Monday, July 26, 2010

Paris, je t'aime!

promised to my daughter to take her someplace unforgettable, somewhere in Italy, or in France. After testing the level of my french in Corsica, I figured I could get around Paris with no problems.

I had about 24 hours to book the flight, a hotel and create a battle plan. We were about to spend 4 days, 3 nights in La Ville-Lumière ( City of Light). Smart Wings carried us to Charles de Gaulle Airport, while other low-costs would take us to an airport farther from the city and we would be loosing precious time changing trains!
I chose a hotel near Gare du Nord, so we could take only one train from the airport to the hotel without transfers, pushing baggage through one tourniquet is enough! The hotel turned out to be a disappointment as we found out later, no AC and sounds of the night city are no lullaby. Sometimes it is better not to trust pictures from internet and even hotel reviews!

We arrived really early in the morning, checked-in and hurried towards adventures.  Our first destination was church Madeleine. It was too early for nearby famous gourmet shops to be open so we "only" had a breakfast in a cafe next to Madeleine. From there, with a little treat in a form of yummy macaroons,  we took a stroll to Opéra, through Grands Boulevards and Place Vendôme towards the Tuilerie Gardens. We checked out local Starbucks, a beautiful Belle Epoque place with gilded mirrors and trims. After a short rest in the gardens, we walked by the River Seine to Cathédral Notre Dame de Paris. Then, we took the métro to the Eiffel Tower where we had a reservation for an elevator to the top which saved us about an hour of waiting in a line for tickets. And, after another hour of waiting, we got there and had plenty of time to enjoy the sun setting over the city.



The next day was devoted to the Louvre Museum. I was honestly amazed and I know I will be coming back to see all that I didn't have a time for during this trip. Although, I don't need to see again Mona Lisa, she gave me a weird look from behind a thick security glass! Afterwards, it was decided to to take a stroll on Champs Elysées, it was a complete shock for me to find the stores there were closed at 7PM!!
The Elysées were totally crazy, full of Portuguese (there are tons of them in France ) clad in their flags, cars honking......Later, I found out that Portugal scored 0:0 with Brazil in FIFA World Cup. The Arc de Triomphe was open, just not to those guys with flags; cops around it, some armored vehicles...pandemonium!! Maybe scoring 0:0 is a reason to hang a flag from the top of the Triumph Arch in celebration!  :)
From there, we ran - well, not really - towards Seine, just in time to take some pictures of gorgeous Pont Alexandre III bathing in setting sun and Les Invalides. Again, we returned to our hotel utterly exhausted.

The third day was planned to spend on Montmartre. The only hill in Paris used to be a home for artists and intellectuals and is now crowded with tourist; nevertheless, it doesn't loose all its charm, I was especially fascinated by various staircases. My daughter Barbora - I must say - fit very well in her bohemian attire: a straw hat and distressed jean shorts. Moulin Rouge was another disappointment, it looked like it didn't belong on that busy street at all. In the eveing, we had little time to spend in Galeries Lafayette - the ultimate shopping house built in 1893 . We finished with nice picnick-dinner in Tuileries Gardens. My feet didn't hurt as much.




We spent the morning of our last day in Musée Orsay, which houses works of french impressionism. Here, I managed to forget my credit card in a ticket machine. After more than two hours of happy browsing through the museum, I realized I was missing something and ran to Lost and Found. I still occasionally send happy thoughts and thanks to the honest person who returned it. The little time we had left, we spend in Jardin du Luxembourg relaxing. Later in the evening, we had to compensate the disappointment from our delayed flight by emptying a small bottle of nice white burgundy onboard.
Next time, I will come in May or December, when there will be less tourists.

more photos from this trip here

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New layouts

Today, I - the busy bee - am posting my latest pages, one of them - Senses - which was my first layout (and the last one, so far) for Pattie Knox's class called Digital Techniques for Art Journaling. absolutely inspiring, and still 5 more class projects to finish! I sort of forgot to post it even though it was picked by GSO more than a month ago. Go figure...

Senses (credits here )
GSO at gallerystandouts.com

Next two pages are about our June travels around Europe, lots of material to scrap with of course!!
From Paris with Love (credits here )

Looking into the Past (credits here )

Another two pages I finished in the same day, ehm, today:
Cold (credits here )


and Subway, from last year's hike in incredible Subway canyon in Zion NP, Utah. (credits here )

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tuscany Trip



June is a month when like like to travel the most: fewer tourists, better prices in hotels, flight tickets etc... This year, I tried to steer my dear husband's plans for vacation towards south of Europe, like the lands of pasta. It turned to be little bit more than that, much more...

We decided to drive from Prague, through Germany and a bit of Austria, across Alp Mountains, to Italy and from there, to take a ferry to Corsica. Amazing, how the weather changed from heavy rains ( we feared we might encounter some snow in Alps) to beautiful sunshine as we descended the Alps. Our nearest destination: Florence.

I am not new to being around very old buildings but seeing the romanesque character of the city which didn't change much since the powerful family of Medici's ruled it...that's something else.
We covered the most of the best known places in Firenze:
Ponte Vecchio - a bridge originally occupied by butchers and tanners which were later evicted because of the smell and jewelers moved in instead;
well known, amazing Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo),  Basilica di Santa Croce, San Lorenzo (smaller "duomo"), Piazza dell Signoria - famous huge piazza with statues  , Piazzale Michelangiolo - from a hill across Arno river, etc ...



I didn't get to visit any museum, Uffizi, I ruled out as too big for DH and after an hour of waiting in the rain in front of smaller Galleria dell'Accademia ( which hosts the original David by Michellangelo) without moving, even I gave up.
Rain means no line for El Duomo so we were able to climb quickly to the very top of this church and be rewarded by breathtaking views of the city. I had to admire the beauty of detailed works on El Duomo, all green and white marble. Seems to me that in 15th-17th century,  there must  have lived only masters of stone sculpting in the city of Florence, to finish all the carvings in time!




After three days, it was time to leave and we had a whole rainy day to explore Tuscany before heading towards Livorno, where we had an early morning reservation for a ferry to Corsica. On the way, we stopped at one of the numerous wineries to taste their wonderful Sangiovese - of course, we couldn't leave without two bottles - and just as the rain ceased, we found ourselves at the gates of the small medieval town of San Gimignano. Narrow streets, lots of stores with local crafts and various edible goodies, this old place is an attraction frequented by tourists.
According to our plan, we made it to Castiglioncello, a nice coastal town about 20 mins from Livorno, which was still half-empty, with beautiful sleepy villas waiting for the main tourist season.
From Livorno, we would start another part of our journey but that's for the next time.
Details coming soon!

For more pictures from this trip, click here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Everyday

so much has happened since my last post. I've been trying to sort through tons of pictures - coming up soon.
For now: Pamela ( Scrap Originals ) has an amazing kit named Everyday available today at Two Peas in a Bucket. Here are my layouts made with this kit.






Pamela's kit: