Saturday, March 27, 2010

Europe - Day Seven

It's our last day in Paris...  I slept in til 9ish, skipped breakfast and nibbled on a bagguette and water instead.  Man!  Come to Paris, looking forward to french cuisine...  and I'm surviving on bread and water.  This stinks!

(You wanna know what's funny to watch on french TV when you can't sleep and feel miserable? "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons"!  Homer speaking french is enough to send anyone into a fit of giggles... I don't care how sick you feel!)

Today we took it slow...  Woke up late, ate just a little, and finally headed out for a walk around the city.  The weather was a little overcast and cool - so it was perfect for me!  We jumped on the Metro (underground train) and went down by the Louvre to explore a little.  The Metro was so easy to use!  The hardest part was buying the tickets - it's an automated machine and everything is in french... but we managed!  After that, it was a breeze!

We started the day at the Cathedral of Saint-Chapelle.  GORGEOUS.  The stained glass windows in this small chapel surround you on all sides!  We walked in when the day was cloudy and overcast... but in the time we were inside, the sun came out and room just glowed with color and light!  One of the coolest places I've ever been.  A must-see if you ever go to Paris!
(I found this last photo online, courtesy of the Sainte-Chapelle website, the photo is by Sean Munson - it's the closest I could find to do justice to the beautiful setting.  You really must experience it for yourself!)

We took a little time to walk along the Seine River and through the neighborhoods, looking at cool buildings, drooling over what people were eating and drinking at the sidewalk cafes, and enjoying the fresh air (although, I must say... there are LOTS of stinky smells in Paris!  Ewww....)

At 3pm we had our wine tasting experience at O Chateau - this, I LOVED.  So fun!  We managed to find the wine cellar after twisting and running down several back streets.  Too funny.  When we got there, we were taken into a back alley and down a steep winding stairwell into the bowels of the earth...  I was wondering if we were being led astray...  Until we walked in this uber-cool room with domed ceilings, dimmed lights, and lots of wine bottles lining the tables...  And a group of older ladies (from Bloomington, MN - 20 minutes from us!) from our tour group giggling at the table, waiting for their wine!
(The photo above is courtesy the O Chateau website.)
Our wine tasting guide was fabulous!  So funny and full of all kinds of interesting facts.  This was supposed to be a 1/2 hour event - we were there almost 1 1/2 hours.  Guess we were a fun group.  We got to try several kinds of wines, learn how to taste a wine - all the nuances of color, smell, taste, swishing, etc.  I thought it was really interesting and fun - and can't wait to go to another wine tasting! 
(This photo is also from the O Chateau website.  The cutey on the right was our guide.)

After this, we had the afternoon to wander around the city again.  We sat in a park and watched people, we walked through the sculpture gardens, and enjoyed just being in Paris without the need to spend a lot of money.  All the shopping in the area we were in was either ultra cheap tourist junk or high end Gucci and Prada.  So we decided shopping was not a priority.  Instead, we just tried to soak up as much of Paris as we could on the last afternoon of the trip.
(Coming back to the Louvre to hang out before our tour...)
At 6pm, we were to tour the Louvre!  We went to the Glass Pyramid like we were told to, only to not see any of our group!  It was time to meet... and no one was there!  We looked at our itinerary again - only to see an address on a corner a few blocks away!  We got directions from a security guard and booked it to the address on the paper - I was almost in tears, thinking we missed the tour that we already paid for AND we were going to miss the Louvre (one of things I wanted most to see while in Paris!).  We got to the address - and no one was there.  Then, as we walked outside, I looked down the street and there was a tour agency on the corner.  I said "let's go look in there, maybe they will be able to tell us where to find our group."  As we walked in, who do we see?  6 other people from our group!  Somehow, we managed to find them before the left...  How?  I'm not sure.  According to our paperwork, we were in the wrong place!

So we followed our tour guide back to the Louvre, entered through the Pyramid and began the tour.  Our tour guide must really love Greek sculpture... We spent over an hour looking at just that.  Cool, but I don't need to know every detail about every sculpture...  It took forever to get to the few pieces I wanted to be sure to see!  But let me tell you - the building itself was beautiful!  I wish we had had more time to just wander...  It really was a fabulous sight to see!
(Diane de Versailles by Leochares - beautiful.)
(Amazing ceilings in almost all of the rooms!  They are artwork all on their own...  It almost seems overkill to put masterpieces on the walls, too.)
(This is "The Wedding Feast at Cana."  You don't realize how immensely HUGE these paintings are until you stand next to one.  The details are incredible.)
(The inside of another room...  Wow.)
(Well, of course we saw the "Mona Lisa"!  She's about the size of my head, and a long ways from where you can stand, and behind glass.  Kind of hard to really see her...  Not quite the exciting moment I thought it would be.  I thought Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" was a lot more fun to see - so much detail when you can get up close!)

By the time we left the Louvre, I was once again tired and not feeling so well... So we caught the Metro and headed back to the hotel - once again insanely jealous of all the couples sitting at the sidewalk cafes, enjoying a candlelight dinner.  I felt jipped that I didn't get to enjoy those typical Parisian moments, or add a bunch of pounds due to the butter-laden cuisine!  Bummer.

When we got back to the hotel, we asked for our airport-transfer info at the front desk.  We were supposed to have received a fax - which the desk did not have.  After much looking and questioning, it turns out they had given our fax to someone else.  We asked if they could call the transfer company to find out what time they were picking us up in the morning - their reply?  "Oh, so sorry.  You do it yourself."  We went up to our room and tried to call - but our phone would not work.  We went back down to the desk and asked again - being polite and maintaining our composure very nicely at 11pm.  The desk clerk's response?  "Oh, so sorry.  I can't call for you."  Oh, so sorry?!  YOU lost our info, the least you could do is help us out!  "Oh, so sorry."  After speaking to three different clerks and getting the same response each time, we gave up.  Our advice - don't ever stay at the "Mercure Paris Tour Eiffel Suffren" hotel.  Great location - horrible service (which was what most of our group experienced).

We were so ticked off at them, that we decided we needed to finish the trip on a high note - no matter how tired and sick I felt. We walked over to the Eiffel Tower and decided to go up to the top. Oh yeah. The top level closes at 9pm. ARRRRGH. Ok, so we went to the second level - just as good really. It was a beautiful night and a great way to leave Paris.

(It's "sparkling" for us!)
Good night, Paris.

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