Monet’s Gardens and the Eiffel Tower

After a rushed morning and missing the first train, we finally arrived in Giverny. I loved immersing into the peaceful atmosphere of Monet’s beautiful gardens there. The contrast between crowded, rushed, tacky, rude downtown Paris and open, peaceful, elegant, polite small-town Giverny was remarkable. God’s creation has a marvelous effect on people. Since seeing Monet’s original artwork in the Musee d’Orsay (a lovely museum of impressionist pieces) yesterday, walking through his gorgeous gardens today was extremely impressive. We took lots of pictures, but I don’t think they can capture the full effect of the beauty there.

Upon returning to Paris late in the afternoon, we walked up 115 meters to the second floor and then rode an elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The wind and height (276 meters) at the tip of the Eiffel created a thrilling experience that I will never forget. Paris definitely has its high points (get it? high points! hah, I kill me!)

An inspired trip to Giverny

Thanks to the legendary Mrs. Barber of Cedarcliff High School, we visited Giverny today.  We would not have known about it if it wasn’t for Mrs. Barber.  She was Ella’s teacher for Composition, Creative Epressions, and other classes.  Truly inspired her.  Mrs. Barber, you need to know that when you educate a child, you educate her whole family.  Ella’s constantly correcting our grammar, which is helpful but sometimes annoying.  The garden is a beautiful place.  It took about an hour train ride to get there.  There, we got to tour the famous gardens that Monet used to paint his paintings.  He actually created the gardens, and then he created his paintings.  We viewed his home and his studio.  He had eight children, and was a fascinating fellow.  It was particularly interesting after going to the Orsay museum yesterday because  we got to see his original works, and then we found out the place that he created them.  After a our walk through the gardens, we found an incredible pizzeria that was nestled down into a little valley that was next to the same stream that runs through Monet’s gardens.  Just our family was there, and a very friendly French (friendly French is a oximoron) couple.  They were delightful, and they made these incredible pizzas for us.  We just had a wonderful, wonderful day!

The pond in Monet's garden

How not to sleep in a hostel, Wednesday 6/29

We really have been having a good time here.  It has been extremely hot, in the high 90’s, probably even touching the 100’s at times.  So it has been a bit uncomfortable walking around, but we have certainly enjoyed ourselves.

The day started out rather rough, but ended up on a positive note.  Andrea and I didn’t  sleep last night.  Two bus loads of high school kids from the Netherlands came into the hostel last night.  They were literally partying all night, slamming doors, yelling and carrying on something awful.  We went down and complained to the security guy about 12:30, he kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, “c’est la vie”, I don’t speak english.  So about 1:30 I finally put my clothes on, went out, and kind of cornered one of the guys that was out there carrying on.  I asked him where his leader was, he said, “My leader is downstairs”.  Well there is a pub downstairs.  I went down and found all the leaders down there drinking beer, and having a good time while their charges were just running rip shaw all over the hostel.  So we told them that it was a bit of a problem, and asked them to do something about it, and they did.  They hung out in the halls a bit, and told them to be quiet, but the door slamming continued, and sometimes the “shhhh’s” are as loud as them talking.  It was rough.  We complained to the manager this morning, but she said there wasn’t much she could do about it.  She apologized, but it is a little disturbing because it is actually costing us quite a bit to stay here.  It is 27 euro per adult, Benjamin is half price so he is only 13.50 per night.  So 27 times 5, plus 13.50. Then the euro is worth about 60 cents to U.S.  The exchange rate is not in our favor.  Anyway I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to do the math, but I know we could stay in a very, very nice hotel in the U.S., with room service, and the works for what we are paying to stay here.  There is a breakfast included, but as Ella and Sarah would say it is lame sauce.  Usually cold cuts, a baguette, and instant coffee.  Talk about sacrilegious to serve instant coffee in Paris.  A city that is known for it’s cafe au latte and croissants, and we are drinking instant coffee.  I do get a little bit nervous sometimes about how much this trip is costing us.  We have been saving for a while, but it is going to end up costing more than I ever spent on a car.  Which really isn’t saying much.  And I wonder sometimes if it is worth it.  We are working together as a family, making all kinds of memories.  There aren’t distractions with work responsibilities, friends, sports, soccer, and camps.  They also don’t have much in the way of electronic media.  So it is a real neat time to bond together as a family.  We’ve had, obviously, some curve balls, but it has been great.

Anyway back to the rest of the day, and it turned around after that mess this morning.  We kind of had a late start.  We went to the Louvre, and it is probably the most famous art museum in the world.  Very, very crowded,  but we shuffled our way through.   We did see Venus, the Mona Lisa, and some others that I can’t remember right now.  Next we went to the Musee d’ Orsay museum, which to me was the highlight.  Much, Much smaller than the Louvre.  It is the home of the Impressionists works, the Monet’s, Van Gogh’s, the Renoir’s, it was really, really fun to see these paintings that I’ve seen in books for many years.  To be within arms reach of them was quite a thrill.  Next we trained out to Sacre-Coeur .  We arrived a little before 6:00. Got to watch this amazing  fellow do an act juggling of a soccer ball and gymnastics at the same time.  Was quite remarkable.  Then we got to tour the inside of the church.  We happened to land there about 6:00 when they were having a Mass.  It was really, really beautiful.  Not only the inside of the church , but to hear the nuns and the congregation singing and playing the harp.  The acoustics were just amazing.  We topped that off with a stroll around the artisans section up there.  A place where Toulouse lautrec, Dali, and some of the great artist of 100 years ago used to hang out.  Really a fun day and a fun evening even though it was rough to start off.

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A palace and burgers, Tuesday 6/28

Today we went to Versailles.  Mom and Dad let us sleep in this morning to recover from the long day before.  We ate breakfast at the hostel, and jumped on the train to get to the beautiful city.  That was the first time we got on the suburban train, and we happened to get on the wrong one, which was interesting.  Mom was trying to figure out if we were on the right trian and  finally realized that we needed to get off at a station.  The doors were about to close so everybody ran down the stairs of the train to clamber out of the doors, and I ended up getting stuck in the doors.  I couldn’t use my arms, of course, to push the doors away from me, and the system is not like America’s, where you can put your leg out and it stops.  It just kept closing,  so my leg was stuck in the door, and Mom and Dad used their super power strength to pry the doors apart and shove me through it.  That was a bit more excitement than we were expecting. We certainly entertained the onlooking Germans! 

We arrived in Versailles and walked toward the palace. As we approached the beautiful golden gates to stand in line to enter the building, we ate some sandwiches and finally entered the palace.  It was beautiful!  The high ceilings were painted with different murals.  There were gold decorations everywhere–incredible!  As we walked through the palace we listened to an audio tour. We got to hear about the history of the palace and the kings that lived there, and why certain decorations were in certain places.  That was really cool because I personally have never enjoyed history very much, but this tour made the history come alive and exciting. I learned a lot in an exciting way which made me appreciate history a lot more.  In the middle of the palace, we entered the Hall of Mirrors.  It is just breath-taking!  There are many chandeliers lining a big hallway.  One side of the hallway is lined in arches of mirrors, and the other side is lined in arched windows looking out on to the gardens of the palace.  The mirrors reflect light throughout the entire room–very beautiful.  Once we finished touring the palace, we walked out toward the gardens. The gardens happened to be closed because of a special event, so we walked into town for supper. We hunted all over the place in the rain for a creperie, but we couldn’t find one, so we just grabbed some burgers and ate there.  It was kind of a taste of America in France–kind of weird, but dinner.  Then, we grabbed some delicious pastries and brought them back to the hostel.  That made the meal definitely worth it.  Those pastries were wonderful. What a great ending to a beautiful day!

Off to Paris, 6/24, 6/27

Ella told me that they have not been able to record diaries for a few days.  So she asked me to post the updates that Andrea put on her Facebook page.  More details to come when available.  -Becky

Friday 6/24    After much finagling we finally have a plan for housing the next three nights – a night train on Saturday to Paris, and reservations for 2 nights at the Le d’Artagnan Hostel.  After that, we’re back to praying.  Fun afternoon today shopping in Berlin (girls only!), an amazing lunch in a sidewalk bistro, and a shopping break at Starbucks 🙂

Monday 6/27   Ninety seven degrees in Paris, and water is never free!!  But Notre Dame was!!  We’re off to creperie in the Latin Quarter, several more sights, then to the Louvre.  Plan to go up the Eiffel Tower at twilight.  It’s all good.  But have to pull Ella’s stitches out tonight…..Ewww.

An update; they will now be able to stay at the youth hostel the entire week.