Destination Paris

So what’s all this about...

posted on by Matt Bayliss

Well this site exists mainly because I thought it might be fun to have a place to upload photos and write blog posts about our trip to Paris.

We will be flying out from Birmingham Airport on 14th June, pretty early in the morning. To spend a 3 day weekend in Europe’s capital of culture and one of the most beautiful cities in the world – Paris.

We hope you enjoy looking through the site and hopefully it might inspire you to visit Paris.

Stars on a Map

posted on by Matt Bayliss

One Saturday Francesca and I arranged to go out for a meal and then see a movie. During the meal we started to plan our trip to Paris.

Francesca had brought a travel guide of Paris that included a map, she also had brought some gold star stickers for us to make placemarks. As we sat waiting for our food to arrive, I started to look through the travel guide while Francesca looked over the map of Paris.

I had already written a blog post of places that I would like to visit in Paris (Paris or Venice), so this gave us a jump start.

As we placed gold stars on the map, we quickly noticed that some of the locations we wanted to visit were off the map. We had only planned to be in Paris for 3 days, so we chose to limit the number of places we marked leaving a few in reserve.

  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Basilica of the Sacré Cœur
  • Eiffel Tower
  • La Conciergerie
  • La Sainte-Chapelle
  • Les Catacombes
  • Louvre
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Musée d’Orsay
  • Musée des Vampires
  • Notre Dame
  • Père Lachaise Cemetery

I have added a Map Page that shows all the places we intend to visit, which I will update with any additions.

Just Book It...

posted on by Francesca Caruana

I’ve been looking forward to this holiday for a good few weeks now. Ever since we made the decision to go to Paris, in fact. It’s all very exciting – looking through guide books, picking out the best places to visit, learning some French phrases… well, maybe not so much that last one.

All very exciting, that is, except for the small matter of booking everything. You see, it’s very easy to get so caught up in planning and daydreaming that you leave all the important and official stuff ‘til the last minute. Before you know it, the flights you wanted are full and you’re left picking through two-star hotels on Tripadvisor with photos of peeling wallpaper and damp patches. True story.

Thankfully, this particular holiday booking story has a happy ending. We got great flights just a week later than we had originally intended, and thanks to a recommendation from some lovely people we discovered Airbnb and found a brilliant apartment in Bastille (I’m told it’s very trendy – have packed big sunglasses).

And so, if there’s a lesson to be learnt here, it’s this: never leave it up to Matt to decide when you book a holiday. But do, however, let him build you a website for said holiday. He really is very good at that.

Why Paris?

posted on by Matt Bayliss

It’s been a long time since I had a holiday outside of the UK. Whenever I started thinking about a long weekend break, the cities that had been recommended the most were: Paris, Venice and Prague. I’m not sure how the conversation first started but when Francesca and I started talking about Paris, we had our destination set.

I had always been put off the idea of going to Paris, mainly because for 3 years I was forced to learn French (none of which I remember now). Thinking about it, it would really be a shame to miss out on seeing the city just because I didn’t like those lessons.

The number one thing I would like to see in Paris is the Louvre. In school I did GCSE Art, I really enjoyed learning the techniques and studying the works of art by some of the worlds great artists.

Here is a list of what I can’t wait to see at the Louvre:



But obviously going to Paris (Europe’s capital of culture) just to see the art at the Louvre, does seem like a waste of a trip.

Why Paris? Everything’s driving me in Seine!

posted on by Francesca Caruana

I need a break. I’m bored, everything’s getting on my nerves and I’d really, really, really like to punch someone. I mean, I’m not a malicious person, so I’d only actually want to punch someone who’s not very nice; otherwise I’d end up feeling guilty and that would defeat the object of said violent outburst. I’m really getting off the point now…

So. Paris! Why do I want to go to Paris? Without sounding cheesy, I’d love to go somewhere where I can be inspired by stuff that’s really elaborate and weird and old and beautiful. I also love a good tacky souvenir, but that’s admittedly a tad less romantic

Paris is somewhere I’ve always been fond of. This is partly because when I was 13 I watched Moulin Rouge and Amelie about a million times over. And I always loved that bit in Sabrina where Audrey Hepburn goes to Paris and learns how to break an egg just so William Holden and Humphrey Bogart will notice her (trust me, it’s brilliant). I also genuinely believe that Luc Besson’s ‘Leon’ is the coolest bad-ass ever – and he’s French

But my affection for this city also stems from the fact that my best friend is half French. She went to Uni in Paris, and when I went to visit her one summer it was probably one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. We ran around the city like idiots, incessantly quoting from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘Le Petit Prince’ (still one of my favourite books) and eating lots of noodles. Yes, French sophistication was very much lost on us; but we rather liked it that way

You see, I embrace being a tourist. I like that it gives me license to stare at something for half an hour just because I can. I like that I don’t have to rush off anywhere. I like unfolding a giant map with sparkly gold star stickers marking all the places I’m going to visit. And I like taking photos of little, random things just as much as big, famous things. Oh, and no, I won’t be speaking French. I’d sound like a massive idiot and Parisians won’t understand me anyway. It’s for the best – trust me

So, there you go. I’m really excited about Paris. And, I’m going with someone I completely adore. Even though he’s not bothered about The Smiths (what?!) and he doesn’t like peas (WHAT?!). But he is going to save me from incessant boredom and committing acts of unnecessary violence, which pretty much makes him a hero in my book.

Zombie Airport

posted on by Matt Bayliss

3:30am, not a time I would like to get up.

This time is not completely unknown to me as I randomly wake-up at around this time most days, then struggle to get back to sleep. However today I have to get up, so I can get ready and make sure I have packed everything I need.

At least the roads are empty, I’m kind of hoping to see some signs of life at the airport.

When I arrived at the airport, I half expect to see a scene from ‘Warm Bodies’. Sadly there are no actual Zombies roaming around the airport, just a few people half asleep.

As we want to get the most out of our 3 day trip to Paris, getting an early flight was a must. The flight is scheduled for 6:25am, and we should arrive in Paris at 8:00am (+1hour).

That will give us the whole day to explore the city and see a few of our chosen attractions.

We don’t have the Power – Travel Adaptor

posted on by Matt Bayliss

One of the first things I notice when we got to the apartment, is that the power sockets are completely different.

Damn, I had forgot to pack a travel adaptor.

We then spend about 1 hour hunting the street of Paris for a travel adaptor. The first place we visit is a small supermarket on the corner of our road. Here we don’t find what we are looking for but the staff were very friendly and helpful. Even a customer was happy to help us and lead us to an electronic store. This store did not have one, they directed us to another store (a high street electronic store). When trying to find this store we ended up taking a wrong direction, that then lead us to looking into a pharmacy. Again we didn’t find a travel adapter here, but were advised to go the Monoprix which was just down the road.

At last we found the adaptor, we can now go back and charge up our iPhones and iPad.

The Backtrack of Notre Dame

posted on by Francesca Caruana

Aeroplanes make me nervous. I find take-off a particularly traumatic experience; so much so that whoever I happen to be sitting next to inevitably ends up with my nails embedded in their arm. Oh, well..

After landing safely and successfully navigating Paris’ RER and Metro systems, we arrived at the apartment in Bastille, dropped off our suitcases and headed out into the French capitol. Our first stop was Notre Dame, a 45-minute walk from where we were staying. The church is free to enter (before you get excited, that’s extremely uncommon for a tourist attraction in Paris) and as such the queue was eye-wateringly long. The first thing we noticed was the grand terrace which has been installed directly in front of the building to allow people to sit and view the world-renowned frontage as part of the church’s 850th anniversary (happy birthday, old bean!). Lovely idea, but someone clearly ignored the fact that it pretty much ruins the optimum photo opportunity. Thankfully the inside is pretty amazing, too. We also paid a few Euros to enter Notre Dame’s treasury (imagine Elizabeth Taylor shopping with the pope) which made me come to the realisation that I definitely need a diamond-encrusted sceptre in my life.

Now, I’ve come to the part where I have to say something that doesn’t come easily to me – Matt was right. He’d been harping on about the Notre Dame crypt since before we left the UK, but as I hadn’t come across any mention of the place I dismissed his ramblings as a simple case of confusion as a result of overdosing on guide books. Needless to say, a short walk away from the door of the church is what at first glance appears to be the entrance to a metro station; only with a sign saying ‘Notre Dame Crypt’. You have to pay to get in, but it’s an incredible place with an interesting story to tell. I’m glad we went, even though I know it’ll be a good few years before Matt lets me live this particular indiscretion down.

A short distance from Notre Dame is Concierge; once an infamous prison where aristocratic cake-lover Marie Antoinette was for a short time incarcerated. If you like capital punishment mixed with impressive architecture, I’d give this place a look.

Finally, on the way home, we decided it would be rude not to join the large number of people eating ice-cream while walking in the sunshine (‘when in Rome’ and all that…). And so, that’ll be one chocolate and one caramel scoop, please – in the fancy waffle cone, of course.

It’s official we Louvre Paris

posted on by Matt Bayliss

For a first time visit to Paris, I had to go see the art collection at the Louvre. We had decided to set the afternoon aside to walk around the vast collection of art that is housed there. During the planning of our visit to Paris, we discovered that a few pieces of art that I would like to see we’re housed at Musée d’Orsay, which is a stunningly converted train station.

Bizarrely Unexpected at Musée d’Orsay

There was a small queue but I didn’t really expect to not be queuing in this city. When we got to the ticket stands, we noticed an exhibition that looked very interested: L’ange Du Bizarre.

The title alone was enough to get my attention, but with The Death of the Gravedigger by Carlos Schwabe showcasing the exhibition we made a beeline straight for this one. With an assortment of paintings and sketches that include: vampires, monsters, imagery from Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. This was definitely one of the unintended highlights of our trip.

There are many signs around the museum informing the public to not take photo’s. I believe this is down to two reasons, flash damage and copyright.

Here is a list of pieces of art that I enjoyed the most:



Time to Mona Lisa

alt text

Mona Lisa such a disappointment. I had be told that it is small, but seriously. With the barrier stopping anyone getting to close, it just seemed to be the size of a postage stamp. As expected there were about 100 people in the room where the painting is held, all trying to get the perfect photo. I found myself thinking ‘Why is this so special?’ Leonardo da Vinci has several other works that I find much more interesting, yet somehow this one take center stage.

Paintings by Leonardo da Vinci in order of my preference:

Oh and did you know that this basically is a copy…

There is an earlier version that Leonardo had painted for Francesco del Giocondo (husband of Lisa) in 1503. The one that is on display in the Louvre was painted for Giuliano de’ Medici in 1517.

See the Isleworth Mona Lisa version.

Anyway… Mona Lisa aside, I did get to see most of the pieces of art that I wanted to see at the Louvre along with alot more:



Eiffel de Light

alt text

Francesca had told me about a river cruise that she had taken the last time she was in Paris. She recommended we do this after sunset as some of the monuments / places of interest are lit-up. The cruise we wanted to take departs from the foot of the Eiffel Tower, which twinkles for 10 minutes on the hour. Luckily the cruise we were taking departed at 23:00 and lasted 1 hour, so we got to see it doing its twinkle thang twice.

Some of the sights we could see from the boat included: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, the Luxor Obelisk, Assemblee Nationale, Bibliothèque Mazarine and the Flame of Liberty.

The cruise was very good and a relaxing way to see a few sights. Unfortunately I had dressed for the warm weather we had during the day, so I wasn’t wearing the appropriate clothing for a cold breezy cruise along the river.

The Big Send-off

posted on by Francesca Caruana

I always find packing to go home easier than packing to go abroad. That’s mainly because I tend to adopt the ‘scrunch and throw’ technique, knowing full well that the suitcase will probably sit unopened in my bedroom for the next week… That’s how my last day in Paris started, anyway; as well as cursing myself over the numerous, unnecessary extra items of clothing and toiletries which had remained untouched in my luggage over the course of the trip – I never learn.

A 20-minute walk from the flat brought us to Père Lachaise, reputedly the most visited cemetery in the world on account of the considerable number of well-known figures laid to rest there. These include Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Sarah Bernhardt and Frederic Chopin. The cemetery itself is beautiful, with established flower beds and ancient trees surrounding the thousands of gravesites which range from small headstones to towering monuments and ornate mini chapels. It’s a lovely place to take a peaceful stroll on a sunny morning and take pictures of the more unusual and intricate memorials. I really loved it.

alt text

Next on our itinerary was Les Catacombes, an underground ossuary which has been a popular attraction since 1874. We had done our research and knew this place was insanely popular, but nothing had prepared us for the never-ending line of tourists which snaked ahead of us as we exited the metro station. After an hour-and-a-half of standing in the mid-day sun surrounded by equally disgruntled and burnt individuals, we finally reached the entrance and took the 180 steps down under the Parisian streets. It truly is a spectacular place, and on the whole I’d have to say it was worth the wait. The carefully arranged bones are mostly linear and regimented, however there is a set of skulls arranged into a heart which, if like myself you appreciate the strange and morbid, had something rather romantic about it.

A short Metro trip away was the Arc de Triomphe. As stunning and imposing a monument as this is, I’d recommend visiting it at night when there’s less people about. The Champs Elysee is a major hot spot for tourists and natives alike, and with the monument being positioned in the middle of a roundabout, getting under it without being either run over or hit in the face with the camera of an over-zealous tourist is near-on impossible during the day. We got a nice picture for Facebook, anyway.

alt text

Finally, our last stop was the Sacré Cœur, a stunning basilica in Montmatre. In my opinion this church is more beautiful than Notre Dame, however the fact that you can’t take any pictures and the constant ‘shush-ing’ from stewards if there happens to be a service in progress means the experience can be a little dampened. We had planned on spending more time in surrounding Montmatre, but our schedule simply didn’t allow it. This district is known for its artistic, alternative, bohemian culture and has plenty to offer. However, we had to make do with a quick stop at the infamous Moulin Rouge before making our way back to the apartment to pick up our luggage and head to the airport.

As tired as we were after completing our relentless sightseeing plan, it’s hard not to love Paris; especially with Matt there. But maybe we’ll take it a little easier next time we go…

Treasures of the Louvre

posted on by Matt Bayliss

Last night I was looking through the TV schedule and spotted something interested on BBC4. The programme that grabbed my attention was ‘Cleopatra: Portrait of a Killer’. I enjoy watching historical documentary, learning about a secret past that was left undiscovered until modern technology’s were able to lend a helping hand. Unfortunately I only caught the end of this one (I will be watching it on BBC iPlayer soon).

The next programme on BBC4’s schedule was ‘Rome: A History of the Eternal City’. Which is a three part documentary about the history of Rome, Roman history is a massive favourite of mine. from the moment it started I was treated to some of the amazing sights of the city, all of these made me want to go back to this magnificent city.

After 1 hour of learning more about Roman history, the next programme BBC4 had to offer was another treat.

Treasures of the Louvre

Andrew Hussey, who is a Paris-based writer, takes the viewer on the tour through history and art.

Having just been to the Louvre and seen most of the art on display, I was still surprised by this programme. There was lots of french history explained during the programme and an explanation of how the Louvre became to be the most famous museums in the world.

Whether you have been to the Louvre or not, I recommend you take a look at some of the ‘Treasures of the Louvre’.

Gustave Doré: Master of Imagination

posted on by Matt Bayliss

I’m not sure why, but I decided to have a look at the Musée d’Orsay website. My attention was grabbed when I noticed that one of the featured exhibitions is on the works of Gustave Doré.

Gustave Doré was an artist living in Paris. At a very young age he was constantly sketching / caricaturing family members and friends, often drawing in great detail from memory. Barely 15 years old, he was discovered by a newspaper and was commissioned to produce one full page illustration per week.

Doré is more famously known for producing illustrations for some very well known pieces of literature:

  • Les Contes Drôlatiques by Honoré de Balzac
  • Inferno by Dante Alighieri
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare
  • Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri
  • Paradiso by Dante Alighieri
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

The exhibition is running from 18 February to 11 May 2014. Shame it’s not running longer as I would have liked to see it.

Find more information about the Gustave Doré exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay website.