Lovely Paris in November (Part 1)

January 14, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Oh, Paris, can you believe it’s been almost two months since we parted ways? Normally I’m through our vacation photos and posting all about our trip the week after we get back from vacation. But what with a nasty cold, Christmas shopping and decorating and baking, another nasty cold, Christmas morning, Liam’s birthday, and Liam’s birthday party planning, this little endeavor got shelved until further notice. And now that Liam is finally back to school after getting over yet another nasty cold (will it ever end?), I’ve finally got time to relive our trip. So, without further adieu, here’s how it all went:

Day 1

DSC_0051Seven hours on a plane with a cold while pregnant went…well, just about as you’d expect it to. We survived! And arrived to some beautiful weather, the best we’d have the whole week. After taking care of museum and train passes, checking into our hotel, and freshening up a bit, we decided it was wisest to stay awake as long as we could and take advantage of the warm, sunny late afternoon and evening. Our hotel was in the Latin Quarter, just a stone’s throw away from Notre Dame and the Seine. So we took a lovely stroll along the banks of the river, climbing down the steps and marveling at how cavalier the French are about walkway safety. Not a guard rail in sight! We wended our way to the very tip of the Ile De La Cite, the island in the middle of the Seine where you find Notre Dame, and watched kids play in the park, missing our boy already.

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DSC_0010Day 2

We awoke to dreary rain and much colder temperatures. Undeterred, we headed back to Notre Dame to get a good look at the inside. High ceilings, stained glass, wooden pews…yep, it’s a cathedral alright. Religious apathy aside, I enjoyed poking around, reading signs detailing the history and construction, and admiring the stained glass. Back outside, we noticed the line to climb the tower wasn’t too long, so what the hell? 50,000 steps later (or so it felt), my calves were burning, I was out of breath, and I was seriously questioning our sanity. Who’s idea was this? But it turns out the views from the top were quite lovely, and snapping numerous photos took my mind off the searing leg pain. Despite the dreary day, Paris from above is truly a sight to behold.

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Look at me, grinning through the pain!

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Lookit the Eiffel Tower! Let’s climb that next…it has an elevator.

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More windy stairs down, and I almost kissed the ground when we made it to the bottom. Next up, St. Chappelle and the Conciergerie! Another pretty church with even more stained glass (James can’t get enough of the stuff, insisting I take photos of it all), and what I found even more interesting, Marie Antoinette’s holding cell at the Conciergerie. Compared to the squalor that most prisoners endured, her modest room befitted her status.

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Here’s a view of the back of Notre Dame. On our way we passed a curious sight:

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DSC_0058Those are locks. Tons and tons of padlocks. They’re on several bridges along the Seine, and according to my research, they’re left by tourists to honor their romantic Parisian getaways. Apparently the French abhor the tradition, and it even causes damage to the bridges. So instead I just posed for a baby bump photo. Ugh, you can totally tell I’m sick here. But I powered through!

In lieu of wine, I decided hot chocolate would be my vice of choice, and I’d read about a tea shop nearby that had some of the best in the city. But, alas, they were closed on Mondays. Randomly. So we headed north toward the Pompidou, the modern art museum with the crazy architecture. On the way we stopped at a little café right out of Amelie. We were the only patrons, and while the guys at the bar talked football (presumably, as they were watching it, but they only spoke French), I enjoyed a croque-madame (an open-faced ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top) with pomme frites while people-watching from our window seat. My first taste of actual French food! It was tame. And it was delicious! I also ordered what I thought was lemonade, but was in fact Lemonade, a fizzy, lemon-flavored French soft drink similar to Sprite, but not as sweet. A delightful and delicious surprise.

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Our next stop was the zany-looking Pompidou. All of the duct work is on the outside of the building, color-coded for your pleasure. The escalators and elevators were also along the outside of the building, and afforded more lovely views of the city from above. James has little appreciation for modern art, but he gleefully makes fun of it, so I think he still enjoyed himself. Interesting, and zany, stuff.

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Next stop, the opulent Opera House! This is where the famed Phantom of the Opera was based, and it was just as ornate as I imagined it would be. No tours of the basement canals, and unfortunately we arrived in the middle of rehearsal, so we couldn’t tour the auditorium, either. But there was still much beauty to behold. And stairs. Accursed stairs!!

Hoping to squeeze as much into our itinerary as possible, we ended the day at the Cluny, a museum dedicated to medieval artifacts. It was housed in an actual medieval building with, your guessed it, more stairs. Medieval history is more James’s territory, so I just clomped along and sat wherever I saw a cozy stone bench or chair. I’m sure it was very interesting. You can ask James all about it.

Here, more Opera House photos. Shiny.

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We ended the night at a Vietnamese restaurant near our hotel that got rave reviews on Yelp. Yelp works in Paris, yay! The food was fantastic, especially the soup, which really hit the spot for my congested head. Cold – 0. Paris – 1.

Day 3

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DSC_0099We got up extra early to stand in line at the Eiffel Tower. Back in the summer of ‘99, James says the line to go up wrapped around the base four times. Sheesh! But this time it was raining, and freezing, and we were the 12th ones in line. Sweet! We got to go right up. The elevators were fascinating, bent at an angle to follow the base. We were in for more dreary, foggy views of Paris. But it was still lots of fun. One of the highlights of our trip, for sure. We had to board another elevator to make it all the way to the top. James is normally afraid of heights, but he didn’t show it this time.

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The Arc D’Triomphe! In the foggy distance…

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I don’t know what these guys were doing, but they had harnesses and mountain-climbing gear. Yikes!

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Look at this guy, nerves of steel! At least until we made our way to the first floor. They had a glass floor you could walk on and watch the people down below. James was having NONE of that. But I did, of course.

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We would have stayed up longer, but the wind, rain, and cold were getting to us, so we headed up to the Military History museum to check out Napoleon’s tomb.

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Ugliest. Tomb. Ever.

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But the rest of the place is nice. Apparently Napoleon had an entire building dedicated to his demise. I guess he was a pretty important guy in France. Here’s the outside:

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After poking around a bit, we had to ask where the rest of the museum was. Surely this wasn’t it? And holy cow, there was more. A lot more. Swords, armor, guns, ammo, cannons, uniforms, statues of…you know who. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of this youngster-size suit of armor…perfect for Liam, no? On the top floor we saw an exhibit of model fortresses from all around France. All very interesting.

Next stop, something a little more my pace, the Musee D’Orsay, which housed paintings and sculptures from 1848 to 1914, notably famous Impressionists like Matisse, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas…the list goes on and on. It was fantastic! Even the building was splendid, a renovated train station. I marveled at the famous works I’d only seen in text books. Very cool!

For dinner we consulted Yelp yet again, and right around the corner from our hotel was a highly-rated burger joint. Day three, and we were ready for some American food! They even had Dr. Pepper, a rare treat in Europe. The burger and fries were fantastic! In France! Ha!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our trip…

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