Friday, July 13, 2012

Impressions of Paris: Europe Part III

This is over a month overdue, but here it is, the last installment in my trip report. 

Friday morning we took an early train out of the new St. Pancras station to Paris. The station was just beautiful. It was built to help house the Eurostar trains, and its connected to King's Cross station. And no, I didn't make it to Platform 9 3/4, since my travel partner was a bit Potter-ed out at this point of our trip.

 Two hours later, we were at Paris Nord and hopped on the metro to take us to our new hotel.

I loved this hotel. Loved, loved it.

You might notice its the only one I photographed on the trip.

I mean, look at the view from our balcony to the right.

And to the left. :)

Paris was a late-minute addition to our trip at Carl's request, so I didn't have a lot of rooming options, and booked this speedily (for me) without a whole lot of research. The location was good - not as good as our last trip, but in the Latin Quarter which is lovely. I could have done with it being a bit closer to the action, but it was only a five minute walk to the metro. And, it gave us a chance to see more of 'real' Paris.

For instance - this street, Rue de Mouffetard.

The photos can't even begin to do justice to how much I loved this little, mostly pedestrian-only road.

Fruit shops.

Cheese shops.




Vegetables. (and yes, those are strawberries in the front, but all my veg shots included fruit)



Ice creameries.

It was like walking back in time, You name it, they had a little specialized shop for it.

We ate dinner here one night, and it was delicious.

As an added bonus for me, I was in the middle of reading The Paris Wife, the fictionalized story of Hadley and Ernest Hemingway, and the first house that they lived in, was right off this street, at 74 Rue de la Cardinal Lemione.

Even if I didn't see any other parts of Paris, I would have been content just staying on Rue de  Mouffetard.

Happily, we did get to see more of Paris.

As we walked through the Latin Quarter and the St. Germain district, we came to the Pantheon. Napoleon is buried inside, and its also the home of Foucault's Pendulum. It also led to my first WWII Resistance memorial, and just around the corner, my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. (Our room wasn't ready when we checked in at 10am, so I hadn't seem my room with a view yet).

The Eiffel Tower is a close second to Big Ben in my book, and there is always just one first view of the Eiffel Tower on each trip to Paris. And look at our bus stop - Edward was waiting for me. :)

The bus took us to our first museum for Paris, the Musee d'Orsay. Its housed in an old train station, and its such a beautiful place, and its full of Impressionist art, which has always been my favorite.

This clock reminded me of the one in Hugo, so I reflected on that film a lot, and how magical it was. I've avoided seeing it more than once, simply because I'm afraid nothing can compare to that first viewing when the unexpected film unfolded in front of my eyes.

In addition to the works of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Morrisot, and Manet, the M'O also boasts amazing views of Paris.

After the museum, we walked along the Seine and shopped at all the fun little kiosks, and then at some of the shops as we wandered back to our hotel.

One of my my favorite sights was this group of priests all walking along. Made all the better by the fact that they walked over a subway grate which blew gusts of air up at their robes, giving them a Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch effect. These were all young, attractive Catholic priests, and I don't think I'll ever forget the image of their robes blowing up and showing their little black socks and black shoes. My picture was taken discreetly, so you don't get the full picture, but still... it was a sight to behold.

We headed back to our hotel for a rest before dinner, with a stop to pick up some wine, snacks and water for the room, only to find a bottle of champagne waiting for us!

We also had free wi-fi in the hotel. Have I mentioned how much I love Paris?

The next morning, we woke up and headed out on the train to Vernon. This was a standing room only train ride for one hour, so a note to future travelers to Giverny that you should book your tickets in advance and get a seat.

Once we arrived at Vernon, we opted to forgo the bus ride to Monet's house and gardens, and instead rented bicycles. It was about an hour ride each way - I'm sure it could be done faster if 1) you have a better idea where you are going, 2) you are used to riding bikes, and 3) your bikes don't break down the way Carl's did. Happily, he finally found a nice Frenchman in his garage that we didn't feel too bad about borrowing some tools from, and things went a bit more pleasant for him after that.

We had to wait about an hour to get into Monet's house, so our lunch that day ended up being a picnic eaten standing in line, and not the romantic gardens as I had envisioned. Best laid plans, and all that. But once we were inside the property...


it was just as beautiful as I had imagined.

The house and gardens are on one side of the property, and then you go through a tunnel (since there is now a road crossing through Monet's gardens (!) ) and you come out at his lily pond.

It was every bit as green and lush and heavenly as it looks in his paintings.

As is the famous bridge.

Just with a few more people.

But still...

I had high, high expectations  for this lily pond, and it did not disappoint.

At all.

We were more than a little obsessed with the frogs on these lily pads.

And when they were swimming in the pond.

I've seen frogs before, lots of times, but I'd ever really heard frogs before. Or maybe it was that these were French frogs. Their croaking sounds were SO loud that it took us (and others) a while to figure out that the odd, loud, moaning sounds we were hearing were the frogs.

There was an abandoned boat on the side of the pond.

We spent a lot of time at the pond and in the gardens.

Both Carl and I were in awe of its beauty.

I totally see why one of the greatest painters the world has ever seen would live here and be drawn to this pond.

With sadness, we realized we needed to leave. We biked back to the station in reflective silence. Or else because Carl was silently cursing me for the bike-riding idea. Most likely, the latter.

Once back in Paris, we headed to the Musee de l'Orangerie (its the building with the glare on it in this photo).

This museum is located in the Jardin des Tulleries, and it was fun watching the Parisians enjoying a warm, sunny, summer holiday weekend in their garden ...

complete with some version of lawn bowling (boules, I presume?) ...

couples in love ...
  and sunbathers young and old.

And a few sculptures. Some famous (like Rodin's Kiss) ...

 and some not-yet-famous. ('m not a big fan of modern art. These white cement structures looked like memorial crosses to me. Or mood lighting.  But art? Ummm...)

The Orangerie has two rooms dedicated to Monet's Water Lillies paintings, and these rooms were designed by Monet himself.  There are large circular sun roofs, so that the best light possible can be had for viewing the photos. He made over 250 various paintings of the water lillies, of various sizes, but the eight paintings contained in the Orangerie are the main ones, and are simply enormous.

Someone *might* have snapped a few photos in the rooms.

Without a flash, of course.

Completely accidental.

Afterwards, it was time for a crepe at the Place de la Concorde before we decided it was siesta time.

After a very good Bordeaux (or two),  we headed out for dinner.

Rick Steves had suggested the Rue Cler as a wonderful street with lots of great restaurants, shops, and markets. We thought that our Rue de Mouffetard had Rue Cler beat, hands down.

But we did love the restaurant we ended up at for dinner (not on Rue Cler). We split the cheese plate for a first course.

And then we ordered a wonderful Chateaubriand, which came with three fantastic sauces. We were most excited about the Bearnaise sauce, but that actually turned out to be our least favorite. The garlic sauce and the green pepper sauce were incredible. And in typical French fashion, the chateaubriand came with ... frites (aka french fries). I'll never understand why frites are so popular. Give me some nice oven roasted potatoes any day of the week over french fries.

We then took a leisurely walk along the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower.

It's so beautiful in the dark, all lit up, and I had fun trying to catch the perfect picture.

We ended up deciding to go up to the Eiffel Tower.

The last elevator leaves at 11:45pm, and we were nine people from the end of the line. Talk about timing!

The views were incredible, and the Eiffel Tower now does this amazing thing where it lights up every hour.

We were there when it lit up at midnight, and it was just as perfect as it sounds.

Alas, perfection comes at a price, and we then waited almost an hour for an elevator ride back down.

I had not expected a big walking evening when we left, so I had worn my pretty shoes for the evening. My feet were tired at this point. My body was tired. We'd already biked ten miles and done extensive walking around Paris earlier in the day. But I had already checked the metro times and confirmed they ran until two am on weekends, so it was just a fifteen minute walk to the nearest station. Except that station was closed down for some reason, and we were directed (in French) to the next station. Which was about twenty minutes away. My feet just about lost it at this news. So we looked for a taxi. Since its now about 1AM, and the closest metro stations are closed, taxis are in short order. So we keep walking. No taxi. Bitter feet. Blisters have formed, and its not a pretty sight. Finally, the next station. And. Its. Closed. Finally understand (in French) that its the entire line that is down, so that walking in the direct line like we were doing won't get us anything but closed stations. We have to walk east to catch another line. For another fifteen minutes. Feet start crying. Taxis are nowhere to be found. Decide to walk barefoot. Carl points out broken glass bottles nearby. Put shoes back on. Walk. Ever. So. Slowly. With. No. Taxis. To. Be. Found. Reach next metro station. Its open! There are trains! Waiting to take us... a really consulted way back home, since we've lost the direct line back to our hotel. Its a race against the clock since the trains stop running at 2AM, but at 1:57AM, the train pulls up to our station. Lesson for this story: Midnight in Paris should not be spent atop the Eiffel Tower, and I see why the only taxis Owen Wilson could find in 'Midnight in Paris' were ones that transported him back in time to the 1920s.


Rant over. Maybe now that I've blogged about it, I can start to let some of my bitterness wash away.

Or not.

The next day, we slept in and then headed over to the Ile de Paris. We stayed in this area the last time we were in Paris, so it was nice to revisit some of our old haunts.

We visited Notre Dame.

This was Sunday, mind you, so we toured the cathedral in the middle of their Sunday services.

Frankly, I had forgotten it was Sunday (traveling can do that to you), and I'm more than a little astonished they let tourists in while conducting religious services.

The inside is beautiful, and its definitely nice to be inside and hear the service going on.

In hindsight, I wish we had arrived earlier and could have joined the service.

Mental note for the next trip to Paris.

We ate lunch, walked around the Seine a bit, and then headed towards the Arc de Triomphe.

We walked down the Champs Elyses for some shopping, and stopped in a McDonalds to use their toilets. I couldn't help but notice that this McDonald's sold macaroons. Yes, that's right. I was almost tempted enough to get one to see how they stacked up against the better ones we had sampled, but common sense won out and I simply ordered my Diet Coke. My favorite store along the Champs Elysees was Swarovski. Check out this crystal staircase!

 before heading back towards the hotel to pick up our luggage for the train back to London.

Our trip to Paris was a short, last minute add-on to our England trip. I'm glad we made it, and I feel like we did the most with our time there, but I still wish there had been more time.

We spent our last night at a hotel close to Heathrow. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 7:30 am, and they have a recommended three hour arrival at Heathrow, which meant 4:30 in the morning!! Annoyingly, they didn't even open check-ins at United until 5am, and at 4:30 in the morning, that thirty minutes counts for more like two hours in my book.

The flight was... not as much fun going home as it was going over, but then when it is ever more fun to be leaving London than going to London.

On a plus note, Carl had a great time on the trip, and is even thinking ahead to our next international trip (not sure who took over the mind of my husband, but I'm not about to complain). And the kids are definitely sad they didn't go, and are asking daily when they can go to London. Living with three boys who want to travel just as much as I do might actually mean I make it back sooner rather than later. Time to start planning!

1 comment:

  1. Love, love, love everything in this post. Except for the part about your poor feet. I hope they've fully recovered since.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...