31 July 2011

GFiMP Goes West!

Got France in My Pants is going to take a three week detour beginning this August — not from blogging, but from France.

Team GFiMP is flying to California for some much anticipated R&R.

What exactly do GFiMPers do in southern California?

Here are a few shots from our last two périples to the golden state.

It was at this pool where it dawned on me I didn't have children anymore,  but fish.

Caught a few spectacular sunsets at beaches like this. 

Watched a surfer with swimwear malfunction shred it up.

Caught a semi-pro Quakes game.

Explored the Angeles National Forest on foot, once with family...

...once with friends - all the way to the top of Cucamonga Peak.

Met some friendly and playful friends...

...and others deep in concentration.

Saw the Greatest show on earth. And I have to admit, they don't lie.

Tarred our heels on Gidget beach.

See you soon from southern California.

29 July 2011

The Louvre*

* Petit disclaimer - This post does not contain photos of the artwork for which the Louvre is famous, with the exception of its architecture.

Like the château of Versailles, visiting the Louvre museum in Paris is a first-rate cultural experience.

In high season, it also happens to be a very collective one, with tourists from all over the world buzzing this way and that, speaking every language imaginable...

and indiscriminately clicking photos of everything from the La Joconde (Mona Lisa) if they can get close enough, to the most insignificant wall decorations, which by themselves can be very aesthetic.

If I have any advice for first-time visitors, it would be this: (1) wear comfortable shoes because you'll be walking. A lot. And (2) if possible, buy your ticket in advance. The line for ticket holders, though intimidatingly long at first, does move quickly. Before you know it, you've entered Napoleon Hall and are standing underneath the giant glass pyramid.

What to see
There are three main wings to the Louvre: the Denon wing (European paintings and sculptures, Greek and Roman antiquities and Egyptian, African and Asian art), the Richelieu wing (more European paintings, French sculptures, the personal apartments of Napoleon III and Iranian and Islamic art), and the Sully wing (more French paintings, Pharaonic Egypt and the history of the Louvre/Medieval Louvre).

Main entrance under the pyramid
It's ambitious to try and visit it all in one day. But it can be done, depending on the traffic flow and how much time you want to spend in each exhibit.

After glimpsing daVinci's Mona Lisa from behind a thick, bunched up crowd of visitors 50 feet deep, we decided to go where there were less people.

The Medieval Louvre
We eventually found ourselves underneath the museum, wandering — for the most part alone — next to the the original, massive ramparts and donjon of the château built by Philippe Auguste between 1190 and 1202, before surfacing once again to visit the apartments of Napoleon III.

The curved wall of the castle's original tower.

The castle's foundation.

Sketch of the original castle.

There's a bench at the bottom of this stairway
where you can sit for a good rest.

Diamond and emerald tiara, displayed near the apartments of Napoleon III.

One of my favorite places in the Louvre - an airy, glass-covered courtyard in the Richelieu wing.

Practical Information
If you're coming by metro, get off at 'Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7) and follow the crowd to the big pyramid.

Full admission costs 10€, 11€ to see the exhibitions in the Napoleon Hall.

You can rent a multimedia guide (available in eight languages) that can help you navigate around the museum. There's also a choice of cafés, restaurants and take-out stands for refreshments throughout the day.

Of course there's the bookstore and boutiques where you can purchase guidebooks and reproductions of your favorite artwork.

The Louvre is open everyday except Tuesdays and certain holidays from 9am to 10pm. If you happen to be there on the first Sunday of the month, admission is free.

24 July 2011

Visiting the Château de Versailles

GFiMP went to Paris this week and visited the château de Versailles and the Louvre. Below are some photos from our trip.

The château, originally the home of Louis XIII, was renovated by his son, Louis XIV and is celebrated as the apex of 17th century French art and architecture.

Looking up a the main entrance to the château from the Royal Courtyard.

Admiring the Hall of Mirrors, a 73-meter long gallery that was used daily
by courtiers and visitors as a passageway to other parts of the château.

The ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors.

The king's bedroom.

Ornate wall and ceiling.

Underneath a chandelier.

The Queen's bedroom.

A quiet stone passage leading to the gardens.

Photographing the château from the gardens. To get the everything in a single frame, you either have to stand far enough away or use a super wide angle lens, it's that big.

Looking west towards the Grand Canal which, if you could see from the air, was built in the shape of a cross.

The Grand Trianon
Constructed in 1688 on a property just north-west of the main château, the Grand Trianon was built as a recreational residence for Louis XIV and his family; a small countryside getaway for when the stress of running the country became a little too stressful, I imagine. It was here that Louis XVI gave his wife, Marie-Antoinette, her estate, Le Petit Trianon.

The front entrance to the Grand Trianon.

A side courtyard of the Grand Trianon.

Le Petit Trianon - The Estate of Marie-Antoinette

The main building of the Petit Trianon seen from the gardens.

The kitchen where foods were reheated before being served to the king and queen.

A room for playing music and entertaining guests.

The billiard room.

The Queen's Hamlet
Set deep into the gardens of the Trianon, the Queen's Hamlet will forever be known as Marie-Antoinette's "haven of peace".

Walking the same paths the queen herself used more than 200 years ago, it's easy to see how this could have become a favorite escape from her official role as queen.

Passing by quiet stretches of water and quaint, thatched-rooved houses and gardens so perfectly and naturally maintained, one cannot help but feel a zen-like serenity in this bucolic paradise...with only one wish to just sit quietly and let it soak in forever.

The mill, built in 1783.

One wing of the Queen's house.

Through the archways of the Queen's house into the gardens.

La Tour de la Pêcherie, in the form of a lighthouse, was the starting point
for walking tours and fishing excursions on the adjoining pond.

Interior of the building adjacent the lighthouse tower. 

The farm.

The château of Versailles is open year round (except Mondays, certain French holidays, and official ceremonies), from 9am to 6:30pm during the high season, and from 9am to 5:30pm during the low season. Click here for information about tickets and rates to visit the château and Marie-Antoinette's estate.

The Trianon and Marie-Antoinette's estate are open (and closed) on the same days as the château, but from 12 noon to 6:30pm in the high season, and from 12 noon to 5:30pm in the low season.

Plan to spend at least four hours, preferably more, to visit both the château and the Grand and Petit Trianon. There are several café restaurants, bathrooms, a book and gift shop, and a tram service that will take you (for a small fee) from the château to the Trianon and back.

Though I don't generally enjoy playing the tourist, and will plan my next visit to the château for the low season, Versailles is a truly marvelous experience, a place to lose oneself for a day in the magnificent opulence of pre-revolutionary French culture.  A must see.

Next: The Louvre

14 July 2011

Fireworks on 14 Juillet

Every year on July 14th, France's fête nationale, the city of Lyon offers a fireworks show from the hight point of the city — fourvière.

Here are three shots — out of an impressive 20-minute show — looking across to the basilica from the Croix-Rousse hill.

09 July 2011


For those who were awake to see it, Lyon woke up this morning to an impressive cloud display in the sky.

I'm not an expert, but I believe this to be an altocumulus formation, a precursor to thunderstorms later in the day if seen on a warm and humid summer morning, our exact current conditions.

If it proves true and the sky turns dramatic this afternoon, I'll try to post more images.

Close-up of altocumulus. The black points in some of the clouds
are swifts, darting about the sky on their early morning food run.
Click on the photo to see a larger image.