30 May 2010

Last Day in Paris

Here I am at the end of my Parisian vacation. It's flown by - I can't believe I've already been here 10 days. But alas, I have to get up at an ungodly early hour tomorrow and start making my way to the Aeroport Charles de Gaulle.

For my last day, we started out at le Jardin des Plantes, which is Paris' botanical garden. It was founded in the mid-1600s as the royal medicinal herb garden and has grown from there. It now includes a zoo, various educational buildings, and all sorts of themed sections. We began in the Rose Garden:



There are LOTS more flower photos on my Flickr page, way, way too many to post here. From the Rose Garden, we wandered the grounds a bit and then explored the Iris Garden:


It was SO lovely and it smelled amazing. It would have been even better if the sun had been out, but at least it wasn't raining. After a final lunch of a baguette sandwich and some cheese, etc, we headed over to the Rodin Museum. Because I'd been there before, I decided to just get the 1 euro ticket to the gardens. Here are some highlights:



Again, LOTS more photos on Flickr. I went a little camera happy today. On my way back to the apartment (I have to organize all my stuff and pack, ugh...), I snapped a picture of our local church:


It has been an extremely lovely trip and I need to thank all of my traveling companions for helping make it that way. I'll miss Paris but I'm sure I'll be back - after this many visits, there are still many things I have yet to do.

Au revoir Paris, et a bientot!

29 May 2010

Musee de l'Orangerie

Since all of us had super long days of walking yesterday, we decided to take it easy this morning. The men went out for their morning walk and my mom and I lazed around. Upon their return, my dad provided us with some yummy egg pies for breakfast:

Mushroom on the left, tomato/goat cheese on the right. Yum!

We then briefly headed in opposite directions. I went with my dad to help him with his pilgrimage to Cycles Laurent. It's way better if I let him tell the story.  Mom & Jim headed to the market street near Les Halles to pick up some fresh fruit and dinner ingredients.

After lunch of bread and cheese and the aforementioned fruit, we changed plans because it looked like rain. Instead of the Rodin Museum, we headed to the Musee de l'Orangerie. It used to be a greenhouse for the royal orange trees but it's now a museum whose main feature is two rooms with mural sized paintings by Monet. They are of his famous water lilies. Here are my favorite photos:




As you can see, my Mom and I had a really excellent time. It's a lovely place, and small enough that you can really appreciate everything without going into Art-Overload.

After a brief side trip the Virgin Megastore (think Best Buy + Barnes & Noble) on the Champs Elysee, we are now back at the apartment watching some really excellent tennis on TV. In a bit, we'll have the rotisserie chicken we bought from a charming French butcher at the market today. There are too many crazy rugby fans around town to venture out. It's been a lovely day in Paris.

28 May 2010

Chateau de Vincennes

My traveling companions had decided that today was their day to tackle the immense Chateau de Versailles, former home of King Louis XIV and the few other kings of France that came after him. Since I've been there quite a few times by now, I decided to pass. Instead, I took line 1 of the metro all the way out to the end of the line to visit the Chateau de Vincennes. (Note: I have now been to BOTH ends of Line 1 - the other end is La Defense and the Grande Arche).

From the brochure I got at the castle:

"The Capetian monarchs established a hunting lodge in the forest of Vincennes in the 12th century. ... John II initiated work on a keep nearby, which his son, Charles V completed circa 1370. ... During the troubled periods of the 16th and 17th centuries the monarchs took refuge behind the huge castle's walls. Further building work marked Louis XIV's sporadic presence before he finally settled in Versailles in 1682."

Here is the view of the entry of the Chateau. You see it almost immediately upon exiting the metro.

Tour du Village

After going through that gate, you walk a bit into a courtyard and come upon the original keep:

Le Donjon/The Keep

Across the courtyard from the Keep is the Sainte-Chapelle. It is modeled after the Church Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, near Notre Dame. 

Sainte-Chapelle

You can see this courtyard from the Keep. It (and the surrounding walls/buildings/arch) was built starting in 1654 at the request of first Mazarin and then Louis XIV. The King and Queen each had their own building on each side of the courtyard:

Les pavillons classiques

After my chateau tour (which included the cell that imprisoned the Marquis de Sade), I took a brief walk around the city of Vincennes. Check out the cool park they have leading up to the Hotel de Ville, in the background:

Hotel de Ville

At this point in my adventure, my entire day had been conducted in French. Absolutely no one had immediately taken me for an American and broken out into English. That was pretty cool. So after a lunch in this lovely park, I headed back to the apartment to do some light shopping and wait for the other voyageurs. They had their own chateau adventure.

After a sit down and some tennis-watching, we took a brief walk around the city, upon finding that the Musee de l'Orangerie was in fact NOT open late like the guidebook said. We ended up here:

Place du Vendome

There are some seriously pricey jewelry stores around this hotel, as well as the Hotel Ritz. Finally, on the way home to find some dinner, we tried yet another elevator photo:

Elevator #4

We've just returned from some lovely dinner at Kadoya in Paris' Japantown. I think a good time was had by all.

27 May 2010

Roland Garros, Day 2

For our second trip to the French Open, we learned from our previous errors in judgement, as follows: 1) we left the apartment a full hour earlier than on Tuesday so as to arrive right when the gates opened, an hour before the matches start and 2) we walked over to the opposite side of the grounds to an entrance that not many people seemed to know about. As a result of this good planning, here are the Miller brothers in their seats at around 10:30, a full half hour before the scheduled start of the days activities:

Yes, we really were that close to the courts. Although a lot of good it did us. At about 10:55, this is what our view mainly looked like:
And we sat there, in those exact seats, for the next 4.5 hours, waiting and hoping for the rain to stop. We stayed in those seats because they are absolutely the only ones on the grounds that are under any kind of shelter. Hence the umbrellas. It turns out that rain showers are very cyclical. It kept almost stopping, so we'd get our hopes up and make some comment about the sky being lighter, and people across the way would take down their umbrellas. Then, suddenly, it would start absolutely pouring all over again. Finally, the below happened:





As you can see, the men with the squeegee brooms were met with huge rounds of applause. Finally, we could get under way! And it was amazing and entirely worth the 4 hours of waiting without being able to even go to the bathroom. My two favorite photos are these:

Both women in the middle of their serving motion. The velocity of the ball is lost on TV - it's amazingly fast. So I think a good day was had by all. It did start raining again so we bailed after seeing the women play for about an hour and a half, but I think we all got exactly what we wanted out of the day. Plus, it's an epic story. Now I can say that I've really been to the French Open. My new life goal is to make it to the 3 other Grand Slams eventually. I think I'm off to a great start.

26 May 2010

Rain in Paris

Despite an overcast sky and a prediction of rain, the two men in our group decided this morning to head off to the Eiffel Tower to see what there is to see. Since I've been there quite a few times before, I decided to pass. Instead, my mom and I opted for some shopping at the two great French department stores. We meandered on down to the Opera, stopping only at Cafe de la Paix for what was probably the most expensive coffee I've ever had in my life. But we were paying for the view.

After our super delicious coffee, it was time for a bit of shopping a la francais. First stop: Galeries Lafayette. If there is a hierarchy to French department stores, this one would be Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom. After gawking at the lovely dome, we found a few things for ourselves and a few souvenirs. Then, on to Printemps
(approximately the Macy's of Paris). The big attraction there was the floor entirely devoted to shoes. I didn't buy anything but it was a great exercise in self-control. Finally, on to Fauchon to look at all the lovely fancy food-stuffs. I'm definitely bringing some stuff home with me. :-)

After a quick trip to the farmer's market and a lunch of baguette sandwich, it was time to get on with the business of the day. This afternoon we were scheduled to go to the Musee d'Orsay. My favorite part of the Musee is of course the Polar Bear statue. They don't allow photos at D'Orsay but my dad and I were stealthy and managed to get one off quickly out of sight of the security guards. Excuse the slight bluriness:
Notice my mom sitting in the background, attempting to be all nonchalant and studious.

Then we headed home for a short sit down, as the promise of rain finally game to fruition. So we watched some French Open on tape and had a small snack of seriously excellent cheese on baguette. For dinner, we went to an Alsatian place that was originally not part of the plan. But man, am I glad that we did. See below for evidence as to the greatness of this place:

Yum. Finally, here is our most recent attempt at the elevator photo. We were bringing the bottles downstairs to be recycled:
Tomorrow is Roland Garros, day 2. I think we'll be camped out at Court 2 all day long. The first match is Elena Dementieva, followed by Juan-Carlos Ferrero. The 3rd match is no one I've heard of but the 4th match is going to be Lleyton Hewitt. I think we're going to stake out some seats early and not leave them all day long. :-)

25 May 2010

Roland Garros, Day 1

On the agenda today: a trip to Roland Garros for the Internationaux de France 2010, also known as the French Open. It has been chronicled quite well elsewhere, so I will just add a few of my own photos to the already excellent recaps:

 The flags flying over Center Court.

Our second match of the day, a USA vs. USA grudge match.

The far outer courts, where people no one has ever heard of were making their best effort to advance to the 2nd round.

As always, there are lots more photos on Flickr. Now, it's time for bed. More tomorrow!

24 May 2010

Paris: A Photo Essay

In lieu of much actual blogging content, I am going to present my Paris experience of today in photo essay form, with short comments. To whit:

The University of Paris, aka La Sorbonne.

Then, a bit of walking, followed by:
The Musee Cluny aka the Middle Ages museum. These are the heads of statues from Notre Dame. They were decapitated during the French Revolution.

Then we took the metro back to our lovely apartment, which has a very, very small elevator: 

After some lunch and a bit of a sit-down, we headed over to La Defense to see the Grand Arche:
They aren't kidding around when they say "Grande."

Finally, we metro'd back to the Champs-Elysee to see it turned into a farm:

There were way, way too many people and it was a LONG walk home, but still pretty cool.

Tomorrow: Roland Garros and the French Open!

23 May 2010

Lazy Parisian Sunday

Today definitely has to be classified as OOTNDITHD (tm Gino). We woke up to sunny blue skies and a predicted high of about 80. So far, Paris has not disappointed on that front. After another breakfast of pastries, coffee, and yogurt, we endeavored to find out what it is that you can do on Sunday when all the stores are closed. And most everything else - today is a religious holiday in France. Turns out that answer is quite a bit.
This is about two blocks from our lovely apartment. It's the path that runs between the Musee du Louvre and Tuileries gardens. You can also see the Musee d'Orsay off to the right. We meandered along the Seine and came upon the Tour St. Jacques:
It's the only remaining remnant of a church that was torn down during the French Revolution. Pretty cool, I thought. According to my dad, it's been covered in scaffolding every other time we've been here. Then it was over to Notre Dame for a look see. 
 One of the towers from the back, and then this is the view from the front:
After lunch at a fabulous greek place in the Latin Quarter, we hung around in the square for a bit. The line was too long but we did get a chance to hear the ringing of the bells. I took a video, even.

Not that exciting to look at, I know, but they sure SOUND cool. And now we're chilling out, watching the French Open, and having a little sit down. I think another trip outside may be in our future.

P.S. - As always, there are lots more photos on flickr. See the link on the right of this blog. Enjoy!

22 May 2010

Visiteur de Bordeaux

We woke up to another unbelievably gorgeous day in the City of Lights. After rising EARLY (seriously, my body thought it was time to wake up at 6:00. While on vacation. Not cool.) and lounging around in bed for quite some time, I came downstairs to a lovely breakfast of pastries and tea. Around 10, I headed over to la Gare Montparnasse to meet my good friend Katherine. She lives in Bordeaux now and was coming up to visit for the day. Yay, Katherine!

After wandering over to the Latin Quarter for a yummy lunch of couscous, veggies, and merquez sausage at a local North African joint, we headed to the Pantheon for a visit. I took lots of photos, but the view from the top is probably my favorite:
Katherine would also like to point out that if you get married in the 5th arrondisement in Paris, this is the building you get married in (as seen from the top of the Pantheon):
It's the Mairie (mayor's office) for this district of Paris and is just across the street from the front entrance of the Pantheon. Pretty cool, eh? But the highlight of the day came just towards the end. We were taking the Metro back to my home in Paris, got off at the Palais-Royale Musee du Louvre stop, crossed the street and stumbled upon this:



It was what appeared to be a student group in the square, playing a very famous classical piece (can anyone name it for me? It's super familiar!) without the aid of any music. It was quite impressive. Katherine had to go back home again just before dinner. After yet another trip to Monoprix, we went out to dinner at a classic Parisian bistro. It was delicious.

Tomorrow is a religious holiday in France, so not much will be open, which sounds about perfect.

21 May 2010

Arrivée à Paris

After an entirely uneventful trip from Minneapolis to Paris (including about 2 hours waiting at the MSP airport), I have safely arrived in Paris! My dad was nice enough to meet me at the Paris metro stop and walked me over to our lovely Parisian apartment.In order to fend off the jet-lag, we've been trying to keep busy today. First, a walk over to the Arc de Triomphe and the tomb of the unknown soldier:


We wandered down the Champs-Elysee a bit before deciding that it was time for some lunch and a little sit down. Jet lag is really a drag - literally! So we've mostly been chilling out and relaxing all afternoon. But no napping - that's definitely the cardinal rule of overcoming jet lag. We then took a field trip over to our local Monoprix (think Super Target), and then to our local bakery for some bread. Results below:


That's an extremely Parisian looking baguette. Bottle of wine and cutely wrapped pastry for scale. :-) Only a few more hours until dinner and then maybe I can finally go to sleep! More later, when I have seen more than just our street and apartment.

01 May 2010

Theme Day: Statues

I happen to have a varied and occasionally lovely collection of statue photos, so today seemed like a good day to participate:

Here I am with the bust of Gustav Adolph III on Graduation Day, 2005.

Everybody's favorite polar bear statue (ok, maybe just mine?) at the Musee D'Orsay, Paris.

The statue of Charles de Gaulle on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. And my friend Dan, doing his best imitation. 

The Harmon Killebrew statue in Target Plaza just outside Gate 34 at Target Field.

Well, that's was fun. Happy May Day, all. I hope your weekends are lovely. I may get some biking in today, although the wind is looking pretty nasty, so maybe not. If all else fails, I am sure that there is a baseball game on TV a bit later.