Downtown Perth




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With a population of just over two million, Perth is Australia’s fourth largest city as well as the largest city and the capital of Western Australia. It was founded in 1829 as the administrative center for the Swan River Colony. Today it is a bustling modern city that headquarters most of the mining companies that are the mainstay of Western Australia’s economy.

Getting there from the suburbs is pretty easy as the Perth Metropolitan Region has an extensive modern rail transit system. Perth serves as a central hub with rail lines going out in five directions like spokes on a wheel. The system extends all the way from Butler in the North to Mandurah south of Perth, a distance of 109 kilometres and from Fremantle in the West to Midland in the East. You’ll find a bit more on the TransPerth rail system in my post about Mandurah.

Joondalup Station
Joondalup Station, part of the TransPerth transit system

While Perth Station is the main hub, if you want to visit the downtown, it may be better to get off at the Perth Underground Station. It’s only a few blocks from the main station but comes out right at the Murray Street Mall.

Perth has two pedestrian malls – streets from which vehicles are barred and pedestrians can walk around freely. They are parallel to each other and run three blocks from William Street to Barrack Street. These two malls form the central shopping district of Perth. You’ll find lots of shops and restaurants here. And buskers. Lots of them in the summer.

Murray Street Mall looking northwest toward William Street
Murray Street Mall looking northwest toward William Street

On our first visit in May 2015, there was a demonstration happening, a protest about aboriginal rights. Officers on horseback patrolled to keep order. The picture was taken from an elevated crosswalk at the midpoint of the mall. Northeast is an open plaza, Forrest Place, which has a large fountain you can walk through on a hot day as well as an interesting sculpture.

My wife and daughter at the Forrest Place fountain
My wife and daughter at the Forrest Place fountain. The green sculpture can be seen in the background.

Proceeding northeast along the elevated walkway brings you to a pedestrian overpass that takes you to the main Perth Station.

Overpass to Perth Station
Overpass to Perth Station

Beyond Perth Station is an older section of the downtown which includes the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Across James Street from the art gallery is the Western Australia Museum which has been closed while a new museum is being constructed. But outside the museum is a fascinating children’s playground, an audio workshop. No swings or slides. Just xylophones and percussion instruments for kids to bang away on.

Children playing at the percussion playground outsie the Western Australia Museum.
Children playing at the percussion playground outside the Western Australia Museum.

Down the street is an older section of town where you’ll find some old New Orleans style architecture, like the Brass Monkey Hotel. There are some modern plazas in the area as well.

Brass Monkey Hotel
Brass Monkey Hotel

Perth’s Youth Hostel is in this area and it is where my daughter stayed for a while on her first arrival in Perth.

Heading back over the tracks we head up Williams Street towards the Hay Street Mall. Williams Street has a number of excellent restaurants as well as a superb book store.

The Hay Street Mall and Murray Street Mall are connected by a couple of arcades, passageways with shops on each side, as well as a larger indoor mall called Carillon City. This mall features an actual carillon on the Hay Street side.

The carillon tower atop the entrance to Carillon City Mall.
The carillon tower atop the entrance to Carillon City Mall.

Hay Street Mall includes some of the more upscale shops including Pottery Barn. You’ll also find a sculpture of a busker doing a hand stand, hat by his side. But the most interesting thing on Hay Street is the London Court mall connecting Hay Street with St. Georges Terrace.

London Court on Hay Street Mall.
London Court on Hay Street Mall has a Victorian England facade.

The mall is an open air affair that looks like an old London street. There are a variety of shops along both sides, including some excellent souvenir shops, one of which has a nice collection of hand carved boomerangs and digeridoos.

The London Court Mall is an open air passageway made to look like an old London street.
The London Court Mall is an open air passageway made to look like an old London street. The gift shop on the left has some great souvenirs – colorful hand-carved boomerangs and digeridoos.

At either end of this mall are two statues, one of William Shakespeare and the other of Dick Whittington and his cat.

Dick Whittington and his cat.
Dick Whittington and his cat.

Heading towards Barrack Street you’ll pass an overhanging mirror, great for a selfie. And at the corner of Barrack and St. Georges you’ll see Stirling Gardens kitty corner. The entrance to this beautiful garden features a statue of Alexander Forrest, one of the early explorers of the region who also served as mayor of Perth.

Stirling Park
Stirling Park

More interesting are a few statues near the park just up St. Georges a bit, brass statues of a family of kangaroos.

Sarah and Janis with a kangaroo family.
Sarah and Janis with a kangaroo family. There are two other members of this kangaroo family not shown (but included in the additional photo gallery after this blog post.)

Stirling Gardens itself is a beautiful garden that includes many native plants as well as a bamboo grove. I’ll include some pictures in a separate photo gallery. Behind the garden is the historic Supreme Court of Western Australia.

The Supreme Court of Western Australia
The Supreme Court of Western Australia

A little bit past the court and garden is the Barrack Street Jetty on the bank of the Swan River. This is the home of Swan Bells, more commonly known as the Bell Tower, a landmark 82.5 metres  or 271 feet high. The tower was built at the end of the last century and opened in 2000 to celebrate the millenium. It came about as the result of a gift of the historic bells from St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, London in 1988 for Australia’s bicentenary celebrations.

The Bell Tower
The Bell Tower, home of the Swan Bells

The twelve St. Martin bells date from the 14th Century. They were recast during the reign of Elizabeth I and again in the mid-18th Century. They were due to be recast once more leading up to 1988. But, Wikipedia tells us, “instead they were tuned and restored at London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry and donated to Western Australia, on the initiative of local bellringer and businessman Laith Reynolds. The bells are known to have rung as the explorer James Cook set sail on the voyage that founded Australia.”

The bells stayed in storage as Perth did not have a belfry large enough to house them. They stayed in storage until the millennial project was decided on. Six more bells were added to the original twelve.

The tower is open to visitors for a fee but we haven’t toured it yet. However we did dine at one of the restaurants on the jetty.

Janis and I outside a restaurant on the Barrack Street Jetty.
Janis and I outside a restaurant on the Barrack Street Jetty.

The Swan River widens out to the size of a large lake at Perth. And during our first visit, a large part of the waterfront adjacent to the jetty was blocked off for a major redevelopment of the area, the Elizabeth Quay. When we returned in February 2016, the public spaces at the quay had just opened. They include a magnificent footbridge across the water of an artificial inlet, public squares and a children’s water park, currently closed for repairs as children recently got sick from the water.

Elizabeth Quay Bridge
Elizabeth Quay Bridge
Downtown Perth seen from the Elizabeth Quay Bridge
Downtown Perth seen from the Elizabeth Quay Bridge. To the left is a ferry dock that will take you to West Perth across the river. It is part of the TransPerth system and your rail day pass can be used.

Part of the area remains behind construction fences while commercial and residential construction continues. These include the centerpiece Ritz-Carlton Hotel and a luxury residential complex called The Towers. The project, when completed in 2018, will have nine buildings with 1700 residential apartments, 150,000 square meters of office space and 39,000 square meters of retail space.

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The children’s water park, currently closed for repair as some children got sick from the water.

Perth is a vibrant and exciting city to visit with shopping malls, restaurants and parks to visit and explore. We’ve been several times and will be back again. Perth is also home to the Perth Zoo in West Perth and to King’s Park, ranked as one of the world’s ten best urban parks in the world according to Trip Advisor in 2014. I’ll write about King’s Park in a separate post some time in the future.  Meanwhile, check out the additional Photo Gallery for more pics. Click on the links or if you are on the main page, scroll on down.

See also my previous blog posts on attractions in the Greater Perth region.




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Photo Gallery: Downtown Perth – 1




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Here are some additional photos of downtown Perth.

The Murray Street Mall looking toward Barrack Street
The Murray Street Mall looking toward Barrack Street
Walkway along Forrest Place
Elevated walkway along Forrest Place. Shops line this walkway which becomes an overpass to Perth Station.
Interesting sculpture at Forrest Place
Interesting sculpture at Forrest Place
Children's audio park outside the Western Australia Museum
The old Western Australia Museum with children’s aural park in front of it.
Close-up of the Brass Monkey
Close-up of the Brass Monkey
Interesting sculpture is at Northbridge Plaza at the corner of James Street and lake Street.
Interesting sculpture is at Northbridge Plaza at the corner of James Street and lake Street.
Perth Arena
Perth Arena is not far from the downtown shopping district. There is an outlet mall nearby.
Old church on William Street
Wesley Uniting Church on William Street at one end of the Hay Street Mall
Statue of a busker on the Hay Street mall
Statue of a busker on the Hay Street Mall
Facade of London Court on Hay Street Mall
Facade of London Court on Hay Street Mall
Statue of William Shakespeare at London Court
Statue of William Shakespeare at London Court
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Perth Town Hall at the corner of Barrack and Hay Streets. It’s the only town hall in Australia built by convicts. The foundation stone was laid on May 24, 1867. Looks a bit like a church but for some people, politics is a religion!
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A very Aussie souvenir found at a shop on Barrack Street – a kangaroo nativity scene. Behind it is a similar one with koalas.

I have so many great pics to share so please proceed to Photo Gallery: Downtown Perth # 2.




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Photo Gallery: Downtown Perth 2




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Here is the second part of my downtown Perth photo gallery. This one covers the Stirling Gardens to the waterfront.

Janis and Sarah with the statue of Alexander Forrest at the entrance to Stirling Gardens.
Janis and Sarah with the statue of Alexander Forrest at the entrance to Stirling Gardens.
Brass kangaroo has a drink at the top of the Stirling Gardens
Brass kangaroo has a drink at the top of the Stirling Gardens
My friend the kangaroo and I. He's a big fella. Slightly larger than life size.
My friend the kangaroo and I. He’s a big fella. Somewhat larger than life size though a large male kangaroo in a fighting stance can stand six feet or more.
Bamboo grove in Stirling Gardens
Bamboo grove in Stirling Gardens
A closer shot of the bamboo grove
A closer shot of the bamboo grove
A path through Stirling Gardens
A path through Stirling Gardens
The Supreme Court of Western Australia is just on the border of Stirling Gardens
The Supreme Court of Western Australia is just on the border of Stirling Gardens
Interesting tree in Stirling Gardens
Interesting tree in Stirling Gardens. Looks like a palm but it’s not.
Palm tree growing into another tree
Palm tree growing into another tree
A very large palm. Did you know that a palm is not a tree but a grass?
A very tall palm. Did you know that a palm is not a tree but a grass?
Interesting baob tree bordering Barrack Street
Interesting baob tree bordering Barrack Street.
This walkway and park extends for miles along the banks of the Swan River
This walkway and park extends for miles along the banks of the Swan River
A cormorant stretches its wings on the Barrack Street Jetty
A cormorant stretches its wings on the Barrack Street Jetty
The foot bridge at Elizabeth Quay.
The foot bridge at Elizabeth Quay. West Perth is in the distance across the Swan River.
The Bell Tower seen from Elizabeth Quay
The Bell Tower seen from Elizabeth Quay. Construction continues on hotel, residential and commercial complexes.
Janis and Sarah in front of a large stainless steel penguin statue
Janis and Sarah in front of a large stainless steel penguin statue on Elizabeth Quay
The BHP Billiton Building rises high in the Perth skyline
The distinctive BHP Billiton Building rises high in the Perth skyline. Nearby is the Rio Tinto Building. Mining is big in Western Australia.
The Perth skyline from Elizabeth Quay
The Perth skyline from the Barrack Street Jetty




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Grouse Mountain in the Summer




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North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain is a popular ski hill for locals but it is also a great destination for visiting in the summer. Not only is the view of downtown Vancouver spectacular from up there, the ski resort has a lot of amenities to appeal to the summer visitor. There’s even a helipad on the mountain if you want to take a scenic tour of the city by air.

Helicopter tours of the city are available on Grouse Mountain.
Helicopter tours of the city are available on Grouse Mountain.

The fun starts, of course, with getting there. Whether you go by car or are on a tour bus, your visit starts at the base of the mountain. From there it’s a scenic trip to the top of the mountain on one of the two cable trams.

Upon exiting the tram you’ll find the ski lodge ahead. It features several restaurants as well as some shops. Clothing, cameras and souvenirs, and in the winter you’ll find ski gear.

The view from the restaurants is breathtaking. But we’re not here to eat yet. Let’ saunter down the trail to see what we can find. Walking amidst the tall cedars we come across some large wooden sculptures. Figures of tree planters.

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Giant wood carvings of tree planters. Behind the third one is the launch platform for one of two ziplines on the mountain.

You’ll also find a large hollowed out carved stump. A popular spot to pose for pictures.

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The giant hollowed out stump. Left to right: daughter Sarah, son Adriaan, my wife Janis, and our daughter’s fiancé Jamie.

Just over the rise we come to a large meadow in a shallow valley. Here you’ll find the popular Timber Show. With shows several times a day, the Timber Show is a humor filled display of woodsman skills, including a climbing competition, log rolling competition, and chainsaw exhibition.

Off to the left is the large bear enclosure. A couple of large grizzly bears live here. You might have to look around for them as there is a lot of wilderness for them to hang out in as well as a bear house. We visited Grouse in the summers of 2012 and again in 2015. On the first trip we spotted the bears on returning on the chairlift from the Peak.

grizzlies2
We spotted these grizzly bears from the chairlift to the Peak in 2012. The crowds love to see these large animals.
This shot has been cropped from a larger one. The bear was up a hillside and in the woods.
This shot has been cropped from a larger one. The bear was up a hillside and in the woods.

At the top of the Peak stands a wind turbine with an observation deck high above the mountain. Appropriately enough, it’s called The Eye of Vancouver. We took the chairlift up to the top to check it out, though we did not go up the turbine itself. Maybe another time. The view must be amazing.

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Even if you do not go up to the observation deck, the view of the surrounding mountains as well as the city is excellent from the ground. Worth a walk around.

There is also a zipline on top. One of two on the mountain. The other one is not far from the wooden carvings of the tree planters. The upper zipline crosses a canyon. The lower one soars over a mountain lake.

The zipline
The zipline. You can see a rider just starting his trip across the canyon.

The side of the Peak slopes down at a moderate angle from the top and you’ll often find hang gliders launching from there. Fun to watch from above, as well as from below.

A hang glider launches from the side of the Peak.
A hang glider launches from the side of the Peak. Another lies on the ground as the next flyer preps for takeoff.
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Janis at the top of the Peak. The view is spectacular. Behind her is Stanley Park and the finger jutting out into Georgia Strait is Point Grey, home of the University of British Columbia.

Taking the chair down again we headed left to an outdoor amphitheatre for the Birds in Motion show. This is my favorite show on the mountain. Several naturalists bring out a variety of flying raptors in turn and talk about these fabulous birds as they put them through some flying exercises.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight

Heading back on our first visit, we wandered around the lake the lower zipline soars over. It is a peaceful quiet walk featuring some aboriginal outbuildings. A nice way to end your day.

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A native longhouse alongside the lower lake.

Grouse Mountain is a fun ski destination in winter, but personally, I prefer it in summer. I took a lot of pictures on both occasions we were there so I’ll add two photo albums. One is just of the Birds in Motion show which includes a number of video. The other is of the other sights around the mountain.



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Photo Gallery: Birds in Motion at Grouse Mountain




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Here are some additional photos and videos of the Birds in Motion show at Grouse Mountain. 

Great Horned Owl
The great horned owl flies towards the stump.
The great horned owl flies towards the stump.
Coming in for a landing.
Coming in for a landing.
In 2012 I caught the owl coming in for a landing on this post right in front of us.
In 2012 I caught the owl coming in for a landing on this post right in front of us.
Nice close-up of the owl.
Nice close-up of the owl.

The owl and one of the trainers
The owl and one of the trainers
Hey good lookin'!
Getting up close and personal with the owl.
The Vulture
The vulture and his trainer
The vulture and his trainer

The vulture in flight
The vulture in flight.
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Perfect landing.
The Bald Eagle

On our visit in 2012 they had a mature bald eagle with it signature white head. On our 2015 visit, it was a younger bald eagle whose top feathers had yet to turn white.

Bald eagle in flight
Bald eagle in flight. This was in 2012.
Bald eagle in flight
The above photo cropped to a close-up view.
Juvenile bald eagle and his trainer
Juvenile bald eagle and his trainer. This was in 2015.
The eagle has landed.
The eagle has landed.

Eagle in flight
Eagle in flight
Eagle landing.
Eagle landing.
Peregrine Falcon

Be sure to check out the other photo gallery of Grouse Mountain in the summer.

 



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Photo Gallery: Grouse Mountain in Summer




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Vancouver from the top of the Peak.
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Lumberjack at the top of a spar.
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He stands up at the top. The crowd holds its breath.

The grizzly bears are a popular attraction.
The grizzly bears are a popular attraction.
He's a big one!
He’s a big one!
3 - Sarah and Jamie as Bears-r
How do you measure up to a bear? Together Jamie and Sarah have the height of a coola or grizzly bear.
The Eye of Vancouver is an observation deck near the top of the wind turbine.
The Eye of Vancouver is an observation deck near the top of the wind turbine at the top of the Peak.
As we go up the chairlift, a hang glider flies over.
As we go up the chairlift, a hang glider flies over.
A hang glider lifts off.
A hang glider lifts off.
They land below at a park near Cleveland Dam.
They land far below at a park near Cleveland Dam.
From tha chairlift, a trail leads to the zipline. The Eye of Vancouver is just off to the right.
From the chairlift, a trail leads to the zipline. The Eye of Vancouver is just off to the right.
The base of the wind turbine
The base of the wind turbine
The Eye of Vancouver
The Eye of Vancouver
Looking down at the zipline launch site from the base of the Eye.
Looking down at the zipline launch site from the base of the Eye.
The view from the top is breathtaking.
The view from the top is breathtaking.
The city through the trees.
The city through the trees.
A bee explores some of the many wildflowers growing on Grouse Mountain.
A bee explores some of the many wildflowers growing on Grouse Mountain.
Down below again - the other side of the native longhouse.
Down below again – the other side of the native longhouse.
And we pass the wood carvings again.
And we pass the wood carvings again.
A toast to a fine day on top of Grouse Mountain.
A toast to a fine day on top of Grouse Mountain.


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Paris: Ooh-la-la!




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Often the unexpected is what makes a vacation truly memorable. And sometimes the unexpected is so out of left field that it cannot be replicated. While we absolutely loved our week in Paris in 2011, one incident stands out as a story we tell over and over again. It is deliciously wicked and if we were to visit Paris twenty more times, I doubt it would ever happen again.

If we had stayed at a different hotel, it wouldn’t have happened. If we had gone down to breakfast a half hour earlier it wouldn’t have happened. But kismet – it happened.

As I recounted in my first post on Paris, we arrived around noon on Sept. 17th. We lugged our baggage onto the train and finally settled in at our hotel, the Tim Hotel at the Place Marcel-Sembat in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.

The network of streets outside our hotel window.
The network of streets outside our hotel window.

After spending the rest of the day sightseeing to get an overview of Paris, we had a quick bite and retired for the night. After a good night’s sleep we got up, showered and planned our day – the Palais de Versailles was on our agenda.

Our hotel came with a complimentary continental breakfast so around nine AM we were ready to head downstairs from our third floor room. I was just heading to the door when there was a knock.

“Hmm,” I commented to my wife. “Must be the hotel staff wanting to clean the room. A bit early, don’t you think?” I opened the door.

There, with her hand raised for another knock, was not the maid, but a gorgeous blonde. A stunner. A knockout. Could have been a model or a movie star.

And…she was stark naked! Not a stitch. My jaw dropped. She looked at me, then over at my wife, and said, “Oh! Excusez moi. Wrong room!”

Oh…did I mention that there was a naked man standing just behind her and over to the side a bit? A naked couple. Strangers in the morning.

I closed the door and my wife exclaimed, “What the heck was that?!?!”

“Well,” I replied, “This is Paris!”

We waited a few minutes and then my wife asked if I thought it was safe to go down for breakfast. “Sure,” I said, “Let’s go.”

I opened the door and we ventured out and there, down the hall a bit, were our naked friends, conferring with each other. No doubt trying to figure out what room they were supposed to have gone to. Janis and I decided we’d just casually walk by them and go down to breakfast.

As I walked by her, the woman touched my shoulder. “Excusez-moi, monsieur. Parlez-vous français?”

“Oui. Un peu,” I replied.

“Etes-vous shockée?” she asked. “Are you shocked?”

“Oui. Un peu.”

She then turned to my wife as she put a finger to her lips. “Shhh. Secrète, s’il vous plait,” she said. Please no tell.”

We agreed and went down to breakfast, chuckling and wondering where the heck they stored their clothes. They didn’t even have a handbag. In any event, by the time we finished breakfast and returned to our room, they were nowhere to be seen.

All during our day, spent at the fabulous Palais de Versailles, Janis would ask me, “What are you grinning about?” Five years later it still brings a chuckle. My only regret is I was so stunned I didn’t have the wit to ask my wife to stand with them so I could take a picture.

Paris, of course, is known as being a center of romance and sexuality. And a few days later we visited the Montmartre district. This area in the north of the city on the Right Bank of the Seine could be called the district of the sacred and the profane. At the top of the Mont Martre is the Basilica de Sacré Coeur. The streets below are a warren of cafés, shops and the night club district. The most prominent venue is the famous Moulin Rouge.

We stopped by the Moulin Rouge to book tickets and discovered that they were sold out about a week ahead. We were heading to Rome to board a Mediterranean cruise two days later and flying back to Paris on Oct. 2nd to catch a plane back to Canada the next day, so we booked tickets for the last show on the 2nd – the 11 PM show.

The Moulin Rouge at night
The Moulin Rouge at night

We had no idea of what to expect. But we had seen the Baz Luhrmann movie starring Nicole Kidman and we expected no less. We were not disappointed.

Crowd waiting to go into the Moulin Rouge show, Féerie
Crowd waiting to go into the Moulin Rouge show, Féerie

The venue is an intimate one. Only 800 seats and all of them at tables with white table cloths and a candle in a red jar. Food and drink are available before the show starts but there is no service during the show. We bought a bottle of wine which lasted to the end of the show.

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You’re not supposed to take pictures but I managed to snap one through an open door after the show.  Every seat is a good seat in this intimate venue as all the rows of tables are tiered.

The show opens with all of the cast on stage in a huge song and dance number. There are both male and female singers and dancers including the 60 fabulous Doriss Girls. I can’t remember how long the show was, but probably close to two hours. It went through several different sets and themes including a pirate theme, a circus theme and a history of the Moulin Rouge theme.

The colorful costumes are amazing in themselves. Feathers, fancy headgear and tear-away clothes. Many numbers featured the Doriss girls ripping their tops off and going topless.

Toplessness is taken as a matter of course in Paris. Children as young as six can attend a show at the Moulin Rouge and they offer a discount for children under twelve.

Indeed there is much to amuse children. The circus part of the show includes six miniature horses on the stage. And they have special guest performers. Two very talented acrobats exhibited both skill and strength and there was a comedian as well who performed in pantomime. There were also singers, sometimes with accompanying dancers, sometimes without.

One of the more spectacular parts of the show occurred about halfway through. The stage was cleared and the floor rolled back. Then up from the floor rose a huge glass tank. Inside was an anaconda.

To much fanfare a young woman was carried onto the stage in a Roman litter. She got up and climbed some steps to the top of the tank. The topless woman then dove into the tank and wrestled the snake. An unbelievable spectacle. Sure beat anything Nicole Kidman did in the movie!

The finale of the show was the can-can done up in grand style with a full chorus line of dancers in exotic costumes. My description doesn’t do it justice, nor does the five minute promotional video at the Moulin Rouge website. But it will give you a flavor, not only of the show, but of the venue itself. Janis and I would definitely see it again. It is better than any show we’ve seen in Las Vegas.

When the show ended, we had an usher take a picture of us by the doors. Then we sauntered over to the gift shop where we bought a DVD of the show as well as a couple of souvenir posters.

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Janis and I at the doors to the Moulin Rouge showroom after the show. They have a dress code and all tickets are reserved seating.

The Moulin Rouge has been around for over a century and classic posters captured the changing shows. Each runs for a decade or more. The current show, Feérie, has been running since December 23, 1999. The two posters we bought were for the first show featuring the Doriss Girls in 1963 and the current how, Féerie. We have them hanging in our bedroom which has a Parisian theme. (What can I say – we just loved Paris!)

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The two Moulin Rouge posters we bought now hang over our bed. We also bought an Eiffel Tower duvet cover. Yep! We ❤ Paris!

After leaving the Moulin Rouge we had to catch a cab back to our hotel near the airport since the trains  did not run that late. So we needed some cash and set out to find a cash machine. We wandered down Boulevard de Clichy and discovered wall to wall sex shops and strip clubs.

Side by side sex shops on Boulevard de Clichy just down the street from the Moulin Rouge.
Side by side sex shops on Boulevard de Clichy just down the street from the Moulin Rouge.
The Sexodrome - an adult supermarket
The Sexodrome – an adult supermarket

Needless to say, we didn’t enter any of these places. We doubled back and finally found an ATM near the Moulin Rouge. But one friend at work says he visited a strip club in the area once and the bouncers strong-arm you into buying a lap dance. He did not recommend it unless that was what you were looking for.

The next morning we flew back to Vancouver. Our last little excursion to the Moulin Rouge just hours before we left was one of the highlights of our trip. It’s a bit ironic that two of our favorite memories of that trip were our first morning, the naked strangers, and our last evening, the Moulin Rouge. Both a bit racier than our usual entertainment, but absolutely memorable.




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Paris: The City of Light




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Paris does not have a wild plethora of neon like Times Square in New York or the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. It’s called the City of Light because of its importance during the Age of Enlightenment and because it was one of the first European cities to get street lighting.

My wife and I spent a week in Paris to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary in 2011. We had never been there before and we were in for a treat. Paris is fabulous.

Today’s post will give you an overview. In future posts I’ll look at the Palais de Versailles, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Eiffel Tower and more. But my very next post will be a bit more risque. I call it Paris: Ooh-la-la!!! Watch for it.

In any event, we flew out in mid-September, arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport around noon on the 17th. Our hotel was on the other side of town, just south of the Bois de Boulogne in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.

The Tim Hotel on the Place Marcel-Sembat
The Tim Hotel on the Place Marcel-Sembat

We schlepped our bags across town on Paris’s excellent rail network, changing trains at the huge Gare de Nord. The stations have no escalators so it was a bit of a haul. But finally we arrived at the Marcel-Sembat Station, which conveniently lay just below the Tim Hotel where we were staying. It overlooks Place Marcel-Sembat, one of the busiest intersections in the region with streets emanating like spokes on a wheel – eight of them.

Jet-lagged as we were, we weren’t about to throw away half a day sleeping. After a quick shower we went down and asked the concierge how to get to the Eiffel Tower. He told us to hop the Metro to the Trocadero Station.

Now Paris’s subway system is superb (despite the lack of escalators at stations). We got week-long tickets and hopped on. At the Trocadero Station we got off. Up some steps and we were at the back of the Palais de Chaillot. We hiked up some more steps to the vast Trocadero Plaza and there it was. Magnificent! Absolutely stunning! The Eiffel Tower!

The Eiffel Tower seen from the Trocadero Plaza.
The Eiffel Tower seen from the Trocadero Plaza. In this photo it looks like it is right there on the Plaza, but it is actually across the Seine River.

We walked towards it and found it was across the Seine River from the plaza. We descended the steps to street level and crossed the bridge feeling euphoric that we were actually in Paris.

We decided against going up the tower, opting to take a riverboat cruise on the Seine to give us an overview. The tour guide brought our attention to various points of interest along the way as the boat headed downstream, around Notre Dame Cathedral and back.

One of the many tour boats on the Seine.
One of the many tour boats on the Seine.
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The back of Notre Dame Cathedral with its flying buttresses.

Years ago in Vancouver I used to eat at a little restaurant on Thurlow called Le Bistro. My favorite dish was something called a Croque Monsieur. So I was pleased that food was available on the boat and Croque Monsieur was on the menu. Unfortunately, it did not hold a candle to the one at Le Bistro. In fact, I have yet to find one as good.

Le Pont Alexandre III
Le Pont Alexandre III, one of many bridges across the Seine.

After returning to our starting point we decided to walk to the Arc de Triomphe. We could see it in the distance. Paris is actually a great city for walking. All the major venues are within walking distance and we only used the Metro occasionally. The famous arch was just over two kilometres away, a half hour walk.

The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe

The arch stands in the middle of a large traffic circle at one end of the Champs Elysees. We walked around and under it but did not go to the top. We never did get around to going up to the top – something for our next trip!

At the other end of the Champs Elysées is the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre. The Champs is a huge roadway with four lanes in each direction. We walked by shops and other sites and saw a long lineup at a place across the street. Later we learned it was a new Abercrombie and Fitch store and the lineup was job applicants.

Job seekers outside Abercrombie and Fitch on the Champs Elysees.
Job seekers outside Abercrombie and Fitch on the Champs Elysées.

Among other sites, we passed Le Grand Palais. This is a huge convention center with a massive glass roof. A variety of different trade and other shows are held there. While we were in Paris they had a an exhibition on the history of video games.

Le Grand Palais, Paris's Trade and Convention Centre
Le Grand Palais, Paris’s Trade and Convention Centre.

The Champs Elysees ends at the Place de la Concorde where the giant Luxor Obelisk stands. This is one of the original obelisks from the Luxor Temple in Egypt and was gifted to the people of France by Muhammed Ali, Khedive of Egypt in 1833. It is over 3000 years old and was moved to its current location in 1836.

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The 3000 year old Luxor Obelisk at the Place de la Concorde

But in 1793 this large square was called the Place de la Révolution. Close your eyes and visualize the square filled with throngs of rough-hewn people, milling and jostling for a view of the object in the center. On a platform – the guillotine. Tumbrils roll up carrying their victims for the day. One by one they are led up the steps of the scaffold. They are strapped to a board and tilted into place. The knife drops. The executioner draws the head out of the basket and holds it aloft to show the jeering crowd. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were among its victims. It’s enough to make the blood run cold as an icy finger traces down your spine. Hard to believe that happened here.

Paris is a city of gardens as well as famous buildings, including les Jardins Luxembourg near the Sorbonne University. Along the Champs Elysées we passed a number of beautiful gardens before arriving at the Tuileries, gardens built by Queen Catherine de Medicis in the 1564. She also had a palace built at one end (between the gardens and the Louvre). The palace served as the city residence for the royal family and was burned down by the Paris Commune in 1871.

The Louvre seen from the round pond in the Tuileries Garden
The Louvre seen from the round pond in the Tuileries Garden

The original garden measured 500 meters by 300 meters and was the largest garden in Paris at the time. (It still is.) After it became a public park, many statues were placed here and it is stunning both as a garden and a museum piece.

Staute of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Jardins des Tuileries
Statue of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Jardin des Tuileries

We passed the mini-Arc de Triomphe and headed to the Louvre. This immense art museum used to be a palace before Queen Catherine abandoned it and built the new one. The Louvre was also torched by the Communards in 1871 but miraculously survived.

In a central plaza in the nook formed by the U-shaped Louvre is the famous glass pyramid. We’ll take a closer look at the Louvre in another post.

Yours truly in front of the Louvre
Yours truly in front of the Louvre

We left the Louvre and walked down some steps to the banks of the Seine, walking along its length for a while. On the far side we saw the Musée d’Orsay, which used to be a train station. It is reminiscent of the old Gare Montparnasse shown in the Academy Award winning movie Hugo.

The Musée d'Orsay is housed in a former railroad station.
The Musée d’Orsay is housed in a former railroad station.

Soon we found ourselves back at the Eiffel Tower. We crossed over to the Palais de Challot and the Trocadero Metro station for the short hop back to the hotel. After dinner at a nearby restaurant, we hit the hay, looking forward to the rest of our time in Paris. Our appetite had been whetted and we would eat up the city with gusto.

Statue in front of the Palais de Chaillot across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. The Palais is also a museum.
Statue in front of the Palais de Chaillot across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. The Palais is also a museum. The top of the building directly behind the statue is the Trocadero Plaza. You can see people standing at the edge of it.

Our next post will be Paris: Ooh-la-la. It will tell an amusing story of an unexpected encounter on our first morning in Paris, as well as our visit to the Moulin Rouge on our last evening in Europe. Watch for it!

Meanwhile, check out our photo gallery of additional pictures of Paris. Click on the link below or scroll on down if you are on this website’s main page.



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Photo Gallery: Paris Overview

Here are some more picture of my overview of Paris. In later post I will be looking at specific locales in more detail.

The network of streets outside our hotel window.
The network of streets outside our hotel window. This is the Place Marcel-Sembat in the Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.
Our hotel, a triangular building wedged between tow of the streets converging on Place Marcel-Sembat, had the smallest elevator we had ever seen.
Our hotel, a triangular building wedged between tow of the streets converging on Place Marcel-Sembat, had the smallest elevator we had ever seen.
The Eiffel Tower seen from the edge of the Trocadero Plaza.
The Eiffel Tower seen from the edge of the Trocadero Plaza. The pool directly in front is part of the Trocadero Gardens. After that is the Pont d’Léna, then the Eiffel Tower. behind the tower is the Champs de Mars, another large garden space.
Looking up the Champs Elysées towards the Arc de Triomphe.
Looking up the Champs Elysées towards the Arc de Triomphe.
La Grand Palais
La Grand Palais
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Quadrigas, a sculpture by Georges Recipon, forms a stunning ornament for La Grand Palais.
One of several smaller gardens along the Champs Elysées
One of several smaller gardens along the Champs Elysées
The Denon wing of the Louvre seen from the Jardin des Tuileries.
The Denon wing of the Louvre seen from the Jardin des Tuileries.
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Le Centaure Nessus Enlevant Dejanire, a sculpture in Jardins des Tuileries.
Never could find out what this unusual cylindrical sculpture is. Itès at the round pool in the Jardin des Tuileries.
Never could find out what this unusual cylindrical sculpture is. It’s at the round pool in the Jardin des Tuileries.
The glass pyramid at the Louvre.
The glass pyramid at the Louvre.
The Moulin Rouge.
The Moulin Rouge.