Thursday, April 28, 2011

Paris: Our last day

Our last day in Paris started with a bus trip to the Montmarte section of Paris.  This is the highest point of land in Paris, and the centerpiece of this area is the basilica Sacre Couer (Sacred Heart).  It is a beautiful church, gleaming white on the hill, with a glorious view of the city at its feet!  But first, you have to get there!  The above video was shot from my front seat visage of the bus in the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe.  And with all this, you rarely heard a horn toot!
Hans was our intrepid driver for the day!  He is a Dutch man, who speaks fluent French.  And he speaks English like an ex-pat Aussie!  Very easy on the eyes, also!  Hans dropped us off, and we have a several block stroll through some shopping to get to Sacre Couer.  Be still my heart, the tour director says, "If any one likes fabric, there is a fabric store to the right at the end of this street."

Lots of home dec fabrics, bridal and fru fru fabrics.  But I did find some yummy batiks!  But where is the cutting table?  I quickly ascertained that I need to get the attention of a clerk who would measure and cut my fabric at the display area.  He spoke no English, I no French.  But we both spoke fabric!  Bliss!

To get to Sacre Couer, we could walk and take the stairs.  But for a metro ticket, we could ride the funicular, which would get us to the top in 90 seconds.  We weren't a bunch of dumb bunnies, so we took the ride!

The view was absolutely worth it!  Such a glorious day!  In the courtyard there was a harpist playing the theme song from "The Titanic"

The church reminded me of the Taj Majal.  The stone it is constructed of constantly secretes calcite, so with each rainfall, it cleanses itself.  Same material that the Sidney Opera House is made of.  No pictures are allowed in the church.  Mass was going on, and we were able to receive the Eucharist.  My friends and I each bought rosaries from here, and I purchased a DVD about the church.

After visiting Sacre Couer, we got to stroll back towards the bus.  Montmarte is the Bohemian area and is where the street artists set up to sell to the tourists.  There are several small studios and museums in the area. 

I purchased this little watercolour (unframed) in this area.  Probably overpriced, and the artist I am sure pops these out for the tourist trade.  But it is a lovely reminder of my visit to Paris.

This area is also home of the famous Molin Rouge.  We didn't go for a show.  Although some of our party did attend a show at the Lido the night before.

After a bit of a rest, we proceeded for the crowning moment of our visit...supper in the Eiffel Tower!

We had fun with our waiters where ever we went!

The pictures managed to get completely out of order.  But you get the idea, the food was delish!

After supper, we took the elevators up to the top of the Eiffel tower to watch the sunset.  These two characters were in front of us in line.  I thought they were French, but after I snapped their picture, they started talking English!  They were having a lot of fun!

Here is the evening sky from the Eiffel Tower!  Words nor my poor photography cannot describe how magnificent the view is.  Nor what a wonderful trip and experience I had.  This will be my last post on Paris!  Thank you for your patience.  And I hope you all get to travel to this beautiful city!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Paris: Napoleon's tomb and Rodin

We were given one free day to explore Paris on our own.  Several us of went on a long walk with our tour director.  She led us through Champs du Mars, which is the lovely park at the base of the Eiffel Tower to Rue Cler.  Rue Cler is a lovely little street with many merchants that display their wares open on the streets.  I found a yarn shop there and bought a lovely green ball of cotton/blend that was made in France.  The sights and smells on that street were heavenly!

Look at the size of those strawberries!
You can tell the fish is fresh, as there is really no fishy smell!
Love the smell from the fromagerie!
I was in absolute bliss with all the 18th and 19th century architecture, and the fantastic stonework in the streets!  Such a sense of history that we are so totally missing here in the USA.

From here, with walked to the Musee de L'Armee / Hotel National des Invalides.  Translation, its a military museum, and also the hospital for their veterans.  The main attraction for us was Napoleon's tomb.  I tended to think of Napoleon as a tyrant, and remembered his exiles.  However, he was held in high esteem by the French, enough to create this extensive burial place.  I think Napoleon held himself in rather high esteem, also! 

The front of the museum!  Love the courtyard with the lovely green spaces!

The gold dome over Napoleon's tomb was a very visible landmark!

Tremendously huge sarcophagus for such a little fellow!  But I was more fascinated with the floor design that the sarcophagus was sitting on!

The laurel leaves were so intricate!  And I loved the long triangles surrounding!  Wouldn't this make a great medallion quilt!

From here, Rodin's museum and gardens were just across the street.  For one euro, we could walk through the gardens.  And of course, you know what statue we were looking for....

What baby boomer didn't grow up watching Dobie Gillis!  It is so fantastic that they have so many of Rodin's works set in such a naturalistic setting

I couldn't resist having my picture taken with this little feller!

Rodin's "The Gates of Hell".  Had to take a picture, because this is the only time I wish to see this!! LOL!!!

On the way back, we ate lunch at a sidewalk brasserie.  I spied this across the street at a book seller.  As I love Patricia Cornwell, I had to take a picture, and to see which novel this was.  Translation "Port Morturary".

We ended the day with supper at "La Ribe" which is a little restaurant around the corner from our hotel.  I had onion soup, escargot, and a wonderful chocolat mousse.  I also had a small conversation with a French lady who was dining by herself who was amused by us American tourists.  She was in Paris on business.  She works for the French version of our Environmental Protection Agency.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bouquets for a new Day

I had a request to see "Bouquets for a New Day", the quilt that I donated to the refuge center.  Here it is with just the top completed, along with my pup Scooter.  This quilt won a red ribbon at the Vermilion County Museum Quilt show in 2009.  It was long armed quilted by Connie Lightle.

Paris: The Louvre

What is a trip to Paris without a trip to the Louvre!  I had no idea of the immensity of this building!  We were told that the Louvre had been the royal residence until Louis XIV decided that the people of Paris were a little too rebellious and had the palaces at Versailles built.

Not having read "The daVinci Code" or seen the movie, I wasn't up on the new entrance with the pyramids.  It is a bit of a juxtaposition to see such a modern structure in this setting.  But it does what good art should do, make you think!

We had 2 1/2 hours to see the Louvre!  Our Parisian guide told us that it has been figured that if one spent 30 seconds on each exhibit, it would take over a year to see everything!  Our group was divided into two smaller groups and each had a Parisian guide to lead us to the art that must be seen when at the Louvre!  Very cleverly, our guide had a microphone and we each had radio receivers earsets so we could hear what she had to say and be able to stay as a group.

Of course, the Mona Lisa!  It was actually larger than I thought.  There was an immense crush of people in front of this painting.  It was as if they were at a sacred shrine.

The Winged Victory, or Nike.  I loved that it was displayed in such a large hall/stairway. 

The Venus de Milo.  What patience, and such artistic talent to sculpt such a piece.  And to think that it was buried in a field for centuries!

Along the way to see the above three, we did get to see a few of the other exhibits.  This is Lady Liberty.

The Coronation of Napoleon.  The grand scale of some of these paintings is just mind boggling!  How did they do it?

After the Louvre, we had some free time.  We went to a little brasserie down the street from our hotel for lunch.  This is what we saw when we turned the corner!  We think they are azaleas, or some sort of a rhododendrum.

I had an awesome quiche lorraine and salad.  And of course a glass of wine!  Unfortunately, I had left my camera here (but fortunately someone from our tour group found it and returned it to me) so that when we later took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe, I had no camera to take pictures of the awesome view from the top.

The Arc de Triomphe is set at the convergence of 12 boulevards, one being the Champs de Elysee.  There is a huge traffic circle surrounding the Arc, and it is fascinating to watch the cars, buses, and scooters managing to get where they want to go without any mishaps.  It was a glorious warm sunny day, and just enjoying the breeze and the beauty of Paris was magnificent.

This is the infamous tunnel where Princess Diana and company were killed.  The golden flame over the tunnel was there 10 years prior to the accident.  It is a replica of the flame held up by the Statue of Liberty.  However, because of Princess Diana's fame, it is now called Diana's Flame.

We had supper as a group this night, and we feasted on....quiche lorraine!  It was awesomely yummy also!  We all were a little crazy that night, and we got our waiters to join in our fun!

We then went on a night time river boat cruise on the Seine!  It was a bit chilly, but it was so awesome to see the sites so beautifully lit up at night.  I thought of the movie "An American in Paris" and am sure I saw some areas that were in that film!  I will have to rewatch it to relive these memories!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's a red letter day!

Just a short post.  Tonight I attended the East Central Illinois Refuge Assistance Center fund raiser.  My former boss, and the nicest person that I know, had asked if I would donate a quilt for their silent auction.  His wife is the executive director, and the second nicest person I know.  Circle of Life was initially started as a quilt for this silent auction, but has been detoured for a year while it goes to a few quilt shows.  I donated "Bouquets for a New Day", which was a block of the month in 2008 through "The Quilt Show".  It generated $450 for the center!  Yea!

And then I got an email that Circle of Life was accepted in the National Quilt Association's quilt show for this June!  It's not a juried show, they accept the first 400 entries.  However, it is a big thrill for me.  As NQA certifies judges, I know it will get some stern judging.  Which is a good thing!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Paris: Bus trip to Giverny and Versailles

Our first full day in Paris started out rainy and overcast.  But we were told that if it rains in Paris in the morning, it will be over by 10am.  And the prediction held true.  Although it never did get sunny! 
Our hotel had a sumptious free breakfast every morning!  Much more than your typical "continental" breakfast of pastries and juices.  There were all sorts of fresh fruits, dried fruits, cold cuts and cheeses.  Yougurts and cereals.  Scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, pork and beans, mushrooms.  There was a chef who would prepare omelets or eggs to order.  Crepes, which were really just pancakes, french toast, or waffles.  Several different types of juices, and of course coffee.  I can't say that I was a fan of the hotel's American coffee.  It tasted rather like instant.

After we had our fill, we got on our motor coach headed north to Giverny and to see Monet's flower gardens.  I love Monet's work and was especially excited to get to see where he got his inspiration.  Unfortunately, I had a bad case of motion sickness while on the bus, and ended up vomiting all over myself.  When we arrived at Monet's home, I was quickly ushered to the toilet where I tried to clean myself up as best I could.  My friend Karon went to the giftshop and bought me a Tshirt so at least part of me looked presentable!  My camera got left in the bus, so I have no pictures of Giverny.  The gardens were not in full bloom because of the time of year.  But it was beautiful, none the less.
After a lovely lunch of chicken and potatoes au gratin, we were loaded back up in the motor coach (I am now destined for the front seat, which is where I like to sit anyway!) for a ride back toward Paris and Palace at Versailles.  Our tour guide, Jean-Andre, gave us a fantastic history of Louis XIV.  The opulence and grandness is so overwhelming!
None of my pictures could even speak to the grandness and size of this building.

I was totally fascinated with the cobblestones in the courtyard.  There were acres of this covering the courtyard.  I could imagine the many feet of nobles, servants echoing of these ancient stones.  And how the ordinary people of France must have felt to see the nobles living in such luxury while they were taxed to support this.

At one of the bridges over the Seine near the Eiffel tower is a small replica of our Statue of Liberty.  Unfortunately, from the bridge we could only see the back side of this awesome piece of art.  We were told it was a one fourth replica!