Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vernon and our bike ride to Giverny

Some bike touring companies offer rides from Vernon, France to Giverny - home of Monet and his famous garden. But we didn't want to be tied down to their schedules so we took the train to Vernon and rented some (really terrible) bikes and rode to Giverny - about 3-4 miles away. It was a perfect way to spend a day - weather was great, being outside biking instead of in a shuttle/tour bus and just lolling around in the beautiful gardens and interesting house and town.

It began with another early train. We walked to Gare St Lazare and took the train to Vernon, the closest train station to Giverny.  This time we just picked up some food in the station for breakfast and a little (much needed it appears) Starbucks coffee...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

the Cimetière Montmartre and dinner with Crepes

Second part of the title is an inside joke... eh, Kevin?

Going down the hill, we made our first attempt to stop at Cave Gaston Leroux, one of our favorite finds from our first trip but it was always closed. 

Another view of the Moulin de la Galette - I just like this picture of this very picturesque area. 

Then on to the Montmartre Cemetery - not the largest in Paris but beautiful - incredible to those of us from the US who think a few marble stones make an impressive cemetery. 

A little history -  Covering nearly 25 acres in the hollow of an old quarry in the 18th arrondissement, and built below street level, Montmartre was opened in 1825. Although located in the midst of a bustling section of Paris, with a major boulevard running over divisions 17 and 18, once you find your way into Montmartre you'll discover the peace and quiet of strolling down its streets and avenues.  Among the famous and near-famous here you'll find Edgar Degas, Jacques Offenbach, Heinrich Heine, Hector Berlioz, Nijinsky, Stendhal, Adolphe Sax (yes the guy who invented the saxophone). Also some of the most striking sculptures in Paris can be found in Montmartre.

During our first trip to Paris, we happened to walk by and saw this little town below street level - and really you get the idea you are walking in a miniature town - there are street names and even arrondissements! (districts)

The cemetery actually extends under a major road. 

But most of it looks like a pleasant garden
Kevin was a little bored after a bit but I liked walking through and reading some of the more unusual gravestones and tributes. It isn't all old either - there were recent graves and grieving loved ones crying near one or two graves reminding you that this is actually a graveyard, not just a historical site.

Nijinsky, the Russian ballet star known as the greatest male ballet dancer of the early 20th century - who in later years suffered from mental illness and was unable to perform - shown in one of his most beloved roles as the puppet Petrushka.
Last time we saw Degas and Alexander Dumas, fils best known for Camille (the son - son of novelist Alexander Dumas) - and many others.  This time we made a stop to see the grave of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the Saxophone. 

last one for this trip was Alphonse Baudin, medical doctor and politician, famous for being killed on a barricade  in Paris in 1851. His remains were later moved to the Pantheon along with others who died for their country.

So by now it was late afternoon and we headed back to the Moulin Rouge area - and sat down for our daily afternoon wine and cheese this time at Le Palmier, right across from the Moulin Rouge. This area is very busy at night with people coming and going all night. Down the street is an area of sex shops and who knows what else but never felt like more than an interesting, vibrant area and never a place to be nervous about the area despite its reputation. 

All the wine was good, many of the cheeses were good but about this time Bill began a search for a really great assiete de fromages  - assortment of cheese. Stay tuned in!

And after sitting and just enjoying the wine, cheese, company and people watching, we decided to head home. But we weren't really done eating for the night so we stopped at a local Crepes place and got crepes to take home and eat on our terrace.  These are not dessert crepes but filled with various meats, cheese, tuna, etc.  This guy ended up being our favorite crepe-maker!

Eating on our private terrace became a favorite - or just sharing a bottle of wine and dessert after dinner. 

Ok, those past 4 entries were all one day - now do you see why I wasn't getting blogging done? By this time we had walked many miles, and were very tired...  Hope you aren't all tired of this - there are 8 more days to go!!

Oh, Sacre Coeur!

 The Basilica of Sacré-Cœur stands on top of Montmartre hill, the highest point in Paris. It is a very popular landmark and a monument political and cultural, both a national penance for the excesses of the Second Empire and socialist Paris Commune of 1871 crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ. The Blessed Sacrament is on display above the altar at all times and there have been someone praying here continuously since 1885 

It is a beautiful church but photography was not permitted as we visited it during a Mass. Outside it makes a beautiful photograph as the whole church is lit at night.  

 We took a lot of pictures - I'm sure some artsy ones resulted, lots of distorted ones from trying to do wide angle, but here are a couple of representative shots. 

As we walked around the back we got distracted by a little shopping and eating area and decided to take a break and have a beer! And do a little shopping but I don't think we actually bought anything.

 Yes, an Irish Pub - there were a lot of them around Paris actually

So then, refreshed, we went back to being tourists - the front of the church - which has a wonderful view of Paris

The steps in front of the church are a popular spot both for the view and entertainment that is always there. Last time we were there a young group was performing American folk songs, this time a mime was performing in the street in front of the stairs, pretending to direct traffic and playing tricks on people as they crossed the street.  He was really a splendid entertainer!

Walking back down from the other side we came to the beautiful view of the Eiffel Tour - but we found last time we could not get a good shot due to a tower in the way. Kevin managed to get around that a bit - with Judy's help holding him up on the fence!

First, a view of the steps - the other way up to Sacre Coeur - there is also a small funicular that runs up the hill. This area was in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris movie. 

And the view - and what photographer's go through to get the photo
a little boost (or goose) for the photographer!

Next entry - down the hill to the Montmartre cemetery and the end of the evening...

Making our way up the hill of Montmartre

Up the hill or "butte" of Montmartre - curving, pretty streets, lots of small shops with every kind of food for sale. A view up the hill 

and a view down the hill of Montmartre, which means hill of martyrs  - including the most famous, St Denis, first bishop of Paris who was beheaded for his faith here in 250 AD. The legend says he then walked six miles carrying his head, preaching a sermon the whole way. 

We visited a garden with a statue of St Denis - holding his head....

Judy and I had to post for a lot of pictures for Kevin but I kind of like this one
And Judy made sure we got at least one picture of Kevin doing what he does... that's him in the distance taking our picture.... but we'll get more of him later, I promised!
There are lots and lots of smart cars in Paris - this one caught my eye.

Another interesting attraction... which has obviously been lovely touched many times. Of course Bill and Kevin had to get a posed picture with the statue but I left that one out...

First view of the goal - Sacre Coeur up on the top of the hill

But first some more of the picturesque buildings along the way - love the first shot because it is one of the few without a lot of people. I always like to try to imagine this area in a much earlier time...
 I really liked this one - but can't remember if it had some significance

then noticed the stone sundial on it with the words meaning "when you ring, I sing"

I found a description of this sundial and interesting remarks on keeping time.
"A whimsical blue chicken on a sundial at 4, rue de l'Abreuvoir in Montmartre clucks, ''Quand tu sonneras, je chanteray'' -- ''When you ring, I sing,'' a humorous reference to the time when chickens were alarm clocks. Sundials ask us to contemplate, not only time and its passage, but also when and why humans began to divide time into hours, a development that was not, at first, universally embraced, as the Roman comic playwright Plautus (circa 200 B.C.) made clear, condemning the man who set up a sundial in the marketplace 'to cut and hack my day so wretchedly into small pieces.' ''     Maybe that's why I never wear a watch.

Lots of smart cars but quite a few other interesting cars also. 

Though most tourists pass by the Clos Montmartre vineyard unawares, in October, attention is drawn to this little patch of viniculture for an annual five-day grape harvest festival, the Fête des Vendanges. Some time I hope to plan a trip to be there for the Fête des Vendanges - but we did at least walk by the vineyard. If we had known, maybe we could have arranged a tour and wine tasting - but left for another time. There have been vineyards on Montmartre since Roman times but only this one is left. 

Nearby we saw a famous old cabaret - Lapin Agile.  It was originally called "Cabaret des Assassins". Tradition relates that the cabaret received this name because a band of assassins broke in and killed the owner's son. The cabaret was more than twenty years old when, in 1875, the artist Andre Gill painted the sign that was to suggest its permanent name. It was a picture of a rabbit jumping out of a saucepan, and residents began calling their neighborhood night-club "Le Lapin à Gill", meaning "Gill's rabbit".
Over time the name evolved into "Cabaret Au Lapin Agile", or, the Nimble Rabbit Cabaret. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Lapin Agile was a favorite spot for struggling artists and writers, including Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire, and Utrillo. Au Lapin Agile also was popular with questionable Montmartre characters including pimps, eccentrics, simple down-and-outers, a contingent of local anarchists, as well as with students from the Latin Quarter, all mixed with a sprinkling of well-heeled bourgeois out on a lark.
Pablo Picasso's 1905 oil painting "At the Lapin Agile" helped to make this cabaret world famous.
Somewhere to come next time - it was not open when we were there. 

a picture from the 1880's 

and Picasso's picture although it does not show the cabaret it was titled "at the Lapin Agile"

One last stop before Sacre Coeur - a small botanical garden where I'm quite sure we were the only tourists visiting. There were a few people sitting enjoying the garden on the hill and I think they wondered at us walking through taking pictures.