Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Where we went and what we saw in Paris:

Eiffel Tower- Built in two years, the tower was the most important monument of the 1889 World fair.

We rode the trolley at the north end to the 2nd floor. From there we traveled by elevator to the 3rd and highest floor. We took many photos and visited the shops at the top of the tower. Since the Eiffel Tower can be seen from any other monument in Paris, by the end of the week we found ourselves saying, “there’s the tower again”.

Arc de triomphe- The Arc was built from 1806 to 1836 and its purpose was to commemorate the military exploits of France under the Revolution and the First Empire.

The Arc stands in the middle of a rotary. To reach the middle the city has built a tunnel that runs beneath the street, eliminating the need for pedestrian stoplights. The tunnel also diminishes the frequency of tourists being injured trying to cross the busy street. There were over 200 steps to climb to the top of the Arc. From the summit, there are amazing views or the entire city. Even more fun, was watching the traffic circling below you.

Notre Dame- The cathedral was under construction from 1163 till 1245. After the revolution the monumental and decorative statuary of the portals and towers were badly damaged. At the beginning of the 19th century, the towers, like the rest of the cathedral, were in very poor condition. After the success of Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, a campaign was initiated to restore the cathedral to its original splendor. The renovations took place in 1845.

Inside the cathedral is as breath taken as the out side architecture. The stain glass images that line the church give a off a soft glow that bounces off the conclave ceilings. Standing outside on the bridge between the towers makes you appreciate the silent calm that comes from being high above the traffic and crowds.

The Louvre- The construction of the Louvre began under the reign of Philip Augustus in 1204. The construction took some seven centuries to complete. Originally used as a palace of the kings of France, it became a museum in 1793 and is now, one of the largest museums in the world.

While at the Louvre we saw many famous works, however we were surprised at how small most of them were. People seem to associate size with importance so I was surprised when I saw that the real Mona Lisa was smaller then the posters of her sold in the gift shop. We also saw “The Winged Victory of Samothrace”, the “Venus de Milo”, and masterpieces from all four teenage mutant ninja turtles.
Pantheon- Built from 1764 to1790, the Constituent Assembly decreed on April 4th, 1791, to turn the basilica into a temple destined to accommodate the remains of the great men of the Nation. Later the great women of the nation also found a final resting place within the Pantheon crypt.
Along the walls of the Pantheon are murals depicting French history. In the center of the room is the enormous Foucault’s pendulum guarded by a black cat. Ascending to the top of the dome, you have a 306-degree view of all Paris.

Boat Cruise-

After walking for four days, we took a boat cruise on the river. The cruise took about an hour and featured seating on a double decker, open top boat. The tour took us passed all the major sites that we had just spent hours walking to. I was a nice break for our feet, and the tour was given in English.

Moulin Rouge-

We did not sit in for a show at this famous landmark, but we did walk past it. As with so many other monuments and works in Paris, The Moulin Rouge did not seem to measure up to the size expectations Hollywood has placed upon it. Seeing the height of the windmill was a bit of a disappointment.
Cimetiere Montmarte-
During our walk to the Moulin Rouge we literally stumbled upon this famous cemetery. The graves and tombs are all above ground, and is the resting places of some well know celebrities including Jim Morrison, and Dumas.

Flee market-

As we were walking back to our hotel on the last day, we spotted flea market spanning the length of five blocks and two streets. We were hoping to find care bears only sold in Europe during the 1980’s, but to no avail.

Candid camera-

While we were walking down the street on our first day in Paris, a woman approached Ben and hit him with the bouquet of flowers she was carrying. We kept walking, assuming it was a case of mistaking identity, when we heard clapping and laughing. A man came up to us explaining that we had just been filmed for a candid camera type of show. We gave him our information and consent for the footage, and they will be sending us a DVD of the show our segment in on.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Paris in general:

We did a lot of walking while we were in Paris. We could have just as easily taking a bus, subway, or joined a tour group. We felt that if you are going to see a city, you might as well walk it and see all its aspects. This approach allowed us to visit a few tourist traps we might have over looked from a bus window.

Not only did we walk a lot, but we also ascended around 1,000 stairs. When we visited the various monuments and structures, the only one that offered elevator service to all was the Eiffel Tower. The Arch of triumph and the Louvre had elevators for the disabled only, while Notre Dame did not have the space for an elevator. All of the stairs we climbed were constructed in and continues circling ascension, which created a high sense of vertigo.

All the buildings we entered had an amazing architecture inside and out. Both Ben and my favorite part of many of them were the ceilings. Every ceiling we saw was as ornately detailed as the walls. The passages and stair wells were from a different time. They were very narrow with only recently installed railings and safety measures. This was mostly evident at Notre Dame, where to cross the bridge between towers, only the ten year old did not have to round the corners by walking side ways.

The people were not the rude pencil thin creatures personified in art and print. They were very polite and helpful, especially in restaurants when we were a little lost. The one stereotype that seemed to be true was the amount of people carrying flutes (long thin loaves) of bread home for lunch and dinner. There were also many people sitting in out door cafes enjoying coffee and pastries at every corner.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spring trip:

Last week Ben and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. We decided to take a trip together to celebrate, and see a new country. For our anniversary where else could we go but Paris? I know it is cliché, but why not? When would we be able to take advantage of being a two-hour plane ride away from France?

So last Wednesday we got up very early and headed to the airport. We spent six days and five nights in Paris, and saw as much as we could. We were able to get to everything we really wanted to see, and a few things that happing to be in the direction we were walking. I will blog about everything we did and saw while in Paris in the next few days, but for right now……..time to sleep.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

An “interesting” movie:

We went with some of the guys to a movie down town. The theater is presented as an “artsy” type theater. No food or drinks are allowed in order to preserve the appearance of the theater. They show a lot of older movies and unlike many other theaters, there is no assigned seating. We went to see “Zardoz”; a movie from 1974 that, stars Shawn Connery, and takes place in the future.

It was an interesting movie, but not what we expected. There was a lot of nudity and tons of sexual innuendoes. I am not very familiar with 70’s film so I was very surprised at the content. At the same time the movie was hilarious as a direct result of that same content. It was a good experience to not be disturbed by the graphic scenes, but to laugh them off in the humorous mood as it was intended to be.