Paris from the Top

Experience, Photography, Travel

Recently, we flew to Paris for a weekend trip. This trip was based around doing everything we wanted to do before we fly back home from my Europe trip in five weeks. I did a lot. The highlight of my trip was L’Arc de Triomphe, this was my first time ever seeing it in person, regardless of the many times I have been to Paris. It was an amazing sight, it was so big and grand, I did not expect it to be like that.

Not only did we see The Arc de Triomphe, we actually went to the viewing platform on the top. The panoramic views from the top were amazing, you could see all down Champs-Élysées, La Défense, The Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, etc… You could see everything basically.

In my opinion I preferred the views at The Arc de Triomphe over those at The Eiffel Tower. And especially considering the never-ending queues at The Eiffel Tower, The Arc de Triomphe made for a more pleasant experience.

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Underneath The Tuscan Sun

Photography, Travel

Recently, I was happy to spend my last few days of the French Summer Break in Tuscany, Italy. Although most of my days were spent reading a book underneath the trees, and swimming in the pool; I still wanted to have the chance to go and visit some nearby cities and villages such as Florence and Bologna.

On the day we flew into Bologna airport, we headed straight for Florence, more specifically Fiesole, where we stayed in a beautiful authentic Tuscan cottage. The best thing about this cottage was the amazing views of Florence, and the pool. As one of the days even reached as high as 42°c. Our first day in Tuscany, we decided to catch the train from Fiesole into the centre of Florence. My favourite sight in Florence was the Florence Cathedral. Although we saw it up close from a normal perspective, we drove up to a viewing spot, where we could see the entire Cathedral in all its glory.

Our local village, Fiesole also offered great views of Florence. Unfortunately, the photos were never as amazing as it felt and looked in person. In Fiesole, we found this great gelateria, which did my two favourite flavours amazingly, ‘mango e menta’. We ate out at this amazing authentic, local Tuscan Italian restaurant. They did a great Caprese Salad, and amazing Bistecca alla Fiorentina. The Tuscan Sunset was visible through our drive back home through the Tuscan hills. It really did feel magical.

After a two day break of relaxing locally, we hopped in the rental car and drove to a pizza restaurant in a nearby town called Greve in Chianti. The Pizza was great, but this is Italy. Pizza is amazing everywhere.

And finally it was time to wake up, pack up, and say goodbye to Tuscany. Back to Bologna we drove. Luckily we spent a few hours in Bologna, and from what I saw, it looked like an amazing city. Especially for food.

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The Alps

Photography, Travel

A few weeks ago, I was up in the beautiful Alps of Europe. Luckily we were able to experience this incredible Mountain Range in three beautiful countries; Switzerland, France, and Italy. When we flew into Geneva airport, as soon as I got off the plane, I could see the mountains in the distance. It felt pretty unreal. Unfortunately, we did not stay in Geneva. We got our hire car and were heading straight for Lausanne. We were staying in Lausanne for two nights. By the time we arrived at our hotel in Lausanne, it was already late at night.. So we decided to just go to sleep, and look forward to tomorrow.

When we woke up, I was able to see the city for the first time from our hotel balcony. And from what I saw right off the bat, it looked like quite a busy city for what I thought to feel a lot smaller. And I can tell you right now that it felt very busy, just like a big city. Just shrunken down. We went to a local cafe for a nice pancake and coffee breakfast, before heading off to the train station to catch a train to Lutry. A municipality in the hills of Lavaux-Oron District. It was extremely beautiful, unfortunately, like a lot of places I visited on this trip; it really was hard to capture its entire beauty in a photo. You really need to see these places in person to appreciate their beauty. We went to a wonderful burger place for dinner and then it was pretty much time to go back to the hotel to sleep.

The next morning we woke up and headed off in our small little car to drive to the Swiss town of Gruyère, famous for it’s cheese. It was one word. Magical. It felt like a town in the clouds. While we were there, we had to try a traditional Swiss Gruyère Cheese fondue. We also were lucky enough to visit the Cailler Factory, just a bit out of Gruyère. After lunch, we set off to our next destination. Chamonix, Montblanc, France.

Although I was sad to be leaving Switzerland, (it was probably a good thing because that country was extremely expensive) when I arrived in Chamonix, it didn’t feel that different to Switzerland, you were still in the middle of the mountain range, and it still had that Swiss French feel. While we were in Chamonix, we visited nearby towns such as Annecy and Aosta (which was actually in Italy). The first night in Chamonix we went out to look around the town and got an ice cream for desert.

After a nice nights sleep, we woke up to a delicious buffet breakfast, before setting off to cross the Italian border through the Montblanc tunnel. The tunnel was a really cool experience. It wasn’t too special but it really did intrigue me that we were driving through one of the highest mountains in Europe. But the most amazing thing to me was that you could drive through a mountain and end up in a completely different country. When we got out of the tunnel we drove straight to a very beautiful Italian Town, Aosta. We stopped there for a nice casual Italian lunch, looked around the town and left to go back to Chamonix.

The next day we decided we would go to Annecy. Annecy was simply magical. It felt like disneyland to me! It felt like a tropical french island village in the middle of the mountains. Very cool. After 6 nights in The Alps, I sadly had to leave to return home. I definitely hope to revisit some of these places one day. I still find it hard to believe how magical and fictional it all felt.

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A Day in the Pyrenees

Photography

A few weeks back, we had grandparents from New Zealand staying and visiting France. Down in Southern France, one of its biggest attractions is the Pyrenees. So they definitely couldn’t leave without having had seen them. We chose to visit Lac de Bious-Artigues, near Laruns.

What makes our visit so special, is that we visited on a very cold and misty day, creating awesome photo opportunities. The lake was distinguishable of what the lake would be like on a normal sunny summers day.

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Praha, Česká Republika

Photography, Travel

Only weeks ago, I found myself in the city of Prague, Czech Republic. Or as some say, the Paris of Eastern Europe. My first impressions of Prague, was a 15 minute ride on the metro. It was built in a very Russian communist style. Which is one of the things I found most intriguing about Prague, and Czech Republic in general. When we stepped out of the Underground, it was absolutely pouring down with rain, so we navigated ourselves to the hotel in the rain. Luckily after about 15 minutes of unpacking in the hotel room, the rain had cleared and the sun was shining.

Apart from that little patch of heavy rain when we first arrived, we had excellent weather in Prague. It was warm and sunny for the entirety of our visit. Prague was so beautiful, and also very colourful, all of the buildings were in pastel colours. But mixed with the beautiful pastel buildings, were intense gothic monuments such as; Church of Our Lady before Týn, St Vitus Cathedral, and Charles Bridge.

On our first day in Prague; we had a late lunch at the local Vietnamese restaurant: “banh-mi-ba”. Where I ordered myself a beef banh-mi. Followed by a stroll through the city, and a walk across Charles Bridge. We couldn’t help but stop and take photos everywhere, the entire city was so photogenic! I also had to try one of the traditional Czech Trdelník (or Czech Chimney Cake) For dinner, we had read about a burger house called ‘Meat and Greet’, which was excellent and had the best burgers I’d ever had!

The highlight of my second day in Prague, was walking up the hill to the Prague Castle, the views from the top were absolutely stunning. And really did make me appreciate how beautiful the city was. We spent a good chunk of the morning wandering the castle grounds. Another attraction I thought was really good was the Prague Astronomical clock. Every hour, the crowds were gathering on the street to claim their spaces to stand and watch the clock. Although it wasn’t as long and as ‘wow’ as I expected, it was still worth being able to see.

These are some of the highlights from my trip from Prague, in conclusion I think that Prague is definitely up there as one of my favourite for me. Which is pretty high up considering that every place I visit seems to impress me. This definitely won’t be my last time in Prague, I will definitely visit again in my later years.

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Photography, Travel

A few days ago, I was wondering around the beautiful street-lined canals of Amsterdam. This was my first time in The Netherlands, so the city had a very foreign vibe to me, although in many areas of the city reminded me of Australia’s Melbourne, and England’s London.

Amsterdam, to me, felt a lot smaller and quieter than other European cities such as Paris, Barcelona etc. In many areas, it felt as if there wasn’t as much going on, although at the same time, there were very populated and busy areas in the city too. We stayed near the Sloterdijk Station, and took the train to Centraal Station daily.

One thing I noticed was that Amsterdam has a very noticeable food and arts scene. When we were in Amsterdam, we were very surprised by how good the Dutch foods were, my favourites were Bitterballen, Stroopwafel, and Poffertjes. Which were all very good. Honestly, I’d move to The Netherlands just for those foods on a daily basis. I should also mention that we went to some excellent cafes and restaurants in Amsterdam.

During the days, we just really wondered around the streets, improvising on what to visit and see. Unfortunately, we had just missed the Tulip season, which was unfortunate. Because Amsterdam is really well-known for their beautiful tulip fields. We did visit the Rijksmuseum and walked past the Anne-Frank House. But most of our trip was just getting a feel for the city. We noticed that there were a lot of green public spaces and parks in the city.

Amsterdam was great, and one of the highlights of my trip in Europe. I really can see why it is Europe’s eighth most visited city. If you ever get the chance to visit Europe, Amsterdam should definitely be near the top of your list.

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The Happiest Place on Earth

Experience, Travel

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit Disneyland Paris for the first time. After visiting Epernay, in the Champagne region of France. We drove in our little rental car to Serris, where Disneyland was located.

We arrived at roughly 2:30 in the afternoon, and after gathering some necessary materials from the local Supermarket, we headed straight off for the theme parks. The scale of the theme park was what hit me first. I don’t think I had ever really seen anything like it. As someone who I would say isn’t too keen on roller coasters, I accidentally went on what was thought to be a mild ride firstly, turns out, that was one of the roughest in the park. Not only that, but I was put at the very front of the coaster! So I definitely came off of that one a little terrified. That first night we also did a lot of smaller activities such as a haunted house in the Frontierland section.

What surprised me so much thanks to having limited knowledge of what theme parks are like, was the queue times. It is very likely you could be queuing up to 2 hours for a forty second long roller coaster ride. Also a side note; if you ever plan on visiting the Disney Parks, make sure to pack lunch or some sort of meal. Food in Disneyland is highly expensive, and quite literally gross. Unfortunately we found this out the hard way!

On our first night at the park, we decided to stay late for the 11:00 p.m. fireworks and light show. Luckily we made it just in time, we had just finished our last ride for the night. Unfortunately since we were arriving at the starting time, there were not really many amazing spots with great views of the Cinderella Castle. But I was happily surprised to find out that even right at the entrance of the theme park, the castle was still 100% visible in the night sky.

Our second day and our first full day at the park started off in the Disneyland Park, where we did the roller coasters that we had not done the day before. Including the Hyperspace Mountain; which left me shaking and shivering. We were in the Disneyland Park until around 1:00 p.m. before we decided to go and discover the Walt Disney Studios. Funnily enough, we happened to bump into some friends all the way from New Zealand. We spent the afternoon with them, doing all the major rides in the park such as Crush’s Coaster, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Ratatouille, etc… On this day we finished our day a lot earlier, after the 6 p.m. Disney Parade.

Our last day was a Saturday, which meant that it was much more busier than usual. We had one main thing we wanted to do that day which was the Big Thunder Mountain Coaster. Which was great fun, not scary unlike other coasters. My brother also wanted to re-do some of the intense roller coasters again (no chance I was going on those again). So we did some of those. But we finished off our trip at Disneyland with the Walt Disney Studios Tour. Which was really good!

But that pretty much wraps up my trip to Disneyland, I really did enjoy it. It still seems almost unreal that I was there. Even if three days at a busy, crowded, roller coaster filled theme park seems at little overwhelming, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

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Epernay, Champagne

Photography, Travel

These past days, on our way to Disneyland Paris, we decided to stop for a few nights in Champagne. We stayed in a beautiful apartment in the center of Epernay, one of the most famous villages in the Champagne region of France.

The first thing we did in Epernay, was to sort out a nice place to eat out. Luckily there was a nice, family-friendly restaurant nearby that did delicious rotisseries for a very decent price. In fact, we loved the place so much we actually went 2/2 nights. The first night I got a Rotisserie Chicken, and the second night I ordered myself a Rotisserie Pork. Both were delicious.

During our time, we went and visited some smaller, very beautiful villages surrounding Epernay, where we looked at many vineyards full of grape vines, small antique shops, churches, and little Champagne Houses. In Epernay itself, we walked along Avenue de Champagne. Champagnes most famous street; home to all the big Champagne Houses such as Moet et Chandon and Perrier Jouet. We also walked around the town, and viewed The Gardens on Avenue de Champagne.

Although we were only in Epernay for a very short amount of time, we still got a great taste of what Champagne has to offer.

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England Take Two

Photography, Travel

Friday 23 June was my last day of school for 2016-2017 school year. At 3:30 p.m we had a flight from Lourdes to London. Unlike my last visit to London, this time we were staying out near London Gatwick Airport. Although we still did go into such places like Victoria, Clapham, and Richmond in London. We wanted to visit some smaller English towns nearby London.

Our first day in England, we drove in to Clapham in our yellow hire car. We were meeting some family. We spent the rest of the day exploring London. We stopped at a pub for some lunch. I still felt quite full from breakfast, so I just chose to get a bowl of Hot Chips. After this, we caught a bus to Richmond. Which is a small suburban area of London. It was very pretty, we walked along the riverside, but due to some heavy rain earlier on, the sidewalk was flooding! What really was amazing about Richmond is that after a 15 minute bus ride from Central London you can be in what feels like never ending country side.

After Richmond, we took the bus to Victoria. Which is where our cousins live, we went to Shake Shack Victoria for dinner. Although not the most authentic place to eat, the burgers are 10/10, honestly. By this time, it was absolutely bucketing down with rain. So we were just happy to be inside.

The next day, we made the decision to visit a nearby town called Arundel, West Sussex. Which was home to a beautiful ancient castle and gardens. Altough we didn’t go in to the actual castle, we spent our day walking around the beautiful streets, eating jam and cream scones in the local English Tea House, walking around the massive castle grounds/gardens. The town really was beautiful.

The next day, we were just determined to get ourselves to the airport on time. So we left earlier in the day. And before we knew it, we were back home in France. Luckily, this isn’t my last time in England, I’ll be back soon! Trust me.

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The City of Canals

Photography, Travel

It has always been a dream of mine to visit Venice, and the past week I was fortunate enough to finally visit. After sitting in a Train for two hours from Milan, when we arrived in Venice, I was really eager to explore the City. We caught a water bus from the train station to the Grand Canal. The first thing I saw, was the Rialto Bridge, it looked exactly like it did in all of the beautiful photos you see of Venice. It was a very hot day, and the tourists were every where, the gondolas were on the water, and the gelateria’s were packed.

On the first night, I was told that Venice is not known for the pizza unlike other Italian cities such as Rome or Naples. Unfortunately that was after I had ordered the pizza on the menu. Nevertheless, the pizza was still delicious. My personal favourite time for exploring the Venice streets is evening, the tourists have settled down, the temperature is dropping, the canals are still. Everything just seems more relaxed at evening time. The Venice Canals are all so very beautiful, all of them. During the day they are full of locals riding boats to work and tourists riding gondolas to see the beautiful city from a different angle.

We were fortunate enough to get a very good deal for a gondola ride in the evening, where it is usually most expensive in the evening, we got it for the same price as mid-day. It was so much more enjoyable in the evening, the canals were all so peaceful, and the sun wasn’t too bright. You can even pay a premium and get a local Italian singer to play for you while you boat through the canals.

At the moment, Venice sits in first place, tied with Paris on my favourite places I have visited in Europe. I am so thankful that I have had the chance to visit one of the most beautiful places on earth. I would love to visit again in a few years time.

 

 

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