Wednesday Reed was reunited with the students, and it was a joyous occasion to behold. 🙂 He also got to meet Carmen, Oliver, and Loyiso at VACorps. I walked back “home” while Reed and the students had their first Peace Psychology seminar. Then we all met up at 11:00 and went to the waterfront. We had some time to visit Nobel Square and grab some bites for lunch. The sun was shining down as we strolled through the beautiful seaboard.
All 16 of us assembled at the Robben Island Museum for the 1:00 ferry. It was delayed about a half hour, but then it was a quick 20-minute ferry ride to the island. When you arrive, you board large busses, but the staff miscounted and there was not room for the family (the students were split between two busses). We waited a few minutes, and then a small minibus arrived just for the 9 of of us! Our guide was so knowledgeable about all of the sites around the island, as well as the important history that happened there.
We were impacted by the stories we heard. We also appreciated the beautiful view back toward Table Mountain. We learned that Nelson Mandela used that same view as an inspiration, as I’m sure many others did. It was stunning. We also were able visit the house where Robert Sobukwe resided. And of course we visited the cell of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. It’s too much to summarize the stories of these and many other courageous souls who endured much in the name of equality and peace.
We took the last ferry back and some looked through the museum while others played nearby. Then we enjoyed browsing through the African Trading Post, as well as a delicious meal at Ocean Basket. Ubers swiftly returned us home where we talked, laughed, and prepared for the next day.
After Robben Island, Jackson said that Cape Town is his favorite city. He has a connection going back 6 years when he was first here, and it warmed my heart to know how he felt about being back. There is so much here to learn, see, and feel, and my heart is full to share the time with these dear ones. All 15 of them! 🙂
We spent Friday discovering more of Angers on foot. It is a very accessible city and easy to navigate. At the same time, we always seem to stumble upon a new side street with cute shops and creperies. The River Maine and the cathedral help orient you when needed. It is very well designed and full of things to do, as you will see below (hopefully, if the pictures load this morning).
After croissants and coffee, we set out for Galerie David d’Angers, a museum full of beautiful statues in a lovely setting. It is a small gallery of various types and sizes of statues in an old cathedral that now has a ceiling of sky lights. It was terrific and well worth the admission fee. We each purchased our two museum pass for only 6€ as we planned to also visit the “new” tapestry museum in the afternoon.
Next we went back inside the cathedral to see it in the daylight. As it was cloudy and a bit rainy, it wasn’t much brighter but still well worth a stroll through the beautiful sanctuary. We imagined Christmas Eve mass full of hundreds of people and candlelight. I did some souvenir shopping at the House of Adam, which is inside a half-timbered structure, the oldest house in Angers, built around 1500. Then we went to a more standard souvenir shop recommended by Sue (there aren’t many here, which is kind of nice). Then it was the wine shop, complete with tastings (the shopkeeper participates too!).
We picked up lunch at our favorite boulangerie one last time and ate it in our room (with our newly acquired wine). (I will do a food post at some point as I have many photos of beautiful food…so good here.) We set out again after lunch, this time across the river to make our way to the tapestry museum. First we went to the Penitent House, a beautiful old building full of turrets and poets (it is a venue for gatherings, this month being a poetry conference). Next we visited Hôpital Saint-Jean, the Musée Jean-Lurçat et de la tapisserie contemporaine with tapestries dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. They were a much more modern version of the tapestries of the apocalypse we had visited earlier in the week at the chateau.
Emmaus, the French equivalent of Good Will, was next on our walk. Not much had been added to their stock since Shana’s solo visit earlier in the week. Then the antique shops we had walked by several times were FINALLY open. One was a cluttered store watched over by an old man. It was hard to maneuver but Shana looked through his linens and post cards, buying some of the latter. A few doors down was the “brocantes” store we had been eagerly anticipating. It was fun to explore, and Shana found some linens and postcards to buy this time. I even got a little dish. I’m so pleased she has been able to find some items for her antiques business back home as that was part of her reason for coming.
We relaxed and repacked at the hotel prior to dinner at our favorite pizza shop next door. It was a lively night there, full of friends and families. We were still the first ones in the place, even though we didn’t arrive until just after 8:00! It’s a different way of life here…we are enjoying it for sure. This morning we take the train to Paris, so we will say goodbye to Angers…for now.
Today we had the Musée du Louvre and Musée d’Orsay on our agenda. We all slept well in our cozy Parisienne hotel, and we left around 10:30 for breakfast. We enjoyed croissants and coffees on Rue Cler again before we headed down to the Metro. Two short Metro lines later, and we ascended into the Louvre.
We had already purchased our four-day Paris Passes and had them mailed to us in Dublin. These passes allow entry into about 60 museums, cathedrals, and other exhibits around the city, and some come with “queue jumping” privileges. Now the first Sunday of the month is “free museum day,” which we knew ahead of time, so we expected big crowds. Our lovely passes came to the rescue for avoiding very long lines just to get inside. We were super glad to have them.
The Louvre contains over 14 kilometers of exhibit halls, and we had absolutely no intention of thoroughly covering them. Reed and I had been before, so we mainly set out to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo this time around. We made our way through the halls and crowds and were able to get good views of both. We also saw Wedding at Cana, Winged Victory, and many, many other paintings and statues along the way. I think the kids enjoyed the marvelous structure of the Louvre itself (originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II, & Louis XIV didn’t think it was grand enough so he moved out to Versailles!), as well as the cool glass pyramids (circa 1988-1993). Jackson is reading The Da Vinci Code now, so he had that additional interest when exploring.
We went on foot across the Seine and over to the Orsay. This is Reed’s and my favorite museum (and we went to a LOT of them on one of our trips here to come to this conclusion), but our children don’t feel the same (which is completely okay). 🙂 The Orsay is housed in what was a train station built for the 1900 World’s Fair. Again, the building itself is spectacular, especially its famous giant clocks. Like the Louvre, we had an efficient plan in mind, only hitting floors five and two for some of the really big names in the art world. Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh top the list. I was very moved seeing these famous pieces, while at the same time I felt guilty for not knowing more and teaching my children more about art.
We strolled along the streets near the Orsay to find a suitable lunch spot. It is quite expensive eating in Paris, as you can imagine, so we try our best to be a bit discerning (and we ask for tap water as a Coke is about $6!). This time it was Italian pasta, which was delicious. We stopped at a souvenir shop to get sunglasses for the kids (great Paris souvenir), and then we headed to the Metro for our next stop: Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur.
We love this bohemian neighborhood and the artsy feel it has (watch Moulin Rouge if you haven’t!). Again, it was super crowded and fairly hot at this point in the day (& the energy of the younger half of Team Mueller was fading fast). We walked up hundreds of steps between getting out of the Metro and then up to Sacré-Cœur, which is at the highest point in Paris. We tried to take in the view of the city amidst the crowd, and then we went into the famous domed basilica. The 4:00 service was just starting, so we sat down for a bit. The sound of the huge organ filled the space, and the nuns lead the crowd in song. We didn’t stay the whole time, but Reed and I were thankful to have a few moments of reflection in such an amazing holy setting.
We took the Metro back to our neighborhood, played some cards, and shared crepes for a snack (Abbie and Reed went with plain sugar while Jackson and I had Nutella and bananas). Later, Reed and I went around the corner for dinner, scoping out a place to take the kids tomorrow night. We brought home a baguette, French butter, brie cheese, and a chocolate tartine for the kids to share…they were delighted. And, the consensus was we like Irish butter better. 🙂
Tomorrow we have Notre Dame and Arc de Triomphe at the top of our list, as well as a return to the Eiffel Tower around 10pm to see it sparkle. I could get used to this…j’adore Paris!
Energy level good… ready to go!
Winged Victory (Nike of Samothrace)
Dodging the crowds, Jackson turns at the Mona Lisa
Dad told her to do the “Mona Lisa” – hmmm, not quite?
Main Pyramid (from inside Louvre)
Venus de Milo (Aphrodite of Milos)
Medieval Louvre, Salle Basse
On our way out
Photo credit to Jackson
Abbie outside d’Orsay
Jackson outside d’Orsay
Abbie entering the Monet hall (Woman with a Parasol in the background)
Don’t think we were supposed to take this….it’s called ‘Poppies’
A view from the clock at Musee d’Orsey
Nice shot, Jackson!
Abbie, mastering the Metro
A few stops to go and we’re at Montmartre
Abbie has taken a liking to the Metro
Made it up so many stairs… and that was just from the Metro
Today we stuck close to our Trinity College “home” after a weekend of traveling around the Irish country- and seaside. We slept well and took the morning fairly easy. I stocked up on some provisions at the little shop on campus, and then I did three loads of laundry simultaneously at the launderette (for €15 or about $20!). Mom and dad kept me company, and Reed showed up to help tote the clean piles of clothes back to our apartment. Small, yet large, blessings indeed.
Then we ventured out to Temple Bar for lunch, returning to The Quay (say “key”). This is where we ate our first meal in Dublin. We again were quite pleased with our food, the atmosphere, and the cheerful staff. Abbie had bangers and mash and Jackson had cottage pie, so they are becoming good Irish kids. I enjoyed my mushy peas with my fish and chips, so I’m right there with them. Reed had (another) burger. 🙂 My folks shared salmon, and dad tried a “Guinness Black.” This is where black currant syrup is added to the Guinness, resulting in a sweeter pint. He liked it better than normal Guinness, but I just don’t think it’s his drink. He will likely stick to Coke from here on out. [Sidebar… I neglected to mention yesterday that our bus driver told me how Guinness is very good for pregnant women due to the iron. The saying “Guinness is good for you” is wholeheartedly endorsed over here!]
Back to our day… When we returned to campus, we went to the Old Library to go (wait in line to) see the Book of Kells. This is Ireland’s most treasured possession, so it is a true must-see (even though we had seen it before). It is a beautifully decorated, illuminated Biblical manuscript dating from around AD 800. After you read about the book, how it was made (it took 185 calves to make the vellum pages!), and see some other ancient manuscripts, you go into a dimly lit room and there it is, in a big glass case under soft lights. There are four volumes but only two are on display at any one time. We saw an open page in the gospels of John and Luke. It truly is beautiful (no photos allowed).
But, it gets even better, in my opinion. Next you ascend some stairs to enter the Long Room, which is the amazing old library. It looks like something straight from Hogwarts (sorry for yet another Harry Potter reference; they will likely keep coming). There are two levels of tall, wooden bookshelves, and the rows are lined with statues at each end. A bonus this time was an exhibit of Brian Boru, the Irish king who battled the Vikings and died in the battle of Clontarff in 1014. The artwork in this exhibit is magnificent (see/read more here). I was looking forward to seeing it as I had read a bit about this part of Irish history (thanks, Faye!), and I marveled at both the art and the story.
We walked around campus a bit after we left the Old Library, and then we wandered back to our apartment for awhile. I took my folks out for a little shopping (we had to replenish our Irish shortbread cookie supply), and we FaceTimed with my sister and nephew so mom and dad could get caught up on the happenings in Iowa. Reed left to meet up with the students for class at “their pub” out in the suburb of Clondalkin where their home stays are. I cooked some scrambled eggs in an aluminum takeout pan (we have no cookware) and made some toast for the rest of us for dinner. Pretty gourmet (not). We have tomorrow in Dublin before heading to Edinburgh early Thursday morning, so we will see what the day holds!
Abbie’s Bangers and Mash
Jackson’s Cottage Pie
Erin’s Fish & Chips
Relaxing while Mom stands in line
Waiting for the Book of Kells
Long Room in the Old Library (Abbie is so shy)
Long Room with Grandma and Grandpa
Harp of Brian Boru (associated with him by myth, but dates from 14-15th century)