Joined August 2022
  • Day30

    A bientôt, Paris

    October 12, 2022 in France ⋅ ⛅ 64 °F

    Our last day in Paris. We walked across the Seine to go shopping in Saint Germain de Près. On the way we visited the church, site of a former abbey and considered to be the oldest church in Paris. The original building was completed in the 6th century by was destroyed, twice, by the Vikings in the 9th century. The oldest part of the current building dates back to the year 1000. Lots of gothic elements including flying buttresses. Today the sun was shining through the stained glass windows which cast colorful light across the floor.

    We headed up Rue des Rennes, the Champs Élysée of the left bank, and somehow wandered into the Hermès store. They had a cute little leather coin purse for only 650€, if anyone needs a gift idea for me.

    We continued window shopping on our way to the Bon Marché department store which is celebrating its 120th anniversary. From there we walked down Rue du Bac, across the Pont Royal, and along the Seine to Pont Neuf. Stopped into a church we passed along the way (Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois), did some California dreamin’, then went to Samaritaine department store. A very different place than it used to be but still beautiful inside.

    Then back to the Marais via BHV to the Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais. I rode the scented elevator while Ellen enjoyed climbing the five flights of stairs to our room. The people at the front desk seem amused by our routine.

    The packing is nearly done and with luck we are within the weight limits. Or at least our bags are.
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  • Day29

    Musee d’Orsay et le Bateau Mouche

    October 11, 2022 in France ⋅ 🌙 59 °F

    Wow, what a day! Neither one of us slept well last night but that didn’t stop us, no siree. After our customary morning pain au chocolat, we caught the #69 bus across town to the Musée d’Orsay, one of my favorite places on the planet. Apparently other people have heard of it, too. The line to get in was huuuuuge, despite having timed entry tickets. We waited about 40 chilly minutes, winding through the line while chatting with a Parisian woman who confirmed that this crowd was quite a bit bigger than normal.

    Once inside, we headed to the top floor to bask in the view through the giant clock windows toward Sacré Cœur. It’s really hard to stop taking pictures, especially on a sunny day. So magical.

    We toured all the floors and nearly all the galleries including the temporary Edward Munch exhibit. So much of his work is so depressing. Lots of depictions of people sick or dying, particularly children. Hard to look at.

    We had lunch upstairs in the Cafe Campana which also features one of the delightful clock windows. We scored a table right next to it.

    After several hours we left the museum and headed down the boulevard toward the Palais Royal. We’d made a spontaneous decision to take a nighttime boat ride along the Seine so on the way we browsed the numerous souvenir shops for an extra layer of clothing to keep warm. I bought a pink (raspberry?) beret and Ellen bought a hoodie with PARIS FRANCE on it. We’re wearing our tourist badge proudly.

    The courtyard of the Palais Royal features a really fun sculpture installation of striped columns of varied sizes. There we lots of young children climbing, jumping, and running between them. A lively place.

    We walked a bit further, along the crushed limestone parkway where people were walking their dogs or relaxing in chairs catching the last rays of sunshine along the tree lined allées. The leaves are starting to fall and the nights are getting chilly.

    We stopped at a cafe for a cafe and a bite, then headed to Ponte Neuf to catch our boat. We donned our newly acquired tourist gear and got prime seats on the top deck. The sun had just set as the boat left the dock and we cruised under the illuminated bridges as the tour guide described their histories and pointed out sites along the shore. The highlight was reaching the Eiffel Tower just as the lights began to twinkle at the top of the hour.

    After disembarking we walked along the Île de la Cité, across to Île Saint Louis, across Pont Louis Philippe, and back to our hotel. As we walked we could see dozens of runners coming up the riverfront path, apparently some sort of fun run event. The finish line was the bridge to Île Saint Louis which we were crossing just as the runners arrived. Kinda fun being swept up in the crowd for a few seconds.

    Tomorrow is our last day in Paris. We have no plans yet, just thinking about packing and going home. We’ve created so many wonderful memories on this trip. I’m feeling grateful and wistful and tired and excited to be home soon.
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  • Day27

    Rusty things and shiny buttons

    October 9, 2022 in France ⋅ ☀️ 64 °F

    Had a most excellent time shopping today at Les Puces de Vanves flea market. We managed to get up and out early and had the Metro nearly all to ourselves. Within a few minutes after we arrived at the market I had struck my first bargain using the old frown-and-walk-away method. The seller relented and called me back to the table. I now own a rusty tool designed for an unknown purpose. It works flawlessly, I’m sure. More importantly, the ice had been broken.

    The next vendor succumbed to the bundling technique. Two for 10€, you say? How about 15€ for all four? Done. With an Eiffel Tower keychain thrown in for free.

    Up and down the street we went; our shopping bags began to bulge. Finally the time came to leave and as we retraced our path we caught a glimpse of something shiny. Like magpies, we hopped over to inspect. They were buttons, mother of pearl mostly, many missing their shanks and in unusual shapes suggesting they were perhaps factory seconds? In any case they were beautiful, each one unique. We sifted through the large tray full, sharing our favorites and assuming they were too expensive, probably 1€ apiece. Then the man said he would sell us the whole tray (actually a large film can) for 30€. Out came our wallets. No haggling except to ask for the film can, too. We now own a couple hundred (more) buttons. When we got back to the hotel we opened the tin and resumed sifting and sorting our horde like kids with their Halloween candy. Very soothing, the smooth buttons clicking through your fingers.
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    Traveler

    lovely

    10/10/22Reply
    Traveler

    oh excellent

    10/10/22Reply
    Traveler

    yay!!!

    10/10/22Reply
     
  • Day26

    The Speeding Velocipede

    October 8, 2022 in France ⋅ ⛅ 63 °F

    A fun morning spent at the Musée des Arts Forains, an amazing collection of fairground carousels and carnival games dating back to the 1850s. The museum was featured in an early episode of Emily in Paris and Woody Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris.

    The tour was in French but the necessary bits were translated for the few Americans in the crowd. You even get to ride the carousels and play some of the games. The highlight for me was riding the 125 year old vélocipède carousel which is solely powered by pedaling big brass bicycles as fast as possible. There are no gears or regulator, just brute force. The faster you pedal, the faster it goes! The record is 60km/hr. A thrilling experience.

    After lunch we traveled out to the Marché aux Puces de Saint Ouen, the largest flea market in Paris. We wandered the maze of market stalls for a few hours but didn’t find much to buy today. Photos weren’t permitted by most vendors so I really have no proof I was there. But why would I lie?
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    Traveler

    Puces seemed expensive to me...

    10/8/22Reply
     
  • Day25

    Chantilly in Chantilly

    October 7, 2022 in France ⋅ ⛅ 66 °F

    Today we planned to take a day trip suggested in the book “An Hour From Paris”, by Annabel Simms, a Brit who lived in Paris for a time and spent her weekends riding the Metro to the end of the line and exploring whatever was there.

    The trip we planned today, to the medieval town of Senlis, actually involved taking the Metro to Gare du Nord then catching a local train to the town of Chantilly and from there a bus to Senlis.

    Getting to Chantilly was a bit trickier than the guidebook implied and involved using a very weird, very old ticket vending contraption with a finicky joystick type mechanism.

    There were rows of shiny modern touchscreen kiosks vending tickets to the shiny modern trains but because we needed to take the milk train I was stuck with the WWII era relic. You might expect there would be a ticket booth with a helpful human being at such a major transportation hub and there was. One. Huuuuuge line. I left Ellen standing in the line while I tried my hand at the vending machine.

    It was a bit like trying to use one of those arcade crane games to “pick up” the tiny picture of a tiny ticket and maneuver it into my tiny basket without dropping it. An older gentleman at the machine next to mine kept swearing and finally gave up. I persisted and did a happy dance when the machine spat out an actual tiny ticket.

    By that time, our train was due to depart at any moment so I ran to grab Ellen out of the unmoving billetterie line and we raced off to the appropriate platform. The ticket validation machine would not accept our tiny ticket so we dashed toward a group of official looking people in railroad attire and one of them graciously initialed our ticket and gestured for us to board the train. We found two open seats and plopped ourselves down.

    We only needed to ride two stops down the line, about 25 minutes. The uniformed group we had met on the platform turned out to be fare inspectors and when they entered our car I proudly produced my tiny ticket. The inspector (not the nice one we had just spoken to) looked at my ticket, looked at me, and asked my why I was using a half fare youth ticket for which I clearly was not eligible. I gave her my best Gallic shrug and she sighed. She saw that my ticket was for two people so I pointed at Ellen and muttered, « ma sœur ». She sighed again before moving on to the young man sitting across from me. He had a story about having forgotten to buy a ticket. The fare inspector issued him a hefty fine on the spot. I felt a twinge of guilt over pretending to be a teenager but I got over it.

    We had planned to spend an hour or two exploring Chantilly before catching the bus to Senlis as recommended in our guidebook, so we headed off on a quiet path through a lovely wooded park, past the hippodrome (sadly, no hippos today), toward the château on the other side of town. When we got near the château we noticed there was some sort of event happening on the grounds. The event turned out to be opening day of a weekend garden show. There were dozens of tents and vendors selling all types of plants and garden art, spread out beneath large trees on the lawn beside a moat with white swans. We bought tickets (from a human) thinking we’d wander for an hour or so, maybe have lunch, then continue our trip to Senlis.

    A couple hours in, we agreed that Senlis could wait for another time. We were enjoying wandering the grounds, taking photos of all the beautiful displays, people watching, and shopping.

    Favorite anecdote: I was passing a booth selling colorful little rubber galoshes that slip over your shoes when the proprietor began his sales pitch. I replied that « je ne parle pas français » and he quickly switched to English, saying « we can’t all be perfect ». Then he asked if I’d like to try on one of his overshoes. He slipped one on my foot ( a vaguely Cinderella moment) and noted that they can be worn on either foot. He pointed to his own which were two different colors and said I was welcome to mix and match. To which I wittily replied, « Or I could just buy one and hop everywhere. » He laughed and told me the French word for hopscotch (« marelle ») while he demonstrated. We hopped for a bit, then he took my picture and asked for his boot back.

    We ate ice cream cones topped with chantilly (aka whipped cream), then crossed the bridge over the moat to visit the château.

    Château de Chantilly was originally a fortress built in the 11th century but was dismantled, rebuilt, and renovated many times. The last occupants had no heirs and set up a trust to turn the chateau into a public museum. The best part is that there are no guided tours; you can wander through on your own. Very gaudy decor featuring a huge collection of oil paintings, some really awful. The Louvre has spoiled me. It was fun to poke around.

    At the end of our château infused afternoon we hoofed it back to the train station to return to the city. (Had a laughable situation with the public toilet, but I’ll spare you.)

    I was pretty psyched to have another crack at the arcade/vending machine train ticket roulette game but alas there was a human being this time. She sold us two tickets (full adult fare) just as our train pulled into the station. We hurried aboard and rode the 25 minutes back to Gare du Nord, navigated the underground maze to our Metro train, and emerged as if by magic exactly where we should. Another successful outing.

    Today’s photos are pretty self explanatory.
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    Traveler

    Is this where Ellen found her chicken?

    10/7/22Reply
    Traveler

    Oui! 🐓

    10/8/22Reply
     
  • Day24

    Another day of overachieving

    October 6, 2022 in France ⋅ 🌙 57 °F

    Another whirlwind day walking. The weather has been beautiful but is supposed to turn in a few days so we’re making the most of the sunshine while we can.

    This morning we headed over to St Chapelle to see those amazing stained glass windows while the sun was streaming in; it’s just not the same on a cloudy day. We walked through the flower market on the way there and back from our hotel.

    Then we took a bus up to Montmartre and had lunch at the cute little Cafe Qui Parles near the apartment where Ellen and her family stayed a few years ago. It’s a lovely area with lots of big trees and gorgeous old buildings, a very posh part of the city.

    After lunch we climbed up to Sacré Coeur. The surrounding streets were packed with people and there were workers everywhere setting up tents for some event this weekend. We squeezed through the crowds, took in the view of the city, then negotiated the long flights of stairs back down. The stairs were in the process of being decorated, possibly for the same mystery event, and it was fun to turn around after each flight to see the artwork which was only visible when facing up the hill.

    We walked down Rue des Martyrs to poke around a tiny antiques shop I had read about, l’Objets Qui Parles, then wandered through Montmartre Cemetery until it closed.

    Our return trip was a bit more tedious since the bus we were planning to take was apparently running on a detour route but the only stops we could find were the old ones and thus temporarily out of service. We eventually opted for the Metro and squeezed onto the train crowded with rush hour commuters.

    There is construction all over the city. Sidewalks are closed, barricades and detours everywhere you turn. Paris is hosting the Olympics in 2024 which I suspect is the cause for much of the chaos. The pandemic likely caused delays in building projects and now it seems like the every bit of infrastructure is being repaired or replaced at the same time.
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  • Day23

    Walking and more walking

    October 5, 2022 in France ⋅ ☀️ 72 °F

    You might think that after walking from Porto to Santiago we’d have legs of steel. And you’d be wrong. This morning Ellen woke up feeling worn down and fighting congestion so I told her we’d take it easy today. Hah! We walked for hours all around the right bank, visiting cute little shops and wandering through shopping arcades. We grabbed sandwiches for lunch and ate them in a courtyard outside the Louvre then, quelle surprise, we went inside.

    On our way to the Louvre we went in an adorable little fabric store, Lil Weasel, in the Passage de Grand Cerf shopping arcade where we both bought fat quarters and ribbon made from Liberty of London fabric. A little while later passing through Les Halles we got sucked into Le Droguerie, a haberdashery/notions shop that had shelves of glass jars filled with beads, hundreds of little drawers filled with buttons, yards of ribbon and trim, and spools of yarn in every imaginable color. Delightful.

    When we got to The Louvre there was a long line of people waiting to buy tickets. Instead of standing in line I was able to log on to the museum website and buy tickets on the spot. Easy peasy. Were skipped the queue and headed straight through security.

    The museum was pretty crowded today and is impossible to navigate efficiently even when it’s not but we wandered the two main galleries of European paintings until we’d had enough. We opted not to join the long queue to see Mona Lisa up close. We’d both seen her before.

    Your mind goes a little numb trying to absorb so much art in one day. Everywhere you turn is another famous masterpiece. The collection is just so immense and the building is such a maze of corridors and stairways it’s overwhelming. We walked up and down so many flights of stairs just trying to get from one wing or floor to another our legs were barely holding us up by the time we staggered through the hall of Greek sculpture to visit the Venus de Milo. When they announced it was closing time I was relieved.

    Eight hours later we shuffled back to our hotel and collapsed. Except we hadn’t had dinner. We decided to head to the Franprix grocery store around the corner but somehow ended up stopping at a cute little Mexican restaurant we passed on the way. Yeah, it’s maybe a bit weird to eat Mexica n food in Paris but it was quick, easy, and filling.
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  • Day22

    Back in Paree

    October 4, 2022 in France ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    Travel day today. Flew Transavia Air from Porto to Paris, Orly. Flight was delayed an hour due to fog, then after we boarded we were stuck on the tarmac for another hour before we finally got airborne. And that is how a two hour flight becomes an all day affair.

    Grabbed a taxi to our hotel, the Caron de Beaumarchais in the marais district. It’s a lovely olde worlde hotel with chunky wood beams and plenty of USB ports for charging your renaissance gadgets. The French are very forward thinking.

    Now we are doing laundry just around the corner as I’m paranoid I may have picked up bedbugs somewhere. I have 3 little bites on my stomach I cannot explain and with how many places we’ve slept in the past few weeks one must assume the worst. I may have to buy an entire new wardrobe in Paris. Tant pis!

    I know you’re wondering so I’ll kill the suspense. Caron de Beaumarchais wrote the opera, « The Marriage of Figaro » in 1774. Of course he probably called, it Le Marriage de Figaro. Please excuse my rough translation.

    The laundromat we’re using is very cool. You can pay and control the machines with your phone, or by tapping your credit card. Or you can empty your pockets of all those heavy euro coins you’ve been hauling around which is what we did. Quelles sauvages.
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    Traveler

    hope you don't have bed bugs

    10/4/22Reply
    Traveler

    If I did, they’ve now been baked at 500°.

    10/4/22Reply
    Traveler

    Good to see your French vocabulary is coming back to you.

    10/4/22Reply
     
  • Day21

    Leavng Galicia

    October 3, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 72 °F

    This morning we packed our backpacks for the last time and walked to the station to catch the AlsaBus back to Porto. It was strange being on the highway, zooming past the landscape that had become so familiar over the last two weeks. We drove across bridges we’d glimpsed in the distance from the Camino, skirted the edges of villages we had walked through just a few days before. What had taken us 12 days to walk rewound in only 4 hours on the bus. That bus was going 3 days/hour which seems awfully fast.

    From the bus station in Porto we caught a taxi back to the Sao Bento train station where we had stayed our first night in Porto and where our suitcases were being stored.

    From there we had a short walk, fortunately all downhill, to the Hotel Exmo in the Ribeira district on the Douro river, our luggage clacking over the cobblestones as we navigated the busy sidewalks. We have a comfy room with a view up the hill toward Se Cathedral where our Camino began. Only two balconies this time.

    For some reason we’re both exhausted from a day spent mostly sitting down. I think that’s due to today’s relatively complicated logistics compared to the simplicity of the last two weeks. On Camino you just wake up, find a yellow arrow, and start walking.

    I promised Scott I wouldn’t really « see » Porto without him so tomorrow morning Ellen and I will catch a quick flight back to Paris. Until then I will only look at the pavement or the sky. 🫣
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    Traveler

    Nice view

    10/3/22Reply
     

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