Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just another Saturday afternoon stroll.

So we left the Notre Dame area late that Saturday morning, walked west along the south side of the Ile de la Cite, and crossed over the Seine to the Right Bank. After lunching on lovely ham and cheese sandwiches at a sidewalk cafĂ©, we passed through the Louvre’s courtyard and by its fantastic pyramids (I promise there will be photos in an upcoming post!), and took off for the Champs-Elysees with the goal of walking its length to the Arc de Triomphe.

Parisians spend a lot of time outdoors during nice weather, enjoying their many parks and green spaces. My theory is that they get cabin fever from living in their tiny apartments and have to escape for some fresh air. Of course, I may be wrong…but just look at this photo Kathie took of the locals sunning themselves by a pond/fountain in the Jardin des Tuileries.

(The significance of the word tuileries is that tile kilns, or tuileries, occupied the site on which the Tuileries Palace was built by Catherine de Medici in 1564. Before the palace burned down in 1871, it enclosed the Louvre’s courtyard.)

At the western end of the Tuileries Gardens is the Place de la Concorde. Its primary claim to fame is that more than 1200 peeps were guillotined here, including Louise XVI and his queen, Marie-Antoinette. Yikes! Could you hear those spirits talkin' to ya, Kath?? BTW, that obelisk is 3300 years old and is the twin of one that stands in front of the Temple of Luxor in Egypt.

On along the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, we passed the Guerlain shop - where this gentleman was shopping for some Shalimar for his honey...

...and some afternoon diners at a sidewalk cafe. Kel-kel, check out the Sephora store in the background.

I directed traffic to wait while Kathie stepped out into the busy street to get this shot of the Arc de Triomphe...

(Actually, I watched the red light and hollered for her to hustle up before it turned green.)

Ordinarily, we would've been able to go inside the monument and up to the top where there's supposedly a great view of the city. On this particular day, however, a labor strike closed the inside to visitors. (This would not be our first strike-caused inconvenience on the trip. More on that in a future post.) So we contented ourselves with exploring the exterior of this early 19th century beauty...

The names of French victories and generals during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars are inscribed on the walls.

This plaque commemorating the French soldiers and Resistance fighters who died in World War II caught Kathie's eye.

On the way back to the Ile St. Louis, we decided to cut back to the Left Bank by way of Avenue Marceau in order to avoid the masses on the Champs-Elysees. There wasn't as much to gawk at but it was much quieter. We passed Eglise St. Pierre de Chaillot, a grimy-looking church of thick walls and little windows. Kathie, Kathleen, and I thought it must surely be a medieval or Romanesque or even Byzantine structure, but guess what, Girls - it was built in the 1930s!!!

Next post, Sunday at Versailles.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Church Photo in Lieu of Attendance - Pat and Kathie Style

I've always admired Joan's "Church Photo in Lieu of Attendance" posts. This post, Pat and Kathie style, is the first of perhaps several such posts.

As Kathie wrote in her last post, she, Kathleen (co-worker and friend of Kathie), and I set off on an adventure about 4 weeks ago. We started in Paris, where we stayed for 3 days. Our B&B, the 3rd floor (that's the 4th floor in American terms) walk-up apartment of Carol Guay Bolton-Brown, was located on the Ile St. Louis - right across a little bridge from Notre Dame. So where did we go as soon as we freshened up from our overnight flight? To Notre Dame, of course!! This was our first view.

Would you just look at those flying buttresses? Drool. (For those of you who must know, the cathedral's construction started in 1163 and lasted about 100 years. Notre Dame was one of the first Gothic cathedrals built and one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses. Go here for more info.)

After walking across the little bridge, this is what we saw.

Nice flowers, eh? Here's the front of the cathedral...

...and its south side from across the Seine River...

Turns out that Saturday was a very busy day in Paris. As a thank you to French taxpayers, a bunch of museums were open to visitors for free - so there was a long line to get into the cathedral and its museum. We contented ourselves with admiring the exterior and made a mental note to return Sunday morning. It was worth the wait.

We happened to visit during 10:00 mass. Kathie seemed to be fascinated by the service. Maybe she was just waiting for the hunchback to appear! The organ music WAS very nice.

Next post - Saturday afternoon in Paris.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some Boots Don't Stop Walking

Patty and I are just back from walking 200 miles of the five hundred mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across northern Spain.

When she gets over her jet lag, she's going to write about our trip, with maybe a few interjections from the West Coast sister. Two hundred fifty thousand pilgrims from around the world stream across northern Spain every year and we met our fair share.

A young red-bearded Scotsman told me he had been walking Europe for three months, and after he got to Santiago he was going on to Finistrae at the "world's end", then turn south to Portugal. "I don't know if I can stop walking", he said.

At the cathedral plaza in Santiago de Campostela, I met an Italian man in his 60's, Luigi Cianti, who had given away his fortune of $7 million fifteen years earlier and started walking. He had walked everywhere, including thirty one times across the Camino, and was indeed the Guinness record holder for number of completed Caminos. I googled him and it was for real.

We could relate to this. After the first hundred miles getting broken in, you feel you could walk infinitely. Maybe walking a hundred miles should be a requirement for high school graduation, or getting married, or, better still, running for office.