Monday, December 11, 2006

November (Thanksgiving) 2006 - Paris, France

We started our weekend in Paris with a small mishap when we arrived at our hotel at 1:30 a.m. (after a 2-hour delay of our flight), only to be told by our hotel's VERY Parisian desk clerk that we were late and our room had been given away. The trip only got better from there.

The next day we returned to the Hotel de L'Academie in the St. Germain des Pres area. (The mean desk clerk did reluctantly help us find another hotel for our 1st night.)

Next door to our hotel is the most adorable chocolate shop with bon bons piled a mile high. The St. Germain neighborhood is trendy and bustling. We took this photo about 10 times to avoid having a traffic jam appear behind Casandra.

Our first museum stop was Musee d'Orsay famous for it's glass and iron barrel vault roof and it's collection of Impressionist art. It was originally a train station built in 1900.

Here is Casandra admiring a ballerina by Degas.

On Thanksgiving evening we joined Erika and Rob for dinner at the Plaza Athenee. This Alain Ducaisse restaurant is, and forever will be, the most expensive meal of our lives. We will have a blog entry featuring just the bill. On our way out they gave us a big hard loaf of bread, as if they knew we wouldn't be able to afford another meal in Paris, and a copy of the ludicrous menu.

The next morning we met up with Erika and Rob for fabulous hot chocolate and croissants at Le Deux Magots in Place St. Germain. That's Paris' oldest church behind Rob and Kenny. Afterwards, we hopped a train to Versailles.

The Chateau de Versailles was built to house King Louis XIV, his family, and the 20,000 people that made up his court. Here is Kenny in front of the portion of the palace dedicated to the Queen's Apartments.
This the chapel located in the palace where Louis XIV and all of his descendants were married.

Here is the hall of mirrors; famous for being the location of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

This is the palace's theater used primarily for performances of works written by Moliere for the entertainment of the royal family.

This is the grand canal (a great spot for renting a row boat) running between the main palace and the Grand Trianon (used as guest quarters for foreign heads of state - even today).

The Grand Trianon is behind us.

After last night's dinner we couldn't afford the entrance fee to the Grand Trianon, but we got a great tour by just peaking in the windows. The tourists who actually paid to enter looked at us a bit harshly particulary as Kenny and Erika snapped pictures through the windows.
In the evening, after some wonderful Thai food in the Latin Quarter. Then we headed over to the Champs Elysees for the Lido cabaret show. Above is a picture of the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs. The show was a lot of fun. And yes, there were plenty of boobies, just like the ones at the bottom of this picture. It was fantastic!

The next morning we took on the Louvre, originally a medieval fortified castle, later used as art galery by Francois I to show off his Italian loot, and then converted into a palace by Catherine de Medici (Italian royalty), before becoming a public museum in 1793.

Some of our favorite art is the Roman and Greek sculpture (we're more Italian than we'd like to admit). We also saw the Mona Lisa, but no pictures are allowed. Kenny tried and got scolded, Parisian style (trust me, it's not pretty).

After the Louvre, we strolled over to St. Chapelle, built in 1248 by Louis IX to house relics he acquired during the Crusades (including the Crown of Thorns, fragments of the Cross and drop's of Christ's blood) and to serve as his private chapel, with discrete access from his adjacent royal palace, which today is Palais de Justice. Inside is the most beautiful stain glass work we have ever seen. The glass contains depictions of over 1100 biblical stories from Creation to the Apocalypse (in the main rose window).
Afterwards, we strolled back to our hotel through St. Germain, which has some amazing chocolate shops. In case you hadn't noticed, those cuddly little penguins next to Casandra are made 100% of chocolate.

In the evening, we had dinner at L'Ami Louis. This is the best French dining experience we ever had. This restaurant is about as authentic as it gets. Here we are with Erika, Rob, Mark and Penny feeling oh so stuffed.
They're pretty serious about their frites.

This restaurant was so great - not only was the food a wonderful example of French cuisine (including, escargots, foie groie, frites, veal shank in cream sauce and their famous roasted chicken with herbs and truffles), but also, the waiters were incredible nice and funny!!! Here are Rob, Kenny and Mark with one of our waiters.

Our last day in Paris gave us beautiful blue skies and amazing weather, so we climbed to the top of Notre Dame . . .

for a bird's eye view of Paris,

and of the famous gargoyles that line this majestic cathedral's rooftop.

Casandra was hoping they would let her ring the bell (named Emmanuel) just like Quasimodo.

Also magnificent is the rose window from the outside (south).

Here we are in the gardens on the back (east) side of Notre Dame, from which you can admire its famous flying buttresses.

Finally, we needed a quick and efficient way to see the rest of the major sites, so we hopped on a river cruise down the Seine. Here's a shot of us in front of Paris' most beautiful and ornate bridge, the Pont Alexandre III, which was build for the 1900 Exposition Universelle and dedicated to the Franco-Russian alliance of 1892.

We got off the boat at the Eiffel Tower. Casandra had never been near it and was surprised by it's size and lacy iron construction.

After walking the grounds surrounding the tower (and taking scores of pictures), we jumped back on the boat and headed back to our hotel to collect our things and fly back to Rome. On the way, we snapped a couple more pics of the Louvre but this time from the Seine so you can see the Pont Royal, which joins the Jardin des Tuileries, adjacent to the west of the Louvre, to the St. Germain area across the river to the south.

Here's one last picture of Kenny with the Louvre and the more modern Pont du Carrousel in the background.

Next stop . . . Rome!

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