Soulman

Last night was meant to be early, however, this damn French wine got the best of us. That being said, this morning was slow-going. We were out of the apartment by about 11:30, and after riding the metro and hunting for espresso, we arrived at the Musée de l’Orangerie just before 1pm. It’s located at the bottom of the Jardin des Tuilleries, which also backs onto the Louvre. It houses some great French Impressionist work, including an impressive collection of work by Cezanne, Renoir, Derain, Soutine, and Modigliano, among others. This is also the museum that has two round rooms, each with a set of four Nympheas, or Water Lilies, encircling the room.

They also had an exhibit about Claude Debussy, the composer. At first, I was surprised that he was also a painter, but it soon became apparent that it was more about his group of friends and influences, and how that affected his commissions and work. It was really interesting to see his friends, and everything, but as I’m not an avid Debussy fan, it didn’t really affect me.

That is, until I saw these three Edvard Munch sketches. I couldn’t even begin to Google my way to an identification of the three, but they were gorgeous. It was typical Munch – haunting, emotional, and heart-wrenching. One was about jealousy, one about love, and a third one that I can’t quite place. Come to think of it, the jealousy one looked similar to his painting of the same title. Maybe it was a preliminary sketch? Regardless, it was the highlight of the exhibition for me.

We finished at the Orangerie at around 2:30, and went to eat. We wandered into a place called Mucha Café, named after the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha. Julie and I both had French onion soup – much better than in Canada, by the way.

At this point, it was 4pm, and the line to the Musée d’Orsay was too long (it closed at 6pm). We would have had an hour, tops, to see the whole thing. Our plan, as of right now, is to see a Tim Burton exhibition at the Cinémathèque Français, stop by the Pantheon, and then do the d’Orsay tomorrow afternoon.

Tonight, we went out for dinner to a karaoke bar. Being in France, I recognized none, save for maybe two songs. A lot of them seemed to be from the 60’s. One of them was this beauty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69ptYXvUo7M&ob=av2e.

Image via members.virtualtourist.com

Invalides

Wednesday afternoon marked the departure of Kylie and Nikola to England. Julie and I decided to take it easy because we knew that the next seven or so days are going to be hectic, so we made dinner at the apartment, and just went out for a drink or two.

Thursday, we went to the Grand Palais for the Helmut Newton exhibition. I can’t even begin to describe how big of a fan I am now. His interests lie in strong, nude women. There were a few sets of photographs, where one would have the women pose in clothing, and the other would have them in the exact same pose, but nude, and I can’t stress enough how powerful the women looked without their clothes on. They weren’t vulnerable, or docile, or in need of saving. They were radiant, and powerful, and strong. They were the ones that would do the saving and the destroying. Needless to say, I found the exhibit breathtaking. So much so, that I bought the catalogue.

We had a quiet night as we were planning on starting our museum pass the next day, meaning six days of non-stop sightseeing.

This morning, Julie and I woke up, and were out the door by 11am. Our first stop was to the Hôtel des Invalides, which used to be a military hospital. It is now home to the Musée de la Armée – think lots of swords, guns, and military uniforms. The chapel on the site is where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried. Honestly, I was mostly mesmerized by the gilded dome over the chapel.

The second stop was next door, to the Musée Rodin. Auguste Rodin, to be precise. Now, I have to confess that I really only knew of The Thinker and The Kiss, two of his more well-known sculptures. Out of the 30 or so pictures I took today, around half of them were taken at that museum. Most of the sculptures were outdoors, in beautifully curated gardens. It really was fantastic, and completely worth it.

Afterwards, Julie and I walked through the Place de la Concorde, which is a huge roundabout with a giant obelisk in the middle. The roundabout is also flanked with personified statues of the different regions of France (I think.. I noticed Brest, Bretagne, and Loire). We continued through the 8th arrondissement, to the Chappelle Expiatoire.

It’s a small square (less than a block large), with a chapel that was built on a mass grave; the Madeleine Cemetery. Among the buried include 133 victims of the fireworks display that was put on in honour of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s wedding, and the Swiss Guards that died during the storming of the Tuilleries (when the people of France revolted against the King and Marie Antoinette). That location was also where Louis XVI and his wife were put to death via the guillotine. Although they’re not formally buried there now, they were immediately after their death. Of course, there was controversy surrounding the construction of the chapel, given the ways in which the others buried there had died (indirectly at the hands of Louis XVI), but it was nevertheless built.

After making our way back to the apartment, we decided to go for a drink, and bought groceries for dinner on the way back. Now, it’s midnight, and we’re settling in to watch a few episodes of Happy Endings before we go to sleep. All in all, a wonderful day. And, it was the first day since we’ve arrived where the sun has been out for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Also, I’d just like to mention that I’m a Paris Metro master. I wish they gave out black belts for this ish, because that would be awesome (and I’d have finally reached a black belt in something).

Image courtesy of Julie

The Two Windmills

Today, as we didn’t meet up with Kylie or Nikola, we all met up after the girls went to Versailles for the morning. Julie and I, in the mean time, needed to buy a couple of things – I was desperate for a tote since my purse was far too small to carry everything I wanted.

The 4th arrondissement is where a lot of the shopping is, so we took the metro down. By this time, I was starving, so we ate lunch at a café, where we shared brushcetta topped with artichokes, peppers, and onions. We only had time to stop at one place, so we chose H&M. My suspicions were confirmed – European H&M stores carry far nicer merchandise than North American stores. I found a brown leather tote for 99€, and Julie bought a button-down shirt and a knit sweater.

After making our way to Kylie and Nikola’s hotel, we set off for food.

A group decision was made to make our way to the Champs Elysées, and then the Eiffel Tower (Julie specifically requested sunset).

We wandered in the wind and rain for a while, passing the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, and the Hôtel des Invalides before realizing that we were going the wrong way. By this time, everyone was cold and damp, and we wanted to find a café at the Champs Elysées to warm up and people watch (our parents said that it was a must). It turns out that the Champs Elysées is less of a monument, and more of a roundabout area, and we took shelter in the first café we saw.

A few pitchers of wine, and some crème brûlée later, we meandered over to the Eiffel Tower. According to my superior Internet skills, the tower has a total of 674 steps. Take that, Stairmaster.

Afterwards, we relaxed at our apartment before setting out for food. Café les deux moulins (The Two Windmills) has changed since the filming of Amélie; the tobacco area is gone, and the seating arrangement has been altered. It was amazing to have dinner there though, and the prices weren’t exorbitant considering the fame of the café. I had a Guinness and a cheeseburger – the food choices were simple. I think we each paid around 22€ for everything.

As Kylie, Nikola, and myself were planning on going to the catacombs, we turned in right after.

Image via brohardphotography.blogspot.com

Trois Fromage is the Superior Fromage

The journey began with a 3-hour car ride to Pearson Airport. Julie’s boyfriend, John, drove us, which was fantastic. We were dropped off at Terminal 1, and made our way through security.

Apparently no one travels on Easter Sunday, so we were at our gate in record time, so we took to sitting at the bar with the remainder of our time.

The flight was a bit brutal, only in that it left at 8:40pm Toronto time, and arrived at 9:45am Paris time, and I only managed to fall asleep for around an hour, if that.

Tired and hungry, we made our way through customs, and waited for our luggage. My theory is that if you’re the first to arrive (and check your luggage), it will be the last one off the aircraft. As you can probably guess, we were one of the last to get our bags.

The next task was to find the train that took us from the Charles-de-Gaulle airport to the inside of Paris. 9,50€ and around 30 minutes later, we were at the Gare du Nord station. We hopped on another metro line, and got off at Anvers, the stop closest to the Basilique du Sacré Coeur. After a wrong direction on my part, we found our apartment, checked in, and got settled.

By this time, I could have eaten a horse (sorry Elise), so I spearheaded the quest for food. We found a lovely café and had a glass of wine and shared a trois fromage pizza (one of the three being chevre, I died and went to food heaven). We walked to the Sacré Coeur, Julie took a few photos, and then it started to rain. We journeyed back the one block (I love that – one block) to a grocery store that was right across from our main entrance. We got some food and went back to the apartment.

I slept for about three hours, until Julie kindly woke me up to remind me that we were leaving in around two hours to meet with my sister, Kylie, and a friend that she’s traveling with.

We’re having some hair appliance issues (mainly that I only brought a convertor, not a voltage adapter), but I expect that that will be sorted out tomorrow.

Later on, we ventured to the Eiffel Tower to meet Kylie and Nikola. Unfortunately, there was an *ahem* communication error, and we were looking for each other in different spots.

Now, photo-wise, I took my Minolta instead of my Nikon, so I’ll try to commandeer Julie’s camera to keep with posting a picture with each entry. Huzzah. You should probably head over to my Flickr for some photo nostalgia (aka my photos from last summer, because I know you all care so much).

Image: Camille Pissarro, Boulevard Montmartre at Night

One Day, We’re Going to Live in Paris..

As of last week, our tickets are booked! Paris, here we come!

We arrive in Paris at 9:45am, on the morning of April 9th, and leave at 11am on the 23rd, going through the Charles de Gaulle airport each way.

I absolutely can’t wait! In a week or two, I’ll start thinking about a packing list, and looking into metro and museum passes.

There is a 3-day museum pass, which includes admission at Versailles, which looks good. We can power through the main museums with that pass, and then any smaller museums can be done on our own time.

Packing-wise, as we’re only staying in one place, I plan on bringing a suitcase. That frees up my backpack for my sister, who is staying in England with a friend for the month of April. It also means I can pack more (gotta look good in Paris!).

Since I have my plug adapter and other things from my last trip, I thankfully won’t have to purchase any of that stuff for this trip.

Oh, Paris. Paris, Paris, Paris.

Je ne peux pas attendre pour vous.

Paris, Round Two

It’s official – I’m going to Paris for two weeks in April with my friend Julie.

We’ve just booked the apartment that we’ll be staying in – it’s steps from the Sacré Coeur, which is perfect.

I can’t wait to go. Perhaps a night of Opera? A stroll in one of the many parks? Visiting the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur? Shopping, of course. Maybe a day trip to Versailles as well. Oh God, I could go on all day.

My sister will be in Paris for three days, and it coincides with when I’ll be there, which is awesome as well. We’re already talking about packing a picnic and going to a park for an afternoon.

I can’t wait!!

The End of the Beginning

I’ve been putting off this post for a while, but it has to be done eventually, right?

I only spent two days in London, one of which was spent doing a free walking tour in the pouring rain, and one spent at the Tate Modern, and hanging out with my new Irish friend, Graham (a bartender) and his superawesome girlfriend Nell. Two days was far too short in London, but I moved my flight from August 4th to July 18th out of Heathrow Airport. Mostly due to my spending on the trip, but also because I missed the familiarity of family and already-established friends.

This is the final rundown of my trip:

Venice, Italy – 05.02.11 – 05.28.11
Bern, Switzerland – 05.28.11 – 05.31.11
Luzern, Switzerland – 05.31.11 – 06.04.11
Munich, Germany – 06.04.11 – 06.08.11
Nuremberg, Germany – 06.08.11 – 06.10.11
Vienna, Austria – 06.10.11 – 06.14.11
Belgrade, Serbia – 06.14.11 – 06.19.11
Budapest, Hungary – 06.19.11 – 06.23.11
Vienna, Austria – 06.24.11 – 06.28.11
Berlin, Germany – 06.28.11 – 06.30.11
Bruges, Belgium – 06.30.11 – 07.04.11
Paris, France – 07.04.11 – 07.15.11
London, England – 07.15.11 – 07.18.11

For the past five or so nights now, I’ve been consistently dreaming of traveling.

I’m really sad that I ended up cutting out Scotland, which, other than France, was the country I was most excited to discover. I’ve been thinking about it though, and a two week trip to Ireland and Scotland seems like a pretty solid plan. Maybe next summer?

Wow, I’ve seriously got the travel bug now. I have the next three or so trips that I want to do bumping around in my brain. A two week trip to Ireland and Scotland, a two week trip to London and Paris, and a four month trip across Europe and Asia (this one is in the early stages of planning with a close friend for a few summers down the road).

After that, I want to see South America. Country-wise, Egypt and Japan are at the top of my list now.

*sigh*

I’m sad that this trip is now over, but I can’t wait until my next.

Until then,

Kirstie