The Party’s Over

Well Denise’s first trip to Paris has come to an end and I believe she now loves Paris as much as we do.  We saw and did an incredible number of things and a couple of the museums we visited didn’t even receive their own blog posts:  the Louvre (Mona Lisa says “hey”), Musee Marmottan-Monet (a fabulous, well-kept-secret collection of Impressionist paintings).  We ran out of time and energy to do a few things we really meant to do, but we also saw some things that weren’t on our list before we left.  We met and exchanged tips with people from all over the U.S. (tiny bistros with snug tables turn English-speakers into instant friends).  And we met lots of nice, helpful Parisians too.

But now we’re home and we’ve moved into the croissant and Nutella-withdrawal stage of our adventure.  Of course we can get Nutella at home, but without those croissants, what’s the point?

We thank you for coming along and hope you enjoyed seeing some of what we saw.  Hope to see you again next time.

Hotel Saint Louis en L’Isle

We loved everything about our little 20-room boutique hotel, especially the location.  As I said before, it’s on the tiny island that’s next to the island that Notre Dame is on.  It’s a very touristy place (although about 4,500 locals live here too) and it’s right in the center of everything.  Normally that’s a good thing unless it’s really warm outside so you need to leave your windows open at night, and it’s a Saturday night, or a Friday night, or a Tuesday night, well you get the picture.  Even though we’re on the 5th floor (actually the 6th since the 1st floor doesn’t count as a floor), the narrow streets just seem to serve as a megaphone for all that revelry.  But it’s still a great place to stay and we loved it.  Except for the Internet, that not so much.

 

This is the front of the hotel. It’s 6 stories tall and we stayed on the top floor. The street in front is very narrow so it’s a one-way street. Most of the time it’s a pedestrian street since it’s major use is for cabs picking up and dropping people off at their hotels and service deliveries.

 

This is the view from our balcony, which is a real balcony, by the way. Both our bedroom and our bathroom had double doors with balconies.

 

Know what this is? It’s looking down 6 floors through the stair banister. Isn’t this a great shot! (Good job, Chuck, & nice shoes!)

 

The strange, tiny elevator stops between floors so no matter what floor you’re on, you have to walk either upstairs or downstairs to get to your room. In the elevator, the floor buttons are marked 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, and 4/5 (the lobby is on Floor 0). Guests staying on the 1st floor must go to floor 1/2 and walk down a half flight of stairs. People staying on the 2nd floor can get off at either the first floor (and walk up half a flight of stairs) or the second floor (and then walk down half a flight of stairs) and so forth. Is this normal? I have never seen this before and I think it’s very strange.  And I don’t think OSHA would like it one little bit.

 

Often the stairs looked like this during the day because the cleaning crew has no stairs or elevator of their own. They have to lug these huge, heavy bags of sheets, towels and cleaning supplies everywhere and store them on the stairs while they work since there are literally no halls on the floors, just doors at the top of the stairs.

 

I love these authentic looking lights in the halls.

 

The stairs down into the dungeon – AKA the breakfast room.

 

The continental breakfast was always generally the same every day. The breakfast room was actually 2 little rooms on either side of a small dining room. In addition to a small kitchen, this room had juices, coffees & teas, and all the appropriate condiments. In the kitchen is Mariska, who was super nice and accommodating to us, in spite of the language barrier.

 

. . . and this one held ham and cold meats, cheeses, fresh fruits, and cold cereals. But the real treat is on the tables – – baskets and baskets of a big variety of fresh pastries.  On our last day, the pastries were delivered to the hotel late and the croissants were still warm!  Yum!

 

The dining room is between the 2 serving areas. Because it’s such a small hotel, you get to know the other guests (almost entirely English speaking) very quickly at breakfast.

 

In general, hotel rooms in Paris and our hotel are very small but ours has a small sofa bed in it so it’s technically a triple. But it would be tight for 3 people.  I wouldn’t say those apartments across the street are close to us, but the room across from ours had a music stand in the window with a piece of music on it and it was a Chopin Etude.

 

The hotel staff was fabulous, so friendly and helpful. Denis (shown here) and Bernard were our 2 favorite desk clerks and they were wonderful. They both worked very hard to try to solve my Internet problems. And the kitchen servers/housekeepers were so friendly and accommodating, even though they spoke no English. They all contributed to making our stay a very enjoyable one and we thank them for all they did.

Out and About in Paris – Part 2

These are the last of my odds and ends of photos around town.

 

We love the stalls on the right bank and the left bank (above) of the river. They all carry pretty much the same merchandise yet each is just a little different. Mostly they had vintage books, magazines, photos, and prints, and current souvenirs such as post cards, placemats, tote bags, keychains, jewelry, etc. I think the ones on the right bank had more original art by local artists.

 

Now isn’t this a bazaar window for a clothing store?

 

And what’s with all of the greenery in these MaxMara windows?

 

Cute store sign for a luggage shop.

 

In the window of a flower shop. None of these birds is real!

 

I thought this family scootering on the bridge together was cute.

 

Last time we were in Paris, we saw only one homeless man. This time we saw many of them, some of them in tents like this one that seemed to be well stocked.  As we walked by, we could tell he was watching TV inside.

 

The sightseeing boats are great because they have glass roofs for unobstructed views.

 

This was a Segway tour. Wish I had the nerve in Paris traffic.

 

There have been 2 mannequins on this restaurant balcony overlooking a street that runs parallel to the Seine for years. But the first time we went by this time, only the man was there and he was wearing a Me Too t-shirt. The next time we went by, the woman was back too but we were too far away to read their t-shirts. Darn! We missed another story!

 

We went to dinner early one night (at 7), and all of the tables in front of the sidewalk café were taken by people who obviously knew each other and at the curb were (illegally) parked several black cars with black windows and drivers standing by the doors. It was almost a little creepy. We kept saying these people all looked like they were waiting for something. (They were dressed like they were going to a funeral – were they waiting for a body?) Eventually this gal in the gorgeous white dress came and said hello to everybody and shortly thereafter they all jumped into cars and roared off. All of the outside café seating was empty. And we never did spot an obvious groom. Very strange.

 

Paris has a lot of motorcycles because it’s a lot easier – and cheaper – to park a motorcycle than a car. And they’re much easier to maneuver in tight spaces, and Paris is nothing but tight spaces.

 

This is the biggest gas station I’ve ever seen. Most gas stations are one parallel parking space next to one gas pump on the sidewalk. But this one is huge. It even has posts that guide you across the sidewalk and into the station and it has a mini-mart inside (behind the big green price sign).

 

When we were here 2 years ago and left from the Atlantic Garden, we ran across this exact same sight – 4 guys who work at the military surplus store (I think) having lunch (complete with wine) at a table in the driveway next to the store. It was like deja vu all over again (to quote Yogi Berra).

 

This woman had a tree in her backpack and was taking it home on the bus!

 

Up a winding, narrow flight of stairs in a very nice restaurant were the smallest bathrooms and shared sink I have ever seen. If you took too big a step back from the sink, you could easily fall down the stairs.  This bathroom did not look at all like the restaurant.

 

2 doors down from our hotel. Way too accessible!

 

Early in the morning, there were fishermen on the banks of the Seine where the night before people had been partying. I never did see anybody catch anything.

 

Rick Steves likes this bookstore near our hotel and so did we. It’s a fascinating place. And when the couple on the bench saw me taking photos, they stood up so I could take a photo of the bench too (below).

 

The bench at Shakespeare and Company.

 

Several years ago Paris took all of the Love Locks off of the bridges because they were concerned that eventually they wouldn’t be able to support the weight. Some of the bridges were even affixed with glass panels so that locks couldn’t be attached to them. However, this is one of the bridges that is starting to collect them once again.

 

Paris has a toilette shortage! There are no toilettes in the Metro stations – the only one I ever found was for shop workers only and one of the workers gave me the key for 1 Euro. There are toilettes on the trains but the doors are locked. We were in the park above the Montparnasse Train Station and we went down into the station to find a toilette. We finally found the one pictured which cost 1/2 Euro. But hey, it was clean! It’s one of those 4 step toilets: (1) Put your coin in the slot and enter and lock the door, (2) use the bathroom, (3) push the green button by the door to exit, (4) then the door closes behind you and the whole room is sprayed with water and disinfectant. They make me nervous. What if they just missed that one little step of opening the door when you hit the green button? And you came out drenched? Scary!

(Scarce) Paris Cats

I keep an eye out constantly, but we just don’t see that many cats. With a serious rat problem, it seems like Paris needs more cats!  I would love to do a big, long post just on cats. Unfortunately, this post includes every cat we’ve seen since we’ve been here . . . a whopping 6 cats!

Okay, he’s on the 3rd floor. The window is closed. He’s looking down. Now what? (I don’t want to look..)

 

This long-haired beauty was almost hidden by the surrounding vines.

 

Roommate to the previous cat, this one decided to go for a walk, which he did straight down the alley. (If you look closely, you can see his roommate sitting in the window to the right of the bike’s red child seat.)

 

This cat came and went out of the creperie across the street like he owned the place.

 

We noticed he was still inside after the creperie closed at night, so maybe he did own the place.  Or maybe he was just the night watchman.

 

And then there was La Pere Lechaise chat.

 

This orange restaurant cat can’t understand why Chuck won’t let him help order off the menu. He KNOWS what’s good here!

Street Performers

We commented several times on the lack of mimes on this visit. We only saw one mime and she was in Versailles.  We’ve never before been to Montmartre without seeing at least one mime and often several. But this time we saw none up there. Is it a dying art? I certainly hope not.  It’s a real mystery. On the other hand, there seems to be no shortage of the other usual street performers, especially on the pedestrian bridge between our island and the island that Notre Dame is on. It’s just constant entertainment  and we love it.  They really make Paris feel like . . . well, Paris.

This was the only mime we’ve seen since we’ve been here and she was down the street from the Palace in Versailles. She was cute though.

 

This guy was playing a Celtic Harp on the sidewalk next to Notre Dame.

 

Rollerblading is popular here, especially among the street performers. This guy was very talented at weaving in and out among the little cones.

 

Working accordion players are common on the Metro. And there’s nothing like an accordion to make it sound and feel like Paris.

 

This accordion player on the bridge near our hotel was taking a break and so was his little dog.

 

This marionette performer on the bridge near out hotel was one of the more unusual street performers we’ve seen.

 

Lots of guitarists playing a wide variety of guitar music. And selfie-takers are ubiquitous . . . and annoying!

 

This pianist sets up his piano on the pedestrian bridge near our hotel regularly and he’s fantastic. Sometimes other instrumentalists join him and they have a real jam session. What do you suppose he does with his piano when he carts it away at night?

Doors, Doors, Doors

ALL doors in Paris are very striking for one reason or another so doing a post on them seems almost unnecessary.  However, I always do at least one door post so here it is.

 

There are lots of pretend balconies like this in Paris. Sometimes they aren’t even big enough to go out on, like the bottom floor here. They protect little balcony bushes and sometimes disguise the fact that they’re actually security bars.  And sometimes they’re so tiny that you can step out on them, but that’s all, like the ones on the second and third floors. They’re only like a foot or less deep. But you’ve got to admit they improve the looks of any residence, especially when they so decorative as these are, so they’re a good thing.

 

Nice old doors in essentially good shape. Common.

 

These look very “old castle” and make you want to see what’s inside.

 

I especially like the blue glass balls at the top of these doors.

 

The whole corner entrance here is very attractive.  Love the red doors!

 

Eeew, this one is a little eerie and very old. There isn’t even a knob on the door. And what’s with the little bars to the right of the door? I’ll bet there’s a great story here.

 

This one is actually a tiny bar in our neighborhood. The whole front was so interesting I just couldn’t resist taking a picture.

 

Nice new-looking doors.

 

Once again, if you need to have bars on your windows, these are fairly attractive.

 

This whole door and frame are very impressive. It looks like they take you to apartments above commercial stores.

 

Some doors have beautiful knockers like this one.

 

We saw this in a church. The door on the right is a side door into the church. The door on the left is a mystery. Once again, I want to open that door and go in!

 

Beautifully carved doors, but are they afraid the cherubs are going to get away?

 

Old!

Getting Around in Paris

There are many transportation options in Paris and I think we’ve taken them all. This is my Transit 101: what we’ve managed to learn, sometimes the easy way, and where necessary, the hard way. The RER trains run both above and below ground and go many of the same places as the Metro. The cars are mostly double-deckers and you’re less likely to lose your arm because the doors stay open for 20 seconds rather than the 10 seconds the Metro car doors remain open. HOWEVER, right now the RER is somewhat on strike so your line may not be running at all today or the trains may simply be running less frequently and the next train may not come for another 2 hours. Metro, on the other hand, is frequent and dependable. However, it can take an engineering degree to figure out how many Metro lines you’ll need to get to your destination, as well as what direction you should take each line, since each line goes 2 directions and is thus named for the street at the end of the line and not an actual direction. Taking the right Metro line in the wrong direction can make your life, temporarily at least, very miserable. And then locating and then reaching the appropriate connecting line in the same Metro station can prove to be very daunting, with long tunnels and multiple flights of both up and down stairs. It can feel like you’re walking more than you’re riding. But the Metro is entertaining. There is often entertainment on board, like an accordionist or a guitar player. And the other riders can be very entertaining too. The Bus, on the other hand, can be a lot of fun. It’s great to be able to see where you are now and enjoy the sights along the way to where you’re going. The only problem with the bus is that some lines and/or at some times of the day they can be breathtakingly crowded.  And of course walking, when at all possible, is the very best option.  That’s the way you get to see the most.

We mostly took the Metro with a few buses and RER’s thrown in where necessary. We only took a taxi a couple of times. And of course we walked A LOT!

Man, that entry into the Metro station is W-A-Y down there.

 

This copper lined Metro stop was stunning. Not sure what the significance is, but it sure was pleasing to look at.

 

At the copper-walled Metro stop, there were also portholes placed around and they had little vignettes in them. This one had a miniature cathedral scene in it.

 

The walls in this Metro station were strange, especially when viewed up close. Not sure what their goal was here.

 

This wallpaperer was a real pro! With his little stepladder, he re-did this entire Metro billboard in less than 10 minutes. Impressive!

 

Denise riding on the wheel of the bus. Finally she’s high enough to see out.

 

We were in an RER station one day and having problems because our train had been cancelled and the next one wasn’t coming for another hour.  This gal from Cuba, named Dai (sp?), was so sweet and tried hard to help us  find an alternate, faster route.  First she enlisted the aid of 2 transit information officers who went over the maps with her and pointed us in the right direction.  Then we switched to the Metro and she actually got on 2 different Metro lines with us to make sure we got to the correct stop.  At one point when we needed our bus passes to get into another station, she couldn’t find hers and just emptied the contents of her purse onto the floor in the Metro station and dug around until she found it.  Chuck tried to pay her for helping us but she wouldn’t take anything.  She was amazing!

 

Now is that a look of concentration or what?

 

Chuck and Denise have clearly never seen a woman dump out the entire contents of her purse onto the floor of a Metro station before!

 

We saw these 2 girls with their nanny while we were waiting at the bus stop. But when we got on the bus, we realized the very together girl on the left (who couldn’t have been over 12) was actually traveling alone because she got off the bus by herself. Nannies and their charges are a very common sight on the streets of Paris.

 

A Night at the Opera House

Okay we didn’t really go to an opera because there aren’t any playing right now. But we did go to the Opera House to see a modern dance performance put on by the Paris Opera Ballet and backed by the Paris Opera Orchestra. And the whole evening was a real treat. The Opera House is amazing and we haven’t been inside since 1977 so I barely remembered it. It is truly stunning. And the 3 modern dance pieces the Ballet performed were creative and very well done. Of course we’re not allowed to take photos during the performance, but I do have some photos of the Opera House as well as one of the Ballet performances that I borrowed from the evening’s program.

Palais Garnier, Paris’ Opera House. It’s one of the major traffic hubs in the City of Paris.

 

The Opera House is the setting for French novel writer Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera , which was later made into the smash musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber. This staircase was the setting for the “Masquerade” scene in the musical.

 

Beautiful chandeliers in the lobby. Imagine what this must have looked like when the chandeliers had candles rather than lightbulbs in them.

 

The lobby ceiling.

 

These are where our balconies would be at home, but these are no more than 2-3 seats deep, so the whole opera house doesn’t have the number of seats that one would expect.

 

The special boxes next to the stage.

 

The seats are beautifully upholstered and look attractive. But the seats do not fold up which makes it hard for people to pass by if their seats are in the middle of the row. And there are 2 little fold-up seats on the inside of each row in the aisle for extra seating. Unfortunately, if somebody wants to get by them in the aisle, they have to stand up and fold up their seats in order to let people get down the aisle.

 

The ceiling in the Opera House is a real stunner. It was painted by Marc Chagall in the 1960’s.

 

One of the modern dance pieces performed at the Paris Opera Ballet on our visit there. (Photo courtesy of Paris Opera)

Everything Foodie in Paris

This post is kind of a hodge podge of food photos – street food, food in restaurants, and markets.

 

This is the food market down in the next block from our hotel. There are much bigger markets around the city but a lot of the neighborhoods only have small markets like this one. Amazingly, they seem to have everything you need.

 

Okay, guess which kind of crepe is most popular? Why it’s Nutella, of course, and there are stands like this one everywhere. And Nutella is also very popular in restaurants.

 

This take-away shop near our hotel had it all – sandwiches, quiches and pizzas that could be heated and sweet pastries as well. The hot foods were warmed in a panini warmer so they stayed nice and crisp.

 

Burgers and fries are more popular (and expensive) here than we’ve ever seen them in the past. The fries are usually pretty good, but the burgers are pretty much hit and miss. This particular one was very good.

 

A very impressive dessert presentation, even if the dessert didn’t exactly live up to its presentation.

 

We ate in this burger place called “Steak and Shake” and then realized it’s an American chain that’s been around since the 60’s. The walls were papered with old photos from their American counterparts. As a rule, we observe a “no American chains” embargo when we travel because we want to experience the local food.

 

And the toilettes in the Steak and Shake were red, and I do mean RED! The bathrooms in the chain places like this one (and McDonald’s, Five Guys, Burger King, etc.) require a code which is printed on your receipt so that non-customers cannot use them,

 

This is the food market down in the next block from our hotel. There are much bigger markets around the city but a lot of the neighborhoods only have small markets like this one. Amazingly, they seem to have everything you need.

 

The whole store, about the same size as a small boutique. Shelves are stacked literally from floor to ceiling.

 

In the middle of the store is a small freezer case with pints of ice cream, ice cream bars, and a variety of TV dinner turned on their sides.

 

This is the produce section inside the store.

 

This is the sign in the produce section that gives prices for items that can’t be individually marked. I like the way the board gives the country of origin in additional to the price.

 

These are very small, shallow boxes of fresh berries and every market has them. According to the latest conversion rates, the raspberries are $5.75, the blueberries are $5.90, the boysenberries are $7.10 and the gooseberries are $9.50.

 

This is the fruit display that was moved out to the front of the store every morning. Their fruit was beautiful and beautifully displayed.

 

Another attractive dessert.

 

The pastry counter at the restaurant in the Palace at Versailles.

Local Parks and Playgrounds

I love all of the little parks we come across as we’re walking to the different sites in Paris. On the way to the Musee Marmottan Monet, we ran across a funny intersection with 3 parks around it. And they were all very different – something for everybody. It was a beautiful day and the parks were getting a whole lot of use by a wide variety of individuals.

This bigger-than-life statue with his bird, his dog, and his missing hand were at the corner of one of the parks and we never could find any identification on them.

 

An interesting beehive. One side was clearly a beehive . . .

 

. . . while the other side showed how the beehive appeared to be attached to 1/2 of a tree trunk and then had grass growing out of it. Interesting…and odd.

 

One large area in one of the parks had adult exercise equipment in it . .

 

. . . and this guy was taking full advantage of it.

 

I don’t know what this blooming tree was but it was gorgeous.

 

A common sight in Paris parks: This fully-dressed, older man laid out his blanket, stripped down to his bikini, and laid down to catch some rays.

 

These 2 little girls were having a ball while their mother struggled to do the heavy lifting and pushing on the other side of the teeter- totter.

 

Near the chilldren’s playground was a kiosk that sold all kinds of children’s toys, games, and snacks.

 

I ran across a fenced area that had several children inside in what appeared to be a pre-school class. The class dismissed after a bit and young mothers came by the pick up their toddlers, and all of the conversations were in natural English. Hmmm…. After the children left, these doll strollers were parked at attention until the children’s return another day.

The Pantheon

The humongous Pantheon is the final resting place of many French VIPs and the home of the Foucault pendulum. King Louis XV had the church built as a replacement for St. Genevieve’s ruined church aftr she miraculously healed him. Begun in 1744, it was finished in 1791 when the revolution was in full swing and it was converted into a nonreligious mausoleum honoring the Champions of French Liberty. Many famous French men now call the Pantheon their final resting place.

 

This building is huge!

 

In the front hall.

 

The Foucault Pendulum

 

Love those long, lighted hallways.

 

Victor Hugo’s tomb

 

Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas’ inscriptions.

 

Interesting piece about Braille who also found a resting place here. (Sorry it got cut off)

 

Rousseau’s Tomb

 

Voltaire’s statue and tomb.

 

A beautiful glass dome.

 

The Convention Nationale Monument. “Marianne,” the fictional woman who symbolized the Revolution, stands in the center, flanked by soldiers who fight for her and citizens who pledge allegiance to her. The inscription below reads “Live free or die.” (I believe Marianne later moved to New Hampshire.)

Saint Sulpice

Saint Sulpice is the largest church in Paris, bigger even than Notre Dame.  It’s where part of the novel, The Da Vinci Code, was set, and a small part of the movie was filmed there.  Construction begin in 1646 and was completed in 1745.  I don’t think the church is as attractive from the outside as Notre Dame; indeed the two towers aren’t finished, don’t match, and one is taller than the other. And the huge windows around the nave were deliberately not set with stained class.  But the other windows throughout the church, though not as colorful as in some churches, are very detailed and exquisite.  The church is home to a remarkable organ, with 5 keyboards and exceptional sound. It was installed in 1781 and renovated and enlarged in the 1860’s.  We were lucky enough to enter at the end of a weekday mass when the organist played for an additional 15-20 minutes after the service.  What a treat!

 

Saint Sulpice is such a large structure in such a confined area that it’s hard to get a good photo of it.

 

A side view of the church.

 

An interesting sea-themed holy water vessel near the front entrance.

 

Looking down the nave of the church.

 

A beautiful and interesting pulpit.

 

The mammoth organ pipes at the back of the church.

 

An interesting smaller chapel in the front of the church.

 

Also near the front of the church are these old wooden doors in the floor. I really wanted to open those doors and see what’s inside! Rumor has it that they somehow figured into the plot of the Da Vinci Code

 

A few of the beautiful windows.

 

 

 

 

This beautiful fountain can be seen in the plaza that’s immediately in front of the church.

Montmartre

The Montmartre neighborhood lies on Paris’ highest hill which is topped by the iconic Sacre-Coeur Basilica. The lively area is well-known for it’s cabaret nightlife, bohemian artists, and pickpockets. We attended a show one evening at the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub and earlier in our stay we attended the Lapine Agile Caberet show – both are located in Montmartre. And we saw several artists in action.  Fortunately we ran into no pickpockets.

This is the first time we haven’t seen mimes in Montmartre.  In fact, we’ve only seen one mime since we’ve been here and that was in Versailles.  WHERE ARE THEY???

 

Everybody recognizes Sacre-Coeur, one of the main landmarks of Paris. On a clear day, it’s very photogenic.

 

The view from atop the hill near Sacre-Coeur.

 

We saw several artists in Place du Tertre, the square where local artists paint Paris scenes…and tourist caricatures.

 

I did like this artists’s work though.

 

Denise checked out some of the artists’ work.

 

An interesting inside-outside gift shop. A really cute way to display merchandise.

 

As young men, many famous impressionist had homes in the area and they painted in the artist squares. Many of the other buildings have been here for centuries too, like this vine-covered Maison Rose restaurant.

 

A cute window in the Maison Rose restaurant. To the right it says “in love.” I’ll bet there’s a really cute story here.

 

On the way back down the hill, we went by several yummy looking stores, like this elegant cookie shop.

 

…where these macaroons were in the window.

Giverny

Giverny is the little village about an hour outside Paris where Claude Monet, the Impressionist artist, and his wife lived with their 8 children from a blended family.  Middle-aged Monet moved to this pink farmhouse with the green shutters in 1883 and lived there for 40 years.  In front of Monet’s house are 2 large gardens separated by a village street.  The garden immediately in front of the house was called the walled garden while the garden across the street (joined by an underground tunnel so it’s not necessary to cross the street) is the water garden, a large pond full of water lilies and surrounded by weeping willow trees, colorful flower beds, and Japanese bridges.  Monet cleared the land of pine trees and designed his own symmetrical beds.  You can’t help but be impressed by the way the color scheme of each bed contributes to the look of the whole garden.  And it all just looks so . . . so . . . Monet

Last time we visited the gardens was on May 1st, Labor Day, and it was a zoo.  So we avoided going on that day this time.  However, the day we chose this trip turned out to be Victory in Europe Day when they celebrated the end of WWII in Europe.  We can’t win.  (Actually I think France observes 4 holidays in May so it’s especially hard to avoid them.) So there were crowds and I don’t think the flower beds collectively were quite as pretty as last time although there were a lot of pretty individual flowers.  In particular, the wisteria and rhododendrons were prettier this time but most of the tulips were past their prime.  They replant constantly, so once again, it’s the luck of the draw.  So here’s some of what we saw, first some pretty scenes, followed by some very colorful individual flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day at Versailles

A day trip to Versailles is a very long day.  First of all you have to take a train out there.  Or 2 trains if you count the first one you took that was going the wrong direction. But it’s a very nice train and, unlike the Metro, it’s above ground so you can see the countryside. Even if you’re going the wrong direction, the scenery is very nice.  Everything is so green in the springtime and the countryside is beautiful.  It takes about 45 minutes or so to get from Paris to Versailles on the train.  Then you have to walk from the train station to the huge cobblestoned grand entrance to the Palace.  We already had our tickets in hand for a 9 a.m. entry so that let us skip the ticket line and hordes of people and walk right in at 9 a.m. when they opened.  So for a very short time, it felt like we were all alone in the palace.  But the hordes caught up to us very quickly.

 

One side of the palace. This place is so big that it’s hard to get a photo that shows all of it.

 

Walking up the long entrance to the main gate of the palace.

 

This is the front entrance.

 

Inside,, the palace is…well…palatial.

 

And the fabulous staircases.

 

This staircase was constructed entirely of marble. Oh my!

 

This is the famous Hall of Mirrors. The mirrors weren’t great back then but it’s still an amazing room…mirrors on one side and windows all along the opposite wall. As you can see, it’s a very popular room.

 

This room was the king’s bedroom. Some of the rooms are not fully furnished and a lot of them aren’t open to the public.

 

Occasionally a window would be open in the hall or one of the rooms and we’d get a sneak peak into the gardens.

 

This huge hall is called the War Room. It’s lined with mammoth, incredible oil paintings of war scenes from across the centuries. There’s even one of George Washington.

 

Another view through one of the windows.

 

Another view of the fabulous manicured gardens from one of the windows. The palace windows give great birds’ eye views of the grounds because they’re so high.

 

After we had visited all of the inside areas that are open to the public and had some lunch in their lovely restaurant, we went outside to check out the gardens and the grounds.  My goodness that place is huge.  And it sits high on a hill so you can get a good view of the expansiveness of the estate.  We found a little train that took visitors to two other smaller palaces on the estate – – areas where the royals could get away from prying eyes u the main palace. We also saw many fountains, statues, lakes, and the grand canal where they rent cute little boats to visitors.  The grounds of the estate are actually public areas and on our little train journey we saw many cars parked along the roads and people were cycling, eating picnic lunches, and just generally enjoying the out of doors on a beautiful spring day.

 

One of the fountains close to the Palace.

 

Another beautiful fountain.

 

Behind the Palace are many fountains, pools and highly manicured gardens. Beyond them are woods surrounding the mile-long X-shaped Grand Canal.

 

We saw this swan swimming in one of the fountains. When I looked closer, I realized she must have a baby riding on her back. I thought I had seen back-riding babies on swans before, but I don’t remember them being this ugly.

 

After our little train ride, we walked back through the front of the palace and down across the courtyard to where the horse stables are.  There’s a fabulous carriage museum there called The Coaches Gallery with carriages from the 18th and 19th centuries and we went in and saw the dozen or so immaculate carriages they have on display.

 

 

 

A child’s carriage.

 

Royal snow sleighs.

 

A funeral carriage.

 

At 3 pm we attended the corps de ballet put on by the National Equestrian Academy of Versailles in the nearby Palace Stables. The show combined dressage with dancing, singing, fencing and Kyudo.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed, so the photo below was borrowed from the program.

 

Jardin Atlantique

The Jardin Atlantique (Atlantic Garden) is an 8.5 acre park that occupies the top of the Montparnasse Train Station.  It’s a real challenge to find a way into it but once you’ve conquered that challenge, it’s a cool little park and gardens.  It’s surrounded by tall office buildings and you can hear the rumble of trains below your feet.

Gorgeous Rhododendrons in a pretty orange color.

 

I don’t know what they are but I love these vines with their simple 4-petal white flowers.

 

Rats appear to be a serious problem in Paris. We’ve seen several of these signs, including this one in the park and then later on we saw a huge dead rat lying on the sidewalk.  Eeeew!  No, I didn’t take a picture.  You’re welcome.

 

Beautiful purple irises.

 

Love the wisteria. And the benches are of varied heights to accommodate both short and tall people. Nice1

 

One of the funnest things about the park is the play equipment, although some of the “kids” seem a little big.

 

The minimum age for this piece of equipment is 3 years so I guess it’s safe for Denise to ride.

 

Well THAT’S awkward!

 

I’m not sure what kind of bird this is but I love how his eyeliner and lipstick match.

Our Vintage Citroen Tour

Just as it was getting dark, a vintage Citroen picked us up at our hotel and took us on a tour of Paris at night. It was fabulous! The top was open, but we weren’t allowed to stand up while the car was moving, of course, so it was a little difficult to get photos through the tiny windows. But we did the best we could, wind in our hair, and ostensibly about to get hit countless times. It was really a fun experience.

Here’s our little vintage Citroen – isn’t it adorable? Our driver was a native Parisian who’s working on his PhD in history at the Sorbonne. He was SO nice, and SO knowledgeable about all things “Paris.”

 

Vintage is a fancy word for “old.” That shiny exterior hid this seen-better-days interior. The car was a stick shift and it lurched and coughed and sputtered in the heavy traffic, all the time with the driver dodging other cars and rattling off fascinating tidbits about Paris.

 

Driving down narrow streets through crowds of locals and tourists all gawking with envy at our cool Citroen.

 

The Pantheon

 

The Arc de Triomphe

 

The colorful ferris wheel at the end of the Champs-Elysees.

 

St. Sulpice Cathedral, the second largest church in Paris.

 

Our tour started at 9:30 and our driver managed to gt us to the Eiffel Tower at precisely 10 pm so we could catch one of the evening hourly 5-minute light shows.

 

Another view of the Eiffel Tower.

Napoleon’s Tomb

You can see the Hotel des Invalides, the home of Napoleon’s tomb, for miles.  On a sunny day, the golden dome is very impressive (this photo doesn’t do it justice).  And when you get inside, it’s even more impressive.

This is Les Invalides from the outside. It’s a pretty impressive building.

 

The grounds are very manicured. The building behind these shrubs is part of the Army Museum and is attached to Les Invalides.

 

The building is surrounded by a moat. At this point, it’s full of grass, not water.

 

This is Napoleon’s tomb. It’s difficult to get a photo that clearly shows the size of the tomb and the room.

 

The beautiful gilded ceiling. Once again, it’s difficult to show the size of this.

 

The marble in these columns is amazing. And it’s interesting that behind the altar is a glass window looking into another room, not mirrors or a regular wall.

 

The detail work on these columns almost looks fragile. And they’re so tall!

 

The main rotunda is surrounded by several smaller rooms like this one, each containing a tomb. This marble beauty is the resting place of Joseph Napoleon I, the elder brother of Napoleon, who made him King of Naples and Sicily and later King of Spain. He died in 1844.

 

Another of the side rooms, this one containing the tomb of Hubert Lyautey, a French army general who died in 1934.

Rodin Museum

The Rodin Museum was museum #4 on a 5-museum day.  Whew!

 

Rodin’s house is very splendid and it’s my understanding that he had several roommates in order to afford to live there.

 

I think Rodin is most famous for The Thinker.

 

So many of Rodin’s statues are of downtrodden-looking figures. Don’t remember what the story is with these 3 guys

 

Rodin’s estate is very sizeable. Besidees a big pool with foundain, there’s a wooded area on one side that is home to several of his statues and a flower garden with walking paths on the other side..

 

And huge, carefully pruned pine trees.

 

Inside of the house, the woodwork is intricate, the chandeliers are frequent and the ceilings are high. I can’t imagine having to maintain this home.

 

I believe this is Rodin’s sister. She’s displayed next to a window and her eyes catch the light and just seem to come alive. She is exquisite.

Jardin des Plantes (Garden of Plants)

We payed a return visit to this huge, lovely garden located just a few blocks from our hotel.  Some of the flowers were in transition but it’s still a beautiful place and this time we included a trip into their sweaty old horticulture buildings that house many large, tropical trees.

 

One of the museums that sits at the far end of the park.

 

This really is an organized scooter tour group – a great way to see the park.

 

Many beautiful acrylic panels like this one on birds run along the walls and explain all things “garden.”

 

This is one of 3 old horticultural buildings we went into. (And aren’t those 2 pink flowering bushes spectacular!)

 

What a perfect place for a springtime tai chi class.

 

A most elaborate beehive.

 

Everything in the park is so clean. The care with which this guy cleaned this bench kind of explains it.

 

Of all the little gardens in the Garden of Plants, the Jardin Alpin (Alpine Garden) is hands down our favorite.

 

And here’s that weird underground entrance into the Alpine Garden that we’ve never been able to explain.

 

A young artist was nestled in the Alpine Garden drawing charcoal trees. It was a perfect setting.

 

I love these old stone benches and the narrow stone path that runs by them.

 

And a perfect pair of ducks cruising up the little stream that passes through the park. It just keeps getting more and more perfect.

 

In the middle of the Alpine Garden is this huge, gorgeous tree.

 

And last but not least, these are the biggest and most beautiful peonies we’ve seen anywhere. They are so unusual.

 

 

 

Marie-Antoinette and an Art Display

After we visited Sainte-Chapelle, we went next door and walked through the Conciergerie. This is the prison where, like many others over the years, Marie-Antoinette, the Queen of France, was beheaded in 1793. We took a walking tour of the area and saw the cell where Marie-Antoinette was kept before her beheading which has now been turned into a tiny memorial chapel.

 

I suspect this huge painting captures the event very well.

 

Here’e a little more information about the event.

 

 

In another area of the Concergerie, a huge cave-like place, we ran across an art installation. We had seen part of it from outside the building when walking by a couple of days ago and wondered what the story was. Now we got to see it from the inside too. It’s very strange but very interesting.  It’s called “Detournement,” or Detour.  As the Paris Convention & Visitors Bureau explained it:

“Sculptor Stéphane Thidet is continuing his exploration of nature with an impressive, bespoke installation at the Conciergerie de Paris. By diverting part of the Seine, taken from the Pont au Change, Thidet echoes the 1910 flood that left watermarks on the monument’s columns. Like a rollercoaster, the bare wood installation transports water through the building, passing through the Soldiers’ Hall and the historic kitchens, to pour out through the basement windows into the moat of the conciergerie.”   Okay . . .

The wood is a striking natural color in this stunningly low-lit area. The water rolls, sometimes smoothly, sometimes roughly, down trails of troughs and occasionally forcefully falls from a waterfall into a tub and into a trough again and continues along. Eventually it comes out of the building through a tall basement window making a striking waterfall.  Here . . .  see for yourself.



It’s a striking waterfall from the outside of the building.

Tiny Sainte-Chapelle

Tiny Sainte-Chapelle is probably the best place to see the most amazing concentration of stained glass windows anywhere.  It  lies across the street from Notre Dame and is sandwiched in next to France’s Supreme Court in the Palace of Justice.  The church, a great example of Gothic architecture, was built for King Louis IX in the 13th century and essentially the only thing visible from the street is the roof, the tops of the windows, and a tall spire that was added in the 19th century.  You go into a low-ceiling basement which also has beautiful windows.  Then you climb up a narrow spiral staircase to the Chapelle Haute.  Upstairs, the tiny church contains 15 separate panels of stained glass, all very high up, for a total of 6,500 square feet.  It is breathtaking inside.

 

This is all you can see from the outside.  The church is surrounded by the Hall of Justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The toilettes that serve Sainte-Chapelle are in the courtyard and down a flight of stairs because they also serve the Palais de Justice. There are no signs on the outer doors so a budding artist has hand-drawn figures on the wall by the doors to help visitors distinguish the men’s from the women’s bathrooms. Unfortunately the drawing that signifies the men’s restroom is not appropriate for a family blog.

Lumiere de L’Ceils Lamp Shop

When we were planning for this trip, we ran across an article about a Paris light shop called Lumiere de L’Ceils (Light of the Eye).  Located on the left bank, it was a challenge to find because of it’s location on a tiny side  street that’s only about 1 block long.  But perseverance paid off and what a delightful place this is!  In this tiny boutique/museum, the owner sells, repairs and collects antique lamps, lampshades and light bulbs.  His workshop in the back is also filled with lights being repaired and/or collected.  And he says he has many more at home.  They’re like his children; he knows their complete history, including when they were made and when and how he acquired them.  When I asked the shopkeeper if it was okay to take photos, he replied with a grin, “it would be a shame not to.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame

We visited Notre Dame first thing in the morning and amazingly the crowds weren’t bad at all. I’ve talked a lot about Notre Dame and its history in the past. But for me it’s all about the view from across the river and those gorgeous windows. So lets take another look at those windows and a couple of river views and then we’ll move on.

 

Some of the front entry doors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view from the bridge.

 

Notre Dame as seen from St. Louis Island.

Out and About in Paris – Part 1

Okay, you know the drill. This is where I get to post all of those fun odds and ends of photos I take everywhere. Those weird little photos that aren’t enough to make a post of but too fun not to share. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Okay, I’ve been brushing up on my French. I’m calling this one “Le Rental Bicycle en Le Seine.” I wonder how they explained this to the rental agent?

 

Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you? Like forever?

 

Oh those Parisians have such a sense of humor! Actually I think I kinda like it.

 

 

Bocce Ball – a popular pasttime among young men.

 

In the Tuileries, the gardens that extend from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde, goats keep the grass “mowed” in the gullies where lawn mowers aren’t efficient.

 

Equestrian police guard the Tuileries gardens. They also patrol the mostly-pedestrian street in front of our hotel. You frequently hear them go clip-clopping by and it reminds you to watch where you step later on.

 

So what’s more appropriate than a brass band along the Seine on Labor Day. But what’s with his Santa hat?

 

We saw this big group of local walkers with walking poles near the Seine. I wonder if they’re hoping for snow?

 

I love these crocheted balls that appeared to float near the ceiling of this little boutique near our hotel. They certainly are an attention-grabber.

 

Don’t you just love this street in our neighborhood? It’s 4 p.m. Where IS everybody?

 

Isn’t this line of pre-school ducklings and their mother-duck teachers just adorable?