May 12, 2011

Today we go to Versailles!  It was our first attempt to travel beyond the Metro on the RER train system, and we managed it pretty well (only one minor mishap).  Even after the Louvre, there is no excuse for Versailles!  http://en.chateauversailles.fr/homepage.  We arrived at the palace in the late morning, and it was as crowded as predicted.  As you can see, the day was gorgeous – sunny and a little breezy and cool.

     

Bess and Vicki lost each other in the Hall of Mirrors in the Royal Apartments about noon, and we didn’t find each other until about 6:00 pm as the park was closing.

Do visit the web page (above) as our pictures can’t possibly do it justice.

If I lived in Paris, I would come out here often for the day, and stroll (rather, hike) around the gardens.  Golden Gate Park, eat your heart out!

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May 11, 2011

Today is “museum day” – after today we’ll see how many more museum days we need.  We know that we can get a 2-day museum pass at any FNAC store (http://www.fnac.com/) a kind of media supermarket, one of which is on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.  As this is also the address of a Tory-recommended place to have coffee/tea/macarons/eclairs/chocolate/etc. – Ladurée - well, then, Champs-Élysées here we come!  (Vicki may never learn to pronounce Champs-Élysées even with Bess’s coaching.  Shawn-zee-leez?)

First, Metro to Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau where we pop up under the galloping sculpture atop the north end of the Grand Palais:  http://www.grandpalais.fr/visite/en/        

Then for a stroll down the famous avenue looking for macarons.  Ah!  There it is!  Ladurée!  (http://www.laduree.fr/)      Tory!  Now I know what all the fuss about macarons is about.  They look like this:          

and you can take them home elegantly, like this:

Our stroll continues:  Artcurial  http://www.artcurial.com/en/index.asp        

The FNAC store was out of museum passes, but oh, the potential for shopping!

   

  And at the end of the street:

There it is:      The Arc de Triomphe!              http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com/                                                       We didn’t go up top, but we did get our museum passes here!

So, off we go to the Rodin Museum!!    http://www.musee-rodin.fr/   (camera is fogging up – sorry).  The museum and the grounds are lovely – a respite from the bustling city all around.  You can imagine Rodin living and working here.  The roses!  Beautiful!

       

      It was a treat to see works by Camille Claudel also.      Then – off to see where Napoleon is!

L’Hôtel des Invalides, visible from the Rodin Museum, is Napoleon’s final resting place.  It is also a gigantic army museum with over 500,000 exhibits, covering weapons and armor from prehistoric times to the present day.  It was and is a hospital and retirement home for war veterans.  www.invalides.org

      

                

Whew!  Much more to go!  We walk back to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and head east towards the Louvre.  An Egyptian obelisk, zowie!  It was here (at the Place de la Concord) that Louis VI and Marie Antoinette were guillotined in 1793.

       

On the way, we pass the Musee de l’Orangerie, and thought we’d pop in, seeing as how we have a museum pass.  omg.  There was much to see, including amazing early Picassos and Renoirs, but I will never ever forget the Monet murals.   http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/ He was painting these when my mother was born. . .

And on through the Jardin des Tuileries toward the Louvre.  Much was being renovated in this park – we didn’t stop but enjoyed our stroll.  I’ll come back some day and promenade like a Parisian!

         

So, Alex, here I am.  Thank you, thank you.      We did see the Mona Lisa, through the crowds.  She is actually kinda little and dark. . .

  

The experience of the Louvre is unlike any other.   Check it out:  http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home.jsp?bmLocale=en.  We enjoyed a sandwich in the basement cafe and conversation with a lady American professor who gave us tips on traveling through France, should we want to do that.  I want to come back to Paris and spend a week here.  At least.  For now, I need band-aids for my feet and a hot bath for the rest of me.  And maybe a nice supper at a good restaurant. . . so, “home.”

After a nice rest and soak, we head out for dinner (now we know not to try to dine much before 9:00 pm) and find l’Hermes, a small neighborhood restaurant recommended highly by our hosts.  The evening was cooling as we took seats at a table on the sidewalk.  I had duck and Bess had languostine (a kind of lobster), but I haven’t words to describe how delicious.  Being famished didn’t hurt, but wasn’t a necessary spice.  The manager spoke some English, and took great pride in her food.  As well she should. . .  I am so grateful that Bess knows her way around a French menu!  (The cute waiter was grateful as well).

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May 10, 2011

Day 2 Objective:  Make like hunchbacks and climb the towers of Notre-Dame, then explore the neighborhood of La Marais (the “swamp”).  But first:  a visit to our local Monoprix - a very good supermarche – to buy basics.    We couldn’t figure out how to weigh and label produce and no English speakers to help us, so we bought pre-wrapped fruit.  Over our stay we frequented this useful store and bought face powder, hair conditioner, chips, milk, prosciutto, underwear, cheese, chocolate, bandaids.

We have the Metro to the Seine figured out – Jourdain to Hotel de Ville - Métro Jourdain SW    and then across the river to Notre-Dame.      To the right of the front entrance to Notre-Dame is a famous statue of Vicki’s ancestor, Charlemagne.

Waiting in line to climb to the top we were entertained by a local “hunchback” who snuck up on passers-by and startled them.    Finally we climbed the inside circular staircase up the north tower (387 steps), stopping to buy souvenirs and then to visit the bell in the bell tower on the way up. 

We then surprised many gargoyles, and oh, the splendid views!             

On to La Marais via the booksellers along the Seine.  Wish I knew French and had many extra hours! But just to be here. . .

Here are some of the highlights of our La Marais walk:

On the way, the spectacular Hotel de Ville:  

Where Rue de Rivoli meets Rue St-Antoine:

Lots of shops, markets, art galleries, people: 

Church of St. Paul-St. Louis (see the sundial up high): 

The famous Hotel de Sully: 

Bofinger, an historic Belle Epoch brasserie:           

Refreshment and a loud rock concert at the Place de Bastille:                               

The Hotel de Rohan Guéménée:    containing the Maison de Victor Hugo   on the Place de Vosges, a lovely square with covered archways   and statues of

King Louis XIII  and King Louis XIV .

We looked for the Musée Picasso   but it was closed because it’s main exhibits were traveling to San Francisco!

Found:  Musée Carnavalet.  A charming collection of all things historically Parisian.      

Early evening brought us into the winding streets of La Marais, sometimes referred to as the Jewish Quarter, and the smells and sounds of falafel stands and cafe chatter:        

Tired and hungry, we head back towards the Seine to a Tory-recommended restaurant (actually, she recommended the bar, but we were hungry!)  The meal, the dinner companions (two delightful Danish businessmen), the wine; everything was perfect!  Escargot, beef bourguignon, profiteroles!  Thankfully, Bess is familiar with French menus and cuisine (like how to eat escargot).

What a day!

Back to the Hotel de Ville Metro and home to a hot bath.

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May 9, 2011

Hi! Welcome to our Paris trip! [Move mouse over pictures to read captions.]

                   Living Room Bess and Vicki arrive at the apartment on Rue de Palestine in the Belleville neighborhood  at about noon.   Our hosts, Marieke and Andrew, were warm and welcoming and provided us with tips on neighborhood amenities and guidebooks - and coffee - and then they took off for their trip to Germany.  We rested and puttered through the afternoon (look at the view from our balcony!)  , and then headed to the Metro for our first trip to the Seine.  Objective:  Batobus (river taxi) down the Seine          from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower.  Oh, my.  There it is!           We inspect from all angles:    

  Then, back to Notre Dame (see our header for the outside view) for a peek inside.

Tired, but still bedazzled, we walked the Ile de la Cite, the heart of Paris since the Parisii settled there in around 200 BC.         Later, in our neighborhood, there were no “recommended” restaurants open on this Monday night, but we found a charming – and Thai-speaking! – restaurant, Valentin, Valentin, Restaurant à Paris  in which we enjoyed a French/Thai fusion sort of meal.   Mussels and fries and – larb!  Fantastic.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObcI3EAfjGk  And then a long sleep in our beautiful apartment. . . . . . . .

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