Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The surprise!

9:45 am, the phone rang in our hotel room. I answered. The voice on the other end said we had guests waiting in the lobby. BIG surprise for my Mom— my Mom was thrilled when she saw Ian hiding behind a newspaper sitting in the lobby as we got off the compact elevator. Sue, Ian's wife, was sitting across from him.

I had invited Ian and Sue to join us to celebrate my Mom's birthday, once we booked our flights in February, but told him not to mention it to my Mom. Ian, being Ian, always gets back to me, but generally not till just before our meeting. Approximately three weeks before the trip, Ian had phoned to confirm that yes, he and Sue would be delighted to come and join us for the celebrations. Since meeting Ian 25 years ago, we have celebrated more notable birthdays with him, than anyone else. Though Ian and Sue live on the edge of the Lake District in England, distance has never been an obstacle to us. Ian surprised my Mom on her 60th, 65th, and 70th birthdays, so it was only natural that he would help us celebrate my Mom's 75th birthday.

We all had breakfast in our hotel & made plans to walk down to L'Orangerie, to see Monet's  massive Water Lillies, before we head over to Giverny.

The walk down to the gallery was probably the limit to my Mom's walking. Our hotel was centrally located, so it was a lovely stroll down.  We walked around Place de Madeleine, along Rue Royale, passing the infamous Maxim's, crossed Rue de Rivoli into the Place de la Concorde where we entered the Tuileries gardens to gain entry to the front of L'Orangerie. From Place de la Concorde, looking one way you could see up to the Arc de Triomphe, pivot and see the Eiffel tower, turn around and see the Louvre. It was a spectacular vantage point, and rich with so much French history. This is where Marie Antoinette was guillotined, along with Danton and Robespierre.

Walking towards the Tuilieres gardens.

The Louvre is straight ahead.

There was an hour queue before we actually got into the gallery, and we all decided to get a pass for this gallery, and for Monet's house in Giverny, as we would be heading there the next day. The main floor had two massive salons, each containing four of Monet's spectacular views of his garden in Giverny. The canvases were 40 foot wide, and that is not an exaggeration. The rooms that housed the paintings, were lit by natural diffused lighting,  under the same conditions as Monet had painted them in, in his studio. They were glorious. I am a huge fan of the Impressionist movement. We wandered downstairs where Monet's contemporaries were  represented: Manet, Modigliani, Renoir, C√©zanne & Derain, to name a few. There was much more to this little gallery than I expected.

Ian, Sue and yours truly.

Ian, Sue and my Mom

My Mom and Sue cabbed up to Galleries Lafatte, where we decided to have a change of pace for the afternoon, and do a bit of shopping, but first, meet for lunch on the upstairs terrace of the store. Ian and I walked up to the store. It was a good walk, and the rain managed to hold off. A slight drizzle greeted us as we hit the doors of the store. By the time we made our way to the rooftop terrace restaurant, the sun had come out, and the squishy astro turf under our shoes was oozing out water. The views of the city were stunning. The Opera Garnier was directly in front of us. The Sacre Couer was behind us. And what's a view of Paris, without the Eiffel Tower in it?

After lunch we all separated to do our own thing, I'm sure Ian was relieved by that, and we made a designated time to meet. This store was beautiful, with it's central dome. I didn't have much time, but wanted to get a little something for my Mom's birthday that was French. I found a Parisienne blue & white striped T-shirt by Armor-lux, with matching scarf that fit the bill. I also picked up a 75th birthday card, en Francais, to be a reminder for my Mom where she celebrated this noteworthy birthday. Incredibly, I managed to find a lovely cashmere area, as I was going down the escalators, and picked up something for myself, utilizing my 10% tourist discount card, and knowing I would also claim back my 12% VAT, making it a must stop for me.

Galeries Lafayette's landmark dome.

French women love their pumps.
They wear them at all times.

Needless to say, the shoe selection was wonderful.

My Mom and I wandered back to the hotel. I was still getting my bearings, and asked at the Gap, where we were on the map. It's always nice to know where you are, in order to get to where you want.

Our hotel front desk staff suggested a restaurant for dinner, Le pas-sage oblige. It took us to a whole new part of town, which we wouldn't have sought out on our own, so it was a good thing. The meal wasn't an overall hit, but, we tried something new.

Tomorrow, we take the train to Giverny.

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