Paris, afterward…..afterward (more photos than philosophy)

Bonjour Readers!  And Happy Birthday to me!!!

Today I feel compelled to put the book-end on my “Paris, afterward….before” post.  As you recall, at that point (late November) I was pondering the effects the recent terrorist attacks would have on Paris (and more selfishly, our enjoyment of it). Well, I am happy to say, we had a fabulous time in Paris and were very glad we decided to go!  Now you may ask, were there armed guards? – some; were there signs of fear? – sometimes (Notre Dame was cleared out and we couldn’t go in due to some unknown and undiscovered possible threat); were Parisians Parisians? – absolutely! People were out strolling en masse as always, children were ogling the entertaining store window displays, couples were enjoying fabulous meals at outdoor cafes, the Christmas Market was packed (and not with the massive amounts of guards pictured in my previous post), and Paris mostly felt like Paris. Of course, we were tourist on holiday, so I am sure we missed some of the more nuanced signs of the stress and sadness and fear the city was undoubtedly feeling, but overall, Paris, as New York, perseveres, lives, and enjoys*…..

*and had this very weird, possibly racist “Thriller” ride at its Christmas market this year, pictured above  – a much bigger (and more eclectic) market than the one we experienced in 2008!

Quaint, quirky and oh sooooooo yummy! An introduction to Rouen, France.

Bonjour Readers!  And Happy Birthday Selma!

Today we hit another of the highlights from our recent trip – Rouen, France.  If you’re anything like me, before we decided to go there, I am not even sure I had heard of Rouen and I definitely couldn’t point to it on a map.  Now I can tell you it is in Northwest France – in Normandy; it was where Joan of Arc was held captive and then burned at the stake; and its “Notre Dame” is the one featured in all the famous paintings by Monet, not Paris’s.

On the less momentous side, it is filled with skinny, quirky, leaning half-timbered buildings, a result of the local limestone being of poor quality, oak being plentiful, and property taxes being based on ground floor square footage only –  how quaint are these buildings?!?   And, depending on your point of view regarding what is and is not “momentous,” it’s home to some of the best food we have ever eaten!  Since Rouen is by the sea, it has the freshest seafood you could hope for; since it’s old-school France, food is cooked with exquisite care in the old-school French tradition (yes, that means COPIOUS amounts of butter); and, since it is nowhere near the tourist destination that is Paris, all of this scrumptiousness can be had for a most reasonable sum.

While both Joan of Arc and Monet spent considerable time in Rouen, there really isn’t too much to see on those fronts.  The place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake is marked by a non-descript (though too tall to fit in frame, so no photo) cross and there is a single Notre Dame painting of Monet’s in the local museum.  Overall, the biggest pleasures of Rouen are walking around admiring the buildings, eating, and for those of you who enjoy a good shopping promenade, there are several.

Since I have already written reviews of both the remaining tower from the prison where Joan of Arc was held (lame), and the AMAZING lunch we had at La Petite Auberge (AMAZING), I will not repeat myself here.  (If you’d like a blow-by-blow of the 2 3/4 hour-long pleasure-fest that was our lunch at La Petite Auberge, check out my Tripadvisor review.)  Suffice it to say, the meal was so good I thought I’d never be able to eat again as all other food would pale in comparison….

Some photos of the places/food/painting described:



A Tour of Paris Down the Seine (and the “gold ring” scam)

Ciao Readers!

Well, I think I have shared with you most of the highlights from our recent trip to Paris and Amsterdam.  Today I tie-up the few loose ends by taking you on a boat bus tour down the Seine, so we can wave to the famous monuments from our (too cold) seats on the Batobus.

Before we embark on our boat tour though, we have to reach the Orsay museum, where we will be picking up the boat at one of its many stops.  In order to reach the Orsay, we took a tram and then had to cross a famous park (the Tuileries) (lovely in nice weather). Lest you think I see Paris with only rose-colored glasses, in the time it took us to cross the park (pictured below), we were hit up by the “gold ring” scam 3 times!  It was so ridiculous that it happened three times in as many minutes that all I could do was laugh hysterically (no offense to our intended scammers…well, maybe a bit).  For those of you not familiar with this scam (which has been going on since at least 2008 when we first visited), it goes like this: you see someone appear to pick up something off the ground and then “realize” that lo and behold they have just found a valuable gold ring!  They then offer you the ring (sometimes just as a “friendly gesture,” sometimes clearly in exchange for money), and after you take hold of it, you are hounded down for compensation until you fork some over.  As I have recently told a friend whose daughter is traveling to Europe – don’t accept anything from strangers here (there is no such thing as a free gift here – be it Paris or Florence).  This stands in stark contrast to what both we and my friend have experienced in Japan – many wonderful gifts given freely (and if you tried to offer compensation it would be seen as a terrible insult).  In any case, the moral here is 1) don’t fall for scams anywhere in Europe and 2) I lost my rose-colored glasses [literally and figuratively] a while back…

Okay, now that we’ve passed the gauntlet of ring temptation (nowhere near Tolkien-esque), we’re ready for that boat ride I promised!

Much like the boat service in Amsterdam, the Batobus runs past most of the major tourist sites in Paris, and you can hop-on hop-off as much as you like for the duration of your pass (you can actually buy an entire year pass for only 60 euros).  In addition to a means of transportation, you get to see all of the major sites through the glass enclosure that is your boat.  The day we took this boat ride it was a low of 23 degrees and a high of 27; we were hoping for a nice warm boat like we had in Amsterdam, but this one was barely heated if at all.  As you can see, it was so cold outside that there were icicles hanging off the boat!   Since we were freezing and my toe had had enough, we didn’t get off at many stops.  We did disembark to see Notre Dame, but after seeing the line outside (surprising for a freezing February day), we just admired the outside (we’ve been inside on a previous trip).  I suppose this gray day matched our mood as it was the last day of a wonderful (and delicious) vacation…

That, dear Readers, ends our “diversions to other places”…  for now!  Thanks, as always, for coming along!

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