Monday, May 12, 2014

5/10-11/14 - Paris France

Saturday, May 10, 2014

We decided we would get up early to see if we could get to Notre Dame and go inside before the huge line formed (it’s free to go inside).  They open the doors at 7:45 a.m. and I think we got there around 8.  Thankfully, there was no line yet.  We actually got there during mass, so we got to hear part of that.  We walked around the inside and took some pictures of the impressive structure and stained glass windows.

After we got back outside we wandered over to Saint Chapelle to see what time they opened.  We decided we would rather go up the tower at Notre Dame instead, but they don’t open that until 10 a.m.  To pass the time we wandered all the way around Notre Dame to the back side where you can get some really good pictures of the flying buttresses.  There is also another bridge back there with what must be millions of locks on it.  Apparently, lovers here put their name on a lock and lock it on a bridge and toss away the key into the river.

By the time we made our way back to the tower line, there were about 20 people or so already queued up, so we got in line.  We had to wait about 25 minutes or so before they opened.  Once they opened, we made our way up the 300 or so spiral stone stairs to the top.  There are actually two levels.  The first level has the gargoyles perched looking over the city and the second level is just the highest point you can go with a view of the surrounding area.

We then made our way back down the stairs.  They only let people up in small groups of about 20 as there is only one very narrow staircase that serves as both up and down.  As we got to the bottom the bell tower struck 11:00. 

We remembered that the open air market near our apartment was open today and we wanted to get some more roasted potatoes as they were so good last time we had them.  So we made our way to the market and got our potatoes and then across the street to the boulangerie and got a sandwich and some desserts to go along with it. 

We made the short walk back to the apartment and devoured our yummy potatoes.  After that we started trying to organize our stuff for the trip home.  Eric started working on pictures and neither one of us could keep our eyes open, so we decided to go lay down and take a nap.  Later Guy and Jody made it back to the apartment and laid down and had a nap while we got up and finished getting our packing done. 

After everyone had had a chance to rest, we all went out in search of a new café to enjoy our last meal together in Paris.  We found a small café situated on a corner a couple blocks away from the apartment.  We took a couple tables outside where we could enjoy the people watching Paris has to offer.  You see some very interesting people walking around Paris.  We enjoyed a nice meal together and reflected on the past week.  Time sure does fly by in a hurry.

After our nice meal we headed back to the apartment.  Eric and I had some scrumptious cupcakes from Bertie’s Cupcakery awaiting us, while Jody and Guy had some flan and some other decadent dessert.  We all enjoyed our desserts and then made it off to bed as we had to get up about 5:30 the next morning.  Our car was scheduled to pick us up at 7 a.m. to take us to the airport. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

5:30 a.m. came way too early.  Unfortunately, we had to get up and get ready to head to the airport.  I had purchased some type of apple tart pastry to have for breakfast, so I ate that.  Boy was it good.  We are all going to miss the pastries and baguettes here.  We were already talking about trying to find a French bakery in Phoenix where we can get good bread.

Our van picked us up in front of the apartment at 7 a.m. and we made our way to the airport.  It was rather shocking after seeing so many people out and about the city the past few days to be out this early in the morning and see very few cars and even fewer people on the streets.   

Immigration and security at the Charles Degaule airport is a breeze compared to many places we have been.  Maybe we just got lucky because it was early in the morning, but the lines were meniscule.  Eric and I stopped at the Star Alliance club for a bit and then headed to our gate.  Before we knew it we were on the plane and ready to take off.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

5/9/2014 - Paris France

Friday, May 9, 2014

I am starting to see a pattern here.  We stayed up late last night and slept in again.  I think we finally made it out the door around 11:30 or so in the morning.  We walked a couple blocks down the road to a tower that used to be a church but the church was torn down during the revolution and all that remains is the tower.  There is a really pretty city park built around it.

Then we crossed the river over towards Notre Dame and stopped by Bertie’s cupcakery to get our daily cupcake.  After savoring our cupcakes, we made our way around the corner to a shop that we had noticed the other day that had really good sandwiches.  We bought a couple Italian Poulet sandwiches and headed back across the river to the park we had been at earlier.  We found a nice bench in the sun and enjoyed our sandwiches in the park.

We then walked the couple blocks back to our apartment.  On the way back we found a small gelato shop and enjoyed some gelato as we finished our walk back to the apartment.  Once back in the apartment we decided to rest a bit and have a nap (old people training).  After our nap we decided we would visit the Louvre in the evening when it is apparently less busy. 

We left the apartment around 7 p.m. and walked the couple blocks down the road to the Louvre entrance.  There are two ways to enter the Louvre, through the pyramid in the square or underground through the shopping mall under the Louvre.  In Rick Steves’ book he said the lines are generally much shorter if you enter through the mall, so we gave it a shot. 

Wow, we were surprised to find no line at all at the ticket booth.  So we got our tickets and headed in.  We followed the approximately 2 hour tour of the main attractions that Rick Steves has in his book.  Our Deux Chevaux car driver the other night had told us that if you spent 1 minute in front of every piece of art in the Louvre and you spent 24 hours a day doing it, it would take you three months to see everything.  I can believe it.  The place is gigantic.

After our tour we walked toward the pont neuf bridge to meet up with Jody and Guy to have some dinner or drinks together.  I also wanted to see the light show at the Eiffel Tower, so after we met up with Jody and Guy we took the Metro across town to the Trocadero Plaza.  After getting some pictures and video of the light show, we came back to our district near the apartment to get something to eat.  We had some pizza, salad, pasta, and of course wine.

By the time we got back to the apartment and in bed it was after midnight again.  I don’t think there has been a single night where we have gotten to bed before midnight, except for maybe the first day we got here when we climbed in bed before it even got dark. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

5/8/2014 - Paris France

This morning we slept in until about 9 a.m.  Eric got up and sorted through the pictures from yesterday to post on Facebook and also posted my blog from yesterday that I was up until 2 a.m. typing.  After breakfast we decided we would go across town and see Père Lachaise Cemetery.

We followed Rick Steves’ tour in his Paris 2014 book and made our way through the cemetery.  It is an amazing cemetery.  It is hard to believe people erect such magnificent monuments to be buried in—some of them are so large and ornate they look like small churches.  It is like nothing I have ever seen in the states. 

Some of the sites we visited in the cemetery were Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein, Molière, Jim Morrison, Frédéric Chopin, Héloïse and Abélard, Colette, and Rossini to name a few.  We also visited Communards wall (Mur Des Fédérés) and some of several emaciated statues remembering the victims of the concentration camps and Nazi resistance heroes.

After making our way through the cemetery we headed for the Rodin museum and garden.  Originally we were just going to visit the garden, but we went ahead and bought a ticket to get into both.  First we headed for the café in the garden as we were starving.  It was an appropriate weather day for a visit to the cemetery (cold, cloudy, and rainy), but maybe not the best weather for visiting Rodin’s garden.  However, we made the best of it. 

We had our lunch at the café, which was really good.  We had their plat du jour which was some type of chicken with gnocchi and salad, plus we ordered a separate larger salad with rolls and a chocolate muffin. 

After getting some food in our stomachs we headed into the museum to get warmed up a bit.  The museum was not as big as I was expecting.  It is only two floors and not very many rooms.  After that we headed out into the gardens, which were very pretty.  Many of Rodin’s pieces, like The Thinker, are actually out in the garden.  We wandered around the garden for a bit and decided to head back to the apartment to get warmed up. 

Before we got back to the apartment we hit an ATM since were running low on cash.  On our way back to the apartment we came across a Gelato shop, so of course we had to stop in and try some.  Then we made our way back to the apartment to decide what we wanted to do next. 

We decided we would have some more bread and cheese for dinner before our deux Chevaux car tour tonight at 10 p.m.  We also wanted some fresh strawberries to go with it, so out the door and down the street we headed.  We had seen a couple produce markets the other day down the street that had really good looking strawberries.

Down the street meant about a mile or so, but I figure we were burning off the calories first.  After buying our berries, we strolled along the other side of the street looking into the various store windows.  By the time we got back to the apartment Jody and Guy had gotten back from their day out and about.

We had some time before our car tour so Eric and I did some reading and relaxing and the old people (AKA Jody and Guy) took a nap.  At around 10 o’clock we headed down for our hour long tour of the city by Deux Chevaux.  They are driven by French students who speak English and are happy to show you the sights of their wonderful city.  Jody and Guy were in one car and Eric and I were in another.  Each of our guides took us on a different tour.  I am sure that have all created their itineraries they like to follow with their “secret spots” for the best views of some of the popular sights.

An hour goes by in a hurry and before you know it we were back at our apartment.  We were all pooped from our day of wandering about the city again, and of course it was almost midnight, so we all headed off to bed.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

5/7/2014 - Paris France

We had decided yesterday that today Jody and Guy would go off and do their own thing.  We all pretty much slept in this morning and after lounging around a bit, starting a load of laundry (our apartment has a combination washer/dryer), and finally eating some breakfast, Eric and I finally made it out the door around 11:30.  We are starting to really fit in with the Parisians…they don’t get up very early in the morning and they stay up really late (it does not even start to get dark here until 9 p.m.)

We made our way down the street to the Velib station and rode across the Seine to Ile de La Cité where Notre Dame is located, but our main goal was to visit Bertie’s Cupcakery to each get another cupcake.  Just as we were finishing eating our cupcakes it started to sprinkle, so we put the hoods up on our rain jackets and headed on our way back across the Seine to the Marais. 

We decided to do the walking tour that Rick Steves has in his book for the Marais district.  We made our way all the way down to the Bastille and worked our way back.  We stopped into the Carnavalet museum and looked around, which was probably a good thing as it really started to rain while we were inside.  After looking around there we popped back out onto the street to find that it had stopped raining and the sun had come out from behind the clouds.  Along our walk we also passed Victor Hugo’s residence.

It was a fun walk with lots of interesting stores along the way also.  There are so many cafes and boulangeries it is mind boggling.  There is a store for everything here.  It is not like living in the US where you go to the grocery store and get everything in one stop.  Here you have a fromagerie, a butcher, a florist, a produce store, a chocolate shop, a cupcakery, an ice cream/gelato shop, etc.  Everything is so fresh here.  The produce is amazing, the cheese is amazing, and the bread is the most amazing.

After our walk we made our way back to our street where they have an open air market on Wednesdays and Saturdays and we bought some fresh roasted potatoes with onion and seasoning.  We also bought some fresh cheese and some pear cider.  Then we made our way back across the street and stopped at the boulangerie and bought a baguette, a couple chicken wraps, some flan, and some chocolate cake.  We made the short trip back to our apartment to devour at least some of our scrumptious finds. 

After filling our bellies, we decided it was time to go out and get some more exercise.  We walked a couple blocks down the road and found the nearest cat café.  They have café’s here where people who are missing their cats or can’t have cats can come and have a cup of coffee and a biscuit and pet the cats and enjoy their company. 

After taking of picture of the cats through the window, we made our way on down the street to find the nearest metro station to make our way across town to see Sacre Cœur, a working Catholic basilica.  After making a couple transfers on the metro (which is really quick) we arrived at the stop nearest the Sacre Cœur.  The Sacre Cœur is located on the highest hill in Paris.

After a bit of a hike up the hill, it finally came into view.  It is really pretty sitting atop the hill.  There are many steps that make their way up the hill and they are covered with people sitting and enjoying the scenery, taking pictures, and just hanging out.  It is kind of like a party scene.  It is hard to believe that just inside is a working church.

Besides being able to go inside, you can also tour the crypt and dome.  So we paid our money to enter the crypt and dome.  We were amazed that there was no line to get in to see either.  We entered the crypt and it was earily silent.  We toured our way around the crypt and then headed for the dome. 

It is 300 steps to make your way up to the dome at the very top of the church.  These are some extremely narrow, spiral stone steps that are well worn, but the reward is the amazing view at the top.  It is simply breathtaking.  Eric said he thought it was a much better view that what we got from the Eiffel Tower.  I got some amazing shots of the city, parts of the church, and the Eiffel Tower.

It was hard to believe that we were the only ones on top of the dome and had this spectacular view all to ourselves.  As it was evening time and was a bit breezy, we were starting to get chilly, so we started the descent back down the stairs to make the journey across town to our apartment. 

Once back at our apartment we got out the baguette and cheese that we had bought earlier and had it with some fresh strawberries.  It is unbelievable how amazing such simple food can be when it is so fresh. 

After dinner we did some housekeeping chores like cleaning up the kitchen and living room and Eric loaded up the dishwasher to run while I ran the vacuum around the apartment to clean up all the crumbs from all the baguettes we have eaten so far.  That is the only downside to such wonderful bread, it does make quite the mess with crumbs. 

After we got things straightened up in the apartment, we headed out on the town again.  It was around 10 p.m. and we headed back across the Seine on foot to take some pictures of the Notre Dame cathedral lit up at night.  It is amazing how the crowds clear out late at night.  It was almost like having the place to ourselves (much nicer than during the day).  I got some amazing pictures of Notre Dame and some of the other buildings around the Marais that are lit up at night.  I guess they don’t call it the City of Lights for nothing.

We finally made it back to the apartment just after midnight and not too long after that Jody and Guy made their way back also.  As I am typing this blog it is approximately 1:30 a.m. and I have a feeling Eric and I will both be sleeping in in the morning.