The day after we were married, Lea and I flew to Paris for our honeymoon. We spent the morning before the 5 p.m. flight at the family brunch my father hosted at Brasserie Jo's at the Colonnade hotel and then doing some last minute shopping before catching our ride to the airport. We flew British Airways (with stop-overs at Heathrow) both there and back, and had good service with the exception of the chewing gum covering my seat on the first leg of the flight... yuck.
When we arrived in Paris on Monday morning it was around 9 a.m. for them and about 3 a.m. for us, and we hadn't slept at all on the plane. It took us a while to figure out the train system there and get our bags to the hotel, so it was noon (6 a.m.) before we checked in. I was tired enough that when we got there I responded to the clerk's "bonjour" with my customary "howdy," much to Lea's horror... We went up to our room in the smallest elevator I'd ever seen and crashed right away. Despite our intention to get up after a quick nap, we didn't wake up until around 9 p.m. We ended up having a quick dinner at a Chinese restaurant down the street from the hotel, going back to bed, and sleeping until the next morning. We both needed the rest. We slept a lot on this trip... I don't think we ever got up earlier than 11 a.m. We had some serious sleep to catch up on, and we had no illusions about seeing everything we wanted to in Paris in the one week we had there. We took it easy and figured that anything we missed this time around would give us an excuse to go back again later :)
A monument (to the national defense of 1870-1871) a couple blocks from our hotel room.
Tuesday was our first real day in town. Looking at the map, we got a sense that our hotel was pretty far away from the heart of the city, although near some major Metro stations. The travel agent had recommended a four star place in a better location, but I'd vetoed it as an economy measure. Montparnasse, the district where we were staying, reminded me a bit of Brighton... a cheap area a few minutes out from the city and not particularly touristy. The room was tiny, too, but we didn't plan on spending much time there. Ya get what you pay for :) We found an internet cafe, which we used to send out a few emails (poorly typed emails, since the keyboards over there are seriously messed up). Since it was a bit rainy that morning we decided to do the Louvre, but the sky had cleared by the time we got there (and stayed clear for the rest of the trip). The Louvre turned out to be closed, so we spent most of the day walking around. We walked around the Ile de Cite, the oldest part of the city, past the Louvre, through the Tulleries, up the Champs d'Elysses, and went to the top of the Arc De Triomphe. The view from the Arch was impressive... it was place in the middle of the Etoile ("star"), the biggest rotary I'd ever seen, and the cars trying to get around it from one of the 8 avenues that emptied into it to one of the others were in total chaos. We only watched one accident take place while we were up there, but I imagine that they must happen constantly. Lea fell on the wet steps going back down to street level and we were both exhausted from the walk, so we had dinner at an Italian restaurant on the Champs d'Elysses and took the Metro back home for the night.
Lea at the top of the Arc De Triomphe
Wednesday we took a train to Versailles, a trip I'd been looking forward to since first reading about the place back in my 10th grade Modern European history class with Mr. Zinkievich... It did not disappoint. We did the major tours inside the palace, although only half of the hall of mirrors was visible due to restoration efforts. I was surprised by how little of the original furniture remained, although the art seemed relatively untouched. I guess these things happen in the course of a hundred and fifty years of periodically alternating revolution and conquest. After taking the main tours we explored the gardens for a few hours. The grounds are just unbelievably big by modern standards and liberally sprinkled with neo-classical sculpture, so we only scratched the surface. An interesting fact I learned about Versailles while I was there was that it was open to any suitably dressed visitor, all the time, so the place was more or less constantly mobbed with people trying to get the King's attention.
Lea looking cute in the audio tour headphones on our way through the King's apartments.
Me in front of a painting of the Siege of Yorktown, one of the 32 French military victories commemorated with a painting in one of the 19th century rooms.
Lea in one of the formal gardens adjacent to the palace.
Lea after we stopped at an ice cream stand in the gardens.
One of the trails branching off from the main path.
Lea standing on the steps leading into the Versailles "back yard." The grand canal behind her shoulders is much bigger than the reflecting pool in Washington, D.C. if that conveys anything about the size of the gardens.
We spent most of Thursday at the Louvre. We started off with the antiquities, where I could have spent several days, but we rushed a bit to get to the Italian Rennaisance exhibit that Lea wanted to see. We worked our way through most of the exhibits, but I found them generally less impressive than their Greek and Roman counterparts... Based on the Louvre's collection, it appears that the Italians spent 500 years painting almost nothing but Jesus on the cross without getting bored :) We both loved the Napoleon III apartments though.
Me next to the Code of Hamurabi, the world's first written code of law.
Lea examining a model of the original castle built on the site of the Louvre. The foundations of those walls have been excavated, and are visible behind her.
I took this one of Lea while taking some black and white shots of some of the classical sculptures.
Lea by the entrance to Napoleon III's dining room.
Me overlooking a display of classical sculptures from a mezzanine.
Lea in the square at the entrance to the Louvre, near I.M. Pei's glass pyramid.
After wearing ourselves out at the Louvre Lea and I went back to our room to change and then back out to eat at Altitude 95, a restaurant on the Eiffel Tower (Helene recommended it and set up our reservation). Now, up to this point we'd been awed by the kindness and good nature of the French people we'd met. Predictably, it was only two agents of the French government (a cop and a transit authority thug) who messed with us. The French Metro uses these little paper tickets as tokens, which you feed through a slot to get through the turnstile and are fed back to you. I'd been throwing them away the whole trip. It turns out that you are supposed to keep them. Locals know this, but it's not posted in English anywhere. Cops and transit workers occaisionally stake out the Metro stops near tourist attractions (such as the Eiffel Tower) and fine tourists unaware of the law 20 Euro each (30 if you don't have an unstamped ticket on hand). I was seriously pissed off, but couldn't really do anything about it since our reservations were slated for very soon. We paid the bastards and left. I realize that ignorance of the law is no defense, yada yada yada, but making compliance with the law non-obvious and then selectiveley enforcing it (on tourists) is so... third world. After all of that we took the elevator to the restaurant and (with a bit of luck) got a nice table by the window. Great food, great wine, great view. It was well worth the 40 euro fine, and we had a blast chatting with the Russians and Californians sitting nearby.
Our waiter took this shot of Lea and I at Altitude 95.
On Friday we started with the Musee de l'Armee. We spent some time going through their WWII exhibit. They had a great collection of period arms, and Lea smiled and nodded as I gushed about each one :) We also briefly went through their displays of cavalry uniforms, French service rifles, and flags. Passing Napoleon's tomb on our way out we watched a multinational honor guard practicing drill for the upcoming D-Day ceremonies (on the flight home, we saw a clip of their actual performance). Lea vetoed our planned trip to the Musee de Rodin in favor of dinner, after which we bought tickets for a Bateau Mouche Seine river tour. Most of the major Paris landmarks are visible from the water, so we learned a lot about the history of the city from the multi-language audio-tour they played.
Me in front of Notre Dame on the Bateau Mouche.
Saturday we started from the Ile de Cite and planned a route through the center of the city. We wanted to see Saint Chappelle, but it was closed for a few days, so proceeded to Notre Dame, our second planned stop. It was fun to compare the place to what I had imagined while reading Victor Hugo, but I was pretty far off. Got some good pictures, though. Next we walked through an open air antiques market on our way to Musee de Orsay. Great stuff there, but thoroughly out of our price range. While we were browsing I managed to trip and fall on a carpet seem inside a tent full of antiques... as I fell, the only thing I was thinking was "I hope I don't land on anything expensive." Luckily, I didn't :) We made it to Musee de Orsay, the 19th century art museum. Their Rodin and Klimt selections were rather disappointing, but the sculptures there were amazing. That night Lea and I found a movie theater showing Harry Potter III in English with French subtitles. Great movie, and it was nice to hear the English language.
At Notre Dame there was a sign posted announcing that the upper levels were not open to the public due to a strike by the workers there. Something about the workers demanding an increased chiropractic allowance... ;)
The gargoyles of Notre Dame.
Lea and I in the rose gardens behind Notre Dame
Lea in front of her favorite work at the Musee de Orsay, a statue of a polar bear by Francois Pompon.
By Sunday Lea had finally caught the cold I'd been fighting off for most of the trip, and both our legs were stiff from all the walking we'd been doing, so we took things easy. We walked around the Montparnasse area, read a bit in a park we found, and then made our way to the airport. The flight home went fairly smoothly. All in all, it was as close to a perfect trip as we could have hoped for, and a welcome rest-- we were both back at work the next morning. We were glad to be back home, though, where people speak English, soft drinks are big and cheap, all of the keys are in the right place on the keyboard, and Lea is less embarassed when I greet people with a "howdy."