France And Euro 2016 – Chamonix

Chamonix

If you’ve been following this blog, this is a continuation to my last travel post ( Link : France And Euro 2016 – Marseille). From Marseille, we headed to Chamonix. A small and beautiful town, near the border of Switzerland. One can opt for either of the two ways to get here:

  1. Take a flight or train to Geneva and hire a cab or a car from Geneva to Chamonix.
  2. Or one could opt for a car from wherever they are to Chamonix. The journey is about 515 kms or a 4 and a half hour drive incase you don’t take a stop in between. Being near the border of Switzerland, the roads are very scenic with snowclad mountains and lush forests.

The taxi ride from Geneva to Chamonix.

We opted for the former, all thanks to the Car Rental agency swiping our card multiple times and causing it to block instantly. Taking the train is slightly complicated cause you need to change trains, and take care of your luggage simultaneously. Also, since we bought tickets at the last hour, it was pretty expensive for us.

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As far as the train changes go, from Marseille we travelled to Lyon, and then changed trains from Lyon to Geneva, followed by a taxi that charged us about €300. The train takes about 5 hours to get you there, however it was the famous TGV that we were in, so that was another small experience added to this EuroTrip. And since we were spending a great deal of money anyway, we decided to spoil ourselves with first class tickets at an additional €25.

About Chamonix, it is something I would describe as a small village, not even a town.But surrounded by mountains, including The Mont Blanc; it manages to attract a great deal of tourists.

Evening and sunrise view of The Mont Blanc from our room.

We checked into “Des Balcons Du Savoy” which is a 4 start hotel at the edge of town, about a 7 minute walk from the centre, which is why it is cheaper than other similar hotels in the area. The hotel was comfortable, and the rooms very spacey. The highlight for us though, were the windows facing the Mont Blanc and the automatic blinds. You’re probably thinking whats so good about automatic blinds, and let me tell you; wanting to open the blinds right after waking up to get a sunrise view, or being able to control them from your bed after a tiring days affairs has its own satisfaction.

img_4700.jpgChecking in, we immediately set out to explore the town. It is a very cute town, with very small structures, not bigger than 2-3 storeys, except some hotels. A town that reminded me of my time in Whistler,Canada. Cafes everywhere, branded shops to shop from, sports stores to buy high-end trekking gear from, and countless restaurants offering a number of cuisines, bakeries and dessert houses. That macaroon tower had me swooning, despite never having tried one back then!

This place is like heaven for people who like outdoor sports especially cycling and trekking thanks to the enormous number of sports stores offering the most premium quality equipments. Things I’ve literally never come across back in Mumbai.

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There’s a small river that flows through the town giving you a DDLJ feeling (Every bollywood fan will get this!). This town also has a small casino, but the tables open only after 08:30. However, it only has roulette, blackjack and slot machines to offer. However it’s fun for newbies, as minimum bet starts at as low as €2.

A very important thing to note for people who do not have a lot of time in Chamonix is to cover the following things, as far as sightseeing goes.

  1. The Gondola for Aiguille Du Midi
  2. Train ride to Mer de Glace

Thanks to a lot of tourists and long queues, it takes almost a day to cover either of those. So its better to start off as early as possible and try to cover The Aiguille Du Midi first, since that is much more beautiful and time consuming.

The first gondola starts at 6:30am and there’s one gondola every 30 or 15 mins depending on the number of tourists. We took a gondola at 7:30 and went up pretty fast. There are a lot of things to do up there.

One of the stations, and a gondola for skiers. However, it was under maintenance when we went.

A few stations at different levels, to look at the Alps, with panoramic views, etc. There are a lot of steps to climb, from one station to another; however, the air above is thin which may get you exhausted pretty quickly. There’s a cafeteria at the top which serves good food. There are ample souvenirs in the gift shop, right outside the cafe. I haven’t come across similar souvenirs anywhere else so if you like something, you should probably buy it. There is also a gift store right outside the gondola station at ground level.

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On one of the stations is a glass cabin that is made, which overlooks the Alps. To get there, you have to take a lift that takes you from 3777m to 3842m. It is crowded above and we had a queue of about 10 minutes, however by the time we were done, the queue extended to over a 30 minute wait. All thanks to our early start to the day.

There is a separate gondola for anyone who wants to get a close look at the Mont Blanc (the one that was under maintenance) but there’s no other way for tourists to get there. There’s a path for all those mountain climbers and snow Trekkers so if that is something you’re interested in, and have experience in, you could get the necessary equipment and do it. It looked pretty fun, and partly dangerous/risky.

From there, we headed to our train ride. The train ride takes you to the Mer de Glace. There are again two ways to go there, first being the train and the second being a trek from Aiguille Du Midi.

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The Aiguille Du Midi gondola is divided into two parts, and the trek starts from the lower, or the first stop. After reaching Mer de Glace, one should take the smaller gondola to go towards the ice caves.

After the gondola, take the stairs to get to the ice caves. This is very tiring as there are a total of 435 stairs(counted specifically and specially) downwards to get to the ice cave and the same upwards to get to the gondola.

The ice caves are beautiful and something I haven’t seen ever before; inside with a lot of lights that are put up, don’t expect too much as the whole journey in the ice caves is about 5-6 minutes, however it’s something rare to see and hence worth it.

Inside The Ice Caves.

After coming back up, we took the train back to Chamonix. The rest of the day was spent in resting as the first half got too tiring and exhausting. In the evening we set out to see the town again. For those who want to shop, all the shops close by 7:30pm so adjust accordingly. The next day, we set out for some trail cycling and exploring.

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You can hire two kinds of bikes:

  1. A motored electrical bike.
  2. A normal geared bike.

I’d recommend the bike since its almost 1/5th the effort, and allows you to enjoy the scenery and not kill yourself, peddling over the hills. The trails are beautiful, going through the woods and across streams and rivers. We found a beautiful spot to take some really beautiful photos.

It was serene, enjoying the blue skies, the quiet with only the sound of the stream. One of the highlights of the trip. So very peaceful.

I hope you like this post. Feel free to like, share and subscribe to this website. I’d also love to hear from you via comments.

Thank you and regards,

The Travellothoner.

France And Euro 2016 – Paris

This one has been long overdue. I went to France back in July 2016 for the Euros. A classic example of sports tourism. Given the economics and numbers behind such events, it is not surprising the amount of bids a country is willing to make and the lengths they’re ready to go to, to host them. The numbers will simply blow your minds off!

In general, we began our trip with Paris and also covered Nice, Marseille, Chamonix and then came a full circle back to Paris. We also saw two matches :

  1. Spain Vs. Italy
  2. Poland Vs. Portugal (The Eventual Champions)

Paris

We landed at the Paris De Gaul airport. The airport in itself seems like a huge building with a lot of debris. Barely painted and in a way unfinished or a work in progress. I wasn’t able to conclude if it was under renovation or the idea was to keep it raw. The city itself being known for its beauty, would people really judge it based on its airport? Connected by a network of long escalators, and through immigration, we were in Paris. With the country to explore, some matches to be watched, some adventures to look forward to and the beginning of a memory which would last a lifetime.

Paris was the only city where we lived in a hotel. Although the best and the most cost efficient accommodation is always going to be a hostel (if you’re not travelling with family or want a certain level of privacy or luxury). Ours was a simple 10 minute walk away from The Eiffel.

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Standing in its supremacy, The Eiffel. The tallest structure in the city.

It is very difficult to spot large buildings in this city except certain areas where there are abundant high-rises. Most of the buildings are limited to 5-6 floors, which if noticed is quite evident throughout the city. The colour for each structure is also almost even, without any major contrasts. One will also find cute cafes on every corner of the street and all of them prefer to have more outdoor seating with a view of the city, than indoors.

After checking into our hotel and freshening up, we set out for what was the closest and the most obvious choice :

The Eiffel Tower

There isn’t much to portray in words if I were to give an extensive description of The Eiffel. It is beautiful, it is majestic and it is huge. However personally, I did not find it as extraordinary as I had heard from the people who’ve already seen it. I mean, movies always made it look like The Eiffel was capable of making you feel a certain way, but it didn’t actually. In some ways, it is as impressive to me as say The Macau Tower, which gives you an overall view of a beautiful city.

I don’t mean that as an insult or a knock on this wonder, it has it’s own charm. But you just expect more out of it, after all that you’ve heard and seen in the movies.

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But I have to admit, it is a symbol of love and at the end of the day, you want to visit this place with your partner because you just don’t want to be left out (and also, HOLLYWOOD!!!);

And let’s face it, who doesn’t want to kiss their partner under what Hollywood describes as the biggest, most significant and probably the most beautiful building in the city of love!!

Every romantic on this planet has wanted to live a scene out of those countless movies that capture this structure.

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View from The Eiffel, The Euro ’16 Fan Park.

At The Eiffel, there are 3 viewing galleries at 3 different levels, the third and the topmost level having limited tickets. I’d recommend one take a quick ticket and hurry up to the second level. From there, rush and grab a ticket and get to the third. That usually has a long queue and if you’re one of the unlucky few, the elevators might be under maintenance , which would lead to them shutting down the third level altogether (We were amongst the unlucky ones to have missed it).

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Place du Trocadero, view of the other side from the second level.

Irrespective of that, the view from the second level is breathtaking and it gets quite windy, so you might want to carry a cap or any other precautionary measures if you’re very particular about your photos.

A time lapse from atop The Eiffel

Sacre-Coeur

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From the Eiffel, we headed towards Sacre coeur. It is a church on the hill on almost the other side of Paris. Thanks to being on top of the hill, one can also see a great part of the city from here. There are also various live street musicians playing in the area and the place is always crowded. The place is surrounded with small gardens and lawns and it is also a place for the locals to go and relax after work.

View of Paris from Sacre Coeur

In every city, there’s always two ways to explore. The tourist way or the traveller way. It is very easy to list down some places and sights, see them in a hurry and get it over with. The other way is to actually try to walk around everywhere. Paris and the whole of Europe actually, their beauty lies in its intricate buildings and the streets and the people.

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The Louvre is the most-visited museum in the world, with more than 10 million visitors in 2018. The former royal palace is now the magnificent home of some of the world’s most iconic artworks (ever hear of the Mona Lisa?). Walking through the halls where Louis XIV once strolled (he lived here before moving to Versailles), surrounded by the most famous art on earth, is an overwhelming experience.

A museum since 1793, the Louvre exhibits over 35,000 artworks spread across 75,000 square feet, with a collection that sweeps from antiquity through the mid 19th century. The Louvre complex also includes the Tuileries gardens, which are dotted with sculptures and a lovely spot to take a stroll. A visit to the Louvre could easily fill an entire day (or week!), so preplanning what you’d like to see in advance with the help of the museum’s website is a good idea.

The Louvre is easily one of the top tourist attractions in Paris, and you’ll encounter crowds of all types coming through. Either start your day early in the morning with a timed ticket or go in the evening, when the crowds are typically lighter. The museum offers themed guided tours that can be reserved in advance, if you’d like some help navigating the vast collection.

800px-Paris_July_2011-27aAll the information below these forms of art is in French, so it’s better to know the language or take a machine translator. There are batches for entry to The Louvre every hour, so it’s better if you book tickets online and manage time accordingly.

It has 3 separate sections. After spending a good 5 hours in The Louvre, and hurrying through it, we left for The Arc De Triumph.

Notre-Dame de Paris

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Notre-Dame de Paris also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and best-known church buildings in France, and in the world.

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Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. A buttress is a structure of stone or brick built against a wall to strengthen or support it. And a flying is a buttress slanting from a separate column, typically forming an arch with the wall it supports. The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.

Champs-Élysées

If you are one of those that thinks too highly of the 5th Avenue in New York, or Orchard Road in Singapore, this one is for you. Its easily one of the most crowded and touristic places in the city. It easily has the best, most branded stores to shop from. Its also the one where Tour De France ends. And connects The Louvre to Arc De Triomphe.

Arc De Triomphe

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The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly named Place de l’Étoile — the étoile or “star” of the juncture formed by its twelve radiating avenues.

The Arc de Triomphe is accessible by the RER and Métro, with exit at the Charles de Gaulle—Étoile station. Because of heavy traffic on the roundabout of which the Arc is the centre, it is recommended that pedestrians use one of two underpasses located at the Champs Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée. A lift will take visitors almost to the top – to the attic, where there is a small museum which contains large models of the Arc and tells its story from the time of its construction. Another 46 steps remain to climb in order to reach the top, the terrasse, from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris.

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Photo Courtesy : paris-paris-paris.com

Italy Vs. Spain at Stade de France

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More than the match, it is the buildup to the match which was the most exciting. Personally, this was the first time I was going to see a professional football match live in a stadium, and had been waiting for it since months. The atmosphere was simply electric. We saw fans already picking sides and cheering right inside our hostel. The respective nationals out on the streets with their load of banter and cheers and jeers too. Some of them were all hearts and fun, and sometimes you could sense the rising hostility amidst the fans, like a cracker waiting for a spark.

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There weren’t any, or barely a few small ones which were managed by the police anyway. As far as picking the compartment in the trains went, one would have to pick carefully or they could end up with the wrong set of fans. Scary! After getting inside, the match was pretty one sided. The Spanish fans weren’t as vocal so Italy won that battle too! The organisers were courteous enough to provide for the match ticket as a pass for public transport.

Coming back to the hotel, we packed up; looking forward to our 6am flight the following day, to take us to the beautiful and amongst my personal favourites, the city of Nice.

Until next time,

The Travellothoner

Frankfurt And Paperworld 2017 – Part 2

Zeil

The Zeil is a street in the city centre of Frankfurt. It is also the best spot in the city in terms of shopping and tourist attractions. One can take a S train to ‘Hauptwache’ or get down at ‘Frankfurt Sud’. This area has the best showrooms and restaurants. From German pubs to Ramen places to an American styled diner to Starbucks, it has everything for everyone’s taste.

Showrooms in the area range from Jack & Jones and Levi’s to Louis Vuitton and Prada. One can find good stores like Zara homes for house accessories, a lavish Apple showroom for tech, and a sassy Tesla showroom right beside it to buy a car, this place has it all.

Two different directions in the area.

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The Old Opera House, Frankfurt Am Main.

Near this area, about 5 minutes from the Apple store is the Old Opera of Frankfurt. The original opera house in Frankfurt is now the Alte Oper (Old Opera), a concert hall and former opera house in Frankfurt am Main. It was inaugurated in 1880 but destroyed by bombs in 1944. It was rebuilt, slowly, in the 1970s, opening again in 1981.The square in front of the building is known as Opernplatz (Opera Square).

As you walk straight over the road in the second picture above and take a right, you get near the Altstadt area. Here you come across The Romer and St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral.

St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral

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The Romer

The Romer is a medieval building in the Altstadt of Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and one of the city’s most important landmarks. The Römer is located opposite the Old St. Nicholas church and has been the city hall of Frankfurt for over 600 years. The Römer merchant family sold it together with a second building, the Goldener Schwan (Golden Swan), to the city council on March 11, 1405 and it was converted for use as the city hall.

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Waterfront to the right, and the church at the left.

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Walking right past the Church, or to the rear of the church is the waterfront again. One can see the rearside of Romer from here. A 15 minute walk along the waterfront and one is at Hopthanoff. Although, I’d suggest one cross the bridge and walk on the other side. That is where the museums and art houses are situated. One will also find a pretty lock bridge here.

Also on the other side, is a cool setting created, like a small garden, with a route for people to walk right besides the river. This seemed like the most favorite place for runners, since I could spot more than 20 of them during my stroll.

I don’t know the reason, but this area doesn’t have trees. Instead they are artificial poles with branches, which look like trees from afar. While walking towards Hopthanoff, one would come across a small park right in the center of the city. This is like a mini version of the Central Park, where people are taking their pets for a walk, or having their lunch in peace. Right besides this park is the New Opera House.

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The Park in January. The withered trees tend to be their own kind of beautiful.

This has been pretty much my experience in Frankfurt over 4 days. Feel free to like, subscribe and comment and let me know about your views and opinions regarding this post or blog. Until next time!

Regards,

The Travellothoner

Frankfurt And Paperworld 2017 – Part 1

I went to Frankfurt back in January from 27-31, from where I took a flight to Dubai (You can check my experience here). The same vacation I posted about earlier. Although this was more like an educative/business trip, it did have its own moments of fun and exploration. Before this trip, the only time I had landed in Frankfurt was while shifting flights when I was travelling via Lufthansa. This is a beautiful city, with beautiful and courteous people. It is well thought of, in terms of convenience for tourists for commute, communication and safety.

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View from my seat.

I was flying via Emirates this time, my most favorite airline ever, and it did not manage to disappoint. The view while traveling between timezones has its own advantages in terms of getting to see the sunrise and the view from the window.

To start with, I landed at the Frankfurt Main Airport, on terminal 2. Most international traffic is from the Terminal 2, and the public trains drop you on the Terminal 1 station, from which one is supposed to take the airport shuttle to Terminal 2. I myself did not realize this until I was lost, and almost scared on Terminal 1. Because I was travelling alone, and ahead of time, I managed everything on time. Hence it is important to arrive a little before time, and make sure about the terminal and flight arrangements.

Another thing to make sure is The Airport doesn’t have free WiFi, in case you want to contact someone as soon as you’re off your flight. How it works is that once logged in, the system sends a mail to your Email-Id which you’re supposed to use to get in. However, what they probably missed is an international traveler like me does not have any primary resources to access my mail in the first place. Hopefully, they’ve fixed this issue by now!

After collecting bags, and taking the airport shuttle to Terminal 1, one gets access to the trains. Tickets can be collected from the vending machines, and depending on your destination, one can take the necessary line. The ‘S’ train takes you to Hopthanoff, also known as The Frankfurt Main Station or The Frankfurt Central Station. This station has big and small lockers, to store your luggage while you roam around the city.

The locker is a very convenient option for people who have evening or night flights. On my last day after checking out, I stored my luggage in these lockers, and set about exploring the city on foot. Since this is the central station, I can easily collect my luggage and take a train to the airport. The small lockers cost €2 and the big ones €5. These are big enough to store the biggest of bags one can carry while traveling.

Take a right from this station, and a 10 minute walk would lead you to a river/waterfront. All the tourist activities like the museums, art houses, dance and music studios, etc. are all along this river. A 5 minute walk straight from the station would lead you to a couple of really good Indian restaurants, and a further walk will lead you to the New opera house; marked with a big Euro sign, which was made when Germany decided to be a part of the big Euro group.

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The Waterfront

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A pedestrian suspension bridge.

The river has some really beautiful suspension bridges, some only for cars, and some only for pedestrians and people on the bicycle. Also, about 5 minutes away from this place is the Red Light District, so one should be careful during the late hours.

Just 2 stations away from this place is The Messe Exhibition Center. It hosts some of the biggest exhibitions in the world, including the one that we visited, ie, The Paper World + The Christmas World + The Creative World, all at once.

Inside the exhibition. Some excerpts of the stalls.

This place has 10 big halls/wings, further divided into 10.1, 10.2, etc. depending on the wing and floors. It gets a footfall of about 45-50k people, within a span of 4 days. People from all across the world, and especially Europe, don’t miss this one.

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About a couple of hours drive from the city, is this very pretty little town. Known for its breweries, this place has over 300 different breweries. And they have a huge festival during summers, with beer fairs and movies every weekend, and boy do the Germans know their Beer! We came across some Oktoberfest clips as well, and it gets as crazy as one can imagine.

Fun Fact : This place may seem similar to some people, cause this is where a few scenes from The Three Musketeers, the one with Orlando Bloom, was shot. It also happens to be historic for having the biggest ceiling painting here. One might argue that The Vatican has the biggest ceiling paintings, which is actually true, however it has a lot of slits/windows/columns in between. This place happens to have the biggest on a stretch.

Do subscribe for more updates, and Part 2 for this one coming soon!

Until next time,

The Travellothoner