normandy: mont-saint-michel

Monday, July 3, 2006:  We have another lovely breakfast at Le Manoir.  This time we sit with the other American couple and they’re a little more friendly — the man in particular.  They’re from the Baltimore area.  They bought a Saab here and are having it shipped back to the States.  They’ve been driving it during their 3-week stay, all around France, Germany and Austria.

After breakfast, we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay.  It’s quite an impressive sight rising up from the water across the flat farmland.

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

Considered the “Wonder of the West,” the Gothic-style Benedictine abbey, dedicated to the archangel St. Michael, is perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks; these are exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany. The village below grew up in the shadow of the abbey, which was built between the 11th and 16th centuries.  Says UNESCO: “The abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site.” (UNESCO: Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay)

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

We arrive early enough so the crowds aren’t too bad, but they multiply rapidly after our arrival.  As usual, only two ticket windows are open to the abbey, so we have to wait quite a while in a long line.

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel
Adam, Alex and Mike in front of Mont Saint-Michel
Adam, Alex and Mike in front of Mont Saint-Michel
me at Mont Saint-Michel
me at Mont Saint-Michel

The structural composition of the town represents the feudal society that constructed it. On top God, the abbey and monastery, below this Great halls, then stores and housing, and at the bottom, outside the walls, fishermen’s and farmers’ housing.

Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

We avoid the town and climb directly up the steps to the abbey, which is lovely and has a fantastic view of the sand flats, the water and farmlands.  Inside the stone walls is sometimes cool and breezy, other times damp and sultry.  It’s quite a warm, sultry day overall.

inside Mont Saint-Michel
inside Mont Saint-Michel
tower at Mont Saint-Michel
tower at Mont Saint-Michel

The tides can vary greatly, at roughly 46 ft (14 metres) between high and low water marks. Popularly nicknamed “St. Michael in peril of the sea” by medieval pilgrims making their way across the flats, the mount can still pose dangers for visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighbouring coast. (Wikipedia: Mont Saint-Michel)

looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
the bay at Mont Saint-Michel
the bay at Mont Saint-Michel
me on top of the monastery
me on top of the monastery
looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
looking down on the bay from Mont Saint-Michel
cloister at Mont Saint-Michel
cloister at Mont Saint-Michel
cloister
cloister
cloister
cloister
statues at Mont Saint-Michel
statues at Mont Saint-Michel
Statues at Mont Saint-Michel
Statues at Mont Saint-Michel

We grab baguettes in the tacky tourist town on the way down.  Alex wants to buy a big sword in one of the gift shops, but we convince him that taking it home will be problematic.

I fall asleep on the way back to Le Manoir, as does Adam, but Mike and Alex stop at a market to get fruit and water.  Back at Le Manoir, Adam and I continue to nap while Mike and Alex take pictures around the Manoir grounds. The owners have a lot of aging, blind and deaf animals.  There’s Ozzie the rooster who prefers human to chicken company; Purdy, the white lab; Gimble, an English spaniel blind in one eye and tied up outside because he ran away 9 km once; Twinkle, the youngest white cat; and two 20-year-old cats.  One black Cocker Spaniel is blind and deaf.  Lizzy had worked at the SPCA for a long time and picked up lots of animals.

Mike and I go to see the Bayeaux Tapestry while the boys walk around Bayeaux.  The film presentation about the tapestry is fascinating.  We don’t have enough time there because we told the boys to meet us in front of the Cathedral at 5:15.  We wander around the town.  I am hoping to find some jewelry stores open but none were.  I do buy a cute black and white dress at SUD Express.

Bayeaux
Bayeaux
Bayeaux Cathedral
Bayeaux Cathedral
Alex and Adam in Bayeaux
Alex and Adam in Bayeaux

We go to Arromanches for dinner, where we sit outside at Le Bistro.

Creperie in Bayeaux
Creperie in Arromanches
beach near Bayeaux
beach near Arromanches
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the normandy american cemetery and memorial

Sunday, July 2, 2006:  We have breakfast outdoors in the hot sun at the Manoir.  It is actually miserable in the sun, but we don’t want to complain, so we simply sweat profusely as we eat: granola, yogurt with blackberries, boiled eggs, croissants with lemon curd, and coffee.  We try conversing with another couple from the D.C. area, but they don’t seem open to chatting.  We leave them alone to enjoy their meal in peace.

Today, Mike and I leave the boys behind in the Pigeonnier to watch videos while we visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.  It’s situated on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The 172-acre cemetery contains the graves of 9,387 of American military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified (American Battle Monuments Commission: Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial).

the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

The cemetery sits on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach (one of the landing beaches of the Normandy Invasion) and the English Channel. Included are graves of Army Air Corps crews shot down over France as early as 1942 (Wikipedia: Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial).

The verdant grass juxtaposed against the marble crosses, along with the cemetery’s manicured trees and shrubs, makes for a lovely setting.  It’s incredibly sad to think of all the young men who gave up their lives for the greater good.  The sheer number of crosses is enough to take my breath away.  The setting, high on a hilltop overlooking the English Channel, renders it a perfect resting place for those noble young men who fought hard and won the battle, but lost their lives.

view of the English channel from the the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
view of the English channel from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
me at thethe Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
me at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Mike at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Mike at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

I have packed a bathing suit, sunscreen and beach towel, and at the cemetery I see a lovely beach down below.  I decide on a whim to have Mike leave me at the beach at St. Laurent while he and the boys go to La Grignotiere for Sunday lunch.  I want some time alone because everyone is getting on my nerves and I want some beach time.  Besides, the thought of sitting in that stuffy restaurant doesn’t appeal to me.  I spend about 3 1/2 hours alone on the beach, having a gruyere buerre sandwich and a Coke Light on the sand.  It’s just the break I need.

Back at the Manoir, I go for a three-mile run; it’s a hot and miserable undertaking.

For dinner, we go back to Bayeaux and eat once again at Le Florentin.  We end up here mainly because none of us can agree on anything else.  The waitress gets upset because Mike and I want to share a pizza; she says in a restaurant one person must have one plate.  I protest: “But I can’t eat a whole pizza myself!”  She finally lets Mike order a green salad and we share a delicious pizza with andouille sausage, apples and lots of cheese.  We have glaces for dessert.

me in front of a cathedral
me in front of a cathedral
in the village
in the village

le manoir d’hérouville: our bed & breakfast in normandy

Saturday, July 1, 2006:  We love our hotel in Normandy,  Le Manoir d’Hérouville, set in 17 acres of landscaped gardens and rural fields. Carefully restored to retain the feel of a pre-revolutionary Manoir, today it is an informal family home. We stay in Le Pigeonnier at Le Manoir d’Hérouville.

Our turret-room at our bed and breakfast
Le Pigeonnier
Bed and breakfast in Normandy
Le Manoir d’Hérouville
rooster?
rooster?

Le Manoir d’ Hérouville is midway between the Norman towns of Bayeux and St Lo. Dated 1744, Le Pigeonnier was the manor dovecote; the tower-like building is charming and unique. The accommodation is spread over three floors for 2 to 5 people.

A lavender-bordered path leads gently up to the door of the round and quirky building, separated from the main house by the gravel courtyard.

I adore this tranquil, beautiful and welcoming place, where we stay four nights while we explore the Normandy area.

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grounds of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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grounds of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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grounds of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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Mike at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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WWII vehicles in the barn of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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WWII vehicles in the barn of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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WWII vehicles in the barn of Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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gardens at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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gardens at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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gardens at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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cows at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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the family dog at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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gardens at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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grounds at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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Adam at the door to Le Pigeonnier at Le Manoir d’Hérouville
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normandy: the caen peace memorial & the d-day landing sites

Saturday, July 1, 2006: We have a wonderful breakfast at Le Manoir served by Sue Roberts and her sister Lizzy: granola with hazelnuts, yogurt with berries, fruit salad with sugared lime, boiled egg, croissants with lemon curd.  We chat with a nice Australian family from Sydney; the boys enjoy their 16-year-old son.  The couple tells us their favorite site in Normandy is the 360 degree film at Arromanches.

Today we explore the Normandy D-Day landing beaches.  We head to the Caen Peace Memorial then some of the D-Day landing sites: Arromanches-les-Bains, The Batterie de Longues, and Omaha Beach.

The film about the invasion is excellent, bringing tears to my eyes.  The museum traces the growth of fascism in Germany.  Fifty million people died in World War II, 27 million of them Russians.

The 360 degree film at Arromanches, which the Aussie family recommended, is fabulous!  The filmmakers juxtaposed current tranquil scenes of the Normandy countryside and villages with actual violent war footage.  It brings home the fact that much death and destruction once occurred in this peaceful land.

After the film, we eat sandwiches and glaces in Arromanches.

The town of Arromanches-les-Bains lies along the stretch of coastline designated as Gold Beach during the D-Day Landings on 6 June 1944; it was one of the beaches used by British troops in the Allied invasion. Arromanches was selected as one of the sites for two Mulberry Harbours built on the Normandy coast, the other one was built further west at Omaha Beach.

Today Arromanches is mainly a tourist town. Situated in a good location for visiting all of the battle sites and War Cemeteries, there is also a museum at Arromanches with information about Operation Overlord and in particular, the Mulberry harbours (Wikipedia: Arromanches-les-Bains).

At Mulberry harbour was a portable temporary harbor developed by the British in World War II to facilitate rapid offloading of cargo onto the beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy (Wikipedia: Mulberry Harbour).

Alex and the Caen Peace Memorial
Alex and the Caen Peace Memorial
Normandy battlefields
Normandy battlefields
Normandy landing beaches
Normandy landing beaches
me in Normandy
me in Normandy
Caen Memorial
Caen Memorial
Caen Memorial
Caen Memorial

At Pointe du Hoc, the boys have a good time running in and out of bomb craters and old German bunkers. The boys chalk some graffiti on the walls of a bunker.  The weather is gorgeous, cool and quite breezy.

Bunker
Bunker
The boys make their marks on the German bunkers
The boys make their marks on the German bunkers
Adam... hmmm.
Adam… hmmm.
bunker
bunker
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Adam
Adam
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Normandy beaches
Adam
Adam
Normandy coast
Normandy coast
Normandy
Normandy
Normandy coast
Normandy coast
me and Normandy beaches
me and Normandy beaches
Adam in a bunker
Adam in a bunker
Normandy
Normandy
Normandy
Normandy
Alex: Appropriate T-shirt??
Alex: Appropriate T-shirt??
Normandy coast
Normandy coast

We come across a wedding taking place on the battlefield.

a wedding takes place on the battlefield
a wedding takes place on the battlefield
Mike
Mike
Adam in Normandy
Adam in Normandy
Normandy coast
Normandy coast
Normandy coast
Normandy coast

We then head to Bayeux where we encounter a Medieval festival with Middle Age reenactors.

Street performers in Caen
Street performers in Caen
more street performers
more street performers

Mike and I eat pasta and Alex eats pizza at Le Florentin, which is quite warm and close, despite the cool breeze blowing through the streets.  We get some small glaces in Bayeux too.

We then head back to the Manoir.  Mike and I sit in the main house setting room for a while to read.  The couches are huge and fluffy; we sink right into them.  I’m reading Bee Season by Myla Goldberg, which I’m enjoying.

 

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france: arrival in normandy

Friday, June 30, 2006:  This morning, we run to a patisserie for pain de raisins and then to Starbucks, where we sit at outdoor tables and enjoy watching fashionable Parisians stroll past.  After gathering our bags, we take a taxi to the Hotel Invalides to Europcar, where we pick up our blue Renault Laguna, squeeze our luggage into the trunk, and take off for Normandy.

The drive is straightforward and uneventful, although I’ll never get used to the speeds on European roadways.  We stop for a nice lunch at a roadside stop: for me, a salad with chicken, corn and cheese.  We have trouble locking the driver’s side door, and after finally figuring it out, we realize we have to do it manually every time.  What a pain!

We make a stop in Arromanches before heading to our hotel in Normandy, the northern region of France corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy.  This area grew out of various invasions of West Francia by the Danish, Norwegians, Vikings, and the Anglo-Danish in the 9th century. Normandy began in 911 as a fief, probably a county, in the sense that it was held by a count (Wikipedia: Duchy of Normandy).

The name is derived from the Vikings (“Northmen”), who settled the territory from the 9th century. For a century and a half following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Normandy and England were linked by Norman and Frankish rulers (Wikipedia: Normandy).

We see the artificial port remnants from the Normandy campaign in World War II.  We have 1664 beers at an outdoor cafe then stroll through the little town.  We also treat ourselves to eclairs and croissants at a boulangerie/patisserie.

me with Mike on the beach in Normandy
me with Mike on the beach in Normandy

During the Second World War, the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches, under the code name Operation Overlord, started the lengthy Battle of Normandy, eventually liberating Paris and restoring the French Republic. These landings were a significant turning point in the war.

One of the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy
One of the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy

Normandy’s population is around 3.45 million, accounting for 5.5% of France’s total population (in 2005) (Wikipedia: Normandy).

Normandy beach
Normandy beach

Lower Normandy is predominantly agricultural in character, with cattle breeding the most important sector (although in decline from the peak levels of the 1970s and 1980s). The bocage is a patchwork of small fields with high hedges, typical of western areas. Upper Normandy contains a higher concentration of industry. Normandy is a significant cider-producing region, and produces calvados, a distilled cider or apple brandy. Other activities of economic importance are dairy produce, flax (60% of production in France), horse breeding (including two French national stud farms), fishing, seafood, and tourism (Wikipedia: Normandy).

The region is bordered along the northern coasts by the English Channel. There are granite cliffs in the west and limestone cliffs in the east. There are also long stretches of beach in the centre of the region. The bocage typical of the western areas caused problems for the invading forces in the Battle of Normandy (Wikipedia: Normandy).

We drive on to the Manoir d’Hérouville and check in to the pigieonnier.  After moving into our rooms, we take naps, since we feel a little drowsy after our long drive and the beers in Arromanches.

In the evening, we go out for dinner at a lovely French restaurant called La Grignotiere, where the chef greets us personally.  We have Picot biere accompanied by mackerel and salmon spread on bread.  My meal is wonderful: noix de lotte au chou vert et au lard fume (walnuts with green cabbage and smoked bacon).  The boys loved their brochettes of beef.  Alex liked his profiteroles (cream puffs), but Adam didn’t care for them.

me at dinner in Normandy
me at dinner in Normandy

Back at the pigieonnier, the boys encounter a “huge” spider, so they’re afraid to sleep upstairs in their loft.  Mike brings a mattress downstairs and the boys camp out watching the video Cool Runnings.  We fall asleep with a cool breeze whispering over our heads.

Adam's self portrait
Adam’s self-portrait
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paris: the musée du louvre & drinks at a sidewalk café

Thursday, June 29:  This morning, Mike and I go out for a 3 mile run in the Luxembourg Gardens.  Then we go to a patisserie and Starbucks for breakfast with Adam before we shower.  We bring Alex, who stayed in bed, some pastries.  We then take metro to the Rue Cler Market near Invalides and the Eiffel Tower.

At Rue Cler, we pick out raspberries, strawberries, pears, apples and nectarines, along with a baguette and pain du campagne, brie and Gouda.  Mike and the boys get sodas from a market.  Then we walk to the esplanade (park) near Invalides (Place des Invalides) and eat our picnic.  Mike and I enjoy a petite bottle of wine in the shade, sharing bread and brie and the fruit.

We don’t open the Gouda because we plan to snack on it later.  I pack up the food into two of the bags and the trash in the third.  I take the trash bag and Mike and Alex pick up the other two.  A garbage collector in front of us changes the trash bag and into the new bag, I throw my trash bag.  Mike says, “What are you doing?” and he tries to pull out my bag.  “Oh no, what’s this?” he says when he realizes it’s trash.  “Where’s the other bag of food?”  It turns out he thought he had the bag of trash and threw it away.  And the trash collector just hauled it away, along with our Gouda and bread.

We all give Mike a bad time about throwing out a whole block of Gouda and our late afternoon snack for the rest of the day.

After our picnic, we take metro again to the Louvre.  On the way we pass the offices of Air France, the wonderful airline that carried us here to France, and numerous monuments and statues.

We pass the Air France building on the way to the Louvre
We pass the Air France building on the way to the Louvre
Me with Mike on the way to the Louvre
Me with Mike on the way to the Louvre
Parisian statues
Parisian statues
more Parisian statues
more Parisian statues

We also walk across one of the many bridges over the Seine and watch boats cruising down the river.

The Seine is a 776 km (482 mi)-long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin. There are 37 bridges within the city and dozens more spanning the river outside the city (Wikipedia: Seine).

Boats on the Seine
Boats on the Seine
me walking to the Louvre
me walking to the Louvre

We take the boys to the Louvre, but they don’t show much interest in it.  Adam doesn’t want to go in, but he wants to see the glass pyramid and he takes a bunch of “artistic” photos of it.   Mike and I spent a long time here in 2003, and since the boys are bored and antsy, we don’t stay long.

The Musée du Louvre —in English, the Louvre Museum or simply The Louvre—is one of the world’s largest museums.  It sits on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement (district). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st  century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet). With more than 8 million visitors each year, the Louvre is the world’s most visited museum, according to Wikipedia.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II.  The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, antique sculptures.  During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation’s masterpieces.

the Louvre
the Louvre
the Louvre
the Louvre
bas relief at the Louvre
bas-relief at the Louvre

The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, most the works being royal and confiscated church property.  The size of the collection increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed the Musée Napoléon. After the defeat of Napoleon, many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. (Wikipedia: The Louvre)

After visiting the Louvre, we walk back to our hotel.  On the way, I separate from the boys and go on a mini-shopping spree.  I buy on shirt on sale, “soldes,” and two pairs of shoes “soldes” at Salamander.  They’re really nothing interesting, just more of what I already have.  The place where I buy the shirt is so crowded that while in the queue I try on the shirt over my T-shirt in front of a mirror in the corner.  Other women are doing the same.  I don’t know why, I’m surprised to find French women swarming at a sale just like American women.

I meet the guys back at the room and we nap for a bit.  We make a stop at a sidewalk café for some drinks.  There’s a cute French couple sitting beside us.  I’m envious that they’re flirty and cute and have lots to talk about.  I want to be the girl, young and French and cute and in love.

How I love the cafés of Paris!  I’ve been twice to this beautiful city, and I could be perfectly happy just sitting at a café all day, watching people, drinking coffee, beer or wine, and writing the day away.

Adam, Alex and Mike at a Paris cafe
Adam, Alex and Mike at a Paris cafe
Mike sitting at the sidewalk cafe
Mike sitting at the sidewalk cafe
me, Adam, Alex and Mike
me, Adam, Alex and Mike

We eat dinner at Tokyorama near our hotel.  It’s pretty good but they give Mike my tuna and when I ask for my tuna, they say they already gave it to us and Mike ate it.  I say, “Je ne comprende pas,” and they repeat it and laugh.  I think they think I’m lying and just trying to get free food.  That pisses me off especially since it’s their mistake that they gave my food to Mike and Mike had no idea what things came with his meal.   I insist we not leave a tip, although you’re only supposed to tip 5% normally.  Sadly, my non-tipping doesn’t punish them much.

We stop for glaces.  Later we return to our hotel room and gather our belongings together for our trip to Normandy tomorrow.

me in our hotel room
me in our hotel room
Adam relaxes in our room
Adam relaxes in our room

paris: montmartre & sacré-cœur basilica, cimetière de montmartre, moulin rouge, & the arc de triomphe

Wednesday, June 28, 2006:  This morning, we all have a rude awakening.  We’re sitting at the Brioche having croissants when we see the proprietaire ushering a decrepit old woman out of the restaurant. The woman sits at an outdoor table and keeps trying to light a skinny cigar.  She lights the match and holds the flame about an inch away from the end of her cigar.  One time she holds four matches and lights them all together, but she still holds them too far away from her cigar to set the cigar afire.  Soon she gives up and takes a T-shirt out of a bag.  She then starts undressing.  She pulls off her pants first so her bottom is bare.  She stands up, giving everyone a first class view of her sagging buttocks!  Alex and Adam are totally disgusted.

“What a way to ruin my day!” Alex says.

The woman has on what looks like a hospital gown under a T-shirt.  I say it looks like she’s escaped from a mental hospital and is doing a quick change.  She takes off the hospital gown and puts on the T-shirt from the bag.  She has a T-shirt on under her gown too, so at least she never gets naked on top.

A rather shocking episode on our first true morning in Paris!

We get on metro heading to Montmartre.  Montmartre is a 130-meter high hill and surrounding district, in the 18th arrondissement in the north of Paris.  It is primarily known for the white-domed Sacré-Cœur Basilica on its summit and as a nightclub district.

When we arrive by metro in the district, we walk through the busy streets lined with tacky shops.  We climb the thousands of steps to Sacré-Cœur, where midway we’re accosted by African guys who swarm all around us trying to make us braided bracelets. Alex is the only one who allows them to make one for him.  The guy wants 2 euros for it, but Mike only has 1.20 euros.  He tells the guy, “I couldn’t even afford to buy my kids a drink earlier.”

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A popular landmark, the basilica sits atop the summit of the Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

After sweating and huffing our way to the top, we sit quietly in the church and look up at the mosaic of Jesus and his gold heart.

 Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre
Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre

The Sacré-Cœur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie.  Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919. (Wikipedia: Sacré-Cœur, Paris)

me in front of  Sacré-Cœur Basilica
me in front of Sacré-Cœur Basilica
Mike and a glum Alex in front of  Sacré-Cœur Basilica
Mike and a glum Alex in front of Sacré-Cœur Basilica

By the end of the 19th century, the district had become the principal artistic center of Paris, frequented by artists such as Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and African-American expatriates such as Langston Hughes.  These artists worked in Montmartre and drew some of their inspiration from the area.

Since Montmartre was outside the city limits, free of Paris taxes and no doubt also due to the fact that the local nuns made wine, the hill quickly became a popular drinking area. The area developed into a center of free-wheeling and decadent entertainment at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.  (Wikipedia: Montmartre)

the streets of Montmartre
the streets of Montmartre

After leaving Sacré-Cœur, we walk around the square in Montmartre where all the artists are set up. We buy two watercolors of Sacré-Cœur and the Eiffel Tower.  We eat lunch in the middle of the square.  I have a salad with warm goat cheese.  Yum!

Me at a Montmartre Cafe
Me at a Montmartre Cafe
Adam at a Montmartre cafe
Adam at a Montmartre cafe

In a little shop downhill from Montmartre, I buy a turquoise flowered wrap shirt and Alex buys a cool looking hat and a T-shirt.

Alex tries on hats at Montmartre
Alex tries on hats at Montmartre
Alex the cool dude in Montmartre
Alex the cool dude in Montmartre

After lunch, we wander around Montmartre, where we come upon this cool sculpture, Le Passe-Muraille (the Passer-Through-Walls). Le Passe-Muraille is the title of a story by Marcel Aymé about a man named Dutilleul who discovers that he can walk through walls. (Cool Stuff in Paris: Le Passe Muraille)

Adam and Le Passe-Muraille
Adam and Le Passe-Muraille
Mike and Le Passe-Muraille
Mike and Le Passe-Muraille
Le Passe-Muraille
Le Passe-Muraille

We stop in to visit the Montmartre Cemetery (Cimetière de Montmartre), which is built below street level in the hollow of an old quarry, with its entrance on Avenue Rachel under Rue Caulaincourt.

A popular tourist destination, it is the final resting place of many famous artists who lived and worked in the Montmartre area.  Some artists and famous people interred there include Edgar Degas and Alexandre Dumas.

Père Lachaise Cemetery
Cimetière de Montmartre
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Cimetière de Montmartre
Adam and Mike at Père Lachaise Cemetery
Adam and Mike at Cimetière de Montmartre
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Cimetière de Montmartre
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Cimetière de Montmartre
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Cimetière de Montmartre
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Cimetière de Montmartre

We head next to Moulin Rouge, the famous cabaret, co-founded in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller, who also owned the Paris Olympia. It is marked by the red windmill on its roof.

Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe. Today, Moulin Rouge offers musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. (Wikipedia: Moulin Rouge)

Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge
a "Sex Shop" near Moulin Rouge
a “Sex Shop” near Moulin Rouge

We take metro back and have drinks at Les Éditeurs, a hybrid cafe, restaurant, bar and library with over 5,000 floor-to-ceiling booksFeeling a little sleepy from our drinks, we head back to our rooms for naps. Later, we have dinner at Creperie des Arts, where we unanimously decide we like crepes best for dessert.  We then take the metro to the Pont-Neuf station to visit the Arc de Triomphe.

Adam on the Paris metro
Adam on the Paris metro
Alex and Mike on the Paris metro
Alex and Mike on the Paris metro
Alex in his cool hat
Alex in his cool hat

We pass some lively street musicians on our way.

Street performers
Street performers

We make a stop at the Arc de Triomphe but sadly, I don’t take any pictures of the Arc itself, as I took pictures of it when I was here in 2003.  What am I thinking?  Now, when I travel I take hundreds of pictures, even if I’ve been to a place multiple times.   This evening, I only take pictures from the top with a view of Paris.

Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, interred here on Armistice Day in 1920.  It has the first eternal flame lit in Western and Eastern Europe since the Vestal Virgins’ fire was extinguished in the fourth century. It burns in memory of the dead who were never identified (now in both world wars). (Wikipedia: Arc de Triomphe)

Eternal flame
Eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
Me with Mike at the Arc de Triomphe
Me with Mike at the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
Adam, Mike and Alex at  the Arc de Triomphe
Adam, Mike and Alex at the Arc de Triomphe

We walk back along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées until we reach a metro stop.  After we return by metro, we find a glacé place, where I enjoy a delectable walnut caramel glacé.

arrival in paris: notre dame de paris, shakespeare and company, and the eiffel tower

Monday, June 26, 2006:  Today, our family leaves Washington, D.C. bound for two weeks in France.   This is the first time we take our sons, Alex, 15, and Adam 13, to Europe.  My mother-in-law drops us off in the pouring rain at Dulles International Airport.

I’m wearing black knit gauchos, a white stretch lace-top cami and a gray knit hoodie; it’s just like wearing pajamas!

me at Dulles International airport on our way to France :-)
me at Dulles International airport on our way to France 🙂

Our flight is relatively uneventful.  We sit in row 44 in the back of the plane; I sit squeezed between the two boys.  I sleep fitfully for maybe 2-3 hours, probably helped by the Valium I often take while flying.  Before going to sleep, we watch Failure to Launch with Mathew McConneghy and Sarah Jessica Parker, which is just okay.

On flight, the flight attendants serve dried-up ravioli.  Adam refuses to eat at all.  He also refuses to eat breakfast.  Alex, on the other hand, eats everything heartily.

Tuesday, June 27:  After arriving in Paris, we take the shuttle bus to the hotel, where we meet a guy who works with a friend of ours at the U.S. Geological Survey. We leave our luggage in the luggage room at our hotel, Grand Hotel des Balcons, and head out for brunch. We’re starved!  Alex, Adam and I eat omelets and Mike has rarebit. Luckily we only have to walk around a short while because our hotel room is ready by 1:00.

We check in, take naps and showers, then we venture out to explore Paris, heading first to the Île de la Cité, one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine, in the city’s fourth arrondissement.

Our first stop, Notre Dame de Paris, also known as Notre Dame Cathedral or simply Notre Dame, is a historic Roman Catholic Marian cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité.  Widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, Notre Dame is the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris.  The cathedral treasury is notable for its reliquary, which houses the purported crown of thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails — all important relics of the Passion.

Notre Dame de Paris is often reputed to be one of the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture in both France and in Europe as a whole. The first period of construction was from 1163 into 1240s.  During the radical phase of the French Revolution in the 1790s, much of the cathedral’s imagery was damaged or destroyed. An extensive restoration removed remaining decoration, returning the cathedral to an ‘original’ Gothic state (Wikipedia: Notre Dame de Paris).

We want to climb to the top of Notre Dame, but sadly we just miss the cut-off to climb.

Since Mike and I came to France three years earlier without the boys, I don’t take any pictures of the outside of Notre Dame on this trip because I had taken many photos during our 2003 trip.  Sadly, at the time of this trip, I wasn’t so much into photography as I am now.  I don’t take advantage of the many photo opportunities offered by Paris. 😦

Adam in the midst of candles at Notre Dame Cathedral
Adam in the midst of candles at Notre Dame Cathedral

The South Rose Window, a central element of Notre Dame that looks over the transept façade, was constructed in 1260 as a counterpoint to the North Rose Window, which was built in 1250. Like its north sister, the South Rose Window reaches 12.90 meters in diameter and, if you include its bay, a total height of nearly 19 meters.  This rosette is dedicated to the New Testament (Notre Dame de Paris: South Rose Window).

Stained glass windows at Notre Dame
Stained glass windows at Notre Dame
Stained glass windows at Notre Dame
Stained glass windows at Notre Dame
Statues at Notre Dame
Statues at Notre Dame

We stop for an early dinner at The Brioche Cafe, where we have pizzas and wine. 🙂

After going to Notre Dame, we head to Shakespeare and Company on Paris’s Left Bank (Shakespeare and Company).  Having been an English major at the College of William and Mary and having attended an exhibit on Hemingway’s life at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, I was keen to see the place where Hemingway and other famous writers from the 1920s gathered to share ideas and get inspiration.

The original Shakespeare and Company was opened by Sylvia Beach on 17 November 1919.  During the 1920s, it was a gathering place for writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. It closed in 1940 during the German occupation of Paris and never re-opened.

In 1951, another English-language bookstore was opened on Paris’s Left Bank by American George Whitman, under the name of Le Mistral.  Much like the original Shakespeare and Company, the store became a focal point for literary culture in bohemian Paris, and was frequented by many Beat Generation writers.

Me at Shakespeare & Co.
Me at Shakespeare & Co.

In 1964, after Sylvia Beach’s death, Whitman changed his store’s name to Shakespeare and Company in tribute to the original venture.  He described the bookstore’s name as “a novel in three words,” and calls the venture “a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.”  Customers have included Henry Miller, Richard Wright, and Anaïs Nin. The bookstore includes sleeping facilities, with 13 beds, and Whitman claims as many as 40,000 people have slept in the shop over the years.  Regular activities that occur in the bookshop are Sunday tea, poetry readings and writers’ meetings.  Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, now runs the shop.  George Whitman died at the age of 98 on December 14, 2011. (Wikipedia: Shakespeare and Company (bookstore))

me at Shakespeare & Company
me at Shakespeare & Company

We happen upon a store, Diwali, where I bought scarves the last time we were here three years ago.  This time, I buy two pink scarves.  We also buy a lot of postcards and stamps and a phone card at the post office.

We then head to The Eiffel Tower, built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which was to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution. It was constructed in 2 years, 2 months and 5 days, a great technical achievement.  It was a feat of French engineering personified by Gustave Eiffel, and a defining moment of the industrial era.

It was only intended to last 20 years, but Eiffel encouraged scientific experiments that saved it, in particular the first radio transmissions, followed by telecommunications. Since the 1980s, the monument has been regularly renovated, restored and adapted for an ever-growing number of visitors.

The Eiffel Tower is France’s symbol in the world and today it welcomes nearly 7 million visitors a year (around 75% of whom are foreigners), making it the most visited monument that you have to pay for in the world (La Tour Eiffel: The Eiffel Tower at a Glance).

We have to wait in line for nearly two hours to get to the top level, where we eventually have grand views of Paris.  The second level would have been fine, because the top level is indoors and extremely crowded. There are lines to go up and lines to go down at each level.  It’s frustrating!  Alex says all along he doesn’t want to go to the top, and then he keeps saying, “See, I told you it wouldn’t be worth it!”

the fabulous Eiffel Tower
the fabulous Eiffel Tower
Police on guard around Eiffel Tower
Police on guard around the Eiffel Tower
Mike & Adam atop the Eiffel Tower
Mike & Adam atop the Eiffel Tower
View from the Eiffel Tower
View from the Eiffel Tower
Alex, Mike and Adam atop the Eiffel Tower
Alex, Mike and Adam atop the Eiffel Tower
Alex atop the Eiffel Tower
Alex atop the Eiffel Tower
The Seine
The Seine
Paris!
Paris!
Alex, me and Adam on the Eiffel Tower
Alex, me and Adam on the Eiffel Tower

Because of our long wait, we’re able to see the monument all lit up after dark, which is something different for Mike and me.  Some of these pictures are taken by the boys, who have fun taking artistic pictures.

Eiffel Tower at night
Eiffel Tower at night
me, Alex and Adam
me, Alex and Adam
Eiffel
Eiffel
The fabulous Eiffel Tower
The fabulous Eiffel Tower

When we return from the Eiffel Tower, we find Creperie des Arts on rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts, where we have dessert crepes topped with ice cream, chocolate and Chantilly (whipped cream).  After this, it’s quite obvious that the French beat Spain in the World Cup soccer game.  Everyone is in the street celebrating, yelling: “Allez!  Allez!  Allez!”  People are honking, dancing in the streets and singing.  So much unleashed energy!

Even after we return to our hotel and get into bed with our windows open, we can hear the celebration.  I fall asleep to a cool breeze and joyous honking on the streets.

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languedoc-roussillon, france

May 10, 2003:  The Languedoc-Roussillon region is dominated by 740,300 acres of vineyards, three times the combined area of the vineyards in Bordeaux and the region has been an important winemaking center for several centuries.

Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Mike in Roussillon
Mike in Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
the countryside around Roussillon
the countryside around Roussillon
gardens in the cloister
gardens in the cloister
Arch
Arch
me & forsythia
me & forsythia
near Roussillon
near Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon

According to French Entree.com: Provence Cities & Villages, Rousillon is most famous for its magnificent red cliffs and ochre quarries. Its striking hills are made up of houses featuring various shades of ochre found naturally in the surrounding rock, giving this village its exceptional charm. It is the contrast of the blue Provençal sky against the red, brown and yellow shades of its ochre cliffs – an exceptional combination of colors – which make this village such a magical place. Situated at the foot of the Monts de Vaucluse in the Luberon, Roussillon is classified as one the most beautiful villages in France.

Ochre is a natural dye that has been used since prehistoric times. At one time, 17 different ochre tints were quarried in Roussillon. The ochre business was at its best towards the end of the 19th century and ochre from Roussillon was exported all over the world. The area of ochre in the Luberon valley is the biggest in the world, giving the area the nickname the “Colorodo Provençal”.

Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon
Roussillon