Sunday, May 19, 2013

Paris - Musée d'Orsay, Rodin Museum, and Les Invalides

On Saturday December 29, 2012, we woke up to another gorgeous day in Paris.

Beautiful Saturday Morning in Paris

We started our day off, as we had most days so far, with a trip to the Cafe Montparnasse nestled under the Hotel Edouard VI which is where we stayed. The coffee is excellent and we kept getting the same waiter, who was very friendly and even spoke English. He, of course, claimed he didn't speak English very well, but it was MUCH better than any French we spoke!  We had our "usual" of coffee and a pain au chocolat or plain croissant if they were out of the chocolate ones. What an awful life!

As we sat there Frankie saw a sign saying "huîtres crues" and asked our waiter what it meant.  The waiter told us it meant raw oysters to which Frankie said he had never had.  I hadn't either.  The waiter looked at us in shock.  Seriously, I think he had never met anyone who hadn't eaten raw oysters.

He told us to hold on and he went to the back and brought out two raw oysters for us to try.  How sweet!

raw oysters at Montparnasse Cafe Paris

It really must be a strange thing in France because even the other waiter came over to watch us try them! They even gave us a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top. Frankie went first and gave a thumbs up, so I took mine, dug it out and ate it. It was good! Probably not something I would eat on a regular basis but would eat again.

We went to three museums today.  The first one was the Musée d'Orsay.  It is housed in a converted train station and has mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915. It has works by MonetDegas, Renoir, Van Gogh and many others but I listed the ones I had heard of.  (Keep in mind, I am a self-proclaimed art idiot.)

I wasn't able to take pictures inside the museum but did get a few before going into the actual museum part.  Here is the overall museum showing that it really was an old train station.

d'Orsay Museum Paris

One of the first things that you are greeted with is one version of the Statue of Liberty (which was given to us by the French, in case you didn't know.)

Statue of Liberty in d'Orsay Museum

I loved the huge clock that is in the museum.

Clock in d'Orsay Museum

I loved the one that is near the gift shop on the top floor even more. You can look through it and see Saint Suplice Church in the distance. It was an amazing sight!

St Suplice Church Seen Through the Clock at d'Orsay Museum

After visiting the Musée d'Orsay it was time for lunch!  Do I talk about food a lot in my blogs??  I am pretty sure I do.  I think it is something we can all relate to!  Even if you can't travel you can eat food from different places and cultures right in your own home.  I can give you that experience too, right? Of course!  So let me proceed.

We usually never had a specific place in mind, we just wonder until we find something that either:

1.) we can agree on
2.) I can get over the prices on the menu or
3.) one or both of give up and go into the "next place we see"

I think Le Drop Cafe ended up being a number 3.) because it was one of the more expensive meals we had, but it was good.  That helped quell the number munchers that constantly calculate cost in my head.  Plus they had a formula (they call it a menu, we would call it a combo meal) which allowed us to get more for a little less.

For our appetizers Frankie went with the smoked herring and potatoes.

Smoked Herring Appetizer at Le Drop Cafe Paris

We also ordered a plate of French cheeses. The guy told us what type they were but it was French words and they didn't stick in my head. It looks pretty though!

Cheese Plate Appetizer at Le Drop Cafe Paris

For our main plates Frankie chose fried squid which was the plat du jour and I went with a typical steak and fries.

Plat du jour - Fried Squid at Le Drop Cafe Paris

Steak and fries at Le Drop Cafe Paris

For dessert I ordered a crème caramel. I was thinking it was going to be warm but it wasn't. It was served cold with a caramel sauce served over the top. I liked it but Frankie didn't care for the texture.

Creme caramel at Le Drop Cafe Paris

After stuffing our faces with good French food we made our way to the Rodin Museum.  Auguste Rodin was the artist who created The Thinker and other works, but I think most people would recognize this one.

The Thinker Close Rodin Museum

I have a photo I think is cool of The Thinker with Les Invalides dome in the background.

The Thinker at Rodin Museum and Les Invalides Paris

Also by Rodin is this one called the "Gates of Hell".

The Gates of Hell Rodin Museum

Maybe you didn't notice this little detail, but you really should take a closer look. It is rather disturbing...

Small detail The Gates of Hell Rodin Museum

There is one more work by Rodin I would like to share. I am sure there is some deep meaning behind it but it made me grin.

Pallas with the Parthenon by Rodin at Rodin Museum

I love to see artist's signatures. Here is Rodin's signature.

Auguste Rodin signature in sculpture Rodin Museum

Also at the Rodin Museum there were pieces by other artist as part of an exhibition. There were several sculptures by Ivan Meštrović. This one was my favorite and it his best know work. It is a depiction of Job from the Bible and it captures the extreme suffering that Job went through when everything was taken away from him by Satan.

Job by Meštrović at Rodin Museum

We left the Rodin Museum and the first thing we saw was this.

Pole filled with stickers Paris

Upon closer inspection.

Rodin Musee Stickers on Pole Paris

I guess they have a free day every once in awhile?

We continued on our way to Les Invalides which use to be a hospital for those injured in war. It also had a chapel installed but now houses several museums and tombs: The Army Museum, The Museum of Relief Maps, The Museum of Liberation from the Second World War, the tomb of Napoleon, and other military people's tombs.

We made a quick stop at Napoleon's tomb. Here is a crazy piece of trivia. The remains of Napoleon are protected by six coffins, built from different materials, including mahogany, ebony, and oak, all one inside the other.  No wonder it is so large!

Napoleon's Tomb at Les Invalides Paris

His tomb sits under the huge dome of Les Invalides and from the inside it is lovely.

Inside Dome of Les Invalides Paris

Frankie wanted to go to the Army Museum and we were cutting it close to closing time. I think we had about 30 minutes to see what we could see. I don't think we saw that much of all that Les Invalides contains!

We did see something that had nothing to do with the museum but it made a lovely picture.

Wedding Photo Shoot at Les Invalides Paris

I am not sure if they were actually getting married, just taking pictures, or what. These are the only three people we saw.

Since we didn't have a lot of time, Frankie opted to see just the World War II exhibit. I am not much into war related things so me and my camera wondered and found our own entertainment. Let me share.

Army Museum at Les Invalides Soliders and horse

Army Museum at Les Invalides Middle East Soliders

Britain War Poster at Army Museum at Les Invalides

American War Poster at Army Museum at Les Invalides

Photo of Hitler in Paris at Army Museum at Les Invalides

Photo of Bombings in WWII at Army Museum at Les Invalides

Photo of Nagasaki bombing at Army Museum at Les Invalides

Photo of Japan Surrendering at Army Museum at Les Invalides

And we are through with war! We left the museum and wandered a bit through the gardens trying to find our way out.

Garden Maze at Les Invalides

We found our way out and started our walk to find supper. After about 15 minutes Frankie suddenly says that he can't find his Paris Museum Pass. We are talking a $100 loss plus the cost of any thing that we went to in the future that takes the pass. He starts to retrace his steps and he thought that he might have dropped it out of his pocket when he took his phone out to take some pictures back in the garden maze at Les Invalides.

We think are now closed and its dark outside.  Not good conditions to search for small objects.

We hurriedly walk back to it just hoping we can get into the garden to look for it.

We get back and sure enough the gates are closed and locked. They had police security at the gate and a guy comes out to see what we need. He speaks very little English, but somehow we managed to get across that we needed to get in there to look for this Museum Pass. He calls someone on the radio and they come over. We explained again and luckily this guy speaks more English.

They let us in and escort us to where we thought the pass was. Frankie frantically looks in one area and I frantically look in another.

Then I see it! YES!

We thank the police a thousand times (in French even) and leave.

By this time the adrenaline had worn off and Frankie was just mad at himself. I tried to help calm him but it wasn't until we found some raw oysters on Rue Cler that he calmed down somewhat.

Raw Oysters on Rue Cler Paris

We made it back to the hotel without further incident only to realize how hungry we were. Times like these call for fast food. McDonald's down the street it is!

Thank goodness they had the electronic kiosk that allow you to look at a menu in English and then that automatically gives that order to the staff so you don't have to fumble with a foreign language and feel stupid.

We got our food to go and took it back to the hotel. Emotions were still a little ruffed (I think I just made that  word up) and we were done with crowds and just being out.

It was interesting to see what is available at a place that you are familiar with from your own country. Let me tell you, our McDonald's at home is so unimpressive compared with what you can get in France!

Bagel Cheeseburger!!

Bagel Burger McDonalds Paris

Hazelnut Vinaigrette!!

Hazelnut Vinaigrette McDonalds Paris

Side Salads with weird things in them!!

Side Salad McDonalds Paris

But despite the difference...

I'm Lovin' It Cup McDonalds Paris

I'm lovin' it!

Next post will be about Victor Hugo and I will throw in some modern art for fun. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Paris - The Town Of Versailles And Its Palace

On Friday, December 28th, we hopped on a train and headed out of Paris to the town of Versailles (pronounced, well to the best of MY ability, ver-sigh). It is a mere 30 minute train ride away and we love riding trains!

Although, when you keep seeing signs like these in the metro stations, it causes you to ponder for a just a second if you really want to see a man eating lighting while you are trying to get somewhere.  Maybe that is just me, though.

Electric Warning Sign in Paris Metro

A word about the difference between the metro and the RER trains.  The only thing I could really gather is the RER trains, which do stop at stations in the city, like the metro, also travel outside the city.  So to get to Versailles you will have to take a RER which you catch at a RER station.  To go outside of the city you will have to buy a separate ticket than what you would use for in-city travel.  Be sure not to lose the ticket because it is your ticket back too!

We got everything figured out and saw the train. It was a double decker!  How cool is that?! 

Double Decker Train from Paris to Versailles

Once we got to Versailles we started our walk to the Versailles Palace, but before getting there we had to make a pit stop at the McDonald's.  Their McCafe was amazing!  After seeing this one, everytime I go to a McDonald's here in America I am so disappointed now.  Want to see why?

McDonalds Cafe in Versailles

They have macarons, people!  I mean, come on!!  Even if you don't speak French check out the website to the McCafe linked above and here and just look at the pictures!  It is enough to make you drool!

Seeing how we didn't go to Versailles just to go to McDonald's, let's move on now. Shall we?  We continued our journey to the Palace, which is probably the only reason most tourist go to Versailles in the first place. (Oh, by the way, the Paris Museum Pass covers your ticket into the Palace!)

When you get to the Palace you are greeted with a statue of King Louis the XIV on horseback.  While, statues are nice and all, they do tend to become a blur when you see a lot of them at one time.  This one stood out to me, but not in a typical fashion. Then again, I don't see things in a typical fashion.  Here is what I saw.
The backside of King Louis XIV statue at Versailles Palace

The dude has doo-doo curls (at least that is what I call them, you know, the ringlet type of curls) AND his horse has a bow WITH tassels on its butt.  It is all kind of girly if you ask me...

Anyways.  Versailles Palace is very pretty and you can see the money that was put into it.  Just the gate alone probably cost more that my house.

Gate at Versailles Palace

The palace is enormous!  It is over 720,000 square feet in area.  That is about 12.5 American football fields!  My house is 0.02 football fields.  We are just talking about the palace and not the grounds.  I will get to the grounds soon.  First, check out this picture of the front.

Versailles Palace Grounds

We went in to tour the place and ran into a wall of people.  Where in the world did they all come from??  Well I know that one of them was from Asia (at least at some point her ancestors were anyways) and I know this because you tend to turn around and look at the person shoving  you in the back so they can push into the next room that is overcrowded with people as well.  It was crazy.  I tried to take some pictures but there were times that it was just impossible.

I did get some pictures.  I had to stand there and wait for several minutes until there was a clearing.  But patience pays off.  The first picture I want to share with you from inside Versailles Palace was the strangest thing I saw while there.

A monkey riding a goat...Versailles Palace

I think when I saw it, I made the same face that the monkey is making.  *shrug*  Is it a French thing?  A rich people thing?  I don't know.  I just don't know.

Beyond that, the Palace was just covered from floor to ceiling in opulence!  I am just going to show you some pictures from the inside without descriptions.  If you are interested in find out more about the picture you should be able to hover over it for a descriptive title.

Alter in Versailles Palace

Fireplace in Hercules Room Versailles Palace

Painting on every surface Versailles Palace

Kings Bed in Versailles Palace
This one needs a little caption: "King's bed"
Queens Bedroom Versailles Palace
This one needs one too: "Queen's bed"
And then there was the Hall of Mirrors. (To be honest, this was the only thing I had heard of when referring to Versailles Palace before actually going there.)  There are 578 mirrors in this room and at the time they were of an exceptionally large size.  In the picture below the mirrors are on the left and then there are windows across from them on the right with wonderful views of the gardens.

Hall of Mirrors Versialles Palace

We decided to take a picture of our reflection in the mirror.  They weren't the clearest, but what can you expect from old mirrors?  The lady in the white jacket, her name is Gwyn.  Seriously, if you are in my pictures and therefore my memories, you are getting named.  Gwyn is either doing a little disco dance, counting the mirrors or she could have just been listening to the audio tour.  Take your pick.

Frankie and Jennifer in Hall of Mirrors Versailles Palace

After all the jostling inside us country folk needed to get outside to get some air and some elbow room!

I think I enjoyed the gardens much more than the actual house, but again, I think that had a lot to do with the open space and less people.  It was very pretty though and if I was a queen and had several people doing the upkeep on my yard it might look like this too.

Decorative Shrubs Versailles Palace
In the summer all the area between the curly shrubs is filled with flowers.  I enjoyed it the way it was and I can't imagine the beauty of it in the summer!

If you thought the Palace was huge, you would not believe the size of the gardens!  Here is a picture from outside the Palace to the end of the Grand Canal which is the large rectangular body of water seen below.  For a little perspective it is just about a 3.5 mile walk around the Grand Canal with a water surface area close to 3 square miles.

Grand Canal Versailles Palace

The gardens are filled with shrubs, fountains, statues, trees, and more shrubs, fountains, statues and trees.  Let me share some pictures with you now of  the shrubs, fountains, statues and trees in no particular order.

Various shrubbery of Versailles Palace

Latona fountain Versailles Palace

Turtles and Lizards at base of Latona Fountain Versailles Palace

Men turned to lizards and frog on Lontana fountain Versailles Palace

Apollo fountain at Versailles Palace 

Walkway of trees at Versailles Palace 

Here is my personal favorite, the Orangerie.  I love the design! The actual orange, lemon and pomegranate trees are kept inside during the winter and some of those trees are over 200 years old!  I want an orangerie!  I will just take a few orange trees.  At this point I will settle for an orange!  I am really not that fussy!

Orangerie at Versailles Palace 

The last few pictures I have to share from Versailles Palace are the ones that made me go, "Huh?" or that made me laugh.

First of, the statues were covered.  I am assuming it was because it was winter.  I guess the marble statues gets cold?

Covered Statue at Versailles Palace

There were many statues, at least I think that is what they were but I happened to stop and read this particular statutes' marker.

Name of Covered statue at Versailles Palace

So now I am not sure what exactly is under those covers....but I do know it is marble and old.

Another thing that surprised me was this.

Baked Potatoes and Hot Wine at Versailles Palace

Would you like a hot baked potato and some hot wine to go with it?  You could have it somewhere between the palace and the grand canal on the right hand side.  There you go.

The last thing that just cracked me up was this.

Downhill sign at Versailles Palace

I know what they are trying to say here, steep hill, but the way they chose to show it is hilarious!  WEEEEEEEEEE!  Hang on Granny!!

We had been at Versailles Palace for over four hours and that was enough for us.  It was getting close to 2 PM and we were not ready to head back to Paris, so we decided to walk around the town of Versailles and see what we could see.  It is a lovely town!

There are sorts of little nooks and crannies to explore.

Awesome alleyway in Versailles

3 option divide Versailles

Christmas light in Versailles

Want to live in this town?  You can.  Here is a  nice house with 7 rooms for a mere 2 million dollars.  Better hurry though, I bet it goes fast!

1.575 million Euro house in Versailles

We found a huge indoor market that was actually split among several smaller buildings.  I L.O.V.E foreign grocery stores and markets.  Just look at all this goodness!

Fresh lychees in market Versailles

Oranges with leaves in market Versailles

Rabbit in market Versailles

Seafood in market Versailles

Foie Gras in market Versailles

More cheese in market Versailles

Olives in market Versailles

Sandwiches in market Versailles

Eclairs at market Versailles

pasta at market Versailles

Lemons at market Versailles

Hungry yet?

As we walked along we found a church and went in. It is called Notre Dame de Versailles. And guess what. It wasn't crowded!! At all! My kind of place!

I took pictures without having to wait. I took pictures with no one in them but what I wanted. I took pictures so that Frankie had to sit down and wait because I was taking so long. Bless his heart, he is so patient with me and my photo a point.

Virgin Mary Statue at Notre Dame de Versailles

Pulpit at Notre Dame de Versailles

Nave at Notre Dame de Versailles

Chairs at Notre Dame de Versailles

St Therese and candles at Notre Dame de Versailles

It was almost 5 PM by now and we were hungry but nothing was open.  Apparently we eat much earlier in our lives than the French as we found out on Christmas day and many other times.  Nonetheless, we were hungry!

Some guys saw us standing staring at this place called Quick trying to decide what it was and if we could go in.  They were very nice and told us it was a Danish company that served fast food hamburgers.  We are always willing to try a new place and considering it was fast food it had to be on the cheaper side of things.

We go in and it is set up like a typical American fast food joint.  You walk up to a counter and place your order from the menu on the wall above you.  The only problem was this was all in French.  Well, lucky for us they had machines we could order from that included the English translations!  It made things so much easier and we had a familiar friendly face watching us.  

Le Tony Burgers at Quick in Versailles

Hey look everyone!  It's the San Antonio Spurs' point guard, Tony Parker!  We actually saw his face plastered in several places while in Paris.  It was awesome! Go Spurs Go!

Tony has food named after him!  Frankie ordered the one that had blue cheese on it and he really liked it.  Fast food looks different at Quick than any place in America.  Which is to say, it looks GOOD!

Fast Food at Quick2 in Versailles

After eating we started to head back to the train station to go back to Paris.  Along the way we saw a Monoprix store.  Frankie said he had read that it was a good place to pick up some good priced souvenirs.  We went in and discovered that it was a supermarket that sells food, hardware, clothing, and gifts.  It was interesting to walk around and we did see a few curious things.  I have two I would like to share.

Cat Liquid Snack - France

There is no way in the world any cat I have ever known would sit this still and delicately receive a liquid snack. They don't show the blood that would surely be drawn by the teeth or claws of an over eager cat trying to get the snack.

Then there is this one.

American Sauce - France

Apparently, I am so American that I have no idea what this is.  It reminds me of when we were in Budapest and the hotel had a sign saying they would be glad to make anyone who wanted one a cup of American coffee.  I had to ask what that meant because I am too American.  (For all you other ultra Americans, it is the drip style coffee and not instant or espresso type of coffee.)

We bought a few things and continued on the way to the train.  I started to look for my ticket before we got there so I could have it ready.  I couldn't find it!

Well poot!

It wasn't a huge deal since it wasn't really that expensive (I want to say it would have been around $3 to replace.) but we weren't sure how easy it would be to replace it.  I kept digging in my purse and then looked in my pockets.  I found it somewhere, lodged between two things, of course.


The ride back was uneventful and it was a little after 7 PM so we decided to go for a river night cruise. Frankie loves going on night cruises.  He says they are very relaxing to him.

This one was a little nippy and rainy but the views of the Eiffel Towers makes you forget those things.  So once again I leave you with a beautiful photo of the sparkling tower of lights!  The blog about the next day will include several museum visits so stay tuned!

Eiffel Tower sparkling at night from river cruise