Monday, August 20, 2012

Quasi Moto, Marie Antoinette, Mona Lisa, and a Cute Cafe

After staying up to see the Eiffel Tower lights at 11 last night, we slept in this morning. For me, that meant 6:30. Everyone else was up and moving by 8.

We got coffee and pastries for breakfast on Rue Cler, and hopped on the Metro to the Chatelet stop. From there it was a short walk to the Center of Paris, the square in front of Notre Dame.

After admiring the outside of the building we got in line to get inside. The wait was about 5 minutes.

Once inside we walked around the back of the alter admiring the stained glass, architecture, and little chapels in the sides of the church.

The amazing view down the center of the church to the altar is hidden from you until the end of your visit. We sat for a few minutes to both rest and admire the church without the bumping and jostling of the crowds.

When we left the church we walked around the left side to where the entrance to the Bell Tower is to get in line. The line was huge, and even though the entrance fee is covered by our museum pass, priority access is not granted here. The kids made the decision that we had climbed enough stairs and had enough views that they would be OK skipping it. It would have been cool to see the Gargoyles, but I guess that gives us a reason to come back.

We walked around the back of the church through a park to the Deportation Memorial.

This was something that Lori and I both really wanted to visit. It's a memorial built to remember the Jews in France that were rounded up by the Nazis in WWII. They asked that pictures taken in the memorial not be published online, so I'm only sharing a picture of the outside. I found the memorial very moving and left with a heavy heart.

We crossed a bridge and walked along the Left Bank, past the booksellers setting up for the day. We had a great side view of Notre Dame.

We walked back in front of Notre Dame to find the spot in the square that marks the exact Center of Paris and France, the point from which all others are measured. The kids each stood on the spot.

From there we walked to Sainte-Chapelle and got in line to go through security. Security is a bit tighter here than other tourist sites because the church is located next to the Palace of Justice, where the French Supreme Court meets.

Once through we used our Museum Pass to bypass the line. You enter into a small chapel underneath Sainte-Chapel, which is pretty impressive on its own.

From there we walked up a small spiral staircase to an amazing sight. Even though one wall was covered for renovation, the beauty of the stained glass surrounding us was overwhelming.

We left past the Palace of Justice and walked a half block to the Conciergerie. This former palace, which was later turned into a prison is where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before her execution. We spent some time looking around and visited her cell before leaving.

Around noon we all got hungry. We found a cafe with cheap eats and sat down for lunch. It was nothing special, but it was nice to sit down for a bit. Abby ordered the Quiche Lorraine after trying mine the other day and loved it.

After lunch we walked to the Louvre, since we didn't get in yesterday. We passed the Paris Plages on the way. Every summer the city sets up a "beach" on the riverbank.

Once again our Paris Museum Passes proved to be awesome when the allowed us to skip a line that was hours long to get into the Louvre. We walked right in using the entrance for those with reservations.

The kids were tired, so we had one goal: see the Mona Lisa as quickly as possible with the least amount of walking. Lori and I both would have liked to spend more time here, but it wasn't going to happen on this trip. We followed signs toward the Italian Painting galleries.

I was happily surprised that we passed the statue of Winged Victory along the way. I had actually cared about seeing that more than the Mona Lisa. It was hard to appreciate anything with the crowds pushing you past everything.

Along the way we found a bench for the kids to rest on while Lori took a couple of minutes to look at a few paintings. The Louvre was not something that interested them at all.

After about 20 minutes we got to the room in which the Mona Lisa is kept. It had its own wall, and was behind glass. The closest we could get was about 50 feet from the painting without getting intimately close with strangers. I held each of the kids up for a few seconds to get a view.

We walked down the steps and out of the Louvre under the pyramid, pausing to look at a few sculptures along the way.

Up to this point I had tried to be good about embracing the European experience. We had avoided American chain restaurants (we wouldn't eat at McDonalds at home, so we certainly wouldn't in Europe). However, I couldn't hold out any longer. We went to Starbucks, and I had the best lousy Mocha Frappuccino of my life.

We got on the Metro and went back to our hotel to rest for a few hours. Lori fell asleep and the kids caught up with their journal writing.

Since we have an early morning planned tomorrow, we went to dinner early at a cafe about 2 blocks from our hotel. For an appetizer we tried escargot, and all of us really liked them after overcoming our apprehensions.

The steak I ordered for dinner was OK, but the pepper sauce that came with it was amazing. The kids had ice cream for dessert, while Lori and I had crepes. It was a nice meal to end our time in Paris.

Tomorrow we start the last leg of our trip by waking up early and taking the Metro to the RER train to Disneyland Paris, where we plan on being at the park for Extra Magic Hours opening at 8AM.

We're all excited to get our Disney fix, and to end our trip with a little Magic.

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1 comment:

  1. So glad you got your coffee fix and that you had the courage to try the escargot! Yum!
    Winged Victory has always been my favorite part of the Louvre. Were the kids surprised that the Mona Lisa is so small?
    So happy your family will have such wonderful memories to cherish!