Archive for August, 2008

Paris Day 7

Saturday, August 30th, 2008



The intermission room.

The intermission room.

Exquisite.  The decoration and the girl.

Exquisite. The decoration and the girl.


Definitely one of my favorites of the paintings.

Definitely one of my favorites of the paintings.

Our last day in Paris, so sad.  Liz and I have had a great time roaming around a truly great city.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the pleasantness of the Parisians we have met (we all know the stereotype) and would come back in a heartbeat.  Highly recommend you come, the city is blessed with outstanding culture and an atmosphere that is especially unique.

Today we tackled the Louvre, and tackle we did.  We went through HUNDREDS of paintings, probably more like a thousand.  Early to romantic French works, Italian, Flemish bloc artists, great masterpieces from all over Western Europe.  The collection is fantastic, wide ranging and vast.  Amongst my favorites include David (I love The Death of Socrates which is at the MET, the Crowning of Emperor Napoleon is at the Louvre and another masterpiece), Ruebens (even if you don’t like how he paints women, he has a flair for the dramatic) and the landscape artists Vernet.

Mid day we figured a break from the Louvre would be necessary, so we grabbed lunch at an awesome cafe (the place was established in 1787) in the middle of a garden courtyard surrounded by government buildings.  Definitely a locals hangout, we felt so cool.  We walked up the street after lunch to the national Opera house, the same one that inspired the tale of Phantom of the Opera.  I’ll keep this description quick, but holy crap, the inside is amazing.  Just look at the pictures (when they get posted).  Apparently trying to impress the aristocracy is important in 18th century France.

Liz and I ate back near Les Halles at a butcher and had our first experience with an snobby Paris waiter (our only one in seven days!), but the excellent bottle of wine eased the evening.  The good meat didn’t hurt either.

MASSIVE amounts of pictures are soon to be uploaded at my photo album,  You’ll find this trip under the Travel section.  I can’t wait to get back to Europe, and I highly recommend you see Paris before you die.  You won’t regret it.

I also recommend you bookmark the RSS feed on this page so you don’t have to keep checking back for updates.  Don’t know what RSS is?  Check out this link.

Au revoir!

Paris Day 6

Saturday, August 30th, 2008
Pretty ridiculous, the room and the crowd

Pretty ridiculous, the room and the crowd

This is a small taste of the Versailles estate

This is a small taste of the Versailles estate

This is a small view of the main palace

This is a small view of the main palace

Hi everyone!  Today we spent our day outside of the city and took a day trip to Versailles.  We managed to hop the train sans too much trouble.  Louis XIV in the mid-18th century decided he was sick and tired of the quick hustle and dirt of the city.  So he went out to Versailles, his father’s small hunting chateau, and decided to build a city that would be the new French capital.  So some 380 million francs later, Versailles turned into a monstrosity of a palace.  It housed a ton of paintings, sculpture and endless gardens, all tended by over 20,000 palace personnel.

The thing is, it isn’t all that impressive.  The main palace complex is a display of vulgar and absurd spending; no wonder the Revolution started.  The expansive gardens at the main residence are very stiff and rigid, lots of harsh right angles and super pruning.  It is definitely an experience not to miss, I guess I was less impressed and more nonchalant about the ability of royalty to show off disgusting amounts of wealth.

The best part of the palace was the queen’s area, about a mile down the road from the main residence.  This was Marie Antoinette’s domain and it shows.  The living quarters are much more modest and nicely decorated, compared to the ungodly gold trim in the king’s residence.  Her gardens are much less harsh and more natural, what they call an english style garden.  We walked around for awhile, but to be honest at this point we were getting pretty goofy.  Lots of walking and dealing with fellow tourists all day (the walking route through the main palace area was more of a shuffle with the crowd).

After getting a solid 4 mile walking day under our belts, we headed back to Paris on a very crowded train.  We kept dinner on the cheap tonight, hitting up our local sandwich shop and packing it in early.  Tomorrow we finish the Louvre, with a visit to the Opera house to break up the constant exposure to Jesus and old European boobs.

Back in the states!

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Just landed! Complete updates en route, hope you are all well!

Paris Day 5

Monday, August 25th, 2008


See, we are vacationing together!

See, we are vacationing together!


@ the Eiffel Tower

@ the Eiffel Tower

My minions!  Let us drink to the glory of France!  Sorry kids, I’m feeling a touch benevolent after visiting Notre Dame and the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, like I got a piece of the French in me.

We finally made it into Notre Dame.  Marie Antoinette over here was not going to wait in the huge lines we saw over the weekend, so we hit up the Gothic cathedral at 10am.  Not a line to be seen.  We cruised through the inside without hassle.  It is a spectacular space in true Gothic fashion, with amazing stained glass windows and endless vaulted ceilings.  The view from the top is magnificent, with stunning panoramas of Sacre Coeur to Eiffel Tour to the Louvre and the Arc de Triumphe.  We got delicious sandwiches on the go while on the Left Bank on our way to Chapel Sainte Germain (different one than before).  Another beautiful and classic Medieval cathedral, that has seen some interesting baptismals including the Marque de Sades. 

Our hoofed it over to the Hotel de Invalides, down the rue from Eiffel Tour.  This was a military retirement hospital and is now a military museum and final resting place of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.  The place is massive, the sarcophagus is easily 20 feet tall, made out of solid marble, being overlooked by maybe 10 lady victories, with a giant vaulted ceiling above the recessed crypt.  The guy was apparently a pretty big deal.

Next we cruised to the Eiffel Tour, the iconic Parisian landmark.  The gardens are beautiful and the lines to get up the tower are . . . long.  Long like . . . well long.  It would have taken more than 2 hours just to get tickets to take the STAIRS to the second level.  After seeing multiple views of the city, we were content to get an ice cream cone and bask in the late afternoon glow of the tower.  Sugar rush in hand, we walked up to the Arc de Triumphe.  A military tribunal and France’s tomb of the unknown soldier, the Arc is much more massive than any picture you’ve seen.  It’s size doesn’t quite strike you until you get there.  More stairs greeted us to gain top level access, and again our museum passes came in handy to bypass the line.  The interesting part of the Arc is its location, the Right Bank is a straight line from the Louvre to the new modern part of the city, with the Arc in the middle.  Sitting at the opposite end of the Louvre along the Champs Elysees is a modern day Arc that ties new to old in an interesting fashion.

Dinner was a quant little cafe near the Les Halles area, complete with background cathedral and local grandfathers harassing the bartender.  We have had an excellent time so far.  Tomorrow we venture beyond Paris proper, to what would briefly be called the new capital of France: Versailles.  Till tomorrow!

Paris Day 4

Monday, August 25th, 2008


@ The inverted pyramid

@ The inverted pyramid

What a day in the city of light.  It was an early day that ended just as early.  Part in partial to the giant beer, and also just because we needed a break!

We woke up early to beat the rush at Louvre to knock off our last giant, the Mona Lisa.  So we raced over, got in, made it to the Renaissance wing and low and behold . . . god I forgot how much I don’t like this painting.  I mean almost everything else is better than this.  If all of these tools who are taking their pictures (with flash!  No good Louvre security guards didn’t even care) are just getting off because they read The Da Vinci Code last week I’m going to vomit.  So after our disappointing meeting with Mona we completed the 1st floor, which comprised of the Egyptian and Mesopotamia exhibits.  Hammurabi’s Code of Laws and the Lamassu (winged bulls) were quite spectacular.  Some of the Egyptian papyrus samples were literally 12 feet long and completely intact, almost as if they were written yesterday day.

If two floors complete and our minds somewhat overloaded, we took lunch at a cafe across the street.  After a few drinks, it was blatantly clear we would not be returning to the Louvre.  However, as the rain fell, our future plans were not complete.  We decided to trek across the river to view the Musee d’Orsay, which took longer than expected due to rain and less than straight walking.  The museum was quite interesting, it is a converted train station with a number of impressionist pieces.  Liz and I aren’t the biggest impressionist fans, but some of the paintings were very well done.

It was an early day when we checked back into the hotel, but we earned it!  We ended the evening with an excellent dinner down the Rue St. Honore that lasted a bottle of wine (and a broken glass) and large plate of cheese, a splendid way to end the day.  Tomorrow we tackle Notre Dame and whatever lies in our way.  Au revoir!

ps–pictures are a little hard to come by these days on account of a full hard drive, but rest assured we are still taking plenty!  I will update as soon as I can.

Paris Day 3

Sunday, August 24th, 2008



Saint Chappelle

Sainte Chapelle

Eiffel Tower from Sacre Coeur

Eiffel Tower from Sacre Coeur


Good morning!  Or rather evening for you USA west coasters.  Eric is closing down the east coast bars right now.  Chris and Mark are somewhere taking last call in the Great State of Texas.  I guess the short version is my timing is still a little off, part in partial due to my cold.  But it is a good excuse for an afternoon siesta followed by a delicious croque monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich).

Yesterday was our third complete day in Paris and the theme of the day was adjustment.  We slept in after our long night of walking and drinking and didn’t really leave the hotel until noon.  The town has been pretty quite, except there is quite a large group of weekenders who descent upon the city and Saturday was BUSY.  Our original goal was to climb the top of Notre Dame and go inside, grab some dinner and then walk around the Left Bank.  It was not to be.  The line to the top wrapped around the block and getting inside was almost as difficult.  So with a quick adjustment we went up the block to Sainte Chapelle.

We had tried to get into this 12th century church yesterday but were still in the security line when it closed.  Well the line was minimal today and we got into the main ground without any hassle.  The church has been enclosed on three sides by the modern hall of justice and the old Conciergerie on the fourth, so you can only see the very top of the church spire from the street.  So walking into the courtyard and being confronted by a gothic church is a treat.

The ticket line was quite long, but our museum passes came to the rescue.  Anywhere there is a line for tickets, we can cut all the way to the door where they check tickets.  Pretty slick, I feel like a local already!  This church was specially built for France’s first Capetian king who purchased a number of relics of the Church, earning Paris the name “New Jerusalem” for the era.  The first floor was a smaller chapel used by the kings servants and administrators who worked at the royal Palace at the Conciergerie.  The second floor was the place of worship for the king and his family, which also housed the relics.  This chapel has perhaps the best kept stained glass windows in all of Europe for its age.  There are 12, each detailing a different book of the Bible.  They are approximately 30 feet tall and in excellent condition.  The gothic architecture is completely intact and magnificent.  It must have been good to be king.

Lunch today was very neat.  We hit up our first creperie.  Liz got a modest egg and ham crepe.  I decided on a sugar-coated chocoloate sugar bomb; chocolate crepes with banana, melted chocolate, ice cream and whipped cream.  Yum.

Not content to chilling with Jesus in just ONE of his residences, we decided to get out of the area via metro to Montmarte and up town to Sacre Coeur, a giant church sitting atop the biggest hill in Paris.  They were pretty strict about not taking pictures inside, which is a real shame.  The ceilings are vacuous, the murals are quite magnificent and the alter is really amazing.  The views cannot be beat, you can see the entire city 360 degrees from the top of the dome . . . after about ten million steps up.  Reminds me of the scenery (and steps) Duomo in Florence.  The crypt below the church had some very impressive chalices, tapestries and medals, and some relics of bones or something-rather.  All in all really stellar marketing plan by your main man God.

After a brief siesta we headed on a walking tour of the 1st and 8th districts, cruising by the Opera house, the Place de la Concorde, and walked the Jardin du Tuileries.  An early night tonight so we can wake up early and hit up the Louvre before the rush to see the big cheese, Mona Lisa.  I will add pictures tomorrow.  Ciao!

Bon jour! Paris Days 1 + 2

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008



Winged Victory @ the Louvre

Winged Victory @ the Louvre

Empress @ the Louvre

Empress @ the Louvre


Bon jour!  May your days be filled with cheap wine and baguettes!  Liz and I have had our first two days together in Paris, and already many themes are developing, so let me get right to the ones that are appropriate to share.

For starters, Paris is a prime example of my love for Western Europe: super old, wicked cool shit everywhere.  The Louvre, which sits less than a 5 minutes walk from our hotel, started in the 12th century as a palatial fortress, and has since become a massive structure to hold some of the worlds most iconic and ancient art pieces.  Down the Rue Saint Honore from our hotel is a church founded in 1512, and if my French reading is correct (?), Chapel St. Germain just down the Rue du Rivoli was built in the 6th century.  Unbelievable.

My Air France flight from Atlanta was mercifully short, helped by the excellently timed hot pasta, ear plugs and eye patch sleeping thingies.  My first taste of the infamous Parisian hospitality was experienced on the plane and my new favorite phrase is parlais vouz ingles?  I might as well be walking around with an American flag tattooed on my forehead.

Amazingly, Liz and I met up at Charles de Gualle airport with minimal drama, no airport paging calls, no lost luggage, no wrong train or subway, no pick-pockets or gypies, nada.  Clear as a bell from airport to hotel.  Our place is on Rue St. Honore, just a few blocks from the popular Rue du Rivoli.  Rivoli has a number of big shopping names and eventually runs parallel to the River Seine and hits the Champs Elysees.  The metro stop is across from the Louvre.

Our first order of business upon our arrival was to survey the neighborhood.  We took an afternoon stroll through the Louvre courtyards and into the Jardin de Tuileries.  Both are huge.  We crossed one of the many bridges connecting the Left (south) and Right (north) Bank of Paris, and were immediately met by the Musee d’Orsay.  Walking down the along the river we were met by the many street cafes and river-side book dealers that line this bank.  We crossed the Pont Neuf and ventured across both the Ile de la Cite and Ile de St. Louis, passing by Notre Dame, Conciergerie, St. Chappelle, and Chapel St. Louis.  Our first day drew to a close with dinner at the Italian restaurant next door to the hotel (yes, I appreciate the irony) and a well deserved night of rest on an actual bed.

Day Two ended with my own beginnings to the Curt Minerd Plan for the Paris Vacation.  It seems that everyone has a method for touring the City of Light, and mine is taking shape.  Center everything around the Louvre.  Allow me to explain.

Our plan was to purchase a museum pass.  This is by far the best thing to do, as it covers multiple days in the Louvre, Versailles, Musee d’Orsay, Notre Dame, Saint Chapelle, and a host of other museums and national treasures.  It also allows you to skip the queue for tickets.  After some debate, we settled on a six-day pass, and since the day started with a decent amount of rain, Friday would be spend getting to know the Louvre.

The greatest museum I had ever been to was the MET in New York, which I have done in one entire 6 hour period and still missed out on the Medieval art wing.  The Louvre put the entire MET to cultural shame in the first 2 rooms we went through.  The building is massive, maybe 3-4 times the size of the MET, spanning city blocks and multiple floors, you would be hard-pressed to adequately get through one floor in less than one day.  If you center a week long trip to Paris around the Louvre, spending a few hours a day, you can get through it.  We have hit up two of the four big items already, including Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo.  Mona Lisa and the tomb of Ramses II are left, but to be honest all the pieces in this place are indescribable.  They range from the most ornante wooden sculpture dating back to the 6th century to Roman and Greek antiquities to the French enlightenment.  Our entire day was spent on the sculpture sections of ancient Europe through the 19th century, Italian and Gothic sculpture and the classics from Rome and Greece.  It has been truly awe-inspiring.  Our next section includes Mesopotamia and the ancient Egyptian wings before turning to tackle the massive two floors of Renaissance paintings and room decorations.

Granted you cannot spend your entire vacation in the Louvre.  It is easy to do without being mindful of time, so we set out in the afternoon to the Pont Neuf and work down the list.  We walked through the Conciergerie, famous for being the old hall of justice during the reign of French kings (in fact it has been incorporated into the magnificent modern Hall of Justice).  Marie Antoinette was held here during the Revolution before giving the ultimate head in the 18th century.  After a short siesta, we got our second wind and decided to WALK to the Tour Eiffel.  Turns out the decision to by-pass the metro was the right move in the end (nice call honey).  Walking along the River Seine is beautiful at night, and the town is virtually deserted as numerous Parisians take the month of August off for vacation.  We passed the Assemblie National, the Gran Palais, Hotel du Invalides, the decorated Foreign Affairs building (big deal for the French, they are the current head of the rotating EU presidency) and finally, the Tour Eiffel.  At night it is lit by an amazing blue light and it is spectacular.  At midnight the tower flickers and sparkles spectacularly for a few moments before returning to its blue hue.  The gardens surrounding the tower are very well kept and you can’t help but be taken in by the French flair for the dramatic and start to heavily pet the nearest person.

We found a great local cafe near the Eiffel Tower with excellent food and a waiter who was willing to help this poor American bastard learn some French (Bea-jo-lais!).  After a bottle of wine, two special pear liquors (tastes like a smooth tequila, but apparently not smooth enough as I was “forced” to drink both) and dessert ending our meal at 1230am, the walk home seemed daunting.  Somehow we managed to find our way to the Champs Elysees which was bustling at 1230.  We walked home along the Jardin du Tuiliaries (closed at night, FYI), window shopping along the many small boutiques that line the Rue St. Honore.  Everything in Paris is lit in spectacular fashion, from the Arc du Triumph to the obelisk at the Concord.

Day Three has us wandering above Notre Dame and St. Chappelle church on the Ile de Cite.  Au revoir!

Supply and Demand works people!

Monday, August 18th, 2008

I am filling up for just under $4! Keep conserving, keep using public transit, keep those hybrid and ZEV coming off the assembly lines!

Good TSA

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

I am traveling to Chicago for business today, and I could not believe how courteous, friendly, and competent TSA was at the San Diego airport. Maybe it is luck rubbing off from 8-8-08, but I think I need to buy a lotto ticket.