Sunday, April 7, 2013

Two Days in Paris. Oh What to do?

Thursday April 4th
Our train route for today was, Brugge to Lille, and then on the super fast TGV from Lille to Paris.  Holy buckets the TGV was awesome!  At one point we were parallel to a roadway, at 350KM/hr, we were passing the fastest cars like they were standing still.  Absolutely awesome.  To put that in perspective, if you drove the 300 km form Calgary to Edmonton it would take about 3 hrs city centre, to city centre.  By TGV it would take about 52 minutes.

We arrived at the hotel around noon, which pretty much always means your room isn't ready yet.  Our room wasn't ready yet.  The Westin felt bad about our room not being ready, so they took care of us with some additional treats in our room, and free breakfast each morning for the family.

When we first walked out of the Metro at Place de la Concorde to walk to hotel, it was bright and sunny with a fantastic view of the 3300 year old Egyptian Obelisk of Luxor, and the Eiffel Tower.  By the time we sorted things at the hotel, the sun was gone.  But hey, that is what this trip has been all about.  Life without the sun.  Besides, 3300 year old stuff still looks pretty cool, even when it's cloudy.

Flat light and grey = Europe Spring 2013
My little brush with my Japanese fans in Brugge the other night, brought back memories of a 1996 encounter that I had with a French fan while I was sitting in Luxembourg Gardens. 

On that occasion, Stacey and I had just landed in Paris on the first day of a 28 day tour of France.  She was tired from the flight (this was way before the days of fortunate upgrades to the pods), so while she took a nap, I opted to explore a little bit of "our hood".  From our wee hotel, Hotel Esmerelda, which is right across the street from Nortre Dame by the way, I wandered up Rue Saint Michelle.  I was feeling a little peckish, so I ducked into a cafe for a coffee and pastry.  After people watching for a little while, I left the cafe and cut across the street to a pathway that led to a large park.  The sign on the gate said, "Jardin du Luxembourg".  I had heard of the park, but I had never been, so I made my way along the long footpath.  When the row of trees finally ended, I found myself in a wonderful open space.  The Luxembourg Palace was to my right, there was a large pond in front of me, and to my left was a very long row of massive trees that were sculpted at the top like perfect hedges.  

There was a number of chairs around the pond, so I decided to sit down and read the book I had brought on the trip.  I had chosen to read Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast".  At the time, I was really into his books, and this particular book was written by him, while he was living in Paris.  I thought it would be the perfect book.

I can't remember what chapter I was on, 4 or 5, but I sat down and I started reading.  Hemingway starts talking about how his wife wasn't felling well, so he grabbed his coat and hat and wandered up Rue Saint Michelle.  It started raining so he ducked into a cafe for a coffee to wait out the rain.  After the rain stopped he cut across the street and entered Luxembourg gardens.  He describes how when he got to the opening at the end of the pathway, and how the pond was frozen over (its was winter in his book), and how the sculpted trees had lost their leaves.  

After reading Hemingway's description of the exact path that I had just walked, I was kinda freaked out.  It made the hair on my arms stand up.  I was hoping to have a connection with my book while in Paris.  But I didn't expect anything like that....

While I was sitting there in my green chair, I glanced up at a guy that was walking by.  He was a 30 something portly fellow, with a blue and white horizontal stripped shirt on, and neck kerchief.  As he walked past me, he gestured to me, and softy said, "Canadian Rockstar".  I was still dealing with the creepiness of my Hemingway experience, now I had to digest this one.  Did he just call me a Canadian Rockstar?  

I watched him as he made his way all around the pond, as he passed by me a second time he pointed at me and said much louder then the first time, "Canadian Rockstar, go back to your novel".  There were a couple of young girls to my left that were talking in German, they didn't really pay attention, and to my right about 12 chairs over was a couple going to town making out, they definitely didn't notice anything.

Now I really felt like I needed to keep an eye on this guy.  He made a third lap around the pond, was heading my way when he noticed a guy that was walking toward his bag that he left by a chair.  I could tell that he was torn between me and his baggage, so he yelled to the man "Monsieur, my baggage!", then he pointed at me and yelled, "CANADIAN ROCKSTAR!!  Well finally, this peaked the interest of the girls to my left, and even the amorous couple took a breather to check me out.  Everyone started looking at me.  I felt really uncomfortable, so I pulled my ball cap a little lower over my eyes, and made my exit out of the park.  I still have no idea who that fellow thought I was.  Kooky fans.
The scene of the "Canadian Rockstar!"

Luxembourg Palace was built as a royal residence for Marie de Medicis in the early 1600's.
The sculpted trees that line the south entrance to Luxembourg Gardens.

The large pond in front of the Palace.
That was one of my more surreal traveling experiences, it was fun to walk the route and tell the story to Bronwyn and Fintan.  After we left the gardens we walked down Rue Saint Michelle towards Nortre Dame.  We weren't really sure what was going on in the gardens, or at the palace that day, but the police presence was astonishing.  We had to have our bags checked when we went into the park, and they only had two entrances open.  I would estimate that outside the park there were 25 - 30 commercial vans with 6-7 policeman in each van.  All of them were wearing riot pads on their arms, legs and chest.  Maybe they were expecting a visit from a Canadian Rockstar??

It's been so cold in Europe this spring, I am surprised these little fellas are still alive.
A cool pond and fountain in the gardens.
Close to Notre Dame is Eglise Saint-Severin, it was constructed from the 13th - 15th century,  .

It was a funny little church.  There was this art exhibition, and some guy was given'er on the organ.  After each song he would stand at the balcony and explain the song.  Well, at least that's what I think he was doing...
It's hard to walk past this fella without taking a picture.
We walked around for about 6 hours that afternoon.  We hit a few shops, and made good use of the ever present bistros and cafes for breaks.  By the end of the night we were pretty worn out.  B wasn't feeling great, so Fintan and I found a great bistro around the corner from the hotel that did up some takeout for us.  We finished the night with a nice dinner in our room.

Frog in the Well - UFC.  The bunny is a big fan.  "Thump him!  Thump him!"

Friday April 5th
One of the things that we missed on our trip to Paris in November 2010 was the Palais Garnier, which is THE home to opera in Paris.  So we made this our number one destination on our short stay in the city. On performance nights, 1979 people are treated to an absolutely astonishing venue.  Construction on the building started in 1861, and it had its inauguration in January of 1875.  I can say that hands down, this is the most opulent building that I have been inside.

Outstanding mosaic tile floors greet you as you walk into the building.
The Grand Staircase.
Second level at the top of the stairs.

We are standing at opposite ends of the second level off of the Grand Staircase.
The very opulent concert hall.  I love the private booths.

In 1964, Russian artist Marc Chagall was commissioned to repaint the ceiling in the main concert hall.  The painting is said to contain scenes from operas from 14 different composers.  Of course, their are purists that feel that this contemporary vision clashes with the original architects vision.  I like it. 

Ceiling detail in one of the many alcoves, and hallways that are designed for holding a large number of people during performance intermissions.
The amount of detail is astonishing.
The Grand Foyer.  This lengthy room was absolutely amazing.

Well hello there handsome...
This gives you an idea of the scale of the foyer.  It's grand. 
Ho hum ceiling detail in the Grand Foyer.
Bibliotheque-Musee de l'OpĂ©ra National de Paris.  This this the music library.  The library houses music books from 1671-1876.

Not bad at all....  Now I want to go back and see a performance, from a private pod of course.
Bronwyn had been asking all trip, "When we go to Paris, can we go to the Louvre?" For those of you that have been, you know that this is one big ass museum.  You start off all determined to look at every painting, and then by room four, you are blazing past 600 year old paintings the height of your house, and not batting an eyelash at them.  

But she really, really wanted to go.

Fin doesn't seem as excited about the visit to the Louvre, and its 652,300 square feet of museum space.
I.M.  Pei's glass pyramid entrance (opened 1988).
Ancient UFC fight.
The Roman God Jupiter, who lost his arms in UFC 600 BC.
If you stare at it long enough, it will grow, or in his case, turn to stone. 
One of the first known Roman Footballers.  Looks like he was also one of the first athletes to sport a mullet.
The quiet Italian sculpture wing.
Speaking of wings.  Winged VICTORY (said only the way Johnny Drama can).

A quiet Roman boy.
Mona! Mona!  Fin:  "I don't get it, why is the Mona Lisa so famous?"  Good question kid.  Apparently the painting is insured for $750,000,000 USD.  Maybe that's what makes it famous?  Or maybe, just maybe, it's because it's located in the same city as the Canadian Rockstar siting...
About an hour in, we were almost done.....
Fin assumes that the security guys chair, is there for anyone to use.
The Louvre Palace (12th century), which is home to the museum and its 35,000 works of art, is in its own right, a work of art.

I'm pretty sure that I walked past every painting in this room.
Maybe the best museum picture that I will ever take.
Let's get out'ta here.
I am pretty sure that all four of us were complaining about having sore feet after our brief visit to the Louvre.  It would be great to have the time to stop by for an hour, check out a room, then come back another day to do the next room.  I thinks it's the only way that you would truly appreciate the scope, and scale of the museums holdings.

After the Louvre we took the Metro down to the Notre Dame area, and then walked on the Right Bank looking for a ladies clothing store that Veronica had told Stacey about.  I still can't walk by Notre Dame without taking a picture...

It was snack time enroute....

I'm not sure what it was, but it was all chocolate.

I'm not sure what this building is, but it is spectacular.

Along the way to the "wonder store", we stumbled upon the late gothic architectural masterpiece, Saint-Eustache church(1532-1632).

The organ has 8000 pipes, and is the largest of its kind in all of France.

We walked up and down the alleged street that the wonder store, Lilith, was suppose to exist on.  It soon became the, "I wonder it if ever existed store."  At this point we had a full on meltdown on our hands.  Everyone's feet were on the verge of bleeding, so we found the nearest Metro station, and made a direct shot for the hotel.  On the way back, we decided to head right to dinner, then we would take the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe, and walk down the Champs-Elysees.

Fin:  "I love french onion soup.  I'll have the french onion soup."

Is this the greatest photo bomb ever??

And that ends a very fulfilling, and very tiring day, in Paris.