Tag Archives: metro


As mentioned on the main page, we have been to Paris on several occasions, prior to the existence of the website. And we did it in a serious manner, blitzing every conceivable tourist attraction FULLY. But we did it a long time ago.

So leaving the Caribbean and heading towards Portugal and Northern Africa we were to transit through Paris. If you’re coming here, there really is no reason not to stop for a few days and take it all in. Which is exactly what we did.

Having seen it all we really were under no pressure to race around, but rather we were able to just relax and soak in a truly enjoyable city (albeit in the cold of early Spring). Our arrival was at Orly airport which was so much more pleasant than at Charles Ge Galle Airport.

While less stressful, it was no more organised than the main airport and getting out via Uber proved far more challenging than it needed to be.

We stood by the side of the road (in 5-degree temperatures – not in the Caribbean anymore) for over an hour (in the designated Uber pickup zone) for several cars to pick up and drop our fare. They got within 200m of us and gave up, on multiple occasions. After several such attempts, we got a driver who texted us looking for us. We ended up walking the 200-odd meters to the delivery point for departing flights and finally got our ride.

A Sunday afternoon traffic nightmare saw us sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for the next hour (plus) before finally getting to our hotel. At this point the 9 hour overnight flight coupled with the 6 hour time difference and saw us crashing for an afternoon nap.

A quick pop up the road for dinner and our Paris experience began in earnest. After some false starts on ordering (the beef cheeks and the Foie gras) due to being sold out, we started with a magnificent Carbonara pasta and a rump steak. Not very French but really good nonetheless. The next morning we got a bit more authentic with coffees and pastries from one of the ubiquitous roadside bistros.

The 1 degree temperature saw us huddled inside rather than perched on the outdoor seating (even though they did have blankets for your knees). I also learned that my usual macchiato in Paris had changed names and my order was now a noisette. Jill’s latte remained standard, but the quality immediately blew away the recent caffeine attempts that we had experienced in America, the Caribbean and in America.

After being suitably caffeinated, we headed to the metro and paid the 12 euros (each) for the one day tourist pass, which bought 24 hours of unlimited travel. So on the train we hopped and headed towards Charles De Gaulle Etoile. This is the metro station directly below the Arc De Triomphe.

From here a quick wander (about 1.6km) south to the Trocadero where the Eiffel Tower opens up for the throngs of tourists to get their much needed selfies (ourselves included). Now neither Jill nor I have mastered the selfie with both of us delivering atrocious attempts. It was about 3 degrees in the non-tourist season and there were thousands of people here. Clearly there is no down time for Paris and its tourist trade.

Now the short walk to the tower really put Paris’ best foot forward. It is such a beautiful, clean (apart from maybe the dog poop and cigarette buts) city that is architecturally stunning and beautifully maintained. The parks and green spaces integrate beautifully with the historic buildings and the whole place feels nice.

Admittedly it has recently held the Rugby World Cup and is about to host the Olympics, so it really should be looking its best. With the Olympics in mind there is a fair bit of sprucing up going on in preparation. Many of the magnificent fountains had been drained and were undergoing maintenance in the lead up to the summer season and Olympic games.

From the tower we hopped the Metro to see the current state of the Notre Dame after the devastating fire in 2019 that gutted the building. Even now, to see such an iconic building in this state was highly upsetting. On the positive side, while taking our happy snaps, we overheard a tour guide telling a group that the international donations provided more than enough money for its complete renovation. But for now it remains a facade and a bunch of scaffolding.

Another (relatively) short walk along the canals and we found ourselves wandering past the Musee d’Orsay and on to the Louvre. Now even in 5 degree temperatures, in non tourist season, the line to get in stretched for hours. Thankfully we had done this all last time, so had no intention of going in, so the length of the line was irrelevant to us.

A quick wander along through the gardens (Tuileries) where my favourite statue of all time lives.

And we found ourselves at the end of the Champs Elysees on our way back to the Arc De Triomphe.

As this stretch is full of high end shopping we boycotted and headed home. We got to stare at the Pantheon, the Bastille and Sacre Coeur as we transited past them but for us that was our tourism ticks for this trip.

The rest of our time was spent soaking up the lifestyle of Paris and (of course) sampling some of the Epicurean offers. This started that afternoon with Fois Gras and a croque madame (with wine) and continued that evening with Charcuterie and Pommes frites.

The next morning was more amazing coffee, and some more croque madame’s (from a different place) followed by some french pastries from one of the many Boulangeries.

The range of what is available is incredible and the offerings are all spectacular.

And I really think that that the French name of Mille-feuille

And I really think that the French name of Mille-feuille is a little more elegant than the Australian version, the snot block.

So our last foray before we left was a magnificent Duck Confit and a rack of lamb, washed down with a local Chardy and a beer. Our time here was short, but was highly enjoyable and the food options were so good that you were glad you were only here for a short time.

Any longer and you would be grabbing your chest and falling to the ground. The richness is fantastic, but cannot be sustainable in the long term.

Rio de Janeiro

Well this has been a long time coming and let me say right up front it was worth the wait. Rio de Janeiro couldn’t have been settled in a more beautiful landscape, nestled between the hills and the ocean. They made a definite point of saying that they were hills as they were not tall enough to classify as mountains.

The skyline is dominated by two main peaks that rise from Guanabara Bay. The first is sugarloaf mountain (not a mountain at 396 meters but hey) and the other is Corcovado (still not a mountain at 710 meters) which is the site of Christ the Redeemer.

Our day was mostly grey and overcast, but on occasion the sun peaked out from behind the clouds but then quickly disappeared again.

Getting around in Rio de Janeiro proved to be really simple. Our movement was dominated by our tour bus, but a clean and efficient metro system, cheap Ubers and yellow taxis make Rio pretty straightforward to navigate. During daylight hours the streets are safe to walk around on and the beaches have hire bikes that link in with a local mobile app (about $7 for 2 days).

Sugarloaf Mountain (known as Pao de Acucar) is one of the most iconic and sought-after landmarks and top attractions of Rio de Janeiro.

The peak is known worldwide for its cable car, the panoramic views of the city and the infamous Rio beaches (more about these later). It is a huge lump of granite and quartz rising straight out of the water and offers 360 degree views of Rio. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

You have the option of hiking (yeah right) or taking the modern cable car all the way to the top. The hike takes you half way with another cable car taking you the rest of the way.

The obvious next place was to climb the Corcovado mountain to see the Christ the Redeemer statue.

This is possibly one of the most famous views on the planet. You’ve probably seen the picture million times – a giant white concrete statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro.

The sight is impressive in photos, but the reality is even better. The statue was first conceived in 1920, after World War I, when representatives of the Brazilian republic felt that the country needed a symbol to strengthen their faith again.

To get here we got a bus to the foot of the hill, where you meet up with the funicular railway, which takes you by cog tram, through the forest to the foot of the statue. The tram/train leaves every 30 minutes, and the ride up takes 20 minutes.

The statue is 30 meters tall, standing on an 8 meter pedestal and weighs in at 635 tons and was finished in 1931. The arms of Christ the Redeemer stretch 28 meters wide and the surrounding area has been designated as the Tijuca Forest National Park.

Lets be serious here. You will be but one of thousands visiting here. At any time of day. The place is packed. If your photo editing skills are good or if your framing is perfect or you are super lucky, you may get a nice photo. Otherwise expect there to be a ton of other people. We gave up on the getting to the Sugarloaf lookout from the Corcovado as the number of people was just mind boggling.

Coming down the mountain (hill) we did the beach loop. Rio de Janeiro is home to some of the most famous beaches on the planet. The main ones are Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon (broken up only by Arpoador rock..

Copacabana is one of the most famous beaches in the world. The boulevard was designed by Brazilian architect Roberto Burle Marx and is depicted in postcards – mainly due to the beautiful wide beach and striking patterned pavement. As we were in town on New Year’s Eve, the beaches were more packed than usual and the local authorities were setting up for the New Year’s Celebration. The sheer volume of portaloos being set up was a sight to behold.

Ipanema beach is the next most famous of the Rio beaches popularised by the famous 1960’s bossa nova song the ‘Girl from Ipanema’. If you think that you can visit this beach without hearing this song in either English or Portuguese then you are kidding yourself. The song was written about a real person (Helô Pinheiro) who at the age of 17 inspired the songwriters (Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes) by simply walking to the beach.

Leblon Beach flows directly on from Ipanema Beach separated only by a canal and park known as Jardim de Alá or thew garden of Allah. The Canal links the lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean.

Barra da Tijuca is a bit more off the beaten path but is a suburban beach. It is more American in style with condo’s and shopping malls everywhere you look and was the site of many events during the 2016 Olympics.

Since the Portuguese colonised Brazil in the 16th century, it has been overwhelmingly Catholic. Today Brazil has more Roman Catholics than any other country in the world with an estimated 123 million of them. This translates to a ton of fairly impressive churches dotting the city.

The first and main one is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian.

The church of São Francisco da Penitência was built in 1726 and is a Baroque colonial church in the center of the city.  

Rio also has four major football (soccer) teams and if you think you can go anywhere in town without somebody mentioning one or more of these then you are also kidding yourself. The teams are Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco.

Rio is probably equally as famous for its Carnival. Usually in February, it begins on the Friday preceding lent and ends on Ash Wednesday, but the Winners’ Parade happens on the Saturday after carnival ends. Up until the mid 1980s, the Samba Parades of Rio Carnival were held along the main street of Avenida Presidente Vargas.

But 1984 saw the building of the permanent structure and stands that have come to be known as the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí. This is a purpose-built stadium, designed specifically to host the annual parade and able to accommodate about 75,000 people.

The focus of Carnival is for the local Samba Schools to compete. The blurb says that the parades are an amalgamation of dance, fashion, music, narrative, spectacle, and competition in which thousands of performers process in the early morning hours through the Sambadrome.

Coming through in December we got to see the Sambadrome but obviously missed out on the February celebrations. The other thing that has tended to become a thing of ours is the taking in of local street art.

Due to the fact that it was New Year’s Eve and it was a cruise ship full of older people, the decision was made that the night would be more safely spent on the ship, rather than on the beaches of Brazil. So we all got ourselves back to the ship before dark and moved around to park in front of Copacabana Beach where we waited for the midnight fireworks show.

Everywhere we went in Brazil we constantly read about the safety situation. Even the Australian smart traveller website suggests that you exercise a high degree of caution in Brazil due to the threat of violent crime. This has not been our experience, everywhere we have been has been friendly and welcoming and has felt safe (granted we were not out and about in the evenings).

Brazil has been fun, friendly, incredibly well priced and will absolutely be somewhere that we will return to.

Beijing – The last two weeks in China

We rode the train into Beijing for what was to be our last two weeks in China. The main reason for being here is to get visas to go to other countries that we are headed towards…while also giving Jill enough time to get a head start on some assignments that she needs to do for her Masters. As we were making our plans we learnt that my cousin Andrew would be in town for a one week work trip so plans were made to catch up. This was quite a funny experience as we have seen each other about twice in the last decade in Australia but ended up spending heaps of time together in Beijing.

He was being hosted by Frank…the dean of the university…who was happy to let us join in on the festivities…but would not allow us to contribute to any of the costs. Frank, Andy and the local crew worked all day and (when available) in the evenings we hooked up for about 19 dishes each night. Despite being incapable of eating all of the food…Frank would not let the guests starve…or contribute. Andy was almost dying as he was subjected to Frank’s over ordering for lunch as well.

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Don’t get me wrong the food was magnificent and Frank happily picked up the tab for all concerned (including us). But he would order about twice as much as anybody could reasonably ingest. After our last night eating with them…Jill did not ingest any food for the next 40 hours. On the Friday we headed off to the Great Wall to the Mutianyu section. While we had already been there it is by far the best of the sections and Andrew’s lot was taking us.

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We were in Beijing and made our first trip to the Vietnamese embassy to apply for our visa which was remarkably simple but required submitting our passport for the week. We had a blue sky day so tried to climb the mountain at the end of the forbidden city for the panorama Beijing shot (for those that remember right back to when we started this). Alas the clouds rolled in by the time sunset was due so we didn’t get the photo but we did the nighttime walk around Tiananmen Square.

The other thing of note was that my backpack had been beaten and bashed along the journey and required some maintenance as the plastic clips had snapped and there was a few scuff marks etc. Having spent the money on good packs (Osprey backpacks) this too was very simple. I sent an email advising them I needed a repair, they asked for photos, I sent them, they agreed to replace the bag. That simple.

What was not simple on the other hand was the logistics of getting the correct bag from Shanghai to Beijing in the time frame when we were there. The language barrier was a major issue to our communications but the intent behind all of this on behalf of osprey was good as they really tried hard to fix the issue. The first parcel was a smaller backpack and had to be returned. The other issue was getting a clear answer of what to do with the old pack. After much to and fro it eventually got sorted.

While in Beijing I made contact with a former colleague who was now working at the Australian embassy here in Beijing and arrangements were made to catch up. He invited us to Friday night drinks at the embassy and a Peking duck dinner with his wife and a few embassy staff directly afterwards. This was accompanied by an invitation to watch the Bledisloe Cup rugby with the New Zealand embassy staff the next night.

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Jill settled in to her studies while I killed time and prepared a summary of our time here in China for the blog. On our second last day we got to catch up with Cindy (the Canadian Chinese girl we were in Tibet with) for a great lunch. We got some trinkets for the guys we would meet in Sri Lanka (met them in a hostel in Guilin) and basically ate and drank our way through the last little bit in China. We will be returning to Hong Kong in October to catch up with mike and Patricia but our China adventure is coming to an end.

There will be one final summary China post with an overview of where we have been and the highlights and lowlights of our time here…doing the maths on things here got pretty big pretty quickly…and it is fair to say that we have experienced China more so than most would ever do…and we still want more.