Published: April 13th 2009April 13th 2009
Our Travel Companions
Samantha and Maureen Mehew from Chicago!
Before I tell you about Paris, I want to let you know that you can view the photos better by just clicking on the first picture in this blog and then paging through them...you'll get a bigger picture!
I can admit this now that I'm home, I was scared to death to go to Paris. Jeff didn't join us on this trip for a couple of reasons, but primarily because it is the most expensive city we were planning to visit this year and we just didn't think Jorgen could handle the walking. I had serious anxiety leading up to this trip because Jeff is my navigator...in travel and in life. I'm just a small town girl. Granted, he's just a small town boy, but if we get lost then we get lost together. This was different and I knew I had to at least pretend to be brave and confident for the sake of the girls, one of whom suffers great anxiety. When I was younger, I dreamed of going to Paris...it seemed to be a magical place. However, as I grew up and became a bit more cynical, I viewed the hype about Paris to be just
that...hype. However, we're close and it's a place that the girls really wanted to see - and we live but once.
Paris, in my humble opinion, is all that - it deserves the hype. I believe there is something to appeal to nearly every type of person...except maybe a 5 year old boy. He would have found the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame gargoyles cool, but the 5 minutes of cool would have been surrounded with hours of complaining about walking and waiting and, "can we go home?". We made the right decision in leaving the boys home.
We shared this trip with my dear friend, Maureen Mehew, and her daughter Samantha. They flew in from Chicago to see Paris with us! It was such a treat to see a friend and to share this experience with her.
I could go on for days about Paris, but I really don't think you want to read a novel right now. I'll do my best to simplify this amazing trip while trying to do it justice. First off, let me say that with a combination of careful planning, sheer luck and the kindness of strangers, we made each
Arc de Triomphe
and every connection and got to each destination without a single wrong turn (Well, except for getting to our hotel when we first arrived..but wandering the neighborhood for 30+ minutes landed us in an awesome bakery for pastries and directions! It didn't feel like much of a mistake.). I also want to point out that the weather people are wrong all over the world, it's a universal "wrongness" - our 2 1/2 days forecast in Paris was rain and cloudy every day...and we had sunshine and just 45 minutes of rain! It was gorgeous. Paris in the spring with everything in bloom...it was breathtaking.
After dropping our bags in our teeny, tiny hotel room, we made our way to Arc de Triomphe, which was just a few blocks from the hotel. Like my other blogs, I'm not going to give any history lessons, you'll have to "google" for that. Besides the impressive architecture, the other notable thing about the Arc is that it's the worst traffic intersection in Paris. The Arc is located in the center of a roundabout and you can only access it by an underground passageway. There are cars constantly circling and exiting onto the FOURTEEN
This was our first view of the Eiffel Tower.
streets (including the Champs Elysees) that access the Arc. Insane. So we looked, took some pictures and grabbed a bite to eat with a great view of the Arc. All I'll say about the food is that my inner foodie was not satisfied with my Paris eating experience. The croissants, baguettes and crepes were to die for, but woman can not live on bread alone. I didn't drink nearly enough wine, considering I was in Paris. The couple small glasses that I had were delightful. After lunch, we wandered the Champs Elysees and made our way to the Eiffel Tower. One of the highlights of the trip was rounding the corner that revealed the Eiffel and hearing Emma gasp and Signe squeal. That moment made every penny and worry worth it. Some may consider the Eiffel Tower a monstrosity, but not me. We walked around the tower, bargained with street vendors for our Eiffel Tower trinkets then went back to Trocadero Square where the girls took a ride on the double decker carousel (my childhood love...carousels and horses!) and then enjoyed a strawberry ice cream cone while enjoying the view of a lifetime.
Friday morning we met our friend,
I love this shot, it has some of my favorite things...my girls, a carousel and the Eiffel Tower - and sunshine!
Sebastien, and his brother, Xavier. Seb is from Brussels and was an exchange student in St. Peter last year. He lived with our very close friends, Tim Kennedy, Mary Snyder, Maggie & Lydia and we came to consider him part of our extended family. Sun shining, we all headed to Notre Dame. Once we arrived, there was a daunting line leading in to the cathedral. The line moved quickly and soon we were standing inside the mammoth space. I never fail to feel a sense of reverence in a Catholic church, and Notre Dame was no different...except that it was huge - BIG reverence happening. We walked quietly through the massive and impressive structure. It was Good Friday and there was a line of worshipers waiting for their chance to pay homage to the crown of thorns on display...tourists waiting alongside Paris school children in their universal, plaid skirt uniforms. After our trip through the cathedral, we got in line for the 400 step walk up the tower where the gargoyles preside. The line was long, as they only allow a limited number of people inside at a time - the steps are spiral and narrow and the viewing area
My first double-decker carousel!
is limited. We settled in, I struck up a conversation with Howard, a recent med school grad from Brooklyn, NY. Maureen and crew wandered the souvenir shops lining the streets while I held our place in line. Emma came back chowing on a Nutella filled crepe and Signe spotted the must have beret. The time in line passed quickly and enjoyably as a guy in an old man's mask entertained the crowd by sneaking up on tourists and scaring them. Funny if you're watching, creepy if you're the victim!
I love gargoyles. I'm only posting one of the 30+ photos I took featuring them, but I was fascinated with each "character" on the eaves, as were Signe and Emma. The week before we left, we watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame for fun. I know it's just a story, but I could picture dear Quasimodo swinging from the eaves...and I loved that picture. I could see each carving as a character in the story and understand how Victor Hugo was inspired, I know I was. The architecture is so impressive, but the view is equally so. This is where I fell in love with Paris. We followed our Notre
Ice Cream at Trocadero
Eating ice cream looking at the Eiffel Tower.
Dame visit with a walk through Luxembourg Garden (after a quick stop at Starbucks, the "Brussel Boys" only "must see" for the day!). The bulbs were blooming and the trees were filling in with the gorgeous, chartreusey spring green that I love so much. We found the old carousel and Signe took a quick spin playing a ring game that Paris children have been playing for decades. A quick trip to Sacre Coeur, where we climbed MORE steps to another great view where there was a man playing guitar to a huge group of people sitting on the steps taking in the view. We walked down to the smelly red light district, then on to another architectural jewel, department store Galeries Lafayette. We ended the day with some pasta at a restaurant on Champs Elysees - said a sad farewell to Sebastien and Xavier and headed to our hotel to crash. My calves were screaming for mercy.
Friday dawned...you guessed it, sunny! The girls and I hopped on the metro, headed for the Louvre. We arrived at the underground metro entrance just before the gate to the Louvre "area" opened. We made our way to the entrance, arriving at
Under the Eiffel Tower
The green netting is to protect the painters...the brush paint the entire thing every 8 years.
8:30...we had heard that the long line to security formed early, but we were 6th, 7th and 8th in line! We quickly made it through security and were standing in front of Mona Lisa by 9:10 am. Everything I had read said the crowds were so large that you couldn't get anywhere near her, but luck was on our side. I'll admit to you that I'm not a very "cultured" person. Jeff and I have gone to theater productions and have tried to enjoy them, but we don't...we don't really appreciate art and we aren't classic music enthusiasts (we consider AC/DC great music). However, shortly before we went to Paris, Signe read a book that talked about DaVinci and Mona Lisa, so she was particularly interested in seeing the painting and I felt it was important for the girls to see this masterpiece. I also had read that the building itself was worth the entrance fee. It was. Beautiful, massive, impressive...and I would actually like to have the time to wander, read and learn about the treasures within.
We headed back down the Champs Elysees, headed for our hotel...a long walk, but a gorgeous day. We planned to spend
This is in our room - count 'em, 4 croissants. Who do you think got the extra?
our last evening watching the lights come up at the Eiffel Tower. We were exhausted after our long walk and decided to spend a couple of hours resting so we could make it to sunset. We got to the hotel and turned on the TV for a little "veg time". Unfortunately, the only English speaking channel was MTV and it just so happened that Paris Hilton's ridiculous reality program "My New BFF" or some stupid thing like that, was on...and we watched it! Paris Hilton does NOT deserve the name. Seriously, it was the dumbest thing I've ever seen, but it opened up some conversation with my girls. A clear example of what we don't want to be when we grow up! I can't even believe that I admitted we watched that, but the whole Paris/Paris thing...kind of funny, no? No.
Our final night. We realized that the 82 bus that picks up 10 steps out of the hotel door drops us off right in front of the Eiffel Tower. Good to know IN OUR LAST FEW HOURS after spending 2 days maneuvering the Metro and walking everywhere! We took the bus to the Eiffel, sat for about 1
1/2 hours with a little light rain (not the whole time) while the girls danced with their umbrellas, singing, giggling and being little girls excited to be in Paris. During the wait, we saw a guy on a moped with a golden retriever draped in front of him...not kidding, a BIG golden retriever. Moped moment #2 was when the Pizza Hut delivery moped pulled up to the guy running the double decker carousel and delivered a pizza! Only in Paris. The sun set, the lights came on a we watched until the twinkle light show happened at the top of the hour. I loved when the lights came on, but I thought the "twinkle show" was a bit too Vegas...but Signe loved it. Like I said, something for everyone.
We packed a lot in to our 2 1/2 days. I'm proud of myself for executing a successful and FUN trip for the girls, I'm thankful to Jeff for joyfully sending us on our way. I so greatly enjoyed sharing this experience with my girls at a time when they could appreciate it, too. I missed my boys, though. Next time - Paris in the Springtime with my one true
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