Last updated 8-13-13
We were fortunate to have a fabulous journey to Paris and points south in France this summer! We were gone for 11 days, July 2 - 12. This was our second such journey -- separated by 39 years. It was a way of celebrating our 40th Anniversary, which we had also done shortly before the trip. Hope you enjoy these photos and videos -- and get to visit Paris and environs too!
- Albert & Martha
This page was last updated 8-9-13
Sacre Coeur Church in the Montmartre section of Paris
Tuesday, July 2, 1013 - Flight from Philly to Paris
Our nephew Danny drove us to the airport in mid-afternoon. The flight was uneventful, and only lasted 7 1/2 hours. I read, had dinner, took a maybe a two-hour snooze, and before I knew it we were being served coffee and breakfast with landing about an hour away.
A view from our Montmartre apartment balcony
We spent a little extra on transportation from the airport, with our heavy suitcases. An outfit called Globalspec drove us. Thanks to Martha's planning, she lined up a nice apartment for us for four nights in Montmartre. It was at 5 Rue du Rocroy on the fifth floor. We got it through a company called vacationsinparis.com.
At a cafe near our Montmartre apartment
It was near the Poissonniere Metro stop, which helped us get around time after time. The apartment was fairly spacious and well-equipped. Across the street was a schoolyard often filled with delightful playing children.
Nothing more than a doorway in Paris could be an architectural delight!
The apartment building's elevator was tiny, and a sign said it handled 3 people max. Yeah, right! Two at most, but cozily.
Some of the most carefree Parisians! As seen looking to the right from our balcony
Radishes at a Montmartre mini-market
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - Montmartre - Sacre Coeur and Moulin rouge
Montmartre is famous for its history as the center of the impressionist movement in painting and in other art forms. It's fun for walking, and Rick Steves' Paris guidebook give a good guide to the place. We headed uphill towards the hard-to-miss Sacre Coeur church. Its huge domes beckon from almost all of Paris, and since it is on a hilltop, I believe it is the second highest structure in the city.
Riding the funicular in Montmartre up to Sacre Coeur
This is what you see at the top of the hill - Sacre Coeur in all its glory!
View from the top
Part of our upward trek was alleviated by a charming funicular, It took us to a broad overlook where dances took place in the 1890's. These were famously painted by Auguste Renoir.
This frieze on a building adjacent to the Moulin Rouge shows a can-can dancer. It might date from the 1890's.
Along our path, we passed homes of famous painters and arrived at the Lapin Agile, a famous cafe. Steve Martin wrote a very witty play called Picasso at the Lapin Agile, which we had seen. Here is a link to an excerpt from it on Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwaq4oF5sMc We did not go in, but we read amusing stories about the painters who had played and pranked there.
Outside the Lapin Agile
Statue of a face outside the Lapin Agile
On our way down, we stopped at a cafe and relaxed Parisian style before setting out again. It was raining lightly throughout the day. We had not carried umbrellas or even the panchos we'd bought for the trip. So it served us right to get a little wet! With our guidebook half-sopped we succumbed about bought a 10 Euro umbrella. Next passed through a seedy area and got to the Moulin Rouge, the famous dance hall and epicenter of can-can dancing.
Pierre, your guide to the wonders of Moulin Rouge... intuited despite never having been inside!
We did not go inside, as it was very expensive, and we had already planned an expensive meal at the Eiffel Tower for later in the trip. I would have enjoyed the show, surely. But I kind of got it out of my system by watching a Youtube video about it.
I think what I liked best about Moulin Rouge was it historic nature, as typified by the building nearby it and by the mural in the entrance-way. Also, I loved reading Rick Steves' narrative about famous people who cavorted there, such as Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, and others.
On a traffic island near the Moulin Rouge, a boy tosses his jacket into the onrush of air front a hot air grate... and it flies!
Thursday, July 4, 2013 - Meeting relatives in the Marais and visiting the Louvre
Martha's sister and brother-in-law, Peggy and Fred, had coincidentally been in town during a similar period. We got together with them and with our niece, Hannah Fried-Petersen and her friend Yemin. We had a great Parisian meal at an outdoor cafe.
Fred told us about seeing the beaches of Normandy on a trip they had taken westward from Paris along the Seine. The impression of the challenge and the superior position of the Nazi battlements was incredible, he said. They were in a a vary upbeat mood an were looking forward to Fred's talk to be given to the Adam Smith Society at the Sorbonne. The talk was to be be on the decline of the Spanish Empire. We later learned that it was very well received.
The slogan of the French Revolution - this was the only place we saw it, on a building in the Marais.
We were near the Picasso Museum, which was unfortunately closed for renovations.
Our niece Hannah and her friend Yemin were great companions, as we walked along the Seine, visited the Place des Voges (above) and The Louvre.
Hannah and Yemin came in from Germany, where they are both studying. We were happy to to have them stay with is for a few days in our apartment. We enjoyed doing some tings together and at other times separately, but often reuniting after busy days.
The four of us visited the Place des Vosges in the Marais. And even though we all found the place not very special, just being there with Hannah and Yemin made it fun. That afternoon, we also shopped at Guerlain Parfumerie and got somebody unnamed a gift!
Next we enjoyed along walk mainly along the Seine towards the area if the Louvre.
The July Column of Colonne de Juliette at the Place de la Bastille - the start of our Seine walk. None of the Bastille itself remains.
However, this monument is impressive, despite its being surrounded by noisy traffic. It commemorates the Revolution of 1830,
not the French Revolution.
These are the names of the people who died in the storming of the Bastille.
Bastille column, close to the top -- from hundreds of feet away!
At its top resides August Dumont's Spirit of Freedom. He carries the Torch of Civilization and shows the chains of oppression, which the Revolution has broken.
Hannah and Yemin, just before our Seine walk - this is at the Place des Vosges
Tourist boats like this, bateaux mouches, ply the Seine all day long.
Near the Seine... Mansard rooves like these are named after a Frenchman named... Mansart.
The Louvre was its immense, unbelievably complete and crowded self. I sought out master pieces I had admire 39 years ago -- the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo. Both impressed me again, but I must admit I liked theme more the first time. (39 years ago!)
Louvre pediment detail
In the Louvre, statue of Atalante
The Louvre, goddess and child by Praxiteles
The Louvre, head of the Jupiter of Versailles
Jupiter with lightning bolt
Gladiator close-up with arm brace to hold shield
Approaching the Winged Victory of Samothrace
The Winged Victory of Samothrace, on the prow of her ship, which was discovered separately.
This has been my favorite statue for decades, and of course I am not alone in this high estimation of it.
She was created around 200 BCE. For a fascinating account of this statue's history, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winged_Victory_of_Samothrace
Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo, left side
Venus de Milo, interesting alternate view, right side
Tuileries Garden ferris wheel
Tuileries Garden, statue with a well-known monument!
Bubble made by a vendor, about to be...
...jumped for by girls (see the edge of the bubble in the upper right)
Friday July 5, 2013 - Giverny, St. Germain des Pres
Our neighbor Karen Schloss had told us how wonderful Giverny was. Yet it was even more wonderful that that. Though it took us four hours to get there, it was still worthwhile. Yes, trains, more trains and a bus were needed. The place is splendidly laid out, with a kind of growing garden laid out in rows on a gentle slope on one side.
Pierre, your guide to Giverny!
The flowers are laid out in gorgeous fashion, especially on the edge of the sinuously shaped flowing pond. Descriptions of Giverny are inevitable superseded by the experience itself and also by photos and videos. And so I refer you to my own!
Each of us on the Chinese Bridge
This stream flows through the Garden
St. Germain Des Pres
This is an section of the Left Bank of France that is very famous, but where we unfortunately spent very little time. Two cafes are quite well-renowned, Deux Magots and Cafe Des Flores. In the latter, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir wrote many of their great works.
Photography was not allowed in this wonderful museum... except outside and on the rooftop. Here is an excellent description of this amazing Left Bank museum from the Wikipedia:
The Musée d'Orsay (French pronunciation: [myze dɔʁsɛ]) is a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, an impressive Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, by such painters such as Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh.
Rhino and horse seen strutting about on the Left Bank!
Rooftop view at the Musee d'Orsay
Rooftop view at Musee d'Orsay
View of Sacre Coeur from Musee d'Orsay
Academie Francaise, tasked with keeping French pure
Paris Hip-Hop Festival on the Seine - and who were they listening to? To the gent below!
Pont Alexandre III
I made a point of visiting this amazing bridge -- maybe the world's prettiest? In my view it is, since I love its beaux arts architecture and statuary. I believe it was feaured in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Again, I defer to a Wikipedia description:
The Pont Alexandre III is an arch bridge that spans the Seine, connecting the Champs-Élysées quarter and the Invalides and Eiffel Tower quarter, widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in Paris. It is classified as a historical monument. The bridge, with its exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end, was built between 1896 and 1900. It is named after Tsar Alexander III, who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892. His son Nicholas II laid the foundation stone in October 1896. The style of the bridge reflects that of the Grand Palais, to which it leads on the right bank.
Grand Palais Quadriga
This Quadriga or group of four horses by Georges Recipon, stands atop the Grand Palais. It is on the Right Bank side of the Seine across form the Pont Alexandre III and represents the triumph of Harmony over Discord. I found it amazing, one of the most serendipitous discoveries of my Parisian visit. It is so exuberant! The zoom on my SONY Camera enabled details that would have been totally impossible with my earlier machines.
Saturday, July 6, 2013 - Musee d'Orsay, Eiffel Tower, Jules Verne Restaurant
The Musee de Orsay was more to Martha's liking than the Louvre - cooler and less crowded. The impressionist paintings n the 5th floor were wonderful. I'd seen many prints of reproductions previously in textbooks, on the Internet, and at Grinds for Sculpture park in Hamilton, NJ. Seeing the originals was a special treat. The observatory area facing the Seine was also spectacular.
The Eiffel Tower loomed near and above us long before we were actually beneath it. What a magnificent structure! Grand and yet structurally strong and magnificent. Thousand of people were lined up for the lower observation deck. Because we had reserved a few months before, we were able to zip ahead and go to the Jules Verne entrance and zip up to the restaurant level. Service was excellent, the food superb and the views snot only spectacular, but tined by the unique history of the place and its omnipresent girders and winding cable wheels.
What a meal, and what a grand time! We are so fortunate. I hope you will too some day.
Thanks to our reservation at the Jules Verne Restaurant, we avoided this 3,000-person line.
We don't think of the Efffel Tower as ornamental - more monumental. Yet this filigree motif shows conscious esthetics at work.
The Jules Verne Restaurant is at the second tier above.
Notice the massive pillars adjoining the modern security gateway.
Riding the private elevator upwards/
This was a kind of seafood in salty jelly concoction, an appetizer.
Martha's sea bass. Resembles a nuclear sub, doesn't it?
This was my meal, which I believe was a kind of exotic and skimpy Bouillabaise.
Here you are looking one story below at the Observation Deck, and then beyond at the Seine.
Diners with the gear works for the elevators in the background.
A view of the Trocadero across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower
More to come! I just ran out of steam and time in capturing video stills at this moment.
Sunday, July 7, 2013 - Bullet Train to Avignon and exploring Avignon
This day, we took a bullet train to Avignon. These trains are called the TGV by the French, who developed this form of transportation. Some have gone as fast as 179 mph. The Chinese have since set higher word speed records. However, it feel tremendously speedy and smooth!
We took the train from Gare de Lyon, which is a grand old station with very modern sections and conveniences. Our particular car was first class (we will return in economy class, boo-hoo!). That means assigned seats plus an electrical outlet and a fair amount of personal room. We soon rented a car and upgraded to a luxury vehicle. It's comfy, but the GPS is crazy-different from our ususal Garmin. Fortunately, we had rented a French maps-laden Garmin, and it was a breeze to handle.
In Avignon, we kind of crashed, then took a bus into the heart of town from our hotel. It was filled with tourists like us, but with many there for a grand theatre festival.
I enjoyed the many street performers out on the main drag in town. Those who had planned in advance had tickets. Had we thought about it we might have searched in advance for English language shows, but we had not. And so were were left with the fun of with ambling and having a nice dinner in air-conditioned comfort -- but with a view of passersby.
We missed the most important historic sites in Avignon:
But "ya cain't have ever'thing in this life" and we've already had a good share!
Monday, July 8, 2013 - Visiting seaside village of Sts. Maries de la Mere
Today, we drove down from Avignon to the charming village called St. Maries de la Mere.
This seaside resort is famous for its beaches and its nature parks, featuring flamingoes, egrets, herons and more. Local ranches also tout wild horses and bulls, plus shows with men on horseback corralling bulls, It is named after three Catholic women, saints, real personages or imaginary icons -- all named Mary. Or Marie. If you are interested, you can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saintes_Maries_de_la_Mer
Our hotel is Mas de Calebron, and it is beautiful! Wild horses are just beyond a fence. A spirited little stream rungs through it. Martins chase bugs away and the birds whistle as they fly. The hotel's pool is lovely. Our room is decorated with locally themed scene sin paintings and tiles. Bushes are in flower. What's not to like? Even the midday heat dissipates quickly as the afternoon goes on.
We chose to take a seaside boat tour of the area, along the Petit Rhone river and other waterways. Vey relaxing and fun! Dinner was paella for me and a thin crusted pizza plus salad for Martha at L'Esperado Restaurant, one of many like it on Rue Frederic Mistral just off the beach road. We relaxed later at poolside. I have been enjoying reading Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman and Will Durant's History of Philosophy.
And if you want to know what Martha was reading, well you'll just have to ask her!
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - Seeing the town of Arles in Provence
Before heading out to Arles, we relaxed in the incredibly beautiful courtyard of Mas de Calebron. I was almost not looking forward to being in Arles, because I knew the midday heat would be intense in that city. However, the ride there was easy and we quickly found our hotel on this tiny, narrow street. Had to park 2 blocks away but not too bad. The hotel, Hotel de Camargue, is across the Rhone from the ancient heart of the city.
After getting settled, we crossed a windswept bridge with narrow sidewalks to get to the ancient city. Inside it, the streets were narrow and charming, although the heat was a bother. We sloshed through bottle after bottle of water. We did enjoy seeing the Theatre Ancien, or ancient theatre. When the Romans occupied this place in about 400 a.d. (?) they constructed a mini-Rome, complete with:
baths of Constantine - much smaller scale than Carracala in Rome
Of those, we saw the amphitheatre. It was impressive because of its age and stoneworks, especially the two pillars extant. In front of the semi-circular building, there had at one time been a 3-story building that served as the stage and backdrop. While we were there, "Gladiators" put on a show, which was, I imagine, bogus. Gladiatorial activities probably occurred in the nearby Arene or coliseum. Still, it was entertaining. (grunt, bash, boom!)
Musee Reattu - This is a modern art museum in Arles. While I do not normally plan on visiting such a lace in an ancient city, I'd done it once before -- in Venice at the Peggy Guggenheim museum.
This place did not disappoint. First, it was air conditioned! Second, we actually liked much f the stuff inside, chiefly devoted to an exhibit called Nuage, or Cloud. These were clouds interpreted in multiple media by many artists. So varied and interesting! Our visit came just after I had just posted a video that most people might find boring, of clouds observed on our flight from Philly to Paris. So I understand the latent wonder and charm of our fleecy friends! (not poodles)
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - Visiting the Windmill of Daudet (Moulin Daudet) and Chateau Tarascon
We did a little exploring in smaller towns in Provence. Unfortunately, we kept getting lost, even with our GPS It seems our Garmin can only direct you to a town if you have a specific address in mind, not the town's name alone. And then, we also made new, innovative mistakes! For example, we wanted to go to Fontvielle. The Garmin would not direct us there via the Address option. So we chose the Points of Interest option instead and then selected the Chateau de Fontveille.
Surely, that would take us to Fontvielle, right? Wrong! The GPS was directing us to the area of Marseilles, 80 km to the east, instead of Fontvielle 14 km to the north! But no big problem. Just had to get off the highway and ask the chamin' Garmin lady to redirect us.
Most French schoolchildren read stories by Alphonse Daudet, who won a Nobel prize for his book Letters from My Windmill. He actually did frequent the windmill we visited but did not live there.
I was able to read a story by Daudet on-line before we visited. You can too at gutenberg.org and searching for Alphonse Daudet. It was called, "The Coach Ride from Beaucaire." It tells of several passengers in a coach and gives portraits of each. One man is downcast, has his head buried under a cap and seems depressed.
The other passengers begin talking of a villager whose wife left him and who took up with lover after lover. Soon, they begin taunting the quiet man and saying his situation is probably the same. At the end, the author wants a look at the hiding man and reaches to remove his cap. The man anticipates this, removes the cap himself and glowers at the narrator, telling him to have a good look at his face -- because if he hears of a tragedy in the region, he, the taunting narrator and his friends will be the cause of it. Very memorable stuff!
In a few other stories, the windmill itself figures, including a bogus contract of sale in which Daudet agrees to buy the windmill in its current dilapidated condition and promises not to complain of its defects. All in all, this was unique and noteworthy place to visit! After this, we had a nice dejuner (lunch) outside in Fontvielle at a place called La Cuisine. I had salade canard (duck salad). I think the duck was cured instead of cooked. Salty and tasty. Endive seems to come with many salads here, though I rarely see it served in the U.S.
Chateau de Tarascon
We headed farther up the main road towards Avignon. Our DK Guide photo tourism book on Provence showed a photo of a commanding castle called Chateau de Tarascon. This town was founded by "good King Rene" in the 1400's. This castle is amazing for its imposing structure and impregnable appearance. Some religious Christians even use its image to symbolize the idea that "the lord is my fortress."
Unfortunately, on the day we visited, it was blazing stinking hot, and there was barely any shade in sight. Further, the castle had no bathrooms, and we happened to need one. So we barely made it to the interior courtyard and then had to leave. Still, the place is unforgettable.
Tarascon is also famous for a mythical beast, the Tatarin de Tarascon, which supposedly terrorized the town in the first century. It is half lion, half armadillo, and there are some crazy renditions of it around! The town also dresses up for a pageant about the slaying of the Tartirin. Curiously, it was St. Martha who tamed the Tartarin. In another tie-in, the aforementioned Alphonse Daudet also wrote three novels and about the Tartarin de Tarascon.
Sadly, this was our last sightseeing adventure in France! I hope you enjoyed the words and photos and will also want to see a few of my related Youtube videos. If you have thoughts or comments, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.