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  • Paris! Bon Jour and Au Revoir

    Champs d”Elysee ✔️ Eiffel Tower at night ✔️ Notre Dame at sunset ✔️ Arc d’Triomphe 7 Walk to Roland Garros ✔️ Bois de Boulogne ✔️ Moules Frites ✔️ Carrot Salad ✔️Baguette

    And then there were two…Erika Smith and I, who are playing an IC (International Club) match in Normandy next weekend, took the TGV from Munich to Paris early Saturday morning. It was a direct train and speeds reached well over 200 kph as we raced between the cities. Paris is west of Munich and the weather here is perfect; it was rainy and cool Friday and Saturday in Munich. The trip took about six hours.

    On Saturday we walked to Roland Garros and saw the cranes there working on Ct. Philip Chatrier and then took the metro to the Champs d’Elysee where we walked down the broad boulevard to the Arc de Triomphe. There we walked up to the top of the Arc, where there were panoramic views of the city. The Arc is at the center of a big spoke with tree-lined streets poking out in all directions. I could see the Sacre Cour, the Eiffel Tower and in the distance, the giant cranes working on Roland Garros and beyond it, the Bois de Boulogne, an enormous park twice the size of Central Park.

    After the sight seeing we went back to the area near our hotel and found a restaurant we’d walked by earlier which served “moules frites” (mussels and French fries) and I had some haricot vertes (green beans). Everything was delicious as French food should be.

    Today we had a bit of a late start. I went to the small gym and then we tried to find a tennis court to play on but they were all either private or needed a log in to a general reservation system. (I tried that but the email said I’d be confirmed within 7 days). We gave up and did a bit of running in the park across the street instead.

    After lunch we went to the Latin Quarter and past the Sorbonne, to the Parthenon, a beautiful building which is the mausoleum for important French people such as Madame and Monsieur Currie, Voltaire etc. The building itself is gorgeous, built as a symmetrical cross in the Greek fashion with paintings on the walls.

    After leaving the Parthenon, we visited the small but beautiful church associated with the building and then walked into the Latin Quarter which was buzzing with people at cafes and enjoying live music. We walked down to the Seine from there and again, music was everywhere and people where dancing on the side of the river.

    Our next stop was Notre Dame, where the evening light hit the front facade and it was beautiful, it’s called the “golden light” for a reason.

    After leaving the “Cite” and Notre Dame we went to the Eiffel Tower and walked around it till it lit up…literally. It was lit in golden light as well and at 9pm the lights flashed for about 5-10 minutes. It too was lovely. Paris is a beautiful city.

    And that was Paris for this trip. Next stop…Normandy.


  • Jeu de Paume, St. Chapelle, Wandering Paris

    I had an earlier start today (which means I made it to breakfast before they stopped serving at 10:30..jet lag is real). Fortified by eggs and pain au chocolat, I went first to the Jeu de Paume, a photography museum, where there was an interesting exhibit of the photographs of  Albert Renger-Patzsch titled “Les Choses” (The Things”). It was black and white from the 20th century and quite interesting, lots of use of geometry, repetition of mechanical things, lines in landscapes and contrast of past and present (light post on an empty street). 

    After the Jeu de Paume, I took the Metro to a shopping area near the Cite in the center of the city, and wandered around, looking at the shops. There seems to be a trend here towards patent leather tuxedo type shoes with bows, though I’ve only seem them in the shops…everyone else is wearing boots or sneakers, which are often black leather.

    I headed next on foot to St. Chapelle, which is near the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is next to the Palais du Justice and the signs are right next to each other. I got in what I though was the right line and asked the people next to me, who were British, if it was the line for the church or the palace. They were also going to the church and it was good I asked…we were all in a long line for the wrong building! The St. Chapelle is a beautiful church, not huge but very colorful. The top is all stained glass windows, each panel of which tells a story. It was built in the 13th century and was built in the courtyard  of the Royal Palace.

     

    After seeing the church, I wandered through the Latin Quarter where the creperies were vying with the gyros restaurants to see which was more prevalent…gyros I think. And everywhere there are fruit stands which offer squeeze your own orange juice…even the convenience stores offer it. I also have seen two competing bike share companies which are like Lime Bikes…leave them anywhere. I was tempted…but I walked. 

    I took a couple of trains back to see the Printemps department store, a big one like Galleries Lafayette, but more refined (no fun Christmas tree in the middle of the store!). However, it was fun to wander around and people watch.

    And that’s a wrap on Paris this trip.

     

     


  • Paris: Museum & Wandering

    Today I had a plan to go to the Musee d’Orsay and to find a Christmas market. I took the slow way to the museum, getting off the Metro about a mile from the museum which allowed me to wander past the Place de la Concorde (which has a huge Ferris Wheel now along with a column) and the edge of the Tuilleries gardens and walk across the Seine en route to the Musee.

    The Musee d’Orsay is a portrait and sculpture museum. It’s not a modern art museum, but instead has rooms of Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Pissaro and much more. I liked a lot of the paintings and spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering around the building. The building used to be a railway station and the big clock and curved ceiling reflects that. It was busy but the wait to buy a ticket was short and other than the Degas exhibit, the rooms were not overcrowded. 

    After I left the museum I walked to the Les Halles area, past the Louvre (which is huge!) I was trying to find a Christmas market and eventually I did. It wasn’t really all that impressive even though it’s apparently the largest in Paris. It had the usual stalls of food though with a French flair, which meant lots of cheese stalls, and not too many sausage and no gingerbread stalls that I saw. It was decorated nicely with twinkling lights above and on the Christmas trees, and there was a path lined by white trees leading to Santa (or so I assumed, I didn’t follow it).

    After leaving the fair, with some nice Tomme de Savoy cheese, I wandered around the Forum des Halles which is pretty much in the center of Paris. It was a bright and cheery mall with a Monoprix (sort of like a Target but with better food). I bought chocolate…Lindt, though Swiss, is featured predominantly here and there are lots of flavors one doesn’t see at home (pistachio, roasted sesame, etc).

    It was a pretty fun day and the weather hasn’t been too bad, in the 40s. Tomorrow I hope to get an early start for more museum going and shopping, the holidays make it very festive.

     

     


  • Paris!

    I arrived in Paris early Monday after a couple of uneventful flights (the best kind). I took the bus from the airport…in retrospect I’d advise the train, I always forget how bumpy bus rides can be, but  ended up at the Gare de Lyon and taxied from there to my hotel.

    The sun was peaking out here and there and it was in the 40s so I decided to go to Notre Dame and try to climb to the top, which I hadn’t done before. After viewing the interior which is always awe inspiring (this was built mostly between the 1100 and 1300s with everything done manually), I got in line to climb up. The lines are short in December, though the wait was chilly. There was a lot of groaning about how many steps there were (maybe they were expecting an elevator?). The young woman with the gold high heeled shoes was especially vocal. It wasn’t a bad climb and the reward was a panoramic view of Paris. The buildings in Paris aren’t tall in the city center and I could see Mont Marte, Montparnasse and the Eiffel Tower and the Seine, as well as a close up view of some of the gargoyles. There was a second climb to the top level then a spiral staircase back down.

     

    Next stop was Galleries Layfayette, a huge department store. Inside it had an enormous mechanical Christmas tree which rotated and had flying presents going up and down. It was really cool. From the rooftop terrace there was a good view of the Eiffel tower and city.

    Jet lag caught me and that was the end of day one in Paris for me.

     


  • Biking the Loire, Chartres Cathedral, Dinner in Paris

    Tuesday was our last day in France and it was another busy one. We started with breakfast at a patisserie, followed by a bike ride about half as long as the one Monday, on the opposite side of the Loire. We wanted to try and view a chateau we’d seen from the opposite bank, up close. The ride was nice, not too many people and most of the way, no cars either. We passed by a cemetery, where many of the graves had ceramic bouquets and a parcours course with rowers and ellipticals in a small park.

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    We found the chateaux and an old wall but the chateaux was private, though a historical monument. The chateau as viewed by the opposite bank is below. I only had a small view of it up close.

     

    starred photos Chambourd and Blois-011starred photos Chambourd and Blois-101starred photos Chambourd and Blois-096Bike Ride Tuesday (17)

     

    We rode back to Blois, had lunch at the same patisserie and returned the bikes. I had the idea of touring the Blois castle, but we ran out of time, it is much larger than we realized. We saw only the exterior of the castle, below.

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    We drove to Chartres which is renowned for it’s gothic cathedral, with flying buttresses (developed to hold up the wall so a very high ceiling could be built), the largest gothic cathedral in France. It’s also known for it’s beautiful stained glass windows which I found the highlight of the cathedral, they were gorgeous. We walked around the outside of the cathedral which had pedestrian streets, the centers of which held outdoor restaurants, with shops on either side.

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    Our next stop was Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris. We successfully returned the rental car and checked into our hotel (in reverse order), then took the bus into Paris for dinner. We ate at a hole in the wall near the Opera House, an Asian noodle house which also had the best potstickers I’ve had. Hannah lived in Paris for a semester and had eaten there frequently. We had to wait in line for a table…at 9pm! It was worth it and a nice way to end the day and the trip.

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    And that’s a wrap on this trip to Europe. It was fun despite some bumps along the way, most of which will be quickly forgotten (other than the state of the “deluxe” apartment in Bordeaux…that will just become one of those funny stories we’ll retell).