Yeah. I took that photo. :0
One excited American in Paris at that! By boy, getting here…you are probably tired of hearing about our days in transit, but this is the end of the trip so there will be far fewer after this! So for the first time in 3 weeks of getting places, we needed a reservation to get to Paris. My Dad and I expertly took care of that and the helpful woman at the window made everything seem so simple! It was too good to be true. We stopped in a little town on the border of Belgium and France and none of us paid any attention because we weren’t to our connection city yet. However, after sitting on the train for several minutes and after everyone else got off, we were informed that we were supposed to make an extra connection here that we had no idea about. Now, flustered and rushing we sped to the next platform. There was an unlabeled train about to pull away, unsure what we were supposed to do, we didn’t get on and the train left. Moments later, we realized that that had been the one. Shoot. Lost, confused, and annoyed we met a lost, confused and annoyed couple that was in the same situation as us. Leaving my mom to guard the bags, my dad and I went off to figure out what was going on. Alright this story is getting boring- basically it was way too difficult but eventually we got the info we needed and shared it with the couple. Left now to stew and wait we struck up conversation with the young couple and vented together. Conversation led us to find out they were an Australians traveling for 2? 3? months together and then living in England. It was very pleasant to sit and share stories of hostels, restaurants, and many experiences similar as well as vastly different. Not to mention comforting to have someone else in the same situation as we were. Finally we made it to Lille, France and bid farewell to our new companions. Of course, since this was the only time we had reservations, we had missed our train and had to deal with getting new spots. To add to the fun, there are two train stations (10-15 minute walk apart) in Lille. Joy. Some pacing and utilization of my French skills got us on another Train to Paris.
Our tiny hotel! Ours were the 4th floor two open windows on the right!
The day’s delays did not keep us from the plan. After squeezing into our tiny (smallest yet) hotel room, the Eiffle Tower called. Well it’s been calling for about 10 years but, now, I finally got to respond. There was one more delay to tend to, which was my tummy, calling louder than the tower. But hey, we’re in France, how could one not prioritize bread!?
The view was magnificent! We had (again) impeccable timing, or at least as good as it gets at a world attraction. We got in line just before it got insanely busy and got our elevator passes. There was a lot of pushing and jostling and signs for pickpockets on the several jaunts to the top. I was amused by one particular warning video with the pick pocket shown in all red.
Nice of them to dress in such a way we could keep an eye out for whom to avoid. “Attention, Ladies and Gentleman, pick pockets are active in the tower, please watch your luggage.” They’re active. Beware. We got to the top, with all of our belongings and it was wonderful. Windy and crowded but a view of all of Paris! We were able to stay as night fell and to witness a proposal and watch as the city lit up; followed by the tower lighting up and we could hear the gasps of spectators below.
We took the stairs to go back down and enjoyed the lit up architecture from the inside which, honestly, during the day and from up close, is not the pretty. Down down, down, we got closer to the ground and I went to bed in disbelief that the next day, I’d begin visiting the sights we just saw from the top.
So many pictures of the view!
Also, two many pictures of the tower after dark!
Good morning! No time to waste, Rick Steves, Notre Dame and my parents were up, ready and waiting. We subwayed (I needed a new verb) to the church and got there with the morning sun shining just right. We had an audio tour to listen to, but my dad forgot his mp3 player, my mom’s ipod died and so mine was our only hope. Turned out, Notre Dame was the only audio guide that didn’t finish downloading on my ipod. So we had nothing but the notes in the book. Oh well! I stood on the center of Paris out front and visited Sainte Dennis who holds his head. I also tried to get a head count of all the people on this intricately decorated exterior, and got lost after a tiny section with more than 100 statues. The inside was beautiful as expected and after a good hard look; we walked around to the outside to have coffee with a view of the gargoyles.
Can you find St. Dennis?
The center of Paris. I shall have you know it was extremely difficult to get a picture of this without someone standing on it!
It was a church-y day. We had two more to visit by 4pm. But first, a moment at the WWII French deportees’ memorial. The memorial is under ground at nearly water level of the Seine. It was designed to give you the feeling of being closed in, or trapped, and it succeeded. Inside there is a room, or rather hall way, that has a little light for each deportee that did not return. I felt that the simple but impactful memorial was well done, and I was grateful to understand enough French to read some of the engravings in the stone. It is not permitted to post pictures on the internet (though you can google image “La Mémorial des Martyrs de La Déportation”) but the most striking quote for me etched into the stone was:
We emerged back into present time Paris and headed to Sainte Chapelle. I’ll admit, trying to follow the walking tour on a hand drawn map in a book got us lost. Once we found it we got into the line for security. My Dad set off the detectors and held up the line while taking everything out of his bunches of pockets until finally it was discovered that it was only his passport causing commotion. You’ve got to look out for those sneaky little books trying to sneak in without being x-rayed. Thanks to his trouble, my mom and I knew to take ours out.
Brief and chronologically accurate pause to include another Water Closet story: You get what you pay for. We weren’t exactly sure where to go because there were no signs to be found. Once the entrance was located, there was still no sign of which (or if) side was designated for which gender. I finally noticed a PENCIL stick figure on the outside wall wearing skirt. Decided that was where to go. OH! I should have listened to Rick Steves’ suggesting that in Paris you carry extra toilet paper just in case. Because there wasn’t any. And I had just emptied my pockets of napkins and things in security. A nice lady shared, no wait, she “rationed” her tissues to those of us desperate.
Inside the church was absolutely breathtaking. I love stain glass but this exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately there was restoration going on and scaffolding up inside while we were there and so the view was a bit obstructed. On the bright side, we were lucky enough to see the before and after difference of the work they were doing. The after product was incredibly cleaner and brighter and over all clearer to enjoy to intricate story it portrays.
This is the area that was not restored yet. You can see the grime build up.
This picture can’t do it justice.
But fun fact:
Boustrophedon – a way of reading from the bottom upwards; alternate lines are read in opposite directions, right to left then left to right.
Two churches appreciated, one to go. Saint Sulpice! This was one of the destinations in The Da Vinci Code for my fellow fans. It was also really neat because it was the Paris Meridian, or better known, the Rose Line. Feeling pretty cool, I set my compass down on the brass line along the floor to see it point to “True North”. As I was taking a picture, I was also amused by the other tourists not-so-sneakily wondering what in the world I had found to take a picture of on the floor.
North is that way. For sure.
He is looking at the organ (still in Saint Sulpice)
My friend Helena, the Brazilian dancer I had met at SIBA, was in Paris at the same time we were. The previous night, I’d made plans to meet up with her and together tour the Musee d’Orsay! It was so exciting to be re-united and have a new face in our trio! Good company and good art is an understatement. After our tailored self tour we parted ways for the evening.
Mom: “This place looks like an old train station!”
Dad: “It is.”
On our way “home”, my parents and I were almost trampled by a group of young men sprinting past us in the Subway station carrying rings of (stolen?) Eiffel Tower key chains, pursued by the police. Not sure what had happened, we were left feeling unsettled and regretted not tripping the group as they hoped the gates to the underground transportation. The least we could do was point the officers in the right direction and not buy a key chain from the random vendors on the street with only the ring of key chains shouting “One Euro!” to everyone that passed.
We got off the Subway by the Tower in search of Crepes and lo and behold the perfectly located stand presented me with the most glorious crepe of my life! Nutella and banana and strawberry, next to a carousel at sun set, under the Eiffle Tower. Heaven?
My crepe. I will always remember that snack.
We digested our food in The Place du Trocadero with the monument towering above us in the distance. While waiting for the light show we attempted to take funny pictures until better entertainment ran by. Literally. Some sort of work out class chose the steps by where we sat to run/hop/jump up and down to loud music in bright colors amusing many spectators accepting the interruption as a preshow.
As the sun was setting. The lighting just kept getting better!
Finally, the tower lit up and flashed and sparkled as we “ooo”ed and “awww”ed and took pictures of the people at the top taking pictures of us reversing roles from the previous night.
All of Pairs now, “oooo, aaaww!”
Wow. I just scrolled back up as I typed this, and I’m really not sure how we did all of that in one day. Super tour-ers!
Okay, take a snack break and rest your eyes….
L’Arc de Triomphie! Another interesting vantage point to look at the city, the Eiffel Tower and down the famous street we were about to explore, all while learning a bit of history.
View of the Eiffel Tower from the top of L’Arc de Triomphie. (You can see the arc from my picture from the top of the tower)
Humming “Aux Champs-Elysees!”, the cheery song stuck in my head, we trekked toward the Louvre.
We were almost cornered by some obnoxious kids, and could have been pick-pocketed. Luckily, my dad recognized their behavior from his reading and scared them (and made me jump) before they had the chance to scare us. Only harm to anyone was a momentarily increased heart rate!
Our stops included a shiny, no a SHIIIINY staircase in a random store on which I felt compelled to have my photograph taken, a caffeine excursion, and a Disney store (where a grouchy guard scolded me for taking a picture and a friendly guard made friends with my dad as he professionally blew bubbles). Running behind as expected, we were about to be late for our next rendez-vous with Helena when she showed up behind us. What crazy luck! Perhaps our supply of serendipity was not completely depleted after finding each other in Vienna weeks prior.
Surrounded by gardens and statues, I had an amazing, inside-out grilled cheese sandwich lunch thing called a monsieur croquette. The perfect fuel before our reader’s digest version of touring the Louvre. It being the end of our trip, I think we all appreciated Helena’s fresh presence, decisive attitude and sound sense of direction as she assumed the role of tour guide for the day. Hitting the highlights was a wonderful way to experience this huge, famous museum.
We stopped to rest and hydrate at a café somewhere deep inside. I ordered just a small Coca-Cola. One look at the bill quickly enlightened us. THAT is where the Roman statues we’d viewed downstairs lost their fingers. After decades of Toy Story like Nights in the Museum those poor thirsty statues ran out of gold. Makes me wonder what the ARMless statues ordered at the café.
This famous statue was really thirsty.
Well, Ms. Mona, awaited. Needing a game plan to fight the tourists, I suggested we just sort of squat and squawk like chickens if the crowd was too difficult. I figured this would confuse people enough to clear a path, but alas, it was unnecessary. There were indeed a zillion people but I did manage to make it to the front where the famous portrait smiled for the camera. I really saw her. Woah. As mainstream and unoriginal as it sounds, that was one of my Paris highlights.
Evening was arriving and our feet aching. We headed back to the hotel to prepare for our final day together. On the way, Helena decided to test out the fancy outhouse-like street Water Closets. Story: The door was automatic. It worked fine for the person ahead of us but when it came to Helena’s turn, it would not close. No matter what we did the toilet was exposed. After various attempts it did shut, but only long enough for one to be convinced it finally had worked before bursting open again! It teased us several more times before Helena gave up.
Paris is a big city. Big cities are quite different than small fairytale towns. The hustle and bustle is extremely exciting and there is a never ending supply of things to do, but I didn’t realize just how worn out I could get just navigating the population. It gave me more appreciation for the dinky places we stayed and more excitement to settle down in a smaller, less touristy place as fall arrived. As an additional random note, I also had no idea that I actually don’t care much for underground trains, especially when there are interesting things to see!
The final destination of our traveling time together was Versailles. Tired and emotional, I enjoyed the tour of the Chateau less than I may have at a different time. It was too crowed and slightly difficult to use their provided audio guide. Nevertheless it was a wonderful conclusion.
The Sun King’s Palace and a tiny glimpse of the golden gates to the left.
Upon arrival at Louis’ Golden Gates my breath was taken away. I enjoy the way that Rick Steves presents historical information and learned a substantial amount about the Sun King, his reign and the following crowned kings/queens.
“There’s a long line-a wimins (women), that must be the water closet” –My Dad. Oh the truth in that.
The highlight for me, as for many, was the hall of mirrors and the two rooms at either end (war room and peace room). There was also an, almost distracting, modern art display throughout the castle including huge high heel shoes made from cooking pots!
Cooking pot, modern art, shoes in The Hall of Mirrors.
Fresh air and sunshine welcomed us to the magnificent gardens. Because it was Saturday, we had to pay a bit extra to get in, but it was worth it to see the fountains turned on! I was amused by my parents interacting with the French ticket people. My dad greeted one woman and after completing the transaction she said “Merci” as we began to walk away, and my dad turned back and waved saying, “Beaucoup!” Then turning to me, he said (almost proudly); “I don’t know what beaucoup means, but I said it to her!” I laughed and explained that it translates to “a lot” and explained that it didn’t make much sense in the context he used it in.
Lunch was great, walking through the beauty was great and best of all, watching the fountains or leading my parents through rows and rows of tall hedges with the map upside down in search of the next fountain and shade was great.
This was not the part that we explored. We were to the right of this on the main path and in the maze of bushes finding fountains. But I was just rather pleased with this photo!
After another heavenly crepe, unfortunately the end of the evening was spent unpacking, organizing and repacking with a bit of sitting on my suitcase and saying goodbye to my new rubber ducks. As I climbed into bed for the last night, my racing mind was too tired to do much worrying or anticipating or anything and I snoozed off thankful beyond expression for the recent adventures (for lack of a better one word summary) and bonding that changed my life.