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Paris – 25 July 2015

Our final day in Paris comes starts with a little rain and a welcome cool breeze. Just right for a walk around the 18th District where our hotel is.

Market 18th District next to Sacre Coeur_003

There are more photos attached to this post in album/gallery format. Simply click through from facebook to my post to view them all

This is just such a beautiful area. And with some markets operating (as it’s a Saturday) it becomes very village like. Though I do wonder what one of the street signs actually means.

Walking around 18th District_008

Any ideas!

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Paris – 24 July 2015

Our last full day in Paris.

Champs E_0030

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The Louvre first. We got there early and entered through a Metro station to get tickets. This meant I got a few photos without too many of those blessed tourists (with cameras) around!

Then we walked the Champs Elysees after going through the Jardin des Tuileries which is a UNESCO world heritage site. Past where they were setting up for the end of the Tour de France (by the Obelisk) and all the way to the Arc de Triomphe You might be able to see all the seating down the side of the road near the end.

We finished with the Sainte Chapelle Churchwhich was built to house items from the Passion of Christ. Including, apparently, a fragment of the actual cross used to crucify Christ. This church was amazing with multiple stained glass windows depicting everything from Genesis through the Bible to the Passion.

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Paris – 22 July 2015

Late night! We went to the 11pm showing of Moulin Rouge which didn’t finish until well into the small hours, well after the Metro closes.

mr

Fortunately we’re staying in the Montmarte district and it’s only about 30 minutes walking distance. Montmarte has a lovely Parisian/Bohemiam feel to it.

View from our Window_0002

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No photos from Moulin Rouge as you’re not allowed cameras.

During the day we went on a bike tour of Paris with Fat Tire Bike Tours and had a great time. So good in fact that we immediately booked in for a Paris by Night tour for the next night! I can’t recommend a bike tour enough. You see so much more than walking, and you get a better feel for the city and how it all hangs together than if you just target places using the Metro.

Some of these photos were taken while on the move so don’t expect too much.

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Paris 21 July 2015

Ah… Gay Paris in the summertime.

Eiffel Tower_0015

More photos are included in this post – Click through to see them.

It was like being welcomed back by an old friend… That is to say, we immediately had difficulty finding a manned ticket booth that sold the type of local transport tickets we needed! (This is an in-joke for Gabi Gardner)

That said, the Metro seems easier to get around this time. They have improved the signage in the major stations at least.

It was also pleasant to have a cooling breeze and a reasonable temperature (25 – 30 I’m guessing) after the heat of Milan especially.

We did a quick look around and found the Sacre Coeur right below where we are staying. We also went out to the Montparnasse Tower in the evening to try and get some shots of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. Then we walked to the tower for some close ups – It was a bit further than we had thought it would be!

Eiffel Tower

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Paris


We’ve booked a bike tour for 11am tomorrow. Our list of things to see here includes:

  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Moulin Rouge (booke for tomorrow night)
  • The Louvre

We are leaving space to allow for something that may turn up on the bike tour that piques our interest for greater exploration.

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Swiss Alps – 20 July 2015

A – MAZ – ING

Bernina Express through Swiss Alps_0028

Fantastic photos of the Swiss Alps attached to this post – Click through to see them.

This was a long day for us… well actually a long day and night… Here’s the itinerary:

  • Alarm set for 5am to get tram to Zurich HB (Central Railway Station)
  • 7.07 Zurich to Chur (about 1.5 hours)
  • Chur 10 minute stopover, change train to Bernina Express
  • Bernina Express through Swiss Alps to Tirano (about 4.5 hours)
  • Tirano – Buy ticket to Milan
  • Tirano 10 minute stopover, change trains
  • Tirano to Milano Centrale Station (about 3 hours)
  • Wait in Milan in Railway Station as parts of it were air conditioned – It was over 40deg Cel outside and we tried to go for a walk but wilted too quickly. (about 7 hours)
  • Milan to Paris sleeper train (about 10.5 hours!) – And our carriage was initially locked as a family of four had got on in Venice and taken up all the space. (There are six bunks in the carriage but it needs to be converted to work properly – Woke them up, got them out of our bunks and converted the carriage but could hardly move because of their luggage spread out everywhere)

Now you may ask… Why would you plan such a journey… Don’t complain because you knew what you were letting yourself in for… etc etc etc (As the King of Siam would say)

And you’d be right. So I’m not complaining.

The reason we did it was that it was the only way we could fit in the Bernina Express train ride over the Swiss Alps. Apparently this is one of the top three train rides in the world.

It was (yes, I’m going to say it), awesome. It truly did inspire awe. And if it’s this good in Summer, I can’t imagine how spectacular it would be in winter. My only complaint was a lack of windows for photography purposes. I did find a small one between carriages but that was only on one side of the train.

God’s creation is indeed incredible. That said, this track has four or five spirals that match the Raurimu Spiral back in good old New Zealand.

My photographs don’t do it justice but I hope they inspire you to go on this adventure one day.

Swiss Alps


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Zurich – 19 July 2015

A very quick post today.

We had an early bus trip from Munich to Zurich. Ibis were great and allowed us to check in early.

Then we walked down possibly the most expensive shopping street in the world (but don’t worry as shops in Switzerland and Germany are not allowed by law to open on Sundays) to the lake and took a four hour ferry ride from one end to the other and back.

The Zurich Ironman was being run today – Poor beggars in this weather!

The temperature was hot and after lots of early mornings and late nights we simply melted our way back to the hotel.

Very few photos today as I didn’t realise the plugs in Switzerland are not the same as Europe! So I want a reasonable full battery on my camera for tomorrows train trip through the Swiss Alps.

Zurich


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Munich – 18 July

Today we did the castles in Bavaria. (This post includes photos)

There are interesting parallels between the instigators of the Dachau Concentration Camp and the two castles we saw today.

Supreme Power

  • Hitler had aspirations to be supreme ruler (with all power) over all of Europe.

  • King Ludwig II was a constitutional Monarch of Bavaria who dreamed of being the supreme monarch over all of Europe. His hero was King Louis XIV who was such a King and who built the Versailles Palace in Paris.

Fantasy World

  • Hitler produced his own fantasy world so things were as he wanted them to be… or at least he thought that’s what he was doing.

  • Ludwig also produced his own fantasy world by building castles for his own use only (he was extremely shy and didn’t like company)

Wagner

  • Hitler idolised Wagner, was friends with his descendents and used his music and the pagan myths his operas were based on to work the German people into a frenzy.

  • Ludwig idolised Wagner, was his personal friend and had rooms put into his castles almost purely for the production of Wagner’s music.

The Difference

  • Hitler’s fantasy affected the world and millions of people were killed, tortured, displaced and forced into war.

  • Ludwig’s fantasy only brought him to a bad end.

King Ludwig II

Ludwig dreamed of being King over all Europe but he was merely the Constitutional Monarch of Bavaria. To make it worse Bavaria was beaten in a war and his prestige was reduced even further. He retreated to a fantasy world.

Using his own money he built three castles, one was a re-creation of The Palace of Versailles situated on an island near the border with Austria. We didn’t see this one.

The Linderhof Castle is where Ludwig spent most of his time. It is small but very ornate. We were not allowed to take photos inside.

The other was Neuschwanstein Castle. He based this on a medieval design. (Remember that he did not need any castle for defense purposes) He spent less than a year in this castle and it was never finished. He was by this stage Euro 90 million in debt.

Even with this castle unfinished he planned a fourth one an this time, for the first time, went to his Cabinet asking for tax money to pay for it.

At this stage the cabinet, who clearly knew he was, at least a bit, mad, had him committed. He died in very mysterious circumstances just a day later, along with the Psychiatrist who signed his committal papers.

Ludwig’s Uncle almost immediately turned Neuschwanstein into a museum and in time paid off the debts left by the looney Ludwig.

As you will see by the photos, another person who lived a bit of a fantasy world (but for good) used Neuschwanstein Castle as his inspiration for a well known theme park in Los Angeles.

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Munich – 17 July

After another trip on a Czech train (read no internet and little air-conditioning) we arrive in Munich a little late just in time to work out how to get to our hotel just after mid-night. At least this time our train compartment was relatively empty and this time we had a window that would open.

Our initial plan was to go to Dachau in the morning and then head back to the city and grab a hop-on hop-off tour. We only had two days and were using the second to visit castles in Bavaria.

But a combination of waking up a little late (because of numerous late nights/early mornings) and the need to spend some time this morning doing some washing, we were a bit later than expected heading off to Dachau.

However… Once we got there we obviously weren’t going to get away in time for anything in Munich. We spent five hours at the Dachau Memorial site.

It had to be 40 degrees celsius while we were there. We had experienced delays on trains in the previous days and some other things that I had grumbled about…

And then we looked through Dachau…

Talk about putting things into perspective.

Incredibly moving, emotional and sobering…

Dachau


In many places we’ve been to photography is not allowed. I was a bit concerned that it would be like that here, with it being such a sacred memorial. However there is no restriction on cameras, only on the use of mobile phones (calls and texts)

On reflection I can see why. The most important thing about a memorial like this may not be the honouring of those who lost their lives or who were degraded and persecuted. The most important reason may actually be making sure that the generations to come understand what happened and don’t forget what can happen when we allow too much power to be placed in the hands of too few.

I’m looking forward to the castles tomorrow but right now it’s time to spend some time in reflection.

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Prague – 15 and 16 July

Getting to Prague was all a bit exciting. Well actually a bit boring really. First of all, the European countries seem to code share their trains, so although the Austrian trains have broadband on all trips to Prague, we were actually an a Czech run train (even though we had booked through the Austrian site. This meant no broadband so I couldn’t spend the time sorting out more posts.

Also, the Czech trains are simply not as good. They have compartments where you sit knee to knee with others (think the Hogwarts Express but without the room!) and the air-conditioning is almost non-existent. Having said that we did find that it must have worked a little because when we were put on a siding for two hours delay, they turned the train off entirely and it got really hot and stuffy. It’s entirely possible that it just meant that we didn’t get any fresh air because the train wasn’t moving. And to top it off some people decided to light up down the corridor!

So our four hour trip became a six hour one. And then to top it off we hopped on the right tram, but heading the wrong direction, to get to our hotel, adding perhaps another hour to three quarters of an hour to the trip… My bad.

We did however get quite a lot done while in Prague. It is an absolutely beautiful city with most of the buildings in the old area in walking distance of our hotel.

On the afternoon of day one we did a big walk-about and then, after a rest, headed off to look at the same places at night.

The next, and last day, we took our gear to the railway station and put it in a locker. We, unsuccessfully went looking for the Farmers’ Market that James had posted on Facebook (maybe it only runs on the weekend?) and then we used a hop=on hop-off bus to see how much we had missed the day before. We have found hop-on hop-off buses to be very helpful on this trip.

Prague was a really interesting place. Travel around the city and food was incredibly cheap and there are too many buildings to take pictures of… if you know what I mean.

Madam Prague, maybe one day, I’ll get to spend some quality time with you?