Monday, March 29, 2010

The Whitneys Arrive and we head to Paris!

Our friends Kate and Tim Whitney arrived in Zurich last Sunday March 21st, so we could hang out in Paris and Switzerland for the week! Since we weren't quite sure where we wanted to go when they booked their tickets last summer - they had a REALLY crappy flight - with Paris being the 4th country they "visited" in less than 24 hours - stopping in Germany and Switzerland first - but I'm sure it was all worth it to hang with the Beckers for a week - right?:)
Sunday Night:
We arrived in Paris around 6 pm on Sunday and headed to our hotel, The Five Hotel, in the Latin Quarter. (FYI - It was really easy to get to from the airport on the RER line B. You get off at Port Royal and then walk about 10 minutes to the hotel.) Although the rooms were small (maybe an understatement) - what they lacked in space they made up in ambiance.:) I loved how modern it was and the lights behind the bed and in the shower were the "piece de resistance":) The Five was about a 10 minute walk to the Port Royal RER line or a 10 minute walk to the Line 7 les Gobelins line. Although it would have been nice to be a little closer to the "action", it wasn't too bad a walk and the hotel was on a nice quite street.

The Five Hotel Lobby - very modern

The bed had roses on it - very romantic:)
The lights in the shower and behind the head board were a nice touch!

So enough about the Hotel! That night we asked the conceirge where we should go for dinner and he printed out nice walking directions to somewhere close - about 20 - 30 minutes walking. As we headed out - I saw that it said Tour Montparnasse. Could this be? I was SOOOOO excited! Although a lot of people don't go to the Tour Montparnasse, and it isn't on the Top 10 things to do in Paris list - I had read about the view and one of Nathan's colleagues had just been and said it was amazing! Yippee - I love it when a plan comes together!:)

The view does NOT dissappoint either! I personally think it was the best view of the "City of Lights" we had - including from the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre (which is the one everybody talks about). Try to go at night and be there "on the hour" so you can see the light show of the Eiffel Tower - it looked really cool from the top observation deck!

I love this picture! The little Irish guy who took it waited for the "perfect" shot with the light beacon from the Eiffel Tower. I thought the boys were going to lose it as "We have to wait for another 50 cents in the meter" he said!

The City of Lights

However, I don't recommend trying to eat up there. The food was just "snack" food, so we headed down to the main street again and just found a cute little restaurant. We didn't have any recommendations, so we were praying that we picked a good one.... and we DID!

Kate's french onion soup - a.k.a. "the crock pot of yummmmmm":)

Paris Night 1 gets a 10 out of 10!!!

We finally got back to the hotel after Midnight on Sunday, and the Whitneys were dead tired (righfully so after the travel day they had), so we made a plan to get a "late" start at around 10:30 am. This "late" standard is from the Nathan Becker book of traveling, just so you know - he get's this from his Mother - he can't help it (love you Bonnie!):) But since we didn't have a time difference (best part about living in Europe:)) we got up on Monday morning and did a little sightseeing close to the hotel before the rendezvous time.

Of course we had to start our day with some French pastry (as we did every day we were there - mmmmm) and then we headed over to the Jardin Du Luxembourg which were close by. The weather was SO beautiful and it was a great start to the day. We also saw the Pantheon since it was close to the gardens, but really not that much to see (did I say that? - sorry French people).

Palais Du Luxembourg

I had to include this picture because the ugly monstrosity in the background to the left is the Tour Montparnasse. It doesn't look great from the ground, very out of place looking, but the view from the top was magnificent!

Then we headed to the Notre Dame with Kate and Tim - what a beautiful, massive church! Nathan and I were taking a self portrait when we turned around and saw Tim getting "gypsed":) They sure know how to pick the sucker in the group as Tim was a few Euros lighter when we left:) We wanted to climb up to the top, but the line was forever long and we didn't think we would make it before our tour started at 1pm.

This shot was taken right before the "gypsy incident":)

The back side of Notre Dame. Great self portrait of Kate and I - don't ya think? I can't believe I actually got us and the top of the church:)!

We took the Sandeman's New Paris Tour at 1 pm. We all had a great time on this free 3.5 hour walking tour and highty recommend it! Our guide, Gabi, was very entertaining and knew great facts and tidbits about French History and Paris that we never would have gotten by ourselves.

Don't hate - you know I look tres French in this beret:)

Nathan and I on the Seine right before the tour started.

Although you don't really get to go inside the sites, the tour is a great way to get the "lay of the land" and figure out which places you want to go back to. And it was such a beautiful day in Paris - it was great to be walking around! Seriously LOVED IT!
Gabi - our fearless leader

Me... at the Louvre:)

90% of the French hate this pyramid outside the Louvre - but I loved it! No French blood here!
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
An Obelisk Napoleon was "gifted" from the Egyptians - riiiiiiiiiiight!

The Grand Palais

End of the walking tour - not exactly sure where we are, but I love this group shot AND I want that door for my next house - okay?!

We had such a great time on the Paris Walking Tour that we also took the Sandeman's Montmartre Tour that night. Now I know this sounds like a lot of touring, but we weren't on a bus with another 100 tourists or anything - I guess you just have to go on one of these walking tours to experience it. It really was great. I think we all fell in love with Montmartre. It was definitely my favorite part of Paris. If (I mean WHEN) we go back to Paris, I would love to spend more time up there! It had such a cool vibe to it! Besides all the cabarets (this is where Moulin Rouge is located), this area has a great history of starving artists. This is actually where a lot of painters - including Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, and Monet - lived back in the day before they were famous. It was great to just walk around, soak in the feeling, and look around at all the street vendors and shops.

After we got a beer the boys were ready for the Sexodrome, but was the Sexodrome ready for them?

"Hey Sista, go sista, soul sista"
Moulin Rouge baby!
(Did you know Moulin Rouge means Red Windmill? I was totally going for something else....)

I was trying to capture the essence of Montmartre, but apparently I'm not that good of a photographer (shocker). You'll just have to take my word for it or better yet - get your butt over there!

Montmartre (mountain of the martyr) owes its name to the martyrdom of Saint Denis who was decapitated on this hill around 250 AD. You can always pick out Saint Denis because he is the one holding his head in his hands- like in this statue.

The Basilique Du Sacre-Coeur (Church of the Sacred Heart) from the backside. So beautiful!

Entrance to the Sacre-Coeur

We ate dinner in Montmartre at Chez la Mere Catherine - they claim to be the very first Bistro ever - so we had to go there - right? We got stuck in the back of the restaurant with the other riff-raff since we weren't dressed up (the people in the front were in suits) , but you can stick me in the corner ANY TIME if I can have the escargot and profiteleros again! We also loved the piano and singer (great French ambiance for dinner:))!

After dinner we found "Tim's" Hotel - maybe this is where we should stay next time?!:)

AMAZING first day in Paris! Now I know why people love this city so much!

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