The Palais du Louvre, Cour Carré. Photo by Benh Lieu Song.
Paris city centre lines both banks of the Seine River and offers long, tranquil, easy walks from staggering sight to the next staggering sight. We started walking one day from the Notre Dame cathedral, ended at the Eiffel Tower after a visit en route to the superb old Louvre and new-ish Branly Museum and hopped the Batobus (ferry) back to Notre Dame. We did three days of walks, walk, walk and the sight just kept on coming. Paris Map
One of a number of very weird sculptures scattered around Paris. This gunner was, err, firing off beside the River Seine.
Paris sights are superb although there’s little interesting contemporary architecture. Centre Pompidou is the most outstanding but not exactly modern (1977), Musée du quai Branly is controversial but we loved it both inside and out (2006). Otherwise Paris structures seem to be varied monuments to La Gloire (Glory is a popular concept in France) along with Gothic churches e. g. Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, Neo-classical buildings e. g. the Louvre and the Panthéon, and Art Nouveau e. g. Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower.
Restaurant and bar staff can be quite sniffy about serving tourists.
That being said the city centre is magnificent on a sunny day, the attractions are immense and Paris deserves to be the world’s number one tourist city, which statistically it is. Or was before the 2015 terrorist attacks. We shall have to wait to see the impact on tourism. Go in the summertime! Paris Photos and more Information
Rome’s Trevi Fountain. Photo by Diliff.
Rome is quite straightforward to navigate on foot tho’ there are a couple of must-see churches and one art gallery a short subway ride away. Rome sights range from stunning Rome structures – the Colosseum, The Pantheon and The Forum, to magnificent 18thC monuments – Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and of course stunning churches – St. Peter’s Basilica (The Vatican), Santa Maria della Vittoria (photo below), Santa Maria sopra Minerva etc. , all packed with Bernini and Michelangelo statues and spectacular ceilings.
A trompe l’oeuil painting of the Triumph of St. Ignatius on the ceiling of the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria dating from 1674. Photo by Livioandronico.
With a few stumbling words of Italian at my disposal the local people I attempted communication with in Rome expressed absolutely no desire to help out, even waiters, who were impatient and careless.
Attendants in and around major sights were far more interested in their smart phones than in helping foreign tourists. Rome was worse in this respect (personal experience, remember! ) than any other city in the developed world. And we spent three weeks there so we knew our way around. Rome Map
On my only subway ride in Rome I discovered a male hand in my pocket during a crowded ride, grabbed it and shouted “thief! “, “voleur! ” and “ratero! ” in the absence of an Italian version. Nobody in the carriage even looked at me, or him. I didn’t pursue the matter in case there was a knife in his pocket, and he got off at the next stop empty-handed. For future reference thief in Italian is “ladro! ” while pickpocket is “borsaiolo“! Rome Pictures and more Information
Kathmandu’s main street, leading to one of the valley’s three Durbar Squares (one in each town).
Here we stray from our page paradigm of one city, one walk as the Kathmandu Valley is so small, special and integrated. Ancient Kathmandu (the city, capital of Nepal) and the other two medieval towns in the Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur (30 mins by car, 3 hours on foot) and Patan (15 mins by car) – are often described as ‘living museums’ they are so awash with aged wooden shops, houses and religious monuments, many exceedingly bizarre with Kali-related shrines pretty high on the list of must-photograph.
Local people are gentle and patient, shopping is unusually interesting with odd jewellery and colorful clothes, and prices are low.
Having been to India shortly before I thought Nepal is almost a synthesis of the best of India – people, lifestyles, religious beliefs, clothing – without India’s appalling crowds and pollution.
Bhaktapur’s Golden Gate.
The 2015 earthquake hit Nepal hard. Kathmandu is up and running, albeit with far fewer tourists and quite a few piles of rubble where there used to be medieval buildings, such as the Royal Palace and temples around Durbar Square. Developing countries like this have a natural tendency to favour people over artefacts so I imagine much of the ancient purity of brick and carved wood design will be spoilt by intrusive concrete poured in a rush to repair damaged buildings, even though UNESCO has been subsidising renovation for years. The country’s road and pwer infrastructures were also damaged by the 7.8 magnitude ‘quake. However, it is still a marvelously exotic city to visit.
When we were there Nepal’s food hygiene was questionable and variety very limited, while flights out of Nepal were iffy as heavy cloud could suddenly descend on the airport with little warning and air traffic control was not equipped to handle it so serious flight delays (e. g. postponed to the next day) were commonplace. Things have hopefully improved since then. Kathmandu Pictures Guide
A view over Cusco from the Inca fortress, Sacsayhuaman, Peru. Around Cusco are South America’s Andes mountains and the city is gateway to the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, Machu Picchu. Photo by Martin St. Amant.
Cuzco is a very small city with a fascinating architectural mix of superb Inca stonework, lovely Spanish colonial uppers and white-washed rustic local housing in the suburbs. The city has a handful of interesting attractions such as churches, museums, street markets and very colourful local people.
The square visible in both photos, Plaza de Armas, is gorgeous and the scene of many indigenous festivals. A steep walk up the hill gets tourists to the sensational Inca fort of Sacsuhuayman.
Nearby in the Urubamba Valley, accessible by tourist bus or train, there are more small, cute towns dominated by mountains and Inca terraces, while the star attractions of the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu are a few hours down the line. Cusco Pictures and Information
Cusco’s Plaza de Armas during the Inti Raymi festival. Photo by Cynthia Motta.
The first thing to bear in mind is Cusco’s altitude of 3, 400m, hard to acclimatise to if a tourist is pushed for time and flies in directly from Lima (almost sea level). Shortage of breath and bad/excruciating headaches are one of the downsides of sudden arrival at high altitude (exactly my experience after a flight from Chengdu in China to Lhasa in Tibet, 3, 650m).
Fitness helps avoid this trip spoiler, as does youth. A doctor might prescribe Diamoxin to help out (serious mountaineers use this if they’re short of time). More Altitude Sickness advice.
The very best solution is to approach Cuzco slowly, for example by ascending via beautiful Arequipa (alt. 2, 328m) and spend a few days there getting fit (hike Colca Canyon! ) and acclimatising.
Other Cusco issues are a possible overload of package tourists, not a big variety of eating places (when we were there it was mostly pizzerias), and rateros – thieves that specialise in sneak or snatch stealing. We lost a camera when a teen snatched my alternative camera and ran off with it, hotly pursued by enraged bugcrew who were, unfortunately, wearing unsuitable footwear for a chase. Cowboy boots! Duh. We had been going to dinner and were diverted by a random street parade that wound past a kaleidoscopic street market. So it goes. Avoiding thievery