Day 12-July 9. Today was mostly a travel day. We drove from Canterbury back to London, and then turned in the rental car, much to Mike’s delight. He didn’t really enjoy his wrong side of the road driving experience, but it allowed us the freedom of movement outside London so that was really nice. We then took the Eurostar train from London to Paris. It’s a pretty impressive deal. It was delayed, but once it got going it’s a pretty slick way to travel. Our train was going 295km/hr! It goes through the Chunnel for 54km of this journey, so nothing to see during that stretch—but pretty awesome that you can go through the Channel under the sea this way—and the rest of the countryside was pretty scenic. By time we arrived, waited for a taxi, took the taxi to the hotel, checked in, and lost an hour to time change, there wasn’t much of the day left by time we arrived, but we did take a walk around. The area around our hotel is jewelry central, and I mean names like Dior, Chanel, Bulgari, Piaget, etc...Rolex is the cheap brand on the block here. We had dinner at a nice street cafe that was way too crowded. And, we discovered a major problem for us is that everyone smokes here. It’s very socially acceptable here, which is too bad since the sidewalk cafes are otherwise pretty nice. It was pretty annoying to have people on both sides of us puffing away, but the food helped as it was quite good, so that improved my outlook.
Day 13-July 10. Today, we took a bus tour around the city, then went to see the Eiffel Tower, followed by a trip to Notre Dame. The bus was a good way to see the main sights like the Arc d' Triomphe, the Opera, and the National Academy, and The Eiffel Tower is pretty cool. We didn’t go up inside as we weren’t prepared and didn’t purchase tickets ahead.
The lines were about 3 hours long for us non-ticket holders, so we skipped that in favor of Notre Dame. Here we walked through the oldest Cathedral in Europe. It’s pretty cool, in terms of large size, gargoyles, etc...but I liked both Westminster and Canterbury Cathedrals better. I was surprised by how dark Notre Dame is inside. The gargoyles on the outside are pretty cool and fun to look at though.
Then, we let Jackson go on a couple carnival rides at a little temporary carnival set up along the banks of the Seine. He picked a little water ride, which Mike went on with him, and they both came out pretty wet!
So, after that, we took a refresh break at the hotel and then went to dinner. Tonight is the France vs Belgium semi-finals game at the World Cup. We had to laugh when we got to the square and saw that several nice restaurants had moved their tables outside to the plaza and set up big screen TVs so we dined alfresco with most of the neighborhood while watching the first part of the match. It was amazing to see the square fill up with all the fans, cheering, singing the French National Anthem, the collective gasps, cheers, and protests of the group. Outside the restaurants patio, there were probably another 100 people just standing in the street watching the TVS as well as the 100 or more packed into the restaurant, and the 200 at the restaurant across the plaza, and everyone glued to TVs set up outside. The excitement was quite infectious, but we had to head back to the hotel for Jack’s bedtime before the game got too far in. Now Mike's watching it on TV in our hotel room, but it’s just not the same feel as it was down on the street!
Day 14-July 11. Today's goal, the Lovre. We had to wait in line almost an hour to get in but talk about a giant museum!
It was a little harder than I expected because I somehow hadn't processed that all the plaques and labels for the exhibits were going to be in French, which we can't read, of course. We purchased an audio guide, but you'd go into a room and maybe 1-2 of the items out of 10-20 would have an audio guide description about it. I am a person who reads the information posted in museums and it drove me crazy not to be able to! That said, it's still an amazing museum. It's huge! We saw the Monna Lisa, of course, and several other paintings by famous artists...Rafael, Da Vinci, etc...They also have great Ancient Rome, Greece, Iran, Egypt, etc...collections, some very cool statuary, and of course seeing the opulence of the old Palais and the set up of Louise IV and Napoleon makes you realize just what lead up to the revolution.
Jackson was ready to go after about 1.5 hours. He got a little bored, but there's so much to see that we were there about 5 hours and still skipped whole swaths of things. He's gotten really into drawing on this trip, which has been very helpful to give him something to do. He brings a pencil and paper to most places and will choose buildings or artifacts to sketch while we look around. I'll have to scan a few of his drawings in!
One side bonus was a one point we decided to step out onto an outside terrace at the top of the Lovre to buy a drink and a snack. While we were out there, all of a sudden all these plane are flying overhead....military jets and planes of every kind and size, in groups of 3-4 at a time. All told, in about 10 minutes, we were buzzed by 32 planes. Jackson thought that was pretty cool too.
After we left the Lovre, we wandered back toward our hotel and checked out the Galleries Lafayette, a Paris designer shopping mall, which was interesting to see, but a little overwhelming so we left pretty quickly. We had dinner at another cafe, and then took Jackson to the Lindt chocolate store for a quick treat before heading back to the hotel and bed.
Day 15-July 12. We spent the morning at the Musee d'Orsay, an art museum focusing on a limited time period around the turn of the century to 1914. The Impressionist wing was pretty impressive, with whole walls of paintings by Monet, Degas, Manet, Renoir, and of course Van Gogh. I've discovered there's another painting in the series that I like better than A Starry Night, in the second picture.
They also had a very interesting statuary collection, and it's all house in the old Paris train station, so it's a pretty amazing building as well with these big clock faces you can look out through into the city.
Other areas of the museum were less interesting. The modern decorative arts and furniture of the early 20th century was pretty ugly, in my non-expert opinion. After this, we had some lunch, took a long walk to catch a boat, and then took a riverboat cruise along the Seine.
We headed back to the hotel early after this to do some packing, and then went out for a last dinner in Paris. We have a super early morning flight to London tomorrow followed by a waiting period and then a 10 hour flight from London to Seattle. Not excited about that part. Our trip is coming to an end.