For those of you who read my ramblings know the history of my dining table. I’ll give the rest of you a quick recap. My dining table started it’s life in rural Kansas in the late 1800s. It made it’s way to Oregon on a covered wagon in the early 1900s. Photos have proved that my great-grandma (the second person to own this table) used this for her every day table and even extended it by using sheets of plywood sitting on one edge and saw horse holding the other edge so she could host the entire family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My family has never had any money, so when someone would die they would break up proper sets of things (a dining set for example) and give the component pieces to various family members. The table stayed close to my branch of the family tree, the chairs were turned in to lawn chairs by another member of the extended family — solid oak chairs to make the best option for lanai seating, don’t they? I never said my family was the classiest of families around. After a few generations, the table made it to my house. I had it refinished before we closed up the Oregon house and it’s been living the urban life with me for 2.5 years now.
As noted before, it didn’t come with matching chairs. The chances of me finding a set of 6-8 chairs that match the table perfectly is next to zero, so I’m not even going to try. 2.45 years ago I was hosting a dinner at my home but didn’t have any chairs. I opted to purchase cheap folding chairs from World Market with an espresso finish. I figured it would pull the dark grain colors from the refinished table. Plus they were only $40 for 4, so it’s not like I was out anything if I hated them and to quote my friend JM “Shit, who doesn’t need more folding chairs around their house — you can always use them”. Good point.
So for the past 2.45 years I’ve been using these CHEAP folding chairs to see how I liked the darker chairs against the dark brown table — and I really liked it. The problem is, I can’t find any reasonably priced espresso chairs that fit the bill.
Last week, I received a catalog from Home Decorators that had a few chair styles that I liked. Plus they were on sale. I know, I know. The first thing I thought was it would be press board (mdf) and would fall apart within a few weeks but the website said it was “wood” and not “particle board” or whatever else they call it. What the hell, I’ll buy a chair and see how it goes.
The chair arrived at Home Depot within 2 days of ordering and it sat there 3 more days while I was out of town. I swung by HD to pick it up and was SHOCKED at the size of the box it came in. The box is only slightly smaller than if the chair was fully assembled. I schlepped this chair home in a taxi and spent 15 minutes putting it together. It is wood and not press board. It has a WIDE seat for all of my wide seated friends. It is slightly distressed with bumps and gouges and some of the coloring has rubbed off to reveal a little red undertone.
The chair is heavy and stable and for $140 it’s a pretty good deal in my mind. I’m just not 100% sold on it for my table. The wide seat is so wide it just barely fits under the table (between the legs). It’s a bit taller than I’m use to, since I’ve been using these small folding chairs. It goes without saying, if I keep this chair, I’m going to reupholster the wide seat — perhaps with a bold color or pattern. The chair could use a bit more padding on the seat too, but that can easily be handled when I upholster.
What do you think? Should these chairs move into my home permanently? What do you like about them? What do you hate? Be honest, I want to hear. If you don’t want to comment, please email me.
Oh yeah, and you can see Miss Lilly wanted to get in the photos. She woke up just in time to supervise my photo shoot and now she’s sitting here watching everything I type. She’s a great little supervisor.
We planned on doing our Bike About Tour on Saturday morning, but because I struggle with reading confirmations and websites and cannot accurately tell time, that plan was thrown out the window. Since the Bike About people were quite flexible, we opted to flip flop our morning and afternoon plans, so we decided to meet at the Pigalle Metro station at 11h30. We were going to follow the Frommer’s walking tour of Montmartre as our guide — again. Frommer’s overestimated the amount of time this walk would take. They said it would take 5 hours, more if you break for lunch and if we follow the route we’d cover 4 kilometers. We had to be back at the Charlemagne statue at 14h45 so we wouldn’t miss our bike tour (again) — plus we needed to get lunch. We better get cracking!
When I think of Montmartre I think of the Moulin Rouge and Toulouse-Latrec wandering around in an absinthe induced haze. Not so much any more – especially at noon on a Saturday. Unlike the rest of Paris we visited, Montmartre is quite hilly, which really helps you burn off all the butter and cream you’ve been consuming while in Paris.
The first stop was the cradle of cubism, Bateau-Lavoir or the Boat Wash house. Picasso lived here for 8 years and created such pieces at Demoiselle d’Avignon as well as The Third Rose. The building was quite nondescript and if the guidebook hadn’t pointed it out, we would have just walked on by.
We continued up the hill to find the Espace Dali Montmatre, a Salvador Dali museum with over 300 original works and a tacky gift shop, it will fully satisfy a Dali lover. Seriously though, what are you going to do with one of those melting wall clocks?
We then came across Place de Tertre which is swarming with artists (caricaturists, some psychics and some talented landscape artists). MS opted to purchase a medium/small landscape of Paris. I don’t have a picture of it, but it is nicely done. In this square there is a restaurant called La Cremaillere 1900 — a Belle Epoque dining room with original paintings and a beautiful ceiling. We didn’t stop to eat as we barely made any progress on the tour and we had a lot to see.
The next stop was St. Pierre, one of the oldest churches in Paris. Around the corner we found the main reason for our visit to Montmartre — Sacre-Coeur, a basilica whose construction began in 1876 but was designed to look like a 12th Century Byzantine structure. The bright white exterior shined against the crystal clear blue sky — reminded me so much of my visit to the leaning tower of Pisa (c. 1996). The view from the front of Sacre-Coeur is quite stunning. We did not travel to the top of the basilica to view Paris from on high, but I hear the views are spectacular.
We started walking down the hill and found a small vineyard that is still in operation — what a surprise. At this point we were getting quite hungry, so we figured we’d walk down to find a quick little lunch stop then make our way over to the bike tour. As we were walking down, RK reminded us that the place where he buys his clarinet reeds is in Montmarte and it is on the street that we are on. We continue to walk to find the address — of course, we walk right on past it. Luckily JB was paying more attention than the rest of us. Unfortunately this place was closed.
We did find a nice place for a gallette and a crepe as we made our way back to Pigalle Station. Creperie Lepic Assiette offered some great options for both sweet and savory crepes. If you are in the area, I would stop by. Plus there was a big painting of this dog on site too. The dog was lounging under one of the benches — quite the life.
We continue our trek toward Pigalle and walk past a couple of Moulin’s (windmills) including the most famous, Moulin Rouge. It looked a little Time Square to me — we didn’t see a show, but did continue back to Pigalle and then to our hotel as MS had to drop off the canvas he purchased before our bike ride. I do wish I was able to have another meal in this area and perhaps been able to enjoy the nightlife, but I wouldn’t put this high on my to do list next time — and I sure wouldn’t consider this a miss on this trip because I didn’t do this.
The last time I remember riding a bike (before November 2009) was sometime around 1992. In 2009 I was visiting family in Orlando and while the elderly (my mother who was 58 and her aunt who was 81) stayed home, while the kids (me, 30 and my second cousin who was 59) went out on a bike ride. I think made EAD/JFB rent bikes while in PSP — I had such a great time on both of these rides. So now, renting bikes has become a pretty standard part of a Tim Vacation. You can read about our South African Wine & Bike Tour here.
We did a bit of research online and found Bike About Tours – whose tours seemed to fit with not only what we wanted to see, but also into our restrictive timeline. We decided to sign up for the tour at 10h00 on Saturday. I coordinated this event, so we agreed to meet at the Charlemagne Statue (outside Notre Dame) — unfortunately I thought (and told everyone) the tour started at 10h30. I didn’t realize this until 09h30 — nearly impossible for us all to get there. MS and I made it without a problem, but JB/RK were staying quite a distance from us — no way they could make it. Luckily Bike About was flexible and allowed us to change from the 10h00 to the 15h00 tour with no issues.
We met at 14h45 and joined a group of about 12-15 other people, mostly Americans and headed out on the bike ride. We had to walk 5 minutes to a subterranean parking garage to collect our rides, which were pretty cool multi-speed tiny wheeled, gel seated little work horses.
Our tour guide was born in the Soviet Union, moved to New York and has been in Paris for several years. She spoke excellent English and the French I heard was top notch too. Unlike many other tours I’ve been on, these folks just told us to stick close together, ride on the right unless told otherwise. Then she was off. She didn’t stop every few feet to make sure the group was all together, we are adults and need to follow directions and keep up with the crowd. It was refreshing. If I were traveling with my mother or someone else of that ilk, I would have been driven crazy — it would have been like herding cats (meow).
Everyone on the trip was in pretty good shape and didn’t really have any bike issues (Paris is pretty flat, we rode slowly and took frequent stops). One lady on the tour had ridden her bike, with her husband, in from Versailles. Interestingly enough, she was a pretty big woman. Upon closer inspection we found that she had a motor on her bike. There was no way she peddled her big ass in from Versailles and remained that size.
Our bike ride was supposed to be 3 hours, but it turned into four (it was announced as 4 at the start of the tour). The website now says 3.5 hours — who knows what’s going on with that. We saw some great views of Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Obelisk, the Seine and the new Opera House. The tour guide was well informed (her comments matched what I had read before). She did add a bit of color commentary from time to time — you could hear a bit of her socialist ideology from time to time, which I found charming and not too revolutionary.
|Please ignore the bellies on us…|
If I have one recommendation regarding this tour would be that you do it early in your trip. We saw many things that we had already viewed on self guided tours and learned things that we already knew. For example we rode to the Place de Vosges, Victor Hugo’s home, the Hotel’s English Gardens, etc. We were also told about the history of the Revolution and Napoleon’s reign. While it is interesting, I don’t want to hear the same thing about these topics repeatedly.
The tour was well organized and well executed. They treated us like adults, but gave us directions when needed. My favorite direction from our little Soviet came early on in the tour — we were coming to a busy intersection and we needed to cross 4 lanes of traffic without a stop light. Our guide said “Get together and pretend we are a big car”, we then headed out in the road and pushed our way through traffic until we made it across. I was surprised at how well this worked. Perhaps we should try that while in Chicago, eh?
All in all, this was a really nice tour. I would suggest this tour for anyone — it’s a great way to see this beautiful City from a new perspective and it’s a great way to get a bit of exercise before you head off to the creperie again.
I flew out at 11h00 and we landed 10 minutes early. The other ORD-LGA flights this morning were all delayed at least an hour. Lucky me. I was number one on the upgrade list….once first had checked in full. I am consistently the first loser…but I had MY coach seat, second exit row aisle. Of course a bit fatty was going to sit next to me AND he wouldn’t allow me to get up before he tried to slide his ample ass into the middle seat next to me.
I continued to read my book as he tried to change with me. The doors closed and a stew came running down the aisle get to my row, looks us all up and down, settles on the late middle aged man in a cheap suit and says “Mr.<MY NAME>, your upgrade has cleared, gather your things and come with me.” He didn’t correct her, so I had to. He was surprisingly upset that they wouldn’t give him the upgrade. I loved it. They lovingly pull me from the 3rd level of hell and guide me to heaven….ok that’s a stretch…it was a domestic upgrade on an A320 on a 121 minute flight, but at least I didn’t have to sit next to fatty AND I helped partially ruin a day for another guy.
All in all, pretty productive morning. Karma will bite.me on many of my next flights, I am sure.
After our trek out to Versailles and our trek UP the Eiffel Tower, we decided to head back to our respective hotels to freshen up. It was hot and we were active (and 75% of us a sweat hogs, it appears) so we all needed to hose off. Since we did the Tower in the late afternoon, we decided to do the Arc de Triomphe in the evening so we could see the Parisian lights at night (and at elevation). I figured I’d rather see this from the Arc than the Tower because I wanted a picture of the Tower at night.
We met at JB/RK’s hotel (they stayed on points at the Renaissance near the Arc — which was going for 499€ each night!!!) and had a quick cocktail. Our plan was to visit the Arc, then head out for dinner in a neighborhood we haven’t visited before. We had a bit of trouble finding our way to the Arc — there are several staircases going underground, but we seemed to find the ones that just took us to stairway going up – but not to the Arc, just across the round about. How could we get lost within sight of one of the most famous monuments in the world? Well, we did.
I was excited to see a photography exhibit inside the Arc that showcased all of the “triumphant marches” through/around the Arc since the mid-1880s. Interestingly enough, we couldn’t find the exhibition space either — this was not our evening. We did manage to make it to the top, perfectly timed to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle on the hour. The Tower is clad with hundreds of twinkle lights that really look beautiful. The Arc didn’t have all that many people visiting either, so we were able to take many photos while we were there. Of course, my camera battery was starting to die as well. This really wasn’t my evening.
We then descended to street level to pour through our travel books for a dinner option. We decided we’d take the Metro over to Montparnasse and just wander aimlessly until we found something fab for dinner. The walked around for about 30 minutes, checking menus, trying to find a place off the beaten path. After reviewing about 6 places we headed back to the first place we found — of course we did.
The dinner was quite tasty and the best part, we found they had white port, which is almost unheard of in the US — of course we each had two glasses. We all really found our love for port in Portugal last year — each time we enjoy a glass of port we retell the stories of our week in Portugal last year.
As we were quickly hurrying back to catch the last Metro train of the evening, we stumbled across several hundred rollerbladers riding through the streets. The best part — the police were also on rollerblades! I’m not a blader, as I have absolutely no balance, but it was pretty cool to watch this whole thing.
Have you ever been within a few feet of a major monument and just couldn’t figure out how to get TO the monument? Have you walked up 800 stairs in a day just to get a better view of the area? Do you and your friends have a favorite drink that immediately brings a smile to your face when you see it on the menu?