We made it! Arrived in Luxembourg Sunday afternoon. No time to sleep, we hit the cobble stones and took in the streets and parks. Lux is a very old fortress city built on a hill top, using the natural cliffs to keep marauders out. Now a financial center of Europe. Monday morning TVG train, 3 hours to Paris and in our hotel by about 2 pm. If you want to experience Paris let me strongly suggest that you bring your hiking shoes and be ready to constantly be on the run. The Five Hotel is located in the Left Bank area and the Latin Quarter and gave us a great location to work from.
We headed towards Notre Dame, but on our way stopped and went through the Luxembourg Gardens. Its still early and the flowers are just blooming, the trees have yet to show their full foliage. Its a quiet place away from the noise of the traffic and you can tell the Parisians love the solitude of time spent there. On our way to the Louvre we grabbed a sandwich jambon fomage baguette from a local street side cafe.
Got to the Louvre too late to tour the inside. Lines of people just too long! So, we wandered the outside and headed to take a bus tour of the city. It's really quite nice, you can get a 2 day pass for the tour bus and they have about 50 stops within Paris. You can get off and on at your convenience and tour a certain area. The bus took us past Notre Dame, up the Champs-Elysees and to the Arc de Triompe and then to the Eiffel Tower, then we jumped off the bus at Trocadero Square.
We wandered around the local area, found a sidewalk cafe for dinner and then back to the Eiffel Tower for the trip to the top. The only way to see Paris at night! By the time we hiked back to the hotel it was 1:00 a.m. Where did the time go? Lost in the city of lights...
Tuesday, April 14th.
Our first order of business was to see Notre Dame. We did the tour throughout this magnificent Cathedral. It truly holds one in awe. As we walked through, the noon hour approached and we had the pleasure of listening to one of the three daily Masses. Hearing a service in French was quite inspiring.
On to the Musee d' Orsay. Here are kept many of the original works of French Artists of the 1800 & 1900's, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Lautrec, & Rodin.
Next, the Arc de Triompe. Construction began in 1809 to honor Napoleon's soldiers. Today the Arc de Triompe is dedicated to the glory of all French armies. La Marseillaise, or Lady Liberty screams "Freedom is this way!" and points the direction with a sword.
One can't walk past the Musee of Rodin without at least walking through the gardens! It was getting late and only the Garden was open. "The Thinker", "Gates of Hell" and many more sculptures. After this is was time for a sidewalk cafe and local beer.
We ended the evening with a boat ride on the River Seine, a peaceful sidewalk cafe dinner and a wonderful stroll back to our Hotel.
Wednesday, April 15th.
Our day trip away from Paris began with the metro ride to the train station, a train ride to Rennes and then a bus to Mont St Michel. About 4 hours total time taking in the countryside and just enjoying the ride.
On the train trip Bruce began to worry. The weather turned from sunshine leaving Paris to rain approaching the coast! I think he began to doubt my Cousin Hunter's suggestion to make the trip to St Michel a must! As we arrived at Mont St Michel, the rain stopped, beautiful clouds encased the sky surrounding St Michel with blue skies peeking between, allowing for a spectacular view of the Island. Seeing this place I think changes your attitude and thoughts regardless of the current weather. A place which is very difficult to describe until you see it for yourself. How do you describe a place like this?.
We made our way to the hotel Le Croix Blanche and checked in. Our hotel offered 9 rooms. A mere 4 floors up to our room, each floor alternating between 20 and 15 steps to the next set in a wooden and iron spiraling staircase. Really wondered if the ol' ticker would make numerous trips! Alas...still here to report.
The rest of the day spent walking around, taking in the entire Island. As you walk into the walled fortress narrow passages lead always upward! Your normal tourist type shops line either side, hotels dot the walkway. These hotels a bit different than we are used to. Their footprint very small, instead they go vertical and house very few rooms.
The tide was low so we were able to walk all around St Michel combing the beach for interesting things! We watched groups of school kids hiking out the tidal flats enjoying their walk through the silt in bare feet. It must be spring break in Europe as we have run into many groups of kids exploring Paris and St Michel just as we are.
As evening approached we had a quiet dinner and then decided to walk into town (1.3km). Made it there, bought a bit of wine to take back with us. The rain again began with a vengeance, we opted to take a cab back out to St Michel, until we found out they wanted 17 Euros. Causeway robbery! Like Alaska, wait a bit and the weather will change. The sun came back out and we had a great walk back out along the causeway.
The Abbey with 100 of our closet friends The Abbey Cloister Taking a break
Thursday, April 16th.
Today's number one priority is to see the Abbey (before the crowds arrive). As you can see by the pictures, this architectural work is amazing. What can I say.
They say that one cannot overnight in Mont St Michel without having lunch at the famous Le Mere Poulard. So, we had to give it a try! Known for their making of Omelet's (unlike the omelet's that we know of). The recipe and manor of preparing and cooking of it goes back 120 years!
In the afternoon its a short bus trip (40 min) to the train station, board the train back to Paris. Again the sun is out with towering cumulus dotting the skies. The train takes us back to the city through landscape covered in farmland, rolling hills and small communities. We arrived in Gare Montparnasse as the sun set and enjoyed a short tide to the Hotel Sunny.
Friday, April 17th. Our last day in Paris.
Update for our trip home, our plan to Jumpseat were nixed when we learned US Airways doesn't allow International Jumpseat. With some last minute scrambling Diana's Cousin Hunter came through with a pass. Hunter also managed to switch trips and operated the very flight we were taking on Saturday. Friday morning we made our way to the Novotel Hotel in time to catch Hunter coming in, we set plans for roaming the cafe's later and Diana and I headed for our day at the Louvre.
The Louvre is unbelievably huge. A 90 minute guided tour hit the highlights, Venus De Milo, Napoleon's Coronation by David, Mona Lisa and others. You get a sense at that the depth of our history and what is housed here is mind boggling, there is just too much. After the tour we picked up an electronic guide and proceeded to get lost for two hours. Here is a sample.
Diana at Venus De Milo The Coronation of Napoleon Gold leaf ceiling in the Great Hall
This painting is abourt30' long 20' high, took 4 years
Greek Statues Egyptian artifact
We spent the majority of the day walking the Louvre and by the time we hiked to a cafe to meet Hunter we were beat. Diana had a blister and my back had it! Paris cafe's line every city square and major corner. The cafe's are grouped with outside seating all lined up and facing outward to watch the world go buy. The evening was spent having a wonderful dinner with Hunter and then hiking back to the hotel. I have to admit that we were so exhausted by this time that we opted to catch the Metro for the last mile.
Paris Cafe Hunter and Diana Evening
Saturday, April 18th.
We're headed Home... First leg, Paris CDG to Philadelphia 8 1/2 hours (but in business class). After an 1 1/2 layover the next leg was Philly to Phoenix (5 hours). Now we have a couple of hours before the last leg...a mere 5 1/2 hour trip from Phoenix to Anchorage. Then finally the little drive home and collapsing into our own bed! Something we are both finally looking forward too.
Wish we would have taken a pedometer and a stair counter! The miles walked and stairs ascended and descended were incredible. Only 1 minor indication of a blister and Bruce's occasional sore back, not bad!
Guess we will now have to start planning our next adventure.