The People of Ireland…

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I found the people of Ireland to be charming, though initially a bit reticent and more than a little suspicious of Americans. One of the high points of my visit was a half-hour chat I had with our bus driver during the ride from Wicklow town to the airport in Dublin. We talked of horses, his desire to visit Texas and Kentucky, Irish independence, American history (he knew more about that than most Americans do), the EU, and the value of the euro. He was extremely knowledgeable and a delight to converse with. (I have been kicking myself ever since for not snapping a pic before leaving him!) And then there was Anne…the owner of the B&B in Wicklow where we stayed. Shocked by the size of our suitcases, she had a mild panic attack upon our arrival. She recovered fairly quickly when it became apparent that we intended to treat her home with the same care and respect we would exercise in our own home. (How people travel for two full weeks through three different countries, participating in every type of activity imaginable…and pack everything in a rucksack is beyond me. But, I digress…) There is something special about staying in a personal residence—particularly when welcomed in by someone to whom you are a perfect stranger! We (my niece and I) shared a cozy bed and bath on the upper floor overlooking a beautiful garden that was lovingly tended by Anne herself. It afforded every possible comfort and was the perfect home-away-from-home during the week we spent there. Our hostess graciously offered to do our laundry and was quite persistent about it, so we indulged her once…and greatly appreciated her efforts!

There is much more reminiscing I could do about our visit to Ireland, but I will save that for a later post. Suffice it to say, the time we spent on the Emerald Isle was memorable in so many ways and I truly long to return sooner than later…

When I think of Ireland…

 

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On this rainy April day I find my thoughts turning to Ireland, and a number of adjectives immediately spring to mind…picturesque, bold, verdant, lush, untamed, timeless. Did I mention green?? Its incredibly varied landscape was both unexpected and spectacular! Ireland is truly one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries I have ever visited. While much of Western society seems to have melded into a uniformity of sorts, the Irish have managed to retain their own independent culture and unique appeal—not to mention identity and superstitions. (Truly, I half expected to see leprechauns lurking among the Celtic crosses and Druids gliding through the monastic ruins!) Below are but a few of the thousands of photos I took during my seven day visit. Everywhere you look in Ireland there is another gorgeous landscape to amaze the senses!

 

From Train Station to Impressionist Art Gallery…Musée d’Orsay

Musée d'Orsay - The Great Hall

Musée d’Orsay – The Great Hall

I would be hard pressed to definitively decide which is more impressive—the magnificent structure that is the Musée d’Orsay, or the impressive collection of artwork that is housed within. Truly, this mammoth architectural masterpiece is one of the most amazing and beautiful buildings in Paris! Originally constructed around 1900 as a railway station, the sprawling museum has an awe-inspiring glass-pane, barrel-vault roof that arches over the Great Hall and—on sunny days—sets the main floor alight. The exterior is impressive as well with its nearly symmetrical design, lengthy mid-level terrace, and twin opaque clock windows keeping watch along the Seine. The building narrowly escaped being demolished in the 1960s—which, had that happened, would have been nothing short of a tragedy! We allowed ourselves only a couple of hours to tour the Orsay so, once again, had to prioritize our activities. We popped into the Café Campana for a quick lunch—relatively speaking, in that we did not have to wait long to be seated and the service was prompt and efficient.  The food was decent (I had some sort of fish soup) and the decor was appealing (large, gold, bell-shaped light fixtures and one of the enormous clock windows). The tables are situated fairly close together and we ended up sitting next to fellow Americans with whom we chatted during our meal.  Afterward, we exited onto the roof-level terrace for a bird’s-eye view of the Seine and a look across at the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre complex on the right bank. After shooting a few photos, we re-entered the building and proceeded to the Impressionist Gallery for a look at the work of Degas, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, and others. (I still can’t believe that I was mere inches from original masterpieces which I have admired all of my life!) We walked along multi-level glass walkways running adjacent to the Great Hall and snapped photos through peepholes positioned at intervals along the wall. (Notice the outlines of people doing exactly that in the photo of the Great Hall above.) We wrapped up our visit with a walk-through of the main floor where we observed sculpture, architectural art, and the intricately-designed, majestic clock which holds court high above the exhibit area. We picked up a few items at the museum gift shop as we were leaving.  Again, our Paris Museum Pass allowed us immediate entry to the gallery…no waiting in a long line for us! Loved this museum and hope to return someday to see the rest of it!

Musée Rodin…My Favorite Paris “Stumble-Upon”

We spent the morning touring Les Invalides and strolling along the Seine, after which we set out on foot to the Musée d’Orsay. We had settled on that gallery for two reasons: 1) it was Tuesday and the Louvre was closed, and 2) Impressionist art is my favorite. Somewhere between Eglise du Dome and the Orsay we got off track and ended up near Musée Rodin. Since we were in the neighborhood, it seemed only right to stop in for a quick peek at Le Penseur—better known in American circles as The Thinker. This happenstance visit resulted in a most delightful experience! Rodin’s artwork and sculptures are on display in the Hôtel Biron (which he used as his workshop from 1908 until his death in 1917), as well as inside a converted chapel on the property and throughout the seven-and-a-half acre garden. Our Paris Museum Pass came in handy once again, allowing us to skip the queue and go right in. Since our time was limited, we glanced into the chapel museum then went directly to the gardens. Our first stop was The Thinker—which you may not realize originated as the central figure of Rodin’s rendition of Dante’s Gates of Hell (which can also be seen in the garden). After a couple of cheesy “thinker” snapshots, we made the rounds of the gardens—smelling the roses, observing sculptures which Rodin placed in the gardens himself, viewing the Marble Gallery, admiring the perfectly manicured lawn, and drinking in the gorgeous landscape! We made a pass through the gift shop as we were leaving. (There is also a cafe on the property.) Musée Rodin is definitely worthy of a visit, whether extended or brief. So glad we veered slightly off-course…

The Eiffel Tower Experience: A Photo Essay

As long as I can remember I have associated Paris with the Eiffel Tower, and the Eiffel Tower with Paris.  Visiting this iconic landmark was the highlight of my trip to France’s capital city…and undoubtedly the most photographed of my experiences abroad!  Click on individual photos below for larger views.

My first unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro

My first unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro

Rue Cler…Paris’ Famous Market Street

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I was excited to discover Rue Cler right around the corner from our hotel in the 7th arrondissement! We arrived in Paris right at lunch time so decided to check out the cafes along this inviting market street. The smooth cobblestones, wrought iron balconies, and window boxes overflowing with brightly colored flowers provided the perfect backdrop for a midday stroll. Generally speaking, Rue Cler is limited to pedestrian traffic which makes it all the more appealing. Our schedule did not allow for the leisurely perusal of the patisseries, chocolatiers, fromageries, delicatessens, and other shops that I wished for, but we did grab a bite to eat at Cafe du Marche’, situated on the corner of Rue du champ du Mars and Rue Cler. I did not know at the time that this cafe is one of the most popular in the area…we chose it simply for its aesthetic appeal (it is the cutest sidewalk cafe with red chairs and delightful awnings) and because the food looked good! Daily specials were written on large chalkboards. Since our French is a bit rusty—code for nonexistent—we made an educated guess and ended up with a couple of delicious entrees. I couldn’t tell you the actual names of the dishes, but I had vegetarian quiche and a green salad while my niece had what appeared to be the French version of a Cobb salad. Our waitress was attentive and we managed to communicate even though she spoke not a word of English and we speak no French. Apparently gratuity is not customary—at least there was no space to add it on to the check—so I handed it to her in person. Those cultural differences can be a bit tricky, but the American in me insists that I tip for good service. After a full afternoon and evening of sightseeing, we returned to Rue Cler for supper and you know the old saying: When in Paris, eat Chinese. Okay, so that’s not exactly how it goes…but I gave my niece free choice and she chose Chinese. It was decent, and best of all…the service was quick and we were able to zip back to the hotel and fall into bed before heading out for another busy day of sightseeing!

Read more about Rue Cler…

Paris Sightseeing Tips: The Famous Rue Cler Open Market Street

Rue Cler – The Most Famous Market Street in Paris!

Rick Steves’ Paris Market 101

5 Reasons to Shop the Market Streets of Paris

Completely Random Paris…Part 3

A few more random photos from around Paris…

Blue Door…

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Drawing a Crowd…

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Marble Beauty…

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Perusing les Bouquinistes…

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Hieroglyphics…

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Ground Level of the Eiffel Tower…

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Pont Alexandre III…

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This is the life…

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Elaborate Door Hardware…

 

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And…a shopping cart in the Seine…

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Did you miss Completely Random Paris Part 1 or Part 2?