Posts Tagged ‘gardens’

Paris – Au revoir

Posted: May 29, 2013 by minimal in Europe, Travel
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Jardin des Tuileries

After a very tiering day at Versailles we decided to take it easy, sleep in, eat a slow breakfast and make our way to Jardin des Tuileries to enjoy the heat coming in to Paris. We sat in the sun for a while and then visited the very nice Musée de l’Orangerie, that houses a set of Monet paintings specially created for their oval rooms.


In a back-alley we found a cozy little restaurant in the sun.

Jardin des Tuileries


Although there was a lot of people in the park, tourists, vendors and school classes filling out quizes about the numerous statues in the park, it was quite relaxing to stroll around it.

Arc de triomphe du Carrousel


We did not venture into the Louvre, since we felt one had to come early to beat the crowds and to get a chance to really explore it. Instead we admired it pompous exterior and found that it more or less looked as big as Versailles.

Palais Royal

Jardin de Palais Royal

We headed north to another, much smaller garden, at the Palais Royal, and caught an artist painting one of the sculptures.

Gallerie Vivienne

At the classy Gallerie Vivianne, small, expensive fashion shops and second hand book shops fought for our attention. We found some old postcards at one little shop but only managed to buy one before the staff broke out in a fight about the man bringing young women to their flat while the lady worked at the shop.

Sainte Estauche

By the metro station on our way home we walked in to the Sainte Estauche church, another magnificent Gothic church with beautiful ceiling.

Hotel Coffee

Our trip to Paris was meant as a present for Monoton who just had his birthday and after a small break at our hotel we headed out for a fantastic 6 course dinner at a very nice Thai restaurant just around the corner from our hotel.

Musée d’Orsay


For our last day in Paris we had big plans to visit several museums and sights. We had bought a combination ticket the day before for the Musée de l’Orangerie and Musée d’Orsay, so we headed to Musée d’Orsay which is a fantastic building in itself. Our tickets enabled us to go straight in, instead of waiting in the huge lines, but the museum took us almost the whole day to explore and the crowds took their toll on us.

Last Supper

Instead we headed back to the hotel and then to a restaurant close by, we tried the Tartar Original which was very tasty.

Tour Eiffel

…and managed to walk back to our hotel just when the Tour Eiffel had its light display on. That concludes our last days in Paris.

Paris – Versailles

Posted: May 28, 2013 by monoton in Europe, Travel
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Having heard about the huge crowds at Versailles, we set out early to be there when it opens at 9. Unfortunately we found that our train line had been closed for maintenance and we had to go across Paris to take another line instead.


When we arrived an hour later than planned, we were greeted not only by gilded gates but also a long queue in front of the palace. However, we had read on their homepage that they recommend visiting the garden during the morning and saving the palace tour for the last hours before closing.



The garden was refreshingly empty in the rather cold morning weather and provided some picturesque views of the building, if you only managed to avoid the large modern art sculptures someone thought a good idea to place there.



The areas closest to the palace were open and contained grass lawns in geometric forms and fountains, everywhere you’d find beautiful marble statues and neatly trimmed bushes. The second photo is from later in the day, when more people had arrived.

Open Space


To the sides of the main park there were square gardens, each with paths and open spaces in different, often symmetrical, maze-like configurations. If one were to hold an enormous garden party here, there would be plenty of places to sneak off to when you wanted some privacy.


Reemerging on the Royal Avenue, the Apollo on his chariot fountain had been turned on. At this point the garden continues as an artificial lake where you can rent a small boat, but we turned off to the side and walked towards Petit Trianon.

Petit Trianon



The Petit Trianon is by French monarch standards a very modest building, where Marie Antoinette could take a break from the strict rules of etiquette that reined everywhere else.

Grand Trianon

Yellow Room

Nearby is also the Grand Trianon, which among other things had rooms in different color schemes.


When we decided to have a look at the interiors of Versailles we discovered that we had been misled, the admission line was now twice as long compared to when we arrived. Some 45 minutes later we were past the gates and at the inner courtyard.



With so many intricate details everywhere from floor to ceiling, a fisheye lens was very useful.

King's BedQueen's Bed

The king’s and queen’s beds. Elegant, but still separate bedrooms. I wonder if they took turns visiting eachother during the nights.



Mirror Hall

The grand and spacious Hall of Mirrors felt vaguely familiar, probably from having seen it in historical movies.

Red Bedroom

Empty Corridor

After trying to admire so many extravagant rooms while being pushed around by hordes of other tourists just looking down a closed off and empty corridor felt like a relaxing change of pace.

View From a Window




Tour Eiffel

After about ten years, I returned to Paris, where I had once spent 6 months studying French after I graduated from high school. As many people before me, I had romanticized about Paris since I first started dancing ballet when I was a kid. When I arrived in the bustling metropolis as a naive 19 year old, my view of Paris became, not crushed, but somewhat tarnished. It was expensive, bureaucratic, dirty and I had one or another negative encounter with a Parisian.  Now, 10 years later, things not only seem, but feel, a world apart. This time I am here with my husband, it is spring and we can afford to stay in a central location and eat and drink as we please. Suddenly, I’m really liking this place.

Palais des Invalides

French Garden

After strolling from our hotel through the Tour Eiffel we made our way to the Hôtel des Invalides, once a retirement home for war veterans, now it consists of several monuments and museums about the military history of France. Although we didn’t go inside we strolled around and got our first taste of the strict and symmetrical French gardens.

Sacre Coer

Sacre Coer

From one tourist trap to another, since the weather was nice and the sky clear we decided to take the metro to Montmartre and visit the Sácre Coeur basilica, to see if we could get a nice view of the city. It is certainly an eye-striking building with it’s white travertine stone walls.


We made our way to Place du Tertre, that I remembered as a picturesque square where local artists sold their works, now it was remade to house a large eating area for an adjacent restaurant. The streets of Montmartre are crowded with tourists and vendors, not leisurely quiet as portrayed in the movie Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, still we managed to find a nice restaurant away from the main tourist streets, and had some lunch.

Ste Chapelle

Ste Chapelle

After lunch, we made our way south to the city island, to visit the beautiful medieval Gothic chapel, Sainte Chapelle. Being surrounded by the huge stained glass windows on all sides certainly instilled an awe-inspiring feeling. Monoton had bought a fish-eye lens for the trip, that came to good use capturing the chapel’s architecture.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

While on Île de la Cité we walked past another Gothic church, Notre Dame de Paris, that is currently celebrating 850 years. The lines to enter the church were quite long, so we were satisfied by walking along the gardens surrounding the church.

Institut du Monde Arabe

Past Île de la Cité on the south bank of La Seine, we walked to the Institut du Monde Arabe, with it’s interesting modern architecture. It was established in 1980 to promote cooperation and exchange between France and the 18 Arab nations that founded it.

Notre Dame

We went up to the panoramic café that promised, and delivered, great views of the city. After a good cup of coffee and some delicious pastries we headed down to the bookshop for some shopping.

Tour Eiffel


Tired but happy after a day in town, it seemed like the old days of a struggling student in the hard city of Paris were gone, all that remained were the new impressions of a beautiful, diverse and culturally strong metropolis.

In Matsuyama, that has the 51st temple of the 88 temples of Shikoku, not only pilgrims flock, but also onsen lovers. We were staying at a hostel close to the famous Dogo Onsen, which is over 1.000 years old, and everywhere we looked there were people wearing yukata on their way to or from the onsen.

The area around Dogo Onsen is quite touristic, and by the Dogo Onsen tram stop there is a small square with an animatronic clock that everybody stops to look at on each hour when it starts to animate.

There is also an open foot bath at the square, where you can soak your sore feet for free.

So this is what all the fuss is about, the Dogo Onsen. It is a splendid building, inside there is a small exhibition of the royal family’s private room that they used when they visited the onsen, and also some small artefacts. Of course, there is the baths, which in my opinion are surprisingly small, although pretty. We visited the onsen a couple of times, and at one point it was quite crowded, still it was very nice and relaxing.

Of course, there is a hill, and on top of it there is a castle. The Matsuyama Castle is quite nice, although most of it has been reconstructed. If it wasn’t lightning, it was the USA fire bombings during WWII, and if it wasn’t that there was arson.

On our way up we met several classes of school children, they were very curious about us and although many were shy they were more than happy to say hello and ask if we were アメリカ人 (Amerika-jin, from USA). Since we’ve been studying some Japanese we could at least understand them and say that we were スウェーデン人 (Suweeden-jin).

Matsuyama castle is heavily fortified, and it has been cleverly built to lure enemies the wrong way and to maximise the defence.

Of course, there is a fantastic view of the city from the castle.

The interior of the castle is rather interesting, and there is a small display of artefacts that have connection to the castle.

If there is a castle, there is a garden, and if there is a garden, there is, most certainly, a koi pond. The garden wasn’t in its best condition so nothing beautiful came out of it, except of course, the beautiful koi.

While in Matsuyama, we also visited the Ishite-ji, the 51st temple of the 88 temple circuit. It is a rather odd temple, we entered from what felt like, the back side, where Buddhist figures, a pagoda and what looked like some old run down circus props. It was quite refreshing actually.

The temple was quite colorful and had some beautiful details.

Several cats seemed to be living by the temple.

On our last day in Matsuyama we did a day trip to the small town of Uwajima, to visit the famous fertility shrine, Taga-jinja. A long time ago many Shinto shrines had connections to fertility rites, and this is apparently one of the few ones that remains. Besides the obvious phallus symbols, there is a sex museum connected to the shrine. Really, rather than a museum I would call it an eager collector’s private porn gallery.

Arriving in Cairns was like arriving in a different country, or a different planet. The air was humid and hot and the green, lush hills felt exotic.

Our couchsurfing host received warmly and took us around the beaches of Cairns. Johan was determined to hop into the water, but it was a bit too windy for me.

We took a stroll in the botanical garden and got to see several tropic plants that thrive in the area.

In a small alley we found this creative wall of beautiful graffiti.

We spent some time by the open air pool by the harbor. Although the air was hot the water was quite cold.

We had arrived. We misread our flight departure time and just made it to the airport for the final call, after taking a very expensive cab. But we made it and we arrived in Sydney without a problem. We were staying with my mother’s cousin and her family, and it was a luxury to sleep in a comfy bed and stay in the relaxed environment of a real home.

Sydney is a big city in all the senses of the word, but we felt very relaxed and calm. We ended spending almost a week in the city, just taking it easy, doing the cheap tourist things and walking about.

We took the opportunity to really relax. We took Niki out for walks, caught up with our e-mail correspondence and socialized with our relatives. In the meantime we started planning our stay in this huge country. It turned out to be more complicated (and expensive) than we thought.

Not far from where we were staying, we visited a park that had, what to us is, an exotic group of birds.

Johan wanted to get close to a cockatoo and fed it some seeds, but the cockatoo ended by going for his finger.

In the city center, we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens since we had heard of the big colonies of flying foxes that lived there. Most of them were sleeping, but we got to catch some of them flying about.

Although there were other things, probably more visually appealing to some, to see in the gardens.

Always on a budget, we opted for the cheap alternatives in town, so we headed for a delicious lunch in Chinatown.

Sydney has some beautiful Gothic cathedrals that make a huge contrast to the shiny skyscrapers.

Finally, we had the opportunity to catch up with some couchsurfing friends that had stayed with us in Sweden.

Thanks to a friend of a friend we could round-up our Lord of the Rings adventure by going to see  the show One Man Lord of the Rings, which wasn’t only fun, but also made us feel more normal and less like tourists.