Thursday, May 31, 2012

First Riding day in Provence

Riding in Provence

We made it down from Paris on the TGV yesterday and then to our hotel in Vaison-la-Romaine in Provence without any incident. We have had a couple of suppers with our bike group and one day of riding and it is a great group of folks to be with.

Waiting for the TGV at the Station

Knitting at 320 km/h (200mph)

Tonight at dinner we sat with a couple who was not quite as lucky, British Airlines lost their luggage, so they are in Provence with the clothes on their back. It seems that every time they talk to British Airlines they get a different story about where their things are and when they will get them. The were able to go shopping today and have rental bikes so at least they are riding tomorrow.

Our hotel room
Breakfast on the porch

We had a very pleasant ride today, it was pretty flat and not to far. They use kilometers over here which is great when you are cycling, you feel like you have made a major accomplishment when the odometer reads 65km! It sounds a lot more impressive than 40 miles. The weather was warm and sunny, but not so hot to be oppressive.

Vineyards along the route

Will write more in a few days – Linda is kicking me off the computer so she can check here email

Good night – hope you are all well.

More pictures from yesterday and today -  Picasa Links.

Stephen and Linda

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Final night in Paris

It is our final night in Paris, we are washing our clothes and packing up in order to get ready for bike riding in Provence. Tomorrow morning we catch the TGV to Avignon, meet up with our bike club, and ride the bus to the base location for the bike ride, Vaison-la-Romaine. It will be sad to leave Paris behind, but we had a great time and I am sure the bike riding in Provence will be great as well. Since we will be arriving back in Paris for our flight back to the US, there is time to see one more thing if we think of something in the next 10 days.

Bercy Village

For the last two days we have been pretty busy touring neighborhoods and seeing the sights. We took a walking tour through the Latin Quarter where we saw an ancient Roman Arena – Arene de Lutece, that according to the signs was used to host gladiator combat. Today it mostly sees bocci ball matches which are for the most part more friendly.

Roman Arena

Roman Arena

We took another boat ride on the Siene, this time a little earlier in the evening. It was something we enjoyed enough to do twice in the same week. It is a great way to wind up the day, see the city, and rest the weary feet. At the end of the ride, the Eiffel tower is all lit up with sparkling lights.


We visited a high end department store with amazing products. You know you are in a high end store when the pay toilet costs a buck fifty apiece just to pee. We spent 3 Euros in this store, but had a good time looking around and there was a great view of the city from the roof.

Multicolored Toilet Paper

High end Dog Supplies

We had been wondering, but not enough to care, what people thought of our carrying our lunch in a backpack and eating it in a Park. Apparently the Parisians noticed what we were doing, and now it is hard to find lunch time seating in the Parks and on the steps of cathedrals. The price you pay when you are a trend setter.

Parisian lunch spots are getting crowded

We marched down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, and climbed up to the top. Here as in the ascent up the Eiffel Tower, the lift was out of order. A bit suspicious, but since it thinned out the crowd (in both senses of the phrase) and we wanted to climb anyway, we were not about to complain. The view and the breeze at the top were quite pleasant.

Arc de Triomphe - Stairs

We finished out the day with a trip to a park and one and a half cathedrals. The park was Parc de Monceau, which was very pretty, and apparently where a lot of folks take their kids for an afternoon outside. The half of a visit to a cathedral was to a Russian Orthodox Cathedral that closes very early in the evening. My advice is – don't go out of your way to visit a Russian Orthodox cathedral, unless you are in Russia. We headed back toward home and visited the other St Germain cathedral, Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois. It was very impressive and from what we read parts of it are very old.


We walked back across the Pont du Carrousel, the bridge with all of the “Love Locks” on the rails, and back to the apartment. If our hotel in Vaison-la-Romaine has decent Wifi, we will probably do another update in a couple of days.

Done for the day.

Good night and we hope you are well.

More (some of the best) pictures from yesterday and today at this Picasa Link.

Stephen and Linda

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rodin – The Luxemburg Gardens – The Musee d'Orsay

Walking the streets on Sunday morning is different than any other morning of the week. It is almost as if everyone is sleeping in with a hangover from partying too hard on Saturday night. What are the chances of that? It was very quiet and almost no traffic at 9:00 on Sunday morning. Even the neighborhood bakery was closed.

NO Pastry today - Bummer

Me and my Baby at the Luxemburg Gardens

Chief Inspector Linda
We took advantage of the great weather and quite streets to hike to the Luxemburg Gardens where some of the Paris hardcore health fanatics were running on the track that was the perimeter of the gardens. Walking through the gardens was a wonderful way to start the day. We did notice that although the French People are much thinner than Americans, their pigeons are fatter than ours. Perhaps they are feeding their McDonalds to the pigeons?

Can he take off?

Our next destination was the Rodin Museum. After a mandatory coffee stop, we arrived and were able to walk right. It is important to note that most people pronounce Rodin as Rodan, the principle character in the 1959 cinematic masterpiece, in which a giant flying reptile destroys Tokyo, and battles with Godzilla. If you are expecting to see Rodan, you might be disappointed. This museum is full of mostly bronze statues. They are marvelous statues though, and a great collection of Rodin's work as well as some works done by his friends and students.

Linda, Thinker, Eiffel Tower
Burghers of Calais

Rodin Museum
Our next stop to round out the afternoon was the Musee d'Orsay the former train station that now has more impressionist, post impressionist, neo impressionist works of art than you can shake a stick at. (Actually I am pretty sure that shaking a stick at the paintings is not allowed and would get you thrown out.) In addition to the paintings and sculpture they have a great collection of Art Nouveau furniture that fills several rooms.

Musee d'Orsay
We stopped back at the apartment for supper and a brief rest, and then headed to the Eiffel Tower to watch the sunset. We went up as high as they would let you walk, up to the second level. It is plenty high enough and has a great view. Even better, for some reason the elevator line has a much longer line. I am sure some of the same people were still waiting in line by the time we came down.

At the Eiffel Tower

That's it for today, off to bed to rest up for our final couple of days in Paris.

Good night.

More pictures from today at this PicasaLink.

Stephen and Linda

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Montmarte and Les Halles

We (well I did) slept in a little later this morning. After breakfast we hopped on the Metro and headed up to the Montmarte area to see the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Basilica. When you head to any French town, city, or district that begins with “Mont”, you should not be shocked or surprised if you have to walk up hill for a bit. This is the case with Montmarte, but in exchange for a little bit of climbing you get great views.

Sacre Coeur

We took some pictures of the view of Paris, the people hanging out in front of the church and then visited the Sacre Coeur cathedral. It is pretty nice, but what makes this cathedral special is the exterior and the location. There are cathedrals in Paris that no one visits (like Saint Eusache) that are much more impressive than Sacre Coeur, even in its run down state.

Sacre Coeur

We walked around Montmarte and explored, stopping for lunch in a park, and a coffee in a restaurant. The crowd was about what you would expect in an artsy area on a beautiful Saturday, but it made it fun rather than a bother. It was kind of like being at a fair.


Montmarte - Ghost Town

We hopped back on the Metro to the Beaubourg/Les Halles district toured Saint Eusache cathedral, grabbed and headed over to the Pompidou Center. We didn't quite know what to expect, not sure if it was a commercial building or some sort of public display. We were quite pleased to find out that it was the “Pompidou Center – the National Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art”. To say that it was impressive would be quite an understatement.

Saint Eusache

Beaubourg/Les Halles

Pompidou Center

Pompidou Center

The Pompidou Center building itself is kind of fun. When you go to visit the museum you ride up in escalators that are in clear plastic tubes on the outside of the building. You get quite a view just riding up to the museum.

After several hours we headed home to the apartment exploring Les Halles on the way, had a homemade omelet and salad for supper, and called it an evening.

More photos on Picasa at this Link

Hope you are doing well,

Stephen & Linda

Cemeteries and Catacombs

We decided to travel a little farther afield to day, taking the Metro out of the center of the city. Our choices were oddly connected in theme, while in opposite directions.

The Metro
 Our first stop was the Pere-Lachaise cemetery, a noteworthy attraction for both the famous people buried there and for the spectacular monuments. You feel more like you are walking through a small city than a cemetery. It is probably one of the few places in Paris where there isn't a lot going on after 9:00 at night.


Holocaust Memorial

Jim Morrison

We found a few famous folks which is kind of a challenge, the organization of graveyards is pretty chaotic almost everywhere and Pere-Lachaise is no exception. It is a good thing that the people you are looking for don't move around too much.

After touring the cemetery for a bit and having lunch with Gertrude Stein, we grabbed a coffee and Orangina at a bar and then caught the Metro to the Catacombs across town.


The Catacombs were originally limestone quarries. In an effort to consolidate space and reduce health risks from dead bodies piling up all of the cemeteries in the center of the city were dug up and the bones were relocated and stacked up in the catacombs. The skeletons from countless folks are piled up down there in all sorts of patterns. There aren't many rules at the attractions in Paris, this place did have one – in the areas with the skeletons no flash photography. Which makes for pretty crummy color photos, but they are OK in Black and White. We figured that it is not out of respect as the operators claimed, after all the dead folks have already been dead, forgotten, relocated, and turned into a tourist attraction, how much respect does no flash really afford them at this point. It is our opinion that they simply don't want to take a chance on waking up the dead.

 There was also a lot of information (mulch-lingual) about the formation of the limestone deposit when the area was under sea. Apparently there was a variety of snail that was over two feet long in the area, from which there were several fossils found. Just think if they were around in France today, eating these snails would be like Thanksgiving!

Biggest Snail around

After supper we finished off the day with a walk along the river at sunset. We walked back past the cafes and restaurants with their Friday night crowds. It was great.


Friday night

We hope you are all well.

More Pictures at this Picasa Link.

Stephen & Linda

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our Second Day in Paris

Bonjour Friends and Family,

We started our second day in Paris with a great little breakfast and coffee at the apartment. Linda walked to the patisserie around the corner and bought a melt in your mouth French pastry and a baguette. We dressed in shorts and short sleeve shirts as the temperature for Paris was forecast to be in the 80s.

Like an Eagle hunting Mice

Linda found another market on the map that looked like it might be worth a visit. We decided to walk to see it first. After walking a few miles we turned the map over and decided that the market that we were searching for was the same one we had seen the day before. We were however, down by the river Seine close to the Grand Palace which was where we were planning to head after visiting the market anyway.. We could see the Arc de Triomphe and headed in that direction along the Champs Elysees. This is where the Tour de France ends its last stage, so it was exciting to be on the street. We stopped and had a coffee and hot chocolate along the street on the way up to the Arc. We looked through some of the shops on the way back.

Champs Elysees

After eating lunch in the park, we headed to the Musee de l'Orangerie, where we saw incredible art. Featured artists included Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Picasso, Rousseau, Renoir, and lots of other French artists. There was a special Debussy exhibit that told of how he composed music to books, poetry and the writings of his friends. It is not a real big museum, but it features art from one of our favorite periods, so we had a great time.

Jet Lag caught up with us, so we came back for a little nap and got recharged. We had stopped at a local grocery market on the way back to the hotel, so we cut up a large salad for dinner and then headed out to see Paris in the evening.

Salad is on the way.

We got some great recommendations from our friends so far on this trip, area to stay, bakeries to buy pastries (haven't been to the place with Macaroons yet but we are not going to miss it). We decided to try one more of the recommendations, a nighttime cruise on the river to see Paris all lit up. It was incredible. We got off the boat and walked back to our hotel at 11:00 at night. It gets dark late here in the summer. The restaurants were packed and the tables out by the sidewalks were filled with people eating, drinking, and having a great time. Paris is a little more lively at night than Mission Viejo. 

At night

At night

At night

It's off to bed to get ready for another day (will post this in the morning). Pleasant Dreams!

More photos at: Picassa Link

Stephen & Linda