Mum's end to tiffin box tantrums......

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Europe diary 2016: Luxembourg- a city on the UNESCO world heritage list


                              
                              

After leaving Paris my next destination was Luxembourg. It’s a beautiful city with lots of historic importance. It’s situated at the center of the triangle of trio cities- Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.  Luxembourg is situated amidst the deep gorges cut by the Alzette and Petrusse rivers. It bears significance of the medieval fortifications.

It’s very easily connected to Germany and Amsterdam. It’s a land of various medieval castles. It’s got one of the best and costliest shoes in Europe. The average cost starts from 500Euros and end at about 5000 Euros.

                   

We were at Kirchberg observing the various shops of varies interest. It’s a small city with a population of around 10 million. The canals and the sight in and around was truly breathtaking.  There is not much of night life here except that a few take away eateries and restaurants to feed a  tourists appetite.  After bring in a big metro city like Paris this is not the kind you will appreciate a lot except the rich culture it sports. There is no military in this country.

   
A mind boggling and peaceful city 


There are various road side painters whose art of work was truly marvelous. I was having my cup of coffee and observing the beautiful art portrayed by his brush.

Mention worthy is the vianden castle which is about 50 kilometers form the Luxembourg city. Upon an entry to the casements du block it will give a nice panoramic view of the city.
We passed by the National museum of history and art building.

     
A shoe shop 

A small but beautiful city is Luxembourg. We spent out night at Novotel hotel. The next day we were off to Germany. The bus route seems to be easy and accessible too.





















Sunday, 2 October 2016

Europe diary 2016: Visiting Reims -the champagne capital of the world

Highway leading to Reims, France 

                           

It was about time that we leave Paris for another country of immense beauty. We headed towards Reims situated in the Northeastern side of Paris and known as the champagne capital of the world.  A beautiful city which dates back its presence in the  12th century, a city with all modern amenities  of  life a perfect blend of  culture and business. The buildings were   quite old and bear the testimony of medieval architecture.


Walk way near the church




Cathedral, Reims











                             



We saw the oldest church of the city which was constructed in the 12th century. The inside of the church was captivating and we felt a certain charm under the roof of the church. It’s a small city with a population of 1.87 million. Whenever war hit a place, several destructions occurred and Reims is one such example.  Anyway Reims takes the pride to be the desired venue of French coronation for years. The cathedral has been listed as one of the heritage sights rated by UNESCO.

Process of champagne fermentation



The best part of the city is the champagne growing region. Known for the best champagnes of the world, Reims is the most visited place meant for champagne lovers. Reims played a prominent role in the French monarchial history. The very first sight of the cathedral was truly a great impression. The guide told us that it was destroyed during World War I by the Germans which were again re-established.  
                         
Fountain on the roads of Reims



We passed by the town hall of the city. You may find various hotels for stay and restaurants where you can enjoy traditional French food. The champagne yard was a bit far and it takes 43 euros per person to plan a trip in the champagne valley just to have a look at the champagne growing process. An overnight stay in the grape vineyards will cost you 150 euros per person.


                            
Town Hall of Reims, France.
                     
We were running out of time else a trip to the champagne growing region would have been really great.  There are certain package tours where you may opt to visit 4-5 champagne growers of the region and could taste at least 15 types of the drink. 

Champagne has an interesting history. Wine produced from selected grapes was favorite drink of The French and some Englishmen. Now For Dom Perignon and his contemporaries wine was not the desired end product but they preferred sparkling wine. The bubbles in wine became a natural process.  The fermentation takes place in bottles and creates carbon dioxide which then forces out due to pressure. Now the weak bottles were replaced by strong glass bottles and closed them with the help of Spanish cork. Dom Perignon dies in 1715 but his 47 years of experience as cellar master led the basic principles of champagne making today. After 1800 the sparkling wine industry or champagne was established in a wider way.
The bottle of champagne starts from minimum 250 euros and can end up to 5000 euros.  I managed to collect some photos from some friends who were lucky enough to visit the place. Sight of the champagne valley looks no lesser than a fairy tale landscape and those houses looks like
I might have seen them in some movies.  The lush green vineyards were a soothing sight.
I left this lovely place for Germany. Was looking towards another opportunity to discover the mighty structures and hospitality offered as well as to take home some of the world class champagne gown by this region.



Friday, 23 September 2016

Europe diary 2016: The glitz and glamour of the city at night



                         
A great place for shoppers



Attractive souvenirs and attractive prices



The next day we left hotel a bit late. We were told that we will be going for a late evening tour. We were busy shopping the whole day. Paris is a great place to be a window shopper as well as a serious one. The street surrounding the famous Louvre museum is famous for street shopping. You may get various economic souvenirs like – key chain, paper weight, T shirts, aprons, hats, fridge magnets and many more. The cost of souvenirs range from 1 euro to 50 euros. We purchased perfumes from the nearby shops. 

        
Moulin rogue- the great cabaret!


We had a great cruise along the river Seine and then visited famous spots, had good photo session and then were off to see some famous entertainment junctions of the city. Moulin rouge was mention worthy. Whoever comes to Paris should see the performance of this famous cabaret. The tickets are available online.  Moulin rouge and Lido show are known for erotic dance that are truly entertaining and enticing. Audiences are kept glued to their seats by the fascinating performance of the dancers. Yes, Paris is a great prospective place for sex workers from all over the world. But East European girls constitute the majority in number. Starting from 110 euros the ticket may escalate price during weekends. We saw various shops of sex toys. It’s the fantasy of an adult individual and a paradise for a newly married couple. If you want to have the best honeymoon experience then Paris is the right place to frame those precious moments.


                        





It was almost dusky when we were taken in our coach and went for touring the city. The evening sight of Louvre was great. The pyramids were dazzling and the place was looking truly superb. A beauty was quite incomparable.  The fountains and the street lamps were dazzling and it resembled nothing but an avalanche of heavenly lights.

                 

   
The champ’s elysses was looking marvelous with series of smaller lights which flooded the area. This sight was not unknown to me as I saw it earlier in many Paris based movies. I remembered “Julie and Julia”. We took photographs for a lifelong remembrance.

                                      

Lastly we were taken to see the beauty of Eiffel tower. Every day from 10pm to 10:05 pm the tower is illuminated with sparkling lights which mesmerizes the audience momentarily.  We were busy settling places near the tower where hundreds of spectators gathered to get the sight of the coveted beauty of modern technology. We were all ready with cameras and mobile phones. As the sparkling if the light started all were ready to record the precious moment. I took the video of my lifetime and prepared to preserve it so that I may show it to my grandchildren in future. 

                      




https://web.facebook.com/100009244142395/videos/1663552617296194/



In one word Paris is a magical city that has accepted various races, various cultures and various people. It is the epitome of modernity as well as a great evidence of glorious history. It has seen revolution yet is one of the most disciplined and organized nations of the world. It has absorbed people for livelihood and possesses threat every moment and fears any unforeseen terror attack. It has great entertainment to offer as well as the best place known to worshippers.  In one word, I became a bit matured after I visited this great place of the once powerful French monarchs. I will cherish each and every moment spent in this beautiful land. The best moments were recorded in my memory like a slideshow.



Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Europe diary 2016: Glimpse of the French history!


Situated 12 miles to the southwest of the city of Paris is Versailles, a wealthy suburb which was the seat of political power of the French Monarch. Started being built in the 11th century the palace of Versailles or chateau de Versailles was the symbol of power and flamboyance. It took us exactly half an hour to reach Versailles from the city heart. Paris is now becoming known for traffic congestion in day hours as the city experiences increase in population due to migration from  all over the world.

              
Entrance to the Palace


We were quite excited to view the masterpiece of architecture and the place of the once ill famous monarchs who turned the minds and sympathy away from the common men who didn’t have enough bread to feed their hungry mouths.  Throughout the journey our guide enlightened us with the stories of French revolution and some colloquial stories and it aroused our interest level a lot. 15 euros was the entry price to this palace and no charges for children below the age of eighteen. We enjoyed Wi-Fi services inside the palace. No  photo freak will ever  miss a chance to delay a beautiful post in the royal palace with such a beautiful amenity of communication technology today -such precious is technology.

    
Before the ticket office


The very first view of the palace was an enormous land with gothic style architecture tombs and vast cascades with golden colored tombs. The entire land of France claims to have gold plaited tomb structure thereby dictating the pomp and grandeur of the once luxurious monarchs. We were given an audio guide which let us understood the various living units of the palace. King Louis XIV built this in the medieval period ensured that it should contain all means of entertainment and also reflect contemporary science that was prominent from the unique technology in the opera area. The pressurized fountain was a reflection of  art and technology as well.

                          
Some belongings of the kings

As I followed the audio guide it was speaking about the habits and lifestyle of the monarch who believed in centralized ruling and much of the land in the area was meant for animal grazing. People like administrators and officers who were not meant to stay in the royal palace used to stay in their residences outside. The favorite men of the king used to make it a ceremony when he used to wake up (lever) and go to sleep (coucher). The king’s bedroom was the nucleus of the Palace. He used to shift bedroom in winter and summer depending on the comfort of sunlight.  It was heard that his subjects used to be invited in the palace as a symbol of show off and grandeur but never ever invited for a meal.

  
Royal chandeliers- unspoken words on fame ad glory


When there was dearth of bread and the subjects died of hunger, the subjects approached the queen expecting a note of mercy and understanding but she uttered the word “ Let them eat cake” made her quite ill famous which propelled the subjects to force enter the palace and take the guards at their control.

  
Galleries in the Versailles Palace

My analysis was that the world never forgives indifference of a king or leader towards the commoner. There has to be a revolt. The rule is a truth even today.


   
Jardin de la chateau ( Royal garden)

The jar din de la chateau or the garden is a beautifully maintained place till day to hang around and photograph.

   
Bastille fort- reminds of the fort the once stood tall



Place de la bastille: The July column or the place de la bastille stands at a place where the bastille fort once used to be.  Storming of the bastille took place on 14th July 1789 where all the royals were taken into house arrest and then turned into prisoners and had their head chopped off in the famous guillotine. Marie Antoinette and King Louis XIV were one of the first heads to be sacrificed.
The entire city speaks of history and the monuments speak a lot of the glorious past. I felt that the day was spent amidst history and I went back through a time machine with a bit of imagination what used to be the lifestyle of the monarch and the chapters of history flashed before my eyes.



Friday, 16 September 2016

Europe Diary 2016: The great landmark that calls from a thousand miles!

The next day after having a fine French breakfast we were ready for the day tour. Our coach accommodated 35 people and took 30 minutes to reach the heart of the city. We drove over the seine river; saw the famous love lock bridge and then the very sight of Eiffel tower enchanted all of us. We reached a point where we could take excellent shots of the monument.  Posing with the monument appearing like touching the heights of the highest tower, we posed in various possible ways.


             
The iconic Eiffel tower from Seine

Eiffel tower:  Constructed in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel, a total height of 324 meters and standing over a base of 125 meters on each side. The historic tower was built in order to celebrate 100 years of French revolution. It’s the highest tower in France and one of the most visited monuments of the world. The wonderful tower has 3 tiers.  There are restaurants and shops on the second tier of the monument and offers beautiful sight of the entire city.  The fares for an adult are 17 euros but it differs when you are in a family or a group. You may opt for a guided tour or might be getting a map for the major landmarks.

    
Transverse section of the monument

The first floor is magnificent and made of glass floors, walls and ceilings. The lifts are super fast and can accommodate 50 people at a time.  We were asked to be careful from  pickpocketers  as there were stories of visitors getting pick pocketed or having lost important documents and even passports. On entering the second level you may have a majestic sight of the entire city with or without the powerful binoculars.

   
Management warns against pickpockets at the base of Eiffel tower



An attempt to view the city


Breathtaking view from the Eiffel tower




You may even opt for a romantic dinner with your loved one in the restaurant where tables are required to be booked quite ahead.  There are places for shopping and also special attraction for the kids. It’s of course a thrill to be on the highest floor and thereby observe from one of the highest  points of  the world. The beauty is truly scintillating.

               
Arc de triomphe 



Arc de triomphe:  One of the notable monuments stands in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle and at the western end of champs Elyesses. Designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806, the arc de triomphe is the iconic symbol and conveys patriotic messages. The monument is a reason of Napoleon Bonaparte’s dream. The famous place experienced various victory marches.

We saw the first sight of the monument while at the top of big bus. I had goosebumps at the very first sight. Those familiar chapters of history came live in front of me.  We saw the tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.  Each evening at 6:30 people laid wreath to remember his contribution to the nation.

              
Some immortals who sacrificed life for the country



The tomb of the unknown soldier of world war I


It stands on the west bank of river Seine.  A closer look at this historic monument aroused a feeling inside me that I  might have seen similar structure (of course not exactly) in my own country. Yes it bears resemblances with Gateway of India and India Gate. We went by the underground tunnel to the arc but were told strictly not to cross the road directly as its not permitted .Any case of death in this circle  resulting  from disobeying  traffic rules have never been given any insurance coverage so far. We observed  the majestic structure from the ground level and clicked awesome photos. The entry charge is 8 Euros but can go lesser in case of students or group tours. The guide told us that one of the best days to visit this place is 14th July, Bastille day which is followed by parade. 

   
Glimpse of the champs elysses
         



Champs de elysses: It’s the famous boulevard located between Place de la Concorde and Place Charles de Gaulle. It’s a stretch of 1.9 kilometers length and 70 meters width where the Arc de triomphe is located.  Known for the best coffee shops, luxury shops and restaurants this place has seen the best parades that make France proud to the world. Bastille Day military parade and tour de la France cycle race are the most happening events in the country. The view of the arc de triomphe from champs de elysses is truly magical and this photo can be preserved for a lifetime.
Today champs de elysses is the address to the notable retail outlets and consumer goods. A straight walk  during the evening hours along this path is almost a heavenly feeling.


                   
Notre dame cathedral

The Notre dame: It’s a medieval catholic cathedral built in French Gothic style situated on the side of River Seine. The idea of Notre dame comes from my childhood reminisces of the book ‘’Hunch back of Notre dame’’. Perhaps many children of my age or lesser did the same to  gain some fabulous knowledge of the church and the city.  For a moment when I stood in front of the mighty 420 feet structure I was recollecting those stories and followed the queue to the church.  The cathedral has 10 bells and each hour strike was a beautiful note. It was worth sitting outside the cathedral and watching the crowd but we preferred to follow the queue inside and experience the great feel. It took nearly two centuries to construct this cathedral which engraved a permanent niche in the list of famous cathedrals of the world.

           
Inside the Notre dame
I collected some souvenirs in form of medals sold by the authority in exchange of a few euros.   The literal meaning of the word Notre dame is ‘Our lady’ which refers to Mother Mary. We saw some beautiful windows and antique furniture apart from the mind blowing architecture of the cathedral. The history of the cathedral was portrayed in the form of sketches thereby giving the tourists a transparent idea on how the constructions took place.


History of construction of Notre dame
We observed tough security and military parading in front of the church. Paris faces tough challenge in terms of terrorism threats. 

       
Where Princess Diana met her end


Tunnel du dianne:  Paris has  seen the death of Princess Diana in the year 1997. The car chase occured in a tunnel where her car dashed against the walls of a tunnel resulting her death. The French govt. renamed the tunnel as Tunnel du dianne. We saw it while going on a round about.


Love lock bridge for the life time lovers,

Lovelock bridge: It's popularly believed that if you have a love and if he ties a lock in the famous lovelock bridge besides the Seine rive, your love never dies. Seems like there are millions of locks and 'never to die' loves on the way. Anybody reading this post may take a chance to lock your love and observe your partner to be your lifetime mate.

There is lots to see in Paris. I saw the modernity and the culture. Now I wanted to see to get the essence of French history. We followed our way back to the hotel and made our minds to visit the Palace of the French kings the next day.




Monday, 12 September 2016

Europe diary 2016: A paradise known as Paris!

My journey started from Paris, France. The very first sight of Charles de Gaulle airport was impressive. The runway seems to be too close to the departure lounge that was a difference I noticed with any other airport of my knowledge. We were picked up by the Parisian taxi chauffer and dropped at the hotel of our desire. The chauffer followed the GPRS network to track our hotel from the airport which hardly took 30 minutes. The traffic was disciplined, followed the signals heartily but the traffic congestion was a bit more being a weekday.  Afterwards we reached our hotel which was situated in the heart of the city and beside a renowned metro station. We settled our luggage, took shower and went off for some shopping. We discovered Franpirx, Monoprix and other stores from where we bought necessary items for breakfast. We had our dinner in an Italian restaurant. The cost of a medium sized pizza starts from 9 euros.  The most exciting part was to see faint sunlight till 9:25 pm. It starts to darken completely at 10 pm. quite interesting enough!


I came back to the hotel and collected a city map which was distributed to all tourists free of cost. This gave me an idea of the metro stations, important landmarks, bus routes and taxi depot. There are various city tours popular to tourists the most used being big bus tour. There are specified big bus depots where you can board or disembark the coach and enjoy the city throughout the day. It took 33 euros per person for a day trip that ended at 7 pm. We preferred to take this trip and saw various landmarks that defines Paris. The other way to have a good trip was to take the sea route. A cruise along the river Seine will give you good view of the best landmarks.

Cruise across the river Seine



                           
Big bus- a great way if city touring!



Convenient city bus

Metro- the fastest way to travel
   
 



Paris is rightly called the city of culture. Dance, music, drama, painting, modelling – whichever field you aspire to excel Paris will definitely find you the way.  The Parisians work hard, eat, drink and are fond of theatre.  Never to go without a peg of wine once you are in Paris. In fact the country has got the best collection of wines and champagnes. We saw and photographed various places of historic importance.


‘Garnier Palais’ or Opera House:  The Opera house or Garnier Palais is situated on 8 rue scribe, the heart of the city. The magnificent structure was the symbol of grandeur and opulence built by Charles Garnier from 1861 to 1875. It’s a 1979 seating arrangement opera which has been influenced by the architectural styles of second empire, baroque revival and beaux arts. The mighty building has a single entrance where you may buy tickets. Separate rates apply for singe entry of group. A guided tour might cost you 15 euros or you might carry an audio guide that will cost you 5 euros against your identity card. You may be guided by the literature that speaks on the massive structure.


The Palais garnier stands tall

The grand escalier is the staircase that leads to the thirty meter high vault. The marbles used were pure Italian. The very feeling was ecstatic and I became nudge to rediscover the stories associated with each stone.

   
The magnificent chandeliers

The beautiful chandeliers will attract the visitors. The crystal and bronze fitted lighting system is the most elegant and covers the entire length of the galleries. There was a story that the slight overweight lead to breakage of a single chandelier resulting in the death of an audience.  The story was the inspirational source for the play ‘Phantom of the Opera’.

    
The gallery where history reverberates


The great auditorium seating capacity over 1200


The auditorium was a horse shoe shaped structure with seating arrangement and almost 340 lights attached to the bronze plated chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The ceiling paintings were done by Marc Chagall. The house curtain was inspired by theatrical painters. The corridors were spacious with various opera dresses flanged inside glass show cases. We posed in front of those costumes imagining ourselves in those attires.


                 
History  escalates the stairs



Contains the history of 3 decades of the Opera.




Costumes used by famous artists.


Library museum of the opera is a collection of 300 year old history of the place. The museum exhibits books, audiovisual of the glimpses of theatre which the country boasts to possess. This place was meant for the researchers who want more stories on the theatre and its greatness.


                              

The Louvre museum:  The museum of louvre of muse du louvre is situated on the right side if river seine, one of the largest attraction of France and second most   visited museum of the world. Spread over an area of 60,600 sq. metres and exhibiting 35,000 objects from the pre historic ages to the 21st century. It was started to be built by Philip II in the 12th century.

                         
The Louvre at dusk
It takes 15 euros per person to enter the museum and it’s valid for a day. There are no tickets for children below 18 years. The louvre museum is accessible by bus as well as metro routes. It’s open till 9:45pm at night on Wednesday and Fridays. You will get guided tours for a group of 25-30. Else you may hire the audiovisual tour and thereby understand the importance of each section.

 
Hindi a medium of instruction in the louvre
The sub divisions are- Paintings ( 215 works) , Egyptian antiques ( 207 works), Greek and Roman antiques ( 275 works), Near eastern antiques ( 182 works) , sculptures ( 83 works), Decorative arts ( 262 works) , Islamic work ( 12 works) and the Pavilion de L’horloge.


The galleries with sculptures
The painting collection dates back to the reign of Francis I of France. The paintings are preserved in chronological order in the first floor of Denon wing. The other works are in the Richelieu wing.
Louvre is the platform for masterpieces by famous painters- Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rosso, and Primmaticco dwell side by side. We saw the original Mona Lisa which was the most crowded place. Each and every tourist wants to get the central position to pose with Mona Lisa or might be click Mona Lisa. How the lady influenced the painter as well as she is appreciated today for her mysterious smile.


 
Monalisa- a reason to travel miles!
The collection of Egyptian antiques was not only a result of Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt between 1798-1801. There were other European collectors who visited Egypt, performed a deep research and aided the French Govt to ship some of the best pieces of art to the land. The works of famous Egyptian excavators deserves special mention here. The secrets of the pharaonic writing were discovered by various researchers.


Sculpture of King Louis XIV
The antiques department was opened in 1793 was a result of seizure of property during the French Revolutions. Over 500 marble sculptures belonged to the Borghese collection. The museum collection has various facets of the Northen Africa and from the Ottoman Empire. A section of the Greek artwork was secured from the queen’s winter apartment. The Etruscan displayed was kept in the ground floor near the Petite gallerie.



     
Some jewelry on display

Near Eastern antiques are a result of excavation in the 19th century when the French scholars and excavators travelled to the land of Bible. The world’s first ‘Assyrian museum ‘was opened in Louvre in 1847. There is evidence of Palestinian and Jewish antiques in the magnificent Louvre. The code of Hammurabi is preserved in the great platform.

                   
The louvre attracts millions of visitors each year
The Louvre museum is house to a number of ancient and medieval sculptures. Collections by Peinture are kept here.  Various roman and Italian collection adds to the glory of the museum.  Amongst the few notables were Michelangelo’s slaves that went for exhibition.
The department of prints and drawings are exhibited in temporary phase but never in permanent phase. The chalcography or engraved plates are displayed in a particular illumination and humidity. Most of them were King Louis XIV’s purchase.

   
The latest department in the history of louvre is the addition of Islamic arts which was reopened in 2012 in complete new and restyled settings. After the Second World War the Islamic department was reshuffled from the far eastern works.
The decorative arts is a collection of jewelry, silverware, enamels, ivories, bronzes and semi-precious stone works


After I experienced Louvre I feel I was standing amidst history of the entire world. The culture, the stories and some truth in form of stones and sketches stands in front of me and I experience a time machine. I traveled across various ages and the stories flashed in the form of imagination. The modern world has a lot to learn from the past and add glory to its future.

That was enough for the day. The louvre tour took me about 5 hours and I returned to my hotel, had dinner and slept.  French bread and vegetable, meat make a great dinner for me.I was waiting for the day 2 visit of exciting and irresistible Paris. By the way I saw the tower of Eiffel standing tall and felt attracted to climb the monument of immense historical importance.