Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Drive to the Beaches

It sounded like such a simple plan.  We'd cab down to Orly and pick up a rental car.  Then we'd take the A6 to the A13 and arrive in Caen.  Hah!  Double Hah Hah Hah!  First we could not find our way out of the dang airport.  We had no idea the place would be that big.  Then we finally got on a highway and the GPS lost its mind.  After sending us around the same off/on ramp four times in a row, we realized we had a demented navigator.  So, we got on the nearest highway and drove, deciding it would be better just to drive than to circle.  We headed in the direction of Versailles, and were making progress toward the A13 when we turned the wrong way.  So, we got off the freeway, thinking we could get back on going the other way.  Nope, after going through a tunnel we arrived at a toll plaza, on a road going somewhere unidentified.  Fortunately, we were able to back out of the payment area, get over to the right of the road, where we saw an exit with no gate.  We drove that way and out, and then saw a sign for the A13.  Salvation.  This all took about an hour.  It was exhausting.  Our error in all of this was not having a big map of France.  Freeways here do not use compass directions, you navigate to the next city.  Our problem was we could not remember where the cities were, and this caused us to head in the wrong direction.  Lesson learned (again), GPS can not be counted on.  After about two hours, she regained her senses and began talking and charting again.  By then, we had a Michelin map.
We're going to visit the landing beaches.  When we were here in 2003 we did not see as much as we wanted because I was as sick as a dog.  So, we are now returning to try it again.  At present the skies are blue with white puffy clouds, the wind is howling and it's cold.  However, no rain is falling from the sky, so we're happy about that.  Paris was just beyond miserable this morning.
Here is my one photo from today.  This is on the bridge going in to Caen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

At the Barbie Exposition

This is what the weather did later Wednesday, after shopping.  It got worse.  This weather system pretty much goes on forever.  We're both wearing trail running shoes with mesh tops, so our feet were getting wet from the rain.  Nothing to do but find a museum.

Seven hundred Barbies are on display at the Institute of Decorative Arts.  The question we all want to know, is where did they get all of the dolls?  They have many of the originals, back when the eyelashes were three dimensional and not just painted on.

Barbie has held many jobs over the various decades.  This is Gulf War Barbie.

Politician Barbie.

I think this is Cabaret Dancer Barbie, either that or Dominatrix Barbie.

Surprisingly enough, this was Jim's favorite display.

That's Audrey Hepburn on the left, I can't remember who the one behind her is.

Tippie Hedren Barbie.

They had an entire room dedicated to outfits.  It was pretty cool how they arranged the colors from yellow to black.

Unfortunately, they were video taping this woman who went on and on about the cultural significance of Barbie, so I couldn't get a good shot of all of the outfits.

Mattel will do photo shoots of what Barbie and her friends are up to.  The sets are meticulously to scale.

The Barbie Atelier.

We got there just in time.  As we were leaving, the school kids were arriving.  This young woman was keeping her kids in line by showing them they needed to be within the span of her hands.  They were very well behaved, considering the foyer had become bedlam with all of the people coming in.

It was an interesting show.  Barbie is popular in 175 countries, she's not just an American thing.  She was first released in 1959.  Mattel claims to have invented her, but she was actually pretty much appropriated from a German doll, Bild Lilli.  It was good - and it was dry.

Nous Allons Faire du Shopping

I got the post title using Google translate.  We go shopping translates to "nous allons (we go) faire du shopping."  Faire du is loosely translated as "make" so we are making the shopping.  Apparently another English word has slipped into the French lexicon.  Week end was one of the first, there was no French term for it, so it became le weekend.
We slept in this morning.  Jim forgot to set the alarm and I had an interrupted night caused by our boorish neighbor who comes in at midnight, talks on the phone really loudly and wakes me up.  I'm tempted to slam the door one morning.  Anyway, we went out for breakfast at a place new to us that was very good.
We ran across this market setting up while looking for an ATM.  This is a lot of work.  It's right across from the city center Audi dealer.

Here we have the white asparagus next to a box of tomatoes.

Melons from Morocco.

We also saw a store dedicated to selling seafood.  The mussels on the right are from Spain.  They're in a basket with some seaweed, it's not clear to me how they are not dying or dead.

The shrimp on the left are labelled "bio" which I'm assuming means organic.  The ones on the right are from Greece.  Look at the guys in the back, they're really large.  This shop was next door to a shop selling only meat.  Those pictures were not appealing so we won't look at them.

Another pastry shop.

Paris has a graffiti problem.  The owner of this truck has given up.

These are everywhere.  Parisians ride them year round.  The cover draped over the bike keeps the rider's legs warm.  Parking is so difficult that these make sense.  Notice that there are two wheels in the front.

Jim hauling the basket at Monoprix, which is like a super Target.

They have nice looking produce, all of which is out of season.  Country of origin is labelled as France, so I guess it's from green houses.

Self serve fresh squeezed orange juice.

This young woman was wearing her cello.  They're about the same height.

So, the markets are interesting.  It used to be that one had to obtain food at the markets.  This is no longer the case, now there is Monoprix and other grocery stores.  Why do the markets persist?  We're hoping to make it to the Bastille market next Thursday, it's one of the biggest in Paris, to see what we will see.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Walking Towards Notre Dame

Today was much better.  It was pretty cold and windy, but it didn't rain.  We're having to wear a lot of clothing to stay warm.  Here we are crossing the Seine.

Today's walk took us in the direction of Notre Dame.  Examine this street scene, if you will.  Notice how many cars there are.  Usually there are tour buses as well, but not at this particular point in time.

This is an organized bike tour riding up that same street.  Yes there is a line painted on the road, indicating a bike lane, but there is no separation.  Notice the complete lack of helmets.  I'm not brave enough to ride there.  Many people do, many people don't wear helmets - but I will not be one of them.

This is a cute little truck.

When we retired, we wanted to live on a barge in France in the worst way.  Here are a few barges tied up on the river.  However, the logistics were just overwhelming.

Further up the water there were some big honking motor sailors. 

Here is the owner of a big sail boat leaving to go somewhere.  Notice that she's using a remote to raise the gang plank.  That is how they keep the curious off their boats.

Now we are at Notre Dame.  Once again there are mass quantities of people in line. We elected to stay outside.

We walked over to Sainte-Chapelle, intending to go in.  However, they were not open at that time.  It's an interesting church, it's surrounded by newer buildings and is not visible from the street.  The best I could do was getting the roof shooting through a fence.  The surrounding buildings seem to be administrative in nature.

This is a cop shop.  Look at all of the vans.  The police have a tendency to use their sirens when they want people to move, so they can park.

One of the tour boats on the river.

See the shiny stuff on the fence?  Those are locks.  Last year Paris officials had to remove tons of locks from the Pont des Arts because the railings were collapsing.  Now the people and their locks have moved over here.  It's not enough just to take a selfie, nooooooooo people have to write their names on a lock and throw the key in the water.  Sort of sounds like littering to me.

This is sad.  The building used to house La Samaritaine.  The store was founded in 1869.  It was a huge department store, people used to have lunch on the top floor so they could take advantage of the views.  Unfortunately, Jim and I never got there.  They closed in 2005 due to code violations.  It's now being converted to condos and hotel space, with a small retail space on the ground floor.

This was amusing.  There was a Japanese camera crew filming something at one end of Pont des Arts.  They're in public, they have not cordoned off anything.  However, they're all acting very self important and waving people away.  My thought was maybe they should have a permit and some official crowd control.  Naturally my first instinct was to get pictures of the models.  One of the self important people put a piece of paper in front of my face.  Fortunately there was no grabbing at the camera.

You can see their light reflectors upper left in the photo.

This is another side of the Louvre.  It's huge.

It was a good day.  We walked a lot, looked at a lot of stuff and enjoyed being here.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Out and About in Paris with Wind and Rain

Today the apocalyptic weather arrived.  We were up and out early foraging for breakfast.  The hotel charges 17 euro per head and I just can't justify spending that much money for some yogurt, scrambled eggs and terrible coffee.  The instant coffee in the room is better than the hotel coffee.  So, we went here for an egg and cheese sandwich, aka an egg McMuffin.  Behold what the Parisians have available to them at their local McCafe.  We don't have this in the states.  Probably a good thing.

It wasn't raining yet, so we decided to mosey down to Les Halles to see what had become of it.  On the way, we passed through an Asian neighborhood.  It was interesting to see the signage.

This was very interesting.  See the man in the background, holding the giant green vegetable?  He was feeding it through what sounded like a chipper shredder.  Unfortunately we could not see what was coming out of the other end of the machine  The man with his back to us was doing something with giant pieces of meat, I'm guessing pork.  They weren't open so I have no data.

We pressed on, into the storm.  The skies opened up, the wind came up and inverted our umbrellas and blew my stylish fedora to the ground.  It was very sad. We did see this cool building.

If you are in Paris, Les Halles is not worth your time or effort.  After the original was torn down, it was replaced with an underground mall and is now essentially a subway intersection of 6 lines and the RER.  Please make a note of this.  Because it was pouring, we took the Metro back to our area.  Upon exiting the station, we promptly walked the wrong way.  We forgot the dang compass this trip.  We have have found the compass to be invaluable in city navigation.  Please make a note of this, as well.
Later it cleared up and we set out to walk down to Notre Dame.  However, the wind came up once again.  We ducked into the courtyard of the Louvre, where we saw this.  Look at the people standing in line to get in.  See the corner formed by the two sides of the museum in the back - look through the Pyramid.  The line starts well on the other side of the Pyramid.

See all the people?  They still have a long way to go to get in.  About 10 minutes after I took these pictures the skies opened up and it rained sideways.  If you want to go in the museum, pay money and get a no-lines tour.  I can't imagine standing in this much of a line for anything. 

We ended up going back down the Rue Rivoli and buying me a new hat with virtually no brim.  My fedora has too much brim and when the wind is up, it lifts off.

So that was today.  There weren't a lot of pictures due to precipitation.  Tomorrow is supposed to be better than today.  I will say that Jim's walking ability and stamina have exceeded expectations, so that's a bonus.