Notre Dame

Given today’s events, it seemed appropriate to post a photo of Notre Dame. We have been fortunate enough to visit Paris twice, both times making a stop at Notre Dame. I don’t have photos of Notre Dame I would consider great, both visits were part of busy days that were more focused on enjoying the city than taking a ton of time to get the perfect photo, but I like this photo taken from the back of the cathedral. Taken from the back and surrounded by greenery, it gives a more peaceful relaxing feel to the photo, hiding the fact that the front of the cathedral was swarming with tourists. It is sad knowing that taking this photo isn’t possible now, but I’m sure once the iconic structure is rebuilt, it will as impressive as it is in the many photos being shared today.

Notre Dame in Paris, France, viewed from the back of the cathedral

Desserts of Paris

A couple months ago, I posted a photo of a delicious cherry tart from Stohrer Patisserie in Paris. Just looking at that photo makes me hungry. Here is another photo from that same night, our collection of “winnings” on display. Each of the three tarts was absolutely delicious and macarons were quite good, too. Personally, I think a buffet of desserts is a great way to finish a visit to Paris.

Pastries from Stohrer Patisserie in Paris, France

Reflections in Bassin Octogonal

This photo was taken in Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. At the west end of the garden is Bassin Octogonal, which in the right conditions provides a beautiful reflection of the obelisk of Place de la Concorde, with Arc de Triomphe off in the distance. The garden is a little more peaceful during the evening than during the daytime and the soft light of the early evening can make for a beautiful scene. In general, Paris is a beautiful city both during the day and at night, so if you ever visit the city, don’t wear yourself out so much exploring during the day that you don’t have energy to explore the city at night.

Reflection of the obelisk in Place de la Concorde in the early evening

Painting in Paris

Paris is known for its museums filled with well known works of art like the Mona Lisa, and while those museums are impressive, to get a sense of how Parisians live their lives, it is better to visit the many gardens within the city. This photo was taken in Luxembourg Gardens, one of the most impressive gardens in Paris. Unlike the museums, Eiffel Tower, etc. which are dominated by tourists, the gardens are a mix of tourists and locals living their lives. This woman was wrapping up a session with her teacher as we walked by, paying no attention to us tourists.

Woman painting with her teacher in Luxembourg Gardens

The Eiffel Tower bathing in warm afternoon light

I’m sure there have been millions of photos taken of the Eiffel Tower (or Tour Eiffel, if you prefer). The iconic landmark dominates the Paris cityscape from almost anywhere in the center of Paris, unless you’re in the Eiffel Tower itself. Most who visit Paris want to climb (or take the elevator up) the Eiffel Tower, and it is a great experience. While the views from the top are quite nice, the views aren’t quite as good as those from other spots in Paris, since they are lacking…the Eiffel Tower. This photo was taken from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, one of the better sites in Paris from which to get a good view of the Eiffel Tower, and it is also conveniently included in the Paris Museum Pass. I like how the lines of clouds are cutting across the background and the warmth of the scene due to the late afternoon sun.

The Eiffel Tower in the warm afternoon sun as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

The truth about the Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is an extremely well known painting. What most people don’t know is that it is a relatively small painting that would probably receive very little attention from visitors of the Louvre if it weren’t the Mona Lisa. I’m not an art expert by any means but it seems to me that there are dozens of more impressive pieces of artwork in the Louvre than the Mona Lisa. The most interesting thing about the Mona Lisa to me is watching the non-stop flow of people crowding around the painting with their cameras and phones out, trying to get a picture. I would say how silly it is to do that, but I did the same thing during my first visit to the Louvre, so I’m not one to judge.

Crowd of people around the Mona Lisa

Walking Paris

Getting Around Paris

One of the great things about Paris is how easy it is to get around the city. The city is very walk-able and, like most major cities in Europe, has a great metro/bus system. While we were there we purchased the weekly pass (actually two of them since we were there over parts of two weeks) which not only covered transportation within the city but also to and from the airport, a couple train trips to small towns over an hour outside the city, and the train to Disneyland Paris, nearly an hour outside the city. At a little over $50 for the two weeks, it was an absolute steal. We also did lots of walking but so many of the sights (e.g., Louvre, Fontainebleau) require a lot of walking just to see them, so using public transit made the long days a little more manageable.

The Dog Walking Dog

I’ve seen many people walking dogs before but this was a first. On our way to the metro station near our hotel one morning, we saw a dog walker who had about half a dozen dogs. Well, the dog walker was walking about four dogs, while these two were doing their own thing. I wonder how you train a dog to walk another dog…

One dog being walked by another dog in Paris, France.

Dessert in Paris

Fake Online Reviews

Remember the good old days when you could trust the reviews on websites like Amazon, Trip Advisor, Google, etc. to provide trustworthy reviews that provided unbiased, accurate information? Unfortunately, this seems to be less and less the case, and on more than one occasion I have found myself not purchasing an item I was initially interested in because a large number of the reviews were clearly fake. A few months back, one of the podcasts I listen to mentioned a great tool for checking the reliability of reviews, fakespot.com, a site that automatically determines how many reviews are likely fakes and how those reviews affect the review scores for the item of interest. This is a lot faster than what I used to do, which involved reading a large number of reviews to see if they seemed reliable and checking other reviews written by people who reviewed the product/restaurant/etc. (Trip Advisor in particular seems to be especially bad about how many reviews are written by a user who has written only one review, which I have zero faith in being legitimate). I’m not sure Fakespot is the end all be all, but it at least gives a quick idea of how much reviews can be trusted.

Cherry Tart from Stohrer Patisserie

Paris is known for having amazing bakeries (or patisseries, in French), so when we visited, of course we had to experience one ourselves. In this case, my research on Trip Advisor (which I have more and more issues with, but that’s a story for another day) was definitely based on legitimate reviews, because the well-regarded Stohrer Patisserie did not disappoint. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising, as a business does not survive for 290 years if they do not know what they are doing. We visited once early in our vacation and the tart we purchased was so amazing that on the final night in Paris we decided to have a “tart buffet” as the grand finale of our vacation. The “buffet” included the cherry tart that is the main subject of this photo, in addition to the strawberry and raspberry tarts which can be seen in the background. They all tasted amazing and it was impossible to choose a favorite, though the cherry tart was the most photogenic.

Delicious cherry tart from Patisserie Stohrer in Paris, France