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Zurich and Paris: Nice Way To Spend A Week November 10, 2009

Posted by Richard Foote in Richard's Musings, Travel.
6 comments

I’ve just returned from a bit of whirlwind visit to Europe, teaching my Index Internals Seminar in two lovely cities, Zurich in Switzerland and Paris in France.

Coming from Australia, everything is relatively new with nearly anything over a 100 years old regarded as historically significant. I therefore love visiting European cities which are so rich in history and where you can walk past buildings regarded as “new” but actually built before Australia was even discovered by the Europeans.

I’ve been to Switzerland before but never to Zurich, so I was keen to spend my free day there doing what I enjoy doing best when visiting a city for the first time, just walking and exploring. I was really lucky in that the weather on my free day was next to perfect, clear and sunny, whereas it rained on all the other days I was in Switzerland.

I started my walk from the impressive “Zurich Hauptbahnhof” (Railway Station) which is actually a lovely old building in its own right. I then made my way down the picturesque Limmat, past wonderful buildings such as St. Peter’s Church with what is considered the largest clock face in Europe, Fraumunster Church which has some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I’ve ever seen, the huge 700-800 year old Grossmunster Cathedral and the elegant Opera House.

After walking around the shores of Zurich Lake for a while, I decided to take a cruise where I just sat on the top of the ferry-boat, soaking up the sun and all the amazing views, including the massive Alps looming on the horizon. Zurich Lake certainly puts Canberra’s own little Lake Burley Griffin to shame although I can cycle around Burley Griffin during my lunchtime, not sure I could do the same around Zurich Lake. I then just walked and walked throughout the “old town” district, exploring all the lovely old buildings with their bay windows and balconies and all the narrow alleyways, squares and little market places. I of course bought some Swiss chocolates for the folks back at home.

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As it grew dark, Zurich lit up and all the lovely old buildings shone with a new brilliance. The only incident I had of note was on the train back to the hotel, when the train inspector upon checking my ticket gave me a shocked look, full of disdain as I was inadvertently sitting in the first class carriage !! I was led like a naughty boy to where I belonged with all the other second class citizens. The seminar on the following days went really well with an excellent class of folk (pun of course fully intended).

Later in the week, I went to Paris to present my second seminar. Paris is a city I had previously visited, many years ago as the first destination of my honeymoon. So I had to be careful not to have too good a time, else there might be a few problems awaiting me back at home :) Again I was really fortunately, having a perfect sunny day on my free day while it rained on every other day of my visit. I decided to basically walk from the Eiffel Tower to Notre-Dame Cathedral while crossing every single bridge on the Seine in between. Paris is absolutely one of my favourite cities in the world, it’s such a unique and special place. The walk was fantastic (I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t done it), with just so much to see and enjoy along the way. And boy are there a lot of bridges (I think I counted 14 bridges along the way), but none as impressive as the grand Pont Alexandre III.

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Apart from seeing the Eiffel Tower at the start, I spent time at the charming Place de la Concorde, spent a few hours at the incredible d’Orsay Museum (incredible if you’re like me and love Impressionist Paintings by masters such as Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir), went past the one and only Louvre Museum and then onto Saint Louis Island and the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral where I spent some time just marvelling at the place.

I decided to walk all the way back, but this time exploring primarily the north bank with its shops, restaurants and sites such as Saint-Jacques Tower and Place Vendome. As it got dark, I finally made it up to the Avenue Des Champs Elysees and the famous Arc De Triomphe. To finish what was a fantastic day, I then walked all the way across back to where I had begun and the Eiffel Tower at night, so I could see it in all it’s lit-up glory and ambience, with its search beams circling the clear evening skies.

The only problem I had was being continually hassled again and again by people who kept saying I had just dropped a “golden ring” (I guess in the hope I would buy it as some sort of bargain). There must obviously be a good market for shower curtain rings in Paris …

The seminar was again great with a good crowd asking some really good questions. Everyone was very patient as I tried to not talk too fast for those whom English was a little rusty. For those that know me, talking slowly is not a skill that comes easily to me :)

I had a great time but thankfully, that’s all my travel over with for the forseeable future. Next year I will definitely reduce my travel commitments, spending much more time at home. Which of course also means perhaps spending more time on this blog as well :)

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