Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Europe - Day Five

Today started with a delightful breakfast at our hotel, and then off to run around town for a couple of hours in the daylight!

We found the Our Lady's Church and went inside to see the famous Madonna statue by Michelangelo. 
It's still an active church - many people come here to pray.
These doors reminded me of the cathedrals in Ireland.  Loved them.
Beautiful stained glass.
I loved this poem.  A bunch of poems were displayed in the entryway.

We went back to Market Square to see the actual market taking place - such gorgeous arrays of produce and flowers!  It's pretty cool to think this is where the people who live here actually do their grocery shopping! 
Oh!  And the stinky fish market - there were only a few vendors here today.  I can't imagine what this place smells like on a summer morning! 
We wandered through un-countable chocolate shops, beer shops, and lace shops (and of course, sampled some chocolate and bought some lace)...  So much to look at!  The church courtyards and canals were especially beautiful in the morning light.  Have I mentioned I really liked this place?
A map of the town - done in lace. Crazy!
Our Lady Church and Courtyard.
On our way back to the hotel to board the bus, we found this man playing his instruments.  The bowl-type thing on his lap is a "hang drum" and it sounds like a steel drum - but he plays it with his fingers.  Then the didgeridoo is the long tube he blows through (think Austrailian world-music, if you haven't heard one of these before - or youtube it!).  And then, of course, he adds some bells on his ankle to lighten the sound.  The music he produced was haunting, mesmerizing, and simply beautiful.  I could have listened to him all day.  (Here's a link to some other guys playing on hang drums, and the guy in the middle is holding a didgeridoo...  although I'm not sure why he isn't playing it!)
Next, on the bus as we head to Paris!
So many springy daffodils along the roadsides!

Arriving in the city, we drove right by the Eiffel Tower - to find out our hotel was a block from it!  So cool.  We had some time to get settled into our rooms at the Mercure Paris Hotel and take a quick nap, before getting ready for our evening on the town. 

We gathered back at the bus to take a nighttime tour of the city - getting to see all the monuments lit up!  I didn't take many pictures during this tour - because we didn't get off the bus, and it was raining outside.  Both factors don't make for good pictures...  So here's just a few of some cool lit up buildings - "Paris by night!"
We ended the tour at the restaurant where our whole group would eat that night.  "Les Noces de Jeannette."  And what a fun night it was!  We sat a table with Connie and Jeff, and Jim and Vera - once again, so fun!  In the midst of trying new foods, laughing at stories, and having several glasses of wine - we were entertained by an accordian performer!  Jim knew all the old World War songs she played and began singing along... then people at other tables started singing...  It was so fun, like something right out of a movie.
Our menu...
A lovely table... with lots of wine!
Vera and Jim.
Connie and Jeff.
Me and the hubby.  (No idea what I was laughing at...)
Our incredible accordian player.  So energetic and fun!
My first time trying escargot.  Not bad.  Don't know if I'd order it again, though...
Duck in Orange Sauce - DELISH! 

After dinner we headed back towards the Eiffel Tower.  We parked the bus on a terrace a short ways away, with a perfect view - and waited til the perfect moment...  When the Tower sparkles!  Totally unexpected and so cool.  The whole tower shimmers for 15 minutes.  A sight to see!
Once the sparkling stopped, we all reboarded the bus and headed back to the hotel.  Most people went in to go to bed, but we decided we weren't ready.  We went for a walk with another couple, John and Brenda, to the Eiffel Tower...  then for a much longer walk through the parks and into the surrounding neighborhoods.  (This was our first taste of the "romantic" atmosphere of Paris.  Goodness, people were making out EVERYWHERE!  In the bushes, on statues - literally, by dumpsters...  Really?  By a dumpster?!)
By the time we got back to our room, it had been a very long and busy day.  But just thinking about all the things we saw in one day, was pretty amazing!

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