Some touristy things to do in Paris

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– Absorb the beauty of the Eiffel Tower with your BFFs (best friends forever!)

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– Take a short cut through the gardens of Hotel de Sully if you want to go to Place des Vosges in the Marais district.

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– Take a panoramic shot of the city from the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette.  It’s free, I promise!

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I love this rooftop.  One can savour the sights from the comfort of these seats.

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The last time I was here, it was just a bare rooftop, except for an open-air restaurant,  where people go for the view of Paris roofs and the important sites.  This time, some seats were added complete with vinyl grass lawn…..and snack kiosks, too, if you get famished!

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And if you want to explore more sans the walking, there are many tuktuks like this to take you around.

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For a bit of touristy comfort, be innovative.

I saw this man boarding the metro carrying a cane.  But he doesn’t look a bit disabled, I thought, and then, in the middle of standing passengers, he suddenly plopped down using his wooden stick as his one-legged stool!  (That steel bar you see is part of the metro for standing passengers to hold on to.)

Biking Copenhagen

 Trip to Denmark, 10-14 April, 2012

I had looked forward to this trip to Copenhagen with sheer enthusiasm!  First, it was to be my first visit to Scandinavia,  second, I always wondered how a Nordic city looks like, feels like and acts like as a society.

Our plane landed at Copenhagen airport in the afternoon.  As the taxi was taking us to our hotel, I was struck by the big expanses of land and wide boulevards around the city.  Big buildings distantly spaced from each other!  Space, that’s the word!  Coming from Paris where the city is quite compressed that you can get to the most famous sites on foot in a day….I found Copenhagen a bit overpowering…if you are a walker!

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From our hotel window, I could see the towers and the roofs of the historic buildings that make up the Old Town.  Exciting …. but when I look down at the mammoth size boulevard below, I heard myself screaming!   Argghhh!  How can I walk all that?  And I’m practically a passionate walker, mind you!

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I went to look at the view on the habour side and was mesmerized.  The buildings are truly Scandinavian, exactly how I saw them in travel magazines……but can I really “walk” up to it?

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But I must not fret!  There is one fast, cheap and healthy way of seeing Copenhagen in all its splendour!  And that is, by cycling!

Thirty-six percent of Copenhagen residents commute by bicycle. Yet, in the early 1960’s this was very much of a car town. In 1962 the city created its first pedestrian street, the Stroget, and every year since then Copenhagen has allocated more and more of its public space to bicycles, pedestrians and people who just want to sit and take a load off. The result is a remarkably pleasant city. Danish urban designer Jan Gehl says that the single biggest key to the change has been the development of the city’s extensive bicycle network and that the Copenhagen of great public spaces that we see today would not be possible without bicycles. Indeed, there are bicycles everywhere. (streetsblog)

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Copenhagen is the Cycling Capital of the World.  There are more bikes in Greater Copenhagen than its 1.2 million inhabitants.  Roughly 500,000 Copenhageners cycle to work every day, come rain or shine.

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Up to 30,000 cyclists pedal through the busiest streets each day.  The rush hour looks like a bike parade of various people with different agenda: business suit wearing yuppies, mothers with their kids on bike prams, grandmas with their food baskets, youth with a cell phone on one hand and the bike handle with the other.

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Chic ladies with their equally chic bikes

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In  Copenhagen, traffic lights are synchronised during rush hour traffic to allow for the continuous flow of cyclists at 20 kilometres per hour —creating the so-called “green waves”.
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Copenhagen bikes are world famous and the city makes it easy for visitors to get bikes.  Numerous cycle shops throughout the city offer rentals

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… and most hotels provide rent-a-bike facilities for your sightseeing.

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The city also offers the use of free bikes such as this.  It’s called the City Bike.

Just insert a 20 Kroner coin, release the bike and it’s yours.   A map will show you the boundaries of the City Bike.  If you leave it outside the zone, a passerby might call the authorities and report you and you will pay a steep fine.

Return the bike on a City Bike stand and retrieve your coin.

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There are loads of bicycle parking provided both by public and private companies.

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There is always a bike park near you.

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They are usually installed near bus stops or train stations.

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And they are usually pretty orderly.

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There are nearly 240 miles of bike paths in the city.

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Never have I seen a city so keen on getting fit!  Not only bikers but also joggers and walkers all over the place.

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People find the freedom and convenience in cycling.

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Bikes come in different types such as this electric version which is ideal for those who cannot or don’t want to exert too much pedalling effort.

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People have all kinds of different bikes and they use them for everything;

– delivering mail such as this postman

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– running their business such as this mobile clothing repair shop.

This bike with a crate is called the Christiania bike, named after the inventor who lived in the district of Christiania in Copenhagen.  He was a blacksmith originally manufacturing furnaces.  Sometime in the 70’s they turned to supplying means of transportation in the car free community. In the 80’s the first crate bike was launched.

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Another Christiania bike complete with canvas cover.  It reminds me of convertible cars…:)

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– for carrying kids. From babyhood to toddler age till childhood, there are bikes for every age.

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– It’s also great for window shopping.

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…. and no problem about parking.

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One can bike to the coffee shop even in his business suit.

Jan Gehl, the Danish architect who paved Copenhagen’s bicycle infrastructure, once said, “every Copenhagener must have two bikes; one for the rain and a nice one as well.”

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Young children are obliged to wear helmets, but adults don’t have to.

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A bicycle is a personal possession so the owner can express her creativity through it.

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Or make her bike a showcase of her collection of ghost dolls!

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For tourists, going sightseeing on a bike is the best.  They can explore the major tourist sites as well as venture through secret courtyards and little hideaways without getting knackered.  My only hesitation is, my photographic passion of snapping at objects and subjects every two minutes won’t go well with biking….

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The word “copenhagenize“was coined by Jan Gehl.  It means the practice of  adopting Copenhagen-style bike lanes and bicycle infrastructure in cities.  He has already advised London, Melbourne, and Dubai on how to “copenhagenize”.
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There are also traffic regulations on cycling and one of them is not to bike on sidewalks.

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“Don’t bike on sidewalks”….Copenhageners are indeed disciplined bike drivers.

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But I saw in Copenhagen a large number of cyclists biking with mobile phones on their ear. I suppose the biking authorities are lenient on this since every single person now owns a mobile phone.

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This is the bike lane infront of Rosenberg palace.

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Bikes make a picturesque scenery.

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..especially when parked next to a statue.

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But beware, there are also bike-rustlers even in wealthy cities!

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This bike owner decided to park his bike at the iron-grilled and poster-decked wall of  Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of our Saviour Church) in the Christiania district.
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I went in as I wanted to go inside the famous corkscrew spire of the church but it was closed for renovation.  Nobody was there except a priest who probably owns this bike.

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Turning to another street, I saw this bakery and was tempted to buy some pastries

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But my attention turned into this fruit and greens grocery

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A beautiful graffiti on the outskirt of the city

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I discovered that online matchmaking is a big thing in Copenhagen
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I went to a Lego shop along the famous shopping road, Stroget, and saw this man-size bike all assembled in Lego bricks.

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We set aside a day for visiting Legoland park in Billund, 3 hours drive south of Denmark and were amazed to see a lot of world attractions and day-by-day facilities duplicated in miniature version, including bikes!legobike2.JPG

That bike, like the others, is like 1 – 2 inches in length.

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I was suddenly transformed like a child again after seeing Legoland with all its miniature creations!

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Biking in the country…complete with tiny sheeps..

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And the miniature train station with its bike park.

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After my few days in Denmark, I think I have turned into a bike-convert!

A quick tour of Delft

 Trip to Delft, The Netherlands, 4th April 2012

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I have always associated Delft with blue porcelain plates, blue porcelain Dutch dolls and other glazed ceramic items of the colours blue and white.

So when my tourist guiding guests – my sister and her family who came to spend the Easter holidays in The Netherlands and Scandinavia – suggested at the last minute that I squeeze The Hague in their itinerary, I didn’t expect that my internet research would show how close Delft is to The Hague!  It is in fact so close that a day ticket to The Hague –  you know, the unlimited rides to the bus, tram and local train in 24 hours – would include the 35-minute ride to Delft, excellent!

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From Den Haag (the Dutch name of The Hague), you only need to wait for Tram 1 to take you to Delft.

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The biggest thrill is seeing the vintage trams coming, so photogenic!

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This 750-year old small picturesque town is one of the best preserved historic towns in The Netherlands.

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It exudes the old Dutch charm of narrow canals,  bridges, cobblestoned streets and glorious churches.

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The 15th-century gothic style Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) on the right houses the Royal Crypt.  This is where members of the House of Orange-Nassau have been entombed.

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Jezus leeft…..Jesus lives…..

We went to Delft on a Sunday where a church service is being held in the market square.

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The building with the red shutters, that’s how they call the renaissance-styled City Hall

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The facade of the City Hall displays in gold text the date when the edifice was rebuilt (1620) after the big city fire in 1618.

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The statue of Hugo Grotius (1583–1645)  infront of the Nieuwe Kerk.

”By understanding many things, I have accomplished nothing.”These are his final words.

Grotius was a theologian, historian, poet, jurist, Dutch political figure, escaped political prisoner, and finally as Sweden’s ambassador to France.   In 1598 the French king referred to him as “the Dutch miracle”.  Because of his books on international law and practice, Mare Liberum (1609) and De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625), he is considered as the founder of International Law.

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The Blue Heart of Delft.  The heart cut in sapphire (fake) stone symbolizes the Blue Pottery of Delft.
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You must have seen this painting before.  It’s the most famous work of the most famous son of Delft – Johannes Vermeer (1632-75).

The English text on the right of the picture states the following:

Most favorite Vermeer
The “Girl with the pearl” has grown into the most favorite Vermeer with the public at large.  The virtuoso painting technique and subtle way in which the reflection of the light is suggested, creates that the looker-on is the one who causes the girl to look up.  The turban has been revived with small reflections of light – Vermeer’s – trademark. The pearl is also very special, which exists of only two paint strokes: top left a clear light stress and at the bottom the soft reflection of the white collar.

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The movie, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” has partly been taken in Delft and based on Tracey Chevalier’s novel with the same name.  A completely fictitious story in which farmer’s daughter Griet, at the age of sixteen, took up the job of maid in Vermeer’s (played by Colin Firth)  household and finally models for the painting, “The girl with the pearl” from 1655.

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A (Delft) family that bikes together stays together

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The Royal Coat of Arms of the Netherlands is everywhere in Delft. The town is strongly associated with the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau.

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You see this old blade-less windmill upon entering the road to Delft.

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Fancy buying your one-year supply of Dutch cheese from Delft…

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A city of canals, it’s quite dangerous I think to get out of the door without looking out first..

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Vertical mailboxes

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In Delft, you park at your own risk.

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Unesco’s Institute of Water Management is based in Delft.

Driving through the golden yellow fields….

 Finally, we’re back in Paris after driving for total ten hours from our home in the Franco-Italian border.  We left yesterday afternoon, I fell asleep the whole time and it was only this morning that I noticed the golden yellow fields dominating the whole scenery.  Of course, they are the rape seed fields that brighten the countryside every Springtime!  And they smell heavenly as well!

Come, I invite you to join me in my road trip through the countryside….

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They are called rape seed in English or “colza” in French

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They are used for the production of vegetable oil, animal feed and biodiesel.

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The heavenly scent is so powerful that it even wafts through your closed car window. I wonder why they cannot make perfumes out of them….

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Cattle and sheep grazing in the meadows make a picture postcard scenery

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The skies were a bluish-grey today which makes the landscape even more dramatic!

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These brown and white signboards are seen through the entire autoroute network of France.  They display the main attractions of the towns, cities or villages whose exits you are about to pass by.

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“Line of sharing of water”…signifies that body of water where waters coming from the English Channel, Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean sea meet.  The hexagon shaped figure is the map of France.

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Every now and then we would drive past chateaux (castles) like this one.

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and strange car designs like this one

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but I love photographing classic cars …

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The vineyards are still leafless.  After the grape harvest in September/October, they shed their leaves in the Autumn and it’s only in Springtime that they start growing buds again..

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Passed by this vineyard of Cote-Rotie Grain  above the Rhone river.  Cote-Rotie or “roasted hillside”  is renowned for the perfect blending of the soil, wind, sun where the grapes produce supreme wine.

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We are just 75 kms away from Paris!  The irony of this sign is, the department number of the city is “75” (and that means, the car registration plates of Paris residents end in “75” and their zip code starts in 75…for example 75012 for someone who lives in the 12th arrondisement of Paris.)

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Voila! We have reached the territory of Paris!

Home sweet Home…

The gardens of Venice

What makes a drab structure exquisitely charming is the garden around it, be it in containers, on land growing upright or through the walls  rambling down.  Venice is already a stunning city but the flowers and vegetation surrounding it could melt everyone’s heart even further…

I don’t think the photos below need captions so I will leave you to savour them and just listen to your heart talking…

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Spring is the season of wisteria

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