Sunday, June 30, 2013

Paris - Montmartre, Churches, Luxembourg Garden, and Saying Goodbye

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! Sounds strange to say 6 months late, but I am a little slow getting here.

This is our last day in Paris. We fly out Wednesday, and I will combine both days in this one post. On Monday, we had plans but they got pushed to the side when Frankie got ill. He was feeling much better now so we picked up right where we left off the day before at Sacré Cœur Basilica in the Montmartre area of Paris.

Basilica of the Sacré Cœur in Paris

We didn't go in again today, but we made up for it by going in every other church we saw! The first one we hit is just around the corner from Sacré Cœur called Saint Pierre of Montmartre Parish. We walked in and saw that they were having a New Year's Day service. We were respectful and sat down in the back to view the church. I made double double sure that the flash was not going to go off on my camera and took a short video of the service.

We didn't stay long and I did get up and quietly took some pictures of things that were in the back of the church.

Saint Peter and Denis at Saint Pierre of Montmartre Parish in Paris

Wait...I want to make sure you see this properly....

Saint Denis at Saint Pierre of Montmartre Parish in Paris

That statue is holding his head in his hands! What?! Well, this I must find out more about!

The "Cool Stuff in Paris" website had the following to say about Saint Denis, depicted by the white statues above:

"Saint Denis was the first bishop of Paris, back in the third century when Paris was still very much a Roman city. The prodigious number of conversions Denis performed got him on the bad side of the local pagan priests. So the Roman rulers of Paris had Denis arrested and brought him to the highest hill in Paris, now known as Montmartre, where he was executed by — you guessed it — beheading. Now, here comes the good part: It's said that immediately after Denis was killed, he picked up his head and walked six kilometers to the North, and then finally died. The spot where he fell is now the town (technically a commune) called Saint Denis."

We will see Saint Denis again later in the day and we will see Saint Peter the other guy in the first photo...IF you even noticed him, sorry Peter...many many times on this day.

Since they were having services we didn't stay long at the church plus there was so much more to see!

Right outside the door of the church there was someone selling hot wine and mint tea. Not sure how those got paired up but whatever. I love mint tea and the price was cheap so I bought a cup.

Hot Mint Tea Paris

Do you see that? A REAL mint leaf! That is one thing that I love about the European countries that we have been to, real food. If I had ordered a mint tea in some places in America I might have been greeted with something that possibly contained a trace of the real thing, but more than likely it would contain a chemical substitute that is cheaper to produce than the real thing but taste eerily similar to it somehow. Quality goes down and so does your health!

Off my soap box and onto Place du Tertre. This is the place to go if you are an artist, at least one hoping for the tourist's Euro anyways.

Artisit in Place du Tertre Paris

There is so much to see in the Montmartre area of Paris. This is the one hill in Paris and they packed it full of goodies. I would like to share some pictures now of things we saw on our walk.

First up just some random shots.

Part of Galerie d'art Ceramique Paris

Chat Noir Banner on Rue de Cortot Paris

Rue de l'Abreuvoir Paris

Again, just want to make sure you saw this...

Face on Rue de l'Abreuvoir Paris

Cracked me up!

Looking down Rue de l'Abreuvoir Paris

Here is more of Saint Denis, the decapitated saint.

Side view Saint Denis in Square Suzanne Buisson Paris

Saint Denis in Square Suzanne Buisson Paris

Now on to one of the reason why I wanted to go to this area in the first place! The windmills (well one of them, anyways).

Moulin de la Galette

Description of Moulin de la Galette

As we were walking along we passed a restaurant that wasn't open for business on New Year's Day, but it was obvious they celebrated last night.

After New Years Eve on Rue Lepic Paris

They must have decided to clean up later. For some reason I love this shot.

It's time for lunch! It wasn't much to brag about, some pasta for both of us, but I did have some good dessert. Crepe Chantilly!

Crepe Chantilly at Le Vrai Paris Restaurant

Now, I wasn't really sure what was meant by Chantilly (all I knew was lace) so I asked and found out it was just whipped cream. Ok, sounds good to me and it was!

Next up Saint Jean de Montmartre Parish.

Door Tiles Saint Jean de Montmartre Parish Paris

Inside doors Saint Jean de Montmartre Parish Paris

After seeing the church we continued on our way to another of Paris' windmills, this one a little different from the others...

Moulin Rouge Windmill Paris

There is no way I would have paid 50 to 200 Euros to go to dinner and a cabaret show. I know that many people do, I just am not one of them. So I took a picture of the outside and called it good.

Done with Montmartre we hopped on the metro where I saw this.

Even the dirt looks like the Eiffel Tower in the metro Paris

Even the dirt in the metro looks like the Eiffel Tower in Paris!

We had two more churches to see. The first one was Saint-Germain-des-Prés. This is the oldest church in Paris built all the way back in the 11th century! It was stunning!

Wall and sunshine Saint Germain des Pres Paris

Writing on Statue Saint Germain des Pres Paris

Saint Peter Saint Germain des Pres Paris

Hey, look! There is Saint Peter again!  He is like Santa Claus at Christmas...everywhere!

On our way to another church we saw the coolest fountain right in the sidewalk.

Sidewalk Fountain Paris

The church we were heading to was called Saint Sulpice. All the churches we saw in Paris were so beautiful and Saint Sulpice was no exception.

Saint Sulpice and Fountain Paris

Stained glass and Mary with Jesus Saint Sulpice Paris

Double Stairs Pulpit Saint Sulpice Paris

Tall Candles and Side Chapel Saint Sulpice Paris

Now here is something that was very unique about Saint Sulpice.

Christmas Mass Sundial Saint Sulpice Paris

So, you are probably wondering what makes this so special. Well, let me tell you! This is on the north wall.

(I know that because I read it somewhere. I have no idea which way is north unless I am sitting in my house and I know that only because the house doesn't move and someone told me while in my house which way is north. It is really pretty pathetic, I know.)

Anyhow, on the north wall there is this obelisk looking thing which is placed just right so that at Christmas Mass the sun shines into the church through a tiny hole high up on the south wall. The sun hits a mark on the obelisk that indicates the winter solstice and week by week that beam moves down the obelisk and across a bronze rod in the floor, until, at midsummer the sun lights up the area near the altar.

Of course, none of this is an accident and was planned out long ago which makes it even cooler!

Done with Saint Sulpice we headed toward Luxembourg Garden (otherwise know as a park to us Americans). With 60 acres of grass, trees, playgrounds, tennis courts, statues, ponds, and more this place is huge, unless you compare it to Central Park in New York City which is 14 times larger. But who is counting?

Here are some pictures I would like to share with you from Luxembourg Garden.

Luxembourg Garden Wind Sign Paris

Lose translation, "Danger! Watch out for branches flying through the air and possibly bringing you to an early demise when the wind blows really really hard!"

L'Effort by Pierre Roche Statue in Luxembourg Garden Paris

This statue is called The Effort and I am not sure exactly what he is trying to do. What is taking all his effort? It looks, and I am sorry for this, but it looks like he is in great effort to pass gas. Well, it does! (Mom, I didn't use that other word that you don't like, but don't click on that link, ok??)

I have one more strange statue to share with you.

Strange Statue Luxembourg Garden Paris

I don't know what this one is called or even what you could call it. But there you go. I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Now on to the pretty sights of the park.

Walking in Luxembourg Garden Paris

Statue and Sunset Luxembourg Garden Paris

Toy Boat Luxembourg Garden Paris

We saw people playing some games that I have never seen played. I don't know what this first one is called, but I can tell you that those people playing had about the same skill level as I would have if I had tried it. In other words, we would all be better off if we just sat down and read a book or something.

This second one is the Italian game Bocce ball. I don't know all the rules, but I do know you throw one small ball that everyone else then tries to get their bigger ball as close as possible. The word bacio (pronounced: ba-chee) in Italian means kiss and that is close to the word bocce (pronounced: bo-chee) so they want the small and big ball to just lightly touch like a kiss. At least that is what I have heard, but now looking up bocce it means bowling, but that isn't as fun so let's stick to my story, ok?

We didn't really have anything else planned that we wanted to see so we just started wandering around Paris. You just never really know what you are going to see.

For instance, did you know there are places in Paris where men wearing suits and hats are not allowed to walk?? It's true! We saw a sign!  Or maybe they just aren't allowed to walk all funny...

No Men in Suits with Hats can Walk Here Paris

And of course, you can't see this as you walk by a store and NOT walk in.

Sweets Paris

Then once you are in you see this.

Sweet Bread Paris

And since you are now in the store and have drooled a little on their floor you have to buy something.

Baguette, anyone?

Frankie with Baguette Paris

Frankie got a picture holding the baguette. I want a picture holding the baguette. I want to feel French European too!!

Jennifer with baguette Paris

So it is getting close to that time again. Time to eat. Our last meal in Paris. We decide to brave the bus instead of the metro and that in itself is an adventure. Yes, the buses go to more places BUT knowing where you are and knowing where you want to go are so very very important and much more difficult that you would imagine.

We started at our hotel and got on one of the numbered bus lines. We figured if we get on this line, then this line has to come right back to our hotel. Right? Keep in mind this is New Year's Day. Who knows what is open and what time the buses stop running. It wasn't very late, maybe 7PM, so we were not TOO worried about being able to get back to the hotel.

We get on the bus and go for a ride. We decide to go to the end of the line, just to see what there was. We get off on the last stop after passing many many open restaurants to a section of town not overrun with tourists. It ends up being this huge circle of shops and restaurants.

Great! Just what we were looking for. We start around the circle only to find that either 1.) the restaurant was very expensive or 2.) the restaurant was closed. Well crud!

I think we walked all the way around one time just to end up at a place called Buffalo Grill. It was so American sounding...slightly fitting for our last meal before heading back to America. We needed to get our palates use to American food again and surround ourselves with  American items and American legends.  (Not really, but it was a last resort and we were getting desperate!)

Buffalo Bill Picture in Buffalo Bill Restaurant Paris

Since this was our last meal you are going to see Every. Last. Thing. We. Ordered.

Bread at Buffalo Grill Restaurant Paris

We received our bread and drinks and then sat there waiting and waiting and waiting. I think they forgot us. Frankie got up and tried to communicate with the waiter the problem but there was a breakdown in translation or something. Remember, we had wandering farther away from mainstream tourism so it was no surprise the waiter's English wasn't as strong as other people we had met. Luckily, there was a very sweet French couple sitting nearby with whom we had been chatting and they realized the problem. The man got up and went to where Frankie and the waiter were and helped explain that we never received our food.

Thank you thank you thank you very sweet French couple!

Food was brought out.

Wings at Buffalo Bill Restaurant Paris

Grilled Ham with Green Beans at Buffalo Bill Restaurant Paris

Grilled Buffalo at Buffalo Bill Restaurant Paris

Coffee with small creme brulee and brownie Buffalo Bill Restaurant Paris

We ate. We paid. We got on the bus after a little confusion about where the bus stop was and what time the last bus came by...just a slight scare with another very nice French woman helping us country folk figure out the big city things. We went to the hotel. We slept. We got up. We packed. We got on the metro after dragging our carry-on suitcases and backpacks up and down a quadrillion steps. We got on the plane. And finally, we saw the Eiffel Tower one last time.

Last shot of Paris and the Eiffel Tower from plane

Au revoir, Paris!

It took me so long to write all of the Paris posts that we have already taken our summer trip. We went to Orlando, Florida and Savannah, Georgia. I will start organizing all my pictures from that trip and get busy on those post. I will TRY to have them done BEFORE our hopefully winter trip to Buenos Aires Argentina and Montevideo Uruguay!

Until then, adiós. (I have to start practicing my Spanish now!)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paris - Musee Des Egouts (A Sewer Tour) and Sacré Cœur Basilica

Monday, December 31, 2012

It is New Year's Eve and we slept in. Once we were up and moving we decided to go to our now favorite breakfast stop Montparnasse Cafe right under our hotel. It seems that when you sleep in too late and get out the door late, like around 11 AM, that breakfast is a little harder to come by.

 Case in point, we had to settle for bread and butter.

Breakfast you get at almost 11 AM Paris

But it was good bread and butter!

Frankie's stomach was feeling a little icky this morning so he asked if they had anything like Sprite or 7-Up. The waiter said they had something like it and brought out this:

Pschitt Soda Paris

That, my friends, is a soda called Pschitt. We had to ask a couple of times for him to repeat it, even though we were looking at the name. Finally, it sunk in. It is pronounced just like the noise it makes when opened. Pschitt! Too funny!

Frankie felt a little better and we soldiered on. Our first plan for the day was to take a tour of the Paris sewer. Yes, you read that right. A tour of the Paris sewer known in French as Musee des egouts de Paris. It was one of those museum covered by the Paris Museum Pass, Rick Steve's mentioned it, and it was just weird enough to be right up our alley!

Sign for Paris Sewer

It was actually very interesting to see how the sewer has evolved over time. It begun in the year 1370 and has changed and grew as the city of Paris did. They have allowed tours since the 1800's! You can't tell me that is not worth seeing! We have a septic tank so this was all new to me!

Fair warning, it doesn't stink like, well, a sewer, but it does have a musty damp odor to it. What can you expect though? There are several places in the museum where you are walking only a few yards above the running sewer water.

There were some things that were creepy and it is a little dark in places. Let me share some pictures. You know you want to see them! (Mom, don't look at the next one though...)

Largest rats ever in the Paris sewer

Long creepy tunnel Paris sewer

There was lots of information about how the sewers are cleaned of "build-up" through the use of dredging and cleaner balls.

Dredging machine Paris Sewer

Picture showing man using dredging machine Paris Sewer

Cleaner ball Paris sewer

Cleaner ball description Paris sewer

There was history of the sewer and of floods that have affected Paris. They have a statue near the sewer entrance on a bridge that they use to help talk about just how high the floods reached in a certain year.

Pont de l'Alma statue Paris Sewer

There also was information about the different books and movies that have referenced the Paris sewer, especially Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. When we went to Paris I was in the process of reading this book and the movie had just come out so that was yet one more reason I wanted to go to this museum.

Not only did they mention Les Misérables, they even had a painting of the sewer scene in the museum.

Behind the gate Jean Valjean carries Marius through Paris sewer

Romping through a sewer really builds up a person's appetite so once we were done we found some lunch. Along the way we past by Pont Alexandre III (pont means bridge in French). It was a very pretty bridge. Here are a few pictures.

People on Side Pont Alexandre III Bridge Paris

Lamp post Pont Alexandre III Bridge Paris

Gold Horse Pont Alexandre III Bridge Paris

We ended up at a restaurant called La Dauphine. It was decent. Nothing extra special. Frankie had roasted chicken and fries and I had pasta.

Roasted Chicken and Fries at La Dauphine Paris

Orrecchiettes with tomato sauce and basil at La Dauphine Paris

And as always, you must must must finish off a meal with a good coffee! The best kind always leaves rings! (I really have no idea, but it sounds good!)

Rings of Espresso Paris

Our next stop was Sacré-Cœur Basilica. We took the metro to the Pigalle stop which is not somewhere I personally would want to go at night. But to get to the basilica we did have to go there and the Montmartre area as well. It was extremely crowded but we bullied our way through. We could see the basilica behind buildings but had to climb up that one hill in Paris to get to it.

Basilica of the Sacré Cœur Behind buildings Paris

There are many shops on the way up. There was one we just had to stop at!

Soft Candy in Montmartre Paris

Look at all the candy! Wouldn't you stop in too?

We didn't go down this street, but the name just cracked me up.

My translation- Stinkerque Street Paris

Stinkerque Street is how I read it!

Once you get up part of the hill it gets much steeper and at that point you can climb a ton of stairs to get to the basilica or you can ride the funicular. And let's face it, between a bazillion steps or a funicular that cost the price of one metro ride, which would you pick?

Tracks of Funicular to Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

Funicular it is!

It was like riding in an elevator, just going diagonally instead of straight up or down. Once you are up there, the view is amazing!

Basilica of the Sacré Cœur Paris

It was extremely crowded the day we went.

Crowd at Basilica of the Sacré Cœur Paris

But the views of Paris from the hill are worth the effort and crowds.

Paris from Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

And maybe you will be lucky and see Iya Traore who is a freestyle football entertainer while there. He is amazing! I took some videos to share.

Iya is crazy talented! It was fascinating to watch him perform! The next photo is one of my favorite shots. It shows Paris and Iya in an amazing pose!

Iya Traore in Paris at Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

We did actually go in the church, but it ended up being follow the leader as we all made one big circle around. No photos were allowed. After the circle, Frankie and I sat down and just looked around. It is one of the prettiest church naves I have seen. I couldn't help myself. I just HAD to sneak a picture. They were watching and calling people out too and I still did it! I was nervous and trying to hurry so the picture isn't the best and really doesn't do it justice at all! But it is the best I got.

Nave of Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

I don't have much to share about the inside except that it was very very pretty and crowded. I did take a few pictures of the outside. It is magnificent.

Oustide domes of Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

Gargoyle of Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

I didn't get as many as I wanted because Frankie was starting to feel bad again. His stomach was doing a number on him! We found a restroom right around the corner from the basilica and without going into details let's just say Frankie needed some privacy with just him and a toilet.

We go in and it was small, loud, crowded and confusing. There were maybe four stalls for women and one stall for men plus a few urinals only partially hidden by a half wall. If Frankie wanted to use the urinal well he could just step right up and go for it, but if anyone wanted a stall they had to pay the attendant 50 cents. At least we think this was the case. The attendant spoke very little to no English and people were all over the place. It was hard to hear and hard to figure out what in the world was going on.

Frankie gave the attendant 50 cents and then go overwhelmed and just walked out.

When we walked out, I hadn't realized what happened but then Frankie said, "I just gave that lady 50 cents and walked out." So that is the story of how we paid 50 cents to tour a public restroom in Paris.

We still had the issue of needing a restroom so we walked just a little bit further down the road and found a small cafe. I ordered a coffee and Frankie asked for something to help settle his stomach. He finally got to where he needed to get in the first place and he drank what the man gave him. Which was this:

Indian Tonic Paris

Indian tonic is gross. I have never tasted anything like it. It has this ingredient in it called quinine which is used to treat MALARIA!! Quinine glows under a blacklight! Why in the world are we drinking this??

No matter, it didn't help Frankie and we decided it would be best to go back to the hotel so he could lay down. It was a pretty miserable trip back to the hotel for him but we made it and he slept and slept and slept. I can't remember what I did. Probably watched a little TV and since we had wifi checked Facebook 100 times.

Around 8 PM I woke him up and begged him to go with me so I could get some food. I was too chicken to go on my own. He begrudgingly went and gave me dirty looks the whole time. Sorry, Frankie for being a chicken. Good thing he loves me.

So that sums up our Monday. Tuesday we will finish what we were going to see today and see what we can find before we head out on Wednesday. I hope you will stay with me for the very last day of our trip to Paris! Until then....