Sunday, March 30, 2008

Going through security [Bryan]

One of my little pleasures in life is going through airport security with my daughter Nora. How so? About a year ago, we were headed back to Utah and taking off our shoes to pass through the security checkpoint. Nora asked what we were doing.

I said, "They need to make sure we are not carrying any dangerous things."

"Oh," Nora said, and paused for a minute. Then she asked, "Like spiders?"

I laughed out loud and said, "Yeah, like spiders."

So every time we go through the spider security checkpoint, we smile and submit to the search. Wouldn't want any spiders to get on the airplane.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Some lessons from Paris [Ellie]

Before the real business of this post, some of you have asked what we actually saw while we were in Paris. Here's a quick list (and my starred rankings - out of 5) of what we did:

Conciergerie (prison where they held guillotine victims)**

Sainte Chappelle Cathedral*****

Notre Dame Cathedral*****
Pompidou Center (modern art museum)*****
(On the right, an installation of inflatable furniture. I love modern art!)

Versailles Palace*****

Eiffel Tower*****

Louvre Museum*****

Tuileries Garden****

Champs-Elysees (famous street)****
Arc de Triomphe*****

St. Germain-des-Pres Cathedral***
Saint Sulpice Cathedral***

Rodin Museum*****

Hotel des Invalides/Napolean's Tomb***
Musee d'Orsay (Impressionism museum)*****

Chartres Cathedral*****

Sacre Coeur Cathedral****


Notre Dame Archaeological Crypts***

Luxembourg Gardens****

Pantheon (tombs of famous dead people)****

St. Etienne-du-Mont Cathedral*****

Marais District****

Normandy (D-Day beaches)*****

Wow! I got tired just typing that! We really did see a lot while we were there. Even more than I listed--that was just the big stuff. Which segues nicely into my topic. . .

Lessons We Learned in Paris
1. Don't kill yourselves by trying to see too much. There were a few days that we really should've relaxed and cut out a few things.

2. Every country has its unwritten rules. You will never know what they are until you break them. Here are a few Parisian we broke:

-It's rude to eat in the streets. (How could we help it? No time to eat! Gotta go, go, go!)

-You can't sit there. (Stairs, heat vents, etc. Poor, tired feet!)
-The Eiffel Tower stairs close at 7 p.m. on rainy
days. (Ok, but how many people can say they've been locked in the Eiffel Tower? We can!)
-You can't sit there, either. (Open tickets mean you might have to give up your seat on the train over and over without realizing why.)

-You can't eat right now. (Cafes close between 2 and 7 p.m.)

3. It's really true that everything in Paris is beautiful! Some of my favorite sights in Paris were ones we just came upon unexpectedly--beautiful plazas and parks, cathedrals every few blocks, great public art. Bryan had to make me stop taking pictures of every street in Paris.

4. Everyone in France speaks English better than you speak French. I would speak to them in French; they would speak back really fast; I would look blank; they would just speak to me in English.

5. Ride the Metro. Don't get so tired of walking that you don't enjoy what you're seeing.

6. Many things are just different in France: traffic signals, electrical outlets, middle-aged women with their hair dyed brilliant purple or red. . .

7. What a "rood screen" is. Ok, we still don't know. But here's a picture of one at St. Etienne-du-Mont:

8. Parisians wear scarves. All of them; all the time.

9. It rains every day in the springtime in Paris. Fortunately, not all day every day. Bring your parapluie!

10. $10 for a cup of hot chocolate. Need we say more?

Overall, we had a wonderful, unforgettable time in Paris. We would go back in a minute! (Who wants to watch our kids?)

Special Thanks
-Thanks to our parents for giving us this time alone together.

-Thank you to everyone who watched our kids or brought us meals or loaned us things or wished us well! Our trip went more smoothly with your help!

-Thank you to Heather Whitehead who warned us to bring umbrellas.
-Thank you to Kiki Comin who made us an awesome Paris journal. We wrote in it every night together. We'll remember the trip better because of it!
-Thank you to Bryan for the rose he bought me (what a fantasy to be bought a rose from a street vendor in Paris!), for his enthusiasm for everything we saw, for his patience with me in Paris and always. I am a better person because of his example!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ah, Paris...

Last week, Ellie and I spent seven glorious days in Paris, France (rather than Paris, Idaho). We shipped the kids off to grandmas and grandpas (thanks!) and departed to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary. We saw nearly every notable corner of Paris along with Versailles, Chartres, and Normandy. It was a great trip. No, it was more than that. It was an emotionally moving, breathtaking, life-changing adventure.

I will always remember sipping hot chocolate in the famous Cafe Flores -- once the haunt of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. The chocolate was exquisite and I kept the napkin, which I will proudly show to anyone who wants to see it.

I will always remember walking along the Seine for the first time and catching my initial glimpses of the famous monuments rising above the skyline.

I will always remember exploring the ancient churches and cathedrals like Notre Dame, Chartres, Sainte-Chapelle, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, and Saint-Etienne-du-Mont. There is in such places a real feeling of immensity and awe. I will always remember sitting quietly and watching the light pour through the stained glass.

I will always remember connecting with the history of philosophy and early university life in a deep way. I stood before the tombs of Rousseau, Descartes, and Voltaire (among others) and walked along the streets of the Latin Quarter and Chartres, where the university was born.

I will always remember gazing at the most magnificent art I have ever encountered. This includes the epic and monstrous paintings of David and Rubens. The mysterious and perplexing paintings of Da Vinci, Titian, and Watteau. The emotionally rich and spiritual paintings of La Tour and Murillo. The paintings of Van Gogh and Matisse that brim with a colorful and discordant energy. The statues were even more gripping. Seeing the "Winged Victory of Samothrace" was a deeply moving experience, as was seeing the "Marly Horses." The Louvre displays statuary perfectly.

I will always remember feeling the power of Omaha Beach and Pont-du-Hoc. It was rainy, cold, and dreary when we went, just like D-Day on June 6, 1944. The beautiful place somehow manages to whisper of courage, sacrifice, and loss.

I will always remember eating my first croque-monsieur (and second and third, for that matter). I also savored a wonderful duck dish with a sweet sauce in a tiny little restaurant near our hotel, along with the best potatoes au gratin and creme brulee I've ever consumed. I learned that nothing beats a French crepe with Nutella and banana for an afternoon snack on the Ile-de-la-Cite.

I will always remember that things weren't perfect. It was sometimes cold and windy, and it was tiring to try to see so much. Our first day in Paris included being fined 25 Euros for not having our ticket to exit the train station. It also saw us encountering our first (and only) rude Parisian. We entered a restaurant around 5:30, which is very early to eat dinner in Paris. The waiter approach and snapped, "What do you want?" We explained we wanted to eat and he then went downstairs to rouse the chef. A few minutes later, a groggy and annoyed-looking cook emerged from the basement and proceeded to cook our meal. Actually, I don't think any of this was really"rudeness" per se, it was more us not following (or knowing) the usual protocol.

I will also remember how much I loved Ellie. Her sense of adventure and good taste made the trip all the more rewarding. Marrying her was the best decision I ever made. Je t'aime Ellie.

More pictures:

Ellie as chimera atop Notre Dame

Here is The Thinker. He is standing next to a famous statue.

Ellie at the Pompidou Center.

Watteau's "Pierrot"

The historic district in Chartres.

In the "Hall of Mirrors," Versailles

Second Floor of the Eiffel Tower, looking South

Alexandre III Bridge at night, Eiffel Tower in background

Arc de triomphe

Eiffel Tower at Night

Ellie meets Mona Lisa

Gardens of Versailles

At the Louvre

Children playing in a tree. (Given the low birthrate of France, I wasn't expecting to see any children. In reality, Paris is full of little French kids everywhere you look!)

German bunker -- Omaha Beach

Sacre Coeur

Cool sculpture in Monmartre

Ellie in a Crystal vanity at the Louvre (I think this is a cool picture)

The Musee d'Orsay

Marie-Antoinette's play hamlet, Versailles

Pei's pyramid, Louvre

Montparnasse cemetery -- final home to many famous people

The famous Hermaphrodite, Louvre

A Warm Beverage Break -- Champs-Elysees

The so-called "Rose Line," Saint Sulpice (for all you Da Vinci Code fans out there)

Notre Dame, South Side

The Goddess of Love and Beauty, standing next to a famous statue

Near the "Street of Straw" where many of the first university classes were held

American Cemetery, Omaha Beach (Notice how bundled Ellie is -- cold and wet!)

This is the Louvre's Metro Station -- They have art and ancient relics displayed in the subway station!

Ruben's room, Louvre (the paintings you see are all about 20 feet tall)

Matisse and me, Pompidou Center

Shakespeare and Company, a famous bookstore, Latin Quarter

Rodin's Garden, Hotel des Invalides and Eiffel Tower in background

The Pantheon

Tomb of Rousseau

Pont-du-Hoc, Normandy
Behind Chartres Cathedral, overlooking the town

We have literally hundreds more pictures. If you dare to ask, we will show them to you!