Sunday, February 28, 2010

Going For The Brass Ring

I think one of my all time favorite memories of Paris will be one gray evening when it wasn't too cold so we took the boys to the park at the Champ de Mars. While they were playing at the playground we noticed the carousel was open. We decided to check it out, and found it was an old school, man powered crank carousel where the kids try to catch brass rings on sticks each time they go around. My favorite part was the guy running the carousel, who really seemed to love being there as much as the kids, so much so that every time one of the kids missed getting a ring he would enthusiastically say "Presque!" (almost). And it was another time I saw the Parisians drop their cold exteriors for just a moment and get caught up in the game, smiling as they watched in the twilight. For some reason it was one of those magic Paris moments you expect to happen all the time, but rarely encounter.

And, of course, I didn't have my camera.

But the boys have gone back several times, and yesterday we finally got photos:

Mr. Presque. I love this guy. Seriously, when I am about to give up on Parisians altogether, I run into someone like this that makes me think maybe my judgments have been a little too harsh.

Max, poised and ready. He takes this carousel very, very seriously.

And his dedication pays off. His all time record is nine rings. Not too shabby for an American kid.

And Jack's getting better and better with practice.
Here he is gearing up.

Getting closer (with the help of Mr. Presque, pointing where he should aim).


A Serious Blog Backlog

So, like I mentioned, I had a few migraines, but now that I am ready to start blogging again I am finding that I have way too much to blog about.

Like, it's going to take some serious time to catch up.

But I promise to get to it ASAP. I just have to stop doing things and taking so many pictures. And stop getting headaches. But I am going to do it soon.

I promise. And this time I mean it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Basically, France Triggers Migraines

So, I've had nasty migraines on and off for the last week. It's doubly hard when all I want to do is get out and see everything in Paris. I did a little internet research today thinking it may be something I've been eating that's made my headaches a little worse lately, and this is the list of foods I should be avoiding:

  • Chocolate
  • Dairy Products, especially yogurt and cheese
  • Diet Soda
  • Rhubarb
  • Cured Meats

Or, in short, 90% of my diet in France. Fantastic.

But we have still been getting out and doing A LOT, and I plan to start writing about it soon, I promise.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

At Notre Dame Cathedral

The first day the students got here we took them to the Hotel De Ville Metro stop to catch a river cruise, and Steve said "We won't be able to see Notre Dame today," with Notre Dame pronounced with a very American accent, and I said, a little under my breath, "because Notre Dame is in Indiana." And the funny thing is, he keeps calling it by the name of the University and I tease him every time.

And I enjoy it fully.

But we still hadn't taken the kids to see Notre Dame (pronounced with a French accent this time) so decided to go the other day. We downloaded the animated Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame for them to watch on the plane ride over, and, although I am not a huge fan of Disney, I have to thank them for getting them excited to see it.

And it did not disappoint.

The famous Rosetta stained glass windows in all their glory.

The boys both loved the lit candles in Notre Dame, and we made a donation to light one too. They asked me what they were for, I told them that it was like saying a prayer. They liked that idea.

Being statues in front of Notre Dame as one of those fabulous gypsy women came up to ask if we spoke English.

We didn't answer. Is that so wrong?
I'm thinking it's a good thing we lit that candle.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Toto, I Don't Think We're In Paris Anymore...

Oh, but we are. We are at La Défense, one of the business districts of Paris. When I first visited this area I thought I had somehow been transported from Paris to some futuristic Asian city after just a short ride on the Metro. It's a big departure from historical Paris, but it really appeals to my modern sensibilities, so I love it.

I find it just as beautiful as any old Arc de Triomphe any day.

City of the future. Built in the 80's and 90's.

Cool, curvy architecture.


And then, stuck between the buildings you find some beautiful, modern sculptures. Like this one by Joan Miró. Nice to have something pretty to look at on your lunch break.

But then, every once in a while, you are reminded that you are, indeed in Paris when you see some of the old mixed in with the new.

Tile Tower: This multi-story tower is completely covered with 1 x 1 mosaic tiles... well as this super-cool modern rainbow fountain.

And more color within the glass and steel. I saw this tower from the distance, and just had to walk up and see what it was made of.

Turns out it was covered with multi-colored metal pipes. I kinda went crazy with the photos, but all I had to do was point and shoot and voilà, modern art.

This is what I love about living in Paris vs. visiting Paris. You get the time to check out parts of the city like La Dèfense, where I probably wouldn't have taken time to check out if I was here for a short time. And it's totally worth seeing. And another thing I'm loving about Paris, Just when I think I figuring it out, I find it has more surprises in store for me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Seriously Paris, I Can't Keep Up

So the other day when Steve got home I needed to get out on my own for a minute, so I decided to take a walk around the block. Although, in Paris, there really is no such thing, more like a walk around the triangle, or more accurately, the sorta pie shaped wedge. Anyway, I went out and I had always noticed this big, gold dome behind our house, and wondered what it was. I asked Steve, and he just shrugged, so I figured I'd go check it out.
As I walked up to it, I realized that it was Les Invalides, which includes, oh, just the Tomb of Napoleon, as in Bonaparte, as in one of the most famous leaders in the free world. And this is where I was walking to just to get some fresh air for a few minutes at the end of the day. Surreal.
Well, I got home and told Steve, so we planned a visit with the boys. And of course, I have photos for you:

The tomb of Napoleon. Quite large for a guy who was supposed to be quite small. A little short-man syndrome going on, peut-être?

Angels In The Architecture: I loved these angels that surrounded the tomb. At first glance they looked all the same, but then, on closer examination, I found that each one held different objects, their hair was different, and even the draping of their robes was a little different on each one. Amazing.

The interior of the dome.


This stained glass window was all amber and absolutely glowed in the dim afternoon light. I can only imagine how it would look on a sunny day.

Probably the most amazing inlaid marble floors I've ever seen.

The courtyard, complete with cannons.

Max with some heavy artillery. Jack is missing because he decided to take a nap in the stroller, and missed all the good stuff.

That's the Eiffel Tower up in the mist in the distance. So that's in front of our apartment, and Les Invalides is behind.

I loved these teardrop shaped hedges, and the whole front garden was full of them. Together they looked like a city of aliens creeping through the foggy afternoon.

Just when I think I'm starting to get used to living in Paris, when I'm starting to stop gawking at the Eiffel Tower in our front yard every day when I walk by it, I catch a view of what's out back and I realize, I'm never going to get used to this. And I'm never going to see it all.

But believe me, I'm gonna try.

The Top Three Things To Do In London (Besides Eating, Of Course)

So, when we lived in London, we were like so over all the tourist sites. We thought, "Hey, we live here, we don't go see that stuff," with our noses a bit in the air. But truth be told, it was good we had friends and family visit who wanted to see all that stuff so we went along with them. Most of it is pretty cool. So when we knew we would be taking the boys to London, we both decided that top of our list of places to take them was the Tower of London. I mean, what little boy doesn't like knights, high towers, and artillery? They did enjoy most of it, and right about when they started saying they wanted to go home, we always seemed to find something else they were interested in. For a few minutes anyway.

Arriving at the Tower on a gray and drizzly day. In London. Go Figure. Max certainly looks happy to be there, doesn't he?

Climbing up one of the towers. Sorry the photo's blurry, but it was one of Max's favorite things about the whole experience.

Big things to hit people with. Cool.

A little sword practice for Max.

This knight is so tough, even his horse needs armor.

Tower views.

And for only 4,000 pounds, you can have this little trinket to take home with you. We went for 3.50 pound plastic swords instead.

Max attempting a duel with the guard at the Royal Jewel House. The guard fought back by promptly sticking out his tongue. Click on the photo to get the full effect.

Our second favorite site was the London Eye, which had just opened when we lived in London, and was all the rage. It's still pretty amazing, I have to say, and the boys loved that that it took them even higher than Big Ben. I loved that you didn't have to wait in line for hours to get on like when we first rode it. Hey, maybe it's passé, but I'll take it.

Me pointing out St. Paul's Cathedral, saying something like "When it's warmer, we'll take you right to the top." It really is one of the best views of London. But not when its below freezing. Which it was. Boo hoo.

Max, Jack, and Big Ben (looking rather small).

Don't look down.

The neighbors.

Another thing I really wanted to do with the boys in London was Tube Surfing. It can only happen when you're on an empty car of the Tube and you stand up in the middle while it's moving and try not to fall without holding onto anything. Our local Tube by our apartment when we lived in London often had empty cars, so we got lots of practice. I was fearful that we wouldn't get a chance to try it with the boys, but low and behold, on a busy Saturday afternoon on the Picadilly Line, we found a beautiful, empty car just ripe for surfing. And I have to say, the boys were naturals.

Showing the young ones how it's done.

Oh yeah, and we walked through Chinatown the day before Chinese New Year and got this pretty shot. That was cool too.

It really was a great trip to London, and since it was cut short and we got a free round trip ticket from Eurostar, we plan to be back again soon. With a little more time, and less delays (hopefully).