Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday 9 February 2009 - Paris

We woke late for this trip, at 0530, and set off without breakfast. Again I was navigator and translator, but it was easier since we were aiming for such a big target.

When we got closer in, it really started to be stressful (for me) as we looked for a place with a Metro Stop and Protected Parking both. It took a few tries. First we parked in a parking lot reserved only for the grocery store it was under. Since we were allowed 2 hours to park there, we wandered around the immediate neighborhood and located another parking area with plenty of space, drove there, parked, got Metro tickets (carnet of 10) from a tabacciniste. While we were debating which way the Metro stop was from us, 2 separate people (Parisians) asked if they could help us. The second told us very kindly where the Metro stop was. We found it (eventually) after taking a tour of the neighborhood park and collection of bicycles to rent, and rode into the stop nearest Notre Dame. We had arrived!

Bethe was thrilled! Lots of pictures were taken. We decided not to go up in the tower, since it was cloudy and threatening rain, but we did walk slowly through the cathedral. A choir was either practicing or performing, we couldn't tell which. We got a golden coin for Teancum with the image of Notre Dame on it, to add to his smashed penny collection.

After, we went to the Louvre. It wasn't far, just across le Pont de Neuf and down a block. We saw some bateaux mouches going under the bridge, as well as a barge. Bethe and Teancum got their first view of le Tour Eiffel and pointed it out to Todd, who pretended to be upset that he had seen it, never ever wanting to ever see it in his life.

Finding a public restroom turned out to be pretty difficult, in France in general, but not so much in Paris. There were public toilets on every other corner, that flushed and cleaned themselves after every use. How cool is that? Just don't linger after using it or you'll get wet feet. They also close for the night.

The Louvre was fantastic! Nineteen years ago when I was in Paris with baby Catriona, I saved my last day, a Tuesday, for doing the Louvre. Whaddya know? The Louvre is "ferme les mardis" (closed EVERY Tuesday). This time it was Monday, and it was open. Amazing and interesting things were around every corner. The best part was when I turned the corner and saw an old friend, Venus de Milo (Farewell Two Arms)!

We had i-touch-like boxes that could tell you all kinds of things about whatever you were looking at. They were very cheerful, sort of random things. Up another stair and around the landing and there was . . . The Winged Victory of Samothrace!! Wah! I also got to see a real Vermeer, the Lace Maker (it was about 6"x6") and the Mona Lisa (also much smaller than I imagined) and The Raft of the Medusa (much BIGGER than I imagined) and many, many other statues and paintings that I have seen pictures of and learned about but never seen in real life. Until now.

I think we spent 5 hours there. It rained the whole time.

Todd led us Metro-ly on a little tour of the underground until we emerged near le Tour Eiffel. Even though he had vowed never to see it. By now it was raining not quite so hard, but the top of the Tour was lost in clouds. Bethe was again enthralled and took many pictures. We caught the Metro back to our parking garage neighborhood, ate at a local cafe with a very nice proprietesse who saw how cold and wet we were and filled us full of chocolate chaude and French pastries.

To top it all, after we found the car again, Todd drove back into Paris and showed the kids l'Arc de Triomphe and le Tour Eiffel all lit up, and 'splained all the history involved. Did you know le Tour Eiffel was originally meant only to be temporary for the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris. But it paid for itself in the first month, so they thought they might as well leave it up. The Official Tour Eiffel Website is here:

We very nearly didn't find gas again. Some People like to wait 'til the last minute out of pure stubbornness!

Instead of going home, we decided it would cost the same in gas that it would cost for a hotel in Reims and then it would be a short drive to Verdun tomorrow.

It took 3 or 4 tries to find an inexpensive hotel in Reims. We told them we only had 1 child. We did finally find one. It had a double bed and a set of bunk beds in the room, so we were OK. We couldn't get the heater to work, and the very strong wind whistled through the window all night. No, noot the window; a hole built into the window. Whatever was that for, I wonder? It was a tiny, cute room, and very clean. The toilet and the shower were in the same tiny bathroom, American style. The toilet was not against the wall, and the shower had 2 doors that closed and met each other at the corner.

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