Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 21, 2023

Gustave Eiffel’s tower

The tower that has become a symbol of Paris was constructed from 1887 to 1889. It is named after the engineer whose company designed and built the tower on Champ de Mars. It was the centrepiece of the 1889 World’s Fair.

It is a wrought-iron lattice tower, 330 metres high at the tip. It is possible to climb to the top floor 276 metres above the ground. (Or take 2 lifts, as we did) Its base is square, 125 metres on each side. Although it wasn’t popular at first, it is now the most visited monument with an entrance fee in the world.

The tower has 3 levels for visitors. There are restaurants on the first and second levels. The top level platform is the highest observation accessible to the public in the EU.

Once in the grounds around the tower it looks very impressive.


We paid €28 each for a ticket to the top level. There were long queues to enter, to wait for the first lift and another for the second. It was well organised and we didn’t have to wait too long.

We went straight to the top from where there are spectacular views over the city below.

There is a closed area before a short walk up some stairs to the open area. There are some places mentioned with the distance from the tower. Sydney gets a mention, along with the Gold Coast and Heksinki. Brisbane missed out.

It was windy and crowded at the top.

The buildings are easier to pick out from the lower floor.

Soon it was time to take the 2 lifts back to the bottom and walk off to our next stop, Les Invalides and Napoleon’s tomb.

Climbing the tower was a fun and easy thing to do. It is a good things that the Eiffel Tower was not dismantled after the World Fair.



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 19, 2023

Paris Gardens

Paris has many stunning gardens. Here are a few that I have had the pleasure of walking through.

Place des Vosges has a small, but very beautiful garden in its centre and at least one off to the side. It was originally Place Royale and is the oldest planned square in Paris. It was built by Henri IV from 1605 to 1612. It is a lovely place to sit on a hot day under the shade of the trees.


Jardin des Tuileries separate the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde.  The name comes from the tile factories that stood on the site where Queen Catherine de Medici  built the Palais des Tuileries in 1564. The gardens were redesigned in 1664 in the time of King LouisXIV in the French formal style. This is just a tiny section.

This chap seems a bit upset about whatever it is on his head.

Le Jardin du Luxembourg cover 25 hectares of land, and are split into French gardens and English gardens. Between the two is a geometric forest and a large pond and lots of things I did not see on my first visit many years ago.


Jardin des Plantes. This corner of the building beside the entrance is growing its own garden.

The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France. The name is a shortened version of Jardin Royal des plantes medicinales, Royal garden of medicinal plants, the original purpose of the 17th century garden.

The garden is huge and houses a tropical greenhouse, the National Museum of Natural History, a zoo and much more. We covered some of it…more to see on a future visit.

The entrance to the garden.

There are magnificent huge trees in the garden.

We passed a cute little hut.

Lovely statues are dotted around the garden.

The greenhouse for tropical plants….hot and steamy inside.

The museum is enormous and has stunning gardens in front.

All the gardens are at the end of the growing season and heading into autumn. They still look spectacular thanks to the hard work of many gardeners…thank you.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 17, 2023

Notre Dame restoration

I think much of the world watched in horror as flames took hold of Notre Dame in Paris on 15th April 2019. By the time the fire was put out the cathedral’s spire had collapsed and much of its roof and upper walls were damaged.  Fortunately the vaulted stone ceiling prevented extensive internal damage.

Donations to help with the restoration poured in.

The restoration work on Notre Dame is well underway. There are cranes and scaffolding all around the church.

Up close there is a wall with photographs of the work going on within.

The cathedral is expected to reopen in December 2024.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 14, 2023

Ile Saint-Louis, Paris

We are staying on Ile Saint-Louis in the Seine River in beautiful Paris. It is one of two natural islands in the river. The other one is Ile de la Cite where Notre Dame is located. Ile Saint-Loius is connected to the rest of Paris by four bridges. It is in the 4th arrondissement of Paris and has  a population of 4,453.

We have everything we need for our stay on the island. There are food markets, restaurants and cafes, bakeries, specialist cheese shops, boutiques and more. Importantly the island has its own ice cream, Berthillon. The island has changed little in appearance since the 17th century.


There are several places to buy your Berthillon ice cream, which is fortunate, there are queues most days, especially weekends.

There is also a rival.

This is where I bought, and ate, this.

We had coffee and croissants at the cafe under the tree on our first morning.

We didn’t do it again. The coffee was awful and the price outrageous.

We found a great place close to our apartment called Noir that serves excellent coffee at a slightly more reasonable price.

The church of Saint-Louis-en-I’lle in rue Saint-Louis, which runs the length of the island from east to west. It was begun in 1664 and completed in 1726. It is being renovated right now and is not open to the public.


The walks around the island and across the bridges offer wonderful views up and down the river.

There is a small park at the end of the island with a children’s playground.

Ile Saint-Louis is an excellent base from where we can walk easily to the things we want to see in Paris. The Marais is a short walk away and I spent most of our first week exploring this wonderful area. Photos to follow.

On the other side of river is the Latin Quarter, or 5th Arrondissement, home of the Sorbonne and the Pantheon. I walked through there this morning, had a coffee at Shakespeare and Company Book Shop, a quick look through the shop, then kept walking to the stunningly beautiful Luxembourg Gardens. There is much to love in Paris.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 11, 2023

Cool Heksinki

It was wonderful to be in cool Helsinki after the heat of Japan. Helsinki is cool in ways other than temperature. The city is stylish, full of stunning architecture, great design…Marimekko, iitala, Arabia, Artek and much more. The people are stylish in an understated way, very cool.

We met friends in Helsinki so I covered more ground than I usually would in a couple of days. It was fun to show people around a city I love and feel at home in.

We went to Oodi, the new library, and the music centre beside it, with the giant pike statue. I watched both being built over the years.

There is a great view from the cafe at the top of the library.

A walk through, and past, the Helsinki railway station is always needed.


Followed by the Naked Blacksmiths in front of Stockmann, the excellent department store. It is said that if you can’t buy it at Stockmann you don’t need it.

The gardens along Esplanadi are still looking good at the end of summer.

Here is the statue in the centre without a pigeon.

It didn’t last long.

The Russian church looks over Helsinki.

There is an excellent view of Tuomiokirkko, Helsinki cathedral from the forecourt.

…from the front of the church.

The interior is elegant.

The National Library of Finland opposite the church has the most beautiful reading rooms.

We walked past beautiful buildings, and an interesting weather vane, to the seaside.

We had a delicious pot of salmon soup for lunch at Loyly, the stunning sauna and restaurant beside the Baltic Sea. It has a huge deck overlooking the sea. It is one of Time Magazine’s “World 100 Greatest Places. The photo of the exterior is not mine. It was quite overcast by the time we got to Loyly. The soup photo is all mine.

We took the ferry to Suomenlinna, the old fortress island in the harbour.

The old cannons and bunkers are still in place, though no longer in use.

We came across the Mikael Agricola church. It was designed by Lars Sonck and constructed between 1933 and 1935. The tower reaches 103 metres above sea level and can be retracted. This was done in the Winter War and the Continuation War so that the tower wouldn’t act as a navigational aid to enemy bombers.

The red brick exterior is quite stark, but altar is beautiful.

Later in the day we enjoyed an espresso martini in the lovely bar at Kamp Hotel on Esplanadi.

We had a delicious dinner at Ravintola Kuurna (Meritullinkatu 6) down by the sea. The service from our charming waiter was fun and made our evening even better.

Thank you Raffaela and Stephen for joining us in Helsinki. You encouraged me to cover lots of ground in this cool city.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 8, 2023


We took the Shinkansen, bullet train, from Tokyo to Kyoto. It travels at speeds between 240 and 320 kilometres per hour, similar to the Frecciarossa trains in Italy, which is almost as fast.

We arrived at the very busy Kyoto station and decided to have lunch before heading to the city. We chose a beautiful, quiet cafe and when we sat down and looked at the menu, we realised it was sweets only. This was our delicious lunch.

There were beautiful packaged things to take away.

Next stop was the hotel, Rinn Gion Yasaka, where we dropped off our bags.


We headed for the centre. The main street in the Gion/Shijo area is wide and busy. There are lots of interesting smaller streets off to the side. It is not uncommon to see people in traditional dress.

We had dinner at a yakitori bar.

We picked up some matcha sweets on the way home. They are very popular in Kyoto.

The next day we went early to the Nishiki Market. Most stalls were beginning to open at around 10.00am.


We started with a coffee and a matcha bun.

The market was thankfully air conditioned and we were there before crowds gathered. There was much to see, Japanese crafts and lots of food.

These oysters were huge.

I could not eat these poor little octopus on sticks.

There is a shrine at the end of the market. You can pull a long cord and perhaps wish for something. I would wish for cooler weather.

Beside the market is a small group of shops called Sou Sou. There are clothes for men, women and children, Japanese fabrics and accessories and a shop especially for footwear. My new shoes are second from the end on the bottom shelf.

We had dinner that night at Tempura Endo. It was the highlight of our Kyoto visit. The chef cooked the delicious morsels in front of us, brought them to us and explained which salt or sauce should go with each piece.


Our hotel looked lovely at night.

It was just as hot in Kyoto as it was in Tokyo but we found it a bit easier to keep out of the heat. Our visit to Kyoto was much more interesting and pleasant.



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 7, 2023

Too hot in Tokyo

I wish I could say I enjoyed my visit to Tokyo, but with temperatures in the high 30s with ridiculously high humidity, I struggled to be outside.

Our hotel in the Ginza area had 2 robots at the reception. I think they were mostly for show, as we were looked after by friendly people.

The breakfast room was self service.

On our first walk to the centre, which was quite close, I spotted some older, interesting buildings amongst the high rise. I never walked it again…much too hot.


We walked though a beautiful park to the Imperial Palace.