Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Paris: 50...Sacré Bleu!

Well somehow I went to sleep in my 40's and woke up a 50 year old!  How the heck did I get to be 50 when it seems like just yesterday I was 22 and graduating from college?!

We started our morning with a nice stroll down to Sainte-Chapelle.  The church was commissioned by Louis IX to house the Crown of Thorns (though there is no confirmation he truly possesed the Crown of Thorns) and built the alter very high to protect the crown.  Today the Crown of Thorns is housed at Notre Dame and brought out the first Friday of every month for adoration.


Our hotel is a 30 minute walk to Sainte-Chapelle and by the time we reached our destination, we were in need of the necessity room but as with most places in Europe, one can never be certain one will be available.  The best thing to do in situations of uncertainty is to pop in to a nearby cafe and order a cup of coffee or tea from the bar.  Don't sit at a table for service as it double or triples the price. As a patron, you are able to use the bathroom.  While it may seem a bit crazy to pay to use the facilities, it actually gives you a good excuse (as if one is ever needed) to pop in to a cafe where you have the chance to meet locals and get a better understaning of the place you're visiting.

Sainte-Chapelle chapel did not disappoint and the climb up the steep spiral staircase was most definitely worth it.  Beautiful stained glass windows fill the room with gorgeous lighting.  


Random shots around town...


Start of the next Love Lock Bridge

We had reservations at the Ritz Paris (not to be confused with a Ritz-Carlton) so we made our way over for what was by far the sweet formal tea either of us have ever experienced.  High tea at the Ritz Paris is all sweet and absolutely no savory.  As a result, we at the top layer, sampled the second layer and so when the server said she could packaged up the remaining we gladly accepted (we really could not eat any more...shocking I know as we both adore sweets...but didn't want to be rude and ask for a take away box).  They knew it was my birthday so they brought out two glazed madeleines with a candle along with a chocolate birthday sign.  We decided the glazed madeleines were the French version of HOT Krispy Kreme.

After two hours at the Ritz Paris, we may our way back to the hotel to drop off our treats before heading to Notre Dame for Vespers.  To our surprise, the hotel had delivered yet another bottle of champagne (one each day of our stay) and this time with some macaroons!

Vespers at Notre Dame was lovely.  They had the most unusual advent wreath hanging from the ceiling. I placed the lense in my lap to record some of Vespers so you will not see any images in the video below.

While had our fill of sweets, we needed some savory so we headed over the Pont Saint Louis to the Ile Saint Louis and enjoyed a Croque Monsieur before making our way back to our hotel.  Tomorrow we will take the train to Reims for the day and wanted to make an early night.  Given that in three days we have walked 16 miles and climbed many many many stairs in the metro, we were ready for a relaxing evening.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Paris: Pantheon, Crepes and Dinner in the 16th

After a leisurely morning enjoying our gateau from last night and cafe, we made our way to the metro with the Pantheon as our destination. I must say I do believe Google Maps is perhaps one of the most essential apps for travelers.  While I do like the old school way of navigating around the countryside in most places, using a map will walking the streets of cities is quite cumbersome and quickly identifies you as a tourist.  With Google Maps, you are not futzing around with a large paper map and standing under a flashing neon sign that says "I'm not from here".

The Pantheon was completed just before the French Revolution and was orginially built as a church in honor of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.  With the French Revolution at its peak, the church was turned into a secular building honoring the "Champions of French History"...Voltaire, Rousseau, Descartes, etc.  While they may have changed the usage of the building, the Revolution ended before the cross on the top and much of the Christian artwork on the walls and ceiling could be replaced.  

After the Revolution, the Pantheon, became a church again, then a secular building, then a church and finally, a secular building for eternity with the decision to place the remains of Victor Hugo in the crypt. Now the crypt houses the remains of many prominent Parisians and Frenchmen (and women)...including Madame Curie.  There is a  special exhibit on Marie Curie taking place until March 2018.  A few of the very interesting things we saw were her two Nobel prizes, first X-ray and degrees from university.

Also at the Place du Pantheon, is the University of Paris, Saint Genevieve Library and Saint-Etienne du Mont Church. With the university in the place, there are a lot of picnic tables and benches for the students to hang out as well as some interesting gargoyle faces.

By the time we finished at the Pantheon, we were famished and fortunately there was a creperie a block away. We had 2 savory crepes...one with chicken, mushroom and goat cheese and one with bacon, potatoes and raclette cheese.

A stroll around Luxembourg Gardens was the perfect apres lunch activity. After the gardens, we made our way back to the hotel to relax before dinner with Olidie and Pierre.

We arranged another VizEat dinner for tonight but this time in the 16th with Olidie and Pierre.  Also joining us this evening was Sophie from Australia who is currently living about an hour outside of Paris.  Olidie and Pierre have a lovely apartment and were very gracious hosts.  As we got to know each other, we enjoyed a wonderful Bordeaux and you guessed it, cheese (we are somewhere around 8 or 9 of the 365 cheese in France on this visit).  For dinner, we started with a wonderful salad of roasted duck, endive, walnuts, legumes and a very tasty lettuce.  The entree was a ever so yummy cheese souffle...honestly one of the best things I think I've ever tasted.  For dessert, Olidie made this delicious creation of Swiss meringue (different from French and Italian meringue), chocolate mousse and sponge cake.  It was like heaven on a plate.