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Published: June 22nd 2013
Today our little girl turned 12. And what a day it was!
We started with with a Muse Clues Tour of the Louvre - a birthday surprise. After our customary pain au chocolat for breakfast, we wandered over to the Arc du Carousel to meet our guide Davinia. It turned out she was English, with a degree in art history and a particular focus on architecture. She was an absolute gem - warm, friendly and she very quickly had the measure of our children.
To begin with, we walked straight past the queue and into the Pyramid de Louvre (an advantage of being on a tour). I had goosebumps as we rode down in the escalator. Our first stop was a beautiful sculpture, Puget's Milo de Croton - a man being devoured by a lion. Perfect to grab the 5-year-old's attention. We learned, among other things, about the zigzags in the sculpture and why they are important. This gallery was so beautiful, with loads of natural light and plants.
The children each had a booklet with questions and information on each page which led to a clue. Each clue was to help them solve the treasure hunt at
the end of our tour. It was at the perfect level for all of us, not just the kids, as Frank and I know virtually nothing about art! On through the galleries we went, with Davinia leading us expertly through any crowds we encountered - even at the Mona Lisa! We found out the trick Da Vinci used in the painting to ensure that no matter where you are standing, the Mona Lisa is looking at you. Spooky! Other highlights of the tour included seeing Hammurabi's code, and Davinia demonstrating why the Venus de Milo is such a work of art by contrasting it with another, similar sculpture. The one thing that blew us away, we found using a clue in the children's booklet. We would have walked right over it if we had been wandering the galleries by ourselves. It was the tiny brass circle containing the word "Arago" set into the marble floor, whichmarks the Paris meridian line. There are over 100 across Paris (originally there were 135). One day we would love to try to find some more outside the Louvre.
Our tour was supposed to be a lot shorter than it ended up being, but
Dad promised to organise fireworks for your birthday, and he did!
the kids and Davinia were having a wow of a time, and she really seemed to be enjoying herself as much as we were so it ended up being quite late when we finished up. Without giving it away, the end of the tour was gorgeous and it was a bit sad saying good-bye, actually! Davinia knew just when to let the children explore, when to ask questions and how to engage them. She was full of praise when they tried to answer a question, full of energy and full of smiles - so, anyway, she was the perfect guide for us.
We had a surprisingly nice lunch in one of the restaurants in the museum, then Frank and Hugo headed home for a nap, and Isabel and I went.......... SHOPPING! The gifts I had chosen for her she liked, luckily, but we had to change a pair of bathers for a different size so it was a good excuse to take Isabel back to see Galleries Lafayette and shop with a little bit more time on our side. We also needed to pick up some bits and pieces for our picnic dinner, and the food hall there is
great. The sales were really amazing, and I ended up buying a few things for Hugo, and our bargain of the century - a 20 Euro leather jacket for Isabel which was looking lonely on a rack in the childrenswear section!
Our picnic at the Eiffel tower started with an interesting problem - everyone had used the Velib to get there, but no-one was using it to leave! Poor Frank and Isabel rode around and around looking for a vacant spot at a Velib station and were eventually successful, and then the party could begin! Fred had arrived from the Netherlands to meet Dorine and the kids, so it was great to see his smiling face when we arrived. What tragedy though, when we unveiled the magnificent (and expensive!) birthday macaron cake from Laduree. Unfortunately it hadn't enjoyed the vibration on the bike and had turned to an ugly greenish-grey mush! Poor Isabel. We stuck a candle in it anyway and it tasted fine.
It was a long wait for the fireworks to begin, but the show went on for well over an hour. We oohed and aahed appropriately, and pinched ourselves as a reminder that we really
were standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Bastille Day.
When it came time to make the trip home with tired children, we realised our taxi plan was futile because every road leading from the Eiffel Tower was absolutely choked with thousands of people walking along it. As a result, our brilliant Hornung and McNamara kids talked, sang and laughed the 4.4 kilometres home. It truly was an extraordinary day.
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