Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter From Paris

In Paris, our Easter weekend began with an early morning stroll past Notre Dame, to check the state of the line to pay a visit. Each time we have passed by this week it has very been long, and this time was no exception, wrapping and weaving in front of the cathedral and extending a ways down a side street. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact Notre Dame celebrates its 850th anniversary this year, (amazing!) but at the same time I just have to ask myself what has happened to those days when you could walk by and simply stroll in at will? The lines have certainly surprised me on this trip to Paris! 

So we kept walking, deciding to stop by again in the early evening right before closing.

Exploring the winding streets, one delight that continues to charm are the sweets!

And the windows were full of very chic Easter treats.

After a day of shopping and lots of stops for eating (I think we were all a little worn out!) we again wandered past Notre Dame. There is a wonderful little park on the far end of the cathedral - which on a warm day is a perfect place to sit and enjoy the scenery - but in cooler temperatures such as this keeping active is much smarter. Can you believe we actually saw a couple snow flakes earlier in the day?!


And a half hour before the doors of Notre Dame closed to tourists, the line was short and moving quickly, allowing us to pay a visit to this stunning structure and watch preparations for the Easter Sunday services. 

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Quick Change Of Plans Yields A Fabulous Day!

Arriving early at Gare St. Lazare, the train station Monet immortalized in his canvases, the plan was to hop a train to Vernon and visit Giverny, the painter's gardens and studio. But while in line to purchase tickets we learned it wasn't open for the season until Monday, despite information we'd gathered from the Giverny website. 

Disappointed, we went to get hot drinks, regroup on the day's plans and decided that since we were already at the train station why not head out to Versailles. (Which we hadn't planned on visiting during this trip. But what the heck, last minute changes are good for the soul.)

The front gate of Versailles shot from a salon window, 
I'm kind of crazy over this photo, if I do say so myself!

Upon arrival I was very dismayed to find lines I would have thought are reserved for the summer months, but fortunately they moved quickly and the sun was shining.

And a fantastic day followed, with the kids surprisingly enjoying everything about this site!

From the expected, such as the grand chandeliers in the Hall of Mirrors...

... to the unexpected; frightened and amusing lion faces...

... massive logs in the hearth...

... and "graffiti" on the mirrors. In the Hall of Mirrors!

Is there no respect?

But looking closely at the details also revealed stunning hardware that will delight any design enthusiast...

... and views to the formal garden through intricately paned windows.

But what really made this family happy was discovering Angelina has a cafe at the completion of the tour of the interiors. A perfect opportunity to take a break before heading out to enjoy the gardens. 

Once outside, walking down the steps to the expansive pond, I saw row boats for rent and declared, "Let's go for a ride!"

And then walking, the paths go on forever nearly. Walk for hours or rent a bike. If you find yourself here, make sure to plan adequate time to truly take in the landscape surrounding Versailles and you'll even find a couple spots along the paths to stop for a drink or light meal.

After a very satisfying day we headed back into the city for dinner, being greeted by colorful flowers and a beautiful sunset, always a treat... particularly when spotted setting over the Eiffel Tower.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Marc Chagall: The Reason To Visit The Paris Opera

Opera National de Paris

In my opinion there is one very compelling reason to visit the Paris Opera if ever in this city. And it's not the building itself, as I have to agree with Max's assessment when walking through the halls up the grand stairs to the theater. "This is so overdone." 

It's the ceiling, painted by Marc Chagall.

There is simply no way a photo can convey the experience of encountering this expansive artwork after making one's way through the ornate lobby into the heavily appointed theater. The ceiling rises like a breath of fresh air, light with brilliant color and captivating scenes celebrating the ballet, musicians and its audience.

Chagall was commissioned to paint the ceiling in 1963, a choice that caused controversy centering around the fact he was a Russian Jew rather than a french born artist, with others objecting to the ceiling of the historic building being painted by a modern artist. It took him just a year to complete the work.

It was presented to the public on September 23, 1964. Once the orchestra played the finale of a Mozart symphony, Chagall's favorite composer, the chandelier was lit up bringing the painting to life to great acclaim, essentially silencing the critics. 

During other visits this site the curtain has been drawn at the stage. What a fabulous treat to see work for a production in progress while stopping by this time! It was amazing to see how far the stage extended back into the recesses of the building...

... with lighting being tested...

... and elements of the stage moved around in preparation for a performance.

The rest of the day included a boat tour on the Seine, which I've never done. It was really interesting to see the city and its monuments from the river, offering a very different perspective than one gets when  approaching sites from the street. 

Then we just had to fit in a trip to Galleries Lafayette. I can't recall visiting this grand dame of department stores before, and it truly did impress. The lower level carries over 150 shoe lines, each with their own mini department. The store sells every conceivable line of goods, from the obtainable to the best of luxury goods, plus a restaurant where a very tall glass of wine will set you back only 2.7 euros. I needed it by the time we made our way through the floors up to the top level for a food and drink break. It can all become a bit overwhelming and I'm looking forward to a little day trip out of the city tomorrow to visit another favorite spot in France. More on that tomorrow...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Laundry, Petits Dejeuner, Our Nikes & Art At The Pompidou

The day began with excitement, finally figuring out the best internet option while traveling in Paris is Orange France (look into this if you have a trip coming up!) and a visit to the laundry. A pair of dirty socks can put a damper on any outing, so it was time for a fresh batch of clothing.

Somehow it all got done despite directions we couldn't read, allowing us to head out for the rest of the day with clean socks and - yes - as essentially a Nike advertisement. Today was all about comfort and we were the epitome of an American tourist.

Petits Dejeuner was then ordered up at Le Petit Cardinal, located at the corner of Cardinal Lemoine and Rue Monge. This traditional corner brasserie is really fun for me to sit down at, recalling breakfasts enjoyed here with various groups of friends during visit over the years. Just get there before noon. (We arrived at 11:58 and they weren't exactly pleased with our inquiry as to whether it was too late for breakfast!) 

Then it was off to the Pompidou, a great museum to visit while in Paris, offering a refreshing break from all the traditional art and architecture you'll see at most of the other popular stops. It remains a controversial structure after many years, with the hardware and mechanics of the building exposed on the exterior rather than hidden behind some beautiful facade. 

But whatever the critics say, it's hard to argue that the most stellar views await a visitor at the top of the long bank of escalators running up the side and height of the building.