Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 9 and 10 - A Texas Two Step Followed By a Solo Act

Greetings from Amsterdam everybody.  Well, this will be my first post that covers two days rather than one.  Don't worry, I'm not slipping (I don't think), but the schedule has been a bit more compressed and staying at hostels is not real conducive to working late into the night on this thing. 

Another unfortunate thing, for the blog at least, is that most of Amsterdam looks very similar in my opinion.  There are not a lot of distinct differences between the parts of town I've seen so far.  And on top of that, all of the museums that I've gone to (The Van Gogh and The Anne Frank Museums) don't allow cameras, so I have nothing to show you there either.  

I'm fairly confident this is going to be the weak link in the blog so far.  Tomorrow will be better though because I'm riding a bike most of the day, so if nothing else, there is a 50% chance you'll get to see a shot of me in a hospital.

So, we're in Holland now, and I've been hanging out for a day and a half.  Amsterdam is a beautiful city.  There are canals running throughout the town, even more so than in Bruges, and they are much larger and more integral to the city center.  

Anyway, the highlight of my time in Amsterdam so far has been running into a girl who is from home, and by home I don't mean the US but Texas.  We were both staying at the same hostel and I overheard her say where she was from.  Her name is Kristen and she's from Austin and is finishing up her degree in Biochemistry at Texas A&M.  She is about to do a study abroad at Oxford for a semester and has been traveling around on her own for the last month.  

We started chatting and ended up hanging out most of the day I was there.  I know I keep using the same superlatives for all the people I meet, but it's only because it's true.  I've been extremely fortunate so far to have run into a bunch of folks that I would hang out with back home on a regular basis.  

She has a great personality and is extremely talented in her various endeavors in life.  She was on her way to Brussels the next day, but we had a blast while she was there and it was definitely a highlight of the trip so far.  Best of luck going forward, Kristen, and have fun in London.

Here's a shot of us in the hostel lobby before she headed out to Brussels.  

Turns out she is quite the pool player.  She claims I won the first game legit, but amazingly, when we played the second one for some money, she got really good in a hurry.  

Here is a shot of the canals in the city.  There are a ton of these and any of them would probably be indistinguishable from the other.  

This is one of the prettier shots I think I got of the town.  You'll notice the architechture is very distinct.  The whole inner town looks like this.  

Remember the bike racks in Bruges.  We'll they are even bigger here.  Kristen said she had heard that they find literally thousands of bikes in the canals from when they fall in the drink.  I read that 40% of all traffic in the city is via bike.  Just like Houston.

Here's yet another shot of the house lined canals.  See what I mean.  Same thing.  Beautiful, but the same.

We did quite a bit of walking as Amsterdam is very compact.  Reminds me of San Francisco that way.  I'm staying in the Jordaan Flower District,which is west, southwest of the hub of town, and I can make it all the way back to the Central Station in 20 minutes of walking.

This is the Royal Palace in Dam Square, the big meeting place in town.  It was built in 1648 and was originally a city hall.  Now it is the official residence of the Queen.  It was closed for renovations as you can see.

This is a shot of the Westerkerk Church near the hostel.    It has the famous artist, Rembrandt, buried under it's pews somewhere.  It's also the tallest steeple in Amsterdam.  It's hard to tell, but there are no tall buildings in the city center.  

The next day, I was flying solo again, and I decided to do the museum thing.  Weather was kind of bad (drizzle all day).  I hit the Van Gogh and Anne Frank museums in the morning, and thought they were both very impressive.

I found the Anne Frank Museum particularly moving.  Hopefully, you know that Anne was a young Dutch girl who was Jewish.  She and her family were in hiding from the Nazi's in a secret room in a house here in Amsterdam for over 2 years.  She kept a journal which was published and is, of course, famous the world over now.  In 1944, she and her family were discovered by the Germans and were shipped to concentration camps, where Anne died of typhus one month before the Allies liberated her camp. The museum is the actual house where they stayed during their time in hiding. 

Here is a shot of the outside of Anne Frank's House.  It is quite bare on the inside, but walking through the same rooms where her family hid for 2 years is quite an experience.  Really makes you think and realize how things could be much worse.

I'll leave you with the following. . .This is what I got from the Van Gogh museum.  

He Man not doing it for you?  Have I got just the thing for you. . .

A Vincent Van Gogh Action Figure!!!!  Comes with his very own easel and painting accessory.  And as an extra gift (Absolutely Free!!! if you order in the next 10 minutes with a credit card), you get an interchangeable head.  Want a beard?  Not a  big fan of your right ear?  Depending on your mood you too can mix and match to make the Van Gogh who best shows the inner disturbed you.  


Tomorrow, a tour of the Holland countryside by bike.  Say a couple of prayers for me. . . I think I'm going to need them to say upright.  Later. . .

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day 8 - In Bruges (See what I did there. . .there was a movie. . . and it was called In Bruges . . . and that’s where I’m staying today. . . so it has double meaning. . . . . Ooookkkkaaayy…)

After a brief stint without the internet (how did I make it?), we’re back with the Day 8 recap.  Today I said au revoir to Paris and hallo to Bruges, Belgium. 

Bruges is on the Northwest coast of Belgium and was a very big deal in medieval times, both as the most important cloth maker in Northern Europe and as a major seaport for trade between southern and northern Europe.  In the 1300’s it was as large a city as London, but in the 1500’s their economy collapsed and the harbor silted up and it became a backwater.  For centuries it just kind of stagnated and experienced no growth or construction which, as it turns out, was the best thing that could have happened to it today. 

The entire town of about 50,000 or so, and I mean the entire town, is nothing short of a walk back into time.  It is seriously about as picture postcard perfect as it gets.  No pavement, no fancy new houses; just street after street of cobblestone, canals, and chocolate (more on that in a minute).   They speak Dutch (which they refer to as Flemish) there so whereas we pronounce the town (broozh) the locals say (BROO-gah).  If you’re ever there I’d stick with Flemish.  They get a little uppity about French I hear.

So before I got there, I had to do my first inter-country train out of Paris.  Turns out it went really well.  I left out of Gard de Nord train station and after a brief stop in Brussels, the administrative seat of the European Union by the way, I made it to Bruges in two and a half hours.  I was in the city center, called the Markt within 5 minutes.  I’d like to say I did a lot of interesting and unusual things, but for the next 4 hours or so, all I did was just walk around and take pictures of the town. . . oh yeah and eat chocolate.

If I saw one chocolate shop, I saw 50 and that’s not even close to an exaggeration.  How this is not the fattest city in the world is beyond me.  At one point I saw four in a row on the same street. . .four!  And the next one was an ice cream place. 

I feel very strongly about the ridiculousness of the number of chocolate shops in this little town, so to emphasize my point, please bear with the following analogy that went through my head upon observing this (I swear I am not under the influence of anything other than whatever is in crème filled dark chocolate):

 My second senior year in college (everyone should have at least two) we started off the baseball season on fire, I mean like 17-4 or something, and were playing great, over our heads even.  Well, shortly after that we dropped 3 of 4 and found ourselves down by a few runs in the 5th or 6th inning to La Tech, who, honestly, we should have been beating from one foul pole to the other (Sorry Loupe’s, Fontenot; but these are the facts).   Well, our head coach gathered us all around at that point, very calmly looked all 25 of us in the eye, and simply said, “Boys, if we lose this game, we are going to run till you bleed”. . . and then he walked away.   That may have been the single greatest inspirational speech we had ever received, so we obviously came back and took the game and then proceeded to whip off like 7 in a row after that.

I think this is what happened to Bruges.  Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory had been on a hot streak for years, but then they started slipping.  Maybe an Oompa Loompa got caught peeing in the Chocolate River or a batch of Everlasting Gobstoppers only lasted for a year or something.  Whatever it was, Wonka got all the little guys together and basically gave them the following ultimatum.  “Boys, if we don’t convert this entire town into the chocolate juggernaut of the world, we are going to run till you bleed”.   And they did. . . three times over.

Here’s some of the shots from the day:

This is a shot of the French countryside on the train.  Some parts of it were unique like this but a lot of it looked similar to the States.

Want to get around Bruges?  Better get your bike out.  What’s interesting is Amsterdam is supposed to be even more so like this.

This is Burg Square, the historical origin of Bruges.  I think a lot of the town looks like those facades that buildings put up when they’re doing construction on the actual exterior of the structure only this isn’t some cardboard cover up.

This is the central square, the Markt.  The whole square looks like this.

Here is a typical display at one of your local chocolate shops in Bruges.  This one place I went to, The Chocolate Line, makes their chocolate right there.  It smelled so good when I walked in I about fell down.  No joke, one of the best scents I’ve ever smelt.

Chocolate Boobies:  If you didn’t think this would make it into the blog, you don’t know me very well. 

I could show you 20 pictures of stuff like this, but I'll only give you 3.  Here's one. . .

Here's the second. . .

And here's the third.  For an added bonus, I've thrown in the hot air balloon free of charge.

All in all it was a great day.  I picked a canal and just walked it for an hour or so.  Fellas, looking to woo your lady friend?  Take them to Bruges for a full day and two nights.  Not only will she be impressed by your selection of the nonstandard European city, but it’s cheap relative to the high brow places.  

There are bed and breakfasts everywhere.  Here’s what you do:  Rent two bikes and go for a tour of the counryside for a few hours in the morning.  Then come back and cruise the Markt.  Around  5 in the evening, pick a canal and just follow it for a couple of hours.  You will go from a ton of tourists in the middle of town to being the only people with 200 feet of yourselves.  Just remember, if this works, I expect a little compensation.

So  having said that, Bruges seems to be a great place for two people, but not so much for a 30 year dude traveling alone, so I decided to cut my trip short a day and head out to Amsterdam.  Glad I showed up, glad I bailed early.

For the evening I was strolling around looking for supper, when I cam across the group of folks at a cafe.  They spoke English!!  We ended up talking for a few minutes and they invited me to join them for some grub.  Turns out they are doing a semester of study abroad at Furman University in South Carolina.  Really great group of people and super nice.  They ended up inviting me to hang out for the rest of the evening.  Best night I've had on the trip so far.  Here's a shot of the whole group.

From left to right - Me, Rabdoslav (I'm sorry, I know I butchered that), Laura, Mary Catherine (MC), Autumn, Zach, Kyle

If any of yall read this, good luck with the rest of the trip.  Thanks again for the good times!

So in the morning I'm heading to Amsterdam for about 3 days.  I've already got 2 extra days from cutting Paris and Bruges short a day a piece.  I'm trying to figure out what to do with them.  I'm meeting my brother, Scott, in Munich on Saturday for Oktoberfest so if I sneak in another city, it might be Berlin.  I've decided to stop doing reservations (at least till I get burned) ahead of time.  If I find something or some people here in Holland to keep me around till Saturday, I might hang out.  I'll probably have a combo Day 9 and Day 10 come out for my next post due to some traveling time and whatnot.  Have a good one.

Later. . .

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 7 - Kenny's First Trip to the Opera and What He Learned There


Well, it's my last full day in Paris, and since I saw just about all I wanted to, I chose to take the day and walk around and not do anything in particular.  To start things off, I decided to go the "pack your own lunch" technique for grub.  I went up and down the street I'm staying on, Rue Cler, and went to 4 different stores: A deli for meat, a boulangerie for bread, a fromagerie for cheese, and a market for some fruit.

Since all of these were right next to each other, I had a full on meal in about 10 minutes with 5 of that being attributed to the fact that I speak French about as well as I properly eat foi gras.  I took my food and walked to the Champs de Mars which basically leads up to the Eiffel Tower.  This is what I ate:  5 different meats (couple of hams, some sausage thing (not good), a salami, and some bacon looking stuff), 3 cheeses (brie (ok), goat cheese (never again), and something that reminded me of Swiss, (best of the bunch)), the best freakin' blackberries I've ever tasted, a huge baguette, and good ol' sink water.  Honestly, I couldn't finish it.  Too rich, but most of it was good, and hanging out in the shade underneath the Eiffel Tower was a great experience.

Here's what I ate. . .

. . .and here was my view.

After that I decided to try and go see the Catacombs I was talking about earlier.  I had missed them because they were closed last time, and by the time I finished relaxing in the grass I had only 30 minutes to get to the ticket office.  I hustled to the Metro and hopped the train.  I made it 3 minutes before the box office was supposed to close only to find the whole thing was shut down due to vandalism.  That's twice this had happened.

The following is a brief overview of what was going through my head in the final 5 minutes before getting to the ticket booth and then the next 60 seconds after finding out it was closed again.

"Shouldn't have cut it so close. . .OK where can I get tickets. . . Only a couple of minutes left. . .There it is!. . .Wait What?!. . .Closed?. . .Dang (different word here), that's twice this has happened. . .Seriously!?. . .I've wasted money and more importantly a lot of time getting down here trying to do this stupid tour. . . I'm ticked off and irritated, and I've lost another hour, and now . . . . .  Hey look, a crepes stand. . .

So anyway, after that I went back to the hotel and then decided to just start walking.  I started toward Invalides and then headed to the Champs Elysees again.  Instead of heading to the Arc de Triomph though, I went the opposite direction toward the Louvre where I crossed another beautiful garden called Tuileries.  Here's some shots of my walk to this point.

This is a shot of the Army Museum and Invalides again.

This is the Alexander III bridge that was built as a sign of friendship between the French and the Russians around 1900 or so.  Like they always say, nothing says sorry we decimated you in the cold Russian winter a hundred years or so ago like a new, fancy bridge.

This is the Tuileries Garden.  You can see the Louvre there on the middle left.

And this is a bad shot of what I was doing for a decent portion of the day.  I don't have to tell all of you how difficult it's been on me this week, especially compared to what you probably have been up to.  In fact, to give you an idea of the hardships I'm enduring, I've contracted a brand spankin' new syndrome:  You've heard of tennis elbow?  Allow me to introduce you to Spiral Staircase Hip.  Nasty stuff.  No, no.  No tears for me.  I'll manage somehow.

After that, the walk took an unexpected turn:  I turned left in front of the Louvre and came across this building, which caught my eye because it looked rather important:

Turns out it's the National Institute of Music.  They hold concerts and operas and stuff like that there.  By coincidence I showed up right at the start of one of these operas.  I've never been to an opera so since I was there I decided to see if I could scalp a ticket.  It worked out, so I slipped into the hall and grabbed my seat on the left balcony with an obstructed view.

This is a shot of the inside of the theater.

As you probably know, they are not singing in English so I had to figure out what was going on via context clues (thank you TAAS test).  Here is the rundown of what I was able to discern about this particular work:

1) The name of it was Mireille.
2) It is a French Opera (a lot of operas are in Italian).
3) It takes place in a field somewhere in France.
4) There's a blond chick, Mireille, who talks (or rather sings) way more than a person should at one time without someone else interjecting a comment.
5) I apparently am only able to listen to what she has to say for about 45 minutes before I have to leave.

I tried to like it, I really did, but in the end, I realized that Mireille and I were not going to work out, so it was better to cut the cord before we got too attached and comfortable with each other.

I think a Broadway show might be the most singing I can handle in any given hour.  This was like the Lion King without the cool costumes, or the action sequences, or anything else that would be considered better than walking on broken glass barefooted.

This is as good a picture as I could get without risking being thrown out.  It was quite a beautiful theater.  Not big on using the AC for some reason, but after the first round of sweating subsided, I felt much more comfortable.

Other note, this is an old building apparently.  I swear if you even think of adjusting your big toe, something creaks.  Believe it or not, people go to this thing on purpose and they just love it when you're right behind them fidgeting during the performance.  Needless to say I made a lot of friends.

I left long before the first intermission and headed back to Rue Cler, where I had one final dessert (something like an apple pie) at the same place I started, Cafe du Marche, before going to bed.  All in all, a wonderful day of just enjoying the city.

Tomorrow is a travel day to Bruges, Belgium.  I should be getting there around 3 PM Belgium time so maybe I'll have some cool pictures for you, plus I'll do a Paris wrapup.

Bruges is also going to be my first hostel (me in a room with a lot of people).  I'm looking forward to the experience and more importantly, I'm looking forward to meeting some folks doing the same thing as me.  I don't know about WiFi at this place, but if I can't post tomorrow, I'll put something up as soon as I can.
Till next time. . .

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 6 - Kenny and the Duck (and a couple of other things)

Hey Everyone!

Welcome back for the Day 6 recap.  Had a little more low key day today as far as time goes, but still knocked out everything I wanted to.  Still adjusting to the time change, which is causing me to go to bed later and get up late as a consequence, but hoping to fix that tonight.  Started off the day heading to the National Army Museum right down from where I am staying.  It is the largest military museum in the world.  Looked around for a bit, and saw some cool armor and and guns and stuff, but moved on quickly.  Here are a couple of the highlights though:

Thought this was pretty cool.  I have no idea who is supposed to be manning the small suits there in the front, and honestly, I don't think I want to know.

Oh, our friends the French.  This is a cannon looking from the back end to the front.  You're eyes are not playing tricks on you.  Those are a set of  two people there on top.  As far as I'm concerned, nothing says war, death, and destruction like staring at two couples macking down right as you're lighting the fuse.

Can we all agree that perhaps the normal armor head piece would have been a better choice here?  This had to be a Christmas present from this guy's Mom or something. That's the only explanation.

After leaving the Museum, I went to Invalides, which is the golden dome I pointed out yesterday.  This was a church built during the reign of Louis XIV and it also houses Napolean's Sarcophagus.  It is a beautiful building.

Here is the view from the outside.

This is the altar piece.  It is not the original but was rebuilt.  It is modeled after St. Peter's.  I'll hopefully get the chance to compare it.

Here is a detailed shot of the altar.  Notice the twisting marble pillars.

Here is a shot of Napolean's Tomb.  It is below the altar we just looked at.  This thing is huge.  Something  like 4x3x2 meters or something close to that.

Those two museums were nice, but I was done with them in less than 2 hours.  I headed down the street at that point to go check out the Rodin Museum.  Auguste Rodin, a turn of the 20th century artist,  is arguably the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo.  His works are more raw in my opinion and while he has many pieces using marble as his canvas of choice (white stone), most of his more famous ones are cast in bronze (Bluish-Black).  His work is known for giving the appearance of movement and restlessness. I've always been a big fan and one of the art things I wanted to do on this trip was see which of the two artists, Michelangel or Rodin, I liked better. Here are some of Rodin's pieces.

Rodin's most famous work, Le Penseur (The Thinker)).  Also known as Le Gars sur la Toillette (The Guy on the Toilet).

This depicts a great moment in human history:  The First Fist Pound. As you can see, the technique has been improved over the last century.  The simultaneous "head pound" that was originally employed was also discontinued, for obvious reasons.

This is my favorite piece, and it is not even a Rodin, but his student/lover Camille Claudel.  This is called The Age of Maturity.  In real life Rodin would not leave his wife for Claudel.  I guess you can interpret how you want but the guy might be Rodin and the girl in the back might be Claudel.  Sad but very powerful I think.

Here's a shot of the museum from the garden in the back.  Many of his statues including his unfinished masterpiece, The Gates of Hell are out here.

After this I went home for a break.  I just realized I never showed you a picture of the street I'm on, Rue Cler.  Here is a good representation of what it looks like:

Seriously, this is what the whole street is about.  You could eat like a king and never walk more than 200 feet from my hotel.

After the break, it was time to go see the famous Arc de Triomph.  To get there I hopped the Metro and went to the Champs Elysees which is probably the most famous street in Paris.  Quite a change of pace from the Paris I've been experiencing.  Everything to this point has been so laid back, but down here, there's traffic jams and cars honking and a whole bunch of very in a hurry French folks trying to get home.  This is where a lot of shopping takes place as well.  I was reminded more of Times Square here than anything else.

The Champs Elysees.  You can see the base of the Arc in the middle right.  Here are your tree lined boulevards and impatient Frenchmen

Me at the Arc.  The Arc was built to honor the armies of France, specifically those of the Napoleonic Wars.  Every conquering army (even non French types like the Nazi's) usually makes it's way through the Arc.  For you biking enthusiasts, this is also where the Tour de France winds up.

The other main thing to get from this shot is that I have finally decided to put on a different shirt for the first time in a couple of days.  My Mom is so proud.


My first one of the trip.  I'm not making any bold proclamations here, but remember that Oktoberfest is on the horizon for Herr Homann and I've been itching to get in touch with my German roots.  I'm not promising it's going to happen, but lets just say there have been some requests.

This was from on top of the Arc.  Honestly, I could not have asked for a better night.  This one would be awesome on the wall.

Here is the topside view of the Champs Elysees looking East.

My best shot of the night.  Notice the colors of the sky match the flag and in the same order (OK I thought it was cool).

Classic Kenny moment to end the evening.  So I decided to grab some food around the Arc, and went to this cafe called George V.  I've been trying some different stuff, but hadn't really taken a serious plunge, so I chose tonight to do it.  I asked the waiter what he'd recommend and he pointed at the appetizer, foi gras.  For those of you who don't know (and I was one of these people. . .shocker I know), this is the product of a duck liver that has been specially fattened.  It's considered a delicacy.  I'd had liver before so I said bring it on.  I got this.

Panic time arises  here as I quickly realize the only thing on the plate I could confidently identify was the bread (I saw nothing I thought was a liver). That wasn't even my main problem.  I had no idea what to do.  Do you spread this stuff, eat it separately, lick it. . . no clue.  Nothing better than staring helplessly at my food for five minutes while every French speaking person in the immediate area watches intently to see not if I screw up, but if I do so enough that it warrants finger pointing and sad slow head shakes.

Anyway, I decided to do the spreading thing.  I'm going to tell you what I thought all the stuff was and then we'll see how I did.  Feel free to play along.

So the liquid  in the little cup on the right I thought was the foi gras, the big yellow blocks on either side of that I thought was cheese (I thought that was an awful lot of cheese), and the little lighter colored stuff in between the bread and cheese stuff I thought was some kind of a honey product.  So how did I do?

First the good: I finally snagged the waiter and told him I had no idea what to do or what I was eating and he said spreading was fine (Kenny 1, Looking like an idiot 0).  I exulted in my performance with a self high five at that point but things went downhill quickly from there.

Turns out what I thought was the foi gras was fig jam, the honey stuff was "meat jelly" (I really don't want to know), and the "cheese" was the foi gras.  So after pulling out to an early lead, the far superior opponent (Kenny's lack of refined living) pulls away in the second half and dominates to take the game.

All in all it was a good day (and the foi gras wasn't terrible).  Tomorrow's post will be a bit lighter, as I have nothing planned other than to just hang out in a park and enjoy the Parisian Day, but I'll definitely write something up.  Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.  Holler.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 5 - The Louvre, Luxembourg, Lasagna, and a Laid Back Boat Ride

Alright, Day 5 has come and gone, and for how it started, I think it may have been my most productive yet.  Before we get going, a little correction to the Day 1 post.  The shot of me at the Eiffel Tower where I say you can see Notre Dame was incorrect.  If we were in South Bend, Indiana I would have been right on the money, but since no one here plays the football that requires shoulder pads, the building is actually Invalides, which is home to the interred remains of Napolean.  I'll blame it on the jet lag.  

Also, I have no idea why this post looks so screwy.  If any of you wily veterans of blogging have some advice, I'd appreciate the help.  Thanks.  Moving on. . .

I think the time difference effect has kicked in, albeit a couple of days later than I figured it would.  I didn't go to sleep here until 4:30 AM local time (hence why my post from yesterday was up so early).  Anyway, because I went to bed so late, I slept in and didn't leave until close to 11 AM.

Weather was a little sketchy so I adjusted my schedule and did the Louvre in the morning instead of going to the Luxembourg Garden.  I was obviously a little tired so I was concerned about going to one of the biggest museums in the world a little fatigued but it turns out all went great.  I stayed 5 hours and saw a ton.

The Louvre is huge (I mean stupid huge).  It's longest dimension is over 700 meters long.  For all you track folks out there you know that's close to half a mile.  Imagine having to fill 700 meters with a bunch of urns and pictures of apples and statues that are missing an arm or something.  You could seriously walk through here for a month and I bet you could still see stuff you hadn't already run across.  Here are the highlights for me.

Ah, the lovely Venus de Milo (or more appropriately Aphrodite of Milos since she's a Greek chick).  There was mutual interest, but in the end we decided it was best to just stay friends.

Canova's Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss.  No witty shenanigans attempted here.  This was my favorite sculpture of the day though.

Just included this to show you what the Louvres' rooms looked like.  Honestly, they could just leave the whole thing empty and it would still be worth looking around just to see the structure.  Every room was different and every one was beautifully and intricately designed.

Me here with Winged Victory of Samothrace, or an easier way to remember, Nike of Samothrace.  This is one of the big dogs at the Louvre and the goddess of victory is where the shoe company derived it's name.

This is the Apollo Gallery.  I thought it surpassed anything I saw at Versailles.

Obligatory shot of the Mona Lisa.  Never been enthralled with her like some other folks but this is the first work of Da Vinci I've seen, so that was cool.

"NO, I'M SPARTACUS!!!" (No, seriously, this guy really is)

Me wearing the dunce cap supreme at the Louvre.  That whole thing behind me is half of the museum.  And the pyramid (I.M. Pei was the architect of the 1988 addition) is maybe a little out of place (depending on who you ask), but definitely adds another dimension.

So before it was this great museum, this used to be someone's house.  The following is Napolean III's apartment.  This room, The Grand Salon, is basically where he would host his Texas Hold 'Em tournaments. I was shocked at how close this resembled my living room.  However, we can obviously see how this one falls a little short relative to mine, due to it's lack of a ceiling fan.

This is for Meathead (who is actually a lawyer folks - 1-800-LAWYERS - He will save you money!).  This just goes to show that even 3000 years ago, "Chaising" was considered the pinnacle of fine living.

Last shot of the Louvre.  So I'm walking around and I get a glimpse of the junior varsity team here practicing in this auxiliary gym.  Turns out there are hundreds of these priceless statues just waiting for their chance to make it to the Big Show. I see an HBO documentary on the horizon. . .

After the Louvre, the skies cleared and we had a beautiful day. . . I mean perfect.  I've been exceptionally fortunate with the weather.  It has been 70-75 everyday I've been here during the day.  I decided to go see Paris' Catacombs exhibit which is basically a crypt that hold tens of thousands of former Parisians when the city had to dig up the old cemeteries to expand the city.  I failed to check out the times, however, and when I got there it had been closed for 30 minutes.  

All was not lost though, as I saw a Creperie, and proceeded to eat my first genuine French Crepe.  Tip of the day:  When ordering a crepe and selecting your ingredients to put in said pastry, "Coco" is not some chocolate substance, but rather, the French word for "coconut".  I ordered nutella and coco thinking I was getting some chocolate as well and got this white sprinkly stuff instead, which I took for powdered sugar.  I was two bites in before I realized what happened but I'm happy to report that it might have been the best mistake I've made on the trip so far.

This is my crepe (or what's left of it anyway).  Totally worth the extra insulin shot.

After that, I ended up heading to Luxembourg Garden which is this pristinely manicured spot in town where Parisians just go to hang out.

I don't know if these people have jobs or what, but there were literally hundreds of people in this place (which is good size, but not exactly Central Park) at five o'clock just sitting and staring at the grass and having a great time.  I don't know what they do for money, but I'm going to ask the next one I see.  Honestly, their lifestyle in general seems much more laid back than ours.  I'm sure there are pluses and minuses to both but I can see the appeal.  Here's a couple of shots.

Part of the Luxembourg Garden.  As you can see there are no fig trees or tomato plants to be found.  Just lots and lots of pretty.

After that I went to the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank, which is kinda like Greenwich Village in NYC.  Lots of food, lots of college kids, and lots of bohemian living in general.  This is where Hemingway and Sartre and all the intellectuals of the early 20th century would hang out and argue about the meaning of it all and what not.

The Latin Quarter.  Notice the narrow streets.  Most people think of Paris as big wide tree lined boulevards, but in Medieval times this is what it looked like.  The Cluny Museum, which displays Medieval works, is nearby.  No kidding, there was a different food stand or cafe or bakery every four feet on some streets.

I grabbed a bite to eat at a cafe in the area where I got a 3 course meal of Parisian Onion Soup (the only truly Parisian dish I'm told), Lasagna, and Creme Brule.  Not bad and the Onion Soup was really good.  For someone who typically doesn't like onions period, I was pleasantly surprised.

When that was done I decided to go on a little cruise down the Seine.  I hopped on a boat and for about an hour, I got to see all the sites of Paris from the river's perspective.  Great way to end the night.

The Pont Neuf Bridge which is the oldest in Paris. BTW, Pont Neuf translated to English mean "New Bridge"

So this is what Parisians do at night.  They grab a bottle of wine and they go sit by the Seine.  Reminded me of college when I'd go buy a Cherry Limeade Sonic Flurry and sit on the Cane River, which cut through Natchitoches.  Basically the same thing.

Unless plans change, I've decided to leave Paris Sunday instead of Monday, which I had previously planned on doing.  Don't know what I'll do with the extra day, but I'm working on it.

Tune in tomorrow: Same bat time, Same bat channel. . .