Friday, February 27, 2009

Leysin: Thursday 26th February

We hurried through breakfast so we could make an early train down the valley as we were heading to Vevey, 40km back toward Lausanne. Here we needed to meet the Civil officials to finalise marriage arrangements. M. Schneider was a friendly happy man who spoke good English – which made the process run smoothly. At this point we are the only people getting married in Aigle on 15th April, and the ceremony will be in English! We had a brief look around Vevey which is a charming town on the lakeside.

Andrew looking more relaxed after wedding arrangements confirmed
We then headed back to Aigle to check out the actual location of the ceremony. It is in Maison de la Dime, which is a large timbered Tithe barn, which is alongside the Chateau Aigle.

Maison de la Dime
There are vines everywhere around this area and apparently produces some of the best Swiss wines (had a lovely light and lively swiss red last night for dinner) and Aigle is a bit of a service town

The Chateau Aigle and the position of the castle in the valley

Back up the mountain where we stopped at Davinda, a newish bar/restaurant for a friendly beer. A wander around the town showed lots of snow melt and it is warm and the forecast tomorrow is for more snow. Tonight we dined at Le Leysin, a rustic restaurant which we think will be good for our reception meal. We feel that the arrangements for our wedding are looking good and we are keen to return in April.

Paris-Lausanne-Leysin: Wednesday 24th February

An earlier start than we have been used to lately saw us on the metro at 6:50 heading to Gare de Lyon for our TGV to Lausanne. A couple of young women came by with a petition to sign supporting orphans in Albania, and just before the train was due to depart a man came chasing one through the carriages calling her a pickpocket – so some excitement before breakfast. The next train to Aigle was a pretty trip around the lake. The train up the mountain to Leysin went once an hour at 4 minutes to the hour. It steamed up the mountain once the cog wheels kicked in and there were beautiful views down the valley with clear blue skies and lots of snow on the ground. The trip takes about 25 min

See the little train at the start of it's journey up the mountain (just above the houses)
Arriving at the last of three stations in Leysin we headed off into a good layer of snow on the roads. The directions we had may have been easy when the roads were clear of snow, but pulling suitcases through snow was not easy – and we had left the suitcase snow tires at home! We looked a bit odd trudging down the hillside with suitcases when everyone else was walking back up with skis after a day on the slopes

Suitcases in need of snow chains

Eventually found our accommodation and we headed out for an explore. In some ways it is an odd little ski village in that it is quite spread out and has no natural town centre. In the late 1800's it changed from a farming area to being a centre for tuberculosis and health clinics. Outdoor tourism and education took over in the 1950's when antibiotics became common.

View from the balcony of our chalet

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Paris: Tuesday 23rd February Musee Jacquemart, Library

We walked down to Musee Jacquemart Andre. A private home of 2 art collectors built in the 19th century. There was an extensive collection of early Italian art as well as some Rembrandts and other great paintings. There were also some huge tapestries, a range of interesting stone items and furniture in beautifully decorated rooms. http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/en/jacquemart/
Outside the Jacquemart Andre museum
We had intended to visit Les Gobelins http://www.paris.org/Musees/Gobelins/info.html but we had only emailed the factory the night and today we found that the factory tour was full. Les Gobelins is the Tapestry factory from the 17th century that now repairs all the French state artefacts and in doing so maintains the skill set of tapestry weavers. It would have been very interesting, but maybe next time we are in Paris Instead we went to look at the National Library of France. A new building associated with Francois Mitterand, opened in 1996. It was built with 4 towers around a central square and the towers were each an “L” shape representing an open book. These towers are above ground and there are research rooms below and in the middle a forest of trees has been transplanted in which 40 metres below the ground level.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblioth%C3%A8que_nationale_de_France

National Library

We visited the Musee de Monnaie opposite the Louvre which had sounded like an interesting history and an interesting building. But to be honest unless lots of similar coins and numerous really similar looking coin presses excite you it’s probably not on the must see list! Perhaps the guided tours at the weekend are 100% better? Andrew spotted a potentially good option for dinner in a restaurant off Rue de Montorgueil called “Pigz” http://www.pigz.fr/ He saw the owner come out as we were looking at the menu and asked for a reservation for 7:15 and was told 8 would be better. So we returned as instructed and found we were the only people in the entire restaurant. It was a fixed preice menu €26 for an entrée and main with about 5 in each section to choose from. The meal was excellent and highly recommended. Escargot & Champignons for starter and Duck for a main. The owner said as we were leaving that during the week things had become very quiet, but weekends were still good business.
Andrew told him he was an international traveller and would recommend his restaurant in his blog :-)
Daily images from Paris

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Paris: Monday 22nd Feb Printemps & L'Orangarie

We wandered down some covered shopping arcades that were part of Baron Hausmanns redesign of Paris streets. These now have little shops of many varieties.

Covered Shopping Arcades

We went to Printemps department store today and saw the fantastic restaurant with a cupola of stained glass. We weren’t the only ones taking photographs of this lovely area. We wandered around a few streets and shops before stopping for a sandwich for lunch.

Printemps Restaurant (click on pic and it will open larger in a new window)

After lunch we headed down to the Jardin des Tuilleries and Musée de l'Orangerie which has Impressionist paintings by Cézanne, Matisse, Modigliani, Monet, Renoir etc. Here there is a floor with 2 oval galleries devoted to eight giant panels of water lilies called Nymphéas which Monet donated to the state in 1922 as long as a suitable venue was found for their display.
Giant panels of Monet's Lillies at the L'Orangarie
We wandered through the courtyards of the Louvre – they really are amazing buildings

In front of the Pyramid at the Louvre
On the way to the Louvre
Dinner this evening was at Chartier, which had been recommended in a number of publications as an experience, rather than a gormet meal. The lamb chop was very rare, the snails great and the house red ok. This place can seat 300 and is essentially a hot seat restaurant; there was a queue of 50 people when we left. We were seated alongside an older French couple with limited English, but we managed a pidgin French/English conversation. The whole room was talking and it gave the place great atmosphere. http://www.restaurant-chartier.com/www/visit/

It was a 20 glasses of wine night – but only because the wine glasses were only slightly bigger than golf balls! Apparently it was like having a 2oz beer.

Paris: 23rd Feb Bastille Market, Concierge & St Chapelle

Got up late and headed to Bastille area to visit the Sunday market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir. A guidebook had said it was a kilometre long, I don’t know if this is true but it took us over an hour and a half to meander up and back. The place was humming and there were wonderful mainly seafood, meat, vegetable stands with a few bread, pastry and cake stalls thrown in. We managed to acquire a couple of macarons and a crepe each. One delightful sight and sound was an organ grinder and mate singing to the music, they were fun.
Richard Lenoir Market
After the market we stopped for lunch. Today was a little colder, but not overly cold. Temperatures have been around the 8 to 10 degrees each day and no rain so far. After a lunch that took a long time due to slow service we headed to the Concierge and St Chapelle complex. There was a queue for the Concerierge and warnings of an hours delay for St Chapelle but in the end it went quite smoothly.

Looking back to the Concierge and inside the great hall
The Concierge was a former royal residence and was used at the time of the revolution to hold prisoners before they were executed. A guillotine blade was exhibited. They had done some reconstructed cells, including how Marie Antoinette would have spent her last days. There was also an display on here showing various exhibitons that had been in Paris over the last 150 years. It was interesting to see the Eiffel tower being constructed for it’s exhibition debut After getting through the security screening for St Chapelle we headed into the church upstairs where there was stunning stained glass in the entire chapel. Beautiful blues. The outside was a little in need of restoration, but great to see more gargoyles

Images from inside St Chapelle - click on the pic and it will open in a new window

Monday, February 23, 2009

Paris:22nd February Museum of the Hunt, Gallaries Lafayette, Montmatre

Breakfast at Paul’s bakery – pain au chocolat and coffee – a nice way to start the day. We headed to the hotel de Ville area to the http://www.chassenature.org/; the Museum of hunting Andrew had been dying to revisit after 30 years. It was a lovely restored building. Andrew really enjoyed it but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Excellent exhibits and educational stuff for children – but too many stuffed animals and pictures of dead animals and guns for my taste. We walked around the Hotel de Ville where the ice skating rink will continue until 1st March. Decided to have lunch at Bistrot des Victoires (recommended in a guidebook) and had an excellent steak, fries and salad. After lunch we decided to head to Galleries Lafayette. It has a stunning glass cupola and view from the top floor right over Paris.

Inside Gallaries Lafayette

We spotted Sacre Coeur and took the metro to the base. Looking at the long line for the funicular we decided to walk, which wasn’t too bad and we should have done that anyway. Many people outside and in the church.
An unique store we passed on the way to lunch

Paris: 21 February

It was a relatively smooth journey from Wellington-Sydney-Bangkok-London-Paris, but it’s always a long journey We stood in front of the conveyor watching as everyone left with their bags, but ours never appeared. Talking to the baggage man we found they had been left in London and he assured us they would be on the next flight and would be delivered to our hotel. We decided to walk to our hotel as the distance wasn’t that far, we were staying at www.hotelbonnenouvelle.fr where we stayed last time we were in Paris. It was great being outside walking after hours in planes. A quick shower at the hotel and we hit the streets. We popped into the Paul bakery – a favourite from last visit and got some bread for lunch and as an after-thought got a raspberry tartlette. We sat outside in the park near Les Halles and ate. Andrew was extremely sad to find out he had to share the tart – it was absolutely divine!

Sad I have share my tart, but happy I have a tart and am sitting Paris
We took the metro out to La Defense, a major business area in the west of the city and at the end of that metro line. We didn’t go there because it was a business district, but to see the Grand Arche. It’s a huge modern monument built in 1989 that is in an axis with the Arc de Triomphe through to the Louvre. The day was a bit hazy in the distance but the Arc de Triomphe was clear in the distance.

After looking at the buildings and offices in the area and walking down a long wooden jetty we decided to walk back to the hotel. In the end we took the metro, but on consultation with the map it turned out we had managed about 10km – not bad for a plan to have an easy day after the long trip. People say the Parisians are unfriendly, but one man went out of his way to help Andrew through the metro turnstile when his metro ticket didn’t work for some reason.