ourselves at one of the most famous and extensive museums in the entire world… The Louvre .  The museum is located in the Louvre Palace and is home to over 35,000 objects that date from prehistoric times to the 21st century.

The Entrance

                                                                      The Entrance

I was amazed at the size of this place.. As soon as I walked through the doors, I knew I had not planned enough time here.  It would be entirely possible to spend several days exploring all the exhibits, painting, sculptures and art that is kept within these walls.  It is a total immersion into history.

A Sculpture Gallery inside Th Louvre

A Sculpture Gallery inside The Louvre

Of course, like all tourists, the main objective was up 2 stories and through a maze of paintings … and sculptures.    

Sculpture

The Red Room

The Red Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mona Lisa….DSC_4536Objective accomplished!  And, yes, like all good tourists, I had my picture made in front of, what might be, the most famous painting in the world.  One more item off the bucket list, I have actually seen the Mona Lisa in The Louvre.

The rest of the  journey through the museum was anti-climactic, though no less awe-inspiring.  I ended the tour with a late lunch in the inner courtyard under a beautiful blue sky.  I marveled at the wonderful architecture of the building itself. It truly is a beautiful place and the next time I visit Paris, I will plan an entire day just for The Louvre.

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Paris – The Tourist Way

Since I was enjoying Paris with my now ex-girlfriend, I decided to abandon my usual way of exploring a city and take the tourist route. That being said, it was highly enjoyable being a tourist in Paris. The first afternoon, after getting settled into the hotel, we headed out on a short walk to the Sacré-Cœur. This is a very impressive cathedral. It is located on the butte of Montmartre and is the highest point in the city. From the steps you have an amazing view of Paris spread out below.  Sacre Coure 2

Front View

Front View

Day 2,after a short metro ride to the center, we boarded one of the double decker Hop On – Hop Off Bus Tours. At 25.50 euros, it is a very economical way to see Paris without wearing out your feet.  Just hop off at the sights you want to see… take photos … enjoy a coffee… and hop on the next bus. 

Of course, the first thing to see is the Eiffel Tower. It is a must and, probably the most recognized structure in the world. Iconic and majestic, it stands at the head of the Champ de Mars and soars an amazing 324 meters (1,063 feet) into the air. It was named after Gustave Eiffel whose company designed and built it in 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. Eiffel, himself, actually had very little to do with the design of the tower. The designers of the Eiffel Tower were Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, two senior engineers who worked for the Compagnie des Etablissements Eiffel.  And the rest is history….

The tower has 3 levels available to the public and the 3rd level is the highest point accessible to the public in Europe.

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After a couple of hours of wandering and photos, we boarded the bus for the next stop ..  Arc de Triomphe . It stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The monument stands 50 metres high, 45 meters wide and 22 meters deep. The Arc de Triomphe is so large that on August 7, 1919, Charles Godefroy successfully flew his biplane through it.  The Arc was originally commissioned in 1806 but was not finished until around 1834.  Beneath the vaults lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI. There is a museum at the top in the “attic”  with models and details of the construction and after you can climb a few steps to the top and see some wonderful panoramic views of Paris.

Arc de Triumphe

             Arc de Triomphe

Next  … Off at the Louvre .

Hello Paris..

Once more I have returned to Paris… a short 3 hour flight from Kiev to Charles De Galle. Passport control cleared, luggage retrieved and off the find my way to the city. Usually I take a taxi, but this time, I decided to try my luck on the train… 9.50 Euros instead of 70 always sounds good.

It was actually fairly easy to find the RER B train terminal at the airport. There were plenty of signs and you just follow the arrows. The easiest way to purchase tickets is at the automated ticket machines. They take credit cards and coins. Beware though, all credit cards don’t work. It has to have have a microchip that most cards (including mine) from the USA don’t have, so Euro-coins to the rescue.

The most difficult task I faced was getting myself and my suitcase through the turnstiles. After several silent exchanges because of near-by children, I managed to lay the bag down and push it under the 4 armed monster and onto the platform.

The RER B line runs through the center of Paris with stops at major metro exchange stations. You can get off the train and enter the metro you need with the same ticket that you bought at the airport. Make sure you take the correct route because this is a one time deal. After that..you need new tickets for the metro.

Don’t let anyone scare you about the Paris metro system.. It is massive and, seemingly, covers every square inch of Paris but it is easy to find your way if you pay attention. Signs, numbers, and letters point the way and every train has maps that show every station and everywhere that line connects to another line. Simple! Really!

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