Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bye Bye Paris

On our last day in Paris before taking the train to Rome I decided to go one way and the women-folk decided to go another. The Mysterious Chinese Woman and her Equally Mysterious Sister decided to go see the windows of Sainte Chapelle and maybe do a little shopping. I wanted to visit the Musee De L'Homme or Museum of Man. The museum is located across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower and was an easy walk. We agreed that we would meet for lunch at one of the several cafes nearby in Trocadero, a neighborhood around Palais Le Chaillot. Palais Le Chaillot houses several museums including the one I wanted to see and a Naval Museum that would have been fun if I had more time.

A view of the Palais Le Chaillot from the Eiffel Tower. I pulled this picture from the web because I never did get to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The View

And, of course, a view of the Eiffel Tower from Palais Le Chaillot

The Other View

After a week of really nice weather you can see that Paris turned wet on the day we were to leave.

The museum may have been more educational if I could read French, but I found the exhibits to be quite interesting.

Half Man and Half Woman

Heh, I guess the above picture of this exhibit in a French museum is considered too racy for Photobucket to allow. Not too racy for the group of grade school children who were visiting the museum, however. Go figure.

I guess this was someone shedding their skin.

Hey, A Little Privacy, Please

They had a lot of pictures on crates to create, I guess, the impression that they might contain the actual remains.

An Odd Collection

Another Oddity

And The Contents Of The Crate

I guess the objective was to show that some early sketches, as ludicrous as they may look, may have been based on some factual evidence.

This Was Just Spooky

All and all, even with the language thing, I spent an enjoyable morning browsing through the many exhibits. One of the themes seemed to be how all people, as diverse as they may look and as diverse as their life styles may be, are much more closely related than most of us realize.

The restaurant where we were supposed to meet was quite crowded with business people having lunch, but we did manage to find a table.

Cafe Du Trocadero

And, of course, a view of the Eiffel Tower from the restaurant.

You Can See It From Everywhere

We didn't have a lot of time to do much more after lunch than buy some sandwiches and a bottle of wine for the train ride, then it was off to the train station.

Gare De Paris Bercy

Not as fancy as Grand Central, but it seems to get the job done.

Waiting For The Train

And, finally, it was time to board.

All Aboard

Stay tuned for the train ride and our adventures in Rome.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Versailles And More, And Less

The "girls" wanted to visit Versailles and I figured that as long as I was in Paris I would be remiss if I failed to visit as well. Rather than pay the fairly hefty price for a tour we decided to just take the subway and then buy tickets on our own. Maybe that wasn't the best idea, but I still am not sure.

The subway drops you off just a short walk from Versailles. It was a crowded ride up to a point. There appears to be some kind of an office park on this line and a lot of people who work in Paris take the subway to get there. We must have hit it just about rush hour.

When you get to Versailles the first thing you notice is...THE LINES. And we got there early enough so that we thought we would beat the rush.


More Lines

Of course one of the reasons for the lines at this hour was because of some kind of a mini-strike that was going on. This one resulted in delaying the opening of the ticket offices for an hour and a half.

Work Stoppage In Progress

The French and their strikes. Got to love them. Just a nuisance thing now because France passed some kind of a law that a strike cannot interrupt a "vital service." So you get these pathetic things like delaying the opening of Versailles for an hour and a half. Just something to piss of the tourists.

One day I couldn't get a copy of The Herald, the New York Times international edition. I was told it was because of a strike of some kind. Apparently there was also a train strike when I was there. It didn't seem to affect the subways, though. I guess the subways are considered to be essential.

At least when Spain has strikes they are strikes with meat behind them. Garbage piles up, rats start carrying off small children, that kind of thing.

There were long lines beginning to form for the toilets even though it was still early in the day. I am not sure if they were late in opening too, or if this is just standard.

Holding It The Best I Can

I decided that I would pass on standing in line to get into Versailles itself and just spend time in the gardens. I left the interior to the Mysterious Chinese Woman and her Equally Mysterious Sister.

The gardens were quite interesting, lots of statues and fountains and no lines and free. Well, it was free, but the fountains weren't turned on either. Apparently they only turn the fountains on certain days and for certain occasions and then they charge admission. And there are probably lines.

Not A Bad Back Yard

This palace used to be a hunting lodge. You know, just a place to hang out, drink beer, play cards, and shoot the occasional wild stag as it walks by. As a result several of the fountains have a wildlife theme to them.

Teeth And Claws

Paws and Antlers

There were a few more traditional statues as well. Must have been the woman's touch.

I have to give this poor woman credit for her patience. The guy taking her picture spent forever focusing his camera and moving her to different spots. It reminded me of my Dad taking pictures of the family when I was a kid. I got stressed just watching.

Say Cheese

I told the Mysterious Chinese Woman that after I checked out the gardens I would head back to the hotel and meet them there latter. Luckily there was a little cafe on the way back to the subway where I stopped to get a beer.

Beer Time

As you can probably surmise, I had a Heineken.

That evening we headed back to Montmartre for dinner again. The Equally Mysterious Sister had read about a seafood restaurant that was supposed to be very good.

La Mascotte

Our visit turned out to be not so hot. We got there about 6:00 P.M. and were told that the restaurant did not start serving until 7:00 P.M. No suggestion that we sit at a table and have a drink while we waited, nothing. Well, the girls decided to go shopping and I decided to pop in across the street for a drink.

Cafe Bruant

I decided an aperitif would be in order so I had a Ricard.

Just Like A Local

At around 7:00 P.M. we headed back to La Mascotte and were seated in the dining room, which was just about empty. After we were seated we were pretty much left alone, no bread or water and nobody asked if anyone wanted a drink. Then, when we finally got our menu it was in French with no English descriptions. When I asked to see a menu in English I was told that they didn't have any. That they used to but it was a new menu and the English version wasn't available. And then the waiter left, knowing that we couldn't read the menu. I would have thought he might have asked us if we had any questions.

Now, I know, we were in France, but up until now everyone had been most helpful. Every other restaurant either had English versions of the menu or English descriptions of the dishes on the menu. Certainly every other restaurant had more helpful waiters.

When it became apparent that we weren't going to get any help we left. The maitre d asked us if something was wrong and when we told him we couldn't read the menu and the waiter left so we couldn't ask any questions he became quite upset. He said that there were English menus and that he would get the waiter to get them for us. By that time though we had had enough of our waiter and didn't want anymore to do with him. Particularly if the maitre d was going to get him riled up.

Luckily we were close to the place where we had our desserts the last time we were here and they looked like they were doing a lively business.

Le Relais Gascon

We were ushered upstairs to a crowded restaurant with the tables packed together. It was crowded in a nice way though with everyone looking like they were enjoying themselves. Although really big salads seemed to be a specialty of theirs, when I saw cassoulette on the menu I had to go for it. It is a simple dish made with white beans and duck that has been slow cooked in lard. Simple, and simply delicious.

A Romantic Dinner

We all had a good time and everyone agreed that the bad service at La Mascotte actually worked to our advantage.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Montmartre, My Kind Of Place

We decided to head to the Montmarte area of Paris for our evening meal. The last, and only time prior to this, that we were in Paris was ten years ago. We spent some time in this area and had a lot of fun. Really a neat neighborhood with all kinds of cafes and bars that spill out onto the sidewalks. A youngish crowd, certainly by my standards, out for an evening with friends. But we are talking about a lot of people. I don't remember it being this crowded when last I was here. Otherwise though it looked pretty much the same, and that is a good thing.

La Forum looked like a good spot to pop into for one. It, like most of the places, was packed outside so the available seats were all inside.

La Forum

That was fine though, added a bit of a decadent air to having my beer.

A Decadent Beer At The Bar

The Mysterious Chinese Woman preferred having her's at a table where she could watch the crowd through the window.

A Demure Beer

We really didn't know where to go for dinner around here so I figured I would do what I usually do when I am not sure about something, ask the bartender.

Who Would Know Better?

She asked us what kind of food we were interested in. I said just the local fare and asked her where she would go to eat. She said she liked Un Zebre which was a few blocks away, just down the street. Purple awning, can't miss it.

Well, it was more than a few blocks away or else the blocks were long, or something. It seemed like a long ways and we asked people a few times if we were on the right track. We were, so on we walked. It was a fun walk though. Finally, we saw the purple awning in the distance.

Un Zebre

I was a little nervous because of all the motor scooters out front. Could be a rough crowd, the bartender at La Forum looked a bit on the tough side. But then I realized that motor scooters were parked in front of every place. Oh no, it was like The Wild Ones. Well, not really, these were mostly pastel motor scooters.

Un Zebre was fairly crowded but there were a few open tables and we were able to get one.

How Romantic

There weren't any menus handed out here, instead they brought over a blackboard with the offerings.

The Offrings

I don't remember what everyone else had, but I had the stewed duck legs and they were suburb. Our bartender friend did not lead us astray because everyone said they enjoyed their meal. I did manage to pop over to the bar to pose for a shot.

Posing At The Bar

They had desserts here but we decided to do a minuature graze instead. Besides, we had spotted a place with gelatos on display so that is where we headed.

Right Next Door

I thought the Mysterious Chinese Woman fit right into the sidewalk scene with her uber-cool shades.

Remember Corey Heart?

I wear my sunglasses at night so I can, so I can watch you weave then breath your story lines.

I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself, the lyrics just sprang into my head when I posted that picture. I was still feeling a bit decadent from my beer at La Forum so I had some white port, most excellent, an espresso and some pistachio gellato.

A fun and flavor-filled evening and after taking the subway back to our hotel we managed to get a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower.

Postcard Worthy

A perfect ending.