A Travellerspoint blog

London Towers

Amazingly, the swaying of the 190 mile per hour Eurostar to London actually put me to sleep. We arrived at the beautiful red brick with blue steel rafters station of St. Pancras and headed towards Borough Market where we were greeted with every scent of international street food imaginable. We could not resist the scotch eggs with their dark orange gooey yolks spilling out over a bed of arugula. We all chose the steak and kidney pie from among the many choices that included chicken, wild mushroom, and venison to be savored at tomorrow's dinner. And what else would Wisconsinites and Francophiles stock up on but gruyère, Swiss and a pungent soft blue cheese from Switzerland. Then we ate a perfectly wonderful basket of fish and chips that Tom washed down with one of the rare beers that he found at an amazing store at the market.
We walked over the London Bridge on the way to the Tower of London where Anne Boleyn had lost her head.
Time began ticking by very quickly as we waited for about forty minutes for a tour bus that was apparently delayed trying to make it through the congested streets that were all under construction. We hopped off the bus at Westminster Abbey whose gilded altars exceeded my wildest expectations. Walking around the side altars where some of the stained glass had been destroyed by the bombing during World War II, were the many tombs of kings, queens, poets, writers and soldiers who were buried there.
The cold weather didn't dampen our spirits as we quickly walked past the beautiful St. James Park on the way to Buckingham Palace before heading to Victoria Station and heading back home on the Eurostar train.







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L'Orangerie and Beyond

The trees in the Jardin des Tuileries are finally starting to show some green and some hope that warmer days may be ahead before we leave Paris. This was a little playtime for Catherine since as soon as she spotted the carrousel her eyes lit up with excitement. Then we spent a very relaxing morning under the spell of Monet's Nymphéas at the Musée de l'Orangerie. We also enjoyed their wonderful collection of works from Pierre-August Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau and others. The only art I did not particularly appreciate were the paintings of bloody carcasses by Russian artist Chaïm Sontine.
We walked down Rue de Rivoli and past Place Vendôme with its beautiful column that was started by Napoleon and modeled after Rome's Trajan Column to celebrate the victory of Austerlitz. The very expensive Hôtel Ritz and other expensive boutiques like Cartier line the square.
The Duc d'Albret Brasserie was our lunch destination as we had heard that they had wonderful inexpensive croque madames. We sat down at an extremely small table and they brought us two large chalkboards with entrées and their prix fixe menu. Luckily Anne made me ask if they served croque madames. They took away the chalkboards and handed us a wrinkled menu in plastic on which must be their locals menu. So we had delicious croque madames, a little different take on them than their American versions, but wonderful and very inexpensive. Our waitress became quite enamored of Catherine and engaged her in a little French conversation and also offered her two cookies, langues de chat, which Catherine loved.
We shopped our way to L'Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine which was designed as a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army and with its huge columns it barely resembles a church. The inside also featured some very modern artwork that Anne thought resembled figures from outer space.
And no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Louvre. Well, at least not without a visit to the Louvre Bookstore.







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Les Petits Poissons

Nicolas was waiting for us at the Pigalle métro station and we were on our way together to the Bois de Vincennes. Catherine enjoyed the Aquarium Tropical in the Palais de la Porte Dorée watching the unicorn fish, fish that looked like they had LED eyes and broccoli coral with moving tentacles. There were also white crocodiles and alligators from Mississippi. I really wanted to see the Château de Vincennes which was built by Charles V and completed in about 1370. After walking for over an hour, we finally reached the château but the ticket area was on the completely opposite side. Unfortunately for us, the château area is about the size of a small city and we now had to walk around it. This adventure had taken so much time that Nicolas had to leave in order to catch his train for Poitiers. It seemed like a very sad goodbye but perhaps Nicolas will be able to return to see us in Milwaukee again some day.
All that walking had made us extremely hungry. This neighborhood seemed very upscale with very wide tiled sidewalks lined with beautiful stores and apartments. A cute little shop caught our eye and they had Sunday brunch. We went in, sat down and almost ordered but we noticed that the price of the five course brunch was 29 euros. Anne thought that was ridiculous so we simply walked out. Luckily we found a McDonald's around the corner. It was very crowded and we ordered on computer screens and by the time we had payed for our food it was already ready.
Refreshed, we walked over the drawbridge and into the château. The top of the donjon is the tallest medieval donjon in France. We climbed several stories of stairs and just when we thought we couldn't climb one more story, up we went and climbed another. The craftsmanship of the fourteenth century builders is always amazing. Bob is always fascinated by the thick heavy doors and the original iron hardware. The chapel which was modeled after St-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité was especially beautiful. The floor to ceiling stained glass windows in yellow and blue and the large rose window with a burst of orange in the center were stunning with the sun streaming through.
We made it home and up the two flights of stairs to our apartment despite the fact that Anne is now feeling very sick. Bob and I left to take our clothes to the laverie which is actually a nice evening out amid the very friendly people of our neighborhood.







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Montmartre and Nicolas

Little Catherine is not feeling well and if she has what I had, then that would be dreadful. She perked up when Papi suggested a ride on the carrousel up the hill on the Place des Abbesses, which is now her favorite pastime in Paris. We walked up to Sacré Coeur where there were throngs of people jockeying for space in front of the railings to be photographed in front of the panoramic view of Paris.
Nicolas arrived from Poitiers in the afternoon and Tom suggested that we take a brewery tour of a craft brewery on Rue de la Goutte d'Or. We walked down Boulevard Clichy which becomes Boulevard Rochechouart and we were now in an entirely different feeling Paris. There were vendors roasting chestnuts and peanuts on the street, women carrying items in bowls balanced on their heads, men selling what were most likely stolen phones and the streets were extremely crowded and dirty. When we finally reached the brewery, it was closed. So Tom led us to another craft beer store that was on his to-do list. It had 'Private Chess Club' written on the door, which was a little worrisome, but it did indeed sell beer. So we sat down and Catherine was entertained by the cavalier chess pieces. For lack of a better plan, we walked back to the carrousel and back to Sacré Coeur where we watched a man do soccer moves on a precipice overlooking the city. My to-do list had included a walk up Rue Abreuvoir so now was as good a time as any to make this walk. It was breathtaking with areas between the buildings that overlooked the city. This street was also home to Renoir and other famous painters and writers and obviously gave them enormous inspiration.
We stopped for dinner at a little Italian restaurant less than a block from our apartment. We were greeted in Italian and the food was phenomenal: eggplant Parmesan, lasagna Bolognese, cannelloni with ricotta and spinach and pizza that was absolutely authentically delicious. We toasted 'Santé' with a bottle of prosecco and hope we have some more time to spend with Nicolas tomorrow.







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Sunny Spring Garden

Walking through the beautiful Luxembourg a garden with its palace build in 1611 by Marie de Medici was a wonderful way to spend this sunny morning. The scent of manure from the newly planted flowerbeds permeated the air. Catherine sat right down in the gravel path and wanted to do nothing else but sift the little stones through her fingers. She was finally delighted to sit by the water and feed the ducks and gulls her left-over madeleines. Amazingly at the children's playground, Anne ran into a former associate of hers from the Health Department. Now that really made us feel like this is truly a small world.
An accordionist was playing "La Vie en Rose" while we were ordering crèpes from L'Avant Comptoir. Then we walked down the narrow Rue Seguier, Rue Gît-Le-Coeur, and Rue Suger which were reminiscent of Paris in the Middle Ages. At Maison Georges Larnicol, we bought an assortment of kouignettes and marveled at the huge chocolate Easter eggs made to look like they were multi-colored marble.
We happened upon an orchestra conducted by Missa Johnouchi who was named UNESCO Artist for Peace in August 2006 at L'Église St-Germain-des-Prés and were mesmerized by her Asian-style music. The acoustics in the church were amazing and the compositions so beautiful that it was difficult to leave. But we were tempted by a snack of delicious dark chocolate gelato from Grom before we headed home to rest our weary feet.







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