Tag Archives: France

First Impressions of Quebec- A French Experience in Canada

By Rohan:

We checked into our little hotel in Montreal, thinking there was so much to do and see that we could never imagine conquering it all. Next to us was a family buying train tickets to see Quebec, a city that I thought was similar to Montreal in architecture and culture. I could not have been more wrong. As the day progressed, I noticed more people following in that family’s footsteps and buying their tickets to the city. So as flexible travelers, we decided to see what the big deal was about Quebec.

Our trained pulled into the station on a bright Sunday morning and the lines for the train station coffee shop were already beginning to form. We grabbed our bags from the compartment above us and double-checked to make sure we had our return ticket. Since we only had a day in Quebec and no prior knowledge of any of the attractions, we just decided to wing it. We told the cab driver to take us “downtown” so we could at least get a sense of what this city looked like. The drive was picturesque to say the least. To our right, there was a sparkling river with everything from fishing boats to cruise ships filing in and out. To our left was… a wall?

Quebec was designed by the French to serve as a city rich in art and ideas but also for protection during battles like the French and Indian War. It’s a unique city, boasting a fortified wall that stretches endlessly and several cannons and turrets perched overhead.

As we entered the main city, we noticed the roads began to become steeper and bumpier. We’re not talking asphalt. We’re talking cobblestone. Seventeenth century cobblestone designed for horses to be exact. The cab driver looks in the rearview mirror and grins.

“First time in Quebec?”

After a long nap on the train, I was able to churn out enough energy to nod. The anticipation was building and the sights became more and more inspiring. Busy streets turned into quiet alleys with boutique stores and coffee shops. Modern skyscrapers began to blend into impressive fortresses. Topping it all off was the Chateau Frontenac, a building that is considered to be one of the most beautiful hotels in North America. And boy does it live up to that title! It looks like a palace with strong brick walls, gothic architecture, and Disneyland-like spires. Walk inside and you are treated to furniture from the 18th century, stunning glass chandeliers, and beautiful works of art like the real oil paintings in the lobby.

Exit the hotel and you are at the highest point of Quebec. Here, you can take a funicular to all the shops and restaurants or just kick back, grab a cold drink, and enjoy the view! There are remnants of old battle stations you can explore, making everywhere you look seem special. If you’re in Quebec, I highly recommend first taking a taxi to the Frontenac and then working your way downhill, literally eating through the bakeries and pastry shops as you make your way to the surface. It’s the perfect way to spend a day in French-inspired heaven.

A Morning at a Cemetery – A Recommended Parisian Attraction

By Lakshmi: (Updated September 20, 2014)

Who?  I can’t say anyone who likes cemeteries, but surely if you are someone who is inclined to authors, poets, politicians, etc., you would appreciate some time here.

What? Père Lachaise Cemetery located in the 20th arrondissement in Paris is said to be the most visited cemetery in the world.

How?  The cemetery is located at Boulevard de Menilmontant near the Père Lachaise metro.  The entrance is free.

Telephone : +33 1 55 25 82 10

Why?  When I mentioned to a dear friend that I was going to Paris, instead of telling me the obvious things to do, he pressed me to spend a morning at Père Lachaise.  I did not say anything to my husband immediately, but when we got to Paris, I gently mentioned that I wanted to spend a morning at a cemetery.  He gave me this strange look, but was a sport and decided to accompany me.

Inaugurated by Napoleon Bonaparte, this is the final resting place of over 300,000 people.  The cemetery is indeed a tranquil place and if you ignore the fact that it is a little spooky to walk amongst all these graves and at times feels like a surreal movie set, you actually are in a pretty lovely part of Paris with some amazing views from the top of the hill.  I came prepared with a list of people whose graves I wanted to visit….Victor Hugo, Balzac, Delacroix and Oscar Wilde.  Finding the graves was part of the interesting journey.  As we looked for these, we found several others.  We spent the entire morning as the sole visitors there and while I would have never sought the place out myself, I was glad to have experienced this “off-beat” Parisian excursion.

To learn more about visiting, click here.

http://www.pere-lachaise.com/perelachaise.php?lang=en

You can also get more information and a quick video tour here:

http://www.pariscemeteries.com/pages/perelachaise.html

Sacre Coeur: A Magical Parisian Destination

By Rohan:

There are several places in the world that people dream about visiting. From picturesque beaches to bustling cities, the list is jam-packed with destinations around the world. Year after year, Paris makes the list for most popular vacation spot and most popular honeymoon spot for its awe-inspiring architecture and culture. There are many ways to end a day in Paris. Eat ice cream underneath the Eiffel Tower, watch the flame crackle by the Arc de Triomphe, or perhaps enjoy a scenic view of the city of lights from Sacre Coeur.

Sacre Coeur is a majestic cathedral that was completed in the early nineteenth century. The facade is made entirely of marble and it looms over Paris like a guardian, watching over the city as the sun sets. You can take a taxi to the foot of the church or use the funicular and explore the quaint, peaceful cobblestone streets illuminated by lamps hanging from wires above. From here, you are able to capture the beauty of the building firsthand and truly see how ornate and enormous it is. Turn around, and Sacre Coeur does not fail to impress with a stunning view of Paris and her lovely monuments. The Notre Dame cathedral, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and even the world-famous Louvre are visible from the top of this gorgeous landmark.

Once you get to Sacre Coeur, there are endless ways to spend your time. What we like to do is eat at one of the little cafes by the edge of the hill where you can get a view of the entire city and take a few photos. Then, walk up to the foot of Sacre Coeur and, if it’s open, take a peek inside. Remember to always be respectful and courteous when visiting these landmarks and obey all rules and regulations. Most of Paris’ top attractions are heavily protected and require that you abide by all posted and verbal regulations. Sacre Coeur is no different. Once you exit the cathedral, you can take one more look at the skyline before winding down the cobblestone streets. By now, you are ready for dessert and there is everything from tiny crepe shops to Haagen Dazs ice cream on the mountain top. Take the funicular down and enjoy the descent as you take in the entire the city of lights.

Out of all the landmarks we visited while touring the city, Sacre Coeur offered the most memorable experience and we cannot wait to return to one of our favorite places in all  of France.

Lakshmi’s Comments:  Sacre Couer is one spot I had heard very little about before visiting Paris, and in my heart it will always remain my most cherished part of the city.  Why?  First, it is situated in the bohemian neighborhood of Montmarte where Van Gogh once lived with his brother Theo, where Degas and Zola have their final resting places, and of course, the site that is notable for the presence of the cabaret Moulin Rouge.  I found it to be the most romantic site in all of Paris, a place away from the maddening crowds, the serenity of the church juxtaposed against one of the liveliest cities below.  This was probably why Indira Gandhi’s husband proposed to her here.  We sat there for several hours, listening to music, watching people come and go, and looking at the glow cast on the basilica by the setting sun, feeling so content in an act as simple as sitting on the footsteps of a church at the highest point of Paris.

If you are in Paris, please do take the time to go visit Sacre Couer.  To get more information, click here:

http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/us/index.html