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Paris & Luxembourg - Spring 2008

Christi's friend, and running partner, Karen moved to Luxembourg for a couple year project for Amazon, so they decided to run the Luxembourg half-marathon together. Since we love Paris we decided to take the opportunity to return when we could actually take some vacation time and enjoy it. And best of all we finally got to visit Paris in the spring vs. previous visits in December and March.

To make it even more fun we brought my dad along with us. He is an incredible artist and has never been to Paris. Every time I've been there I've found myself thinking "man, I wish Dad was here to see this! I bet he'd love sketching the scene in this square." and so on. And I finally got my chance.

I took a departure from previous trips and displayed the pictures for this trip in a kind of daily journal of what we did. It was a lot more manual and took a lot more time, but it's a nice reminder of the trip. The hardest work was cutting down the 9000+ pictures to a more manageable number, but even then I ended up with somewhere in the vicinity of 450 favorites (taken by me, my dad, and Christi) on this page.

To prepare for the trip I worked up this two page cheat sheet that I printed double sided for our trip. It has a page of key French phrases and their pronunciation and English translation, as well as a list of key places to visit and a map, and our travel info so we always had it easily at hand.

NEW: Here's a link to the hardcover photo album I worked up based on the trip http://www.mypublisher.com/bookshelf/bookviewer.py?d=tq%3Ey-cppl%60je%3E3394388

Jump to a specific day:

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Day 1 - Paris

We took the 9-hour nonstop air France flight from Seattle to Paris. The seats were stunningly uncomfortable, but they had good movies. After quick showers to refresh we hit the city. The weather was hilarious, ranging from a deluge that had us taking cover for 10-minutes, to clouds, to incredible clear skies. But we came prepared with ultra compact umbrellas and were set.
The first day was our "get our bearings walk" which ended up being over six miles! We walked from our hotel to the eiffel tower, walking around underneath, and taking in the view from across the seine at the palais de chaillot (we'll do the ascent later).
Then we walked up avenue kleber to the arc de triomphe (we'll ascend that one later too).
  We walked down the champs elysees, stopping for lunch of pan with jambon a fromage, cafe au lait, and of course pan o chocolate as we watched people walk by on the avenue.  
  We went into the neat Peugot dealership on the Champs Elysees, and looked at all the cool cars and goodies, then kept walking down the street. We ran into a poster for the upcoming movie "Battle in Seattle" which was a funny coincidence.
We walked down the champs taking in the beautiful gardens and flowers as we worked our way toward the Tuillerie gardens.
  We got caught in a crazy downpour so we ducked into a shelter for about ten minutes until it stopped. It was just a roof held up by poles, kind of like a breezeway or large bus shelter. There were probably 50-100 of us just hanging out under it, talking, and waiting for the rain to stop.
The Tuillerie gardens were beautiful, with flowers blooming, and little sailboats floating on the fountain.
I title the statue on the left "I'm so embarrassed that I forgot my pants!" The view through the gardens, past the obelisk, up the Champs Elysees, through the arc de triomphe, and on to the grand arch de la defense was cool. I title the statue on the right "Jackie Chan wannabe"
We checked out the Louvre from the outside, taking in the architecture and neat statues before taking a right and heading the block over to the Seine.
We walked down the right bank till we got to the ponte  des arts and crossed over to the left bank. We could see the eiffel tower way in the distance, the orsay down the river on the left, and the glass roof of the grand palais on the right. Looking up river we could see pont neuf, ile de la cite, and the spires of notre dame.
We walked down the left bank perusing the little book vendors until we stopped across the seine from Notre Dame and had a leisurely coffee at an outdoor cafe.
We then crossed Pont au Double to Notre Dame and explored it. There was a mass going on, with some far out singing, confessions progressing in glass confessionals, and thousands of tourists milling around taking pictures. It was a trip.
We wandered around the outside of Notre Dame, checking out the architecture, and then crossed to the right bank on Pont d'Arcole.
We walked up the right bank a couple blocks, missing the metro station i was shooting for due to a miscalc on my part and catching the metro at Pont Neuf. A couple transfers and we were back at our hotel.
After a quick freshening up we grabbed a bottle of wine and some dinner a block away in La Terrasse with a view of the ecole militaire.
After dinner we walked the block to the front of Ecole Militare and caught the 9pm sparkling of the Eiffel tower. We got a bunch of shots and called it a fun, but exhausting day.

Here's a short video showing what the Eiffel tower looks like when it's sparkling.

note to self, need to buy a copy of this cool photo book from the hotel lobby.
 


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Day 2 - Paris & Luxembourg

We headed out into the neighborhood by the hotel looking for something for breakfast. We walked a little ways down Bourdonnais and then cut into the Champ De Mars (the big park between Ecole Militaire and the Eiffel Tower). We walked through the park and popped out on Avenue De Suffren on the other side where we found this outstanding little café called Le Beaupre.  
A few crepes and some café au lait later and we were ready for our day. We checked out the cool architecture across the street and then walked back through the Champ De Mars.
  The Champ de Mars was full of people, runners doing laps of the park, old men playing petanc, segway tour groups, and of course tourists posing in front of a truck with the best mattress advertisement ever :)
We got our stuff packed up into two sets of bags. One to leave for the next three days at the hotel, and one to pick up later when we head to the train at Luxembourg.   It was a cool, but nice day so we figured we’d head up the Eiffel tower. Turns out we weren’t the only ones with that idea. We found it odd that so many shops were closed on a Thursday, and then when we got to the Eiffel tower and saw the lines we realized something must be up. The first of May is their Labor Day.  
We instead wandered around the Eiffel tower, enjoying kids racing on pedal karts, the youth orchestra, people watching, and taking in the sights. The girl to the right was getting the classic French photo taken, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Then we walked down the left bank of the Seine taking in the sights, like the neat plant covered building, and a glass faced concert hall we recognized from the movie Avenue Montaigne. We got to Pont Alexandre III, and turned right walking down Avenue Du Mal Gallieni to the Hotel Des Invalides. Next to Invalides we saw a cafe that couldn't have been cheap considering the cars out front.
We met a nifty cat in the garden in front of Invalides, saw a beautiful florist shop, and adorable kids glasses. The glasses reminded me of our friends Brian and Tricia and their little boy Calvin who just got glasses. We’d made a huge triangle walk and were able to drop right back to the hotel after a visit to the best pastry shop I’ve ever been to!  
We caught the metro to the train station, hanging out at a café in the train station people watching and talking until our train arrived.
  It was a wicked fast train that shot us across France to Luxembourg where we arrived at around 6pm.
  Our friend Karen greeted us at the station and showed us around as we headed to the hotel.      
This hotel is literally the most incredible place I’ve stayed in my life! It was a total fluke (and a longer story) but we ended up in the Parc Beaux Arts the city center of Luxembourg (right next to the Royal palace!).
 The hotel only has ten rooms and each one is a huge suite with a living room and flatscreen and a giant bedroom. After the hotel in Paris where you had to step outside the room to put your socks on, this place is stunning. The art on the walls is true art and the architecture is far out.    
Karen picked up her husband Dan and came back to walk us around the city center. It reminds me of Munich, but smaller. It’s like walking around a little fairy tale.
Most places were closed so we went to a restaurant Karen and Dan had never tried and it was the most delightful surprise! It was called Apoteca and not only was the food and wine outstanding, but every entrée was delivered in some sort of playful arrangement. Dad’s dinner was on a tray with a little scene made up of plastic animals and an ice cream stand.  
  Our steaks were served skewered in a bucket, with a little figure of a Jamaican smoking a fatty holding your steak sauce.   After hours of drinking wine, eating, and Christi engaging dad in a lively debate about taxation, children, and philosophy, we headed back to our rooms and crashed. Okay, technically I spent until 2AM working on photos but then I slept like a baby.  
         

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Day 3 - Luxembourg

  After sleeping in a bit we went to Dad’s room to grab him to head to breakfast. His room has a great view overlooking the square in front of the museum, the royal palace, and the St Francis church. He’d been up early sketching and had this incredible sketch of the church spires in his room. It was exactly what I’d imagined this trip would be like. To the right are some shots of his sketch pads. The first one is the view outside his window, and the second one is his smaller pad with a sketch outside his Paris window. Thank goodness for cameras, because my sketches would look a lot like stick figures and cardboard boxes.
  We headed to the square at the city center and found a great little café called Kaempff-Kohler, where we sat in their outside seating area along the square and had a yummy breakfast of quiche and croissants while people watching. Of course Lambkin wanted to hang out while I drank a hot chocolate. The photo to the left is a statue of the famous Barron von Guyridingahorsey. I've seen a lot of statues of him in Europe. He's quite popular.
  Karen met up with us at the café and then took us for a tour of the town. We checked out Our Lady Of Luxembourg which had some incredible stained glass, then crossed the street to look down the cliffs into the Petrusse valley that goes through Luxembourg.    
  The valley is spanned by some incredible bridges, and we walked across one to get a closer look at the building that served as the Allied headquarters during world war two.    
  After that we hopped on the Petrusse express, an adorable little tram/train that drives through the Petrusse valley explaining the history of Luxembourg. The audio was interesting and hilarious, with a grand musical score and narration by Ziggy the founder of Luxembourg and a Water Nymph. As the audio began in our headphones dad joked that “I’ve always been interested in water nymphs” but his headphones were turned up, so it came across as more of a booming announcement to the tram car we were in. We were laughing so hard I almost wet myself. The little tram drives right by Karen's office window at Amazon headquarters so she gets to see it go by every day.  
After the tour we ate lunch in another square and then walked across town to Karen and Dan’s apartment. On the way we walked through an incredible park with children’s toys that were so beautiful they’d be destroyed instantly in the US, but here they’re just left to be enjoyed.  
  Karen and Dan’s place is beautiful, and we got the tour before hopping in the car and heading to the Marathon start to pick up the race packets. The race starting area is in a new part of town with a beautiful sporting arena set up like a geodesic dome. While inside getting their race packets I was able to check out the finish line. It's the first time she's done a race with an indoor finish. Odd, but the bleachers might get me a good vantage point for pictures.  
  Karen dropped us off at the hotel and we were surprised to find the city center full of Samba bands. There’s apparently 30 of them here that will be along the race route and they were all over town practicing and performing some incredible drum music.  This little girl on the right was adorable as she danced around to the music in front of the hotel.

Here's a video clip of one of the bands.
 
  Dad snagged a quick nap, and Christi and I wandered around town checking out the various bands. We determined at one point that it was less of a band competition, and more of a funny outfit competition, but the music was great, and every time you walked away from a band you were walking toward another one.  
  Karen and Dan met us at the hotel and took us to this far out restaurant called Caves Gourmandes where we had another incredible dinner, lots of wine, and a great discussion on what makes Europe different than the US. Then we walked the 30-yards back to the hotel and crashed for the night.    
    Well, it’s 9:30AM on race day (the race is at 6PM) so I’d better wrap up so we can head out for the day.    

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Day 4 - Luxembourg

  We slept late this morning (I could have slept for days!) we finally got out of the hotel at 11AM. Well, dad didn't sleep in, he sat in his window and sketched. To the left is a great photo he got of children running in the courtyard under his window.  
    We then walked across town to a sister-hotel where the scooters were. After picking up the bikes, getting a feel for how to ride them, and getting lost on the five block trip to Karen's apartment we eventually found our way.    
After parking the scooters at Karen's we walked to the park near nearby to grab some lunch. The restaurant in the middle of the park was outstanding! Covered by grape vines, surrounded by flowers, and a perfect place to sit in the sun and relax. Lambkin helped us map out where we'd go to cheer on the runners on the race map.
The park surrounding the restaurant was the most adorable thing ever! The restaurant was next to a beautiful pond that was chock full of ducks and ducklings, turtles, and Coi. And the park was laid out perfectly with places for adults to sit and picnic, and children to play. Including outdoor ping pong tables and a zipline!  
  After lunch and a walk around the park Dad and I grabbed the scooters and headed over to the hotel before we headed out to the race start. Christi, Karen and Dan were going to take the shuttle over to the race start and we'd meet there. The town was full of police clearing the roads for the race and setting up barricades. One of the officers totally busted us for riding without helmets. He was pretty cool, but said, no helmet, no ride! The hotel hadn't provided helmets (the guy didn't seem to know much about scooters) so we figured they weren't required. Luckily we were only a block from the hotel so we coasted down to it and had them look into the helmet situation. They were really cool about it (Claude is the best!) and it turned out that the helmets were just hidden under the seats.  
  With helmets on, off we went to the part of town where the race started. We got tremendously lost, ended up at the airport, and wandered all around the city, but we finally found our way there. Luckily we had two maps and a GPS because, for a small city it sure is easy to get lost.
We met up with Christi, Karen, and Dan and spent some time with them before they had to head to their corral. While we waited we did some great people watching. Air Luxembourg had a major presence (must have been a sponsor) so they had flight attendants (far left) dressed in full uniform, as well as other staff wearing "Air Luxembourg - Fly Me" shirts. Nice! The little girl to the left was adorable. She wanted to share her water with me. I questioned the sock choice of the woman to the right.
As the race start time neared (the first one she's done that starts at 6PM) we headed toward the corrals so they could get in place. On the way we were reminded that apparently the whole world is a man's urinal. It seemed odd considering how many port-a-potties there were and how short the lines were compared to other runs.  
  Dad and I headed up to the 1.75 K mark and found a perfect spot to catch them as they came by the first time. Of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity to capture some of the great characters that were running as well. There was "Mario" (right), and "Blondie" (far right)
The "Scary Clown" (far left), and "Mr Cow Head" (left), and of course Christi, Karen, and Dan, the stars of the show.
We re-positioned to catch them at around 4k. Which was easier than it sounds, because if you look at the map you can see we only had to move a few hundred feet to do so as they looped back past us. While waiting we had the opportunity to catch "Hula Dude" (far left), "Superman" (left), and "The Highlander" (right), before catching Christi as she came past.
  We then moved about 50-feet and I climbed a sign to get a good vantage point as they came by at around the 7k mark. At this point I got a great shot of "Stilt Guy" who was really flying, before catching Christi and Dan as they cruised past.  
We walked back down toward the Coque (the big arena where it started) and climbed up a hill to catch them as they came by at the 8.25k mark. The hill was the perfect vantage point as we could see the entire field snaking towards us and then going by below us. I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring my monopod to hold up the camera. It gets awful heavey.
As we headed down the hill toward the arena I got some shots of some of the more interesting characters at the rear of the pack. The woman in the "Ukrainian Dance Troupe Couple" seemed to be having much more trouble than her partner, while "Duck and Cow" seemed to be doing just fine (if not a little warm). The old Indian dude was far out.
The "Napoleonic General" with his "Make Baguettes not War" sign was by far my favorite. We decided not to risk the craziness of closed streets on the rest of the course so we headed over to the finish line to wait for them. On our way we found a waffle stand and had one of the most incredible waffles I've ever eaten. I saw them making these incredible strawberry and whipped cream waffles, but couldn't figure out what they were called on the menu, so I took a picture of one that they were handing to a customer and then showed it to them on my cameras LCD screen to order. It worked great!  
  From there we went into the arena to watch for them to finish. It was the first time I've ever seen an indoor finish, but we found a great vantage point to watch for the finish.  
    Once Christi finished and we had a chance to congratulate her dad and I grabbed the scooters and headed to return them while Christi, Dan and Karen took the shuttle back to Karen's place.    
    With a ton of streets closed we got incredibly, incredibly lost on the way back, stopping dozens of times to consult maps, and finally stopped to ask a police officer. He looked at our map and essentially told us there was no real way to get back into town with the streets closed. But he allowed us to go through his roadblock and told us to just ask each roadblock if they'd let us through. We negotiated with four sets of officers to get through their roadblocks. On the final one we were told we should just wait a half hour until the streets opened up. We asked if we could just push our scooters on the sidewalk and he said okay. We had no idea how far it was, but lucked out and it was just a block up the road to the scooter return place.    
  Christi walked up from Karen's place and met us, and then we walked back into the city center, stopping to take some great night shots of the Petrusse as we walked past.  
    It was 11PM by the time we got to the square, where most of the restaurants were done selling food, but we found some burgers and got some incredible roasted almonds from a street vendor before crashing. I didn't get a shot of the vendor that night, but had gotten a shot the day before of him giving cotton candy to a little girl (right)    

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Day 5 - Luxembourg and Paris

We headed into the square to meet Karen and Dan and hunt down some breakfast. The place we'd loved so much the day before was closed, but we found a great place and enjoyed the sunny morning in the square, sipping our cafe au lait and watching the people go by.    
  After breakfast we walked back to the hotel where we ran into a cool fountain we hadn't seen before and of course got a shot of Lambkin on the sheep's head. We also saw a sign right where we got busted for having no helmets that had a picture of a guy on a motorcycle with a helmet on. It was just for parking, but I thought it was oddly coincidental.
  We packed up for the trip back to Paris, but before leaving the hotel we took a tour of the basement and the attic.The building was built around the year 900AD and was built over an incredible network of caves that apparently crisscross the city like Swiss cheese. The caves are blocked off now, but the caves under the house have been turned into an art gallery.  
The fourth floor has been turned into a lounge and conference area and boasts the oldest roof in Luxembourg. The rafters have been carbon dated and are incredible! On the way out I got a shot of the portraits of what must have been the royal family, and then Christi and Dad waiting for Dan and Karen to come with the car.
At the train station we saw a cool stained glass showing the city of Luxembourg and the Petrusse valley, then said our goodbyes and boarded the train for the 400-mile, 200-mile-per-hour shot across France
  Enjoying the views of little villages and fields of mustard flowers, and arriving in Paris just after 3pm.  
  Back in Paris we took the metro to the hotel, unpacked and cleaned up. Dad wanted to catch Mass at St Nicolas so we hopped on the metro and cruised over.  
While dad went to Mass we walked over to Ile de la Cite, and crossed behind Notre Dame to Ile St Louis. The bridge was blocked to traffic and performers were on the bridge. The island was packed, and the sides of the Seine were crowded with couples sitting together, reading, talking, and enjoying the sunny day.  
It was actually pretty hot, and the cool breeze blowing down the Seine was incredibly refreshing.
  We found an ice cream shop that was reputed to be the best in Paris, and had a line 20-people long to prove it.  
  The ice cream was outstanding, and we enjoyed it as we walked through Ile St Louis peeking in the little shops and people watching.  
  Tired of walking around we stood on Pont St Louis (the bridge that connects the two islands) and leaned against the railing, feeling the cool breeze, providing a much necessary critique on what people were wearing, and kissing (lots of kissing)
We waited outside the church for dad, taking some fun pictures of reflections in scooter mirrors, and of the church itself, then we caught the metro over to a station that was way, way, way too far from Les Ombres where we had dinner reservations. I picked the wrong destination station, so we were 15-minutes late for dinner, but they were totally cool about it.  
Les Ombres is located on the roof of Musee du Quai Branly which stands on the left bank of the Seine next to the Eiffel tower.
The views from the restaurant were unbelievable, and between dinner and desert we walked around on the balcony and took pictures.
We could see as far across town as Sacre Coeur, and were towered over by the Eiffel tower.  
  We spent 3.5-hours eating and drinking a lot of champagne and red wine, and finally wandered back to the hotel at midnight  

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Day 6 - Paris

  Another gorgeous sunny day in Paris so we decided to take advantage of it by heading up to Montmartre right away. We went to Dad's room and he was sketching the scene on the street. I got a fun self-portrait in a mirror inside our hotel as we headed out.  
  Of course first we had to stop at our little pastry shop on the way to get some sustenance, and then we were off.    
  To get the day started right we decided not to catch the metro by our hotel, but to walk over to Invalides and catch the metro at the Varenne station. This was a decision that I for one would regret later. On the way we saw another group of segway tourists and got a neat shot back at the Eiffel tower.  
  We took the metro up to Anvers, and from there it was just a short walk to the base of Montmartre.    
Of course, the walk up the eleventy-billion stairs was a little longer (but worth it). There were tons of people out on the grass enjoying the sun. I almost took off my shoes and socks and hopped in the fountain when we got to the top.
  Once at the top we wandered around the inside of Sacre Coeur where you're not allowed to take pictures. This, of course, totally irks me, so I shot a few from the hip.    
Then we walked around the outside, shooting gargoyles and scenery.
  We also checked out St Pierre De Montmartre directly next door. It was much older and the light coming through the stained glass was beautiful.  
We headed over to Place du Tertre where the artists were out in force, displaying their wares
and having people pose for portraits.
After a nice lunch in the square, we walked around Montmartre a bit
And then down the steps to catch the metro to the Arc de Triomphe
We walked up what must have been a trillion stairs to the top of the Arc where we took in some stunning views of the city. On the way up they had a screen showing the view straight down below the Arc and people were laying down in a circle for the camera.
The avenues of Paris spread out like spokes from the Arc, and there were great views of the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, and the Arc de la Defense. And of course more people wearing ridiculously large sunglasses!  
  Exhausted from all the walking and stair climbing (this is about where I started regretting walking to a different station this morning) we walked down the Champs Elysees to Vesuvio. There we had sundaes and drinks in their outdoor seating area that was practically in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe. We got a reminder of the brutality of the Dollar to Euro exchange rate with the snack running around $60
  Refreshed, we walked down the Champs Elysees, people watching, and stopping to buy a football jersey (of course).    
  We worked our way down to the Grand Palais and got some cool pictures of people, and Invalides across the river.  
  We turned right at the Grand Palais and walked across Pont Alexandre III toward Invalides, admiring the incredible sculptures on the bridge  
  From there we walked up the left bank. As we walked we passed  Les Ombres where we ate last night. In the picture to the left, it's the area right at the top of the building at the far left. On our way we saw a cool memorial done with LED lights.  
  We continued on to the Eiffel tower where we headed down the Champ de Mars (where we saw this neat little dog) to Ecole Militaire, stopped to grab some ham and cheese baguette and a bottle of wine, and headed back to the room where we looked at some of the 4100+ shots we've gotten so far.    

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Day 7 - Paris

  Wow! Another incredibly blue and sunny day and another morning of sketching in the window for dad. So blue and sunny in fact that it was kind of hot at points, but a gentle cool breeze made it perfect.    
  Versailles is open today, and we want to make sure to catch it on a sunny day, so we headed out. We stopped at JM Bretteau, the little Boulanger Patisserie and picked up some orange juice, a few pastries, and a couple Fromage and Jambon Baguettes which we put in our backpack for lunch.    
  We walked down Bosquet to the Pont de L'Alma rail station to catch the RER C-line out to Versailles. Pont de L'Alma doesn't have a ticket window, and the vending machine only took coins and we didn't have enough. There were a couple rail workers hanging around outside the entrance taking a break so we asked them what to do. They said we could just walk through the turnstiles (unlike the ones in the metro these don't require a ticket) onto the train without a ticket and get off at the next stop to purchase a ticket.    
    Sure enough, it worked like a charm and we got our ticket at the Champ de Mars/Tour Eiffel station and caught the next "Vick" train out to Versailles.    
    After walking from the train station to palace we realized that Rick Steves was right, and Tuesday is one of the most crowded days! When we were here before the line ran a hundred feet our so outside the door (and it seemed like a long line at the time) but this time it snaked around the square in front of the palace for hundreds and hundreds of yards. I don't know what the wait time was, but it had to be hours.    
    A clever idea popped into my head, and instead of queuing up in the hot sun we walked around the building to the left and into the gardens behind the palace. The gardens are the best part of the palace and there's no entrance fee, so no line to get in.    
  We walked around the L'Orangerie which is a greenhouse area where they keep their palm trees and orange trees warm in the winter by putting a huge greenhouse over this whole area.    
  From there we walked down the main walk, past the Latona Basin which recreates the myth that Zeus turned the townsfolk into frogs, and lizards for insulting Latona who was Apollo's mother. Louie the 14th who built Versailles had a special affection for Apollo because he called himself the Sun King.  
  We continued down to the fountain where Apollo rises on his chariot heading to the sky to light the day. Check out the close up on the right where you can see a mother duck and her duckling resting on the sculpture.  
There's a great little restaurant off to the right of the grand canal so we relaxed in the shaded outdoor seating area, had some coffee, and split a sundae.  
  We sat by the boat rental area enjoying the beautiful day, people watching, and eating the baguette we'd brought with us. Lambkin had a little baguette, but wasn't that hungry.  
  Christi and I had never been to the Hamlet that Marie Antoinette had built on the grounds to recreate a country village, so we wanted to be sure to see it. We walked (and believe me it's a huge distance) over to the hamlet, and it was incredible! On the way we saw a woman with this incredible dog, as well as some pretty flowers.  
We arrived by walking past the petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette's palace away from the palace) past the temple of love, along a little stream filled with croaking bullfrogs to the village. Dad got this great shot of us kissing in the temple of love.
The village was the most incredible part of Versailles! The most beautiful little thatched roof houses.
Around a beautiful little lake with a nifty swan who definitely liked the leftover baguette I gave him. We met a nice couple while taking pictures of the swan and it turned out they were from Seattle. Small world!
Every little cottage was more incredible than the one before, culminating when we passed the little vineyards and arrived at the farm house
The farm house had horses, bunnies, a dog
ducks, geese, a peacock  
a neat cow, and goats, donkeys and pigs. The hamlet was just a perfect little slice of early French life (sure, she made it perfect and not dirty and impoverished, but it was a great experience)  
  We asked for directions back to the Palace from one of the staff (yeah, the grounds are that big!). On the way we saw this neat little puppy.  
We also saw some sheep and horses. Of course Lambkin wanted his picture taken with the sheep.  
  We walked to the front of the palace and were able to walk right in without a line. We walked around, but after the gardens the opulence of the palace was unimpressive and gaudy.  
We took the train back to Paris and walked back to the hotel. On the way we saw this nifty art deco building, and got our picture taken with Anne Marie, the woman who worked at the front desk of the hotel. She was wonderful.  
After freshening up we headed to dinner. Last time we were in Paris we had dinner at the Buddha Bar which is a hip trendy place near the place de la Concorde. We got there a little early and wandered around a bit. The area around the restaurant had government buildings (far left) and lots of incredibly expensive shops. I shot this picture of a shoe for our friend Brian because he loves shoes (probably because they look great on his wife Tricia). The US embassy was next door, so French military police guarded both ends of the street and had a small army out front of the embassy. I was told that I was not allowed to take pictures near the embassy. Isn't it great that our country is so loved that we have to have this level of protection in a friendly country.
The food wasn't as good as we remembered it last time, but it was decent and we had fun. I played around with a couple of long exposure shots of Dad and Christi, a shot of the restaurant, and of course Lambkin.
We walked back to the hotel, but on the way we took some neat night shots of fountains, the Arc de Triomphe, the Seine with the Eiffel tower in the background  
  the Pont Alexander III bridge, and Invalides.  

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Day 8 - Paris

  Another stunning day, and even more detail complete on dad's neat sketch of the street outside his window. We figured we'd head up the Eiffel tower, but were again thwarted by long lines, so we grabbed crepes at the little stand below the tower and headed across the Seine to catch the metro at Trocadero.
We stopped to admire the trees and take shots of the Eiffel Tower. In the plaza looking back at the tower we saw these three girls vamping it up for pictures with the tower in the background. They were hilarous.  
We also saw a cool kid riding his skateboard, and got a shot of me wearing a t-shirt advertising our friend's new company that specializes in environmentally friendly party supplies.  
We took the metro from the Trocadero down to Concorde and walked into the Tuileries. The view of the Obelisk back toward the Eiffel Tower and up toward the Arc de Triomphe was cool.
Just inside the Tuileries is the L'Orangerie which houses eight of Monet's water lily paintings. They were incredible, and I had no idea how large they were. The room was specially designed for them and was a work of art in and of itself.
  The museum also had a bunch of other famous paintings, but none were as neat as the water lilies. The one to the left is a Renoir. I prefer to title it "Seriously, why do I have to wear this damn clown outfit?" I also used a niche to try to become art myself, but with little success.  
From there we walked down the Tuileries toward the Louvre. The park was full, the gardens were beautiful, and the fountains looked inviting.  
  We went into the Louvre to wander around. I love the shot on the left because if you look close you can see Dad and Christi at the information desk. There was a group of Asian tourists (far right) that weren't even looking at the paintings, just lining up, taking a picture and moving to the next. They were so annoyed that dad was in their way (actually looking at the artwork) and I actually saw them shoo other people away so they could take their photo.
The photo on the left shows how incredibly long the hall in the Louvre is. It is just incredible! Of course I goofed off and took self-portraits in the mirrors while dad and Christi discussed the artwork. Christi likes this shot because it looks like she's explaining the art to dad (the art expert)
We didn't bother crowding into the room with the Mona Lisa, as Dad wasn't that interested and we'd seen it before.
The coffee shop in the Louvre had their outdoor seating open so we had some incredible pastries, great almond coffee, and enjoyed the view down onto the plaza in the center of the Louvre. It was so cool how people were hanging out by the fountains, beating the heat and enjoying the day.
  Of course Lambkin, ever the tourist, wanted his picture taken in front of the glass pyramid. The shot on the far right shows the neat elevator that runs up the center of the spiral staircase that takes you to the Louvre entrance inside the glass pyramid.
Next we went to my favorite room. It's an incredible sculpture gallery under a huge glass roof. It's never that crowded and feels like you've walked back in history.
The sculpture on the left is one of my favorites, and represents the countries that France had conquered at one point in time, as well as the various emotions of those enslaved. The sculpture on the right is another of my favorites because her face is so beautiful, and I love the little faun who looks like he's begging for a snack.
  Speaking of snacks! As we headed out of the Louvre we ran into a Starbucks. Nothing like a frappucino after a long day of appreciating art.  
From there we walked down the right bank to Ile de San Louis, which is the little island behind the island that Notre Dame is on. The sides of the Seine were covered with people enjoying the sun and the nice breeze that blows down the river.
  On the Ile de San Louis we found a great little Italian place for dinner. While inside I noticed there was a woman sitting in her window across the street, drinking a glass of wine and reading a book. It was so classically Paris. There was a couple at the table next to us and the guy looked familiar for some reason. Before they left we asked if he happened to be from Seattle, sure enough he was but had moved to the east coast about a year and a half ago. We couldn't figure out how we knew him, but he definitely looked familiar.
After dinner we walked back across the San Louis bridge to the island that Notre Dame is on. I was able to get some incredible night shots. Including some great ones of Dad and Christi and some incredible ones of Notre Dame with the crescent moon over it.
We caught the metro near Notre Dame back to our hotel and I got this neat shot of the Eiffel Tower with the moon next to it. Back at the hotel we looked at pictures until around midnight and finally got to bed.

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Day 9 - Paris

  Our final full day in Paris, and so much still left to do! It's a beautiful day so we decided to head over to the Eiffel Tower to go up in it before heading to St Nicolas so Dad could meet up with a priest friend of his. Unfortunately the lines were pretty long at the Eiffel tower and we didn't think we'd be able to get up and down in time to get over to meet Father Chazal.  
  So instead we took a riverboat tour down the Seine.  
  We caught the metro down to the latin quarter and Dad went into the church to meet Father Chazal while we wandered around a cute little market on the next block. dad went to meet him, we shopped at little market. We bought gifts for our team members and a carton of strawberries that were delicious!
  Dad and Father Chazal met us and we walked over to the Cluny Museum. On the way I saw this French (I think) version of Harrius Potter.  
  The Cluny focuses on the middle ages, so while it had lots of neat stuff, I didn't enjoy it as much as the other museums.  
I was, however impressed with the ancient, but incredibly inconvenient thermoses.
  After the museum Father Chazal wanted to grab a pizza and head down to the Seine by Pont Neuf, to eat on the banks like he used to do when he was a kid. On the way we saw this girl dressed as a devil and asking guys to bite a piece of candy off the necklace she was wearing. It looked like a bachelorette ritual, but we weren't sure.
Father Chazal stayed with us and we wandered around doing some shopping (another neat football jersey) and then to Ile de San Lous for some ice cream. The banks were crowded with people enjoying the sun again and we saw this neat little dog jumping in the water after his toy. I especially love the little wet trail of dogprints down the ramp behind him.
On the bridge behind Notre Dame we saw (and heard) this incredible musician named Jimmy Jimmy (http://www.jimmy-jimmy.com). I bought a couple of his CDs and we stood on the bridge and enjoyed his incredible music. It sounded like a combination of Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan.    
  After wandering around a bit we headed back to the hotel, walked by the little cafe with everyone hanging out on the street. Back in the hotel we got ready for dinner and then headed back out. While at the hotel I looked out the window and saw another great Parisian scene. There was a waitress taking a break and sitting on a second floor balcony.    
  We walked around the corner from our hotel to have dinner at La Terrasse, the neat little place we went the first night we were in Paris. We had a great view out at Ecole Militare and enjoyed a great dinner.  
After dinner we figured we'd make one last attempt at going up in the Eiffel Tower, so we walked over to Ecole Militare and down the Champs de Mars (the big park between Ecole Militare and the Eiffel Tower) to the Eiffel Tower.    
As we walked we were stunned by the number of people who gathered in groups to eat a picnic dinner (most with wine) and watch the sun set and the tower illuminate. On previous mornings we'd seen the aftermath of this giant party with broken glass, cigarette butts, and some garbage, but compared to a crowd this size with no rules against alcohol in the US the crowd was relatively relaxed and the aftermath pretty clean.
As we got closer to the Eiffel tower we paused to take pictures as the sky got darker. This was one of the first days that there were any clouds in the sky at all, so I was able to capture a slightly more interesting sky in the background.
  We paused for awhile just in front of the tower and I got some great shots with my wide angle lens as the sky darkened and the tower got brighter.  
Then we headed underneath to get in line for the ascent to the top. I got some fun shots looking straight up with my wide angle lens. For being a huge iron structure it is surprisingly delicate and beautiful.  
The lines were probably one tenth as long as on previous days, but it still took over two hours to go up and down. It'd been a long week of late nights and tons of walking so we were pretty exhausted, but it paid off in some beautiful views. The far left shot shows the wheels that raise and lower the elevators, the shot on the left shows some of the many lights that flash every hour on the hour (from 9-12 I think) turning the tower into a sparkling jewel on the skyline (this started at the millennium, and while they were going to stop it, they went ahead and kept doing it). To the right you can see downriver on the Seine and on the far right the Champ de Mars with the Ecole Militaire and invalides off in the distance.
    You can see Notre Dame way upstream (far left), and Sacre Coeur (where we got engaged two years ago) with a the Eiffel Tower's searchlight illuminating the sky (left). I also got a cool shot of Invalides (right) as well as a closer shot of Ecole Militaire where you can see the crowds in front on the grass (far right).    
The Arc de Triomphe was beautiful from this angle, and palais de chaillot (left) was beautiful. The searchlight was really cool and came out great in pictures (right), and dad held his camera outside the railing and got this far out shot down at one of the legs of the tower.
    Totally exhausted we headed back to the hotel after midnight to pack up and get ready to catch our flight the following morning. On previous visits to Paris I'd always said that I really wish we could show my dad this incredible city and wander the streets with him, and this trip was definitely the culmination of that dream.

I couldn't have asked for anything more (except I still want to get down into the catecombs and to the Orsay)

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