Posts Tagged ‘rain’

Oui Oui, Paris!

Instead of staying in Heidenheim on the last Thursday of November, we headed to Paris to celebrate American Thanksgiving in a new way.  The City of Light welcomed us with a sparkling Eiffel Tower, and despite the cold and rain during the first evening, we trekked out to enjoy the view while enjoying crêpes.

The Eiffel Tower in the Rain

Happy to be in Paris!

That evening we headed to a nice French restaurant where we indulged in good French wine (when in France?),  salads with fried goat cheese, beef sirloin, and dessert.  We ordered iced nougat and chocolate mousse and were surprised to be presented with something different!  The waiter thought Lauren said “du jour,” so we ended up indulging in apple pie on Thanksgiving in Paris.  We thought it was perfect. 🙂

Turns out that November is a great time to visit Paris; tourists really stay away so life is more “local” than usual.  We were also able to get a hotel room with an Eiffel Tower view, so we enjoyed lying in bed and watching the tower sparkle.

The View of the Sparkling Tower from our Hotel Room

On Friday morning we grabbed some ham and cheese baguettes from a patisserie (yum!) and headed out to our first stop of the day, Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Cathedral

We’ve seen a lot of cathedrals so far in our time in Germany, but it was clear that this one was special, and not just because of its touristy reputation.  We enjoyed the paintings of biblical stories, the buttresses, and the strange presence of the statues of apostles climbing up the spire (who are apparently blessing the city of Paris).

Notre Dame

Notre Dame-Note the Green Apostles

Notre Dame--Buttresses

Notre Dame from the back

From Notre Dame, we visited the Deportation Memorial, a memorial in remembrance of the 200,000 French victims of the Holocaust.  No pictures, as they weren’t permitted, but imagine descending into a lit dungeon.  Inside the dungeon a barred window looks out to the sea, but you must bend to see out of the window.  One room held a long hallway lined with 200,000 lights, one for each of the victims, and an eternal flame of hope burning at the end.  The experience is, like many Holocaust memorials, disconcerting and moving at the same time.  After taking it all in, I felt grateful that I could climb the stairs out of the chamber.

Next we headed to the island of Ile St. Louis for a nice walk and look around.

Taking a Long Look at the Cathedral

and Russ!

We browsed some great boutiques and shops and enjoyed looking in windows like this one.

Yum!

We had some lunch and then headed to our main event of the day: Musée du Louvre, Europe’s biggest and oldest museum.

The Louvre

Lauren in front of the famous pyramid

Looking up from inside

The Louvre was OVERWHELMING!  There is so much to see, and serious art fans could spend days there.  We ended up spending a lot of time in the Italian and French collections and then the Greek and Roman works, making sure to see the most famous “Mona Lisa” and “Venus de Milo.”

Inside the Louvre

What I enjoyed most was recognizing pieces of art and the artists, which didn’t happen all that often.  I was wishing that I had paid a bit more attention to the art history aspect of European History in high school. 😉  For me, the best aspect of the Louvre was the overwhelming architecture of the rooms and halls.  Like the picture above, the arches and marble were stunning, and sometimes I caught myself absorbed in the architecture of the building much more so than the art on the wall in front of me. I also loved to see so many school groups in the Louvre (call it the teacher in me).  In one group, kids around 10-12 were giving reports on a painting they had studied.  How cool is it to study a painting and then to go to the Louvre to give your report in front of it??!!?

Sculpture Hall

Napoleon

Mona Lisa--behind layers and layers of protection

Lauren in the Louvre

Artists lined up to sketch the statues

Venus de Milo aka Aphrodite

Love the Architecture!!

Russ in the Louvre

Good Night, Louvre

We LOVED getting to see so much of the Louvre.  It was truly a wonderful cultural experience.  However, after walking all morning and 6 hours in the Louvre, it was time to find some dinner and SIT!  We ended up eating a little Italian place near our hotel where we had some great wine and pizza (piled with fresh eggplant and veggies!).  And as typical for us, no matter where we go, we were given a free shot at the end of the meal.  We retired for the night and watched a glowing Eiffel Tower from the hotel. A great day in Paris and a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

Coming soon…Day 3 in Paris!

For more pictures of Day 1 & 2:

http://rlabarca.smugmug.com/Travel/Paris-Nov-2010

 

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Neuschwanstein Castle–Anniversary Weekend Day 1

To celebrate our 1st annivesary (Wow!) we planned a trip to see the most famous castle in all of Germany–Neuschwanstein. Unless you’ve been there, you’ve probably never heard of this castle. However, this castle was the inspiration for the design of the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Everything we read about this place was amazing; it seemed to be a quaint German town in Bavaria but with the romanticism of 2 looming castles (The other castle which is named after the town, Hohenschwangua, is quite impressive as well). A perfect spot, indeed, to celebrate an annivesary.

When we arrived we realized that our weekend wasn’t exactly going to be the peaceful retreat we had in mind. There were so many tourists and tourist buses infiltrating the town that it was difficult to even reach the hotel. Lauren had to peel Russ’s white knuckles from the steering wheel upon arrival. (Ok, maybe this is a tad bit exaggerated).

We stood in line for half an hour or so to get our tickets to go up to the castle with an English tour guide. Because we had a few hours to kill before we began our uphill trek, we decided to have lunch. No sooner did we sit under a protective covering than the skies let loose. We smiled at each other; we couldn’t have timed that more perfectly, we snickered! Or so we thought…

Move forward to castle climb. We gave ourselves an hour to get up the hill because the suggested hike time is 45 minutes. Some people took buses, others chose horse-drawn carriages, but still a significant amount of people walked, even this kid who is spotting the lederhosen we hope to have our soon-to-be-born nephew wearing.

The walk was nice. We got a great breeze and eventually came upon this.

It’s truly hard to appreciate the size of the castle through the pictures. As we approached, we got too close to encompass the full castle in the camera, so we figured that after the tour we’d climb to a spot that’s further away to try to get it all in one shot. This place is called “Mary’s Bridge” or “Marien Bruecke.” For now, though, we practiced taking in the view and saying, “Good morning, my kingdom” as if we were crazy King Ludwig II himself.

They restrict you from taking pictures inside the castle, so here are a few more of the outside for your viewing pleasure.

It turns out that very few rooms of the castle were actually finished. Part of that was because Ludwig was building several castles all over Bavaria (including Castle Hohenschwangua which he built for his parents) and had basically eaten up all of his funds by doing so. Top officials in the government thought he was crazy for doing this, convinced doctors to deem him unfit to serve, and ousted him from office. The next day Ludwig II was found dead. Mysterious, eh?

Anyway, we started to head here:

It was only slightly disconcerting that on our climb our view of the castle was this…

Then this…

At this point, it maybe should have been our clue to turn around, give up our mission, and get somewhere safe. But surely, it rained earlier in the day and we had missed it! We trekked on. Was it worth it?

Our view from Mary’s Bridge:

Seconds after appearing on the bridge, it began to pour. Thunder cracked, lightning struck, and we had at least 1.5 Kilometers to walk to somewhere dry. At first we tried waiting it out under our umbrellas. I mean, really, how long could it rain for this hard? Unfortunately for us the answer ended up being “all night.”

The damage even though we each had our own umbrella:

The picture hardly does this justice; as Russ puts it, “Our faces and the tops of our heads stayed very dry.” 🙂

Unfortunately we were forced to stay in our hotel room for the rest of the evening, aside from venturing out for dinner. The main attractions in Hohenschwangua are viewing the castles and the hiking…we could do neither. Our room was nice, though. We had occasional views of the castles when fog cleared and Russ got to set up his tri-pod and shoot night shots through the rain. All in all, an eventful and fun day. 🙂

http://rlabarca.smugmug.com/Travel/Hohenschwangau-July-2010