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December 2005

Ah, Paris...

Comme j'adore Paris!  C'est si belle... si romantique... si pleine d'histoire!

Okay, I'll stop with the French, already, but after an amazing weekend in Paris, I'm just not quite ready to let go yet!  So this was my third visit to Paris (well, third visit where I left the airport... lol) and probably the best so far.  A beautiful language, wonderful people, incredible food, and all of the art, culture and history you could ask for.  Anyway, here's a quick run-down of my weekend :)

We left Thursday night, connected through JFK and landed in Paris on Friday morning.  We had a private shuttle meet us at the airport - the driver was there with a card with our naSeine_with_eiffleme on it.  I felt so cool.  We drove to our hotel between the Place de la Bastille and the Place de la République, checked in, freshened up, and then went out.  We walked to the Seine and then walked along it until we got to the Hôtel de Ville and stopped for lunch at a café on the corner with the Seine out one window and the Hôtel de Ville out the other.  I left Dad and Nicole at the café after finishing my croque monsieur, and walked downPompidou the street to see the Pompidou center where I also ran into a missionary.  We chatted... it was cool.  I love the fountain at the Pompidou Center, with the Église St. Merie behind it... such a cool dichotomy.  There were lots of school children running around, just a fun atmosphere. 

After that, I got back to where dad and Nicole were having dessert and when they finished we walked down the Seine to the Pont Neuf where we took a boat tNotre_dameour of the Seine.  Such a beautiful city!!!  We saw all of the main sites that you see from the river, including the gorgeous Cathédral de Nôtre Dame.  After the cruise, Nicole and dad were beat, so they went to the metro at the bridge and went back to the hotel.  I continued walking down to the Orsay, which had just closed (grr) and then crossed the river to the Louvre, wandered around, and then started walking back towards the hotel as it got dark.  It was so beautiful to see the city all lHotel_de_ville_nightit up.  I walked back to the Hôtel de Ville, which was just stunning all lit up at night.  I just continued along, and ran into a crèperie on the corner where locals were lining up to get crèpes as they went home from work.  The lady in front of my ordered a crèpe aux marrons, so I did the same (it's a chestnut spread).  I took my hot crèpe and just wandered along the street past an area that was just full of fruit stands, flower and gardening shops, and even pet stores.  I went through the Place de la Bastille at night and back to the hotel.  It was 2 1/2 hours of walking, but I enjoyed every minute.

Saturday, we were going to meet up with David.  I wanted to go to Montmartre, however, so I got up early and got on the metro.  A fresh pain chocolate from the pâtisserie on the corner was the perfect start to the morning.  I got off at Anvers and went up the rue Steinkirque, where the butte of Montmartre was in front of me, all covered in mist.  It was at least 200 steps to climb the stairs to the basilica, but there was no way I was going to cheat and take the little motorized transport (funicular).  I hiked the stairs and as I looked down, it was totally worth it.Sacre_coeur I went inside Sacré Coeur and just sat in the pews and let the peace and quiet sink in.  It was big, beautiful, and thankfully warm, but it felt so empty.  After a while I got up and walked around to look at the stained glass, then went back out and down the hill (bullying my way past some guys who tried to stop me to sell me something) and into the winding streets full of fabric and ribbon shops.  One can only window shop in fabric stores for so long, however, so I got back on the metro and went back to the Marais district where I decided to go and explore the Place de Vosges.  I think that might have been one of my favorite moments.  A gorgeous, historical square Place_de_vosgeswhere Victor Hugo once lived, it was full of local families taking their children to play in the park. Just sitting on a bench under a tree, watching the leaves fall and listening to the splash of the fountains was probaby one of the most peaceful times I've had in a very long time.  It was wonderful.  After that, I stopped for a sausage roll and a fanta (my all time favorite meal in Europe... lol) and then went to the hotel to get dad and Nicole.  We left and took the train to the Château de Vincennes where we met David, who came and picked us up for the rest of the day.  We had an amazing day with him!  Nous avions parlé français toute la journée!  J'étais très contente.  We went all over the place, talking in French about anything and everything and seeing parts of Paris we would never have seen otherwise.  Aside from the fact that the Eiffel_towertraffic on a Saturday afternoon caused us to dub Paris the Ville de Traffique instead of the Ville Lumière, it was perfect.   We all got hungry after a while, though, so David drove us to Nation, an area in Paris, where we found a parking spot and then walked around (freezing half to death, I might add) until we found a likely looking restaurant.  David said it was très typique, and the food and atmosphere were wonderful.   We squeezed into a tiny table for 4 near the windows and spent a wonderful meal enjoying good food and great conversation.  After dinner, we dropped dad off at the hotel and then continued a wonderful tour of Paris by night.  Just Self_portrait_with_davidbeautiful!  We stopped behind the Eiffel Tower and just parked there to look at the lights, and right at 11pm, a whole new set of lights came on and the tower just sparkled.  We were all pretty tired by then, though, so we went back to the hotel and finished by making plans to meet for church the next morning.  Church was so cool... we got to go to the stake conference (la conférence de Pieu) for the Paris Est stake.  They had a wonderful choir and it was so fun to listen to the talks and feel the Venus_de_milospirit of the people there.  That afternoon, we decided to go to the Louvre where we saw Mona, Venus and a few other famous ladies :)   I think one of my favorite paintings, however, is by Delacroix... Liberté Guidant le Peuple.  Delacroix I've loved it since I first saw it in French history at the Y.  Anyway, after the Louvre, we went back to the Bastille where we had a very nice dinner at Café du Bastille facing the square.  The hot chocolate is to die for! 

Pere_lachaiseFinally, Monday morning I got up early and took the metro to la Cimitière Père Lachaise.  I walked all over there for a few hours, just enjoying the incredible tranquility and beauty of the place as well as paying respect to the many famous people buried there... the ones I could find, anyway... lol.   I saw Oscar Wilde, Marcel ProusChopint, Delacroix, Molière, Chopin, Jim Morrison, Rossini and more.  It's weird to think of a cemetery being beautiful, but this one really is.

After leaving the cemetery, I stopped at a pâtisserie to pick up some pastries that David said we *had* to try while we were there.  Unfortunately, all of the shops seemed to be closed when we were looking on Saturday.  So I got quelques petits gâteaux de milles feuilles and some chocolate éclairs (des vrais éclairs!  pas ceux de Costco...) and they are delicious!  The custard in the milles feuilles... mmm... heaven.  After that, we went to a little shop on the corner by the hotel to get sandwiches for lunch and then took the shuttle to the airport for the long flight home.  After this, though, I'm not leaving my French behind again!  I've been reading Harry Potter in French and picked up the latest in the series... I finally got a chance to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the plane... in French, of course ;)  All in all, it was a pretty perfect trip.  The only thing left is to plan my next trip to Paris!

(I took over 200 pictures, but here are about 50 of my favorites.)

Rain Rain Go Away...

...come again another day.  All the world is waiting for the sun.

Okay, can I just say that I'm totally a Breaking Benjamin fan now?  Not that I didn't like them before, I mean, I had a bunch of their stuff on my iPod already, but I'm tracking down their albums after seeing them live on Saturday night.  (Crossing my fingers that Jace figures out how to send the pictures from his camera phone!)  They rock!  Braving a goth club and having to scrub beer off my boots was totally worth it :D

So... this is my Gwen-is-a-slacker catch-up post.  I'll have to catch up my catch-up post with pictures once I get my computer at home hooked up again so I can upload the pictures from my camera.  Going backwards, we celebrated Steph's birthday this weekend.  Well, I joined in the celebrations in between 2 straight days of back-breaking labor in order to move all of my stuff out of the basement in anticipation of people coming to do some remodeling (today!) before my grandparents move in next month.  See... I'm supposed to be moving into my condo, right?  Well, 2 months after signing the contract, still no closing date.  Sigh... so we're having to do some serious juggling at home for remodeling and grandparent-grandchild co-habitation.  I'll have to take a picture of the dining room where my craft studio has been temporarily relocated, but I'm coming right out and admitting it... I have WAY too much stuff.  It's definitely time for my second annual scrapbook supply garage sale.  Sigh.  What was I thinking?!?!?  But I digress.  We played all weekend for Steph's birthday - Pauli_motos Friday night we met for dinner at Pauli Moto's (fans of Iron Chef should all check it out... Morimoto brainchild).  Great food, great atmosphere, and yes.  I ate sushi.  I have pictures.  SushiGranted, it was chicken (cooked) and asparagus, but it was on the sushi menu, so I'm claiming it!  A little funky, I doubt I'll ever be a convert, but it was fun to feel a little bit trendy for a few minutes.  After that, we surprised Steph with a little party in her honor at the Water Oaks house (okay, was it really a surprise?  I mean, come on. Stephs_cake  She did the exact same thing for me 2 weeks earlier.  She HAD to be onto us!)  We sang, we laughed, we danced, bonding occurred.  Saturday, we gathered for a hysterical ward talent / no-talent show.  I think the flashlights to "Eye of the Tiger" and the bananas were my favorites.  Then a group of us rushed downtown to catch Breaking Benjamin at Nation.  We were late.  So late that they let Nick in  Lots of people, beer all over the floor, incredibly loud music, it was awesome!  We got there for enough of the show to feel that it was worth while, and then we went to the mid-singles bonfire and THEN there was a group of 12 of us that ended up at IHOP for a very early breakfast... lol. 

Let's see... before that, I decided early last week that I need a break.  I'm an admitted escapist.  When life gets hard and stressful, I run away for a while.  Some people just take the day off, some people go to the mountains or visit friends in Denver or whatever.  I go to Europe :D  I got to my breaking point last weekend and decided that it was time for another escape.  Last time was Venice, so this time I decided to go for Paris.  I leave Thursday and I'm sooo excited!  I'm looking foward to our stay in a beautiful hotel with a courtyard view right smack in the Marais district (Les Jardins de Marais), visiting the Père Lachaise cemetery nearby, browsing through Montmartre... going back to the Louvre, not to mention hitting a discotheque and going to church :)  We're meeting a friend that Nicole met online, and I'm totally excited... it's going to be a blast! 

Before that was my birthday, Halloween, and my official ousting from the singles ward.  Ouch. 

WardHalloween first... the ward had a big ward FHE (although technically I don't think I can call it, "the ward," since I'm not a member of it anymore... sigh.) But they put on a huge carnival.  I was just excited to wear a costume :)  After multiple comments at the party, I've decdided that I was NOT a fairy, I was Drew Barrymore in "Ever After."  Much better :)  There were really a lot of great costumes there!  Totally fun.

In any case, I can't believe how awesome everyone was to me for my birthday!  A surprise cake and MaMassive_cake_fire_avertedrtinelli's at the Water Oaks house Halloween party on Friday night... where we barely managed to avert a massive fire as the non-sparkling sparkle candles almost caught the cake box on fire...  then on Saturday was the celebration I had planned on... it ended up being a girls' night out with me, Steph, Rae, Amber and Sarina.  We tried out the new Tuscan Grill at Tyson's... Brio.  Can I just say, totally fabulous!  I'll be back.  While we were waiting for our table, we opened presents.  I have incredible friends, you know that?  Getting_tickets To the left is me, opening the card from Steph, which included a drawing and the promise of two tickets to see the Colorado Avalanche play the Philidelphia Flyers (with Peter Forsberg, who was my favorite player before he defected from the Avs to the Flyers) in Phili in January.  Road trip, baby!  Finally was Sunday, my actual birthday, where I taught my last Sunday School lesson in the Langley ward and then had a family party.  I've never been so excited in my life to get a toaster and a trash can!  My condo is going to rock.  Seriously.  Then, as I was watching an Avs game that I had tivo'd, I got a call from Amber telling me to come to the door where I was totally surprised by a huge group of friends who came bearing their own surprise birthday party.Surprise  They came with a cake, gifts, and lots of smiles and well-wishes.  It was awesome to see Joel and Elena straight from their honeymoon... Angela and Steve, friends from the Shenandoah ward, friends from Langley and the mid-singles... I couldn't believe how many people showed up!  So we all crowded into the basement with plates of cake and other treats to watch Batman.  Christian Bale.  Mmm... So thank you to all my amazing friends who worked so hard to make a birthday I was totally dreading into a great day (um...