9 Jour – Musee d’Orsay & Le Souffle

1 Jul

Ahhh…the Musee d’Orsay. So beautiful! I found it so exciting to appreciate in person all the paintings I love. Gare d’Orsay: the collection is housed in an old train station which narrowly escaped the wrecking ball in the 1970’s until the French realized it would be a great place to house the enormous collection of 19th-century art scattered throughout the city.

I was surprised at the eroticism of many of the paintings and sculptures. I guess in a pre-Freudian society, the sex drive was channeled into an acute sense of beauty, and sex had to be exalted into a more pure and divine form.

Musee d'Orsay

There an elephant in front of Musee d'Orsay

For dinner we ate at Le Souffle. Wow! Mushroom souffle and chocolate souffle for dessert. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Le Souffle

8 Jour – Montemarte & Sacre Coeur

30 Jun

Montmartre would be great with 75% fewer tourists. You need to have a few to fuel the painters, street artists, etc. But really, so many?

Having said that, we had a great day here. Lunch at L’ete an Pente Douce. Great quiche! Followed by a tour (a la Rick Steves) which gave us a good overview of the neighborhood. A photo there, a drink there…awesome! Oh yeah, we also saw Sacre Coeur…

However, our real goal was to sit on the steps of Sacre Coeur and watch the lights of the city come up. So around 6:00 we bought a baguette, goat cheese, chicken and beer and headed to the steps. And there we sat…and sat. 4 1/2 hours later the lights finally came up. It was worth the wait:

While waiting we saw some amazing and crazy things. The first was the street performer Iya Traore and his “soccer ball routine”. Now THIS is amazing. Check it out:

As we were watching Iya, a fight broke out about 10 steps below us. We were safe though, because our posse from Poland was sitting in front of us to offer protection. No kidding, about 7 guys speaking Polish sat down in front of us and drank beer. As you can imagine, we postulated on a few scenarios. I mean 7 football looking guys sitting together to watch the lights come up at Sacre Coeur? Turns out they are in France for the Air Show. Great guys. Offered us beer (what’s not to like?)

Oh, and did I mention…there was a skate ramp set up which spanned the steps of the Basilica? Apparently a guy on roller blades was going to perform a death defying stunt a couple of days later. We were starting to figure out how to structure our Saturday to get back to see this miracle when low and behold, the next thing we know, he’s walking up the ramp (in his skates, of course) on his way to do the stunt! Right before our eyes! You can’t get much luckier than that! See for yourself:

The night ended with the lights of the city coming up and us in a jazz cafe eating more (!) and listening to a great jazz quartet.

Wow, I love this city!

7 Jour – Latin Quarter & Jardin du Luxembourg

29 Jun

Today was a do laundry, go shopping, stay close to home kind of day. We had lunch at Cafe de Mouffetard. A scene from the movie Amelie was filmed here…and it’s about 30 steps from our door. Great salad and poulet. We then lazed our way over to Shakespeare & Company Booksellers where we picked up a copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (tres cliche, I know) and poked around an amazing selection of dusty old books.

Meandering our way up Boulevard St. Michel we ended up at Jardin du Luxembourg. Of course we stopped along the way for a pastry and cafe :). Amazing gardens they have at Luxembourg! While we were there loud brass band music started up. Turns out some high school students (I’m guessing) got together to play their end of year repertoire – a bit sloppy but fun.

I love the pace of life here (and yes, I do realize I’m on vacation). They go into work about 9 or 10 (sometimes later), work until 6 or 8, eat dinner around 9 and are home 11 or 12. I could totally adjust to that lifestyle!

Dinner was at Perraudin and then jazz at the Cafe Universal. No pics or video of this band because I didn’t care for them. Hey, it’s my blog, right?

6 Jour – Napoleon’s Tomb, Rodin and a Meetup

28 Jun

It’s too darn hot!! 90 – 95 degrees for the past 2 days and so humid! It didn’t stop us though. We visited L’Hôtel national des Invalides. While we didn’t spend too much time in Musée de l’Armée, we did enjoy seeing the tomb of Napoleon. (Is that really something to enjoy?)
The Dome Over Napoleon's Tomb
We then visited Musee Rodin. So beautiful! Unfortunately much of the gardens were closed. We could only walk back as far as the fountain. Interesting to follow his relationship with Camille Claudel.


Leaving Rodin behind, we took the Metro to St. Germain des Pres and ate lunch at Les Deux Magots, the cafe where Hemingway spent much of his time. By the way, if you haven’t seen Woody Allen’s new flick Midnight in Paris, you should – really good.

We stopped into Eglise St. Germain des Pres, the oldest church in Paris. Parts of it date to the 6th century, when a Benedictine abbey was founded on the site by Childebert, son of Clovis.

At night we went to a Meetup Group – Paris If You Please. This is a group made up of ex-pats from a variety of countries – England, Taiwan, United States, Mexico, Germany. We played a Paris quiz game and while we didn’t win, I will say that we did pretty well scoring 33 points! It was a lot of fun and we made some new friends. Not a bad evening.

5 Jour – Center Pompidou & Jazz

27 Jun

I love the Centre Pompidou! We started in the Brancusi exhibit. I enjoyed learning about the progression of his studios. I thought it was a really interesting way to present his work. I now have a much better sense of the artist. Constantin Brancusi's Workshop

In the main centre we focused on Level 5, art from the early 20th century to the 1960’s including painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, cinema, design and architecture. To me the most impressive part of this museum is the extensiveness of the collection. Impressive!
Level Four Contemplative Panoramic Modern Art

After the Pompidou we had some dinner and then came upon a jazz club (we were in the Marais). It was  jam session night at Le Baiser Sale – Le temple de la Fusion – this pretty well covers them so they can offer most kinds of music. We heard an excellent vocalist with a great combo backing him – Marc Thomas. This guy has vocal chords of gold!  He started out with one of my favorite Chet Baker songs – Time After Time.
Marc Thomas

Have a listen:

Paris Jazz from Jeff Hester on Vimeo.

4 Jour – Versailles

26 Jun

Versailles: hot and crowded; just sayin’…

3 Jour – Dinner Cruise on the Seine & We’re Engaged!

25 Jun

Today was a bit of a rest day. We slept till 1:00 (yes, PM!) Felt good to finally catch up on sleep! Once we were showered and dressed – about 3:00 – we ventured out to find some lunch and do some shopping. We stumbled upon a great little Italian Bistro. I had a really good salad…greens, artichokes, olives, capers, tomatoes. As we ate, we kept hearing loud cheering down the street and then loud parade type (60’s Disco parade type) music. It turned out that the annual Gay & Lesbian Parade was afoot. Check out this short video:

While the parade was fun save for the occasional  fights breaking out, it was a problem because we couldn’t get back across the street to our place. And we had to get ready for our dinner cruise. So we walked (and walked) until we found a subway entrance and went under the street to the other side.

Fast forward 2 hours to the dinner cruise. It was on Bateaux-Mouches. The boat was beautiful. Our table was next to floor to ceiling windows and a jazz band played as we toured the Seine. We were offered a choice of starters with a bottle of champagne. I chose foie gras pate (duck liver) and Jeff had the smoked salmon. For the main course I ordered the veal and Jeff ate Skate wing (delicious!) and of course a bottle of red wine. Two cheeses followed. Sounds like a lot of food but they served small portions and it was over a number of hours.

Feeling sated from our meal we finished our wine and watched the lights on the water. Dessert arrived (black forest gateau and lemon tart) and Jeff said he wanted to say something before dessert. I thought he wanted to discuss the day’s scores at Wimbledon but to my surprise, he got down on one knee and offered me a sparkly object. Yay! Jeff is a wonderful man and I am honored that he asked me to marry him (I said yes, BTW). Check out the pictures below.

I don’t remember much after that, although we did end up at a jazz club – Caveau de la Huchette. Very cool place in a cellar. So fun to watch the dancers.

To end the evening we took a one mile stroll (don’t try this in heels) back to our place. Another beautiful day in a beautiful city.

2 Jour – Arc du Triomphe, Champs d’Elysees, and a cross-town walk

24 Jun

What an amazing day in an amazing city! To be honest, at first I didn’t see what all the hub bub was about. It’s just a city, right? Well, then I saw the Arc De Triomphe, Champs Elysees, the Louvre and drank hot chocolate and ate macarons at Angelina’s. Okay, I get it. What a beautiful city!

On our second day we stood a’top the Arc De Triomphe and enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the city –  Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, L’Opera de Paris Garnier…

We then lunched on panini on Champs Elysees and of course went into Cartier.  A little known fact – I worked at Cartier in New York. I paid 2 euros to use a restroom in a fancy mall (see picture below). Everything in this restroom was on sale – black and orange toilet paper, black sinks, library wall paper…très intéressant!

We continued walking up Champs Elysees and stopped into Angelina’s for the most divine hot chocolate and macarons – pistachio, vanilla, chocolate and Mont  Blanc. Miam miam! On to the Jardin de Tuileries and to the Louvre.

I know I don’t have to tell you how fantastic the Louvre is – wow! We saw Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, Mona Lisa, La Grand Odalisque and so much more. I felt like the art was just extra – the architecture and design of the building stole the show. We will be back! I’m excited to see the exhibits from the Netherlands.

After the deluge of art, we walked along the Seine to Ile de la Cité and ate dinner at La Brasserie de I’lle St Louis. I ate the cassoulet and Jeff  had sauerkraut and sausage.

We ended the day walking back to the Latin Quarter to our sweet little apartment. I love all the walking! It’s like the JMT but better. We started the day running (okay a fast walk) up the steps of the Arc de Triomphe (kicking 20-year-olds butts) then up the Champs Elysses thru the Jardin de Tuileries, through the Louvre, along the Seine past Notre Dame and finally back through the Latin Quarter. I’d say 6-8 miles…true, minus the 35 lb. pack, but maybe it burned off some of the 8000 calories I ate!

1 Jour – Pantheon, Cluny, and the Latin Quarter

23 Jun

My first thought for Day 1 was to sleep. Oh, well, not in the cards. I couldn’t. Instead we toured the Latin Quarter. We followed a walk in my book.

Starting at the Pantheon we viewed the resting places of France’s finest – Rouseau, Voltaire, Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, etc. We then walked to the Sorbonne. My mother studied here when she lived in Paris with her mother while my grandfather worked in the Middle East. I think she was just here a year and she was here right after she was in the boarding school in Switzerland. Ahhh…the stories. We weren’t able to see the church of the Sorbonne. It was closed for renovations.

My favorite part of the day was visiting the Musee National du Moyen Age – Thermes de Cluny. This is a very manageable museum which houses one of the world’s strongest collections of medieval art. The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestry is here. I read the fictional account of the making of these tapestries – fun.

We then picked up a panini and sat in Square Rene Viviani looking at Notre Dame. We’ll get there soon! We finished our tour by walking back to our place (in the Latin Quarter) by shops, cafes, patisseries, etc. We picked up a couple of macaroons, then climbed the four flights of stairs to our place and took a nap. Finally…sleep!

Dinner was at La Petit Provence on Rue Ortolan in the Latin Quarter. Jazz at the University Club was after. We got there just in time for the last song. It was great though – good fusion band. We’ll definitely go back to this place. It had a great vibe and you know how I dig a good vibe!

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Walking the Latin Quarter

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View from Pantheon

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Musee National du Moyen Age - Thermes de Cluny

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The Kings Heads - Musee National du Moyen Age - Thermes de Cluny

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Eglise St-Julien-le-Pauvre