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Archive for July, 2008

The Big Trip: Versailles

I am giving Versailles its own special posting because, well, I can. If you haven’t been to the palace and gardens at Versailles but plan to go there is one thing you really should know. Be prepared to wait. Crazy long disney-esque lines. If you can figure out a way to buy a ticket before arriving I would highly recommend it. So there is your little travel tid-bit for the day. Of course, to avoid the lines you could always skip Versailles, but I would NOT recommend you do that.

Not really Versailles but significant because I thought it was.

Versailles is this crazy opulent fabulous world all the vision of King Louis XVI. (Of course, Versailles is also a bigger town where real French people live now but for the purpose of this post when I say Versailles I mean the palace and gardens.) Louis moved the French court here in order to keep a close eye on everyone and to head off ideas of revolt. So really Versailles had to become its own little world and that is exactly what you feel when you are there.

We toured the house first which was something that you really shouldn’t miss.

I love any museum tour with a headset. Perhaps it is my history major roots showing but I think knowing the history and great stories associated with a place help it to come alive and make me at least appreciate it more.

Perhaps the most famous room is the Hall of Mirrors. It is a super long and high ceiling-ed ballroom that looks like it is wall papered in mirrors in one side and the other has rows of tall windows. Add to that chandeliers and guilded trimmings it makes for a pretty impressive spectacle.

Oh how I would have loved to go to a ball in this room back in the day. Not that I am really the ball type, but I think I could be talked into it here.

Everywhere you looked in the palace was guilded or painted or carved. Not a single corner was left out.

One day I am going to get one of these made of me knitting:

Once you are done touring the palace you might think you are done with the main event. Lucky for us, Louis and the French monarchs that followed, knew the beauty of your surroundings extended to the outdoors.

I have never in my life seen gardens like this. I know you have heard it said that the French are a romantic people and I believe the design of this garden reflects that stereotype. It is made for strolling and getting lost. The gardens are vast and beautifully kept. There is a maze, and roads that lead to mini-cottages. It is crazy beautiful.

In my opinion, Versailles is a not-to-miss attraction. It made me want to rent every movie about the French monarchy in the 17th and 18th centuries. I haven’t yet but I still plan on it.

One thing to note though, this attraction does take a bit out of you with the line waiting and the crowd wrangling inside. Lucky for us though, we were able to make good use of the gardens:

Up next: Food, Art, and Death

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I have this friend. We’ll call him Smorgan. I have known this friend for a long, long time. Over the course of our friendship I learned, Paris is not Smorgan’s thing. I am not sure it was because of him (but I think I will blame it on him regardless) but for a long time I never really felt a strong pull to visit Paris. It took Kara telling me for years how much I would love it and so I decided when this trip was first conceived that Paris had to be on the itinerary. I had to know for myself folks.

And the verdict?: Paris is definitely my thing.

We arrived mid-day on a Thursday. Kara’s super cool friend Zannah (and now my super cool friend Zannah) lives in Paris and was kind enough to let us crash in her 200 square foot apartment. It was surprisingly cozy. Zannah was very kind to let us crash her beautiful life for a few days and to take us around town and feed us amazing food and speak French to people so we didn’t have to.

I am not really sure where to begin so I think I will start with the most visible symbol of Paris: the Eiffel Tower. I wasn’t planning to be awed by the Tower. I assumed it would be one of those things that is smaller in person and less exciting and grandiose than the movies make it out to be. Well, I stand corrected.

I fell in love with the Tower. I have no idea how it manages to be so seductive but it is. I was entranced from the start. We saw it during the day and then later all lit up at night.

We saw other important monuments like the Arc de Triomphe:

Notre Dame:

Sometimes self-portraits with 3 people are hard.

And the fruit stand from the movie Amelie:

Speaking of Montmartre, we spent a beautiful afternoon walking around its picturesque streets. Literally everywhere I looked was charming. I loved Sacre Coeur:

Mainly, I think, because the view from it looks like this:

Beautiful.

We also saw Paris on a boat ride down the Seine:

On the boat I loved to sit and look at views like this:

You should have seen the cameras go crazy on the boat when the Eiffel Tower came into view. People just love that tower. You would think though that they didn’t know you could take pictures up close. Kind of like this next shot in which Kara reminds me of the classic movie: “An American Tail“?

I call this picture, “Fievel goes to Paris”

Fievel goes to Paris after discovering there are in fact cats in America and the streets aren’t made with cheese after all. He should have known France has way better cheese anyway.

Next up: Versailles

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I think everyone I know is pregnant. Or just gave birth. It is one of those years I guess. I was at an event recently where I realized that 5 people at the table were pregnant. 5! Not to mention my fertile friends elsewhere. I really don’t know what happened in 2007 but I think it was a big year for a lot of couples.

Well, I can’t possibly knit for every baby I know but I thought I would do my best and see what I could get done. First up, Cooper. I thought he should have some mittens. But when I finished these mittens I thought maybe I should have some too. In fact, I had dreams of more and more mittens. Baby knits kill me. They are just so little and, well, cute.

Mittens for Cooper

These mittens are brilliant because you can use leftover sock yarn–I used Koigu left over from my gauntlets. I love the greens, cream, and peach colors in this yarn. I think the colors are perfect for a little boy.

Baby knits are among my favorites due to the heightened level of cuteness and the relatively fast execution. When I am finished with a baby knit I kind of want to keep it and maybe decorate my house with it. Is that strange?

Project Stats

Pattern: Baby Mittens

Source: Malin Knits

Size: 3-9 months (perfect in time for winter)

Yarn: Koigu PPPM

Needles: US 2 double points

Notes: I made no changes. These mittens are perfect just the way they are.

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The Big Trip: Copenhagen

Our last stop in Scandinavia was Copenhagen, Denmark. We arrived mid-day after an overnight train and a morning of walking in Malmo. Then throw in the non-stop traveling we had done since we arrived in Scandinavia a mere 5 days before. In short, we were beat. When we checked into our hostel, Kara and I both had the idea to take a quick nap. A power nap if you will.

Well, 15 minutes turned into 3 hours and we found ourselves with all of the afternoon gone. I would have felt bad for the time we missed if it weren’t for the fact that it was one of the most blissful naps of my life–we needed the sleep. So we had a night and a full day left to explore the city. I had gotten some amazing recommendations from a local blog reader, Jennie (Thanks Jennie!) and so we were armed with some ideas on what to do. That first night, we decided that what we most needed was some fun. So fun was what we had.

Tivoli lanterns

Tivoli Gardens is a famous amusement park in Copenhagen and I believe it is the oldest existing amusement park in the world. Kara and I weren’t sure what to expect but after just a few minutes of walking around the park we were pleasantly surprised. I have been to several amusement parks in my day and outside of Disneyland I feel like most are carbon copies of each other. Tivoli Gardens is no copy. It is beautiful in that wild fantastical way that only amusement parks can pull off. I loved the lanterns and the lights and the themed buildings and alley ways.

Tivoli dragon

This is a dragon that follows the length of a walkway.

Kara and I didn’t come to the Tivoli for the rides but we decided to buy a few tickets and choose a couple rides to go on. The first was a thrill ride that felt like it lasted maybe 30 seconds but had some fun loops and was suitably scary. The second ride we choose was my personal favorite.

Han\'s ride

Oh yeah, that’s right. A Hans Christian Anderson ride. It had wooden mechanical characters acting out scenes from his stories as we sat in a moving pod with really bad speakers. I loved every second. Hans is a favorite son of Denmark and we felt is was only appropriate that we paid tribute to him while in his homeland.

We spent several hours walking around the Tivoli, enjoying our rides, eating fair food–including the best churros I have ever had, people watching, and enjoying it still being light outside at 10:30pm. We loved the Tivoli.

The next day was our one full day in Copenhagen and we wanted to get the most of it. The tone of the day was set when while walking across a city square Kara was spanked with a newspaper by a Danish hippie. This was going to be a good day.

One of the first things we did was take a boat tour of the city:

Copenhagen harbor and Kara

This is Nyhavn harbor and if I remember correctly I think our friend Hans Christian Anderson might have lived in one of these houses for a time–or some famous Danish person did. Either way, it is a pretty cool harbor area with lots of activity and people around.

On the water we saw views of the city:

Copenhagen view

A cool spiral thingy on a roof:

Spiral roof

And much more. It was about an hour tour and a great way to start off the day. After the boat ride we continued our walk of the city. We knew we had to see the famous Little Mermaid statue which was erected, yet again, to honor favorite son, Hans Christian Anderson.

The Little Mermaid

It is smaller than I thought, but pretty I think. I like the way her fins/feet look. While we were on the boat, our tour guide told us that the statue has been beheaded a couple times and that the first time it was treated like a murder investigation by the police. I like a city who honors it’s art.

After the Little Mermaid statue we walked over to Rosenburg Castle and the gardens that border it.

Rosenburg Castle

This is not the main castle anymore but it was fun to tour and we also got to see the crown jewels which are housed in the basement. It is too bad I am not a royal, I really think I could rock some serious crown jewels.

Besides being bordered by an actual moat (see above) the castle also has some beautiful grounds to walk around. It was there we found the coolest tree ever:

Coolest Tree

I don’t have any idea what was done to this tree to make it look this way but I love it. It was also at this park that we enjoyed one of my favorite treats of the trip.

Magnum Bars

Magnum bars.

I had the Mayan Mystica (I think it was called) which was advertised on posters everywhere we went by a very Mayan looking Eva Longoria. It was delicious.

Also, being in Denmark and all, we did manage to eat a danish or two.

Danish

I am not really sure what I am trying to do in this picture. It looks like a cross between taking a bite and kissing the danish while quizzically and inexplicably raising my eyebrows in fear? understanding? Very confusing, but the danish was delish.

Copenhagen is also home to some beautiful shopping.

Shopping in Copenhagen

I ended up buying some awesome shoes with cut out polka dots in them. You know, to remember Copenhagen by. All in all, we had a really great day and could have spent much more time exploring the city. But, with a super early flight out the next day we decided to head back to our hostel and get in a few good hours of sleep

I am not sure if you can tell in these pictures but a week of hostel living, train travel, spotty sleep, and cold weather was starting to take a toll on us. I believe both of us felt like we were ready to be done. I was a little nervous because we had one city left, a city I was really excited about and that I had never been to before and I worried that I would be too wiped in order to fully enjoy it–that it wouldn’t get the attention or the energy it deserved.

Up next: Revived by Paris

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I saw an early copy of the new Interweave book Inspired to Knit several months ago. Ever since, I have been dying to own it, talk about it, and knit from it. Now that the book is released I can finally share how I feel about it with you all.

Now, while the book is lovely and has many gorgeous patterns I want to knit, there is one particular pattern I have become a bit obsessive over. The Victorian Lace Blouse. It makes me want to cry it is so beautiful.

photo courtesy of Interweave Press, copyright 2008

I will have to make some adjustments–must be longer and I am pondering the neckline.  But come on folks, beautiful right?

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