Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10, Giverny and the Arch of Triumph

The last day of our vacation began with a trip to Monet's gardens at Giverny, and it was a day of overwhelming beauty.  We started by taking a train from the St. Lazare station to Vernon, and then continued by bus to the town of Giverny, about four miles away.
After seeing so many of Monet's paintings at the Marmotten and Orangerie galleries, I was extremely excited to be able to see these beautiful gardens in person.  But first, we stopped and had some lunch - we split a lovely salad and a cheese plate featuring some local favorites.
We decided to thoroughly explore the adorable little town before heading to Monet's place.  It's basically all on one street so this only took about twenty minutes.  There were lots of old stone buildings and flowers everywhere.



This is one of the paths into Monet's gardens.  The whole time we were there it felt like we had entered one of his paintings.  This place has an amazing vibe - it's really quite magical, dream-like almost.  I'm so glad we had plenty of time for a relaxed visit because it was hard to leave all of that beauty and peacefulness behind at the end of the day.

Compulsive picture taking was in full force - I really wanted to capture everything, not that I possibly could.  But I tried.  I took so many photos that I don't even know if I have the best ones posted here.  The place is so incredibly photogenic that I ended up with a ridiculous number of pictures to choose from.  So this is kind of a random, but representative, assortment of things I saw that day.

Here is the lily pond that was the subject of many of Monet's most famous paintings.  Because of the amazing light and the way the sky reflects on the water, even a basic photograph looks painting-like. 

This is one of the bridges that appeared in a number of Monet's paintings, now loaded up with tourists.  It's a lovely place to be a tourist though, being able to see what he saw, and imagining how the exact same scene resulted in so many different paintings.


After we finished exploring the gardens we headed for the house.

Inside there were many paintings that don't usually get featured in books or museums, because they stay right here in Monet's house.  Duh!

They don't want people taking pictures inside the house but I couldn't help myself!  Anyone who has been to my house would know that I LOVE the color scheme here.  I feel somewhat validated in my choices now, hahaha!

Look at this amazing kitchen!  This color makes me so happy - I could stare at this picture all day!
The next two pictures were taken out of the train window as we were leaving Vernon, which I guess is why they both have sort of an aqua cast to the over all color.

It was incredibly convenient to have our hotel so close to the St. Lazare station.  It wasn't the quietest neighborhood that we could have stayed in, but we appreciated being in such a central location every single day.  We walked either to or from nearly every single place we went over the course of our stay in Paris. 
So after a day on our feet, we walked the half block to our hotel and relaxed for a little while before walking to our final destination, the Arch of Triumph, better known as the Arc de Triomphe, for one last overview of this beautiful city.

I think this was our third attempt to get there in time to go to the top before closing time.  It stayed light pretty late in Paris at that time of year, so it was always later than we thought.

The view from the top seemed to beg for a panoramic shot, but it came out rather distorted.  This is a half-circular view to the east, compressed into a straight line.  You can just barely see Montmartre (to the northeast) on the left and the Eiffel Tower (to the south) is on the right.  The Arc de Triomphe is in the middle of a huge traffic circle with many intersecting streets.  The streets in this shot, starting on the left, are Avenue Hoche, Avenue de Friedland, Champs Elysees, Marceau, and D'Iena.

The photo below shows Avenue Friedland and Champs Elysees in better proportion.

Here's a panoramic shot of the view to the west.  We never made it out to that area with the all the skyscrapers in the distance.  I wonder if there is anything of interest out there that we should go see the next time we come here?

Twinkling lights on the Eiffel Tower.  It was nice to spend our last evening looking out over the city at all of the places we had visited.

Back down on the ground, looking up to admire this amazing structure.

One last picture, taken from under the Arch.  Paris is beautiful in any light, at any time of day or night.  And I think this has been my favorite vacation of all time.


Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9, Musee de l'Orangerie, Louvre, Notre Dame, Bus Ride, Bercy Village

We tried to squeeze in as much as we could today, and I think we squeezed a lot - maybe even more than yesterday!  We walked down to the museum area via Opera Garnier and Place Vendome.  Then we went to see the giant Monet lily pad paintings at l'Orangerie, had lunch, hit the Louvre and Notre Dam, took a scenic bus ride, walked a bunch, had dinner in Bercy Village, then took the subway back to our hotel.

We walked by the Opera Garnier on our way down to the museums today.

I seem to not be able to stop taking pictures of apartment buildings with matching window boxes and/or shutters.

We also passed Place Vendome on the way.
Guess where we are now - just outside the Musee de l'Orangerie?  That's right!

The Musee de l'Orangerie has a lot of the enormous Monet lilypad paintings, among other things.  In spite of the size of those huge paintings it's a relatively small museum.

We went around three sides before we found the entrance.
So many cool things to see along the way.

I took a couple of illegal pictures. This is a room in a doll house, believe it or not.
The details are absolutely exquisite!

I wanted to buy this poster from the gift store, but somehow that didn't happen.

There's that ferris wheel we rode on the first night.
This area is called the Jardin des Tuileries. 

There is art everywhere in Paris!

We are not going to the Louvre yet - we need to get some lunch first.

So many statues!

We saw a music store before we saw a place we wanted to eat.  While we were in there, about thirty planes flew by in formation.  Here are three of them.

We finally made it to the Louvre.  Doug prefers music stores to museums and art galleries, so that music store excursion took a little longer than necessary.

I thought maybe Doug was burnt out on paintings so we headed for the statues.

Venus de Milo

Winged Victory

looking out the window at the Louvre

basses and bassoons, in heaven, apparently
another example of windows and shutters that I can't seem to stop photographing

Should we walk or take the subway?  Doug votes for the subway.

The next bunch of photos are in and around the Notre Dame cathedral.  What a magnificent and awe-inspiring place!

By now it was early evening and our feet were hurting a lot after being on them all day.  We decided to do the cheap and easy Rick Steves style scenic tour on public bus #24.  Since we are bumbling tourists we stayed on it well past the last stop, which was not announced as being the last stop as far as we could tell, considering my limited French and Doug's zero French.  After about a mile, the bus driver finally noticed us and kicked us off the bus and we had to walk back because there were no more buses out that far.  And that was fine, because it was a beautiful evening and we'd been off our feet for at least half an hour.

We needed to make a pit stop, and fortunately there was a lovely grocery store along the way.  Doug wanted to buy some tomatoes because we were STARVING, but I talked him out of it because they are too messy to eat while walking.

We finally got to the last bus stop and caught a bus to the nearest subway stop which happened to be, in Rick Steve's words, in "trendy Bercy Village."  Bercy Village is an area that used to be a bunch of warehouses next to the train tracks, but now it's a pedestrian street full of restaurants and shops.  It seemed like a good place to stop and have dinner, although it did not seem to be especially trendy, to me.  It had sort of a Bethesda vibe to it.

After dinner we took the metro back to St. Lazare, which you can see out of the window of our hotel.  I'm so glad we stayed at this hotel - it was a nice place and in a great location -  walkable to nearly everywhere, with both subway and trains only a half block away.