Tag Archive: Paris

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 37 (Paris, London, Vancouver, Victoria)

I’ve been awake for 21 hours now, and travelling for 19 of them. Yes, it has been a long day. On the 10 hour flight from London to Vancouver I watched five movies: Hugo, Little Women, Arthur Christmas, White Christmas,  and  The Grinch.

In the course of my travel only two things broke and both of them were things I bought for myself, not gifts for other people. So yay I guess?

Honestly, I am so tired that the world is spinning right now, so I’m going to go to sleep and we can catch up on the end of the trip when I’m more awake. Deal?

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 36 (Paris)

At the Moulin Rouge

At the Moulin Rouge

This morning I left the hotel with a plan: head to the Eiffel Tower early to go up it before the line got too long. When I was about halfway there I realized that I’d forgotten my camera on my bed, so I turned around and headed back, stopping at the mall across from the hotel for one final dress shop. And behold, I found a dress! It’s not what I thought that I would buy, but I like it and it will be great for all the upcoming openings.

After dropping my new dress off in my room and freshly armed with my camera I decided to take a new approach to the day and jumped on the metro to Montmartre. I explored Sacré-Cœur and happened to be in the basilica during a service, so the nuns were all up there singing in some combination of Latin and French. It was beautiful. But of course it was another “no photos” zone, so alas I have no photos from it. I walked through the Montmartre district, past all the artists selling their work in the square, and down the street to the Moulin Rouge. I didn’t go inside, mostly because the cost of lunch and a show is WAY out of my price range, but it’s good to be able to say that I’ve been there. Adventure on!

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Looking down the Eiffel Tower

When I arrived at the Eiffel Tower (after finally circling back to that part of the to-do list), the line up was huge. And there was a big sign saying the top – the summit – was closed. Was it worth going up if I couldn’t go to the top? Who knows, but I knew if I didn’t go up at all I’d be kicking myself (once everyone else finished kicking me). So I joined the long line and enjoyed my time watching the people around me. The two little boys in line with their parents in front of me were very VERY excited and that was a joy to watch. Finally (after about 40 minutes) I got up to the ticket booth. To my surprise and delight the top was open again. I could choose to go all the way up. Which of course I did. I immediately went all the way to the top where you could feel the tower moving the wind – no wonder it had been closed before. Surprisingly I did not witness any proposals. I kind of expected I would because it’s Christmas Eve at the Eiffel Tower, but maybe that’s more of an after dark activity.

I adventured around all three levels of the tower, popping into every little shop and restaurant just to see what you can see up there. It’s a total tourist trap, but it is a cool piece of architecture. I can’t imagine when it opened in the 1860′s having to climb stairs all the way to the top. Or being like Mr. Eiffel and having an apartment up there. It would freak me out in the wind! I only climbed from the second floor down to the first and that was more than enough. By the time I came back down to the bottom (via elevator), the summit was closed again – I can only assume it was once more due to the wind. I kind of lucked out there and snuck in just at the right time.

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Paris Santa

Then it was back to the hotel again to deposit the treasures I had accumulated throughout the day. But the way back to the hotel was lined with many Christmas markets, and I couldn’t resist taking my picture with Santa. It was the sunniest of all the days I’ve had in Paris and it was beautiful.

And off to the area around Notre Dame where I had dinner at a little cafe, sitting on the patio listening to the church bells ring as I wrote post cards, drank hot cocoa, and ate my supper. I felt like I was living in a movie set.

The big TVs outside the cathedral while the police control the line up to enter the building.

The big TVs outside the cathedral while the police control the line up to enter the building.

As 8pm rolled around, I walked across the street to the Cathedral to try to get inside for the International Mass. Although various Christmas Eve Masses were happening all night, I wanted to catch part of the one that I might actually understand. I was able to get inside the building, but I watched the last seats get filled by those who entered with me. I waited inside until the clergy made their grand entrance and then I took my program and ventured back outside to the large grandstand that had been set up where I could watch on the big TV screen.  I lasted about 40 minutes until the wind was too cold to sit outside any longer.

Back at the hotel I was able to Skype with the family in Edmonton for about 45 minutes. I won’t get a chance to talk to them tomorrow because I’ll be on the airplane all day.

And now? Now I’m re-packing my suitcase, trying to get it under the weight limits, trying to protect my purchases, and listening to Christmas carols.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 35 (Paris)

I’m too tired to write much tonight, but here are some photos of what I did today. And before you get upset about the photo of the curtain call, at least I didn’t use a flash like at least 300 other people in the audience. Also, any Christmas music CD that follows “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with “YMCA” is bizarre. Also, dress shopping is difficult in every country. Also, The Palais Garnier has a Chagall ceiling and La Cenerentola had one of the best set designs I’ve ever seen.

Cue at the Palais Garnier

Cue at the Palais Garnier

At the Palais Garnier

At the Palais Garnier

On a Christmas lights tour of Paris!

On a Christmas lights tour of Paris!

Eiffel Tower at Night

Eiffel Tower at Night

Curtain Call

Curtain Call

Side note: I’ve officially been gone for five weeks now.

Now listening to: Me Party – Miss Piggy & Amy Adams

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 34 (Paris)

A visit to the Musee d'Orsay

A visit to the Musee d’Orsay

I woke up this morning with the aches in my legs and feet of someone who walked for 10 hours the day before. I lay in bed fighting with myself: “Just stay here and rest. It’s comfortable and your legs hurt.” “You’re in Paris silly! Stop wasting the day! Get up, get out there, and get adventuring!” I compromised with myself and stayed in bed until 11 before beginning my adventure via the metro (instead of walking) over to the Musee d’Orsay. And stopped for a croissant on thew ay.

The Musee d’Orsay is another one of those amazing buildings that is a piece of art in itself. The light in it is amazing since the whole roof is glass. Once more I was drawn to the work of the impressionists and post-impressionists, spending most of my time looking at Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone. The special exhibit on there right now is about the fashion of the impressionists where some of the actual clothing items depicted in the paintings are on display next to the paintings. It was kind of cool to look at the details on the garments and then look at how they were rendered on the canvas. Oh! And! They have a miniature of the main opera house that is as if the building has been sliced in half and you can see a cross section of the building. So cool to see that before I go into the real space tomorrow. Also, in the same area as that were maquettes from various productions. I love how respected the art of set design is here.

Taken in the crypts under Notre Dame

Taken in the crypts under Notre Dame

I walked from there back to Notre Dame where I picked up the Christmas ornament that I neglected to buy yesterday. I also ventured down into the crypts under the Cathedral and got to see some of the old ruins. They’ve built up walkways around the ruins so that they can be seen without being damaged in any way. Again, its the kind of thing that you just don’t find in Canada. We don’t have that kind of history to explore.

And then it was time to do some shopping. I popped into a bunch of the little touristy shops near Notre Dame where I found another Christmas ornament, but eventually found my way to a giant department store. It was there that I found the Christmas present for my best friend. I told a friend in Zurich that as soon as I saw the right gift for Jaime I would know, and that’s exactly what happened. I can’t wait to give it to her in February when we have our fake Christmas in Edmonton night. It will also have shortbread because she promised we could make Christmas cookies.

First French Croissant.

First French Croissant.

I also made my way to a giant shopping mall. But the mall was unfruitful and by the time it was 4pm my legs were tired again, so I decided to head back to the hotel for a rest before going out again. During that time I did some research because I really want to buy a dress while I’m here, but I know that sizing is very different and large sizes are hard to come by. Well according to my research two of the best stores for finding larger sizes in Paris are right across the street from my hotel. So that’s an adventure for tomorrow! And apparently one of the has the most amazing stained glass ceiling, so that’ll just be a bonus!

A night at the theatre.

A night at the theatre.

After a rest, I headed back out to Théâtre de l’Odéon de l’Europe for my first attempt to see theatre in a language other than my native tongue. This was Le Retour (aka Pinter’s The Homecoming). I purposefully didn’t do any research about the play before I went to see how much I would get about the story from the production. After getting back to the hotel I did some Wikipedia-ing (how does that work as a verb?) and discovered that I got pretty much everything except the discussion of sexuality as profession. Which is probably one of the hardest things to get from a play – discussion of something. Because when it’s just talk there is no action to follow. Interestingly, this production was a new French translation and according to my research it changed the ending a fair amount compared to the original. Although the next step is to actually read the original and find out if that is true. But that’s a project for back in Canada.

Back in the hotel room I’m starting to feel ready to head back to Canada. No, I won’t be “home” in Vancouver for another three weeks yet, and I don’t really have a home to go back to, but just being in an English speaking country will be a nice change.  Only a few more days left on this grand adventure, but I head straight out on the next one.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 33 (Paris)

In front of the Pantheon (and it's Christmas trees)

In front of the Pantheon (and it’s Christmas trees)

I didn’t have a specific plan in mind when I left the hotel this morning. I figured I’d go for a walk and see where it took me. Which is a great way to start an adventure.

I walked all over central Paris until I found myself in front of a great big building with a lot of Christmas trees. Turns out it was the Pantheon, so I figured I might as well go in. And then they were selling the Paris Museum Pass, so I picked up one that is good for a couple of days so that I could just go into any of the cool places I came across as I adventured. I wandered through the Pantheon for a bit, mostly down in the crypts where I found the burial places of Marie Curie and Victor Hugo. I also found the vault for Voltair which had extra fancy sculptures. I didn’t stay very long, but I’m glad I went in.

Clown vandals

Clown vandals

As I walked I found a park where someone had “vandalized” a bunch of the statues by adding clown noses to them. It was one of my favourite things I saw today! Sadly what I didn’t do as I walked was stop somewhere to get a croissant. I will remedy that tomorrow.

Next I found myself at Notre Dame Cathedral.I plan to go back for mass on Christmas Eve, but I was delighted to have time to walk through the building as a tourist as well. The stained glass windows are stunning and they had one of the most elaborate nativity scenes I have ever seen before. As I was browsing the gift shop I saw a sign that said, “How do I get up the tours? Get outside and around the corner.” This piqued my interest so I made my way outside and joined the line. The line was long but it moved quickly and soon I found myself climbing the nearly 400 steps to the top of the bell tower. There were a handful of stops on the way up, and I think if there hadn’t been I might have had an asthma attack. That is a lot of steps to climb! But I’m so glad I did it. I didn’t get to see the bells because they are doing some repairs and the bells can’t be seen again until March, but I did see gargoyles and the entire city of Paris stretched out in every direction, and the spire on the lower level of the Cathedral.

Gargoyles watching over Paris

Gargoyles watching over Paris

I did get some people to take photos of me, but with the screen on my camera not working none of them turned out. This means there aren’t many that I’m actually in, but I did take some decent ones of what I could see. The climb down the tower was easier than the climb up. I counted 389 steps on the way down (200 more than GrossMunster in Zurich), but the brochure says there are 400. I may have to go back there tomorrow in order to buy one of the Christmas ornaments from the giftshop in the main part of the Cathedral. I didn’t buy one today and I’m kicking myself about it now.

At the Louvre

At the Louvre

I continued my adventure past more fountains and statues than I could count and realized just how pathetic our North American cities must seem to folks from Europe. These cities are built around art with fountains and statues and parks and beautiful buildings and the glass of Vancouver’s skyscrapers seem somehow less. They’re still pretty, but they’re not…rich in the same way that these cities are. There is more history in one brick of the sidewalk here than in blocks of Vancouver.

I found myself next at the Louvre. Now there’s a beautiful building that is overwhelming by sheer scale. I’d say that it is larger than all the buildings at my university put together.

Obligatory Mona Lisa photo.

Obligatory Mona Lisa photo.

I walked through a lot of the building at an alarming pace. It is hard to take in that much art in a short period of time. I made my way to the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo and took my obligatory photos with them. It was interesting to me because those two rooms – room 6 of the Italian paintings and the second room of the roman sculpture collection were by far the busiest rooms in the museum. I think that many people, like myself, feel a sense of obligation in a building with such masterpieces. When there is so much and you don’t know much about it, it is easy to gravitate to the masterpieces that you know of – the pieces that have arrows directing you through the building to find them. But at the same time it makes me sad that people (myself included) don’t spend the time to find the pieces instead that speak to them. I think my two favourite parts of the Louvre were the medieval ruins in the basement from the original Louvre and the courtyard of French sculpture. The courtyard almost had me in tears as I looked around, overwhelmed by the fact that this is my life and this was how I was spending my afternoon.

When my brain could no longer handle being in halls with hundreds of paintings, I left the Louvre and decided to venture in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. After all, this is Paris and that is what you’re supposed to do here, right? But I came across an interesting looking building and discovered that it was included on my museum pass so I decided to go in. I had no idea what I was going in to see. The building was the Musee de l’Orangerie and I walked into the Les Nymphéas room with no idea what I was about to see. I had to sit down. At the Tate Modern I saw one of Monet’s Water Lillies paintings and thought it was beautiful. There was another at the Hermitage Amsterdam. But seeing both of those did not prepare me for the rooms. The eight paintings from Monet’s Water Lillies series that are on display at the Musee de l’Orangerie are approximately 6 feet high by 40 feet long. They completely took my breath away. They are displayed on curved walls, one per wall, surrounding the viewer. Absolutely amazing. After spending time in those two rooms, I made my way downstairs to see the works of Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Rousseu, Derain, and Matisse. I got more out of the four or five rooms in the Musee de l’Orangerie than I did in the grand halls of the Louvre. These paintings spoke.

I found it! One of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

I found it! One of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

From there I really did make my way to the Eiffel Tower, stopping only long enough to buy a passionfruit macaron as big as my hand. As I stood at the Eiffel Tower eating my macaron I had another one of those moments of awe at how amazing my life is and how it is nothing like I imagined it would be and that I can’t wait to see what will come next.

My final destination before returning to the hotel was back on the other side of town – closer to Notre Dame than the Eiffel Tower and by this point – having walked more than 10km – my legs were starting to feel like jelly. With all of those factors, I decided it was time to figure out the Paris Metro system. I made my way to a station, purchased a book of 10 tickets, and found my way by train across town. Not so difficult! My destination was the Opera National de Paris’ Bastille location for an evening performance of Don Quixote by their resident ballet company. I had supper at a little cafe across the intersection from the theatre and then headed inside. I didn’t take any photos of the building because its not that interesting. It has fantastic acoustics (based on how well I could hear the dancers breathing) but it is a modern opera hall without much decoration. The ballet itself was quite good, though unfortunately I fell asleep for part of the first act. All of my walking had caught up to me and I was in a comfortable seat in a dark room with beautiful music. I just couldn’t stop myself! But I was awake for all of acts two and three and enjoyed them very much.

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With a Parisian Christmas tree, all decorated with brightly colored bows.

After the show I took the Metro again back to my hotel. The Metro system is easy to figure out with a map, but I need to figure out which exit I should use at the nearby station because I ended up not at all close to my hotel, where there is one exit that comes out within a block!

And now it is two in the morning and my jelly legs need to sleep before the adventure continues!

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 32 (Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Paris)

Trying on the 18th Century hair style

Trying on the 18th Century hair style

This morning I woke up fairly early, but I wanted to be able to say good-bye to Peter before he left for work. We had tea on the couch and then when he headed to work I got busy packing my suitcase and making sure I was ready to go. Once everything was good, it was time for one last adventure.

I made my way by tram to the Gothenburg City Museum, a beautiful building with four floors of exhibits. While I wish they had more to display (more than half the building is offices), I was very impressed by what they had and how they displayed it. In the room focused on the 18th century there was a dress up room for kids to try costumes patterned on 18th century clothing. I, of course, had to try on the wig!

With the Christmas tree through a pretty door

With the Christmas tree through a pretty door

The museum also had the remains of a Viking ship, and up on the top floor a small room dedicated to the work of a local theatre producer/set designer/costume designer. The room was full of renderings, maquettes, costumes, and show photos and was a delightful tribute. It was also the first museum I’ve seen possibly ever that had a special exhibit that was theatre related (other than Shakespeare). The museum also had a very beautiful Christmas tree out in its courtyard, but it was much too cold to go out and see the tree up close.

FROZEN

FROZEN

Speaking of how cold Sweden was today, as I was walking from the museum to the next part of my adventure, I saw that the canals were frozen over. In my head were images of skating through Gothenburg, but I’m sure the ice was not yet thick enough for that. I walked all through the commercial center of town, doing a little bit of shopping, but mostly just adventuring. It was through this that I found the city Cathedral.

Courthouse or Cathedral?

Courthouse or Cathedral?

The Gothenburg Cathedral is a Lutheran church right in the middle of the city. It reminds me more of a courthouse or state building than most of the other churches I’ve seen in my adventures, but inside it is truly beautiful.

From there I walked down to the art museum, which is located in a public square along with the city theatre, the music hall, and another art gallery. They were in the middle of setting up because tonight they were going to project a free movie onto the outside of the gallery for Christmas. I can’t imagine sitting out there in the cold, but as I left town on the airport bus I saw people starting to gather. The art museum has six floors of painting, photography and sculpture, including a special exhibit of August Strindberg’s paintings & photographs. I found that I didn’t spend a lot of time in the art museum. I stopped at pieces that intrigued me (like the Chagall with the flowers and the unicorn) and moved past the things that didn’t strike my fancy.

That has been one of the real benefits of the Go Card that I purchased – because everything was already paid for, I felt no guilt about only spending half an hour or so in a museum. There were other museums to go to and it wasn’t going to cost me anything extra to give up on this one and go see something else.

My flights were uneventful, but in the midst of my taxi ride into Paris I was struck by the fact that this feels like the first big CITY since London. Amsterdam (at least at the centre) is all old houses not more than five levels tall. Zurich has laws about no building being taller than the local church spire. Gothenburg is not a big city and has mostly older buildings. But Paris is big. Even at 11:30pm the high way was busy – to the point that traffic was stopped in all four lanes simply due to volume. There are also skyscrapers again and nightlife. That was one of the big challenges in both Zurich and Gothenburg – what do you do after 8pm? Nothing’s open! In Zurich the only food available after 10pm was dominoes pizza delivery. Here in Paris my hotel is on a busy street corner and although it is after midnight I can still hear the hustle and bustle of city life. This might get annoying after a few days, but that’s what earplugs are for!

Tiny tiny hotel room

Tiny tiny hotel room

My hotel room here is one of the smallest I’ve ever seen. The bed barely fits, but it’s all I need. I don’t plan to spend much time in the room other than for sleeping and it will certainly do for that. Besides, I chose it for location and price, not quality. It does, however have a safe in the closet, a decent looking shower, and an elevator for hauling my suitcase up to the top floor! Small mercies.

I’m finding that already my French is coming back to me here. We’ll see what that looks like three or four days from now! Alas, now I must to bed as there is much exploring to do tomorrow. My map is circled and I’m ready to go!

Where in the World is Lois?

At the request of family & friends this blog is going to be a bit more travel focused for the next six weeks as I make my way around Europe as a tourist and to work on Viva Verdi. I leave in eight days and am getting very excited for the trip. I’ve never been to Europe before and I’ve never worked on opera before, so it might be a lot to handle, but I’m excited about it.

Here’s the itinerary for the trip & what I’m doing in each location. Check back for updates and photos as things go. I am taking Cue, my trusty stage manager duckie with me, and as I’m travelling alone chances are that Cue will be the focus of many of my photos!

Nov. 19 – 23: London, England

Seeing Matilda the Musical, Twelfth Night, NSFW, and The Effect; touring the National Theatre; popping over to Cardiff and checking out the Doctor Who Experience; and attempting to visit some museums & historic landmarks. I’ll be staying in the guest room of a friend from high school and hopefully visiting some friends too.

Nov. 23 – 25: Amsterdam, Netherlands

This portion of the trip is being taken with my friend from high school and another friend of hers. I know that we are planning on going to the Anne Frank House, but I’m not sure what else we are going to see on our brief visit.

Nov. 25 – Dec 17: Zurich, Switzerland

This is the work portion of my trip. I’m the assistant stage manager and back up show caller for Viva Verdi, an opera spectacular at the Hallendstadion which runs from Dec. 13-16. I’m also hoping to see some of the city. I have this strong desire to go to the zoo and see the daily penguin parade. And I’m also hoping to see a show at the Zurich Opernhaus.

Dec. 17-20: Gothenburg, Sweden

I was invited by the lovely Peter Kirkup to come stay with him in Sweden for a few days. So why not? I know we are planning on going to Liseberg. Beyond that, I’m not sure. He emailed me earlier this week to tell me he picked up a tourist guide for me.

Dec. 20-25: Paris, France

I’m staying right in the heart of Paris, where I can walk to the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame Cathedral in only 35 minutes. I have tickets to La Cenerentola at Opera de Paris, Don Quiote at the Paris Opera Ballet, and Pinter’s The Homecoming at the Odeon. I’m also booked for a christmas lights tour of the city on an open air double decker bus (don’t worry – they give you blankets and cocoa!). And Christmas eve I’m planning to go to mass at Notre Dame Cathedral.

I’m pretty excited about the trip. I’ve been daydreaming about various cities and things to do there on pinterest for months, so having a plan now is exciting. I don’t care if I make you all wildly jealous from my postings, I just want to document the trip.