Wednesday, September 11, 2013

'LOVE'-ly Paris

September 7: Paris!! Today we flew from Venice to Paris via EasyJet.; cheap, no frills, transportation and nothing exciting to report there. We landed, and once again, with email directions in hand and Magellan by my side, we made our way through the Paris public transport system to get to yet another rented apartment via Wimdu. It took us just about an hour to get there but we made it with no issues! This apartment is much smaller than Venice, but it’s in a great location right next to the metro station with is always key when booking a place.

Today was also the day that we were waiting to find out if we had a new niece or nephew so the first thing we did was connect to the internet to find out what was going on with Allison. Poor, sweet Allison was in labor a long time and we were waiting with bated breath all through the night so we both didn’t get much sleep. But I’m ecstatic to report that she delivered a perfectly beautiful baby girl, Claire!!

View from the tower
September 8: Our first full day in Paris and we decided to tour Notre Dame Cathedral first. We waited in line for about 45 minutes for what we thought was the line to get in. Well, rookie mistake, it wasn’t. We were actually in the line to buy tickets for the 400 stair climb to the top of the towers! We had already waited that long, so we bought the tickets and began the climb. Talk about tight spaces! It was the narrowest, most spiraled staircase I had ever been in and we both started feeling a bit queezy looking down and just walking up for so long. But the view was stunning! We saw a panoramic view of all of Paris and got a front row seat to the bell tower that chimed the most beautiful song! We snapped our pictures and then made our decent to what we thought was the sanctuary. Wrong again! Our travel sensors were off today.
Inside Notre Dame
We had to wait in another line to enter the cathedral where morning mass was actually going on. It was yet another stunning European church with gorgeous stained glass windows. So beautiful!
We decided to walk around a bit and found out selves at the Lock bridge. A famous bridge in Paris where lovers write their names on a pad lock, and then throw the key into the river symbolizing their love lasting forever. There were so many locks it was pretty incredible. We didn’t leave one, but we still have a few days! 

We walked a bit more just enjoying the beautiful buildings that line the streets of Paris. Every building is so pretty and historic looking it looks like a bunch of fancy museums everywhere! We made our way to the last stop of the day which was Saint-Chapelle.  Built by orders from King Louis XI between 1242 to 1248, it was to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. It’s not too big but it’s lined with 14 huge, floor to ceiling stained glass windows that depict biblical scenes from creation through the resurrection of Christ. A theme similar to the Sistine Chapel, but instead of paint, it was done in stained glass. Breathtaking!!

For dinner, we went to Chipotle! Being deprived of it for 13 months, Andrew was so excited when he found out there was one in Paris. So we skipped out on a lavish Parisian dinner and indulged our Mexican food craving by toasting burritos!  Fabulous day in Paris!

September 9: We have been so lucky with weather on this trip that I knew that luck would have to run out sometime. We started our day at the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It honors all those who fought and died for France in both the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Just beneath the arc lies the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I. You can pay to go up to the top, but we decided against it so we just took some pictures around it.

We then made our way down the famous Champs-Elysees Avenue. It is lined with expensive shops and cafes and is said to be the most famous and one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world! Well, just as we began our window shopping it started to downpour! We immediately took cover in a café, which was a huge mistake. Did I mention it’s one of the most expensive streets in the world?! Ya, we paid entirely too much for two crepes, tea and a hot chocolate, but we enjoyed staying dry.
Arc de Triomphe

When it was time to leave, we bared the sideways rain for a few minutes before ducking into an overhang.  We continued this cycle for about twenty minutes before we decided that it was nuts and took the subway the two stops to the famous Louvre Museum.  EVERYONE else had the same idea, so we had to wait in a line for about 45 minutes to purchase the tickets. As the world’s most visited museum, it houses nearly 35,000 artifacts from prehistory to the 21st century, and covers more that 60,600 square meters! It’s super overwhelming! We decided to take the Rick Steves downloaded pod cast and walked around for about an hour and a half.  From statues to jewels, to tapestry and paintings, I have never seen so much art! And of course, the finale is the Mona Lisa. Pretty fun to see in person! I wish we would have been able to take some better pictures outside with the glass pyramid because the courtyard to the museum is really beautiful but it was still raining. Boo!

We made our way back to the area of our apartment, grabbed a bite to eat at a local café and called it day.

Inside the Louvre listening to a podcast.
September 10: The sun was out but it was still very chilly. I forgot to mention that Paris has been unusually cold since we got here. We came from sweaty shorts and t-shirts at the beginning of our European adventure and have now been wearing jeans and jackets the whole time. We weren’t quite ready for such a drastic change in temperature.

Anyways, we decided to go back to Champs-Elysees Avenue since we weren’t really able to take it all in yesterday. We just walked around, ventured into a few shops and enjoyed the people watching scene. At about 3:00pm we made our way to the climatic event in Paris; the Eiffel Tower! Scared of the line that awaited us, we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of people! I mean, there were tons of people, but we ended up only waiting about 25 minutes! It was perfect because we had an 18 minute podcast on the history of the tower to listen to.

It was erected in 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. The French people actually loathed the tower and wanted it to come down after the fair. The French government told the engineer, Gustave Eiffel, that it could stay up for 20 years so that he could make back his investment from the ticket sales. He actually made his money back by the time the fair ended!! Not wanting to see the tower destroyed, Gustave attached a radio tower to the top and sold the idea to the French government who could use it for military purposes. And well, the rest is history! More than 250 million people have ascended to the top!

There are two line options when you get to the tower. The first line is for a ticket to take the elevator directly to the top. The second, is to buy tickets to take the elevator from the second floor, a 600 step climb up to the elevator. We chose the latter.

Yes, Andrew and I huffed and puffed and butt burned our way 600 stairs up. Honestly, it didn’t look that high until we started to climb! We took some photos from the second floor platform and then rode to the top. Andrew isn’t the biggest fan of heights, so I was so proud when we decided to join me to the top after some serious contemplation. He even managed to stand on the ledge for a few seconds to take a picture with me! What a good sport! After we walked the circumference of the peak, taking more pictures it began to rain! We made our way down to the enclosed area and waited it out a bit. I wasn’t about to descend 600 metal stairs in the rain. When it finally let up, we rode the elevator to the second floor and then took the stairs the rest of the way.

At the windy top!
Honestly, I got a little emotional when we were at the top. It’s so cheesy I know, but it was just one of those moments that you dream about experiencing, and you never really know if you will. And I was lucky enough to do it with Andrew by my side. Sheesh, life doesn’t get much better!

We walked around for a little while trying to find a reasonable place to eat and kill some time before 9pm and they tower lights up. We found a little café, not really very reasonable but it was good. After we finished we made our way back to the courtyard of the tower, enjoyed a crepe and waited for the sparkly lights to begin. As if the Eiffel Tower isn’t magical enough, the sight of the sparkling lights for five minutes really capped off such a memorable day!

(**For whatever reason, our computer won't load any photos after the daytime Eiffel Tower pictures. We will try to figure out the issue before the next blog. Sorry no gorgeous night pictures of the tower or Versailles. )

September 11: I am sitting on the bed in our rented apartment, drinking cheap and delicious champagne out of an ‘I love Paris’ coffee mug, in denial that this is our last night in the city of  love. These last few days have been so dreamlike, I can’t explain it. Paris has a feeling about it that makes you forget that any other place in the world exists.

For our final day in France, we took the short 30 minute train ride to The Palace of Versailles. We weren’t sure the weather would hold out as it was cloudy, cold, and starting to spit but it was our last day and a ‘must see’ while in Paris.  We hit a little speed bump trying to get there. You see, Paris as two systems; the metro and the RER. The metro is what we used to get around the city, and some metro stations will take you to the RER trains. These trains take commuters further out of the city than the metro. Confused? Ya, we were a little bit too. Especially when you look at the public transport map and all the lines look the same.

Anyways, we made it to the correct RER station and needed to purchase a ticket to Versailles. Well, the ticket machine would not take our credit card (all the other machines had) and didn’t accept cash; only coins. The problem with this is that now we were stuck. There was no place to make change inside this ticket purchasing area and the help desk person was out. Annoyed, I went around asking several people if they could give me coin change for a five Euro bill. FINALLY, after 20 minutes of searching we found someone. It just amazes me that that situation even exists. Why don’t they just put a change machine by the ticket booth? There were several other people while we were there with the same problem…super annoying!

Everyone must have thought the weather was not going to hold out because we waited in absolutely no lines at all! And it wasn't even that crowded. So lucky!The kingdom of Versailles was the center of power in France from 1682 until the royal family was forced back to Pairs in 1789 during the French Revolution. Built by Louis XIV this palace is nothing short of spectacular! The palace itself is gorgeous, but the gardens are just massive and perfectly manicured. I’m sure the site is even more beautiful in the spring and summer when everything is in bloom, but we still got quite the eye full. Too bad it was so chilly and windy. We would have loved to explored more by renting bikes and going all around. But our ears were already too cold that we didn’t really feel up for a bike ride. We spent the whole afternoon on the grounds of the palace. Listening to a pod cast tour, snapping pictures and imagining what it must have been like to live there. Such a fun outing!

We feel so lucky to have toured this beautiful city for four full days. There is so much more to do that someday, we will have to return. Tomorrow we head back east for a quick two day stop in Vienna, Austria. Sausage anyone?

1 comment: