{September 28, 2014}   Europe Vacay: Paris 3
Day 3 in Paris, we woke up a little later. At this point the walking was starting to get to us a bit. We were easily walking 7-10 miles a day. DJ started tracking our calories burned as well. On Day two we burned 2,879 calories and today we would eventually burn more than 3,000 calories just walking.
We started the day off with the English breakfast. Mine had a three fired eggs, ham thinly sliced, croissant, buttered French bread, café au lait, and orange juice. All for a little less than 9 Euros or 6 dollars. It was great. I don’t normally eat a lot of ham, but in France ham is the meat of choice. They have no concept of being a vegan. You might find a vegetarian dish but a dish without cheese or butter, that’s probably not going to happen.
Today, we visited Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris (Cathedral of our lady in Paris), one of the most famous churches in the world. Mostly for the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dam. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the story is entirely fiction… I know, I know, I was crushed! Apparently, an enthusiast of French Gothic construction sought to stave off the destruction of such relics by bringing mass awareness to their importance. The church was in ruins and had been largely forgotten by the French people. However when the book became a success people began to revisit Notre Dame and it was restored to its original glory. The church was designed as a massive structure for the elite and aristocrats to worship, but also a place for the poor and peasants to receive service from priests and chaplains during the week. Construction began in 1170 and continued until 1250, but the embellishments on the building continued until 1345. Nearly two centuries of building! Again… foresight.
Every detail is meant to tell the stories of the Bibles. There are massive windows, each pane in the window has a scene from the Bible . The south window represents the old testament. The north window represents the new testament with Christ’s resurrection as the center piece. There are also statutes to martyr’s. Among the most famous is Joan of Arc. Killed by the Catholic church because she opposed France as a calling from God, then martyred by the Catholic church because of her popularity among the people. Even today, people pay 2 euros to pray before her likeness, and that of any other saint.
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It is remarkable the amount of detail that is put into the structure. Imagine what man could do if we put our powers for forethought and creativity to good use, not that of controlling the masses. There was a Saint William who believed in conjugal reunification. I’m not clear on the particulars, but I think that he believed that a wife would be reunited upon death with her husband, although his chapel statute makes it appear as if she should reunited with him physically in this life. Anyway, the people believe what they want to believe.
There were massive amounts of people at the Cathedral. It is still an active church, so people were also there praying and worshiping. It was very solemn and you could see the deep belief some people had. It made me a little uncomfortable to watch them in such a private moment.
Afterwards, DJ and I sat at a park behind the cathedral for awhile. Today, we engaged in walking tour that I found online from Rick Steve’s a famous travel writer who lives in Washington state. We met a very nice couple from Boston, I should have taken a picture of them but I did not. Then we crossed the Seinne to the island that makes up part of Paris. This is where the Latin quarter is located. Tons of back alley deals and steals right behind high end merchants. We also passed the famous lock bridge, where millions of people have declared their love and their presence by affixing a lock to the bridge crossing the Seinne.
I know it seems like we do a lot of strolling, but honestly Paris is such a place that you really need to take it all in. Plus, as you travel you find unexpected performances and art exhibits that are there just for the day or the week. Everyday, is an opportunity for art in Paris. We found a gold plated mime/statute which was pretty interesting. People make money just doing crazy artistic things in Paris.
We then made our way to the Palais of Justice, where the courts are held. Maybe its the attorney in me, but I have always found courthouse to be majestic places. This particular court house is connected to a chapel that is centuries old and is a historical landmark. We then found the café where the lawyers hang out and the legal book store all in one area. In many ways Paris is like New York in that it is divided in very specific areas and neighborhoods. New York is divided by race, Paris is divided by status. All the lawyers in one area, aristocrats in another. fashionistas another, etc.
From there we strolled by the Seinne, it is THE daytime romance spot in Paris. Paris is very affectionate, it is nothing to see people in extensive (and sometimes excessive) public displays of affection. DJ and I caught the bug too, we held hands almost ALL day LOL! On the Seinne you will see groups of every kind, almost like a college activity fair. We saw lovers sharing wine, lovers quarreling, students reading, Buddist singing, jugglers juggling, couples snuggling… we saw actors performing, people dreaming, keep walking down the Seinne and you will see it all.

{September 21, 2014}   Europe Vacay: Paris 2
Day 2 of Paris we tried a nearby café for breakfast and had the traditional French breakfast: a croissant, café au lait (coffee with milk), and orange juice. The French typically eat a very light breakfast and then break for lunch early, they have tea later in the afternoon, and then a late dinner that lasts for hours.
We then went to see one of DJ’s favorite museums, the L’Hotel des Invalides (Residence for Invalids) . The history of the Invalides is that in the late 17th Century King Louis the XIV created the building to serve as a home for wounded soldiers. One could easily assume that it was the first wounded soldiers’ home. It amazes me that they had the foresight to create something like that so early in history. That was the running theme throughout our Paris trip, the incredible forethought that was put into every building, structure, even the design of the city. Although Paris is famous for art, love, wine, and culture. I would have to believe that other cities and civilizations possessed equal if not better representations of those categories. I think one of the main reasons Paris has stood the test of time was the insane amount of planning that went into every detail of the city. It was designed to stand the test of time not to meet immediate needs. The leaders all seemed to be ego maniacs and were obsessed with securing their place in history. Many believe that they were divinely appointed to their positions and, I think, that they were living out the next chapters of the Bible (whose to say that isn’t true). So because of that generation after generation took great care to preserve history and secure their own place in history by building monuments to themselves that would last throughout time. Thus, Paris has some of the oldest structures in the world.
Anyways the Invalides is a massive structure, larger than most castles, the building itself is a masterpiece. Inside it houses many masterpieces as well, almost all military related as it also houses the Musee de l’Armee (Army Museum). However, the Invalides is most famous for who it houses… The bodies of more than 80 famous (and the hearts of another 20 or so) French military men are interned at the museum including Napoleon, two of his brothers and his son.
The Invalides is truly a testament to the ego Napoleon possessed, throughout the military museum portion, a large part is dedicated to Napoleon. He had chairs made from pure gold that stood about 12 feet, yet the man was about 5 feet tall. His horse was stuffed upon his death to accompany him in the after life and it is the size of a pony. Walking through the museum really drives home the point that history really depends on the story teller. We grew up using Napoleon as a slight to little people with bad attitudes or ego problems. The French greatly revere and love Napoleon (even though they exiled him at the end of his life). The museum serves as a great history lesson and follows France’s entire military history. What is interesting is the number of original writings and artifacts that have been perfectly preserved since as early as the 10th or 11th Century because Kings in the 12th or 13th Century began to save these items and purposely preserve them for the future… Again, forethought.
After the museum DJ and I strolled around Paris looking at the architecture and the Seine (Paris’s famous river). We wound up in the very wealthy high fashion area. I tell you what, just because they have access to the finest fashions does not mean they are cheaper. I somehow thought they would be but they are not. $3,000/ $4,000 dollars for dresses, $200 for lipstick. By the way, some of the stores have live mannequins, whose sole job is to model the fashions on a live person in the store window all day long. How amazing is that?!  It is amazing to be around a walking runway. Even when they just throw something on for running errands its tailored and well put together. They truly put Americans to shame. You can spot a wrinkled, ill-fitted American a mile away. I have yet to figure out how the women walk all day without completely being in pain. I will say that they don’t all wear heels all day. They really love fashionable flats. What confuses me is that the soles of their shoes are so thin that they still seem like they would be so uncomfortable.
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Anyways, after the stroll down excess avenue (it was beautiful and creepy all at once) we found an outdoor exhibit celebrating all the different nationalities that aided the French in World War I, September is the 100 year anniversary World War I. France, to be such a small country is incredibly diverse. I would venture to say every nationality is represented and nearly every ethnicity was fighting with France in WWI. What shocked me are the close ties between France and Japan. If France wasn’t completely devoted to speaking French, and only spoke English out of necessity, I would say Japanese is the second language of France. There are Japanese people everywhere and sushi restaurants to boot.
There are a ton of museums in Paris, but really you could have a cultural visit just walking around. It seems like everything is an opportunity for art in Paris.
We also passed by a premier for the new Daniel Radcliffe movie. If DJ hadn’t been there I probably would have stuck around and waited for the stars to arrive. The crowd was just gathering so I knew it would be a few hours.
Then we went to the Arc de Triumph, one of Paris’s most famous landmarks. It is a monument to all of the Frenchmen who have died in WWI. There was a ceremony lighting the eternal flame when we arrived, so that was really nice to watch.
Then it was dinner and bed. One of my favorite parts about Paris is that they are really big on a complete menu or formula menu. Which means, you can order a la carte or they have menus that include entrée (appetizer), plat (entrée) — isn’t funny how we wrongfully use the words of other languages, and dessert for one price. It’s a great way to try a lot of things and switch up your desserts.
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{September 17, 2014}   Europe Vacay: Paris 1
Paris Day 1 has not disappointed!  DJ told me we need to wake up at 4 am to make our train. I was nervous I would run late, so I woke up at 3 am. That is when I learned that our train didn’t leave until 7:30! So that 6 am time he kept telling me was when he wanted to leave the house, for the train station 15 minutes down the road! 😦 You know I hate waking up early for no reason. But it worked out, we had breakfast and coffee and did devotion while we waited for the train. The train was so nice and our stewardess spoke perfect English so that was very helpful because there were some confusing moments. DJ purchased first class tickets and boy was it worth it. Plush seats, breakfast and Wi-Fi. Not just any breakfast a breakfast with crepes, croissant, yogurt, fruit, coffee and juice. I couldn’t believe how much they gave us for a two hour trip. It was gorgeous seeing the country side. The train runs so fast I couldn’t get good pics, we were on a bullet train.
Once in Paris we walked to our hotel. I was a little nervous because we had to walk through the red light district. I kid you not 18 sex shops in about 10 minutes of walking, I got scared and stopped counting after that. Well come to find out we were in the famous or infamous Moulin Rouge area. Luckily that is not where our hotel was. It actually was nicer than they showed on the website. Its painted all sorts of crazy colors and the lighting in the pictures makes it look like a 70s porn set. But in person it just looks like an eccentric French place. There’s nothing special, but it has a tv, wifi, a large bathroom (for European standards) and its CLEAN!  Plus it has an amazing view of the city and the Jazz area is below, so there is music and people all the time. I love it for people watching.
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Our check in wasn’t until 2pm and we arrived at 10 or 11 am so we checked our bags and walked the area. We found this really old church on a hill. Its huge and looks like a museum except they still have live mass there and it was going on while we were there. It was very beautiful. When you turn around you can view the city of Paris from the heights of where the church is. So we took some nice pics there. Then we wandered some residential neighborhoods and discovered that though Paris doesn’t have a lot of greenery they have created man made parks that are beautiful and each one unique, specifically for the purpose of sitting and enjoying the scenery. The architecture is beautiful, you can walk around all day taking pictures.
For lunch we found this restaurant, a local place. No one spoke English but they were very nice, so we played charades and order a fantastic dinner that came with dessert for the equivalent of about $15 a person. That’s a very good price for a Paris lunch.
After checking in, we played around with the train system, going to different stops and getting a feel for things. Then decided just to find our way to the Eiffel tower. We planned on actually going on another day. I read that if you go before 9 am or right after lunch you can avoid lines. We ended up there about 3pm and because it was also a Monday (Mondays are like Sundays in that many businesses are not open) there was no line, we walked right up to the ticket counter. Then we climbed the Eiffel Tower! That’s right I climbed the Eiffel Tower stairs all the way up, no elevator! That was my workout for the day. It was crazy, but I must be in better shape than I used to be because, I was winded and tired, but not dying like other times when DJ has had me do hills that were much smaller.
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There is a park right behind the Eiffel Tower where couples sit and lounge and read or drink wine. So we relaxed their after going up and down the Eiffel Tower. I can’t explain how amazing the Eiffel Tower was. Its much bigger than I thought and completely dwarfs the Space Needle. I actually got tears in my eyes looking at it, it puts you in awe that in 1889 they built this amazing structure that is still here without the use of modern technology. We wandered some more and then decided to call it an “early” night, as in 8 or 9pm. Parisians are out extremely late.
We went to dinner at the café right next door. They speak perfect English so that was helpful. I am actually picking up a few words of French, so that’s cool. Anyway, dinner was so-so there but the Tiramisu is the best I have ever had in my life. This is authentic Tiramisu! I loved it.

{September 6, 2014}   Less than a week!

I am so excited! I will be in Europe for the first time in one week. That means, this week has been very busy with finishing up work for clients, drinking lots of water and eating less (gotta look cute in Europe) and trying to pack! Can’t wait to update you on all that happens. I will post plenty of pictures…

The other day, I had a great run 4 miles! I haven’t done a long run in awhile. I know 4 miles isn’t a long run for many people but it is for me and I was very proud. I haven’t done  along run in several weeks. So yay me!

et cetera