A last Parisian stroll

16 December 2018

Our stay in Paris was far too short and, sadly, our last morning in this beautiful city was as damp and cold as the previous day had been. We began the morning with breakfast in our hotel. The meal was served in an amazing cellar room that was even quirkier than our lovely little attic room. I could have kicked myself for leaving my phone behind. Luckily I found some pictures on Tripadvisor and have shamelessly stolen them.

Traveller photo submitted by GLCASTELUCCI (Jun 2018)


Traveller photo submitted by GLCASTELUCCI (Jun 2018)


Traveller photo submitted by GLCASTELUCCI (Jun 2018)


Traveller photo submitted by GLCASTELUCCI (Jun 2018)


Many of the eighteenth and nineteenth century hotels and buildings in the 10th arrondissement have hidden cellar rooms like this, some dating from much earlier times. In fact, beneath most of Paris, there is a hidden world of cellars, tunnels, sewers and even quarries. We were lucky enough to see the catacombs on a previous visit and the hotel breakfast room reminded me of them a little, although obviously without all the bones. Having said that, there may well have been bones far closer than we thought. A few years back a hidden burial site was found beneath a local supermarket, so you never quite know what is beneath your feet here.

Today there was no time for real sightseeing and the wet, cold weather put us off going too far afield. Once we’d packed our cases and checked out of the hotel we spent a happy and warm half hour or so having one last wonderful chocolat chaud. You really never can have too many in my humble opinion.

By the time we’d finished our drinks the rain had eased off a little so we decided to go for one last stroll before we headed for the station. It was really nothing more than a walk around the block but there were still a few interesting things to see. On Boulevard de la Chapelle we had a great view of the train lines going into Gare du Nord and an interesting mural of the front of the station on a nearby building.

We also passed a delightfully dilapidated doorway. Commando couldn’t understand why I would want to take a picture of such a thing though.

On Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis the front of the Hôpital Fernand-Widal caught my eye. In the sixteenth century, Vincent de Paul built a small hospital of just forty beds on Rue Faubourg Saint Martin, the street running parallel to this one on the other side of Gare de l’Est. It was dedicated to the Daughters of Charity. Over the years the hospital grew and, by the nineteenth century it had three hundred beds and was run by Dr Antoine Dubois. In 1858 the hospital moved to its present location and was later named after Fernand Widal, visiting physician to the hospitals of Paris, prolific writer of medical essays and instrumental in devising the Widal test for typhoid fever. Today the hospital specialises in psychaiatry, addiction and elderly care and is undertaking a great deal of research about memory. The building looks rather dark and forbidding but, what really caught my eye were the words Liberte Egalite Fraternite above the door.

We carried on walking, pausing every now and then to look at an interesting shop or a piece of graffiti, until we were back on Rue de Dunkerque approaching Gare Du Nord again.

We still had a while before we needed to check into Eurostar so we had a closer look at Maison Fond in the daylight. It really is the strangest piece of artwork I’ve ever seen.

Our final stop was for a closer look at the strange red metal sculpture we’d passed several times on our travels. This rather fantastical creation by Parisian artist and sculptor Richard Texiers, is called Angel Bear. It was specially commissioned in 2015 by SNCF for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The piece was inspired by the plight of polar bears and the fragility of our planet.

We were still a little early for our check in but, by now, we were frozen so, with some regret, we said goodbye to Paris and went inside the station. Once we’d passed through the airport style security we found a place to sit and wait and got a coffee to warm our hands. There were a few, slightly half hearted decorations in the waiting area to remind us it was almost Christmas and we passed the time with the usual people watching.

After a while a call came for boarding. Commando assured me this was not for our train. The waiting area slowly emptied and we kept on waiting. When the time for our train had come and gone with no further calls I began to get a little concerned.

“Are you absolutely sure about the train time?” I asked.

This was when we discovered Commando had been looking at the outbound tickets all along and the train that had been called twenty minutes earlier and had now left was actually ours. Luckily, it was fairly simple to get onto the next train, although we had rather a longer than expected wait.

We ended up in a rather noisy carriage filled with Welsh rugby supporters. It wasn’t quite the relaxing journey we’d expected but they were a friendly bunch and even shared some of their bottles of red wine with Commando. All in all it had been an eventful trip and I, for one, had learned a few lessons. In future I will be a little more proactive in my research. That way we might actually find the parkrun. Also I will also not be leaving the travel plans in Commando’s hands, especially with his habit of not wearing his glasses.

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We thought it was all over…

13 June 2018

We were approaching the final segment of the Itchen Navigation and had around six miles left to walk. Despite the trail being more overgrown than I’ve ever seen it, bank breaches where they have never been before and a far warmer day than the weather forecast had led us to believe, we had made fairly good time. We’d set off from Winchester Station at around ten o’clock and it was now ten to two. Ok, so four hours to walk around seven miles is positively tortoise like but, taking into account stops and the terrain, I thought we’d done pretty well.  Continue reading We thought it was all over…

West Side wanderings

18 February 2018

The River Itchen meanders through the centre of Southampton dividing it roughly into two halves, west and east of the river. Almost all my life I’ve lived on the east side, so much of the west side of town is something of a mystery to me. Today CJ and I thought we’d explore a small part of it. There was a plan, albeit a fairly vague one, centred around an unusual church we’d seen from a bus some time ago.

Continue reading West Side wanderings

A birthday walk, graffiti, a legend some lunch

28 November 2017

Today was CJ’s birthday. It was also a beautiful, blue sky, late autumn day so what better way to celebrate than with a little walk and a nice lunch? As CJ is fond of both history and graffiti, I thought I had just the walk for him. As for the lunch, neither of us had a clue where to eat but, as our walk would end up in town, we’d be fairly spoilt for choice.  Continue reading A birthday walk, graffiti, a legend some lunch

Underground, overground, making the best of things

8 November 2017

CJ and I left the Bargate Centre with mixed feelings. The new plans look exciting but the ghosts of old memories make the demolition of the building feel a little sad. We walked down East Street in silence, each remembering those far off days. Soon we’d come to another place of memories, the East Street Centre.  Continue reading Underground, overground, making the best of things

Highfield church

26 October 2017

With our coffee and cakes finished we bade a last sad farewell to the Costa in Portswood and walked on towards Highfield. Like most of the city, outside the centre, this was once a rural area and the name, at least according to old maps, originated from a bastardisation of Hayfield. That there were fields is in no doubt and, as the road rises up towards the Common, they were undoubtedly high fields too so the name is quite apt. Today Highfield is home to the main University Campus, built on an old brickfield. This was not what we’d come to see though. Continue reading Highfield church

Beyond Graffiti

19 August 2017

With all the decorating going on there have been no proper walks lately. Life has been one long round of cleaning, sanding, painting and organising things like new blinds for the windows and furniture renovations. Although all this has given me plenty of exercise I’ve missed being out with my camera walking so, today, while Commando was running round parkrun, I took a short wander on The Common.  Continue reading Beyond Graffiti

Racing for the finish line – first published 18 September 2014

The cool of the September morning in 2014 when Commando was running the Cologne Marathon was rapidly turning into a sweltering day. Feeling thankful to be approaching the river I walked along Severinswall wondering how Commando was coping running in the heat. My jacket had long since been tied around my waist and I was still too hot. Hopefully there would be a cool breeze on the Rhine. The map told me this last stretch of wall was short and there were no more gates or mills to look out for. It was a surprise then, to come upon a large tower surrounded by a truly ancient circle of wall. Continue reading Racing for the finish line – first published 18 September 2014

walking the medieval city walls – first published 18 September 2014

September 2014 and Commando had been lost somewhere amongst the crowd of runners at the start of the Cologne Marathon. Now I had around four hours to explore the city. Cologne is filled with tourist attractions, the cathedral, churches, museums, interesting buildings and river tours, almost too much choice for such a short stay. When I go sightseeing though I like to find more unusual places to explore and, given the lack of information available on the city walls, I thought this might be an interesting walk while Commando ran his marathon. The sun had come out and it was beginning to get warm, bad news for the runners. Just walking across the bridge had made me hot and thirsty. I was pretty sure I’d seen a Starbucks near the cathedral so I set off across the bridge to find it. Continue reading walking the medieval city walls – first published 18 September 2014

Cologne Cathedral, 4711 and berliners – first published 17 September 2014

In September 2014 Marathon day minus one was mostly about sight seeing and relaxing. After all we were still slightly tired and jaded from a day of travel. We set off after a hearty breakfast of granola with lots of seeds nuts and cranberries. As ever, Commando ate far more than I but then he was carb loading. The last thing I need to do is load up on carbs. There was no real plan although Commando wanted to check out the finish line as he’d read it had been erected by the Cathedral the night before. For me it was more about a trip down memory lane. Continue reading Cologne Cathedral, 4711 and berliners – first published 17 September 2014