Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Welcome to the Louvre!!

So here we are...walking around the main entrance to the Louvre. My pictures do not even attempt to do it justice and we could have spend an entire weekend walking through the museum, but in interest of seeing as much of Paris as we could in two days we did a self guided tour of the highlights. Leslie got the self guided tour from the Louvre website and it was really nice...definitely recommended. It took us about 2 hours to get through it. Hopefully I can explain a little of what we saw. Enjoy!

The entrance and courtyard of the Louvre.

Here we are inside the pyramid. You can see the escalators in the background. That is the main entrance and you must go underground in the pyramid to enter the museum wings of the Louvre. From here you have 3 wings you can enter and start exploring the masterpieces. We started our tour in the Sully wing in search of Venus de Milo...

Aphrodite, known as Venus de Milo. Dated around 100 BC. Timeless and emotionless. They say the sculpture is a play on proportions (it is 3 times as long as the nose and the forehead gives way to a profile the Greeks did not have). The sculptor was seeking to depict divine beauty, that of Plato's ordeals, not worldly reality.

The Louvre itself is a beautiful building. I had to remind myself to look up and all around...not just the art on the wall or beautiful sculptures in front of us. It's amazing how much beauty and history can be in one building...

Beautiful detail on the ceiling. It's hard to get a picture that even shows a portion of the beauty. Hard to get good light on pictures of the ceilings.

Taking advantage of some other tourists wanting their picture taken...so we got our taken as well! We're now on our way to see Mona Lisa...

Of course we have to take time to see other beautiful pieces of art on the way. Some aren't as famous, but beautiful none the less. This is Le Sommeil de l'Enfant Jesus by Bernardina Luini. From what I could gather from the sign, this was part of a collection of Louis XIV.

After waiting through a huge crowd (some people nicer than others), we finally were able to get close enough to get a picture of the Mona Lisa. The portrait of Lisa Gheradini, also known as La Gioconda, painted by Leonardo DaVinci around 1503 -1506. The colors darken as the varnish ages. They say the sleeves were once saffron yellow.

This is as close as we got. As you can see, even thought his painting was large for it's time, it's small in comparison to much of the other pieces of art on display. And it was the only painting mounted behind glass that we saw.

Here's the crowd we had to wait through to see the Mona Lisa.

Opposite the wall of the Mona Lisa is a gigantic painting...The Wedding of Cana by Paolo Cliari, known as Veronese. 1562-1563. The artist chose to depict Christ's first miracle, performed during the marriage of Cana. I took up close pictures of the different symbolic scenes within this large painting and will post seperately. It's hard to tell from my picture, but the colors in this painting were so vivid and the pure size of the painting amazed me.

The Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and the Crowning of Empress Josephine in Notre-Dame Cathedral on December 2, 1804. Commissioned by Napoleon, it took Jacques-Louis David 3 years to complete the painting. As it was a work of political propaganda...not all is true about the painting. The emperor's mother seated on a throne in the middle was not there that day (as she was mad at her son), shows and thinner Napoleon and a younger Josephine.

Winged Victory of Samothrace circa 190 BC. Most likely destroyed by an earthquake, this work was found in countless pieces on the island of Samothrace in 1863. The right wing is a plaster copy of he left wing. She initially stood on the prow of a ship. Scholars believe this work was a votive offering from the Rhodians to the gods to thank them for naval victory.

One of my favorite pieces. I'm not exactly sure why...it's just so simple and graceful. La Nymphe au Scorpion (Nymph with Scorpion) by Lorenzo Bartolini.

As I was showing Aiden picture of the museum he kept saying "ah mommy it's so beautiful". As for me, I think he liked the sculptures more than the paintings. As we got to this sculpture he said "Oh mommy...it's the tooth fairy!" then preceded to tell me the whole story of the tooth fairy. I think that is what I will always refer to this figure as. The Tooth Fairy :) Unfortunately I did not get a picture of the title for this one. Does anyone know the real name?? I would love to know...

These two sculptures are done by Michelangelo Buonarroti. They say pieces of Michelangelo are seldom seen outside Italy, but the Louvre owns these two, known as The Slaves. They belong to a group, the other pieces are at the Galleria dell' Accademia in Florence. The Slave 1513 - 1515

We saw so many more things than what made it to the blog...but my blog would go on and on. Our two hours spent there just scratched the surface. I would love to revisit when my time isn't so limited. Here we are leaving the museum...inside the famous pyramid entrance with the museum in the background.

Being silly as always...the picture is a little off...but close! I'll be back with details regarding the painting 'The Wedding of Cana' and of course the Eiffel Tower...along with other stuff. There's so much to blog! Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Arriving in Paris and Notre-Dame de Paris

Arriving in Paris...finally! After a little delay, we made it!! However, one VERY important lesson when reading a map is to be certain you have the correct starting point. We did NOT follow this lesson. We got the metro stops confused on the map, so you can imagine us getting turned around in downtown Paris with luggage and all. So...the walk from the metro station took a little longer than expected, but we made it. We dropped our luggage off and headed down the street for dinner. We ate at a lovely Italian restaurant and had some really good red wine and finished off the late dinner with some 'to die for' tiramisu. It was soooooo good!

I can never remember wines...so here is a pic in case we might have it in the US

The best bedtime snack EVER!
So, the next morning we left the hotel around 9 a.m and headed towards Notre-Dame. Partly walking, partly riding the tour bus...but Notre Dame was the first major stop on our list. We visited the outside on Saturday and went back on Sunday for the tour inside. So...here we go on our tour of Paris. I'll try my best...hope you enjoy the pics!

Here's our view as we walked up to Notre-Dame. Such a beautiful cathedral.

Closer pics to see the detail...

Leslie and I in front of Notre-Dame. We decided to trade pics with some other tourists. Not too bad of a pic. After this, we headed to the Louvre...we came back on Sunday for more of Notre-Dame...

After waiting a little over an hour we were able to climb 400 steps up the tower of Notre-Dame. Yes....400 steps. The funny thing, I was joking with Leslie that we climbed 400 stairs...to later find out that was the actual number of steps! The tower steps got more narrow as you climb higher. Coming back down made us VERY dizzy.

Our view of Paris from the first level of the tower. At this point, we are on the landing between the towers on either side of the cathedral. Great view of the little shops below.

Closer look of the gargoyles on the top...

Going inside the tower...more stairs to follow

Inside the tower is all wooden as you can see. As we went in...I couldn't help but joke that this is where the hunch back must have spent his time :)

View of the city from the very top of the tower. At this point are legs were pretty shaky...but it was well worth the climb up the steps.

After we went back down, we stood in yet another line to enter the main cathedral hall. Inside, it is truly breathtaking. Here's an upclose picture of the main altar.

Main cathedral hall
Stay tuned....next stop on the tour...Musee de Louvre!

The Good and the Bad

Hello!! It's been a few days and a lot has happened...mostly good with a few bad that are so minor I really have to count myself lucky on this trip. God has definitely been looking after us. As for the good...Paris!!! We made it safely there and back and had an absolutely wonderful time...which I will be sharing very shortly. I have been putting it off...not sure if I just wanted to savor the time in my mind before sharing or the fact that the 400 some pictures are a little overwhelming for me to try to pic out the few to share on here. I will definitely share more on facebook when we get home...it's easier to upload more pics on there. We have almost finished our audit work...only a few more things to do at the distribution center tomorrow and Friday. As for the little things that have gone wrong...

1) My favorite bracelet broke when we were visiting the Arc de Triomphe. My bracelet with Aiden and Max's name. I got the bracelet at my baby shower for Aiden from my mother-in-law and she expanded it with Max's name when he was born. It has broke a few times and I've always been able to recover the pieces and get it re-strung. This time...I was walking down the steps to go under the road (over to the arc) and felt my bracelet break. I was able to catch a lot of it (luckily I had my rain coat on). However I was missing a lot of the letters of the names. We continued to the arc and I had to fight back tears while I was there. Aside from my wedding band, engagement ring and my grandmother's ring...I think this might be the next favorite piece of jewelry (for sentimental reasons of course). While we were across the street at the arc, I realized my bracelet most likely broke when I took my camera off my wrist for a tourist to take a pic of Leslie and me. We walked back under the street and over to where we took the pic. God gave me the best gift ever! I saw a silver piece of jewelry and it was mine! I found 5-6 more pieces of my bracelet! Now I have all of Max's name and all but the 'I' and 'E' for Aiden's name. I didn't recover it all, but the fact I found that much in the midst of all the gravel made my day! So there is one 'bad' and a really big 'good' thing on my list.

2) My corporate credit card has been stolen over the internet or something. I had to close the card and will hopefully receive my new card on Friday in Belgium.

3) Last night I knocked my glasses off the nightstand. I woke up to realize the lense had popped out and I can't get it back in. However, the CFO here in Europe was nice enough to take me to get them fixed today. Hopefully they will be fixed and I will have them for the trip home :)

4) When checking out of the hotel this morning, my personal credit card was declined. I called to let them know in advance I was travelling however I had a feeling the call didn't go well and I worried they didn't get all the details, but they assured me they did. Something is wrong because I am nowhere near my balance. So, I call them and they are not open 24 hours a day like some 'nicer' credit cards. ugggghhhhh! I just hope no one has compromised my card and it can be easily fixed. Luckily Leslie still has her corporate credit card and was able to take care of the bill.

So...other than that we have been VERY lucky on this trip. I am lucky to even be on the trip and that my job allows me to do this. I feel very blessed and also to have such a great travel partner!! We've had such a blast...as you will see in the pics.

Stay tuned....Paris will be coming...in multiple sections of course.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Black Sausage Anyone??

Leslie and I went out to do a little shopping tonight for people back home and to get a traditional German meal. Our dining experiences haven't been the best when we've been left to ourselves (without translation), but we were very hopeful tonight :) After the shops closed, we went back to the big plaza to eat at a restaurant we were told about. We were so excited to see they had an English menu and the waiter spoke English....yeah!!!! Leslie opted for the beef goulash and I went for a mix of black sausage, pork and another sausage served with creamed potatoes and pickled cabbage. We were told the black sausage was a traditional German meal, so that's what I had. However, the waiter urged me to get the meal with a variety of meat because not everyone likes it. Good idea!! Of course...we have pics of the meal to share... Black sausage anyone??

I'm not exactly sure what's in it...but the texture was very weird. But I tried it. It's wasn't as disgusting as it looks, but not something I would have for a whole meal. I had it once...and probably never again :)

Off to Paris tomorrow for the weekend...will blog next week with pics! I'm missing Justin and the boys a bunch, but hopefully Paris will keep my mind occupied. Love you all!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In Case You Were Wondering...and Even If You Weren't...

So...here's a little run down of some of the differences we've noticed while we've been here. The obvious difference is how much people LOVE soccer (futbol). Germany played the other night so we went out to dinner to fill our bellies and also witness how much they love the sport. All restaurants have places for public viewing. Without a TV, they definitely wouldn't sell any food that night. In addition, any public plaza or open space is turned into a public viewing area. In addition to their love for futbol, they obviously love their beer! People walk up and down the street with beer without any problem at all, but when we asked Mike he said that is not the norm. It must have been ok because of the futbol game. To help spread the love of beer, they have a portable beer back pack. We figured everyone in the US would appreciate this. I'm just wondering why this hasn't been implemented at tailgating parties yet....

Here's the beer man with his portable back pack making his rounds.

Here is one of the larger public viewing places. Notice the big TV...Germany had just scored a goal...the flags were flying high!
Other differences:
- Gas price is 1.5 euro per liter...which we were told to equate to 6-7/gallon. We weren't sure if that was euro or USD, but either way is super expensive! I'll quit complaining about our $2.5/gallon.
- Car taxes are up to 19% here!! Can you imagine!? So, even though Mercedes, VW, BMW are very popular here...they are more expensive to buy them here than in the US. Crazy!
- Sandwiches are made with only 1 bun...open sandwiches. That could be one reason people are thinner here. That...and all the walking they do. However, with all the bakeries and ice cream shops, it still doesn't add up for me.
- They are very 'green' here with recycling, small cars, energy conscience, water conservation, etc. The toilets here have two flushing options. 1 small button for less water and 1 bigger button for more water. It took us a few days to figure this out. We weren't going to ask since they seemed to do the same thing. But once I thought I might be selecting the wrong option and sending things the wrong place...I figured I should ask. It was good to know we weren't causing any problems with the plumbing. In addition, we couldn't figure out how to turn the lights on in the hotel. You must put your hotel key in a slot to turn on all the lights. Which is good because all the lights turn off when you leave your room. They do a lot of 'green' things...however, I think they do them just so they smoke more :)
Here's the local Hanesbrands office. It's very nice...and modern.

Last, but not least...a dorky picture of me calling home from my soft phone on the computer. It works pretty good! However, if I miss the morning phone call I can't talk to the boys until the next morning due to the time difference. I miss everyone, but we're having a great time!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Day Tour of Aachen

So after such a long day yesterday we slept in. We didn't think they would still be serving breakfast, so we walked down to a bakery that we saw on our detour yesterday. Lucky us, the hotel was still serving breakfast because the lady at the bakery only gave us one apple streussel. So Leslie and I got to taste it, but it was definitely not enough to keep us going all day. It was pretty good too! We finished our breakfast at the hotel and then off to take a tour of Aachen...
Today I feel like we really got to know a little about history and the German culture. Mike (from the local Hanesbrands office) met us at the hotel to take us for a tour of Aachen...complete with all the 'once upon a time' stories they learn in school. Cologne was fun, but learning the old stories definitely made me like Aachen a little more. It's a smaller town, but has so much character. I definitely can't share all the pics...but here are a few of our day. The pics really don't do the city justice...

This is the main shopping street...which we plan to visit this week. Given taht it was Sunday, most of the shops are closed. We learned today that they are normally closed on Sundays, except for 4-5 times a year. Then they open with limited hours.

I hope I'm telling these stories right...bare with me. This area was known for the warm springs/spas that came from the earth...Aachen is built on/over old volcanic area. Any way you leave Aachen you must go uphill. Anyways, they believe the warm water comes out of the earth is from the volcano. They believe this water is very healthy and some people drink it. However, it smells very bad...a strong sulfur smell. I thought the water would be luke warm, but it was very hot. Almost too hot to keep your hand under for very long. Mike said they all had to taste the water when they were young in school...we passed.

Entering a popular area of downtown. It's so quaint with the little shops.

The cathedral (dom) of Aachen. Not nearly as large as the one in Cologne, but I think it was much prettier inside. Emperor Karl wanted the cathedral built, but was had to leave due to a war. He left it to the people of the town to finish the cathedral before he would return. However, the money was no more. The town people did not know how to raise the money, but they knew Emperor Karl would be very upset if it wasn't built. On guy had an idea to get the money from the devil. The devil heard and came at once. He agreed to give all the money they needed for one thing. He wanted the soul of the first person to enter the cathedral. Emperor Karl returned and wanted to be the first person in the cathedral, but that could not happen. The devil was inside waiting for the first soul, when the towns people sent a wolf in from the forest. When the devil saw the wolf come in, he was furious and left the cathedral slamming the door. Til this day there are dents/curves in the door from when he slammed the door and his finger was stuck in the door.

Here we are trying to feel the devil's finger in the door. I felt it! I touched the devil's finger! There's more to the story. So when he left the cathedral he said he would return. He had two large bags of sand he was going to drop on Aachen so it would be no longer. He met a woman on the way and he stopped to ask how far it was to Aachen. The lady was a market woman and walked to Aachen every day to work in teh market. Her shoes were very worn from the walk. When the devil asked how much further it was (for the large bags of sand were very heavy), she knew what he was after and told him that he could tell from her shoes. For they were new when she left Aachen and the walk was so long it her shoes were already in bad shape. He was so angry that he threw the bags of sand down, creating two hills just outside Aachen.

This is the center of town. As you can see the large TV, they are setting up for a public viewing of the Germany soccer game tonight.

Aachen city hall.

We looked so cool with our headphones and electonic tour guide in the city hall. Here's Leslie at the end of our tour.

Leslie, Mike and I up at the top of one of the sand hills. It was a VERY steap and long walk up, but definitely worth the view of the city. They have a tower on the top of the hill with a restaurant that spins so they can see all around.

Here's satan with the woman. Notice that satan has one human foot and one horse's hoof. When we asked why, Mike told us because German's always have to add something to the story...I guess the horse's hoof made him seem scarier to them. Crazy Germans!

Since we woke up so late, we opted to skip lunch and get ice cream instead. Great plan! And no...Aiden...you won't be able to eat ice cream for your lunch in the future. Only mommy can!

And one last picture for you Justin....a police car i caught last minute. We had to jump back on the street when it was coming. If they see you crossing the road when you aren't supposed to, they will stop and give you a ticket. And I thought cops in the US were mean!! But atleast they drive VWs here!