Monday, May 31, 2010

Two Museums and a Church; Tennis Continues

We put off going to the Louvre for most of our time here, but today was our last chance, so we went early and tried to beat the horde of tourists as they rushed to see the "Mona Lisa." We took a different path - seeing instead "Winged Victory", the "Venus de Milo." It is impossible to do justice to the Louvre's art work, there's just way too much of it. We saw a lot, took some photos and came out ready for lunch and a sit down.

The last of my Louvre photos is one of the Marley Horses (not the ones featured in "The Christmas Carol), but some impressive big stone horses that used to stand outside, but are now under a roof.

We came back to our Paris fifth story apartment and had a bit of lunch - quiche from the bakery and an almond croissant for me. We were able to catch some more tennis from Roland Garros as we rested. French TV has it on all day. We watched Novak Djokovic beat Robby Ginepri, the last American in the men's draw, and rested while trying to keep our aching "dogs" from barking.

And then back to see some more sights of the City of Lights. We took the "one" train, transferred to the "two" train and ended up near the Moulin Rouge, a famous nightspot near the Sacre Coeur Basilica. Sacre Coeur is at the top of the highest hill in Paris and a pretty good climb for folks with barking "dogs." Also, near the Basilica, we found the Dali Museum. Since, as a child I was always denied a Dali, I wanted to see what surrealistic works were on display. There were odd sculptures and strange paintings in abundance. I include one of the tamer ones, "Le Cheval de Triomphe" standing near the odd thumb sculpture which is displayed on the bicyclist's blog, which also has some more Louvre art for those who feel cheated.

Then we finished the walk to the top of the hill and were treated to the view below. Off in the distance it is possible to see the Pompidou Center and other Paris landmarks.

This is another view down the hill. This area was used in the popular French film, "Amalie," which is a favorite of mine and one I'll have to watch again when I get back to the Capitol City of Minnesota.

This is a view up the hill towards Sacre Coeur with a cloudy sky behind it. It was about sixty degrees, a beautiful springlike day and there were a lot of tourists and natives alike enjoying the day.

At the bottom of the hill is this carousel, which is also visible in the movie, "Amalie."

At about this time we decided that we'd had enough touring for the day and walked down the hill, where we caught the number two train home to watch a little more Roland Garros tennis. We managed to catch Rafa Nadal finish off Brazil's top player, Thomaz Bellucci, in straight sets to reach the quarters. Serena also managed a strong win over Shahar Peer.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Dimanche" is Sunday in Paris

It's Sunday here and rain was threatening the "trek of the day" plans. We were planning a walk in the area of the Bastille and an afternoon trip to the Rodin Museum. We decided to go ahead and hope for faulty forecasting. As it turns out we were almost entirely dry, although there were some intervals of rain.

My favorite shot came from late in the day, where I am posing in front of the "Burgers of Calais," one of Rodin's famous sculptures. The story of the burgers is pretty good. The residents of Calais were suffering a siege at the hands of the English king. Everyone was starving and were ready to give up. The king offered to spare the townspeople if six citizens would come forward and die instead of the rest of the folk. These six burgers volunteered and saved the rest of the populace. I'm in good company in this photo.

For a more complete of the morning hike check the bicyclists blog for today, but here are a few less well known locations, but representative of the day. First is a fountain along a canal near the Bastille Memorial. The canal has been covered with a park with playgrounds and fountains, etc.

One of my favorite shots. Mr. Moohoo has been donating U.S. dollar coins to street musicians that he finds entertaining and meets a few other criteria. We encountered these guys playing a clarinet and a bass viola in an underpass and Gino is pictured enriching their violin case. They'll be surprised when they count the money to find a foreign coin, but I'm confident they will find a use for it.

Below is the entry to one of our favorite forms of transportation, the Metro. It's Paris' subway and a cheap, efficient way to get around the city. This one is near the Bastille.

We made it to the Rodin Museum this afternoon. It's a great museum filled with Rodin's best work. This version of "The Thinker" is incorporated into "The Gates of Hell," another of his most famous works. There are a lot of the stand alone versions all over the world, made from the original model and signed by the artist.

"The Kiss" is perhaps his most famous sculpture, after "The Thinker."

I like this one, too. It's a favorite subject of Rodin - French author Honore de Balzac. He was a chunky monkey and probably wouldn't have been too pleased with this depiction in bronze.

And last, some of the beautiful flowers that adorn the outside gardens at the museum.

Plus we got to see some more of the French Open on French TV. They only comment in French, but the game is easy to understand, if one has played it a bit. We watched some of Justine Henin beating Maria Sharapova, Tsonga's default to Youzhny, Federer's win over Wawrinka, and Dementieva's win over Scheepers among others. Venus also lost today. The tourney enters the final week tomorrow, and I'll watch the finals of Roland Garros from west of the Atlantic Ocean.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday in Paris

This is a photo from late yesterday afternoon - a sculpture in The Tuileries not far from the Obelisk of Luxor.

It was Saturday and our morning trek around this part of Paris took us to some interesting sites. The flowers at Jardin du Palais Royal were colorful when we arrived. It's a little off the beaten track and we were nearly alone when we visited, except for the pigeons.

The bicyclist took some photos, too, as we walked through the city. The sun was shining but disappeared behind some clouds later in the day.

We went by the Taverne Karsbrau, the place we ate a couple of nights ago. They served good sauerkraut and Alsation beer. They were open, as they are 24 hours a day, and a group of guys were in the eating area singing and having a beer inspired good time as we passed.

Another street scene as we passed by was the Tower of St Jacques, a recently refurbished structure which stood out in the morning light.

After a coffee and a stop at the market to get fresh vegetables, strawberries, mangoes, and a roast chicken, we came home for a brief sit down and a chance to watch some tennis on French TV. Then we set out for Musee de l'Orangerie, deciding that the weather was too threatening to go to the Rodin Museum.

The other bloggers in the group were getting ready for some photography of the Monet water lily paintings in the museum. That big area behind them was part of a huge Monet painting.

The museum was interesting, but there was a tennis tourney at Roland Garros to keep up with. We managed to see Nadal-Hewitt, and Sharapova-Henin before the darkness shut down the day. We ate our home prepared meal of roast" poulet" and "salade" and began to think about another day in Paris.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Louis XIV ruled France for 72 years

After our near rain out at Roland Garros yesterday, today started out nice and only got nicer. We took the opportunity to go to the Palace at Versailles to see the Hall of Mirrors and the famous gardens. Versailles was the home of King Louis XIV of France for most of the time he ruled France in the 1600's. He was a very powerful, hereditary king who holds the European record for length of reign. He left a lot of evidence of his rule. There are a lot of statues to his greatness on display at Versailles, like the one below.

We toured his castle and much of the sights can be seen on Mr Moohoo's blog today. Below Mr Moohoo is pictured with Mrs. Smith as they stand before the gate to Versailles, a gate which looks like gold and is, in fact, gold.

After the indoor tour in which I learned a lot about French history we went outside to view the gardens - my personal favorite part. Below is a long view of the gardens looking towards the Grand Canal.

The fountains were not on, which changed the character of the gardens, but many flowers were blooming in intricate patterns, including the flower hill pictured below. The gardens must have a cast of thousands of gardeners to keep this place looking as good as it did.

This is a set of flowering bushes in the King's Grove, one of my favorites. There are great old statues in marble spread all over the grounds, too.

Long lines of stately trees line the roads and trails. There was a storm last year which cost the gardens over 10,000 trees, but the effect was not apparent to my first timer eyes. Everything looked well cared for and seemed to be thriving.

Here is Louis XIV again on his horse at the entry to his most impressive palace. The sky was blue and lightly clouded, and the place was filled with sightseers from all over the world.

We had a great meal at a Japanese restaurant not far from here tonight. I had Yakisoba and an Asahi beer to top off a great day.

The tournament Roland Garros continued today. Monfils lost and Tsonga won, so the French were divided in their sentiment. Andy Roddick is still playing, as are the top women seeds, Serena and Venus, who were seen on this blog on Tuesday. There is a lot to be decided before the finals next weekend.

Rodin Museum tomorrow.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Red dirt plus rain equals red mud

Our third day at Roland Garros started off well. After previous visits we knew when to arrive and where to go to be well situated to see some world class tennis. We settled on Court 2 where we were scheduled to see Elena Dementieva, David Ferraro, and Lleyton Hewitt, all without leaving our covered seats in the small grandstand. It was cloudy but dry when we arrived. We stopped in front of the statue of Rene Lacoste, one of the better known of the Three Musketeers of French tennis. A photo of the bicyclist is below with the great French tennis player.

We went to the court and staked out our claim with at least a half hour to spare before the 11 o'clock start time. At 10:50 it began to rain and they covered the court with a green tarp, shown below as it puddled up.

Until after 3:30, all we saw was rain and the spectators across the court holding up umbrellas. Very few spectators left the grandstand, because, at the French Open, if you leave the stadium you lose your seat and must join a massive queue to be readmitted. They seem to count on people moving from court to court to allow all the spectators a chance to view the beat tennis players in the world. There were six young guys amongst the crowd, umbrella-less, all wearing "I [heart] Paris" tee shirts and berets, who got drenched to the bone, but stayed for the tennis throughout.

From our seats we could see part of the Philippe Chartrier court - the show court - and the flags above it. The four central flags of USA, UK, France, and Australia represent the countries where the four Grand Slams of tennis are played each year.

Finally at 3:40 the ground crew took off the tarp and readied the court for action again. Then for an hour and a half we saw a great women's singles match between Russian Elena Dementieva and Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues. Dementieva is pictured below during warm ups.

Anabel is shown during play, I think in the first set. It was a pretty good battle with the Russian winning finally 6-2, 7-6. They are both hard hitting, very athletic players. Neither has won a grand slam event, although Dementieva was singles runner up in the US Open in about 2004.

It was a good view of top tennis, probably not enough of it, but all that Mother Nature was allowing this rainy day in Paris.

We came home from the courts on a city bus through Paris and stopped and bought some takeout French pizza for leisurely eating at our home away from home.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tallest building in the world 1889-1930

It was a threatening to rain, and the winds were blowing, but nevertheless we went to the Eiffel Tower to see the one time tallest building in the world. It's still pretty impressive at 1063 feet. It was built for a World's Fair in Paris to impress the visitors and was finished in 1889. We took the Metro and arrived before the ticket booth opened.

We took two elevators all the way to the top. The view is very impressive. The picture below is the Seine, not very far from the structure. Notice the many bridges that cross the river.

Mr Moohoo is standing next to the edge of the highest observation plat form with Paris behind him.

Another view of the city from the tower, with the Arc de Triomphe in the center.

This afternoon after returning from the tower, we went to The Musee d'Orsay where works of Monet, Manet, van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Rodin and other famous artists are housed. Photography was forbidden, although there were those who managed to get a few candid shots in the building. I'm a sculpture man and especially liked the sculpture of Rodin.

Later we went to dinner at an Alsace themed restaurant near our rental, a cuisine more German than typically French. The sauerkraut and the Muenster cheeses were especially tasty.

After dinner we walked in a nearby park by a very old church where the head sculpture sits and is constantly used for climbing practice by the children in the neighborhood. We were lucky to get free access for a couple of minutes and I took this photo of the Moohoo family near it.

And a typical street scene near our new "eat street." There are a lot of busy interesting eateries here, frequented by mostly Parisians. The sidewalk cafes are a scene very typical of Paris.

Tomorrow we are on our way back to Roland Garros stadium for the tennis tournament. The rains forced some of today's action to be postponed, so there will be extra tennis to be played. Cool temps and dry skies are expected, and I hope to see some good play on the red dirt courts in the second round action.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A day at the red dirt tennis tournament

I awoke ready to go to Rolland-Garros to watch the best tennis players in the world play their and my game. But, it was too early to go so Gino and I took a walk over to the Tuileries, past the Louvre, over the Seine and through some of the Left Bank before returning to our neighborhood bakery for breakfast basics. On the way we passed by some impressive statuary in the Tuileries Garden framed against a pure blue sky. Nothing says Paris like park statuary.

We stopped as I took this photo of the biker with the Eiffel Tower behind him. We have yet to visit the tower, but it is on our to-do list.

Then we were off to visit the tennis tournament contested on red dirt not too far from here. We joined a huge crowd that usually gathers for Grand Slam tennis events. Our etickets passed muster and we got into court 2 in time to see Daniella Hantuchova (shown below serving) destroy her first round opponent, 6-1, 6-1.

Then we saw some of a four set match in which Robby Ginepri upset fellow American, Sam Querrey. They are both big hitters and it was an entertaining match.

Then the Williams sisters took the court and wiped out their opponents in two lopsided sets. Our vantage point was somewhat obstructed by other fans in the completely full stadium, but the photos shows some of the action. First is Venus during warm ups when she was hitting practice serves.

And Serena between points. They are seeded number one and have a good chance of winning the doubles title.

I have included some crowd shots of activities in the stadium. There are large TV screens in the areas outside the big stadiums. This one on Suzanne Lenglen stadium was airing the Andy Roddick match, which he won soon after the photo was taken in the fifth set. It was a close call for the best American man competitor.

A photo of one of the statues of the legendary French four Musketeers who ruled much of the tennis world in the 1920's and '30's. The area in the square was filled with people eating lunch and watching the action on the giant TV screen

It was a hot day and we were knackered by the time we left, but we have a rest day tomorrow, and perhaps some rain, before our Thursday tickets are of any use. Maybe we'll go see the Eiffel Tower tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The red dirt tennis tournament is heating up

Near the Grand Arch at the end of the Champs Elysees stands this giant thumb sculpture. We were there this afternoon during a day of marathon hiking through the city. It was a bank holiday and most of the citizenry were on the streets. I did not expect to see a huge thumb in the midst of the business district, but here it was: "La Pouce de Cesar" (the sculptor). Parisians for scale.

The walking began before eight a.m. Mr Moohoo and I went over to get some photos near the Louvre and to fetch some fancy pastries for breakfast (the ones with almond paste are exceptionally tasty). At that time of the day the area around the Louvre is not yet filled with lines of tourists. The reflection of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is pretty in the morning with few to witness it. I.M. Pei's Pyramid entrance to the Louvre is just to the left in the photo.

We went out later and took a walk that Ernest Hemingway described in his writings about his time living in Paris. Gino is standing beneath a sign indicating that this building is where Hemingway lived. The walk took us through much of the Latin Quarter and past the Sorbonne, now known as the University of Paris, and in front of Notre Dame again. The day started to get hot so we took a bit of a sit down back at the residence.

Part of the morning walk took us to the Museum of the Middle Ages where there was a bunch of really old stuff. Amongst the old tapestries and recovered sculptured heads of the Kings of Judah were some really beautiful restored stain glass windows. These may be as much as 800 years old. The one below seems to depict St Denis, the guy who had his head cut off and then proceeded to pick it up and continue on with his mission. I think that that may have been an exaggeration, but, hey, I wasn't there when it happened.

During the afternoon sit down we were able to watch some very good tennis matches from Roland Garros on French TV. There were two French players involved in the featured matches. Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray were involved in a five setter, which Murray won in the fifth set 6-1, and Gael Monfils dispatched a German, Kindlmann in four sets. We are going to tomorrow's matches, but it is still unclear who will be available to see on the outer courts. Nadal, Roddick and the Belgian women haven't played their first round matches so there may be some good viewing. The high temperature tomorrow is predicted to be 80 degrees.

More pictures and coverage tomorrow.