Sunday, September 25, 2016

Paris 5/11 -5/18/2016


It has taken me forever to write this.  It in no way comes close to describing Paris, but I wrote about some of my adventure the best I could.

I never dreamt I would spend my birthday in Paris, but I did. Actually, my birthday morning was in Ghent, Belgium and the second half was in Paris.  I had my 30th birthday in Zurich, and these "out of the ordinary" celebrations for unforgettable.  

Had a very different birthday dinner, Lebanese food which was not an expectation for Paris. Took about half an hour to decide what to eat and we had to speak with the waiter three times to make a decision. Beautiful food. Wouldn't have imagined I'd start my Paris blog with these pictures of Lebanese food, one just never knows. Makes me laugh.

I had preconceived ideas about what to expect from this big city and little did I know how amazing it is and how this city would affect me.  My favorite place was Sacré Coeur, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris.  I saw it for the first time at night and I will never forget how I felt.  It is Magnificent - and that's with a capital "M" -- or as the French would say "Magnifique."

Sacré Coeur

Statute of Louis IX

Looking up here makes you feel tiny.

Paris is indescribable and a place that I wish everyone could visit. It is a great walking city and I sure put in some miles. Glad that I had started walking (training) before I got to Europe or the entire trip would have been a real strain.  

I walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Arc Triomphe almost to the end on a drizzly day, about 1.2 miles.  It was so fun seeing all the shops, people, park, statutes and architecture.  I was glad to have my umbrella.  

Daily ritual

Some crazy guys from Eastern Europe.  I think 
you could stand here for 24 hours and meet people from 
every country in the world.

The Luxor Obelisk is 23 metres high (about 75 feet) and was originally located at the entrance to Luxor Temple in Egypt. The location is at the Place de la Concorde. The giant ferris wheel is called "Grande Roue" and is temporarily put up each year. I loved being able to see this from any high location is Paris. It was beautiful and really stood out.

Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation, 1840

It was a dark and stormy day.

Looks like a postcard

A stunning tree in full bloom.

Huge area we walked through.  So many beautiful shades
of green and fairy tale architecture.

E.T. - you can see it from so many places around the City.

 You can see the Louvre in the background.

Joan of Arc statute, 1874.

In addition to walking, the metro is great once you get the hang of it.  Sometimes I wasn't always sure I was going in the right direction but figured if I was wrong I'd just get off and go across to the other side and travel in the other direction.  Luckily, I never got lost.

Since Paris is love, I had to take these pictures and share them:

My first full day in Paris I walked to the Metro and took it to Île de la Cité (one of two remaining islands in the Seine River in Central Paris).  I was nervous about getting off at the right stop, but luckily had no problem.  I went here to meet my tour of Notre Dame. As usual, I was very early so had a very expensive large cup of Cafe Americano (tourist area) and then looked at the Marché aux Fleurs, a flower and bird market that is over 100 years old. They only sell birds on Sunday. There were so many beautiful flowers for sale I felt like I was in a botanical garden.

I found my tour for Notre Dame and we all walked together to the cathedral.  Lots of pick pockets around this tourist area, but we steered clear of them.  Looked around inside and then it was our turn to climb 387 stairs to the top.  I almost didn't go up, but then figured it was now or never.  Actually coming down was much worse than going up.  I am glad I did go up, the views were wonderful.

Notre Dame - construction began 1163

North Rose Window

There is a story to go with each detail of this cathedral

The view was breathtaking.  Or maybe I just couldn't breathe once I
climbed up all those stairs?  It was worth every step though.

Gargoyles were built into the ends of the gutters to drain rainwater off the roof; since the gargoyles extend far off the side of the roof, the rainwater from storms fall far from the walls to prevent damage.

This one was scary looking.

There is my favorite place in Paris - up on the hill.

I made it!!!! was what I was thinking and I felt so happy.  
A good lesson for me that I can do it.

Saw old French Passages, wonderful shopping streets and malls. Some stores were unimaginable -- so elegant and almost unreal. Any designer name you would want could be found and it was fun to see these places. Luckily, I'm not a "shopper" but it was great to see these places.

Forum de Halles

Village at Basilica.  Tourist mecca, restaurants, some small shops and fantastic artists selling their work.

Printemps (meaning Spring) founded 1865.

 Amazing, looks like a statehouse

Reminded me of an opera house - unbelievable

Amazing history of this "passage" and I felt so lucky
to see it.  Shops, restaurants.  Precious.

Inside covered passage - fascinating.

Chinese restaurant in passage - making noodles. 

Unusual window decor

You better have some bucks in your account to get some of this "Iberian ham". A type of cured ham produced in Spain and Portugal. According to Spain's official rules on food products, jamón ibérico may only be made from black Iberian pigs, or cross-bred pigs as long as they are at least 50% ibérico.
My photo shows a carved one, but if as below, price is $450.00.

  • Black ibérico (pata negra), Grain-fed, cured for 24 months
  • Weight: 18-20 lbs.
  • 30-50 servings, depending on appetite
  • Manufacturer: Embutidos y Jamones Fermín
  • Produced in Alberca, Salamanca, España

  • Paris’s oldest sweet shop has been in its original 

    location for 250 years

    Interesting window display right across the street from 
    the American Embassy.  Several embassies were on this street 
    and the armed guards were very evident.

    This advertisement was everywhere in the City.  It was a 
    revolving one and every time I got close to getting a picture 
    it would change.  I think this is my fourth attempt.  I just 
    thought it was so cute.  A sweet kitty.

    Wonderful markets, bakeries, butcher shops.  They have "real" food in Paris/France/Europe.  One couldn't walk a block without seeing someone with a baguette under their arm. I fell in love with the food of Paris, good, healthy, fresh, simple. I'm not talking about fancy French cooking, but the way the people cook and eat. I will say they do consume massive amounts of thinly sliced ham and tons of cheese, so I imagine cholesterol is a concern. I had so much thin ham in France, Italy and Switzerland (almost every meal) that I swore I wouldn't eat any for six months when I got home.

    The Seine River winds its way through the city and there are lovely bridges.  At every turn there is stunning architecture.

    View of the river in the evening from the Eiffel Tower

    Several gray days in the Spring.  I was lucky with cool 
    weather and overcast, but not lots of rain.

    History is everywhere with statutes and memorials.  So many museums that you'd probably need a year to see most of the important art.  

     Charles and Louis Rochet, 1882
    In front of Notre Dame

    Unofficial memorial in memory of Lady Di, who died in 1997

    Unusual sculpture I passed by daily
    in Montmarte

    Outside Musée d'Orsay
    Rhinoceros sculpture by Alfred Jacqemart

    Horse with harrow, Pierre-Louis Rouillard

     Thomas Jefferson, a good friend to France.
    He lived in Paris for 5 years, 1784-1789

    Took a train trip to North France and got to attend a birthday party for my friend's nephew.  Had a warm reception and the food was delicious with many items I'd never tasted before.  Lots of Spanish wine that I drank too much of because I actually was dancing.  A super fun night I'll never forget.

    Happy smiles

    Lovely fresh and homemade foods

    Everyone had a great time

    Had a lovely Sunday walk through a reserve that was interesting.

    Little nesting duck

    Swans, so tranquil

    Sunday dinner preparation.  A wonderful feast with everyone
    working in harmony to get it all ready.

    We had tasty hors d'oeuvres and salad
    Above is the foi gras that was delicious.

    Cassoulet - a hearty, delicious dinner.

    Full stomachs, happy faces
    A wonderful meal

    In France the food is so fresh and when you pick up a tomato it actually smells like one. Bakeries, well what can I say. One in just about every block and just walking past the windows is a hard job. I had to resist lots of pastry, but now enjoy my photos of those goodies.

    At sunset spent about 4 hours at the Eiffel Tower which is something I will always remember. The wonderful symbol of Paris is quite spectacular. It is surreal when you really see it for the first time because I think most people in the world are familiar with it. And then you are there, looking at it in person.

    A beautiful view down from high up.

    Some firsts in Paris were drinking absinthe (very potent), eating foi gras which I was surprised that I enjoyed so much.  Then macaroons (not the American coconut ones) that were from the best pastry chef in the city.  So I had many rich and delightful new experiences.

    Had a nice dinner with Julian's friend, Nathalie, in a local restaurant known for their cheese and ham.  This is where I decided that we needed to try absinthe and it packed a wallop.

    Absinthe service was a ritual that I didn't expect.

    Spent a fun evening at the famous (or infamous) Moulin Rouge. They put on a wonderful show that went on for a long time and the costumes were amazing.  We had champagne and the evening was worth the price of admission.

    Paris is a very hilly city and I never walked so many stairs or uphill so much in my life. Again, I was so glad I'd walked before I left for my trip, but my flat walking did not prepare me for what I encountered. I thought San Francisco had some hills, but it doesn't come close.

    I didn't want to go to the Louvre because I just did not have enough time. I don't think one can say they've been to the Louvre if it is seen in five hours. It requires days so I hope to go back and have a proper look.  

    On my last day in Paris, visited the Musée d'Orsay that I loved. The museum itself is so beautiful. It was a former train station they converted, but kept the charm and beauty and the light coming in from the ceiling of glass. Took a guided tour which was informative and worth the price. I enjoyed learning new things about art.  There were many masterpieces and great works of art here.

    Non-flash photography was only allowed inside as of March 2015, so I was lucky to be able to take photos.

    Moulin Rouge
    Henri de Toulouse -Lautrec

    Can't get enough of my favorite view.

    Small dancer aged 14,
    Edgar Degas

    Huge clock

    Starry Night over the Rhone, 1888
    Vincent van Gogh

    Vincent van Gogh, self portrait.

    I'm unable to come close to expressing how Paris affected/affects me. I am so glad I went and so thankful that my Julian wanted me to have a best experience, which I did.  City of lights, city of magic, city that captured my heart.

    I will end Paris on a sweet note..............

    ........and finally thank you chef for your hospitality, all the great meals, fun and laughter -- and helping me to see all I did.  Unforgetable.

     Home made great pizza

    Alway fresh, simple and healthy food and
    the no more than 4 ingredients rule.

    Au Revoir