Wednesday, March 17, 2010

First Three Days in France (Monday-Wednesday)

Ok so I am going to break this into parts. Most of my photos are on facebook but I will also post some here.

Day 1 Sunday-Monday
This day was long... and that is an understatement. Ivan and I got up early to pack even though our flight did not leave until 6:30 at night. Since we watched Percy Jackson and the Lightening thief. I thought it was ok, but not "amazing".

Since you are supposed to arrive 3 hours before an international flight, we did so. We however made it through security in less than an hour and had to wait around. It was someone funny going through security though. We brought a gift to Lenia (the relative we were staying with). The gift was farinha (which is a type of flour used to make a brazilian condiment). Of course, they drug tested it in the airport.. somewhat funny.

We ate at the Green Turtle in the airport and then ended up eating on the plane as well. I found it funny that we go through security and then get a metal knife and fork at the Green Turtle.. makes sense right? The plane had a good mix of people speaking French and people speaking English. We had two legs of our flight but the first flight to Philly wasn't memorable. The flight to Paris was long... and my TV was broken (which was an awful bummer). 

We arrived in Paris at 10:30 Paris time, it took forever to get our luggage. We walked out of the airport and saw Lenia waiting with a sign saying "Brasil". Next, we got some money out of the ATM 320 Euros which was about $450 dollars.. UG. Lenia drove us to her house and I have a few comments on the driving in France. 

Driving is crazy!!!! and I can't tell you how many times Lenia slammed on the brakes.. it was just.. not pleasant.  All the cars look like bubbles.. like imagine a million smart cars and cars that look like the Yaris. Even the trucks have a "rounded" look. Also, all the cars are SMALL, even mini-vans are small... somehow.

Our first stop on the way to the house was a bakery (Ronde Des Paines). We got some baguettes which looked really good

We dropped our stuff off at the house and had some cheese and bread. Paris next. Lenia drove us around the city just to see it, then she took us to a mall and we had a croissant and hot chocolate. The place was called Paul... it is like a french Panera (kind of).

That night we met Elodie and Emilie, Lenia's twin daughters (who are 23). We went to a local restaurant near their house called Le Grange. We had these really good crepes. Mine was a crepe with mushrooms, a wine sauce, and potatoes. Ivan's was a crepe with salmon and cheese.

Altogether our first day was good... a few interesting things we noticed on the first day, the speedometer is in kilometers, and the clocks run on american military time.

Day 2 Tuesday
We woke up around 9am in Paris. Our breakfast was at home and consisted of an eclair, bread, cheese, and butter. We drove to Paris and on the way learned some interesting facts about Paris... a PT Cruiser car in France cost about 30K euros equivalent to 45K dollars... which is WAY more than the states... Lenia's house which is extremely old and not that big.. is valued at 1 million dollars. It is crazy!!! Also, if you are over 60, banks won't give you a loan for a house.. and if you are "older" you have to have a 10-12 year mortgage only.

Our first stop of the day was the Eiffel tower. As we were standing in line there were a few interesting things. First, there were a million vendors. Second, there were police walking around with assault rifles, it was really odd!!! Also, Ivan and I had this girl walk up to us and ask us if we spoke English. Ivan and I were like "ya!" and Lenia was like "no no no... keep walking".. so we did. Lenia explained that these people (kind of dressed like gypsies) were from Romania and pretended to be homeless and they walk around saying "do you speak English?". Not only are they begging but they will also steal from you... pickpockets and thieves are very common in Paris.

Anyway, we took pictures in front of the tower and then we went up to the top. It was an amazing view. I couldn't believe how just.. rude people are though. I mean we had people cutting in line and trying to cut in line.. it was just so.. disorderly.. and unbelievable.

We then went and saw the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees. Around the Arc, it is a free for all... for cars.. literally. 

There are no lines and you just better watch out. How crazy is that? We walked all the way down the Champs Elysees and went to eat at Chez Clement. 
This place was GREAT! I had scallops and mushroom risotto (which was amazing) and Ivan had chicken fricassee. Both were great!! We also went to Zara, NafNaf, Disney Baby, and Starbucks. We also went to Swarovski...and they had this staircase MADE with Swarovski crystals. It was soooo gorgeous. We couldn't get a great pic of it.. but we tried.

Then we went to the Seine River to go on a boat.

 We parked in a parking garage near the boat dock. This was pretty fun, we got to see Paris lit up at night. We also saw the Eiffel tower sparkle on the hour.

After the boat ride... things went downhill. We went to a restaurant with the WORST service. Lenia was even disappointed. The food was not good either. Also, when we went to pay the server never gave us our change, he thought he was being tipped. (Note: you don't really tip in France because 15% gratuity is built into the price of the food). Then to top it ALL off.... when we went down the stairs to the parking garage.. someone had peed all over the stairs. I asked Lenia who would do that?  She said... just a rude person. I was shocked because in the US.. the only people who may do that.. are like homeless people.
We got home around midnight and crashed!!!

Day 3 Wednesday
This day.. started off bad for me. I bought this beautiful dress for the trip and it didn't fit well when I put it on. I couldn't sit in it. Therefore, I was very bummed... we decided to return it when I get home. Anyway, Wednesday we were going with a friend of Lenia's names Marilese. She used to be a tour guide and still does a few tours now and then. She took us around the Latin quarter a bit and then to the Louvre. The Louvre was huge but we managed to see quite a few things, with her as our guide. I have barely any pictures because you are not "supposed" to take pictures inside (despite the multitudes of people breaking the rules). For EVERYTHING that was seen.. see Ivan's videos on Youtube at Ivan's Youtube

Here are some things we saw:
The Lacemaker- by Vermeer
Rembrandt paintings (and all his self-portraits)
Some Norwegian paintings
Napoleon III apartment in the Louvre
The Winged Victory of Samothrace statue
The Coronation crowns of Louis XV
Mona Lisa, by De Vinci
The Wedding Feast at Cana, Veronese
Aphrodite, known as Venus de Milo
Sarcophagus of a Married Couple
Medieval Moat
Horses of Marly
And multitudes of other paintings and sculptures.

We then visited the Tuileries gardens right outside the Louvre. During the summer they have more flowers... but it was still nice to see. After, we bought some chocolate and went to Paul (again) for something to drink. We met up with Elodie, got some quiche lorreine and took the RER (public transportation) home to Villiers Sur Marne (we ate on the metro.. which is so different then the US). We ate dinner at Lenia's home since eating out has become so expensive. It was a great 4 course typical french meal, with homemade creme brulee. The appetizer however was duck pate (spelling?).... basically a spread made of duck liver.. I did NOT try it.. UG.. however Ivan did.. and he liked it!!!

PLEASE see the rest of the pictures on my facebook.. there are MANY more. 

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