My Paris

Extinguish my eyes, I still can see you
deprive my ears of sound, I still can hear you
and without feet, I still can come to you
and without voice, I still can call you.

Sever my arms from me, I still will hold you
with all my heart as with a single hand
arrest my heart, my brain will keep beating
and should your fire at last my brain consume
the flowing of my blood will carry you.

~Theodora, Paris 2011~

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My 2009 Birthday Celebration aboard Carnival Cruise Line

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Paris – Day 6

Entrance of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery

8th November, 2011

Today, my brother and I started out very early to visit the famous Parisian cemetery. We left the apartment at 9:00 a.m., took Bus Line 3 (Gambetta?) and arrived to the Cemetery around 10 a.m. or so.

Visiting the final resting place of some of the most extraordinary people who have ever lived is one of the many highlights of my trip. When we arrived at the actual site a free map of the cemetery was handed to us at the main entrance. The map came very handy because we located most of the graves we wanted to see.

While searching for Jim Morrison’s grave site we stumbled upon several Monuments in honor of Frenchmen who died in the Resistance or in Nazi concentration camps. The monument brought chills all over my body. Looking at the horror on their faces were so nerve wrecking and quite disturbing.

After walking like about a mile or two, we finally found Mr. Morrison’s site. There were at least five people visiting when we arrived. There were lots of flowers left to his tomb.

Jim Morrison's gravesite

After spending five minutes at Morrison’s site, we then proceeded and searched for Oscar Wilde’s location. We had trouble finding his grave and after searching for about 20 minutes my brother finally located his gravesite. Unfortunately his grave is under renovation at the time of our visit.

Oscar Wilde - Under Construction!

Off we go in search for other famous people. This time we discovered Frederic Chopin’s grave while walking towards Edith Piaf’s location.

Frederic Chopin

Lastly, my visit is not complete without paying respect to my favorite singer….Edith Piaf! Her grave is the hardest to find. It is located all the way in the back of the cemetery and if I am not mistaken its Lot 96. Frankly, I’ve never heard of Ms. Piaf before but thanks to my language professor, he made us listen to her songs in our French class and for our finals, we all went to see the movie “La vie en Rose.” After listening to all her songs and seeing her life story I’ve become an avid fan of her. Je ne regrette de rien!

My favorite French singer - Edith Piaf

Edith Piaf's gravesite

In conclusion: A quick visit to this famous cemetery is such a fun adventure itself and I’m glad we went. We finished the self-guided tour at noon and had Mickey D for lunch.

Next Destination: The Famous Eiffel Tower

Paris – Day 4

6th November, 2011 – VISITING VERSAILLES

Bonjour tout les monde! It is my fourth day wandering around the City by myself. My itinerary for today is a visit to the famous Versailles Palace.

Good news! Since it is a first Sunday of the month I have been informed that I can go in the museum for F-R-E-E! Whoa, isn’t this amazing! My plan is to spend an entire day over there then head back to the City early evening to meet my brother who is kind enough to join me even for few days.

Got to go…I shall be back to continue on my report.

Metro station sign

To get to Versailles, I took the metro near my apartment (Bastille) and got off at Gare du Nord. From there I transferred to RER Train (Line C) heading to Versailles Rive Gauche. My train ride took about 40 minutes and since I was sitting on the upper deck of the train I got to see the view of the City.

When I reached Versailles station there was a huge influx of people trying to reach for the main exit. I avoided them by taking the side street on the right. Upon exiting from the station, I turned right and walked pass the Town Hall and after reaching a main junction, turned left and the Palace is straight ahead. From there I just followed the crowd. It’s obvious that Sundays seem brought out the greatest crowds. In France, especially Paris, it was not only meant to be a day of enjoyment for everyone but remarkably everyone seemed entirely at ease with enjoyment. Vivez Joyeux [Live joyfully] is probably their motto!

Upon reaching the Palace gate, I started taking pictures almost immediately. I also asked one of the visitors to take picture of me in front of the gate. This is one problem of traveling alone – I have to rely on other people’s coolness in order to get my picture taken.

Long line to enter the palace

Versailles entrance

WANDERING INSIDE THE PALACE –

Wow! This Palace is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Now I know why it’s called the largest palace in Europe. I am so impressed with the size, opulence and beauty of it. I went in and started walking around with my camera on hand. I visited Chapelle Royale (the royal chapel), The King’s State Apartment, The King’s Chamber, drawing rooms and of course the Hall of Mirror.

The "Hall Of Mirrors"

The King's Bedroom

The "King's Bed"

The "King's Headboard"

Lucky for me, even though there were lots of people today, surprisingly enough the rooms were not crowded. While touring the palace I got to see some priceless items like an old clock that can indicate moon phase, year and day. I also got a quick look into the opera house that has about God only know how many seats. I also toured the smaller homes of Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV.

Galerie des Cotelle

Of course the gardens are perhaps unrivaled in terms of their size and beauty but there were no flowers in bloom and the fountains were not running. I could not imagine the beauty of the garden during the spring and summer time. Oh well there is always next time!

It’s surprising they call this humongous place a “garden.” I find it way too big than what I normally associate with a garden. It is about over 2 miles from the palace to the end of the little pond called Grand Canal. The 250 acres (101 hectares) are riddled with paths that lead to flower beds, quiet corners decorated with classical statuary, ornamental lakes, and a canal that King Louis used for gondola rides.

To stroll this area it would probably take you a considerable amount of time. It would have been great to walk/bike around this area if you are in a company of others, but if you are by yourself, you are better off taking a train ride. Which I did. I took the train shuttle to see the whole area without wasting my precious time. The train stops at the Grand Trianon and Petite Trianon located in the northwestern part of the Palace and you can get on/off the train at any station it makes the stops.

Surely, Versailles was the playground of the Kings and Queens of France and it is absolutely worth a visit while in Paris.

Decorated Ceiling

The "Queen Marie-Amelie"

The Queen Bed

Empress Bedroom

LUNCH AT ANGELINA’S

I read so many positive reviews regarding this restaurant. So since there is Angelina’s here I might as well try it. Off I go after three hours wandering inside the palace. I was so hungry and craving for a delicious French meal.

Upon entering the restaurant the hostess pleasantly greeted me and I requested a table for one (pour un personne, s’il vous plait). Oui, mademoiselle responded by the hostess. It was music to my ear being mistaken as mademoiselle! Wink, wink!

The hostess placed me in a room with other traveling Americans. I don’t know why but all of a sudden seeing them made me feel at home and relax. Gosh I have been away for four days traveling on my own and having to see them made me feel at ease, even though I am only American through naturalization and not by birth. It’s a weird feeling. I am definitely enjoying my trip but I kind’ a miss home and my husband.

When my waiter arrived at the table to take my order he was also very pleasant and friendly. He asked me what I wanted to drink and I requested a glass of wine for aperitif. Then for my entrée, I requested Fois de Gras with green (lettuce, tomato, artichokes and very light dressing). YUMMY!

Fois Gras w/green

While waiting for my aperitif, I’ve noticed other French diners (from the other room) eating their meal quite slowly. They take their time. They have shown not the slightest sign of hurry or impatience. It’s as if they have nothing else to do but sit and chat and savor what seemed to the Americans absurdly small portions, and they sip their wine ever slowly.

After the meal I ordered Angelina’s famous “L’africaine Hot Chocolate.” This hot cocoa costs 6.5 Euros and in my honest opinion I did not really taste anything special about it. I also find it too rich for my taste.

Then after half-an-hour or so, the waiter showed up with a huge plate of desserts selection. After drinking that rich chocolate I definitely could not eat anything that has chocolate for dessert, otherwise I would throw-up! Ugh.

Too rich for my taste!

I then asked my waiter for his recommendation. I informed him I would prefer something light for dessert. He then suggested to try Framboise with light cream, which I did.

My dessert

Overall, it was a great experience to try this popular Teahouse of Paris.

Paris – Day 2

Louis XIII

4th of November, 2011

I am in PARIS! This was nearly always my first thought when waking up each morning. Paris is right there out the window, out the door, and the common impulse is for me to get out and walk, to get my bearings and explore this City on foot. By the way, when I woke up this morning I had this pounding headache. It might have been from two glasses (or maybe three) of wine I had last night.

Oh well…I am in Paris and a meal without wine at dinner time is like a beautiful woman with only one eye. Anyway I forced myself to get up in spite of the hangover. I’ve left the apartment around 10 a.m. and begin my First Walk at this magical city.

My first thought of Paris was exactly just how I pictured it. It was absolutely beautiful seeing architectural styles of Medieval and Renaissance-era buildings, classical inspired apartments, narrow streets and elegant people walking along the boulevard. I am super excited to be here and started taking pictures almost immediately. I love taking pictures of street signs so when its time for me to share my travel adventure I will remember all the places and streets that I’ve been to.

History of Paris

From my apartment in the Marais District (4th arrondissement) I’ve concentrated my walk in the direction of Paris’s Hotel de Ville. I’ve passed several well-known streets and hotels such as rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Place des Vosges, the Garden of Hotel de Sully, Hotel Carnavalet and many other side streets and alleys. Marais is one of Paris’ oldest and most dazzling quarters, and has a much different flavor. Since its revival in the 1960’s, it has shone as a center of Parisian artistic and cultural life. Its dramatic residences (hôtels), artisan’s boutiques, galleries, lavish squares, and fascinating history are worth reserving at least a half-day and the best way to explore the City is on foot.

One thing I’ve noticed, Parisians have a different idea about distances. When they described as only a mile away, I am telling you it could turn out to be a walk of several miles. I thank GOD because for the last couple of days, we have been having a fabulous weather and taking a walk is the best way to see other neighborhood. Ahhh to wander over Paris even with an aching feet!

Street signs

OBSERVATION:

One good thing about visiting foreign country, it helps me to be more observant with my surrounding. In today’s walk I paid attention to everything that I stumbled upon. Case in point: I did not see any drunks reeling about in streets nor did men/women talking on their cell phones while walking. Park benches showed no other marks other than the natural wear and tear of people sitting on them. What surprises me the most are the presence of dogs every where. It seems that dog is a part of accessories in here. Parisian women seem never made an appearance except in the company of her dog. A tres petite chien (very small dog).

Paris is just amazing as it actually outdoes its reputation for splendor. It is really hard to explain the splendor of the City, and best of all, seeing the world-famous buildings at magnificently lit against dramatic backdrop of the beautiful sky are just incredible. There is something magical happens when evening sets in this beautiful City. Now I know why it’s called the “City of Light!”

PARIS – Day 1

CDG Airport

3rd of November, 2011 – Thursday

Bienvenue à Paris! My plane arrived at Charles Da Gaulle airport exactly at 8 a.m. (2 a.m. US EST). After retrieving my bags and gone through customs, I stopped by at the nearest tourist office and purchased a carnet of 10 tickets for €12,50 plus a separate ticket for RER B line. Tickets on hand I followed the sign for the train station (“Gare” in french) at Terminal 2. The RER train bound to Central Paris comes every 15 minutes so before I know it I am heading to the City of Light.

Signs to follow

In about 45 minutes or so, I’ve arrived at Bastille station, the closest metro (a/k/a Subway) line where my apartment is located. I got off the train and followed the EXIT sign (SORTIE in french) with my luggage in tow. After walking a considerable distance I’ve finally reached the surface and…

VOILA PARIS! – With my mind full of the splendid views of squares and columns, and bridges, I could not believe I am now in PARIS. The street runs zigzag and abuts against each others and I don’t know which way to turn. As for the weather, it is gorgeously cool with plenty of sunshine. Almost immediately the famous allure and vitality of the City won me over. I have never seen so many cafes in every corner and so many people of every kind. I am so captivated by the human scenery. Sidewalk vendors out on the streets, cars, buses, motorcycles and bikes…it is mind-boggling.

After catching my breath I’ve started walking in search for my apartment. The apartment is only five minutes walk from Bastille station but not knowing my way around in this great city it took me at least half-an-hour finding it. The streets are so confusing and I got lost in the long run. Thanks to my limited knowledge of the French language I was able to ask for directions and arrived the apartment around noon time safe and sound. Then jet lag and fatigue took over right away. I fell asleep for few hours and when I woke up I’ve gone out to a nearby grocery store (Franprix Marche) and pick-up few things such as fruits, coffee, cheese and a bottle of wine.

At around 8 p.m. I’ve gone out again and started wandering around the Marais District neighborhood in search for a good hearty meal. I found a resto along Blvd. Henri IV (“Chez Margot”) and had a glass of Mojito framboise ou gingerbre for aperitif served with light snacks such as olives and peanuts.

Framboise Mojito

Bastille area - 4 arrondissement

As for my main entrée, I had pâté du jour ou cheese ravioli. It sounded very french but when my meal arrived I was a little disappointed seeing the pâté du jour I just ordered was the American version of Lox (Salmon) on top of cheese ravioli. It was good but I thought I would be eating French meal. With my dinner I ordered en carafe of Rose wine and creme brulee for dessert which was to die for. It was so yummy!

Paris – Day 3

The smell of fresh bread woke me up this morning. There is a boulangerie right next to the apartment and the smell of the croissants or may be its the baguettes make me hungry.

My apartment building

I’ve quickly checked the temperature outside and it looks like Paris is going to have another awesome weather. This may seem unnatural for Paris because it usually often wet in the fall but I AM LOVING IT.

My bedroom - I am on top of the "roof!"

Anyhow, my dear friend Helene and I are heading outside the City to visit hidden gems of France. She has promised to show me around her hometown Rambouillet which lies on the edge of the vast Forest. I am excited visiting these small villages, château and castles. I had mentioned to her once that I am so fascinated with castles and anything “royalty” so she is kind enough to be a wonderful hostess by making my childhood dream a reality.

I shall be back soon to continue on my report.
-Continuation –

I spent all day venturing Rambouillet which is located in the suburbs of Paris. As I have mentioned earlier this part of town is famous for its historical castle. The Château de Rambouillet in particular hosted several international summits. Due to its proximity to Paris and Versailles, Rambouillet has long been an occasional seat of government.

We also visited the chateau of Marie Antoinette which was built specifically as her farmhouse.

ADDITIONAL REPORTS AND MORE PICTURES TO FOLLOW:

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