Category Archives: France

Paris, France

Sunset in Paris

Last weekend, we (once again) found ourselves in the beautiful city of Paris, but this time accompanied by Kevin’s parents.  We had superb weather and superb company in this superb city.

Here are the highlights…

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is one impressive place of worship.  Construction on this massive cathedral began in 1163 and continued for over 180 years.

East End of Notre-Dame Cathedral

East End of Notre-Dame Cathedral

The structure represents some of the best Gothic architectural elements in the world.  From its flying buttresses and magnificent spire on the outside to its vaulted ceilings and intricate stained glass windows on the inside, it’s no wonder this Cathedral is one of the most famous.

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d’Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay, on the left bank of the Seine, is one of our top museums.  One, for its extensive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces (Monet, Degas, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cézanne, etc.) and, two, for its structure.

Interior of Musée d’Orsay

Interior of Musée d’Orsay

The museum was originally a railway station and, from the photo above, you can see that it makes a striking space for a museum.  It is certainly one to visit over and over again.  (Note: Photographs are no longer allowed in the museum.  The photo above was taken December 2009).

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Sacré-Cœur Basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is located on Paris’ highest point in Montmartre.  Consecrated in 1919, the Romano-Byzantine Basilica took around 44 years to build.  The interior is dim, but the golden mosaic of Christ, located in the apse, provides enough light to lead the way. (It is also one of the largest mosaics in the world).  The exterior is built with a travertine stone that whitens with age, making Sacré-Cœur a striking landmark in the City of Light.

Musée Jacquemart-André

Musée Jacquemart-André

Musée Jacquemart-André

The Jacquemart-André Museum offers a look into the former home of a wealthy, 19th-century Parisian couple.  Edouard André and Nélie Jacquemart maintained an impressive collection of art, antiques, and unique finds from around the world.  With the informative audio guide in hand, it’s easy to slip into their sumptuous surroundings.  Fra Angelico and the Masters of Light exhibition is currently on display until 16 January 2012 and should not be missed.

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle Interior

Sainte-Chapelle Interior

Let’s begin with “Wow!”  I have never seen so many stained glass windows in one location before.

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle

La Sainte-Chapelle (or The Holy Chapel) is a Gothic architectural feat of glass, light, and color.  It was built by Louis IX, between 1242 and 1248, to house his Holy Relics, which included (supposedly) the Crown of Thorns (presently kept in the Notre-Dame Cathedral Treasury).  The 15 panels of stained glass cover over 1,100 scenes from the Bible, leaving a lasting impression on the senses.

…and that wraps up our trip!

Thanks for a great weekend, Marcia and Dave.  We had a wonderful time with you in Paris—a city that never disappoints!

P.S.  Congratulations, Josh & Sylvia!  It was so great to be with you in Paris.

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April in Paris

[Sarah Vaughan—one of my favorite Jazz singers.]

“I never knew the charm of spring” until last weekend in Paris.  This song played like an anthem in my head.  Paris, you simply stunned us… (I just want to weep like this sculpture, with tears of joy, of course.)

Kevin and I stayed in the Marais neighborhood, and, in our humble opinion, was a great location to get just about anywhere in Paris.  With its numerous cafés, brasseries and boutique shops, it’s an easy place to fall right into the scene.

Paris in Bloom

We spent most of the three-day getaway walking around Paris, taking pleasure in the city’s cafe culture and wandering through its beautiful gardens and parks.  Just about every flower and tree was in bloom.  We also spent one day touring the Palace of Versailles, which you can read about in another post.

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges

This perfectly symmetrical square, Place des Vosges, is one of the oldest in Paris. It was designed by Henry IV and was once a chosen site for duels.  Today,  the square is simply enjoyed by the locals and k&mk as well.

Luxembourg Gardens

Relaxing in Luxembourg Gardens

Likewise with Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg).  This is one of Paris’s most beloved parks.  The garden/park/rec area is the property of the French Senate and comes with its own set of rules about its use (e.g. where to run, walk dogs, play music, etc).  With its myriad of fountains, statues, trees and flower beds this is the perfect place to take a stroll or “catch some rays.”

We made one museum stop to the Musée de l’Orangerie to view Monet’s water lilies—eight of the approximately 250 paintings are displayed in the two oval rooms specifically built for this collection.  They are breathtaking to see in-person.

Paris Marathon

Paris Marathon

Upon leaving the l’Orangerie, we watched runners from the Paris Marathon show their stride.  “Go, Go, Go!”

It was an amazing three days.  Oh, Paris, “What have you done to my heart?”

From Paris With Love

April In Paris

Palace of Versailles (April in Paris – Part Deux)

Louis XIV

Oh, Louis, Louis

As part of our three-day April in Paris getaway, we spent one of the days meandering around the grand Palace and Domain of Versailles, which is about a 30-40 minute train ride southwest of Paris.  We toured the Palace (or Château), the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon and walked around the grounds.

Palace of Versailles

Palace of Versailles

Domain/Gardens of Versailles

Domain/Gardens of Versailles

The site of the Palace began as a small hunting lodge for Louis XIII but after several expansions and transformations (and three King Louis) later it became what it is today…undeniably massive.   The court and government of France moved to Versailles in 1682, which only added to its splendor at the time.

Petit Trianon

Petit Trianon

The Petite Trianon, part of Marie-Antoinette’s estate, was her personal palace and her escape from royal life.

Grand Trianon

Grand Trianon (and two lovers)

Inside of Grand Trianon

Inside of Grand Trianon

Louis XIV use the Grand Trianon to escape the rigors of court life…and also for his mistress.  ahem.

The Queen's Bedroom

Queens Bedroom

The Palace of Versailles is a spectacular place.  It is certainly fit for a queen… and maybe even for a king.  wink-wink.

Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France

Mer de Glace Glacier

Mer de Glace Glacier

K "tearing it up"

K "tearing it up"

Over the weekend, we ran off to Chamonix  Mont-Blanc, France for some spring skiing.  We skied the slopes on Brévent & Flégère and enjoyed it tremendously.  Due to warm spring temperatures and lack of recent snowfall, the snow conditions weren’t optimal but it was a welcomed experience to ski in the French Alps.

Chamonix Village

View from Chamonix Village

Chamonix is located in the south-eastern part of France (in the north-western part of the Alps) with a population of around 10,000.  Being a part of this majestic mountainous area, Chamonix provides breathtaking views in any direction you care to look.   The entire area is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground as it offers loads of winter and summer activities like skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and rafting.  Chamonix was also the site of the first Olympic Winter Games held in 1924.

Besides our day on the slopes, we also went to see one of Chamonix’s special attractions—the Mer de Glace glacier (see photo at top of post).  We took a short train ride from Chamonix village on the Montenvers Train (which began operating in 1908) and snaked our way up the side of the mountain range for indescribable views of the valley and, of course, the Alps.  The Montenvers Station is built on a ridge overlooking the Mer de Glace glacier and surrounded by Les Drus, Les Grands Jorasses and the Aiguille du Grepon peaks.  At the station we watched droves of skiers complete their journey down the famous Vallée Blanche—an off-trail ski route 20 miles long with a vertical descent of almost 9,000 feet (see photo below).  Kevin said he will return to do this.

Vallée Blanche

Skiers finishing the Vallée Blanche

We took the small cable car from Montenvers Station to a platform midway down and then descended approximately 300 stairs until we reached the glacier to check out the man made ice grotto (caves carved out of the ice).

Stairs to Glacier

Stairs to Mer de Glace Glacier

Level of Glacier in 1990

Level of Glacier in 1990 - disturbing

Upon return to Chamonix valley, the sun was out and the sky was a brilliant blue—a sight we haven’t seen in months!  (Sorry, London.)  We ate lunch outside, sipped French Wine and reveled in the moment.  Ahh, Magnifique!

Lunch in Chamonix

Lunch in Chamonix