Wednesday, July 6, 2011

C'est La Vie!

Our first full day trip started at La Havre (pronounced Lu-ave) which means the harbor as it was a major harbor back in the day. Songs from Anastasia went through our heads all day. Wanted to know more French. Wanted to say things in French - our tour guide taught us "coo-coo" which is a way of saying good-day I believe. Her name was Sondrein - sounds a lot better than Sandra in English I think. So on a bus, all day, practicing that photo-through-window talent we all seem to possess. So off on a two hour drive to Paris heading toward the inner part of France. The grandparents had opted for a drive to Normandy as they had been to Paris; said it was a very moving trip. The view of La Havre from the boat. Note: watching the same Anastasia with the kids had this town marked on the map! Who knew?
Remember what I said about Kent being able to fall asleep on command? :)
View of the French countryside. More beautiful fields. They must do lots of farming - at least the patchwork fields of different crops were all over our trip. Lots of sheep and cows. The cities tend to have building codes which keep all the buildings looking similar - seems to be working because they were all very pretty.

Heading into the city. Took one of the loops on the way past the river Seine headed toward the Arc de Triomphe to the building (Palais de Chaillot) across the river from the Eiffel Tower to view it in its entirety.
The first views of the city with the same color building, similar structures, wrought iron railings... persisted throughout the trip. Paris buildings will stand out compared to the rest of the pictures from the trip because these were some of the only buildings that hadn't been stained black because of the pollution. The rest of the trip the buildings were gray and black.
First experience with the bike rental stations. People were riding bikes and motorcycles everywhere, but, it seems when you don't have access to your own, you slide in your card and rent your bike to take you to the next bike rental. This would explain why Paris was the thinnest town we were in perhaps? The idea of the thin European didn't really seem to hold out in Scotland and Ireland. Thinner than us but not as thin as you hear I would say. But, all in all, a very active area with tons of people walking throughout the downtown section. Love towns you can walk around in.
Le Tour Eiffel. PS: it's not black like you think. More like dark brown. And everyone there to take a picture.

The city of love, right? Next time I want to see the City of Lights at night time. And see the lights. And the Lourve. And walk around for a week... And, and, and...

Headed down the Avenue des Champs Elysees...
Headed to the Arc de Triomphe
Which is much huger than you would think. See the tiny people? We heard a lot about Napoleon's ego on the trip and how important he thought he was. All I can say is, he really helped the city's architecture.
See the pretty motorbikes all in a row?
Wish I knew what this was...
Or this... But notice the traffic. See the missing lane lines? More somewhat well coordinated, patient maneuverings. Of course, always pick a big bus to win in the competition.
Along the river there were built in covered boxes that open up to sell antique and used books. Just close right up when not manned by a bored looking bookseller sitting in an aluminum folding chair reading their own book. I think I could sit in Paris by the Seine looking at the town reading my own book making maybe $10 a day. Someone is paying for me to stay in Paris during this though, right?

The Paris Opera House - think end of Phantom of the Opera the movie... the big square they pull up to at the end for the auction?
Looking into the Jardin des Tuleries headed down to the Lourve. Seems its a garden of statues.
The Lourve is an old Palace. With that hideous new Pyramid in the front. DaVinci Code anyone - notice I live through movies? They lady on the bus said if you spent only 30 seconds on each work of art it would take like 3 months to see everything. Greg went through on a speed tour when he was there for his excursion 10 years ago. Guess I'll just watch the movie again :) So huge, seriously we kept passing by parts of it on our drives through the town. They would show us another wing. Part of one of the wings you actually drive through to continue on the road. Note: here and other places, when they are doing work on the exterior, they often hang up big building size tarps that have the facade painted on them to match - so it blends in.
Headed to Notre Dame

Headed to lunch... thought we were headed to the American bistro for our one meal in Paris - I was about to riot until we kept walking past it. Parisians really do walk around eating baguettes in paper wrappers!
Our salad of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, EVOO, bread. Wine and water already on the table. Tried it again; still not a fan.
This tasty, moist delicious meat was actually turkey! And mushrooms. With potatoes. We ate a lot of potatoes on this trip.
Not-so-sweet apple tart for dessert.

The outside of our restaurant. Why not have a flower garden growing on the roof right above the awning?

It is noteworthy the family from Mexico City who were from our ship and were on 3 of our cruises. We were destined to be friends. Back across the English Channel up to Edinburgh, Scotland - after our first of two days at sea.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart...

After driving around Paris, we ended up with about one hour for the grand tour of Notre Dame - not anywhere near enough time. We didn't have a tour guide so only a photo stop. Loving on the gargoyles, flying buttresses, and general atmosphere of the place. Need to also brush up on my architecture terms before my next European vacation.

The line to get in - present but moving slowly.
Statue in the square in front of the cathedral.

One of the darkest church we went in. Not as heavy on the tombs as the British ones we would tour. Loving the arches especially the cross-overs in the ceiling. Could have just sat and looked for hours. My common thread in the cathedrals was imagining how I would have felt as an impoverished, starving peasant centuries ago entering these cathedrals. I don't know that it would have inspired me toward God - I think it would have turned me the other way in making me mad at the church for demanding my money to build structures and not giving it back to His Church. Did feel slightly atheistic in these buildings I must admit. Felt more like a tourist, architect student... thank you God for these amazing buildings but... maybe different if I were Catholic...
The painting on the ceiling of one of the side chapels.

Guessing this is the famous rose window...


Loving the gargoyles
The park behind the cathedral
I admit loving flying buttresses since Zacatecas in college

Greg back for his second time... I'm waiting on mine ;) Good start to the trip