Sunday, January 27, 2013

Paris - Christmas Day

Christmas morning we slept in and sleep is a beautiful thing when you are still fighting the jet lag a little.  We were out the door a little after 11 and looking for lunch.  There were many restaurants that were closed but we found an Indian restaurant open and walked in.  We were the only ones there but we knew it was a little early so were not too concerned.  A guy seated us and brought out some papadum, which is a crispy Indian type of cracker eaten as an appetizer. After bringing the papadum he then disappeared.

Indian Papadum

We tasted the papadum and it was all right   It had cumin in it and was rather strong in flavor.  I liked it.  Frankie didn't.  We sat there for probably ten minutes without anyone coming back to ask what we wanted to drink or to even give us menus.  Finally, someone came out and told us that they actually didn't open until noon and were not ready but to please come back in 30 minutes.

Ok, fine.  We left and found a cafe that was open so that we could at least get coffee while trying to kill some time.  It was now about 11:45 and we were even more hungry.  So we walked down the road a little further to another Indian restaurant.  It was open so we walked in and a man came up to us and said that he was sorry they did not open until noon.  He then went on to say that in France lunch was not eaten until noon.  Oh well, "pardonne-nous"! (Excuse us stupid Americans with our thinking that we should have what we want when we want it at all times!)  

And further more....

Dear Indian restaurants in France,

Dudes!  Seriously, if you are NOT open then don't have your door wide open and the open sign flashing!  It's confusing. But at least to the second one, thank you for not sitting us down and giving us an appetizer like it is a cruel little joke you have to tease people.  

Two Hungry Americans

I think we walked around a little bit more, I don't really remember what we did.  But we ended up going back to the first restaurant and by that time there were other people in there and it was definitely after noon!
Our Christmas lunch was good.  For Thanksgiving we had gone to my mom's house and I made some Indian food for us to feast on.  I don't think we planned to have Indian food again for the very next holiday meal but that is what happened.  

In many restaurants in Paris they had what they were calling "formulas"  (I think the closest thing we have would be the combo meal, but this was at most restaurants and not just fast food joints) and it was usually a set price for a two or three course meal.  The choices were limited but it did help to cut the cost some, just like a combo meal in America does.  Frankie and I actually split a three course meal (appetizer, main plate, and dessert) for about 30 Euros.  When we told the waiter that we wanted to split it, he got this concerned look on his face and said it really wasn't enough food for two people.  We assured him that we would be fine and we were.  It was actually plenty of  food.  If I had tried to eat it alone I don't think I could have.

We went with a samosa (a fried pastry stuffed with potato, peas, and spices) for an appetizer.
Indian Samosa

For our main plate we chose a lamb dish with rice, of course.

Indian lamb dish and rice 

Finally, for dessert, fresh fruit with a fruit syrup on it.

Indian fruit dessert 

When the waiter brought our check he also brought a bowl of mukhwas, which is fennel seed, sugar coated fennel seeds, and other spices.  It is suppose to freshen your breath and aid in digestion.  It is rather potent so I try to get more of the sugar coated fennel seeds than not.  It does make for a pretty picture!

Mukhwas-Indian after dinner digestive and breath freshener 

After eating we decided we were going to go see Notre Dame Cathedral.  I made sure that we took the metro line that would bring us to the Cité Metro stop.  It is one of the few that is still decorated in an art nouveau style and it is the only metro stop on the Île de la Cité.  The Île de la Cité is the island that has Notre Dame Cathedral, Sainte Chapelle, Palais de Justice, and the Concergerie.

Cite Metro Stop 

We found the church and were amazed at the size of it.  It is very pretty!  I had to use the panoramic setting on my camera to fit the entire church in the frame.  In the picture below the panoramic is what causes the tilting back phenomenon. 

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris 

The line to get into the church, as seen in the right hand bottom corner of the picture above, was long so we decided we would take a look around the outside and then go check out the Deportation Memorial before getting in line.  

I absolutely L.O.V.E.D. the gargoyles.  They were amazing!  My camera can zoom in really well, so I was able to see the gargoyles even better with my camera than with the naked eye.

Gargoyles Notre Dame 4 

The ironwork on the doors was so beautiful, but I do have a partiality to spirals though!

Ornate Central Doors Notre Dame 

The panel above the doors show the last judgement.  Underneath Jesus on the throne it shows to the left the people who will be admitted into Heaven and on the right are the ones who will be cast into Hell, already chained to the demon.

Closer view of Last Judgement Panel Notre Dame 

We headed behind the church to go to the Deportation Memorial.  The back of the church is a completely different view from the front!

Notre Dame from Back 

We got over to the Deportation Memorial and it was closed.  The line was still long to go into Notre Dame and in fact had gotten even longer.  It is free to go in the church but does cost to go up the towers. The towers are covered by the Museum Pass, which we were going to get tomorrow.  Since we knew we would be coming back at a later time we decided to view the church at that time too.

We wanted to go to the Shakespeare and Company bookstore (specializing in English language books) which is down and across the street from Notre Dame. But before going there we did have to cross the Archbishop's Bridge or in French it is the Pont de l'Archevêché.

This bridge is filled with locks.  Hundreds and hundreds of locks!  You are suppose to write your name and the name of the person you love on the lock, put it on the bridge, and then throw the key into the river to symbolize your eternal love for each other.

Pont de l'Archevêché (Archbishop's Bridge) locks 

There were some really cool locks on this bridge.  

Some from far away.

Lock from Venzuela Pont de l'Archevêché (Archbishop's Bridge) 

Some looked old-fashion.

Old fashion lock on Pont de l'Archevêché (Archbishop's Bridge) 

There were many more, but I took them on a different day and want to save them for that blog post.  After crossing the bridge we walked down to Shakespeare and Company Bookstore.  It was closed.

We were getting grumpy with everything being closed after looking online and nothing being mentioned about that so we decided it was time for a coffee.   After that, things were better (because coffee heals all wounds...who needs time!) and Frankie saw this road just past where we grabbed a coffee that was filled with places to eat and souvenir shops.  It is called Rue de la Huchette and is a fun tourist street to stroll down.  Frankie wanted to eat somewhere on that street so badly, but it was only 4 PM and we had just eaten about 3.5 hours ago.  I promised him when we came back to Notre Dame, which we were planning on doing the next day, we would go back over there and eat.

As we were wondering around the Latin Quarter we found a church with no line!  So we, of course, went in.  It was called Saint-Séverin and it was very pretty on the inside. It is one of the oldest churches on the Left Bank and is still used for worship services.

Main Nave Saint Severin Church 

There is just something about the candles that are lit in these churches that I really like.  Most churches we went into in Paris charged 2 Euros to get a candle and light it.  I don't know if they make a profit off that or not.

Candles Saint Severin Church 

I also love the stained glass.  I know a lot of stained glass in these churches were bombed out during World War II, but none the less the originals or replacements are still beautiful!

Stained glass in Saint Severin Church 3 

Saint-Séverin Church also had some gargoyle rain spouts.  Too cool!

Gargoyle rainspouts Saint Severin Church 

We walked back towards Notre Dame to see if the line was more manageable and we had to go back by all those restaurants.  Sorry, Frankie.

French-Greek Restuarant front 

As we were crossing one of the bridges there was a man feeding the seagulls.  It made for a cool picture with Notre Dame in the background.

Seagulls near Notre Dame 

When we got to Notre Dame the line had gotten even LONGER.  So we were definitely going to put going in on hold until the next day.  We decided instead to start roaming as we headed towards the hotel.  We decided we were going to walk it, a good 2 mile walk.

We headed down Boulevard Saint-Michel and saw the Saint Michel Fountain right away.  That is Archangel Michael defeating the devil.  Go Michael Go!

Saint Michel Fountain 

There wasn't much to see the rest of our walk.  It was Christmas day so most was closed and it was already getting dark.  There was a park near the Port Royal Metro stop that had this sign.

Stay off grass it is in winter hibernation Paris 

Without translation, I knew I was suppose to stay off the grass because it was hibernating from Oct. 15 through April 15.  The French apparently take their grass growing very seriously.

But they don't take everything serious.  At least not all of them.  This statue got a little extra decoration.  Maybe it was for Christmas, maybe it was just because.  Either way, I laughed.

Statue with extra decorations near Port Royal Metro stop 

It is now 7 PM and to Frankie's delight we finally ate supper!  We went with a Middle Eastern sandwich shop near the hotel after looking at the high prices of a few other places nearby.

A new beverage for me, Schweppes flavor Agrum'.  It was a citrus soda and a very good one at that.  Every where we ate we were given "fancy" glasses to drink from no matter what we were drinking.  Now that there is high class!

Schweppes Agrum soda 

The sandwiches are filled and I mean filled with the meat of your choice and they come with fries.  Of course.  I really liked the tzatziki sauce, a yogurt cucumber sauce, and fries combination. 

Chicken Sandwich Fries Tzatziki sauce 

After eating we stepping into a small grocery store to just look around before going to the hotel.  We found our favorite Italian coffee, Lavazza, for CHEAP, about 2 Euros for a brick.  We brought home 4 and are kicking ourselves for not getting more.  Sure the suitcases and backpacks were BULGING, but still, we could have left shoes or something behind.  I mean really, it would have been worth it!

I did see something that made me laugh, but it was because of my own "ignorance" that made me laugh.  

Here it is.

Raisin Jus-grape Juice 

Jus means juice and then I saw raisin and I thought to myself, "Oh wow! They have raisin juice!! Ew!"  Then it dawned on me that in French raisin means grape.  It is so ingrained in English as a dried grape that it took me a second or two to realize what it really was.  I am okay with grape juice.  Raisin juice, not so much.

Back at the hotel we were flipping through the channels on the television and saw two American Christmas movies dubbed in French.  I find that fascinating!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Nightmare Before Christmas, which does that technically count as a Christmas movie?  I am not sure on that one!


We were going to go to Saint Suplice Church, but for some reason we never got to it on this day.  We were going to go to Sacré Coeur Basilica but it was far from all the sights we did see.  We later went to it.  We were going to go to the Fragonard Perfume Museum but decided we weren't that into the idea of going to it.    

We had all these things on our list and managed to only do/see two of them.  *Shrug*  Not sure how that happens. 

It was still a great Christmas day in Paris!

We still have seven days to go on our trip, so stay tuned!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Paris - Eiffel Tower, Bus #69, and Père Lachaise Cemetery

Our second day in Paris started out beautifully!  The view from our balcony was wonderful!

Hotel Edouard IV morning balcony

We began with, of course, the mandatory cup of coffee from the cafe below the hotel.

Cafe Creme

Man, I miss those! I mean really really miss those!

With this being Christmas Eve there were still a few things that were open.  Actually, quite a bit was open.  We didn't have plans for much though because we knew we were going to buy the six day Paris Museum Pass and once you activate it you have six days to use it no matter if it is holidays or not.  We were waiting until after Christmas to buy the pass and then use it the six days following.  So our options were limited to things not covered by the pass and things that were opened Christmas Eve.  We also wanted to save some things to do on Christmas Day.  There were a few things that were open on Christmas Day and New Year's Day but closed on Tuesday and guess what day Christmas and New Year's fell on....yep...Tuesday.

With that all being said, we had plans to go up the Eiffel Tower, ride the #69 bus for a cheap tour of  Paris, and to go to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, which just happened to be a stop on the #69 bus line!

So up first, up the tower we go!  We had the choice of taking the elevator or taking the stairs (which is cheaper); we took the elevator.  We were going to go all the way to the top but by the time the line moved us to the front (wasn't too bad of a wait) the elevator to the very top level was closed because it was too crowded.  We were told it would be opened back up in an hour.

In the meantime we got on the elevator and headed to the second floor.  The folks at the Eiffel Tower do have a sense of humor.  They have a "conductor" on the elevator.

Elevator conductor at Eiffel Tower

Once on the second floor and looking up, it is still a looong way up to the top floor!

Top Level of Eiffel Tower

The views from the second floor are truly amazing!

Sacre Coeur Basilica from Eiffel Tower

This is the one hill in Paris and on the hill the Sacré-Coeur Basilica which we did go to another day.

River Seine from Eiffel Tower

A look at the Seine River with a few of the over 30 bridges that cross it just in Paris alone!

We were going to wait to go up to the top, we would have had to pay extra, but I don't think it would have been that much.  But after fighting the crowd, shivering in the wind, looking around, getting cranky because we were hungry, we decided to not.

We took the stairs to the 1st floor and got something to drink and a snack.  We were looking for the post office at the Eiffel Tower so that we could mail some postcards from there.  I had read online that if you mail them from there they put a stamp that says Eiffel Tower.  Well, of course, we had to do that!  For your information the post office is on the ground floor and if you are facing the river it is under the pillar that is on the left-hand side.  It is automated but does take credit cards (if you have one with an electronic chip, which of course we don't) or coins (which we didn't have either).  So as you see, we didn't get to use it, but we did find a post office open on Christmas Eve later that day and were able to mail out our cards.

Instead of taking the stairs down from the first floor to the ground floor we decided to take the elevator and as we waited for it we saw this.

Pickpocket sign at Eiffel Tower with faces

The drawn on faces cracked me up! It was a little unnerving how often we were warned about pickpockets all over Paris, especially the subway.  There was one point when we were on the subway and three young teenage girls got in the same car we were in.  Then a man got one and started saying that these girls were pickpockets.  Apparently, there is no a word for pickpocket in French, because he was using that word and the sign above uses it too.  Even when those girls got on Frankie and I both sensed something was off about them.  Not sure what it was, but we were leery. It was surely  not the first time they had been called out because they didn't even blink and even joked about it.  It was really rather sad to think of how young and already harden they were.

It wasn't just the subway that we were warned about pickpockets.  We were warned at the Eiffel Tower at the higher levels!  We were warned at the Louvre.  We were warned at Versailles Palace and many other places.  All of these paces you have to pay to get in.  So there are people who pay to go in so that they can pick pockets??  I was thinking about that but then it dawned on me that I am sure they make enough to cover their tickets plus much  much more.  It would have to be worth it to them to do it.  I was just raised to well to have ever thought of doing that let alone actually do it!  It blows my mind.

Once we were done with the Eiffel Tower we decided to take the bus line 69.  It gives you a nice view of several sights in Paris without having to pay as much as those hop off-hop on bus tours.  It cost the same as one metro ticket and is good for an hour and half of sightseeing!  It begins or ends at the Eiffel Tower and passes the following: Les Invalides, Alexandre Bridge, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Tuileries gardens, the Louvre (one of the entrances shown here),

One Entrance of the Louvre

Notre Dame, Place Bastille,

Place de la Bastille with the July Column

and finally Pere Lachaise Cemetery (which was our next destination).

Before going in the cemetery we needed something.

Cafe Creme 2

Awh! The good stuff!  We were now ready for the cemetery.  

Now most people wouldn't think to go to a cemetery on their vacation but there are some extremely famous people buried in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery and it is largest cemetery in Paris.  We followed Rick Steve's Pere Lachaise Cemetery walk so that we were not just wondering around and possible getting lost!  It is a crazy tangle of roads and tombs.

One of the first things we came across was the Columbarium and Crematorium.  Don't feel bad, I had to look up columbarium too.  It is the place where they keep the remains of the people who have been cremated.  You had to walk down a short set of steps into this.

columbarium in Pere Lachaise Cemetery

I have never seen anything like it, over 1,000 niches. (Had to look that up too, small cubicles to hold the remains of the cremated.)  I still don't know how I feel about it.

While this is a huge cemetery (100 acres!), it is very compacted! There are at least 70,000 people buried there.  That is over 45 times the amount of people in the town I live in!!  I mean seriously look how crowded it is! 

Crowded Pere Lachaise Cemetery

I read in our Rick Steve's guidebook that they still allow people to be buried here but it is over $14,000 for a 7 foot by 3 foot plot, there are certain rules (you have to have died in Paris or lived there), and there is a waiting list.  I read somewhere else that since it is so expensive the cemetery gives out 30 year leases and if a family doesn't renew the contract the cemetery removes the remains and puts them in a ossuary.  Apparently, I really need to brush up on my cemetery terminology.  An ossuary is a place that is specifically made to be a final resting place of human skeletal remains when burial space is scarce.  AND, since there is so little room there can be multiple family members buried in one tomb.  Crazy stuff!

Here is an example of some of the larger more elaborate tombs.

large tombs in Pere Lachaise Cemetery

And here is the plainest one we saw.

A new burial plot Pere Lachaise Cemetery

At least the grass was green. If I had been in charge of the upkeep even that wouldn't be a given! Just ask my husband!  I do not have a green thumb, he says it is black! I try, I really do.

I guess when there are so many grave sites in one space you need to do something to make yours stand out.  Here were a few that stood out, to put it politely.

Woman drapped over tomb in Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Frankie said he wanted his tomb to have a statue of me draped over it like this one did.

Hand holding tomb Pere Lachaise Cemetery

I think I would rather we be buried side by side and have our hands forever clasps like this one.

Man with little man tomb Pere Lachaise Cemetery

But really we should do like this one. Frankie holding a little statue of me or the other way around. Yeah! Me holding a little statue of Frankie. I like that idea better!  That would be hilarious!

So one of the real reasons we went to the cemetery was to see the graves of the famous, at least the ones that were famous to us.

First up, Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde Tomb 2 Pere Lachaise Cemetery

In the past there was no glass barrier around his tomb and people would go up and kiss it with red lipstick.  Ew. The cemetery and the Irish government (Oscar Wilde was Irish by birth) kept paying to get it cleaned and it was causing the tomb to erode. So they glassed it.

We also saw the composer Chopin's grave.

Chopin  Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Check out all those FRESH flowers!  This man died over 160 years ago and he is still beloved by the people.

Then there is the one that I really wanted to see, Jim Morrison.

Jim Morrison Tomb Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Now I am really too young to know Jim Morrison or the music of The Doors, but my father is not and he listened to it thus forcing us to listen to it as well.  So I, in a way, grew up with the music of the 60's.  

As we gazed at the tomb there was a man there who was playing songs by The Doors on his phone.  I am definitely not THAT into The Doors and don't feel the need to honor somebody who lead such a drug filled life, so I found it slightly silly.  I wanted to film this guy so badly, but I am not that brave nor rude, so I filmed him in around about way.

One last parting shot from the cemetery.

Eiffel Tower from Pere Lachaise Cemetery

After our walk around the Pere Lachaise Cemetery we got back on the 69 bus line and headed back to the Eiffel Tower stop.  Before we got to our stop the bus turned and all of the sudden there was the Louvre!

We jumped off the bus!  It was too late to actually go in but we took some pictures before heading back towards the Eiffel Tower.

Louvre and Pyramid at night

Here is the pyramid entrance glowing with the Louvre in the background.

The next two pictures are my "artistic" shots.  Someone had left a small Eiffel Tower charm so I took a picture where the real Eiffel Tower was in focus and the charm wasn't and then I switched it.

Eiffel Tower and Eiffel Tower charm

Eiffel Tower charm and Eiffel Tower

Once we got back to the Tower we found a place to eat supper.  We tried snails for the first time and we both liked them!  They are not slimy or chewy.  It was very good with the butter and garlic sauce!  Frankie tried them first and as you can see from the video he didn't even grimace  although he did have a little trouble grabbing the little boogers!


After supper we walked towards the metro stop to go back to our hotel and I leave you with a fantastic shot of the Eiffel Tower!  This is one of my favorite pictures from the entire trip.

Eiffel Tower and Moon 2