Monday, August 29, 2016

anniversary in paris

Our wedding anniversary happened to fall during our time in Paris, so we decided to go on a dinner river cruise. We selected our favorite boat, which we knew because while eating on the river, we had seen all of them pass by, and this one was by far the coolest-looking. Most were very modern, while this one had gas lamps and a vintage feel. When we saw that it got great reviews, and had a captain who had hand picked the decor from his travels around the world, we knew it was for us.

The first thing that sold Andrew on this boat was the Monkey King figurehead.

On the way to dinner.

Our view for dinner--the rain pattering on the glass made it especially atmospheric.

Passing the Louvre. The clouds parted just as the sun was going down, giving us amazing views.

Happy boy.

Happy girl. 

Coming up on the Eiffel Tower.

The captain timed it just right to go by the Eiffel Tower right when it was doing its hourly light show.

The boat had great funky overhead lights (and Maggie kept making Andrew pose for photos with the things we went by outside...)

The food was really good, and the views were even better. We couldn't believe it when we got back to the dock--the nearly three hours had gone by in a flash. Definitely a very memorable Paris experience!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

paris in the summer... part 2

Our favorite thing to do in Paris is dining by the river, but we also spent some evenings in the other neighborhoods we like around Paris. One of our favorite places is Montmartre, which is on a hill overlooking Paris. It's the stomping ground of Hemingway, Dali and the Fitzgeralds, so naturally it's a great place to be an artist.

A funny statue right below our favorite Park in Montmartre to have a picnic.

Montmartre has a great old cemetery that we visited a few times. Like most Paris cemeteries, it's all above ground crypts - which makes for great scenery. Unlike New Orleans' cemeteries though, the Paris crypts are mostly little cathedrals where family members can come and pray. There is amazing artistry that goes into these (stained-glass, gargoyles, busts), and some of them had to cost a fortune, but I'm glad they paid because the Paris cemeteries are some of the most magnificent in the world. Beyond just walking through the rows and rows of crypts, we came equipped with our computers and did some work. It was actually a very peaceful place in the busy Montmartre neighborhood to find a quite bench and do some work (and since Jim Morrison isn't buried there, there are a lot fewer tourists walking around).
Paris loves their neighborhood numbers, so even the cemetery is broken up into arrondissements.
Weeping women is a common motif for graves.
 Besides Montmartre, we also kept going to our regular places on the river. We even stopped a few times at the Louvre for a dinner on their amazing stretches of grass.

It was starting to turn into Autumn while we were there, which created many great photo ops.

A shot from the other side of the river of the place we ate dinner at the most, right at that point in the center.

With Luxembourg Gardens so close, it was hard not to be drawn there for the occasional lunch.

Our favorite fountain at Luxembourg Park.

The stuff inside the Louvre gets all the attention, but the outside is just as amazing.
 Towards the end of our stay, some friends of ours came to stay with us for a week... and they bore gifts of the most glorious kind: Andrew's favorite salsa from Albuquerque, Los Cuates. So we had to have some photo ops with it in some of the iconic parts of Paris.

Los Cuates on the Seine.

Los Cuates at the Eiffel Tower
Our friends being in town also gave us a great opportunity to do something we hadn't done yet: be touristy. It's not that we're opposed to it, it's just not what we do when we're in a city for a longer period of time. So when they arrived, we put on our Hawaiian shirts (metaphorically) and headed to the sights.

Something we had never done and really wanted to was the Catacombs. We tried to visit one other time, but we got there too late and the line was too long. This time we headed out early and still were in a huge line. They only let 45 people in at once, so the line goes slowwww. We stood there for around two hours before getting in, but once we were in, it was worth it. They say some 6 million Parisians are down there and we could believe it. The well-stacked bones you see in the pictures are just the retaining walls for the mounds and mounds of broken bones behind them. All the skulls, and the fact that you are 600 meters below the surface, makes the whole experience very creepy.

On the way to the Catacombs.

A normal hallway in the Catacombs.

Femurs and skulls seemed to be the easiest to stack, and they made designs of them.

While Andrew had been to Versailles, Maggie had not, so we took the train out to the city of Versailles and spent a day walking around one of the most opulent palaces in the world.

The gates were torn down during the French Revolution to symbolize the end of the 'us and them.' But then they decided they didn't really like "them" after all, and they needed the gates back.

The entrance to the Palace

Andrew had to take a picture of a monkey riding a goat. (The statue is called, fittingly, "Monkey Riding a Goat")

The ceiling of the cathedral inside the Palace is as amazing as the Sistine Chapel.

Maggie got many good DIY ideas at the Versailles. She now wants to do this to our fireplace.

The Hall of Mirrors.

One of Versailles' many garden areas.

Maggie and Andrew hanging at Marie Antoinette's old stomping grounds.

Never ones to pass up an opportunity to go to the Musée d'Orsay, we went one last time.

Maggie looking out the clock.

Maggie contemplating some more DIY ideas.

Andrew informed Maggie that these are the sideburns he wants when he gets old.

Andrew's second favorite statue in the world, after David of course. It's of a child Saint Jean-Baptiste by Paul Dubois, and feels like it should come to life at any moment.
Something we had wanted to do for awhile was to go to a Mass at Notre Dame. Since we could literally hear Notre Dame's bells from our place, we knew this would be a dumb time to pass up that opportunity.

Just heading to Church.

For being such a famous church in the center of Paris, we thought there would be more people...
We've now done Mass at the Vatican and at Notre-Dame. Not bad for non-religious people...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

paris in the summer

It'd been a few years since we took off for a few months in Europe, and we decided it was time. We immediately knew we wanted to do Paris again, as it is one of our favorite places in the world. But as always, we spent a few days in New York on our way there.

Stopping to enjoy Central Park (and catch some Pokemon) while waiting for our flight.

For this trip we found an apartment in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Last time we were in Paris we stayed in the Marais, which was really nice, but this is much more centrally located, with the river only a block away. From the map before we left, we could tell we were in the heart of the city, but on arrival we saw just how true that was. Out one of our windows we look at the Pantheon and if we had a window on the other side, we'd look directly at Notre Dame. The place is on the seventh floor, so we also get a daily stair climbing workout. If Andrew pops out to grab one beer, he really earns it by the time he makes it back up to our place.

One thing we love about Paris is the history around every corner. At this apartment, we are right across the street from the Saint Severin church. It was built in the 1300s on the site of the hermitage of the 12th century saint named Severin. He is known for helping Christianity spread through what wold become the French region, because during his time, France was still ruled by barbarian kings.

View out our window of the Pantheon and Saint Severin Churnch

Our first few days in Paris were overcast and rainy, but it didn't stop us from our customary dinner on the Seine every night--we just had to be better prepared.

When the rain wasn't too bad an umbrella was fine...

but when the rain got worse, we had to retreat under a tree.

The street our place is on in the Latin Quarter. A lot of university students live here, and it's also very touristy, so there's a lot going on.

The Olympics are going on while we're here, so if we want to watch any of the events, we have to head out to the bars and find one showing them. Luckily we found a nice little Irish pub right on the Seine that has good beer and lots of TVs. The first thing we watched was the Men's Cycling Road Race, and it didn't let us down. With multiple crashes and a two-way sprint for the finish line, it was well worth the trip.

Watching the Olympic Men's Road Race with not your normal view out the pub windows.

Our dinner view from a riverside picnic one night.

Sunset on the Seine.

A view of the backside of Notre Dame while walking home from dinner on the river.

We took a night off from the river and ate at the Luxembourg Gardens just a few blocks from our place, where Maggie could go for a jog before we ate.

On the first Sunday of every month, the museums are free all around Paris. So, our first Sunday, we headed out for a day at the Musee d'Orsay and the Pompidou. We'd been to both of the museums before, but you can never get enough Van Gogh and Monet at the d'Orsay, and it's always nice to see what they're calling modern art these days at the Pomidou.

The outside of the Musee d'Orsay

View of the Sacre Coeur from the inside of the d'Orsay.

Panoramic view of Paris from the Pomidou (Click to enlarge).

One Paris landmark our place isn't as close to is the Eiffel Tower, so one night we decided to rent Velibs (public bicycles) and take our dinner down there. It's a nice ride along the river and only takes twenty minutes or so.

While we're eating by the river we usually just picnic, but we have a lot of fondue restaurants around us in the Latin Quarter, so we decided to give one a go. It was enough cheese to kill even a Wisconsiner, but we slowly made our way through it and went home with an expanding waist line.

Our Fondue and the many things to dip in it.

Maggie found a Flea Market on the outskirts of the main city that she wanted to go to. We could have taken a subway to get there, but Velibs sounded like more fun. It was about a half an hour ride, but through a part of Paris we had never been to.

After the market, we saw we were close to one of the largest parks in Paris, Bois de Vincennes, so we decided to ride the bikes down to it and check it out.

Maggie on her Velib.

Some of the antique wares being sold at the Flea Market.

The lake at Bois de Vincennes

We didn't buy much at the flea market, but we did find this little guy and named him Petit Napoleon.