Since I’ve been neck deep in exams and revisions, this week I’m dropping a quick post covering my Paris revisit checklist.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris twice, so I think I’ve managed to hit most of the major spots and areas of interest. And while seeing many of these over and over again isn’t a bad idea by any measure, there are a few personal musts that I just haven’t managed.
Above all, I want to finally manage a river walk along the Seine. While anyone whose read my posts up until knows my love of walking along cities’ river-ways, Paris has some extra significance as an avid media junkie.
Firstly, if you’ve watched this season of Vikings, you’ll know that we just covered the siege of Paris. Seeing how vital the river and its surrounding area where in these events, I’m desperate to see the city with this in mind.
The second reason stems from my love of the film Sabrina, though the 1995 Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford version, more than its earlier Audrey Hepburn counterpart. In the film, Sabrina talks about walking by the river until you find your favorite bridge or spot and then coming back every day to sit peacefully and have your lunch by the river. This is the idea which has really inspired my love of completing river walks in every city I can.
When it comes to places to see, I have a great need to go into the Musee Carnavalet (exterior) and the Musee Jacquemart-Andre (interior) —the museums which makeup the heist worthy setting of Audrey Hepburn’s How to Steal a Million. This is probably my favorite of her films—it’s a quirky comedy with a splash of romance and a young Peter O’Toole as a fantastic male lead—any evening spent with Ms. Hepburn is well worth the effort, but this one will makes it even better. I don’t even need to know what’s being displayed here—I just want to skulk around the museum as if I’m casing the joint. Maybe I’ll pick up a boomerang if they have any on hand.
Then, of course, it’s all about exploring cafes around Paris as all the stereotypes of French living emphasize. Again, as a media girl, I still have to figure out where Audrey’s Sabrina cafe hangout is, where she sat and wrote her letters home (to round out the trend). Maybe run by Le Cordon Bleu while I’m at it.
As for revisits, I’d love to go through the Paris catacombs again as well as explore Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur again on a clear day where I can actually see the city stretched out before me. While I’m in the area, maybe next time I’ll see more than the outside of Moulin Rouge.
That’s the checklist and, hopefully, I’ll be back soon enough to tick these off! But until then:
Since September, I’ve been feeling a bit lost in Wonderland—or, in my case, London. It’s a place so much like home and yet so strangely different in its details that I find myself feeling a bit like a wandering Alice in a new mad world where I’m never quite sure if I’ve slipped through the looking glass forever or if I’m just searching for the best path home.
And then, within my wanderings, I began to notice that London has developed its own Alice fever… the girl is everywhere from emerging patters and silhouettes and color themes in fashion to afternoon teas (1,2,3,4), to advertised events across the city (1,2,3,4,5), even stamps! It’s only recently that I discovered why:
2015 is the 150th Anniversary of Alice and Wonderland’s first publication.
The celebrations are bigger than any un-birthday the Hatter and Hare could ever come up with, but many are probably just as mad.
Of all these events, the maddest of them all would have to be the interactive experience worth visiting again and again: Alice’s Adventures Underground.
I was able to attend this event a few weeks back, in what one website led me to believe was the last weekend, and it was an amazing evening. And, luckier still, the event is NOT over. In fact, it’s running through August, which means I’ll be lining up to go at least one more time-seriously, I’ve booked the tickets!
This event has multiple parts from a children’s show, a literary talk series, the interactive experience for the more grown up folk and a club area that stays open later, each of which has a separate ticket and therefore price—make sure you’re buying for the right thing! (The children show is for children; no adult permitted without child—check that ticket!)
In this post, I’ll be focusing on the Interactive show.
Since this is ongoing and who knows which of you might be gearing to go out, I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll tell you a little more about what you are in for than the main website does:
So, what you’ll learn from the website is that this is an interactive show based on the works by Lewis Carroll. You’ll get to explore a unique version of Wonderland by being part of it, all located within the bowels of The Vaults under Waterloo station.
When you pick your time, you should be aware that you MUST arrive 15 minutes before that allotted time (again, this is on the site), however, if you want to have something to drink when you get to the in-world tea party (you must prepay and pre-order before going into the show), get in the right mind set, have a pre-show drink, go to the bathroom, check your coats and bags (it costs 1 pound for each checked item), or anything else you feel you need to do, get there even earlier. It’s also a little bit crazy trying to find the entrance so set out earlier than you think you need to; you’ll thank me later.
There is also a dress code: you are in the land of the Queen of Hearts so it’s all red and black here.
Please, guys, for me (yes, this is begging) stick to the dress code! One thing I hadn’t realized before this adventure was that I’m an Alice. My wardrobe would be fit for playing the character, all blues and collars and, with my blond hair and petite frame, even the actors played with the resemblance! Still, there were a few blues popping in and out of groups and it was the biggest pain as someone who was embracing the whole experience. Seriously, enjoy the night and go all in—it’s more fun that way!
Like I said, you have to check your coat and bag, but I encourage you to keep cash on you. You are let out into a great club space where you can get more drinks and some food, and while you can go back and get your stuff and return to eat, it’s just easier if you have the cash stashed on your person. And it’s hot down there, so keep your layers light.
Now, onto the stuff they don’t tell you:
The set is amazing and you will have choices as you interact within it. You enter in through this maze of boxes which let out into a room full of artifacts; pictures hanging from the ceiling, book shelves climbing the walls at impossible angles, mirrors and toys. Take a wander and explore—it’s not exactly a museum so you can touch, just don’t disrupt anything. Beware: don’t get too close to the walls as the doors are hidden and spring open to let you down the next passage ways.
Storytelling wise, you are entering Wonderland after Alice has come and gone, her name and person is a banned subject. The black cards (the clubs and spades) are part of an uprising in Wonderland, fighting to take down the King and Queen of Hearts. The reds (Hearts and Diamonds), on the other hand, are solving the conspiracy against said royals. Each suit will follow its own adventure—even coming in a group won’t guarantee you’ll all stay together, so you should choose if you want to try sticking together as much as you can or all meet up at the end of the line.
If you are anxious about talking to characters or being approached, you should be aware that it’s possible that this is going to happen. You can either fight through or, if you are struggling, an actor will help you out. Even then, you very rarely have to do anything completely on your own. Don’t not go because you don’t want to be singled out—it’s worth it, I promise.
When you do get to the end, don’t think this is just a room with a band. Besides the wandering characters (who are definitely worth having a chat with), live music, and food, there is a maze that leads through to a second bar as well as the makings of a royal flamingo croquet course for you to play with some friends (through the “PIES” door and up the stairs). This is also the only space besides the pre-show room that you are allowed to take pictures in—yes, of and with the wandering characters as well.
That’s all you’re getting from me, at least, for now. Let me know with a comment if you have any questions and I’m sure to answer what I can. Also, here’s a master list I found with other Wonderland inspired events going on in and around London, so check your local listings.
Remember: It’s a mad world and we’re all mad here, but the best people usually are…
Last week, I wrote all about why I love Lyon, France, but in the whole long, loving ramble, I never really discussed the amazing things you can do there that make the city worth falling in love with.
Unless your plan involves getting started late in the day, or turning in early every afternoon/evening and exploring every part of the city, I would say a full two to two and a half days will give you a great sense of this city, while giving you a chance to see the sites. A rush job can hit the highlights in a day, but you will inevitably miss something and it wouldn’t be worth the price to get there. I was in Lyon for a solid three days and—with feet threatening to leave me—it was just a little longer than necessary.
Not that you couldn’t fill that time reexploring the sites around the city, but if you’re trying to get the most out of your time off—even taking your time—two days will get you through.
While getting to the city is a bit pricey, getting around once you are in it is cheap and easy to navigate—plus getting tickets on the underground/subway system is explained very well at the automated ticket booths with tons of practical choices. In terms of buying the tickets, you’ll want to plan what you are doing in the city (as you always do!) for the whole time you are there, or just buy as you go.
I ended up walking a lot more than I expected to the point where I really only took the transportation to get to my furthest starting points and then wandered through the city to get back to my hostel—even then, if I was strapped for cash, I could have easily walked the whole thing.
Of course, it’s nice to have an all-day pass if you tend to get tired or want to jump around a bit more. Just look at your options and see what works for you; again, the tickets don’t cost you much for the short while you’ll probably be staying.
Sights to see:
Now, I’ve already gushed on and on about OLD TOWN and what an amazing place that is to explore, so we’ll save time by saying check my Lyon tag where I’ve rambled on about old town in a few posts and, remember, you can push at doors and buttons near them to check out the many courtyards throughout this part of town—depending on how adventurous you are feeling.
Above old town, lies under the Basilique Norte Dame which you can access via a lift (get off at the second/last stop), but we’ll go the way I did. I got off at the first stop which brings you to the entry level of THEATRE ET ODEON ANTIQUES; Roman ruins. You’re free to run all over these theatres from the many stairs to the stages to the alcoves of the scattered buildings—just be careful and be safe; it’s all old and steep so you don’t want to hurt the buildings or yourself by going too fast.
Beyond the theatres, there are the Roman AQUEDUCTS and the CEMETERY OF LOYASSE which are supposed to be amazing, but I never made it out that far. As I said in another post, I ended up walking around with another traveler so we ended up looping back through the lovely parkways—which also deserve further exploration the next time I am in town—and up to LA BASILIQUE NOTRE DAME DE FOURVIERE.
This Basilique is beautiful and you can go in and explore if this is the kind of thing you are interested in but the truly amazing feature is the view from the outlooks around the cathedral. Lyon doesn’t feel much like city when you are a wandering it—more like a town you might expect to find Disney’s Belle wandering through reading her books—but from any one of these points, you really understand that this is indeed a city. As you look down and out, you’ll see that the city not only leaps two rivers (which meet outside the city) but crawls up hill and mountain sides in beautiful pastels.
If you’re a fan of street art (both official and not), then the MUR DES CANUTS and the wandering walk down between the Soane and the Rhone rivers is where you’ll want to be.
Mur des Canuts is a mural of the cityscape—it’s huge and gorgeous and there is an alcove next to it for anyone interested in its history, but it’s also pretty far above most your other sites as well as up a bit of an incline. I suggest taking the subway system to Henon and once you exit the station, it’s a straight walk to the mural.
Once you’re done, keep moving in the same direction and explore the area. It has the same feel of old town but something indescribable as well. I grew up in LA and have spent time on film lots—this area feels like it should be part of an old Hollywood picture—it feels like your being pulled into part of a story just by wandering. While you go, keep your eyes peeled because the art is everywhere and worth following just to see where you may end up next.
I wandered all the way down, zigzagging through the city, and stumble upon a many things, including a self-guided walking tour which starts around CASERNE ST-LAURENT and takes you through LES TRABOULES, letting off by the OPERA. I highly recommend this tour; you see so much of the city with plaques directing you and explaining things alone the way, great views and tons of street art to boot. Fair warning, however: this is a long walk (especially coming from Mur des Cantus) and there are a lot of stairs. In this direction, it’s mostly downward slopes but it’s worth paying attention to.
After reaching the opera and taking pictures of the statues and whatever else you feel the need to check out, you can make a quick run to the other side of the—as I call it—central island to the MUSEE DES BEAUS-ARTS DE LYON. Even if you aren’t a fan of art museums, the architecture in the square is cool. There’s an intense horse fountain and the surrounding area is a must. The buildings are great, there are places to shop, and hidden gems of art murals that are just waiting for you.
I’ve done a segment before where I talked about my love for walking rivers—they are central to building cities (water, duh), so a lot of life stems from them. Lyon is great for this, but only up to a point. I went so far beyond that point that it got a little sketchy.
This is something I did on my last day, in bad shoes and I didn’t listen to my gut when I told me to turn around. NOTHING BAD HAPPENED—that needs to be emphasized, but following the river it turns out, takes you out of the city where things are less pretty.
I started pretty level with Gare St-Paul metro station and followed the river down to where they merge and back up the Rhone a little further than Les Traboules. Unless you have a friend and really good shoes, don’t do this.
Firstly, you end up on deserted and sketchy paths walking across from the shipping ports where you feel like you might be in a horror movie—at this point you will not find a bridge to help you across to the center island until the merge and you are no longer in Lyon (Lyon is where the pretty stuff is!). On the way there are some cool things you can explore—a cool hiking path and a place you can imagine the weeping angels living in, but you won’t want to explore alone so really this is best for a group! The way back is less sketchy but by then your feel will hate you, and you’ll just want to go find a bathroom and go to bed.
There’s cool art as well along the walk but it’s really situated along the rivers inside or just out of the city limits. It you want to do this (besides the group stuff mentioned above!), walk the river from about where I started but when you reach an area filled with highway looking streets and a bridge near the underpass, take the bridge (it’s the LAST ONE!!), cut across the city and start again at the other side.
The rivers coming together is a pretty sight but really not worth the blisters, I promise.
Anyway, that’s about it. Ask any more questions and put this on the must-visit list, you won’t be disappointed.
I know it’s been about three months since being there (and, my God, has time flown this year) and that I mentioned momentarily in one of my earlier posts about my week long trip to France – a little about what I liked about the city – but I cut myself off knowing that I’d eventually sit down to write this piece (though, honestly, I thought I’d get to it long before now!). Anyway, without further ramblings, here is my write up on the beautiful city: Lyon, France.
If you have ever had the impulse to try your hand at art, Lyon is a city you should definitely spend a few days wandering. Besides the amazing street and urban art scattered across the city—a feature of many growing and established metropolises which will definitely be highlighted in later weeks—the architecture and ambiance itself is enough to make you want to break out a canvas.
Besides housing historic roman ruins which surround La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, a point which stands out as a beacon on the horizon from most areas in the city below, and makes you want to become a professional photographer, capturing the remnants of the lost world, standing at the wall of La Basilique and looking out across old town, will make you want to have the skills of the greatest water colorists.
Then once you actually make your way down into the streets, alleyways, and various alcoves hidden throughout old town, you’ll need the skill of a mixed media artist. I found myself longing for pastels, oil paint, watercolors, charcoal and an unlimited numbers of canvases to be able to capture all the colors and textures of the buildings I was more than happy to get lost in.
With a lack of those instruments (and quite frankly, the skills with which to wield them), I settled for taking hundreds of photos (which still fall short of what this city is due), capturing as many of those angles, textures, and colors as my camera battery would allow.
Beyond the colors, stepping into the inner-courtyards of the buildings (easily accessed if you push on the doors of most buildings—this never seems to be frowned upon as long as you’re not rude about it!), you discover architectural designs that rival the buildings in a Dr. Seuss book—ranging from organic curves to fairy tale spites, turrets and wishing wells.
Outside of old town, this mixing of color and artistic feel does not change. Pretty much everywhere (the 1st and 4th districts) between the two rivers running through the city will leave you wanting more to see.
Everyday (despite my tired feet), I found myself running aimlessly through the city, at once trying to get to some interesting point out in the distance, only to be taken suddenly off my path by a much closer part of the city that I must explore and capture before it becomes lost in my quest for my fist point.
It was magical.
When people talk about France, it usually ends with a comment about the French people and not taking anything they say or the attitude they present personally. In Lyon, there was no such worry. While it helps I am a young woman with a smile that tends to charm even the crabbiest person on the street into a chat, walking through the various parts of Lyon, I only encountered the best sort of people; people smiled back at me, others stopped to take in the same view—even the locals stopped beside me to talk about the views which are unlike any you’ll see elsewhere. I was charmed by all of it.
Still, this is a city I felt like I could have an affair with—a very passionate one, but not something more. There is a feel to cities: some places you visit and never want to return to, others you never want to leave, and then other are like falling in love with a stranger that will always be a stranger—they take you by surprise, take your breath away, and make time both freeze and fly away from you all at once, but they aren’t something you can keep—and you are happy you can’t, because that makes it so much better.
Yes, I definitely had an affair with this city and recommend it to anyone passing through.
But, now, since this piece got longer than I expected without touching on all my travel details, I’ll follow up this love letter with more on the sites and dos and don’ts of visiting next week.
From now, travel well, fall in love with new places and the people you find there, and, as always,