07 Aug 2007 Paris Musee Orsay & Eiffel Tower

On Saturday, we got up early and had breakfast at the hotel. It was less expensive than what we spotted on the street and we were able to grab some extra cheese, meat, and bread to make sandwiches for lunch.

As we headed to walk to Musee Orsay, we spotted the hotel that we stayed at in 1994. We also found the outdoor market where we had purchased some broiler chicken. They are still in business and we bought it again for the evening dinner.

Musee Orsay is a fantastic museum in a converted rail station. We arrived early and missed most of the mass of people. They were having a Cézanne to Picasso, Masterpieces from the Vollard Gallery exhibit. This was really interesting to see since Vollard was he had achieved a special place in the art market by his passionate defence of unknown or “banned” artists. In particular Vollard was the first to organise a one-man exhibition devoted to Paul Cézanne in November 1895. Also interesting to read where artist would purchase other artist painting’s from Vollard.

After about 4 hrs, we headed out and found nice place in the park across the street to have lunch and then walked to Eiffel Tower. We had planned to walk up to the second level (800 steps) but since there were some many people in line for both the lift and steps, we decided to just view the tower from below. It is an amazing structure. After we got our photos, we decided to take the bus back to our hotel, get food, and enjoy another evening on the Left Bank of Seine.

Click here to view more photos of Musee Orsay and Eiffel Tower.

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Paris – Palace of Versailles

Last Friday, 3 Aug 2007, we (Helen, Helen’s brother David, and Rick) walked over to the Waterloo rail station at 4:30AM to catch the 5:34AM Eurostar to Paris. The train goes to Dover and then through the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) to Calais France and then to Paris. After a 3hr ride, we were in Gare Du Nord rail station. Wonderful way to travel to Paris.

We immediately, purchased transportation and entry tickets to “Palace of Versailles“. While taking the metro to get to our train, David forgot (or was not aware) to retrieve his ticket when we entered the first metro station. Since he did not have his ticket, he could not go through the entry gate to the second metro stop. After Helen tried to explain that we just purchased the ticket and David accidentally left it at the prior stop, we had to purchase an additional travel ticket (5.60 euros). When we arrived about 1hr later, there were thousands of people queuing to get into the Palace. We elected to stroll around the magnificent jardin (garden) at Versailles. The flowers were in full bloom. We found a nice quite place to eat our lunch and enjoyed the view of the jardin. We then continued across the jardin to Maria-Antoinette’s Estates. This area just opened to the public in June 2006 and was her private escape area on the Palace grounds. Very impressive.

After a couple hours, we then entered into the Palace, which was built for King Louie XIV in 1682. This palace is massive and every room decorated from ceiling to floor with paintings, jewels, furniture, and more portraits of the Royal Family. We lasted until about 5:30 and enjoyed every moment.

We were able to take the train back in Paris and after a short walk we arrived at our hotel for the night. We picked up some wine and food and then walked over to the Left Bank of the Seine river near Notre Dame to eat our dinner with the Parisians lining the bank.

To view more photos of our first day in Paris and Versailles, click here.

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Security Tightened around Parliament

While walking over to listen to music last evening, we noticed that the road near Parliament was closed and new barriers were being put in place. Later I spotted an article in the evening paper that stated that “Security Tightened around Parliament”

“The anti-terror barriers around Parliament were today being upgraded to prevent a lorry bomb attack by terrorists. The road layout outside is also being changed to reduce traffic to one lane in each direction, with the security barrier due to be extended out away from the Lords. Fears of a vehicle-borne bomb attack in London have grown following the failed car bomb bids in the capital and at Glasgow airport last month.”

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Changing of the Guard – Buckingham Palace

David (Helen’s Brother) and I attended the daily “Changing of the Guard” at Buckingham Palace today along with thousands of other visitors. We watched part of the procession to Buckingham Palace along the road and then crossed the street and attempted to get a “peak view” of the actual ceremony. Today, the Irish Band Guard played march tunes and also played “Down Town” made famous by Petula Clark This is the first time that I have actually watched the whole ceremony since we have been here. It was interesting.

Brighton Roadtrip

Last Saturday, we got up early to rent a car and drive to the coast in Sussex (south of London). I walked over to the car rental place at 7:30AM to be first in line to get our car. I had made a reservation online on Friday. I was the first in line and when they opened at 8AM, they could not find my reservation. I had accidentally made it for 28th of August not July. Hertz did not have any available cars. Helen and David arrived just as I found out that we did not have a car. We discussed taking the train to Brighton but then decided to check another car rental place next to Hertz. Luckily, they had a car although it was 75 gbp instead of 46 at Hertz. We took it and were on the road about 8:30AM.

Helen navigates and I drive and this seems to work the best for the two of us. We were able to get out of town without to much hassle. Brighton Beach of first destination was about 70 miles and 2 hrs away. We parked the car in a car park next to the beach. We all had to use the WC (water closet, Loo, restroom, toilet). On the entry to the Loo was a certificate for the Best Kept Loo of the 2007. Great Loo…..

We walked down to the beach which is covered with small rocks and no sands. We walked along the boardwalk towards the Pier. I spotted some art work in a shop that appeared to be from Cuba. Paintings of old chevys and other old cars. I chatted with the person in the shop and a local artist travels to Cuba often and had done the paintings. Click here to see more photos of our outing plus Cuba photos.

We walked back up into town to see the Royal Pavilion , a seaside home built in 1815 for Price Regents and later George IV. We then drove east along the coast towards Eastbourne.

We stopped at Beachy Head which has these chalky white cliffs. They wind was really blowing but we were able to find a spot on the ridge and have lunch and enjoy the views. Afterwards, we hiked up the ridge to the former Lighthouse and had some spectacular views of the cliffs. Then we walked down on the beach and by the tide pools as it was low tide.

When we left the coast area we drove around some single track roads between Wilmngton and Lewes. We were in search of the “Long Man“, a chalk layout created by the Saxons. While driving David mentioned that he had read about a “White Horse” figure in the AA book and we went around a corner and we spotted a “White Horse” figure on the side of a hill. As it turned out this is not the one that he read about and I could not find any information on it but there was about several other “White Horse” figures in the UK.

We stopped in Lewes, Sussex and had some local beer after walking around the Lewes Castle.

Getting back in to London was exciting. About 60 miles from London, we hit stop and go traffic on the A23. Helen decided that we should get off and drive around it. We traveled a little longer distance but did not run into any more traffic until we were about 10 miles out of the city. With great guidance we drove across the Thames and right back to the car rental. As we were walking back to the flat, it started to rain.

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Helen’s Brother is in London

Helen’s brother David, from Knoxville TN, is in London visiting us for 2 wks. Yesterday, we went to the Tower of London. Today, David and I went to the Science Museum and the met Helen at the Royal Albert Hall for a lunchtime music concert. The photo is across the street at the Royal Albert Monument.

We then went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. We walked by Harrod’s Department store where David and I found a 45,000 pound sterling cell phone. Yes, 45K ($90K). Looked like something that Elton John would purchase.

Tomorrow we are renting a car and driving to Brighton and Eastborne along the southern coast.

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Bus 148 , 31, 607 – Ealing Blues Festival

On Saturday, 21 July, we caught the 148 bus just outside our flat to Shepherds Bush getting off at the Noting Hill Holland Park stop. Then we caught the 31 bus and got off at Shepherds Bush Green Stop-T. Then we caught the 607 bus to Uxbridge and got off in Ealing Broadway stop-K. We were now in Ealing to attend the Annual Ealing Blues Festival. The cost was 1 gbp each. They expected 10,000 people over the weekend to attend this festival that has been in July for the past 20 years. Two large tents were set up with music from 2PM- 9PM.

Anyone remember Manfred Mann from the 60’s? Do WahDiddy Diddy…. Well, Paul Jones (top photo) was the front man for Manfred Mann and Dave Kelly (another legend) play a wonderful bluesy set. I remember Manfred Mann but did not remember that they played a bluesy style. Paul Jones is an excellent harmonic player and has a weekly BBC radio program.

There were several other great artists that played in our tent while it poured down rain and made a mess of the festival grounds.

Using the local bus transportation was really a great way to travel. We were able to set in the upper level and view parts of greater London that we would not see using the tube (which we did on our return trip). We went through Shepherds Bush and Acton on our way to Ealing. These areas appear to be heavily muslin populated area where store signs were in English and Arabic. Ealing is where our friends Mark and Kelly live and is a really nice area.

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Caravan Garden Party

Walking over to the French Tourist Office this afternoon, I noticed dressed up lady’s with hats walking through St. James Park. Luckily I had my camera with me. Today, there were 7,500 people going to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace put on by the Caravan Club. We have seen many hats while walking by Westminster Cathedral when weddings are in progress but this is the most hats that I have seen in one place except on TV during the Darby. Click here to see individual hat photos.

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Historic cottages in Tewkesbury under feet of water

The UK is flooded after several days of torrential downpours. This photo is just north of Gloucester where 150,000 homes are without drinking water, and 50,000 homes are without power. Last Friday evening, over 10,000 cars were stranded on motorways. Here in London, it really rained hard on Friday before noon and again on Saturday but Sunday was clear.

Our friends, Kelly and Mark, send us an email Saturday, that Mark’s grandmother’s farm near Oxford was flooded one day before closure of the sale of the farm.

I noticed on the news today that China is also having major floods as well as Texas and mud-slides in Colorado. Global warming is at work….

In the UK, the Brown Government has just proposed to built an additional 250,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years. Today they are releasing a report that states they will build in the flood plain zones.

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