Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday in Stockholm

The temps were in the low 50s but the sun was shining. The sun is shifting back towards summer with a 5:26am sunrise and 8:10pm sunset already today. It doesn't feel like spring yet and most of the trees and stuff are still bare from winter. However, we headed to Kungsträdgården for the Cherry Blossom Festival to see the blooming trees in the park and finally a sign of plant life coming back to the city. It was a very small festival compared to the one we always went to in DC so it made us miss that part of home. Regardless, we're really enjoying living in Stockholm. It's definitely a walkable city best enjoyed on foot. We walked along some of the waterways to Kastellholmen and Kastellet which is a small military fortification built in 1667. Here's some pictures of our day and another beautiful walk around town ending with a typically Swedish fika or coffee break. Click on the pictures for bigger versions.





  









 



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Paris

It was a 4 day weekend at work for Easter. It was another opportunity to add a few days and spend some time in another city on our European wish list which is pretty much every country in Europe. Paris might have seemed more exotic and different if we hadn't been living in Stockholm and visited Berlin, Lisbon, and Rome before this trip. It has it's own vibe and hearing French everywhere is different but there's something about European cities that's starting to feel familiar.

We stayed in the Latin Quarter. It wasn't too touristy with a nice variety of restaurants and fairly easy access to the metro and walking distance to Île de la Cité. The metro system criss-crosses around so we got the tourist Viste passes to ride as much as we wanted. We took many short trips when we needed to cut down on walking between sites. We didn't bother with Hop-On-Hop-Off buses for Paris because of reviews saying traffic bogs down the buses. The metro and RER commuter trains were a great way to get around to what we wanted to see. The nice thing about the Viste pass was hopping on the commuter train for just one stop if we wanted.

It was rainy every day except for the last beautiful day. We saved the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe for last considering the weather. We had nice long leisurely lunches and dinners every day since Paris is a city for dining with multiple courses. We had some time on our travel day so we started at the Père Lachaise Cemetery and Jim Morrison's grave because it was neat place to be. These are all better photos from our daughter's camera instead of the the cell phone pics I posted on Facebook.











We saw the outside of Moulin Rouge just for grins. It was pricey to attend so we opted out of that tourist experience.


 Île de la Cité has Conciergerie prison, Louis IX's Sainte-Chapelle, and Notre Dame. Here's some pictures:




 














One of our favorite experiences was exploring the Catacombs of Paris. We didn't take pictures of the 3 hour line or the long spiral staircases to get down in and up out of them. There was also some long boring passageways we marched down until we got to the ossuaries containing the remains of about 6 million people. That's what Wikipedia says. We didn't try counting them. We did take pictures of the interesting part with stacks upon stacks of bones inside the world's largest grave. We saw bones collected over centuries from Holy Innocents' Cemetery shuffled down to the catacombs. Just seeing some of that was a sobering experience reminding us how precious life is while we have it.












 





We visited the outside of the Louvre and nearby parks on a dreary day with a little drizzle. Instead of braving the really long line to go inside we spent time with gourmet hot chocolate and delicious desserts at Angelina. We did go to the Monet museum and saw the quarter sized Lady Liberty on the way out there.













Our final day was a good one with beautiful weather for walking around the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Some people (not me!) were a little too tired to try climbing anything so we stayed at ground level for it all but it was all plenty impressive from that vantage point. I was going to go up the Arc without them but I didn't want to leave them all alone and waiting. :-)



 

 bubbles!















 





We also saw the Panthéon before we left since it was just a few blocks from our hotel. We almost forgot it was there since it was one of those we'll see it later things. It had a model of itself inside which was funny to me... probably because I looked to see if there was a model of the model inside the model. There wasn't. :-(