Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The City of Light, at night

One of the most amazing things about Paris is that on any given night, the city is alive with gorgeous views. It is after all, called "the City of Lights." In the winter there are even more fantastic lights to see and I dragged Lyle all over town until both of us were completely crippled.We started at the Place de la Concorde end of Champs-Elysees and walked to the Arc de Triomphe. Even though this isn't my first visit to Paris, there was something I hadn't done that I wanted to do. I wanted to stand on top of the Arc de Triomphe and see the lights from above.

We walked, and walked in the freezing night and I kept saying to Lyle, "Are you sure you can make it? We can take the subway for part of it..." But we were both enjoying the sights and even though it was cold, we were bundled up against the elements.

As we got closer, I told Lyle that we could either speed up and make it to the top by 7 pm, or we could slow down and make it to the top by 8 pm. It was very important that I be on the top at precisely the top of the hour. Lyle said we could do 7 pm, but we only had 20 minutes to get there AND get to the top.

"It has an elevator, right?" asked Lyle.
I think it does. I answered
"You think? Or you KNOW?"
Uh, I can't promise. Now hurry up!

And off we hurried. To access the Arch, you have to go down the stairs, under the street, back up stairs, to a ticket window where you buy your pass to get to the top, up a few more stairs and then they let you pass the entrance door... and then you discover that there is no elevator but there is a spiral staircase that contains 283 steps to reach the outdoor viewing platform at the top.

No time to waste, hurry, hurry, hurry... I MUST BE ON THE TOP BY 7:00!!!
Looking up at the stairs.

And so we ran. Upstairs. Our legs got weak but we continued. We ran out of breath, but we continued. WE finally came out to the first interior room (way up in the top) and Lyle checked the time. Panting, he told me, "We (breath) have (breath) ten (breath) minutes (heavy breathing)." I stooped over and held myself up by resting my hands on my knees and tried to catch my breath. My legs were like jello.

"Okay, but no gift shop. Gift shop on way down." I said. (as if Lyle was even interested in the gift shop)

We caught our breath and made out way up to the top with five minutes to spare. It's the most amazing view.
This is how far we had walked in the below freezing temperature, up the Champs-Elysees, from that small lighted circle in the distance which is a 197 feet tall Ferris Wheel, then up 284 stairs, as fast as possible, all so I could finally see this light show that takes place on the top of each hour...

It was so worth it.

Did I mention that after the light show we would have to walk back down?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Every year I try to write a funny little something
Sum up the year in rhyming tome, a talent that ain’t nothing
This year is a kicker, cause I don’t feel the spirit
But drag your holiday all down? Oh, I couldn’t bear it

It’s a blur! It’s a curse! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
Look! Up in the sky!
The highs and lows came fast and faster!
From “jump for joy”, to “I could cry.”

Jim went to Vancouver and caught Olympic Fever
Lyle was left at home with dogs, glued to TV receiver
Then sad news, Jim’s Uncle Ed passed away this Spring
Family support gathered round, so tough but strengthening

On the home front, the back of our house, sprung a nasty leak
The roof gave way, the water came and things were looking bleak
Then came construction or more correct, then came tearing down
Months went by but finally bed, bath and closet are spiffy town.

Summer arrived with our house was tore up, so we headed East
Palm Springs every weekend, tanning never ceased
Friends and family came and visited, we enjoyed each one
Who will visit next year? Oh I could use some fun!

Summer in Grande Prairie, we caught up with great friends
Don’t ask about “the meat fight”, this group’s party never ends
We bought a cute convertible, her name is “Mrs. B”
White and tan with just two seats, she’s vintage Mercedes.

But summer ends and Fall arrives and the cycles do remind us
That time is fleeting, love of friends and family is what binds us
Our precious Lola passed away, she brought us so much joy
Our hearts are broke but on the mend, now Cooper’s our single boy.

Life continues on its course and travel lies ahead
Paris this December, then perhaps skiing or a sled?
We’re living our lives, we’re forging ahead where does time disappear?
Merry Christmas one and all, have a happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Paris Christmas WIndows, Printemps

Printemps sits next to Galleries Lafayette. Galleries Lafayette runs for two blocks with a satellite "maison" store across the street from it. Printemps runs for two blocks with their men's store filling another block just behind it. To walk for four blocks of amazing window after amazing window is one of the most overwhelming things to see. Clearly at Christmastime, these two store try to outdo each other and for my money, Printemps wins this year. (click on any image to enlarge, and honestly, you really should see some of these LARGER.)

Exterior of Printemps by day.

Exterior of Printemps by night.

Under the awnings.

Okay, so you're not really wowed yet. I totally agree. Galleries Lafayette won on the lighting and under the awning portion. But the windows, oh the windows!

You have no idea how difficult it is to get great window shots at night. To not get reflection of the stores across the street. And particularly at this time of year, to not get a thousand people in front of the window. I did my best. I grabbed my shots in a hurry. A few may be blurry. I could never get far enough back to get in the entire window. Lucky for me, I am tall and just held my camera over my head and shot over people.
This window was animated with puppets.

This window was also animated with puppets.

Printemps also did Chanel windows.SERIOUSLY, I NEED ONE OF THESE COCO DOLLS!

It's really in the details. Here's this mannequin just sitting over here on the far left in a pile of hay. In the most amazing outfit.

The Drama, starts, here.

I pieced this window together to show you the breadth of the windows. Each and every inch of it in its glory.
Check out the shoes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

The Palais du Justice.

Though we have been to Paris a few times, it always impresses me that we have never "seen it all". This trip, we stayed on the Ile St. Louis and walked through the Ile de la Cité a number of times. I looked up what was around us and discovered Sainte-Chappelle was right where we were passing by, but is now located inside the Palais du Justice. Hey, I've got culture, let's go see it!The Sainte-Chapelle ("Holy Chapel") was built between 1246-1248 by Louis IX, king of France, to house the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross, precious relics of the Passion. Louis had purchased these in 1239 from the Byzantine emperor Baldwin II, for the sum of 135,000 livres, for perspective the entire chapel itself cost 40,000 livres to build.
Restoration continues on the chapel.

Perceived as a symbol of both religion and royalty, the Sainte-Chapelle suffered considerable damage as a result of the French Revolution. Its furniture, stalls and choir wall disappeared, the spire was knocked down, and the holy relics were scattered. Most of the statues were saved.

It is renowned for its richly hued stained glass windows, comprising over 6,000 sq ft. Two-thirds of the pieces are original works, representing the finest examples of 12th century craftsmanship.
For a few euros more, we were able to visit the "Concierge" next door. This was once a palace, and then became a prison. It's most famous resident was Marie Antoinette before she was beheaded. It's historical. It's creepy. I won't repeat that tour, and I decided to not post any photos of it either. But we did it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Paris Christmas Windows, Galeries Lafayette

Galleries Lafayette is another large department store. And by large, I mean it takes more than one city block. (Click on any image to enlarge)
The lights on the front of the building looked like stained glass and they did a whole show. Which, as I stood and tried to capture with my video camera, is exactly when they stopped.

It was cold. I had to move forward.

Under the awnings, they have hung numerous chandeliers made of Christmas lights. Each window has a raised platform for small children to stand on so they may better see the windows. In between each window is some sort of street vendor. So that as you walk by, you must go in for the window, out to go around the vendor, back in to see the window, back out to go around the vendor... it's a bottleneck of people nightmare. We did this while the store was closed. There are thousands more people out here when the store is open.
Each window was themed to a new twist on a Broadway musical title. This had Sally Bowles spinning on a disco ball like Madonna.
No idea what this title was supposed to be. The over riding theme for the store was "Show Chaud Noël" which translates as "Hot Christmas Show".

The animation here was dolls acting as the Rockettes.
Again, all marionette from above.

This was "Singing in the Snow."

This one was small dolls doing the show "Mamma Mia."

The windows were very well done. A lot of them obviously there to entertain, but not necessarily to sell much. And so much of the focus was on the details close to the front and bottom of the windows, if you weren't a child you couldn't really see much going on in the animated windows. And I think some of the humor was a play on words in French, which I obviously didn't get. But the lights were IMPRESSIVE.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Parisian Street food

My dad was stationed in France when he served in the military. He doesn't tell many stories from then, but he always talks about the time he ate snails. The story always ends with a sour face, tongue sticking out, and that sound, "Bleah-eh-eh-eh-eh" followed by a body shake.

Because of this story, I think every one in my family has tried snails, just to tell my dad we ate one.

So, to my dad on his 81st birthday, I give you this photo taken at the Christmas market on the Champs-Elysees. Look dad, look what the French are eating on the street!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Windows Paris, Hermes

The view of the Hermes store as you approach.

I love Hermes. Everyone knows that. I also thought that the Hermes windows were stunning. However...
Not so Christmas-y for December, are they?

Lyle and I both thought they looked like beautiful Spring windows.
Except it was December.

Still, I'd take two of everything you see in any window. If it's the wrong size, style or color, I can always exchange it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Windows in Paris

Going to Paris is at Christmas is like going to New York City at Christmas. The city is alive and humming and everyone is trying to lure your money into their shop. They are very successful in this endeavor.

There are three BIG department stores in Paris. We will start here with BHV. Their theme this year:
Noël Circus.
(click on any photo to see it larger)

Most of their windows are animated. Most of the animation we saw was not from below, but more like marionettes animated by fishing line being worked from above.
This window has a dancing bear.
Apparently dancing bears used to be big in Paris entertainment.
Until they were outlawed.

This isn't a window, but I really liked their advertising in the subway as well.

Fauchon had very nice gold window transfers.
And very flavorful window displays.

Guerlain has amazingly beautiful windows.

This was from Cartier on the Champs-Elysees.

And I had to make a quick look by at the Chanel Windows.
Look closer, they are all holding Madame Coco dolls.
I really want one of those, but what would I do with it?

This is for Ted Baker of London. The skirt on Santa raised up and down to look more flirty.

For my cousin Julie who adores Sephora, this one is again on the Champs-Elysses.