A day trip to paradise

Last train ride of the trip today.  Train travel is much more enjoyable sans luggage by the way.  Had never been through Gare St. Lazare but definitely one of the nicest stations in Paris.  We got on a train headed to Vernon in the Normandy region.  Vernon is the stop for Giverny, the home of Claude Monet.  They have a great set up at the Vernon station.  There are a number of buses waiting when you get off and for 8€ you get a round trip ride on the bus to Giverny.

We arrived and headed straight for his house and garden.  My friend is an art teacher and was great to have with me and was beyond excited!  They have recreated his home as it was when he lived there.  It was bright and colorful and everything you would expect from an artist’s home.  But the real draw are the gardens, and specifically the water lily garden where he painted the famous Water Lily paintings (which we had seen yesterday)

Since Monet’s time they have built a road through the middle of the property so the foundation built a tunnel under it to get to the pond.  The flower garden is so amazing, better than any botanical garden I’ve been to and almost everything was in bloom.  I really wished I had better photography skills (or one of my talented cousins or friends with me).

We finally headed to the famed lily pond.  Now, I had mentioned to some people I was going to Giverny and no one was ever really excited.  The website for the house was not great so I was a little worried that it would be somewhat of a let down because I was very excited.  That was not the case.  When we entered the pond garden it was like we stepped on the canvas of a Monet painting.  We found a bench and just sat and took it all in for awhile.  It was breathtaking!  After that we walked around and took a bunch of pictures.  (I have one set as the wallpaper on my work computer now – nothing says “serenity now” like water lilies)

When we were finally able to make ourselves leave the gardens we explored the town.  There are a number of bed and breakfasts, a few galleries and a few shops and cafes.  If you follow the main road you come across the church and cemetary where Monet is buried.  And then it was time to head back to the bus to get back to the train.  Giverny was a great day trip from Paris and I would highly recommend it, especially in the summer when all the gardens are in bloom.

So it was my last night in Paris.  I was still a little tired from our day trip and decided to find dinner near the hotel.  I picked the place I had stopped for breakfast the day before because the woman had been so nice.  We enjoyed a few Picon Biéres and some dinner.  It was the pefect last night in Paris and did not even involve the Eiffel Tower.

I love Paris even more every time I go.  I firmly believe I was French in a past life.  I’m never ready to leave and I’m always ready to go back.  Paris, je t’aime!

New friends, new places

Way back on a cold winter night in January I got a call from one of my knitting friends asking me about Paris and telling me her and her niece were planning on going over the summer, probably sometime in July.  We were talking about places to see in Paris and we had several places which overlapped.  Since both her and her niece are teachers they were free to go whenever they wanted.  That’s when we decided to have our trips overlap.  I stayed an extra couple of days to meet up with them and they arrived around 11:30 this morning.

I wanted to be at full strength when they arrived so I decided to take it easy this morning.  I had scoped out a couple of yarn stores before I left and did not realize until last night that one of them was a 5 minutes walk from the hotel.  Perfect morning activity!  I stopped at a cafe and had breakfast (a croissant and the best orange juice I’ve had, this is saying a lot because I’m not a big juice fan…) watched the crazy Paris traffic and relaxed  until the yarn store would be open.  I arrived right at 11 at Caf’e Tricot Studio (www.cafetricotstudio.com) and the owner was very nice and let the stalking shopper in.  It was a decdent size space (for Paris) and she had lots of yarn and samples.  It was interesting because it appeared she carried yarns from two companies but all the varieties offered.  This is unlike stores in the states which usually carry a variety of brands but perhaps only a few of their offerings.  I managed to find some yarn to buy (I know, surprising!) and it was made in Italy and is not something I’ve seen at home so we will see what it might become someday!

I then headed back to meet up with my friends.  It was so nice to have new people to talk with (not that I didn’t enjoy my travel group but I had been with only them for 2 weeks…).  We headed straight for the Musee de l’Orangerie.  If you have not heard of it don’t worry I had not either until our priest mentioned at some point during the planning stages.  It’s this tiny museum in a corner of the Tuillers Garden but what is important is that it houses Monet’s Water Lillies.  I can’t say as I have ever seen a space better designed to show off art than I did today.  The paintings in those two rooms just belong there and are spectular (we are going to see the actually gardens tomorrow and can’t wait).  The lines are much shorter at this museum as opposed to the Lourvre or the d’Orsay.  The bottom floor has quite a large collection of some other Impressionists so you get the flavor of the d’Orsay without the lines or crowds.

After that we grabbed some lunch on the Rue de Rivoli and then the new arrivals needed a rest period.  Since I had been leading them around I made sure they had directions back to the hotel and I headed down to the Champs Elysees to how prep for the Tour de France is coming.  They are setting up the crowd barriers and hanging flags – can’t wait to watch on Sunday!

I still had some time and it was boiling hot so I looked at my list of things to do and remembered that my friend Diana had posted about a special corset exhibit at the Textile Museum.  As I learned today it is housed in part of the Lourvre building so the inside was  beautiful.  The museum was close to where we ate lunch to I headed back figuring it would shelter me from the sun, be somewhat cooler and have bathrooms.  The exhibit blew me away.  It was two floors, interactive (they had a part where you could try on constructed samples of the corsets in the display), had movies and tons and tons of corsets and other garmets constructed with corsets.  Some were very old.  It was dark (to preserve the fabric) and super cool (again for the fabric) so it was the perfect spot to hide all afternoon.

I had planned to meet up with my newly refreshed friends to head out and explore the neighborhood our hotel is in.  We are staying in the 20th arrondissement.  The most famous thing close to us is Pere Lachaise Cemetary.  It’s a little on the fringe and is very residential which is nice because you don’t have the tourist scammers, just your random homeless people.  Our first stop was a cafe for a caffeine break.  And then we were off.  We found lots of fun stuff on the walk and it was nice because we were not moving at a death march pace.  We saw a cute park, some great buildings, a weird mini China town and many intoxicating smelling bakeries.

We made it back to the hotel and popped in for a bathroom break.  My friend checked her travel guide and there was wine bar nearby that was recommended so we set out to find it.  It was pretty close, but it was closed 😦  We had passed a happening looking joint so we went back there.  It was perfect!  The best part of the whole meal was when they brought my friend’s dish (she ordered lamb, kind of accidentally bbut that’s another story) and it had a flaming piece of rosemary sticking out of it.  A+++ for presentation, it was beautiful and the aroma was awesome!

We are off to Giverny, home of Monet and his garden tomorrow!

Just like Cedar Point without the misters

I slept in this morning and it was awesome!!  I then slowly got ready for the day because no one else was waiting for the bathroom.  Feeling refreshed I headed out.

My first stop was Mariage Freres.  They make teas and have  tea rooms in Paris.  It is next to impossible to find the tea in the US and I got hooked on it when Le Petit Triangle was Oui Oui Cafe and the owner would bring back the tea from France and sell it.  Now I’m my own importer.  I stock up whenever I’m here.  And, if you’re a tea person and headed to person don’t miss it!

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I enjoyed a raspberry tart and cup of tea (breakfast of champions) and bought a bunch of  new teas!

For my dumb American tourist story of the day, while I was waiting for the tea room to open I was browsing the shops.  The location I was at is in the shops below the Louvre (and now include an Apple store which made me kind of sad).  I was slowly walking about when I felt an American family on my heels (I was clearly walking too slow) so I stepped aside to watch them tear into the Starbucks (also sad to see under the Lourvre).  Classic!

Next I walked across the Seine and went to the Musee D’Orsay.  There was quite a line to buy a ticket, add that to reasons I love Paris!

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I felt like I was at Cedar Point (only place at home you see this long of a line).  Except the line went really fast (30 minutes), there were no misters along the way and nothing telling me how long the wait was from that point.

The museum is an old train station and the building itself is something to see, not to mention all the art inside.  The D’Orsay includes works from Impressionism through Modern Art.  My favorites are the Impressionists so I was really looking forward to my visit.  The size of the museum is overwhelming and it has a strange setup due to being a train station.  I was slowly working my way through the floors and I had made it to the top and was working my way to the Impressionism gallery when I ran into our priest and nun we had been with.  Really, what are the odds?  I walked around a corner and there they were!  So we caught up on the last couple of days and then headed off.  I was about half through at this point and my foot was all done so it was time to sit down and grab some lunch.  The cafe was beautiful and, while at times it can wear on American’s nerves, it was nice to have French service (i.e. You can sit for as long as you want and unless you throw up your arms and wave like mad you’re waiter is nowhere to be found.)  That gave me the push to finish the museum.  The most amazing thing is the Grand Ballroom.  It was left from the hotel that had been part of the train station and they restored it when they turned it into a museum.  I can’t imagine living in a time when all that grandeur was in style.

From there I was going to head to Bastille Place.  Why?  Well, 1. I had not been before; 2. It was Bastille Day on Sunday and 3. My cousin Bob had recommended a cafe and drink on the Place. 

I had to cross back over the Seine and was surprised to find myself on Pont de l’Archeveche, or the lock bridge in Paris.  And down on the Seine there were all these really cool drawings or something for the summer.  I thought it was funny (and typical) that there were several guys selling locks on the bridge and you could tell it was a big tourist area because there were a few cons working the crowds.

I made it to Bastille Place and found the cafe.  It is a beautiful monument and the Opera Bastille is a really cool looking building.  My cousin had told me to order a picon biere which was delicious and totally beat the Belgian beer I had yesterday.  It was a great suggestion!

I saw on my map that the Place Des Vosages was close by.  For those of you who read Sarah’s Key this is where that book takes place.  What a pretty park!  The architecture of the buildings was really something to see as well.  And then it was time to head back to the hotel.  I stopped at a take away place (even the take away places here are crazy slow) and got a couple of crepes and brought them back to my room.  Tomorrow my friend from knitting and her niece are due in so I’m excited to meet up with them!

Chartres to Paris – Mini Pilgrimage Day 3

I have to start with a background story today.  In 1989 I took my first trip to France with a school group.  It was a public school but we made a stop at the Chartres cathedral.  The bus let us off and we were told to get lunch, tour the cathedral and be back to the bus.  My friend and I headed out and bought some food and then set out for the cathedral.  We wandered all over town, and using our stellar french asked for directions along the way.  We finally came upon a church but there was no one else there which we thought was strange.  But we took pictures before running back to the bus because we were late.  It was at this point that we realized the bus was parked in front of the actual cathedral.  I have one sad picture of the outside of it from the bus window and a number of pictures of some random church in town.

After just missing closing time last night I was starting to think I would never see the inside but at long last I made it inside!!!  We went at 8:30 when it opened and had time to wander around before mass at 9:15.  This was definitely not the church I saw on my last trip.  The feature that makes this cathedral famous is the stained glass.  The windows are really something to see.  It was really fun to watch the sunlight move across the windows during the very long mass (had no idea a regular Sunday mass could last that long…)  I am so glad I had the opportunity to return and actually see this beautiful cathedral.

There is a local yarn dyer (Destination Yarns) and she names all her colorways after destinations and they are all fabulous.  She had one named after the Chartres cathedral that I bought awhile ago because of my memories and now I see exactly why she used that name.  Now I will have to find the perfect project for it!!

We needed to return the car and catch a one hour train to Paris.  This should have been easy but it is Sunday and Bastille Day and we are in small town so it ended up being a little more difficult than one might think.  But everyone loves running to make a train, right?

In Paris we said goodbye to our pastor and the nun who had been with us and our group was down to three.  My dad had managed to book us a room in the Holiday Inn (I know but stick with me) Notre Dame which has the best rooftop bar in Paris which means a great view of the fireworks.  The room we had was listed at 500 Euro ($750 US give or take) but my Dad had booked with points.  Now, it was a nice room but not what I would expect for that kind of money (it did have a nice shower 🙂 )

The first thing we did was head to Sainte Chapelle.  This was another recommendation from our priest.  It was built by one of the King Louie’s and the downstairs chapel (which was really nice) was for the servants and the upstairs which had a large number of floor to ceiling stained glass windows was for the king’s family.  The chapel has an interesting history and the stained glass was a true work of art.  It is one of those tucked away Paris gems, right up the river from Notre Dame.  We grabbed a quick cafe lunch and then I headed to the hotel to enjoy my room by napping and facetiming with my parents.

We had scoped out the rooftop bar and I had received different answers as to availability of tables.  It sounded like if we got there after 8 there would be no tables so I headed up at 7 and got the best table in the roof.  I was pretty confident the French would not kick me out especially if I was still drinking and I was right.There I stayed until fireworks at 11.  I think my bar bill was more than some of the hotels I have stayed in on this trip but it was worth every penny!  By 10 you could hardly move up there.  I noticed a number of Aussies who were all really obnoxius (contrary to the Aussies I have met).  It was an interesting mix of people.  The fireworks were amazing and I was so excited that the railing by me was flat and really helped my camera take some great shots!  Can’t wait to download those!!!

Countdown!

I just finished my last project before vacation!  It’s the Glacerie shawl by Hilary Smith Callis.  I used the Elesbeth Lavold Silky Wool which was just delightful to work with.  I discovered the pattern browsing the popular patterns on Ravelry and am now in love with many of Hilary’s patterns.

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Now the countdown on is until I leave for Italy and France on July 1st.  I hate to start a new project before leaving and I already have my travel project ready to go.  There is much work to do for the trip.  If anyone has favorite yarn stores in Paris and/or Rome leave me a comment.  I’ve learned from other trips over the pond that I mostly find the same yarns I can find here in the States but you never know what you may find and I’m willing to go searching!