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!

 

America’s Friendliest Cities…#1 Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston

Some time ago, I posted the 2014 list of the Top Ten Friendliest Cities in America (according to a survey by Conde Nast Traveler), and pointed out that eight of the top ten are located in the South. Yay for the South! I have shared my impressions and recommendations of seven of those cities—some in greater depth than others—and have finally arrived at the #1 city on the list (and my personal favorite), Charleston, South Carolina. I have blogged about Charleston before (check tag list to read previous blog posts), but will share new information and personal insights in upcoming posts. To me, Charleston epitomizes the grace, elegance, refinement, strength, and courage of the South—particularly the women who have long been the backbone of the culture. (No offence intended toward Southern men.) Charleston exudes dignity, charm, and fierce determination as personified by the row of antebellum mansions regally positioned shoulder to shoulder along the battery, united in their stand against the ravages of time, the elements, and a shifting cultural tide. If ever I want to escape the here and now, my destination of choice is Charleston!

What to see and do and where to eat coming up…

 

Savannah: Gardens, Gates and Wrought Iron…

Savannah Garden

When choosing a travel destination, I often select a city that lends itself well to sightseeing on foot. (That way I can walk off all of the calories I take in sampling the local cuisine!) The Savannah historic district with its grid-type layout is packed with more interesting sights and photo ops than you can shake a stick at, and is relatively easy to navigate.  If, however, you are directionally challenged like me and happen to wander off-course, just ask anyone, “Which way to River Street?” and remember that the river is always north. (Of course, a walking map is a good idea. Grab one at the visitor center or purchase one at Parker’s Market.)  Much like Charleston to its north, Savannah is dotted with inviting gardens, intricately fashioned gates, and an abundance of finely crafted wrought iron. Be sure to allow enough time to wander up and down the streets in the historic residential areas in addition to the squares and main drags. You will find bits of beauty tucked into every nook and cranny—flower boxes, trellises, balconies, staircases, lamp posts, decorative grates, hitching posts, lanterns, and railings. It’s fun and it’s free! If your feet get tired, catch the express shuttle or take a trolley tour. There will likely be many other tourists out and about also, but as with anywhere you go, be aware of your surroundings and watch out for traffic!

To see how Charleston compares, go to Wrought Iron Artistry…Charleston, S.C.

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

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?