Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Home at last

1. We're home and the kids are off to school.
2. We have no laundry soap.
3. Somehow Elaine got to school with no lunch. Whose fault is that?
4. I remembered on the way to school that I'd left the coffee machine on.
5. Must drink coffee, turn machine off, take lunch to school, buy laundry soap, find the CD with the Paris pictures from Stephen's camera on it. Then regular blogging and laundry can recommence.
6. Oh, and the Olympic knitting thing, too...

Several hours later:

Okay, I think we're set. The washer is humming away, there is food in the fridge and I don't have to go get the kids for a couple of hours.

I just downloaded a bunch of photos from a CD we'd made in France -- it's the two-camera, two-city, two-computer problem, you know. Anyways, it shocked me to find 980 pictures being downloaded, but for some reason there are two or three copies of most of the pics on the disc. Dunno why. It makes things verrrry complicated, especially since there's picture 1, picture 1, 2, 3, 4, then 1 again... But I think we're sorted out enough so that I can show you a few snaps!

For those just tuning in, we are now home in Cambridge after our week in Paris... The kids and I came back on the Eurostar train, efficiently got across London on the tube, had time for a burger in the station before getting the non-stop train to Cambridge, got off the train and hopped on a bus, bought a pizza and a loaf of bread at Marks and Spencers, and home safe and sound. All very neat and easy! Stephen will return in a week or so, after chit-chatting with some French physicists.

Let's see, where did I leave you? Ah, we were off to Versailles, the palace to beat all palaces!

It is huge, and gilded in every way you can think of, and the whole thing is beyond reason.... Here, for example, is a ceiling. (Click to get the big picture!) The walls were covered in enormous paintings, or with silk. The floors were works of art in stone (but I say, not as great as the Louvre's floors). The gardens are immense. It would be great in the summer, or even a month from now, when they are full of flowers. Now there are big swathes of grass, and some trees trimmed to cool cone shapes, but it wasn't much fun for running around outside, and some of us would rather run around than look at more gilded candleholders.

The rooms are enormous, and since the solid silver furnishings were once melted down to fund a war, and there've been a few political upheavals in France in the past few hundred years, there is not much furniture. There was the king's bed, where he would hold court upon waking up in the morning. One wonders when he did the royal pee and the royal splash of water on the face... And did he get to put his big wig on before greeting guests?

And here, another ceiling, with the barenaked and scantily clad ladies of France striding over the world as if they owned the place.

Anyways, I would have liked a tour of the kitchen and laundry facilities -- how many ovens do you need to have a meal for the whole dang court? But that was not included. Whatever, I will not quibble. It was pretty cool.

When we got back to Paris after Versailles, we realised we had an hour or two to kill, and the Arc de Triomphe was only a metro stop or two away, so we went and climbed up it. Elaine ran around and around, and we looked at the Eiffel Tower and other things. There was an exhibit there of things Napoleon took with him on campaign, like his camping dishes and his case for his big hat!

I think that must have been Thursday, and Friday we hit the big tower itself. My Tricoteuses sans Frontieres bag, full of all the things that Mom has to carry on such a trip, enjoyed itself as we approached. The tower was pretty crowded, and one wonders what whiny kids do in August when they have to wait in lines twice as long!

And the obligatory view from the top. Note the shadow of the tower on the left.

We were charged with taking care of Elaine's class bear on this trip, so we have a few pictures of him in exciting places. Bear up Eiffel Tower, for example.

From up here we also noticed a playground down below, and took the kids to play in the sand for a bit. All this culture is just too exhausting, you know. Mom and Dad got to sit down and the kids played in the sand (lucky us, there was even a puddle!).

We also discovered at this point the steps! See, in this picture below, which was taken from some hundred meters up, I think, there's the long fountain, the plaza above, and the long diagonal staircases in between? You know what you can do on them?? We saw people come zooming along the top level on rollerblades, spin around at the top of the steps and then bumpbumpbump down the steps backwards on their blades. (That pic is not in Paris, and that guy looks like he's not going very fast.) I was, indeed, gobsmacked. You could really hurt yourself doing that, I thought to myself! Much safer to play in a sandbox... You can see other pics of the steps here, here (a closer view from the tower, the fountain looks like grass), and here are some skateboarders on a smaller set of steps at the same location.

And we'll end today's long tale with the mailbox set-up at the top of the steps, on the other side of the plaza. Is this not the archetypal mailbox-Metro station-moped picture?

We got into the Metro station, took the train to the Louvre (wait a minute, I thought we were at the end of this tale -- almost!) where we were admiring the glass pyramids, when it started to hail! So we dashed inside and admired the spiral staircase with the cool elevator/platform that goes up the middle of it, and I almost wished I had a stroller so I could use it, and the cool gift shop, and we decided that we could make the kids go through one more giant musuem/palace. But we'll save that story for another day...

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