This blog is posted mostly everyday when we take a break from our usual retired Life as former full-time RVer's and travel overseas.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Long Day at the Louvre

Before I begin, Americans say: loov, the rest of the world says: loovra. We know some people from our former life that would insist the rest of the world is pronouncing it wrong. They are also the same type of people who tells that they would never travel out side the US because as there too much to see in the US. There is nothing like a little travel to open ones mind to the greater world that is out there, too bad some peoples mind’s are wired shut.


Paris is the most visited city in the world, yet early in the morning, all the hustle and bustle is still waiting to break loose. I keep forgetting to take another photo of this same intersection in the late afternoon when we usually return to our hotel. That is when you take your life into your hands crossing the street. I read somewhere that as long as a Paris driver misses a pedestrian by a meter (three feet) it was no problem. I joke with Linda that she has now become a real Parisian because she no longer pays any attention to the color of the lights, she only calculates if there is enough time time cross the street without being hit by a vehicle. Paris joke: How can you tell the tourists at the intersection? They are the ones waiting for the light to change before crossing.


Photo of several young, beautiful Parisians demonstrating Metro safety. Notice the bags in front of their bodies. Notice how they they are looking around, being aware of their surroundings. Actually pickpockets are very common in Paris, and one member of our group had an encounter with one yesterday on the subway. They yelled and grabbed the hand that was reaching in the pocket, and the pickpocket fled. Does that mean you should never come to Paris? I guess it depends on on your outlook on life or Life.

The morning saw us taking a guided tour of the Louvre, meaning that we were outfitted with listening devices so we could hear our guide. They give you a fit in the ear, ear piece, but with my hearing aids it doesn’t work, so I bring along my special over the ear earphones. Everyone one else had a single in the ear earphone, I had my mine for both ears. I could be a room away and hear the guide perfectly, they all had to be right next to her. Smart Bob.


We spent the entire day in the Louvre, two hours this morning with the tour and the rest of the day on our own. Took over 400 photo, and no you won’t see them all, ate lunch, sat on benches and rested, and looked at things that are in every history text book ever written. Here you can see the model for Venus de Milo in the foreground, while the while marble statue of Venus de Milo is in the background.

It is hard to believe just how many sculptures that have poses like this are in the Louvre. I mentioned to Linda that when she was younger she could have been the model for this statue. For some reason she didn’t seem to think that was very funny. Even my attempt at a scientific explanation of the effects of age and gravity seemed fall on deaf ears. I don’t know, maybe Linda’s just jealous of how I’ve been able to keep my youthful appearance all these years. I know, I know, Bad Bob.


Just to be an equal opportunity blog, here is the other side. Linda wondered why both the upper and the lower part of the male was always left uncovered, while only the upper part of the female was left uncovered. For once in my life I had no answer for her question. And search as much as we might, never once did we turn up a single female form that was completely disrobed. See, this is why we travel to Europe. You never know what mysteries you will uncover.


I’d better not leave out the paintings, the little paintings and the big paintings. Most of the sculptures we can figure out on our own, but for the paintings you either need a book or a guide.


I really liked this painting even though I don’t know who painted it or who the subject was. My poor  photograph doesn’t begin to do it justice, as it was as sharp and perfect as any picture.


Why Linda went to the Louvre. Camera held at arms length, that is the Mona Lisa behind her.  Last time we we in the Louvre, Linda didn’t get all the way up to the front to take a photo on the Mona Lisa. Today she said nothing was going to stop her and nothing did.


Linda’s front row photo of the Mona Lisa. One, the photo is actually very small. Two it is behind a protective glass shield. Three, photos are less than perfect. Four, Linda was still a very happy excited young girl for getting so close to one of the most awesome paintings ever created.

This is the mob scene in front of the Mona Lisa. If you look at the red bag and go up from the top corner of it, you will see the back of a blond head head with a pony tail and a black scrunchee around it. That is Linda trying to make her way back out of the crowd. The room is enormous. The crowd is massive. it is one of the, you have to be there to understand it, kind of things.


From the back of the room looking towards the Mona Lisa.


My turn. You all heard about it in school. Now, for the second time in my Life I get to stand beside it. The Code of Hammurabi. In several months I’ll be be back at the Brit standing beside the Rosetta Stone again. What more could a boy who has always had a love of history ask for.


This obviously has nothing to do with the Louvre, but there is simply no good way to end a visit to such a museum other than to just walk out. We caught the No. 69 bus that stops near our hotel, and walked back. This is a Paris mechanic garage. Just several spaces in a building, and we are standing on the sidewalk. Everything is different here, and that why we we will be be back in a week, staying in an apartment after our tour is over. We don’t like big cities, but Paris and London are our exceptions. It rained on our way back to the hotel later tonight after we went back out, but no way did it dampen the fun we have had in the City of Lights. Good bye Paris.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paris Day One


Early morning in Paris. A time when the streets are quiet, with few people and cars about. And in the trees near the center of the picture is that reminder that we are indeed in Paris.


Linda was happy with her breakfast, which wasn’t what we get in the smaller French hotels we prefer. Here they had eggs, cold cuts and fresh fruits and vegetables. What we really like, and what I ate was a chocolate croissant. Who needs a big typical American breakfast, or an even bigger German breakfast for that matter when you can have a chocolate croissant. Our first first Metro station stop as a tour group is pictured. American lawyer on vacation in Paris pictured beside Linda.


Our first stop of the day was at the magnificent Sainte Chapelle, a stained glass wonder that was built to hold the crown of thorns from Christ's head that King Louis IX of France brought back from the Holy Land. While everyone marveled at the unmatched beauty of the those stained glass windows, a certain grandma was looking at the knights in the museum gift shop. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to find just the perfect one for a certain grandson. Fortunately there are going to be other opportunities galore to find something before this trip is done, so I have to believe there is a knight in shining armor is in Linda’s future. Besides me, that is. (Referring to a knight in shining armor.)


There is simply no way to do justice to these stained glass windows.


Like I said, there is no way that our photos could do justice to something this overwhelming. That didn’t mean Linda didn’t try to get that perfect picture. And not only her but the hordes of people that were in there with us were also trying for that perfect photo. We were told it wasn’t very crowded, in which case I don’t think I’d ever want to be there in the middle of the summer when it is really crowded.


Next came one of the supposed highlights of any trip to Paris, but we suspect people just say that because they don’t want to come across as not being as wowed as they should have been by the very big, but very boring Notre Dame Cathedral. Sure it is big, it has to be to hold that unreal masses of people who come to look at it. Sure it has huge stained glass windows,  but they are so far away you can barely see them. I also have to think that a person could spend a small fortune paying Euro 2 to light a candle in all the alcoves that line its sides. I guess it isn’t cheap to keep something this big open, and if the holy fathers can fleece a few visitors with some candles, more power to them. After all, they have to find some way to pay for all those multi million dollar settlements for what the holy fathers did, and are still doing (they just haven’t been caught yet) to those little boys.


Linda likes to take these arms length self portraits, and I know if I don’t post this one, I’ll hear about it later. That’s the entrance to Notre Dame in the background. To give it credit, we called it ABC instead of abc. Translation: Another Blasted Church. You can figure out what the lower case abc stood for. In case you didn’t get it: another blasted church.


Our lunch. Sometimes Linda really surprises me. Neither one of of us wanted a sit  down meal, we were looking for something lighter. I had spotted this tiny hole in the wall crêpe shop that also sold hot Panini and suggested that we get something to go and then eat it at the Luxembourg Gardens (think of quite possibly the most awesome city park in the world and that is the Luxemburg Gardens). By the time we were done ordering we ended up with a mozzarella and tomato for Linda, a ham and goat cheese for me, a Nutella banana crepe for both of us that Linda ate most of herself, and two cold beers. We were standing there ordering and Linda decides she wants a cold beer. In Germany, a beer country, she always orders wine. Now that we are a wine country she orders beer.


After lunch we stopped in at St. Sulpice Church, which plays a role in the book Linda is reading, The Divinci Code. It was fun pretending we were hunting for the clue, and even though I knocked on a number of stones on the floor of the church, not one of them rang hollow. Of course the fact Linda couldn’t remember exactly what the book said about where the clue was hidden, didn’t help, but it was still fun. It turned out that an obelisk I was fascinated by was the key to where the clue was, but I hadn’t searched for a hollow floor stone in that area.


We decided that we were so tired after the long day of museums (I’ve left out most of what we did during the day), that instead of eating out, we would have a little wine and cheese in our room. And it isn’t what it looks like. We only drank half of one of those bottles of wine.


What can I say, we like good cheese. Linda got some Emmenthal with holes in it, while I got a chuck of Mobier with the line of ash it, as well as a wonderful sheep cheese for dessert. The red wine was recommended by the proprietor of the cheese shop as perfect for my two cheeses, and it was. Linda even liked it, so it must have been perfect. As we ate we talked about our canal boat trip of a few years ago and how much John and Judy would have enjoyed this.


Nine o’clock found us at the Eiffel Tower, along with many other people, to watch the sparkling light show. The tower is normally lighted after dark, but on the hour, the lights sparkle and dance, making for a spectacular show that no matter how many times one watches it, it doesn’t get old. It’s one of those things that is rightfully called a happening.


Photo at arms length by Bob of Linda and her husband in front of the Eiffel Tower. Don’t think it is easy taking a photo like this. Just look below to see the ones that were deemed not good enough to be chosen as “the” photo to show.


Then there are the ones that Linda took.

You could say that I can either take a photo or smile, but not do both at the same time. As for Linda, the best we could probably say is that she is hopeless. What do you say about a girl can’t seem to hold the camera steady. and if she does manage to hold it steady, she cuts off part of the Eiffel Tower. But in the end Life is about having fun, and did we ever have our share and more of fun today.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On to Paris


7:20 this morning found us walking to the Trier Hbf. It was time to leave Germany and head west with a final destination of Paris. As we walked we talked about the great time we have has so far, and especially the wonderful German wines that Linda has come to really appreciate. She has certain standards in what wines she classifies as acceptable, the first being it can be any color as long as that color is white or yellow. I looked at some of her yellow wines and described them in the most unflattering terms, but she still enjoys them. I just hope France is ready for critics of their wines. It will be interesting when she is faced with Chardonnay or Chablis instead of Sylvaner and Riesling.


It is hard to guess where our first stop was going to be. What we did was buy tickets on the TVG high speed train to that left Luxembourg City at noon. So now we were on our way there and planned to spend a few hours this morning sightseeing, which we didn’t get to do on Sunday, and if we like it, then we could include some time there on a future trip.


The first part of Luxembourg we saw on our way to the old town area. The only difference between here and Germany is that speak French and do business like the French, which means the stores were not yet open. Of course it was so early they hadn’t been open in Germany when we left either.


The guard in front of the Palace looks a little different from what we saw at Buckingham Palace in London. And instead of holding a stock still pose, he marched back and forth in front of the Palace. Another difference was that there were only about half a dozen tourists here, four of which were Chinese video taping everything and Linda and I were the other two. I’ll just call it bragging rights, after all how many Americans have seen the Palace of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg?


Actually, Luxembourg turned out to be a really neat place, and yes it is on our return to list. It is built on hills and has some very interesting fortifications that you can walk around on. This gives a little idea of steepness of the hills and what the fortifications looked like. There are trails that follow them, and you can also go inside them. They are called casemates, and Linda wants to check them out next time as there was just no way we had enough time to do it today.


We also visited a very massive church, and instead of my usual pipe organ photo, here is what was hanging on to the bottom of the pipes. We’ve seen several carved church mice, always in wood, during our travels, but this is really different. I think it is a scorpion, but whether that what it actually is, and what it is supposed to signify is beyond my knowledge and limited time to search for what it might mean.


The family Bullet Train Babe next to the Bullet Train. Personally I think both of them are awfully sexy, even if I might be stretching the point a little with the train.


Interior of a bullet train. They go so fast most passengers get smashed so far into their seats that they seem to disappear

View to the outside of a bullet train. The world around the view is the same. The only difference is when we are on parallel side by side tracks and we pass a ICE train headed in the other direction, it is literally a blink of the eye before it is past.

Paris. Our tiny hotel room. German hotel rooms are adequate to large. French hotel rooms are tiny to minuscule. This photo actually makes it look much bigger than it is. By the way, this is no knock on Rick Steves Tours and the hotels they select. Every real French hotel room is small. Stay in a Sheraton and it is like in America.  Stay in one of these, and it is quite a difference. On the far side of the bed there is barely room to walk between the bed and window.


Then our Rick Steves Tour began. On the sidewalks of Paris listening to our guide, Julie give us the low down on what there was to do and see.


Leaving most everything lout that happened, let us skip to 9:00 when the Eiffel Tower has its first burst of glory. We are here. We saw it it. Nothing more be said. Until tomorrow, au revoir.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Trier, One Day isn’t Nearly Enough

A portion of the breakfast spread at our hotel. This one is definitely different from the the first few we stayed in, in that its décor is what might be called ultramodern. Interesting juxtaposition,  seeing that Trier was originally a Roman Capital City in the late 300’s. Guess many of those Roman buildings were ultramodern for their time, so what goes around comes around.


Big flush, big button. Little flush, little button. A great way to save water. I suspect it would never catch on the US for reasons similar to why the masses rejected the much better metric system of measurement. It would be just too hard for Americans to learn which button to push.


If you’ve been to Europe you might have already guessed what I will be talking about. Otherwise, the netball is one of two that we use for a washcloth since there is no such thing in any of the hotels we stay at. Maybe the big American chain hotels in Europe have them, but we have to do without or do with something else. The shirt is hanging up to dry. We pack as if we were staying for three days, but stay for three months. Just like the Europeans, we wash our clothes in the sink and hang them up to dry overnight. Works for us.

In the US cases of bottled water often line the front of the store. Over here it is beer. Linda’s niece Joellen is always talking about Bitburger when we visit them, so Linda just had to take a photo of this display to send to her.


Among the things we did today was to do some shopping. Maybe it was a lot of shopping, but it was just something Linda wanted to do, and besides there are only so many Roman ruins you can visit in one day. Which is why we will be back here some day. The absolute perfection in these flowers are amazing. Linda says if we would put a dollar in a kitty for every time we say WOW while we are over here, we would fund our next three months in Europe by the time we were done with these three months. Keeping track during supper tonight, we stopped counting at nine WOW’s. See what I mean.

For some reason Linda really liked the name of this pharmacy. That’s the building across the street reflected in the window.


There are pipe organs, and then there are pipe organs. This in the church they call The Dom. This one is so huge that our photos couldn’t do it justice. This view is looking from one side of the church to the other side, and where I am standing to take this photo and where those pipes are hanging is a good ways in from the outer walls of the church. The small figure in red in the distance is actually standing under the pipes. This church is so massive we couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would sound like. Just another reason to return to Trier.


This is another church, but before it was a church it was the throne room of the Roman Emperor Constantine. It is the largest single surviving Roman building outside of Rome. Just one hint of its immensity, those wooden squares in the ceiling are 10’ by 10’. And no, they don’t date from Roman times, but the walls sure do.


One of the original Roman arches. Roman bricks were different than ours, plus each one had a mark on it to identify the firm that made them and to aid in quality control. It’s things like this that make me angry when I think of where we humans might be today if the 1000 years of Catholic Church dominance had not returned us to superstitious, near cave man existence until the Renaissance started to bring science and knowledge back once again. And to be fair, even today there are still certain fundamentalist religious zealots that would take us back to those days again.


  Later we visited one of the several Roman baths that were in Trier. A Roman corrugated clay pipe. We were down in the underground chambers where the slaves toiled when we discovered a section of wall that had these coming out of it. It is also why it takes us much longer than the guide books indicate to visit anything. We don’t just go to say we saw it, We go to understand what it was we saw. And there is a very big difference between those two approaches.


I call this the Happy Bob photo. On one of the many side trips into stores during our day, Linda found the Nivea men’s deodorant that I love. Can’t buy it in the States, though we did find it in Canada when we went to Alaska in 2010. I guess it doesn’t take much to make me happy.


Karl Marx Street, which is not the street the house Karl Marx was born in, is on, but the house is just a short distance away. Besides, if I posted a photo of the house I’d just have to explain what is was. There is a museum in the house that was great. It told the story of the man and what his life was like. It never got into any of the “communist” ideology, except in a very indirect way. They have the English audiophones so that is not a problem.


I guess I can never make fun of Linda’s feet again. This a replica of the foot of Emperor Constantine. Looks to me like the empero got regular pedicures back in Roman times. Something tells me that if I asked Linda to do that for me I’d be missing a few toes before she was done. Tomorrow we are off to Paris and the start of our Rick Steves Tour. The funny thing is that neither of us are really excited about. We’d rather spend another month or so in Germany doing what we have been doing for the past two weeks. Maybe that really means we do need a vacation from our vacation, plus we will get to see the beaches of Normandy, making it more than worthwhile.