Wednesday, July 28, 2010

last day in europe

In Paris, Sacre Coeur Basilica in the distant background

Our Final Travel Itinerary

July 28
5:15 - Woke up way too early
6:00 - Left our Parisian flat
6:25 - Arrive at Gare de L'Est Station & snag some pastries and coffee
7:04 - Train leaves Paris! It's fast and smooth - I like high speed trains :)
11:00 - Train arrives in Frankfurt... on time!
11:56 - Checked in with boarding passes in hand
12:20 - One last German meal of sausages and beer
14:20 - We board the plane to Beijing. Oh, how we missed the Chinese "lines"
July 29th
6:30-7:30 - Kristin proceeds to lose numerous games of "poophead" while we eat a lousy & expensive breakfast in the Beijing airport
9:30 - We board Air China's ghetto plane, on lease from Air Macau
13:26 - Touchdown in the HK airport

HOME! :)

Hong Kong!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

paris on a bike

Yeah, they gave me a girl's bike

Kristin was a little less excited about biking

We rented bikes to tour the inner loop for the day. It was a little nerve-racking at first, but we adjusted and learned to relax. We covered over half the inner ring, riding under the Eiffel Tower, around the Arc de Triomphe, and past the Bastille Monument. We stopped periodically to shop and relax in a park, located near Kristin's old apartment when she studied abroad.

Looking sexy under the Arc de Triomphe

Kristin's old apartment - top floor

After returning the bikes, we had a fun fondue dinner near the Saint Michel fountain. So how did I end our time in Paris? I was playing with the fire for the fondue pot & accidentally set the table cloth on fire! Wow. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Pre-fire table arrangement

Goodbye France!

Hello Indiana!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Louvre

  • HUGE
  • Incredible
  • Overwhelming
And we only saw about 1/4 of the museum. By the end, my mind was exhausted as well as my legs. We went back to our flat for dinner, cards, & to read books.

Anyway, pictures always explain it better, right? :)

Ancient Rome

Modern Rome

The ridiculous crowd for the over-rated Mona Lisa

The famous/infamous glass pyramid

The straight line view from the Louvre (Arc du Caroussel, Place de la Concorde, Arc de Triomphe [and what you can't see is the Arche de la Defense])

Room commissioned by Catherine de Medici painted by Rubens

These paintings were HUGE!

A monkey, painting a painting... of course!

The inner courtyard

A painting of the Louvre being arranged

I came, I conquered

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Donna's last day

Can you imagine listening to the accordian EVERY day?!

It was a lazy last day. We slept in again and then went to breakfast down the road at a 83 Rue de Crimee. Boulangerie por Veronique Mauclerc is one of only 4 bakeries left in Paris that uses wood-fire kilns to bake its bread. Their brunch meals were astounding - in both taste and size!
  • chocolate bread to start
  • heaping portions of 3 types of bread (fruit, pistachio, & poppyseed) with butter and jam
  • quiche
  • coffee, tea, & juice
  • more chocolate for dessert
  • 12 Euros
Wow. It was far more than we could eat. So we took the leftovers and gave it to a beggar on the train.
The metro does weird things to people

Tour de France
We're in France & the last leg of the race is passing through the heart of Paris. Why not go? It seemed like a good idea in the beginning, but sometimes the best intentions just don't turn out well. Here's a short list of what went wrong...
  • Super crowded, but to be expected
  • We found a good spot, but it took an hour to get there due to police and blockades
  • We found beer, but it cost 8 Euros a pint
  • The parade that started out well, turned into the lamest parade ever
  • The racers were 2 hours late
  • Turns out that the race is already over by the time the bikers get into Paris - i.e. the Tour de France in the city limits is just for show
Since the race and event was generally sucking, Kristin and I left to visit the Museum of Orsay.

Note the chair

Museum of Orsay
It's the funky museum that took all the pieces of art that the Louvre rejected. It's strange that it didn't take certain items. For example, Van Gogh was left out. As well as the statues and paintings of Degas. Crazy Louvre people.

"I must be sooo cool"

Donna met us afterwards & we went for pizza and crepes at a quaint, local cafe. We amused ourselves for the rest of the night playing cards and talking.

"Donna, thanks for hanging out!"

Note the restaurant... it was also on the "donna" street

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chapelle Show meets the Hunchback at Pompidou

It's been another great day in Paris! We started uncharacteristically with sit-ups, push-ups, and planks before setting off for coffee at a hostel called Christopher Inn.

Some of the best coffee in Paris

Art near Saint Christopher Inn

The longest foosball table I've ever seen (up to 12 people!)

Our next stop was Sainte-Chapelle, a beautiful church renowned for its stained glass. It did not disappoint. The only drawback was the renovation, which covered up the stained glass of the Passion of Christ. We snapped a few photos inside as well as on the steps just outside at the Ministry of Justice. Donna was asked to help another person take a photo, and Donna had a clear perspective of the woman's yellow underpants. Whoa.

Each window tells a story, L to R, bottom to top

The infamous yellow underwear stairs

From there we made a return trip to the crepe shop from day prior. Delicious. We were extremely stuffed, but managed to drag ourselves to Notre Dame Cathedral. It was ornate, dark, crowded, and made one's jaw drop once inside. However, the feeling of holiness and reverence seemed to be lost among the crowds and flashes.


Grant introducing Donna & Kristin to Catholicism

Inside Notre Dame

On to the Pompidou, the modern art museum of Paris - rumored to be one of the best in the world. We didn't go in, so I guess the rumors will continue. Instead, we hung out in the plaza.

All the piping is on the outside of the Pompidou

Pompidou Plaza activities:
  • eating gelato (again)
  • reading books
  • playing cards
  • watching performers like magicians and jesters
  • listening to street music. My favorite was the Chinese guy, playing English songs, in the heart of Paris
He juggled 6 balls while slack-lining - so pro!

Fountain near the Pompidou

Somehow Kristin was able to nap in the midst of it all. I also should note that she was lying on a cobblestone surface. Wow.

Our nighttime sightseeing near the Moulin Rouge

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tower of Mr. Eiffel

A. Recoup from our previous night out

B. Hearty "breakfast" at noon

C. Eiffel Tower! :)

Eiffel Tower as viewed through the "peace" wall
  • We went to the summit and relished in the breathtaking views of the city. When we left our flat it was sunny & warm. However, a brief storm blew in & dropped the temp drastically just before our ascent. We managed to still enjoy everything, & I liked it when Kristin was able to point out various sites around Paris.
Kristin is strong...

...but Grant is stronger

Trocadero - as viewed from the top

D. Traipsing around the city. Much of it in the Saint Germain district

We tossed a disc in this park for awhile

E. Delicious crepes, cold beer, & wine

A ham, cheese, and egg crepe - so tasty!

F. More walking
We walked all the way to Hong Kong

G. A chill night back at the apartment. We ate snacks, drank champagne (courtesy of our landlord!), & played card games. We taught Donna to play Rage, while she introduced us to a card game called "Shithead." I was the shithead for 3 of the first 4 games we played.

We love Donna!

H. Bed. Yay!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fondue + Wine = Good Times

Kristin Franke

Grant Franke

Donna Gee

Donna, Kristin, & I enjoyed a bottle of champagne with Gerrard, the owner of the apartment we rented for the week. It was a good start after our long train ride. (16 hours!)
Our tiny kitchen in the rented flat

Afterwards, we set off for a night out that turned out to be crazier than anticipated. It began on a relaxed note, hanging out at the Sacre-Coeur Basilique (Sacred Heart Basilica). From there we wandered around the Mont Matre shopping and cafe district where I was rebuffed from taking a picture of an old painter. He looked like a salty sailor and had a wicked beard!
The steps of the Sacred Heart Basilica

Dinner was at a fondue place called Refuge des Fondus where customers get to climb over the table, & wine is served from baby bottles. Kitsch, but fun. While there we met another group of 3 frenchmen, Garrick, Quentin, and Latitia.

The restaurant
The appetizers
Our delicious cheese fondue and baby bottles of wine

After dinner and 500mL of wine each, we set off to find mojitos & drink them at the most obvious of party locations in Paris - the steps of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. It felt a little sacrilegious, but there were probably at least 100 other people doing the same thing.
From L to R: Quentin, Garrick, Letitia, Donna, Kristin
Mojitos in hand on the steps

All in all, we had a good time & made it home safely. Though it was crazy, & we slept in quite a bit the next morning. I guess we just wanted to start Paris off with a bang!