1: Paris | FRANCE | ARRIVED 16 SEPT 2012 | What a trip! 2 1/2 weeks in Europe with stops in Paris, Barcelona, and 4 cities in Italy. Sarah was only 7 months old, and she did great.
2: Notre Dame | PARIS
3: Notre Dame was our first stop in Paris. We were jet-lagged but determined to take in the site. The breathtaking church is large and spacious inside since all of the supporting buttresses are located outside.
4: The gargoyles on top of Notre Dame have some of the best views of the city. We were lucky enough skip the 2 hour line to the top after Sarah charmed the attendant. :)
6: MUSEE D''ORSAY | is one of many beauti-ful museums we toured in Paris. Impressionist paintings by Renoir, Monet, and Degas. Another day we had a picnic lunch at the Rodin museum gardens.
8: Montmartre | PARIS
9: SACRE COEUR This gorgeous basilica overlooks Paris. Watch out for the people selling bracelets, they don't take no for an answer!
10: MONTMARTRE, PARIS Is a hill at the north of Paris. The hill is about 130 meters high and gives its name to the surrounding district in the 18th arrondissement. Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Coeur as well as being a lively nightclub district. Ooh la la!
12: SAINTE-CHAPELLE has the most beautiful stained-glass windows in Paris. The entire story of the bible is illustrated in the thousands of panels surrounding the temple.
14: LA TOUR EIFFEL (the Eiffel Tower) was a magical location. A cold evening with a bitter wind, but definitely the best view of Paris. We got champagne on the top to toast the occasion before heading down to see the light show from the base.
18: THE LATIN QUARTER We stayed in a tiny apartment in the lively Latin quarter. Many great restaurants with live music playing outside, and close to all the major sites. After a week we felt like locals.
20: VERSAILLES was by far one of our favorite locations. The royal palace was magnificent, but the highlight for us was the immense gardens. Classical music played throughout and we spent the afternoon picnicking and biking.
24: THE LOUVRE | The Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory, and of course the Mona Lisa. We spent hours walking the Louvre and barely scratched the surface of this incredible museum. Luckily we got out of there in time to meet Francis and Michelle who had just got engaged! Congrats!
26: THE LOUVRE MUSEUM
28: NATIONAL ASSEMBLY | PalaceBourbon
29: THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY was one of the off-limits sites we got to see only because of the Journée du Patrimoine, an annual holiday where private buildings are open to the public. This opulent palace houses the French legislature.
30: For our second destination, we came to Barcelona during La Merce', an annual festival held in honor of Mare de Deu de la Merce, the Patron Saint of Barcelona, and celebrating the Catalan culture. We spent 3 amazing days watching gegantes, human towers and so much more. Scarlet also got to see her high school friend Eva that lives in Barcelona. | BARCELONA
32: SARDANA DANCING This dance is a symbol of Catalan unity and pride, where circles of people join their hands together and with them raised; dance with very small, precise steps, slowly round and round whilst people join to make the circle bigger. All this took place in front of the beautiful Cathedral of Barcelona.
34: LA SAGRADA FAMILA This magnificent basilica was designed primarily by Antoni Gaudí, who started the project in 1883 knowing he would never see it completed. Gaudí spent the next 43 years designing a church that defies description. Massive in size and scope, Gaudí incorporated elements of nature, science, and gospel. With a nod toward future generations, Gaudí left some aspects of the design open for interpretation by future architects.
36: CASA MILA by Antoni Gaudí
38: ILLA de la DISCORDIA The "block of discord" is one of several locations where we experienced Barcelona's modernista architecture of curved lines, organic details, and rich ornamentation.
40: CASTELL Human tower
42: GEGANTES | The parade of the giants (gegants) was a fun highlight of the Merce' festival. These wood and papier maché costumes represent key figures in Catalan stories and history such as the founding king and queen. Every day and night of the Merce' festival the streets were filled with locals and tourists alike, celebrating the Catalan culture with music and dance. We took advantage of the outside patio in our centrally-located apartment to see the fireworks at night after little Sarah went to bed. Overall it was a wonderful way to experience the city.
44: ARRIVED | Venice, Italy | 25 SEP 2012
46: VENICE, ITALY Venice was our first stop in our whirlwind tour of Italy, and we made the most of our one night there. We saw St. Mark's Basilica, did some people-watching over coffee in the Piazza, walked around with our new venetian masks (to many amused looks), and ended the night with a private gondola ride through the canals. After one day we were exhausted but ready to see more of Italy!
48: FLORENCE, ITALY Florence had two main highlights, Renaissance artwork and gelato. We got a thorough art history lesson and saw Botticelli's Venus and Michelangelo's David, and tasted home-made gelato that was the best in Italy. Delizioso!
50: Florence | ITALY
52: SIENA, ITALY We spent two lazy days in Siena, enjoying this quiet town with its large central circular plaza. The plaza itself was angled inward with people laying down as if it were a beach. We also enjoyed our most "authentic" meal at a small restaurant with no menu but only a very kind owner who insisted on feeding us well on fresh pasta and house wine.
57: ROME, ITALY Three days in Rome was definitely not enough! Rome was marked by history and sights on every block and every corner - 2000+ year old buildings from the heights of the Roman Empire. In addition to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and countless other sites we also enjoyed the variety of neighborhoods that Rome had to offer - quaint blocks close to modern buildings next to history, all wrapped up into one. We'll be back!
58: SAINT PETER'S BASILICA Was gorgeous and very massive...almost overwhelming. Our plan was to visit the museum and the basilica on a free entrance day (last Sunday of the month). We were shocked to find a 4 hour line to enter; not even Sarah's charm could help us skip the line. So we went the next day with almost no line. A lovely end to our trip.
60: DEPARTED | ITALY | 2 OCT 2012