The bones of Paris

For many, Paris, the ‘city of love,’ conjures images of romance, architecture and art. But once you’ve had your fill of the Mona Lisa and sipping champagne beneath the Eiffel Tower, a different side of Paris awaits. For this, you need to head down – about 20 metres below the city streets, where the catacombs wait.  20160826_170912

Located across the street from the Denfert-Rochereau station, is the entrance to the Catacombs of Paris. Here in the underground ossuaries lie the remains of more than six million people. The bones are laid in a small part of a tunnel network built to consolidate Paris’ ancient stone mines.

During the late 1700’s, many of the city’s cemeteries had reached capacity. Some, including the Saints-Innocents (Cemetery of the Innocents) had gone beyond capacity. Here, people were buried in mass graves, piled one on top of the other until it became a source of infection for those nearby.  In late 1785, the Council of the State closed the cemetery and decided to remove its contents.

This transfer began in 1786 after the blessing and consecration of the site and continued until 1788. The moving of remains took place at nightfall,  where a procession of priests sang the service for the dead along the route taken by the carts loaded with bones and covered by a black veil.

Until 1814, this site received the remains from all the cemeteries of Paris.


Since their creation, the Catacombs of Paris became a curiosity for more privileged Parisians. Public visits began after its renovation into a proper ossuary and the 1814 – 1815 war.

In the beginning, visits were only granted a few times a year with the permission of an authorized mine inspector. This turned into permission from any mine overseer, but as the number of visitors grew, it returned to its “permission only” rule in 1830.  Then, in 1833, they were closed completely as the Church opposed the public being exposed to human remains on display.  By 1850, the Catacombs were once again open, but only for four visits a year. Public demand led to the government allowing monthly visits as of 1867. This turned into bi-weekly visits on the first and third Saturday of each month in 1874 and then weekly visits during the 1878, 1889 and 1900 World’s Fair Expositions.

Today, they are open for daily visits, so head over and spend an hour wandering through the 2kms of bone-filled tunnels below the streets of Paris!

Plan your tour

The Catacombs are open daily from 10am-8:30pm (except Mondays and holidays)

Admission is granted in time slots, with the last admission at 7:30pm

Located across the street from Denfert-Rochereau Station
Métro et RER B : Denfert-Rochereau
Bus : 38, 68
Parking : Boulevard Saint-Jacques

Visitor numbers are restricted to 200 at any time. Admission may be delayed for a short time during busy periods. Be prepared to wait. (We did for almost 2 hours).
Distance covered: 1.5 km
Duration of the tour: 45 minutes
No toilet or cloakroom facilities available

For more info, click here

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Bonjour Disneyland Paris!

I love the magic of Disney and always love visiting a Disney Park on my travels. So while in France, I headed to Disneyland Paris to cross another one off my list.20160825_2001171.jpg

Disneyland Paris is split into two parks – Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park.   While it contained many of the same rides and attractions found at the other Disney Parks, there were also some new ones like Crush’s Coasters, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth and Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalment Toquee de Remy. 

The nighttime fireworks spectacular ‘Disney Dreams’ was as fantastic as their shows always are, but this one was neat as on top of popular Disney songs and characters being projected on the castle, they also made use of those Disney films that are set in France- Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Ratatouille, with songs from these films being performed in French!

              **Please excuse the shakiness, 20 minutes of looking up without a tripod is harder than it seems!**


I’ve now checked five Disney parks off my list. Only one remains: Shanghai, I’m coming for you!

For more info on Disneyland Paris, click here

Bonus Feature in honour of my mom, who’s favourite ride at Disney is ‘It’s a Small World‘ and who had us all riding it multiple times when we were younger!! Enjoy!

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Canals, Windmills and Beer

20160823_154754The Netherlands is known for many things, including wooden clogs, canals, windmills and Heineken beer.  So this summer, when we had an afternoon in Amsterdam, we found the perfect spot to spend a few hours sitting near a canal, drinking beer in a windmill brewery! (If only we had wooden clogs…)

20160823_172253Brouwerij’t IJ  is located outside of the downtown part of Amsterdam, but is easy to get to by bus, bike or a longer walk.  There is seating both inside and out and on a nice day it fills up very quickly. After walking along the canal, we found a couple seats at one of the long, shared tables and began ordering half pints, trying one of almost everything that was on tap. They have seven beers that are always available and then rotate through a selection of seasonal and limited edition beers.  While they don’t have a full menu, they do offer a selection of sausage and cheese to nibble at while enjoying your beer.

If you find yourself in Amsterdam, be sure to stop by and check them out!

20160823_172356The tasting area at Brouwerij’t IJ is open daily from 2pm-8pm.                                                                               For directions click here
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When in Dusseldorf, drink Altbier

My boyfriend is very into beer – drinking it, brewing it, and reading all about it. Because of this, I have become a much bigger beer fan, but still only in the drinking it stage. So, after dragging him through the cobblestone streets of Dusseldorf’s Altstadt (Old Town), we stopped by a few of their famous Altbier Brauerei’s.  Altbier or ‘Old Beer’ in German is a style that was first brewed around the city of Dusseldorf.  It gets its name from using an older method of fermentation – it’s top fermented rather than bottom fermented like other lager beers.

20160828_153911Almost every pub in the city sells Altbier and even the more modern ones still wouldn’t be confused with a conventional lager. The best way to enjoy Dusseldorf’s Altbier is at the brewery itself, straight from the wooden barrel.  So that’s exactly what we did.

Altstadt has five Altbier Breweries located within it:

  • Füchschen –  which means ‘In the little fox.’  This place has been pouring Alt since 1848.
  • Kürzer
  • Schumacher– The oldest brewery in Dusseldorf, it’s been serving since 1838!
  • Schlüssel-In 1850, it became a bakery and brewery.  The name, which means ‘The Keys,’ came from the custom to keep the keys for the town gates at the local public houses.
  • Uerige–   which has been brewing since 1862.

All of these Alt breweries have been around for well over 100 years and each have their own version of Altbier as their house specialty.

20160828_152436We were lucky enough to arrive in Dusseldorf during a festival which meant there were Altbier tents from all the local breweries set up with €2 beers! We tried Schlüssel Alt here before heading to Kürzer for our first brewery stop.

The building was old and stone and had the feel of what I felt an old German bar should be. There was lots of seating inside and stand up tables outside. From the time you order your first Altbier, the half pints just keep arriving at your table until you ask for your bill.


From here, we moved over to Füchschen.  There was some seating and lots of stand up tables both inside and out.  It was a very busy place, filled with patrons of all ages, a family on one side and a group of seniors on the other.  The brewpubs here are a place where everyone goes to hang out and share a beer or two and at some, have dinner.  The atmosphere found here is something we aren’t used to back home, but was a welcome change. 20160828_180114Once again, the Altbier just kept coming until we asked for our bill and the food coming out of the kitchen made us wish we hadn’t just eaten! In both places, we sat near the large barrel casks where a constant flow of Alt was being poured. It was a great way to spend an afternoon with the locals in Dusseldorf!


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Practically FREE Prague!

One day, it would be nice to have an unlimited budget to travel with, to not have to worry about counting dollars, pounds, euros, shillings and so on. Unfortunately, I’m not there yet. More than once in my life (four times to be exact) I have decided to buy a plane ticket instead of paying rent and come home from a wonderful adventure homeless, seeking temporary refuge on a friend’s couch, in my car or at my parents’ house.

This time, however, I opted to attempt to keep my apartment. I found myself in Prague for four days with approximately $50 to spend after paying for my hostel.

So after having a great (and cheap) time exploring the city, here’s my (practically) FREE guide to Prague!

  1. While the city has a good Metro system that’s reasonably cheap, there’s really not much need to use it (with the exception of arriving with your luggage) as almost all of the main sights are an easy walking distance from each other. Plus, you get your exercise and have the opportunity to find hidden gems along the way!
  1. New Europe Tours offers a free walking tour leaving from the Starbucks across from the Astronomical clock at 10:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. This company offers tours in several cities across Europe and the guides work on a tip basis. So if you like the tour and learn about the city you are currently in (which I can almost guarantee you will as all the guides I’ve had have been both funny and informative) then you tip them what you feel it was worth at the end of the three-hour tour.
  1. While on the road, eating out becomes a daily expense. While traditional pubs and restaurants are great to experience the local cuisine for a meal or two, the cost of eating out can add up quickly, especially if you’re in one of the touristy areas. Supermarkets are another great way to try local foods for a fraction of the price. Grabbing a fresh bun, some deli meat, fruit and a drink can cost as little as a dollar, depending on where you are. Then you have the freedom of finding a nice green park or your favourite spot from the day to have a picnic!
  2. Prague is a great city to wander around and many of the city’s must-see sights are free. Stroll along the Charles Bridge, making sure to stop and check out the many statues along the way. Wander through the Castle grounds – you can’t go in the buildings without paying an entrance fee, but just walking through the courtyards and around the perimeter give   you a great sense of the buildings. The gardens outside are also a perfect place to stop for a supermarket picnic! Old Town square hosts the Astronomical clock, Old Town Hall, Tyn Church, the statue of Jan Hus, Kinský Palace, Stone   Bell House and more. After a long day of discovering Prague on foot, Old Town Square is a great place to indulge in a   street beer for a couple Czech Koruna and watch the sunset as horse-drawn carriages roll by.
  1. Prague has some beautiful hotels, but is also home to a number of hostels with beds as low as $7 a night. These may not be the fanciest places in town, but if you’re coming to beautiful Prague to sit in a hotel room, you are really missing out!

Best of all, the memories and photos you’ll take with you when you leave are FREE. So get out there and explore fairytale Prague, without worrying about overstepping your budget!

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Zadar, Croatia

Croatia is absolutely gorgeous in the summer, especially down by the seaside. Here, are a few highlights of my time in Zadar.

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Visiting Edinburgh Castle

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Hidden Zagreb

Croatia’s capital, Zagreb is a world of hidden treasures longing to be uncovered around every corner. Secret alleyways lead to sidewalk cafes where “When a Man Loves a Woman” plays on a slightly staticky radio behind photos of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. Hidden staircases open into outdoor markets full of colourful fruit and vegetable stands and rows of souvenirs with bright red umbrellas protecting them from the hot mid-day sun. Behind arches and deep doorways, restaurants invite you in for a bite, and seemingly dead ends expose hidden churches and shops.


Continue reading

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Walking through the streets of beautiful Brno, Czech Republic

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The Baths of Budapest

A trip to Budapest just wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Hungarian Parliament building or trying a bowl of goulash soup, and as this European city is known for its thermal waters, a trip to one of the baths is a definite ‘must-do.’  While a nice swim in a thermal pool may be the perfect way to relax aching muscles after a day of sight-seeing, in Budapest, bath houses are much more than a tourist attraction – they are a way of life.

The Gellert Hotel & Baths in Budapest, Hungary

Locals put a lot of faith in the water’s healing properties and for many of the city’s older residents, the baths remain as important today as they were to the Ottomans. Continue reading

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