Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Paris 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Trip To Paris Part Five

Part Five. 6March2010

I awoke quite early this day and managed a quick “street food” breakfast and a coffee on my way to the Metro.

Finally, it’s Saturday and the Salon International de L’Agriculture fair is here and I can’t wait to be there. I have been waiting several months to attend. If you have ever been to Cleveland’s’ IX Center, well it’s about five times larger. Imagine a state fair, but for an entire country plus other countries represented as well. Every region of France was there. Food, livestock, machinery, solar, you name it, it was there. I came for the wine and I left very happy. The fair is very, very French. It is also very cultural. Roving musicians, youth groups, and representatives from all over France with their goods for sale and sample. There were very few English speakers in attendance and many vendors were quite surprised to see “outsiders” such as myself. I had a blast! I have never seen so many varieties of cattle and ducks. There was a working dog demonstration and loads of goats. Dannon yogurt had a large interactive display, but that was it for anything American. I was able to sample fine French yogurt and cheese in the dairy area along with several varieties of milk. I wish I would have been able to take some cheese home, but it all needed to be kept cool.

The next pavilion contained smaller animals and hard goods for sale such as clothing and western wear. I bought a heave fleece jacket from Norway for 29Euros. Many different kinds of tractors and solar equipment were on display. Many other “green” energy ideas were also on display along with ways to recycle.

I made my way to the food and wine pavilion which was held on two floors. I could not believe my eyes when I walked into the huge space. Wine, cheese, bread, pastries, many sit down places to eat. Sausage, meat, caviar, and even Russian vodka were all on display. I don’t think I have ever had that much wine in my entire life! I spoke to a few vineyard owners to see if their wine was available in the States, and sadly to say French export law is difficult and many wines can’t be purchased in the USA. In fact one owner told me the good wine stays in France. I truly believed him.

I probably spent about five hours in attendance with about half the population of France that day, as it was packed to the rafters. I really picked the wrong day to go as I had no idea this show was that popular. Next time I’ll try for a weekday. Stuffed and a bit buzzed, I made my way back to the metro and to my hotel to drop off what I purchased. I rested a bit and made my way to a bistro for some dinner, late in the evening.

Stay tuned for my final entry!



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Photos From Paris 3March2010-7March2010

I need techinal assistance with my blog!

OK, I'm not an expert, newsflash. Why can't my links show up right as listed in previous blog post? I am still working on editing pictures, well, will be when I get home from work. I'll open up an on-line photo account like Flicker, or if anyone out there has a better idea. I also need help with editing a short movie of Cosmo at the dog park and to put in the music Wagner's' Flight of the Valkyrie's, did I spell that right?

I am using a photo editing program what is pure crap. I'll need to go back to photoshop.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My Trip to Paris Part Four

Part Four 5March2010

I set my sights high today. I planned to visit the Eiffel Tower, the Musee national de la Marine, The Arch d’Triumph, and the Louvre. I also managed to get some shopping in and visit some small art galleries. In between all those places I managed to have a nice breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Eiffel Tower is a magnificent fete of human ingenuity. This thing is massive. The crowds no doubt were massive as well. Listening to the many voices present it sounded like a mini UN. What amazed me were the reactions of the hundreds of children. There was an abundance of Italian, Israeli, and Northern European visitors that day. I spent at least two hours in line to purchase my ticket to waiting for the elevator. I bought a ticket for 13 Euros to the second floor. Once up to that floor I was freezing. Although the temperatures were in the mid 40s, it was very windy and I don’t think I would have made it up to the top. The height even from the second floor is pretty dizzying, and I took some amazing pictures. I then made my way to the elevator back to the ground packed in like sardines. Manners were quite lacking that day.

I walked back again towards the metro, but I stumbled upon the Museum of the French Marines (Navy). It was listed on my museum pass and thus no admission fee. This museum was not crowded at all. It is in an older building made of stone. The history of the French Navy is displayed in chronological order along with a few special exhibits. I liked how the models of the ships were displayed and the abundance of cannons. The museum had a very nice bookstore where I made a few purchases.

I walked across the bridge over the Seine on my way to the metro to stop at the Arch d’Triumph. Since it is located in the middle of a round-a-bout, one must enter via an underground passage. What can I say about the Arch? It is a monument. It is where the French Unknown Soldier is buried from WWI. There is an eternal flame that has been lit ever since the Unknown Soldier was buried, even Hitler didn’t extinguish the flame. My knee was hurting a bit so I was able to take the elevator for part of the way. There is very good security at the Arch with police carrying big guns.

I made my way to the top of the Arch and had an unobstructed 360 degree views of Paris. I was in total awe. It was a very beautiful day and the sun was starting to warm the air. I couldn’t stay there all day, so I made my way down and through the tunnel to walk along the Champs-Elysee, an amazing and beautiful boulevard. I stopped to visit a few shops and had a coffee at one of the cafes. I started to get a bit hungry and had a craving for a crepe, and I just had too much stuff to carry, so I entered the metro and made my way back to the hotel to rest my feet and grab a crepe. I ended up taking a short nap after lunch, I guess I needed more caffeine or maybe it was the wine?

The Louvre is open late on Friday night, so that was my plan. You know, it is hard for me to see Paris on my own. It is pretty lonely and I have no one to share my thoughts with. It’s not like I can go up to a total stranger and start a conversation. Even getting lost is an adventure. My broken French is just getting me by and not everyone speaks English. That is when I feel most alone is when I am lost on the streets in Paris. I have wondered into some areas in Paris that I didn’t know existed, like a street with nothing but Anime shops and hard core music stores. I was in heaven. Also mixed in on the street were second hand clothing and kitsch stores.

I don’t have anything written about the Louvre as it was pretty crowded, especially the Mona Lisa. I knew it is a small painting, but it is roped off from the public and hard to view. It is almost like visiting Disney world. There is a large upscale shopping mall attached and it is pretty crowded and takes away from the beauty of the museum. Having never been there I had high expectations and was sorely disappointed.

Stay tuned for Part Five.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Trip to Paris Part Three

Part Three 4March2010

I slept like a baby and didn’t hear any sounds at all throughout the night. My alarm went off at 8:30am. I collected my thoughts, turned on the TV to CNN World and hopped into the shower. I was out of my room within the hour. I decided at the last minute to purchase the continental breakfast the hotel offered for 8 Euros. I had about three cups of coffee, a croissant and a baguette with some butter and jam. Also offered was juice and tea. Cereal and cold milk was offered but I declined.

My plans for the day included visiting Les Invalides, The Rodin Museum, Musee d’Orsay, visiting an internet café, some shopping, and catching bus #69.

What can I say about Les Invalides otherwise known as Musee de L’Armee Hotel National des Invalides? Napoleon is entombed in the Eglise du Dome. It is so amazing to see three floors of WWI and WWII and modern and ancient war relicts. Historic Saint-Louis des Invalides Cathedral is beautiful. Museums of Liberation and of Deportation are so detailed and yet so sad. What amazed me are some of the guards I came across sound asleep in their chairs, and this was before 12 noon! I spent three hours looking at the exhibits and decided to pay a visit to the on-site cafeteria which did not disappoint. Also on site is a working hospital for veterans. I had a small single serving of onion quiche, a delicious slice of apple pie, and red wine, plus a Coke Light. After lunch I visited the bookstore to make a few purchases.

My next stop was the Rodin Museum which was a short walk away. The famous “Thinker” statue is displayed on the grounds. The museum was very crowded that day with tourists and school groups. There is some very amazing artwork in this small museum, I was in total awe. There are early and later works by Rodin and other artists. The grounds were lovely even though they suffered through a harsh winter. I spent about 90 minutes looking at the sculptures.

My next adventure was to catch the #69 bus that was mentioned in Rick Steve’s travel book on Paris. The bus cost one ticket and did not disappoint. I needed a break off of my feet and nearly road it to the end of the line, but I spotted an internet café so I hopped off at the next stop. I still curse myself for not having a laptop with me! The busses in Paris are quite modern with comfortable seats and stops are announced; however they can become quite crowded during rush hour. Bus #69 rambles down many very narrow one-way side streets and it amazing how narrow these streets really are. The bus also travels adjacent to the Seine and I saw some amazing views.

After spending about an hour at the internet café I made my way to the nearest metro stop towards my hotel, as I was a bit tired. I arrived at my hotel and rested a bit. I consulted with the owner; Tomas and he mentioned that the Musee d’Orsay was open this night. He really had some great advice for me. So after dinner at a local café I headed out to the Musee d’Orsay for a night of magic. I was not the only one who had the idea of visiting that evening, and yet it was crowded. Even though they were completing some major renovations, much of their collection was available to view. Security was also tight and the guard looked in bag which went through a metal detector. The artwork was very beautiful. Huge paintings of the masters and huge sculptures as well filled every space. I can’t name everything, but I managed to take some great pictures; albeit without a flash. I also visited the bookstore; known as a library and made some small purchases. I’m glad now that I purchased a museum pass.

I spent about 2.5 hours at the museum and then it was time to head back to the hotel. The metro was nearby and not complicated at all. The museum is in a very nice area and I felt completely safe all on my own. It was about 10pm when I arrived at my hotel and I was exhausted, but before I went to bed I had a small snack and drank about a liter of water.

Stay tuned for part four.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Trip To Paris. Part Two.

Part Two.

There is nothing more amazing than sunrise over the Atlantic. I had no idea what the time was when that orange ball showed up, I was draggled-eyed anyway, but it looked amazing.

About one hour before landing; breakfast was served. Nothing special, but I must have had four cups of coffee. We landed on time and I made my way to the ground transportation area. I stopped by the information booth to purchase a one-way ticket on the Air France bus, bought a 2 day museum pass, and collected a metro map. The service at the kiosk was pretty good and I noticed a supervisor taking notes and observations on the staff servicing the public.

The bus ride was eye opening. I could not believe the amount of graffiti on just about everything. We made our way on a freeway and through congested city streets and finally arrived at the Invalides metro stop. At first I thought that I would never understand the metro system, but I was wrong. This system is easy, you just have to know the lines and everything is marked well and color-coded. I purchased via machine a 10 pack (carnet) of metro tickets each good for a metro or bus ride including a transfer, but not metro to bus transfer. I collected another metro map, this one a bit bigger and easier to read.

I made my way to line 8, and exited at Grands Blvd to my hotel; Monte Carlo in the 9e. This hotel is a 2 star hotel only because it has rooms on the top floor that share a bath and shower; otherwise it would be a three star.

I spent a lot of time researching hotel and located this hotel on trip adviser (TA). TA is a very useful tool for all aspects of travel. I utilized the travel forums and was able to obtain very useful information.

I arrive at Hotel Monte Carlo pretty early as check-in is at 3:00pm. I was able to drop off my luggage, use the restroom, and was offered a coffee by the owner; Tomas who was very helpful. This is a small family owned hotel in the middle of everything. Stores, eateries, and the like are in the area as well as two close metro stations. There is a post office and internet café nearby as well. Sad to say I have no laptop with me on this trip. The hotel offers free wifi.

I think I must have arrived at the hotel by 11:00am and was getting hungry. I was a bit in a fog as I didn’t sleep well on the flight. Armed with a map and Euros in my purse I was set to explore the area. My first stop was a grocery store to purchase a liter of water. I didn’t have the energy to visit museums just yet, so I walked and walked. I took a few pictures of unusual sights. I entered the metro and headed off to the center of the city just for fun. Mind you, I was in a fog so I really watched what I did and I declined to drink any wine. That decision didn’t last too long. I eventually made my way to Galleries Lafayette. One entire floor with nothing but shoes, I was in heaven. After putzing around, basically doing nothing I made my back to the hotel to check in.

All hotel rooms in Paris are small by American standards. I was upgraded at check-in to a room facing the courtyard. The bathroom was small but was fine for me. The fixtures were very modern, the bed big enough (similar to a full size) for me and very comfortable. The bedding and towels were like new and soft. The pillows were firm. There was an electronic safe. Key cards were used for the door locks which made me feel safe. The curtains kept out the light so I slept well. There was a flat screen TV and had three English channels (CNN, BBC, and BBC 4), one French, Spanish, Italian, and a Russian channel. I believe I paid 74 Euros a night, about $414 USD total. I could be off a little.

I went to a bistro for dinner and then walked around the area until I was tired enough to go back to the hotel. I eventually crashed for the night.

Stay tuned for Part Three.

My Trip To Paris. Part One.

My Trip To Paris Part One


Where to begin! On Monday 1March2010 I left work at 2:00pm and arrived home. I packed up Cosmo, my JRT to take him to A1 Bed and Biscuit Kennel in Chardon.

He really loves that place which will be his home for the next week.

I went home and finished packing. I resolved to fit everything in my eBags weekender carry-on. My clothes fit the carry on without a problem. I also needed to see if I could go stand-by on an earlier American Airlines (AA) flight, as my flight to Paris from JFK was switched to leave from Newark and of course I had already purchased non-refundable tickets. Oh well. I spoke with a “customer rep” from AA who said the flight I wanted was pretty full and that for $50.00 I could get a guaranteed seat, so I took the bait and forked over my credit card number. I went to bed about 10:00pm after watching the latest episode of “24”.

Damn, it’s about 4:30am in the morning and I am finally out of bed about to hit the shower. No human should be up at this time. I manage to complete my tasks, have some breakfast, and load the car. I make my way to CLE airport on a deserted freeway. Could I be the only idiot out here?

I drop off my car at Park Place. It’s only $5.00 a day and they provide a very reliable shuttle to the airport, about a 3 minute ride. I make my way to the self service kiosk and I print out my boarding pass. This flight to LGA lasts about an hour on a small jet; Embraer ERJ-3. Then it’s on toward security screening and of course I set off the scanner and then have to subject myself to a physical pat down by a power hungry smurf. I make my way to an empty gate. I finally realize that this flight is empty. The GA states there is only seven PAX on board today, and states that Tuesdays are pretty light. I was pretty pissed off as I was lead to believe that this flight was nearly full, $50.00 just was flushed down the toilet.

The FA said we could sit anywhere; however the exit rows were taken, so I just took a seat after I stored my carry on in the overhead bin. The flight was pretty smooth except for a small bit of turbulence. I was offered an entire can of Diet Coke. BOB snacks were for sale, but I declined. We landed on time and I made my way to the ground transportation to the lower east side and the WTC area.

I had great directions using public transportation into NYC. Thanks Blumie! I managed to walk around the public areas around the WTC construction site. I visited the memorial, took some pictures and spoke with a few LEOs . I stopped for lunch at the Stage Deli, visited the Century 21 store, and a few others before making my way to EWR for my early evening flight.

I arrive at EWR already to check in at the OpenSkies (EC) counters; adjacent to British Airways, but they are not open. The BA agent told me that EC does not open until about 2.5 hours before the flight leaves. How inconvenient! There were several other PAX also waiting to check-in and drop off their luggage and they were none too happy. One of the PAX, a French woman living in the US wonders how EC stays in business. Also, EC has a lounge that is shared with Jet Airways, which is also only opened 2.5 hours before the flight. Not a good way to run an airline.

So I take a seat and wait, and wait, and finally a spark of life. I check in and receive my boarding pass and make my way to the lounge; tucked into a corner of EWR airport. The lounge is average in size and does not have adjacent bathrooms. There are local newspapers and some magazines. The beverages consist of wine, champagne, alcohol, pop, water, and juice. They have sandwiches, cheese crackers, and a variety of dips. Nothing hot was available. About 30 minutes before takeoff we made our way to the gate and boarding was pretty easy.

The plane was a Boeing 757-200; a former L’Avion plane that was converted with 12 lie-flat seats and the rest “old school” style reclining seats that reclined to about 140 degrees. The seats are not the seats pictured on EC’s website. Upon arriving to our seats we were given a choice of champagne or juice. The FA gave the usually safety demonstration in English and French, and soon we were off to Orly, a smaller airport near to Paris, France. Soon, hand held video players with recent movie releases, some TV shows, music, and games were given out to the PAX. The only problem I had was the sound was horrible.

About an hour into the flight dinner service was offered. I realize I should have ordered the diabetic special meal. I managed to request the special meal on my journey home. The food looked good, but was loaded with calories and fat. Well, I’m on vacation; aren’t I?

I did try to sleep but it was impossible to get comfortable as the controls for the seat were all manual and hard to operate. The foot rest was metal and my long legs and big feet just did not fit. Somewhere over the Atlantic one of the PAX sustained a medical emergency; passing out and splitting her chin open and requiring a butterfly bandage, oxygen and immediate medical attention. An announcement was made for a doctor on board and the woman in the seat ahead of me answered the call. I really never knew what happened and soon after we landed in Paris, the paramedics and police boarded the plane to assist.

We landed on time and I made my way to the ground transportation area. I bought a ticket on the Air France bus to the Metro station “Invalides”, which was very easy.

Stay tuned to part two.