We arrived in Pau at about 11:00 this morning. After a neighbor from the apartment above the one we rented checked us in, Leslie and I walked across the street to the small grocery. The place we are staying in an apartment. We rented it from the owner for three nights. Since it is an apartment it has a full kitchen. So, for lunch, we bought a frozen pizza. For dinner, we bought some pork. Leslie will bake that in the oven with some potatoes. For tomorrow morning, the kids have milk and cereal. Leslie and I bought some quiche Lorraine. By far, these will be the least expensive meals for this entire trip!
Right next door to our apartment building is the Continental Hotel. The Continental Hotel is one of the venues used by those with the Tour de France for Stage 13. While Leslie and I were out, we saw two of the official tour vehicles there. They were delivery vans, full of luggage. This afternoon I would like to try to find where the start for the race tomorrow is located. I assume there will be Tour items for sale there. If not, then certainly there will be some stuff for sale at the finish in Lourdes.
After settling into the apartment, we walked to the area where the stage will start tomorrow, the Palace Beaumont. There were no souvenir stands. From there we walked along the Boulevard des Pyrenees to the church of Saint Martin.
After taking a quick look inside the church, we walked a little farther west to the Chateau de Pau Musee National. Born at the chateau on December 13, 1553, Henry IV, became King of France, on June 9, 1572. A fanatic assassinated Henry IV on May 14, 1610, in Paris.
We decided to take a tour. Unfortunately, it was a guided tour in French. Fortunately, they did provide us with a “cheat sheet” in English to allow us to follow along. We did see some very beautiful and interesting things during our tour.
I thought the tour was fascinating and well-paced. I am not certain my family shared my assessment.
Leaving the Chateau, we stopped across the street at one of the souvenir shops to pick up some trinkets, then it was back to the apartment.
Along the way, we passed through Place Georges Clemenceau. It is a very large plaza with several water fountains. We all enjoyed looking at the fountains.
Real Sitio de San Ildefonso (Royal Site of San Ildefonso) is a quaint little town just southeast of Segovia. We drove there from our home in Pozuelo. We took the back-roads, through the mountains. It is a beautiful drive, one that very much reminds me of Colorado. It takes about an hour to get there.
We choose that town because one of the royal palaces is located there. I am told it was supposedly built in the style of the palace at Versailles.
When we arrived, we parked some distance from the palace, in part, because we were not sure where it was. As we walked toward the palace, we passed a building that had a Schnauzer dog sitting on the terrace. He reminded Lorraine of her Schnauzer. He was just sitting there watching the world.
There was a festival taking place in the town that day too. I am not sure if it was for Corpus Christi like the festival in Toledo yesterday or if it was something different.
Once we got our bearings, we began to walk toward the palace. The first thing one sees is the palace chapel. It was very large. As we got closer, we could see many of the boys and girls coming out of the chapel were dressed in their Sunday best. It appeared that there may have been the sacrament of first-communion that Sunday.
As part of the overall decoration, there was a tapestry hung on the exterior of the chapel. Who knows how old that may have been.
We made our way into the palace. This is one of the palaces in which one can do a self-guided tour. We got a wheelchair for Aunt Arlene so she would be more comfortable, and off we went. For me, it is just amazing to stand at one end of the palace, in one of the rooms, and look some 80 meters (262 feet) or so through room after room. It’s good to be the king!
This particular palace is very well known for its fountains in the gardens. They were not on when we were there; however, I can imagine it would be quite impressive when they are all turned on.
WOW! My first time in Paris. What a beautiful city! I did NOT find any of the people I encountered to be rude, even though I heard that warning from so many people before I traveled.
My boss at the embassy agreed to send me to Paris for a greening and environmental workshop. Part of the workshop was to be at the American ambassador’s residence. When asked if I wished to attend, it took me about 0.002 nanoseconds to answer yes!
The flight to Paris from Madrid, Spain was uneventful. While descending to the Paris airport, one could easily spot the Eiffel Tower from the plane.
After landing, it took about an hour to get to the hotel by taxi. That was due in part to traffic and in part to distance. When I got to the Hotel Regina Louvre (it is directly across the street from the Louvre Museum) and checked-in, the desk clerk asked if I was alone. That seemed to be a rather odd question, but I responded that I was alone. She said I was lucky because my room had been upgraded.
When I entered the room I discovered what she was talking about. The room was actually a suite! Walking into the room, one is in an entryway. In that entryway were three armoires, side-by-side, one of which contained a minibar. Leaving the entryway, one comes into a large sitting room or parlor. Off of the sitting room is a large bathroom complete with his and her bathrobes. Off of the other side of the sitting room is the bedroom. It is very large, with a king-size bed. off of the bedroom is another full bathroom, even larger than the other one.
After I got myself settled, I went out to walk around. Little did I know my walk would end up being 11.6 kilometers (7.23 miles). Note for anyone considering a similar march; wear something other than deck shoes! By the time I returned to the hotel, my feet were killing me! Tennis or walking shoes would have been a much better choice.
The march began as I crossed between the Louvre Museum and the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens), walking south toward the Seine River. I crossed over the river to the left bank via the Pont du Carrousel (Carrousel Bridge). There I found many street vendors selling copies of famous art, postcards, etc. I ended up buying a map of Spain and Portugal dating from the 1890s. It is printed in French. The price of 10€ (US$12.40) made me very skeptical of the authenticity, but that did not deter my purchase.
I continued along the left bank to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris Cathedral). From Notre Dame, I crossed the island, Île de la Cité (City Island) and stopped at a sidewalk café on the other side of the Seine. I sat there, had a glass of white wine while I caught my breath, and watched the people. After some time, I decided to get something to eat. I ordered a bowl of French onion soup and an assortment of cheeses. The cheeses included bleu and brie, neither of which I really like. Regardless, I did eat quite a bit of each. I ended up having another glass of wine to wash everything down.
When I finished my “meal,” I began my walk to the Eiffel Tower. There are many sights to see on the left bank. One of the odder sights I happened across was a boat wedged against one of the piers of the Pont d’Léna (Léna Bridge). I can only assume the boat lost power and ended up stuck at the bridge. There were several first-responders on the scene. Since they did not seem frantic, I hoped there were no significant injuries in the mishap.
I continued on to the Eiffel Tower. I was quite tired by the time I got there. That may have influenced my decision to merely look at the tower from the ground and not to go up onto the tower. The other part of that decision was the length of the queue of people waiting. I wanted no part of that.
Crossing the Seine again, I began my march back to my hotel. It seemed I might never make it back! Regardless, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and was finally able to collapse in my hotel room.
Tomorrow I plan to go to the Louvre Museum. Note to self; wear more comfortable shoes.
After buying my entrance ticket, I made a beeline to the Mona Lisa. I wanted to try to get to that very popular painting before it was mobbed by other tourists. It was quite spectacular to see the Mona Lisa in person; although, one can get no closer than about 25 feet to the painting.
The Louvre is by far the largest I have ever been in, ever! In fact, the Louvre is the largest museum in the world. I may break my record of 11.6 kilometers yesterday just in the museum!
After walking through many of the wings of the museum, I had to sit down near the main entry. I was absolutely out of gas. I decided to take a quick look at the bookstore and then head back to the hotel for a well-deserved nap.
The next morning, breakfast was a little strange compared to what one might expect in the U.S. Instead of sitting at a table of my own, the server directed me to a table with six chairs. Another couple was just leaving that table. So for a short time sat by myself. Then the server sat another gentleman beside me. He happened to be from Washington, D.C. He is in the energy business with Lockheed Martin, here for the same event I am attending. We had a nice conversation, but it was just a little strange to be seated with a stranger.
That evening, after the workshop, I met up with four of the other attendees to go out to dinner. We went to a small restaurant about a 10-minute walk from the hotel. The name of the restaurant is Chez Flottes. It was tremendous. I had a wonderful, delicious steak. We all shared a bottle of wine.
It was interesting to discuss issues of common concern with some more seasoned facility managers. In situations such as that, I always try to take in all I can for future use and reference.
The following day, when I returned to my room from the workshop, I discovered the hotel staff delivered a bottle of wine and some various candies. I am not sure that I could have gotten much luckier.
In the evening the workshop attendees met for a mixer at the 1357ish Paris City Hall. What a striking municipal building that was!
On the final day of the workshop, we met in the ambassador’s residence. Another striking Parisian site. One bit of history of the residence that was shared with the attendees is that the home was used as a Nazi SS officers’ club during World War II. The home looked to me like something directly out of the movie The Dirty Dozen. It is also huge, about 6,689 square meters (72,000 square feet). Certainly not as nice as the Louvre or City Hall, but it was not bad.
Leslie, my mom, dad, and I drove to Segovia earlier today. We did encounter a little bit of snow in the area of Puerto de Navacerrada (possibly translated as Never-Closed Pass). It lies at 1,860 meters (6,102 feet). The bit of snow made for a beautiful scene.
After parking in a garage in Segovia, we began walking directly to the Alcázar de Segovia (fortified castle of Segovia) to tour the castle. On the way, I paid particular attention to the façades of the buildings we passed. For some reason, many of the buildings in the old town area of Segovia have decorative plaster façades. With one possible exception, no pattern appeared to repeat. So, on this trip, I took photographs of many of them.
One of the most famous façades in Segovia is the Casa de los Picos (House of the Peaks). The Picos are diamond-shaped blocks of stone that protrude from the facade of the building. It was constructed in the 15th century by the Count of Fuensalida.
Once at the Alcázar, since Leslie and I had not previously been in the tower, I made sure our tickets included admittance to both the tower and the palace. At the time, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The tower is a large rectangular structure situated in the center of the main façade of the Alcázar. When we entered the tower, there was a fairly large and wide staircase that led one up about one floor. Then we went through a small door that led to a stone, spiral staircase. We found out later there are 152-stairs in that staircase. On the way up we passed a couple of people coming down. We had to suck up very close to the wall to let them pass. Shortly after that encounter, we heard some young people coming down. It sounded as though they were speaking French. Regardless, it seemed like they would never stop coming down. My dad counted 58 kids! We thought we would never get to the top.
When we did get to the top, we were all tired. We vowed we would never do that again! We were all wishing there was an elevator in this 1120 structure. So, even though the tower is quite large, all we saw was a staircase and a view from the top of the tower. I am not sure what else may be in the tower.
There are several suits of armor on display in the castle. I can imagine they were heavy and quite uncomfortable to wear. Although, being speared or being shot with an arrow would also be quite uncomfortable; so, I guess it was a good trade. As small as the eye slits are, it is amazing the one wearing the suit could see. Like anything, over time, one must have become used to the restraints and learned how to fight.
During this tour of the Alcázar, much like I did on our walk to the castle, I concentrated on wall decoration and patterns. Inside the Alcázar, there are numerous patterns. Some are done in plaster and then painted, while others are done with tiles from the local area. Much like the façades, they are very intricate and interesting.