Category Archives: Travel

About my travel experiences.

3 days in Paris

Took a taxi from Orly Sud, Paris airport, who took us to our hotel, Astoria Opera on Rue du Moscou. My room, No. 110, had an entrance directly from the lobby and was very small, but sufficient, with a nice bathroom. Shortly after unpacking, we left for the city.
Paris Montmartr Lamps shop, Paris Wet girls. Montmartre Paris
Our first stop was a Café on boulevard des Batignolles, 2 minutes from the hotel. We took a metro to Montmartre. We visited the Sacre-Coeur and then took to the streets of the Montmartre quarter, apparently a favorite of many famous artists from Renoir to Picasso. We got caught by very heavy rain and took shelter in a colorful, but stylish designer lamp shop. If I remember correctly, it offered lamps for over 10,000 EUR covered with alligator skin. When the rain stopped we had a meal in a restaurant with chairs on the street, watching people and sipping wine—the usual French way.

We made a few shots in front of Moulin Rouge and took the metro to Champs Elyssees, where we had ice cream in a futuristically designed Renault Café combined with a show room. I refused getting a Haagen Dasz the fast-food way and pay 10 EUR to fight for my table with hundreds of other tourists.

It was getting late and we had to hurry back to the hotel to get dressed for Bon Heur show at Lido, our evening programme. We put on our black tie dress and hurried to Lido. By metro… It was my idea not to let conventions interfere and risk a few strange looks as we stood there in the dirty urine smelling Parisian metro in our best outfits. It was a memorable experience Lido, Parisin itself and turned out to be the fastest way to get to the huge Champs Elyssees. We got off at Arc du Triomphe, in the middle of a huge star-shaped crossing with no idea which direction to turn. We were running late, so we had to run. As if having no idea which way to go, dressed up in black tie, wearing shiny black leather-soled shoes wasn’t enough of a fate, it started to rain. I still think we had no idea which direction we were heading when after a few crossings and several streets we found ourselves at Champs Elysees. Only after trotting down for 10 minutes, did we realize that Lido was actually not at the street’s beginning, but rather its middle.

There stood a long queue of people before Lido, but dressed up as we were and with a reservation got us first treatment and we were promptly ushered to our table. We had “very good seats” according to the reservation and the waiters, but in fact it was all the way in the corner and we sat on the outside seats as we were seated with other 4 people, who later often obstructed my view. Not only was this less than ideal, but in addition the food was absurdly horrible, the waiters were distracting throughout the show by loud talking, collecting fees, singing, loud laughter, and bumping into our peripherally situated chairs. Having said that, the show itself was impressive and worthwhile. Walking through Champs Elyssees in our black tie and using Parisian metro at 1 a.m. in the morning to get home dressed up the way we were, was also memorable.

Next day we took metro to Montparnasse with artists selling their work on the market and a great outlook from Lafayette Hotel. Museum d’Orsay made a strong impression on me and I realized I’ve never visited such friendly museum in my life.

Orsay, Paris Orsay, Paris Clichy, Paris
We walked to Louvre and took a metro to Café Charbon in Belleville-Oberkampf quarter. Then we made a short stop at our hotel to get my tripod and took a metro to La Petite Chaise, the oldest restaurant in Paris. I made a mistake in the name of the street where the restaurant was so we walked into a different one with the same street number, took seats and after a few seconds realized we should better leave soon. Although La Petite Chaise looked very cosy we didn’t understand the stylish French menu and ended up ordering less than ideal food. OK, it was horrible.

Lafayette, Paris Cafe Charbon, Paris Restaurant Professor, Paris
At Champs Elyssees I took the mandatory night shots with neutral density filters, the same in Louvre and Chatelet. After midnight we headed back to the hotel.

Champs Elysee at night, Paris Louvre at night, Paris Chatelet, Paris

Third and last day started with a visit to the Pere Lachaise cemetery. We passed by the parliament and Notre dame cathedral to the Latin quarter, on to Rue St. Germain, where we enjoyed a tasty baguette and a nutella crepe. We were running out of time again when we reached Grand Galerie of the Lafayette shopping mall and had precisely 15 minutes to do the photographing as well as shopping. No time to spare, but a precise metro schedule possibly down to a minute to reach the hotel at 17:00 we reached our line to find the metro out of operation. Cite, ParisA minute later, when emergency people arrived with stretchers and looked underneath the wagon for body, it became clear we needed to think of an alternative. This was an opportunity to fully capacitate my navigational and orientating skills, which became clear throughout the trip. Everything happened very fast: each corner, each corridor, passage, turn needed a fast decision. All this happened in an extreme hurry in a running motion. Turn after turn it became clear that we were running in the right direction and after 10 minutes of running and navigating about 1km in the Parisian underground we were on our alternate route. Everything worked like in a film. There wasn’t a single mistake in all those turns and corridors, incredible! We hopped on the two lines running without a wait in the last second as they were announcing closing of their doors. As we got out of the Opera station near the hotel, it was raining heavily, but we made it 17:00 sharp at the entrance!

Driving in the shuttle to the airport, I realized I knew many of the streets and quarters we were passing. In just 3 days… Nice trip!

Canada

In Canada we took the highway going north from Detroit, through London, to Toronto and followed it through Kingston up to Ottawa and then to Montreal. We made a one-day visit to Niagara Falls when we stayed in Toronto.

Niagara was beautiful in winter. One could see branches of trees through a solid thick layer of transparent ice formed by the freezing mist sprayed on them by the falls. It looked like a museum of glass sculptures.

Canadian FallsAmerican FallsNiagara falls in winter

Skydome offers the best view of the huge Niagara Falls from above, but don’t miss the walk under the falls or the light show in the evening. The small town of Niagara is filled with small shops selling souvenirs, restaurants and various kids’ attractions.

Toronto was our favorite city in Canada. It made an impression of a modern, safe, clean and hard-to-get-lost-in city.

CN Tower is a must at sunset, that way you’ll get to see Toronto both at day and night. For those with a good nerve for heights there is a glass floor where you can learn how to walk for the second time.. After all, you are on the world’s highest free-standing structure.

CN Tower, TorontoToronto from the CN TowerPantages theater, Toronto

As for culture, the world-famous Phantom of the Opera performed at the old Pantages theater stood for its name. But be warned, the first few rows were not for those with a weak heart. The effects were stunning and the beautiful music kept playing in our heads for another week.

3D-IMAX theater, Toronto’s new attraction, took our breath away. First we tried to touch things that were appearing right before our eyes, then crying for help and jerking left and right to evade the objects flying right at us or the giant dinosaur about to eat us for dinner.

Parliament, OttawaChateau Laurier Hotel, OttawaOttawa is the capital of Canada, its political center, the seat of government and the parliament. The parliamentary buildings are pretty concentrated and tours are offered free of charge. Definitely worth visiting are the parliament library, bell tower.

Ottawa is known for its grand canal used by many to skate to work through winter and is beautifully decorated by ice statutes.

One block from the parliament is a frequented shopping street and a museum of coins. Canadian National Gallery is just a 15 min walk from there. Once in Ottawa it is a good idea to walk to the other side of the Ottawa river and visit the Museum of Civilizations with its huge spaces.

Montreal strikes the eye by how different it is compared with the previous two cities. Its European atmosphere is underlined by the old Victorian houses, with stairs leading into the entrance doors and citizens wearing French fashionable clothes.

You’ll get a nice view of downtown if you walk cross the university up on a hill. During the night the skyscrapers are nicely lit up providing some good shots :-).

Montreal at nightMontrealNotredame cathedral, Montreal

Kingston is a nice stop between Toronto and Ottawa. It’s a historical small town, but serves as a holiday resort during the summer months. I can imagine that water sports are the big thing there.