Sunday, March 2, 2008

Back from Beyond

Wow, it's been a long time since we checked in here at the HandyHouse. So much for best intentions, eh? A few things have happened since October, including a little trip to Paris that Jeff and I took the first week in November. It was fantastic, not in small part because we managed to squeeze it in between two major transit strikes that brought Paris to a standstill in mid-October and mid-November. If the French love anything as well as they love wine and fine food, it's a chance to protest.

We're very happy to report, however, that we had an absolutely wonderful time. Although a bit cold and rainy, November is a great month to visit this very popular city, since the crowds are much smaller and the cost of lodging is significantly cheaper. As has always been my experience in the past, everyone we met was very kind and helpful. I'm sure it didn't hurt that we always tried to speak French; Jeff had downloaded some great podcasts that helped him learn some and helped me remember a lot of what I forgotten from school. Like any people would, I think the French appreciate it when you at least make an effort, and it made our experience far more enjoyable and challenging.

Our apartment was cute and really well located, with a nice market at one end of the street and Notre Dame at the other, although I'm somewhat convinced that I got a few bedbug bites in our sleeping loft. Ew! Still, when your view is a gorgeous garden in autumnal splendor, it's hard to complain too much.

Since this was Jeff's first trip to Paris, we focused on seeing the "big things," including the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Montmartre and the Orangerie, where Monet's "Water Lilies" paintings are housed in two custom-built, sunlit galleries. I had never been there before, and it was probably my favorite museum of the bunch. In addition to the Monet works, they had a small but lovely collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. It was just the right size to feel comfortable and allow us to really spend time looking at them. The larger museums are packed with wonders, to be sure, but their massiveness does create a sense of "work" that's a bit unfortunate and exhausting. We had "Paris Passes" that gave us entry to all the museums as much as we wanted for the entire week, which allowed us to visit the Louvre three times. We still saw only a fraction of what it offered! We didn't have time to do everything we had hoped, but Jeff is now "caught up" with most of my previous experiences in Paris, meaning that our next visit there will allow us to do more exploring off the beaten paths, including a descent into the Catacombs, I hope. We can't wait to go back!

We have hundreds of photos that still need labeling. As soon as that's done, we'll post an address to the online gallery and you can browse them at your leisure.

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