RIP Anthony Bourdain
RIP Anthony Bourdain
Sometimes the best trips are the ones where you just say “Let’s go” and figure it out on the road!
Paris – the city of love!
A city full of history, architecture and pain du chocolat!
I’ve been to Europe 10 times but seemed to be dancing around Paris. It was finally time to go see this iconic city that everyone always has so much to say about.
We arrived and found our cute little Airbnb apartment in Montmarte, just around the corner from the Moulin Rouge and set out to join the Sandemans New Europe free walking tour. I’ve done this tour in other cities around Europe and always find it a great way to get your bearings, find some of the big tourist sites, and learn about lesser-known favourites that the guides love.
We gathered at Fontaine Saint-Michel to start the tour and learn a bit about the buildings around us. The architecture here is incredible. I could have happily just wandered through the city looking at the buildings, but there were far too many other things to see and do to just leave my eyes glued to the buildings.
We crossed a bridge and found ourselves walking up to Notre Dame, and while we didn’t find Quasimodo ringing the bells, there were a lot of gargoyles up on the arches looking down over the city. This gorgeous French Gothic church was set for demolition, but was saved by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The book was so popular that a petition went out to save the church.
The inside is as beautiful as the outside – especially the huge stained glass windows!
We made our way along the Seine River and came to the new Love Lock Bridge. Across the way is the former Love Lock Bridge, but so many locks had been placed on it that a piece of the bridge fell off into the Seine! It was considered a hazard (and an eyesore by many locals) and was moved to a sturdier landing by the bridge. Not as cool, but still full of locks.
We added our own lock to the masses and threw our key into the Seine. The area down by the water was nice to walk along except for the fact that like much of the city, the smell of pee was strongly wafting through the air. Such a beautiful…smelly city.
The Louvre was our next stop. This incredible building stretches along the right bank of the Seine. It houses over 35,000 works of art and it’s said it would take nine months to look at everything. Likely the most famous piece inside is the Mona Lisa, but we didn’t see it or any of the other masterpieces as we just wandered the outside of the building. Sometimes when you have limited time, you have to choose what you have time to see!
The Louvre used to be where the monarchy lived and they continued to add to it. In 1989, a new entrance was built. It’s supposed to be an invisible pyramid, but with its height, they couldn’t get the glass to stay without breaking as soon as the wind or rain hit it. Now it’s a bunch of small triangles with steel poles holding them together, making this invisible pyramid very visible and very odd looking next to this grand building from the 13th century!
Across the way is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, a much smaller version of the main Arc de Triomphe. Napoleon commissioned it to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz. He had already commissioned the main one, but it took about 20 years to build, so he had this one made so he could walk under it in victory sooner! If you look though the marble arch you can see the Arc de Triomphe from one side and the Louvre from the other. Here, we were given more info on other main sites and our tour ended in the park.
We continued through the park, heading towards the Arc de Triomphe, walking along the fancy Champs-Elysees area with all the high-end shops and restaurants. To get to the Arc de Triomphe, you must take the underground tunnel, as it’s far too dangerous to cross the 12 lane roundabout circling it! It’s a very patriotic sight with a huge French flag flying in the middle of the 50-metre high arch.
The whole time we were walking up to it, I found myself singing songs from Les Miserables, specifically “Do You Hear the People Sing.” (If you don’t know this musical, go check out the soundtrack!)
Our walking tour continued along Champs-Elysees as we now made our way toward the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to have the classic romantic picnic by the Eiffel Tower so we looked for a place to buy baguettes, cheese and wine, but we waited too long and most of the bakeries were closed for the day. We realized we didn’t have a corkscrew and all the good wine needed one. Eventually, we found a little market with twist off mini bottles of wine, small baguettes and some cheese, so we bought it and continued to the Eiffel Tower. What an impressive sight! You see the image of the Eiffel Tower on everything these days, but seeing it up close was amazing. We found a spot in the grass just as the sun was starting to set and started our picnic.
It was definitely less than ideal. The bread was hard and the cheese smelled like dirty feet! We scrapped that and got seafood paella at one of the food vendors nearby. So much for our romantic French picnic!
Beginning at 9pm, there is a sparkling light show on the tower lasting about 5 minutes every hour on the hour. What a spectacular sight! After watching it again at 10pm, we caught the Metro back to Montmartre and saw another iconic Parisian landmark all lit up – the Moulin Rouge.
We spent day two at Disneyland Paris. You can see that blog post here.
The following day, we set out to walk around Montmartre, the artsy, bohemian area of Paris. I loved it here. We stopped at a bakery for pain du chocolat (delicious chocolate croissants) before continuing on. Montmartre is located on a hill, giving you some nice views, especially when you make it up to the top by the Sacre-Coeur Basilica.
The huge dome can be seen for miles. You can climb up the Dome and head down into the crypt here. If you are tired of walking at this point, you can also take the funicular up the hill to the Sacre-Coeur. At the base of the steps is a beautiful old double-decker carousel.
From here, we took the Metro to visit the Catacombs of Paris. It was a long wait, but it was a very cool experience, exploring the bones beneath the city. (For more on that, check out this blog post).
Our time in Paris was running out and although there were many more things I wanted to see and do, they would all have to wait for next time. I had one more main item to check off on this visit… climbing up the Eiffel Tower!
We made our way back over to the tower, paid our €7 and started climbing.
There are also elevators you can take, but we decided to walk up instead. You can climb as high as the second viewing deck. We stopped at the first level, 57m up, to take some photos before continuing up to the second deck at 115m. (The full tower is 324m to the tip). We toasted our success with a beer and enjoyed the view of Paris from up here.
What an incredible end to a short stay in the city of love!
Voted one of the top 10 beach bars in the world, Rick’s Cafe in Negril has become one of the most popular tourist spots in Jamaica. However, when the cliffside bar and restaurant first opened in April 1974, Negril was a sleepy fishing village with very little development. It soon became known as one of the best spots in Jamaica to watch the sunsets, and the crowds never stopped coming.
Rick’s Cafe was destroyed by hurricanes in both 1988 and 2004, but each time was rebuilt better than before.
Today, the 1.5-acre property hosts a gift shop, bar, restaurant, pool and live entertainment as well as lots of seating options.
You can also go swimming or try cliff diving, if you dare, off three different levels: 10ft, 25ft or 35ft cliffs, landing into 15ft deep turquoise waters below.
I didn’t get the nerve up to jump in, but watching others was great, especially when some of the locals started jumping off the highest platform, 80ft or so up.
Terrifying, but they make it look so easy! (Only locals are allowed to jump from up there. The highest platform the tourists can jump from is 35ft.)
Be sure to secure your spot early if you want a gorgeous sunset photo free of other people’s heads and cameras. It becomes very crowded around the edge as soon as the sun starts to dip. The live Jamaican music gets started around this time, too, adding to the atmosphere.
From up on the 35ft cliffs, looking down over the sea, the colourful sunset really is remarkable.
Unfortunately, we had some clouds covering the last little bit of our sunset, but overall, it was still worth it!
-Open every day (365 days a year) from 12pm to 10PM
-Admission is FREE
-Many hotels offer tour and/or shuttle options to get to Rick’s Cafe
-Cliff diving is strictly at your own risk
-Camera (or phone) – fully charged
-Bathing suit if you plan on swimming or cliff jumping
-Money if you wish to purchase food, drinks or souvenirs
Most of the time, I don’t pay much attention to sports. Sure, I love going out to watch a Toronto Blue Jays game, but rarely watch a game on T.V. But every two years, I become completely obsessed with sports, most of which I know very little about, when the Olympic Games start. This year has been no different. Most mornings, you can find me streaming whatever events happened overnight and then watching the live events in the evenings. While I will happily watch whatever is on, figure skating will always be my favourite. As much fun as it is to cheer the athletes on from my couch, seeing an event live is even better. I was lucky enough to watch the women’s Canada vs USA soccer game at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, England. What an incredible experience!
I’ve never been to PyeongChang, but I have been to South Korea twice while my youngest sister was living there and quite enjoyed my time. Korean food is amazing, but I think my favourite part was wandering around the beautiful temples, like the colourful Beomeosa Temple below.
One day, I’d love to cheer on the athletes from the stands again, but for now, it’s back to my couch!
Go Canada Go!!
I’ve never been the kind of girl who makes a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, most years, it’s just another day. However, there is one Valentine’s Day that stands out more than most days. Valentine’s Day 2008, while I was living in Kenya volunteering in an orphanage is one crazy day I’ll never forget!
Click here to read all about it!