Our Paris adventures continue! So sorry this post is so long; but covers over two weeks. Won’t let it go that long again.
Saturday, Feb 21
Our first destination today was to the Love Lock bridges. (Thanks Brian Kerr for the suggestion!) Sweethearts inscribe their initials on a padlock and lock it to the gate or fence on the bridge and throw away the key. Tourists think this is a Parisian tradition but it is not. In fact, in January 2014, a campaign and petition was founded to save the city’s historic bridges and monuments from the overwhelming number of locks and they asked that the public stop placing locks. In June 2014, the weight (an estimated 40 tons) of the 700,000 padlocks on the Pont Des Arts bridge were blamed for the collapse of part of the parapet. Environmentalists have also expressed concern over the damage done by the keys from the locks being thrown into the river. Several street vendors continue to pedal padlocks.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is a historic Catholic cathedral and is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. This was our first line up to visit a church. Worth the wait!
From Notre-Dame we walked to the Latin Quarter and looked around for something ‘Latiny’, whatever that is; very nice neighborhood. It appears the area gets its name from the Latin language, which was once widely spoken in and around the University since Latin was the international language of learning in the Middle Ages. Ah, that explains it!
Sunday, Feb 22
This was a rare, sunny, February day in Paris and yet still, we found ourselves in a Museum. It was a very long walk there so we were pretty much committed. The Centre Georges Pompidou featured the works of artist Jeff Koons. We recognized his work from our visit to the Gugunheum in Bilbao. It appears we have developed a little art culture! One of his works, ‘Ballon Dog’ (Orange) sold for a world record auction price by a living artist in 2013 – US$58.4 million. Here is the red version of the piece and some other works:
There was also an ‘adult only’ display of giant porn photographs of the artist and his girlfriend; I mean GIANT. And I mean PORN. But apparently art.
We stopped for a traditional French lunch of wine, and shared a Nutella Crepe and Tiramisu. When in Paris!
Monday, Feb 23
We were blessed with two sunny days in a row so headed for the hills! About a 30 minute walk and we are at Parc Des Buttes-Chaumont, a great park with surprises around every corner.
After that walk we took ourselves out for a nice Thai lunch. We thought we were getting Pad Thai, but got little tasty spring rolls. No luck with English in a Thai restaurant in France.
Tuesday, Feb 24 – Joe’s Birthday!
My now 66 year old husband is getting younger every day! We had been looking forward to this day, to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second. The third level observatory’s upper platform is 276 m above the ground – that’s where we went! It was VERY windy outside but the view of Paris was fantastic!
The Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair. It was initially criticised by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but soon became a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is also the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.98 million people ascended it in 2011. The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010. Wow!
Our next birthday treat was a nice French dinner. Joe’s restaurant research lead us to a place just down the street. We knew what block it was on, and that it was on the 7th Floor, but we didn’t have an address because the location is not advertised; you have to be in the know, to know. But when we saw people in a lineup and a bouncer looking dude, we figured it out quickly. Some people were getting wrist bands, for what, we didn’t know. The vibe was very secretive; like we were crashing a private party. But the bouncer assured us we would be sat for dinner.
The lift took us up to “Le Perchoir”, first to the outdoor bar (wrist bands) with an incredible city view, and then down a flight of stairs to the restaurant. The hostess explained how the restaurant works; a fixed, surprise menu. How perfect! We had an amazing dinner of multiple plates, tastings and courses. The wait staff were anything but stuffy. They were young urban foodees, dressed in jeans with a flair for service. Each course was described to us in English but we could only pick out a few words. We know the main course was rabbit with a pot of local veggies. It was worth every Euro.
Then we came home and finished watching Season 4 of Game of Thrones. What a great day – can’t wait until Joe’s next birthday!
Wednesday, Feb 25
We went to The Gare du Nord train station to get tickets for our day trip to Brussels, Belgium next week. Huge station services Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. That took hours but was fascinating…..
Thursday, Feb 26
We didn’t realize how close our apartment is to the Charlie Hebdo offices; we have walked by the side street several times. Today we ventured down to the multiple flower tributes left to honour the murdered souls and walked past the heavily guarded offices. Very sad vibe there and we felt like outsiders so didn’t stay long.
Our actual destination for the day was The Promenade plantée (French for tree-lined walkway). This is a 4.7 km elevated linear park built on top of obsolete railway infrastructure. This was the only one in the world for some years, until the first phase of the High Line, a similar park on an old railway-viaduct in Manhattan New York City, was completed in 2009. We enjoyed walking them both!
I saw signs of spring!
Other cool sights along the way:
Our intent was to walk one direction of the Promenade and then take the subway home but we thought we had super powers that day, and walked both directions and all the way home. A good 10km we clocked. It was not without pain and numbness. But we were rewarded with a lunch from the pâtisserie; sandwiches and chocolate eclairs that oozed with a creamy filling and ice cold beers. Not sure if there was a gain or burn off of calories that day but we didn’t care. We got to sit and we got to eat and we had yet anther great day.
Friday, Feb 27 – Catacombes
Early start to get down to the Catacombes (tried to go mid day a week ago and found a 2-3 hr line-up). Line looked more reasonable today – took about an hour, in the sunshine so was ok).
Catacombes are underground 20 metres, created in 18th century as an ossuary. The main cemeteries were closed due to health reasons and the remains taken to the Quarries under the streets of Paris. (the Quarries became the Catacombes).Today the Catacombes house the bones of 6 million persons. They are displayed in a decorative facade wall with the skulls and big bones – the remaining bones just piled in heaps in behind.
Along one corridor are some impressive sculptures in the walls, made by quarry workers.
The actual bones display is quite a ways along. You get to the enter door that says…”Arrete, c’est ici l’empire de la mort” (“Stop! This is the empire of death”)- but when you enter this display – it is breathtaking! It is HUGE! The bone display just goes on and on in many rooms and several different arrangements. Check out some of these pics…pretty gruesome.
There are periodic plaques that show what cemetery the bones are from and what year placed.
The tour took about 45 minutes – was well worth it.
After lunch we proved once again, that we are suckers for punishment and walked way up Oberkampf hill and found yet another whole new world. I kick myself for not buying Fit Bit for this trip! Would love to see the number of kilometres we have clocked!
Saturday, Feb 28
We walked through a unique flea market, filled with antiques, art and fashion. Sista’s and girlfriends, where were you?!? We loved this..and the fact that these things happen everywhere. Ah…Paris.
We returned to the Latin Quarter, which we know now, is known for its student life, lively atmosphere and bistros. After touring, we went to a British pub for lunch. English was spoken! Fries had ketchup!
Another lock bridge:
Sunday, March 1
The market today was filled with fresh produce, baked goods and meats/seafood. We came armed with our sack and loaded up for the next few days. What fun!
SIDE NOTE: To add to the crazy jaywalking skills you need to survive in Paris, many crosswalks have dual crosswalk lights; ie the light is green for you to go halfway across the road and stand at the ‘do not walk’ sign there and wait for the next crosswalk light to change for that next section. Or even worse, the first section stays red but the far section is green – so you see people walking on the other side of the road and their green light, but yours is still red! Many times we have caught that sight and almost started walking only to have cars fly by, ready to challenge us to a unwanted duo of death. Just saying….
Monday, March 2
We spent a long time trying to find one of Paris’s huge malls; but with a lot of construction in the area, it took us quite awhile. Joe was mubbling a lot about becoming a city planner and putting f’king signs everywhere. He doesn’t like poor signage and we run into that a lot. My first Paris shopping purchase was about $20 at H&M no less.
Back at home we finalized the details of our private tour through Albania and Kosov. Private because the end of March is not quite tourist season but we feel a guide is essential in these areas. For safety mostly, but also discover the history and culture of these relatively unknown countries.
Tuesday, March 3 – If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belguim
Early start for a brief 1 1/2 hour train to Brussels today. Used our last day of Eurail Train pass to enjoy lunch in Brussels.
We have come a long way…I would not have believed it 6 months ago…but here we took subway in Paris to train station, hit right train to Brussels, got on strange subway system, took train to old downtown Brussels, toured around, took subway back to train station and caught return train to Paris….6 months ago we would not have had the confidence to undertake this day.
Once we found old town, we were amazed by the grandeur of this old Belgium city. The Grand Place was truly amazing with all the old buildings, gilded gold and splendour.
We toured it a bit and then made our way to the famous Mannekan Pis statue. It is surprisingly small only about 30″ high. A myth about the statue is that the sculpture’s son had disappeared and when he was finally found he was peeing in the fountain…and the statue is in honour of finding his son safe. There are other myths as well but that is the best one. Also apparently we were lucky to get pics of the bare statue because it is quite often dressed up in costume by locals …as Elvis, a clown, a King or whatever.
Had a great lunch at neat restaurant decorated with suitcases, and also a living green wall inside…great atmosphere and the food was delicious.
Followed lunch with a walk to the Royal Palace. Along the way:
A champagne store – thought of you Dad!
Also saw another old cathedral and were quite surprised to see a Scallop Shell sign for the Comino walk to Santiago….it is a long, long way from Brussels to Santiago Spain but apparently some make the pilgrimage.
A quick hop back to the train station to connect back to Paris…home for dinner!
Side Note: 4-5 Customs Officers questioned an Asian man seated behind us on the train, for a good 20 minutes. The ‘interview’ involved: where do you live? …. “Italy” he replied. Where did the money come from? You can have up to $20k but you have to tell us. It was in English although the man being questioned didn’t seem to speak it. No other passengers were allowed through the aisle during the interview. Moral of the story: just because there are no borders, random checks are still being made – this is a good thing.
Wednesday, March 4
6 Months! Wow…it has been 6 months since we started this amazing trip… And so it continues today.
Went to Shakespeare & Company bookstore….noted as one of the most unique stores in world. It was a refreshing island of English books in a sea of French. Very quaint store …though tiny.
“Stopped into a church we passed along the way” (sorry all you Mama’s and Papa’s …couldn’t resist). Another old and very cool cathedral with long gargoyles :
Backside of Louvre:
Thank you to many friends who insisted we see the D’Orsay Museum…we were somewhat “museumed”out…but went with the recommendations anyway. Very glad we did! What an awesome display, much quieter than the Louvre, and everybit as impressive. No pics for you but can say we saw many world famous paintings by Picasso, Monet, Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir and too many to mention. Also sculptures by Bugatti, Carpeaux, Degas, Rodin and so many more. A fantastic few hours of looking at the best! Thanks again for the heads up!
Had a great Oinion soup and glass of wine at river side Cafe La Fregate and people watched for a while.
Later had a great 6 month anniversary dinner at a favorite restaurant to cap off a stellar day.
Summary of our first six months; as posted on Facebook:
Congratulations to us! Today marks the 6th month anniversary of our departure from Kelowna and the beginning of our whirlwind travel adventure. We never use the word ‘lucky’ because this adventure has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with believing. It was our determination and tenacity that made this happen, and we like to think of ourselves as ‘fortunate’. We have always maintained a positive mindset, and there has never been a dull moment.
Eight countries, 56 cities, 53 beds! And counting….
So thanks to all our supporters, and non-believers alike – without you we never would have gotten off the ground! Thank you for being there, following us, missing us, and making this possible.
We are having bubbles tonight in Paris – what better way to pat ourselves on the back!
No need to like or comment, just know in your heart whatever it is YOU want to do is possible if you want it to be!!!
We love you!
Thursday, March 5
Paris at night!
The view from atop the Arc:
Eiffel Tower from the Arc:
Eiffel Tower from street level:
Youtube of her sparkling!!
Friday, March 6
Paula’s Dad always talks about his and Joanie’s visit to the famous Paris Opera House or ‘Palais Garnier’ so this was the last attraction on our list. What a magnificent building.
Built between 1861 -75 it is sheer opulence and grandeur inside.
Check out the grand staircase…
And the grand foyer…Wow!
It must have been something to be part of the rich and high society scene in old Paris. This Opera House was the setting for the 1910 novel and later musical and movies.. “Phantom of the Opera”. The Opera house is now mostly for tourists and the odd ballet as the Opera has relocated to new premises in 89 at the Opera Bastille.
Saturday, March 7
We prepared for our next leg of our trip. We had to pack! It’s been nice to not have to pack for 30 days but we will be back into a system in no time. We both got haircuts and we sent another box of clothes and footware back to Kelowna. Mostly my stuff but I am tired of my winter clothes so might freeze my a$$ off for a month, but so be it!
Sunday, March 8
Long day but we arrived safely. So many check points and delays when you fly. Turkish Air gives you a menu and the food was pretty good!
We are exploring Istanbul on our own for a few days until our tour group arrives. Will update you soon!
So until then, have a great week and we wish you warm weather and sunshine!
Love from Paula and Joe