Friday, December 12, 2008

Musée du Louvre

I finally made it to a museum! On Wednesdays & Fridays the Louvre is open well into the evening, so I took advantage of the extended hours and went.

I decided to walk to the Louvre since it's only about 10 minutes away and I wanted the exercise. By the time I got there, my toes were literally numb and my face was frozen. It's really getting cold here!

I bought my ticket online weeks ago on - very convenient. You just order online and then pick up your ticket(s) at any Virgin Megastore (there happens to be one right around the corner from my apartment). Having a ticket in advance saves you a TON of time at the Louvre since you don't have to wait in long lines. If you are coming to Paris, you can order your tickets in advance while still in the US at and have them sent to you in the mail before you leave for Paris. Can't say enough about pre-purchasing/pre-reserving as much as possible online in advance of a trip here!

I've been to the Louvre many times. And still, the size of the museum is overwhelming. I always start out attempting to use the map of the place to navigate around, but there are so many floors, hallways, staircases, chambers, etc., that it's literally like a maze. So I eventually give up and just start wandering around aimlessly. Tonight was no different :-)

I guess I spent about 3-4 hours at the museum tonight. I know, it doesn't seem like nearly enough time, does it? But you could spend months/years here and still not see everything. A few hours was all my feet could take! Before leaving, I grabbed a quick bit to eat in the food court in the Carousel du Louvre - an underground shopping area connected to the museum.

After leaving the Louvre, I walked down the Rue de Rivoli for a bit where there are a ton of touristy souvenir stores. But it was so cold, I finally had to just dart into a Metro entrance and head home. BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!

p.s. Congratulations to Sherri & Chris who got married today in Atlanta!

Click here to view all of today's photos from the Louvre (12/12/08)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Marché de Noël at St-Sulspice

In my quest to go to as many of the Christmas Markets in Paris as I can, I went to one at St-Suspice after school today since it is only one metro stop away from the Alliance Francais. What I've noticed is that most of the Marchés de Noël basically sell the same items - candles, jewelry, scarves/hats/gloves, Russian crafts (nesting dolls, etc.), wooden toys and candy, meats and other delicacies. But it's still fun going to them to people watch and get into the holiday spirit.

One thing you see being sold everywhere - in the Marchés de Noël as well as on the street outside the big department stores - are hot chestnuts. Or "Marrons Chauds" as they are called in French.

I thought this photo of two little girls waiting for their marrons was really cute! You can see on the sign that the other holiday favorite is listed as well... vin chaud (hot wine) - for the parents!

Click here to view all of today's photos (12/11/08)

Le Police... on Rollerblades?!?

I'm really not sure what to make of it, but I've seen a lot of police in Paris patrolling the streets on rollerblades!

This photo of the rollerblading crime fighters was taken at the Christmas Market at St-Sulspice. But I've also seen them on the street! I saw two rollerblading police flag down and pull over a car today on a very busy street for a traffic infraction. And much to my amazement, the car actually pulled over!

I'm not sure if the rollerblades are an attempt to save on fuel or emissions or if there is something else behind it. I need to research this - inquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Forum des Halles

Very early on in my trip I walked around in the area over by the Forum des Halles - a big underground shopping complex fairly close to my apartment (check out the photos from November 2nd). I decided to walk back over there tonight and actually spend some time looking around.

Most Parisians consider the Forum des Halles an eyesore - I tend to agree. It's basically a huge hole in the ground with a glass roof. It sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the beauty of the 1st Arrondisement (home of the Louvre and many quaint streets and markets).

Like the big shopping mall out by La Defense (Quarte Temps), walking around the Forum des Halles reminded me a lot of being in a South Florida mall - lots of rowdy teenagers hanging out, big crowds, and way too much commercialism.

Having been to both malls now, while the Forum des Halles is much closer to central Paris, the Quart Temps mall out by La Defense is much nicer. If you feel you "have" to go to a mall in Paris, I'd recommend going to Quart Temps.

I didn't actually buy anything, but I have had to stop myself from buying any more clothes. For one thing, none of these winter clothes are wearable in Florida! For another, I'm starting to worry that even with 4 suitcases I'm not going to be able to fit everything in - ha! But I do have to say it has been a lot of fun wearing winter clothes and observing the Paris fashion scene and trying to replicate it :-)

p.s. Sadly, there has been no more snow since yesterday afternoon's freezing rain/snow flurry showers :-(

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It Finally Snowed Today ...for a few minutes anyhow!

So while I was sitting in class today, I looked out the window at about 12:15pm and....... it was snowing!

Everyone - even the teacher - was excited :-) We all gawked for a few minute then when back to work. Of course, I was VERY distracted. I guess I was kind of like a kid up north who can't concentrate in school the first day it snows because she's anxious to get outside and play it in!

Of course by the time class let out at 1pm it had stopped. Well, it didn't stop exactly. Stuff was still falling from the sky, but instead of pretty snowflakes it was now freezing rain :-( That continued for the next hour or so as I darted in and out of shops over by the Catacombs (Metro: Denfert Rochereau). Every now and then the snowflakes would resume but by the time I'd grab my camera... freezing rain again - grrrr! I figured the temperature must be hovering just at freezing for it to keep going back and forth between rain and snow - sure enough, says the temp is 34 degrees, so that explains it.

I finally decided to head home. My hair was soaking wet from the freezing rain, I still had my school books with me and I was cold and hungry. Plus, the last couple of days I've felt like I was coming down with a cold. I'm trying really hard to fight it off (I'm so glad I remembered to bring vitamins and cold medicine with me) so I figured walking around in freezing rain any longer than I already had probably wasn't the best course of action. I really need to find a hat I look decent in! Or carry a snow/freezing rain umbrella with me at all times :-)

So now I'm back in my warm apartment (yes, the heat is on) and I just had a nice hot lunch (left over pot roast I made on Sunday). I think I may stay in and rest this afternoon, even though it's only 3:45pm. I sort of feel bad wasting the afternoon inside, but I really don't want to get sick. Plus, I have homework to do - ha!

Of course I reserve the right to go out later if it starts snowing again - to play in it and take video :-) I have my curtains open and I'm sitting right in front of the window to keep watch!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Stroll Down the Boulevard St-Germain

A really cool thing in Paris is that on the first Sunday of every month, most of the museums are free - for everyone! They are always free to people under 25 (which is also a fantastic thing), but on the first Sunday of the month they open up for the masses. This is such a great way to get kids involved in art and culture from an early age and to give families something to do together that doesn't cost anything. I love France!

Of course as with anything that is "free" there are the corresponding long lines to go along with it. And so, just like last month on the first Sunday of the month - I tried to go to a museum (the Musee Orsay) - but when I got there, I just couldn't deal with the idea of waiting in line for an hour to get in. The temperature was in the mid-30s today and I was fine as long as I kept moving, so I decided instead to take a long walk from the Musee Orsay all the way down the Boulevard St-Germain through the Latin Quarter and over to Notre Dame Cathedral.

It's a Sunday afternoon ritual for Parisians to stroll down the Boulevard St-Germain. You could see that it was mostly locals walking around. There are lots of stores to window shop in - antiques, furniture, clothes - and of course lots of cafes.

I passed by two cafes - almost next door to one another - that have a history of being the hangouts of intellectuals and artists, the Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots. Back in the 1920-30s, Earnest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde and Picasso used to hang out at Les Deux Magots! Today apparently, the Cafe de Flore is the more "fashionable" of the two cafes to people watch from :-)

Speaking of Hemingway... I recently discovered a great quote by him and then coincidentally when I was in the Shakespeare and Company bookstore today, saw it again up on the wall...

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young [wo]man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." - Earnest Hemingway

Click here to view all of today's photos (12/07/08)

Marché de Noël at St-Germain des-Pres

As I strolled down the Boulevard St-Germain this afternoon, I came across another Marché de Noël at the Eglise St-Germain des-Pres. Since it was daytime, the photos will give you a better idea of what the Marchés de Noël are like - cute little houses selling holiday gifts and treats.

Many of the marchés sell similar things. But some are different. I went to one at the Gare de l'Est last night that only had candy and wine - TONS of wine. And free taste testing! (David & Christine, I thought about how much you two would have loved that!)

It's so festive running across Marchés de Noël all around the city!

Click here to view all of today's photos (12/07/08)

Organ Recital at Notre Dame Cathedral

At the end of my walk, I found myself over in the Latin Quarter and stopped in the Shakespeare and Company bookstore to browse around. It's a tiny little place with books stacked from floor to ceiling. Probably the most famous English language book shop in Paris, there are a lot of book readings and signings that take place here. If you saw the movie "Before Sunset" you'll recognize the place - it's the bookshop where the movie begins.

Afterward, I walked across the street to Notre Dame. They have the big Christmas tree up now in front of the church - so pretty! I read online this morning that there was going to be an organ recital today at 4:30pm so I got there just in time to sit down and enjoy it.

The church was packed and when the sound of that huge pipe organ began reverberating off the walls and ceiling of Notre Dame, it was incredible. I took some video so you could listen too!

Click here to view all of today's photos (12/07/08)