Monday, March 23, 2015

lincoln et Rachel à Paris quatre jours (Monday)

I think Rachel and I both learned our lesson last trip in overplanning, so this trip has a much more relaxed schedule.

This morning we awoke, lounged for a bit, visited an ATM (BNP Paribas is in Bank of America's Global ATM network -- so no fees for me) in the next building over to restock our cash supplies, along the way encountering the happiest little ATM I've seen -- why can't American ATMs have personality?

Cash in hand we headed out to Centre Pompidou and explored the exhibits for a bit -- while enjoyable, nothing really screamed "love me" or "commit me to memory" -- I'm glad we went, though.

Following our visit, we attempted to get our "Required Foreign McDonald's Visit" (RFMDV) in but were faced with a kiosk that -- despite claiming to speak English, was wholly intuitive and we couldn't figure out how to actually access the menu (any attempt to dismiss the "special offers" just resulted in it asking for us to insert our credit card). Since we were in an area that seemed to have an abundance of restaurants, we decided to postpone the RFMDV and perused a couple menus before finding a tiny little restaurant that sounded good... and in fact was good.

We returned to the hotel to drop off our souvenirs and decided while we were playing tourists that we would go out to Marne-la-Vallee to visit the entrance to Disneyland Paris. Though not quite tourist enough to actually spring for the admission, we did visit the gift shop. [Some day I think I'd like to visit the parks, however, having grown up in original Disneyland territory and having plenty of other Parisian sites to see... visiting this park will wait for a future visit.

We stopped by a Monoprix (Supermarket meets Kohls is the best comparison I can come up with at the moment) purchased some snacks and more or less promptly collapsed into bed


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lincoln et Rachel a Paris trois jours

Being Sunday, Parisians take things much more slowly than the remaining six days of the week -- and either the US or London -- Rachel and I decided to do the same, talking a very leisurely start to the morning eventually heading to the Musee Des Egouts De Paris (Museum of the Sewers of Paris) which was an interesting look under the streets of Paris and certainly aromatic -- though, as one may expect, not in a good way (it certainly reduced the cost of lunch afterwards...)--as a technical minded person the dirty history was quite interesting.

Since the photos below ground didn't really turn out (and let's be honest, do you really want to see someone else's raw excrement floating on a rapidly moving  without also having the experience of smelling it), here's a photo taken across the bridge from the entrance -- the Flame of Liberty with the Eiffel tower in the background -- according to Wikipedia it's a full-size replica of the flame in the hand of the Statute of  Liberty

We found lunch at a small cafe slightly off the tourist beaten path but with the Eiffel Tower lurking in the distance and setting out for our second underground experience of the day -- a fair distance away -- the Catacombs de Paris, an immense subterranean network of caves re-purposed centuries ago to hold intricately stacked bones from deconsecrated cemeteries taken over by the needs of the living in an expanding Paris of the time.

This attraction was the first time we encountered a major queue during our visit -- waiting about an hour above ground to get through the turnstile to get below ground. Though I have a weak stomach generally, I was really surprised that I wasn't really affected by seeing thousands of bones, skulls, and the like stacked so carefully on both sides of a passage that at times seemed like it would never end. It is interesting to consider that these bones have been lying in place here for in some cases over two hundred years.
After we left the home of the dead and returned above ground to the land of the living we walked some side streets before finding ourselves back at the RER/Metro station that delivered us to this neighborhood and decided that -- with a distinct chill and ominous clouds in the air -- that we would return to the hotel and find something to snack on along the way.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lincoln et Rachel a Paris deux jours (Saturday)

This morning I was a little groggy when I woke up and thanks to a 10am "Behind the Scenes Tour" of the Eiffel Tower there was little time to drift back to sleep.

The Eiffel Tower This Morning
Getting ready and heading out we discovered the entire city covered in fog, or as it may more accurately be, smog. Pollution levels were reported to be so bad that officials declared public transit would be free for this weekend to discourage driving. It was incredibly cold but uneventful as we made our way from La Defense to La Tour Eiffel and had a fascinating tour of the elevator machinery along with other elements of the tower's history (Including the colors that it's been over the years, from red to army green to today's gray).

Our tour included an elevator ride to the 2nd platform of the tower which had spectacular perspective -- but thanks to the (f|sm)og, it was impossible to see more than a few blocks in any direction [l'arc de triomphe was faintly visible in the background], so Rachel and I decided to postpone buying a ticket to the top of the tower.

Owing to the haze and cool temperatures, we returned to the hotel to drop off our souvenirs and see if we had any warmer clothing with us (I was cursing my refusal to pack any kind of headwear because it "won't be that clod"). Along the way we stopped by "Quick" for lunch where a multilingual kiosk allowed us to order without embarrassment and enjoy a quick bite to eat. Adjacent to the hotel, we stopped into a market called Monoprixe -- I was planning on buying a Coke, but I was shocked to discover they had Mountain Dew (my morning caffeine of choice -- which I was not expecting to find in France) although the taste more of sugar water than the flavor of the American variety.  

After a brief respite in our room, we noticed that the haze was lifting and the temperature warming so we decided to explore our environs -- our hotel, the Hilton Paris-La Defense, is directly adjacent to La Grande Arche de la Défense, so we started by walking that area and climbing the immense stairs at the mouth of the arch -- and from there we noticed that the Arc de Triomphe visible and the haze nearly entirely lifted.

Hopping on an RER A train it was a quick underground ride to the station and emerged to find the arc directly in front of us.. and we quickly decided to shell out the 9.50 euros for the climb to the top... and boy can you feel the thighs burn after ascending the 150+ feet of stairs to the peak, but the views from the top were well worth it.

(Click for Large) Panorama from the top of the Arc de Triomphe -- La Grande Arche and our hotel is at the end of the Avenue Charles de Gaulle (Center) 
Working our way down from the top, we decided to try walking Avenue Charles de Gaulle back to our hotel and it was a very pleasant 5.1km (~3.16 mile) walk with plenty of scenery along the way, including a chocolateir that was almost too much to resist and a bakery that proved too much to resist.

[The hotel internet connection is a bit spotty so I apologize for not having more photos]  


Lincoln et Rachel a Paris un jour (Friday)

Today marks the fourth anniversary of Rachel and my first date and out second year of marking the occasion with a vacation overseas -- this year it is a week in Paris, France.

Last year's trip was to London and I loved every minute of it. (Honestly, I could see myself living there and it quickly displaced Manhattan (NYC) as my #1 "If I could live anywhere and money was no object..." -- this year, leading up to our departure I was more than a little nervous, largely owing to my complete lack of proficiency with French (or any language other than English for that matter).

Despite having taken a year of French in High School and two or three semesters of French in college, 'Excusez-moi, je ne parle pas bein francais" remains the only coherent sentence I can form in French... and to be honest, I feel like a bit of will suffice... for heading to a foreign country not being able to speak or understand the language. And I was getting myself psyched out with all of the "What ifs" ("How do I deal with Customs?")

Notre-Dame Cathedral, our first
major tourism stop
Rachel and I had an uneventful trip from the Cleveland to Charles de Gualle via Chicago -- although I had a horrible time falling asleep on the trans-Atlantic flight -- arriving at about 10am Paris time Friday morning.

My biggest concern with customs quickly passed when I approached the booth, said "Bonjour" and the immigration officer didn't even look at me and barely looked at my passport before stamping it and handing it back to me without uttering so much as a word to me. Passing immigration we made our way to baggage claim, where our bags were promptly delivered and we exited the terminal to board the first of three trains to our hotel -- without encountering another official along the way. Someone had told me that it was easier for an Americ
an to get into France than it was to get back into the United States and thus far I concur whole heatedly -- without even having to fill out a customs form, I think it was easier and faster (including waiting for luggage) to get out of Charles de Gaulle than the last time I landed at Cleveland Hopkins.

Arriving at the airport train station Rachel handled purchasing our rail passes and we were on our way into metropolitan Paris. We had some fun when we transferred to a train going the wrong direction but after a quick correction we found ourselves at Cint, a shopping center our hotel is attached to. However, finding the hotel was slightly more challenging.

Spotting an information desk, I approached -- "Bonjour" "Bonjour..." Ok, High School french, how do I ask for the Hilton. I panicked "Parle-vois anglais?" "Yes" she smiled. "Where is the Hilton?" "Through the Tunnel" "Merci" "You're welcome."

Arriving at the hotel's front desk, a similar experience though realizing I had not a chance at asking for an early checkin in French -- "Bonjour, Monsieur." "Bonjour, parle-vous anglias?" "Yes" and off we were.

After freshening up for a bit and relaxing -- but resisting the temptation to sleep -- in the room, Rachel and I headed out to visit Notre Dame cathedral -- a beautiful edifice, and we happened to be inside during the processional and beginning of a 3pm mass. Our visit to Notre Dame, and our mass atteandance, complete we set off for an early dinner. One of Rachel's coworkers had recommended a resturant near by, however after checking out the menu nothing seemed to my (picky) taste... Luckily two doors down we found a delightful and tiny restaurant with a menu a bit more to my taste.

"Bonjour" "Bonjour... would you like to eat or to drink?" and from that point our restaurateur spoke entirely in English (even answering "Merci" with you're welcome) -- the food was good and in conversation our waiter mentioned that he was happy to speak English because "you learn it in school and have to practice it" and he doesn't want patrons to feel obligated. I'm becoming convinced that the stereotype of the Parisian that refuses to speak English is entirely outmoded."

After dinner we walked along the Seine for a bit before returning to our room and falling asleep relatively early.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cleveland Orchestra: Beethoven's Seventh Symphony

Francescone: Cobalt, Scarlet: Two colors of dawn
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major (in one movement) (Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
Fabio Luisi, Conductor

As a programming note, starting Thursday Rachel and I will be in Paris (or as Hilton refers to it "Paris, Paris, France") to celebrate our fourth anniversary of dating. If anyone has any suggestions for "off the beaten path" sites to see, things to do, or even people to meet -- please send me an email at L at (Also, if you happen to know a cheap way to upgrade our transatlantic flights on United to BusinessFirst...that would also be greatly appreciated)

I have to admit that I was less than excited about the modern piece that opened the program -- Francescone's Cobalt Scarlet -- especially when given the rousing "not as bad as it could have been" from someone who heard Thursday's performance of the piece. But while the slow passages started as interesting and ephemeral (despite some of the nuance being lost in the noise of a shuffling and rustling audience that was still getting settled as the first notes were played) and became more tiresome and lumbering, the fast passages were fascinating and as exciting as a cinematic chase.

Liszt's Piano Concerto as a single movement was lyrical and mournful in general -- full of technique but not really engaging my ear, though passages with a solo cello were heavenly -- I think I could have listened to just that portion of the piece for hours on end, and I had a similar reaction to the fluttering flute later in the piece