Saturday, April 12, 2008

Flat Albert's Tour de France

Flat Albert jumped at the chance of joining the Lenn family on their recent trip to France. He couldn't wait to experience all of the great food, art, and culture. The family was excited that Al was joining them too:
After landing in Paris, Mike familiarized himself with the city
and decided to start with the most famous attraction in Paris, the Eiffel Tower
From the top, a staggering 1,063 feet high, one can see all of Paris, including the Champs-Élysées. This avenue leads into the roundabout from hell at the Arc de Triomphe, where 12 streets feed into the circle
Al then headed over to the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. The island where it is located, Île de la Cité, is considered the center of Paris and the point from which all road distances in France are measured.
From the towers of Notre Dame, chimeras peer out over the city. Below, another famous cathedral, the Sacré-Cœur in Montmarte, is visible in the background.From Notre Dame Flat Al wandered over to Sainte-Chapelle to admire its beautiful stained glass
At the Musée Rodin, Albert saw one of his favorite sculptures, The Thinker
Left brain view:
The Kiss
Flat Albert next visited the Arc de Triomphe, and braved gale force winds for the view from the top
In the distance is the Grande Arche, a monument to humanitarian ideals designed to be a 20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe To keep from blowing away, Al tucked himself under Roy's care And after all the sightseeing, Flat Albert rested up for the next busy day.

A Day At The Museums
The next day, Flat Albert couldn't wait to see the great museums of Paris. He started with the celebrated art of the Louvre.
Inside, a crowd with their cameras gathered around quite a celebrity...
The Venus de MiloJust do it: The Winged Victory of Samothrace, or Nike
Art being restored:
Throughout the musuem, artists paint copies of the work
And paintings such as La Grande Odalisque by Ingres have been co-opted into advertisements
Elsewhere in the Louvre, Flat Albert easily slipped through the crowd to pose with the Mona Lisa,
and view da Vinci's other impressive work
Portrait of an Unknown Woman, attributed to da Vinci

The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

St. John the Baptist
"Can you believe the condition of the roof?"

Works by other artists:
St. Sebastian, just hangin out
"Dude, this really sucks"

The Oath of the Horatii
, Jacques-Louis DavidThe Coronation of Joséphine, Jacques-Louis David. Refer to the people at the edge of the photo for perspective of its size
This larger-than-life work was starting to give Flat Al quite the opposite of a Napoleon complex. Luckily, he came across figures a little more his size at the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte at Invalides later that day.
Flat Albert and the Lenn family then took a break for lunch
Sights like those above were a reoccurring end to Roy's meals.

Re-energized after lunch, Flat Albert was ready for the impressionist masterpieces of the Musée d'Orsay, located in a former railway station
Fittingly, the first painting he saw was Luncheon on the Grass by Manet. The band Beirut used part of the image for the cover of the Lon Gisland EP
Whistler's Mother

The Dance Class, Edgar Degas
Renoir:Claude Monet:
The most impressive (or expressive, if you will) part of the collection, the Van Goghs:
"Such a curious fellow"

With the suggestion of afternoon siestas and comfortable beds, Flat Albert went to rest up for his trip to Lourdes.

A Trip To Lourdes
Next, Flat Al and the family hopped on the high-speed TGV toward the town of Lourdes. Located near the Spanish border at the foot of the Pyrenees, Lourdes is a seven hour train ride south. Al enjoyed the the many sights that whizzed by:
Upon arriving, Flat Al thought the presence of palm trees in an alpine village to almost break the laws of space and time
After such a long train ride, Al and the family relaxed in a brasserie and enjoyed the view of the river and the town
Flat Albert then explored the city on foot
The Château Fort of Lourdes, which has origins dating to Roman times
In 1858, a fourteen year old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to her in a grotto. Since that time Lourdes has become a popular pilgrimage site where visitors come to pray at the sanctuary above the grotto and drink from the spring waters.
Lourdes is a small town of 15,000, though it attracts over 5 million visitors a year and has the second-highest number of hotels in France after Paris. The tourist season lasts from Easter to November, and at other times of the year the town is relatively quiet. So on this night in March, only about four restaurants were open. Flat Al and the gang settled for something familiar:Roy: Hey Flat Al, you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in France?
Flat Al: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
Roy: Nah, man, they got the metric system. They don't know what a quarter pounder is.
Flat Al: What do they call it then?
Roy: They call it Royale with Cheese
Flat Al: Royallle with Cheese

Last Tango in Paris
Flat Albert began his last day in France with a visit to Père Lachaise, the largest cemetery in Paris. Located here are the tombs of singer Édith Piaf, composers Bizet and Chopin, writer Marcel Proust, and painters Georges Seurat and Jacques-Louis David. As remembered from the visit to the Louvre, David was Napoleon's court painter. However, when the Bourbons returned to the throne, David was exiled as a revolutionary and not allowed to return even in death, so his tomb contains only his heart. Oscar Wilde is also buried here, and admirers traditionally kiss the monument at his gravesite while wearing lipstick.Of all these notable figures, however, the most visited gravesite (and fifth most popular tourist attraction in Paris) belongs to none other than drunken buffoon Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors. The grave has been notoriously vandalized over the years, and the bust in place there since the 10th anniversary of his death was stolen in 1988:Today the grave is cleaned up a bit, but because of the large crowds and chances of vandalism, the cemetery has been forced to hire a full-time security guard at the site. Here you'll notice that someone has graciously left a joint at the foot of the grave:
Flat Albert next ventured over to Montmarte, the surrounding district of Paris high on a hill. Montmarte is known for the Sacré-Cœur Basilica as well for the historic presence of artists, performers, and caberets such as Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir. The steps of the Sacré-Cœur are a popular gathering place for tourists, and here Flat Al watched as a blue jean-clad performer serenaded the crowd with Radiohead's 'High and Dry'After all that walking Flat Albert and family were ready for dinner, and for their last night in Paris they returned to their favorite eatery of the trip, a hole-in-the-wall Lebanese restaurantAfter the fantastic meal, Flat Albert still had one sight left to see- the Eiffel Tower at night. Upon exiting the Metro he was impressed with the economy in which Parisians found parking spaces:Al held off from pondering the physics of it all and made it to the bridge just in time to see the Eiffel Tower's brilliant displayVowing to return again, Flat Albert bid adieu to the City of Light.