Sunday, November 1, 2009

...Finally in Paris! (Location #4...)

And back to our European adventure...

After a few days of rest and relaxation with the Rodenackers in Domfessel (the tiny village in the Elsass region of France), we traveled westward on a Thursday morning to Paris! It was only a four-hour trek to the city by train, so we arrived with plenty of daylight to enjoy. We checked our large backpacks at the high security lockers in the train station, and set off with the bare bone essentials to see as much of the city as we could.


Our first stop off the metro was Île de la Cité, one of the two natural twin islands in the middle of the Seine (the river that runs through Paris). Our first stop - meaning first stop after the Panini stand - was Notre Dame. This church is beautiful...


We love the picture below. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see the streams of light shining through the stained glass windows onto the frescoes...


From Notre Dame, we decided to travel through Paris on foot. I have been to Paris before, and wanted to show Marcos the things I thought he would love the most. So after crossing Pont Neuf, and walking past Le Louvre (we decided to tackle the inside on a day when we had more time), and Jardin des Tuileries, we headed up Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Can I stop italicizing now? Please and thank you.


Our plan was to take a great photo of us with a stretch of Champs-Élysées in the background and the Arc de Triomphe crowning off the photo. I can't tell you how many times we crossed half way through the cross-walk to the median strip, took a picture and then got stuck balancing on the median curb when the traffic started up again. I'm sure we caused a scene.


And this. Ohhh this. Along Champs-Élysées are many upscale shopping stores, and in order to keep the boys happy, Paris has allowed some muscle automobile companies to put in their race car and super hip automobile shops.

At the Renault store/museum, not only could you take a picture next to cut outs of world renowned race car drivers, but there was a machine to test the speed of your reflexes and coordination to see if you were race car driver material. It was basically a large metal web of lighted buttons that would light up one by one, and in order for the next to fire off, you had to hit the lighted button as fast as you could.


And we finally made it to the Arc de Triomphe. There was something important going on concerning famous people, and security guards and photographers, but we still managed to maneuver around the roped areas and admire the monument.


And an hour or so later (after a stop into a small grocery store for the picnic essentials of chocolate, bread, and juice), and perfectly in time for sunset, we found ourselves at the Palais de Chaillot, which is the best place to view the Eiffel Tower. Marcos was so excited.

In case you forgot what the Eiffel Tower looks like, I've kindly included 6 photos (and honestly, we had over 30, so this was my attempt to narrow it down!).


The photo below is one of our favorites from Paris, which we took in "widescreen" mode so that we could make it our computer's wallpaper when we got home. We did, and it is.


One of the most special things about our trip to Paris was meeting Stella, my pen pal from sixth grade (15 years ago!). When I told her months ago that we would be coming to Europe and that we were interested in seeing her, if possible, she very kindly invited us to stay with her in Paris, and in Switzerland (where she is from). She works for a Swiss company that helps museums such as Le Louvre organize their inventories electronically into a comprehensive computer system, and so her work during the week brings her to this beautiful apartment in Paris.


After a good night's rest at Stella's we decided to tackle the Louvre... One of the things I often caught myself wondering as we passed oodles and oodles of world famous sculptures and paintings was, "What makes a piece famous?".


It clearly wasn't Venus de Milo's arms...


Or Nike's head...


Or Mona's size...


It really made me think. I wondered, "If I passed this work of art on the street, would it really strike me as exceptional? If I didn't recognize it as something famous, would it matter to me that I was looking at it?".


It's amazing how knowing the value of a thing alters your ability to look at it and frankly answer the question, "Do I like this or not?".


In the afternoon we returned to Stella's apartment, and Marcos made Brazilian stroganoff for the three of us for dinner. He learned quickly how to navigate in a teeny tiny kitchen...


After dinner we went out on the town, and checked out the hip quarters of Paris with Stella. One nice thing about going out with someone who knows the town is that instead of ending up with three thousand other tourists at one of the cafes listed in Lonely Planet, you find yourself ordering a pear milkshake right next to the plaza at Centre Pompidou. Yes please!


And our next morning was Saturday, which meant that Stella did not have to work. We went together to the Luxembourg Gardens, and captured my first belly shots. Just as a note, I really didn't have much of a belly to speak of at this point. But with my Empire waist shirt, my natural pudge, and Stella's skills, we got a few very cool pictures...


Some places are just really beautiful. I vote views from the bridges spanning the Seine River in Paris really high up on my list of places I like to oooh and aaah from.


...especially when there is kissing involved.


...or the sunset.


For our last day in Paris, we visited one of my favorite museums. After checking out church in French...


...we met Stella at the Rodin museum. The Rodin museum is my favorite for a few reasons: first, I like Rodin's art and find it interesting and moving and kind of raw, and second, instead of being two palaces converted into a museum (such as the Louvre), the Rodin museum is a house converted into a museum, which means that it matches well the size of my attention span.


At the Rodin Museum, they provide a laminated cheat sheet in each room in a bazillion foreign languages, so that visitors from all countries can read the story of each of the pieces in the room. Below, Stella, me and Marcos lean out the window towards the gardens.


Rodin's most well-known piece is "Le Penseur" (the Thinker). Because Rodin created molds of his pieces, there are actually a number of authentic "The Thinkers" in the world. His other famous work is "The Kiss". It looks almost as good as ours...

2 comments:

Prouses said...

Loved your pics. Paris looks so... Romantic :)

Mike and Rui said...

I love you pictures. They are very descriptive. You guys are such good photographers! You really made me want to go to France...