Friday, August 29, 2008

Silly slide show that ends on picture 11

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Tori and the tower

I had to beg Tori to send this one to me. I took it with her camera. She said she looks like Alfred Hitchcock. I told her that it was only fair since I looked like Bob Hope in my silhouette picture.


Tori took this picture and I thought it deserved it's very own post

P.S. I added more photos to yesterday's post.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Part 6

After our big day of shopping and running around Paris on Segways we were exhausted. We dragged our weary selves back to the Hilton and I told Tori that I wanted her to see "Inspector Clousseau". (The bar tender in the hotel bar. I had seen him last year and hoped he was still employed there.) I was very happy to see that he was still holding down the fort and was still the same very stereo typical French man that I remembered. Tori and I perused the drink menu and I immediately found what appeared to be the closest thing to a chocolate martini and I ordered it. Tori ordered the same thing but Clousseau was trying to tell her that wasn't what she wanted. This would have been interesting banter if we understood French or if he spoke English but since he didn't and we didn' was a bit of a challenge. He pointed to a drink on the menu and was touting it's superiority. Tori decided to take the path of least resistance and she agreed to order what ever it was that he was suggesting.

Clousseau returned to our table with a huge martini glass containing something that looked nothing like a chocolate martini and in the other hand he had a very festive, multi layered, girlie girl drink. I tasted my drink and it was very, very yummy. Tori was still inspecting her drink trying to figure out what was in it when she looked at me and said, "Well, color me happy...this drink has chopped up mint leaves in it!" To know Tori is to know that she equates any form and any type of mint with poison. I laughed and laughed at her misfortune and then I traded drinks with her. I have no idea what sort of alcohol was in this beverage but it had crushed raspberries, mint leaves and lots of ice. It was very yummy. We almost had round two until we found out that our drinks were 22 euros a piece. At first I thought that Clousseau was trying to swindle us but I looked at the menu and it stated right there in black and white that most of the specialty drinks were 22 euros. Wow!

We decided that it would be cheaper to go to the hotel's business lounge and check out email for 5 euros for 10 minutes. Little did we know that we left a couple of hundred dollars worth of souvenirs in the bar.....

On our last day in Paris we got up early,(again!), and took a HUGE and unnecessary walk around the city. I thought for sure that I would remember how to get to the Musee D'Orsay but apparently I didn't. After almost two hours we finally decided to catch a taxi. The taxi driver feigned any knowledge of the English language, laughed at our attempt at trying to communicate with him and then very blatantly drove us 5 miles out of the way and then dropped us off at the back of the museum once we finally got there. What should have cost us about 3 Euros wound up costing 16.00. I wanted to throw him a 5 and then disappear in to the crowd but having to call my mother to bail me out of a French prison just didn't fit in to my vacation plans.

Little did we know that on the first Sunday of the month the museum is open to the public for free. We got there at 9:00 and there were already easily 1,000 people in line to get in.

This was all of the progress we had made after being in line for about 1 hour. And wouldn't you know it...this was the first sunny day we'd seen since we arrived in Paris. Since it had been raining for the duration of our visit Tori and I had both dressed in long pants, jackets, tennis shoes..and I had on two shirts. I sent Tori to get me a soda and by the time she came back I had taken off the jacket and one of my shirts. I was just fixing to take off my shoes when the line started to move.
This gigantic rhino statue was right outside the museum doors. I'm not usually a fan of rhinos but Tori and I had seen a tee shirt at Harrods that had a picture of a rhino on it and the caption read, "Rhino you are but what am I?" So that became yet another catch phrase of our trip.

"What? I can't hear you..."

Since they didn't have to take tickets the line moved pretty quickly, however everyone had to have their bags inspected and we had to walk through metal detectors.

The museum was built as a train station and was changed in to a museum in the late 1930's. In this picture you can really see the disguised skeleton of a train station.

There was a distinct lack of air conditioning and that coupled with the bright lights and the massive amounts of people made for a very toasty museum visit. Tori isn't a huge fan of art to begin with so I have to commend her for sticking it out while I oohed and aahed and shrieked with excitement every time I saw another painting that I recognized. I took pictures of most of my favorites but because of the propensity of the crowds to just plant themselves directly in front of a painting and then act like they are the only person on the planet who might like to look at the photographs are not very focused and there is a bit of a light reflection problem shining from the glass...but at least you can see that I was really there. I was right next to these beautiful works of art!

Their beauty is just not captured in photographs..

(Tori was whistling...) This picture was much bigger than I expected it to be.

This is a ballerina sculpture by Degas. I adore his ballet series. I actually bought myself a tee shirt that has a small version of this ballerina on it.

This is a Renior...

Hey look! It's Vinnie!

After zooming through the museum in record time we walked back to the Hilton and proceeded to go on a wild goose chase for our lost souvenirs. The concierge said no one had turned anything in and that we were just simply out of luck. The bell man had the same story as did the people at the front desk. Tori went to the bar and asked Clousseau if he had found our things and he said yes and that he had turned them in to house keeping. (Why all of the other departments were told that there was nothing turned in to housekeeping is beyond me...)Luckily Clousseau was able to get our bags and we were able to breath a sigh of relief.

We had packed our suitcases the night before so it was very easy to check out of the Hilton. We had taken a little bit more time in the museum than we should have so we told the bellman to tell the non-English speaking taxi driver that we were in a huge hurry and that we'd appreciate any attempt at hurrying to the train station. The drive acknowledged that he understood that we were in a hurry and that he would speed things up. Well. A word to the wise. A. French people don't like Americans to begin with and ...B. No one in Europe is ever in a hurry. Ever.

Our driver hurried as he tossed our suitcases in the back of the taxi, then he ran as he went to get inside the car. Then he put the car in gear and never broke 25 miles per hour the whole way to the train station. I was almost in hysterics as this guy risked life and limb and was driving in bus lane and yet didn't go any faster than the rest of the traffic. I swear we were being passed by people on bicycles.

When we got to the train station the driver jumped out of the car and very quickly got our bags out of the car. "I hurry!", he stated as though he'd just won the Indy 500. I applauded his enthusiasm and gave him a big tip. I had no more use for the euro money and it's pretty easy to spend orange and purple money that looks like pretend money anyway.

As usual Tori and I had pretty much no idea where we were supposed to go so I got in the ticket line and stood there for 25 minutes only to find that I didn't need to stand in the line because I already had my ticket and didn't realize it. Our train was going to leave the station in the next 5 minutes and we had to race up to the next level or our train would leave with out us. We were doing everything short of knocking people over as we climbed the stairs with our suitcase in hand. I'm happy to say that no one got hurt and we made it just in time.

Check in tomorrow for more adventures back in London.....


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Part 5

After our adventure at the Eiffel Tower Tori and I meandered around the area and found ourselves at what we thought was a museum. As I was standing in line to buy a "Coke Light" Tori noticed that there were little kids on bicycles and people with dogs on leashes. She asked me when was the last time I said..."let's take the dog to the museum!" Obviously I have never taken the dog nor have I ever taken my kids to the museum on their two wheelers. After asking a kind stranger to help us figure out which coins were Euro coins and which coins were pounds*..we also asked them where we were. The site was a theater, not a museum. I'd like to say that it all made sense at that point but I don't understand why there were dogs and bicycles at the theater, either.

It had been sprinkling all morning but at this point the skies opened up and it poured for about 20 minutes. We didn't let the rain slow us down and we walked for several miles. I finally found a shoe store and gladly traded my sandals of death for a new pair of Nikes. My feet hurt so bad at that point that I would have traded my car for these shoes. After I got done paying them and calculated Euros vs American dollars I decided that it probably would have been more cost effective to trade my car for the shoes.

As we were walking through a park, heading back towards the Eiffel Tower to pick up our Segway tour group, we both noticed an awful smell. We both commented on the stench and then discussed how odd it was because Paris is a spotless town. There are people cleaning the streets and sidewalks at all hours of the day and night. Usually the only thing you can smell is bread baking...but this smell was not of the baking variety. The further we walked the worse the smell. "WHAT IS THIS GOD AWFUL SMELL!!!??", I said rather

(The man was standing in the far right hand corner of this structure when we saw him.)

I tried to re-group and walk in another direction and put my attention on what looked like a huge bird cage
and I said, "I wonder what this is?"...and without missing a beat Tori said, "It's probably the shitter! Let's get out of here!!" I don't know if this is one of those moments that you had to be there but I started laughing so hard I thought I was going to cry. I could hardly stand up. Tori was half way down the lane on her way out of this unexpected public restroom and I was paralyzed in hysterics. Even as I write this it has made me laugh out loud. (I hope this little blurb didn't offend anyone but actually if it did, then you are probably reading the wrong blog.)

We met up with the Segway tour group and signed our life away. There were waivers to sign, insurance papers to sign, deposits to sigh, etc. I was very surprised to see just how small, (and messy) the store front was.

Just beyond the "Fat Tire Bike Tours" sign they had about 40 Segways. The tour guide picked out a Segway for each person in our group and then we all had to be fitted for helmets. I realize how helpful helmets are and that they've probably saved many people from concussion and contusion however I really hated the idea of having to wear a used helmet. Who knows how many cooties were breeding in these helmets. I didn't notice anyone spraying the helmets with Lysol upon being turned in.

I bit the bullet and put my helmet on and went out to the Segway training area:

I was the first one in our group to get to try my hand at riding the Segway and I was scared to death that I was going to fall off of it, break my teeth, twist my neck and break the Segway in to pieces. I am so happy to report that it was actually easy peasy! Within moments our whole group was whirring around the training ground doing figure 8's and stopping on a dime. We even learned how to go backwards and how to go over rough terrain and up and down curbs.

We had more fun than a barrel full of monkeys when we were riding on the Segways! We rode past every monument and museum in a 10 mile radius from the Eiffel Tower. We crossed the Seine River, we saw the Louvre, the Musee De Orsay, Napoleon's military school, ..we saw the top of Notre Dame.

I hesitate to mention that I managed to back my Segway into a trash dumpster. Our group was stopped at a red light and a mob of people were jockeying for position on the corner and I was trying to get out of their way. The only reason I didn't wreck the Segway is because I hit the corner of the dumpster with my spine. No damage to the Segway, I can't say the same about my spine.

At one point we were going down this huge street with green beltways on either side and there were groups of kids playing soccer regardless of the many signs that told them not to. Someone kicked a ball and it wound up in front of Tori's Segway. I thought for sure this was going to wind up UNDER the Segway but instead the Segway just pushed it ahead. It bounced out from in front of Tori's Segway and then got caught between the wheels of my Segway and hers. We were going fast enough that the force just kept the ball going. At first it annoyed me that the ball was in our way but then when it didn't cause us to crash I just screamed, "GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL" and put my fist up in victory!

This was a beautiful cut glass street lamp.

This is the Jardin des Tuileries. There are no vehicles of any sort allowed in here so we had to get off of the Segways and pull them behind us. They didn't allow bikes to be ridden, either. This resulted in a a beautiful, quiet, serene late afternoon snack in the park. We had crepes with chocolate and banana inside and they were gooooooooooood.

This picture does no justice to this park. There were English flower gardens all over the place and I couldn't help but think that it must have been gardens like this that inspired the impressionist artists from 100 years ago.

Stay tuned for the next episode where Tori and I actually get to go INSIDE of a museum!

*In case anyone goes on a vacation to Europe...please note that the queen's face is on all of the English coins. Her face does not appear on the Euro coins.


We interupt this vacation saga with a word from our sponsor...

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click on the comment link
write your comment and then sign your name in the comment box
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Part 4

We sat on the balcony of the Paris Hilton with our Bloody Mary's in hand and watched the sun set. If you look really close you can see a rainbow in the middle of the picture.

When it finally got too cold and dark for us to continue to sit on the balcony we retired to our room. Here is Tori wearing her complimentary Hilton robe and slippers. And I had to take a picture because this is the the first time in 25 years that she's been in charge of the television remote control! There were some other milestones achieved that I didn't photograph, such as Tori getting to spend 5 minutes in the bathroom all be herself and getting to drink an entire soda with her dinner and not having to share it with anyone else. When you've had a baby in your house almost constantly for 25 years...these are the things that make a vacation a VACATION.

We got up at the crack of dawn the next day and walked over to the Eiffel Tower. After much thinking and debating Tori decided that if she didn't go up to at least the 2nd level she would regret it for the rest of her life. Tori is petrified of heights and elevators and the like..and it took a lot of thinking before Tori came to the decision that she would be able to go up to the 2nd platform of the tower without having a heart attack. (GO TORI GO!!!) So we stood in a huge line, (this line was 10 times bigger the night before), and got elevator tickets that would take us to the 2nd platform of the tower.

When we got in to the very crowded elevator Tori and I, and I'm sure probably everyone else, expected it to go straight up like every other elevator on earth does. So try to imagine the weird feeling when the elevator went up at a diagonal.... The elevator is inside of the leg of the tower and there is no way it could go straight up. It goes up with the shape of the leg.

Here is victorious Tori on the 2nd platform of the Eiffel Tower with the beautiful Seine River behind her. You can't tell but it was just starting to rain, (again).

These pictures show a little bit of the view from the Eiffel Tower. It was starting to rain a little harder at this point.

The building at the end of this park is the military school that Napoleon attended. He got a two year scholarship but he asked the headmaster if he could complete his two year education in one year and give the 2nd year of the scholarship to his brother. The headmaster said yes so that is what he did.

This is the view of our hotel. Now you can see how we were able to sit on the balcony and look at the Eiffel Tower. I tried to mark our room with a red X...but you can hardly see it.

Can you believe that people have actually scratched and written graffiti on the Eiffel Tower?

Part 5 to follow.....


Friday, August 22, 2008

Part 3

After trying our hardest to get some sleep, (imagine when little kids close their eyes really tight and kind of squint through so they can look at you while they swear to you that they are sleeping...that was us.), We got up bright and early and packed one of the suit cases then had an informal meeting with "Jozeph Pahsnip" and caught a taxi to the St. Pancras train station.

Tori is ready to go, go, go!

I hate to admit what a couple of bumbling fools Tori and I are but we were a tad bit confused at to where we were supposed to be. We had ordered our tickets in advance on the internet so all we had to do was put our credit card through a machine and the ticket popped out. I realize that it doesn't usually take a college degree in world travel in order to figure out what a train ticket says...but neither one of us could decipher what it said. I found a train station employee and asked her where we were supposed to be and she gave me a very brief answer with a very thick Parisian accent. I have no idea what she told me but I do think I heard her say, "idiotfoolish American" in there somewhere.

We arrived at the train station early enough that we thought we could check in early. Color us both amazed when we figured out where we needed to be and were refused entry because we were too early! We had 14 minutes until our tickets would allow us to go beyond the turn styles so we ran around the station and looked at the shops and restaurants. After that we still had 9 minutes to wait.

Once we got past the turn styles it took us a while to figure out what track we were supposed to be looking for. We were early enough that none of the tracks had anyone waiting so there was really no one to ask. We thought we had it all figured out so we sat down for a little while and just watched all of the people. There is some interesting people watching to be done while in a train station. It should go without saying that even though there were 100's of seats available in the train station the most motley looking person in the entire place came and sat down right next to Tori. Oh. The. Stench.

People started to wait at the bottom of a roped off escalator that actually let to the platform where our train would be so we left the motley one and her stench and got in the line. (read: mob)

I tried to ask these people if this was the train that was going to Paris but no one spoke English. I figured that if we got on the wrong train with these people at least they smelled pleasant.

This next picture didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. The trains station has a glass ceiling and it was awesome!

I thought that we would have avoided this situation by having first class tickets but one of us wound up riding backwards all the way to Paris. Guess who? It wasn't her:

After I had taken this picture I gave Tori my iPod and I did a cross word puzzle in a magazine. When she first put the ear buds in her ears and turned on the iPod she almost leaped out of her chair. I'm a bit hard of hearing so I listen to my music a tad on the loud side. I laughed at her reaction and showed her how to turn down the volume. In an effort to make up for laughing at her I found some drum corps music for her to listen to. (Kingsmen 1974 DCI to be exact.)

So we are riding along...I'm doing my crossword....she's doing "air director", (just like "air guitar" only she's directing the drum corps), when all of a sudden she shouts: "FOX!" I was quite taken aback by this sudden announcement as was everyone else in our train car. The train was going so fast that I didn't get to see the fox but that might also have had something to do with the fact that I was laughing so hard at how loud she had yelled. I apologized to everyone else on the train and told them that they had to excuse her because she didn't get out much. I know this is one of those moments where you just had to be there...but I laughed about this off and on for the next two hours.

The Eurostar train goes under the water for 27 minutes and this fact bothered Tori quite a bit. We went through several tunnels so I was able to convince her that we were in a tunnel when we were actually under the water...and then our ears popped because of the change in pressure and there was no denying where we were. Here is a picture of Tori being a total brave ranger, in the train headed to Paris, under the water.

We arrived at the Du Nord train station in Paris with no further fox sightings or outbursts.
See how clean and nice the train and the stations are? No soot or graffiti...

We went outside of the station to catch a taxi because we didn't want to stand in the taxi queue and we wanted to have a look around the town. This was the first thing I saw upon leaving the train station. (And no, I have no idea what exactly they were selling in there.)
We were in the taxi when I took this next picture. This chair was on the sidewalk in front of a bistro. The door was wide open and there were guys sitting on bar stools thinking that I was taking a picture of them. I don't know who would have felt more stupid if I were to have told them that I was taking a picture of a sun chair and not them.

This was a billboard for a local mall.

And this may sound stupid, but this picture was taken to show the exact time Tori first saw the Eiffel Tower.

If you look really close you can see that the tower was lit up with blue lights. It was very spectacular!

The taxi brought us up next to the Hilton, why he wouldn't take us to the door is beyond me. We got checked in, unpacked and went straight to the concierge lounge. I LOVE the concierge lounge. Free food. Free drinks...books, magazines, newspapers...and a view to die for. Here is Tori sitting on the balcony of the lounge, drinking a bloody Mary out of a juice glass, looking at the Eiffel Tower.

Oh, and I was there, too!

Stay tuned for part 4.