Friday, September 30, 2011

With Love, From Paris. Day 6

Day 6

On Friday morning, we awoke again in Paris.  Our plan was to visit Musee du Louvre, since it was closed when we had visited on Tuesday.  But, our first stop was breakfast at Boulangerie Beatrix.  Nuno and I had warm, butter croissants and cafe au lait to drink.  The girls had croissants and hot chocolate.  While we were sitting and eating, I noticed the baker filling boxes with warm bread.  I was curious as to what he was doing and asked him.  He said the bread was to deliver to the school children.  What a lovely thought - fresh, warm bread, probably for their morning snack!  The baker, then gave us some of the bread to try! 

Warm bread for the school children

France's flag, on our way to the Louvre

This is the statue called Winged Victory.  A headless statue of Greek goddess Nike (Victory) dating back from about 200 BC.  This statue is one of the "most celebrated" sculptures in the world!
View from a different angle

Walking along, inside the Louvre, on our way to see the famous Mona Lisa.

And here she is!  Leonardo's "La Gioconda".  One of the most famous paintings in the world!  This was the best picture I could get.  The Mona Lisa is actually behind bullet proof glass and we are unable to get up close to it.  

"...The lady in the painting is not named Mona.  Mona is the equivalent of Madame, so she is "Madame Lisa".  The model was actually Lisa Gherardini, the wife of an obscure Florentine merchant." - Frommers, Paris 2011

This is for you to get an idea of the "madness" of tourists, snapping photos of the Mona Lisa.  If you look closely, you can see her behind the bullet proof glass, in the center.

The girls and I standing in front of one of my favourite paintings in the Louvre - Parisian artist, Madame Lebrun and her Daughter ( a self portrait of herself and her daughter)

And here is the famous Venus de Milo, an ancient Greek statue, dating back to 130 and 100 BC.  This is believed to be a depiction of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.

One of the gorgeous ceilings inside the Louvre!

And that ends our tour of the Musee du Louvre.  We didn't even get to see half of what was on display.  We'll save the rest for next time!  Next stop, as per Annabel's request, was Ile St-Louis, her favourite place to walk in Paris!  

Brasserie de L'Isle Saint Louis 55, Quai Bourbon
Setting up patio for lunch (where we later came to eat).

Come for a walk along with us...

This man played the accordion, on this street corner, the entire time we ate our lunch.  His French music set the perfect mood!  We could see him playing from our seats.

The beauty of Paris, surrounds you, everywhere you go.

Here is Annabel, making a huge bubble, with the help of a street entertainer!

The girls and I, shopping for souvenirs in Ile Saint Louis

Brasserie de L'Isle Saint Louis - where we had lunch

After lunch, we stopped at Berthillon for ice cream.  This is the most famous ice cream parlor in France.  And now I know why!  The ice cream is to die for!  It is only open Wednesday through Sunday and is closed July and August.  We were lucky to visit in September!  It was so good, we came back on our last day for more!

We walked along the banks of the Seine towards our hotel...

passed the many vendors selling books, magazines, posters, etc...

and saw the beautiful view of Notre-Dame, from across the river.

And just look at what we stumbled across!

It was an authentic Parisian food and wine festival!  There were vendors selling wine, chocolate, cheese, escargots, and much more!  We, of course, blended right in with the Parisians and joined the festivities!  The first thing we tried, was wine soaked, sweet melon.  MMM!!  We were then given bags and lined up for free local grapes, apples, and garlic.  We had SO much fun!  

We even bought some delicious escargots!

Here we are, sitting on the river bank, eating our escargots.  Annabel was the only one who didn't like them, and that's because she didn't want to try them.  They were delicious!  Funny thing happened, as I was sitting there, eating.  A woman (another tourist) came up to me and asked if she could take a picture of me with the escargots.  I said, "Sure!"and posed for the photo.  Then she asked how I liked them.  I said they were great.  I asked if she would like to try one, and she did.  She liked it so much, she went to line up to get some for herself! 

We were getting tired and tried to walk back to our apartment, without stopping anywhere.  But, of course, it was impossible.  There were too many new things we hadn't seen.  Here are some more photos of our walk back...

 Marche aux Fleurs, place Louis-Lepine

A beautiful water fountain!

One of the cute shops along the way

A pretty, roman catholic church, with doors wide open
Eglise Saint-Merri
close to our apartment

Whew!  We had a wonderful, fun-filled day walking all around Paris. But, boy were we tired!!  We finally got to our room and had a couple of hours to rest, before our meeting with a dear friend of ours and her family.  We scheduled to meet each other under the Eiffel Tower at 9:30 pm.

We arrived early and took our last photos of the Eiffel Tower.

This is truly one of the most beautiful monuments I've ever had the pleasure of seeing in person!!

The tower twinkling at 9:00 pm.  It's impossible to capture the gorgeous twinkling lights on camera!

This merry-go-round is within walking distance to the Eiffel Tower.  Isn't it beautiful?  Have you ever seen a merry-go-round with two floors?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Open-Top Bus Tour of London!

Day 5 

On Thursday morning, I woke up early, went into the cozy little kitchen area, and boiled some water for tea, in Rachel's electric kettle.  Breakfast for Nuno and I, consisted of tea and leftover Victoria sponge cake! 

I went to tidy up, gather our things, and pack up our suitcases because we would be out most of the day with Morwenna and Nathan, touring London on a double decker tour bus!  I wanted to leave everything ready to go before we left, so that we could enjoy the day without having to worry about packing when we got back.  After all, our train was departing at 6 pm, and we had to squeeze in all of London before then!

Morwenna and Nathan met up with us at Piccadilly Circus at 9:30 am.  We had previously purchased tickets with the Original Bus Tour company, thanks to Morwenna's great idea!  I'm so glad we did the tour as we could hop on and off as we wished and only saw the things we wanted.  The tickets even included a river cruise on Thames River!  Won't you come along with us? 

We were exceptionally lucky, because the weather was FABULOUS!  The sky was blue, and the sun was shining!  I truly wasn't expecting this glorious weather in London!  But, boy was I happy!  It was perfect for sitting at the top of the bus and taking photos.

The first place we hopped off at, was Buckingham Palace.  I remember being a young girl, and fantasizing about visiting this place one day.  This dream of mine had derived from my love for Princess Diana.   When I approached the gates, I thought of Catherine and Prince William, and how only a few months ago,  they were right here, celebrating their wedding day!  

 Anita really wanted to see inside the palace, but when we got to the line up, it was immensely long and there would be at least an hour's wait just to purchase tickets.  We decided against it, as it would take at least another hour just to tour the palace.  We will save it for another time, when our stay in London is not so short. 

Here we are, standing in front of the palace gates

The majestic iron gates surrounding the palace.  

The royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom

Our view of Big Ben and the parliament buildings from the top of the bus

Isn't it gorgeous?

This is the Big Ben clock tower.  Did you know that "Big Ben" is actually the name for the large, 14 tonne bell, and NOT the tower?   Even knowing so, everyone still calls the tower, Big Ben.

Okay, this is the last one, I promise!

Here are Morwenna and I, inside a telephone box!  I mean, seriously, I couldn't get enough of these while I was there.  Can it get any more "London" than this??

This is the London Eye.  It is the world's tallest observation wheel, with views of the entire city of London.  We did not attempt it, because most of the Canadians were too chicken!

Here we are again, Houses of Parliament behind us.

I had to sneak this one in, too.

At 11:45, we boarded a ferry for our cruise on the River Thames.  Here are sweet Morwenna and Nathan, seated on the boat, with the London Eye behind them.   

The London Eye, view from the boat.

The London Bridge

The London Bridge, over the River Thames

I thoroughly enjoyed the River cruise.  Our tour guide was very dear and informative.  Unfortunately, I can't remember his name.  I think I can speak for all of us when I say, we had a blast!  The weather was perfect, dare I say, even hot!  Next, we decided to stop for some lunch.  

We ended up at a gourmet burger joint, close to where we exited the cruise.  Here are Annabel and Anita enjoying their milk shakes.

Just look at the size of this baby!  I have to say, this burger had gourmet written all over it!  I loved the melted Stilton cheese, smokey bacon, and delicious house relish!

The four of us, about to savor our juicy burgers.  The fries came shortly, thereafter.

Lunch was incredible!  We were all very satisfied.  The conversation was great too!  We felt so comfortable being here with Morwenna and Nathan.  They were so friendly and accommodating.  We were truly blessed to have them share the day with us.  I am so thankful to them for coming from so far (2 hours away!) to spend the day with us and make us feel welcome.  Words cannot express our gratitude!!

We got back on the bus and stopped off here, for a peek at the stunning Westminster Abbey!

It was at this very church, nearly 5 months ago, where Kate and Prince William were married!

And that concludes our tour of the City of London.  Due to our time constraints, we weren't able to go inside the buildings, as we tried to see as much as possible, in the limited hours we had.  I think we did very well, indeed, don't you?  We'll have to return to London again one day, to revisit places like the Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, but we will need several days to see it all! 

Morwenna and Nathan took the bus with us, all the way to our stop.   Thankfully, they walked with us and helped us find our way to the flat, where we said our goodbyes .  I will always treasure that day, our first encounter and our time spent together.  It was truly a dream come true!

Nuno, the girls and I, are so grateful to Morwenna, Nathan, Rachel, Paul, and Nuno's aunt, uncle and cousins, for extending their hearts to us while we were in London.  How wonderful it was to feel so welcome in a city we have never visited before.  We were never left alone, from the minute we arrived, to the minute we departed.  Rachel was there to welcome us, and Morwenna and Nathan were there to say goodbye.  Thank you, so much, from the bottom of our hearts!  You and London have stolen a piece of our hearts!  XOXO