Thursday, May 28, 2009

Paris & Moscow

Emily and I had a trip of a lifetime. We left Friday right after work, flew to Paris, spent 5 nights there, then flew to Moscow Thursday morning, spent 4 nights there, and came home Monday afternoon. It was absolutely incredible!!

As cliche as it sounds, I really did fall in love with Paris. I have never been in a city so spectacular. The history, old buildings, museums, food, etc. It exceeded every expectation I had. Here are some highlights:

* Sunset on top of the Arc d' Triumph
* Top of the Eiffel Tower (which is absolutely enormous)
* The Louvre (4 times) and saying hello to Mona, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory
* Impressionist Paintings in the Orsay Museum
* Versailles
* Notre Dame (and hiking the Bell Tower)
* Sainte-Chappel (amazing stained glass)
* Opera Garnier Tour (The Phantom Music kept running through my head at the main staircase)
* Sacre-Coeur Cathedral and view of the city
* Cafe - eating desserts or croissants at a random Patisserie or Brasserie
* Sunset boat River Cruise
* Walking the Champs Elysees

Absolutely loved Paris. Moscow was absolutely nuts. It was nice being back - it felt just like Ukraine. It was good to be there with Em and to feel the culture and excitement. The Metro was unbelievable. Red Square was our absolute favorite, and we went there almost every day. Here are the highlights:

* Red Square at Sunset
* Kremlin tour (especially the State Diamond Fund in the Armory & seeing the Orlov diamond)
* St. Basil's Cathedral (including the old women re-painting over the 900 year old art Icons- see picture below)
* Tretyakov Gallery & Museum
* The Pushkin Museum - and all of the fake copies of the Venus De Milo statues and art work (gotta love the Russian Facade)
* Bolshoi Theater - and watching Swan Lake performed by the Bolshoi Ballet
* Eating Borshch, Pelmeni, and Vareniki
* Me leaving my cell phone at a restaurant and coming back 30 min later to find it was still there. Buying the woman cleaner who was honest enough to keep my phone safe chocolate at 11 PM at night
* Haggling with the locals for Russian Stack Dolls and Fur Hats
* Buying an Impressionistic Oil Painting of the Kremlin to add to our home art collection
* Visiting the Art Muzeon Statue Park - with all the old Soviet Statues of Lenin & Stalin
* Witness 2 different fights in the subway (one involving a police officer)
* A big bird capturing mid-flight another bird, taking it away, and eating it
* Drinking KVAS
* Emily sneaking illegal pictures in all of the cathedrals
* A bizarre stray dog waiting at the cross walk to cross the street with all the other humans once the light changed....
* Red Caviar at the main Gastronom
* Flame juggling at the park
* Stalin (the fish) dominating the fish tank at our hotel and driving fear into all of the other fish
* The Novidivichy Convent Cemetary (seeing Checkov, Gorbachov...)
* Lenin's Mausoleum & actually seeing his body - a little odd

We had a great trip. Enjoy the pictures below:

Lenin's Mausoleum. It was actually interesting to go in. It was dark, surrounded by tons of security guards, and in a glass area about 10 feet away from the railings. The security guards tried to hurry you through, and we weren't allowed to even take a camera or phone in. It showed Lenin's body, but you really could only see his head and hands - and he looked completely fake - probably made out of wax or something. But do not be deceived, the Russian Govt has come out and refuted this theory .... :)

Famous GUM mall in Red Square.

Ivan the Terrible Bell Tower - within the Kremlin.

Tsar's Bell - within the Kremlin. Largest bell in the world.

These paintings were actually hanging in a subway car. Pretty cool actually.... (but not ALL the subway cars were like this, only special ones).

Moscow Pics

My man Lenin!!

This is the bird that caught the other bird mid-air and swallowed it. Only in Russia.

Novidivichy Convent Cemetery where most of the Soviet faithfuls & leaders are buried.

St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square. Breath-taking!

The restaurant celebrating with all of the workers after I found my phone. The woman on the left found it, and I bought her 2 chocolate bars that she is holding up. It was 11 PM, and was actually really funny.

This is the fish at our hotel that dominated the tank. The other fish would literally flee when he turned their way. He appropriately named him: Stalin.

Paris Pics

Square outside the Ritz hotel and other designer stores.

Statue inside the Opera Garnier.

The famous steps inside the opera house.

Does the Phantom of the Opera song Masquerade go through anyone else's head when they see this?

More steps. Is that the Phantom next to us?

The dance hall within the Opera house - for chatting during intermission.

Opera Garnier

More Opera -- is that ceiling (and room) just unbelievable!?


A booth at the Opera


Sunset river boat cruise on the Seine.

Not quite as high as Ireland - but still a good 6 feet up.

Getting ready to jump - wanted to make sure the timing was right.

Practice jump....

Napolean's Tomb.

Hell's Gate at the Rodin Museum.

The Thinker - Rodin's masterpiece.

Main hall of the Orsay museum. This was a railroad station turned into museum - kind of cool.

Gotta love Notre Dame.

Our lady.


A view from the top of Notre Dame.

Quasimodo ... is that you?

The famous bell "Immanuel" in the Notre Dame bell tower.

The bored Gargoyle at the top of Notre Dame.

The famous Parisian "Chat Noir" -- in the flesh! This little guy was hanging out with at dinner -- only in Paris!

Kissing on the Eiffel ... how romantic.

Top of the Eiffel.


Show anyone??

Cafe from the movie Amelie.

This is the tavern "Agile Lapin" (the agile rabbit) where all the great artists and writers used to mingle, drink.

Sacre Coeur cathedral.

This is artists row where they sell all of their work.

Confessions in Sacre Coeur.

Sacre Coeur.

View of the city from Sacre Coeur.

A temple that is set on a hill cannot be hid....

Lost - and trying to find the subway.

Our favorite cafe - it had the best croissants and desserts.

Queen Emily!!

Good old Vickie at the Louvre (Venus De Milo).

Winged Victory (aka "Vickie") in the Louvre.

Coronation - Napoleon snubbing the Pope and crowning himself. Love it.

Is that Da Vinci???? We caught him copying another work in the Louvre -- it was unbelievable.

Ah ... Mona!!

Chartres Cathedral -- so amazing.

Gates of Versailles.

Small Village at Versailles for Marie Antoinette -- (she like to pretend to be a peasant and shephardess... the French just loved that.)


The amazing fountain show in the Gardens of Versailles. So worth it!!!! ;)


Hall of Mirrors in Versailles ... amazing!!

Hall of Mirrors.

More Mirrors and the Hall.

Louis XIV bed -- everyone needs a golden bed.

Lou-ay Lou-ay, whoa whoa...


Arc D' Triumph.



Champs Elysees.

Champs Elysees.

Champs Elysees.

The Louvre.