Paris – This City more than lives up to its Painted Images and Movie Myths

Two thousand years of shaping and reshaping have resulted in monumental building, sweeping avenues, grand esplanades and celebrated bridges, and many of its older buildings have survived intact, having been spared the ravages of flood and fire and saved from Hitler’s intended destruction.

Yet for all the tremendous pomp and magnificence of its monuments, the city operates on a very human scale, with a walk around the riverside quais on a summer evening, the sound of blues in atmospheric cellar bars, or the ancient alleyways and cobbled lanes in the historic Latin Quarter and villagey Montmartre, Paris is a city to visit.

Architecturally, the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, Sainte-Chapelle and the Palais du Louvre , provide a constant reminder of Paris’s religious and royal past and the history of development and design reflects the power of the French state. For more information visit www.travelrobe.com/destination/France

Paris’s museums and galleries, not least the mighty Louvre, number among the world’s finest. The tradition of state cultural endowment is very much alive in the city and collections are exceedingly well displayed and cared for. Many are also housed in beautiful locations, such as old mansions and palaces, others in bold conversions, most famously the Musée d’Orsay , which occupies a former train station.

Children are also catered for and one of the city’s best treats for children of every age from three upwards is the Cité des Sciences in the Parc de la Villette. A number of other museums may also appeal to children, for example the Musée des Arts Africains et Océaniens, with its masks, tropical fish and live crocodiles, the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution offers a children’s discovery room on the first floor with child-level microscopes, glass cases with live caterpillars and moths and a burrow of Mongolian rodents.

Finding your way around Paris is remarkably easy, with an integrated public transport system – the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens). The system is cheap, fast and meticulously signposted, comprising buses, underground métro and suburban express trains, known as RER (Réseau Express Régional) trains. The whole network is divided into five zones.

Shanghai: Shopping and Sightseeing Destination

Shanghai city is very famously known as “the Oriental Paris” and is renowned worldwide as a shopper’s paradise. There are quite a few spots where tourists can visit for a purchase extravaganza. Nanjing Road, however, is a must for every tourist. The more modern tourists with an inclination towards fashionable tastes will be intrigued by the fare to be found at Huaihai Road. There is something for the common folk too. The stuff at Sichuan caters specifically to their demands. The other places from where tourists can pick up special mementos are Xujiahui Shopping Center, Yuyuan Shopping City, and Jiali Sleepless City.

Sightseeing in Shanghai China becomes even more pleasurable when you consider that a wide variety of cuisines can be found in the city. It is a pleasure to see Shanghai march towards meeting its aspirations even as it continues to uphold its proud traditions of service and hospitality. The current symbols of a modern city include The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jinmao Mansion and Pudong International Airport. To experience first hand that there still is proof of the deep zeal of a city ready to extend a warm welcome to all, one must visit the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Grand Theatre and the Shanghai City Planning Exhibition Center.

Ya Mule! Backpacking in Siena, Italy

Ah, the glamour of backpacking through Europe. Of course, the glamour comes with a price as I found in Siena, Italy.

Siena

Siena is located an hour or so outside of Florence, Italy. My handy dandy guidebook suggested it was a side trip that just had to be made. A medieval structure located behind protective walls on the top of a hill. The central area was generally closed off to cars and it was a taste of true Italy. Who was I to argue?

As I sat on the train, I check my backpack for any excess weight. I had already discarded or sent home unnecessary items and was feeling pretty light on my feet. Next thing I knew, the train had stopped and I was standing on flat road next to a rolling hill covered in trees and homes. Siena proper was at the top.

The thing about rolling hills with lots of foliage is they are simply evil. You can never get a grasp on how far it is to the top. You keep thinking the top appears to be a few hundred feet in front of you until you reach it. Then you discover it is just a dip before another upward section. The hill up to Siena is just such a rolling hill. Throw in a road that twists all over the hill like a drunken sailor on leave, and you’ll never scoff at a moped again.

Getting in touch with my inner mule, I began to climb and tame the great beast. As I trudged along, I thought of all the great people that must of walked up the same hill throughout history. As I stood in the shade panting, I thought all of those great people probably hitched a ride instead of walking like me.

After thirty-five minutes or so, I was seriously starting to think about hitching a ride. Of course, this would mean admitting defeat. The battle between my genetic male stubbornness and “this sucks” attitude was intense. Like a mule, I kept going. Five bends, three dips that I could have sworn were the top.

Just as I was giving in…a wall. A really big wall. I passed it and suddenly was in a large parking lot area with tourist buses. Hands on knees, shirt soaking, I tried to maintain my dignity as the tourist looked at me like I was insane. Did that moron walk up here? One even took a picture!

After composing myself…err, getting my breath back, I booked a room in a little hotel. The young lady working the desk seemed hesitant, but I made some comment about it being a long way up from the valley. She started giggling and I had the room.

I showered and went looking for trouble. Well, trouble that was on a flat surface. In the town centre, I stumbled upon a small café selling Mexican beer. Being from San Diego, this was nirvana. My inner mule was quickly appeased and the hill of death forgotten.

Reflecting on my climb from a historical perspective, I learned a good lesson. It is far better to be behind the wall than trying to attack it!

Travel to Italy – Rome and Venice

Where does one begin to start when discussing Italy. Well, if you intend to travel there, Rome and Venice are good places to start.

Rome

Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It goes without saying that Rome has a rather prominent past. Lets see, in Rome you will find…[deep breath]…the Vatican, Coliseum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Church of Saint Agnese, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and a guy name Allassandro. Just making sure you’re paying attention. Indeed, Rome is filthy with historically significant attractions. It seems you can’t turn around without bumping into something an Emperor built, captured or destroyed. For those willing to risk potential wrath, there are also the new Divinci Code tours, which take you to the locations found in the book.

In all serious, Rome is a city you should visit at least once in your life. No article could ever do it justice, so I’ll just stop here.

Venice

I fondly refer to Venice as the floating city even though it is apparently sinking. If you’ve seen Venice is movies or televisions shows, the depictions are accurate. Piazza San Marco looks exactly the same, birds and all. The Grande Canal is, well, a grand canal with incredible houses lining it and boats putting up down this water way. Built on mudflats in a lagoon, the city doesn’t really have much room to grow. It just seems paralyzed in time.

Once you’ve conquered the tourist attractions, it will be time to get serious about Venice. The best way to do this is stand in front of your hotel or hostel, determine which direction the tourist attractions lie and start walking in the opposite direction. While you may feel like you’re driving the wrong way on a freeway for a few minutes, you’ll eventually start getting into real Venice.

An entirely different side of Venice will appear and you’ll love it. You’ll find little cafes with locals happy to talk to you [and non-tourist prices]. In fact, the Venetians will tend to hold you in high regard since you’re a tourist who is bypassing the tourist areas. This, of course, will logically lead to a whirl of introductions to this nephew, that son of a brother and so on. Next thing you know, you’ll be complaining about Italian politicians and how things used to be better in the past.

While Rome and Venice are excellent travel destinations, you can’t really go wrong in Italy. For the adventurous, set your itinerary with the old map on a wall and dart technique.