My Parisian Adventure – Day 3 (Place de la Bastille, Notre Dame, Jardin des Tuileries and the Eiffel Tower)

Now, the third day of my holiday was definitely a very touristy one. Like I’ve said before, there were parts of Paris that I was very eager to explore and see with my own eyes.

So, I plotted out a route that would allow me to pass the majority of these sites.
So, after a good night sleep, we set out fairly early to go and see Place de la Bastille and start our day. As a history student, I studied the French Revolution and was very interested in the events that set off the Storming of the Bastille. So I naturally wanted to go there.
Now, in our experience during the week, the metro in Paris runs a lot like the London Underground. I cannot speak for the people living in Paris every day, but it seemed fairly reliable for us. 10615441_891399697536876_4881684208277563119_nWe walked the majority of the time, but used the metro to get to and from our apartment (which wasn’t particularly central, but close to Gare du Nord) as well as at the start and end of our holiday. We bought a Paris Visite pass, which gave unlimited transport for 3 days in the city itself.

To get to the Bastille, we used Line 5 from Jaurès, and ended up just circling the Place de la Bastille. Now, as the actual Bastille prison was destroyed in the Revolution, the area where it stood is just a plaza of traffic, shops and café. In the very centre of the plaza, The July Column commemorates the Revolution, and it was very interesting to see the Bastille stood all those years ago.
From there we travelled to Notre Dame. I’m not alone in thinking that a trip to Paris would be incomplete without a visit to this beautiful cathedral on the banks of the Seine. Now tied up with the story of Quasimodo and the Hunchback, Notre Dame is not only a world famous example of French Gothic architecture, but a site of high significance for the Catholic church.
The cathedral itself is free, but there are queues outside which can be around half hour long during peak times. During our visit, it never felt overly busy or crowded and you can take photos in the church. But beware! As with all touristy parts, the risk of pickpockets and muggers is higher here, so keep a very close eye on your personal belongings. 10626495_891398157537030_9217817442239124454_n
We spent around an hour in the cathedral, after which we walked around the outside and ate our lunch overlooking the Seine.
For our lunches, we chose to buy some simple pasta and sauces from the local shops, and load up on fruit and veg. It cut down the costs for us, and allowed us to cook in our little apartment. It also made buying food out quite a novelty.
After our lunch, we started the trek across Paris. All in all, we ended up taking a water break in the Jardins des Tuileries, before finally crossing the Pont Alexandre III and ending up at the Eiffel Tower. By sticking to the Seine, you get to see a lot of famous Parisian sights, such as the Grand Palais, Les Invalides and the Louvre, and get to see Paris unfold as you walk. The riverbank also has lots of little touristy gift stalls, cafes and seats, so you can restock on souvenirs and water as you continue on your journey.

During this holiday, we didn’t go up the Eiffel Tower, as we have both been up there before. But be aware, the queues for the tower can be ridiculously long and time-consuming. The tower attracts over 30,000 visitors a day, and advance tickets can be completely booked up to two months in advance. So, if you want to go to the Eiffel Tower during the day, the suggestion is go early morning or late evening. Also, the line for the elevators will always be busy, so take the stairs if you can. And like with Notre Dame, there are pickpockets and opportunistic thieves around, especially if you have cameras and bags. So just be careful.
We rounded off the day by crossing the Pont d’léna bridge and sat in the Jardins du T10703539_891395670870612_6869505743947458428_nrocadéro, feeling very French and indulging our weary bodies with a very sugary crepe. The Jardins are offer an unrivalled view of the Eiffel Tower, and with little stalls that sell ice-cream and crepes, you get to refuel after a busy day. Venturing up from the Jardins, we had a stroll around the Palais de Chaillot (a very modern looking building that now hosts a variety of museums) before catching metro back. From Trocadéro station back to Jaurès it meant changing from Line 9 to Line 5, and took around 40 minutes.
After this long, and very hot day out, we went down to Le Conservatoire and had very un-French meal of burgers and chips. However, this was the sort of fuel that was needed.
Like all major cities, you underestimate the sheer scale of Paris. I know it’s a lot smaller than some bigger metropolis’ such as London and New York, but to a tourist with very little knowledge about where they are going, getting lost and going back on yourselves makes the journey seem a lot longer. Paris also gets very hot in the summer, so I would definitely recommend stocking up on water and suncream. But on that particular day, taking the route we did, we did see a lot of the sights. The river is such a lovely walk, and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is going and wants to see a lot.

In this next installment, I’ll be describing our visit to Versailles. And what a day that was.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

The Swans of Fifth Avenue – Book Review

Title: The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Celebrity, Memoir, Historical Fiction, Women’s Literature, Chick-Lit, Contemporary Fiction


“Babe Paley simply never made an empty gesture, and here she was, assembling a parade of them. But her feet, her hands, her mind, her heart, were all restless. Truman.”

Throughout all my years of being an English student, one author has cropped up time and time again during my studies. His words have always struck a deep emotional chord with me and I would eagerly devour his stories whenever I could. To me, Truman Capote was, and still is, such an enigma in his writing, as he not only invented the idea of the ‘nonfiction novel’, but brought to life the cult favourite of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And it 9780345528698wasn’t just his literary talent that he was praised for, but his flamboyant and very decorated personal life as a social butterfly and celebrity favourite.
So when I was sent The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin to review, I was thrilled.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue focuses on 1950s/60s New York City and author Truman Capote’s life and his relationship with the higher tiers of society. At the peak of the society, women of immense power, money, familial ties and intrigue stand apart from the rest. These are Truman’s ‘swans’, and they represent a world of riches and beauty that Truman desperately wishes to be part of. And at the head of this group, socialite and style icon, Babe Paley is the undisputed queen. Glamourous, elegant and always dressed exquisitely, Babe Paley oozed glamour and sophistication. But beneath the perfect wife and woman façade, Babe Paley is a highly sensitive and passionate individual who craves love and affection that she is not receiving through her perfectly suited, yet loveless marriage. And when Truman Capote sweeps into her life with a larger-than-life personality, he sets Babe’s dull world into glorious Technicolour. And through winning the affection of Babe, Truman is granted unrivaled access into the snake-pit that is New York high society. But is Truman trustworthy? And what do you do when secrets get revealed, and the picture-perfect charade comes crashing down about you?

Now, this story is indeed very glamourous and scandalous. With a fairly fast pace and well-timed flashbacks and forwards, it keeps the reader interested, and allows you to become immersed into a world that seems entirely foreign from the everyday. From wearing Chanel suits to light lunches at the Plaza and into shopping sprees in Tiffany’s, this world seems so entirely rich and vibrant that is feels almost dreamlike. Now, despite the novel having a darker and more real undertone – with the Truman Capote scandal, the hidden lives of the glamourous women (drink, drugs, sex scandals, domestic abuse etc) – this novel isn’t particularly hard-hitting in those senses. To me, these were issues that really could have been explored and in better detail. In my opinion, this novel just wanted to have a halcyon glaze of glamour and beauty.

The ‘Swans’ were really an interesting group of women. They were all beautiful, charming, malicious, and as two-faced as they could come, and they thrived on attention and the scandal that surrounded their lives. With loveless marriages, money issues, drug and drink addiction and cosmetic surgery pressures, these women were constantly scrutinised by their closest friends as well as society, and I found them all to be highly interesting and unique characters. I particularly found Slim Keith and Gloria Vanderbilt to be interesting figures as they stood apart from the rest of the swans, and gave the taste of individuality and strength.

The relationship between Babe and Truman was always one of interest. To me, Benjamin has really written it as a relationship that seems so co-dependent and unhealthy, it borders on obsession. Both with unresolved mother issues, these two lonely hearts were drawn to each other for different reasons. And whilstbabe-paley-wearing-a-creation-of-traina-norell-photographed-by-horst-p-horst-from-american-vogue-in-1946 Truman ultimately sacrifices his relationship for the sake of a quick buck – his infamous short story ‘La Côte Basque 1965’ fictionalises and reveals all of Babe’s secrets, resulting in his Swans cutting him out of New York society – there is a sense that Truman really did care for Babe. And with the latter chapters showing both Babe and Truman’s downward spiral, due to illness and drink and drug dependencies, it is then when the book really does come into its own. After watching interviews and reading books on Capote, I thought that Benjamin really captured his spirit well.

Throughout the novel, I thought Benjamin captured the intimacy and secrecy of this world well. Sometimes it felt very intrusive whilst reading it, as though you, the reader was being allowed into the gilded cage and offered up the secrets.
All in all, I found this novel enjoyable. Yes, it some parts it was too sweet, and skimmed over the darker parts of the novel. But it was a light, and comfortable read. Perfectly suited for travel or a holiday. But don’t expect to be reading hard-hitting literature here. Full of scandal, intrigue and beautiful clothes, this novel transports you away to the cool interiors of Bergdorf’s, St Regis and Tiffany’s.

To buy this book – Amazon/Waterstones

Author’s website – Click Here

My Parisian Adventure – Day 2 (Montmartre, Sacre-Cœur, The Moulin Rouge and the Avenue de l’Opéra)

Second day in Paris, and I was raring to go. After an exhausting day travelling, my mother and I slept well that night. So the next morning we were up and awake for our first proper venture in Paris itself.
My mother had always told me that since I had planned the holiday, it was ‘my holiday’ and we could virtually do whatever I wanted.
So, my itinerary consisted of:
-Montmartre
-Notre-Dame
-Bastille
-Versailles
-Pere-Lachaise Cementary
-The Moulin Rouge
-The Eiffel Tower
-The Catacombs.
-Sacre-Cœur

So, the next morning, we decided that today we would tackle Montmartre, which in turn would tick off three of my places to visit. Montmartre is a hill in the north of Paris. And like many cities, Paris is a bit like a lot of tiny villages all tied together with a metro line running through them.
Montmartre is one of those little villages. And at the very summit of this hill, sits the beautiful Sacre-Cœur – a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica. Constructed from travertine stone, the building is flawlessly white, and sticks out like a sore thumb against the landscape of Paris.
T10710717_896720940338085_7403967391679834447_nhe neighbourhood of Montmartre is also historically significant as being somewhat of a cultural hotspot for artists, singers and dancers – as well as housing the Moulin Rouge.
So, naturally, as a aspiring writer, I was inspired to go to this place of such cultural richness.
So the next morning, we set out. Now, getting from our flat to Montmartre was of course a metro journey. We went from Jaurés to Abbesses – which required a cross from Line 2 to Line 12 at Pigalle, but the journey wasn’t too long. And as I mentioned before, Montmartre is hilly. It takes good calf muscles to trek up those cobbled streets, but as we learnt later there is actually a small railway which carts you up from the bottom of the hill to Sacre-Cœur in under two minutes. So if you’re with elderly people/children and buggies – it may be worth considering.

But mother and I soldiered on. We moved through tiny streets of cobbled beauty, passing delicious smelling bakeries with stunning cakes and delicacies in the windows, and everywhere you looked, there were tiny balconies and filigree window panes, which made you feel that you had been transported away from the 21st century, and back to the period of having Van Gogh and Dai on your doorstep.

And of course, like any major landmarks in any cities, it was covered in tourist booths and shops, but they fit in with the quirky aesthetic that the district seemed to offer. But I was on a mission.

Onwards we soldiered to the very top of the hill, and stood in the shadow of Sacre-Cœur.
By then, we were exhausted and bought a very reasonably priced full tuna baguette from a nearby bakery (the name slips my memory, but rest assured, b10710582_896720747004771_6692114884752344325_nakeries in Paris are all delicious. Heck, even the filled baguettes we got from the local supermarket were outstanding), and we sat in a doorway directly opposite the basilica and had our lunch. Now, to me, that experience becomes one of the memories that you always look back on fondly.

Sacre-Cœur is a beautiful piece of architecture, and anybody who knows me knows that one of my biggest fascination’s in life, is with good architecture, so of course we went inside. It’s beautiful, peaceful and not as big as Notre-Dame, but the mosaic that is depicted within the ceiling of Jesus with a flaming heart is certainly breathtaking.
We lit candles for our relatives, and just took in this spectacle. It was cool, dark and a true sanctuary against the midday sun. And when we exited, we crossed ourselves in Catholic tradition and stood to admire the view of Paris spread beneath us. The view of the city is almost too much. Too much to look out, and too many different things to take in. But I urge anyone to go and stand there and admire the city below. It is so worth it.

After, a short journey down Montmartre led us to w10302243_891401324203380_6280579347706735622_nhere the Moulin Rouge stood, with its giant scarlet windmill alluding back to a different time. We took pictures, and made our way on the metro to the Avenue de l’Opéra, a very beautiful part of the Paris, which to me is the sort of Chelsea/Sloane Square of the entire city. Full of elegant shops, expensive boutiques and once again, beautiful infrastructure, the area just seems to give off the scent of wealth and elegance at its highest. We quickly visited the Fragonard Museum of Perfume on the Rue Scribe, which offers an interesting and rich history over how perfume has changed over the years, and then we sat down at Cafe de l’Olympia, and had our first crepe and hot chocolate of the trip.

There is so much to do in the city, that a simple excursion tired us out. However, the next day, I took mother on a proper walking holiday across the city, and we saw a lot of beautiful sites and got quite sunburnt.

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – Film Review

Title: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter and Gal Gadot.

Director: Zack Snyder

Genre: Superhero, Action, DC Extended Universe, Comic Book Adaptation

Rating: 3/5


In my opinion, superhero and comic book movies has become one of those genres that can attract a very diverse audience. From diehard fans who enjoying seeing their favourite hero/antihero play it up on the big screen, to people wanting to experience a form of escapism into a world where good guys beat bad guys, and marvellous powers and technologies are the norm, superheroes represent the protection, power, and that being different isn’t a bad thing.

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So when it was announced in 2013 that two of the biggest and most celebrated superheroes would be put in a film together, the anticipation was rife across the globe. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, two of DC’s greatest and most read-about heroes faced off in an action-packed, CGI riddled movie that would not only launched the start of a new superhero franchise, but would be the first live-action movie starring these two fan favourites.

Set eighteen months after Man of Steel, Superman has become a figure of controversy. Thanks to destructive battle with General Zod, Superman has changed from a hero of protection and peace, and into something that people have started to fear. And there is no person who hates Superman more than billionaire tycoon Bruce Wayne. After the ruin of Wayne Tower, Wayne holds a grudge against Superman, and sees Superman as being a threat to humanity due to his overwhelming powers. And vice versa here, as Superman views the Batman as being a threat, and acting above the law. So, with the two most powerful men in Gotham and Metropolis actively loathing each other, it is then up to power mogul and other-all bad seed, Lex Luthor to interject and orchestrate a colossal battle. However, all is not as it seems, and it soon becomes apparent that instead of fighting each other, there is a bigger foe that threatens world peace.

So, what did I enjoy about this film? Well, first of all I was pleasantly surprised by Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne. I have watched Affleck through various different films, from Daredevil to Gone Girl, and when he was announced that he was going to play Batman in this movie, I was eager to see how he would play him. And all in all, I was surprised about how serious he was. In the beginning of the film, we are given a refresher course about Wayne’s tragic past and his parents death, and with a very chilling shot of the mugger’s gun wrapped around his mother’s string of pearls, the shooting scene was done with enough drama to really hit a nerve. This flashback to Wayne’s childhood also helped cement what kind of Batman Affleck would portray, as he is shown to be very troubled. He portrayed a Bruce Wayne that was very different from Christopher Nolan’s, as he wasn’t as jokey or wise-cracking as The Dark Knight hero. He seemed a lot more troubled by his past, which in turned affected his Batman. As his alter ego, he seemed a lot more vicious and macabre, and definitely as more of a vigilante.

The Batmobile and his suit has been rejigged and redone as well, and like with the Superman, this Batman wasn’t supposed to be a continuation of The Dark Knight Trilogy, but an entirely new version. Henry Cavill’s batman-v-superman-trailer-fight-heat-visionSuperman has also been given more of an insight into the trials of being Superman. The fact that he is an alien, and his powers are feared rather than revered is talked about throughout the film, however there are moments of religious symbolism which did show that Superman is still worshipped as a higher power. Cavil is chiselled, cool and plays both Clarke Kent and Superman well.

But what did irk me was the high levels of damsels in distress in this movie. Amy Adam’s Lois Lane didn’t necessarily have any life in her character. She waits to be rescued, and when she does, she promptly goes off and gets herself in more danger. In this film, all she seems to do is wait for Superman. Which is highly disappointing, especially as it is put next to the highly advertised appearance of Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot doesn’t get the screen time she should have got. She only reveals her super alter-ego in this last big battle, and appears before in various dresses at glamourous events.

What I also found disappointing was the jumbled and jolted way this film didn’t follow one plot. It messily jumped from subplot to subplot, before climaxing in two very epic and dramatic battles at the end, where everything is resolved very quickly. The end battles were good, don’t get me wrong. Watching as Superman and Batman mercilessly attack each other in haze of heat vision, kryptonian smoke guns and fancy Bat-gadgets was entertaining. But I don’t think that Marvel and its well- defined movie franchise has anything to worry about when it comes to this particular film.

On the surface, the movie was an action-filled explosion extravaganza. I thoroughly enjoyed the tension between Clarke Kent and Bruce Wayne, and how these two superheroes faced the Fall from Grace into being feared and not understood. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred was also another moment of dry humour in the darkness of Bruce Wayne’s world. But underneath, the dialogue was long and drawn out – especially when it came to Lex Luthor and his crazy monologues – the film was oddly paced, with the end coming too soon and the rest bumbling along, and the soundtrack wasn’t up to scratch. I am eager to see what the DC Extended Universe comes up with next. But let’s just try more with sticking with one plot, and less with the damsels.

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But what do you think? Did you enjoy this new movie? Do you think marvel has to worry about this new franchise? And what superhero movie would you like to see? Leave me comments!