Best Places to Travel
This website is a companion to my coffee table book proto-titled MOMENTS -a travel guide, about great places and events for which I am seeking a publishing agent.
The book provides the visual imagery and brief descriptions of how it feels to be there, while the website provides readers with the factual background and illustrated travel information on approximately 100 top destinations. My top photographs are reserved for the book and are not reproduced on this website. A list of the ~100 places and events is provided on the page Best Places, located on the menu bar. Not all pages have been written as this will take some considerable time to complete. The pages that are finished have gold text with operational links.
The website is divided into two parts. A series of static pages each describing a place or event. Corrections and updates for a particular location are welcome, and can be added using the comment form on that page. General comments are welcome using the comment form on the Comments(General) page.
The second part is a travel Blog, with the latest 10 posts published on the front page below. Older posts will be archived and accessed through the Travel Twitter button. General comments are welcome.
All images on this site can be copied and reproduced provided the watermark L.Sharp www.artphototravel.net, remains in place. A link to this site would be appreciated.
Getting to Paris from Sydney
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A quick review of the flights.
Sydney to Johannesburg: 14 hrs. On time. Qantas business. Lounge good. Airport check-in, and security went smoothly. On board 747 excellent lie flat beds upstairs with 2, 2 configuration. Food excellent, service excellent.
Johannesburg-Heathrow: 11.5hrs. On Time. South African business: lounge: good. Transfer between gates went smoothly. On board A320 with good lie flat beds in 2,2 configuration. Food average. Service good.
Heathrow-Orley: 1 hour 20m. British airways economy. Delayed 1 hour. Had to pass through immigration (20min), collect bags, then transfer, from T1 to T5, using a greet and meet transfer taxi (20min), then re-check in (10min). All went smoothly. airline boarding OK. Seating 31″ pitch and service OK. Food: poor.
Observation: Orly airport is a dream compared to Charles de Gaule. Time taken after touch down to collecting baggage about 20 min.
This will be our fourth 5 week stay in Paris. The last was September two years ago. (See Paris twitter 1-4).
My objective is to improve on the photos I took previously, considering that France has strict publication rules for portraits. (note my top photos are not published on this website as they are reserved for my book). My wife’s objective is to improve her French and try and get a Parisian accent.
We will stay on the left bank near Pont des Arts in the same one bedroom apartment on Rue Mazarine, a short distance from the cafes and activity of Le Buci. From here there are many interesting areas of Paris within walking distance.
Our intention is to eat breakfast and a very light dinner at our apartment and have our main meal at lunch at different restaurants with a formule midi in the range €14 to €55.
First Days in France
Overnight at Rue Mazarine apartment, Paris.
Mont St Michel
Went for 4 nights to Mont St Michel in Normandy for Easter celebrations, and the peak tides when the sea surrounds the island.
Took the 10.04 TGV from Montparnasse to Mont St Michel via Rennes (2 hrs) connecting with Keolis Bus (1hr:20min) that stopped at bus stop 100m from the entrance to the Mont. Arrived around 15:00 and stayed at hotel Mouton Blanc.
Had a room on 3rd floor up 41 steps. En-suite room was small, clean, had high ceilings with exposed beams and a king size bed, all good. Note: like most hotels, a considerable number of rooms are located in different parts of the village. Check when booking. Incidentally check-in was very late at 1600.
I enjoyed my stay on the island although it was jam-packed with groups during the day, but at night the streets would empty of people and fill with an atmoshphere of the past.
It was very cold during the day, with a 15Km wind, and mainly overcast. The weather forecast indicated it felt like -6C. On two mornings, there was blue sky, but by midday it clouded over, although there was one gorgeous sunset.
There were a few surprises
1) There were no major Easter ceremonies or spectacles. There was a small mass in the church and Abbey and a tiny Easter procession (30 persons) that enacted the stations of the cross, along a route away from the throngs jamming the main streets. This in a place that was to be the centre of Christian pilgrimage!
2)Another factor was the large and extensive construction works on the new bridge. These constructions limited pedestrians to the causeway, so I was not able to get onto the fields that provide the classical reflecting image, although the wind rippled the water surface, so there was no reflection anyway.
Food was very average at most places, and very expensive. I did enjoy, the flamed Grand Marnier crepes and the apple Normandy dessert, which had caramelized apples intermixed with creme brulee.
In regard to accommodation, I much prefer to stay on the island rather than on the mainland at La Caserne and use the shuttle bus which still required a 400m walk each way to the Mont entrance. I noticed that early in the morning and in the early evening at peak tides, and when the streets were empty there were remarkably few visitors who stayed outside the walls at La Caserne. A detailed overview report on Mont St Michel is provided on this website at Mont St Michel .
First Things First
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i) Bought a local Sim card for my mobile from Orange.
ii) Renewed our Metro Navigo pass for the month of April at an automatic kiosk (€60) without incident, even though it was two years since we last used the pass.
iii) Renewed our Friends of the Louvre year pass (€55 p/pp ; note normal single entry is €12), from their office in the underground passage leading from the central information desk to the Carrousel shopping plaza. The pass is available to all and allows entry to the Louvre through the short queue at the main entrance, at the Port de Lyon entrance, the gate in the Richelieu Passage (for groups and pass-holders) or via the passage on the lower floor of the Carrousel shopping mall on Rue de Rivoli at the Tuileries end of the Louvre (for pass and ticket holders, note: tickets can be bought from the tobacco shop, shop 34, and there is a direct passage from the metro palais royal musee louvre).
Both the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay can have very long queues, particularly for those without a prepaid ticket. Tickets can be bought in advance from FNAC, Carrefour, and the national tourist places.
We use the pass the Louvre pass a few times a week for an hour or so to view a section at a time.
Note: The three major Paris museums coordinate their exhibitions, with the Louvre displaying the early epochs up to the mid 1800′s, the Musée d’ Orsay, from mid 1800′s to 1930′s and the Museum Pompedeu for modern art. Of course, there is some overlap between the epochs.
Spent a couple of hours at the Musée de l ‘Orangerie to see the Monet exhibition which included two panoramas of Monet’s large works that surround the walls of two circular rooms. Downstairs was a sizeable exhibition of impressionist and post impressionist paintings. Took the hour English tour (10 participants) which explained the technique of the impressionists.
Next Day walked to the Musée d’Orsay without tickets, ignoring my own advice, and the queue was horrendous, so walked back to our apartment. Purchased tickets from FNAC and returned the next day to the Musée d’Orsay only to find a small queue for those without tickets and no queue for ticket holders. C’est la vie! Took the 1.5 hour English tour at 11:30 with eight participants. It turned out very instructive, concentrating on the works that influenced the evolution of the impressionist style through the period mid 1800′s through to the 1930′s.
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Ambling (flaner) the streets of Paris is a favourite pastime of ours, particularly in the area bounded by Boulevard St Germain near le Buci on the left bank and the Louvre across the Seine, and encompassing the Latin Quarter at St Michel through le Citie and onto the Marais. This region is a collage of apartments, narrow streets, grand boulevards, restaurants and side walk cafes, antique book shops, galleries selling works of art some of museum quality, odd shaped historic buildings, churches, hole in the wall creperies, a few Irish style pubs and tucked-away boutique hotels.
The area pulsates with life and activity from mid-morning to the evening when the popular streets are packed with pedestrians and the pavements overflow with outdoor cafes. Street artists ranging from virtuosos to the bizarre perform their art where ever they can collect an audience.
On Sundays, the Marais is packed and on Rue des Rosiers in the old Jewish quarter unbelievable queues form for take away Falafels. The Falafels are great value as the pita is over stuffed with various fillings, but I must admit that I much prefer the cheesecake slices from Pitzman in Rue Pavee as a sample of local Jewish food.
A little further along is the Place de Vosges, once a residential square of opulent aristocratic apartments enclosing a central park, its arches on three sides now houseing boutique shops and cafes.
We attended two concerts in the Church of Saint Julien le Pauvre, a small Greek catholic church with an intimate atmosphere and one of the oldest churches in Paris. The first was a recital of gospels and negro spirituals by the Gospel Dream Group. Although the flyer for the Group shows 13 singers only six singers took part, probably due to the small size of the church. Nevertheless, the group was outstanding and finished with a rendition of the Saints Came Marching Home, that brought the audience to their feet with many dancing in the aisles. Overall a excellent evening.
The second concert was an operatic recital of Ava Maria, Amazing Grace and a repertoire of classical arias by Catherine Manandaza. She had a very melodic voice and responded to the three standing encores, with a rendition of Edith Piaf’s signature song a ‘Hymn to Love’ showing she was as good as the best. It was a magnificent performance.
The Church of Saint Julien le Pauvre has evening concerts through the summer and can be booked on line at www.concertinparis.com or tickets can be purchased at the church 1 hour before the recitals. Doors open 15 min before the recital, on a first come first choice basis.
Then of course, there is the Parisian food, with amazing cakes and the breads baked fresh throughout the day; and at the top of the culinary experience are the restaurants. As some of these can charge hundreds of Euros for lunch, we chose restaurants where the maximum cost was €55 for a lunch menu.
Le Relais Louis XIII
on 8 Rue des Grands Augustins 75006. Michelin 2 star.
The restaurant consists of an elegant salon set in a historic building with exposed beams providing an excellent ambiance. We had the three course lunch menu at €50, with a complimentary Gougerre au Fromage (cheese puff) appetizer and soup at the start and a complimentary choux creme at the end, producing an effective 5 course lunch. The entrees and desserts were outstanding. The main courses, pigeon, and chicken were Vgood-excellent. Service was Vgood, with the chef coming out of the kitchen to greet the diners and show off his fresh poultry. Overall a great experience, and with a total cost of €110 for two including sparkling water but no wine, the lunch was excellent value for money.
Le restaurant in l’Hotel:
13 RUE DES BEAUX-ARTS 75006.
A Michelin one star, and one of Tripadvisor’s top Parisian restaurants. The restaurant is set in a cozy room that overlooks a small courtyard with a fountain. The setting is one of chic elegance providing a relaxing ambiance; We had the three course lunch menu at €55, which, with sparkling water and a shared glass of wine came to €132. Overall, the 3 course meal with coffee and petit fours and complimentary appetizer was outstanding and excellent value. In particular the complementary beetroot appetizer was inspired, the entrees and dessert outstanding and the mains excellent.
53 Quai des Grands Augustins.
A Michelin one star restaurant overlooking the left bank of the Seine. It has a modern chic ambiance.
On our first visit, I ordered suckling pig (€36) from the al a carte menu. The portion was so small (and mostly fat) that the waiter came with a supplemental plate of meat!
My wife chose a main course and dessert from the menu de jour at a price of €28. Looking around at the other tables most plates were small. In fact, one should regard each course as one plate from a Degustation menu. The quality of the food was Vgood- excellent. But the ala carte menu was poor value. On our second visit, we chose the three course menu de jour which included a glass of wine. At €31 it was good value. Service from the waiters and the kitchen seemed hurried and pressured. Overall it was disappointing when compared to two years ago.
In fact, we experienced this busy-busy feeling in a number of cafes and restaurants and wondered if the establishments were struggling to serve the diners with the resources at hand, possibly due to the difficult economic situation.