Saturday, October 23, 2010

Paris, Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our first full day in Paris.

Everyone told me, "Don't miss Versailles!" I realized that Versailles was a bit out of the way so I wanted to make sure we didn't leave it for the last minute. I decided that Versailles would be the first on our agenda.

We woke up later than I had planned which was wonderful and annoying all wrapped up in one. (Again, I say one of these days I am going on vacation just to see how little I can possibly do in one and how much sleep I can pack in) It put us off a bit schedule wise, but we were ok.

To get there you had to take a train. This is when we realized just HOW different the Parisian's attitude was as opposed to the British in the matter of public transit. *See blog post From the beginning i.e. the first 48 hours* There we hardly any signage and certainly no kind, yet annoying, automated voice reminding you exactly where you are and where you where headed. It was very easy to get on the wrong train.

In fact we did.

The only reason we realized the train we were on was not heading to Versailles was because we noticed that everyone else, besides us, were single passenger riders AND they were all dressed in business attire. Not a single let's-walk-a-million-miles-because-we-are-tourist shoes among them. Thankfully we deduced this in enough time to switch without any real problems, but it really could have cost us most of the day.

Anyway, we are superb Parisian train travelers now. You have to be.

Versailles's facade is a bit too ornate for me.

They were in the middle of restoring all the gilded details so I was able to see what it had faded too. I much prefer the un-gilded portions. Inside was what you would expect. Portrait paintings of most of the royalty that had lived there, their furniture and their statues.

However, there was a bit of the unexpected. You see, we happened to visit on the opening day of Takashi Murakam sculptural exhibit. Mr. Murakam's sculptures are inspired by Anime, a form of Japanese cartoon. To say the traditional art work of Versailles and Mr. M's art work are opposites would be the understatement of the year.

Mr. M's art work was all acrylic, shiny, and brightly colored and they were placed in the middle of very prestigious rooms among all the ancient and historical art and furniture. The juxtaposition of the two styles was too much. Kevin and I found it a very odd place to show case an exhibition of this nature. We, of course, were in the minority in that opinion as we found out by the throngs and throngs of Japanese tourists who had made a special trip just for the opening day.

Ah well. That's why there are so many art styles. Something for everyone.

As we were touring all the rooms, I kept getting glimpses of the outside gardens.

I couldn't wait to get out there. There was one small problem. The fountains weren't operating that day.


We went anyway and walked around, probably 16 of the 20 or so different gardens on the estate. They were beautiful and each one was so different; emitting a different feel and emotion.

Each garden featured a fountain that, while still impressive, would have been breath taking had the water been flowing. It was a bummer. The water really would have made all the difference.

Trying not to dwell on that little glitch too much we hopped back on the train went back to Paris.

Next on the schedule was Musee D'Orsay. This was our favorite museum. Big enough to attract some very famous art work, but not SO big that it was nearly impossible to actually stop and enjoy it.

After D'Orsay my next goal was to visit Le Rouvray. One of the only quilt shops in Paris and certainly the first. They opened their doors 40 years ago before anyone in Paris really even remembered what patchwork quilting was.

I'll be honest. I'd been dreaming about what it would be like to walk into this shop from the moment I found it on the Internet. I would literally drool thinking about all of the French quilting fabric I was going to get to handle and was known to giggle at random if I started thinking about it. I had allotted nearly all of my spending money to fabric and this was the place I was planning on spending most of it.

I walked in.

"OK, a bit smaller and darker than what I had envisioned, but I bet if I poke around a bit I am going to find some amazing fabric."

Sadly, I did not.

The shop really did not house much fabric...well, not in the quantities I was expecting or that I am used to from home. What it did house was more monotone with very small patterns. Think of fabric used for pioneer quilts and that's basically what they had. There were a few collections that I was drawn too, but I could get all of those lines at home.

I found one little fat quarter that was made in France. I adore it and was glad to find it.

It was a bit heartbreaking to have everything turn out that way. I had planned on spending at least on hour perusing and agonizing about which fabrics I would chose to come home with me and if I had enough room in my luggage. Instead we spent about 20 minutes, which I was glad we did, trying to find something.... anything that was French OR that I couldn't get at home. The other set back was that it was SO expensive. For a design I could get at home for about $9 a yard it would cost 18 euros a meter!!

It wasn't that it was a bad experience, it was just that I had created something very different in my imagination.

The day was really not going as I had dreamed. That was kind of my problem. I had planned, expected really, Paris to be magic and without fault every second we were there. So these little unexpected set backs, first Versailles' fountains and then the quilt shop, seemed bigger in my mind. That's important to know for tomorrow's account.

After Le Rouvray we had dinner at a cute little cafe and then made our way to the river for our night cruise on the Seine.

The way Paris is laid out and designed, along with all buildings being at least four stories high, allows for even really gigantic buildings to kind of pop up out of nowhere when you turn corners.

plus, I could not get enough of the window boxes
 That is how I got my first glimpse of the Tower.

The Eiffel Tower to be exact.

We had just exited the metro and were making our way to the river cruse spot when, as we were crossing a bridge, I glanced over my shoulder and there. she. was. THE TOWER!

I think the Eiffel Tower is probably one of the most impressive structures I have seen to date. Just the sheer size of it boggles the mind. I couldn't take my eyes of it. I tried. I really did. But it was the evening which meant the way light fell on things was changing very rapidly. Every time I stole a peek it would be like seeing it with new eyes. I was mesmerized. And then the lights came on.


By the time we boarded the boat all the lights in the city had been turned on. I highly recommend taking a boat tour at night. There is something about buildings being lit up as you are floating by that can't be matched

Notre Dame

Now if we had been alone as opposed to sharing the cruise with 100 other tourist it would have been truly romantic.

What we didn't know was just as we were floating by the Eiffel Tower it was being evacuated for a bomb threat. We wouldn't find out about it until later that evening. Thank goodness nothing happened, for a number of reasons, but we would have been too close for comfort if there had been an explosion.

Just before we got off the boat some unexpected did happen to the started twinkling! I didn't know it could or would do that. All of this little lights going on and off quickly and haphazardly. It was the most magical things.

With twinkles

Without twinkles.
 I can't even describe how much joy I felt at that moment. It was like getting a surprise, EXTRA, Christmas day after you'd already celebrated the traditional one.

After the cruise, we went back to "our place" in the Latin quarter and got some crepes. I started branching out with my filling choice and Kevin stuck with the chocolate. That shows you a bit of insight into our personalities right there. I like to experiment and try to experience as much as I can and Kevin's motto is, "if it's good why go messing around with it. I like this just fine." Thankfully, we both know when to support and when to push each other a little.

For reasons I can't remember we ended up walking around Notre Dame again. Oh, wait. I was still hungry after the crepe and I wanted more ice cream. I think all the shops where closed by the time we got there. When the shops close in Paris, you know you've used the whole day and it's time to call it a night.

So we did.