Monday, 29 November 2010

Shopping, the Top Three List and a Boat Ride.

Today was our last day in Paris.  We have visited many great things over the last 7 days, so today we exchanged our site seeing shoes for our shopping shoes. The streets and stores were packed with holiday shoppers.  It was fun to walk along the streets and feel the buzz of the holiday season.  The window displays at the two major department stores Printemps and Galleries Lafayette were amazing. Thankfully we were able to do a little bit of damage on the old Visa.  We had more success at the one off boutiques then we did at the major department stores.

 Lunch during our shopping fest.  Fin ordered his 6th steak & frites of the trip.

Happy owners of new coats.

For last night we decided to go on one of the river cruises that travels up the Seine.  This particular one starts at Pont Neuf and goes up to the Eiffel Tower, then turns around and goes around Ile de la Cite before heading back to Pont Neuf.  Tonight was by far the coldest night we have had on our trip, but for some reason the kids and I thought we could tough it out and sit on the open deck.  We made it as far as the the turn around at the Eiffel Tower then sprinted downstairs to the warmth.

Pont Alexandre III and the Eiffel Tower.

One last stop at the bonbon vendor at Place des Abbesses (by our apartment). 

At lunch I asked everyone for their top three memories of the trip.

1.  The trip up the Eiffel Tower.
2.  The two museums, D'Orsay and Rodin.
3.  All of the Buskers.  There were several musicians on the trains, plus Bubble Man and Soccer juggling man.

1.  Steak & Frites - Especially Sunday nights at "Le Relais de Venise".
2.  The walks down the Champs-Elysees.
3.  All of the Buskers.  There were several musicians on the trains, plus Bubble Man and Soccer juggling man.

1.  The Vivaldi and Bach performance at Sainte-Chapelle.
2.  The view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
3.  The Pantheon, in particular the pendulum.

1.  The Vivaldi and Bach performance at Sainte-Chapelle.
2.  The Gargoyles and view from the top of the towers at Notre-Dame.
3.  The view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

The week is over and we are homeward bound tomorrow morning. When I look back at the week we had, it really was a wonderful time of year to come to Paris.  We rarely waited in a line, the locals were super friendly and the holiday spirit was alive and well.  When we booked the trip we expected that the weather would be iffy, but we were ok with that.  It actually ended up being a lot colder here then we expected, but in some ways it made the trip better.  Seeing those massive slow flakes coming down on Friday and how excited it made people on the streets was a pretty cool thing for all of us to witness. 

This was the first time that we have opted for an apartment instead of staying at a hotel, and I actually really liked it. Having the apartment in the heart of Montmartre really gave us a sense of belonging and it was really easy to get into a daily routine (thus the daily trips to Coquelicot for our pastries and baguettes).

November in Paris?  Absolutely.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

I'm thinking of steak and frites with Napoleon Dynamite.

Today was museum day.  Our first stop was the Musee d'Orsay.  The d'Orsay is housed in an old train station that was built in the late 19th-century.  Inside are works from Van Gogh, Monet, Rodin, Gauguin and many more names you would recognize.  The nice thing about this museum is that it is confined to the space of the old train station, so it is not too overwhelming.  You are not allowed to take photos inside, but somehow three pictures ended up on my camera.

 The main floor of the Musee D'Orsay.

 The clock from the old train station itself is worthy of a place in the museum.

 The view from the upper level looking back towards the entrance.

Next we went to the Musee Rodin the home of sculptures by the man many regard as France's greatest sculptor, Auguste Rodin.  For the last 9 years of his life Rodin lived in a state-owned apartment for free in exchange he left his life's work to France.  The garden at the museum is beautiful and many of the original sculptures are on display in it.

The "Thinker" with the Dome Church from Invalides in the back ground.

"I'm thinking, I'm thinking..."

When I asked Fintan what he thought "The Thinker" was thinking about, he said that he was probably thinking about getting married. 

The state-owned mansion that Rodin lived in is now the museum that houses his work.  The white sculpture is by Henry Moore.

 The gardens at the Musee Rodin looking back to the old state-owned mansion.

Stacey and the kids taking a break on the second floor of the Musee Rodin.

Right across the street from the Rodin is the Hotel des Invalides.  This building was commissioned by Louis XIV and was completed in 1676.  The Dome Church at Invalides is home to the tombs of France's military hero's.  The most spectacular of the tombs is that of Napoleon Bonaparte - Emperor Napoleon I (Bronwyn thought his last name was Dynamite...). Napoleon's body was brought back to France 19 years after he died while in British confinement in St. Helena. His tomb sits under the staggering dome of the church.

 The interior of the Dome Church above Napoleon's tomb.

Napoleon's tomb.  This thing has some size.  I would say it's about the size of a 23 foot camper.

The rest of Invalides is dedicated to the history of war.  It is a stunning museum that is almost overwhelming because there is so much to see.  We spent a lot of time in the Armour section, which is awesome.  There is a huge collection of armour and weapons from the various time periods.  Each piece is like a coveted work of art.

When we left the Armour section we walked down a long hall that had windows that looked into a huge store room.  The room was loaded with "spare parts".  I desperately wanted to take some home.

Cour d'Honneur is a huge courtyard at Invalides that is used for military parades.

 The entrance to the Dome Church at dawn.

Wayne had given me a recommendation for a famous "steak frites" place in Paris.  I told Fintan about it before we left for France and he has not stopped talking about it, so we went there for dinner tonight. It opened up a 7:00 and was packed by 7:15, it was a great spot.   

I don't know what it was, but the kids took it down in about 95 seconds.

Another great day. Tomorrow is our last day, so we plan to hit the shops.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Pantheon and the Meat Locker.

We kept the schedule pretty light today.  After a leisurely breakfast we headed to a shop that had been "on my list".  The French keep the craziest hours in some of their shops.  This one 11:00 - 1:00 and 2:30 - 7:30.  

One of our top goals today was to take the Metro back to St. Chapelle and procure tickets for tonight's classical concert in the upper chapel.  I forgot to mention yesterday that there is crazy airport like security to get into St. Chapelle.  You have to stand in a long line to go through metal detectors before joining the line to buy tickets for the chapel. Today I got daring and walked to the front of the line and showed the attendant a copy of the concert listing and told him that I was here to buy tickets.  Amazingly he let me cut in front of about 50 people.  After a quick stop at the metal detectors I ran to the ticket booth. Closed!  Ticket booth hours 10:30 - 1:00 and 2:30 - 6:00, it was 1:05...  I was super frustrated, but there was nothing I could do, so I made my way back to the street to join the family.

Our main attraction today was the Neoclassical Pantheon.  This was originally a church that Louis XV built in honour of Sainte Genevieve after he had recovered from a serious illness. The work was carried out from 1764 - 1790.  During the Revolution the church was turned into a Pantheon, a place for the tombs of the "good and the great of France" to rest.  There is a fantastic crypt that runs the entire area under the building.  Some of the famous tombs include:  Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo.

 The back of the Pantheon.

 The front entrance of the Pantheon

Some exterior shots.

The inside of the Pantheon was stunning.  The following are several interior shots. 

The Dome of the Pantheon is Iron-Framed and has extraordinary detail.

Hanging from the middle of the Dome is a pendulum. The original pendulum, known as Foucault's Pendulum was installed in the Pantheon in 1851 to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. It has been removed and reinstalled a few times over the years for religious reasons, but finally seems to have a permanent home. The current ball was installed in 1995 and keeps remarkable time.

 Bronwyn and I striking a pose.

The visit to the Pantheon took quite awhile and by the time we left it was time for our  now typical late lunch (3:30).  The plan was to have a nice lunch then head to St. Chapelle to see if we could finally nab some tickets for the concert.  

When we arrived at St. Chapelle we had to stand in line for about 25 minutes before we could go through security and make our way to the ticket booth.  It was a very chilly 25 minutes, however, after all was said and done, success!  Our persistence had paid off and we held four tickets for the show, and given that we were some of the first people there we had our pick of seats.

On the play card:  Vivaldi's Four Seasons and the Bach Violin Concertos - BWV 1041

 Tuning the harpsichord before the performance.

Violin Soloist Frederic Moreau who trained under the legendary Yehudi Menuhin.

The show was fantastic.  The setting could not have been any better.  The only downside was that the 762 year old venue doesn't have any heat, so the room felt like a meat locker, which made the performance by the artists that much more spectacular.