Saturday, January 16, 2010

Paris - All Together Again

Max and Josey arrived with my parents during our 2nd day in Paris. Although we only had 3 days together, we squeezed in a lot of sights.

The first afternoon, we wandered the neighborhood. The kids played at the park while my parents glanced at St. Eustache church. Next, the kids frolicked on the head (see below) while my dad took pictures of all the French oak he could find (doors, mouldings, etc.). Then, of course, we were off to do the shopping for the evening.

Side note . . . Dado made the most amazing and delicious experimental chicken dinner! We bought fresh chicken from the boucherie (butcher), which he made paella-style with rice. However, instead of water, he used our leftover champagne from New Year's Eve. Wow, wow, wow!!! And, this is how we learned that fresh meat from the boucherie is definitely worth the cost. The chicken was actually a different color than what we are used to from the supermarket. We found that the fresh pork was equally delectable. Thank you, Dado!!

The next day, we covered a lot of ground! The agenda:
  • Pantheon - Dado wanted to see the Pantheon because he wrote a paper about it for his French class at Mission Valley College
  • Lunch at Le Polidor
  • Luxembourg Palace & Garden
  • Arch de Triumph
  • Eiffel Tower

Before the Pantheon, we ate lunch at Le Polidor. This restaurant was recommended by Mark & Susie who ate there while they were in Paris last February. It was uniquely French in ambience and absolutely deeeelicious!

Josey, my mom and I had Beef Bourguignon; my dad had salmon; Dado had Coquilles St. Jacques; and Max ordered curry pork. The ordering is note worthy because Mike said, "I wouldn't order the curry pork because it's the least French thing on the menu." However, everyone agreed that Max's lunch was the yummiest of all. And check out the great chocolate sundae!

Next stop was the Luxembourg Palace & Garden (which was between Le Polidor and the Pantheon). This was an exciting detour because Dado's other French class used a text/video combination called "French in Action". In several of the videos, the cast was in the Luxembourg Garden. Dado recognized one of the fountains and the benches. LOL

Here is another beautiful fountain in the Garden

While we walked up the street from the Luxembourg Palace to the Pantheon, Dado befriended an oyster street vendor, where he received his own personal lesson in how to open oysters.

The Pantheon was enormous, with a labyrinth of tombs underground. This is where many famous Frenchmen (men only, thank you very much) are entombed, including Voltaire. Well, to be honest, only Voltaire's heart is in the Pantheon. Wow. It's in the box behind his statue.

The Pantheon is quite impressive from outside.

However, I actually thought the church right behind the Pantheon was more picturesque.

Here are Josey and Dude being silly inside the Pantheon.

The inside of the Pantheon is surprisingly empty, considering that we are used to churches filled with pews, sculptures, altars, organs, etc. Although, as you can see, the ceilings are very similar to those in a church.

The view of the Pantheon from the top of the Luxembourg Gardens

And a view of the Pantheon in the background, captured by Dado while the rest of us were buying souvenirs and acting exactly like tourists!

While touring Paris, we became very, very familiar with the Metro. Gotta love some of these pictures. Note the view above the Dude!

We took the Metro to our next destination - the Arch de Triumph! We climbed the 280 stairs to the top (that sucked!), and here are some views from the top. The first is a view of the Eiffel Tower (obviously), and the second is a view of the Champs Elysees.

Because the Eiffel Tower looked so close from atop the Arch de Triumph, we decided to head there next. We hopped back on the Metro to save our feet, and here is what we saw. Beautiful!!

We finally headed home, racing the setting sun, with tired little feeties.

Love to all!!

Paris - The Louvre

Wow! We only had a few hours to enjoy the Louvre museum, but we made great use of our time.

I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Egyptian Art (our favorite part)

Bas Relief

Statues & Sculptures

We did also see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. However, there were so many people thronged around these famous works of art that we did not attempt photos. And, to be perfectly honest, I don't see what makes them so famous. Compared to Bernini? Well, there simply is no comparison for me.

One word of advice: If you ever plan to visit the Louvre, buy your tickets in advance online! It will save you hours of waiting in line. We were lucky to have tickets in hand when we arrived. Yay!

Love to all!!

Paris - A Romantic Dinner

Well, we attempted a romantic dinner. The choice was Kong's, an ultramodern restaurant right on the Seine. It would have been perfect if only I enjoyed eating fish and real foie gras (duck liver). Let's just say that I'm used to foie gras pate, not the real liver!

These photos were taken with the iPhone, but you may still be able to see some of the gorgeous sights.

The view from our table. That is the Seine!

Dado's wine selection and the ultramodern, kimono-clad woman on the ceiling . . .

The not-so-modern me right outside the restaurant (yes, it was very, very cold!) and inside . . .

Many thanks to Pat, Mike's mom, who treated us to this special dinner as our Christmas gift! Merci beaucoup!

Love to all!!

Paris - Alone!

Thanks to my parents, who volunteered to stay with Max & Josey for 2 days, Mike and I were able to spend 2 days alone in Paris. Woohoo!! This included New Year's Eve.

How romantic is that? New Year's Eve in Paris . . . alone!

We arrived at Debb & Reed's apartment on Rue Montmartre in the late afternoon on New Year's Eve day. First, we strolled through the market street, gathering goodies for dinner. We had the most delicious pasta ever from the tiny Italian market: parma ham tortellini and beef & veggie tortelloni with a spectacular basil pasta sauce. We also picked up fresh bread (naturally), chocolates, wine, and salad.

It was a spectacular dinner, enjoyed to its fullest extent in a wonderful setting.

Here are some pictures of Debb & Reed's apartment, if you haven't seen them before. We send a ton of love & thanks to Debb & Reed for hosting all of us for the holiday.

As always, you are wonderful and generous beyond all belief! :)

After dinner, we had to make sure that Mike was able to stay awake until midnight. So, we struck out on a walk to the Champs Elysees and the Arch de Triumph. We had no idea that this was to be a 3.5 hour walk . . . in the cold! However, it was absolutely beautiful to behold the Christmas lights of Paris.

These are all iPhone pics . . . but I think you will get the idea!

In 2008, the French people made a statement on New Year's Eve on the Champs Elysees by starting about 110 car fires. So, this year, there was an enormous police presence all along the famous street. Dado snapped a picture of a gendarmerie. Check out the body armor & riot helmet!
It was a Happy New Year's Eve walk - complete with signage.

When we finally arrived home, we waited breathlessly for the famous Parisienne fireworks. If you didn't know, Dado especially loves, loves, loves fireworks! Alas, there were none to be seen. Those car fires of 2008 resulted in a ban on fireworks on both the Champs Elysees and at the Eiffel Tower. Quelle horeur!

Alas, we did get to see the sparkling Eiffel Tower, which is the view from Debb & Reed's master bedroom and bathroom. Amazing!!

Sometimes, it feels like my life is a beautiful dream!

Love to all!!

Snow in the Midi

Last Friday, it snowed all day in our region. Our part of the South of France is referred to as Le Midi. Apparently, as you might imagine, real snow in the South of France is very unusual.

Friday morning, Mike and I headed off for French class in Sete. Our class is at the top of Mt. St. Clair, which is one of the highest points in the area. From the top of Mt. St. Clair you can see the entire l'etang on one side (complete with oyster farms) and the Mediterranean on the other side. Amazing!

One quarter of the way up, the police were turning people around. It was too steep and too snowy to make it to the top. Of course, Mike insisted on trying. No joy. We made it almost to the top before we completely lost traction and had to turn around. Nice try, Dado!

(Side note: This is the same hill we typically ride our bikes up for French class!)

Unfortunately, the snow did not stick in most places. The exceptions were in the Gardiole (the local "forest), where we normally bike ride. Although the snow was absolutely gorgeous . . . amazingly picturesque . . . it was nastily slippery as well. Mike fell twice, and I fell once.

A view from the trail in the Gardiole.

See how funny I look bike riding? I'm wearing so many layers that I look like a colorful snowwoman. Note the bright orange jacket (as if you could miss it). That protects me from the hunters in the Gardiole. They are everywhere!

Hmmm . . . all of these photos are really tiny because they were taken with Dado's iPhone.

Love to all!!