Day Six – Musee d’Orsay and Night Dinner cruise on the Seine

It was a very long and wonderful day. I spent the morning in the hotel garden, having my breakfast there and working on a watercolour sketch of the lovely fuchsia and violet bleeding hearts found there. In the afternoon we braved the metro to travel to Musee d’Orsay. The metro is very fast. It is also very hot, smelly and noisy, not to mention I get claustrophobia in dark enclosed spaces. There are also numerous stairs to hike, down 2 sets, up on e set, down one set, on the train, off the train, down one set, up two sets, etc. etc. I managed not to throw up on anybody, but I was a happy girl to get the hell of the dungeons and back to sunshine and air that did not reek of railway tie preservative.

d’Orsay, what can one say about the beautiful opulence of this restored train station? It is truly magnificent, both outside with it’s two clocks and lovely facade and inside with it’s huge gold clock and curved ceiling. So sad no one is allowed to take photos inside, but I got an awesome one of the outside of it. The restored building is itself a work of art. And then to see so many of Van Gogh’s, Monet’s, Degas’s, Gauguin’s Manet’s, Delacroix’s and Toulouse-Lauters works, was overwhelming. Jeff and I were both emotional seeing the Van Gogh’s. Seeing pictures of his art when I was young, was what inspired me to first pick up a paint brush.

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We ate lunch on the 5th level Cafe Campana and I had the most delicious Torte Poulet ( chicken pie). From the cafe you can then go out on the roof. We got our first good look at the Louve which is just across the river and we could see La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur and the Grande Palais in the distance. On the top of the d’Orsay building there are giant sculptures of chess pieces.

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After d’Orsay we walked across the closest bridge to the Louvre side of the Seine river and through the Jardin des Tulleries outside the Louvre. There is no way to describe how absolutely huge the Louvre is, you just have to see it with your own eyes. The Tulleries gardens are very pretty with many chestnut trees, a lovely pond and flowers and statues when you get closer to the museum. Across the street from the Louvre we checked in for our cruise tour and found we had a couple of hours to kill.

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We found a small hole in the wall Spanish bar and had a couple of drinks and were highly entertained by the lively bar tender. We still had a little time to kill so we did some banking and then to my great delight stopped for tea at La Rotonde Des Toileries. I was finally sitting outdoors at a cafe that was frequented by Hemmingway and other authors of the lost generation. I admired the view of apartments with lovely scrolling wrought iron work and iron lamp posts and took some reference photos so I can draw them at a later time.

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Finally it was time to head out for our cruise. We had a lovely driver and guide named Claude from Paris CityVision who told us about the buildings as we drove back to the other side of the Seine and to a docking area right in front of the d’Orsay. (See the photo of the d’Orsay above, it is where all those steps lead down to the river). It was now dark out and there are very little lights at the docking area and the steps had many groups of people picnicking on them, so it was rather tricky getting safely down to the boat. Thank you Claude for helping us. Soon we were on board and off down the river. The cruise and food were out of this world. We dined on a selection of appetizers, scallop on a bed of fresh tomato and basil crumble, shrimp with quinoa and confrit vegetables, duck foie gras with red fruit chutney and little chou pastries with fresh goat’s cheese and a balsamic vinegar coulis. I had chicken leg with thyme juice, sweet potato and baby vegetables and Jeff had a slab of beef with a rosette of of potatoes with a truflle sauce. We had a bottle of Rose and then dessert and cafe Americana. Dessert, mummmm… Light toffee cream with a fizzy chocolate marble, a glass of strawberry tartare and fromage blanc, lemon meringue shortbread with apricot coulis ( my favourite) and chocolate mousse with a crispy crepe and pistachio chips. While we were feasting on all of this amazing food we were cruising by the Institut de France, Notre Dame, the Biliotheque Nationale de France, La Conciergerie, Le Louvre, Docks on Seine, Place de la Concorde, Grande Palais, the Trocadero and Statue of Liberty to finally the Eiffel Tower (our first view of it) all beautifully light. I got very emotional again when we passed Notre Dame, it’s towering spires awash in golden light and bells ringing, it took my breath away.

As the boat turned and we went past the Eiffel tower again, we were treated to the hourly light show and the boat played rousing French music and had flashing lights to match. Then the party was on, as the dance floor opened until we got back to the dock. Claude was waiting for us and so began another little adventure. His van had broken down, so we waited for a Paris CityVision tour bus to come and get us. They had to take another couple to their hotel on the other side of the river, so we got another little tour, driving over the Pont Alexandre, which is the most opulent bridge I have ever seen, by the Grande Pallis and Obelisk and past the Opera Garnier, Claude all the while explaining the sights to us. After the other couple got dropped. We came back across the river through the grounds by the Louvre. It became quite the mission to get that big tour bus througt the narrow warren of streets in the Latin Quarter to somewhere near our hotel. Amazingly the driver got us to Rue Clovis, just half a block away.

Paris is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. We were very tired, but this was one of the best days of my life.

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Day Five – The Pantheon and Shakespeare’s

A very busy day. I went for breakfast at Le Descartes and then took a walk around to find a supermarket, we needed bags for our laundry. I found another lovely wrought iron staircase bedecked with flowers and a store that sells and makes miniatures for table top gaming. Later, Jeff and I both went back to Le Descartes for morning tea and then we were off to the Pantheon.

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The square that the Pantheon is in, has two other majestic buildings and we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. It is hard to convey in words or pictures just how mammoth these buildings are. The Pantheon’s dome is covered because of repairs. The square in front of the Pantheon was filled with students from surrounding schools enjoying the sun with their lunch.

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The columns at the front of the Pantheon are magnificent.

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The inside of the Pantheon is as magnificent as the outside. It is filled with amazing sculptures and paintings that highlight it’s history as first a church dedicated to Paris’s patron saint, St. Genevieve and then as a national monument.

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Probably the most interesting part of the building to so many visitors are the crypts below the building where many famous people are entombed; including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Alexandre Dumas, Marechal Lannes, Jean Moulin, Andre Malraux, Jean Monnet, Rene Cassin and Pierre and Marie Currie. The crypts are a warren of curving tunnels and chambers holding the tombs and there are still many empty chambers with room to entomb many more persons.

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Back at the hotel Jeff had a rest and I sat in the hotel gardens and attempted to make a watercolour sketch of the Pantheon. I so love these gardens, so peaceful and full of life. Many birds live in them, including a rook who thinks he is the boss of the place and a pair of very loud mourning doves.

Later in the afternoon, I headed back to the river to check out Shakespeare’s Book Store. I ended up buying a history of the store, a tote bag, a Gertrude Stein book, a collectors copy of Othello and an art book on how to doodle in Paris. I could take picture after picture of the buildings in Paris. It is a very pretty city.

Later for diner we headed to Place de la Contrescarpe, a square only a block from our hotel that has many cafes, a bakery and a gelato shop. We did not find a cafe we liked the menu for, so we went to Le Descartes again where we dined on steak and duck and had chocolate mousse and custard and apricot pie. The perfect end to a perfect day.

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Day Four – Long Walk and Notre Dame

Breakfast and garden
We had a relaxed breakfast in the hotel garden this morning. Hot chocolate for me, tea for Jeff, fresh orange juice and a basket of croissant, baguette, cinnamon swirls and a chocolate chip buttery bun with jams.

Jeff wanted to relax this morning, so I went “walk about” with plans to meet him for lunch. I stumbled upon the most beautiful park fountain and wrought iron staircase covered in flowers alongside the Ecole Polytechnique.

Pictures and words cannot describe or properly capture how lovely it was.

 

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I took pictures of some of the buildings and doors as I headed towards the Seine River.

Various in the Latin Quarter

Once down at the river I crossed the bridge to Notre Dame.  A young couple stopped and took my picture with Notre Dame in the back ground.  I walked all the way around Notre Dame to take pictures, including a stream punk, bicycle powered ride. Then back across the bridge and down some stairs to the barge area at river level where I took some more pics of Notre dame.  The church is so huge and there is so much going on, wrought iron, stained glass, gargoyles, spires, it is a little overwhelming.

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I spent a lot time looking for Shakespeare and company and did not find it. I did find a lovely little park in a lane between some apartments where I stopped to rest and write for half an hour.

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Eventually I made my way to the Cafe Royal Jussieu to meet Jeff, where we lunched on cheese and ham omelettes with mixed greens and french fries.

 

We relaxed all afternoon and then went out for dinner at Le Decartes and had the best French Onion soup I have ever tasted. The girl serving us was delightfully funny. So far we have found Parisian people to be really lovely and totally helpful in dealing with language issues. We walked around Place de la Contrascarpe, which is a small square surrounded by bars, restaurants and stores. We went and got a couple of things from the store and came back to the hotel. Time for bed now.

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Day Three – We are in Paris

 

We have arrived!  Our hotel is lovely, quaint with a little table filled garden, where we waited while our room was made ready.  I also took a walk around the neighbourhood during that time.  Visited the outside of Ernest and Hadley Hemmingway’s apartment. This is the one they lived in which he describes in a Moveable Feast.  After resting, (we both took a nap) we ventured out to find a grocer to purchase facial tissues and some bottled water.  We ate at a cafe called Royal Jussieu, dining on Croque Monsieur ( grilled ham and cheese sandwich) and salad greens.  The cheese and fresh baked bread in the sandwich made it heavenly.  The servers were so sweet and kind, helping us through the language barrier.  My only shock, was the cost of my small bottle of Coke, €4.80, which I believe is well over $6.00.  I will have to stick to drinking tea.  Back at the hotel, the garden was a lively place, with hotel guest visiting, playing dominos, writing postcards and eating Parisian style, bread, cheese, cold cuts and fruit.  We may do that for most of our lunches, enjoying this garden or the banks of the Seine River or one of Paris’s beautiful parks.  A great first day!

In the garden of our hotel in Paris -the latin quarter

Jeff in hotel garden and Cafe Jussieu

Jeff in hotel garden and Cafe Jussieu

Just one block from our hotel is this historic site, Ernest and Hadley Hemmingway's apartment in the 1920's.

Just one block from our hotel is this historic site, Ernest and Hadley Hemmingway’s apartment in the 1920’s.

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Day 2 – Meeting my Brother and Niece, a Toronto Adventure

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My brother Peter and niece Kathryn arrived 10ish this morning, and after a few hugs, we jumped in Pete’s car and took off for a day of Toronto driving adventure. We looked at amazing buildings, including Casa Loma, a real castle in a residential area. We drove along the lake shore, including the CNE grounds and saw where they have Medieval Times. (Feasting and Jousting). I was thrilled to get a couple of good photos of the front of the ROM, including the Foo Dog statue by the main doors and the ultra modern attachment to the side of the old style main building. I love that mix of old and new architecture. We finally managed to find a little beach were we could take a few family photos. We were also blessed with a few wild swans while there. It was a great day. I only wish Sandra and Michael could of joined us. Hopefully next time.

I love how beautiful and visually stimulating Toronto is. I hope to return someday and spend more time exploring the wonderful things it has to offer. I would so love to make a trip to the ROM. The traffic however, wow! I would be totally terrified to drive there. It can be terrifying to even be a passenger. The driver that took us to the airport got us there in record time by going mostly around 135 km an hour! I tried to look out and up so as not to throw up from fear of dying.

Next, Paris!

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Day One – To Toronto We Go

The first day of our trip has been a mixed bag. It started strangely with a taxi driver who only had one arm, so could not help with the luggage and did not know the way to the airport. Then we were separated in security which took what seemed forever.

On the upside we enjoyed relaxing in Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge, having coffee and a light breakfast. Our flight was the most comfortable and relaxing I have ever been on. I am sure I am spoiled from ever wanting to travel economy again. It was a pleasure to have a seat I actually fit in with lots of leg room. We had our own flight attendant who kept our wine glasses filled and served us a delicious gourmet lunch on china dishes with real silverware. I felt totally pampered.

Traveling by private transfer from the airport to the hotel, we got to experience a Toronto rush hour traffic jam. Our driver tried an alternate route which took us along the lake shore and the CNE grounds. I really enjoyed that part of the trip. I think that ride was as long as our flight. Downtown Toronto is really something. I was overwhelmed with the amount of sky scrappers and the architectural mix of old and new. There are 100’s of huge towering condo complexes that must have 1000’s of units in each one. I felt like I have come from a small town to the big city.

Our hotel is huge and right on the corner of Bay and Younge. Our room is disappointing, kinda of small and ordinary. I would be okay with that, but the bathroom is really horrible. A disgusting stained tub with rusting drain. Yuck. That prompted me to walk the 3 blocks down Younge Street to Eaton Centre to buy some flip flops to wear in the shower. Eaton Centre is a huge 4 story shopping mall that was really crowed with 1000’s upon 1000’s of people. Younge street is a lively mix of old style bars with blaring neon light signs, like Zanibars, quainter eateries, street performers and musicians and even a sit in protest. Jeff and I went out for a late night dinner to the Elephant and Castle which was pleasant and the food was great.

I am snuggled into bed now, which thankfully is super comfortable. Tomorrow I get to meet my brother and then back to the airport we go to catch our overnight flight to Paris. I am very excited, so I hope I can sleep. If not I will get out my art bag and do some watercolour painting and doodling.

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My Art/Writing/Smashing/Journal for our Paris Trip

My Life Writing mentor and friend, Joanne Klassen, gifted this writing journal to me, for my trip to Paris a couple of years ago. I have altered it to accommodate, writing, art journaling and some smash booking. I did not want to take more than one book with me. I divided the journal into a planning section, then a 6 page section for each day of my trip. Each section, has a tab with a title page with some of my stash of Paris photos and clippings. Then 5 pages to write in and smash my receipts, ticket stubs and other memorabilia on. The last page of each days sections has a sheet of watercolour paper to art on. I am taking a small travel art journal kit with me, that has a water solvable palette of Peerless water colours, Neocolours and Inktense swatches, water brushes, glue and a few other necessities. I plan to spend a lot of time sitting in cafes, on the river bank or quays and in parks writing and painting.

Paris Journal
Inside  cover of my Paris journal
Paris map in my Paris journal
Planning section of my Paris Journal
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Watercolour paper in Paris Journal

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