Tuesday, January 16, 2018

City of Lights (Paris)

We spent a couple weeks in the City of Lights - experiencing busy city life and taking in the world famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, Versailles, Notre Dame, Hotel de Invalides, and so many others.  We took the transports en common including the metro (subway) and the bus and we walked up stairs, down stairs, up tall towers and down through metal steel work.  We walked and walked and walked some more.  We ate like Parisiennes (sans de la viande) and did as much as we could do in this amazing city.  It was fantastic!

With this being our first visit to Paris, some of the things we found the most interesting for good, bad or indifferent was 1) The level of security - we'll just say the French gendarmerie look tough.  One thing is for sure - we felt protected.  2)  The ease of travel around a large area.  Between the buses, elevated train and the subway, it was so easy to get around without a car.  In fact, we parked our car near where we were staying and didn't move it for two weeks.  3)  The history of the city is incredible.  Paris goes back to the gauls, the vikings and the romans - thousands of years there has been some sort of community and commerce along the Seine.

Alas, we bid au revoir to Paris and traveled west towards the ocean.
So glad we had the opportunity to see Paris
Alexandre III Bridge - the most beautiful bridge I have ever seen
The bridge was named after Tsar Alexandre III of Russia and built in 1896
The nymphs
Under the Tour d'Eiffel
CDG himself (Charles deGaulle) on the Champs Elysee
The Louvre
The Louvre

River barge - notice the braces that keep the boats from hitting the wall in the strong current
Pont Neuf (New Bridge) the oldest bridge in Paris
Pont Neuf figureheads
The Pantheon
Random security at the Pantheon
Faune dansant - Jardin de Luxembourg
Le Metro
Le Seine a nuit
New Years Eve from the Arc de Triumph looking back down the Champs D'Elysee
The security line on New Years Eve that stretched the entire width of the Champs D'Elysee
NYE - Arc de Triumph
Nice to be back at our apt at midnight to celebrate...
....with this girl
The Metro (subway) in St Michel
Charlemagne and his slaves - outside Notre Dame
The Seine as it overflows its banks - this is one of the only river cruises that can make it under the bridges
The marchés (the markets)
The gardens at Versailles
The gates of Versailles
Every king needs his emblem on a gate - this is Louis XV's (aka "The Sun King) on the gates of Versailles
The interesting figures in the fountains at Versailles - there are turtles and alligators and frogmen (??)
Neptune - outside Versailles
Au Revoir Buddy A Bientôt 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Le Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower standing over 1,000 feet tall is THE iconic representation of Paris.  It was the first thing we looked for when we arrived and the view never seemed  common place.  Everywhere we went we would say "Look, there's the Eiffel Tower" - from the Pantheon to atop Notre Dame to the Louvre, even as we rode the "RER" back into Paris from Versailles, it seemed surreal as the Eiffel Tower came into view.  

So what better way to see it then to climb over 1,000 steps to the second stage and touch the metal work and see the bolts and understand the engineering feat that it was to build.  To go higher and access the third stage, an elevator is required and the reward is an amazing panoramic view of the city.  
Something about the fog is so Parisienne. 
Ohh the lights. This was our view on New Years Eve as we walked from the Champs Elysees.
Tour de Eiffel en Noire along the Seine
From the base
Across the Seine mandatory selfie.
From the first stage - looking towards Trocadero

Stair #150
With a little education along the way - at every landing
Second Stage View
A few more steps
Looking down... would be a nice 3 sec parachute delay with a large LZ straight ahead :>)
Looking Up from second stage
The White pyramid-ish things are the lights that give it the beautiful glow
Voila!  Panoramic of the city from the top

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Our Lady of Paris - Notre Dame de Paris

We arrived in Paris between Christmas and New Year's so the large crowds around the major landmarks were expected.  We also expected they would diminish after the first week of the year.  We would walk by and do an "hours" test.  If the line was more than two hours, we would have to come back, mostly because there hasn't been two hours without rain since we arrived and standing in the cold rain for hours doesn't sound fun when we could be back in the apartment by a fire with Kala.

By an unexpected stroke of luck, we were walking by Notre Dame on a breezy and cool (sans rain) Sunday afternoon and found our window.  As we approached the doors, we realized mass was being held.  The burning incense, the choir singing, the organ playing and the priest blessing the congregation in french created an amazing ambiance to see this ancient cathedral.  

Here is the Wiki 411 on Notre Dame, but to throw out a few dates - it was originally built in 1163 and was added on to throughout the centuries - mostly finalized in 1345 with a few final additions to the modern church as it is today in 1845....twenty years before the US Civil War, forty years before the Eiffel Tower and twenty years before the Louvre Museum.    

We also took the opportunity to climb the 368 steps to the towers that rise above the city.  We were able to see the gargoyles and chimeras up close enough to touch, the statues of the twelve apostles as they line the steeple and even pay a visit to Emmanuel, the largest bell in the south tower.  This bell has survived (and escaped) the French Revolution, WWI, and WWII when the city was under siege and it's icons were under threat of being destroyed.  

The visit was amazing and definitely worth the wait!

The Portal of the Last Judgement
The Twelve Apostles
Emmanuel, the bell


The North Rose Window
View of Ile de Cite as the Seine flows around it.

The Three Portals - Portal of the Virgin, Portal of the Last Judgement and Portal of St Anne
The levels of water in the Seine have risen recently because of rain which causes problems for the river barges as they will have difficulty passing under the bridges.

Crown of Thorns offered to Louis IX in 1238 by Baldwin II, Latin Emperor of Constantinople

Flying Buttresses - epitome of gothic architecture
An incident during one of our "walk-by's" stopped us from going in the church.  These guys, the gendarme, cordoned off the plaza and kept the area clear as helicopters landed on the plaza and men were deployed to search for a woman who fell in the Seine.  She was a member of the police diving team doing a training exercise when the current swept her away.  The french do not take incidents lightly and men with machine guns and armor were a common sight.
Search and Rescue