Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Europe Trip - Day 8 - Paris

We left London on the Eurostar - also known as the "Chunnel Train" because it actually goes underneath the English Channel.  I'm not exactly sure when that occurs - this going underwater - or how long it lasts...and I'll be honest...I try not to think about it.  All I knew was that this train was fairly comfortable, served food and drinks, and would get us back to France.  It is really funny, though, if you go to purchase something like a Coca-Cola, because they take both British pounds and euros as if it matters not.

I did drink a few Cokes in Europe because they use real sugar in them.  I may be imagining it...but I thought that they tasted better over there.

We got off of the train and immediately started looking for a taxi to take us to the Linda and Eric's apartment in Paris.  (I think I've already explained my rule about public transportation and luggage...)  Apparently, the taxi stand in Paris is quite organized because we stepped off of the train and around the corner and there was a queue for the taxis.  We ended up driving directly there and found the building with absolutely no problem.

Which, of course, made me just wait for the other shoe to drop.  Because nothing is that easy when you travel.

We got inside with the two codes we needed and then as we were standing in the hall waiting for the elevator, the lights in the hall went out.  Uh-oh.  I had just put Mom and Bonnie on the freakishly small elevator with all of our bags.  I was almost relieved to be climbing the seven flights of stairs to get to the top. Which I did, thankfully, without hyperventilating, passing out, or whining excessively.  I was just worried the whole time that they were stuck on that elevator.

Which they weren't.  Which was good.  The lights in the hall go off after a certain period of time to save energy.  You can tap them to turn them back on.  We learned this on the third day we were there.

They were struggling with the door...and Bonnie was trying unsuccessfully to unlock it.  You know how sometimes certain locks have a little weirdness about them and you have to learn it so that you can actually get in without throwing a fit in the hallway?  Well, this door didn't have a little had major weirdness.

But after 33 1/2 years as an educator...that lock really knew not with what it was messing.  But she was the keeper of the key for the remainder of the trip.  Had it just been Mom and me...we would have spent Day 1 of our trip to Paris standing in the hall.

Mom settled in and waited for Linda, and Bonnie and I got brave and took a taxi to the Musee d'Orsay.  I was concerned that I couldn't figure out the Metro, and after wandering around Gare Montparnasse for about thirty minutes, splitting a sandwich from a convenience store in the station, and struggling to make ourselves understood...we went back to the taxi stand.  Just so you know...they understand the words "Musee d'Orsay"...even if spoken in American Southern Redneck.

We got out of the taxi and walked to the museum.  It was my favorite on my first trip to Paris, and I wanted to spend a little more time just seeing some of the paintings.  Of course, I started out with the Seurats and Van Goghs...and we weren't disappointed.

Here is Bonnie in front of the sign...

You know I am seeing this as a giant ROLL TIDE with love from France, yes?

Another of the statues outside the Musee d'Orsay...a horse.  Of course.

You'll just have to look sideways to see this one.  I cant figure out how to get it upright and I'm too tired to care.  Plus, that picture looks entirely too much like me.  It was taken by one of the hundreds of people I felt necessary to photograph because they were struggling with trying to take the photo by holding their arm out...which drives me nuts by the way...and they returned the favor.

We left the museum after seeing some statues by Rodin and lots and lots and lots of art.  We walked toward the Louvre...which is a massive undertaking...just so you know.  The Louvre is huge.  HUGE! I TELL YOU.  I was apparently delusional, because I wanted to see L'Orangerie...which has Monet paintings that the building was actually renovated around and it opened in May 2006 right after my last trip to Paris.  However, finding L'Orangerie was way beyond my pay grade.

However, finding the Louvre was no problem since the thing is so big you just cannot avoid it.

We found the pyramid and the entrance that skipped the lines (we had passes) and attempted to find out way to the three things I insisted that Bonnie see..."Winged Victory" - "Venus de Milo" and "Mona Lisa."  Done, done, and done.  We got three rooms of naked statues as a bonus because cannot go into the Louvre and NOT find a room of naked statues.  It is just impossible to avoid.

Musee d'Orsay used to be a train station before it became a wonderful museum.  The clock remained.

This is the gate by the entrance to the Louvre.

By now, I'm sure that you have gathered that Bonnie took this picture of the horses up close.

The famous glass pyramid outside the Louvre.

 Here's Bonnie outside the gate...the Louvre is in the background.  See that huge building?  Don't let the fact that you can get a general idea of how big this thing is fool you.  They have crammed an untold amount of "stuff" in there.

Just a nice shot of one of the buildings.

Or two...

See the fountains all around the pyramid?  I can tell you from personal experience that that water is extremely refreshing.  Yes, I took my shoes off and put my feet in along with all of the locals.  Tacky?  Probably.  Did I care?  Nope.  Of course, I dared not actually get into the fountain as there were policemen carrying assault rifles milling about.

The pyramid from INSIDE the Louvre.

Shopping area...Carrousel du Louvre...

A statue of Diana, I think.

Bonnie with her friend "Mona Lisa" in the background.  We worked to get up to visit her.

Here's a perspective photo of Mona Lisa.  She's not very big...but she is the first piece of recognizable art that I can remember learning about in my life.  So, it was a thrill to visit her in person.  Again.

Winged Victory.  Pretty, yes?  Headless, but still...

Now THIS was a painting.  On the opposite wall as Mona Lisa.  I believe it is Wedding at Cana, but don't call me for a lifeline if you ever get stuck on a question on art if you end up on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" if you really want to be one.

"Venus de Milo."  I laugh when I see her because Jill couldn't see the big deal about seeing headless and armless statues and being all gaga about it.  She was also about to gag at all of the naked statues.  Bless her little heart.

Bonnie and Venus.  She went to see the "big 3" and she did.  Rock on.

Bonnie in the room with the naked statues...except these were dressed.

I think at this point I was contemplating taking my shoes off.

I don't think I knew that Bonnie was taking these.  But its totally okay...she was kind enough to cut off the lower half of my body.

We met up with Mom and Linda - who had been at a cafe having a beverage and talking to people because that's how Mom rolls.  The term "never met a stranger" is an understatement.  Of course, that's part of her charm.

Linda (and spirit) wanted to take us to a very trendy, cool, and awesome place called "La Plage" - which in French means "the beach."  We were a little concerned about being underdressed (we weren't ultimo tacky...but not far from it) - and early for our reservation (which they don't seem to really appreciate in France) - we were definitely enjoying the ambiance, the food, and each other's company.

We had everything from appetizers to dessert with a glass of wine.  We ate outside and enjoyed seeing the truly trendy people start coming in about the time that we had finished eating.  We could see the Statue of Liberty from the driveway of the restaurant, and because we weren't sure where we could find a taxi...we did what everyone in Europe does...we walked.

Thought I was kidding about that Statue of Liberty thing?  Nope.  There's one in Paris, too.  It is smaller, but still larger in person than this photo will make you think it is.  Since we got it from the French in the first place...I think it is appropriate that they should have one as well.

From the restaurant, we could see the Eiffel Tower at night...and since Bonnie really wanted to see it, we decided to walk over there...knowing that a taxi stand or a Metro station would be nearby.  Besides, after the meal we had just consumed, it was really a good thing that we were moving.  We walked about a mile keeping our eye on the Eiffel Tower and walking mostly uphill...if I remember correctly.

Here's some of the photos.  Honestly, it was so beautiful...and fairly crowded...which was a little odd for after 10 p.m.  There were people with strollers and lots of tourists everywhere.  We really didn't think much of it...we just took out the cameras and snapped away...

Yes, it was that gorgeous...and even more awesome in person.

 Bonnie and Mom under the Eiffel Tower.  See all of the people?

Mom, Me and Linda.  I'm kind of behind them because I thought it would make me look thinner.  It worked, didn't it?

Yes...just beautiful.

A photo of me and my beautiful little sister, Linda.  The picture is fuzzy, but we were so happy to be there, and I was so happy to be sitting after walking for what seemed like miles.  Without complaining, I might add.   Until now, of course.  I love this picture because when I look at it I remember how amazing that night was.  She really is pretty, isn't she?

Another fuzzy photo that I had to include in a "Captain Obvious" kind of way.

Well, we were there taking pictures, dodging tourists and enjoying the beauty of the sight and the cool of the night.  Just happy to be alive in Paris...with no schedule and no worries.  To just see in person a place that you have seen in movies and in your imagination so often...was just wonderful.  We'd had such a full day already and we were a little tired...but we didn't feel the need to leave.  We were just enjoying the moment.

And then one of those things that takes your breath away happened.  At 11:00, the Eiffel Tower started blinking and sparkling in the most amazing way.  We were so charmed and excited that it was almost as if someone had set off fireworks.  We had won the lottery in the realm of the happy and unexpected surprise.  It was as if Paris was saying..."Thanks for coming!  Enjoy your stay!" to us in every possible way.

Linda took film of our reaction on her camera.  We were laughing like children and clapping our hands excitedly.  Apparently THIS was what everyone was milling around to see...and it was so worth it.  What made it even better was that we just happened upon this without any preparation.  We were all so glad that we didn't miss it by turning back.  I wouldn't trade that particular memory of Paris for the world.

Pretty, huh?

Okay, this one looks a lot like the last one, but whatever.

These photos don't do it justice...but you get the general idea...

We left the Eiffel Tower a few minutes later and took a taxi back to the apartment.  It was a wonderful, special day in Paris.  Bonnie didn't even have to ask which country we were in.  She knew.

More to come on Paris.  Thanks for reading!

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