Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Arles

ArlesImage by Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr
You don't need to visit Rome to explore Roman ruins and amphitheatres. A trip to South France will grant you plenty of opportunities. The region is filled with Roman remains and history.

Arles is one of the very charming cities by the delta of the Rhone river and Camaque marsh.  The city was founded by the Greeks in the 6th century BC and has since served as an important port for the Romans when they took over control. The city is filled with Roman monuments, amphitheatre, triumph arch, circus, theatre, baths and thick city walls.

During the last two thousand years the city has been the scene of many historical events. Celtic ruling, Viking attacks, the Saracens and later Arles also plaid an important role in both French and European politics. It has been the capitol of the Frankish kingdom Arles, which included Bourgogne and parts of Provence.

It's a great experience to explore the city, and this not just because of the Roman trances. The streets are narrow and winding, full of soul and cobble stone. There are cafés and restaurants which invites you to sit in the sun and enjoy your lunch. The city-market takes place outside the walls and is filled with life and hagglers promoting everything from food and spices, to clothes and oddities. The old city centre lies by the Rhone river and several beautiful old bridges span the water. The amphitheatre is still in use this day today. Roman shows, festivals and bull-fighting.

Vincent van Gogh once lived in Arles and produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his stay. Unfortunately his mental health deteriorated during his stay, which lead to the situation where he cut of his ear. The citizens demanded that he was arrested and van Gogh caught the message and left the city.
A beautiful city to visit with a rich history.
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Monday, 6 September 2010

Catecombs in Paris

Paris - Montparnasse: les Catacombes de ParisImage by wallyg via Flickr
If you want to experience something which isn't for the weak-heartened, then you could visit the catacombs in Paris. Here you'll find long narrow passages and rooms filled with skulls and bones. As if that wasn't enough, it's human bones, and they've been rather creatively arranged . Somebody really spent a significant amount of time creating these bone-walls. You're left to wonder what sort of persons would spend days and months stacking femurs and skulls in patterns, not to mention, some are even humorous.

A question arising is how would a place like this come into existence. It's certainly not something that happened over the years, even if that could be a fascinating story. The real story is more morbid though. A couple of hundred years ago, by the end of the 18th century the cemetery Cimetière des Innocents were so filled up that they had to dig up all the old bones and move them to another location. The cemetery had been in use since the 13th century, and was in the 1870s a picture of stuffed mortgages and mass graves filled with rotting corpses.

Paris is filled with subterranean passages and tunnels. Many were created during the mining of limestone which has been used to build with since the Roman era. So under Paris there was plenty of space to place bones from Paris' overloaded cemeteries. It took nearly a hundred years to move the many bones. By then they had moved the remains from more than six million people from more than 30 cemeteries in Paris.

There are approximately 1,7km passages, 20 metres below the surface, which are accessible for the public.
The entrance is found by Place Denfert-Rochereau, 75014 Paris,RER B og Metro: Denfert- Rochereau
Officiel homepage

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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Montmartre

Calle de MontmatreImage via Wikipedia
Montmatre is one of the most charming areas in Paris. It's where the artists gather, and great names joined groups and lived. Of famous artists we can mention Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.

The area is clearly influenced by its artistic history and is today an important tourist destination which plays upon its glorious past.

The neighbourhood is located on the tallest hill in Paris, north of the city-centre. The hill can be seen from afar and the top is crowned by the basilisk Sacre Coeur. The streets winds around the hill, steep and narrow, filled with real Parisian magic.

You will find lots of small shops, street artists who offers to paint your portrait, cafés, and restaurants.  There's also a rich night life with bars, pubs, and nightclubs. Famous carberets like Moulin Rogue and Le Cat Noir is also to be found in the neighbourhood. It borders Pigalle, which is one of the redlight districts of Paris.

It is certainly worth a visit, if you can keep up with the many stairs and steep streets.
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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Paris.Image via Wikipedia
Basilique du Sacré-Cœur is "The basilisk of the holy heart". Placed on the highest hill in Paris it becomes a significant monument. When you arrive at the city from the north, you can't avoid noticing the beautiful white building sitting like a crown on top of the hill.

Unlike so many other beautiful religious buildings in Paris, the Sacré-Cœur isn't very old. The construction started in 1875, but over the years people disagreed about the project and the work stopped for several years. It was finally completed in 1914, but wasn't opened before 1919 after World War I.

The building is brightly white and doesn't discolour to the same degree as the typical limestone buildings in Paris. This is because it's made of travertine which is more resilient against the weather. The basilisk is a beautiful sight as it brightens up the skyline of Paris. As it's a functioning church, it's free to enter and see the wonder from the inside as well. Just remember to show respect for the praying.

From the basilisk there's an amazing view over most of Paris. It's completely free and you avoid the long queues at the Eiffel-tower, just be aware of pickpockets and street sellers as they are numerous. The panorama is stunning and captivates your gaze over and over, both day and night. The view certainly makes up for the many stairs you need to climb to get there. And if you're lazy or tired, there's a small cabin which runs up the hill for a small fee.
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