Sunday, May 31, 2015

Visiting Stadio San Paolo in Napoli, Italia

Went to Naples and a visit to the Stadio San Paolo had to happen so I could pay my respects to Diego Maradona and Napoli.

While I cheer for Juventus in the Italian Serie A, I've had this fascination for Napoli both the city and the club. The city I first read about during my world and military history lessons. Napoli was bombed some 200 times by the Allies during World War II as its ports were used by the Germans for their U-Boats and the oil facilities nearby. And the second reason is one Diego Armando Maradona. 

Up to the arrival of Maradona in Napoli, Serie A football was dominated by the teams from the north, No southern squad ever won the Scudetto. 

As for his impact, a Napoli newspaper wrote of the arrival of the Argentinean from FC Barcelona, “the lack of a mayor, housing, sanitation, buses, schools, employment, and sanitation makes it bearable now that Maradona has arrived.” Imagine that? And over 70,000 people showed up during his presentation at the Stadio San Paolo!

The "saviour" did arrive and he led I ciucciarelli to the Serie A championship of 1986-87 and 1989-90. They also finished second in the league in 1987-88 and 1988-89. He also led them to the Coppa Italia in 1987, the UEFA Cup in 1989, and the Italian Super Cup in 1990. His success with the team has catapulted Maradona to mythic and quasi-religious status. "Santo Diego" as one of several Napoletanos I spoke with at the Yacht Club. 

"Maradona in my heart and in my head and in my mind," enthused another while pointing to his heart several times. And every football store I saw had a scarf, jersey, or a t-shirt dedicated to Maradona.

Some restaurants still have his pictures of jerseys of Gonzalo Higuain and Vincenzo Guardiglio hanging on the wall to name a few.

I didn't stay long in Napoli but I promise to return. And who knows? Maybe I can catch a game as well.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Scammed in Europe!

Scammed in Europe
By Rick Olivares

I’ve just become a statistic. I have the police report from Rome, Italy to prove it that one day, I will be a part of the numbers about people who were scammed. Not once. But twice so far in this trip to Western Europe. 

You might exclaim, “What kind of dunce gets scammed twice in one trip?”

Before you react any further, read on.

In writing this hopefully, it will make your trip a little more enjoyable when you decide to visit the Old Continent.

When the tourist season sets in, prices soar and there’s practically chaos everywhere as airlines look to service as many passengers as they can ferry across the world. Hotels also hope for favorable reviews on Trip Advisor so more people can book with them. Restaurants don’t have a problem seating people. And well, the predators are out for your dollars and Euros. 

Normandy Trip
Technically, this isn’t a scam. It’s a legit tour. However, this should teach people to ask questions before booking a trip.

I booked the trip via France Tourisme from our hotel in Paris. France Tourisme has legitimate offices in Paris but one has to be careful in reading the brochure entry that goes like this: “The trip will take you back into the most important historical events which occurred in the Normandy region. Discovery of the Pointe Du Hoc, the American Cemetery and the famous landing Omaha Beach before reaching the city of Arrowmanches for a lunch break. Free time in the afternoon at Bayeux to stroll through the streets, visit the Museum of the Tapestry or the Museum of the Battle of Normandy (ticket not included).”

I cross-checked this with the website and it said: "Then, you will go to Omaha Beach, Normandy landing beach which caused important human losses. You will also visit the famous American Cemetery, a wide necropolis which overlooks the beach, and the brand new visitor centre. It is a place of memory where personal stories, photos, movies, interactive presentations and objects from that period are collected."

The trip from Paris takes about a long three hours and 3 minutes. And we weren’t in a comfortable coach but a small minivan that was rather uncomfortable. There were other tours using bigger buses so I figure the other tours were better. And how better? It didn’t occur to us until we left Pointe Du Hoc.

The one quirk here is WE DID NOT GO DOWN AT OMAHA BEACH. More than any other location in Normandy, Omaha Beach is the most famous or infamous and celebrated for the battles that were fought as well as the lives lost there. We merely drove right through. Instead we went to the American cemetery that while nice isn’t part of the battle. Arrowmanches or Bayeux are largely unimportant. I asked the guide rather loudly i we could go down Omaha even for five minutes but she ignored me and the other people on tour.   

When we passed by the British cemetery, we hardly even slowed down for a pic. Ditto for the numerous museums in the area. Quite frankly this is disappointing.

Arrowmanches and Bayeux are boring. I figured that Pointe Du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the America Cemetery would trump the other poor choices (that I figure is a deal with these communities in exchange for some Euros and dollars) but no such chance. The three misfires - not going down to Omaha Beach and going to Arrowmanches and Beyeux — do not make taking this particular tour by France Tourism worth your money.

The breakfast at the Hotel
Our booking at the Hotel Moderne at the Latin Quarter is nice. And it is situated in a very nice neighbourhood. The Paris Pantheon is around the corner.  The Notre Dame Cathedral is a five-minute walk away. So is the Bastille and Place St. Michel. The River Seine is as well and walking to your left, you will hit the Louvre in no time at all. 

So what’s the big deal? The breakfast isn’t part of our package. Now that is fine. Eating at the hotel “restaurant” you are charged 12 Euros. We only ate downstairs 14 times and that should amount to 168 Euros. Instead we were billed a whopping 220 Euros! We argued to no avail. But with the hotel transfer to Orly Airport waiting and the receptionist unreceptive we had no choice but to fork over the cash!

Even worse, the hotel transfer charged us 65 Euros (when everything was pre-paid). We showed the voucher but like the receptionist, it was to no avail. 

The Roman Centurions outside the Colosseum, Rome, Italy.
These men dressed up as Roman Centurions are no different from the street musicians. They try to earn money off pictures with tourists. 

I was watching a pair of them pose for pictures with some Asian tourists. One of them tried to grab the breasts of one of the women who expressed shock and helplessness. The “centurion” laughed and said it was a joke.

The other centurion saw me with my iPad, he came over and posed with me. My youngest son snapped a few pictures. After I slipped him a five Euro bill, he said later. The other centurion now joined us. He placed his helmet on my son and I took pictures. My youngest brother was also taking pictures when the “second centurion” placed his helmet on him.

When we were done (in about 30 seconds), he demanded 40 Euros! I said, for what? And I protested that we had no agreement and that it was highway robbery. He then hiked his price to 120 Euros each. One for him and another 120 for his partner. When we refused he got aggressive and began to reach for my pocket. He then backed me up against some horses (attached to a cart and manned by gypsies). Three gypsies stood behind me. The centurion motioned as if he was reaching for something behind him. My first thought was it was a knife. Fearing for our lives, I handed over the 100 Euros (my brother gave 50). He asked for more but I said I was going to the police. He then backed off.

As soon as he backed off, my brother and I went to some soldiers stationed nearby to tell them of the incident. One of them spoke English and he brought us over to the police none of who spoke English. They drove us down to the other side of the Colosseum to some other centurions. Since we had pictures, they recognized the other man as “Louis” or “Luis” or some name like that. We spotted the two centurions who jobbed us at the nearby souvenir shop. The man who forced the money from us pulled out a cellphone and made a call. The top policeman in the area went over to talk to him but nothing happened.

When my brother and I were pointing to the centurions the soldiers didn’t even turn to look at them. I found this suspicious. One of them even got angry at us. The English-speaking soldier told us not to make gestures or say anything.

From the road overlooking that side of the coliseum, there was a centurion looking at us. A civilian dressed in a red shirt then made the slit throat gesture to me.

I mentioned this to the soldiers who still refused to turn around and look at the centurions atop the road. The cops in the meantime were discussing something with other cops and a couple of centurions. “This is being fixed,” said the English-speaking soldier. “Don’t worry.”

They asked us to go down to the station to make a statement. We complied but now I regret going to them. I filed my complaint but do not imagine anything happening such as getting our 150 Euros back. If anything, it shook my faith further in the police. They are no different from the cops back home in Manila. 

At first, I was upset and didn’t want to go out anymore. But why let some people ruin what has been a great trip so far? My siblings, children, and I went back to the Colosseum the next day. I didn’t see the men who accosted us and my brother and I made sure to survey them closely. 

I have been to about two dozen countries and never lost luggage, never got pickpocketed or scammed. In this trip there have been several incidents already. My son even witnessed a pickpocket filch a man of something on his shirt in the Paris metro. Is the situation really bad everywhere? I have no idea.

All I can hope for is to be smarter and more vigilant and hopefully, you readers will have learned something as well. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My pilgrimage to Rouen and that Joan of Arc fascination

My pilgrimage to Rouen and that Joan of Arc fascination
by rick olivares

The train ride from Paris St. Lazare station to Rouen is at most 1 hour and 24 minutes (and costs 50 Euros two-way). While going through the five stops in between stations (Mantes-La-Jolie, picturesque Vernon, Gaillon-Aubevoye, Val-de-Reuil, and Oissel — the train ends at Dieppe), I thought back to my younger days when my mother gave me this book of saints. 
There were about 10 saints featured in that children's book and one of them was Joan of Arc or Jeanne d’Arc (as she is called locally), the patron saint of France. 

I was fascinated with her story - a peasant girl who was supposedly told in a series of visions of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret to drive out the English and bring the uncrowned king Dauphine Charles to Reims for his coronation. Joan led the French, who had only known one defeat after another at the hands of the English and their Burgundian allies for years, to a great victory in Orleans. The French pressed the English and their allies winning more battles at Jargeau, Meung-sur-Loire, and Beaugency. They also inflicted a huge defeat on the English at Patay after which the Burgundian-held city of Auxerre surrendered without a fight. 

It was incredible that the Dauphine hand over his army to a peasant girl who knew nothing of military strategy. If you think about it, the French were in desperate straits. They had tried everything in trying to push back the English from French soil to no avail. 

Her subsequent capture at Compiegne and burning at the stake at Rouen greatly saddened me. Since the time I first read about her, I had this enduring fascination with St. Joan and her life. I devoured every bit of literature and saw ever film and documentary that was produced about her. And obviously, it was a lifelong dream as well to visit Orleans and Rouen, the two sites most associated with her outside the village of Domremy (now called Domremy-la-Pucelle) in the Lorraine region of France that is her place of berth.

And that dream became a reality a few months ago. 

Due to a hectic schedule, Orleans wasn’t in my itinerary, but Rouen in northwest France, was part of it. A day before, I went to the World War II battlefields in Normandy. With Rouen nearby, I knew had to comeback the following day.

Instead of taking a tour from Paris, I figured I could do it on my own. I have always had a good sense of direction and never get lost. I am adept at map reading that I sometimes joke that I’d make a very good commando.

I took the train from Paris St Lazare station to Rouen in Normandy. By train, it takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes; by car, double the travel time. I actually had only six hours as I had to return to Paris to meet up with my family (we were going back for a second day to the Louvre). Cut the travel time and I had only three hours on the ground in Rouen.

I was excited to go to Rouen. If I didn't have a short time frame, I would have enjoyed it more. And I wouldn't have taken a cab. From the train station, the first landmark I came across was the old tower of Rouen Castle where Joan was imprisoned during her trial. Seeing it up close, whatever elation I felt dissipated. In its place was a profound sadness. One I had not felt in a long while.

If you look at the tower, it has slits for windows. How on earth did the air get in there? It must have been oppressively hot and left one claustrophobic. And it is said that the guards took liberties with Joan and that leaves her even in a more depressing state.

From there I walked, first to the ancient Rouen Cathedral that was built in the 12th Century and contains several tombs including Richard the Lionheart (his tomb contains only his heart  while the rest of his remains are buried in an Abbey in Chinon, France). King Richard is another of those medieval figures who I read a lot about and just being inside the Cathedral gave me goosebumps. 

You know the feeling — reading about a historical figure who made a huge impact on the world and one who is centuries dead — it gives me goosebumps.

The Gothic Church is magnificent and I went inside to pray for a while.

With the clock ticking, I made my way down to Jeanne D'Arc Museum where I went to watch a short documentary about her. The city of Rouen makes no bones about its being a famous place (aside from being the old capital of the Normandy region that was once the seat of old Anglo-Norman kings who governed England and France). From ice cream carts to stores, images of the Maid of Orleans are everywhere.

Hurriedly and excitedly, I went to the village square (Place du Vieux-Marche) where she was burned not once but thrice by the English! The area near the site is filled with restaurants and an open area for people to lounge about. I started to scratch my head — where was it?

Then I found the site that is marked with a massive iron Memorial Cross. Beside that is a garden with a sign that marks the exact spot where St. Joan was burned at the stake. 

When I got to the site, that wave of sadness I first felt at the tower? It had now enveloped me. When a flame sings my skin, I immediately retract myself, how much more when you cannot move and are burned to death? The pain must have been excruciating. It took a while before I could have pictures taken of in the area. I sat down and felt bad. I said a prayer for St. Joan then sat down for a bit.

I guess it is much like what I feel when I visit battlefields or burial sites knowing the amount of human sacrifice for an ideal. While at Normandy for the battlefield sites and cemetery, I was overcome with emotion, knowing thousands perished in the pursuit of freedom and the battle against tyranny. I felt the same way at Corregidor as it was mercilessly bombed by the Japanese during World War II.

And here at Rouen, after a near-lifelong dream to visit Joan of Arc’s death site, I found myself feeling sad.

I placed flowers at the garden then left. 

My tickets from Paris to Rouen and back.

The tomb of Richard the Lionheart

At the Jeanne d'Arc Museum

Monday, May 25, 2015

My Personal Tour of France

The American Cemetery in Normandy

My Personal Tour of France Part 1
By Rick Olivares

There are the usual destinations and attractions to see when on tour. Here in France, it is the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, the Bastille, Versailles, and Giverny to name a few. But here are my favourites. 

The Louvre
A mind-blowing experience in so many ways unless one has no appreciation for art. As a youngster, I loved illustration and only gave it up in high school as my interests went into another direction. However, in school up to college, we had art appreciation classes that although I found boring picked up enough to understand the significance of it all.

Now to see them up close… there’s a sense of amazement and wonder that even days after leaves me tongue tied.

While the Mona Lisa is perhaps the most famous work of art, I for one as more blown away by neo-classic painter Jaques Louis David’s The Coronation of Napoleon, the 33x20 feet tall painting that depicted the French leader seizing the Emperor’s crown from Pope Gregory (he would crown himself). The basic rules of neo-classic art are here for all to survey - how there is a line from the cross to Napoleon holding the crown to his Empress Josephine who is kneeling. Napoleon is at the centre of it all. 

The Coronation of Napoleon at the Louvre

I spent 20 minutes gazing at this massive masterpiece that took the painter two years to complete. If I didn’t have to move on then I would have stayed longer. To the left is David’s other incredible work Leonidas at Thermopylae. Another mind-boggling piece of work that depicted the Spartan king right before his death. 

My other favourites?

The Winged Assyrian Bulls, the Mollien staircase, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Apollo gallery, Venus de Milo, the guards of Darius, the Goddess of Sekhmet, the sarcophagus of Ramses III, and Eugene deal Croix’s Liberty leading the People… whew. There’s a lot more. As our Walking Tour of Paris guide, Alexandre, said a few days earlier, if one took one minute to gaze at every single work of art, then it would take him almost 25 days to finish the Louvre. 

At Rue de Bac
Chapelle Notre-Dame du Medaille Miraculeuse (140 Rue de Bac)
Site of where the incorrupt body of St. Catherine Laboure lies (as well as the bones of St. Louise of de Marillac are placed inside a wax body). It is one thing to read about it in a book of saints as a youngster but it is another to see the body right in front of you. More than the painting of the Coronation of Napoleon, this one had me sitting down transfixed and praying. More than anything, it reaffirms my faith.

Site of one of the most famous battles in world history. The successful beachhead changed the course of World War II. It used to be that I saw these places immortalised in films like “The Longest Day,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and the HBO mini-series supreme, “Band of Brothers.” 

It was eerie going inside those bunkers at Pointe Du Hoc with all those films running in my head. "This one got blasted,” I thought to myself. “How many people died here?”

Even the American Cemetery left me emotional. So much the price of war if only to make the world a better place.

As a child, I had this fascination and interest for all things military. At one point in my life, I even considered a career in the military. Obviously, I took another path. This trip to this hallowed land was a way of paying respects to those who paid the brutal ultimate sacrifice. 

The tomb of Richard the Lionheart at Rouen Cathedral

Another of my childhood fascinations borne out of that first book of saints given to me by my mother. Joan of Arc or Jeanne D’Arc has long held sway with me. I have watched documentaries and the films and have a few items in my personal collection about her life. The medieval town of Rouen is one of two places associated with Joan of Arc the other being Orleans where she led the French army to victory over the English and their Burgundian allies. Rouen is where she was imprisoned, tried, and later martyred. 

When I opted not to go to Mont St. Michel, I went to Rouen. 

I was excited about the opportunity to see it first hand but to see it moved me differently. Like Normandy, I felt sad. To see the tower, the last remaining piece of the old castle of Rouen, where she was imprisoned left me in tears. From the ground it looks dark and lonely. The windows are small so air must have been difficult to breathe. And it must have been claustrophobic.

Such a dark and lonely tower and that was where she was imprisoned before she was dragged to the square where she was burned on the stake. 

I was looking for a huge statue to make the place. Only there wasn’t. Simply a small sign that said that this was where she was martyred. There was a statue a few feet away and a huge cross. 

I went feeling elated but left sad and unhappy. It was a most gruesome way to die. I offered some prayers for Joan of Arc, my parents and family, and those who condemned her to death.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery
This trip was bourne out of an article I read decades ago in Rolling Stone magazine that featured the grave sites of dead rock stars. In the article feature, the picture of the grave of Jim Morrison in this cemetery was defaced and disfigured. And it left an impression on me. I was five years old when Morrison died of a drug overdose. I began to listen to the Doors in college and became a huge fan. The band has since been a staple of my turntable, compact disc, and digital music players.

The grave was cordoned off by a heavy metal barrier and had some police stationed nearby. When I asked the uniformed policewoman, she said that it is because people come over to write or draw graffiti on the grave. 

But coming within a few feet remains a powerful experience because he is a man whose music and writing has influenced me.

Other notable visits at Pere Lachaise, Heloise and Abelard, the medieval lovers who had an illicit relationship; Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, and Edith Piaf. 

The grave of Jim Morrison at Pere Lachaise

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Euro adventure: Paris and why I love taking these unofficial tours.

Why I love taking the unofficial tours
By Rick Olivares


With that one word —it’s no “Avengers Assemble” or “Tally Ho” — we were off to see Paris through the Sandeman’s Walking Tour. For free! Yep, for free. The only money these guides, who are spread across Europe by the way, make money is through tips. So they know that making any good money is also contingent upon their ability to engage, educate, and make people enjoy the tour.

In many ways, I enjoy these “unofficial tours” (those not deemed to be official by the government-tasked tourism agencies) is because they are staffed with guides who are totally dedicated to their craft. Their attention to detail and trivia is engrossing and impressive.

Take for example the Sandeman’s tour of Paris, now that's three hours of a Reader’s Digest version of French history while traversing the famous and historic museums, buildings, palaces, cathedrals and churches along the Seine River. 

Our American-French guide named Alexandre began out tour at Place St. Michel at the Latin Quarter just opposite Notre Dame Cathedral. And like the significance of the fountain, Alexandre began his speil with Baron Georges Haussmann who was commissioned by Napoleon III in 1851 to beautify and develop Paris into the modern architectural and engineering marvel that it is today. While a prophet is never believed in his hometown as critics scored him for his extravagance, Haussmann’s vision of Paris remains powerful and significant as it has greatly influenced Barcelona, Brussels, Madrid, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna, and key cities in the United States.

Not only is the view and scenery is breathtaking but the history lesson is incredible; something I and possibly most who take the tour, know or understand. And later in our week-long stay in France, I understand other things the more I see them.

More than a history lesson, Alexandre made us forget the biting cold as we are still in the last days of spring with his jokes and choice one-liners that had everyone — no matter what their nationality is - in stitches. 

For example, while seated in a circle at the courtyard of the Louvre, Alexandre -- in total deadpan humour style — dryly noted that the story or urban myth about the glass pyramids that regained popularity when that “greatest historian of our times — Dan Brown incorporated that into his controversial best-seller, “The Da Vinci Code.” Boy, did everyone get a laugh out that. The American tourists included. 

When Alexandre recounted how at Notre Dame the French kings were crowned, this Frenchman with bird food placed them on top of a female tourist’s hat prompting all the pigeons to flock to her. Our guide was bright enough to sense that something more interesting was occurring. “I guess it is time for a commercial break because anything else I say will pale in comparison to a woman covered with pigeons.”

More laughter.

It was only the jokes and the historical recounting. Our guide gave up practical tips and reminders from not tipping to being mindful of pick pocket to how to properly pronounce “Champs Elysee.”

This reminded me of the time when I took the “unofficial” Beatles Tour of Liverpool — Daytrippers and McComb’s “Game of Thrones Locations Tour” of Northern Ireland. Our guides were a total joy as they were not only a chockfull of information but also fun pals.

This is in stark contrast to the Tourism France tour of Normandy that I took into my fourth day in the country. It billed itself as visiting the sites of Pointe Du Hoc, Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, Arrowmanches, and Bayeux. Honestly, it was a terrible tour. Not only was our guide, Elisa (she was nice though but this isn’t about being nice but efficient) not too knowledgeable about the tours as she would oft repeat words and phrases several times in a speil as if giving us the run-around but we also did NOT go down at Omaha Beach. If there is any one place one should go down in Normandy it is Omaha Beach. Not only was it the site of the bloodiest fighting but it is a battle that is world history that is pivotal as much as the Battle of Waterloo, Marathon, Stalingrad, Antietam, or Hastings to name a few. 

Arrowmanches? Bayeux? 

What the hell! Where is St. Mere Eglise? Carentan? 

Not going down at Omaha Beach (they said the view from the American Cemetery is better) is inexcusable. If they said this in their advertisements then I believe they would get fewer patrons.

I wish too our guide to Normandy had more stories in her speil. There was nothing. In fact, many of the patrons knew much much more than her. 

Because of what happened, I skipped taking the tour to Mont St. Michel that the same agency was offering. Instead, I opted to do my own tour of Rouen much like I did when I went about London. 

So I lumped the Normandy tour along with the hop on/hop off tour of Edinburgh. After five minutes, I pretty much figured out the city (use the Scots Monument as your focal point in direction because you know that where the city divides between the old and new towns.

Technically, I didn’t need to do the Paris walking tour as I’ve got an excellent GPS in my brain. All one had to do was keep to the Seine in a straight line as you’d pass through them all — Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, the Pont d’Alma where Princess Diana lost her life, the Tuileries Gardens and you can see that grand boulevard Champs Elysee and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Despite that it was three hours well spent and I gave Alexandre a 10 Euro tip (collectively with my siblings and kids 35 Euros).

If you have an excellent sense of history then you can go around on your own. If not taking the guided tours won’t hurt as you probably wouldn’t know any better. Furthermore, if you can figure out the labyrinth system that is the New York subway you can figure anything out.

Having said that, there are trade offs to taking official and unofficial tours. 

The official tours provide transportation and direction. But photo opportunities are few and far in between.

The unofficial? Well, you kind of save a little more but you walk more but the photo ops are tremendous.

The official tours take you to places you don’t really want to go to such as that pearl and gift shop in Hong Kong and that tapestry shop in Bayeux.

The unofficial? If you plan your trip well you save time and money and go where you want to go. Besides you see more on ground level. 

As for that trip in Paris — that Paris Pass helped quite a lot as I didn’t have to queue for the museums and it saved me from paying for the Metro and bus rides.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Euro Trip 2015! Paris, France Day One

This trip is a bonding session for the Olivares boys (my two brothers and my two sons and me). My brothers arrived a full day ahead of us in Paris. We stayed at the Hotel Moderne in the Latin Quarter that is a beautiful part of Paris. We're right behind the Pantheon with Notre Dame Cathedral a few minutes' walk away. And the River Seine is close by and our guide as we walk around Paris.

In the photo below, that's me and my sons Anthony and Matthew on the balcony of our hotel room. It was still spring so there was that chill about. There were days when we still needed a jacket to get by.

It is actually very easy to get around Paris. During our first day there, we didn't ride any public transportation. You see by the Seine, if you walk a bit, you will come across the Louvre, the Tuilleries Gardens and then Champs Elysee where the Arc De Triomphe is located. Besides, there's lots to see around. I've got loads and loads of pics in my Facebook

Notre Dame Cathedral! Is Quasimodo up there by the belfry?

Selfie time by the River Seine

Fooling around at the Louvre with my son Anthony. The musee was closed for the day (Mondays).

At the Tuilleries Gardens. 

At the Arc De Triomphe. I love this picture. One of the best family shots we had during our trip. Perfect!