Paris in the fall (2017)

Back in late September of 2017 we took a 3 week trip to Europe. The first week or so was spent primarily out in the English countryside. We then hopped on a train in Cambridge that took us to King’s Cross in London, then walked over to the International train station, St. Pancras, and boarded the Eurostar to Paris. Taking trains in Europe is definitely easy and economical. While you do have passport control and security, it is much quicker than the airport (you only need to arrive about 45 minutes before departure) and you can bring on liquids (yes, even a bottle of bubbly).

Transportation in the city

We took a taxi from the train station to our hotel in the 1st arrondissement of Paris (near the Louvre and across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower. We paid about $50 for that taxi ride and he didn’t even take us all the way to the hotel. An outdoor concert was taking place nearby and he said the streets were closed off. We didn’t see evidence of street closures as we trudged our way through the rain to our hotel. So on the way back we used Uber. Much better. I think we paid about $30. We were just becoming comfortable with Uber. Do check before you travel to see if Uber operates in the country you’re going to. Uber has had some issues in London but last I heard they were once again cleared to operate. Hopefully, they are still operating in Paris.

Other than that we walked everywhere. We did not go to the Palace of Versailles. The easiest way to get there is the Metro. Next time!

Lodging

I wanted to stay closer to the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement. But my husband wanted to be closer to the river. Overall, I think either is a good choice. I think perhaps over near the Eiffel Tower there might be more dining options. But I cannot complain about our accommodations and staff at the Hotel Brighton. Even though it overlooks the busy Rue de Rivoli, it was quiet with large rooms. The location is very close to the Louvre and right across the street from the Tuileries Garden.

One thing we discovered is over on this side of town you should definitely ask the front desk to make dinner reservations for you. It is very hard to get a seat at good restaurants unless you do so. We did this the first two nights, but on our third night we did not do so and that was a big mistake. We ended up eating bad Chinese as no place had a seat.

Rue de Rivoli from our hotel room
Fall Colors in Jardin des Tuileries and the Eiffel Tower. (view from our hotel room)

Sightseeing

With 2 1/2 days planned for Paris, we had a relatively short list of places we wanted to see: The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, and Notre-Dame. Why we did not include Palace of Versailles I’m not sure. Perhaps because we were just looking for walkable destinations. Looking back that was a mistake. I think I would have rather stayed an extra day in Paris and one less day in London.

Here’s a short recap of our visit:

Day 1: The Louvre

My dad lived in Paris in the early 1950s and had such great stories about it, including how you really needed a pair of roller skates to see the massive Louvre. He wasn’t kidding. Of course, you can’t but it sure would help. After all, it’s over 650,000 square feet, making it the world’s largest museum. Its most famous work by far is the Mona Lisa.

Right now of course Americans can’t travel to Europe so it’s pointless for me to talk about the entrance procedures. Those will most likely be more stringent than ever. But I will say do utilize advance ticket options and self-guided audio tours. We wandered haphazardly around the museum and spent way too much time there, retracing our steps and trying to figure out where to go next. My husband loves museums and even he admitted that we perhaps didn’t tackle the Louvre very well. We didn’t have any problem finding the Mona Lisa (lots of signs) but after that we really didn’t have a plan. We ended up spending most of our day there, as well eating our lunch in a cafe within the museum. Certainly our lack of planning was evident. In retrospect, we could have spent only an hour or two there and seen something else in the afternoon. However, we did get rain that afternoon so perhaps that’s the way it was meant to be!

Day 2: Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe

It bears repeating. Paris is a very walkable city but it can be very hot during the summer, so try to go in fall or spring. We were there early fall and although we did get rain on the first day, the second day was magnificent. The walk to the Eiffel Tower along the Seine River was so scenic. They do have river boat tours but we did not do one. Perhaps in the hot summer, but on this beautiful day it was very enjoyable just to walk. Like any big city there’s lots of traffic, but it’s not as crazy as Rome or New York City, and directionally challenged North Americans don’t have to worry about cars coming from the wrong direction like in England.

The Pont Alexandre III Bridge

We did not need to make a reservation to go up the Eiffel Tower (I’ve heard that others have had to but perhaps we just got lucky. Here again, post pandemic entrance procedures are bound to change). By the time we arrived the clouds had moved on and we were treated to a spectacular view. I had never quite understood the fascination with the Eiffel Tower until I was there. It is truly worth while seeing in person.

After a leisurely al fresco lunch we headed back across the river to the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a little over a half hour walk, about 1.5 miles away from the Eiffel Tower. The weather was lovely so we hit the jackpot. Then, of course, you’ll want to walk the stairs to the top – a mere 284 steps. Or you can cheat and take an elevator to the mid level and it’s only 64 steps. Like the Eiffel Tower, seeing this monument, commissioned by Napoleon, is even more impressive in person. We then walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Sure, we popped in a few stores, but we mostly just enjoyed the uniquely French atmosphere.

Arc de Triomphe

Day 3 Notre-Dame

Our plan to see Notre-Dame was to walk there, take pictures, and then head back to the hotel before heading to the train station for our early afternoon train back to London. It was a pleasant half hour walk from our hotel. As expected, there were already long lines to go in. Having seen so many churches in England we didn’t really feel like we were missing out. Of course, had we known that a terrible fire would cause extensive damage to the structure a little over 18 months later, I think we have made the effort to go inside. But alas, who knew? Who expects this to happen to these magnificent structures? However, I count myself lucky that I was able to see it from the outside. Such a beautiful church. I hope they’re able to restore it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my trip down memory lane. Some day we’ll all be able to travel again, as long as we continue to follow recommendations and take proper precautions.

Getting back in the saddle

September has been pretty crazy for me. The temperatures were way too hot a week ago – upper 90s. And then one of our forest fires got worse and the smoke rolled in. This smoke was dropping ash, too. So it was too hot to run plus the air quality was poor. As a result, I was feeling a little lethargic and not motivated to write.

But weather is ever changing in Colorado. On Monday night the temps dropped and by Tuesday we were over 60 degrees cooler with a dusting of snow on the ground. It picked up again in the late afternoon and we probably got no more than an inch. In the mountains it was a different story. Some areas had close to 2 feet. I follow a Facebook page of people who are hiking the Colorado Trail (I didn’t but my brother did). I was very concerned about folks on the trail. It sounds like most had been tracking the storm and took a few days off in mountain towns. A couple tapped out. Clearly some were not prepared for the quick change of weather.

As for me, I went running yesterday. I enjoy running in cool weather. It was 36 degrees and I loved it. The weather is gradually warming again but hopefully no more 90 degree days.

I have found that I have been more productive, too. I got some returns taken care of at Lowes, new wiper blades for my car, and today I’m going to look into new tires. I also got my flu shot taken care of.

It’s important for me to stay busy. We had had a trip planned for Spain in late September. That’s not happening, of course, so it’s a little depressing. I also keep seeing old travel pics in my memory feed on Facebook. However, we do have a trip planned to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October. It’s not Spain, but it is a vacation, so I am looking forward to it.

I just have to keep busy! One day I look forward to going to Europe again. One day . . .

Summer 2020: road tripping around Colorado

Even though this summer has definitely been a strange one and far from normal, I’ve managed to keep busy in large part due to my brother hiking the Colorado Trail. We took him to the trailhead (45 minutes from our house), and then did three road trips to see him as he progressed on his hike and to pick him up when he finished. All together we put more than 1500 miles on my car. But no complaints. I got to see many cool towns in Colorado that I’d either just passed through or never got to see before. I thought I’d share some of the highlights of my summer. I’m lucky to live in such a scenic state.

Top row: Pagosa Springs, Creede, Colorado Trail (Durango), Silverton

Second row: Silverton, San Juan Skyway, Chimney Rocks

Third row: Independence Pass, San Juan Mountain Range

Fourth row: Big-horned sheep, Bethoud

Fifth row: Twin Lakes region

Some bears paid me a visit

I’ve lived in Colorado for 13 years and know all about bears and how to be bear safe. In nearby Boulder many of the people have locking garbage cans and when I camp I’m careful to lock up food (surprisingly there are few bear boxes in campgrounds.) I’ve seen plenty of stories on TV of bears trashing cars with food in them (their favorite cars are Subaru’s) and inviting themselves into people’s houses in the mountains

However, I never thought I’d be a victim. So imagine my surprise the other week when I open the blinds on my rented Lake City cabin and saw two of my car doors open. I dashed out in my pajamas expecting the worst. Fortunately, no damage. Just a lot of dusty footprints. They were small bear footprints to be exact. And some drool on the dash.

A few days later I saw a video from a Colorado Trail hiker who had a midnight visitor by his cabin in the same town: Mama Bear and two cubs. I have to believe they were the same perps who broke into my car.

I was lucky. I actually left my car unlocked (accidentally) after we picked up pizza at Packers Saloon in town. It was delicious pizza. Obviously the beers thought so, too. Too bad they didn’t get any!

Another busy travel weekend

While we may not be traveling overseas, my husband and I have been busy visiting some scenic spots around Colorado. This last weekend we were down in the San Juan Mountains. It was a very last minute trip, but we really enjoyed it.

My brother messaged me through his GPS. He was about 2/3 of the way through his Colorado Trail hike and wanted to see if I could get a room for him in Lake City (thru hikers plan “zero” days to get resupplied and do laundry). Since he had no cell signal, he hoped I would be able to find a room. Lake City is really a very small town with few places to stay – mostly cabins. I managed to find a 2 bedroom cabin. So my husband and I thought, what the heck, let’s go down and see him. My husband quickly planned a hike up two of the nearby 14,000 foot peaks, Redcloud and Sunshine.

The area is very scenic but a long way from Denver. About five hours. Traffic was super heavy as they are detouring traffic off I-70 due to one of the four fires raging in our state. But it was worth the drive. I drove my husband to the trailhead on a narrow mountain road the next day. Only 18 miles, but the last three miles were rough and part was right on the edge of a mountain!! It took 50 minutes one way. But I made it.

The trip back to Denver on Sunday took even longer. We decided to go a different route because Google maps told us it was quicker. Well, bad choice. They had to close down the road and we had to do a one-hour detour. We found out the next day that a motorcycle hit a pickup, flipped over, hit another car, which in turn hit another car. The two on the motorcycle were killed. So sad.

Oh, and my car got broken into by a hear! Not kidding. But I’ll save that story for tomorrow. My car is fine, but I do want to share the story in its entirety.

Trailhead to Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks
Heading up to trailhead. The road is not bad yet
Now things are starting to get fun!
Sending my brother off again. See ya in Durango!
Headwaters of the Rio Grande

Colorado forest fires creating horrible air conditions

Colorado has two forest fires burning in western Colorado right now, the Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction and the Grizzly Creek fire near Glenwood Springs. Neither are close to me but you wouldn’t know it by the air quality. I usually sleep with my window open, but my room smelled like a campground this morning. It was so bad that I didn’t even go outside like I usually do to drink my morning coffee.

In addition, the Grizzly Creek fire has closed I-70, the major east-west interstate through Colorado, at Glenwood Springs. Yes, you can still get to the major mountain resorts if traveling through Denver, but if you’re going further west to Utah, you will be affected. In addition, the scenic Independence Pass road is closed (CO-82). A lot of people were taking this as a bypass, but this road is not designed for heavy traffic. I was just there 2 weeks ago and can attest to that. In fact, I saw a pop-up trailer that went over the side of the road at one point (but no car!)

Independence Pass
independence Pass, selfie time

The only good in these fires is that they do make for interesting sunsets.

Smoky sunset
Sun setting over Front Range

Up and down weekend

I’ll start off with the good news! My oldest son rode his bike up Mt. Evans! That is one of the two 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado that have a road to the top, the other being Pikes Peak. Now, of course, he didn’t start at sea level, but his elevation gain was just over 7,000 feet and total round trip mileage was 58 miles. The elevation of Mt. Evans itself is 14,271 feet (4348 meters). This summer the road to the top is closed to cars due to Covid-19, so it did make it an ideal time (if there is such a thing!) to do it.

Doing this bike ride would be an accomplishment for anyone, but for my son, it is especially amazing. He has been a Type 1 diabetic for nearly 20 years. While he was young it was hard for him to compete in sports due to managing his blood sugars. But since he started wearing Dexcom’s Continual Glucose Monitor (CGM) five or so years ago, he has started to become more active. He now can look at his phone and know exactly what his numbers are without doing a finger prick. It’s truly an awesome medical device.

at the top of Mt. Evans 14,271 feet

Now about the downside of my weekend. I cut my finger on Saturday and required five stitches. I was cutting a watermelon and the knife got stuck. I yanked it out and it hit my finger. This is the second time I have cut my finger during the pandemic. The first time was on the tip of my pinkie while cutting an apple with a serrated knife. While not as deep it was a really tough one to bandage. I thought about going to the ER but I was a bit concerned as it was early on in the pandemic and we were in lock down. Fortunately, this second cut was easy to stitch, but it was sure painful when the doctor gave the lidocaine shots to numb my finger. I have put a picture below but don’t scroll down if you get queasy. I’m happy to say I haven’t had any throbbing at night, but I have to be careful still as it hurts if I knock it in to anything.

Ouch!

I really am baffled by Governor Noem

Yesterday I watched a clip from the “The Ingraham Angle,” a Fox News program (something I rarely do) that featured Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. I listened to the interview after I read about the plans for the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to continue as planned from August 7-16. Usually they get about 500,000 people pass through this small city of 7,000, but this year they’re expecting half that. Masks won’t be required and you can pretty much toss social distancing out the door.

I was flabbergasted when I heard Gov. Noem state the following in response to her critics (this is a direct quote): “What works is washing your hands and making good decisions.” Literally, my jaw dropped to the floor. Yes, we all have become diligent hand washers and users of hand sanitizers, but unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you should know that the real problem is that this disease is spread through the air. The early zealousness about sanitizing surfaces has subsided somewhat and now the focus is on masks. And by the way, good decisions don’t happen when fueled by alcohol.

Yes, South Dakota has a much lower death rate than New York (15 vs. 167 per 1000) but have you ever been to South Dakota? I have. It’s basically farm land and plains. The biggest city is Sioux Falls with a population of 190,000. The population density of South Dakota is 2,109 people per square mile. In New York that number is 26,403. Quite a difference. Comparing the two states is ridiculous.

Futhermore, once the Sturgis Rally is over, those people will go back home and potentially carry the virus with them. It’s irresponsible and demonstrates once again the selfish behavior of Americans. So sad.

Lakeview Campground (Leadville, CO)

We recently spent three nights at Lakeview Campground just south of Leadville, Colorado. It overlooks Twin Lakes and is a popular destination for canoers, kayakers, paddle boarders, fishermen, and hikers. It sits at an elevation of 9,500 feet, so even in the summer it can be quite chilly at night. When I checked the temperature on each of the mornings we were there, it was in the low 40s.

From my house north of Denver it took us about 2 hours and 20 minutes to get there via I-70, then turning south at Cooper Mountain and following the signs to Leadville and Twin Lakes.

The campground is run by the National Forest Service and during the 2020 season the cost is $24 a night. Four of the eight loops have reservable campsites and the other four loops have sites available on a first come, first serve basis.

Lakeview Campground has vault toilets on each loop. This year they had signs posted strongly urging people to wear masks. I brought my own water as they said water had been turned off this year. As it turned out they did actually have a large tank on our loop (600 liters). All sites have picnic tables (wooden) and firepits. Firewood is available from camp host, but it’s cheaper to bring it in.

My Thoughts

The view here was indeed spectacular. The picture was taken at my campsite. We were on the B loop as I had heard it had the best views. Unfortunately, I had picked a bad site. My golden rule is to always get a site on the outside of the loop and somehow I managed to screw that up. Anyhow, the site was nice and big. My brother, who is hiking the Colorado Trail, stayed with us for 2 nights and there was plenty of room for our big tent and his small hiking tent.

If I were to stay here again, I would NOT stay on the B loop. As beautiful as its views were, it turned out to be very noisy for a couple of reasons. We discovered that there were a ton of dispersed campers right outside the campground and on the hill above us. This is legal on National Forest land but unfortunately, these campers come and use the vault toilet (and helped themselves to water). They were very loud the first night. Cars were always going around the loop. I pay $24 a night, yet these people freeload and help themselves to the facilities. It’s not right and I wish the Forest Service could do something about it.

We also discovered later on that the only other water tank on loop E ran out, so people were coming up to get water from our tank. The constant flow of traffic was annoying.

The spot we were at also to be in a bit of a wind tunnel. I’m not sure if the lower loops were better but I do know I would not want to stay here again and risk it. Every afternoon the storm clouds started to form and we got quick showers accompanied by brief heavy winds. One day they nearly blew our tent away!

That being said, I did like that this campground was pest free–no mosquitoes, no little critters. We checked out White Star campground closer to Twin Lakes and thought it looked nice, but I would worry about mosquitoes. We also worried because it had bear boxes, whereas our campground did not.

Overall, I would give this a 3-star rating. Good location, nice spots, but our loop, being close to the dispersed campers, was less than ideal.

 

 

 

Back from camping but exhausted

I really think I am too old for camping. I enjoy it but I never sleep well.  The first night there was a lot of noise from dispersed campers (another post on that later), the second night we slept well, but last night a camper came in late at night (her dad and brother were already there but she came in separate car with canoe). We went to bed at 9:30 but they yacked by the campfire until 12 at least. If I hadn’t been in bed already I might have gone over and asked them to keep in down. Most campgrounds request quiet by 10 pm.

Anyhow, we had a good time catching up with my brother who is hiking the Colorado Trail. I am so happy to be sleeping in a regular bed tonight. The scenery was spectacular, but the weather was really unpredictable in the afternoon. That is typical for Colorado, however.

The picture is the view from our campsite, Lakeview Campground near Twin Lakes, Colorado.