Astral Nomads

One man, one woman, one rabbit......traveling with the stars.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A little more Paris

Well, the City of Lights looks pretty damn sweet in the daytime too. The Astrals prefer to walk a city and walk we did. It's nice in Paris to stroll along the Quais and see what you can see. Of course, by day five my dogs were barking. But that's a story for a subsequent post.

The Seine is scenic from any vantage point.

Our first full day in Paris we started strolling and sort of accidently 
on purpose made our way to La Sainte-Chappelle. From 1248,
it's the oldest church on the Ile-de-France and it's pretty spectacular.

The downstairs is beautiful but the upper chapel, with floor-to-ceiling
stained glass is breath-taking.

Almost made me hungry for a wafer. Of course, I'm
always thirsty for a glass of wine but it was 10am, which
is a little early, even for a lush like me.

Amazing. They should call Paris the 'City of Angels'

Even vandalism is beautiful in Paris.

A chic Astral Wendy in front of Notre Dame. In Paris, I'm
pretty sure you are required by law to wear a scarf.

Some groovy graffiti on the base of the statue of Charlemagne.

Charlemagne and his cohorts had some crazy facial hair.
I was thinking 'Looks kinda Germanic for a Frank."
Of course, the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy
nor Roman nor an Empire. Discuss.

The main vault of Notre Dame. Seemed a little narrow.
What's the point of the Flying Buttresses, really?

No Sainte-Chapelle but some pretty
nice stained glass. 

So many flowers, so little time.

Old Notre Dame looks pretty good from the back too.

This is this cool footbridge over the Seine where lovers affix
padlocks with their names inscribed. Tres Romantique! I was reading 
that the City of Paris cleaned this up once (with bolt-cutters) but
then a new set of locks appeared. Last I heard, they're just
letting it be. 

Shakespeare & Company. Had to pose here and pretend I was
part of the Lost Generation. 

What can I say? Paris has incredible public spaces. This
used to be royals only. Viva la Revolucion! 

Here's a creepy statue.

Now for the good stuff. Another Brasserie, another great meal.
I went with Ceviche and Pomme Frites. 

Astral Wendy, in another stroke of menu genius, went Salad Nicosie.
Of course, I had some. The herring were divine. You just
can't get good herring in the States. I think they keep all
the good ones in Europe. Can't blame them really.

Yes, more to come......

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paris, Finally. Et Viva la France!

There's a bit of history to the Astrals and Paris. I had planned a trip a few years back for Astral Wendy's birthday and the morning of our scheduled departure, as I was attempting to download our boarding passes, I realized that my passport was expired. Ooops! So I owed this trip to Wendy big time.

Paris is so beautiful that it's difficult to put into words, but I will try: It has this uniform palatial grandiosity that is unlike any city I have ever seen. The architecture is united in its sense of being over the top with gold-leaf and statuary and friezes and monuments everywhere. Add to that the river Seine winding through the city over ancient bridges and the cerulean blue skies overhead and you've got yourself a masterpiece.

I am a huge fan of Marcel Proust, too, so that added to my sense of wonder. And the gardens and public spaces are unequaled in any other city that I've been in. 

We stayed at the Hotel du Lourve, a five star hotel
right across the street from the famous museum. A slight
upgrade from the Eurovan camper. Our lobby had a
copy of the Venus de Milo. I don't know why people say
the Parisians are rude. We found them to be pretty friendly.
Of course, we're used to New York City, where rudeness
is an art form.

Here's the hotel. Pretty swank for a couple of nomad bumpkins.

In the courtyard next to our hotel, this guy created a chalk masterpiece 
every day. I love the celebration of the ephemeral.

The Louvre is gigantic. That is not an understatement. It's also crazy 
crowded and mostly focused on older art. The Musee D'Orsay is 
a better go in my opinion in terms of the quality of the collection but
the Louvre does have a couple of must sees: Mona, Venus, and Nike.
Since we never plan anything, the Louvre was closed the day we walked
over so look for interior photos in a subsequent post

This type of facade is everywhere.

Speaking of gardens, this shot is from the Tuileries. Central Park,
hang your head in shame.

Just a little arch in the Tuileries. And it's pretty damn big.
And over the top, The Arc de Triomph is yet to come.

The controversial I.M. Pei pyramid in the Louvre courtyard.

Typical and mind-blowing. 

A view down the Seine with Notre Dame towers in the background.

From the excesses of the royals back to the people!

How can one city have so many monumental streets?

Show me a NYC subway entrance even remotely close to this Metro entrance.

Viva la difference! A very chic Astral Wendy.

After the original birthday snafu, I think I've been forgiven,

This was our first day in Paris so we just dined at the hotel
brasserie. This is my braised pork short ribs. Yummy. Since we're 
gluten-free, we didn't touch the bread that night. More about the
baguette and croissant break-down in a later post.

In an insightful move, Astral Wendy went for the chicken draped
with mushrooms, tarragon and a white sauce. I grabbed some and,
as good as my pork was, I think Wendy won the night.

This is my quizzical look at the monster chocolate dessert
(foreground) that Astral Wendy went for. And she never eats dessert.
Of course I shared. It was the gentlemanly thing to do.

I forgot that it did rain a little. Just made Paris more beautiful in my opinion.

Interior of our hotel.

We never drink spirits but after that meal, it seemed like
a spot of Armagnac was in order.

This is right outside the front of our hotel looking up the Avenue de l'Opera.
This is our view when we stood outside to smoke. Unlike in America, you
don't feel like a pariah in Paris when you light up. Seems like everybody smokes.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Astrals Go London

Been a while since the Astrals have been on the road. Over a year since we returned from the epic journey that was the genesis of this blog. Quick summary: we came off the road, sold the Eurovan and resumed a less nomadic lifestyle. I'm back at work, Astral Wendy is back at grad school, and Otis is back to being a lay-about in his luxury hutch, a stationary haymunch. I had to go to the UK on business, so I figured I would import Astral Wendy after my week of work and head over to Paris for a little jaunt. Since I came in through Heathrow, the plan was to have Astral Wendy come in Friday night, spend Saturday in London to get used to the timezone change, and take the Eurostar to Paris on Sunday. So here's some shots of London.

It was completely coincidental that Astral Wendy arrived the 
night of the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics. 
Surprisingly to us, Central London was dead.
We usually stay at the Radisson Blu right off Leicester Square. 
I watched some of the opening ceremonies on the telly and popped out to 
All Bar One for a glass of wine, thinking Astral Wendy would be tied up 
getting through Heathrow immigration. As I was sneaking back to
the room, I ran into her walking down the street. 
A sweet sight for sore eyes.

Rule Brittania!

Astral Wendy discovers coolness everywhere. This is in the hotel stairwell.

Admiral Nelson I presume?

Ah! Summertime in England. It had rained every day for 2 months before 
I arrived and stopped the day I arrived a week ago. Didn't rain at all up in 
Kettering where I was  all week. 

London was eerily empty.

I'll say one thing for the royals, they know how to order a gate.

Stepping lightly
Just like a ballerina
Ooo-we baby, take off your shoes
Working on
Just like a ballerina*

One Saturday, we walked over to the Tate. Not only were the streets empty,
the entire museum had around 20 visitors.

When it comes to British art, with exception of Lucien Freud, I'm 
going Pre-Raphaelite all the way. 

Glass rotunda at the Tate.

Archangel Michael + Cranky Queen 

They had these creepy cyclopic things all over London for the Olympics.
Do Not Climb? No worries mate! 

The obligatory shot of Big Ben.

Since we were heading to Paris in the morning,
we decided to warm up with a nice
bottle of Chablis.

Saturday afternoon we strolled over to Covent Garden. London was festooned.

We popped into the upstairs of The White Swan to grab a bite. I'll grant it was on the early side, but 
we didn't exactly have to fight for a table.

Astral Wendy went duck. An Excellent Choice.

Leicester Square in summer glory.

A bunch of Paris posts to follow. The best is yet to come......

*Ballerina, Van Morrison