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Archive for the category “France”

Paris is always a good idea

I’m on the train back to Brussels and although I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip, I know I could have spent a month in Paris. It’s hard to describe but it certainly lived up to my expectations and despite a few inconsiderate individuals (who were all foreigners btw), I had an amazing time. I spoke French and felt quite comfortable doing so, in restaurants, museums, and stores. I found it much easier to understand than québécois French and they understood what I was saying, and I found myself rediscovering my vocabulary that was 17 years dormant. I’m sure my verbs were all messed up, but c’est la vie. I’m also using French in Belgium as I’m clueless in Flemish.

Instead of another 3 day play by play post, this one will be a highlight of the rest of our adventures. Thinking back on it all, the best part for me was visiting Palais Garnier – Opéra de Paris. Some people get emotional seeing the Eiffel tower or on a cruise on the Seine, but no I’m the one who had the tears running down her face at the foot of the opera staircase. We spent a good 2 hours touring the costume and set libraries, the golden grand foyer, exploring the interior and exterior balconies and eventually saw the orchestra as they were ending a tech rehearsal for the performance that evening. The chandelier surround, painted by Chagall, depicts scenes from operas by 14 composers. The gift shop yielded some very cherished souvenirs.

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We had some fun walking along Avenue des Champs-Élysées, window shopping and then spent some real time shopping at sephora. We also saw Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, and the crazy round about traffic that seemed to make very little sense.

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Monday morning we explored Monmartre and found the Moulin Rouge and the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, which is the highest point of the city.

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I’m back in Brussels now and desperately need to get to bed so here are a few more pictures of the amazing places we visited and the great food we ate. Paris did not disappoint me in any way and I know I’ll be back to visit again.

Musée d’Orsay

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Our street

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Our view from the flat

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Eiffel Tower – day and night

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Paris Day 2 – Museum hopping

Our second day was filled with museum visits. We found a cafe to have our petit déjeuner and then we were off!

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Since our flat is so close, we visited the grounds of the Archives nationales specifically Hôtel de Soubise. The grounds were nice but of course the building was not open as it was Sunday morning.

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Our first stop was the Pompidou Centre, home to modern and contemporary art. What is so unique about the building isn’t just the art inside but the building design enabled the galleries to be enormous uncluttered spaces while all of the elevators, stairs, air and water ducts, and escalators are all outside in coloured and glass tubes. It was from the glassed in front escalators that I got my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur.

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While modern art really isn’t my thing, I did enjoy seeing works from Warhol, Picasso, Rothko and Matisse.

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For lunch, I had a new food: Alsatian flammekueche. A thin baked dough with which is covered with crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions and lardons. You could then add additional topping, which I opted for goat cheese and honey. Also had a glass of Gewurtztraminer 🙂

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The Louvre was stop #2 on our museum day and I must say that I was glad we opted for the museum pass. It gave us priority access, which is a separate entrance completely and there wasn’t a queue at all. Inside we only looked at 3 sections yet climbed what felt like a million stairs. We focused on Greek and Roman sculpture, and Italian paintings. My favourite was Venus de Milo and I thought the fuss and crowd around the Mona Lisa was more fun to see than the painting itself.

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We explored the grounds and walked along the Tuileries. Stopped for a water break and eventually made our way to museum #3: L’Orangerie. It is art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, most famous for Monet’s eight water lilly murals. Pictures are not allowed inside this museum so I bought a few postcards.

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That evening we ate at a Moroccan restaurant. We both had tagine, a slow cooked stew, named for the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. Mine was chicken and pears and it was served with spiced bread. It was very dark, almost exclusively candlelit, so the pictures are a bit hard to see.

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Stay tuned for the next update where we journey to the top of Montmartre and visit Sacre Coeur.

A fast train to Paris

On Saturday afternoon we made our way to Gare Midi for our Thalys train to Paris. I was impressed with the comfortable seats and smooth ride considering we travelled at about 300km/h. The entire trip took less than 90 minutes and we arrived at Paris Gare du Nord.20120708-080815.jpg20120708-080922.jpg
We took the metro to the 3eme arrondissement and found our apartment. The location is close to the archives and Pompidou modern art museum. We walked down rue des archives and soon found ourselves in the square in front of Hôtel de Ville. It was from there that it really hit me hat I was in Paris as you coud see Île de la Cité with Notre Dame.

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We crossed Pont d’Arcole into Île de la Cité and entered the square in front of Notre Dame. The details in the sculptures on the facade was remarkable. We entered the cathedral and a mass was underway. The silence maintained was reverent and we kept to the sides of the church. The rose window was stunning and the lit chandeliers gave everything a soft glow.
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We walked along the side of Notre Dame to see the flying buttresses and into Square Jean XXXIII. We took a bottled water break on a bench and admired the fountain and flowers. We then crossed Pont de l’Archevêché, which is adorned with thousands of “love locks”. Lovers write their names or initials on the locks and lock it on the bridge, a romantic gesture that fills both sides of the railings.
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Now that we were in the Latin Quarter, we searched out a bistro for supper. Alison had stayed in this area on a previous trip, so she knew some of the restaurants in the area. We settled in at Le Jardin d’Artemis. I enjoyed stuffed mushrooms, confit de canard and chocolate fondant cake. We also had a full bodied Côtes du Rhône wine.

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Tomorrow’s post will be all about museums! Bonsoir de Paris!

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