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  • Day25

    Oct 14 - Made it to Paris!

    October 14, 2019 in France ⋅ 🌧 17 °C

    It’s time to start the 5th and final leg of our journey on Canadian Thanksgiving Monday. We have so much to be thankful for - family, friends, good health, opportunities to explore the world and the gift of living in the best country in the world - Canada!

    Peter took Angela to the train station in Heidelberg at 6:00 a.m. so she could be at work in Munich by mid-morning. Then he drove us to Mannheim for our 9:40 a.m. train. He accompanied us onto the platform and ensured that we got on the right car where our reserved seats were. Gracious and kind to the very end!

    The train ride from Mannheim to Paris is 3 hrs 15 minutes. According to Google Maps, to drive the 500 kms would take 5 hrs 15 minutes. The train at times reached speeds of over 300 km/hour - the speed shows on an overhead monitor. The train pulled into Gare de l'Est one minute early. Oh, to have such fast and dependable train service in Canada!

    We didn’t have a full window view - the seats that are in sets of four with two facing backwards with a table in the middle get the full window views. From what we did see, the countryside was mainly farms on relatively flat land.

    We took a taxi to the hotel rather than navigate two metro lines with our luggage. Unfortunately, we got ripped off very badly. It looked like a legal taxi, but we realized too late that it didn’t have a proper meter displaying the fare. Live and learn.

    We are staying at Hotel du Champs de Mars. We stayed here on our last trip to France in 2015. It’s a small, boutique hotel located not far from the Eiffel Tower. Another attraction of this location is the wonderful Rue Cler just 1/2 block away - it’s a pedestrian-only street full of speciality shops, little cafés and a couple of grocery stores, a fruit and vegetable market, a fish monger and lots of other places.

    We set out to explore - it’s rather nice to have our bearings already. Happily, our favourite little boulangerie and patisserie is still open just down the street - we’ll be getting our picnic lunch made up there tomorrow. We found the local Tabac, a tiny hole-in-the-wall place, that sells transit tickets and bought a book of them. At only €1.50/$2.25 each, they are a great deal. We visited most of the places that were close to our hotel on our last visit. The ones this week are further afield. Don’t want to wear out Doug’s new bionic knee.

    We headed across the Seine River and then walked along Ave Montaigne, a very high end shopping street - we saw Gucci, Hermes, Fendi, Harry Winston Diamonds, Ferragamo, Givenchy, Yves St Laurent, Chanel, Pucci, Prada and other stores interspersed with ritzy/expensive hotels with bell hops and valet parking. How the other half lives…..

    Ave Montaigne brought us to the Champs-Élysées - yes the same one that Joni Mitchell talked about wandering down in her song, “A Free Man in Paris.” The place was full of people and the crazy, expensive shopping just kept on going. There was a 200-person line (mostly teenaged girls) to get into Louis Vuitton and mandatory bag searches to get into the Disney store. Passed on both of them. We were disappointed that the Ferrari store wasn’t still there. We did get to do some seriously-good people watching though.

    We walked the entire length of the Champs-Élysées to where it ends at the Arc de Triomphe. One our triumphs last time was climbing to the top of the Arc and soaking up the fabulous views. No need for that cardiac workout on this trip. The traffic around the Arc is crazy - there are no lane markings and cars and buses roar around 4-5 abreast all wanting to peel off in disparate directions at top speed. Not a place for the faint of heart.

    We noticed that the traffic in Paris is much heavier than it was a few years ago, and that the roads and streets are now being shared with electric scooters - the two-wheeled kind, not the senior-citizen kind. We even saw couples riding tandem on these over-sized skate boards. Being a pedestrian in Paris is a lot more dangerous than it used to be. We also noticed that cigarette smoking and vaping are incredibly prevalent in Paris. Not good.

    We heard the wail of several sirens and saw many police vehicles whizzing around. Right in front of us, seven vans pulled up - each one can hold 8-10 officers. At the next intersection, a police guy with a machine guard was on duty with a lot of police vehicles nearby. All this may be in response to fears of violence at France's Euro 2020 soccer qualifier against Turkey, a match overshadowed by diplomatic and security tensions after Paris condemned Ankara for its military offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria.

    We had a late afternoon snack as it had been a long time since we downed the chicken sandwiches we had brought with us on the train, courtesy of Angela and Peter. Watered and refuelled, we continued walking, this time down the Champs-Élysées to Place de la Concorde. This square comprises 19 acres and is the largest square in Paris. It was here that King Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793. Marie Antoinette had been guillotined here a few months earlier. The centre of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk known as the Obelisk of Luxor. It is decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the 19th century. The other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time. In the 1990s, President François Mitterrand gave the second obelisk back to the Egyptians.

    We crossed the river via the Pont de la Concorde and walked along the river’s edge past the Pont Alexandre III, the most ornate and extravagant bridge in the city. It’s full of Art Nouveau lamps and nymphs and gold winged horses. The bridge has been featured in many videos and movies. Must watch the James Bond movie, “A View to a Kill” sometime to see Bond jumping from the bridge onto a boat.

    Next bridge - Pont des Invalides. Very boring after seeing the over-the-top Pont Alexandre III. The bridge nearest to our hotel is Pont de l’Alma. We had considered taking a boat cruise along the Seine, but those are best at night when all the major sights are lit up. It was only 6:00 p.m. and the weather was getting overcast so we headed home. We picked up salads at the grocery on Rue Cler and dined Chez Hotel Room. We pulled the table up to the window and had dinner while we watched Monday night life in Paris.

    We can see the top 1/3 of the Eiffel Tower from our room. The Eiffel Tower sparkles with thousands of lights for five minutes on the hour from dusk until 2:00 a.m. (1:00 a.m. in winter). We watched the 7:00 p.m. show from our window. We considered attending the 8:00 p.m. or the 9:00 p.m. show in person, but decided the ~6.5 miles we had walked today was enough.

    Tomorrow, we are going to tackle the Paris transit system and go to Sacré-Coeur - the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
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  • Day27

    Oct 16 - Orangerie and Orsay Museums

    October 16, 2019 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…..
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  • Day28

    Oct 17 - Another sparkly night

    October 17, 2019 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.
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  • Day29

    Oct 18 - Strolling through Paris

    October 18, 2019 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.
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  • Day1

    Invalidenturm u Napoléon unter Kuppel

    November 30, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    Eigentlich noch ganz interessant.
    Hier wurde für die vom Krieg verletzten ein Plätzchen geschaffen.
    Voll rollstuhlgängig, auf der hinteren Seite kann man rein gucken, hat heute noch Kriegsverletzte welche hier hausen. Kleines Spital ist hier auch untergebracht.

    Ja und der Napoléon wurde irgendwo gefunden, weiss nicht mehr wo, da seine anderen Familienmitglieder auch hier begraben wurden, wurde er dann hier her verfrachtet.
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  • Day14

    Tarde en el museo y Cena en Paris

    February 21, 2016 in France ⋅ ☁️ 11 °C

    A la tarde fuimos al museo del ejercito, que a Mati y a papa les encanto. 

    Habia muchas armaduras, y tambien muchas armas mas modernas. Al final del dia nos dio fiaca y no volvimos a ver la tumba de Napoleon (solo la vimos un poquito al principio del recorrido).

    Como fue la ultima noche que cenamos en Paris fuimos a un restaurante especializado en mejilllones pero que tambien tenia hamburgesas para nosotros. Lo unico malo es que en vez de pan traian tortiĺla de papas! 

    Tambien comimos postres riquisimos pero nos lleno mucho la panza. 

    Mañana a descansar un poco y a hacer compras antes de viajar a Venecia
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  • Day4

    Les Invalides, Paris

    September 2, 2018 in France ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Next on the agenda for today was a visit to Les Invalides. Unfortunately a lot of the building was roped off for construction reasons but we did get to see Napoleon's tomb inside the circular crypt, under the golden dome.

    The building itself was amazing and Napoleon's tomb was huge. They certainly did things in grand style - the bigger the better. Even though we have seen a few amazing historic sites already we were still oohing and wowing over everything.

    It was a quick visit and a nice respite from the hot sun. We also enjoyed a delicious lunch at the cafe on the grounds before heading onto our next location.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Invalides, Quartier des Invalides

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