Monday, October 27, 2008

Au Revoir

Last night in Paris.

Postcard shot!

Todd in foyer of Opera House.

Chagall ceiling and 8 ton chandelier!

ML on the grand staircase.

Well, this is my last post as it is our last night in Paris!  We started off under rainy skies and drove into the city.  We hit a lot of traffic for 12:00 in the afternoon and moved at a snails pace.  The closer we got to Paris the more my stomach started to tighten up.  Bobus wanted to take us straight through  the city but we wanted to go around and come in from the side.  As we made our changes, Bobus re-adjusted his coordinates and we followed him in.  It was reassuring to know we had Bobus this time but these Paris drivers are freaking crazy!  The road will suddenly change into a bus lane or a motorcycle will pull up next to you and force his way in or a car will come out of nowhere and cut you off.  I am telling you, we have driven in most all of the major US cities and have NEVER experienced something like the traffic in this city.  Anyway, we found the AVIS rental car place and somehow turned in safely.  I have never been more relieved to park a car and turn off the engine in my life.  I could have jumped for joy.  The rental car guy spoke English really well and was joking with Todd about why he turned the car in a day early.  He said, "You did the hardest part, the airport is no problem."  When Todd told him we picked up the car near the Arc de Triomphe he started laughing and said, "That wasn't the best place to start."  He said it takes some time getting used to how people drive here.  Ya think???

The rain had stopped for a time and the sun was out as we walked to our hotel.  I insisted on coming back to Paris for our last day so we had to find a place to stay online last night.  I wanted to go back to the Opera house so we chose a hotel close by.  It is a strange hotel....you can hardly fit going up or down the spiral stairs.  Add in carrying our bags and we were lucky not to break a leg.  I told Todd the stairs here are worse than the stairs at Notre Dame and that place is ancient!  We got settled and immediately headed over to the Opera House.  What an amazing place.  Now, I know I have said that numerous times at numerous places but this place steals the show!  No opera pun intended.  It was so ornate and beautiful.  The ceiling was painted by Chagall, the chandaliers were gold, the grand staircase was.....well, very grand!  I loved every minute of it.  Naturally, Todd couldn't stop singing from The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack and finally put his Ipod in his ears to listen to it.  The Opera house actually does have tunnels and a waterway underneath its structure but naturally we couldn't go down there.  We strolled around and took a TON of pictures.  Everything was just so beautiful! 

From there we were going to go see the Moulin Rouge but it was a LONG hike and I needed to do some shopping so we went back to the Notre Dame area where the best vendors were.  One last sandwich in a baguette, one last chocolate crepe, and a few more scarves!  Todd finally pulled me away and we grabbed the metro over to the Eiffel Tower.  By this time it was dark and all lit up in blue lights.  It started to sprinkle a bit as we walked over and by the time we got underneath it was really coming down!  It was very pretty and romantic all lit up.  We walked over to the other side when suddenly all the lights started twinkling!  The rain had stopped and it felt like the 4th of July; we watched in awe - snapping pictures of course....although it is always hard to find someone who is willing to take our picture at night when you have to hold the camera so steady!  

It was well worth driving back into the city for these two things: Opera Garnier and the Eiffel Tower at night.  What a way to end a great trip!

We are very tired, hungry for our own food (how about a simple bowl of cereal!), and anxious to hear English on a regular basis - but we will miss this wonderful city!  Thanks for following along and sorry we can't bring you all a chocolate crepe.

Au Revior!

ML

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chateau and more chateau



ML in tapestry room.

Chateaux Chiverny

Da Vinci home

Chateaux Chenonceau

ML enjoying the sites at her new home!  Ha, ha....

Today didn’t begin well. Mostly because of what happened last night. Remember I said I felt queasy? Well, it didn’t end and by the time the first course of our meal came I couldn’t hardly eat any of it. It didn’t get any better with the chicken and I sat there trying to think about something other than puking. Todd ate and ate and ate some more. By the time the dessert course was served I was up in my bed shivering with body aches and stomach pains. I took a Tylenol PM and luckily was out for most of the night. I woke this morning with no fever but still a bit queasy and weak but there was so much to do and see today, so I forged on. The owners of the hotel have been very kind. They keep asking how I am and if I want my dessert from last night yet! They told Todd last night what number to call them in case I needed a doctor in the middle of the night. They said, “No eating in Normandy anymore!” I was grateful that I was sick BEFORE I showed up here. I sat at the table for so long last night because I didn’t want to offend anyone by leaving too soon. If I had left before the main course I am sure I wouldn’t have had to pay for the meal though!

It was foggy and cold here this morning. We changed back the clocks last night so it would be another few hours before the fog lifted but once it did the sun came out and it was relatively cool but pleasant in the sun. Our first chateau was down the street from our hotel so we walked. It was a beautiful setting with the house sitting perched over a river. Unfortunately, because these places we have seen all throughout this trip are so old, they seem to constantly be under renovation. I can’t seem to escape the scaffolding in any of the pictures! We picked up our audio guide and began the tour. Apparently the original owner couldn’t pay his taxes on the chateau so it was given to the king. He, in turn, gave it to his favorite mistress. Favorite mistress!! Doesn’t that imply there was more than one?! The French seem to be a little loose on those things. The English hide their mistresses where the French flaunt them. When the king died the queen demanded the house be given to her in exchange for another chateau somewhere else. I think she had that right! Throughout the years the chateau was owned and updated by various women. It is known as the women’s chateau. There were amazing tapestries and painted ceilings. We continue to marvel at how these places got built so long ago! Trying to get a small house built today takes long enough! Naturally there were also beautiful gardens and a mote surrounding the house. Todd was impressed with all the fish in the mote! During WWI the chateau was used as a military hospital and the men used to string their lines out their windows attached to a bell. Well the bell rang they knew they had a nibble on their line. We wandered the gardens a bit and headed down to the Maze. We thought it would be a bit harder than it was to get to the center but it was pretty easy. We visited the farm and outer houses and went into a wax museum that told the story of the many women of the house in period costume.

After leaving the chateau we drove over to Amboise to another chateau that Da Vinci spent his last years living in. We toured the home and the basement where many replicas of his inventions are kept. The gardens were filled with more of his ideas and we had an educational afternoon. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the leaves are all changing so the gardens were filled with fallen leaves and sunlit avenues. If I weren’t feeling so tired and sick I would have enjoyed it more I am sure. We went across the street for something to eat. We both got crepes. Todd had ham and cheese with a cooked egg on top! It made me feel a bit better so I wanted to keep going. So we got back in the car and drove to Cheverny to see a chateau that people are still living in. The rooms were all decorated with a combination of pieces from different periods and the grounds were very pretty as well. It is a hunting chateau so we went down to the kennels to see the massive hunting dogs. There were a ton of them, all anxious to get out of their large cage. We toured the kitchen garden and the trophy room (trophies meaning antlers all along the walls.) It was an interesting day.

Our hotel room only has a tub so I am off to go soak for awhile and hope to be able to eat something more filling. Tomorrow we drive back into Paris (yikes!) for our last day/night. We are more than ready to come home. Last night we ate dinner next to a couple who were traveling for a month for their 25th anniversary. That is too long to live out of a suitcase and move from hotel to hotel. Todd asked me where I wanted to go for our 25th anniversary. “Let me get through this trip first!”

ML

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Changing Landscapes






We woke this morning to sunshine and a free breakfast at the hotel. Neither turned out to be any good. By the time we got into the car and starting driving towards Mont St. Michel the sun was shrouded by clouds and we were praying it at least wouldn’t rain. We followed Bobus back out to the main roads - although there were a few times that Todd looked at the map, “That can’t be right!” he would utter. I stroked Bobus’ ego and we kept the faith. Sure enough, within a few hours we spotted the 1000 year old Abbey rising up from the fog. It was kind of creepy actually because we were driving through farm towns - see a cow, then see an old scary looking steepled church rising out of no where! The winding roads were again pretty narrow and we wondering what it would be like to make that drive in the summer with 10 times more tourists. Even with the rain we planned this trip well. The timing couldn’t be better.

We parked below the towering Abbey and started to make the climb to the top. The Abbey used to be surrounded by water and the only way you could get to it was in low tide. Monks would pilgrimage to the island, careful to avoid high tides that would swoop in at 2 feet per second! There is a great deal of quick sand in the area too and many a tourist has lost a shoe. We decided to just stick to the cider block walls and not brave the sand. The island begins with jammed touristy shops in narrow alleyways. It takes longer to go this way but it was fun to see what people were selling. There is an original restaurant started by the woman who used to clean the abbey for the monks. She made huge whipped omlets. The tradition continues to this day and you can watch as the chef whips up the eggs in a brass bowl using a brass whip. The poor guy - he looked tired! Next the eggs are handed to a woman standing in front of a fire. She pours them into brass frying pans with extra long handles and places them into the fire. We enjoyed the “show” but decided not to order any because they were $30 Euro each! It is huge and can be easily split between 2 or 3 people but still....a sandwich eaten picnic style would be our lunch.

We continued to climb, and climb and climb....okay, legs getting another work out here.... Entering the Abby was unique. We happened upon the monks at noon mass. The chapel was filled with the sound of them singing! It echoed around the room and was such a treat! We toured the Abbey and marveled at the engineering it took to create a church on such a solid mass of rock. It took 600 years to complete and dealing with the tides, lack of supplies close by, and lack of money it was easy to see why. Again, we were blessed with limited crowds (I detest crowds) and easy weather, although some sunshine would have helped the photographs a bit. The lack of any “WC’s” (water closets - toilets) was proof of the age of the place. When I finally found one Todd gave me some coins in case it wasn’t free (we came across some of those in Paris but when you gotta go, you’ll pay whatever!). I took the coin and Todd said, “Get a receipt.” Ah, yes, financial humor at its finest! Each night after I post on this blog, Todd takes the computer and enters in the days receipts. France brings out the romance in all of us I guess......

Anyway, we got back in the car and followed Bobus another 4 hours to the Loire Valley where many chateau are available to tour. As soon as we crossed the border into the Valley the sun came out and the sky was suddenly blue. It was the strangest thing! Total clouds and then total sun and blue skies. Apparently the valley acts as a screen for the clouds - that is what Laurent told us, the manager of the hotel we are staying in tonight. We are in Chenonceaux, very close to one of the most beautiful and romantic chateau in this area. We are staying in a lovely little hotel surrounded by courtyards and gardens. The leaves on the trees are all changing and it is a beautiful autumn day. No shower in our room so I guess we will be bathing as they did back in the 17th century for the next few days....wait, did they bathe back then? Probably not! Time to get ready for our full course dinner downstairs. Todd is pretty excited. I still feel a bit queasy from the car ride but some soup should help. Tomorrow we go to the chateau and to Da Vinci’s last home where many of his inventions are still held in a museum.

ML

Friday, October 24, 2008

A little rain must fall


Todd looking thru his binoculars at the cliffs beyond at Utah beach.

Marylynne likes the BIG guns!

American Cemetery

Left over harbor pieces at Gold beach.

Lunch at the Bayeux Tapestry.  We couldn't take pictures of the tapestry for obvious reasons!  It is only 900+ years old after all....

Today in Honfleur (see pic from previous blog) started off cold and rainy.  We had hoped to spend some time down at the harbor enjoying the view.  We ended up going into a little church that was built by local boat builders (no cathedral architects were living in Honfluer at the time so they did the best they could).  The ceiling looks like the hull of a boat!  They say if you flipped the church over it would float.  

With the help of Bobus, we made our way through small towns to Bayeux where the 1000 year old tapestry hangs.  We had an interesting education about William the conqueror and about tapestry making.  We had lunch at a VERY little restaurant but it was fabulous and right across the street from the tapestry!  We both had salads to start and then I had chicken with a camembert cheese and Todd had pepper steak.  Yummy!  Full and satisfied we got back in the car to Bobus and drove to Arromanches, one of the little towns that canvas the D-day beaches.  Our cute little B&B sits just across the street from the British/Canadian beaches so we started here.  There are still remnants of the harbor that was built in 11 days after the beach was taken while the fighting continued further inland.  The weather still wasn't cooperating so we drove down the beach to the American cemetery.  There is a very nice US run monument/museum there along with the famous cemetery filled with white crosses.  It is a humbling place.  We didn't have much time to fully see the museum so we went out to the cemetery instead.  It is immaculately kept, green grass and perfect lines of crosses.  Many of the graves had small flowers left behind.  At the west end of the cemetery there is a small church with a beautifully painted ceiling.  I hope I can post pictures of all this.  I keep getting cut off this server! 

When the cemetery closed we drove further west to be able to walk down to the Omaha beach.  There was still a German bunker on the hill with a machine gun sticking out of it!  We were able to climb inside.  It was a chilling place, not the same spirit as the cemetery for sure but it might have been the trash and urine smell!  We walked along the beach for awhile totally ALONE.  There wasn't another person around for miles.  It was nice - but getting cold.  We took a bunch of pictures and talked about what it must have been like on that day.  Todd being such a history buff filled me in on many details I didn't know.  We had a nice time.  I took a few flat rocks to bring home and we headed for the car.  We are driving a cute little black, standard shift, desel engine, american made car!  I can't think of the name right now but I really like it!  Let me tell you, some of these roads through the small towns are VERY thin.  When we see a truck coming Todd usually pulls over and I close my eyes and pray they don't hit us!  For a slow moving society the people sure drive FAST!

Tomorrow we are going to Mont St. Michel, an old Abbey fortress on an island further west of here.  For now I am hoping I can get this to post and am going to sleep!  Sorry the post is so short.  I have written it almost 3 times now and it keeps freezing up on me and the internet goes out.  I will try to post pictures later!

ML

Thursday, October 24, 2008

Todd at the harbor in Honfluer.

ML (with frizzy hair) in Rouen.

One of the MANY churches in Rouen.

Monet's home in Giverny.

The water lily pond at Monet's home.

The French Countryside

What a lovely day we had driving thru the country. First, let me tell you about our new “best friend” named “Bobus”. He is the GPS navigation system that the Brights let us borrow and was named by their youngest son (and Dylan’s buddy) Ian. We spoke unkindly of him yesterday (mainly because WE didn’t know how to work with him) but today we humbled ourselves, repented of our lack of faith and got him to work for us just as Lehi and his family did with the Liahona. Bobus is a curious BOX of workmanship who guides the way to the faithful. We rode along listening to his words of instruction and didn’t get lost once! If Bobus said to turn, we turned. If Bobus said to go straight we went straight. There were a few times he took us out of the way and Todd would yell at him. Bobus would then kind of freak out and tell us to turn left when we were on a straight away. I quickly calmed Todd down and apologized to Bobus and he would redirect himself and all was well. The Brights told us to trust Bobus and we do - with plenty of faith. We would not be able to figure out where on the PLANET we are without him. Thank you Brights, thank you Bobus. We are humbled.

First, we slept in late - very LATE. Yesterday was exhausting and we felt we deserved a break. We got going and headed to Giverny and the home of Claude Monet. His gardens were impressive and we wandered around taking pictures of the water lilies, bridges and flowers. It was another sunny fall day. The ride to Giverny reminded me of home with all the trees changing colors. Driving thru all the small towns was a nice change to freeways and trucks! I think Bobus preferred it too. It was inspiring to wander around in gardens created by Monet in the last years of his life and partake of his talent by viewing some of the artwork created from that time. It would have been an incredible place to visit in the summer with everything in full bloom but we got lucky that the weather has been so warm here and most flowers still look well. We had lunch at a little place nearby and sat outside in the sunshine.

Next we went on to Rouen, the town famous for burning Joan of Arc at the stake. Nice transition! Actually, I LOVED Rouen. I was nervous to go because it is the 5th largest city in France but it turned into a lovely little town filled with magnificent cathedrals and neat little walkways with shopping and restaurants tucked away. We were following “Rick Steve’s” (tour guide from PBS) suggestion for a day walk and ran across an LDS church in a little alleyway right behind the Notre Dame cathedral! It was locked but we did try to stop in and say hello. We toured Notre Dame (I guess every big city in France has a Notre Dame) and wandered down to the little church built in honor of St. Joan - yes, they made her a Saint after killing her. Apparently a strong female leading battle in the middle ages was a reason to burn someone for witchcraft. She had to be cray or led by evil forces - why else would she dress as a man and lead her country to freedom. I know, it must have been PMS. We also found a rather large courtyard that was used as a mass grave for those who died of the plague. I read a book about that called Year of Wonder so it was neat to see what I had read about. Not that mass deaths get me all excited or anything; just another experience is all! When they built up the cathedral around it they buried a black cat in the walls to protect it from demons. There was a glass window where you could see the petrified cat!

Anyway, after wandering around for a bit my stomach was feeling sick. Now this will make you laugh but we walked by a McDonalds and not only did I have to pee but I really wanted a coke WITH ice which is in limited supply in France for some reason. So, we went inside and against better judgement sat down for dinner! I know, I am ashamed to admit that we ate at McDonalds and it turns out it didn’t help my stomach at all. Crazy right? I think the tension from getting in the car each day and not having a clue where we are or where we are going is getting to me. It is either that or all the crepes I have eaten! I actually lost weight the first few days in Paris from all the walking and all the stair climbing. I plan on making up for it the next few days. I am still on the hunt for some french onion soup! But I digress, Rouen was great and I think it is the place I would chose to live if we lived in France. They also had a little market out in the center of town where you could get fresh fish, meats, vegetables, fruits, bread and cheese. I would LOVE to walk to the “market” each day to buy our dinner - fresh! Todd wished we had somewhere to cook up the seafood but I refused to let him take it in the car with us. Stinky! But we did grab some croissants for breakfast tomorrow. Oh, and that was the BEST part - the woman selling me the croissants said my french was good! We are finding that people don’t speak much English outside of Paris. I was only ordering croissants “Duex croissants a duex chocolat crossiants” but it was a nice compliment. I try to make my accent SOUND french and that helps I think. Todd’s accent is still Spanish but he tries a lot more than me. Together we can usually tell what they are trying to say.

As the sun was setting we got back in the car and drove here to Honfluer, a small fishing but artsy town on the way to the D-day beaches. We are in a very silly but cheap hotel. It is a small room that is hard to describe. You put a code into the door to get in your room. It is stripped bare but is VERY clean. The sink is in the corner and the toilet is in a closet that resembles a bathroom on an airplane and the shower is in another closet that is similarly contained. It is efficient and cheap - did I say it was cheap? We are only here for about 12 hours so we didn’t want to pay for an expensive hotel. No internet access though! :( I guess I will try to post this tomorrow. We are going to Arromanches to the D-day beaches and then up to Bayeux to see a 1000 year old tapestry that tells the tale of William the conquerer!

ML

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Disneyland Paris






Today we picked up our rental car and drove out of Paris.  The drive out was HARROWING and the images of what we went through to find our way out are still burned into my mind.  I haven't cried about it all yet; maybe when I do I can then laugh about it all.  We did it and that is all I need to say.  Paris might be the city of Love but Todd and I will have terror flashbacks of the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe for the rest of our lives!  Kids - Mom and Dad will NEVER be on the Amazing Race.  Just forget about it!  I would like to return the rental car tomorrow but Todd thinks for here on in we will be fine.  It is just the city that is a problem.....hopefully.  If anyone needs something to pray about....ha, ha....feel free to add us to your list!

We finally found Disneyland and spent the day riding roller coasters and eating food shaped like Mickey's head.  It was very hard to be excited about the happiest place on earth after what we had just been through but we managed.  The day started off pretty cold but the sun busted through the clouds and helped out a bit.  It was more crowded than we thought it would be but the lines for the rides were pretty good so we were able to get through both parks pretty quickly.  I missed having the kids with us.  Todd and I haven't been to Disneyland without them since we were first married!  I desperately needed Tyler there to ride the roller coasters with Todd!  I was good and got on MOST of them....and my stomach hurt for the rest of the day because of it.  A few funny things....we were getting on the Peter Pan ride and I said, "Todd, everyone getting on this ride has a kid with them."  He said, "So?"  I looked at him and said, "Well, I guess I have a kid with me so it all works out."  Todd rode the Aladdin ride by himself with glee and he posed for the official "pull the sword from the stone" picture by himself too.  We had no kids to pose with characters so we had to make a choice: either take no pictures, wait in line to be photographed with the character ourselves or take a picture with some random kid and call it good.  We mostly chose the latter and now have many cute pictures of other people's kids!

The park was decorated for Halloween with pumpkins and "orange paint".  I put that in quotes because most of the decorations were these strange pumpkin people who were pouring paint all over themselves (see pic number one).  They were really kind of creepy in a sick, twisted way.  The Haunted Mansion was the same way....twisted scary not cutesy scary like in the U.S. Another thing we have noticed on this vacation that became really apparent today is that MANY people smoke here and they do it around their kids!  I noticed it a lot in Paris but smoking tends to be common in large cities, but at Disneyland?  In the US they have places for smokers but they are usually "hidden" away.  Here they smoke in public and don't care who they bother.  I figured it out.....in the U.S. if you asked most smokers if they want their kids to smoke they would say NO and therefore hide it.  I think most smokers are "ashamed" of their habit. Plus, it is almost impossible to smoke anywhere anymore in the U.S.  Over here it is everywhere and I think they don't care if their kids smoke or not.  Yesterday we saw a pair of teenage girls smoking WITH an adult that seemed to be their mom!  So, anyway, Disney was full of unashamed smokers who didn't even stick to the designated areas.  Kind of sad to see people smoking right over their kid's stroller!

Tomorrow we go to Givery, where Monet lived and where his famous garden was.  He created all his water lilly paintings there.  We are also going to try and make it to the beaches of Eterat as well but it might be too cold.  This part of the trip is a bit more fluid, meaning we really don't have set plans!  That is bad since we now know we are horrible at finding where to go!  I hope we have internet access at our next stop but again, it is never a sure thing.

Brights:  Bobus needs an instruction manual!  I think the problem is that the address of the hotel is listed as an area not a city.  And Disney doesn't have an address or a city that we could find.  Bobus wants a city name first!    And a zip code?  There aren't any zip codes available in France!  Bobus almost got thrown from the window today.  Tell Ian that Bobus is now referred to as Bogus!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008






Rain Rain go away...

Well, we were bound to get at least one bad day. You know, the kind where everything goes wrong. We took the advice of the consierge and walked to the closest train station that would take us out to Versailles. We SHOULD have taken the metro TO the train but instead got to walk a few miles in the RAIN. Then when we got to the train station we had to wait in line to buy tickets and missed the train we wanted and ended up getting on another train and spending the next 15 minutes trying to figure out which train we wanted. We asked a few people who weren’t sure so we got off and figured out the mistake then waited for the right train to show up. We got on and within a few stops we were at our destination. Finally, still raining, we walked up to Versailles.....disappointedly under construction. Not a very spectacular scene. We made our way inside, through security, and bought our audio tour headsets. Okay, I am ready to be awed. Versailles was what I was most excited about seeing. Let’s just end the suspense here and I’ll tell you it was basically a waste of time and money. We squeezed our way through roped off rooms and listened to the audio telling us about various paintings and the artists. Little of the furniture was original and the rooms were mostly about the walls. We were surrounded by hoards of Asian tourists and there basically wasn’t much to see. We learned that all the queens gave birth in public for proof of the actual heir. Our question: Did they “make” the actual heir in public too? Suddenly the tour of the palace was over. Wait, we have only been inside for about an hour! The train ride was longer.... Here is the worst part. When we got there on the outside of the grounds was a huge sculpture that looked like a big balloon animal - yes, like a twisted up light green balloon. We walked up closer to it and saw that it was indeed meant to look like a balloon animal. Well, that is strange.... When we started the audio tour we soon found out that there was an artist who was displaying his artwork throughout the castle. Apparently, his “style” was similar in some way to the overall feel or architecture of the palace. The first room had a very large pink balloon dog - yes, DOG, incased in plexiglass. The next a bunny and the next a lobster water toy hanging from the ceiling. Um....what the hell is going on here? The next room was our favorite. There were two turtle pool toys (something VERY similar to what we bought at Wal-mart for Dylan to use when he was about 4 years old. It even had handles) attached to a section of a wire fence just sitting in the room. It was such a distraction from the traditional look of the palace that I kept wanting to scream out. It ruined the whole thing. We could not believe it. I was so mad that I refused to take pictures of any of it, whereas others were standing in line to photograph a life size figure of Michael Jackson with his monkey in white porcelin. Yes, I said it. What it had to do with Versailles I will never know. There was extra commentary on each piece of “art” but I refused to listen to it out of sheer revolution. Where is my Les Mis music now? Ahhh, it still makes me mad!

We left the main palace and headed down to Marie Antoinett’s “mini-palace”. It was at least an half an hour walk through the gardens.....in the rain....did I mention it was raining? I have carried an umbrella with me for the last 4 days but did I bring it today? Nope. Todd had his so we shared as much as we could. The rain made the roads muddy and we kicked up dirt onto the back of our pants with each step....painful steps - we are on day 5 of walking all day! About half way there we spotted a restaurant and decided to sit down and eat something. The waiter was pretty rude and the food was not good but at least it was a rest. We continued to Marie’s house. After the main castle we were a little worried but we were also a bit more understanding of why she loved her house so much. It was built for the King’s mistress (Marie’s grandfather in law’s mistress) and when the King died Marie’s husband gave it to her. She took it on the condition that NO ONE would be allowed inside without her permission. Let me tell you, if the castle was as crazy back then with tourists and strange artists as it was today I am sure she was thrilled to have a get away place. The larger of the two “buildings” was actually the King’s summer house. Marie’s house was even further down. We picked up our audio I-touch (after leaving a drivers license to be sure they would get it back) and headed into her little palace. The tour was very interesting and was told in her voice. She had a small church, her own theater (our favorite part) and in the house she had included a little bathroom (which answered our questions about THAT). I say “ewe” when we have to sit on an outhouse type hole but it would probably be much better than a pot under the bed! It was made from smooth wood and I am sure the servants took care of keeping it clean right? Her own little gardens were well thought out and beautiful and if it weren’t for the cold, the rain and my sore feat and back we would have wandered around some more. The problem with this audio tour is that once you left her house there were no instructions on how to find anything else. So, we spent too much time wandering around trying to find the church and the other outlying buildings on her property. There were no signs either. We couldn’t figure that out. Why not put up small signs with arrows pointing the way? A little help here people!! Shuttles around the massive grounds of the estate would be helpful too while you’re at it. Anyway, we managed to get more tired but did enjoy her little life she built away from the court. On our way out we did see a shuttle service back up to the main palace. It was an expensive ride but well worth it. We made our way back to the main train station and rode back to Paris without any problems. Although, there was a VERY chatty little American girl on the train and after a day of cold, wet, exhaustion we were just wanting a little peace and quiet. We nicknamed her “Elyse” - the Lawson side of the family will get that one! When we got back to our “neighborhood” I bought another chocolate crepe just down the street from the hotel while Todd left to go find the rental car place. I usually split a crepe with Todd but this one was all my own! I soon realized why we split them. It was too much to eat alone but I did it anyway! I crashed on the bed and took a nap while waiting for him to return. Here is the good news/bad news part of the day. Turns out the location Todd booked the rental car is outside of the city; not where he thought it was. There are two streets with the same name, one in Paris and one outside in the suburbs. So, long story short....he figured it all out and found another rental car place behind our hotel and booked a different car.....a more expensive car though and that is the bad news. I am over this day already!!! I guess I was just expecting so much more from one of the most amazing and historically significant palaces in the world. I figured out if this was in the US there would probably be people in period costume wandering around, clearly marked signs showing the way and many more bathrooms. Does that make it worse or better? I sure won’t make fun of getting into the “spirit” of any place again. A little music from the time being played would have been nice too....oh, well.

Tonight I realized what “losers” we are. In our rooms each night even before the turn down service ladies come by. We are so tired and sore we can’t even think about taking advantage of any Paris night life. Todd keeps trying to talk me into going to the Moulin Rouge telling me it is part of the “Paris Culture”.....yeah, right. He doesn’t understand what the difference is between bare breasts in a painting and bare breasts on stage. He has me there......

Tomorrow we check out of the Marriott and head to Disneyland Paris. I am looking forward to a little AMERICAN food, lifestyle and attitude. Even a dancing Mickey will make me smile.....as long as it doesn’t rain that is!

By the way.....I can’t figure out the best way to spell check on this computer AND I don’t want to take up valuable internet time (we only have an hour tonight) working on it so there you have it.....sorry that I am a spelling dunce!

ML

Monday, October 20, 2008






Lovin’ the Louvre

We spent today at the Louvre. The building itself was amazing let alone the art inside! It was difficult not to run into people while walking because of the art on the ceiling. I took over 100 pictures of everything from the Mona Lisa to the Venus Demilo. The Louvre is a maze of rooms and corridors. We feel like we saw a lot but I am sure there is much we didn’t see. It felt kind of guilty just causally walking by so many pieces of artwork but you just can’t spend the time on each of them that they need. The Mona Lisa was behind class and partitioned off so you couldn’t get up close at all to see it. A disappointment. We had fun strolling arm in arm with an Ipod bud in one ear each listening to the music of Les Mis. It helped to think about something other than our sore legs and considering we were in France - at a former castle - we thought it was appropriate to hear the music of the revolution. We had lunch at the cafeteria inside which was actually pretty good. But, after 6 hours our feet were screaming at us so we headed outside for a rest and to take pictures of the famous glass pyramid. We spent some time standing in the perfect picture spot waiting for someone who spoke English to take our picture. We found someone but ended up taking many ourselves just by holding out the camera in front of us. We laughed like crazy and probably looked like stupid American tourists but at this point I really don’t care. Todd, once again creatively inspired by all the art, started to sketch. Did I mention he has been sketching this entire trip? He bought a tiny sketch pad and a pencil from the museum gift shop and went for it.

It turned out to be another beautiful day (topping 69 degrees!) and the whole city seemed to be out strolling around the park. We sat for awhile in chairs set up around the fountain. The Parisiens know how to relax! We headed to the _____ bridge that is very ornate and parts of which are painted in gold. After stopping for another chocolate crepe along the way of course. I just love those crepes....

We have been having trouble with our room as I might have mentioned in previous blogs. The street behind our room is VERY loud, starting at about 4:00 am. We can’t figure out what these people are yelling about or honking their horns for but we have had enough and asked to change rooms for the next two nights. We are now in a very similar room that looks out over the courtyard and are hoping there will be no party out there for the next two nights. Each night we get Godiva chocolates on our pillow and tonight there was a rose in a vase in the bathroom. Definately a nice place!

Tomorrow we are going to Versailles. The weather is calling for rain; I hope it doesn’t come!

ML

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Messed up day

Still getting the hang of this - I need to remember to post the pictures first and then write the blog so you know what the pictures are...  This first picture is the courtyard with the LDS church, next is Todd in front of "art" at the modern art museum.  The third is Napoleon's tomb, under that is me at the Opera house, and the last is of us at dinner.  As you can see from the Opera House picture, it was another beautiful day!  Tomorrow is supposed to be 67 degrees but rain is heading our way for Tuesday.















Bonjoir!  That is about the only French word we use here.  I think they can see us coming and start speaking English right away.  It makes it easier but a lot less fun.  Today we slept in VERY late.  I was up late blogging and our hotel room backs up to a small street with apartments.  Every morning around 3:00 am someone honks their horn repeatedly.  It is annoying and starting to cause interruptions in our sleeping so we had a hard time getting moving today.  We left here at 11:15 - church starts at 11:20.  After some confusion with the address we found where we were going.  The address was correct but we didn't see the church sign.  All there was was a big blue door which led to a courtyard.  Luckily, some older men were standing in the doorway and showed us the way inside.  The door normally has to be opened from the inside unless you have a code - which we didn't have and the church website says nothing about that!  Anyway, we found sacrament meeting and waited outside while the sacrament was being served (not too late - that is usually what time I show up at home!)  When they opened up the doors to let in the late stragglers we realized how crowded the room was (chairs set up in a long conference type room).  Where to sit?  We very obviously had to make our way to the front for a seat.  It was an interesting meeting to say the least.  I have a hard time concentrating to the speakers in my own ward but in this one I didn't understand anything they were saying so I was "out" pretty quick.  Todd actually understood a lot of it from his years on a mission.  The topics are the same (do they ever really change?) and some of the words were similar.  He leaned over to me a few times and told me what they were saying.  I was shocked he knew.  The hymns were all very recognizable but with different words of course.  I sat there wishing I had them memorized a bit more!  We talked to a few people afterwards - many Americans working in France for specific periods of time.  NO youth and a handful of small children under the age of 5 I would say.  I guess they take advantage of the opportunity while they can - no kids in school to keep them in the states.

After church I changed my clothes and we went over to the Pompidou Museum of Modern Art.  It was as strange as those museums always are so we didn't stay long.  The interesting (and most famous) thing about this museum is that all the pipes are on the outside of the building; like it is turned inside out.

From the Pompidou we headed to the metro to make our way to the Opera House (Phantom of the Opera).  I was very excited about this.  The ceiling is painted by Mattise and it is supposed to be a very ornate building.  By the time we found the place it seemed pretty busy outside.  Turns out there was an Opera matinee that afternoon so we couldn't get in!  Great, 3 trains over and now we can't see the place!  We headed over to a perfume museum close by.  It was very disspointing and NOT what it seemed on Rick Steve's Paris DVD.  We tried to find another one he mentioned in his book but were at a loss.  I gave up.  It just wasn't my day.  We gave up and decided to try and go see Napoleon's tomb and the war museum.  That was a VERY ornate and interesting building.  We learned a great deal.  After leaving there it was about 5:30 pm.  We hadn't eaten anything besides a "breakfast cookie" all day and were starting to feel it. Here is the problem though....how do you find a good restaurant in a nice neighborhood that won't charge you a fortune AND you can read the menu.  Food has been our greatest fear all along and last night's experience left us feeling wary.  Well, we got lucky and stopped at a nice place close by.  We went for the French experience meal, appetizer, main dish, and a cheese course (we planned on dessert as well but were too full at that point).  It was really good.  We split a tomato and Mozzeralla plate, Todd had the tuna and I had the quiche lorraine.  The cheese course (always eaten after your main meal) was....interesting.  There were no crackers, but there was plenty of bread.  It came on a cutting board with some salad on the side.  3 of the cheeses were actually very good but one had so much mold on it I just couldn't eat it.  Todd made me try and and it wasn't too bad but visually I couldn't eat anymore after that.  We spent a greater part of the meal talking to a German man who sat at the table next to us.  He was alone (his tour group stayed at the hotel) and we could tell he was lonely.  He had lost his wife a few years back and it was obvious he missed her a great deal.  He taught us about tipping (which there really isn't any because the gratuity is built in to the price).  It was still very hard not to leave anything so Todd gave the waiter a few Euros.  Last night when we were on our own we left a 15% tip for slow service and cold, horrible food!  Silly American mistake number.....oh, I've lost count!

With sore, tired feet we decided to head back to the hotel early and here we are.  This is our last night of internet for a few days and after Tuesday night I am not sure if we will have it at all.  I will do the best I can....for now here are some of today's pictures.  Oh, and why is no one commenting on this blog?  Do I need to email you individually?  I need to hear from you as well!

ML 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I figured out how to post pictures!


It is now 2:00 am and I am still posting to this blog!  I think I am a bit addicted.  Here are a few pictures of us in no particular order - I haven't figured that one out yet.....


The Eiffel Tower at night from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.


This is the crazy guy who was "entertaining" the crowd outside of Notre Dame (possibly he was Quasimodo?).  He would sneak up on unsuspecting people and scare them.  It kept us laughing for 30 minutes while in line.  We paid him a few Euro for his performances.

Obviously, us at the Eiffel Tower - first day, no sleep!

A gargoyle on the top of Notre Dame - Eiffel Tower in the background.

Todd and I in front of Notre Dame.

Our expensive room at the Marriott that doesn't have free WiFi!  The bed is cozy though.  I am sitting down because my feet hurt so bad at this point I can't stand on them anymore!  I got up and went out to dinner right after this was taken - I will regret it tomorrow I am sure!

video

This is a quick 20 second video of our cruise of the Sienne.  I haven't watched it yet but I am playing around with everything so why not?  I am off to bed now.  Todd is already snoring.....

ML