Tuesday, May 17, 2011

France Trip Day 10: April in Paris

Woke to another beautiful morning in France. Celebrated Easter with some candy for the kids - we have had them collecting it everywhere we have gone and saving it for today. They were on a bit of a sugar rush when we left for Paris They were on a sugar low while we took the train into the city.

Got off the metro (what they called their subway/elevated train in town) a scant 3 blocks from the Eiffel Tower. Lexi just HAD to touch it- she has some kind of new obsession with touching everything to verify the way it feels (or something). Unfortunately for her, it was a national monument so there were security fences around the legs of it (and I wasn't waiting in a 3 hour line just to go up an elevator). Grandma can take her up that if she wants. Got some really cool pics and caught a hop on hop off tour bus.
For many weeks Angie and I have been kicking around the idea of using the river boat tours instead of the bus, but after having seen how crowded every single one of the boat was (all day) we were glad we just grabbed a bus. As a note to anyone going to Paris and planning on using tour buses or boats - they are incredibly expensive! 
We stopped at the back door of the Louvre and realized with growling stomachs that it was lunchtime. So we ate at the first bistro we came to (a scant block away). I now need to retract one of my earlier statements and add to another. That meal was the best we had the entire time in France! And waitstaff in Paris was even nicer than anywhere else. I honestly don't know where some people come up with all these rumors about rude waiters. The food was so wonderfully delicious too! The wait staff all spoke English, but they were patient enough to allow me to try to butcher their language the entire meal by ordering in French.
Another note (this one on food): the French like their vanilla intense (thus the term french vanilla) and their chocolate rich. They however prefer their milkshakes without ice cream. Something someone should know prior to ordering a milkshake in Paris. Even without glaces (ice cream) it was a fab tasting caramel and vanilla flavor.
Went through the Louvre after lunch. I had two complains: (1) what in the heck is a multi million euro establishment like the Louvre doing not using air conditioning?! Really, I don't recommend going there unless its the dead of winter. How can they house such priceless works of art and leave it hot and muggy inside? I should think the humidity alone would ruin all those priceless oil paintings. (2) strollers are free to rent from the information desk but a real pain to either drag up all the stairs or wait up to 20 minutes for an elevator.
The Mona Lisa was cool, but we all enjoyed the wooden Christ exhibits and Egyptian artifacts the most. They were building a medieval exhibit which got Neil really psyched, but it wasn't ready yet. Grandma, again hint hint...
After the Louvre we got back on the bus and rode around to the cathedral of Notre Dame. It being Easter Sunday and this being a city of devout Catholics we couldn't exactly get inside, but I got some awesome pics of the gargoyles and we all got to hear the bells ring. They really do sound nice, though from directly underneath them like we were they sounded very quiet.
Back on the tour bus and around the city. There is a lot of architecture, statues, and gold in this city. There are some wonderful shots to be had from the top of a two story open decked tour bus. We saw the assembly building, 3 or 4 museums, the house of Charles de Gaul, the National Library, the Military Academy, which must have been at least three quarters of the cathedrals in Paris, and of course the Triumph Arch.
Funny thing the Arch I always thought it was just another piece of weird French architecture meant to make the city more interesting to tourists. Turns out it was built for a very nice morale booster to the troops by a pompous general who wanted to congratulate his men. Napoleon commissioned the arch and old his men they would march back into Paris as champions under arches of victory. It wasn't completed before Waterloo, but it now hosts an even more auspicious title. It is the French version of the American Arlington Cemetery Unknown Solider. Under the Triumph Arch is buried one of the unknown dead French soliders from World War One. Every night, the city of Paris hosts a parade into the Arch for the somber task of relighting the Eternal Flame (which burns in perpetuity there) as a way to never forget the Dead of the Great War. We just happened to time our bus trip so that we got front row seats to the event. Our bus driver was trying to beat the traffic, but the police stopped us in the roundabout of the Arch exactly where we could see the events. What must have been a garrison of current soliders and about the same number of old veterans showed up with a flag/color guard and a large band. All of France's military marching music was played as everyone marched in. It made me proud to know that France also honors its war dead in the same way we do. 
Today was definitely the culmination of a decent vacation. Unfortunately, we leave to go back tomorrow. But what a trip!!

Neil's idea to kabob Misty
Never in my life did I think I would actually get to go to Paris. I set out to accomplish 3 things that day, but only got to do one of them which was go to the Louvre. I wanted to take a river boat cruise, which we decided was too crowded for comfort so we passed. I also wanted to get fabric from Paris...how cool would that be, but on Easter Sunday everything was closed. The coolest part of the day was the kids were just as excited to see everything as we were. The Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) was the first thing we got to see. Lexi thought that was amazingly awesome. She was jumping up and down she was so excited. Then we went to the Louvre, which was awesome to see such great works of art. I have never been so moved by art like this before. The Mona Lisa was a little anti-climatic though, but it was still cool to say we've seen it. I guess in my mind I pictured it grand and huge, but in reality it wasn't larger than what you could find in the average home. 
One of my favorite sculptures in the Louvre
The funny thing about Paris is that you could not tell who the Parisans were from the tourists. I guess I had a picture in my head of what French people looked like, but they looked like everyone else. The only way we could tell was when they spoke, the locals spoke French while the tourist spoke English. We did have lunch at a cafe and I must say the food was devine! It restored my faith that the French actually do know how to cook gourmet food. I couldn't help but laughing at Ray though because he got a hamburger and a vanilla milkshake. The kids enjoyed their meals too, so we were finally enjoying the French cuisine.
After all of that we rode a tour bus all around the city. I would highly recommend doing a tour bus of some sort because we saw some pretty amazing things I don't think we would have found on our own. I saw the high end fashion shopping district, but again it was Easter Sunday so there was nobody around. I really enjoyed the French architecture which has its own distint look; however, there was a large variety of influences from Egyptian to Roman features throughout the city. We saw the Arch of Triumph which Napoleon had made for his troops. We were lucky enough to get to see their nightly ceremony to commemorate the unknown solider buried there. 
After we finally did the tour bus loop around the city everyone was tired and ready to go back to the cabin. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and took the train home. I still can't believe I got to see Paris!

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