Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Invalides and a walk down Rue de Rivoli

We'd been before but having our son Andrew with us, we thought he may enjoy it and you do miss things on any first visit. The museum is connected to the Dome Chapel where Napoleon's Tomb stands. It's an impressive site with the 12 victory statues around the Tomb.

We entered the gates to Invalides with the Gendarmes casting an attentive  eye  over all those who entered.
Or did they????? 
The manicured trees and gardens of Invalides. What's that structure in the background?
The dome under which Napoleon rests.
As you enter the Museum, you pass by the impressive gates and walk the cobbled entrance. At the front overlooking the waterless moat is an impressive formation of French classic cannons. Further along is the manicured trees and lawns leading to the entrance of the building, L'HOTEL DES INVALIDES.
The French Cannons amazed me with their artistic work. Some are beautifully sculpture with amazing designs of serpents and heads of birds and animals. In the courtyard there are these two "Howitzers" that on reading the pamphlet, I've discovered that they could fire a distance of almost 6 kms. That's impressive but the long cannons with their artistry impressed be more.

A cannon with Cardinal Richeleiu's name - I'll need to research the reason for this unless someone out there already has the answer.
The armour from the various ages impressed me but also the graphics behind the display gave a  visual of how things may have been.

The museum houses the most impressive collection of armour and weapons from ancient times to WWII.
We remember walking through the Louve's Egyptian exhibition and asking ourselves which country stole the most treasures, France, England or the Vatican. From the collection of armour of the bronze, and middle ages, I found myself pondering the same question. Without doubt, the collection is most impressive and the descriptions of the associated history deserved more time that we could afford.
When we reached the exhibitions from the first and second world wars, we started to have a better understanding of the history. The Charles de Gaulle exhibition takes up 20 hours of audio and visual history. How can one take this in on such a short visit but now at least I can further research this great Frenchman on the internet when we get home.

Charles de Gaulle

Dinner was at a nearby restaurant, Pasco on 74 Bld de la Tour-Moubourg and was so good that we have rebooked for our last night in Paris.
The host was very friendly and helpful and the food was excellent.

Today has been a shopping day with us buying gifts for back home and some items for ourselves. We took the Metro to Rue de Rivoli. Sue wanted to buy some make-up at Sephora and I needed to buy my usual quota of two pairs of jeans at Celio. It's my favourite men's shop. Waist and leg length works for me.
Rue de Rivoli runs for 3 kilometres from the 1st to the 4th Arronndisements and has an amazing amount of shops, cafes and  restaurants. Its creation stems back to Napoleon's time and was named after one of his victories against Austria (Wikipedia told me).
We found some gift shops and bought what we needed before giving the Metro a miss for the bus.
The bus trip although visually more interesting, was hot and stuffy compared to the Metro.

A walk down Rue de Rivoli is always a must do when in Paris.
Although we are starting to see it in more in Melbourne  these days, the building site facades in Paris have always intrigues me. It beautifies an otherwise shabby construction site.
When we were strolling down Rue de Rivoli, the historic site of Samaritaine had posters and photograph's of whit was in time gone by.

One block back from Rue de Rivoli is not as interesting but you don't have to fight for a seat. It also costs less.
Mother and son walk Rue de Rivoli through the foliage of the streets florists.
On previous visits to Paris we'd been driven past or around this gothic style tower rising above Rue de Rivoli and wondered the significance of it. So after getting home, I hopped onto Wikipedia to discover that it the remains of a 16th century church. The church was demolished for building materials but on the condition that the tower remained.
The Saint Jacques Tower is now listed by UNESCO as World Heritage.

Bikes are parts of the local traffic - Melbourne is starting to catch up but not so much of a lifestyle as Paris.
We sat at a cafe near the Saint Paul Metro station on Rue  de Rivoli in the Marais watching workers and tourists go about their day.

And finally for a friends of ours, Diane and Nigel - a photo of a Porsche 356 found in the car park when we arrived in Paris a few days ago. She liked the E-type I posted yesterday but this will bring back more fond memories of the past.
Our four weeks in France has come to an end with only one more sleep before we get loaded on to the plane with the rest of the cattle for another epic marathon flight back home.
This trip has been different to the past four. We've had family with us at various times. Both old and new friends have given us special moments along the way.
3000 kms have been travelled in the car and that doesn't include the TGV trip from Paris to Marseilles.
We've seen Provence, Languedoc, the Verdon Gorge and revisited Saint Remy for a one week stay.
A three day drive up to the Loire saw us meet up with old friends, meet new friends and enjoy too much food and wine before returning to Paris. Today is our last full day.

I expect that we will be back in Melbourne for our next post and "Melbourne our Home on the Bay" will focus on our great city the we do call home.
Thanks for travelling with us.

Leon and Sue

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Driving into Paris

Now when I said we was dropping the car off in Paris - we would occasionally get a raised eyebrow. You know the look that says, "Do you think that's wise?"

I mean we weren't dropping it off on the outskirts of Paris or at the airport. Our apartment is in the 7th on rue la Motte Piquet. It runs off from Invalides.
On the way Sue needed to see her only big Chateau on this trip - Vaux le Vicomte. Sue tells me it was the Chateau that set the standards for future Chateaux including Versailles.

Things we discovered:
It was built by Louis XIV's finance minister Nicolas Fouguet and was so grand that Louis arrested him - it is said due to jealousy but one has to ask where the money came from for such a flamboyant building.  I'm not one to gossip but after all, he was the finance minister.
Vaux le Vicomte was used to film the "Man in the Iron Mask" and Alexandre Dumas featured the Fouquet Chateau (house) warming party and arrest in his third Musketeer book (from Rick Steves Paris book).

Sue experiences a dream of hers at Vaux le Vicomte

After an all too short visit at Vaux le Vicomte, we headed for Paris to deal with the traffic and finding the drop-off point for the rental car. Tommy, our GPS would only take us to the 7th with no further instructions for some obscure reason. We chose this drop-off point because it was close to the apartment but things never work out that simple - do they?

The drop-off office was closed - there were instructions on the door to take the car to the underground car park at Invalides Esplanade. We did find it but then we needed to find where the keys, etc went and fortunately we bumped into a car park worker who showed us. What luck.

Within the confines of our apartment lift. 

Getting familiar with our surroundings over a cool drink at a Paris bar.
A view of the top end of our street.
It's a tradition - Confit de Canard. It started in 2006 on our first  ever night in Paris.
Kir Royale was another first for Sue.
So we lugged two suit cases and some hand luggage about 800 metres to the apartment when Sue thought she lost the code to get in the front door. After rummaging through bags it was finally located.
But that wasn't the end of it. The lift was so tiny that at most, only two people would fit. If they weren't intimately associated, then they would be by the 5th floor.

Finally we did get our bags to the apartment and went for a walk around our new neighbourhood.
We had not stayed in the 7th before, it's different and it will be interesting to compare with the other districts where we have spent time.

The following day before our son Andrew was to arrive, I took a walk around Invalides to explore further and take some photos.

This was not a parking spot but who would complain about this wonderful piece of automotive exotica?
Invalides - we intend to visit tomorrow.

Parisians love their parks - so do we after living in our broom closet here!
Yep, that's Paris.....
The cars that ate Paris are these big fuel guzzlers today.
Sorry - but I always need to add a bike to most posts and Paris definitely have the most interesting bikes, not to mention their riders.
Paris buildings are very decorative, aren't they?

The restaurant Max is below our apartment. Our door is to the left.
Tomorrow we visit the Musee de l'Armee, a museum that covers the military history from stone age to World War II. We've been before but we want to share it with our son Andrew who arrives in the afternoon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Last Days in the Loire

After leaving Chinon we headed to Montrichard on the river Cher. We had a lunch date with blogging friends, Ken, Walt, Susan and Simon. We met both Ken and Walt back in 2010 when we rented a lovely little cottage not far from Montrichard - a place called Thenay just a couple of kilometres from Pontlevoy. It was a great base to visit all of the great Chateaux of the Loire.

Simon and Susan invited us to join them, Ken and Walt and Susan's sister Cathy and her husband John at La Villa in the square at Montrichard. The sun was shining and the company was jovial. Simon and Susan run a business taking visitors to the sites of the Loire in Celestine, their shiny black Citroen Traction Avant. This is partly the connection between Simon and I as Sue and I have owned Citroens and they were my first cars many years ago.

We met Celistine along with Susan and Simon in 2010.
Carol and Mikee's stone maison in rural Loire.

Lunch ran on for some time as it does when in good company and so we didn't get away until mid afternoon. We were staying with friends further down the Cher for two nights. Carol and Mikee are the people we rented the aforementioned cottage from and have become treasured friends despite Carol domineering me (LOL Carol). These two are most generous people. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner, met their lovely boulangier Veronique who seems to always have a big happy smile on her face.

Carol cooked a wonderful salmon in pastry meal to welcome us - of course we consumed too much local wine, didn't we?
The following morning we took off to the Amboise market which is set overlooking the Loire River. The Friday market is mainly produce and Sue was cooking and organising dinner with Carol for us four and fellow Bloggers Ken and Walt. Well that is until we met Carol and Mikee's neighbours, Gerard and Annica just a little further down the road. That made eight.

The Loire river runs along side the Amboise market area.

Carol explains to Sue the best stalls at the Amboise market.
Many of the stall holders travel from town to town in mobile shops such as this one.
You can see the names of the towns he services on the truck awning.
White asparagus is in season at the moment and Carol cooked  some as an entree the night of our arrival - very tasty.
Isn't the simple baguette the best bread in the world?

Did I hear you say, "How did we meet?" Keep in mind that Annica and Gerard are locals. Long time locals in fact. Gerard was born in the house where they live. Anyway, on the way back from meeting Veronique  at the Boulangerie, I saw this old rusty bike lying beside a shed. Mikee informed me that it belonged to his friend Gerard.

A rusty old bike - and a new friend met. Gerard beams a smile at us. 
Mikee our host shows that he would have made a serious competitor in his day.
We went back with Carol and Sue a little later as I wanted to see the bike. On meeting both Gerard and Annica, you knew instantly that you would like them. We had a tour of Gerard's potager and then were invited into their home for some local wine. A tour of the outside buildings later showed graffiti on the stone walls by the Germans when they occupied Gerard's family home.
The meeting all ended with Annick and Gerard being invited to join us four and Ken and Walt for the night's dinner.

Carol put on a wonderful seafood spread as starters and Sue did her main of chermoula chicken (shown on Ken's blog) and the dessert of a hot chocolate pot.

The food was great but the company was something else with two Brits, us Skippys, two non english speaking French and two Americans but we all agreed that it was a most successful night with the mix of four different nationalities.

Walt, Mikee, Annica, Carol, Gerard and Ken
A well mixed group by the end of the night.
Too many bottles littered the table by the end of the night which ended way after midnight. Mikee brought out some home made plum eau de vie which really finished off Ken and I.
I think we both woke the next morning feeling a little hollow headed which was confirmed the next morning as we paid a short visit before heading off to Paris the next day.

If you would like to meet our friends - visit them here.
Ken's blog -
Walt's blog -
Simon and Susan's blog -