Friday, October 24, 2014

Cartagena, Columbia

Tuesday was the Panama Canal and Wednesday morning we arrived in Cartagena, Columbia about eleven o’clock in the morning.  We watched the coastline and could easily see the beautiful skyline of skyscrapers while we were still far from shore. 
After docking we headed for the buffet and lunch at 11:30 am.  Then off the ship to the waiting shuttle buses that took us to the Port Entry building.  There we enjoyed watching the pink flamingo birds, beautiful peacocks that could not be enticed to open their beautiful tail feathers.   There was a large iguana and many other birds.  They were behind a short fence but were feed regularly so didn’t attempt to fly away.   
After strolling through the gift shop and trying on many hats we made it through without purchasing anything.   The other side of the building had many different types of birds that were flying over our heads and landing on the trees that also head monkeys.   Lots of fun and great photo opportunities.  Eventually we were at the Taxi Stand.  Everyone was offering different rates but we’d been told before that $20.00 was the going rate for a cab to the Old Walled Town of Cartagena. 
He was a nice man, not much English, but the cab’s air conditioner left much to be desired.  We were all sweating profusely by the time we arrived at the walls of the old city.  It was not raining but the humidity level was so dense that it was
difficult to breath at times. 
Leaving the cab at one o’clock we decided to return at three o’clock and hopefully meet out same cab driver for the trip back to the ship.  As soon as we walked into the tiny streets that swarmed with yellow cabs we were easy targets for the vendors.  They had Jim trying on hats all the time and Dave actually purchased a shirt from one fellow when the price became so low he couldn’t resist the bargain!
Suddenly we saw the statue of a reclining nude who was more than a few pounds overweight.  Yes, a sculpture by the famous Botero .   Jim couldn’t resist a photo with his hand above the very hot to the touch breast of the woman.  He took a lot of ribbing by the tourists in the crowd! 
The Cathedral was not open, much to our dismay.  It is only open in the morning and again in the evening.   The Museum was open but they wanted $16.00 per person and we didn’t have much time was again…we walked past the venue. 
The Tourist Office was air conditioned and we spent some time in there to cool off before continuing to the Watch Tower and shops with all of the sweets.  Shari negotiated a great price on a very long strand of pearls in a craft shop while Jim enjoyed a very cold Pepsi; his first on the trip. 
Soon we’d had enough and headed back through the streets towards the taxicab parking area.  There we spent some time on the wall that surrounds the old city.  It is broad enough that a car can drive along the top of it.  One of the ship tours is to walk all around the top of the wall.  But, by this time is was 2:30 pm and we were ready for air conditioning.   We found a new cab and were blessed with air conditioning that worked!   The traffic was busy but we enjoyed the ride in the cool car with a driver who spoke only Spanish but with Dave’s fractured Spanish we learned many details of the city.  We found his name was Jorge Washington Mendoza. 

Back on the ship we headed for the hot tubs and salt water pools.  There we stayed until it was time to dress for dinner before Jim and I headed for our third tango lesson.  Afterwards we met in Dave and Shari’s room to share a glass of wine from the bottle that Dave purchased here on the ship after they went on sale at a discount, a Chilean Merlot.   We took out glasses and enjoyed a casual dinner in the Garden Café before Dave and Shari headed for the evening show and we went to listen to the Amber Duo in the Windjammer performing classical music.  A wonderful day in Columbia as we sailed out of the port about seven o’clock in the evening.
Thursday was a day at Sea as we headed towards Tampa and the final destination for many of our fellow cruise mates.   We’ll enjoy a day in port there on Sunday and then head out with new passengers to enjoy another week in the Caribbean. 
  It was a fun day of cards, an hour with a wonderful comedian named David Naster who taught us the value of laughter during the toughest times.    We walked the decks, played cards and ended the evening after dinner with our first show:  Oh What A Night – A Tribute to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.   The group had arrived straight was Las Vegas while we were docked in Cartagena.    Beautiful voices and lots of fun.  We really enjoyed the show. 
Today, Friday, is another day at sea.  We’re going to watch the film that they took during our Panama Canal crossing this morning and then probably more cards.

I will hopefully be able to make phone calls on Sunday while we are in Tampa to family; but if not…remember we love you all.  Thanks for sharing our journey.  More to come after we leave Tampa on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Crossing the Panama Canal

On Monday we spent the day at sea as we continued south to Panama and the canal.  During the day we enjoyed playing our favorite game of cards, listening to music at various venues during the day, a Tango dance lesson, long walks on deck six and rain throughout the day.   It was an early night for us after dinner in the Four Season as we wanted to rise early for the arrival in Panama.
Jim decided to sleep in but I wanted to experience it all so by four o’clock I was up and out on the deck in the pitch black of night; but I was not alone.  There were pockets of people all over the ship.  I headed for the Observation Lounge on deck 12 where we had enjoyed a few dances on Monday evening.  I knew that would be the best place to watch the arrival; yes…that’s also where I found the most people. 
People were beginning to bring chairs out onto the deck just as I left about 4:30 to knock on Dave and Shari’s door as I’d promised.  No answer, so I slipped a note under the door and went back up to twelve; there were twice as many people and I only had room for one chair and then I stood beside it to hold a second space. 
Sure enough, David arrived within ten minutes and brought out a second chair.  So, we had two chairs right on the rail.  Shari arrived and David left to get us each a cup of coffee; it was still very dark.  As it started to get light; deck hands arrived and said we were not allowed to bring the chairs out but when they realized how many were out there…we’d lined the entire deck with them…they backed away and we kept the chairs.  The deck was packed solid by the time we sailed under the America’s Bridge at around seven o’clock.  Jim arrived shortly afterwards.  I’d awaken him when I rushed down to charge my camera battery…yes….I’d already taken so many photos that I was using my backup battery. 
We took our place in line and headed for the canal and the first set of locks.  It was a long day but progress was steady as we traversed three sets of locks and two lakes.  After the first set of locks we gave up our space on the rail and headed for breakfast.  It was about 9 am by that time.  Then we took out the cards after reviewing my photos from the morning on my computer; and played four hands of our favorite card game. 
At 11 am we managed to get a table next to the windows and continued watching the progress as we visited and played cards.  Shari and Dave took an hour to see a presentation of the history of the Panama Canal and when they returned we ate lunch.  It was nearly four o’clock by the time we finished the last lock and headed towards the coast on our way to Columbia. 
Time for the hot tubs before getting ready for dinner.  We dressed up and ate at the Seven Seas Restaurant this evening and even enjoyed a glass of wine with our dinner.  We’re waiting for maintenance to repair our toilet that has developed a slow leak at the base.  And then it’s off to bed and a sleep in morning as we don’t arrive in Cartagena, Columbia until 11 am.  But we are there until seven o’clock in the evening.

Thanks for sharing our experience with the canal today…. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Zipline in Costa Rica

Our stop in Puerto Chiapas was uneventful except for constant rain and military gunboats in the bay where we spent the day.  Those that went into town by bus commented on the large number of machine gun carrying military personal but no unusual events.  There was a large grass roofed building in the port and the quality of shops inside was much better than in our last port.  There was a tiny Museum about King Pikal of Guatemala and Jim was delighted when he was able to negotiate a reduced price on a small leather wall hanging replica of the cover on his tomb or something like that.  They wanted $30 and Jim managed to get it for $20 which made his day!
We watched two different movies in the afternoon and then as we were leaving the port we watched a well dressed woman depart with three large pieces of luggage shortly after an ambulance pulled away from the ship.  Apparently another passenger had medical issues.  Can’t imagine being left in a strange country with medical issues.  But, it’s an issue that is always in the back of our minds as we continue to grow older and traveling becomes more fraught with possible problems.
We again enjoyed the various venues for music as the evening progressed and we turned our clocks back an hour…yes twice forward and now back an hour…as we headed for Costa Rica.
Saturday was spent on the high seas as we continued south along the coast.  The rain continued most of the morning but the covered deck allowed us to enjoy walking several miles in the fresh air.   We played four hands of our favorite card game…the boys against the girls and we got skunked by the guys!  But it was still fun. 
In the afternoon Dave and I enjoyed the Martini tasting hour; six different designer martinis.  Most had grey goose vodka but two were with gin and one was rum.  Added to these were various liquors to create different flavors:  The first was with Elderflower, the second was called Aviation with Bombay Gin and cream violet liquor.  Third was a Lemon Grove….like a lemon drop.  The fourth one was a Chambord base of raspberry liquor and the fifth one was called an Iceberg.  Gin with orange liquor bluegrass owl that gave it a pale blue color…my least favorite.  The sixth was with Rum…called a Rumcake.  The raspberry Chambord base again with Godiva Chocolate and heavy cream.  Yummy!
We really enjoyed our music after dinner this evening and then off to bed for an early start to our adventure in Costa Rica on Sunday.
Woke at 5 am anticipating our adventure.  It was nearly nine o’clock before we were on the bus and headed for the rain forest.  Predicted rain didn’t arrive until late in the evening.  But it was still very humid as they had torrential rain storms the night before!  We had a seventy-five minute bus ride (air conditioned) into the rain forest of Costa Rica.   During the ride our very knowledgeable guide gave us the history of his country and his family.  We stopped on one bridge and viewed the huge crocodiles sunning on the riverbank far below.   That was one of the excursions offered but I like ours much better. 
Shortly after ten we were high in the mountains and enjoying fabulous views.  We were each outfitted with a harness and helmet.  We were allowed to keep our backpacks and cameras.  So we did get some photos for you.  Shari had elected to pass on our adventure so it was just the three of us and about forty-five others.   We were divided into groups of eight for a ride in the Aerial Trams that skimmed the tree tops as we headed further up the mountain.  Far below we heard the rushing water and eventually saw the water falls gushing down the mountain. 
At the top we started our decent by way of ten different cables, some as long as two hundred feet, that traversed from ridge to ridge giving us fabulous views of the valley far below and in the distance we could see the ocean.    It was an exciting experience spinning across the cable and occasionally twisting round and round.   The fun part was letting go of the cable and leaning back to enjoy the sense of freedom as you sped across the valley. 
One of the hardest parts of the journey was the walk down to the base from the last platform.  Thank goodness we didn’t have rain as it would have really been tough if the path had also been muddy. 
Jim was suffering with his knees from the stress of the constant pounding on the down step.  We also had to be careful where we stepped and still watch for the occasional low branch that was ready to clip us in the head.   Along the way we were constantly entertained by the trail of ants that were carrying pieces of leaves to their nest to build their food preserves.  They are much larger ants than we have at home…nearly half an inch in length.  We were told that they were “farming” and are a very organized colony, each having their job to do. 
Soon we were back at the base and enjoying a lovely lunch before a final tour of the gardens with glass enclosed cases along the way displaying various bugs and finally several with snakes.  One of the most fun plants was a tiny fern leaf that closes when you touch it.  We also found the coco tree and many other plants that are native to Costa Rica. 
I did luck out and spotted a Toucan in the trees during lunch.  With the help of the long distance feature I was able to snap a photo of him hiding in the tree.  By three o’clock we were back on the bus for our ride back to the ship.  I enjoyed a short nap after the lecture was finished…yes he kept it short on the return and let us catch some zzzzz’s on the way home.
Our evening started with the hot tub to ease the pain out of our knees from the hike down the last stretch of the mountain…worked marvelously.  Soon we were showered and dressed in white for the “White Night” event planned for the evening.   After dinner we headed for the tango dance lessons…yes…we’re going to be getting an hour lesson every evening from now until we arrive in Tampa.  We’re going to give it a try!   And we also enjoyed more dancing tonight than since we left Los Angeles!  We gained another hour this evening as we moved our clocks forward before turning off the lights which made it about 11 pm. 

Thanks for joining us for our adventure today, another day at sea tomorrow and then we arrive in the Panama Canal.   

Friday, October 17, 2014

Huatulco, Mexico

Wednesday was a day of cruising along the Mexican coast interrupted for an hour of heavy rain with loud cracks of lightning and thunder in the middle of the day!   And it was repeated during the night but we slept through that storm.  The day was filled with classical music, three wonderful meals and an afternoon of Hand and Foot, a card game.  Dave and I won these games so our score was even.  After a dress up dinner in the Seven Seas Restaurant we walked the entire length of Deck Six to enjoy the beautiful sunset after our storms.
After another hour of music and we were off to bed while Dave and Shari enjoyed the Song and Dance review in the theatre.  

Thursday we docked in Huatulco, Mexico.  There we watched an ambulance arrive and take one of the guests to the hospital.   He was unresponsive on the gurney; but we have no idea of the cause or the outcome for him.    After the touring groups departed we walked off the ship and down the dock to the port. 

Lots of shops to brows but nothing interested us enough to entice us to spend money but we did enjoy our walk.  Especially to see the open air church that has a wooden cross that traces its history back hundreds of years.
The area was full of military guards, each carrying an automatic weapon; much to the surprise of guests who were experiencing their first adventure outside the USA.    We even had some rain sprinkles as we walked today with our umbrellas.   Most of the people on the boat were off on a variety of activities planned for the day from long bus rides inland to the larger towns, into the jungles to visit plantations and villages and others elected to cruise on small boats to visit the various bays in the area. 
We enjoyed returning to the boat for a leisurely lunch, watched the movie “Veronica Mars” and then a couple of hours of Hand and Foot, our new card game.  A twist was that we switched partners and Jim and I won today’s match.
Music for an hour before dinner, then we met with my friends Faye and Ampora for dinner together in the Four Seasons Dining Room.  The “brass” was out this evening visiting the tables to chat with the guests about their experiences in the port today.  We’re very impressed with the crew from the Captain on down on this ship.   Everyone is very friendly and helpful.  They call it “free style” cruising; lots of choices and not as much formality especially in the dining rooms in the evening. 
Tomorrow we visit our last port in Mexico; Puerto Chiapas.  We’ve been told that this city is renowned for being the most dangerous.  They have a reputation for violent murders without any real reason on a regular basis.   We’ve decided to stay in the port again and enjoy the amenities on the ship after seeing what the port offers.   We’re so enjoying the relaxation and new movies that they show for those that stay on board.  Our big adventure comes on Sunday when we visit Costa Rica.

Thanks for checking in to share in our adventure along the Mexican Coast…

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Our evening in Paris….

Monday I experimented with the Internet; as expected it is slow.   Took me eight minutes to post the short blog with only four photos yesterday.   But we did get out and walk the jogging deck for two miles plus I did another mile with Shari in the late afternoon.  Feels good to stretch the muscles.  We’re experiencing gentle rolls which are just enough to remind us that we are on a cruise!
In the afternoon we spent two hours around a table learning how to play the card game of Hand and Foot.  It takes five decks of cards and lots of cooperation with a partner.  Shari and Jim won three of the four hands but Dave and I held our heads high and promised another round on another day!  Lots of fun even for Mr. Jim who is not a card player.  Maybe it’s because they won?
We enjoyed some of our free time during the day on three different occasions by relaxing in the Atrium to the lovely sounds of two different musical groups:  a viola and classical guitar and the second group was a violin, viola and cello.   They rotate throughout the day from eleven in the morning until eleven at night. 
At 4 pm we retired to our rooms to dress up for the evening.  An hour of music from five to six and then up to the twelfth deck to the French Restaurant called Le Bistro for a fabulous French dinner as good as any you’d find in Paris.  There are six specialty restaurants on the ship that charge a cover charge ranging from $15 to $30. Per person; but well worth the dollars.   There are three other large restaurants that are included in the price of the cruise.  We started our meal with a Kir Royale and then enjoyed a three course dinner of French cuisine including duck for Mr. Jim.  Across the dining room sat
tablemates from the wine tasting the day before and she delighted in sending me over a plate of goat cheese as I’d chided her during the wine tasting about acquiring a taste for cheese when she had aged a bit….yes, she is a beautiful young thing now.  Turned out it wasn’t the taste for her but the fact that she has a reaction to many cheeses.  We went to visit with them after the meal as we enjoyed the sunset.  Then back to the lobby to enjoy another round of music before heading off to bed.
Tuesday morning we awoke in the port of Puerto Vallarta.  Walked a mile by myself and by ten we met Dave and Shari to walk around the port.  Turns out there is a huge new shopping mall within walking distance of the port and also a Super Walmart. We enjoyed both and found insulated coffee cups at Walmart for only $4.00 each to use in the morning to bring hot coffee back to the room early in the morning.  The exchange rate is very reasonable and we were able to pay with USA Dollars but if you needed change it was in Pesos. 
Hard liquor was for sale at the port but if you purchased it; they took it at the ship and it would be returned to you just before your final trip off the ship. 
They want you to drink their liquor!
Jim stopped at the Pharmacy in the port for something for his back pain???   Says it’s helping??
We walked on the ship and went straight to the Dazzle Bar where they showed us a very new movie called “Transcendence” with Johnny Depp.  Good movie.  After enjoying lunch in the Garden Café Shari did her crafts, Jim watched another movie in the room and Dave and I went to the hot tubs at the pool for a relaxing time that also relaxed the muscles.
Tonight we’re headed to the casual dining room called Four Seasons which allows dress shorts for the men instead of long pants required in the other dining rooms for dinner.  But first, a drink and then some music and dinner at seven as we ate a late lunch.
Closing for now and will send this tomorrow just in case there is any exciting news to add, it’s a day at sea so we’ll have more free time.  Maybe Bingo and definitely more Hand and Foot card games. 

Thanks for taking time to enjoy sharing our journey.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cruising off the California Coast…

We are now into day three of our cruise.  Our departure from San Pedro, California was a late start but we enjoyed the settling in period.    Our daughter Wendy delivered us right to the Departure Area Drop-off Station and we were all checked in and having lunch by 2 pm.  One hitch was the bottle of wine that Dave had…yep…they charged him a $15. Corkage fee for the $5. Bottle but we still have our cocktail drink before dinner in their cabin thanks to Dave’s planning ahead.   Suitcases were unpacked and stored for the duration.  Shari’s large suitcase didn’t arrive until nearly 6 pm…we were all a bit worried as all of her clothes and projects were in that suitcase! 
We explored the ship after the mandatory lifeboat drill and found that our location is perfect for us.  We’re on the 7th of 12 decks and towards the bow of the ship…just a few steps from the atrium with the elevators and steps… so we don’t have to walk too far to get where we want to go.
Germs are a necessary evil of cruise ships and they have stations everywhere for automatically dispensing Purell and when you enter any food area there is a staff member with a spray bottle saying “washie, washie” as she sprays your hands with Purell.  We feel very safe about the “germ” issue!
Our stateroom is an inside but very comfortable and definitely easy for sleeping as it’s pitch black at night.  Dave and Shari have a beautiful window above their bed so we go to their room to enjoy the view each evening before dinner.  We’ve located the walking deck…level six has a broad walkway, one side for joggers and the other for walkers and all going in the same direction.  Three and half turns around equals one mile in the fresh ocean air.
We’ve been enjoying our dinners in one of the main dining rooms, the Four Seasons, but tonight we’re dressing up and have reservations for the French dining room called Le Bistro.  Jim has found duck on the menu!   Our breakfast and lunches have been in the Garden Café which is on deck 11; just past the pool area.
Yesterday I was walking to the Chapel on deck 12 and thought I recognized a familiar face; I turned around as she was getting up….it was my real estate buddy Faye Hedrick.  We started in the business together with the same broker and when I opened my office, she came with us and was our first “agent” that we hired.  What fun we had reminiscing.  She’d received my email about the blog beginning again and thought that I just might be on the same ship that she was schedule to go on.  So, she’d been looking for me but it was a complete surprise to see her for me.  We haven’t seen each other for years as she moved to Nevada to live near her son.  She’s on the cruise with a friend who lives in Irvine.  We’ll get together for dinner one of these nights. 
The Wine Tasting event was yesterday and while Jim and Shari napped in their rooms, Dave and I enjoyed tasting six different wines paired with cheeses and fruits.  Lots of fun and definitely put a buzz on because as most of you know…I finished each glass.  We passed on our cocktail before dinner last night. 
An early dinner at 5 pm and then enjoyed the 6 pm early show.  The comedian Troy Thirdgill kept us in stiches for an hour with his clean and very funny routine.  The casino is on our floor so we walk through it regularly but haven’t dropped a nickel yet.  Actually, it never really seems that busy. 
As we head south along the California and now the Mexican coasts, the water is smooth and we only feel a gentle roll now and then.  The weather continues to get warmer and warmer.  Early this morning….we woke at 6:30 am as opposed to Sunday morning when we slept in until 9 am.  Went upstairs to The Garden Grill and found coffee and chocolate.  Enjoyed the balmy weather in the still dark sky before bringing our drinks back to our room so that I could type on my Blog.
I will not be posting slideshows until we reach Florida but plan to put some photos in each time.  The Internet is okay but not speedy and at forty cents a minute, because I purchased a package or it would be seventy-five cents, time flies and it get’s expensive!

Thanks for checking to see how we’re enjoying our cruise. We will visit Puerto Vallarta in Mexico tomorrow..Tuesday…plan to stay in the port area, as we’ve been there before.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

We're Cruising the Panama Canal Journey from LA to Florida

Here we go again!  Jim and I will be leaving on Saturday, October 11th, along with very good friends Dave and Shari.   Our trip will be a multi-layer adventure beginning with a Cruise through the Panama Canal during a 22 day trip ending in Tampa Florida.  The map I found on the Internet gives you an approximate view as we start in Los Angeles and end in Florida.  In between we've many different stops for a variety of activities.

We will spend one whole day going through the Panama Canal on the 21st before enjoying the ruins in the jungles and a fun day in Puntarenas as we spin over the ziplines. 

As you know; cruises are not known for the best of the Internet so bear with me as I post whenever I can and will finish up while we spend two weeks in Florida with family before we fly to Peru.   If you are a fan of Instagram; I'm going to be posting photos when possible.  Look for marthajansen.      

Our last two weeks will be in Peru to experience the historical Machu Picchu ruins high in the mountains.   Then it's back to Los Angeles and family to celebrate the Christmas Holidays.  Hopefully most of the holiday decor will be up and waiting for us when we return.  Our elves are the multitude of children we have in and out of the house while we are traveling the world.  So nice to know someone is taking care of everything!

Check in regularly and enjoy another Armchair Travel Adventure with Martha

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dinner in Paris with friends

I'm awake early and couldn't resist posting the photos from our delightful dinner last night with Nicolas and Maeliss, our friends who live in Paris.

They arrived at our apartment at half past seven o'clock and we enjoyed a glass of wine before walking to the La Jacobine Restaurant.  The place was full, so glad we made our reservations several days ahead.   And, thankful that God provided us good weather for the whole day! 

They were delighted when they saw the restaurant as they had a lunch here before and had fond memories of good food.  Jim had his canard one more time along with foi-gras; he was a happy camper.  As we were leaving they showed us the restaurant next door that goes back to the revolutionary times and was frequented by Robespierre and Benjamin Franklin!  It was opened in 1686. 

A fun evening that ended as we put them on the Metro for their trip home to Maisons-Laffitte, a small town about fifteen minutes outside of Paris.  We were snug in our apartment before eleven o'clock.

A side's Friday night in Paris and our neighbors upstairs had a party that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.   But we took sleeping pills and had a decent night's sleep in spite of the fun upstairs.  Now to pack and move out to the airport area.  No rain is predicted for today!!  We're going to walk the ten minutes to the RER this afternoon pulling our luggage!  

Here are all the photos in a slideshow: 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cernuschi Museum and Parc Monceau

Sunshine after two days of rain; all of Paris is out to enjoy the rays of sunshine!   We departed about half past eleven o'clock and our destinations in the eighth arrondissment.  Our first stop was at the art gallery where Maeliss' cousin works; not there today so we enjoyed the gallery and continued to our next site.  Mr. Jim is leading the way today and I'm just following along trying to keep up with his long footsteps.

The second stop was at a Galerie that makes replica's of famous paintings.   We'd found their name at the Museum Fournaise in Chatou; they'd made the replica of "The Luncheon of The Boating Party" for the museum.  Today we found out that it was done twenty-five some years ago.  Their work is beautiful and expensive.  

Continuing our walk we entered the Parc Monceau that is surrounded by very expensive homes.  With the sun out today the park was crowded with runners, walkers and those who were sitting with the faces raised to the sun.  I took lots of photos for you in the park.  Across the park we entered the Cernuschi Museum; Asian Art, mainly Chinese.  Again, a former mansion that the owner filled with his favorite art and then donated to the City of Paris.  Free except for the special exhibition. 

Back across the park that emptied out into the broad street of Avenue Hoche.  This is in a direct line with the Arc de Triomphe and you can see it even before you leave the park.  When we were nearly at the Arc de Triomphe we stopped for a visit at the Catholic Church where we renewed our wedding vows with our children in 2010, St. Josephs.   It has been the only Catholic Church that uses the English Language in Paris since before the great wars.  In recent years it was in need of restoration and a decision was made to tear down the church, put the new and very modern church on the ground floor and build an office building for income above.   A win win for everyone. 

We caught the Metro on the circle and headed towards an old favorite that we haven't seen yet on this trip:  Sainte Chapelle.   With the beautiful sunshine it was a perfect day to go for a visit to the chapel that has the huge stained glass windows that soar over your heads all the way to the ceilings.   We got off the Metro at Chatelet and walked across the Seine River at the Concierge, taking a few more "selfies" as we crossed the bridge.   The line to enter was one of the shortest I've ever seen.  You can stand for an hour or more during the summer, we were in and through security within fifteen minutes.  They are on the last piece of renovation that has been in progress since 2008 and should be finished this year.  A grand and glorious way to end our trip.

Leaving about half past three we had three choices:  1) walk back a bit and catch a Metro, 2) stop at the next bus stop for the bus or 3) walk ten minutes to the apartment.  We decided since it was such a beautiful day we'd walk along the Seine River and enjoy the view. 

We were nearly home when we started through the shortcut under the Institute of France building; they opened an exhibit a few days ago from the Beaux Arts School on Photography.   Jim decided to see if it was free; yes it was.  So we stopped in to see what they had and enjoyed our last museum for this trip.  We were home by four o'clock with time to have a snack and relax, make phone calls and send my blog before our friends arrive for dinner this evening.  The refrigerator and cupboards are bare except for some cereal for breakfast and a bottle of wine to share with our friends before we walk to the restaurant.

More than likely this will be my last blog except for a follow up after we arrive home on Sunday evening.  Tomorrow we check out of the apartment and go to a hotel very near to the airport.

Hope you enjoy the slideshow: 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Montparnasse Cemetery

What....another cemetery you say!   But they can be fun.  Montparnasse Cemetery is located in the south of Paris in the fourteenth arrondissmont.  It is very near one of the popular tourist sites called the Montparnasse Tower.  From the fifty-sixth floor you can take 360 degree panoramic views of Paris.  The best views other than the Eiffel Tower. 

Today started later than usual; I actually slept in until half past nine this morning.  Raining hard most of the night and it continued until nearly noon.    We waited for the management company to send someone over about the television.  We can only get the basic channels and it appears they need to pay a fee for us.  They came, yes we were right, as of tonight we're still waiting.  Actually, we are getting all of the channels that we normally get in Paris.  But, we've been spoiled with some very special channels this month such as the museum channel.  But, the apartment will be empty after we leave for some repairs so I'm sure they really don't want to pay a month's fee when it will be empty in two more days.  They'd put down a new wood floor among other renovations and the adhesive has come loose.  They'll probably have to move out all the furniture and start over. 

We heard lots of noise outside our window and when we looked a large truck had parked in the center of the's one way and very narrow....and the traffic was backed up for three blocks and they were all honking their horns.  It didn't clear for about half an hour.  The French move in their own time and double parking in these small streets for extended periods of time is common. 

About noon we dressed warmly, took our umbrellas and headed for the Metro Station.  It had stopped raining and we decided to get out for a few hours.  Along the way we stepped into an open door and found a cute window display of two drawfs, one dressed as a bishop.  Always fun to peek inside of the large green doors when they are open.

I then noticed the cars and thought I'd give you some examples of how close they park to each other.  I sometimes wonder how they get in an out of the spaces.  Enjoy. 

Soon we'd arrived at Montparnasse and because we walked the wrong way we found the theater district with many old theaters and restaurants.   We started asking for directions...none of the ones we received worked because they were pointing to the cemetery but there were no gates to enter.  Finally we walked back past the Metro Station and around the corner and voila...there was the gate. 

It's a beautiful cemetery built on grounds that were the dumps of Paris for many years until the city walls encompassed this area also.  It's level compared to the other two we have visited.  Very nice and easy to walk maps available.  So we had the same problems as yesterday.  Except that today it was not raining; well not for the first hour at least.  Then the rains came.  We didn't find any of the people we'd hoped to find; but found a famous French Singer and many beautiful and unusual tombstones.  One that was extremely unusual was a large fish with women's breast on the side?  The saying on the back was I will eat sardines.   So I think this was suppose to be a sardine.

The rain came down much stronger than yesterday so we were soon headed back for the Metro and home.  Stopped at the grocery store for something for dinner tonight.  Last night was nice but we do enjoy eating at home.  Picked up something easy that we could finish tonight.  Tomorrow is our big farewell dinner.  Looks like the rain will continue most of the night.  Yes...I did bring a backup pair of old tennis shoes.   I wore those today and I think they will also stay in Paris when I leave.  Both pairs are pretty wet inside.  Not to worry:   I do have a lightweight pair of tennis shoes for the trip home and my good flats for dinner tomorrow night. 

One of my readers said that she was going to miss checking in each night to see what Martha and Jim had done for the day....we will also miss sharing with you.  We've truly enjoyed this month.

Hope you enjoy the slideshow: 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A rainy day visit to Pere Lachaise Cemetery

The day started early and the rain started even earlier.  I awoke to rain at 5:30 am and it continued for most of the day.   We enjoyed reading our books for the morning and then about noon we dressed warmly and headed for the Metro Station. 

We had carefully mapped out the directions to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the twentieth arrondissment.  It required three Metro changes before we'd arrived in the north east corner of Paris.  This is one of the oldest and definitely the largest cemetery in Paris.  It's twice the size of any of the other major cemeteries in the city.  Usually you can get or sometimes have to buy a paper map of the cemetery from the office to help you find the more famous people who are buried there.  Many of the guidebooks also provide you with information to help you find your way around.

But we arrived in the rain with no map and no guidebooks and the cemetery did not have any maps to give us or even sell to us.  So we stood in the rain writing down numbers of people that we'd like to find on the large map at the entrance.   I took some photos of the map and off we went to see who we could find.  In over an hour we'd only located four:   Heloise and Abelard; Frederic Chopin; the politician Denon from the early 1800's; and Louis David a famous artist from the time of Napoleon Bonapart.     We were soaked and ready to go home, especially since we'd been here before.  Reminder:  Take a map and instructions with you when you plan to visit any of the cemeteries in Paris.  

Back on the Metro for the reverse trip home.  Once in our neighborhood we took time to walk to the restaurant that we are eating at on Friday with friends; there we made our reservation.  La Jacobine Restaurant, a small French place located off of rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts in the Cour du Commerce which is a small covered passage that leads to other shops on a walking street.  Jim found this restaurant last September when we were having dinner with friends from home and we really enjoyed the evening.  He found it in Trip Advisor that places it #120 out of over eleven thousand restaurants in Paris.  And, it's only five minutes walk from our apartment.

We arrived at the apartment just after three o'clock, ate some lunch and spent the afternoon reading and enjoying our day inside while the rain continued.  Jim also planned the route for our trip this evening during this time.  I've basically been doing the Metro Routes so it will be fun to sit back and follow his lead.

About six o'clock we headed over to the Metro Station.   A couple of changes and we were over in the Eiffel Tower area.  Our first stop was to walk down one of our favorite streets:  Rue Cler.  The street made famous by Rick Steves Tours and is a great place to stay in Paris.  Full of shops and vendors providing a market every day.  Many good restaurants and an easy walk to the Eiffel Tower and other sites in the western part of the sixth and all of the seventh arrondissments.  They still had their Christmas lights on in this area and it was fun to see what they had strung across the street.

From there we found our way to rue Saint-Dominique and a Chinese Restaurant called Saveurs D'Asie.  We'd eaten here in 2012 after meeting the son of the owners; he was the one who helped us connect with our computers in the MacDonalds when we were in an apartment with no Internet.  The son is currently studying in Germany but the food had been so good we decided to go for a meal.  Since we leave in a couple of days we've been cleaning out the refrigerator and will probably eat the rest of our dinners in restaurants. 

Jim enjoyed canard and rice while I had caramelized chicken and rice.    The rain was pouring all the way there but it was a great meal and when we finished we sloshed through the puddles over to the Eiffel Tower for one last look at the strobe lights at the eight o'clock show. 

Back to the Metro and home again.  Jim did a great job with the Metro Trains tonight; it was nice to just follow along and not think about where we were going.   My shoes were swimming by the time we arrived home.  I've developed a crack in the sole I think and they are no longer water tight.  These shoes will stay in Paris when I leave!  

Hope you enjoy the slideshow:  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Visit to the Petit Palais

Spent this morning reading my newest book, actually one that I read several years ago.  I'd loaded it in to my Kindle Books before leaving since we planned to visit the town of Chatou on this trip.  Yes, this is the book that first tweaked my interest in Renior's painting; "Luncheon of the Boating Party" by Susan Vreeland.    The book is a "novel" about the story behind the painting and each of the models within the painting and their relationship to Renior.   Hopefully it's all based on historical facts but even if she's taken a great deal of literary license; the book is fun to read from the first page forward.

I did a bit of housekeeping today; wood floors seem to create dust bunnies and with the construction going on in our hallway; a bit of sweeping is necessary occasionally.   We could have paid to have someone come in weekly but decided to do it ourselves. 

About two o'clock we dressed and headed out; the sun was shining but it was cold.  We first walked to rue Bonaparte to check out the Beau Arts School that is only a couple of blocks from our apartment.  The students were returning from their lunch break and we walked in with them into the courtyard.  We checked out the bulletin board and found that yes, tourists can visit the school but only on the second Monday of each month.  Well we've missed that opportunity this trip so we walked back to the apartment to leave some of the newspapers that we'd picked up at the school. 

Back out on the street we headed for our Metro Station and were just about there when Jim commented on how cold it was and that he should have worn his overcoat instead of just his blazer.  Back to the apartment for a change of coats and then finally we were off on our planned journey for the day.  Only two changes in the Metro and we'd arrived at the Metro Champs Elysees Clemenceau. 

We walked down the street noticing that many of the Christmas decoration were finally gone and those that have not yet been removed have finally had their lights turned off.  The beautiful Petit Palais was only a block away; always a joy to visit and free except for special exhibitions.   Not crowded today and we walked right in with the exception of problems at the security check point.  The umbrellas in my pockets set off the alarms and it took a while to figure out what the problem was.

This is a stately building that was built for the 1900 Exposition and has been retained as a place to exhibit a portion of the vast array of art owned by the government.  There are paintings here by nearly every well known artist; one or two from each and sometimes you have to search to find them among the lesser known works.
One of my favorites was back on the wall today.  In September it was out on loan to another museum for a special exhibit.  It is Claude Monet's "Sunset over the Seine" that was painted in 1880. 

Jim had never been in the downstairs portion so most of our time was spent there.   I'd seen most of it with the girls last September.  Consequently, I found a spot to sit and read my book on my cell phone while Jim perused the art.  Suddenly my cell phone went off; as I desperately searched my purse the guard came to glare at me!   By the time I found the phone it had stopped but I knew that Jim had missed me and was out looking.  I searched the halls and finally found him.  The cell phones paid off again!

We then went upstairs and enjoyed our old favorites before getting our coats and heading back outside after an hour of enjoying the art.   It was four o'clock by now so we decided to walk up the Champs Elysees as Jim has only been there at night on New Years Eve on this trip.  Remember, he was sick with his cold on the day I walked it last week.   Always a fun walk, I began by standing in the middle of the street for two changes of the lights to get some photos of the Arc de Triomphe at one end and the Ferris Wheel at the other.  Jim was very patiently waiting for me on the curb when I finally completed my journey across the broad boulevard.

Along our walk we enjoyed visiting three different car dealerships to see the old and new cars on display.  Watched people rent two Ferraris and there was also a Lamborghini available; for twenty minutes you can drive one (with a partner provided for the drive) for eighty nine euros!  A bit steep for my ideal of fun.  Hopefully they get to put the pedal to the medal and make the engine roar at sometime during their twenty minutes.

Soon we were at the Arc de Triomphe and headed down into the Metro for our journey home.  The train was very crowded and we stood for a good portion of the trip.  After we changed lines we each got a seat for the remainder of the journey.
We stepped off the Metro at about six o'clock and headed towards our last destination of the day, the Cafe Flores on the Boulevard Saint-Germain.  Another famous coffee shop since the days of Hemingway.  We enjoyed sitting outside, under the red hot heaters along the top of the overhang, and Jim had Earl Gray Tea and I enjoyed a cappuccino. 

By seven o'clock we were back in the apartment and enjoying some cheese and olives before starting our dinner.  A lovely evening.  Hope you enjoy the slideshow: