Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year in Review: Paris

I had hoped to chronicle much more of our Europe trip in photos. But time seemed to slip by this year with our other travels and range fires and writing and excuses, excuses. So I didn't get everything posted that I wanted.  I took over 1,000 photos of the trip but I have trouble getting them up on this site from my iPhoto files.  It is very cumbersome. However, one part of the trip I want to write about is PARIS.

The rest of the Rhine river cruise included the Black Forest where we saw lots of cuckoo clocks, glass blowing and Black Forest cake. Beautiful rolling hills, farm land country.  Reminded me of southern Pennsylvania where I grew up. John bought a big piece of Black Forest cake and ate it all himself.
We went through a series of locks as we got to the end of the river cruise

We toured the Mercedes Benz factory in Germany which has some workers and lots of robots. I felt like I was in one of my science fiction novels. That is a whole other post that I don't have time for here.
Robot on display in Mercedes Benz showroom. I think it needs a face -- or not.

We toured Strasbourg, France and learned about the European Union. The guide said that some Europeans complain about the cost of the E U. But, she said, we have had 70 years of peace and that is worth every euro.  I was always aware during this trip that only a short time ago these people were fighting and bombing each other to bits and a not-very-wide-river was the only thing separating them (between France and Germany).  We saw storks nesting in trees above fancy houses in a residential neighborhood.  Storks always come back to the same place every year to nest.

Friday morning we disembarked the Viking Ingvi in Basel, Switzerland, saying goodbye to the friends we had made on the trip. We took a taxi across town and boarded a high speed train to PARIS.   There was a rail strike but for some reason our train was running and arrived in Paris on time.  We had only four days to explore one of the great cities of the world. Did you know that Paris started as a Roman garrison?  It is that old.

One of the many cathedrals in Paris, which we found useful for resting from the endless walking. And inspiring, too.

Ah, Paris.  We were on our own and we walked a lot.  I had the map and was moderately successful getting us around. We rested in lots of cathedrals -- Gothic and Romanesque.  We tried the Paris subway system and got lost. I had dreams of them finding our skeletons in the next century. But we emerged, shaken, but in one piece. That was the day we were trying to go back to Notre Dame again because the first day when we walked hours to get there, the line was so long we only toured the outside.

The Rodin Museum was near our hotel. Incredible amount of sculpture inside and out. This is the small Thinker. There's a huge one outside in the gardens.

We stayed at a lovely little hotel in the Rue Cler neighborhood, Hotel du Champ du Mars, that I found in Rick Steves Paris guidebook. (His guidebooks are excellent reading and really helpful for good restaurants, reasonably priced hotels, and sightseeing.)  Rue Cler is near the Eiffel Tower which we walked around but did not go up because of the long lines and the short time we had to explore.

outside our hotel

When we finally got in Notre Dame it was magnificent and noisy, much to John's chagrin. He expected all those tourists to be quiet and reverential.  Wrong.  We lost sight of each other for awhile, and I was getting extremely nervous that I would have to do the rest of Paris by myself, but then I saw him plodding along in the throngs of tourists. We caught the noon mass and it was lovely -- in French.  Fabulous choir at a Monday noon mass.

Notre Dame

The weekend we were in Paris, the third weekend in June, Summer Solstice time, they were having a music festival. Everywhere we walked we ran into small groups of musicians, singers, or solo guitarist making music. In one of the Gothic cathedrals where we went Saturday evening to rest we happened on an organ concert. What an experience, sitting with those soaring arches with stained glass and the sound of this magnificent Bach organ recital.  It was humbling and uplifting. (I recorded some on my IPOD which was probably illegal and want to post it on my YouTube channel if I can ever figure out how to do it.)  At Notre Dame there was a Scottish High School Band playing rock and roll in the courtyard outside. What a combination!

Lunch at a restaurant across from Notre Dame.  Everything was so fresh and appetizing.

Then there was the food.  An indescribable experience and expensive.  All of Europe is expensive due to the miserable exchange rate. (1 euro = $1.30.)  After a while we didn't even try to translate how much money we were spending. We decided to just enjoy ourselves.  The cheese shops I could spend hours in. Amazing french bread. (Imagine that in France.) Wine shops with -- French wine! Our last evening meal was a picnic of rose wine, cheese, and amazing French bread in our room, whose open windows overlooked the people walking on the street. Paris and Amsterdam seem to live in the streets in good weather. I think it has to do with the small size of apartments that people socialize in cafes.

Now this is a cheese shop.  Aroma was heavenly.

And les Parisienne -- they are so elegant. Young and old. Men and women. You could pick out the Americans in sneakers, shorts, T-shirts and looking frumpy.

We even made it by mistake to Versailles, the bastion of Louise XIV.  On that same subway system we were trying to make it back from Notre Dame, didn't know where to get off and noticed that the train was going to Versailles so we stayed on and got to see some of the estate. The mansion wasn't open since it was Monday but we walked the grounds which were magnificent.

The Gardens at Versailles. 

Tuesday morning we left on another high speed train for Amsterdam.  We enjoyed the rest of our rose wine, cheese, bread, chocolate, and figs for lunch and dinner. Then boarded a KLM flight home.

I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Eternal Paris (outside our hotel in Rue Cler)

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