Tag Archives: Paris France

Slideshow of our Trip to France

Spending 8 days of our Summer vacation in Paris allowed us to see most of the city and even venture out to Champagne and Burgundy for wine and champagne tours. I pulled together some pictures and put them into a slide show for you to see.  Here you go!

Burgundy, France

Burgundy is filled with incredible castles and wineries. We visited some of the most famous castles (Chateaus in French) including Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Chenonceau, and Chateau de Nitray  (also a winery).

Burgundy

Champagne, France

Until this visit, I was not a big fan of champagne but after tasting some of the selections on this tour, I became a big fan. We visited Moet and Mumm champagne houses on this excursion. If you have heard of the extremely spendy champagne called Dom Perignon, then you know Moet — they make it.

Champagne

Paris, France

This was our second visit to Paris but this time we stayed for 8 days. We visited all of the attractions and spent a really long day at the Louvre museum.  We could have spent several days there with the amount of artifacts they have. We stayed in a small Paris apartment that was just a short walk to the Arc de Triomphe. It got dark really late (around 10 to 11 pm) so we ate late dinners, just like the Parisians. We love Paris!

Paris

Summer in Barcelona Spain and 3 Surrounding Areas

This was our first trip to Spain and Barcelona was a great starting point. In our 1 week stay, we visited most of the sights and even took in a few surrounding areas. I was surprised to learn that many in Barcelona speak Catalan instead of Spanish, but most understand Spanish and some English as well. The northeast area of Spain (Barcelona and the Costa Brava area) has a rich Catalonian history and they have a referendum coming up to allow them to declare independence.

Catalonia

Around Barcelona

Barcelona is a really clean city (more so than Paris) with a good Catalonian culture, plenty of sights to visit, and a welcoming vibe. Admittedly, we liked the architecture of Paris better but the Barcelona architecture is whimsical and fun — inspired by Antoni Gaudi and the modernista era.

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Sagrada Familia – The most famous church in Spain

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell – Notice the slanted beams

Park Guell

Park Guell – The columns are not square and plum

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell

You can just imagine Hansel and Gretel living in this house:

Park Guell

Park Guell

Many wondered if Antoni Gaudi was a genius or a flake. It was not until we visited the inside of the Sagrada Familia until we really saw his brilliance — this was the most beautifully architected church interior I’ve ever seen. Living from 1852 to 1926, Gaudi grew up with a big appreciation of nature. You will see from the interior of the Sagrada Familia that the columns look like tree trunks and nature inspired art is everywhere. The pictures can’t come close to doing it justice — you have to see it in person!

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

They say that Gaudi was a really nice dresser as a young man but as he got older he became more frugal and rarely bought new suits. Many people that did not know him personally would have mistaken him for a beggar. When he was 73 years old, he was on his way to a church when he was hit by a tram. They took him to the hospital for treatment but because of how he was dressed, they assumed he was a beggar and did not give him very good care. Once they realized who he was, they tried to give him better care but it was too late. He died a day later.

Antoni Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi

Not all of the architecture is Modernista, there is a thriving financial district that looks more like Paris or other European cities. A cool thing about Barcelona is that it is a beach-front city with easy access to the Mediterranean Sea. You could see lots of young people riding the metro to the beach with their towels, sunglasses and beach bags in hand — you don’t see that in a big city every day!

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

We took a sunset sail around the outer banks of Barcelona, a very cool way to end the day.

Sailing Barcelona

Sailing Barcelona

Sailing Barcelona

Sailing Barcelona

Sailing Barcelona

Sailing Barcelona

Sailing Barcelona

Sailing Barcelona

Montserrat

Montserrat (which means “serrated mountain”) is an hour trip from Barcelona. It is perched upon an almost 4,000 foot mountain. It is the site of a Basilica and is home to about 40 to 50 young boys (aged 12-15) that study music. They become part of the boys choir, watched by many that visit. It has trains that take you to the top of the mountain, hiking trails, and restaurants. It also serves as the home of the “Black Mary (or Madonna)” where people wait in line for an hour or more just to touch the statue inside the Basilica.

Montserrat

Montserrat

Montserrat

Montserrat

Montserrat

Montserrat

Montserrat

Montserrat

Montserrat

Montserrat – The Black Madonna

Montserrat

Montserrat

Costa Brava

Costa Brava is a northeastern Catalonian town where Salvador Dali once lived. It sports some of the most beautiful Mediterranean beaches in Europe. We spent a few hours here in the town of Calella de Plafregell and ate the best Lobster paella I’ve ever had (OK it is the only one I’ve had but it was still great!). The pictures below don’t do this place justice, it is incredibly scenic:

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Salvador Dali

At some point in our life, we’ve all read about Salvador Dali. He is the wacky Catalonian that has confused and inspired painters for the past century. Born in 1904, Dali died in 1989 with an incredible portfolio of paintings, sculptures, and drawings.

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

We first visited the castle he purchased for his wife, situated in a small village of about 300-400 people in Costa Brava.

Castle Village

Castle Village

From his Castle

From his Castle

Afterwards, we visited his museum about 40 minutes from here and he had some very awe inspiring technical paintings and other comical ones that just make you go “hmmmm”. His museum is a statement of his life — expansive, funny, and very well done. If you are in this area, it is a must see.

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

Dali Museum

 

5 Interesting Things We Learned in Paris France

Spending 8 days in Paris gives you time to learn more about the culture and really see the sights. We first visited Paris in 2011 but were only here 2 days — it was not enough time to really see everything Paris has to offer. This time we took it slower.

 5 Interesting Things We Learned in Paris

1. French people are warm and friendly.

2. The French smoke like cast members of Mad Men.

3. French women are skinny.

4. The French love to people-watch and socialize.

5. Paris has beautiful architecture.

French People are Warm and Friendly

Many Americans think that French people are rude, pushy and not so enamored with us. We found this to be totally untrue. The French people we met were kind and eager to communicate. Even though we don’t know the French language, we tried to learn the basics (good morning, hello, goodbye, may I have the check please, etc.). That went a long way in greeting people and they seemed to appreciate our efforts.

The French Smoke like Cast Members of Mad Men

France reminded us of America in the 60’s and 70’s when most people smoked. In Paris,you can smoke in restaurants and pretty much anywhere else you wish. I think more people in France smoke than don’t.

Once you sit down for dinner, you sit next to French people chain-smoking for hours. We’ve joked that we are going to have black lung before we leave Paris, just from second-hand smoke.

Smoking Parisians

Smoking Parisians

French Women are Skinny

It seems everywhere we walked, you would see skinny women. Much has been said about the women of France being skinny and it seems so. I can tell you that they are not on a low-carb diet because pretty much every meal involves tons of bread. Maybe smoking is the secret — they are all young and skinny because they don’t live past 50 due to rampant lung cancer.

The French love to People-Watch and Socialize

Almost every restaurant has tables facing the street. This is where the French congregate — to smoke, drink and socialize. They watch as people pass by and seem to enjoy the company of others. They are not on their iPhones when they socialize, they seem to really be enjoying the time spent with their friends. They also don’t seem to mind eating by themselves. It is common to see someone at a single table enjoying a beer and a cigar while watching passersby.

Tables face towards the street

Tables face towards the street

They also eat late here. It stays light until almost 11 p.m. during this time of the year so we found that we ate dinner around 9 p.m. each night, just as the Parisians do.

Paris has Beautiful Architecture

We stayed in an apartment that was a couple of minutes walk from the Arc de Triomphe. It was a quiet street but in a great location to easily access all that Paris has to offer.

Arch de Triomphe

Arch de Triomphe

On the night that Algeria beat Korea in World Cup soccer, there were tons of cars blowing horns, flying Algerian flags, launching fireworks, and having a great celebration around the Arch de Triomphe.

Probably the most recognized monument is the Eiffel Tower. It can be seen from almost anywhere in town. We visited it at night — it twinkles at the top of each hour for 5 minutes — very cool.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Ryan and I at the Eiffel Tower

Ryan and I at the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower – Ryan took this picture

As we were walking to Notre Dame, we noticed a few bridges filled with locks. The story goes that couples put these locks on the bridge as a way to show their commitment.

Bridge of locks

Bridge of locks

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

The best view in town can be seen from the top of a church called Sacre-Coeur. We climbed to the top (300 stairs) to take in the view.

Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Coeur

View from Sacre-Coeur

View from Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Couer is in an area called Montmartre, we spent a day walking around this area and visiting the Musee de Montmartre.

Cafe in Montmartre

Cafe in Montmartre

Musee de Montemartre

Musee de Montmartre

Also in Montmartre is the Moulin Rouge. We saw a show here the last time we visited in 2011.

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge

The Louvre is a place you must not miss — it is one of the largest museums in the world and where the Mona Lisa is displayed. We were surprised at how small the Mona Lisa painting is, but the Louvre is a must-see museum, you could spend days in there.

The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

I will leave you with a few more pictures of the incredible architecture of Paris.

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French Chateaus and Burgundy Wineries

We ventured to the outskirts of Paris yesterday to visit some French Chateaus (Castles) and to enjoy wine tasting in the Burgundy region of France. We started our trip with a stop to Chateau de Chambord.

Chateau de Chambord

Chateau de Chambord

Chateau de Chambord

Building commenced in 1519 and took almost 30 years to complete. It boasts 440 rooms, 284 fireplaces, and 84 staircases. The cost to build the palace was equivalent to 1% of the French Gross Domestic Product!  It was fashioned after Italian Renaissance architecture and many believe that Leonardo di Vinci architected many of the rooms.

As you walk around the Chateau, your eyes drift to the King’s church.

Church along the side of the Chateau

Church along the side of the Chateau

From the back entry, you can see the stunning architecture that was built to mimic the Istanbul skyline, with ornate architecture that focuses your attention at the roof.

Back entry to the Chateau

Back entry to the Chateau

Once inside the courtyard, you begin to appreciate the size of the Chateau.

Courtyard

Courtyard

Although an architectural marvel, it was not a practical design. The huge number of windows, high ceilings, and open terraces made the Chateau extremely cold in the winter.  It was built as a hunting lodge for King François I it was not used a lot because of the extreme cold.

From one of the terraces

From one of the terraces

The King’s bedroom includes a viewing area where he would allow a privileged few to watch him awake each morning at 7:30 a.m. Once awake, the most senior of the viewers would dress him. He repeated this each night when preparing for bed.

The Kings bedroom

The Kings bedroom

Chateau de Nitray

Our next stop took us to Chateau de Nitray, another castle that also serves as a winery.  We were greeted by the owner of the winery and offered 2 glasses of wine and fresh salmon to nibble  on.

Winery and Chateau Owner

Winery and Chateau Owner

The Chateau is small compared to Chambord but doubling as a winery makes this a great place to visit. The owner was incredibly witty and we enjoyed an incredible lunch of roasted chicken, potatoes, tomatoes and apple pie.

Chateau de Nitray

Chateau de Nitray

Chateau de Nitray

Chateau de Nitray

Chateau de Nitray

Chateau de Nitray

After lunch, he gave us a tour of the castle. He said every castle has to have a pigeon coup. The coup was used in earlier days to house thousands of pigeon for food and their eggs. Each cubby hole inside the coup represented an acre of land owned by the castle.

Pigeon coup

Pigeon coup

Chateau De Chenonceau

Our final stop was at Chateau De Chenonceau, a castle built on the River Cher in the 16th century.  Talk about cool views from inside the castle, the river literally runs underneath it.

Chateau De Chenonceau

Chateau De Chenonceau

Chateau De Chenonceau

Chateau De Chenonceau

The grounds of the castle are just impeccable. They grow all their vegetables on premise and a working restaurant serves daily from the food grown on site.

Chateau De Chenonceau

Chateau De Chenonceau

There are also small houses outside of the castle walls where the workers resided. I think any of us would love to live in one of these cool houses.

Chateau De Chenonceau

Chateau De Chenonceau

We finished our tour of Chateau De Chenonceau by visiting their underground wine cellar where we tasted the fruits of the vine. Spectacular!