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Blogs from: France

Circle of Lights – Arc de Triomphe – Paris, France

 

Photo of the Day – Circle of Lights – Arc de Triomphe – Paris, France

After a long walk up the crowded Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, you are treated to a spectacular view of the Arc de Triomphe. On a cold December night last year I made the long walk from the Louvre, up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe.

In between courteously snapping photos of fellow tourists posing with giddy smiles in front of the massive monument, I attempted to take long-exposure images with my SLR camera to help capture the beautiful, never ending circle of lights in front of me.

Circle of Light - Arc de Triomphe - Paris, France
 

Gare du Nord Facade – Paris, France

 

Photo of the Day – Gare du Nord Facade – Paris, France

Last December I flew by myself to Paris for the weekend to check out several AbsoluteVisits and to really just spend some time away from the normal distractions, alone with my thoughts. Upon landing early in the morning at Charles de Gaulle airport, I took the train into the city and dropped off my half-empty bag in a tiny room at a random hostel I had booked on the internet.

With my camera strap secured around my neck, I grabbed a fresh chocolate croissant at a local bakery and walked down a narrow street to the metro station to catch a train to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. I was surprised to see the local metro station was actually one of the largest train stations in France, complete with a beautiful facade. I quickly stuffed the remaining half of the hot croissant in my mouth, set up my tripod and snapped away!

Gare du Nord Facade - Paris, France
 

Colorful Sacred Heart Lawn – Paris, France

 

Photo of the Day – Colorful Sacred Heart Lawn – Paris, France

Paris offers one of the most dense and fascinating collections of tourist attractions found anywhere on our planet. With just a few short days you are easily able to visit several AbsoluteVisit Top100s including The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, Chartres Cathedral and Versailles. While you are there you of course have to visit Notre Dame and The Arch de Triomphe as well. Of course you also want to be sure not to miss out on croissants and crepes too!

Unfortunately this cornucopia of travelers crack inadvertently creates a major problem. There are tons of very worthy places in Paris that 100% deserve a visit, but ultimately go unseen because they are overshadowed by these globally famous sites.

Sacre Couer (Sacred Heart) is on the top of my list of places in Paris that a lot of people unfortunately skip. The Basilica is impressive, the views of Paris are rivaled only by the top of the EIffel Tower and a short walk behind the church yields the streets of Montmartre where impressionism and Monet were born.

Colorful Sacred Heart Lawn - Paris, France
 

Eiffel Tower Sunset View of Paris – Paris, France

 

Photo of the Day – Eiffel Tower Sunset View of Paris – Paris, France

Here is another photo from the solo trip that I took to Paris for a weekend back in December. Paris could easily be the easiest place in the world to take beautiful photos. You can see the other five POTD pictures I already have posted here, here, here, here and here. Of course the Eiffel tower was an Absolute Must Visit on this trip!

This trip was really my first experience at traveling alone. It’s actually not all that bad, but it can get lonely at times, especially when traveling in a country where you can’t speak the language.

The wait to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower is often over an hour and on this particularly sunny winter day the line was LONG. I was really not in the mood to stand in silence for the two hours waiting to get to the top so I came up with a plan to avoid the misery.

I stood near the end of the line pretending to take photos and waited for two English speaking Americans to get in line. I very casually (and very calculated) stepped in line right behind them and joked “Do you have any idea how long this takes”? Of course the English connection led to us instantly becoming friends, which meant I had friends to keep me company for the next two hours!

In this photo you can see the River Seine cutting through the heart of Paris. Look even closer and you can see the Eiffel Tower’s shadow extending right through the middle of the photo.

Eiffel Tower Sunset View of Paris - Paris, France
 

A Photo of The Mona Lisa – Louvre Museum – Paris, France

 

Photo of the Day – A Photo of The Mona Lisa – Louvre Museum – Paris, France

Growing up as a kid I held the belief that the famous Mona Lisa painting was protected behind all sorts of secret lasers making it impossible for the average peon like myself to see it in person. As I grew older the laser fantasy was replaced by the idea that one could see the Mona Lisa in person but under no circumstances were you allowed to take a picture of it. I knew that The Mona Lisa was well guarded and the punishment for blinding her eyes with your camera flash would be severe.

Last December while touring the Louvre Museum in Paris, I surprisingly walked easily into the room housing the Mona Lisa and was shocked at what I saw. There were no visible lasers protecting Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. Furthermore there was a huge crowd of tourists snapping away thousands of photos of her. Security didn’t even blink an eye when the camera flashes lit up The Mona Lisa!

Without the lasers and strict security, all that was before me was a small (less than 2×3 feet) and rather boring (in my opinion) painting hanging on the wall with a bunch of tourists standing around taking pictures. Being a photographer I was happy that I was able to get a clean shot of the painting, but the rest of the experience was…bleh.

Don’t expect much from seeing The Mona Lisa in person. You will surely be let down.

A Photo of The Mona Lisa - Louvre Museum - Paris, France
 

Louvre Museum Fountain – Paris, France

 

Photo of the Day – Louvre Museum Fountain – Paris, France

The Louvre is world renowned for having perhaps the greatest art collection in the world. The exhibits inside of this massive museum are nothing short of extraordinary. Every person should make an effort to walk the halls of the Louvre at some point in their life. It offers you an unparalleled walk through the history of our world and its distinct cultures through art.

I personally find the outside of the museum complex equally impressive. It is, without a doubt, the most beautiful museum structure on the planet. I took this picture at night on a recent trip to Paris. The calm sounds of the fountain water splashing while viewing one of the most spectacular sights these eyes have ever seen made it very difficult for me to move on to the inside of the museum. If you get a chance to visit the Louvre, I highly recommend you take a few hours to explore the outside of the building in the early evening and at night.

Louvre Museum Fountain - Paris, France

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Stained Glass Scene – Notre Dame – Paris, France

 

Photo of the Day – Stained Glass Scene – Notre Dame – Paris, France

The insides of cathedrals are near the top of my “most difficult to photograph” list. The absence of light creates an environment that requires special photography gear and advanced technical skills. Additionally, to truly appreciate the historical magnificence one must have a 360 degree view – something that no SLR camera can capture. I’ve been to a handful of the top cathedrals on the planet and I have very little photographic gems to show for it.

Last December I was exploring Paris and had the opportunity to spend some time inside the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral. The 12th century Gothic architecture inside the cathedral is simply amazing to the eyes. It is no wonder that this remains one of the most popular tourist spots in a competitive Parisian landscape.

Armed with professional camera equipment I severely struggled to capture the scene inside. Frustrated with my failure I began to focus my camera lens on the intricate and colorful stained glass lining the inside walls. Wow – this change in strategy yielded some truly spectacular pictures. For all my complaints about the darkness inside the cathedral, I found the brightness in these stained glass pictures to pop more than anything else I took in Paris the whole weekend!

Stained Glass Scene - Notre Dame - Paris, France

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Caricature Artist – Montmartre – Paris, France

 

Photo of the Day – Caricature Artist – Montmartre – Paris, France

Here is another photo from the trip I took to Paris last month. After touring the Sacre Coeur Basilica, I walked down the hill behind it to the famous art district in the Montmartre neighborhood. The area has transformed over the years from an artist hangout to an official tourist trap. Luckily, the scene was still very interesting and I was able to capture a few great pictures. I particularly liked this shot I took of a young girl getting her picture drawn between her mom and one of her friends.

After snapping this shot I walked over to show the image to the girl’s mom. Usually, I find that people enjoy looking at great photos of themselves, I even often offer to email a copy of the pictures. This mom gave me this upset/surprised “Why are you taking pictures of my daughter?” look. Not exactly the reaction I was looking for and certainly that moment is not doing anything to help me get over my fear of taking pictures of random people in public.

How do you feel about taking pictures of random people in public? Do you do it? Do you think you need to ask first?

Caricature Artist - Montmartre  - Paris, France
 

Chartres Cathedral South Entrance – Chartres, France

 

Photo of the Day – Chartres Cathedral South Entrance – Chartres, France

Earlier this month I took a train one hour south of Paris to visit the famed Chartres Cathedral. The exterior detail on all sides of the cathedral is simply breathtaking. I particularly loved the army who greeted me outside the south entrance.

Chartres Cathedral South Entrance - Chartres, France
 
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The Top 100 Places in the World
1 Great Wall of China
2 Pyramids of Egypt
3 Machu Picchu
4 Serengeti Migration
5 Galapagos Islands
6 Grand Canyon
7 Angkor Temples
8 Antarctica Cruise
9 Taj Mahal
10 Iguazu Falls
11 Amazon Rain Forest
12 Great Barrier Reef
13 Bora Bora
14 Victoria Falls
15 Bagan
16 Petra
17 Potala Palace
18 Karnak
19 Mt Everest
20 Cappadocia
21 St Peters Basilica
22 Fjords of Norway
23 Jerusalem Old City
24 Burj Khalifa
25 Borobudur
26 Forbidden City
27 Kashmir Valley
28 Li River Cruise
29 Ladakh
30 Alhambra
31 Louvre Museum
32 Perito Moreno Glac.
33 Banaue Terraces
34 Colosseum of Rome
35 Easter Island
36 Venice Canals/Alleys
37 Kathmandu Valley
38 Wat Phra Kaew
39 Yellowstone NP
40 Pompeii
41 Rio Panoramic View
42 Palace of Versailles
43 Dubrovnik
44 Golden Temple
45 St. Basils Cathedral
46 Vatican Museum
47 Florence Cityscape
48 Acropolis
49 Amalfi Coast Drive
50 Kremlin
51 Hong Kong View
52 TerraCotta Warriors
53 Mezquita Cordoba
54 Chichen Itza
55 Damascus Old City
56 Shwedagon Stupa
57 Sahara Desert
58 Mont St Michel
59 St. Marks Square
60 Egyptian Museum
61 Hagia Sophia
62 Angel Falls
63 Delphi
64 Teotihuacan
65 Baalbek
66 Banff NP
67 Santorini
68 Matterhorn
69 New York Skyline
70 Neuschwanstein
71 Chartres Cathedral
72 British Museum
73 Prague Old Town
74 Burj al Arab
75 Yangtze River Cruise
76 Yosemite NP
77 Hermitage Museum
78 Torres del Paine
79 Chambord Chateau
80 Lijiang
81 Portofino
82 Great Ocean Road
83 Tongariro Alpine
84 Las Vegas Strip
85 Tikal
86 Topkapi Palace
87 Sydney Opera House
88 Eiffel Tower
89 Luxor Temple
90 Kerala Backwaters
91 Golden Gate Bridge
92 Cinque Terre
93 Metropolitan Mus
94 Uffizi Gallery
95 Ayers Rock
96 Cliffs of Moher
97 Pacific Coast Hwy
98 Shanghai Skyline
99 Glacier Bay NP
100 Wulingyuan
Cappadocia  Cappadocia, Turkey
 
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