Monday, June 27, 2016

La Fin

We are at the twilight of our trip and leave for home in the morning.  Some of us are more eager to go home than others, but all of us are excited to be heading out.  It has been a fantastic week in Paris.

Yesterday (Sunday) we went to see Sacre Coeur and Montmartre.  There is a large cemetery in Montmartre that Kate really wanted to see that had the grave of Degas.  It was very large and well kept, with lots and lots of tombs and grave markers.  The area was home to many artists of the bohemian era such as Vincent Van Gogh and Pierre Renoir.   We came back to the hotel early and had dinner at a nice Chinese restaurant, but the food was only so-so.  After dinner, we left our daughter with her electronic pacifier (iPad) and my wife and I took a nice long stroll alone the Seine river with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop.  It was a nice way to end our evening.

This morning we had our final breakfast at the hotel as we will be leaving early tomorrow morning.  As usual, we make it down just before it closes at 11am.  We again take off towards the Metro and take a number of trains until we reach the St Germain area.  We were here several times already, but have always been rushing through it on our way someplace else.  Today we spent time exploring several of the places on our list, such as the Shakespeare bookstore and cafe.  The place resembles something you might imagine from a Harry Potter book and is situated in a small narrow alley off the main drag.  There were many rooms full of nooks and crannies where people could wander or stop and read.  Small narrow staircases lead to tiny rooms packed floor to ceiling with books.  Nicknacks, posters and signs filled any spaces where books could not fit and you could spend hours in there exploring everything.  How anyone could find what they were looking for in there is beyond me, but it was a blast to run through it.

For those who are in to fashion, we covered that today as well.  The first stop was a Karl Lagerfeld book store called 7L.  Unfortunately it was closed, but it was interesting to see.  After that, we decided to seek out Coco Chanel's very first store.  Of course when we discovered it was open today, we had to drag ourselves inside (blah...), but even I have to admit it was very nice.  The staff treated us like our pockets were filled with Euro's and we were out to spend it all.  It is nice to experience customer service at that level, even it we only purchased some nail polish.  I think Mackenzie is thrilled just to have the bag it came in!  Very cute...

We are off for what is likely our last meal in Paris now, so I will sign out here.  Looking forward to returning home and seeing Jack and our animals.  It will be nice to sleep in our own bed again, though I understand there is a bit of a heat wave going on at the moment.  Not looking forward to that!

-Scott


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Metro

So I did promise to talk about the Metro here in Paris.  It is our magic carpet for getting around the city and I don't know how we would do without it.  On our first day here, we purchased a five day pass so we could ride as often as we wished, and it turned out to be a great decision.  While our first venture in to the bowels of the Metro was less than successful, we very quickly learned its ways and are now able to travel easily from station to station.  I am honestly confused about any advice that tells you that you don't need a Metro pass if you are going to be spending any time within Paris.  In my opinion, it is essential!  We descend in to the bowels of the underground Metro system and very quickly emerge at our destination.  There are maps that make it easy to figure out your route and I carry one in my pocket all the time.  The trains are usually crowded as they are very popular, but people will make enough room for you to stand or sit.  I love riding the Metro as it I find it very nostalgic, not to mention super convenient.

One of the many things I really enjoy about traveling abroad is how different things are from what we are used to in the states.  The light switches, toilets and bathroom fixtures all seem to have a unique flavor to them which always take a few extra minutes to navigate.  The things we do everyday without thinking, demand your attention here.  Crossing the street, making a call, or finding a store that sells something you need can be tough.  Everything seems strange and confusing at first and I like having to figure it all out.  Vive la Difference!

The language difference in Paris has not really been much of a factor as we have had almost zero issues with communicating.  Most people here speak at least a little English, and Kate has been pretty good at filling in with her rusty French when we get stuck.  My understanding of French has improved quite a bit (from pretty much zero knowledge) and I am able to understand many of the common words such as sortie (exit), bonjour, merci and figure out quite a few others.

More later - Scott

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mise a jour (update)

So sorry for the delay in updating the blog, but so much going on I literally have not had any free time.  We are up for breakfast and then off to see the sights, only returning late at night.  Dinners have been after nine at night and we are not getting to bed until at least eleven.  Days have been well spent however.  Time is flying and our feet are hurting, but we are taking in as much as we possibly can with the time we have.  

So, where did I leave off...

THE LOUVRE!  Holy crap, this place is huge!  It is just so impressive both inside and out that it really is something you have to see in person.  Words can't really do justice to the place and I won't try here.  We really enjoyed the tour and probably would not have seen half of the famous works of art we did without someone showing us the way.  Ear phones were issued out to everyone and we went from room to room listening to the descriptions and backgrounds of the different art pieces.  

Next day we get up and head out to Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame and Musee Orsey, and finished the day by ascending to the top of the Eiffel Tower at dusk.  The first two are really impressive churches. The stained glass and architecture was very impressive, with Sainte Chapelle having the most impressive stained glass and Notre Dame just being beyond impressive.  It is a massive church, no hunch back that I could see however.  Disney may have mislead me!  Musee Orsey is an old train station that has been converted in to a museum and it really is nice.  It may have been our favorite museum to date.  While the Louvre is crazy big and has probably the most impressive art collection in the world, Musee Orsey has smaller display spaces and a more personal feel to it.  You can tell it was once a train station, but it must have been one hell of a station!  There are at least five stories, and you can look down on the first floor from the top.  

We took a Fat Tire tour up to the summit of the Eiffel Tower that night and the view of Paris was every bit as good as the tower itself.  I loved the old feel of the tower and it really looked like it has been there for a long time.  While I am sure it is structurally sound, you are almost taken back 70 or 80 years by the feel and smell of the place.  The tower itself is painted a brownish color, but they put something in the paint to make it stand out at night when the lights come on.  While it might be touristy, it is absolutely something you need to do when coming to Paris.  Don't miss seeing the sights from such a lofty vantage point.  

Okay?  Tired yet?  

The very next morning we get up early and and head out to the town and palace of Versailles.  Again we took a Fat Tire tour, this time on bicycles.  We met up close to the Eiffel Tower and boarded a train to the town of Versailles where we picked up our bikes.  From the bike shop, we headed over to the towns open air market to grab our lunch supplies.  There was everything there and we ended up with some Lebanese food and crepes.  From there, we took off to the palace grounds and rode around the open fields to different locations and finally to a large canal in the form of a cross.  It is a mile lone, a kilometer across and surrounded by grass and trees.  It is here we spread a tarp on the grass and have our lunch while admiring the palace in the distance.  After lunch we continue around the canal and back to the bike shop to return our bikes.  We are then lead back to the palace and given our tickets to tour the palace itself without having to wait in line.  The palace is world famous and it is very nice, but when you have seen one castle, you have seen them all.  Personally I enjoyed the bike ride around the grounds more than the palace itself.  

Still hanging in there?  Not done yet, but we are almost caught up.  Deep breaths!

This morning after our daily breakfast buffet at our hotel, we took the metro (more about the metro later) over to give our regards to Napoleon Bonaparte at Les Invalides.  There is also a military museum and exhibits in the same location that we decided to walk through.  Even with all that, my wife and daughter were more impressed with the cute little bunny rabbits running all over the grass there.  They were completely unafraid of people and you could get within just a couple of feet of some of them.  

On the metro again to arrive in the district of St Germain.  This is a cute little area over by Notre Dame with lots of shops and places to eat.  There is also a very large park called Jardin du Luxembourg that we walked over to so we could sit and relax.  The park is packed with Parisians and tourists hanging out and enjoying the day.  There are plenty of seats and benches about that you can use to get off your feet for a while.  Kids are playing and people walk about just taking it easy.  It is like a painting.


So we finally take the metro back to our hotel close to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées where we go have a quick dinner out.  Each time we cross the street, we are rewarded with a beautiful view of the Arc de Triomphe just down the street a few blocks.  The Champs-Elysées is a very busy street with lots of shops and restaurants and it is also where we catch the metro.  Tonight is probably the earliest we have been back to the hotel and it is still after 9 before we finish dinner.  

Whew, I think that is enough for the night.  I will upload photos in the morning.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Le Voyage

We are now just about half way through our first whole day in Paris.  We are resting up before touring the Louvre in a couple of hours and we won't be back until fairly late tonight.  Good time to catch up on what has been going on and get it down on to the blog.

Our journey went about as well as you could expect from a 10 hour flight in economy on a budget airline.  The first leg from SFO to Dublin was uneventful (which is a good thing) and we were able to entertain ourselves with movies, magazines and other distractions.  Not much in the way of sleep however.  The second leg from Dublin to Paris was full of excited soccer fans on their way to the tournament that France is hosting.  I must say that the Irish fans are a happy group in general and not a single soccer hooligan was seen.  They tend to be super friendly as well.

Paris is awesome, but we are still in the "deer in the headlights" stage at the moment.  I think all of us are still just a little rummy from the flight, but at least we feel pretty good.  We slept in this morning and had to wake ourselves up at 10 so we could go have our breakfast.  The day is hot and humid, but still comfortable.  Today has been spent getting oriented with our surroundings.  We took the metro to the Louvre so we knew were we were going tonight.  Sort of a test run.  It took some time, but we finally figured out how to purchase a 5-day metro pass so we can take it as much as we want.

Paris is a busy place!  Buses, cars and motorcycles zip by on the streets and people crowd the side walks.  The place is full of activity.  But as busy as it is, we have found that people have been very kind and helpful.  When we were having trouble with our metro passes, several people stopped to help, with one even going as far as to buy our tickets with his credit card (we paid him back in cash). So much for the snotty Parisian stereotype!  The recent flooding that hit Paris has left almost no trace except for a fast and muddy Seine.  The landscape is lush and very green, which is a nice change from our dry and dusty conditions at home.  There is a very  large police presence here, but I believe that it has more to due with the previously mentioned soccer tournament than it does with terrorism or crime.  You can hear chanting from wandering groups of soccer fans as you walk the city.  The fans are easily identified by their jerseys representing their home teams.  One moment you are swarmed in a sea of red, then the next yellow or green as you past through one group and then on to the next.  All are laughing and seem to be having a great time.

Our tour tonight will last three hours and I am pretty excited to go.  The Louvre is very impressive from the outside and I can hardly wait to see what the inside is like.

Check out our photos using the link in the upper right of the page.

- Scott


Day 1- Visiting the Louvre


Tonight we are going to Louvre (Inside) ! we took the Metro for the first time. Getting tickets was really hard since our credit card didn't work, but we got a 5 day pass after trying 3 times. We toured more of the city, getting to the metro. We have noticed the locals can be polite, and lots of them speak English which is super helpful !. Well the weather, is very hot and humid. Last night we were not able to sleep due to the heat, we had a window open which turned the air conditioning off ! when you were suppose to leave it closed to activate the cool air. Haha. Everybody here is for the soccer tournament the Euro 2016, lots of screaming on the streets and people wearing jerseys, lots of people with Italian jerseys. The french culture and the people are defiantly different from the U.S. !

Write Later - Mackenzie 

L'arrive

The view from close to our hotel.  We are within walking distance to many of the monuments and museums of Paris.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

France is calling!

...and it is telling us to bring lots of money when we come over!

Not kidding, this city is pretty expensive!

Anyhow, tomorrow at this time, three of the four Marin County Slagle's are heading over to SFO to board an Are Lingus flight to Paris France for a week long adventure.  This trip is a long time coming and we are very excited to finally be going.  Our youngest Slagle has decided it would be more fun to hang out with the Elder Eureka Slagle's and ride the quad up in McKinleyville.  Tough to compete with the grandparents.  Max also decided to accompany Jack, just to make sure he stayed out of trouble.  The cats will hold down the home fort (with an assist from our good friend Tammy).

Highlights will include the Eiffel tower (evening assent to the top), The Louvere, a bike tour of Versailles and many others.

Both Mackenzie and I will be blogging and posting photos, so stay tuned...