Wednesday, October 31, 2012


On a day showing promise of clear weather, we headed to Versailles.  During our visit five years ago, we spent 80 percent of the time in the palace and about 20 percent of the time in the gardens. 

While the palace is lovely and the restored Hall of Mirrors is beautiful, we decided this time we would skip the palace to spend more time exploring the gardens and subsidary structures, the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon, and the Hamlet.

Once we moved away from the palace, the crowds evaporated.  Unless you get an early start on the palace or rush through every thing, it's hard to see all of it in one day.

In addition to the buildings, there are countless gardens to explore.
Even though Marie Antoinette probably never said, "Let them eat cake," by the time we reached her Hamlet, I could feel the justification behind the French Revolution.  Imagine the gossip mill back in Paris that the Queen was playing make-believe in her very own peasant village while the people were struggling with a crippled economy and rising bread prices.

Nevertheless, Versailles is beautiful.

The skies darkened briefly as we were walking back to the main gates, but thankfully no rain, just a faint rainbow.

Coming next...We depart Paris and travel to Lyon.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I've always wanted to see the cathedral at Chartres.

Chartres is unusual for several reasons.  Many cathedrals of this scale where built over a much longer span of time.  Funding shortages, war, or plague caused halts in construction.  Architects died before the project was finished.  Construction flaws lead to design changes.   Chartres was built relatively quickly, between 1194-1250, so its design is consistent.  One of the spires was damaged by fire in the 16th century and was rebuilt.

Of all the medieval cathedrals in the world, Chartres retains the most original stained glass windows, escaping war and revolutionary vandalism over the centuries.  The windows were removed during World War II and stored throughout the countryside until the war ended.

During World War II, it was suspected that the Germans were using the cathedral as an observation post, and an order came to destroy it.  An American officer questioned the strategy and went behind enemy lines with one enlisted soldier to determine if the Germans were in fact occupying it.  He found the cathedral was not being used by the Germans, and it was spared.

Currently, a project is underway to clean and repaint the interior in its original 13th century color scheme.  It's a somewhat controversial project.  There is concern that creating a brighter interior will diminish the beauty of the windows, which glow against the aged, dingy walls.

We were able to see a few completed sections.  After seeing countless dark medieval cathedrals, I think the completed restoration will be magnificent.

The town of Chartres is charming and very pedestrian-friendly.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll before boarding the train back to Paris.

Coming next...Versailles!

Saturday, October 27, 2012


After dealing with a day in rainy Paris, we opted for a day trip to Reims, about 80 miles northeast of Paris.  It was a cloudy day, but thankfully, it was dry.

We came to see Notre-Dame de Reims. 

The current cathedral dates back to the 13th century, which was built on the site of the original cathedral, dating back to c.400.  Amazing!

Unfortunately, the cathedral did sustain damage during World War I, but efforts to repair the cathedral began following the war and still continue today.

We also visited the Saint Remi Basilica and Museum before heading back to Paris.  It's not a popular tourist site, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

It wasn't raining when we returned to Paris, so we decided to make our obligatory trip to the Eiffel Tower.  We skipped the ride to the top since we've done it before.  I was a little disappointed in the pictures I was getting, until I switched them to black and white.

The first floor is being redesigned, so right now there is some narrow scaffolding at the base that I removed with Photoshop.  Five years ago, we were in Paris during the Rugby World Cup, so there was an ugly sponsor's blimp in all our Eiffel Tower pictures.  Ugh.

A young couple asked us to take their picture, so we asked him to return the favor.  He snapped the photo with the tower growing out of my head.  Thanks a lot.

We strolled back toward the Louvre for some evening shots of the pyramid and kept on walking until we reached Notre Dame.  It was a long walk.

Once again, we've been to Notre Dame before, so it really wasn't on our list of things to see again.  But we recalled that there were decent free public toilets just outside the cathedral. 

Yeah, we went to Notre Dame to use the loo.  And we got some fantastic photos of Notre Dame at night.

However, the toilets are closed in the evenings.

Coming next...To Chartes to see another cathedral.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Waking up from a nice long sleep, I look out the window on our first full day in Paris and see this:

Rain!  Lots and lots of rain!  And it's Monday, which means most of the major museums are closed.  But the Musée de l'Orangerie is open, so we grab our umbrellas and hit the streets.  I've packed the same pocket-sized travel umbrella on numerous trips over ten years.  When I opened it, I laughed when I saw that it still had the price tag on it!  My luck with the weather was bound to run out sooner or later.

When we reach the Musée de l'Orangerie, the line is long and slow moving.  We strike up a conversation with an American couple behind us.  It turns out that he grew up in a nearby suburb of our home city.  The time standing in line begins to go by more quickly as we swap our opinions of various Kansas City barbeque restaurants.

My husband and I take our time enjoying the artwork, hoping the rain will let up outside.  Leaving the museum, we stroll through the gardens toward the Louvre, which is closed on Mondays.

When I review the photos back at the hotel later, I realize I had taken pictures from the exact same spots five years earlier.

Booking this trip in October means we're missing two things back at home: The start of the big run-up to Election Day and autumn decorating.  I don't miss the politics at all (if you live in a swing state, I feel sorry for you).  I'll miss most of the colors of autumn at home, and there is not one sign of Halloween in France.  I kind of think Halloween has become over-commercialized, so I really don't miss it either.
We had some great photos of the Louvre's famous (or infamous) pyramid taken at night on our 2007 trip, so we decide to come back when it isn't raining for more evening shots and move on to revisit one of our favorite churches, La Madaleine which overlooks the Place de la Concorde.
Back at the hotel at the end of the day, we study the forecast for Paris, which calls for rain for the rest of the week.  We have three more nights booked in Paris, but the extended forecast shows rain throughout all of France.  What if it rains during our entire trip?  In a moment of panic, we consider changing our plans and heading for Spain or Italy if the rain continues, but it seems to be raining everywhere.  We've lived through one of the worst droughts ever this summer in Kansas, and now we can't get away from the rain.
In the meantime, there is only a slight chance of rain in Reims, about 80 miles northeast of Paris, so we'll catch a train tomorrow morning for a day trip.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Where I Have Been Lately

You may have noticed an extended absense from me.  There's a good reason.

I was in France.

Forgive me for not telling you about this trip ahead of time.  For our privacy and security, telling people about our seventeen-day trip was on a need-to-know basis.  I'm sure you understand!

We had a big birthday and a big anniversary to celebrate this year, so we decided to take a big trip.  We went to Paris five years ago, but there is so much to see, so we knew we'd have no problem filling two weeks sightseeing throughout France.  I'm very excited to share our experiences with you!

Since we had seen most of the major Parisian sights on our earlier trip, we opted to focus on revisiting our favorite places and seeing a few things we missed the first time.  Plus, we had a couple of day trips planned.

We've made several trans-Atlantic trips, and we've found the best way to spend the first day is to take a casual stroll, exploring nearby neighborhoods.  Since we caught an early flight, we arrived in the city mid-morning.  Nothing like a couple of cafes and croissants to start shaking off the jet lag!

There was a nun circling this fountain in quiet contemplation in the Place de Vosges.  I could walk circles around it, too.

Unlike most tourists, we don't rush off to the Eiffel Tower. Been there, done that. We just enjoy the nearby gardens, fountains, and monuments until we can check into our hotel, shower, and find an early dinner.

I'm linking up...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Red Chippy Box

During this summer's drought, I only watered when absolutely necessary, so the garden is looking pretty shabby.  This winter I'm going to plan for an overhaul of half of the backyard next spring.

In the meantime, I've been slowing cleaning out the garden, and I decided this planter box has seen its better days.

I built it about 11 years ago out of scraps from a deck and fence project.  I really didn't have any sort of plan when I built it, so I'm pretty amazed it held together for so long.

I unscrewed the side panels, trimmed the weathered ends and built a little box.  On a whim, I added the little feet.  Aren't they cute?

I used a palm sander and a Dremel to wear down all the edges.  Originally, I was going to leave it natural, but the wood was so bowed from being outside, I had to use a lot of wood putty to fill the joints.  Now, I'm so glad I painted it.
It took the better part of an afternoon to get the effect I wanted.  It was worth the time spent!

So how did I get the look?  Chalk paint?  Milk paint?

Nope.  It's all just typical craft store stuff!

Start with a brown acrylic craft paint for the base coat.  Follow with black acrylic craft paint for the second coat.  I think starting with brown keeps the black from seeming too stark when the layers are sanded away.

Next, apply one coat of Weathered Wood Crackle Medium (follow the directions on the package).  Top coat of Cadmium Red acrylic craft paint.

Sand, sand, sand.  Complete with Minwax Paste Finishing Wax.

I can't describe how amazingly soft the wood feels.  The wax really makes the box feel old.

Then again, I used 11+ year old wood to build it.  Let's see those feet one more time.

I'm linking up...