Bonne Ann√©e (Happy New Year)!

10 01 2010

New Year’s Eve ended shortly after the end of my post. Kind of. We stayed with the crowd at the Tower for a little while, listening to the music and watching the crowd. Fireworks are legal in Paris, so there were many impromptu amateur shows going on. It was an interesting group of people from around the world. Any time a small bunch that seemed slightly out of control, hackles went up in the crowd around us. I felt like groups of perfect strangers were protective of us (and vice versa) when there was any discomfort. Honestly, there wasn’t much discomfort, just a big mess of cultures and languages confusing each other. ūüôā

We wanted to take the Metro (underground subway, one of the best I’ve seen in the world, to date) home, but as we approached we realized there was no way. It was SO crowded. So we walked home via Champs Elysees. There were thousands and thousands of people out. It was fun. We took part in quite¬†a bit of yelling “Bonne Ann√©e” or Happy New Year at all the other people on the street. It was really fun. We left the tower shortly after midnight and I don’t think we arrived at our apartment until just before 3am. It took forever to get home – there were just so many people out on the streets, you just had to walk with the crowd. Once we got home, we uploaded some pictures, talked about the night, checked football scores (yeah, can’t leave it alone. ever), and decided we should finally go to bed.

The next day, just about the only thing open was Jardin¬†du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens). New Year’s Day was bitterly cold with an uncomfortable wind, once again. We still enjoyed our walk through the park and talked about it’s history (I did not know very much, Scott had all the wisdom).

grove of trees at luxembourg

The garden houses the French Senate, which is housed in the building below – Luxembourg Palace.

cott in front of luxembourg palace

In the summer, this fountain can be seen with many children sailing model sail boats (apparently :)). There is also a great puppet theater here.

luxembourg palace

my favorite area of the garden

After we left Luxembourg Garden, we did a little French geocaching¬†(ohmygoodnessidonotlikegeocachinginsubfreezingtemperatuers) and happened upon a little market that was open. We picked up a few ingredients to make dinner that night in our apartment, as all of the really good restaurants are not open on New Year’s Day. We also¬†stopped by The Louvre for some night pictures outside.

the louvre

I like that this picture below that shows the building through the pyramid. These pictures were very difficult in the dark since we didn’t bring the tripod. I’m not¬†a photo genius, but I did ok.

the louvre pyramids

I picked up this guy in front of the pyramids and dragged him to my apartment to keep me company while I cooked up some lovely dinner.

handsome man in front of the pyramids

For dinner, I made a “quick” (read: didn’t take 2 days) coq¬†au vin (chicken with wine). I smashed up some potatoes, sliced some bread, and Scott figured out how to get the Rose Bowl on our computer. AWESOME! That is my kind of new year! The coq au vin was lovely, it’s now time to make the real deal at home, the wine was tasty…we have a bottle of champagne on table accompanied by the red wine I used for cooking the chicken – we didn’t drink both bottles :)…and the company was¬†grand. We stayed up really late watching football, figuring we’d wear ourselves out for the 10 + 4 hour flights home the next day.

mr rose bowl coq au vin

Our flights were relatively easy. Getting out of Paris was frustrating, but fine. Security was like a throwback to 2001, which was less than fun, but in the name of safety… We’ve had a week to recover and get back into the swing of life and are happy to be home.

What a great way to end 2009, we both hope yours was as fun and full of promise!

Bonne Année!

Veille du Jour de l’An (New Year’s Eve)

9 01 2010

We spent day 4 relaxing a little bit and enjoying our neighborhood some. We decided a little late in the afternoon to go to¬†Mus√©e¬†d’Orsay. We stood in line for a little bit and decided we wanted to come back when we had more time. So…we rushed over to Luxembourg Gardens – just as they were shutting the gates. The rain really started to pour so we tucked into a caf√©. Scott had some Vin Chaud¬†(warmed red wine with cinnamon). I took down another bowl of Gratined Onion Soup. So good. We meandered through neighborhoods, stopping every now and again to warm up. Eventually, we made it back to our apartment. We purchased our tickets online for the museum so we could bypass the long lines, best idea ever.¬†

On New Year’s Eve, we got up and headed to Mus√©e¬†d’Orsay. It is an old train station, converted into a museum housing mostly french art. It’s most notable collections include some Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, and Degas. The building itself is breathtaking.¬†

musée d'orsay

We were able to see several works by Monet. This one below is Carri√®res-Saint-Denis¬†and was painted¬†in 1872. Many of Monet’s best known works are housed¬†here, but were not on display due to some construction (boohoo).¬†

carrières-saint-denis, monet, 1872


This sculpture below is called La Nature se dévoilant à la Science (Nature Unveiling Herself to Science). It was carved of marble and polychrome onyx. The robe uses red marble and lapis luzuli on her eyes. The detail of the carving is really hard to grasp. Very beautiful. It was created in 1899 by Ernest Barrias to decorate the new medical school in Bordeaux. 

la nature se dévoilant à la science, barrias, 1899

We really wanted to see Van Gogh’s exhibit, but as expected, there was a really long line. We decided to see the rest of the museum first and if we had time, would stand in line for Van Gogh. As they started closing the exhibits, we leaned over the ropes to peek into the Van Gogh exhibit. A guard was watching and asked if we wanted in. Of course, we said yes. He let us slip through the ropes and go on in. It was still packed, and hard to get pictures, but we saw his self portrait, Dance Hall in Arles and Thatched Cottages at Cordeville. It was hard to get a picture without other people in it, but I managed at least one wonky, lopsided one.¬†

thatched cottages at cordeville, van gogh, 1890

After the museum, we decided to start making our way in the direction of¬†the Eiffel Tower for the New Year’s festivities. We sort of had some negative expectations, we had heard most cafes¬†would be closed, tables were impossible to find at fine restaurants, and the Eiffel Tower would be too crowded. We decided to brave it anyway, because it really is a lifetime opportunity to be at La Tour Eiffel for the stroke of midnight.¬†

We found some open restaurants, a little pub to stay warm in between dinner and midnight, and ended up practically under the Eiffel Tower beside some very nice people. It was so fun. On our way, per recommendation from locals, we picked up a bottle of French Champagne before heading there. 

New Year’s Eve was C.O.L.D. and foggy. At some points in the evening, when we were walking, we couldn’t even see the tower. We were a little nervous, but the fog stayed away for the celebration.¬†

Here is a video Scott took of part of the presentation to midnight. The actual¬†midnight happens around minute 3 of the video. It was so loud there, that it took everyone a minute to realize it was midnight. In case you were wondering, we did smooch, not just video the whole time, you can kind of hear me say “Happy New Year” and the video shakes. ūüôā¬†

He was holding it down near his chest so as not to be¬†flashing to all the pick pocketers that we had a nifty little camera ready for the taking, so it’s kind of off some of the time. Still cool to see and hear.¬†

bonne année cott

As soon as I opened the champagne, I realized I had no glasses. One of our neighbors laughed as we tried to take dainty sips from the whole¬†bottle. he shared two plastic flutes with us so we didn’t look so ridiculous. He was kind. That is me below laughing about the whole thing.¬†

bonne année kim

Paris Day 3: Notre Dame de Paris

30 12 2009

Well, jet lag really hit today. We overslept in a big way, but that’s fine. ūüôā Once we finally got moving, we walked over to a local monoprix¬†to get a few groceries to have in the apartment. Makes for less expensive breakfasts and some dinners. We had a small snack and then made our way to Notre Dame on √éle¬†de la Cit√©.

cite metro stop

We arrived during the day, but I decided to use all of the pictures from the evening and night. It’s impressive by day, but stunning by night.

notre dame means 'our lady of...'

Below is a close up of one of the arches. There is so much detail on every part of the church.

there are a lot of people in that arch

red doors

love this window - trying to figure out how to crop and use this image

i think gothic architecture is my favorite

We actually arrived just in time for mass. It’s kind of weird to have tourists waking around the back side of the church while mass is going on. The organ was beautiful.

for 5 euro, you can light a candle and say a prayer (prayers are free, obviously)

The nativity scene was still up on the north side of the church. It is one of my favorites I’ve ever seen.

first half of the nativity scene

full nativity scene from the back

Mass is now underway – we stayed for a little bit and then headed outside.

watching mass from the back of the church

Next up was wandering through Ile de la Cite and making our way back toward Rue Cler (a supposedly pedestrian only street near the Eiffel tower – someone forgot to tell the cars that it was pedestrian only).

one last shot of notre dame

After a lot more walking, talking, and having dinner, we came back across the Eiffel Tower. Scott was able to find the right setting on his camera to get great pictures of it sparkling. How cool, huh?

so sparkly!

I also got my flip video… and I’m having trouble turning the frame before uploading. I gave up – will deal with it when I’m back in the states! Turn your head so you can see it ūüôā

Paris Day 2: Montmartre & Marais

29 12 2009

Well rested and seeing sunshine, we made our way out to do some more sight seeing. We decided to stick to museums and indoor activities on the really rainy days. Today was not one of them, so we went to Montmartre to see Sacr√©-CŇďur, a quite controversial church. It took 39 years to build and was only completed in 1914.

sacre coeur - finished in 1914

Unfortunately, you cannot take photos inside the church, only outside, so I snapped too many :). It was hard to follow the rules when no one else was, but I am always the one that gets in trouble for skipping the rules!

sacre-coeur on a bright sunny day

Next door was the Church of Saint Peter of Montmartre. It dates back to 1096, but was consecrated by the Pope in 1147. Inside, you could see some of the original structures, but it has had to be rebuilt over time.

église saint pierre de montmartre - dated to 1096

We were allowed photos while inside this church. There was, of course, a lot of beautiful stained glass. The light was hitting this piece just right to reflect back onto several walls.

stained glass in st. pierre

Everyone still has their Christmas decorations up – this is a nativity scene at the front of the altar.

the altar at st. pierre

Outside St. Pierre, the streets are bustling with tourists. The Montmartre neighborhood is a mecca for artists and was the center of the bohemian movement of the world in the late 1800s. Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Claude Monet lived and painted in Montmartre. It is also where the film Moulin Rouge (and many others, of course) is set.

crowded streets of montmartre

We ducked into a little restaurant for some lunch. I had Onion Soup (oh,dear, so good) and bŇďuf¬†bourguignon. Scott had a tomato salad with his bŇďuf¬†bourguignon. One of the first French words we had to learn was “l’ognion” to ensure every meal would not be ruined for my onion hater.

it's just called onion soup here

Just around the corner from our lunch spot was a small Salvador Dali gallery. None of his most famous works were there – they are all in London – but it was interesting to learn more about him and what inspired his art.

alice in wonderland

There were quite a few sculptures formed from wax moldings he had completed throughout his life. Of course, many of the famous melting pocket watch from The Persistence of Time.

melting pocket watch

Outside the gallery, we wanted to get away from the crowds for a while, so we wandered down the streets through a more residential side of Montmartre. The streets feel just like a movie set sometimes, picturesque little cafes among old buildings. Very charming ūüôā

la maison rose

And then I realized we needed to get back on track if we were going to see everything we had planned. So I was the ultimate tourist. Reading the book on the street. Scott was in shock (I usually will wander until I find what I’m looking for – I hate pulling out the tourist book).


We made it back to where we started –¬†Basilique¬†du Sacr√©-CŇďur from the backside.

sacre-coeur again

We decided next up was the Marais¬†neighborhood. This neighborhood has a lot of sites we’ll need to come back to see during the day, but we wandered through the neighborhood, picking up it’s¬†vibe just in time for dinner. We got off the subway at the Bastille station, and exited to find the Place de la Bastille and the Colonne¬†de Juillet or the July Column, a monument to the Revolution of 1830.

the july column at place de la bastille

Lastly, we made a stop at a cafe in Marais¬†for dinner. I had moules frites (mussels with french fries) and Scott had Steak Tartare. It was served almost like a raw hamburger patty with onions (gasp) and pickles. The steak is a higher quality meat than our traditional hamburger, but it is ground and formed into a patty. He thought it was delicious, despite the onions. I think it’s hilarious that he can eat an entire 1/2 pound of raw meat and leave behind a plate of onions.

scott tartare

The rain is coming down hard, so I suspect day 3 will be Musee¬†d’Orsay¬†or the Louvre. Boinsoir!

Paris Day 1: La Tour Eiffel

28 12 2009

We landed in Paris around 9:40 local time. We were beat, but insisted on staying awake until bed time. We rented an apartment near the Arc de Triomphe and arrived with no troubles to a charming (but cold) little studio flat. We got situated, washed our faces and headed out to see our neighborhood. We ventured on to le Arc de Triomphe.

le arc di (ginormous) triomphe

You can tell in the above picture just how huge the structure is. It honors those who fought for France, especially during the Napoleonic Wars.

more arc

It also holds the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I.

under the arc

After the Arc, we wandered down Champs-√Člys√©es, slightly overwhelmed and jet lagged and forgot to take any pictures. We’ll be back there during our trip, so no worries :). We then wandered through some neighborhoods, on our way to the Eiffel Tower. We stood in line¬†(in a 25mph sustained wind with 33¬į temperatures) for over an hour to go up the pillar with stairs only. We paid 4,50‚ā¨ to climb the stairs to the 2nd floor (still a lot of stairs). It helped warm us up after nearly freezing to death in line.

eiffel floor 2

The picture above is from the “2nd floor” looking down on the lawn beneath the tower.

paris from above

This picture is of the river Seine from the 2nd floor as well.

les invalides - napoleon is buried there

We had to take an elevator to the top where the views were spectacular, but fa-reezing! We took some quick pictures (including a blurry self photo) and headed back indoors where we could see signs telling us at what we were looking.

blurry and frozen

Just as we got back down to the ground, the tower was lit – for the first five minutes or so after 6pm the tower sparkles, it is so beautiful! Obviously, that is hard to capture with a still camera. I’m hoping to get my flip video over there sometime this week to show you.

la tour de eiffel

tired tour

After the Eiffel tower, we made our way back through the neighborhoods, found a boulangerie and a small market for the makings of dinner back in our apartment. I lasted about 30 minutes before I crashed. I got about 12 hours of sleep – and was ready for Day 2…..coming tomorrow!

Mein letzter Tag in M√ľnchen

20 11 2009

This morning I woke up in Munich. It’s entertaining to wake up every night/morning and look around the room, smell the smells, hear the sounds, and then say “Where in the heck am I? Oh crud, what time is it?! Did I oversleep?!!” This has been me all week. It’s been such a whirlwind trip, but overall a really good experience.

I was so excited to wake up in Munich and know that I had more than 24 hours here to relax a little before the very long journey home as well as hopeful to see some sites in the daylight hours. My room this time has a view of the Autobahn.

sunrise over the autobahn

I ended up getting the chance to take a little bit of time off from work this afternoon did some sight seeing in Munich. I walked about 3 km into the city center where there is a ton of shopping, beautiful churches, and other interesting things. I enjoy walking so I can see a little bit of every day life where people live and work instead of right in the city center.

a little post office just outside the city center of munich

I got tired, and my feet (don’t judge, I’ve been on a trillion airplanes in the last 5 days) are so swollen that I decided to hop the U-bahn¬†the rest of the way. One of the coolest things about old European cities is when amazing things are just plopped right in the middle of the modern world. I remember that feeling when we were in a taxi from the airport in Rome to our hotel. “Oh, hey, that’s some ancient Roman ruins. Oh, there’s the Colesium. No biggie.” ūüôā This is what I ran into on the way out of the Odeonsplatz¬†U-bahn stop:

theatine church in odeonsplatz

feldherrnhalle in odeonsplatz

who is in charge at feldherrnhalle?

There are a lot of little shops, restaurants, cafes and offices along the walk way and then you approach the Opera House. Opera Houses in Europe are so grand and beautiful! 

munich opera house

 Then you sort of get lost taking pictures of statues. You forget where they were, you forget what they were about, but you still post them to your blog. Because they are so neat!

it will come to me. i'll remember. i promise.

 Do you remember my first night when I took a picture of a beautiful gothic looking building? It was in a wide open square with not much but a fountain and some benches in it. In three days it was transformed. Little booths were set up everywhere, lights were strung, stars were hung, and this town is ready for Christmas! Tomorrow, the Christmas markets open. Grrr. What ill timing on my part. Arrive just after Oktoberfest ends and depart just before the Christmas Markets open. Another excuse to come back with Scott.

Christmas market booths and neues rathaus

 This is Neues Rathaus or New City Hall, built in the late 1800s.

gothic revival architecture

As you can see, the flower stands have even started to get their Christmas wreaths in. The shopkeepers were unwrapping poinsiettas and putting them on display, the whole area was abuzz!

flower stands make me 10% happier

 There are tons of little storefronts with delicious looking displays. I think all of the little shops are so charming and personal.

dried and candied fruit shop

 This was the closest I could get to the little scene inside the tower at Neues Rathaus. It is several figures that dance around when the clock rings.

little scene in the tower at neues rathaus

The giant 88 foot Christmas tree will be lit tomorrow at 5pm to officially kick off the Christmas market.

88 foot tree dwarfed by the tower

There were several little butchers in a row. Steaks are a little pricier than at Costco.

little butcher shop - one of 7 or 8 on this road

Last picture of lovely Marienplatz. 

neues rathaus and frauenkirche looking westward

It’s been a crazy, crazy week, but a very fun one! I am going to meet a co-worker at a bier¬†garten for my final night in Munich and hit the plane tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Abschiedsm√ľnchen, Polen¬†und¬†Rum√§nien. danke f√ľr¬†Ihre¬†freundliche¬†Gastfreundschaft!

Nie mowie po polsku!

19 11 2009

Hello from WrocŇāaw, Poland! Well, I’m cheating. I’m actually back in Munich, but I only just got here and took a bunch of pictures on my way to the airport in WrocŇāaw. This city is one I would definitely want to return to on vacation. It’s charming, has a lot of culture, and the people are very warm (even as you attempt but butcher their language).

My hotel was just 1/2 block to the office, so I had some extra time this morning and wandered around a bit. I was located in the city center,¬†a very modern business park with malls (Zara and H&M in the same mall, whoa…my pocket book is lucky I was there for only 18 hours) and beautiful office buildings. Then you happen upon scenes like the below. They almost feel abandoned and oddly peaceful (that could be my delirium from no sleep too though).

nothing to say about this

Driving in from the airport, I saw a lot of buildings that show what I had imagined Poland to look like. Huge, square, plain. Blah. But the closer you get to downtown, the more ornate and detailed the buildings become.

central wroclaw

The Wroclaw Opera House was built in the 1800s. That is relatively young for many of the buildings in Europe, but old to this person who lives in a city that is barely pushing 150 years old!

wroclaw opera house

We were watching tons of people set up the Christmas markets in town! I’m so sad to miss it, it looked promising for so many neat little purchases. The market is set up on the many cobblestone streets (no cars allowed) of Old Town. I took this picture of City Hall, in gothic brick.

fourteenth century wroclaw city hall

This is “Old Town” which is the historic part of the city. It is just a giant square of cobblestone streets where no cars are allowed and all of the buildings look like this. I’d say this was the equivalent of 20 city blocks? So cute.

old town wroclaw

The below set of buildings were by far my favorite.

charming, tall, and skinny. who me? ha!

But, somehow, they all seemed fake to me. I took a lot more pictures, but thought I would spare you guys from them.

evening in the square

This series of statues really caught my attention. I loved how it was done and how people just sort of walked through these frozen walking people. I took several pictures of the statues, but this one (that was going to be a throw away because of the lady) ended up being my favorite. The contrast of the older woman walking amongst the frozen people was perfect to me!

Update: This statue has been kind of haunting me all afternoon, so I did a little research. There are 7 people “emerging” from the earth as part of a full statue called “anonymous pedestrians” – representing fourteen people who disappeared during the introduction of Martial Law in 1981. The other 7 people in the statue are on the opposite side of the street – they go down into the earth. So much of the art in these two cities (Timisoara & Wroclaw) painfully represents the <insert word – it’s impossible to put this into words> life the people of these countries have led. Makes metake a step back and appreciate where and how I grew up. Blessed.


I am sitting in my hotel room watching Germany’s version of American Idol, eating goulash and having a Bitburger¬†from room service. Life is pretty good. Especially since I’ll¬†be here for more than 24 hours! Yippeeee! Hopefully more to come on Munich tomorrow evening.