27 April 2007

Paris, Part 2

Paris is a big place. So big that we knew that we couldn't "see it all" in our long weekend there. So we had priorities. One of those for me was to visit the Louvre, or at least part of it. You see, when I was in Paris last, exactly 20 years ago, I was a geeky teenager trying to be cool amongst the other teenagers on the trip. It was cooler to go to Pére Lachaise and see Jim Morrison's grave than to see the centuries of human culture collected in the Louvre. Oh well, that's what I did back then. I did have a great time in Paris back then, but I've grown a lot since then, and darn it, I wanted to see the Louvre.

On the other hand, the weather before the trip was gorgeous in Heilbronn, after a colt and sort of dreary winter, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend a lot of time cooped up inside when the sun is shining! So We decided that if the weather was crappy, we'd hit the Louvre. And we'd get there early enough that we'd be towards the front of the line, if not at the front.

So on Saturday, when we woke up, and it was cold and cloudy outside, we decided to go to Montmartre.
Yeah, in hindsight, all this "let's go to the Louvre if the weather sucks" thing kinda flopped. In reality, because of my massive cold, we got up much later than we normally do on vacations, thus making the chance of not waiting long in line at the Louvre pretty slim, and we incorrectly assumed the weather in Paris would play out like it had in Heilbronn the week before - cold and dreary in the morning but warm, sunny and overall gorgeous in the afternoon.

So Montmartre it was. We started outside the Moulin Rouge and worked our way up to the Sacré Coeur (Sacred Heart) basilica, and were quite disappointed that the low-hanging clouds prevented us from seeing much from the tallest hill in Paris. At this point, we'd been there for nearly 24 hours and I still hadn't seen the Eiffel Tower, supposedly visible from anywhere in town. I was beginning to think they sold it for scrap metal.

So we worked our way back down the hill, and took the Metro to the center of town, thinking we'll see how the Louvre lines were looking. When we emerged from the subterranean tunnels of the Metro, the sun was shining and it was warm enough to shed the hat & jacket. So we popped over to the Saint Chapelle church, built to house the crown of thorns in the 11th century. The books I have read said it is worth it to visit on a sunny day, because the stained glass windows were unbelievable.

Since the church is located inside the Palais de Justice, we had to wait in line to do the X-ray and Metal Detector thing. And then wait in line again to buy tickets. But it went pretty fast. The picture above doesn't really do it justice, but the beauty was marred by the fact that they made absolutely no attempt to control the amount of people crammed inside the church. Surfing a wave of annoying and self-centered tourists is never fun.

After that, we decided to find out if the Eiffel Tower had indeed been sold for scrap, and we headed in the direction it was supposed to be. Shortly after that, we stumbled across this marvelous entrance to the Metro. We really liked the shiny bits and colorful baubles. Oooh! Shiny! Aaah! Colors! Yeah, I'm easy to please.

We popped into the courtyard inside the big ol' U-shaped palace that makes up the Louvre, and headed down to the Jardin des Tuileries. There were tons of people out and about, enjoying the beautiful weather. I've always had problems taking pictures of people on the street, so I gave it a shot. This girl was just sitting at the base of the statue reading, and I thought it looked so idyllic.

When we got the Place de la Concorde, we stopped for a few minutes to look at the Obelisk. While we were there, I decided to continue practicing taking pictures of people on the street and got this couple in mid-embrace.

And these guys, apparently the bus drivers or something, "relaxing" in the cargo bay of the bus.

Eventually we made it to the Tower - yes it is still there. It was extremely crowded and we were getting hungry, so we found some food somewhere (can't remember where...), stopped by the hotel to pick up my tripod and headed back to the big ol' tower for some nighttime photos.

This is looking up from below the Eiffel Tower. I like it because it shows just how intricate and detailed the construction is - it isn't just big honking girders slapped together. It has some elegance.

Finally, we decided to do that kissing thing too. The next day, Jeannette woke up with a cold too. I wonder if there is any correlation between those two things....

Despite our dumb mistake of not hitting the Louvre in the morning when the weather was bad, it was a great day.

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25 April 2007

CSI: Heilbronn

Some time today, two police officers in Heilbronn were shot. One was killed, the other was seriously injured.
Nobody knows what happened - the two were found near their car this afternoon, with their guns and handcuffs missing.

All afternoon & evening, police sirens are blaring. Helicopters are circling. Cops in bulletproof vests are everywhere. Every car trying to leave the city is being checked, and so traffic is backed up for miles.

Outside our apartment a few minutes ago, about 10 police cars & vans pulled up and the police piled out. Some had their hands on their guns, at least one carried a big machine-gun.

I have seen my share of police in Germany, but I don't recall ever seeing them ready to whip out their guns, much less have them out & ready (like the machine-gunner). Even the police around controversial demonstrations seemed calm and cool.

The spectacle outside our place was similar to things that have happened before - a routine control of the teenagers down by the river. But there were about 5x the number of police and they were armed and ready for business this time.

This all happened on Theresienwiese, which is not far from work. Which is not far from home. Which kinda gives me the heebee jeebies since the perps haven't been caught yet.

22 April 2007

Paris, Part 1


As I said before, Jeannette and I were in Paris for Easter weekend. Our train arrived at around noon, so after we checked in to our hotel, we headed out for lunch. Our guidebook was full of walking tours of Paris, one of which went right by our hotel and passed by a place they claimed was jam-packed with cheap Indian and Pakistani restaurants. Since we don't get good Indian food in Heilbronn anymore, we decided that this was the way to go.

The tour wasn't all that exciting (though it did take us past some great Space Invaders). When we got to Passage Brady, the place with all the restaurants, we tried to check out the menus of the various places, but we were verbally bombarded by the waiters trying to convince us that their special is better than every other restaurant's special. In French. And we don't understand that much French. At least not when people are trying to get the whole sales pitch out in less than 10 seconds. I think all I got out of them - all 10 or so of them - was "cheese naan".

I'm not really very big on the pushy "come into my establishment" way of doing things, so we went to the restaurant where we weren't bothered. It was also mentioned in our guide book as being one of the better ones. Well, we weren't impressed. I mean, it started good - no harassment before commitment, and the Tandoori Chicken that I got as the appetizer part of my lunch special was the only Tandoori chicken that I can recall ever tasting good. But the rest was just ... well, boring. And it wasn't what I would call cheap.

A cheap lunch to me is around 5 euros per person. This was 12 euros. For the lunch special. Lonely Planet really disappointed us on this one.


So we finished up the walking tour, which didn't really get much more interesting. But it was good to be away from home in gorgeous weather. The tour ended not far from the famous Père Lachaise cemetery. I had been there 20 years ago on my last trip to Paris, but Jeannette had never been, despite something like 7 previous trips to the "city of light". So off we went to the strange world of tightly-packed sepulchers and weird sculptures that is the final resting place of so many famous people.

The Living Dead

Eventually we got kicked out. Not because we were bad or anything, it was just closing time. And at that, I'll close this for now.

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11 April 2007


We were in Paris for Easter weekend. (On a note completely unrelated to the rest of this post, except for the fact that it concerns Paris, don't go to Paris for Easter weekend. Unless you like battling crowds and dealing with lots of closed things). On Sunday we got to the Louvre early and were among the first 15-20 in line. We got through the ticket machines before most people could even find them and had a nice morning checking out the famous works of art.

When we left the palace grounds, and looked down the Rue de Rivoli, we saw a row of swastika flags. The photo above doesn't show the whole effect. The whole block was lined with them. What the hell? We knew the French elections were heating up the next day - was there some big political rally for a Nazi party or something?

We had to check it out - not because we support that sort of thing or anything - but because there is no way you could see this in Germany. At least legally in such a public place.

As we were walking there, Jeannette pointed out the McDonald's logo with the Nazi flags, and I found it a very strange combination and had to take a picture.

It turns out it was a movie set. Apparently starring Moritz Bleibtreu. I tried to do the Paparazzi thing. Maybe the pictures turned out... Haven't had time to look.

More from Paris, later...

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10 April 2007


Either beer is too damn expensive in France or it is too damn cheap in Germany.

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02 April 2007

Framed Church

When I was walking by today, without my camera, I saw these lovely green buildings framing the Kilianskirche tower. When I came back with my camera, it just didn't look the same. But I tried anyway, and it isn't that bad. But not the image I pictured in my mind.

Here's another attempt. I like the stripe effect.

I hope yesterday wasn't an "April Fool's" prank played by mother nature. It was a beautiful day, and I hope it stays that way until it's time for winter again.

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01 April 2007

Flea Markets

Jeannette has always been a big fan of going to flea markets in Germany. Before moving here, we went to them when we happened upon them, but never really found much to buy. Upon moving here, we've been to the Heilbronn Flohmarkt many times, and I am usually pretty unimpressed. Every once in a while, when there is something we need, like light-bulbs, we can pick them up for slightly cheaper and possibly with more convenience. But for the most part, the Heilbronner Flohmarkt is dominated by people selling Russian DVDs and CDs (completely useless due to my due to my linguistic limitations) and a few other things that don't interest me all that much. It isn't that often that I need a 30 cm bolt. (Of course, when I need one, I know where I can go.) Even the Skittles I bought on the cheap one time, despite having a familiar package, had a horrible taste. Because of this, I have had a negative attitude towards flea markets lately.

Last weekend, we were in Frankfurt and, in addition to finding a restaurant with the best Pad Thai I have ever had (at least in Germany - the next best I remember having was in Austin, and that was a long time ago), we had a positive flea market experience. Again, I found several cheapo CDs and Jeannette got a couple pairs of Levi's. And they were good CDs - typically flea market CD sellers have 87 copies of one-hit-wonder pop music drivel sampler CDs, a huge selection of CD singles that are occasionally interesting but cost 6 euros each, and the one good CD they have is inevitably R.E.M.'s Monster, and we already have 2 copies of that.

Yesterday we hit the flea market in Stuttgart, about 20-30 minutes before it officially closed (many people had packed up and left already). Despite that, I found some cheap and good used CDs (I would have liked to listen to about 30 of them, but stuck to buying 3) and Jeannette found a good lead on an Indian-style ring she has been trying to find. Overall positive experience.

Before last weekend, I had decided that I really didn't like flea markets. Now I know it's just that Heilbronn's flea market is not up to par.

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