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a lazy day and shakespeare and co.

Well today started off slowly, I didn’t really leave the hotel until around 11 after skyping with my mum and my cats (which was glorious)

I went off to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, a HUGE area filled with heaps of famous graves. Like the other cemeteries I’ve been to here, it was very peaceful and I enjoyed just walking around it. It’s pretty impossible to find the graves you want to see though really so I just did my own thing.

After that I wanted to head and find the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which is around Notre Dame. So after a bit of confusion, I found it, pretty much completely opposite the Cathedral on the other side of the Seine. 

So. I FELL IN LOVE. Honestly this place is so magical and beautiful and just…perfection. The books are piles to the roof with so many different sections and little nooks and crannies filled with rare books, new books and everything in between. The upstairs area is especially gorgeous, filled with hundreds of old books to peruse at your leisure. There’s chairs and couches to relax on and have a read and even a piano to play. There was a cute little writers cubby hole complete with typewriter up there also. I spent a long time in there just looking around and wanting to buy EVERYTHING. I found a old version of Wuthering Heights (which to be honest is not my favourite but that’s fine I had to get this) and I had to get a copy of Gatsby. Especially since I only own it on my kindle. There was a whole section dedicated to the ‘Lost Generation’ - filled with Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein…it was beautiful. 

After that I walked along the Seine for a bit and saw another bride (I’ve seen probably at least one a day since I’ve been here) getting photographed on the edge of the river. Just walking around the city here is interesting and almost all you need to do. There always seems to be something to see.

Versailles tomorrow! I’m going to go early because I need to work out the trains/get tickets and I hope it doesn’t rain..

11 months ago / 2 notes

LOUVRE AND LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS

I didn’t write this last night because I was super tired after getting back to the hotel after the ballet, and quite honestly all I wanted to do was tumble into bed. So here’s my delayed version of yesterday’s events.

So this time when I got to the Louvre, it was open! Good. The line wasn’t too bad it was probably really only about 10 minutes because it moved fast. And then. Oh. Honestly I thought the Musee d’Orsay was big…NO. NOT AT ALL. You get down into the bottom of the pyramid and it’s like a roundabout - paths leading off in all different directions to different wings.

I didn’t really know where to go, so I headed to the Ancient Greek and Egyptian zone to start. I hadn’t really ever seen Ancient Egyptian artifacts before, I had seen Greek ones during Classics trip but it still blows my mind. These are things that are SO OLD yet are so well preserved. I love taking a peek into their ancient civilisations. 

I made my way through the neverending galleries and managed to reach the Mona Lisa. This was actually bigger than I expected because I’ve heard so many people say “it’s so small!!!!” I mean it is small but it’s definitely not tiny. As I’m sure is usual, there were so many people crowded around it that you had to kind of fight to get to the front.

One of the things about the Louvre is that it’s a gorgeous building in itself. On one level they’ve maintained the apartments of Louis (which one I can’t remember) and it’s just beautiful. So ornate. 

I walked through many courtyards of sculptures which was as insane as ever. I will never understand how they do that. Ever.

After the Louvre I went to the Gallerie LaFayette where I marveled at the thousands of designer stores and was semi overwhelmed so I went and bought some delicious French cheese and headed back to the hotel.

So. The ballet. For a start it was even amazing just to be inside the Palais du Garnier, another of Paris’ many iconic and beautiful buildings, I couldn’t believe I was actually seeing a performance there. 

My spot was amazing, right in the centre. You’re sitting in kind of boxes in a way, you go through these little doors to reach your zone and you’re sitting in moveable chairs instead of stall seats like we have at home. I mean you couldn’t really move them because there are people around you but it was different (and exciting)

(the domed ceiling of the theatre)

The actual ballet was beautiful as expected. The flawless movements of the dancers, how they express emotions with no words just through their bodies…it’s just magical. This was obviously the last performance for the lead dancer Agnes Letestu because they all came out multiple times and she had a standing ovation for literally 20 minutes. There were flowers thrown onto the stage, shouts of “bravo!” (SO FRENCH) and they showered her in glitter poured from above the stage. It was great to witness and to see her dance her last show. She was absolutely beautiful.

So that was a pretty extreme day, today was much more relaxed.

11 months ago / 1 note

DAY OF THE DEAD

Today I got up and headed straight to the Catacombs, where there was already a pretty big queue and it hadn’t even opened yet! This did go fast once it opened though which was good. I wasn’t super sure what to expect with this, but I found it super interesting and not as creepy as I was expecting. To be honest the scariest part of the whole thing was walking through the neverending tunnels in the almost darkness, there aren’t that many people in there at one time so often you’re completely by yourself.

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Then you move into the actual ‘bones’ area. And wow there are just so so many in there it’s kind of overwhelming. All packed in along the walls, almost as some sort of design. Oh and this was concerning - 

Just what I want! A piece of human bone.

(for some bizarre reason these have posted sideways…I don’t even know) 

By the time I got back up to the ground it was probably about 11.30, so I decided to head over to Montmarte. Once I got there I didn’t really know where I was going, I figured I’d make my way up the hill to the Sacre Ceour and then walk around the streets. This is another just beautiful church with a gorgeous high dome and lovely stained glass, again I just sat in there for a while and looked around, there’s so much to see it’s a bit ridiculous but it’s amazing just being there.

I walked around to a super lively, if touristy square, lined with restaurants and little nick nack shops, and found one of them for lunch. Here you can really feel Paris as a living and breathing city. 

I wanted to look at a few cemeteries, I know that might seem weird but I really like them, weirdly I find them peaceful and very interesting. But what started as a casual peaceful stroll through the Cemeterie du Montmarte developed into a bit of a cat spotting adventure. I don’t know, I see a cat and I have to go and talk to it. Weirdly, there were A LOT of cats in this cemetery. Is that a thing? I don’t know. But anyway, that was a really nice surprise and I spent a lot of time trying to get various cats to come and talk to me - they’re pretty nervy but they let me come close, until I held out my arm and they were off. I literally saw about 7 and then I found their little hut area, all in one place with beds and food and milk/water so they’re obviously cared for which made me happy. I miss my cats can you tell?

After that I pretty much got lost trying to find the Moulin Rouge, plus it had started to seriously rain so I was soaking. Eventually I just got on the metro to the stop I knew it was outside and found it. To be honest though, it wasn’t that impressive? Maybe it’s because I was soaking at the time but I guess I was expecting a bit more.

I got myself a bit of a treat from the gorgeous Laudree which was a lovely end to the day

11 months ago / 2 notes

MUSEE D’ORSAY AND NOTRE DAME

WELL today I rose super early to try and beat the crowds to the Louvre. So I found the Metro, got off in the right place and was like “Wow. There’s like no line at all this is magical!” Hahahahaha. No. There was no line because the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. SUCH an idiot I’d even read that the night before and said to myself “Oh that’s fine tomorrow’s Wednesday” ?????????? questioning my brain right now. THAT WAS FINE THOUGH it was great to see where it was anyway/see the building and the pyramids in the square. At least I know where to go when it is open!

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I decided to head to the Musee d’Orsay which is only a little walk away and I wanted to see it anyway. There was a line, but it did move reasonably fast and I got in by probably just after 9.30am. This museum is beautiful. It’s in a converted train station so it still has that towering arched ceiling, with little rooms and hallways containing the art. You walk into a sculpture hall which will never cease to amaze me - how these artists possibly can do what they can do with essentially pieces of rock…it’s just insane.

Some highlights here were the Toulouse-Lautrec room, seeing multiple works by Monet and Van Gogh and best of all for me, seeing Edgar Degas’ beautiful paintings and sculptures of ballerina’s. I LOVE him so much and it was just so amazing to see his work in person. It also wasn’t TOO crowded (except the Van Gogh hall) so you managed to actually look at each piece properly without being blocked by heads or being pushed along with the crowd. I didn’t really take pictures of the art because they tell you off and I was kind of just into looking but the actual museum itself is pretty breathtaking.

Then I figured I’d walk down towards Notre Dame, which actually wasn’t as far away as I thought it would be. I walked over the famous bridge where people write eachothers names on padlocks and lock them to the side, it was literally STUFFED full there are so many on there. I wonder who started the random tradition. Maybe I should be an idiot and put one up for me and my cats, who knows. 

NOTRE DAME. W o w. Is all I can say. It’s another one of those super iconic places that you can’t believe you’ve arrived at. I went it and walked around it and was just in awe the entire time. It’s just so so beautiful and peaceful and I loved it so much. THE STAINED GLASS WINDOWS. There were so many and everyone was unique and beautiful and I could have stared at them for days.

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I went and sat in the seats for a while and just looked, it’s really just a masterpiece.

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Then I went to join the line to climb up, it was about an hour wait…but it was totally worth it. It was kind of like the Arc de Triomphe again, just as I feared my legs would die on me we emerged. You get an insane view of Paris and of course of the mystical Chimaeras who guard Notre Dame from evil spirits. I was up there when the bell tolled for the hour as well which was really cool although we couldn’t go into the bell tower because of renovations (I don’t know if you can normally go in but something was roped off)

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You could go even higher so I did that too, we were right on top of one of the towers, you literally could not get any higher up.

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That’s the other tower - we were walking right along that top balcony.

So I climbed down the stairs and went underneath Notre Dame to the remains of Ancient Paris. This was really great to see especially because of studying Classics, it was super interesting to see these remains of a Roman city and how Paris developed into what it’s like today. I’m trying to get the pictures off my phone but it’s rebelling against me which is super great.

Tonight I got a few macarons from this beautiful store just down the road from my hotel…BEAUTIFUL. Tomorrow I think I’m going to try and do the catacombs and Montmarte, we’ll see how it goes.

11 months ago / 4 notes
#travel

BONJOUR PARIS!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! This morning was an early one because my train to Paris was leaving at 9.30am and I needed to make sure I got everything packed up and checked out/had breakfast/all that jazz before then. I made it! Cheryl, Mike, Dido and Martin came to see me off so that was really great of them. Last link with home gone!

I don’t know what I was expecting when I arrived at Paris Nord - but I think it was something along the lines of the Eiffel Tower looming overhead with people with baguettes and cheeses flooding the footpath. It wasn’t a half an hour taxi queue being serenaded by a lovely crazy man with a bushy beard. But that’s fine, all was soon well as I got in a taxi and arrived at my hotel. The hotel is beautiful, tucked into rue Victor Hugo it’s a gorgeous position, with the Arc de Triomphe just down the road. What wasn’t so great was having to lug my hugely heavy suitcase up like 15 stairs to get to the lobby…good practice for the tour I guess?

I wandered down to the Arc de Triomphe, and kind of just stood there looking for a good while, I couldn’t really believe I was actually standing right in front of it. 

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Then I had to discover how to actually get to it - there’s no way you can cross that road. Luckily I used my deduction skills and found the underground walkway thing. Honestly standing underneath it - it just blows your mind. Thinking of the history and all the people who have stood their before you, have marched through there before you….it’s literally mind blowing. That’s the thing that’s most killing me about Europe, the immense and unfathomable history that just lives everywhere you go.

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I decided to climb to the top - and wasn’t QUITE prepared for the plethora of winding stairs that met me, but luckily just as I was about to die from thigh burning, I reached a platform. Going out onto the top is just INSANE. You see the the amazing way Paris is set out, especially seeing those streets that run off from the Arc de Triomphe, it feels like there are neverending places to explore. This was where I got my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, which was missing from my sight at ground level. I have to say, it’s smaller than I expected (which I think I knew would be the case but still, I was surprised) but you can’t help but be awed by the sheer symbolism it entails. It’s just the essence of the image of Paris and by seeing it I really did feel like I was there.

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After walking around the entire top deck to make sure I saw everything, I ventured back down and walked down the majority of the Champs Elysees. That is like being in a dream seriously. Everywhere you turn you see these shops that you’ve only heard about, and it’s Paris so it’s like, the biggest and best of them all. First stop: Cartier

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Then it was just a parade of joy. I want everything. There is a HUGE Louis Vuitton store but what made me laugh the most was the queue outside! I mean I know it’s exclusive blah blah but please. Wow.

I also went into Marks and Spencer which weirdly excited me, all I could think was the part in Calender Girls where Helen Mirren buys the Victorian Sponge from there and wins the prize I KNOW it’s weird but it was cool to actually see one.

Rue Victor Hugo is pretty gorgeous too, I went into the most insane patisserie store thing, literally so much beautiful food, both savoury and sweet. I wanted to buy them all. I think I’ll have to try some. Plus wine stores! It’s times like this I wish I enjoyed wine, I mean I’ll have a glass at a restaurant while I’m here but I’m not going to go buy bottles (sorry Mum)

Really now though, I have to sort out where I exactly am in relation to the things I want to see and I need to sort out the Metro. I’m thinking of rising early and HOPEFULLY heading to the Louvre where I really would love to spend the whole day. It depends if I can get up/find the Metro line before it gets too late because I know lines will be insane.

11 months ago / 2 notes
#travel

APPARATUS FINALS

I’m combining this into one entry because stupidly, I didn’t put the memory card back into my camera yesterday so have zero photos of Day 1 of Apparatus Finals. So so dumb. 

I had to sit in my proper seats again, which was a bit annoying but I got over it pretty fast. What I didn’t get over though, was the stupid thing they put on everyone’s seats - they’re these foldable cardboard sheets which when slapped against a hand/chair/arm/head make a clapping sound x 10000 which is TOO MUCH in a massive arena honestly my head was pounding (nana alert I know). To make matters worse some fail let in this group of guys with huge drums and they didn’t stop slamming them the whole time. At least it created an atmosphere I guess..

Day 1 was Men’s Floor, Pommel and Rings and Women’s Vault and Bars. General notes - Kenzo Shirai is insane, he finishes his floor with a quad twist and one of his rows is 3.5 punch front 2.5. Ok. Just crazy. The thing with event finals is that literally everyone who qualified is insane, so it’s just so great to watch. I was super excited to see McKayla Maroney vault again and she totally redeemed herself from her fall in the Olympics with two massive vaults and was just technically so far ahead. It was also great seeing Chusovitina again.

Max Whitlock got second on pommel and I was so happy!! I was pretty close to the women’s bars which was great, but I wish Becky Downie had hit her routine. She always seems to come so close.

RIGHT well today I did take photos so:

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It was really cool seeing the gymnasts warm up, sometimes you forget they’re just people too who start by doing drills??

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The British guys did so well at this competition, Kristian Thomas got third on vault and I actually thought he could have scored higher. He was just so clean.

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Honestly the screams for Zonderland in that arena…I mean he deserves it but oh wow. SO LOUD. His high bar (and p bars) was just insane. He just flies effortlessly over the bar and no doubt has the most exciting routine. The women’s floor final in particular was really exciting - it was a very strong lineup and I wanted them all to medal! I was disappointed for Izbasa, she had a beautiful routine, right up until the last pass (which is exactly what happened at the 2012 Olympics floor final). I was SO HAPPY Ferrari got silver! How amazing is she to still be going?? And on top!

Well Worlds is over, and I’m sad. My time in Antwerp is pretty much done as well and now I have to make sure I have everything packed in my suitcase. I keep freaking out I’ll forget my Europe plug adapter thing because that would be so disastrous. My train to Paris leaves at 9.33am, and luckily I’m very close to the train station. The others will come and see me off which will be great, and then that’s the last link with home gone!

Right now I need to go and find a stream for Downton, it’s the perfect way to end my time in Antwerp. 

12 months ago / 3 notes
#gymnastics #travel

WOMEN’S AA FINAL

Well this was the one I’d really been waiting for. Seeing the top 24 gymnasts in the world (bar the stupid 2 per country rule/injuries) was just going to be so so amazing. This time, the stadium was pretty much packed full which meant that I had to go sit in my actual seat. It was ok, but I swear my bad eye is getting worse because I literally couldn’t even read the scores on the board…

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They had a whole pile of Belgian gymnasts come out and do a performance on all four events, and seriously, they were really good. It must have been awesome to get to perform in the arena.

The competition was amazing. The top group were on fire (until beam) and it was just so great seeing people hit when they needed to. I was so impressed with Kyla Ross, her execution is just gorgeous and she gave nothing away. It’s amazing that even though she doesn’t have as much difficulty as a lot of the others, she still came second because of her beautiful execution. She was even leading after the third rotation, but Simone Biles’ floor has huge difficulty and I knew she probably wouldn’t keep that lead. Speaking of Simone Biles…that girl is just alkghlkdfhglskdhfgs. So so talented, she’s a little ball of power and really looks like she’s enjoying herself. I was so happy she won. Also Mustafina had a MUCH better competition than qualification, she knows how to pull it out when it counts. Iordache, Jinnan and Chungsong all fell on beam which sucked for them, but they still managed to get in the top 8. Essentially I was just dying watching all of this happen live.

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Things to check out if you’re so inclined:

Slash you know what, anything. 

Apparatus finals start this afternoon!!

12 months ago / 2 notes
#travel #gymnastics

MEN’S AA AND GOODBYE TO CALLUM

This is really about yesterday and today (so far). Yesterday I met up with Callum for lunch and we wandered around the historical district which was really nice, then he had to go back to training.

Then it was time for the Men’s AA Final. It was just. Insane. All of those guys were doing amazing stuff and GAH it was so tense at the end!! It was obviously going to be Uchimura first but there were quite a few in the running for silver and bronze - Mikulak, Kato, Whitlock, Hambuechen…

Everyone was so gutted for Mikulak when he had that mistake on high bar - but he seemed happy about his performance anyway, although he would definitely have got silver or bronze had that not happened.

(I think it was great that they brought out the top 8 here because really, they were all just amazing and deserved to be acknowledged for it)

So that was that. The stadium was fairly full and people were really loud as well so there was a real atmosphere being created. Makes it more exciting!

Today I went on the hop on hop off bus tour around Antwerp, and it was super interesting. It’s pretty hard to tell where the bus stops though, I think you have to be pretty fast if you want to get off to be honest.

ANYWAY. I went round on that a few times then got off to go and meet Callum and David. We had glorious waffles and the boys had their last Belgian beer and before we knew it, it was time for them to head back to their hotel to get taken to the airport. I don’t know, this was really sad for me, Callum was my last link to my family and him being here kind of felt like I was still somewhat at home? Not anymore though:( It’s ok, this is what I came for. But yea, that was pretty hard.

But tonight is Women’s AA finals and I can’t wait to see what goes down!! (at this point I’m thinking it’s another race for silver and bronze since if Simone Biles hits, she’ll win. But hey, anything can happen with gymnastics)

12 months ago / 1 note
#travel #gymnastics

WORLDS DAY THREE

So today (yesterday) was a nice leisurely start, I actually manage to sleep until about 9.30am which was amazing. I had a couple of hours to kill before the gym at 1.30pm, so I decided to wander back down the main shopping street - where the shops would be open this time!

I was crying at all the huge stores, there’s Urban Outfitters, H&M, Forever 21…..plus random department stores that are packed full of stuff it’s slightly overwhelming. I see things I want to buy but then also..not entirely sure where it’s going to fit in my suitcase.

I ran into Hannah Whelan and Rebecca Downie at one of these shops which was pretty awesome, they were super lovely. But yea I didn’t really achieve much in the morning at before I knew it it was time to head back to the stadium. You get the tram here underground, it’s so weird. And most of the time they’re just like, one tiny little carriage and you literally stuff in, it’s great. Luckily the stadium is only about three stops away from my hotel so it’s not like you’re stuck there for hours.

But anyway, the gym! The first subdivision of the day had Simone Biles, Carlotta Ferlito, Tatiana Nabieva, Oksana Chusovitina and Shang Chunsong (WHO IS SO TINY AND CUTE)

Simone BIles was FLAWLESS and powerful and just out of this world. If she doesn’t make a mistake she’s totally going to win. She qualified for all 4 event finals as well which is pretty rare.

Nabieva had a pretty good bar, but screwed up a bit on vault, she tucked her second vault so it got downgraded.

(laughing at Martha in the background)

Shang Chungsong from China was absolutely TINY but had a surprising amount of power. I loved her floor so much.

Carlotta Ferlito is another favourite of mine and I was so pleased she did a great beam a got into event finals!

OKSANA CHUSOVITINA!!!! I can’t even deal with how amazing she is, HOW can she be at this level at her age, it’s insane. And she did beautiful vaults.

So after this subdivision my camera died…the disadvantages of only being able to use one plug at once. I took some photos on my phone but they’re not that great. But seeing McKayla Maroney vault live….w o w. There’s just no one even close to that. UNREAL. Aliya Mustafina had an average day but her bars were gorgeous and again, ALWAYS AA (and event finals in her case)

There was just SO MUCH GYMNASTICS and it was amazing and insane and I can’t believe I’ve seen all those people to be quite honest.

Now I have to decide what to do with my day until the Men’s AA Final at 6.30pm…maybe the zoo??

12 months ago / 3 notes
#gymnastics #travel

WORLDS DAY TWO

So this was another super long day, although we knew this time not to go super early, because we wouldn’t even be let it!

The day started with the last men’s subdivision, we saw some great work - Hypolito’s floor was fantastic but then Berki, the men’s pommel horse World and Olympic Champion fell!! No one could really believe it, like this guy never falls. It would suck to come to worlds for one event and then fall.

The first of the Women’s subdivisions were today as well and I was super excited to see this. The first subdivision was all about Kyla Ross from the USA. She was just leagues above everyone else in the competition it was ridiculous. Her work is clean and beautiful and she was rewarded for it (although with slightly low floor/beam scores, although the floor scores in general have been super low so as long as their rankings are right that’s ok)

(her leotard was also GORGEOUS and I was pleased it wasn’t hot pink)

The next subdivision had a few more names - Yao Jinnan, Jessica Lopez, Mai Murakami, Elisabeth Seitz, Rebecca Tunney..

The highlights of this subdivision for me were definitely seeing Seitz do her def in person, Mai Murakami’s powerhouse floor and Jessica Lopez’s insanely beautiful floor. I was so sad she fell on bars because she had a great day apart from that (please still make AA)

After that I headed to ‘Bier Central’ to meet Callum and David who had already been there a few hours….we had dinner and it ended up that all the NZ gym people were there too so that was fun.

I’ve just had breakfast, then gym doesn’t start until 1.30pm today so I’m going to roam around again and this time the shops will be open!!