Bean's World

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Thank you Spanking Bea Arthur!!!!!

Did you guys see my new art? I love it! A big Thank you to Matthew from SBA who was sweet enough to make me the art - and it really is me! You're the best Matthew!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Please Keep Us in Your Thoughts . . .

As you know, Mr. Bean and I have been trying for adoption - well, we have an interview next week for two little girls. Please think of us on Wednesday, February 28, in the morning that the interview goes well and we can be on our way to becoming the parents we have always wanted to be.

All good thoughts, prayers or whatever you do would be much appreciated!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Don't Stand So Close To Me.

OMG, OMG, OMG!!!!!!!!

I can't believe it. Mr. Bean and I wanted this but didn't think it would happen. But it did. I got us tickets to see The Police at Fenway Park! We have seen Sting in concert before, but to see The Police is a dream of ours we didn't think we would ever see realized. And now we are on Sunday, July 29, 2007.
I can't wait!

Now, I want to see Genesis and Peter Gabriel - they just need to come back and start the concert tour again.

Who would you like to see in concert that is no longer touring?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Free Man (and Woman) in Paris, Unfettered and Alive . . .

So, only two months later, you have my six part series on Mr. Bean and my trip to Paris over Thanksgiving weekend, 2006. I didn't think it would take me so long to write; but it did. Also, putting all of the pictures in the blog really was a pain in the neck. Speaking of pictures, although there are none in this particular post, you will see a ton in the upcoming 5 posts on the trip. Those pictures were all taken by myself, except for those taken of me by Mr. Bean; and of course, the "couple" pictures. Also, some of the pictures of Mr. Bean show him actually podcasting on his I-River, such as at the Louvre, Versailles and the Eiffel Tower. You can hear those podcasts at SATURNcast or Saturn Diary. I hope you enjoy it!


So, Mr. Bean and I had planned for a year to go to California for a week and a half over Thanksgiving. He had been about 20 years ago; and I had been never. We were going to start in L.A., work our way through Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle and Madonna Inn, Carmel and end up in San Francisco. I asked a ton of questions of Fodorites on the U.S. board, made ALL of my hotel reservations, some dinner reservations everything. And then the unthinkable hit. In October, my promised addition of another week of vacation at work to my two weeks fell through; and I was told I would get it in 2007. WHAT?!?!?!?!? And I had already used by two weeks for a week in the Adirondacks and a week at WDW. What were we going to do?
And as our wedding anniversary is in November, we always go away for it instead of buying each other unneeded presents. And I, the consummate planner, have the trip completely planned out by September. Now, it’s the end of October, what am I going to do? But Mr. Bean had a great idea – why don’t we go to Paris? We last went in October 2002 and it was for a whirlwind 2 day adventure. So, let’s spend a relaxing 4 days this time – I know, it sounds crazy but it works for us. Last time, we were in Europe for 8 days for an event for Mr. Bean, we spent 2 days in Rome, 3 days in Geneva (where he spoke at the United Nations – talk about cool!); and 2 days in Paris. So 4 days in Paris was a long time to us.

Question was, where in the world would we get plane tix cheap enough from upstate NY to Paris without breaking the budget? And the answer was: No where. The cheapest I could find was about $1000 pp which I just could not do. So I then decided to look at places out of NYC – and I found Air France was having a GREAT special of only $400 pp from JFK to Paris, nonstop. I loved the price and the one flight was great for me as I hate flying with a passion – it scares the heck out of me – so the less planes, the better. Now the only thing was to convince Mr. Bean that driving three hours to the airport over a busy time of year was not a big deal. It took awhile to convince him. He first had me check the cost of flights from Albany to JFK were – more than the flight from JFK to Paris – how sad is that? Then he wanted to take the train to Penn Station, then a taxi or bus from there to JFK – I asked on the Fodor's U.S. board and everyone confirmed my belief that it was too convoluted and took too much time. Then he found out about a bus that goes from Albany to JFK – it took six hours – if we drove it was only about 3 hours. Finally, I convinced him driving was the way to go; but boy, he was not happy about it.

Then, I had to find a hotel. After reading reviews on Fodors and Trip Adviser and my success with Best Westerns, I found the Best Western au Trocadero for only 83 Euros a night. It sounded really good in the reviews and I loved the location, but I admit I was a bit nervous as the price seemed too good to be true – and Mr. Bean was picky. I was enamored with the reviews which said some of the rooms had a view of the Eiffel Tower – for which I made a request. So I kept my fingers and toes crossed that we would get such a room.
So before we left, I had spent a total of $890 on airfare and $415 American on hotel for four nights – not too shabby, I thought – especially as everything seemed so last minute to me which I don’t like.

I then did the normally anal retentive thing I do and I planned our itinerary – I had graphs, charts, maps, explicit directions, recommendations for Fodorites on restaurants for which I made reservations, and exact metro directions for everything. I then had a notebook filled with all of that information, plus my tour guide maps. It always blows Mr. Bean away with the amount of detail I go into; but he always likes the fact that I do it. An important note though – even though I make those specific itineraries, I don’t feel obligated to follow it to the letter. If we want to spend longer in some places, that’s fine – I just would rather be over prepared than under. Mr. Bean probably would disagree with this, but if he saw my itinerary for this trip, and compare it to what we actually did, I think he would then agree.

I admit I did feel a little bit un-American going to Paris on Thanksgiving. And when we told people of our plans, you would have thought we were intending to kill a bald Eagle or something. “How could you not celebrate Thanksgiving?”; “Do they celebrate Thanksgiving?”; “How will you get turkey?” I could go on and on – but you know what, we would do it again in a heartbeat!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006.

So, the first day, I actually had to go to work so I didn’t “officially” have to take the day off. Why, do you ask? Because my vacation days were all done; and I was taking off Wednesday as my “birthday” day, a month late, which we are allowed to do. As a result, I actually had to work for 6 hours before I was off to get away to Paris. Talk about an excruciatingly long, boring, mundane six hours where I was going stir crazy and all I could think of was getting to Paris. I was miserable.

Finally, at noon, Mr. Bean picked me up for our 3 hour drive to JFK. Although it was a beautiful day out, Mr. Bean complained the whole drive down on how he couldn’t believe we were driving like this, it was going to be miserable driving in NYC, how EVERYONE he talked to said we should have taken the train to Penn and then the bus or whatever to JFK, blah, blah, blah. I finally tuned out and thought of Paris. And guess what? He was wrong – yes it was a bit busy, but not bad at all. We got to the JFK area; and Mr. Bean started worrying about getting a parking spot in long term and how in the world would we get to the terminal from there? I had already researched that issue, of course, but I was just letting him vent away. And surprise, surprise, we found a great parking spot only about 10 rows away from the tram area and went to catch the tram to get to our terminal. Mr. Bean grudgingly admitted it was easy. And we were the first Terminal stop.

Once we got into the Terminal, it was about 4:15 p.m.; and I was shocked. The place was EMPTY. And when I mean EMPTY, I mean EMPTY. I think I saw maybe 30 people and most were employees. I’m not kidding you, I think it took 30 minutes TOPS to get through Air France’s lines, get rid of our luggage, have the super kind Air France agent change our seats so we had an emergency row with only two seat in it and through security. It takes longer than that to get through security at our home airport and I always thought that was fast. I have a feeling though that, if we had left the Wednesday before Thanksgiving instead of Tuesday, it would have been a totally different story.

So we were at our gate about 3 hours earlier than necessary. We didn’t mind though. We had dinner, checked out the stores, I took my “don’t freak out on the plane” medicine, I had my “don’t freak out on the plane” glass of rum and coke and then we were off. We actually left about 45 minutes later than expected, but it wasn’t too bad.

We loved our seats. We were in the front row right after first class and it was just Mr. Bean and I. We each had our own TV’s. The food was actually pretty good which always surprises me on a plane. The only thing was that, although the airplane was great, the service was not so hot. I asked for water midway through and you would have thought I was asking for government secrets. We hardly even saw any flight attendants at all. All in all though, the flight was good and I even slept a little bit and was able to forget where I was and what I was flying over.

A Free Man (and Woman) in Paris, Unfettered and Alive . . .

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Although we left JFK a little late, we arrived in Paris on time. In thinking of all of the different ways to get to our hotel from the airport, I decided the easiest would be by shuttle. We got through customs very easily – although Mr. Bean was disappointed they didn’t stamp his passport – that drives him crazy when they don’t do that.

We then went to look for our shuttle and our guy was there with a sign. We picked Bee Shuttle. He showed us where the ATM was, which was easy for us to use (but the poor guy in front of us couldn’t get any cash), we waited for another couple and we were off. Our first site of Paris was the huge Stade (stadium). We then saw Sacre Couer. Then we saw the Eiffel Tower, aah, we’re home. We got dropped off first.

As I said, we were staying at the Best Western Trocadero - 3 Avenue Raymond-Poincare, Paris, FR-75116. The location was amazing – we were literally across the street from the Trocadero museums and the Eiffel Tower was RIGHT THERE. The metro stop was across the street, maybe 50 steps so easy access to everything. The neighborhood looked really nice and there were many cafes with full meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner. We went inside and checked in at about 10 a.m. Of course our room was not ready so we stored our luggage. The lobby, although small, was in marble and very nice. There was a breakfast nook and breakfast was, I believe 13 E pp. We never did that as there were wonderful bakeries just a short walk away. I asked about the room situation, i.e. the view of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, they were booked that night; but could switch us in the morning which I happily agreed to while Mr. Bean grumbled that he didn't want to move rooms.

The tough thing about the first day in Europe after a long overnight is what to do. You don’t want to go to sleep so you want to do something that would keep you interested. You also don’t want to do something that, because you are so tired, you wouldn’t really remember. Well, we were meeting the Gay Expat a friend of Mr. Bean near the Louvre so we decided to go to the Louvre. I had made reservations at Le Souffle for lunch that day and was really excited to go there, but Mr. Bean was not hungry at that point, was tired and really wanted to get to the Louvre to check it out. Another reason to visit Paris again (and believe me, there were a lot of those on the trip!)

So we took the metro but first got our metro pass – the Carte L’Orange – what a great thing. It was easy to use BUT we were always worried about losing it. And we almost got busted and fined for no picture, but we’ll chat about that later. We bought our Carte l’Orange and went to the 'Carousel du Louvre' stop and got off. I know this sounds crazy, but the metro was SOOO busy and I absolutely loved it that way – I loved watching people going where they needed to, busy with life, it just fascinates me.

We first took some pictures outside, like the one on top (in which Mr. Bean is podcasting on his I-River); and immediately inside the pyramid - Mr. Bean to the left and me to the right.

I then went to find where to buy the Museum Pass while Mr. Bean went to find a phone to call his friend. We had to find a phone because, although Cingular told me my phone was all hooked up to make calls in France, once we were there, it didn’t work. I was sooo annoyed by this – we tried everything to no avail. So we had to use a payphone. It took us forever to make that call but we finally did it. We were going to meet the Gay Expat at the Louvre café – I forget the name of it but it has the outdoor section right under the overhang of the Louvre on the inside courtyard, in about 3 hours. Gay Expat, what's the name?

I finally found where to buy the museum passes. Mr. Bean then tried to hook up his recording equipment because, as you know, Mr. Bean has turned into a MASSIVE computer junkie which I never would have guessed when I first married him eight years ago and started a podcast this past August. As a result, he bought some traveling equipment so he could record portions of the trip. Unfortunately, the batteries already died so what was my first souvenir purchase in Paris? Batteries from the music store in the Louvre – how sad is that?

We had been in the Louvre before, so we just hit the highlights which I won’t go through here as we all know them – Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, Mona Lisa, Napolean’s Apartments. We wanted to do so much more; but honestly, we were just too exhausted to do so. We watched some restoration work on some of the greek sculptures which I thought was fascinating and watched a painter doing a replica of

one of the paintings there. Really, I find that more interesting than looking at the art work. We both felt sad that we were just too tired to do more.

We decided we needed some fresh air so we went outside. We were going to go to the L’Orangerie because I LOVE Monet. But it was FREEZING out and it seemed like we kept walking and walking with no success. I later found out from the Gay Expat that we had just missed walking far enough. Reason 2 to go back to Paris. But I must admit I was really disappointed to have missed it this time. We went back to the courtyard and ordered a chocolate chaud and pain au chocolat for me and a café au lait and sandwich for Mr. Bean. And we just ate it right there with the birds with the Louvre as background. We really enjoyed that food wonderfully.

After we finished, we went to the Café to meet The Gay Expat – now when I say friend, and considered him a friend although we had not met him officially yet and had no idea what he looked like. The Gay Expat is an American who is a lucky son of a gun whose partner got a great job in Paris so they moved there last year. They actually live near the Louvre. I can’t even imagine being able to live like that – one can dream.

Speaking of dreams – he was one – an absolute sweetheart. After our initial hellos, his first question was if we liked chocolate – well of course! So he took us to a little slice of chocolate heaven – Angelina’s on 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. The Gay Expat said he goes quite often. This was obvious, because when we walked in, there was a huge line. The maitre de automatically recognized our friend, took us out of the long line and gave us the last available table. Needless to say, I was afraid for my life with the nasty glares we got from people. So we were seated and immediately looked at the huge menu. Well, Mr. Bean did – I was too busy looking at the beautiful décor – it’s all gilt and mirrors like a museum. The Gay Expat asked us if we trusted him for the drink – which we said sure – so he ordered for all of us the Chocolat Africains, which is most closely related to hot chocolate, but ten times better and richer. It’s a thick, creamy, intense pitcher of chocolate which is so rich it is served with a whole parfait glass of rich whipped cream to counteract the richness, as well as a glass of water – which you don’t have to ask for. De-lish. Along with that, I got a yummy dessert but unfortunately can’t remember the name of it. For the three drinks and desserts it was 31 E. The place was amazing, but because Mr. Bean and I were so tired, we didn’t take pictures of either the place or the desserts/drinks; and I didn’t buy any hot chocolate or other items they sell. Once again, I was SOOOO mad at myself for failing to do that – I think I forgot because I was so darned tired. Reason #3 to go back to Paris – return to Angelina’s for more chocolat chaud, take pix and buy some things!
I took a picture of Mr. Bean and the Gay Expat; and we said goodbye to our new friend. He gave us some parting words of wisdom – to make sure we get our pix taken for the carte l’orange or we could be fined – and fined big. We tiredly (not because of him, but because of our lack of sleep) said yes and then returned to our hotel. During that trip back, we saw no place for pix – this problem would soon haunt us later.

Upon arriving at our hotel, we learned we were going to be in Room #2 on the ground floor. I was unhappy with this because I don’t like ground floor rooms, but it was the only one they had. Well, this misconception was wrong as the room was great and had a HUGE bathroom. We believe it was a handicapped room because there was no tub and they had railings and a special chair. The shower just had the floor as the bottom with a drain in the middle. I didn’t like it as everything got wet and I was afraid to use the hairdryer as a result. The room itself was two twin beds. We always ask for twin beds in Europe as we have a King size at home so hate the small beds the doubles and queens usually are. We loved the arrangement here because the twin beds were literally side by side. While we loved it, those who are just friends or parents/child may not like it as much as there is NO space in between and no way to move it. We thought the beds were very comfortable and had no problems sleeping on them. The room was immaculate and we had a very nice courtyard view which Mr. Bean loved and of which I took pictures which are here. Mr. Bean loved the room so much he did not want to move again – but I begged and conjoled because I REALLY wanted a room with a view of the Tour Eiffel. Mr. Bean agreed.

So as we got to the room at about 5 pm, we took showers – which felt sooo good after 48 hours of no showers. We then decided to get some food for the room. About 2-3 blocks away was a lovely bakery where we got 4 HUGE baguette sandwiches – why do Parisian sandwiches taste ten times better than any American sandwiches – pain au chocolates; and our 4 big bottles of our fave soda – Orangina. It cost about 20 E for everything. I really wish they had Orangina easily accessible in the US – I could live on that drink alone! We went back to the room, ate our meal (well only ½ of it) , watched a little French television – love those French game shows! – and made it until 7:30 p.m when we fell fast asleep.

A Free Man (and Woman) in Paris, Unfettered and Alive . . .

Thursday, November 23, 2006
Happy Thanksgiving! Although we went to bed so early, we slept until 8 am – and felt great! We were lucky and correctly avoided any jet lag. While Mr. Bean was getting ready, I ate my left over sandwich with some Orangina - YUM. We then packed up our stuff to leave in the lobby office (locked but with Mr. Bean grumbling all of the time) and went on our way to see Notre Dame.

When trying to figure out metro stops for this day, I for the life of me couldn't figure out why any route I chose would not have me go from Trocadero to the Cite stop, where the tour book I had started the tour. Instead, it brought me to a stop which was not on the Ile which I didn’t like. I was DETERMINED to find a way to do it and it looked easy on the Metro map. Take line 6, direction Nation, get off at montparnasse-bienvenue; and then Take line 4, direction Porte de Clignancourt, get off at Cite.

Well, let’s just say there’s a reason the metro website does not recommend this way to get to Notre Dame. OH MY GOSH, it was a LONG walk between Line 6 and Line 4 – so long there were many, many moving walkways. The moving walkways though are something we have never seen before. Yes, we’ve been on moving walkways, such as those at airports, etc. But good gosh, these are the fastest ones I’ve ever seen in my life – in fact, they are so fast that you go in three speeds, you walk, then another faster level and then as fast as Flash – it was pretty crazy but we loved it. I think we were going 9-10 km an hour. I have to admit, I was a little nervous with how we were going to get off – it literally slides you off like we were in Risky Business – dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun “Take those old records off the shelf”, um, anyways, I laughed the whole way – you would have thought I was on a Disney ride or something I was giggling so much. So after walking up, down, flying across walkways, around corners, etc. for at least 15 minutes we then got busted. Yep, the metro police were there checking metro tickets. And yep, we still hadn’t gotten our pictures yet because we hadn’t found a photo thing yet. And yep, we did get busted on it by someone who, although VERY cute and nice in his uniform, spoke no English. Although I speak French pretty well, I sometimes have trouble hearing it. But I think it worked for us in this case because we got to use the dumb American ploy. One thing that drove me crazy was the officer asked me when we bought the tix and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the word for yesterday (hier). I was getting so mad at myself as that is one of the first words you learn in French I in high school for crying out loud. Finally, I gave up and used the date instead. My sadness in French worked well and he marked our tickets, giving us 24 hours to get photos. Phew, no fines. So Gay Expat was right; and we screwed up. Mr. Bean was annoyed with me because he kept saying we needed to get photos; but I wasn’t so worried about it. Oops! What’s even funnier, and what he won’t even know until he reads this report, is that if we had gone the route the metro website recommended, we never would have met up with the police in the first place. But I was bound and determined to find a way to the Cite metro stop.
So after 20 minutes of walking, we got on the metro and got off at the Cite metro Stop. Wala! A photo machine! We were so happy – but we couldn’t figure how to get it work. Instead of a passport like photo, I got a stupid photo of me on the body of a girl in a bikini. It was taking forever to try to figure out and we just got frustrated and gave up. Plus we needed more change as we used it all up for the lovely picture of me on the beaches of Hawaii.
After the debacle with the photo machine, we got to the top and it started to sprinkle; but I had my handy dandy umbrella. Mr. Bean then decided he was hungry. I wasn’t because of the sandwich and was raring to go – guess who won? So we stopped at a café across the street from the Palais de Justice. Mr. Bean had an omelet, I had a croissant (most of which I gave to Mr. Bean as I was still full) and two café au laits. The sum was about 30 E which I thought was highway robbery but whatever. What was fun during breakfast though was watching everyone going to work. I know it’s silly, but we were remembering it was Thanksgiving in the US so everything closes down for the most part. But obviously not in Paris and they were all off to their lives and jobs. Also, I was still lamenting the fact that I couldn’t remember the word for yesterday and a kind (and cute) gentleman at the table next to us reminded me it was “hier”. Thank goodness because I would have literally gone crazy the whole day trying to remember it.

After breakfast, we were then off to Notre Dame. As a side note, I wanted to add here that, before the trip, I warned Mr. Bean that I wanted our Christmas card this year to be a picture of us in France so I would be asking A LOT of people to take our picture as a couple. Mr. Bean hates when I do that on the trip – but then he is always glad when he looks at the picture at home. And he knew on this trip, when I was determined about something, there was no getting me to back down – and this issue was it. And let me tell you, everyone raved about our Christmas card this year. So, I’ll tell you all of the pix we took as a couple, and I’ll let you guess at the end which one
we picked for the card.
Once we got to Notre Dame, I saw a father taking a picture of his wife with five kids. I asked if he wanted me to take a picture of them all together and if he could then take one of Mr. Bean and I. I learned they were from New Jersey, but currently living in Rome for the husband’s work – I was so jealous! We traded pix (COUPLE PICTURE #1) and “Happy Thanksgiving’s”; and then Mr. Bean and I were off to go inside. We had been there before but Mr. Bean wanted to do a podcast from inside and I had a new camera so I wanted new pix. As I was taking pix though, I lost Mr. Bean for about 30 minutes. This continues to be a pattern with us as I take forever to get the “perfect” picture which drives him nuts because he wants the time together. I know he’s right, but I swear it’s a sickness in me!

I finally found him and he wanted to go into the museum part. Of course our museum passes don’t cover that so it was an extra 5E I think to go in – first question – what happened to the crown of thorns? Didn’t it used to be in there? It wasn’t that day which really confused me. Mr. Bean was then bad and got behind the pulpit in the one room and of course I took a couple of photos. Then Mr. Bean lit a candle for his grandmother which he always does whenever we visit a church. We have photos of each time he does this.
We then waited in line for the towers. The museum pass covers this entrance. I was excited and nervous at the same time. You see, last time we went up in 2002, by the time we got to the top, I looked and felt like I was going to die. Mr. Bean was kind enough to take a photo of me miserable. Granted, I loved the view and was happy I did it; but boy was I out of breath and exhausted from the 400+ steps. This time though, as of that time, I had lost 60 pounds (I’m up to 90 pounds lost now); so I thought I would do much better.
And I was right! Even though it was tiring, I was not exhausted, not out of breath, and really happy and proud with myself. So at the top, I had Mr. Bean take a picture of me in the exact spot as last time but this time with a big grin and a thumbs up from me. We also had a picture of the two of us taken with the lovely view. COUPLE PICTURE #2.

There is actually two additional levels to look at and on one level, you can see the home of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I have always loved that story, and especially with the Disney movie adding to the fun, I enjoyed seeing that area immensely. The picture on the left is the door to the Hunchback's home; and I am with the famous bell.
At the end though, we had to wait in line for about 20 minutes before they would let us descend. I still don’t know what took so long. And although it was beautiful, it was starting to get chilly and windy. So we were up on top about an hour.
After we descended, Mr. Bean was hungry again – I don’t know what it is about French food – you are always hungry. Before though, we went into the Notre Dame Crypt which is also included in the museum pass. I believe they found the crypt when they were attempting to build an underground parking lot. I thought it was enlightening and really interesting to see the old streets and buildings, but Mr. Bean got bored quickly and hunger was taking over.
We were going to eat at Le Vieux Bistro - 14 rue du Cloîture Notre Dame, 4e, based upon all of the recommendations from Fodors and Frommers; but it was packed except for one small table by the door and I just wasn’t up to eating in that spot. So another reason to return to Paris. Instead, we ate two doors down on the left if you are facing Vieux Bistro at a place where I don’t remember the name. But it was really good. I had a ½ carafe of red wine, croque monsieur platter and Mr. Bean had orangina and steak frite platter – it came to about 50 E. Thankfully, we had that money with us as their credit card machine was down.
We then made our way over to Sainte Chapelle but it was closed until 2 p.m. So we went across the street to an avocat (lawyer) store where they sold black robes for the attorneys. This is where I first realized that French attorneys, no matter their age, are required to wear black robes with the white frilly piece at the neck. This excited Mr. Bean and I as we are both attorneys ourselves. I wish we had something like that to wear, but no, just boring suits for us. So we went into the store and boy were we met with a cold stare. It was a very small store; and the woman could have burnt a hole into my brain. I explained to her, in French, why we were in there; but she could have cared less. She was the only one though who was not friendly to us on our trip.
So with our tail between our legs, we went two doors down to another café directly across the street from the line into Sainte Chapelle and had wine for me and café au lait for Mr. Bean and waited for them to open. It was very relaxing for only 8 E.
We then got into line when we noticed how slow it was. Because the Palais de Justice (court house) is also there, they have to check everyone with a fine tooth comb to make sure no one was carrying anything dangerous. We finally got to the front right before going through the detector when of course we were the ones stopped. Finally, after about 10 more minutes, we got through. We went into Sainte Chapelle which has A LOT of stained glass windows, as you can see from the pictures. There are two levels, the "paupers" level for their service which of course is the bottom floor, and then the second floor, with all of the glass windows, was for the rich people. Nice to see segregation, even in a church setting. This was another place our museum passes were used.

We first went to Sainte Chapelle. And I probably will be flamed for this, but I wasn’t as excited about it as I was for Notre Dame. Although pretty, it didn’t have that wow factor for me and Mr. Bean agreed.

What was more exciting for us; and what I didn’t realize when deciding to go to Sainte Chapelle, was that we would also be able to see the Palais de Justice, a French courthouse in action. It was really neat seeing all of the attorneys, wearing their robes, going to do their work. We saw some courtrooms and a law library. It was magnificent. I wanted to ask an attorney if I could take my picture with him but Mr. Bean forbid me (he was mortified); and I can’t say I blame him. I wouldn’t want someone to ask me when I was in the middle of work either. I did one sneak picture, however, which I've posted below!

Although I had a lot more on my list of things to do for the day, Mr. Bean decided he was done. He wanted to go back to the hotel, see his room, and rest up for dinner which was going to be our special Thanksgiving dinner.

First though, we went to the flower market at the top of the Cite metro stop to look around. I bet it’s beautiful in the spring and summer. It was okay now and had some Christmas things; but I was surprised that a lot of it looked very American and not very French. I didn’t get anything. We then went back to the Cite Metro stop and saw an old French woman trying to use the photo machine – she was having huge problems too. I felt better knowing it wasn’t because of me being American – it was because the machine was a pain! After she was done, we finally got our pictures figured out and taken. Mine had me with a big cheesy grin on my face; and Mr. Bean’s looks like a criminal with a perma-scowl – that’s the Bean Family!
So we went back and got our room – room #42. I was excited to get this room because it got rave reviews on TripAdviser and boy were they right! We had two windows, both of which you could open wide; and looking to your right, an amazing view of the Tour Eiffel! I was so happy! And even better, Mr. Bean admitted I was right in wanting to move. I have to admit I never thought I would have (or afford) a hotel room with such a nice view. We were so silly about it. I would stand in the far window from the Tour Eiffel, Mr. Bean would stick his head out the near window, and I would take a picture of him with the view; and vice versa. We did this both during the day, and at night with it lit. We also liked the bathroom better because we had a real shower/tub. Still immaculate and very nice.
After resting, we got ready, dressing nice for Thanksgiving dinner – French style. We were going to Le Train Bleu, based upon recommendations from Fodors. I even put on heels for the dinner! This ended up being a mistake later on as you will see shortly.
We took the metro to Gare de Lyon where Le Train Bleu is located. After we walked down the steps to the metro, because of the combination of my heels and the wet concrete from the rain, I took a header. Well, really I took a knee-er, as my left foot went straight out in front and I went down hard on my right knee (and boy did I get a souvenir bruise for the trip!). Mr. Bean was so shocked he didn’t help and a kind stranger did. Talk about embarrassing! Mr. Bean was actually recording at that time; so I personally think he didn’t want to help because he thought it would make good radio! So then I was limping my way to the metro.

We then got on the line; and boy was it packed – rush hour, everyone going home from work. And there was this guy packed close to us who was crazy and kept bumping into me – I kept giggling because I couldn’t believe it. Then, this guy had this HUGE sneeze right on me! This other woman made eye contact with me and rolled her eyes – one of the many reasons I love the metro!
So we got off at our stop and went to the restaurant. One of the many interesting things about Le Train Bleu is that it’s in the train station and it’s a really fancy restaurant. Once you go up the stairs to go there, before you go in, turn around and look at the view. It’s amazing how huge the station is and is really pretty. I wish we had train stations like that in the United States. We went in and boy, it’s like another world. It’s like a museum with the paintings and gilt on the walls and ceiling – it’s just gorgeous. We had made a reservation; and I would recommend you doing so as well.

We were seated at a nice table and could tell a big group was going to be next to us. As the tables were close, I was a bit concerned about them being too loud. I couldn’t have been more wrong and they were lovely. They were from Boston, Rhode Island and Belgium and they all met in Paris to celebrate one of their birthdays. I took a picture of their group; and when Mr. Bean went to the restroom, they were kind enough to keep me entertained.
We had a wonderful meal. I had red wine, Chicken liver pastries with spicy morel mushroom sauce and roquette salad for an appetizer and Roast leg of lamb, Fourme d’Ambert blue-cheese potato gratin for an entrée. Now if you like lamb, you must get this entrée as they make it a big production and carve it at your table. I took a picture of them carving it which you can see here. And the blue–cheese potato gratin was to die for! Mr. Bean kept stealing mine! Mr. Bean had a dozen escargot for an appetizer; and Grilled filet of beef in béarnaise sauce with early green beans and tender potatos for an entrée. He also enjoyed his meal immensely but liked my potatoes better. The one thing they didn’t have a great selection of, in my opinion, were desserts. We decided to forgo getting dessert and get some later. The meal came to 118E which I thought it was well worth.

After we ate, we took a tour of the facilities and saw the bar area. It was not only beautiful but comfortable as well with leather couches and chairs and they even had their own mascot – a cute calico cat! I of course had to take another picture.

After dinner, it was about 8 p.m. and we didn’t want to go straight back to the room. We first thought we would go to the Bastille, but I honestly wasn’t sure how to get there from the metro stop so we decided to go to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees instead. We got to the Arc and just made it before it closed. We used our museum passes to get in and started walking up the steps. Now this was crazy for three reasons: (1) I was wearing heels; (2) my knee still hurt from my earlier embarrassing stumble; and (3) we were both stuffed from our dinner. So, I didn’t do this climb in the happy go lucky way I did that morning’s Notre Dame Tower climb. This time, I was huffing and complaining. We got to the top 200 + steps later; but it was tough, I admit. Note to self: no climbing on a full stomach and with heels. We looked at the beautiful view – it was both of our first time being on the top of the Arc at night – we’ve only done it during the day before. Once again, I was being a fanatic with the camera, taking a million pix to get the “perfect” one which was driving Mr. Bean crazy who was trying to be romantic. Oops. Afterward, we walked back down. We were going to walk on the Champs Elysee, but my feet were tired so we went back to the room again.

Once we were back in our room, we then took pictures of each other sticking our heads out of the window and the Tour Eiffel in the background. It worked out perfectly because there were two windows. The one taking the picture was in the window the farthest from the Tour Eiffel; and the other would stick their head out of the closest window. Never in the U.S. would we be able to stick out of the windows like that in a hotel! Afterwards, we then watched some French television – a reality show which was a cross between American Idol and Big Brother – I loved it! And we went fast asleep at about 10 p.m. Another lovely day and a lovely Thanksgiving in Paris.

A Free Man (and Woman) in Paris, Unfettered and Alive . . .

Friday, November 24, 2006
Well, today was Versailles day - or Chateau de Versailles, if you want to get all fancy about it. I had been before, back in February, 1993. It was chilly and cold that day and guess what? It was chilly and cold this day as well – plus a nice helping of wet. I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to see the gardens this time as I didn’t the last, but as you will see shortly, it didn’t matter and we had a blast. Mr. Bean had never been to Versailles so he was really looking forward to it.

We took the train out to Versailles. I stupidly forgot my magic umbrella, i.e. the umbrella that I always take with me when I don’t want it to rain; so of course it rained. To get to the train, we got off of Line 6 to Bir-Hakeim (Grenelle) and walked to Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel. Once there, we got very confused. Because we had the Carte l’Orange, we used it to just get to the train; but I knew that was not right because I knew the Carte L’Orange could not be used to Versailles. So we went back and forth, retraced our steps; and finally went to the ticket lady right before entering the RER C area who sold us our tix for 5.5 E each, round trip. I was very nervous about losing the tix. She asked if we wanted the pass for Versailles as well – it was 16E for RER tix and Versailles, but we said no, thinking the Museum Pass was enough – which later we found to probably not be – or we were too dumb to figure it out.

The train took about 30 minutes. We rode on the top level and really enjoyed the scenery. We were concerned with getting off at the right stop; but we shouldn’t have been because it was the last one. Also, I was wondering how they knew we had tix, because no one came to check them; however, as we left the train and the station, we had to use our tickets to get out of the station. Made sense to me.

Once we left the station, we took a right, and then our first left; and there was Versailles directly in front of us – beautiful gates. Unfortunately, there was a ton of construction going on so it wasn’t as beautiful in the front as I was hoping it would be.

We went into the Information area, which was on the left when you are looking at the Chateau. We thought our museum passes would cover everything; but it seemed like they hardly covered anything. We paid about 14 E more pp for a guided tour of secret apartments; and then paid something else as well. The escorted tour was at 12:30 p.m., so we had about 2 hours to see the rest.

We then went inside (which was good as it started to rain) and got in line to get headsets with the tour on it (6E each). We first got in one line, then were told we had to go in the paying line first, get a ticket and then go in the second line to actually get the head set. It was very confusing, and they were not very helpful.
Finally, we were able to start the tour. First, we went into the Chapel. This area was absolutely beautiful; and we got there just in time for an organist to play. It was beautiful. This was another spot where I was driving Mr. Bean crazy as I was trying to get the perfect picture. We then moved on through the tour and got to my favorite room of the house: The Opera House. It was amazing – the acoustics were wonderful; and it was just gorgeous. I could have sat in there forever. For some reason, you are not allowed to take pix in there, even without flash, which I just didn’t understand. So I was a horrible person and snuck (sneaked?) a couple of no flash pictures anyway. Sorry (well, not too much). You can see one of my "illegal" pictures to the right.

We then continued the tour through the Hall of Mirrors. I took a lovely picture of Mr. Bean with the mirrors in the background. He then took a picture of me. Now, this leads to a sidenote. I’m the photographer, not Mr. Bean. I do think, however, he had the capacity of understanding that if I want my picture with something, it means I want the picture to show me and then the item I’m with. Not Mr. Bean. And this continued to be a theme seen throughout this trip. If you look at the pix in the previous days' posts, you'll see exactly what I mean. First, at the Louvre, I took a lovely picture of Mr. Bean on the balcony when you first enter the Pyramid part of the Louvre at the top so you can see both the Pyramid and the Museum. I stood in the exact same spot and I could have been at the local mall for all you would know. Look above and compare and contrast the pix yourself. Then, I took Mr. Bean’s picture in front of the Palais de Justice which shows the whole building. I stood in the same spot and all you can see are the stairs – I could have been doing a Rocky impersonation and you would assume I was in Philly and not Paris. Once again, compare and contrast above. The Arc de Triomphe? It looks like I’m with a concrete block. That theme continued here at Versailles – a picture of me in the Hall of Mirrors which you see above right? I might as well have been in my own living room because all you could see are other people. And yes, I continued to complain to Mr. Bean about it; but it never changed. Then I asked a stranger to take a picture of Mr. Bean and I and as you can see to the left, you have no clue where we are - I'll tell you right now that this picture did NOT make the finals for the Christmas card. The Hall of Mirrors was nice, but I hope they finish it soon as I want to see it again in its full glory.

Anywho, we then went into the royal bedchamber where we learned Marie Antoinette had her baby and that all babies were born there. In fact, I learned that all royal babies had to be born in front of the entire Court to make sure no mistakes or exchanges were made and it was the true royal baby. Could you imagine birthing a baby in front of such a crowd? No thank you!

So it was then time for our tour. Talk about a VERY unusual man giving it. He was the ultimate French man, he was in his 50’s, had an obvious disdain of the non-french, had the perfect Parisian outfit – Mr. Bean and I loved him. I think my biggest regret was that I didn't get a picture of him; but to be honest with you, I was a little scared of him. You'll understand as you continue reading. And the things he pointed out on the tour were very bizarre – in such a funny way that we were very entertained. And everything ended with “do you understand what I mean?” Now, I will give you an example of an area he discussed that was so bizarre and he wouldn’t let up on it and even with kids on the tour. The bathing habits of the Court back in that time. He kept going over and over how the men shaved their entire body and took two baths – one with soap and then changed tubs to rinse off in another; but that women did not shave at all and only took one bath for everything, and had a special bathing outfit to wear during the bath. And he would emphasize it by saying “Men shaved, women didn’t shave. Men two baths, women one – do you understand what I mean?” And he said it so often, Mr. Bean and I were trying to not burst out laughing. We even got to see the royal toilets of the time which our french guide thought was a HUGE deal.

Also, this French guide was offended that Versailles has only retained about 10 percent of what was in Versailles “back in the day”. What’s interesting though, no one stole the items, the French sold them. So the reason they are not in Versailles now is because the French wanted money and sold them to private entities. And then this man was VERY offended that these same ingrates would not give the items back.

We also went to the Opera House again, but this time we got to sit on the upper level and got an even better view. Here's another illegal picture to the right. We learned that they still hold operas there. I don’t want to tell you this part because I don’t want you to take my tickets; but if you go on-line you can get on a waiting list for tickets to see something there. Also, dignitaries have dinners there – a royal family from Belgium had an event there the week previously. And we also learned that the stage could be expanded by going over the lower seats – I guess this was a huge deal back then.

During this time in the Opera house, we also had question and answer session. And boy, if he did not like your question or thought it was stupid – he had no problem telling you so. We were cracking up over the way he answered people’s questions. And as this was the time the movie “Marie Antoinette” was out so of course someone had to ask about that. I’m not kidding you, the tour guide looked around to make sure no one else from Versailles was there and when he saw no other employees, he told us it was a disgrace; and a horribly inaccurate movie. He was so offended you would have thought the movie was about this mother. And that ended the tour.

There was one complaint I had about Versailles. Because of the “Marie Antoinette” movie, it seemed like most of the souvenirs were geared towards that and very flowery and foofy, which I am not. So I bought no Versailles souvenirs except two umbrellas, which were very nice; and only 9E each.
We got the umbrellas to go out into the garden. Mr. Bean didn’t want to go far; however, because of the rain. But then we got lucky because even though it was not summer, they were still renting golf carts! Yes, they were 28 E per hour; but they were worth every euro; and we had such a blast on them it was the best part of the day! That's us in the cart in the picture to the right. The golf carts also came with an audio tour guide; so when we drove past different spots, the audio would start to tell us about the area. We got to see so much more than we would have otherwise, and it was a blast to drive around the gardens – how many people can say they have driven on the Versailles gardens? I would recommend this part to anyone; and up to four people can ride in it. We rode around the lakes, like the one to the left; and sped past people, bikes, police officers on horses and even sheep and dogs!

We went down to Marie Antoinettes Petit Trianon. We quickly looked inside and took that picture of me on the left (Mr. Bean actually got the whole thing!). We then went outside to see her gardens. I actually liked this home better than the huge Chateau. I got COUPLE PICTURE # 3 in front of the Temple of Love. After quickly taking that picture, we looked inside and it was very pretty.

We then bee-bopped it around the rest of the gardens, flew by the Grand Trianon as we didn’t have time to stop because of our hour limit; so I only got to take a quick picture of the outside as we flew by, which is the picture on the left. We then saw more police officers on horses.

Finally, we took a couple last pictures with the wonderful golf cart.; and made it back about 10 minutes over time. Thankfully, they didn’t charge us; but I have a feeling that in the summer, we would have been.

After the joy ride, I then wanted to walk back a bit to get a "couple" picture in front of Versailles, on the garden side. Mr. Bean didn’t want to because he was tired and ready to go – we had been there about 5-6 hours by that time with no lunch. I had something in my arsenal, however. You see, when I saw Versailles back in February, 1993, I was with the guy I was dating at the time; and we had a "couple" picture in front of Versailles. So I said to Mr. Bean, "Do you want my only picture as a couple in front of Versailles to be a picture with someone who is not you?" So needless to say, I got my picture, one with our backs to the Chateau (PICTURE #4) and then one with each of us with our backs to the gardens. We also took a picture in honor of of our baby dog Jefferson Kennedy which is to the right and our cat McKinley Roosevelt to the left.
So then we were ready to go. It was a lovely day, but we had had enough. And we were starving. So we decided that, on the walk back to the station, we would stop for lunch. Well, this was a lovely idea except for the fact that it was 3 p.m. and everything had just closed for that time between lunch and dinner. We finally found a sandwich place and grabbed some to bring on the train. Don’t misunderstand me, it was very good – and I had diet Orangina for the first time which I loved – but I was really looking forward to a sit down meal. Oh well. And I was also disappointed because I had been in Paris for three days and still hadn’t really shopped yet. I only had one more day in which to do it.

So we got back to the train station and took the train home. Then on the metro back to our hotel, we saw the nice American family from Italy who we met at Notre Dame on Thanksgiving – we gave them some directions to the Eiffel Tower; and then we went back to the room and rested before dinner.

Now, we were supposed to go to Au Petit Marguery for dinner based upon recommendations from Fodors; however, we were just too tired to do it; so we ate at an outside café called Le Malakoff right outside the hotel.

Although it was cold, we were still able to sit outside because they had heaters everywhere. We had a nice night, eating while looking at the Eiffel Tower. We each got the prix fix meal. I had escargots for an appetizer and of course soaked up the butter with some bread; duck with raspberry sauce for my entrée with some fried potatoes and crème brulee for dessert. And of course a ½ carafe of red wine. Mr. Bean had a “country” plate with foie gras, cheese and bread; beef tartare for the entrée (whch had to have been about 2 pounds of meat); and a hot fudge sundae for dessert. With bottled water, it was about 60 E. Very relaxing and enjoyable – a nice night for dinner. Afterwards, we walked across the street to get some nice nighttime photos of the Eiffel tower. We then went back to the room and to bed.