Sep 21, 2009

Would you stop staring at the ceiling?


Yes, I couldn't help but stare at the ceilings of the Louvre. They were almost more beautiful than the paintings and sculptures! I found myself taking more shots of the ceilings than of the art!

Yes, you can take pictures at the Louvre. They are trying to teach the masses on how to interact with art.

Lesson 1 - How not to act around priceless pieces of art...








Now for the Grand Dame of the Louvre! The Mona Lisa is fenced off and enclosed in a glass box.


Some of my best shots of the Louvre courtyard, came from taking pictures out the windows.




Towards the Jardins de Tuileres


This is a piece made of mosaic tile, its called the Judgement of Paris


And for all you Da Vinci Code fans, here is the upside down pyramid

Sep 19, 2009

How we planned (or didn't plan) and what we took...


Someone asked me the other day how we planned for our trip. Aside from trolling the internet, we took the books listed below...and yet we still forgot what was closed what days..oh well, I blame jet lag.

Truth be told, I read through the Rick Steves book before we left and then used it if I needed to find more information that the basics.

The Frommer's book was great for specific topics like shopping etc. but the best part was the map that came with the book. It was water/tear proof and was almost constantly used to figure out where we were.

The Knopf book was thin enough to bring along with my bag (more on my PacSafe bag in a second). It has flip out maps for each general geographical locations (i.e. Le Marais, Saint Germain, Latin Quarter etc.) and provided suggestions on where to eat, sleep, shop and must see sights.

I searched for a long time to find a bag for my stuff to carry with me. I didn't like the idea of carrying a knapsack due to pickpockets nor did I want to carry my normal purse. I wanted to take my new super zoom camera (a FZ28). I debated for a long time whether I wanted to carry a bigger camera bag (such as a Crumpler bag) or carry a reasonably sized secure bag and then carry a smaller camera bag inside the outer bag.

In fairness, Paris is prone to pickpockets and perhaps the odd snatch and grab but most tourists oriented areas are heavily patroled by police on roller blades and bikes. That being said, I didn't want a bag that screamed I have an expensive camera either, so a Crumpler or larger LowePro was out.

I discovered my CitySafe 200 PacSafe bag through a lot of internet searching. I opted for the larger purse like bag as I usually carry everything including the kitchen sink.

I also purchased a smaller camera bag to go inside my PacSafe (an Olympus Nylon Ultra Zoom Case) and lined the bottom of the camera bag with a divider from my LowePro bag to absorb any heavy knocks from the bottom. Maybe this was a bit much but it worked well.

We did pack light but took duffel bags just in case we found something extra big to bring home.

Sep 18, 2009

I HEART our hotel


May I just say that I loved our hotel. LOVED IT! My husband and I both agree that unless we suddenly become millionaires before we go to Paris again, we will be staying at the Hotel Europe Saint Severin.

You could not ask for a better place in terms of service, location and very pleasant staff. Isis the cat was also a wonderful addition. Our room was big by Paris standards and we were very happy with the option of sitting on the balcony to enjoy our afternoon snacks. We were provided the option of upgrading for 10€ a night to a bigger room than the one we had booked. The staff suggested we do this since we were staying for an extended period of time. It was awesome.

I spent copious amounts of time researching where we wanted to stay in terms of location. Once I got it down to the general area, I went onto Trip Advisor and started at the highest ranked hotel and worked my way thru each one, slowly eliminating choices based on price, location and ranking.

The Europe Saint Severin offered price, location and based on the reviews, great staff. All of what I had read was true. If ever you find yourself headed to France, I would suggest you consider this hotel. It is in the heart of the Latin Quarter, minutes from many sites and about a 2 minute walk to at least 2 if not 3 metro stops.

I made extra effort to keep my eyes peeled for the other hotels we had considered when we got down to the final 6 hotel options. Of the ones I located, all of them were on side streets significantly away from restaurants, tourist spots and metro stations. Actually seeing where these hotels were located in terms of where we had actually booked, it only solidified our choice of hotel. Its hard to visualize hotels on a map but when you see it in person, its quite surprising.

The Trip Advisor reviewers had said that the Saint Severin was at a great location for a great price and a great base from which to explore. All of these things were true. Given that we probably walked well over 30 miles, it was beyond nice to quickly find our hotel at night and then not have to search long for dinner options or hop on the Metro to visit even more of Paris.

There must be a taxi driver code of conduct I don't know about...


...We booked our taxi for the final ride to the airport on Sunday afternoon. We asked that the taxi be at the hotel for 6am. I was there when the clerk booked the call and she said 6am.

At 5:45am, I asked my husband if we could just go downstairs because we were ready to go and just had to check out. He opted to wait another 5 minutes. By the time we got downstairs, the taxi had arrived.

Now, in Paris as before the taxi even moves an inch, the base charge is 6€ (about 12$US). By the time we got to the taxi, the ticker was going on 12€. Hmm, okay I can swallow that but we didn't ask him to be there until 6am so if he started the ticker early, that's his own coin right?

So we loaded our luggage into the trunk, bid a tearful goodbye to the Latin Quarter and headed toward the airport.

We didn't fly out until 8:45am so we had time to spare and the driver took every last opportunity to drive very slowly. So slowly in fact that he hit the brakes every time he neared the speed limit. Mopeds were driving faster than this guy did.

Finally, we reached the airport. The ticker read 57€. I told my husband the total. The driver commented that it was 59€ with the luggage. Now, I'm not sure what exactly he meant with the luggage but I didn't care, I just wanted out of the cab and to start heading home.

That being said, I wasn't impressed. My husband gave him 60€ as he didn't have any change, and the driver offer a 1€ back in change. Seriously?

Sep 17, 2009

At least someone missed us!


After calling home every day to see how things were going, we got the same story. T is doing fine and she really hasn't seem to be missing you.

Thanks. I'm not sure how to take that. But good news, someone or should I say two someones have been missing us greatly. The cats.

I can always depend on my trusty furballs not to let Mommy down. Gryffin and Phenix have always made sure to remind me, even at 2am when I am trying to sleep, that I am loved.

They missed us so much they meowed outside my ILs' bedroom downstairs at 5am. Why is this important? Well, they get fed usually around 5:30am by my husband. So yeah, while they missed us, they missed their food more.

That being said, we were no sooner tucked into bed after 24 hours of traveling Monday night and they pounced on the bed and came over to snuggle with us. They haven't left our sides since and at every opportunity are looking for a cuddle and a pet.

I just won't tell them that we stayed at a hotel who had a house cat too. They might get jealous.

Is that a Canadian flag?


My husband and I were walking down one of the small side streets leading away from our hotel towards I can't remember what when he says "Did you just see a Canadian flag?"

It was shortly after we had arrived in Paris so my brain was still rather fuzzy.

We backed up a few steps to see a small alley way off to the left. And yes, sure enough, there was a Canadian flag.

Intrigued, we walked down the very narrow street only to discover AB Bookshop / Librairie Canadienne (29, rue de la Parcheminerie). I highly recommended a trip inside.

On Friday, I popped in to see what they had to offer. I left after nearly an hour of searching the children's schedule with a Caillou book, an english version of a Babar book and of course, a book on hockey (The Moccasin Goalie). It was all I could do not to buy the beautiful copy of "The Hockey Sweater" but I resisted.

Yes, I could have bought the same books from Amazon for probably less money, but there is something unique and patriotic about supporting a fellow countryman abroad.

The fowl of Paris


No, I'm not talking about the smell from the sewers. I'm talking about the birds. THE BIRDS!

All those postcards you see of pigeons and an older gentlemen feeding them is true. The rats with wings are everywhere.

But they are not alone. They are accompanied by bugs, creepy crawling bugs. I don't know if it was a tick, a spider or a bug of a different colour but as I sat and ate my croissant, this pigeon walked up to me.

With its beady little eyes, it eyed my croissant. About the same time, a little creature scurried out from under its feather and then hurried back in. I watched it do this about three times. I nearly lost my croissant and I'm not talking about the part that was still in my hand.

I can handle many things but a few things freak me out, heights, deep water that I can't touch the bottom, sharks, snakes and bugs. Bugs. I'm getting itchy just thinking about that bird.

Don't even get me started on the ones with mangled legs.

Oh the horror.

On the upside, there are these cute little sparrows. Honestly, they are the most adorable little things and despite the fact, they too probably have creepy crawlies on them, they are much more cute than the pigeons.