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France

First Taste of French Food

Avignon, France

We arrived in Marseilles and made it quickly through the airport, getting a SIM on the way out. We got to the car rental place (Hertz/Dollar) and tried to get our car. We were 45 minutes earlier than what the reservation was for, so they wouldn't give it to us and told us to come back later. Another family had the same problem. I find that so ridiculous as the cars were clearly ready. Meanwhile, you have customers sitting grumpily in your business, getting angrier and angrier, as their vacation gets off to a less-than-pleasant start. The others even had a bunch of disruptive kids who weren't making things pleasant for the other customers.
We finally got our car and took off, only to get stuck in rush hour traffic. It would have been much nicer to have been able to beat some of it and not sit for 10 minutes on the same 1km on-ramp, but I wasn't driving at this point, so I didn't mind as much as I otherwise might have.
We passed the port of Marseilles, filled with mega cruise ships, cargo ships, and dockyards. Cranes waited, ready to lift cargo onto trains. We also saw a few sailboats and big yachts, although they were in the minority.
We passed through a bunch of tunnels and managed to get far enough away from the major traffic jams, even though we were still in the city. We took the opportunity to stop for food.
Cheese

Cheese


We got super lucky and were able to find everything we were looking for on the same block.
First, we stopped at the fromagerie and used my standard question: what's your favorite cheese? We got the cheese recommended by the lady behind the counter, a comte (since I liked it so much last time I was in France), and a smoked ball, as well as some meat she recommended.
Bread

Bread


Next, we popped into a boulangerie where they sold bread by weight. We picked out some kind of olive loaf, which they sliced for us right there, and some other kind of bread. But for both, we didn't have to get a whole huge loaf, we just told her where to cut and got just enough for the day.
Last, we found a small supermarket where we stocked up on veggies, drinks, jam, and paper goods. We were set!
Anxiously awaiting our picnic, we drove to Calanques National Park. The road through the park twisted and turned, and only had enough room for one car at a time most of the way. We fortunately didn't have anybody coming at us in a car in the other direction or somebody would have had to back up and find a spot to let the other pass. Even passing a bicyclist going the same way as us was a bit treacherous and wasn't always possible.
We found a parking lot near the end of the long road and spotted a spot on some rocks with a nice view of the mountains. Hungrily, we unpacked our picnic, and sat down to eat.
Calanques

Calanques


The cheese the lady at the fromagerie selected was so French! It was soft and even runny a bit inside, with a buttery texture. But the flavor was strong like stinky feet. However, there was no aftertaste that interfered with everything else. I wish I had gotten the name of it from her! The comte was less sharp and tasted a bit more of Swiss than the last ones I got in Paris, but it went perfectly with the olive bread. The other bread was crispy crunchy on the outside but fluffy chewy on the inside. It went perfectly with this eggplant-in-a-jar we had, as well as the fig jam. (Although the jam itself was less figgy and more sugary than I would have liked.)
Pleased with our picnic, we sat a bit to digest and absorb the serenity. Even though we had a view of the parking lot, we really weren't exposed to a lot of noise. Only one car arrived the whole time we ate. And we only saw 4 people total- 2 sets of mountain climbers that quietly organized their gear for whatever facet they were planning on taking on.
The mountains looked like they were huge rocks that had been eroded away over time and then started sprouting typical shrubby Mediterranean flora. They looked perfect for rock climbing.
With full bellies, we wandered into the little town.
Town in Calanques

Town in Calanques


The town seemed to be seasonal. Small boats filled the little bay, probably in because tourist season is over. There seemed to be a few restaurants and guest houses, but they were also closed. A few people sat in their front porches or watered their gardens, but we saw no other obvious tourists as we walked down the super-narrow streets. The quietness added to the quaintness.
We continued on our way, driving through some beautiful scenery. The rolling hills were dotted with farms, and forests added to the greenery. It was a great day for such a beautiful drive.
As we made our way towards Senanque Abbey (our goal) we saw an amazing fortress/castle town sticking right out the side of a hill, almost as if it was carved from the hill itself. It looked interesting, so we stopped to see what it was.
The town of Gordes is dominated by a castle, but has plenty of cobblestone streets and other cute old buildings to see. We didn't go in the castle since it's not really a museum about the area. (They did have some modern art display, but it didn't look too interesting.) We wandered the town a bit and headed back to the parking lot. On the way, I told my guy that I was proud of him for not buying the fancy soaps at the souvenir shop. He stopped in his tracks.
"What soaps?" He asked.
Oops. I had thought he saw them as he spent several minutes looking at the jars of local honey that were on the same table, 3 inches from the soaps.
We turned back to go to the souvenir shop.
As he smelled all the soaps, some lady came up and asked her husband if he wanted to get some. He declined. I jokingly offered her to trade guys, but she declined, so I was stuck at the souvenir shop as my guy spent an agonizingly long time deciding what scents to get. The one thing I was happy to get was a small jar of local honey. They came in a wide range of colors, from almost white to almost black and I'm excited to see how it tastes. (Update from later: it tastes like honey, but maybe extra floral.)
Senanque Abbey was only a few minutes away, but when we got there, the first thing my guy wanted to do was check out the souvenir shop. Again, they had soaps, but fortunately only lavender as that is what the abbey is famous for growing. They also had lavender perfume, tea, ointment, lip balm, and who knows what else.
Senanque Abbey

Senanque Abbey


We walked around the outside and some parts of the building that were generally open, but didn't end up taking the tour of the rooms. It was expensive, in French, and we would have had to wait 30 mins before it started. I think it was probably interesting, just not enough to be worth the time and price at this point. The outside of the abbey was pretty though.
Our next stop was Avignon. We took a very scenic route to get there and found convenient parking right by the pope's palace.
I love the Vatican and was super-excited to see this pope's palace. From the outside, it looks more like a fort or stone castle than a palace, reflecting the needs when it was built. It sits within city walls that look to be from a similar era.
We got a discount to enter because some rooms were closed, but we didn't realize that almost half of them were closed! (And the discount was certainly not half.)
In each room that we were able to see, we entered and pressed the appropriate button on our "histopad," a 1-app tablet. The tablet would tell us a bit about the room via audio, and we could scan around the room on the screen to see what it would have been like when the popes lived here. The issue was that the rooms were numbered on the room, but not on the pad, and it was sometimes hard to tell which was the right room to choose.
It didn't help that it required a LOT of imagination to see what was shown on the pad. This palace has been stripped. It's completely bare of all of the tapestries and paintings and furniture and everything. It's mostly bare stone walls, with the occasional faded mural remnants. Even the windows didn't quite align always with what the pad showed.
Maybe my expectations were too high, but I felt this palace left a lot to be desired. It's not even half as good as some of the German castles we went to earlier this year.
Avignon

Avignon


We walked the main street near the palace a bit and stumbled upon a free museum that was some other palace. This other "palace" was much more modern and had some interesting decorations. It wasn't as old and historic as the pope's palace, but it was more worth the price.
Since most of the restaurants seemed a bit touristy, we decided to get out of town for dinner and eat closer to our hotel.
While my phone had cell service, I didn't have internet for some reason, so we just blindly picked a place listed as open on my offline google map. It was in a little town just off the highway that had 3 restaurants. Two didn't have a single vegetarian item on the menu. The third was pizza.
It was some of the worst pizza I've ever had. The sauce was completely tasteless. The cheese was tasteless. The crust was some sort of weird crackery crust that had a texture close to stale bread. The only thing of value were the toppings- artichokes, eggplants, and some other veggies that at least added some flavor. This was not what I expected of France.
The other thing I'm finding here that's unexpected is a bit pleasant. The stereotype is that French people won't speak English, even if they know it. I'm finding that not entirely true. We always start by asking English. In the event someone says no, I ask for Spanish, and then Hebrew in the off chance that the person speaks one of those. Then, the person typically finds someone else who works there who speaks some English and we do get some customer service in English. I wonder if it's because they're more tolerant of people who speak multiple languages, understanding that you can't speak everything, or if we would have gotten the English speaker even if they thought we were stereotypically "dumb Americans" who only spoke one. Regardless, we've been doing ok with the language thing so far and almost always got service in English.

Posted by spsadventures 04:22 Archived in France Comments (0)

CHEESE in Paris

Paris, France

Yet again, I find myself in Paris for a short trip.
Like other times, we had breakfast in a little cafe that opened up onto the street.

All of the last times I was in Paris, I missed out on the D'Orsay Museum. This time, I got a chance to walk around it and check out the art. I used the Rick Steves audio tour and got a good feel for the different types of artwork contained in the museum. My favorite was a Henri Edmond Cross painting that caught my eye before I realized it was him. I guess I must really like his style, as my favorite from the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid is also by him (I even have a poster of it on my wall at home.) The museum had plenty of more famous artists' work, like Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Seurat...
Henri Edmond Cross

Henri Edmond Cross


The building itself is pretty cool too. It used to be a train station, and it still reminds one of a train station due to the spacious, open middle passage that runs straight through the museum.
D'Orsay

D'Orsay

Another important sight that I hadn't gotten a chance to see was the Palace of Versailles. It's a short ride out of Paris, so we got on a bus tour that took us there. The tour came with a guide who showed us around some of the rooms of the palace and explained the kind of life that the royals lived. I found it interesting that there was a ceremony for everything in the royals' lives. The king would ceremoniously go to bed in certain chambers, but then could go through hidden doors to private chambers. Then, when he woke up, he could scurry back in time for him to ceremoniously wake up. When the queen gave birth, apparently there was a whole crowd in the room waiting for the young (hopefully) heir. I can't imagine giving birth with dozens of people crowded into the room watching.
Versailles

Versailles


The rooms are pretty typical palace rooms for the most part. They are covered in artwork that must have taken lots of artists lots of time to paint and install. The main exception is a room that is covered in mirrors. Apparently, at the time the room was built, mirrors were extremely expensive. So for a king to basically wallpaper a room in them was a clear sign that he was showing off his wealth.

After the palace tour, we walked a bit around the gardens. The flowers and topiaries were beautiful. And the gardens were pretty expansive. We only saw a small portion of them before we had to get back to the tour bus and return to Paris.
Gardens

Gardens

Saturday morning, my sister and I started the day with a walk to a local street market. We were hunting for food for a picnic later in the day. Just next to the market, we saw a cheese shop. We love cheese! We bought some cheese using my typical method- asking the store clerk what their favorites were. The top favorite was Comte, so we got some of that as well as a few others.
We then went to the outdoor part of the market. We picked up some delicious berries. (The blueberries were so good that they didn't quite make it all the way to the picnic.) And of course, we picked up some more cheese. At this other cheese stand, the lady's favorite was also Comte, but a slightly different one. We got it as well.
Market

Market

After dropping the food off at the hotel, we took a cab up to Sacre Coeur. Other than Sagrada Familia (which is in a class of its own), this is my favorite cathedral/church stained glass in the world. I've seen it before, but am happy to see it again. This time, when I was inside, there were other people inside (last time it was super-early in the morning and the church was empty). I got a chance to hear a choir sing, which made the experience extra special.
Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

Just outside the church, we caught sight of a kiddie-style train. We hopped on and enjoyed the ride as the train took us all around Montmarte. The audio told us about the various sights that we passed by, like the Moulin Rouge. For anyone who wants to see the area, but doesn't want to walk a lot of hills, it's a great choice.
Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge


We caught lunch just down the hill from Sacre Coeur and a cute little restaurant that only probably seated 20 people. My buratta was delicious and creamy on the inside, and my friend was super-happy with his pork chop with some kind of fruit pickles.

But really, lunch was the appetizer. After walking the rest of the way down the big hill that Sacre Coeur sits on and taking the metro back to the hotel, we picked up all of the picnic food we had gathered in the morning and headed to the Luxembourg Gardens. We ate our picnic on a park bench, watching the people pass by. We moved a bit to a different park bench and watched the kids playing with boats in the pond. Even when it started to drizzle a bit, some people covered up or went under trees, but mostly people stayed outside.
Boats in Luxembourg Park

Boats in Luxembourg Park

When we were finished in the park, we headed back to the hotel to rest up. Everyone else was staying longer, but I had to catch my flight back. I actually had some trouble as the metro station I needed to change at was undergoing construction. First, I tried to follow the signs to the entrance, but it didn't lead anywhere. Then, I asked someone, who directed me to a secret elevator that didn't have signage except when you were right there. But I couldn't get a metro ticket at the entrance with the elevator because there were no working machines. I had to find a different exit to get a ticket from. But I couldn't get out to the ticket area without having a ticket. I wasn't the only one with this problem, so there was a whole line of people waiting to tailgate out of there. Eventually, I was able to get a ticket, come back in, and then catch the train to the airport. But it was certainly a complicated adventure to do so.

Posted by spsadventures 09:33 Archived in France Comments (0)

Catacombs

I got up in my super-comfy bed, took my time getting showered and ready for the day, finished off some of the cheese from yesterday, and headed over to drop my stuff at my sister's hotel. From there, we metroed to where my Aunt was staying and had a nice breakfast in a French cafe. Mmmmmm to nutella banana crepes. We got a glimpse of the outside of the Louvre as well, but despite having the Paris museum pass, we didn't get a chance to pop in. According to the guidebook, there were 3 entrances we could use. The main pyramid one had a long line, even for museum pass people. The side entrance was only for groups and not for museum pass people any more, and the supposed one in the mall seems to be closed. Instead, we arrived at the Catacombs early. Having a skip-the-line tour already booked, we took a stroll through one of the mid-boulevard parks nearby. I think those are a brilliant idea- use road medians as long, thin parks. It doesn't make you feel completely out of the city, but it does give access to many people, and provides a great place for a run/stroll without using too much space. Plus, it makes the air in that area so much better. When we returned to the catacombs entrance for our tour, we noticed that the line was out the door, around the block, and then some. The people in line reported that they had been waiting hours, and supposedly at this point the line was 3-3.5 hours long. That's a loooooong wait for some tunnels and bones. Fortunately, we had pre-arranged a skip-the-line tour with localers. As a result, we only waited 15 minutes (because we arrived 15 minutes early) for the rest of the people to arrive and our tour to start. Also, for us, we didn't just walk through some tunnels and bones, we got a great explanation of everything. The tour price was worth every penny. Our guide started by explaining the history of the limestone quarries in Paris. Basically, all the stone used for Notre Dame and the older palaces and buildings came from deposits under the city. Men worked long, dusty hours to provide the materials for the upper class and royalty to live in extravagance. But eventually, some of the mines turned into sinkholes that collapsed buildings and caused deaths. The people weren't really happy about that, so the king banned limestone mining within the city, but not before the whole underground was already a labyrinth of holes. So, to prevent future accidents, he hired some engineers to shore up the walls. Without a guide, I may not have understood that the plaques on each wall show what year it was shored up, especially for the plaques from the time of the French Republic, where they restarted the calendar and years were single digits. The other plaques on the walls contain street names. Of course, the streets above have changed names many times since the stone plaques were put in, so people who want to use those to navigate have to do reasearch to know what all the old names of the streets were. Some of those people are "catophiles" who love spending time in the parts of the catacombs that are illegal to be in. He told us of the special catacombs police whose only job is to round them up and break up the raves that kids have in the underground. Finally, we got to the bones part. The catacombs ossuary contains 7 million people's bones. These people were originally buried in various cemeteries (and under churches, like the nun in Les Miserables) around Paris. But, since there was no money and lots of death, people were generally buried in mass graves. They were open and stinky as they were being filled. The bodies spread diseases to the drinking water, further spreading death. And there was a general need for another solution. So, the king declared that new bodies would only be buried outside of the city, and once the old bodies decomposed, the bones would be collected and stored underground. Each pile of bones has a stone plaque that says what cemetery they cme from and in what year, as the bone relocation project took quite a while. During it, a load of bones would get dumped down an old mine shaft, a guy would push all the bones against a wall, and some engineers would take the strong ones (leg bones and skulls mostly) to make retaining walls to hold back the mountain of "bone debris" and prevent it from spilling over. In order to make it more asthetic, some of them made designs with the bones. They weren't the fancy, lovingly placed chandeliers and wall art popular with monks who made ossuaries, this was "engineering art" as the guide stated so well. It looks ok and is primarily functional. Some of these walls hold back literally tons of bones, as some piles are dozens of meters deep. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that there was also poetry about death all over the walls. The guide translated it for us, and it was generally supposed to remind us that we are mortal. Lastly, on the way out, we passed the graves of the only people buried here (whole, not just bones). Whe the Louvre palace was being attacked in the Revolution, the king escaped a little and told the Swiss mercenaries he had hired to stop defending the palace. As a result, they were slaughtered, and people buried them in a mass grave in the catacombs to sort of cover it up. Overall, I have to say that the tour was incredible. Without the tour, the catacombs would have been ok, but not worth a 3 hour wait. With the tour, both my sister's boyfriend and I thought it was one of the highlights of the trip. After having such trouble finding a fromagerie yesterday, we cheated a bit and bought our baguette, cheese, and olives at a supermarket. But, at least we only bought French cheese. Of course, we then passed a fromagerie on the way to the metro. We ate our picnic under a bridge over the Seine by Notre Dame. The plan was to climb the tower after lunch. Again, we missed out. The line was incredibly long, which meant that we were either going to be able to climb the tower or see the Louvre, but not both. The Louvre won. We booked it over there pretty quickly, although I did get the opportunity to take in a bit of the scenery on that side of the river, including one of the locks bridges. I'm glad I got to see it before they take it all down, but it's not that big of a deal. When we arrived at the Louvre, there was nobody in the museum pass line, so we went right in. The Louvre is HUGE. As in, the first thing we saw was a castle (or part of it). Yes, they have a castle in just one wing of the Louvre- that's how big it is. We didn't get to see a lot, but we did see Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa, in part because we were lucky enough to have started near them, and in part because we were following maps and signs to get there, once we got close. I've got to say that I think Mona Lisa is way overrated. I moved around the room, and her eyes certainly did not follow me. Maybe it works for a small angle near to the perpendicular, but it doesn't generally work. Also, as expected, there was a massive crowd in front of her, so nobody really got close and nobody really got a good view. Fortunately, the Louvre contains plenty of other art. For those interested in old portraiture, the sections we viewed would be right up your alley. I saw a bunch of interesting paintings featuring headless people or bodiless heads, so I was at least somewhat entertained, even if it's not the kind of art I like. I was also entertained by the building itself. The Louvre used to be the king's palace, so the ceilings are intricate, the windows look out on the statues carve into the exterior walls, and some of the floors have mosaics or other designs. (Of course, some of the art was stolen from where it originally was, but that's a different issue.) We passed lots of art by famous people and then ended up in the "non-European" art section. There were a lot of interesting and fun pieces there. For people who have similar tastes to me, this is the better part of the museum. We crammed in as much art as we could until closing time, and then actually had to wait in a line to get out. While it seemed like we just ate, it was dinner time, so we ate again. I got wok noodles, but the cut of the vegetables was very French and not at all what I've experienced in Chinese food anywhere else in the world (including China). It was also not very spicy, but it was still good.

And that was my last meal in Europe for a while. What a way to end a series of small weekend trips to Europe- Chinese food.

Park by Catacombs

Park by Catacombs


Catacombs

Catacombs


Catacombs

Catacombs


Catacombs

Catacombs


Picnic lunch

Picnic lunch


Lunch by the Seine

Lunch by the Seine


Locks bridge

Locks bridge


Louvre

Louvre


Louvre Ceiling

Louvre Ceiling


Louvre Mosaic

Louvre Mosaic


Picture of picture of pictures

Picture of picture of pictures


Non-European Art at Louvre

Non-European Art at Louvre


Crown Jewels

Crown Jewels

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Finally- the main sights of Paris

I arrived in Paris (again) and headed to my sister's hotel. She was staying at the Holiday Inn St. Germaine, which was super-convenient to the metro and a very nice hotel. I had to wake her a bit and steamroll her to get her out of bed, but eventually we got moving. We decided to walk over to the Eiffel tower and start our day there, but on the way, we passed the grassy area in front of Hotel de Invalides and got distracted by some goats. Per the sign, they were there to ecologically mow the lawn. Next, we got distracted by breakfast. We were by Rue Cler, THE foodie market street of Paris, so I was super-excited to stop there for breakfast. I picked some random pastries from one shop, and then we went to a cafe to get some coffee. I know that it's sooooo cliche, but it was also very satisfying to sit in a cafe in paris. After food, we undistracted ourselves and headed over to the Eiffel tower, where the lines to use the elevators were hours long, as expected. We had planned on using the stairs, but we had read that there would be no lines. It wasn't horrible to have to wait 20 minutes, but it would have been nicer if we were waiting in the shade and not the sun. I highly recommend using the stairs, and not just because the line is shorter and it's cheaper. It was pretty cool to see the engineering, nuts, and bolts up close and personally. Plus, at each level, we got a sense of accomplishment, since we had just climbed 360 stairs a piece. The viewing platforms let you get a good look at the city, but to wait hours to take an elevator to a view is probably not worth it. Climbing and conquering it was, though. Even the people who take the stairs up get to take the elevator down, so we did that and then headed across the river to Trocadero. It's a nice plaza, but what was cool was that one of the buildings contained a maritime museum. It wasn't on our original list of things to do, but we were there, it was free with our museum pass, and it was interesting. Right when you walk in, you see one of Napoleon's boats. The whole thing, not a model. There were also tons of model boats and other boat displays, but what I thought was really neat was a series of paintings. Some king had hired a painter to go around to all the French ports and document them on canvas. There were scenes from 1700s ports all over the world and I found it interesting to see how the world looked back then. When we finished the museum, we were hungry again and very ready for lunch. The plan was to get some bread at a boulangerie, cheese at a fromagerie and wine and then make a picnic. Based on my previous experience, I figured that there are so many in Paris that they'd just jump out at us. We did find a boulangerie and got some bread, but the lady at the wine shop said that there wasn't a fromagerie nearby, so we noshed on the bread to hold us over and headed over to Arc de Triomphe and climbed that, as if we hadn't just done the Eiffel Tower. As with the maritme museum, the Arc was free with the museum pass. I thought that it had a better view then the Eiffel Tower, as the city spokes out from there and we could see more, including the Eiffel Tower and Champs de Elysees. At this point, we decided that we'd pick up cheese by Rue Cler, since we knew there were plenty of fromageries there and were not having luck with getting fromageries to find us. I used the standard method for picking cheese- ask the guy there, "what do you like?" We ended up with some tangy brie, truffled camambert, roquefort and another excellent choice. Right next door, there was a wine shop with an incredibly helpful sommolier. We had all of our picnic items, and even a great olive fig spread as a bonus. We sat ourselves in a small park on the side of Hotel de Invalides, and thoroughly enjoyed our super-French picnic. Since we were there and it was cool looking, we went into the Hotel de Invalides to see Napoleon's tomb. I was jealous of one of the tour groups because they all had paper Napoleon hats. I want one! Finally, we went over to Notre Dame. First, we visited the crypt museum (again free with the museum pass). I was definitely expecting something else based on the word "crypt." What is actually down there is the remains of the original Paris- Lutetia. As described at length in Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame, the original Paris was on the island in the middle of the Seine that now holds Notre Dame. The south bank was later developed and the Latin quarter grew there. Eventually, Paris absorbed various suburbs and expanded. The "crypt" museum had displays that showed Paris in each stage of growth, and went into some of the details of how and why the city grew as it did. As in the Hunchback, they showed the various stages of Notre Dame's development as well. We decided to go into the church next and climb the tower last, which was a mistake because the tower line was closed when we were done inside. But, there's always tomorrow to climb the tower. The church itself isn't that different from anything else from that period, although the church was built, added to, and rebuilt over many eras, each contributing a different style. Since I had to check into my hostel by 8 and we wanted to see the Louvre in the evening, we decided to take a break to check in and get cleaned up for dinner. This is where the drama started. I have stayed at dozens of hostels in dozens of countries (see other blogs) and never really had a huge problem. I found my way to the address listed for Lucky Youth Panoramic Hostel. There is no sign and it's just an apartment in a huge complex, which is probably why they want you to call them from the train station and let them walk you there. For those of us with dead phones though, finding the place took some help. When I got to the apartment, there was nobody to check me in. There were a few guests that were waiting for sheets and had been told to continue waiting by the check-in guy who had left a half hour before to go get sheets. I was in a rush to get to the Louvre, but decided that it would be ok to get my phone a little charge while waiting. After a half hour, I had battery to get on their wifi and call them, but I got a recording that wouldn't let you leave a message. It just said check in was 1-8pm. After an hour waiting, it was 7:30 and I wanted to make sure I had a checkin before 8 so I knew I had a bed for the night, so I called the customer service from the website. They were very nice and said they'd call and find out, but that I should be ok, since I booked it. At their prompting, the hostel people called and were very rude to both me and the booking company. To make a long story short, the booking company refunded my money, apologized and had to report the hostel owner for not honoring a reservation. Truly, other than the rudeness of the host, this facility belongs on air bnb more than a hostel site as it is just somebody's apartment with 1 bathroom and some bunk beds, not a real hostel. In fact, if Paris has any occupancy laws, I'm sure that they have too many people packed into a tiny one-bedroom apartment (including bunks in the living room) to be legal. At this point, I was free to use their wifi to book something else, but I felt bad for the girl who had now wasted 2 hours of her vacation waiting for sheets. I got a great last-minute hotwire deal on Villa Luxembourg, which was right near where I was and where my sister was staying, so I scrambled to get there, although doubted that we'd make it to the Louvre tonight. The guy at the front desk was incredibly helpful and friendly, was able to quickly handle my last minute reservation, and even recommended a nice area for us to go have dinner at.

Goat lawn mowers

Goat lawn mowers


Rue Cler

Rue Cler


Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower


Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower


Napoleon's Boat

Napoleon's Boat


Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe


Ceiling of Arc de Triomphe

Ceiling of Arc de Triomphe


View of Eiffel Tower from Arc de Triomphe

View of Eiffel Tower from Arc de Triomphe


Inside Hotel de Invalides

Inside Hotel de Invalides


Inside Notre Dame

Inside Notre Dame


Notre Dame windows

Notre Dame windows


Outside Notre Dame

Outside Notre Dame

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris, part 2

Today was another short day in Paris. I wanted to visit the things that I will not visit with my sister later, so I started with the Cluny Museum, after a quick (but hella expensive) breakfast that included croissants. I had heard that the Cluny was great because it had some famous tapestries. It was great, but the tapestries weren't even the best part. I really enjoyed the stained glass windows there, as well as the fact that the building itself was ancient, but still in use. I spent longer than expected there, and I decided that I didn't really have enough time to do another museum justice. Plus, I wanted to see a bit of the city. I checked out the Sorbonne area and Luxembourg Gardens, as well as took a walk along the Seine. I got my first glimpse of Notre Dame, but am saving going inside for my sister. Mostly, today got me excited for more- the people relaxing and eating in Luxembourg Gardens make me excited to picnic in the park. Seeing Notre Dame makes me excited to actually get up close and personal with the gargoyles, like in the movie. Seeing the Cluny makes me excited for the Louvre (even though I know they have very different collections.) I walked up a back alley full of interesting food shops and got excited for Rue Cler. Stay tuned for the next adventure in Paris, when I hopefully get to do all this and more.

Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens


Cluny Museum

Cluny Museum


Courthouse area

Courthouse area


Notre Dame

Notre Dame


Selling by the Seine

Selling by the Seine


Back alleyway

Back alleyway


Fountain

Fountain


Statue

Statue


Merry Go Round

Merry Go Round


Lunch at Luxembourg

Lunch at Luxembourg

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

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