It's off to Europe again to learn more about our wonderful world!
  • Day30

    Oct 19 - Time to return home

    October 19 in France ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    No lolly gagging this morning. Up at 6:00 a.m. Finished the last of our box of cereal. Perfect portioning. Doug bought milk last night and put it on the windowsill outside to keep it cool. Wish this room had a refrigerator.

    It was another rainy day - figured we would check out the weather on another continent to see if we could find some sunshine. For the first time, we took an Uber. I had booked it for 7:00 a.m. and promptly on the dot of 7:00 a.m., it pulled up to the door. I'm impressed. Will use this service again. Omar, our driver whisked us up the Champs-Élysées which is much calmer before daybreak. The traffic around the Arc de Triomphe was almost as crazy as it is in the middle of the day. The airport is quite far outside the city but traffic was fine in the early morning hours. We found our terminal and departure area after putting on a couple of thousand steps. Good legs and comfortable shoes make traveling a lot easier. Doug discovered that even to buy a package of gum you need to present a boarding pass which was on my phone. Fixed that after the fact by putting the Air Canada app on his phone too.

    We are looking forward to getting home after being on the road for 30 days. There are some things that Canada does really well and that we missed while away. We do a much, much better job of accommodating people with mobility challenges. We can dish out coffee way faster than anywhere in Europe. We have much better plumbing. We are way better at recycling. We don’t, for the most part, have to constantly fight for parking space. We have easy access to green space. We have much safer sidewalks, not (yet) infested with crazy electric scooters that look like flying skate boards. Canada is the very, very best country in the world.

    Our flight was very good - just a few minutes of turbulence - so Doug felt great. We both got a lot of movie watching done. I highly recommend "The Book Thief". We sailed through customs/immigration because we have NEXUS cards - one of the best travel investments we've ever made. We are classified as "trusted travellers" and get to use a special access desk that rarely has anyone in line when entering Canada or the U.S. We were the first ones at the luggage carrousel. We retrieved the car after being picked up by the car park representative. We were home by 3:00 p.m. Elapsed time from leaving the hotel - 14 hours. I was able to get to 5:00 p.m. mass.

    No pictures for this footprint - everybody looks wretched at airports. I think you know what we look like after so many variations on the "selfie of the day".

    And so, all good things must come to an end. We have traveled by plane, train, boat, car, Uber, tram, cable car, funicular, bicycle and the ever-reliable shoelace express. We didn't get sick; we didn't get hurt; we didn't lose anything (except some euros to an unscrupulous unlicensed taxi driver); and we didn't miss seeing anything that we wanted to see, despite the constant battle with rain. All in all, it's been a very successful, very enjoyable trip.

    We have seen and done so much. Highlights for us have been visiting Coster's Diamonds in Amsterdam, cycling from Arnhem to Nijmegen, watching the sun set over Lake Geneva, enjoying fondue high up in the Alps, visiting Peter and Angela at their home in Eppelheim, seeing the Paris skyline from Montmartre and touring the Palais Garnier. I calculate that we biked 50 miles and walked over 160 miles. That's how you combat chocolate croissants!

    We have visited 6 different countries on the 5 distinct legs of this trip. We hope that you have enjoyed learning about the culture, food, history, geography, architecture, economy and sights of these countries. Perhaps, based on our experiences, you will add a country or a city or a sight or an activity to your bucket list.

    Our next trip is in just 3 short months - to New Zealand for a 3-week coach tour, followed by a one-week cruise around Tahiti. We look forward to having you share the adventure.

    Signing off for this trip,

    Maureen
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day29

    Oct 18 - Garden Sculptures

    October 18 in France ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    Some of the sculptures from the FIAC exhibition in Les Jardins des Tuileries. Which one do you like? I liked the pinwheels. Doug liked the one made with 100 shovels.

  • Day29

    Oct 18 - Strolling through Paris

    October 18 in France ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    We had our standard meat and cheese on a baguette lunch and watched the long queue of people waiting to get into Sainte-Chapelle. It’s right beside the Supreme Court so security measures to get in are very, very strict. Doug got to donate one of his trusty Swiss Army knives last time we were here.

    Our next stop was the Louvre, the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris. The Louvre hosts well over 10 million visitors per year. We toured it (did the “best of” including seeing the Mona Lisa) in 2015, so we were not there to see the exhibits, but to use the washrooms and to marvel at The Pyramid that dominates the courtyard. It covers the ticket and washroom and cloakroom areas but floods the areas with light. (It was worth going through security to be able to get inside.) The design was radical, to say the least, and shocked the legions of traditionalists who were aghast, but attendance at the museum has almost doubled since the completion of the Pyramid, so objections have pretty much died out.

    It had turned into a lovely, warm sunny day. What a treat to have such a nice day for our last day in Paris. We strolled thought the Jardin des Tuileries, located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde. The entrance to the gardens is through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel - it’s a mini version of the big one that we visited on Monday. There is a lovely pond in the gardens ringed with green metal chairs. These two walking warriors pulled up two of them and sat in the glorious sunshine for a while.

    We realized that there was a continuation of a sculpture exhibition that we had seen yesterday near the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. It is sponsored by FIAC - Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain. There were some cool ones and some really ugly ones. Doug and I think we can create something good out the bits and pieces he has in the barn.

    We sauntered on home via a different route than what we took this morning. Stopped at another little bakery that we have found and got afternoon treats. My count for the day - 21,420 steps for 9.1 miles. Probably not enough to offset the treats. Gym on Monday morning.

    I booked an Uber ride for our transit to the airport tomorrow morning - this will be our first time using Uber. Did the check in for our flight which is at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow.

    We are splurging and going out for dinner tonight for the first, last and only time for this Paris visit. There is a nice little Bistro à Pizza opposite the hotel. Talked to a nice couple from Waterloo who were sitting out there last night - they highly recommended the pizza.

    Had a lovely dinner. The bistro has only been open for 6 weeks. We had a nice chat with the owner. She sources locally-grown produce and ingredients as much as possible. The pizza was great - probably the best crust we've ever had. Did our last session of people watching in this lovely Rue Cler/Rue de Champs du Mars neighbourhood. We highly recommend it if you're visiting Paris.
    Read more

  • Day29

    Oct 18 - Notre-Dame Cathedral

    October 18 in France ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    The intent for today was to simply enjoy Paris with no fixed times to be at museums or sights. We set off about 9:30 a.m. and made our way to the Left Bank of the Seine via a different route than we had been using so we could see more of the city. It was a bit cool, but although there was evidence of recent rain, the skies were dry. A very good sign. As, we strolled along the water’s edge, we marvelled at how buildings that are under construction are shrouded in canvases that mimic what the final product will resemble. So much more attractive than bare scaffolding. Canada - there’s a good Parisian technique to adopt.

    Along the quay side, there are green metal boxes bolted in a rather higgeldy-piggedly fashion onto the stone wall. These 900 boxes belong to the 250 Bouquinistes, booksellers of used and antiquarian books, journals, stamps, trading cards, posters, post cards and now, horror of horrors, souvenirs. Each bouquiniste is given four boxes, all of a specified size, and rent is paid only for the stone on which the boxes rest (around €100 per year). The most coveted spots are awarded based on seniority. Since overhead costs are very low, prices tend to be better than elsewhere. We just marvelled at the desire for someone to want to make a living out of four green boxes, but, c’est la vie!

    We took a few wrong turns, but saw saw rustic back streets and a pretty park, and eventually found Shakespeare and Company. The Left Bank has a long history of being the home to scholars, philosophers and poets. This funky, rabbit-warren of a bookstore is a reincarnation of the original store that was opened by an American, Sylvia Beach after WWI. Writers flocked to Paris for the cheap rents and to escape American Prohibition. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound were joined by James Joyce and other writers of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Books are stacked in the current store in every possible nook and cranny. Agatha Christie books were arranged on a diagonal shelf running like a literary-bannister along the narrow staircase. I know people who would love to spend days in that store. Very cool.

    We eventually got to a sight that we both wanted to see - Notre-Dame de Paris, known usually just as Notre-Dame. It is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church that sits on an island in the Seine. The church is consecrated to the Virgin Mary and is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its pioneering use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, as well as the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style. Major components that make Notre Dame stand out include one of the world's largest organs and its immense church bells.Some of the most important relics in Christendom, including the Crown of Thorns, a sliver of the true cross and a nail from the true cross, are preserved at Notre-Dame. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

    I had been able to cross an item off my bucket list the last time we were here - to attend Mass at Notre-Dame. The centre of Paris is marked by a bronze plaque in the ground about 100 feet from the front door of the cathedral. I have a picture of my feet on the plaque from that same visit. Very cool.

    As you probably know, on April 15, 2019, the cathedral roof caught fire while under renovation and restoration. The cathedral sustained serious damage and the timber spire was destroyed. The lead from the roof caused wide-spread contamination. The area around the cathedral is blocked off with high fencing topped with spikes and barbed-wire. Restoration is underway. The church is owned by France, and France has passed a law requiring it to be rebuilt exactly as it appears before the fire. President Macron has called for the restoration work to be completed within 5 years. It was sad, so very sad, to see this monument in such a tattered state. Perhaps Doug and I will have to come back in 5 years time to check on the progress of bringing Notre-Dame back to life.
    Read more

  • Day28

    Oct 17 - Another sparkly night

    October 17 in France ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We finally had a dry night, so we headed out to the Eiffel Tower to watch the 8:00 p.m. sparkle show. When we were here in 2015, we were able to walk right under the tower without having a ticket to go up the tower. Now, to our astonishment, there is fencing all around the base of the tower and only those with tickets can access that area, and only after undergoing a security search. How sad that violent attacks have taken away the opportunity to simply stand beneath the tower, to look up, and to marvel at the sheer beauty of this architectural wonder.

    We took the round-about route to the other side of the tower, crossed over the river, and headed for the Place du Trocadero. There are beautiful fountains there, although they are not in use at this time of year. it was in this square that Hitler was photographed with the Eiffel Tower in the background when he toured the city in 1940. We watched the 5-minute sparkle show which never ceases to enthrall us, although Doug did resort to playing solitaire on his phone to put in time before the show. I was busy perfecting my selfie-stick techniques.

    The area around the Eiffel Tower, along the bridge and in the Place du Trocadero is like a carnival. There are people hawking champagne and beer and cigarettes from buckets on street corners; there are people selling sparking mini towers, glow-in-the-dark kitten ears, laser lights, key chains and little barking dog toys; there is a merry-go-round and food kiosks; there are families with little ones and thousands of young people and the occasional older couple (aka us) all enjoying the spectacle. Crazy. Crazy. Such is Paris.

    That was another three miles on the pedometer which should wear off the huge raspberry cookie I got for dessert at the corner bakery. Doug is sticking to chocolate croissants - he’s like the quality control guy. So far, so good.
    Read more

  • Day28

    Oct 17 - La Madeleine

    October 17 in France ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We then went to the Galleries Lafayette, an upmarket French department store. Apparently, it caters to all budgets, but we seemed to see only the really, really expensive sections. The Gucci section had a velvet rope across the entry and two ladies controlling the number of shoppers inside. The architecture of the store is art nouveau, with a remarkable dome. It was worth navigating the hordes of people to see it. But best of all, there is a free panoramic view of Paris from the 6th floor. It pays to go on guided tours - it was Nicholas who gave us the tip. Fabulous views on, dare I say it, a dry, almost sunny day!

    We found a little sandwich shop and had a late lunch. My entertainment was watching two young people canoodling at the table in the front window. I sure hoped the guy wasn’t going to propose in a sandwich shop. He didn’t. Hope they went straight home - things were getting hot.

    Next stop - the flower market by La Madeleine. Parisians love their flowers. If I lived here, I’d probably have fresh flowers very frequently.

    La Madeleine is a Roman Catholic church occupies a commanding position - from its front doors, you can see Place de la Concorde. The church was designed in its present form as a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army. It is surrounded by 52 Corinthian columns. In the peak of the front facade is a sculpture of the Last Supper. The bronze doors of the church display the Ten Commandments. Inside, above the high altar, stands a statue by Charles Marochetti depicting St Mary Magdalene being lifted up by angels during her daily prayers. The half-dome above the altar is fresco entitled The History of Christianity, showing the key figures in the Christian religion with — a sign of its Second Empire date — Napoleon occupying centre stage.

    On the way home, we stopped at street art exhibit at the Petit Palais and Grand Palais museums. There were lots of food trucks and funky exhibits.

    We strolled home and enjoyed the sunshine to enjoy some downtime with the windows open showcasing the blue sky and the Eiffel Tower.
    Read more

  • Day28

    Oct 17 - Palais Garnier

    October 17 in France ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Our mission for today was to tour the Palais Garnier. It is a 1,979-seat opera house and one of the Paris National Opera's two home venues in the city along with Opéra Bastille. It was built from 1861 to 1875 upon a commission of Emperor Napoleon III. The venue soon became known as the Palais Garnier, "in acknowledgment of its extraordinary opulence" and the architect Charles Garnier's plans and designs, which are representative of the Napoleon III style. The Paris National Opera now uses the Palais Garnier mainly for ballet.

    The Palais Garnier is probably the most famous opera house in the world. This is at least partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and to the popularity of subsequent film and stage adaptations. Another contributing factor is that among the buildings constructed in Paris during the Second Empire, besides being the most expensive, it has been described as the only one that is "unquestionably a masterpiece of the first rank.” Its theatre is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful theatres.

    I had arranged for us to go on a guided tour so we could get all the behind-the-scene stories. Our guide was Nicholas who ably led us on a 1.5 hour tour of discovery. This place is a bedazzled, opulent, eclectic, allegorical, over-the-top, giddy mix of ornate styles. The main purpose for the building was not to satisfy artistic reasons, but for the incredibly rich and idle to be seen several times a week at the opera. They, in essence, were the actors and actresses in an ever-changing story of lust, intrigue, influence and power. The emperor had his own personal entrance where his carriage could enter the building and ensure his safety from the lower class, disenchanted citizens. The grand staircase allowed the rich to parade in dressed in elegant costumes that were made specially for opera nights. The Salon, originally intended as a smoking room for men only until women demanded access at the building’s opening, is a long gallery filled with fabulous mosaic floors and an ornate ceiling featuring themes from the history of music. The opera auditorium is a sea of red velvet, gold paint, stucco and marble. The bronze and crystal chandelier which did NOT fall down (although a counter weight did kill a concierge) is a magnificent piece of art. It hangs below a ceiling (installed on a removable frame) designed and painted by Marc Chagall. The original ceiling, painted by Jules Lepenveu, still exists but is hidden from view. The entire Arc de Triomphe would fit onto the stage so huge, bold productions could be presented. The place is a wonder to see - put it on your list of things to do if you are ever in Paris.
    Read more

  • Day27

    Oct 16 - Light show at the Eiffel Tower

    October 16 in France ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    We thought the weather looked okay so we went out to watch the 8:00 p.m. light show at the Eiffel Tower. We must have rain GPS implanted in us. Not two minutes after leaving the hotel, the showers began. Nothing torrential, but just slightly annoying. We watched the light show and headed home. Will try again tonight, perhaps from a different vantage point.Read more

  • Day27

    Oct 16 - more Orsay pictures

    October 16 in France ⋅ 🌧 15 °C
  • Day27

    Oct 16 - Orangerie and Orsay Museums

    October 16 in France ⋅ 🌧 15 °C

    We began today with a visit to Marché Grenelle, a street market that takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays. What a weird collection of merchandise - rather like a cross between a farmers’ market and a tawdry flea market. We could have bought pots and pans, lingerie, cashmere sweaters, 100 kinds of cheese, fresh fish, pork hocks, bed linens, shoes, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and the list goes on. The food and flower vendors looked okay - the other vendors and their inventory had a rather sketchy aura about them.

    We hopped on the metro (we are getting quite adept now) and went to Museé de l’Orangerie, an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Napoleon III had the Orangerie built in 1852 to store the citrus trees of the nearby Tuileries garden from the cold in the winter, hence its rather odd name. The museum is most famous as the permanent home of eight large Water Lilies murals by Claude Monet. The paintings depict his flower garden at his home in Giverny, and were the main focus of his artistic production during the last thirty years of his life. Many of the works were painted while Monet suffered from cataracts. Eight panels, each two meters high and spanning 91 meters in length, are arranged in two oval rooms which form the infinity symbol. Monet also required skylights for observing the paintings in natural light.

    We sat and enjoyed the serenity of the murals for a long time. I took photos but they simply can’t do justice to these murals. They are mesmerizing and gentle and calming. We viewed these murals when we visited Paris in 2015 but we wanted to see them again. Doug’s sister, Martha, was a lover of all things French, and her favourite artist was Monet. She wore the colours of his paintings with panache and grace and elegance. Martha died 20 years ago and we still miss her dearly. We felt close to her while we sat there in Monet’s garden.

    Our next stop was the Musée d’Orsay. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900 so the building itself is a work of art. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914 and bridges the years between the art held at the Louvre and that held at the National Museum of Modern Art at the Pompidou Centre. While there are paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography exhibits to see, we chose to concentrate on the impressionist and post-impressionist artists such as Monet, Renoir and Gauguin.

    We soaked up the gentle colours of the impressionists. They are so very different from the vibrant colours of Tahiti used by Gauguin. After almost four hours with a quick lunch break squeezed in, we were museumed-out. We walked home in a alight drizzle, picked up some dinner provisions and are now enjoying some well-deserved downtime. We are hoping it will dry up so we can enjoy the light show at the Eiffel Tower in person. Not looking promising at this time. Two more nights to try after tonight…..
    Read more