Europe Part 6 – Paris

Time to go to Paris! As I mentioned, Spain was delightful – not only the amazing scenery but the people. They seemed to have a real zest for life, which was on full display during our plane ride out of Barcelona. The back of the plane was filled with a group traveling together. They broke out in song as they took their seats. When we touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport, the pilot announced our safe, on-time arrival. The back of the plane erupted into cheers – quite a rowdy, fun group.

We made our way through the usual airport routine, boarded the RER (France’s rapid transit system), and headed into the City of Light with our son and daughter-in-law as tour guides. In strict contrast to our plane ride, you could have heard a pin drop on the RER. This was also the case every time we rode the subway, unless a musician popped in for an impromptu concert. People don’t look at each other on the subway. The typical smile or nod of the head that is customary in Orlando is not readily observed in Paris.

20140110-123111.jpg

When at last I set foot on the streets of Paris, I paused to take it all in. Emotion welled up inside me. It was a little overwhelming. This city of romance, art and history has quite a reputation. I wanted to absorb the city, to remember the sights and sounds, to feel the rhythm of it all. I was in Paris. Yeah, baby!

I didn't want Paris to fly by too quickly.

I didn’t want Paris to fly by too quickly.

The first order of business was to get to Joe and Aubyron’s seventh-floor apartment. We walked for about 20 minutes along the streets of Paris, dragging our suitcases behind us. I knew what was ahead of me and I was not afraid. After all, this trip had been a walking trip. We literally walked for hours every day. I walked down the Rock of Gibraltar for goodness sake. I could handle the 124 stairs winding their way up to Joe’s apartment. I would do this. It was the moment I had trained for.

We opened the huge, green doors to a small, dark lobby. As if the staircase sensed our presence, the lights came on (either that or they were on a motion sensor). There it was looming large before my eyes. My Everest, my white whale – the oldest, windiest stairs I have ever dared climb. Up we went. I knew to pace myself. Nobody had to be a hero here. No records to break. Simply complete the climb. By the fourth flight I was feeling it. I handed my suitcase off as I feigned interest in the view from the window.

The stairs were angry that day - like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli

The stairs were angry that day – like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli

With each floor the stairs grew narrower and less level. I refused to let them defeat me. I would plant my suitcase firmly in that apartment and call it home for the next week.  The way it really happened was, I planted my four-wheeled suitcase on the floor of the bedroom in the apartment and it rolled across the room.  Such is life in a Paris apartment.

The sense of achievement I felt as I entered their apartment was only equaled by the exhaustion of the climb. I did it. Now, let’s go back downstairs and see the city.

We actually went up and down those stairs three times that first day.  The motivation of seeing more of Paris was enough to get us going.  Joe took us on a walking tour of the city that gave a great overview.  We passed Notre Dame and saw the Eiffel Tower from the Seine River.  I was captivated.

Not the Arc de Triomphe, but it was beautiful

Not the Arc de Triomphe

20140110-132334.jpg

Locks on the Bridges are common and considered a nuisance by the city

Locks on the Bridges are common and considered a nuisance by the city

This picture captures the way people think of the locks. Bob is interested. Aubyron sees the romance of it all. Joe is disappointed that people defile the bridges.

After a long day, we head back home. Here’s the image that was in my head that night.

Good Night Eiffel Tower.  It doesn't get much better than this.

Good Night Eiffel Tower. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Au revoir!

Europe Part 4 – Color and Light

Spain was a delightful surprise to us. We chose to go there because we were going to Paris to visit our son and daughter-in-law, and we wanted to tag on a visit to another area – you know, as long as we were in the neighborhood. We narrowed our choice down to Southern Spain and Tuscany, because both areas were available via our time-share. We chose Spain because chances were the weather would be warmer. Also, I was afraid if we went to Tuscany in late November I would never get Bob to go back there when we could roam the countryside without lugging heavy coats around. He would want to try some place different and new. I couldn’t risk it.

Barcelona was the icing on our Spanish cake. It reminds me of New York City except when I’ve visited New York City I was always ready to get out of the city, but in Barcelona I wanted to stay longer. It is a very artsy city with a strong influence by Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi was the architect/artist who designed The Sagrada Familia, the unfinished basilica that looms large over the city. He wanted a cathedral that would draw people to worship. The story of Jesus is depicted all over the outside of it.

image

The front doors have the gospel carved into them.

20131126-194724.jpg

20131126-194752.jpg

Once inside his influence from nature takes over. He was fascinated by light and his use of stained glass combined with columns that look like trees transforms the interior to a symphony of color.

20131126-195032.jpg

20131126-195103.jpg

20131126-195120.jpg

20131126-195212.jpg

I will admit that the inside of the cathedral emphasized Gaudi so much that I think it may have distressed the man, who died when he was run over by a tram in 1926 just before his 74th birthday. (To this day, the cathedral is unfinished; construction is on-going.) The outside, though, dramatically moved me to worship. Jesus was glorified.

20131126-195826.jpg

Park Guell is another of Gaudi’s creations. The serpentine benches alone were worth seeing, but the entire park is a wonderland.

20131126-200938.jpg

20131126-201009.jpg

20131126-201036.jpg

Now I have to stop myself from posting more pictures. I haven’t even included Gaudi’s houses around Barcelona, but I guess there’s always facebook for more.