Wednesday, December 30, 2015

France Finale and Fog.

12-30-15 SHORT HILLS: The trip home on Monday was uneventful. Global Entry had us through Customs and Immigration as fast as we could walk, with carry-on, rolling luggage, we were in the taxi and then home within 45 minutes of landing.

That night we had the storm that devastated other parts of the country, but it was spent by the time it got here. We had a little sleet over night, but the precip turned to rain in the morning and washed away the sleet by noon when the rain stopped. Today is very foggy, in the forties with no wind.

Last comments on the trip to France: the first thing I noticed in Strasbourg was a plethora of dormers on all the older roofs, varying in size from tiny to full window. I forgot to mention them in previous comments, so here are some pix. Also there were ducks with white faces and bills that I have not seen before—anyone?

One of the first things I noticed about Strasbourg and failed to mention before, are the dormers. Little dormers cover the roofs, some not so little.

More dormers in Strasbourg.

We saw several of these white faced ducks. Anyone?? There were also mallards, gulls, pigeons and swans.

Today in Short Hills, we have fog, all we need and more so.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Paris, Deux Jours.

12-27-15 PARIS, FRANCE: We got to Paris about midday, bought Metro tickets and took the subway from Paris-Est to the San Suplice stop on the #4 line, about eight stops. From there it was a two block walk to our Hôtel de L’Abbaye. After check in, we walked as a group to the Seine, had lunch at a quai-side bistro, walked on to Île de la Cité, to check out Notre-Dame.

The line moved quickly so we went inside to admire the windows and Gothic structure. Judy and I wandered the local streets and then wended our way back to the hotel for a pre-dinner nap.

Dinner was at Benoit, a one-star restaurant, not too far away from our left bank hotel, just over the river. It was another ‘knock your socks off’ meal. All of us were stuffed before it was over. Everyone sampled everyone else’s food—a panoply of taste sensations. Even though we had arrived by taxi, we all felt it was necessary to walk back to the hotel.

Today started with breakfast at the hotel in the garden atrium. Judy and I decided to explore the Paris equivalent of New York’s High Line, Viaduct des Arts, and which was the inspiration for the High Line.

We metro’d back to Île de la Cité and explored the back of Notre-Dame, admiring the gargoyles and buttresses and moved on to Île St. Louis over a bridge occupied by street performers. The rue down the center of the smaller island is filled with shoppes and boutiques.

We moved on to the right bank still heading east, past a boat basin and finally found the elevated walkway. We climbed up and did about a mile and half to the west and then back to the beginning. Unlike the High Line, most of the shrubs are trimmed and manicured. The walkway is narrower than the high Line. The views include the Seine, some interesting buildings and forests of chimney pots.

After descending to street level, we walked on to Place de la Bastille and the new opera house and an outdoor marché. We admired the July Column at the center of Place de la Bastille. Back on Île St. Louis we lunched at busy bistro, perhaps called St. Regis.

Back on the left bank we visited Luxembourg gardens with big Sunday crowds and lots of flowers in bloom. Boys were sailing boats in the big central fountain. Le Sénat Palais du Luxembourg is quite grand. The hotel is just a few blocks away.

We had another superb dinner at Allard – Alain Ducasse, a restaurant we have been to before.

Hôtel de l'Abbaye, Paris, breakfast room.

Paris street.

Pair of sheep and photographer in front of smart car.

Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge over the Seine that is still standing.

Les jeune filles sur le pont.


Notre-Dame east side, front.

Notre-Dame nave.

Windows above the altar.

Back of Notre-Dame, exterior of the windows above.

Le Viaduc des Arts. Paris's rehabilitation of an old elevated railroad into a promenade. This was the inspiration for NY's High Line Park.

It may be winter somewhere, but here the bees are working on a Pyracantha, firethorn.

Place de la Bastille. The July Column is topped by Genie de la Liberté. The grey building on the right is the Bastille Opéra.

Sunday in the Park with Judy. Le Jardin du Luxembourg. The Eiffel Tower is on the skyline.

Restaurant Allard - Alain Ducasse, kitchen staff.

Lively Paris night scene as we walk back to the hotel after the last sumptuous dinner.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Strasbourg to Paris.

12-26-15 ON THE TGV BETWEEN STRASBOURG AND PARIS: We were up early for our last Strasbourg breakfast before checking-out and a taxi to the train station, Gare Strasbourg. En route, the TGV is zipping along at almost 190 mph on the two-hour trip to Gare Paris-Est.

Strasbourg Train Station as we head for Paris.

Looking for the track.

France outside the cities is agricultural. This little village is typical with stone church and tiled steeple.

The green balls in the trees are some parasitic vine.

Fields and another village. All these last three pix are from the train window. Please excuse the quality.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Xmas in the City.

XMAS, 2015 STRASBOURG, FRANCE: We got an even later start this morning, almost noon, when we all set out on a walk to work off the big dinner. We walked to the western part of the old city, looked at the locks on the river, admired an old plane tree, watched a couple of the boats go by and enjoyed the sun.

The weather has been great mostly all sunny skies and temps in the sixties, perfect for walking around. Language has not been a problem, Lucy’s French seems to be excellent, the rest of us struggle, but most of the locals are comfortable in English.

Lots of the streets in the old city are banned to cars, but an occasional commercial or official vehicle can sneak up behind you.

At 1PM the cathedral opened for visitors, so we finally got to see inside it. It’s big and Gothic with a beautiful organ high up n the nave and lots of stained glass windows. There is a very elaborate clock that shows both sun time and mean time, mechanical figures that come out to stride the hour and quarter hours, and has a solar system and many brass wheels and cogs.

We took a look at the exterior of the cathedral, rococo in style, and identifies lots of animals on the façade including storks, horses, donkeys, big cats, bears, dogs, trolls and ogres. After the cathedral, Judy and I continued walking to get a couple more miles in before the afternoon nap.

We tried to go to a free organ recital at St. Thomas Church, but when we got there, it was ‘sold out’. Dinner was at Tire-Bouchon and was disappointing. Then bedtime.

Hotel Cour de Corbeau with guest.

River L'Ill

Eglise du Bouclier.

Pretty, old street.

These spear carriers guard the entry to the cathedral. The one on the left has lost her spear. The second from the right might be pregnant.

Cathedral and nave with organ.

Cathedral Notre-Dame de Strasbourg and organ.

Rose window.

Multifunction Clock, early version of the Apple Watch.

Cathedral menagerie includes bears and donkeys....


and Gargoyles.

Eglise St. Thomas, but we were late for the concert.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Strasbourg, 'Capitale de Noël.'

12-24-15 STRASBOURG, FRANCE: We had a latish start this morning with breakfast at the hotel—multiple choices available including ketchup for the eggs. Eventually we got back across the river for a boat ride/tour. It was a big open boat with fifty or so passengers, Batorama, les bareaux promenades.

The tour came with headphones that provided geography and history lessons. We headed up river to the old forts that defended the city in the middle ages. Basically, they flooded it when attacked. The city and whole area have ping-ponged back and forth between France and Germany. It has belonged to France since the end of the First World War. The city’s location on the French-German border makes it a natural for the European Union Parliament, which is housed in a huge modern complex on the east end of the city.

The boat had to go through a lock to take us upstream and through another to go back downstream. We circumnavigated the center city and then visited the European Union complex.

Back on dry land, we did more shopping and sightseeing. Judy and I went to Place du Petit Broglie and the opera house, and then Eglise St. Pierre-Le-Jeune, which was open. The church has a cloister and frescos dating to the 11th century and a huge organ. The cathedral was not open to the public except for Midnight Mass, but that was too late for us. Along the way we had more spiced vin chaud, sugar cookies, and gingerbread before getting back to the room for a nap before dinner.

We ate at Au Crocodile, a Michelin one star restaurant, where we had the tasting menu and accompanying wines. The meal lasted for hours and was spectacular. I am guessing there were at least nine courses before we all staggered back to the hotel.

River view.

Flower boxes. Strasbourg is getting the same warm weather we are getting.

The foot bridge retracts for the boat.

Neptune with trident, I'm guessing.

EU Complex.

Carousel in the shadow of the cathedral.

March de Carre d'Or. Everything Russian including Xmas tree ornaments of which we now own one.

Eglise St. Pierre-Le-Jeune.

Gingerbread men open the show.

Weary diners contemplate one of the desserts, edible Xmas balls of chocolate, sugar and cream.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Strasbourg, France.

12-23-15 STRASBOURG, FRANCE: Judy and I left EWR with granddaughter Maggie on Tuesday bound for CDG in Paris. Once we got there we bumbled around and found the train station where we caught the TGV for Strasbourg. There was a layover of a couple hours so we breakfasted at the airport Sheraton.

The train was crowded, but we eventually found our assigned seats. The ride was very smooth, no clickety-clack at all, just gliding along, no ups or downs, watching the countryside slide past, when not napping.

 The countryside is beautiful. It’s gently rolling with small hills and shallow valleys, meandering streams and a few canals, and scattered villages. All the buildings are brownish stucco, and each village has a stone steeple with a tile roof in the center of town. The fields, most of the land is planted with something green and short, are bordered with stands of leafless deciduous trees. We saw a few cattle and sheep, occasional deer and one egret-like bird. A few of the trees have balls of something on the branches, but I couldn’t tell if they were nests or parasitic growths.

After a few stations, we got to Strasbourg and taxied to our hotel, the Cour du Corbeau, a modern hotel stitched into a couple of sixteenth century buildings. Old weathered and worn exterior walls are now interior walls. Maggie crashed, but Judy and I walked around the old city. Strasbourg calls itself ‘The Capital of Noël’ and truly capitalizes on Christmas. Scattered around the old city are a dozen Marchés de Noël, Christmas markets with bunches of stalls selling clothes, chotskies, food, jewelry, ceramics, crafts, vin chaud all like a giant, Norwich, VT farmers market. The old city is actually a big island in the river L’Ill.

The architecture has lots of half-timbered buildings and lots of smart looking official buildings, maybe 18th century, with statuary and flourishes. We happened onto a courtyard with a big stone church that we assumed was the cathedral until we found the cathedral, which dwarfed that church in size and ornateness. The central square, Place Kléber, has a huge tree. Around General Kléber’s statue is a memorial for the Paris terrorist murders. The streets are strung with Xmas lights and stars, gingerbread men, bells and angels.

Exterior timbering and lots of little dormers, newer buildings to the left.

Big tree in Place Kléber.

Hat stall, but the mistress isn't wearing a hat.

Shops are decorated above the display windows with seasonal stuff.

Entry to our hotel.

Cour du Corbeau lobby.

Cathedral spire and floating angels.

The cathedral at the end of the street.

Christmas cookies.

Back at the hotel after our walk, we found Val, Steve and Lucy. Lucy, Maggie's sister, is doing her junior year of high school in France, and we were impressed with her French.

 After naps, we had dinner at La Corde à Linge, a re-purposed clothing manufacturer, with sewing machines still on the premises. The French do so much with food, it is hard to believe how good things taste. After dinner, we all staggered out to walk some of it off and see the town at night with all the lights on. Then, finally, to bed to recover from the jet lag.

'Capitol' of Xmas in more than one sense.

Big tree at night.

Restaurant decor.

La fenêtre blanche.

Angels fly at night, too.