Thursday, August 23, 2007

Travel Day #2

Well, it was a really great time, but it was time to go. We had a short walk to the Etoile station to catch the Air France bus to the airport. About five minutes before time to go, it started BUCKETING rain. Luckily Sally, Jeff and Tai helped us over there with our bags. Even so, we were soaked.
And yes, that is a garbage bag Caroline is wearing. Considering how wet we are, how early it is, and how tearful we were, we all look pretty good. Miles was super sad to say goodbye to his best friend for one whole year, although I suspect they will have a good time being email penpals.....also, Miles figures he and Tai will go to Paris again together some day. Let's hope he is right.

We got to the airport in PERFECT timing, rode a bus out to the tarmac to the plane.
Flight to Toronto was not bad, 2 of the 3 movies were cartoons which was nice for the kids to pass the time. I actually slept a bit. We did customs in Canada, which was a very long wait, but at least we got it over with. The next flight was really bumpy from the storms over the midwest, luckily the kids slept through most of it. Here's what that looked like:
If it is possible to be comfortable sleeping on a plane, they were it.

To sum up: I loved Paris. I loved France. Favorite moment: too many, but I did love our day trip to Giverny to Monet's house. Least favorite: I am so sorry to say it was Versailles, due to the crowds. I would like it on a different day, I am sure. If I were packing for this trip tomorrow, I would definitely pack more WARM CLOTHES and rain gear. I brought too much summery stuff, so that could have been left at home.....As for expectations, I was expecting to love the food, and I did. The cheese is to die for, as is the bread, and the yogurt too, for that matter. (I'm a simple gal), and the one thing that was not as I expected was the weather. Being Seattleites, we do not let the weather slow us down, so it was not a big deal, I just did not expect it. I did expect Paris to be beautiful, and I was prepared to be impressed. What I was not prepared for was how OVERWHELMINGLY beautiful it was. It truly took my breath away. Everytime you turn a corner or look down a different street, there is some amazing thing to see. This will not be my only visit there. It may have taken 40 years to get there in the first place, but it will not take 40 more!

Forever grateful to Aunt Cynthia.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Last Day in Paris

Sally and Jeff went to do their "walk through" of their apartment today, so we took the kids over to the Pere LaChaise cemetary. There are many famous people buried there, so we picked a few out that we wanted to find. First off, there was Chopin. Caroline really wanted to take a picture for her piano teacher. This one was easy enough to find.

Then we wandered around and around and around and around, searching for Jim Morrison's grave. People, if you have the Paris Michelin Guide, it has it located in the WRONG place! So we had to sit down here for some nourishment. Picnic in a graveyard, not something you do every day...
Even without having an incorrect map, it is pretty easy to get lost, all the streets look like this:
I was trying to get pictures that showed how this place just goes on and on and on and on, but it is hard to capture. We don't know whose grave this was, but we liked their sense of humor. Caroline thought it was a little creepy.
We finally found Jim Morrison's grave, here it is, where almost EVERY other person is standing!! Especially young people with backpacks, beers and Ramones shirts.
Then we wandered hither and yon to find Bizet's grave. Caroline played The Toreador Song for her piano recital in June, so she really wanted this photo op for her piano teacher as well.
That was it. Three graves was all we could find due to map inadequacies and the massiveness of the place. We will have to find the other ones another day. We met up with Sally and Jeff, and got some beverages at this place.
We did some last-day tourist shopping, and ate dinner in this Englishish Pub, where the beer was warm and the food really good....
THEN we went home, and as we found out yesterday from Nick's Uncle, our favorite Hairy Fairy psychodelic folkster was playing in Paris tonight. Uncle Loring set us up with tickets and passes. Jeff was not feeling 100%, so Sally, Nick and I metroed off to l'European club to see Devendra Banhart play!! We missed the beginning, so when we got there all we could do was stand...against the stage. So we did, and it was about 1000 degrees, totally packed and thankfully, no-smoking. Nick snapped some pics, here the are, some are better than others.


It was a really great show, and such a fun way to end our stay here. We were very grateful to Uncle Loring and Devendra for setting us up with the tickets and backstage passes. Nick was the only one to go backstage and say thank you, Sally and I stood around and felt silly.

Tomorrow we fly home and sum up our trip!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Day with The Warners

Sally and Jeff had to go return their car this morning, so the boys had some time to hang out together. We made breakfast and cleaned up and stuff.....

Here is Aunt Cynthia on Nick's computer, writing her column she needs to send in today. I think it might be about Cecilia Sarkosy, hot topic here these days.

Then we decided to head over to the Left Bank again, so the kids could play on that great playground at Luxomburg Gardens...this extremely cute French Grandma took a liking to Caroline on the Metro. They held hands the whole way.
We got there and the kids played on the playground for a long time. Jeff got into a game of pickup basketball, and Nick wandered off looking for bread. We ended up being there at the perfect time to catch a marionette show. We could hardly understand half of it, but being geared for kids, and about Farm Animals, it was very funny.
Caroline got to ride this ancient merry-go-round and they give you a wand and you try and spear these little she is: Catching the Brass Ring!!
Then we walked around the gardens, so pretty, and Nick became part of a sculpture.
I liked this one.
And then Caroline became part of a sculpture.
Palace, garden...
Miles and Tai, so happy together on the Metro.
We finished up eating AMAZING felafel in the Jewish part of town, and actually got home before 9pm tonight!! We all just hung out and went to bed at a reasonably decent hour!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Most Excellent Lunch..

Today we were invited to lunch at the lovely home of the Bourgois family, Helene and Jean-Manuel. We walked out the door, and it immediatly started raining. So Nick ran upstairs and got us umbreallas, and by the time he got back down, it had stopped. We posed for a photo op anyway.
Here we are walking over there, Miles and Aunt Cynthia are deep in a discussion about the Three Musketeers.....

Here we are at the door of the 17th century house where lunch was.
The apartment is absolutely beautiful. Here is the courtyard they look out on....we went out to look around and they all apologized for the weather. As if we blame them. We keep expecting people to blame US for bringing rain.
Here is the "Grand Staircase". This goes up to the other apartments, not actually in the home we were in. Cynthia thought it looked as though a duel should be staged here.
The kids got to play in the humongous basement room, that really puts our basement to shame....

It was really cool.
I wish we could have taken more pictures, but it seemed a bit nervy to ask the hosts if we could take pictures of their stuff like it was another museum we were touring. Highlights of their nicknacks include: the stand with the father and grandfather's epees in it (both French naval admirals), the mirrored case with all their medals, (tons!), wall to wall, floor to ceiling BOOKS everywhere!!

Lunch was a truly French affair with 2 kinds of pate, raw beef, great bread, fabulous salad, a cheese course and an apple tarty thing. Champagne and lots of wine, and coffee to finish. We literally ROLLED home.

Other noted guests were Cynthia's old friend Kappy, his adorable (grownup) granddaughter and her boyfriend. Lots of interesting stories and tales being told in both French and English, it was a lot to take in but a lot of fun.

On our way home we got the message that our friends from Seattle, The Warners have arrived. They are moving to Paris for one year, Tai is Miles' best friend from school. They are going to stay with us these last couple of days until their own apartment becomes available.

The boys were SO excited to see each other, and it didn't take long for all laptops to be in use. (we kind of staged this photo)

Saturday, Caroline's birthday

Today is Caroline's birthday!! She turned 8 today!!! She has been very excited to celebrate her birthday in Paris, and is already planning a Paris-themed party for when she gets home. Here she is opening her gifts.She wanted a little stuffed animal from Paris, so Miles and I were able to find this cute cat. She loved it. She also got a beautiful sterling bracelet from Aunt Cynthia, very special. you can kind of see it in this photo....
Then her heart's desire was to ride the Ferris Wheel down by the Louvre which we have walked past about a hundred times here. So we did. It's big!

Some people have remarked that Nick is doing an excellent job as main photographer, but needs to be included in more photos. Hey look! There he is!!
We could see all the fabulous sights of Paris from up there. We could not resist taking pictures again....

Here is Caroline back at home, working on her craft project in her new Birthday Paris Beret....she loves it!
And finally, 8 pink candles in a tub of Super Excellent Very Delicious Chocolate Heaven Ice Cream! Yum. A very good birthday indeed.....

Friday, August 17, 2007

Giverny and the Renault

Friday: We finally decided this morning to rent a car today and drive out to Monet's house in Giverny. It is about an hour out of the city to the north and west. It is a gorgeous day, so it seems like a great day for a drive. Since we have a car, and since the weather has been so change-y, we pack raincoats, umbrellas, pants and sweaters. The kids love our little silver Renault "Clio", and Caroline wants to bring it home with us...We get out of Paris following a Very Confusing Map with micro-printing, I wish I could post the video I took of Nick driving around the traffic circle at the Arc de Triomphe....he did indeed triumph and get off on the right street! Once on the, it is no problem getting to Giverny. We actually got off the tollway a few exits early to drive on the old highway, through the quaint little towns along the Seine and railroad. We park in the designated lot, and hike a little through town to Monet's house. Here is a house we saw that is totally covered in ivy. Impressive!!We get to the house, ate our lunch, and head straight to the garden. Here is Monet, looks like a nice bloke.
Here are some pictures from the garden, which was GORGEOUS in late August here, makes you wonder what it must be like in the Spring. Oops, there is a finger in this one, try to look at the flower only.

Here are the always adorable kidlets in front of THE water lily pond...
Here we are on the bridge which is completely engulfed in wisteria. I would love to see that in full bloom!

Here is his actual house, pink and cute. You are not allowed to take photos inside....

BUT here is the view of his garden from his bedroom window. I swear the weather was nice even though it looks overcast in this photo.
Here are the turkeys that we saw the painting of in the Musee D'Orsay. We read how one of the art critics who saw it said "I wonder what it will look like when the last brush stroke is finally applied?"

Guess he thought it looked unfinished.....After we were done here, we drove into Vernon, the nearest bigger town and looked an all the neat old buildings and the church. Then we head out on a different road, to take a different road back into Paris. We cruise along and as I am reading an informative pamphlet I picked up in Giverny, I see there is an old 12th century castle up ahead in this town:

Les Andelys. We stop here for our afternoon beverages, it is super cute here. Then we head up this hill to the old castle of Richard the Lionheart. It overlooks the Seine and this beautiful valley. What a great view! We think he was onto something in this location, unfortunately Henri IV took it down for him...

Overlooking the valley, there are white cliffs in the background of this picture that are really cool looking...Also if you look closely, there is a house on that island there, lucky them....
So we drive some more back roads toward the highway and it is getting to be dinner time. Here we are in our sweet wheels:
We pull off in a cute and promising town of Pontoise. The kids have a hankering for pizza, as long as it doesn't have an egg on the top like they have seen around here....We see this sign, and it looks like our spot!!
It TOTALLY is. Nick and Caroline end up with pasta, and I am not kidding, Caroline declared it the Best Pasta Ever. Her plate was humongous, and almost the amount I would make for my whole family, seriously, it was huge. We shared 2 salads which were Fantastic, with avocado, butterleaf lettuce, tomato, carrot and a deviled egg on top (Miles ate ours) with a terrific dressing. Miles and I split a pizza which was meant for one, but we still only ate half! There were yummy green olives and baguette on the table, and we had a lovely chianti with it all. mmmm. We were all a bit stuffed, and were so bummed that we had no room for dessert, because we kept seeing them coming out and they looked really good...flaming, and with little Italian flags sticking out of the panna cottas....cute. The waiters were really sweet and serious --almost like those guys in "Big Night"--and we got talking to one of the cooks on the way in, and he was asking us where we were from and he said"Ah yes, Etats-Unis, George Bush est magnifique!" And we were a little taken aback by this, and he then said something to the effect of he liked that he was a True Man with Big Cahones. Hmmmmmm.

We have been wanting to do the Paris at night tour since we got here, and this seemed like the best time to do it. Here is a Paris street at night:
We manage to time our arrival to the top of the hour, right when the Eiffel Tower turns into a giant disco ball. I wish I could post this video, too, but here are the still photos.
The kids going bananas....
It is really cool looking, and it almost looks better from far away, but it is still really pretty.

Late night, glad to be home, but get to sleep in tomorrow, so we will be fine.