Wednesday, December 31, 2008

¡Feliz Año Nuevo! (Happy New Year!)

No, I haven't forgotten to blog about Christmas, but since it's already New Year's Eve, I thought I'd share a New Year's Spanish custom.

The Spanish ritual on New Year's Eve is referred to as “las doce uvas de la buena suerte,“ meaning "the 12 grapes of good luck". Spaniards eat twelve grapes during the twelves gongs at midnight (one grape per gong, of course). The tradition is meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year. I gotta go count my grapes and make sure I have enough for our family tonight.

¡Salud! (Cheers!)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Weekend in Paris - Part V

This is it... the final post of "Weekend in Paris"... I swear! (By the way, I've posted Part IV and Part V of "Weekend in Paris" at the same time, so be sure to check out both.)

The Eiffel Tower just screams "PARIS!" Whenever I think of this city, I picture the Eiffel Tower in my mind. Doesn't everyone? I couldn't imagine a trip to Paris without seeing this incredible structure.

We're getting closer! I'm totally in awe of the fact that I'm in Paris and I'm actually going to go up the Eiffel Tower. Somebody pinch me (not too hard though)!

I couldn't take my eyes off of it...

... so I just continued to take photos.

This is a view of the Seine River from atop the Eiffel Tower. The weather was nasty, so there was limited visibility, and we were only allowed to go the second level of the tower due to strong winds. It was foggy, rainy, and at one point, we even felt sleet stinging our faces.

Another view from atop the tower...
One more view... You can see the fog is really rolling in now. I really wish we'd been able to visit on a clear day.

My son's glasses were all fogged up, but he was still wearing a smile.

The observation deck on the second level was pretty cold and miserable, but we were determined to experience the Eiffel Tower no matter what.

It's gotten dark and we're already back on the ground, getting ready to jump back on the Metro and head back to our hotel. The lights on the tower are a beautiful blue and the stars are more visible now. Notice the white-ish dots on the photo. Those would be raindrops on the camera lens.

The tower was truly beautiful and photos definitely don't do it justice, particularly those taken in the rain.

The tower was practically glowing! The visit to the Eiffel Tower was one of the highlights of our trip, and we hope to return someday.

Thanks for checking in and taking the "Weekend in Paris" photo tour. Hope you've enjoyed the sights. If you've never had the opportunity to visit Paris in person, I highly recommend it. Au revoir!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Weekend in Paris - Part IV

You might be happy to know that I'm about to wrap up the "Weekend in Paris" series I've got going here. After today, only one more post about Paris. I promise! Okay, so let's see, where were we? Ah... I believe we were here...
We were headed toward the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, where there are tons of restaurants, shops and hotels, on our way to see the Arc de Triomphe. It's a beautiful walk, but I'm guessing it would have been slightly more enjoyable had it not been raining and very cold. Never mind the weather though... we braved it so we could see the sights. We passed this beautiful fountain along the way. When we got a little closer, we could see that the water was freezing upon impact on one side...

Here you can see the Paris La Grande Roue (a.k.a. Paris Ferris Wheel). We didn't ride it because of inclement weather, but I understand the views of city are magnificent under good weather conditions.

There were loads of street vendors selling all kinds of goods such as candy...
handmade bags...
You name it!

This is the Grand Palais, which houses temporary exhibitions from around the world. Here's a closer view of the statue outside the Grand Palais...

We're getting closer to our destination!

Aren't the decorations beautiful?

The streets were bustling with activity, even with the nasty weather.

We stopped at this familiar store to purchase a couple of warm winter scarves for the boys. I guess I should call them "mufflers" if they're for boys, since "scarves" sounds a bit feminine. Whatever! This Gap Store was HUGE too... three levels!

We didn't go here, but I thought the building was beautifully decorated. Click on it for a closer view.

We ate lunch here, enjoying pizza in a warm, dry, festive atmosphere.

Here it is... the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. It stands in the center of the Place de l'Étoile, at the end of the Champs-Élysées. Twelve avenues radiate from around the arch, therefore it's a very prominent feature. The arch commemorates Napoleon's victories.

This picture gives you an idea of just how large the Arc de Triomphe is!

This is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which lies beneath the arch.

We climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the arch. We got our fair share of exercise in the process.

One of the many spectacular views of the city from the top of the Arc de Triomphe...

We had a great view of the Eiffel Tower too.

There's so much beautiful architecture to see in Paris!

The boys are excited to be riding the Metro to our final stop... the Eiffel Tower! Stay tuned for one last post of "Weekend in Paris"...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Weekend in Paris - Part III

Are you ready to see more of Paris? If so, continue reading and scrolling as I share more of what we saw during our recent trip to this beautiful, magnificent city. If not, well... go do something else and come back in a few days when I will have stopped with all things French.

This is the Palais de Justice and Sainte-Chappelle from a distance. And here's a little closer view...
Here's Sainte-Chappelle, a Gothic chapel, very symbolic of both religion and royalty, located on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris. It was only a short Metro ride from where we were staying. From what I can understand, the chapel was originally built to house religious relics. Today it's a national historical monument, and a beautiful one it is!

Sainte-Chappelle is divided into lower and upper chapels. Here are a couple of photos of the lower chapel...
I'm in awe of the beautiful stained glass we've seen thus far in Paris!

Here are a few photos of the upper chapel of Sainte-Chappelle... Again, the stained glass is spectacular, and photos simply don't do it justice. I sure wish I could have captured the beauty of this place.
More stained glass...
And here's a closer view...

Here my son stands in front of the huge doors inside Sainte-Chappelle.
Here's another view of Sainte-Chappelle from the other side as we were leaving.
And this is the massive gate outside the Palais de Justice.

These guards are on duty outside the Palais de Justice, next to Sainte-Chappelle.

This is part of the Conciergerie, the name "given to a section of the old palace precinct controlled by the concierge (keeper) of the king's mansion. It served as a prison from the 14th century." During the French Revolution, both noblemen and ordinary citizens were imprisoned here, and most would eventually end up going to the guillotine.
The boys stand inside one of the four huge fireplaces inside the Conciergerie.

This is the courtyard inside the Conciergerie. By the way, one of the most famous people to be imprisoned and eventually put to death here was Queen Marie-Antoinette.

The windows outside the cells of prisoners had these sharp, needle-like spikes to prevent escape. And if that didn't deter prisoners, perhaps these rooftop spears would...
We saw a lot in a day's time, but there's more to see. Stand by, for next I'll show you photos of the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées as we walked along the busy street on our way to the Arc de Triomphe.