Day 5 - Monday, June 8, 2015

The flight to Paris was delayed while they were looking for a plane...hum. Joyce temporarily lost track of Jeff in the security check lines. No small panic there. Jeff had filled out his customs declaration form in pencil and was forbidden to continue until he redid it in ink. When we got to the person who took Jeff's form Joyce tried to give him her form but he refused to accept it. Guess they only needed one for both of us.

We arrived in Paris at the Charles de Gaulle airport about 12 noon Paris time. We stopped at the 'Information Desk' and bought train tickets to the Gare du Nord, the closest railroad station to our airbnb flat in Paris. We also bought some Metro tickets and our museum passes but couldn't buy the train tickets to Versailles. That was surprising.

There are several different rail services in Paris. The Metro is the subway system. The RER is the regional railroad system. The intercity trains like the TGV run through the Paris stations. Paris also has a few Tram lines. All the rail services interconnect at various locations throughout the city and each has its own type of ticket. But why could I buy an RER ticket from the airport to the Gare du Nord but not an RER ticket from Gare du Nord to Versailles?

When we got to the Gare du Nord there was a lot of construction which made us exit to the street level at a place that seemed to be some distance from where we had planned and where there is a taxi stand. While we saw several taxis and asked a couple of them if they knew where we could pick one up we were told you can't simply flag down a cab, you have to call ahead for one. We set out on foot and discovered that the internet hot spot we had rented for the trip was in need of charging so we couldn't use the mapping app to steer us in the right direction. Jeff didn't want to turn on the cell service and rack up international data charges so we asked a couple of people for help but they didn't know the street we were looking for. In fairness, it isn't a main street and is only two blocks long. We finally found a utility workman who found it on his iPhone and showed us the map. That got us within a block or two and from there people knew the street and were able to guide us the rest of the way.

To reach the flat you enter through a heavy door into an apartment hall that opens onto a courtyard, pass through the small courtyard and then into another apartment building; sort of a building in the courtyard of another building. The first thing we noticed was that there were no screens in the windows of any of the buildings and really no reason for them. Bugs weren't a problem; a couple of small flies here and there but they weren't pesky.

Our Paris flat is the one with the flower boxes.

We were located on the 3rd floor in European counting, but the 2nd floor by U.S. norms as the ground floor was 0. The flat was small and cozy. Only one person fit in the kitchen at a time, yet there was a sink, stove, refrigerator, and a washer/dryer. The washer/dryer could wash and dry the clothes in one cycle. A pretty nice convenience when you don't have to be there to move the clothes to a second machine and start the dryer cycle.

We were once again located about a block and a half from water, this time the Canal St. Martin. So cool. We were told that lots of people take a bottle of wine and some cheese and sit by the canal to enjoy the evening! Can't wait! We were eager to be out so we left the flat and went to find a glass of wine. We discover we love the Rosé. Later we had dinner and then took a bottle of wine to the canal. We are on vacation!

Canal St. Marin near our flat.

People lined the canal every evening.

Street corner near our flat.

A common way to trim trees in Paris, sort of like hedges.

Day 6 - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

We did so much sightseeing in Dublin that we were feeling pretty worn out. We had planned to have a couple days in Paris that we could simply relax and we made use of one this day. We did a bit of walking and exploring around our flat and had wine at the canal but that was about it.

Day 7 - Wednesday, June 10, 2015

We got up and on our way to see Notre Dame. We rented our first Velib' bikes in Paris and journeyed toward the cathedral. We had to stop several times to consult the map app using our fully charged internet hot spot.

Joyce loves churches and had always wanted to see Notre Dame Cathedral. We arrived around 8:15 am and began looking at the beautiful statuary. We soon realized that mass was underway in a small section of the cathedral. We found seats and were blessed to hear the litany and prayers spoken in French. A truly moving experience.

Inside Notre Dame.

Stained glass in Notre Dame.

Mass being held in Notre Dame.

Another view inside Notre Dame.

There were souvenir vending machines inside the cathedral, how gauche, n'est pas?.

After mass and more walking around inside the cathedral, we ventured outside to see the amazing architecture and surrounding grounds. We stopped at a bridge covered with locks next to the cathedral and took some pictures. We walked to the Northwestern end of the island and got Velib' bikes to ride about a mile to our next adventure; a walk through part of the Marais district.

Front doors of Notre Dame.

Front facade of Notre Dame.

Bridge near Notre Dame covered with locks.

Another view of that bridge.

Outdoor restroom at Notre Dame made to look sort of like trees??

Paris Velib' bike stand.

We started at the Hotel de Ville and saw some very old buildings and walls from the 12th century. The next stop was the Village-St. Paul, an area with a lot of small artist's shops, cafes, etc. Unfortunately we saw from the signs that they don't open until 2:00 pm so we just window shopped. We followed the walk past some more old building and churches and eventually got to the Place des Vosges, a large landscaped square with a perimeter of shops and a museum of Victor Hugo's Apartment which we toured.

Sign on one of the artist's shops.

St. Paul church.

St. Paul church organ.

We saw a lot of these BMW scooters.

View of the Place des Vosges from Victor Hugo's apartment.

A room in Victor Hugo's apartment.

Victor Hugo's bed.

Painting of Victor Hugo dying in his bed.

Louis XIII statue in the Place des Vosges.

We next visited the Musee Carnavalet, a museum full of architecturally significant items salvaged and preserved as well as a lot of paintings and exhibits of the history of Paris.

Exhibit in Musee Carnavalet.

Statue in Musee Carnavalet.

Painting in Musee Carnavalet. Looks vaguely familiar, doesn't it?

Sign by that painting, "The Republic lights the world."

Very large mural at Musee Carnavalet.

Beautiful parquet floors at the Musee.

Our next stop was the Charlie Hebdo office building that was the sight of the Islamic terrorist murders on January 7, 2015. The street was pretty deserted but still lined with police barricade fences. We saw two people go into the building but except for one small sign you wouldn't know what it was although around the next corner we saw two or three vans filled with gendarmerie and even a few standing in front of certain buildings; one was a school but we couldn't tell what the others were.

Sleeping on the street in Paris.

Charlie Hebdo office building surrounded by barricades. A small sign at the far right is the only marking.

Sign on Chalie Hebdo building.

Parking post across the street says, "I am not Charlie, I murdered Charlie.".

We next walked to Le Marche des Enfants Rouges. It's a collection of shops like a flea market but almost all the shops were various ethnic food counters. We had already eaten lunch so we only walked around it and then walked back to the flat, probably about 5 miles of walking in total. Then we did what would become an almost nightly routine; eat dinner then go to the canal with some wine or bring something to eat for dinner to the canal with our wine.

Day 8 - Thursday, June 11, 2015

We took our first Metro ride and found what everyone says, the subway system is great. It only costs about $1.50 a ticket and you can ride all the way across Paris if you want. The nearest Metro stop is about a block from the flat. We took it to a connection with the RER train that goes to Versailles (We bought those tickets at the Metro station self-serve machines the day before).

From the stop nearest Versailles, it's only a short walk to the street that leads to the Chateau at Versailles. Once you turn the corner you see the immensely ornate structure that is still five or six blocks away. Versailles has several different sections: 1, the Chateau de Versailles which is the main huge palace building at the entrance, 2, the Gardens which cover 1,976 acres just behind the Chateau and contain many statues, more than 50 fountains, and hundreds of thousands of sculpted trees and landscaping, 3, Marie Antoinette's domain which includes two main large buildings and several smaller ones, 4, the Grand Canal, a very large X-shaped man-made lake that is over 1 mile long and big enough to sail on or have boat races.

Gendarme (police) at Versailles.

Garden at Versailles.

Fountain at Versailles.

Hundreds or maybe thousands of sculptured trees.

Another fountain at Versailles..

Paths were miles long and perfectly straight.

Another path.

The Grand Canal at Versailles.

You can rent bikes at a stand near the Grand Canal but can't ride them near the Chateau or in the Gardens area (boo). We got bikes and rode them all the way around the Grand Canal as well as along some of the roads around Marie Antoinette's palaces, in total about 5 1/2 miles. We returned the bikes and toured the Marie Antoinette palaces and then toured the Chateau, the main palace.

One room in the Grand Trianon in Marie Antoinette's Estate.

Portico of the Grand Trianon .

Garden view of the Grand Trianon.

Swan in Marie Antoinette's garden.

Marie's toilet behind a glass wall.

Ceiling at the main Chateau at Versailles.

Ornate room at the Chateau and mobs of tourists.

Room with scenes of historic battles. The arch in the center marks half of the room.

Statues in a Chateau hallway.

Chateau facade with elaborate goldwork.

An artist, Anish Kapoor, had several works on display around Versailles. Some curved mirrors that reflected things in an interesting way and one huge exhibit that he titled "Dirty Corner". It was a massive, rusted steel funnel about 200 feet long and about 25 feet tall at its highest part. It was partially covered and surrounded by piles of dirt, rock and large boulders. A couple days later we read in the paper that the artist, when asked what it represented, said "Le vagin de la reine" and this was causing a lot of controversy. Reine translates to 'queen' but if you can't guess what 'vagin' translates to you can Google it, or don't.

One of the mirror artworks.

Another mirror artwork is behind this fountain.

'Dirty Corner' can be seen between this fountain and the Grand Canal.

'Dirty Corner' during construction.

Newspaper article about 'Dirty Corner'.

That evening we ate duck, steak and foie gras for dinner and, of course, had some wine along the canal.

Day 9 - Friday, June 12, 2015

We went to the Louvre today and walked for 5 hours before stopping for lunch. Several people and lots of web research said we should avoid the main entrance at the famous I. M. Pei pyramid and go to one of the 'secret' entrances to avoid the long lines. The line to the secret entrance was long when we arrived about 8:30 (the museum opens at 9:00). I guess everyone knows about the secret entrance now. We saw the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and many, many other famous works of art that were familiar from books, television and the internet but now they were close enough to touch and that makes a big difference. The Louvre is so huge and chock full of so much art and history that we were exhausted before walking through maybe half of it. We sat down for lunch at the Carousel food court; ham and fries, and chicken and scalloped potatoes. After lunch we decided we were too exhausted to go back to see more so we walked through the Jardin des Tuileries next to the Louvre and to the Place de la Concorde at the far end of the Jardin where the Egyptian obelisk stands.

Part of the I. M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre near the not so 'secret' entrance.

Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

Venus de Milo.

Huge, long hallways full of artwork. A sign directing visitors to the Mona Lisa is in the lower left corner.

Elaborately decorated ceilings were in many of the hallways.

Tons of Greecian urns.

Egyptian sarcophagus.

Egyptian burial crypt.

More sarcophagi than you can shake a stick at.

An actual mummy and burial items including four viscera jars.

It was too chilly to sit out by the canal this evening so we went to a shop across the street where you can sit and sample their wines and cheeses with a view of the canal just outside the window.

Day 10 - Saturday, June 13, 2015

We visited the Musee de L'Orangerie today and saw Claude Monet's huge 'Water Lillies' murals as well as many works by Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, etc.

After that we walked across the river to the Musee d'Orsay, a train station that has been converted to a museum with the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist artwork in the world. Many works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézenne, Seurat Gaughuin, Wan Gogh, etc. It also houses a huge number of statues and has two huge old clocks facing the river that can be viewed from inside the building. Very cool.

Woman in Green by Pablo Picasso.

Water Lillies by Claude Monet.

Water Lillies and the Japaneese Bridge by Claude Monet.

Grainstacks in the Sunlight by Claude Monet.

Dancers in Blue by Edgar Degas.

View of Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Basilica from Musee d'Orsay.

Inside one of the huge clock faces.

The converted train station is evident.

Hmmm....this looks familiar.

Next we rode Velib' bikes to the Pont des Arts, the bridge that used to be completely caked with locks but was dismantled a couple of weeks earlier on June 1st. The mesh railings were replaced with a solid sheet material so that locks can't be connected anymore.

The bridge with locks removed.

Another section of the bridge with melting locks painted on the panels.

Still a lot of locks on the side railings though.

After that brief visit, we rode our bikes to the Musee de Rodin, walked around the sculptures in the outdoor garden area and visited the little museum on the grounds. It isn't a very big museum and we probably only spent about an hour there. We next took a Metro to the stop on the Champs de Elysee. We thought it was near the Arch de Triomphe but when we got above ground we could see it was almost a mile away. The Champs de Elysee has tons of high-end, and some not so high-end stores so we decided to make the trek. When we got to the Arch we walked up 248 steps to the observation deck at the top, saw stunning views in every direction, then we walked down 248 steps to get back down. Quite a hike, but worth it.

Rodin's The Thinker.

Rodin's The Kiss.

Rodin's Gates of Hell.

Detail of Gates of Hell.

Detail of Gates of Hell.

The Arch de Triomphe.

Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arch de Triomphe.

Another view from the top of the Arch.

After visiting the Arc de Triomphe we were standing in a large crowd of people trying to figure out where to go next when a man walked up next to us, bent down and showed us a large gold ring he said he had just found on the ground. This is a popular scam. The con artist pretends to find a gold ring on the sidewalk, shows it to a tourist, and asks "Is this your ring?" When the tourist says "No," the scammer offers to sell it. Fortunately Jeff had read about this and quickly shouted 'desole' a couple of times (Translation 'sorry') and quickly moved away from the man. We saw him attempt the scam on another person a few seconds later.

You'll never guess what we did after dinner? OK, that question was too easy.

Day 11 - Sunday, June 14, 2015

Today we took the Metro to the Grand Palais but they didn't accept the Museum Pass we had so we just crossed the street to the Petite Palais and saw works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Delacroix, Monet, Cezenna, Rodin, etc. There are so many museums in Paris and they seem to be especially concentrated in this area so no need to fret if they don't accept the museum pass.

On our way back to the Metro stop we saw that a several block long section of the Champs de Elysee was cordoned off with barricade fences. The signs said this was Les 24h Velib' event where they encourage people to borrow, for free, a Velib' bike and ride on their Champs de Elysee circuit. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people riding around the loop and the line to get a chance to ride was about 75 people deep so we didn't try to do it.

Les 24h Velib' bike ride.

The Obelisk of Luxor brought to Paris from Egypt in 1833.

One of two matching fountains at the Place de la Concorde near the Obelisk of Luxor.

Today is our 29th anniversary so we found a restaurant, La Floreal, near the flat that serves Steak Tartare, which Joyce was jonesin' for. The menus were dated so Joyce asked and the waiter let her take one as a souvenir of our anniversary.

Our La Floréal anniversary dinner menu.

We did something different this evening after dinner. We brought a bottle of Champaign to the canal.

Day 12 - Monday, June 15, 2015

We went to the Marche aux Puces, a huge area of flea markets. Some of them are very upscale showrooms for design shops, others are counters piled with almost every sort of thing imaginable.

Walking from the Metro stop to and from the Marche is like running a gauntlet of people trying to get you to buy designer knock-offs of Chanel No. 5, iPhones, Rolex watches, clothing, purses, etc., etc., etc. Fortunately they weren't very pesky. Probably because there were so many people they didn't want to waste too much time on any one person.

Dinner and wine on the canal, natch!

Booth at the le Marché des Puces.

Designer's booth at the flea market.

There were hundreds of huge chandeliers.

Need a gold cabinet pull?

Day 13 - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Today we went to the Musee Marmottan to see the biggest collection of Monet works in the world. Next we walked toward the Roland Garros tennis complex where they hold the French Open every year. We walked through a beautiful wooded park on the way, the Bois de Boulogne. They wouldn't let us on the grounds at Roland Garros because they were setting things up for a tournament the next day but we got to see some of the main courts from the streets. It was a long walk from the museum to get to Roland Garros and we were too far from the city center for the Metro so we picked up a couple of Velib' bikes and rode to the nearst Metro station, about 1 1/2 miles away.

Small waterfall in the woods on the way to Roland Garros.

Roland Garros.

We took the Metro to the Jardin de Luxembourg and spent a few hours enjoying a lunch we bought at a grocery store near the park and then wandering around and watching people playing cards, chess and Petanque, a game similar to bocce ball.

Lunch on the lawn in la Jardin de Luxembourg. The French Senate building is on one side of the Jardin.

Children were sailing these little sailboats in the fountain.


What the...Another one of these is in this park.

Petanque game underway.

Day 14 - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We had a breakfast at 10 Belles café of scones, cappuccino & tea. They knew how to make the beautiful flower pattern on the top of the cappuccino with the foamed cream. We walked around the streets west of canal and window shopped the many stores there. We saw more big arches, similar to the Arch de Triomphe, along the way. Didn't know there were that many more in Paris. The weather was gorgeous and later in the afternoon we spent a couple of hours sitting and enjoying a bottle of Rose in a very nice park next to the canal, the Jardin Villemin.

A talented barista made this design.

Not the Arch de Triumphe.

Also not the Arch de Triumphe.

Catching rays in the Jardin Villemin.

Day 15 - Thursday, June 18, 2015

We took the Metro to the Paris Museum of Modern Art near Eiffel Tower and after touring the museum, walked across the Seine to see it. There were a couple of street mimes and one convinced Joyce to walk up next to him where he proceeded to pretend to be cutting her head off so I could take a picture of it. Joyce told the mime, "I'll bet you've been waiting a long time to do this". (ha ha) Of course then you feel obligated to toss a coin into his collection box so we did.

Street mime accosts Joyce.

And then Jeff.

Eiffel Tower.

Day 16 - Friday, June 19, 2015

Today we leave Paris to fly back home. We were ready. A bit weary but well rested. And full of memories that we look forward to sharing with friends and family.

The flight home required more screenings than on the way over. No one said why but it was the first time our shoes had to come off. At the layover in Dublin we went through a US prescreening which was a pain, but we didn't have to go through a screening when we landed at O'Hare so at least that was nice.

We didn't want to take a taxi from the airport because they usually try to scam you for a higher fare. They know you are tired and anxious to get home so it's harder to argue with them. Instead we decided to try Uber, the ride-sharing app, for the first time. We took the CTA El train to first exit because Uber wasn't allowed at O'Hare. The driver had a bit of trouble finding us but was very friendly and got us home for $29.00. Previous taxi rides have cost us about $60.00 because driver said we had to agree to pay meter-and-a-half. Our first experience with Uber was great.

We were home from our trip and had a bit of culture shock going back into our house for the first time in 16 days. It seemed so huge compared to the flats in Dublin and Paris. As Dorothy said while clicking her heals, "There's no place like home".


On November 13, 2015, five months after we left Paris, there were seven coordinated terror attacks in Paris carried out by militants, killing at least 130 people. The first attacks were launched virtually simultaneously, with two explosions close to the Stade de France at just after 9.20pm local time.

The attacks then moved toward central Paris, where a separate team of gunmen arrived in a black Seat at the Right Bank area of the city. The attackers opened fire on the Petit Cambodge restaurant on Rue Bichat, and the Le Carillon bar on the other side of the narrow road. With devastating coolness they gunned down diners and revelers at the two venues, killing 15 as many enjoyed their Friday night out. The restaurant and bar are about 50 yards from the flat we rented in Paris.

La Carillon and Le Petite Cambodg to the left with the name in red above the first shutter.

Our flat (yellow circle), just a few doors away .

The fourth attack came on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, when the same unit of terrorists drove the 500 yards to the Casa Nostra pizzeria and opened fire on diners, killing at least five. This restaurant is on the next corner South from where we sat almost every evening eating and drinking along the Canal St. Martin.

From there, the militants drove around a mile south-east – apparently past the area of the Bataclan concert venue – to then launch another attack, this time on La Belle Equipe bar in Rue de Charonne. At least 19 people died after the terrace was sprayed with bullets at around 9.35pm.

The next attack, at the Bataclan concert venue in Boulevard Voltaire, was the most deadly. There, at least 89 people lost their lives when they were shot by black-clad gunmen wielding AK-47s and wearing suicide vests.

During the 12 days we spent in Paris we walked by most, if not all these places and walked by the Carrillon and Petite Cambodg several times a day. The grocery store, Franprix, we shopped at was next door to Le Petite Cambodg. This was our Paris neighborhood, at least for a short time, and made me feel a much closer connection to the anger and outrage Parisians felt towards the terrorists who committed such an unthinkable atrocity and toward the psychotic leaders of this movement who manipulate people with the Muslim religion toward senseless murders and self-destruction and who then declare them martyrs and worthy of utmost praise. C’est trop absurd!