Impressions of Le Marais, Paris – Part 1

La Marais is a district in Paris, that is spread across the 3rd and 4th arrondissement. Once the home of the Jewish community, nowadays lots of art galleries, Chinese immigrants and the LGBT community call it their home. And this is the district where Lars and I stayed during 3 sunny days in October.

Lars had found us a modest hotel near the Rue du Temple, near the St. Elisabeth church.

We are both very fond of churches, or religious buildings in general. As a  retired organ player, Lars is always curious about the organ(s) in a church or cathedral and I appreciate these buildings on an aesthetic level.

Afterwards, we soaked up some sunshine in a nearby park.

We didn’t take any pictures of the hotel or our room, but we do have photographs of the places where we ate!

 

Creepy Travels – The Catacombs of Paris: The Video

As promised, today we post the video about our visit to the Catacombs of Paris.

What was the creepiest part of our visit to the Catacombs? Getting out! Not only did a spiral staircase of 85 steps prove to be a big challenge to our poor physical condition, the narrow and steep steps made us feel claustrophobic as well. Lars and I struggled with a panic attack and when we were outside again, we had to catch our breath again. And let’s face it: being surrounded by 6 million dead people is not pleasant…

Creepy Travels – Catacombs of Paris

Want to know everything about Creepy Travels? Check out this post.

Usually, people put beautiful, breathtaking and/or awesome destinations on their bucket-list. One of the places that Lars and I had on our list was quite the opposite: the Catacombs of Paris.

At the end of the 18th century, the French capital faced 2 major problems: a series of cave-ins and overflowing cemeteries. The city officials decided to dump remains in the Mines of Paris. Nowadays, the whole network of tunnels is more than 200 kilometers long and at some places, the tunnels are 100 meters below the surface. About six million bodies have found their final resting place here. Some of the skulls and bodies are scattered, others have been neatly arranged.

Before 2016, I had been to Paris numerous times, because it is not that far from Brussels. But I didn’t know anything about the catacombs, until I found this on YouTube:

After 5 minutes into the documentary, I simply knew I had to see this place! I showed the video to Lars, who quickly became as excited as I was. And earlier this year, we were in Paris, but the day before we left, I found out that the catacombs would be closed during our visit. Fast forward to a sunny day in October, when the catacombs were open…

Only a small part of these nightmarish tunnels are open to the general public. They are really easy accessible; the entrance is opposite the metro station Denfert – Rocheraud. The entrance fee is 12 euros. If you go early, be prepared for a long queue! Lars and I had to wait more than 90 minutes; we talked with some of the people around us and it turned out that they came from all over the world. You can buy tickets online, by the way, but they are very limited in quantity and you have to pay twice as much. You want to visit the catacombs in group? Then you pay even more.

After having paid the entrance fee, about 130 – 140 steps lead you 30 meters below the surface. The first kilometer or so you walk in a boring tunnel and then suddenly, you are in the “Kingdom of Death”. Or, in other words, you are completely surrounded by skulls and bones.

The thing that struck us the most was the deafening silence. Lars and I had expected to hear the nearby metro, but apart from the footsteps and voices of the other visitors, we didn’t hear anything. And that was quite spooky… Talking about spooky, in general the corridors are very narrow and the ceiling is low, adding to a feeling of claustrophobia.

I think we walked around  for 45 minutes in the catacombs. Afterwards, we spent some time sitting on a bench, catching our breath and trying to register everything we had seen and felt during our stay. Yes, it is thrilling and impressive, but also sad and scary. Would we do this again? Maybe not… But Lars and I are happy for this experience!

In our next post, we will publish the video we made in the catacombs  and we will tell you what frightened us the most!

A Place for Parisian Hipsters – Canal Saint-Martin

This is the place in Paris that the so-called “bobos”(hipsters) call their home: the Canal Saint-Martin. With a length of 4.5 kilometers, it meanders through 4 arrondissements. Its construction took place in the beginning of the 19th century. Nowadays, it is popular amongst the local population and tourists alike, thanks to the many bistrots, restaurants and cinema theatres. Unfortunately, it also attracts lots of refugees and homeless people as well.

After our visit to Père Lachaise, Lars and I took the metro to Stalingrad (which refers to the nearby place Stalingrad) and walked towards the Bassin de la Villette. We sat on a bench for a while and observed people and their canine companions, one of our favourite pastimes.

The Bassin itself is actually the biggest artificial lake of Paris: more than 600 meters long and 70 meters wide. In summer, this is the place to be!

At the end (or beginning, depending on your point of view) of this lake, you can see the Rotonde de la Villette, a monument constructed in the second half of the 18th century.

Lars and I wanted to do some more exploring, but it started to rain and we became hungry as well. We stopped at a lock (one of the nine in total along the canal) to take our last pictures and then went back to the metro.

In our next post, you will read how we realised one of our biggest dreams in Paris! Or should I say nightmare?

Visiting A Farm in The Heart of Brussels

From a distance, the Maximiliaanpark, located in Brussels’ Noordwijk, looks like any other park in Brussels. But come closer and you will see that this place is home to a beautiful children’s farm.

The Maximiliaanpark has not always been a park. In the 19th century, a train station was located here, but its activities stopped in the fifties. Afterwards, the place functioned as a small airport for helicopters and in the eighties it was turned into a park with a children’s farm, which organises cultural and social events.

The park is home to the most common big and small farm animals, like goats, sheep and horses, except for cows. There are a couple of unexpected guests as well, like alpaca and a peacock, who struts his stuff. Some of these animals make an annual appearance in the Christmas stable at the Grand Place.

There is a quiet corner in the park with a small pond surrounded by artworks.

The Maximilaanpark is located right next to the metro-station Ijzer. One more remark: it closes quite early, between 4 and 5pm.

Awesome Aachen – Part 3

Can you imagine that we spend a day in a very beautiful place without taking any pictures? That is simply because we were in an environment that didn’t allow any cameras: the Carolus Thermen in Aachen.

What is awaiting you in this paradise? 3 thermal pools (1 inside, 2 outside), 15 saunas (dry and wet) and 3 restaurants! To be honest, it’s not cheap, but it is worth the money, certainly if you are looking for some luxurious relaxation.

After you have changed to swimming gear, enter the beautiful thermal pool, surrounded by 18 columns, take a dip in the warm water grotto and venture into one of the outdoor pools. Go two levels up, take off all your clothes and you are in sauna paradise.

Lars had never been to a sauna before and found the heat to be oppressive. He felt a lot better in the Oriental World of Baths (one floor down) with its hammam and steam baths, which quickly became our favourite place. At the end of the afternoon Lars and I had a snack in Bella Vista, one of the restaurants.

For more information and pictures, have a look at their website! Or have a look at this trailer:

 

Photographing the backroads of Europe, exploring beauty and enjoying life at our own pace