Sunday, July 29, 2012

Paris Summary

Favorite things:
  • Marie-Antoinette's English peasant village at Versailles
  • the Louvre
  • the Musee D'Orsay
  • L'Orangerie
  • fresh baguettes every morning
Least favorite things:
  • Most of Versailles
  • the crypt at Notre Dame
  • the price of everything
  • not speaking the language
  • feeling like a schlub next to all of the impeccably dressed Parisians 
Favorite foods:
  • baguettes, obviously
  • these pastries that had a waffle cone-like shell, then a custard inside, and were topped with fresh raspberries
Least favorite food:
  • A quiche my dad bought the last morning that had fish in it.  I don't mind fish, but this was gross and I threw it up.
Most overrated:
  • Champs Elysees
  • the Mona Lisa
Most underrated:
  • The kindness of the French people

Paris Day 7

Our last day in Paris we all went our separate ways to try to fit in the last couple of things we each wanted to see.  My dad and I went to L'Orangerie first, which is a smaller art museum that has some amazing works of art.  My favorite part was two oval rooms that were completely lined with Monet's Nympheas panels (part of his water lily paintings).  It was pretty awe-inspiring.  There were also works by Cezanne, Renoir, Modigliani and many others.  It wasn't very crowded and the size of the museum was just right; I didn't feel rushed to see everything and it wasn't overwhelming.

We then walked through the Tuileries Gardens and went back to the Louvre for a few more hours.  We split up there so that my dad could take many more hundreds of pictures (I think his total for the day was over 700).  I managed to fit in everything I hadn't seen before-the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern sections.  I also checked out Napoleon's apartments and the decorative arts section, then made my way to the gift shop.  There are actually several gift shops at the Louvre, and they all line a large hallway, at the end of which is the inverted pyramid you may remember from the end of The Da Vinci Code.  Was I perhaps in the presence of the remains of Mary Magdalene?  Hmmm . . .

Everyone met up after that for lunch and then my dad went back to the Louvre to take even more pictures, while the rest of us went to the Centre Georges Pompidou.  It's this really neat building that is kind of inside out.  There are visible pipes everywhere, both inside and out, that are color coded for water, electrical wires, etc. and there's a glass-enclosed escalator on the outside of the building that was cool to ride, but unbelievably hot inside.  The Centre also houses a large modern art museum.  They have a section that they redo every two years with new art and artists and then a permanent collection as well.  I'm not a huge modern art fan, but there were many great paintings there, including the Chagall painting that was in Notting Hill

I then went to a grocery store to get some fun treats to bring home with me (best place to get gifts to bring home to people, in my opinion) and then went back to the condo.  I messed up my right foot somehow during this trip and I didn't think I could stand any more walking around.  Even cutting the day a little bit short, it was still a great ending to a great trip.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Paris Day 6

Today we got up early and went to Versailles.  I wasn't overly impressed.  Well, I was impressed by the size of it-it really is huge, but overall, it was probably one of my least favorite sites that we've been to.  The Palace was huge, but we were only able to go to a small portion of it and I thought the insides of the Royal Palace in Madrid were far more impressive than at Versailles.  The famous Hall of Mirrors was just o.k.  All in all, I wasn't a huge fan.  It did, however, contain one of my favorite little areas of the whole trip-Marie-Antoinette's little peasant farm village.  That tiny area was great-cute, little buildings with thatched roofs, a small lake with fish, very impressive vegetable gardens, and even some animals.  If I had my pick of the actual Palace of Versailles, the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon or the peasant village, I would most definitely choose to live in the peasant village.  Royalty, I am not!

If you're in Paris and want to go to Versailles, I would recommend that you go earlier in your trip rather than later.  There is a ton of walking (and I have several large blisters on my feet from walking around yesterday), both to get to the actual entrance of the Palace from the metro stop, not a ton inside the building, but then tons more on the grounds.  We rented bikes to ride around the grounds, which was the best idea ever, but to get to where you can even ride bikes, there's a pretty long walk (which is uphill on the way back, right when you're the most tired).  Riding around the grounds was definitely fun, though.  I haven't been on a bike in years and it took me a minute to get used to it, but it was well worth it.  It wasn't hugely expensive either and once you get out there on the grounds, there aren't many people around.  Btw, I keep saying grounds, but technically I believe they are gardens.  I refuse to say gardens, though, because it's more like a forest.  There's a small area with actual flowers, but the rest is pools and trees and grass. 

Also, make sure that you're prepared for massive amounts of people.  We didn't go on either of the two busiest days of the week, but it was still insane-wall to wall people inside the Palace.  Obviously, there are less outside, but if you walk around where it's shady (which you definitely should because it's really hot out there-side note--don't wear a black t-shirt, bring a hat and sunglasses), it's a little bit more crowded. 

We headed back to the condo in the late afternoon and I am thoroughly exhausted.  Versailles is definitely a day trip, not just an afternoon or morning thing.  I stopped for pastries again on the way home-I have to get my fill while I can!!!  Tomorrow is our last day.  I'm not sure what the plan is-I still want to go back to the Louvre and also to L'Orangerie.  I definitely won't be doing much walking around, though-my feet feel like they're on fire.  One of the blisters goes up between my toes and that one is the worst.  Sad face.

Paris Day 5

Yesterday we spent the morning at the Musee D'Orsay.  It was pretty awesome-lots of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings from Renoir, Monet, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Corbet, Caillebot, Degas, Cezanne, Seurat, Gaugin, etc.  The paintings were amazing, but the building, itself, was also really cool-it used to be a railway station.  After the museum we went out for lunch and I had duck.

We then went to the Rodin Museum and most of the statues were out in the garden, and it was really hot.  I have a vague recollection of BYU not allowing the statue, "The Kiss," to come to their art museum because it was of nudes.  Such a shame.  Afterward, we went over to Les Invalides, which has a military museum (from medieval times through the second World War), and also houses Napoleon's tomb.  The tomb is pretty big-there are actually four different tombs inside.  Not really sure why.  My sister in-law, Melissa, and I were pretty much done after the tomb, so we headed back to the condo and stopped along the way at a patisserie and got a bunch of delicious pastries.  It's strange to think that what we thought were amazing pastries are probably mediocre to Parisians.  My standards aren't very high, I don't think!  We had one tart that had strawberries on it and they were how strawberries should be-so flavorful.  A total difference from the huge ones you get at CostCo!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paris Day 4

We went to the Louvre first thing this morning and needless to say, I was in heaven!  I felt like a 13 year-old at a Justin Bieber concert and got all teary-eyed when I saw several paintings I've loved for years.  We went to see the Mona Lisa first, but I've never been a huge fan, so that wasn't overly exciting other than for the fact that now I can say I've seen it.  It's just a little overrated in my opinion.  We're planning on going back a second time, but just in case something comes up and we don't make it, I wanted to make sure I saw all the really big stuff-Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, the Code of Hamurrabi, the Vermeers, Michelangelo's Dying Slave, and paintings by Rubens, Gericault, David, Murillo, da Vinci, etc.  There are far too many must see pieces of art in my mind!  There are still many things I want to see that we didn't have time for, so I'm definitely going back.  I didn't even make it into the Egyptian section at all!  We decided to only spend about three hours there so we didn't get museum fatigue, and that was about perfect.  I could have maybe done another hour, but then I definitely would have been worn out.

For lunch we went to a creperie and had a really nice meal.  Mark tried escargot which smelled delicious, but looked disgusting as he pulled it out of the shells.  He said it tasted like boogers.  I had a savory crepe with spinach, creme fraiche and an egg on top, and then a sweet crepe with just butter and sugar.  The savory crepes were made with buckwheat flour and I didn't like that as much as the regular sweet crepes.  They were still delicious though.  It was nice to finally have French food since we've been having Middle Eastern food for lunch everyday.  I enjoy kebabs, but we're in Paris, I want French food!

After lunch we went to a flea market that is supposed to be Europe's largest.  Initially it appeared like the market was really small and we thought maybe it was because it was Monday instead of the weekend, but then Mark went exploring and found that the area where we were wasn't really part of the flea market, it was just the outskirts.  Once we crossed the street, the place went on for what seemed like miles.  It was HUGE!  And also kinda dirty and ghetto.  There were lots of hookas and gangsta rap t-shirts for sale.  There were also many booths full of African stuff-jewelry, carvings, etc.  We stayed for probably an hour and a half and by then we were burning up (severe lack of shade there!) and tired, so we headed home.  I did find my original art there though, which oddly enough, I purchased from the same artist that my brother purchased his two pieces from the last time he was here.  It's just a small painting of an African village (the artist is from the Congo), but I love it.  I also found a cool Middle Eastern wall hanging and a new carry-on suitcase that has a map print on it. 

We were going to go to Versailles tomorrow, but most of the museums in Paris are closed on Tuesdays, so all of the tourists go to Versailles.  We're going to save Versailles for Wednesday and go to the Musee D'Orsay (HUGE collection of Impressionist art) and Les Invalides (where Napoleon is buried) tomorrow instead.  Yesterday, after the Pantheon we stopped by the steps where Owen Wilson sits in Midnight in Paris, and my older brother wants to go back there, so we'll probably go there as well. 

P.S.  Breakfast this morning was amazing-still warm baguettes, pain du chocolat, and a pastry with chocolate chips and a glaze on it, another with bacon, and yet another with Roquefort cheese.  Unbelievably delicious!!!

Paris Day 3

Yesterday was a busy day, filled with lots of cool stuff.  We started the day out by going to Sainte Chapelle, which was one of the things I most wanted to see.  The stained glass there was truly amazing.  They're restoring it all, section by section, so we didn't quite get the full effect, but it was still breathtaking.  Nearby Sainte Chapelle is the Conciergerie, which is a former royal palace and the prison where people, including Marie-Antoinette, were kept during the French Revolution.  They had a replica of her cell and examples of the other cells they had at the time.  They had bigger cells for all the riffraff, and then, if you had money, you could buy your way into a cell that had actual beds in it.  These were supposedly slightly cleaner and, according to the signage, were not as rife with promiscuity.  They had a couple of great slide presentations about the French Revolution and Marie-Antoinette's time at the Conciergerie.  I would like to read about her life-I know very little about it, other than she didn't actually say let them eat cake.  It sounds like she was definitely a character, but also a pawn in a political game that ended up with her being executed. 

Next we went to Notre Dame.  They happened to be doing Mass when we got there, so as we walked in you could hear the angelic singing and smell the incense.  The inside wasn't hugely impressive, but the outside was cool.  I loved the gargoyles and ended up buying two cheap, touristy replicas later in the day.  There is a small crypt outside of Notre Dame that we went to that was boring and hot.  It showed the remains of the original city center that's been excavated below the Notre Dame area.

We next had Lebanese food for lunch (delicious), then went to the Cluny museum.  It's a medieval museum and it contains the famous (possibly only to me???) Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.  I was like a kid in a candy store with those things.  They're pretty darn amazing!  The rest of the pieces in the museum were pretty cool too-they had several portrayals of Jesus being circumcised.  My dad spent an excessive amount of time taking pictures here, although I think you could probably say that about just about every place we've been to at this point!

The Pantheon was next.  It's a mausoleum that houses the remains of some of the most distinguished French citizens.  We saw the burial places of Rousseau, Voltaire, Braille, Madame Curie (and her husband), Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo.  The crypt, where they are located, was actually really cool this time around.  The Pantheon, itself, houses Foucault's pendulum (although this one is from 1995), and different monuments to things I can't remember because I got distracted by Mark's app that allows you to place cats in different pictures.

We had planned to go to the Musee D'Orsay at this point, but it was too late, so instead we went over to the famous bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, and then my mom and I did a little souvenir shopping back over by Notre Dame.  We then went back to the condo, to meet up with my brother and sister in-law, who had just arrived after a few days in London.

Today we're hitting the Louvre and Europe's largest flea market.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Paris Day 2

The day isn't over (it's around 7:30 or so here), but we've just come back to the condo and I think I'm in for the night.

We started the day off by going to Pere Lachaise, a famous French cemetery.  We saw the graves of Edith Piaf, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Steine, Marcel Proust, Auguste Comte (founder of Positivism, a religion based on science), Marechal Ney (one of Napoleon's generals), and of course, Jim Morrison.  Those of you who know my father can guess which two graves he insisted we see!!!  There was also a whole area with graves and monuments dedicated to people who resisted or were killed by the Nazis during WWII.  That was probably my favorite area.  Most, if not all, of the concentration camps had their own monument.  Several had statues on them that were amazing-skeletal looking people and such.  Pictures to follow.  It was really moving-I think of WWII being such a far away thing, so it was strange to think that part of it happened in France.

After the cemetery we went over to Sacre Couer, which is a basilica set on the highest hill in Paris.  It had a great view of all of Paris (it's even higher than the Eiffel Tower), but was fairly small inside.  Beautiful, though.  From there we walked over to the Moulin Rouge, which was disappointing.  I guess in my mind I had pictured it as being this big windmill set off on a hill kind of by itself and surrounded by artists.  There were no artists, but it was surrounded by sex shops and strip clubs.  Needless to say, I did not find the art I was looking to buy! We also passed by Le Musee de l'Erotisme.  We didn't go in, but there was a chair out front that had part of the seat cut out and attached was a wheel that had items sticking out that resembled tongues.  Use your imagination. 

Next we went to the Arc de Triomphe.  It was pretty impressive just to look at it, but you can also climb to the top.  There were 284 steps to get up there, all of which my legs keenly felt.  The view was well worth it, though-AMAZING!  After hiking back down we walked the entire length of the Champs de Elysee.  We stopped at Laduree, which supposedly has the best macaroons in Paris.  I also had to stop in at the Sephora there, which was huge!  It doesn't look that big from the outside, but when you walk in, I swear it goes back about a quarter of a mile.  Very impressive!  The Champs de Elysee ends up at the Place de la Concorde.  There we saw the obelisk that marks the spot where the guillotine stood during the French Revolution-Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were executed there.  We didn't walk around much-by then we were all hurting and ready go head back to the condo.

It was a fun day and we saw lots of cool stuff, but I think my favorite part of the day was the WWII section at Pere Lachaise. Tomorrow we're going to Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, and a museum or two, and my brother and sister in-law arrive from London.  Fun, fun!

Paris Day 1

I don't keep a journal, so I'm documenting my trip here.  

Mark and I arrived in Paris yesterday morning safe and sound, but really tired.  Neither of us could really sleep on the plane, which sucked, but hey, we're in Paris, so there's no complaining allowed!  We got our metro pass and headed to the condo to drop our bags off, which they were nice enough to let us do even though the rooms weren't ready yet.  Then we went out to explore!  We walked around the neighborhood a little bit and, of course, stopped at a patisserie for some pain du chocolate (chocolate croissaints).  Then we took the metro over to the Eiffel Tower (at which point I finally felt like I was actually in Paris instead of any random European city) and walked around for a little while before taking our river cruise on the Seine.  By this time, however, we were both exhausted since we hadn't slept for over 24 hours.  Both of us were doing the bobble head thing and nodding off.  The cruise was actually quite nice, though-we saw Notre Dame and many other sites we will soon be exploring.  Afterwards we headed back to the condo to take a shower and a nap.  My parents finally arrived around 8pm (they had been in Scotland) and we visited for a while, then walked over to the neighborhood grocery store to grab stuff for dinner and breakfast.  We had a great meal of soup, bread and cheese, then madeleines and pudding stuff for dessert. 

The condo is nice-it's out of the city center, by Chateau de Vincennes.  It's three bedrooms, two bathrooms (split up weird-one full bathroom, one room that has just a toilet, and then in one of the bedrooms, a room with just a shower stall and a sink), a kitchen and living room/formal dining area.  We have a little balcony as well.

I'm sitting here eating breakfast as I type this-fresh baguettes from the local baker, and what I thought was yogurt, but is not.  It looked like yogurt and the label said Danon, but it turns out it's actually whipped cream with the kind of strawberry syrup you get at the bottom of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts.  It was a delicious surprise!  We forgot to pick up butter last night, so my Dad has gone to the market (which is just across the street) to grab some for the bread, then we'll be off to sight-see for the day.  I think we are going to go to Montmartre for the morning to see the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Couer.  It's an artsy area, so I'm hoping to buy some art while there.  My brother and his wife got a couple of cool paintings when they were in Paris a couple of years ago, and I want to get something for my walls too.  


Sunday, July 15, 2012

The countdown has begun!

I'm leaving for Paris bright and early Thursday morning and I'm officially beyond excited!  I've been more apprehensive than excited until the last week or so, mainly because I've never been somewhere where I don't speak the language, and let's face it, Parisians don't have a reputation for being nice to stupid American tourists.  My little brother and I get there early Friday morning and we have all day to explore the city before the rest of our group gets there Friday evening.  It will definitely be an adventure!  I think we're going to do a river cruise of the Seine while we're waiting for everyone else.  It will be a great way to see the city and relax a little bit after the long trip.  This will definitely be a nice break from the stress of the last couple of months and I can't wait to immerse myself in art, history and, of course, food!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

a confession

I'm still spending most of my days at the hospital with my client and I have a little confession to make . . .  I can't stop stealing the alcohol prep swabs.  I love them!  I use them to clean my phone and other dirty surfaces.  My purse is now full of them and I feel like I should feel bad for stealing them, but I don't.  They probably cost a fraction of a penny each, so maybe I'll leave a quarter in the room tomorrow!  And really, if they don't want things stolen, they shouldn't leave them in unlocked drawers.  Leaving me alone and bored in a room with unlocked drawers full of fun medical supplies is just asking for trouble.  Does anyone want a couple of emesis bags or maybe a tongue depressor?  I can totally hook you up!