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Thursday, June 16, 2016

So, yesterday was 'out-of-control' busy. We resolved sleep in and maybe venture out to do something in the afternoon.

Do you like that 'maybe?' Well, it was more of a DEFINITELY. You see, the day we went to the Champagne Region for the bike tour, one of the ladies on the tour was telling us about the Paris Opera House. She said - 'You MUST visit this place and you MUST take a guided tour!' So, while we were waiting for something yesterday, we looked the building up on the net, and very quickly got interested and booked a tour. Good thing we did as when we arrived, English tours were sold out.

But, back to the sleep-in....

When you are staying in a studio apartment, a sleep-in only works if everyone is on the same page. Unfortunately, when on vacation I simply cannot sleep in. I try – and fail. This day, I forgot to take off my fitbit and was awoken by the ‘silent alarm.’ And, let me tell you - if you ever have trouble getting out of bed, then a silent alarm on a Fitbit is the answer for you. The ‘alarm’ is a vibration on the band around my wrist and is controlled using an app on the phone. So, as normal – the alarm ‘sounded’ and I was wide awake. We were sleeping on a double bed, so the tossing and turning wasn’t appreciated. And, so I got up. I tried to keep the noise down. But, I was tripping over things, dropping things ……. I tried to be quiet and failed. So, Kylie didn’t have as much of a sleep-in as she would have preferred.

So, on the subway (we are professionals on the Paris subway by now) and we come out and are greeted with THIS

What a spectacular building! And, guess what – THIS IS WHERE WE ARE HEADING! I was very excited! But, first, we were in need of a coffee. So, we filmed it.

So, this building we are visiting - here is a brief intro;

The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It became known as the Palais Garnier, in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. The Palais Garnier has been called "probably the most famous opera house in the world." This is at least partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, especially, the novel's subsequent adaptations in films and Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular 1986 musical. Another contributing factor is that among the buildings constructed in Paris during the Second Empire, besides being the most expensive, it has been described as the only one that is "unquestionably a masterpiece of the first rank."

Thanks Wiki!

But, stepping into the building is simply awe-inspiring at every turn! We started the tour in the 'Members Entrance' and met our tour guide who was full of life and interesting stories about the building. 

Can you read the message in the ceiling? No? Either could I.
This entrance was fascinating as it was opulent and decorated beautifully. But, it was not grand. But, as one progressed into the building, the decoration was getting grander.

Up to this point - we were amazed. The detail in this was just mind blowing. We weren't ready for what was to come.

This isn't my photo (thanks Google). The lighting is really difficult (thats my excuse and I'm sticking to it).

As if our minds were not already blown, we were taken to an area that was originally designed as Napoleons entrance (he never lived to see the building complete and as such, it was left in a raw state) but has now been converted to a library/museum section. One of the exhibits we saw here was (again) mind-blowing.

I know - it doesn't look very impressive.

Our guide explained that the round painting that we are now looking at was the original ceiling of the auditorium, painted by Jules Eugène Lenepveu. I expected to hear that it was damaged due to the roof collapsing or by fire or something like that. No - nothing like that. It was just decided that a change was needed. So, in 1964, a new ceiling painted by Marc Chagall was installed on a removable frame over the original. It depicts scenes from operas by 14 composers – Mussorgsky, Mozart, Wagner, Berlioz, Rameau, Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Adam, Bizet, Verdi, Beethoven, and Gluck. Although praised by some, others feel Chagall's work creates "a false note in Garnier's carefully orchestrated interior."

Here is a closer look at the original ceiling;

And, here is the new ceiling;

What is my verdict? I like the new ceiling - i really do. But, in the setting, I don't think its appropriate. Having said that, it is a much loved piece of art. When we were looking at it, Kylie said to the lady next to us something along the lines of 'Such a shame, isn't it?" to which she responded 'Unless you are a Chagall fan, like I am.' Eeeek! Lets get out of here quickly!!!

Here are some pics of the interior of the auditorium;

The controversial ceiling is directly above this....

So, how impressive was that building? But, the most impressive part was yet to come. We were shown the parts of the building as we would have experienced them if we attended the opera back in the day. We would enter, go up the grand staircase and be taken to our seats. But, the whole idea of going to the opera back then was to see and be seen. The best time and place to do this would be at the Grand Foyer during intermission. And, let me tell you - it IS grand! The photos simply cannot convey the opulence.

The floor, the walls, the ceiling, the decoration - it was just mind-blowing. Some on our tour even made the suggestion that it was more 'over-the-top' than the palace at Versailles. The tour guide agreed.

A photo posted by ब्रूनो (@mynameisbrunob) on

Kylie and I both loved the tour so much that we booked tickets to come back the next night and watch the ballet. One of the ladies on our tour told us that they sell 10 Euro tickets with obstructed view. It wasn't really the ballet that we were going there to see - it was the AMAZING building again.

Home again ..... but, it was just to get ready to go out again. For some reason, when we have been travelling between cities, we have been travelling on Sundays. So first thing we did when we arrived in Paris, was work out when we were going to get to the midweek meeting for an English congregation in Paris. And, as it turned out - it was tonight. And, the congregations name was Paris Anglaise Opera.

Its such a wonderful feeling to walk into a place on the other side of the world and immediately feel at home, among family.

Since it is an English speaking congregation, we met people from all over the world. We met a brother who is a need-greater from New Zealand (who happened to know some Kiwi's from my home congregation), we met a couple from Las Vegas who were also visiting that night 'spying out the land' for possible future plans, and we even met a sister originally from Melbourne who met her husband of four months Metro Witnessing in the Melbourne CBD.

Another big tomorrow - our Bike Tour of Versailles. So much for the rest day today.....

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Yes, we visited the pyramids. And, NO, we didn't go to Egypt. The pyramids that we visited were made of glass and are found at the Louvre. Have you been to the Louvre before? The Louvre is the largest museum in the world and the second most visited museum in the world. It is overwhelming.

Fortunately, we had a tour planned.

Nathalie was our guide. Her and her husband (Jean Claude) offer tours of the museum focusing on artefacts that strengthen faith in the bible. It was amazing! I can give you the details of the company if you are ever in Paris and want to take this tour.

Kylie took some notes and I should have taken some too because as I look at my photos, there are a lot of things I can't remember about these artefacts. Having said all of that, here are some cool pics I took and hopefully over the coming weeks, Ill be able to check out KJs notes....

Gives meaning to placing enemies as a stool for feet

One of the many artefacts with the SUN

Kylie said that this statue could pass as someone 'famous' today

See the 'Imitate their Faith' publication RE: Esther. 

Kylie is pointing at the tetragrammaton on the Moabite Stone. I think this is a replica

A common way of impaling criminals in Roman times

Venus de Milo. The second most famous piece of art in the Louvre. Runner up to.....

The Mona Lisa.

LOTS of people were there to see it. It was bigger than I expected.

Our two guides.
We had lunch with our guides and this family from the UK, also on our tour. We'd never met any of them before, but we share a faith and immediately were like family.

As you would have heard on the news (and on my blog), the rain was pretty heavy in Paris. So much so, that the Louvre closed its doors the afternoon we visited. We were not there when it closed but heard about it. So glad we got to visit!!!

A photo posted by ब्रूनो (@mynameisbrunob) on

Next stop - the Eiffel Tower! We had tickets to go up and we were SOOOO excited about that. But, the weather was not so good! Oh well - at least we were rugged up for the event. We had pre-purchased 'skip-the-line' tickets. But, of course, because one of the lifts was not working, we still had to wait in line. But, we still had time for some fun pics.

A photo posted by ब्रूनो (@mynameisbrunob) on

You can't even tell that the weather was so bad!

I don't think either of us expected the view from underneath. It is spectacular to behold.

I said to Kylie 'Lets try to get the most unflattering photo of ourselves.' This was the result.

As I mentioned, we were waiting in line....because I was taking pictures and taking videos, rather than being right up near our tour guide, we were the last ones in the line from our group. Behind us was this nice family with two small children from an English speaking country. We were chatting nicely. But, one thing about waiting in lines is that people are close up against one another. So, while I was chatting to Kylie, I felt someones hand in my pocket. Let me rephrase that - I felt the flap of my jacket move. Immediately, I turned around and rather than being the family right behind us, it was another guy who somehow just appeared. I said 'WHAT DID YOU JUST TAKE FROM MY POCKET?' And, brazenly, he just said 'I am here waiting in line - leave me alone.' It was the strangest experience. He was caught in the act - and yet stayed there directly behind us. And, very close. So close that he would come up behind us and Kylie would just say 'CAN YOU PLEASE BACK OFF!'

We had nothing in our pocket - but it didn't stop me from being super-paranoid. Kylie brazenly took photos of the guy. When we got to security, we immediately reported him for queue-jumping as well as for attempted pick-pocketing. But, nobody at the security checkpoint spoke english.

It was the most bizarre sequence of events. He stayed right behind us for the whole time - he even rode up the elevator with our group. He would get too close to people from our group and Kylie would ask them 'Do you have your phone?' because he would start speaking on different phones (I think I counted that he had three phones in his hoodie.'

When we got to the top, we were finally able to tell the tour guide. She said 'I was watching the lady in the hat.' Seriously, placed like this are a pickpockers paradise. Everyone is excited, distracted, crammed into tiny little spaces - and forget. We would see people put their iPhones into their back pockets and we would go to them and tell them not to. There are signs everywhere warning, but i guess everyone needs reminding. If he took something from me - it was a receipt or a brochure. I had nothing for him to take.

So, it put a bit of a dampner on our visit. But, when we were at the top - we resolved to not let it spoil our visit. We were, after all, at the EIFFEL TOWER! And, what a view!

Lets not forget - it was SUPER-COLD!

The funny thing about being pre-occupied with the fact that someone is going to pickpocket you is that you tend to forget that you are are going up really high really fast. It was pretty high. And, once you have waited in line to go up, then it goes without saying that you had to wait in line to go down too. Our guide left us at the top but suggested that if you walk down the stairs from Level 2 to Level 1, you can get in the lift there. So, thats what we did.

So, as our guide suggested - we were waiting for a lift from Level 2 to stop at Level 1. Im not sure that the guide has ever done what she suggested that we do because when the lifts arrived from Level 2 they were jam-packed. We waited a while with no-one able to get into the lift at Level 1 so we made the decision to walk DOWN from Level 1 (recall that we also walked from Level 2 down to Level 1). Level 2 is 115m from the ground and Level 1 is about half-way.

We had such an AMAZING time at the tower - Kylie posted this video of us talking about our experience there.

There was one more thing that we had to do on this day. In planning, I was very good in that I had scheduled that we were going to be having 'rest-days.' But, in reality - these 'rest' days didn't end up being too much of a rest. And, sometimes, as I was 'living' the days that I had planned - I had to think to myself 'WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?' Some days were just too jam packed. Maybe not jam-packed but, why did I book dinner at 8:45 when dinner at normal time of 7 would have meant that we would get an early night?

But, before I tell you about what we DID that night, let me tell you about something that I planned for that night.....

So, I was looking at a friends trip photos on Facebook and they did something that I thought would be amazing - have dinner ON the Eiffel Tower. There are a few options for this based on how much you are willing to pay. What I was 'willing' to pay was to buy a bucket of chips from the fast food outlet at Level 2. But, as a special occasion, I thought I would book a dinner at the mid-level restaurant. I say 'mid level' because its the only restaurant between the super-high exclusive 'Le Jules Verne' and the Fast Food buffet. Having said that, there wasnt anything mid-level about the price of the restaurant. lol! It was ALOT of money. And, I didn't feel comfortable about spending all of that money without at least discussing it with Kylie. But, I didn't want to spoil the surprise.....

I framed the question very carefully. I said something like ..... 'I want to organise something very special when we are in Paris, but I can't tell you what. And, its going to cost a bit of money, but i can't tell you how much.' If you were asked that question, what would you say? Of course, she asked 'How much? Where?' I held out for about five minutes but then I caved and told her what I had planned. 

She said 'Can you SEE the Eiffel Tower?'
I replied 'No - you are ON the Eiffel Tower.'
And she replied 'Its a really nice thought, but I think I would prefer to have a really nice dinner LOOKING at the Eiffel Tower.'

I was completely dumb-founded. But, after I got over the shock, I thought to myself 'Its actually a really good idea.' So, I set out to find a restaurant that had amazing views of the tower. There is ALOT to choose from - after all it is a MASSIVE tower. And, thanks to Trip Advisor, we can find out that location aside - what is the restaurant REALLY like?

And, this is the view from the restaurant I found;

A photo posted by ब्रूनो (@mynameisbrunob) on

There aren't a lot of high-rise buildings in this part of town. But, even so, this restaurant (called Les Ombres) was on the rooftop (Level 5) with an unobscured view of the tower (and a glass roof). It was SPECTACULAR. It was better than I imagined. And, Kylie loved it!

And, so did I! The food was amazing, the service was great. We had a glass of Pommeray which was awesome. The view ...... just amazing! And, good thing I booked for that time because we were still there when the tower started sparkling! Its so amazing to see.

In fact, I loved it so much, it wasnt until our Uber was more than half way home that I realised that I left my bag under the table. Yes, the bag with our passports in it. So, with a taxi driver, you just tell him to turn around and the meter keeps running. Not so easy with Uber (and, not so easy with a non-English speaking Uber driver). And, with a phone that is flat. So, what we had to do is;

  1. Charge the phone
  2. Tell the Uber driver to STOP.
  3. Use the Uber App to call for another Uber to pick us up form our present location
  4. Enter the address of the restaurant because the driver didn't understand what 'Please take us where you picked us up' means
  5. Hope that the driver of the car that we are in get the job before anyone else gets it

After all of that had been sorted, we called ahead to the restaurant (again, with very limited English speaking hosts) to let them know that we had left a bag there. We got back there and the women said 'No, sorry. We cannot find it.' She gestured as though she was looking for a ring. Then, I gestured back and said 'No, Im looking for a BAG.'

Aaaah. I understand now. She took me in the store room and showed me the bag. I was relieved ..... until I realised that it wasnt my bag. Then, another bag ..... nope. Not mine. I said 'Can I just look under the table?' and THERE IT WAS!! I was so relieved!

And, THAT was our day! Thanks for reading.
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