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A postcard from our trip to Paris 

“The Capital of fashion and culture”, “City of Lights”, “the city of love”… Paris has many nicknames.

The French capital has always been a source of inspiration for artists, whether they are authors, painters, photographers, or directors.  Jean-Pierre Jeunet for instance, spun his urban poetry from the neighborhood of Montmartre and made Paris one of the main characters in his movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’AmĂ©lie Poulain, better known to English-speaking audiences as AmĂ©lie

In a way, it was this pleasant, kindly, cozy atmosphere we went looking for, or at least tried to reproduce, during our recent trip to Paris.  However, we were also conscious of the fact that the city could bring on a case of “Paris Shokogun” (also known as Paris Syndrome), which is the feeling of disenchantment experienced by certain Japanese tourists when they first visit the city.  To our great pleasure, the city worked its magic (almost perfectly). 

There’s nothing quite like (re)discovering a city on foot to take in its atmosphere. We took the time to explore and walk the streets of the capital, as we love to do in Strasbourg, whenever we go on a Strafari.

Here is the postcard from our trip to Paris, with photos from our favorite spots and neighborhoods :

• The covered passages
• The Palais-Royal Garden and the Colonnes de Buren
• The Louvre, the Tuileries Garden and place de la Concorde
• Pont Alexandre III and the Seine
• Place Vendôme
• The Eiffel Tower
• Montmartre and the Sacré Cœur
• The Luxembourg Gardens
• Musée d’Orsay
• Rooftops and department stores
• The Marais
Continue your trip with a weekend in Strasbourg…

The covered passages

To get a taste of 19th-century Parisian charm, we recommend exploring the covered passages, which are pedestrian shopping arcades located near the grands boulevards and place de la Bourse. You can easily walk from one passage to the next, starting with Passage Verdeau (1847) with its antiques shops and old boutiques. Next, Passage Jouffroy (1836) stands out thanks to its marble flooring and arched glass roof. Most notably, this passage is home to the MusĂ©e GrĂ©vin. Passage des Panoramas (1799) is Paris’ very first covered passage. We decide to play a game: imagining our perfect meal by combining in our minds the suggested day’s specials on the different boards in front of the restaurants in the arcade. 

Galerie Colbert (1823), which is more centered on culture, has the distinctive feature of not containing a single shop.  It does however have a beautiful rotunda, crowned with a glass dome. 

The neighboring Galerie Vivienne (1823), which is bathed in light thanks to its glass skylight and has colorful mosaic flooring, is one of Paris’ most iconic passages. Looking for our next read among the leather-bound volumed with gilt lettering in the charming bookshop Librairie Jousseaume makes us feel like we’ve traveled back to the 19th century.

Stéphanie begins to daydream, imagining herself living in a beautiful home above a Parisian passage, where she can watch people stroll by under the glass below. She fully expects a man in a three-piece suit and top hat, accompanied by a woman in a full-skirted walking dress with delicate lace ruffles, to appear at any moment.

The Palais Royal Garden and the Colonnes de Buren

Created by the famous Cardinal de Richelieu in 1633, the Palais Royal was home to the royal families of France until the Palace of Versailles was completed. 

While searching for a bench where we can sit and enjoy our Parisien sandwich (the classic ham and butter, of course) in the garden, we realize there are philosophical quotes written on the back of several benches. We go from one bench to the next, choosing the most suitable one for our meal: “You eat your memories with the spoon of oblivion.” Or rather our vanilla Ă©clair with a recycled spoon…

Once we’ve eaten, we move on to the 260 octagonal black-and-white striped columns or different sized, made by French artist Daniel Buren. The magical atmosphere in the courtyard encourages everyone to make of the columns what they like. Children climb them like mountains, use them as stepping stones over an imaginary river, or transform them into giant slalom poles. Older generations tend to use the columns to take a seat, share a conversation, enjoy the sunshine, or as a background for their selfies.  We must admit, we hadn’t played leapfrog in a very long time. “All grown-ups were once children,” Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry once said. The Colonnes de Buren are a perfect illustration of that.

As we’re leaving the esplanade, we spot a young bride and groom with their photographer, looking for the perfect spot to immortalize their special day. The groom, elegantly dressed in black and white, stands stick straight as he poses, almost blending in with the monochrome columns.

The Louvre, the Tuileries Garden and place de la Concorde

The cour NapolĂ©on offers a striking architectural contrast between the historical palace, which is home to one of the world’s most famous museums, and the pyramid (composed of 603 glass rhombuses and 70 glass triangles), which was designed in the 1980s by Chinese American architect Ieoh Ming Pei.

Just a stone’s throw away, the Tuileries Garden is an invitation to take a relaxing stroll along the park’s ornamental pools. It was redesigned by Louis XIV’s landscape architect AndrĂ© Le NĂ´tre, who created its current jardin Ă  la française look.  The central walkway follows a perspective leading first to place de la Concorde, and then the Arc de Triomphe.  

On the side closest to the Seine, the terrasse du Bord de l’eau is a lovely part of the garden. This tree-lined raised terrace offers a different view of the Louvre palace on one end, and the place de la Concorde on the other. As you move away from the Louvre, the Seine appears to the left, and you can admire the garden below on the right.

Located at the East end of the Champs-ElysĂ©es and lined with high-end hotels, place de la Concorde is the largest square in Paris. Its main features are the Luxor Obelisk (which dates back to ancient Egypt) and the two monumental fountains (the Fountain of the Seas and the Fountain of the Rivers).

Pont Alexandre III and the Seine

The Pont Alexandre III, which spans the Seine between the Invalides and the Grand and Petit Palais, was inaugurated during the 1900 World’s Fair. It is recognizable by its massive decorative columns mounted with gilded bronze Pegasi. The bridge was named after Czar Alexander III, who formed the Franco-Russian alliance with French president Sadi Carnot (1891-1893).

From the middle of the bridge, over the head of a statue of a river nymph, we can enjoy the view of the Eiffel Tower, veiled in a halo of autumn haze.  In an instant however, the sun peeks out and the fog lifts. 

Place VendĂ´me

Place VendĂ´me is the center for fine jewelry in Paris.  Towering in the middle of the square, the VendĂ´me column was erected by Napoleon I in commemoration of the battle of Austerlitz. It was cast in bronze from cannons taken from the Russian and Austrian armies.

While JĂ©rĂ´me tries to get some good shots of the column standing out against the blue sky, StĂ©phanie takes a walk along the jewelers’ shop windows, and falls in love with a pair of gold and blue sapphire earrings. 

The Eiffel Tower 

Built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower is Paris’ most legendary landmark by far.  It’s a veritable icon. In the daytime, all over town, people scan their surroundings hoping to spot its famous outline. At night, the tower is easily spotted thanks to its golden appearance, with a beacon at the top, sweeping its light over the horizon. Most beautiful of all is when it lights up and sparkles against the dark sky for five minutes every hour after nightfall.

We recommend two spots to get a good view of this 324-meter-tall iron lady: the Champ de Mars and TrocadĂ©ro, on the other bank of the Seine. 

The corner of rue de l’UniversitĂ© and avenue de la Bourdonnais is another popular spot for Instagrammers. 

When the weather is nice, take the stairs or elevators up to the middle or upper level and enjoy an incomparable view of the city. To make the most of your visit, you can even try the Eiffel tower’s different shops and restaurants. Don’t forget to book your ticket upfront.

If you want to admire the tower from a different angle, we recommend taking the metro. Line 6 runs overground as it crosses the Seine over the Bir-Hakeim bridge, creating an impressive tracking shot effect.

Montmartre and SacrĂ© CĹ“ur 

From the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, towering at the very top of Montmartre (the highest point in Paris), the panoramic view of the city is breathtaking. The basilica, built in the Romano-Byzantine style, is easily recognizable by its immaculate white travertine stone façade, a material which was chosen for its self-cleaning properties upon contact with water.

We stay up there for a long while, admiring the view and trying to point out the different landmarks on the skyline below us. Just as we are about to leave, the sky is set ablaze with a brilliant sunset in hues of pink and orange. Such beauty! It truly makes the effort to climb the dozens of stairs needed to reach the top of the hill, worth it.  That being said, you can also take the funicular railway to the top.

Place du Tertre, just nearby, is a hub for painters and portrait artists. 

Before them, great artists such as AndrĂ© de Toulouse-Lautrec, Juan Miro or even Vincent Van Gogh, lived in Montmartre. The Bateau-Lavoir is one of Paris’ most famous artist residences, where such illustrious names as Pablo Picasso, AndrĂ© Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Guillaume Apollinaire and Jean Cocteau had their ateliers.

Montmartre is also known as the cabaret district, with legendary places such as le Lapin-Agile, chez Michou, or the world-famous Moulin Rouge. The cabaret Patachou was the debut stage for the likes of Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel, and Charles Aznavour. 

We walk back down the hill via the steep side-streets and stairways of the bustling Abbesses quarter.

The Luxembourg Gardens

Stretching over 25 hectares, the Luxembourg Gardens are the gardens of the Luxembourg Palace, which is home to the French Senate. The palace was commissioned by Maria de’ Medici and inspired by the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. 

Located at the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, it is greatly appreciated by the locals for their daily walks and weekend runs. The gardens offer a range of different activities for all ages and all seasons: a puppet theater, a kiosk renting out little sail boats, a merry-go-round, pony riding, tennis courts, exhibits, a bandstand, an apiary, an orchard…

Musée d’Orsay

The MusĂ©e d’Orsay moved into the former railway station Gare d’Orsay in 1986. The building had been designed for the 1900 World’s Fair, making the museum’s architecture a work of art in itself. 

The museum’s collection spans different forms of artistic expression in the Western world from 1848 to 1914: painting, architecture, sculpture, decorative arts, and photography. It is well-known throughout the world for its vast collection of impressionist works (Van Gogh, Manet, CĂ©zanne, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Caillebotte, Pissarro, Sisley, Morisot, Signac…).

On the top floor, before entering the rooms dedicated to impressionist art, visitors eagerly pose and take pictures in front of the monumental clock, with an incredible perspective of the rooftops of Paris and the SacrĂ©-CĹ“ur visible through the glass dial. The scene feels like taking a deep breath before an incredible experience. 

Every time he comes to Paris, Jérôme loves to visit the Musée d’Orsay and really observe the paintings, especially impressionist pieces – with Paul Signac as a firm favorite.  The beauty of these works of art is truly enhanced by the setting of this old railway station.

Being able to take the time to contemplate a painting in its entirety, approaching it to look at certain details and savoring the feeling for a moment before moving on to the next, is a form of meditation to him.

Rooftops and department stores

On boulevard Haussmann, the department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are worth a visit, and not just for shopping lovers:

• Galeries Lafayette: don’t miss the massive interior cupola and the panoramic rooftop terrace, which offers a view of the surrounding rooftops and main landmarks of the city. 

• Our favorite: the view from the 7th-floor rooftop terrace of the Printemps department store, crowned by cut stone rotundas at every corner. This place is a gem that will take you back to Paris in its Art Nouveau heyday! The panoramic view of the OpĂ©ra Garnier, the PanthĂ©on, the Eiffel Tower, the dome of the Invalides and the rooftops of Paris, is unique. 

Another temple of shopping and French art de vivre, la Samaritaine, reopened this summer after 16 years of renovations. Do not skip a visit to this masterpiece Art Nouveau architecture.

The glass skylight, the Eiffel-style steel structure and the 115-meter-long peacock fresco are truly remarkable.

The Marais

The Marais district makes us feel like we’re in a village in the very heart of Paris. Despite attracting many tourists, it seems to have retained a vibrant local atmosphere. 

The Marais is known for its great diversity, long history, rich architectural and cultural heritage, and its bustling environment. It is home to a harmonious combination of cafĂ©s, bars, little shops, art galleries, paved side-streets, and world-famous landmarks. 

Here’s what you shouldn’t miss in the Marais:

• City Hall (HĂ´tel de Ville) with its Neo-Renaissance style architecture

• The Pompidou Center: this museum contains 6 floors of spaces dedicated entirely to art and culture. Its modern and contemporary art collection is the largest in Europe. 

• The Picasso Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso.

• Place des Vosges. This green haven surrounded by charming brick buildings is the oldest square in Paris. Such famous historical figures as Victor Hugo, Madame de SĂ©vignĂ© and Colette have lived here.

• The Jewish quarter and rue des Rosiers: a legendary street dotted with independent shops, falafel restaurants, and Jewish bakeries and grocer’s shops. 

• The 16th-century half-timbered houses on rue François Miron (like a piece of Alsace in Paris), and Nicolas Flamel’s house on rue de Montmorency. Built in 1407, it is the oldest house in the city. 

• The antiques shops in Village St Paul-Le Marais. If StĂ©phanie weren’t a translator, she would almost certainly have become an antiques dealer.

Continue your trip with a weekend in Strasbourg…

Why not extend your stay in France with a trip to Strasbourg? Strasbourg is a dynamic, European city, endowed with a rich cultural heritage (with several UNESCO World Heritage site), and has a great number of assets. The city is located only 1 hour and 50 minutes from Paris by train. By the time you’ve watched a movie or read a few chapters of the book that’s been lying on your bedside table for weeks, you’ve arrived. Discover our complete guide for your first visit to Strasbourg!

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Hotel collection: Amerikalinjen, Oslo

Amerikalinjen is a 4* boutique hotel ideally located in the very center of Oslo, in the former headquarters of the Norwegian America Line, whose legendary cruise ships transported travelers from Norway to America throughout the 20th century. 

The neo-baroque style building was first unveiled in 1919, at a time when transatlantic voyages crystallized the dreams and ambitions of thousands of Norwegians, who set off towards a new world of opportunities, spurred on by the American Dream. 

The red façade of the building is adorned with marine elements and references from Greek mythology, such as Tritons and Nereids.

The interior, which has been very tastefully renovated, has preserved the spirit of the building all while adding an elegant touch of modernity. The design is exquisite, refined, and functional. Nothing is superfluous or ostentatious, and everything has been conceived for guests to have a good time and a comfortable stay.

The flawless stylistic transition from one space to the next – the reception, lounge, bar (Pier 42), restaurant (Brasserie Atlas) and rooms – is in line with the esthetic heritage of 20th-century cruise ships. The decor combines luxury (with high-end materials such as velvet, leather, or marble) and urban minimalism (subway tiles, monochromatic palettes with colorful accents, patinaed mirrors and industrial style light fixtures).

Massive trunks serve as coffee tables in the reception lounge, and a common room on the 2nd floor (British 1st floor) has been refurbished with wooden interior taken from the Norwegian America Line’s last ship. 

The rooms are very comfortable and stylish, they too having been inspired by the cabins on the ships sailing between Norway and the US: a large bed, beautiful desk, details in black and white, blonde wood, furnishings and light fixtures by Norwegian designers, and floor-level shower room. Once you’ve slipped under the covers of the lovely, soft bed, you feel as though you’re aboard a motionless ship. 

The staff (at reception and breakfast) are wonderfully welcoming, attentive, and responsive. 

Breakfast – which is currently being served on trays due to Covid restrictions – is generous and varied. The servers pay particular attention to food intolerance and allergies

Amerikalinjen is the perfect place for a cozy getaway. You can stay for one or more nights, take in the atmosphere while having dinner at Brasserie Atlas, or enjoy a cocktail at Pier 42.

We particularly enjoyed

  • The location at the very center of Oslo: just across from the train station, and a mere stone’s throw from the Opera house and the vibrant neighborhood of Bjørvika
  • The marine decor and esthetic (most notably the courtyard conservatory, the perfect place to enjoy your breakfast)
  • The warm and welcoming staff

Hotel Amerikalinjen
đź“Ť Jernbanetorget 2, Oslo
đź”— View the hotel website

We stayed at Amerikalinjen in the summer of 2021. This article reflects our personal opinions and has not been written in exchange for any form of compensation.

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Our favorite areas in Oslo

Oslo is the capital of Norway, but more importantly, it’s also StĂ©phanie’s birth town.

As a dynamic, creative, inspired city, Oslo is great to visit any time of year. Facing the fjord and surrounded by forest-clad hills, it’s the ideal destination for nature lovers.

Oslo is a city in motion – it’s undergone massive changes and evolved enormously in the last few years. Entire neighborhoods – such as Bjørvika, around the Opera house – have been created. There are plenty of parks, gardens, and tree-lined avenues, making it a uniquely green city, where nature is easily accessible all over town. 

Oslo isn’t a cold city, neither literally, nor figuratively. On the contrary, it’s welcoming and conducive to interesting architectural, artistic, cultural, and personal discoveries. 

In the summer, the locals flock to the seaside to lounge on the beach, unwind in a floating sauna, or take a dip in the sea. In the winter, the shorter days are better suited for visiting a museum or an exhibit, or finding a nice cafĂ©, bar, or restaurant where you can enjoy the koselig (pronounced “kooshlee”) atmosphere. The notion of koselig can be defined as a warm, pleasant, cozy feeling. It could be created by soft and comfortable interior that makes you want to wrap yourself up in a blanket, an intimate get-together with friends in the summer, or a lovely hot drink in the winter.

We’ve selected 4 Oslo neighborhoods that we particularly enjoy. The idea is to take in the general atmosphere of an area, rather than point out very specific (more or less touristy) sights.

• Bjørvika
• Aker Brygge, Tjuvholmen and Akershus Fortress
• Grünerløkka and Vulkan
• Frogner, the Vigeland park and the Royal Palace
Continue exploring…

Bjørvika

The construction of the Opera house by the Oslo fjord was the first step in transforming the old harbor district of Bjørvika into a vibrant new neighborhood.

Designed by Norwegian architecture company Snøhetta, the Opera, with its white marble roof, seems almost to emerge from the cool waters of the fjord. Don’t miss the atrium inside the building (a harmonious composition of wood, metal, and glass), and particularly the roof of the Opera house, to enjoy the splendid view of the Oslo fjord

Take a stroll along Langkaia dock (to the east, across from the Opera) to observe the unique architecture of the building in detail. The dock will lead you to SALT, an open-air cultural space combining, art, music, street food, architecture, and saunas. 

The Deichman Public Library (to the north, across from the Opera) was conceived as a modern-day multimedia library and as a shared, living space. It contains a vast collection of works organized by genre over 5 floors. The building’s many couches and chairs make it the perfect place to study or relax. Mini movie rooms are set up for private showings, and there are fun activities for kids. There’s even a dedicated space for 3D printing! The cafĂ© terrace above the library entrance also offers an ideal view of the Opera house. The Deichman Library was recently named the world’s best new public library by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

Between the Opera and the new Munch Museum, a floating footbridge allows pedestrians to walk to the tip of Sørenga – a new neighborhood that’s been built on the water, where young Oslo-dwellers and families alike meet up to enjoy beautiful summer days. 

A collection of buildings called the Barcode Project and the façade of the Munch Museum make up Oslo’s new skyline. 

The view from Akrobaten footbridge, which spans the railway, perfectly illustrates the barcode effect of the architecture. Thanks to the multitude of cafĂ©s, bars, and restaurants located on the ground floor of the buildings, it’s become a very lively area.

Along the waterfront, several saunas, beaches, and pontoons attract those who want to bathe, relax, and enjoy the fjord.

Aker Brygge, Tjuvholmen and Akershus Fortress 

The pedestrian docks at Aker Brygge offer a completely open view of the fjord, Akershus Fortress, and City Hall. The docks are lined with shops and restaurants that are particularly popular with tourists. Aker Brygge is also the point of departure for the little yellow ferries going out to the Bygdøy peninsula, or for fjord cruises.

For future reference: the new National Museum, which will open in 2022, is located by Aker Brygge.

Extend your stroll along the boardwalk at Aker Brygge by continuing out to the Tjuvholmen peninsula, where you will find the Astrup-Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (designed by architect Renzo Piano), a sculpture park (with pieces by artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor). The clean-cut architecture of the museum and the surrounding buildings give Tjuvholmen its unique character. 

Akershus Fortress was built around a medieval castle inthe 17th century. This massive, steep citadel with paved pathways is home to several museums (The Armed Forces Museum, The Norwegian Resistance Museum, and Akershus medieval castle) and offers a splendid view of Oslo harbor.

Grünerløkka and Vulkan

Exploring GrĂĽnerløkka on foot is the best way to soak up the vibe of this bustling neighborhood. “Løkka” (pronounced “luh-ka”), as it’s affectionately called, is dotted with vintage and design shops, secondhand stores, koselig little cafĂ©s and restaurants, concert venues and bars, large squares, and lush parks. The area is popular with students, young families, and pensioners alike.

At the edge of Grünerløkka, in the Sagene area, a walk along the Akerselva river will reveal a string of converted brick factory buildings, waterfalls, and green spaces.

The new Vulkan neighborhood is also located by the bank of Akerselva, with Mathallen, a food court and indoor market concept, as its main attraction. Various shops and stalls sell culinary products and dishes from all over the world (Norway, Mexico, Japan, France, Hungary, China, Italy…) that you can then enjoy outside or in the common seating area in the middle of the market.

Our tip: near Mathallen, you can explore the little side streets and alleys around legendary cafĂ©-bar BlĂĄ, where you’ll discover a unique, handmade outdoor chandelier, as well as many street-art pieces.

The old tree houses in Telthusbakken and Damstredet can be reached on foot from Vulkan, where they’re hanging on to the hillside in the St. Hanshaugen (St. John’s Hill) district, near Gamle Aker Kirke (Oslo’s oldest church, built in 1100) and VĂĄr Frelsers Gravlund cemetery (where a great many famous Norwegians are buried, such as playwright Henrik Ibsen and painter Edvard Munch). 

Telthusbakken and Damstredet are both quiet and very instagrammable streets with 19th-century houses. 

Telthusbakken is lined with colorful, wooden houses on one side, and with community gardens on the other. At the top of Telthusbakken, it’s worth stopping a while to enjoy the view of the east side of Oslo. 

The quaint old houses that line both sides of Damstredet all have lush little gardens. The great Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland lived in the pink house by the top of Damstredet for a few years.

Frogner, the Vigeland park and the Royal Palace  

Frogner is the capital’s calm and affluent embassy neighborhood, nestled between the Royal Palace and the Vigeland park. 

Our tip: explore the different streets in the area (such as Oscars gateFrognerveienGyldenløves gate and Inkognitogata) and admire the beautiful villas and 19th-century apartment buildings, relax in a cafĂ©, or take a walk in a park.

The Vigeland park is one of Oslo’s most popular spotsfor locals and tourists alike. More than 200 sculptures made by artist Gustav Vigeland between 1920 et 1943 can be found all over this massive park, which was created on farmland in the early 20th century. Most of the sculptures are nudes representing the different ages of life, the most famous of which are the Monolith, the great central fountain, and “Sinnataggen” (Angry Boy). The park also has playgrounds, tennis courts, two museums (the Vigeland Museum and Oslo City Museum), cafĂ©s, a stadium, and a public pool. A large number of benches and greens make it the perfect place for a picnic.

The Royal Palace, which was built in the neo-classical style and finished in 1849, has been the main residence of the Norwegian royal family since the country gained its independence in 1905. It’s easily recognizable by its yellow façade and its ornate balcony with six Ionian columns. While the Palace square is one of Oslo’s must-see sights, the Royal Palace is only open to the public in the summer months. It is possible to watch the changing of the guards (every day at 13:30).

A majestic statue of King Karl-Johan of Sweden-Norway (born Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte in the French town of Pau) towers over the Palace square.

The Palace is located at the west end of de Karl Johans Gate (Oslo’s main shopping street), and is surrounded by the large, beautiful park of Slottsparken.

CONTINUE EXPLORING…

• Bygdøy is a large peninsula with bucolic and woodland views, elegant villas, marinas, seaside walks and several museums (such as the Fram Museum, dedicated to polar explorers, and the open-air Norwegian Folk Museum, which contains a collection of traditional Norwegian houses, as well as a magnificent stave church).

• The hills around Oslo, particularly Holmenkollen, with its famous ski jump

• The panoramic view of the city from Ekeberg sculpture park

• The old wooden houses of Kampen and VĂĄlerenga

• The façade of the parliament building, Stortinget (Eidsvolls plass) 

• Oslo City Hall (a carillon tune is played every first Wednesday of the month at 11 AM). It’s possible to visit the inside of the building

• The inside of Oslo Cathedral

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Top 5 things to see in Strasbourg

Looking for a dynamic and enjoyable city to spend a weekend with your family, a group of friends, travelling solo or for a romantic getaway? Strasbourg is just the place for you!


Strasbourg is a very comfortably sized city. It’s neither too big, nor too small, and all the main sights are easily accessible by foot or by bike. The Grande ĂŽle (the historic city center, surrounded by the river Ill) and the Neustadt quarter are both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located only a few kilometers from the German border (which you can cross by tram), Strasbourg is an international city – home to a number of European Institutions.


Don’t miss any of the major sights during your first visit – here are Strasbourg’s 5 must-see spots:

• Strasbourg Cathedral
• La Petite France
• Neustadt
• The European Quarter and the parc de l’Orangerie
• The Banks of the Ill

Check out our full guide!

Strasbourg Cathedral. This single-spired Gothic masterpiece of sandstone lacework was the tallest building in Christendom until the 19th century. Enjoy the view of the ornate façade from rue Mercière, place de la Cathédrale and place du Château, visit the inside to see the rose window, the remarkable statues and the astronomical clock, or get an overview by climbing the stairs up to the observation deck. Find out more here

La Petite France. This picturesque neighborhood in Strasbourg’s old town is located on the banks of the Ill and was known as a bustling milling and tanning district as early as the Middle Ages. Amble along the charming, paved streets, between half-timbered houses. Don’t miss the Ponts Couverts, the Vauban Dam (and the terrace at the top), as well as the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Find out more here

Neustadt. The old German imperial quarter has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since July 2017. On avenue de la LibertĂ©, which runs from Palais Universitaire to place de la RĂ©publique, you will find an array of different architectural styles. The Palais du Rhin, Strasbourg National Theater (TNS) and Strasbourg National University Library (BNU) are iconic Neustadt buildings. Find out more here

The European Quarter and the parc de l’Orangerie. Strasbourg is home to several European institutions, such as the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights. The peculiar architecture of the European Parliament, which symbolizes the construction of Europe in progress, is a stand-out structure in the neighborhood. With its 26 hectares, the Orangerie is Strasbourg’s oldest park. Find out more here

The Banks of the Ill (the river running around Strasbourg) are perfect for a walk along the water. The quai des Bateliers, which is entirely pedestrian, is particularly suited for a nice stroll. If the weather is nice, why not follow the river all around the city center? You can also explore the city by sightseeing-boat. Find out more here

Check out our full weekend guide!

We’ve prepared a complete guide, ideal for a first-time weekend visit. It has everything you need: concise information (just enough, not too much), useful links, our favorite spots and a ready-made itinerary on Google Maps.

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Our photo safari in Africa

Several months before the Covid pandemic, we went on a photo safari to discover the wildlife and landscapes of Namibia and Botswana – also stopping at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

It was during this trip that the idea for this blog was born. 

Reminiscing about our travels in Africa instantly brings back images and memories of all the things we experienced there:

Gazing dreamingly out over vast, wide-open spaces. Observing nature and wildlife, all while respecting their natural habitat. Exploring the Okavango river by mokoro (a traditional Botswanan canoe). Sailing on the Chobe river at the speed of a herd of elephants. Beholding the double rainbows around “The smoke that thunders” at Victoria Falls, and savoring the moment. Admiring the endless dunes of orange sand in the Namib desert. Lingering to watch the animals at a watering hole in Etosha National Park. Taking the time to enjoy the beauty of the light throughout the day, ending in a blazing sunset. Falling asleep to the sound of grunting hippos. 

Here are some of the highlights from our safari in southern Africa:

Categories
Travel

Our best discoveries in the Netherlands

Recently we were going through the photos we’d taken during our trip to the Netherlands in 2020, and we realized we wanted to share some of our favorite discoveries from the handful of towns we visited: 

The Hague, Rotterdam, Delft, Gouda, Zandvoort, Amsterdam.

Now that it’s winter break here and we have no new travel plans on the horizon with the current situation, we’ve been reminiscing about our recent trips. 2020 was supposed to bring us to the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, where we would finally explore legendary cities like Samarkand and Bukhara, like we’ve dreamed of doing for many years. We’ve had to give up on that dream, if only for the time being …

Instead, we chose a destination that was much closer, for about a week-long trip: the Netherlands. After the lockdown in France in the spring of 2020, our goal was simply to get some fresh air and get away for a while. We needed a change of scenery, to take the time to be outside, walk around, and enjoy a little freedom (with all the necessary safety measures).

From Strasbourg, you can get to Amsterdam by plane (a direct flight with Air France-KLM takes 1 hr and 25 mins), by train (6 or 7 hrs via Paris) or by car (6.5 hrs). You could try other modes of transport (magic carpet, unicorn, bike, scooter …), but we’re not too sure about the travel times.

Suring our stay, we were based in Gouda (yes, like the cheese!). We explored a new city every day and travelled by train to avoid the regularly gridlocked Dutch highways. The pre-paid travel card  OV-chipkaart (which you can easily top up at the train station ticket office) is very handy here. You can use it on all public transport in the Netherlands, including trains.

The Hague

The Dutch government and parliament are based in The Hague, which is the administrative capital of the Netherlands. It’s not a rare sight in town to spot the Prime Minister pedal by you on his bike …

Our discoveries

• The Parliament district and especially de Hofvijver (the Court Pond) at the foot of the houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister’s Office is located in a small tower directly overlooking the pond. Right next to the Parliament, you’ll find one of the country’s most famous art museums: het Mauritshuis

• Not far from the houses of Parliament – het Lange Voorhout, with its antique market, and the little streets behind the exclusive HĂ´tel des Indes.

• The pedestrian city center, with its luxury boutiques near Paleis Noordeinde (the royal palace) and more trendy and cool shops near de Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk (the Great or St. James’ Church).

• The Passage: this neo-Renaissance-style shopping gallery is the oldest shopping center in the Netherlands, dating back to 1885.

• The façade and interior of The Sting department store

Rotterdam

One of the Netherlands’ most modern cities – located by the Nieuwe Maas river. The architecture is almost entirely contemporary, because of the massive bombings the city endured during WWII. Rotterdam is particularly dynamic and is constantly reinventing itself.

Our discoveries

• De Kubuswoningen (Cube houses): these purposely wonky-looking, cube-shaped houses, as well as the pencil-shaped building Het Potlood, were designed by architect Piet Blom. 

• Markthal: the largest market hall in Holland. This indoor market serves a double function – both commercial (with market stalls and restaurants) and residential (with apartments on the upper floors). Inside the building, the ceiling and walls are entirely covered with a massive mural depicting fruit, vegetables and grains.

• De Erasmusbrug (Erasmus bridge): this cable-stayed bridge has become one of the city’s icons. It’s almost as tall as Strasbourg Cathedral (the bridge is 139 m and the Cathedral spire is 142 m). We recommend crossing the bridge on foot.

• The Wilhelminapier peninsula. After the bridge, take a right on the peninsula and walk along the waterfront. If the weather permits, have a seat on a bench in the sunshine and watch the boats glide by. 

• For a little treat: enjoy an afternoon tea at Hotel New York (at the very end of the Wilhelminapier). This hotel used to be the main office of the Holland-America Line, which ran cargo and passenger ships between Rotterdam and New York.

Delft

The city where Vermeer lived, and birthplace of the blue and white Royal Delft pottery that carries its name.

Our discoveries

• Het Prinsenhof (the prince’s court): the former residence of William the Silent, Prince of Orange in the 16th century, is a puzzle of ancient buildings, archways and little gardens

• Het Stadhuis: Delft’s Renaissance style city hall in the market square

• De Oostpoort: The Eastern gate (from the early 15th century) with its two Brick Gothic towers and drawbridge

• De Voldersgracht: a canal lined with flowers and picturesque houses.

Gouda 

This town is famous for its cheese, yet underestimated for its charming streets and canals.

Our discoveries

• Het Stadhuis: Gouda’s city hall is known for its characteristic red and white shutters. One of the oldest city halls in the Netherlands

• The cheese market: To buy some very goud-a cheese, head to the cheese market – every Thursday morning from April to August (if the context allows for it). Don’t forget to bring cash! 

• The canals, which are perhaps more unspoiled than in Amsterdam, are lined with quaint houses and shop fronts reminiscent of the 19th century (antiques shops, wine and liquor stores, bookshops …).

• The neighborhood around Sint-Janskerk (St. John’s Church). The church is the longest in the country, and famous for its stained-glass windows.

Zandvoort

One of the few towns in the Netherlands where you can walk along the North Sea on a paved promenade or directly on the sand (and relax on the beach if the weather is nice enough). In the off season, it’s a lot calmer in Zandvoort than in Scheveningen, the seaside town next to The Hague.

Amsterdam

The vibrant capital – a labyrinth of bricks and water.

We’d had the opportunity to experience several of the city’s must-see sights during previous trips (the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Albert Cuyp market, the flower market, Dam Square, Anne Frank’s house …). This time however, we made the most of the wonderful weather and went on a very long walk, thereby avoiding waiting in line for different tourist attractions:

• We pretended to get lost for hours in the maze of canals and side streets, taking in the buildings in Jordaan (the neighborhood around Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Westerkerk, and Magere Brug)

• Strolled and relaxed in Vondelpark, a massive green lung in the heart of the city

• Went shopping around Spuistraat

• Admired the colorful façades in Damrak

Shopping tip: Many shops and stalls in the Netherlands only accept Dutch debit/credit cards or cash.