Our stay in Paris was my favorite part of the trip, because Paris was so different than any American city I have seen and it is so easy to walk around and see cool sights.
On wednesday morning, the third day we were in Europe, we boarded the bus and traveled to the Eurostar station. After a scramble to convert pounds to euros, we boarded the train. The trip was quick, and the train moves so fast that our ears popped when we went through tunnels.
Finally, the elevator repair man showed up and pried the girls out of the elevator, and we went to our first stop in Paris, the Latin Quarter.
This is a medieval section of Paris that has been converted to a shopping and dining extravaganza. While some of the shops were a bit touristy, there were great cafes and creperies, and waitresses that were almost tolerant of English-speaking tourists. Almost.
The restaurant we ate at had an odd, dungeon-like bathroom area.
However, the oddest part of the bathroom was the lack of privacy in the urinal area. This was the view of the urinal from where the women were waiting to use their bathroom.
Back at the hotel, it was laundry time.
The next day, the tour of Paris really began, starting with a bus tour of the downtown area. For the first time we ran into a bit of bad weather, but for the most part the rain was never more than a drizzle. Still, the clouds give the pictures a nice sense of impending doom, as if some alien ship is going to emerge from the gray and destroy Paris.
The above monument is to the Revolution of 1830, when the French stopped Charles X from rolling back voting rights. As we drove closer to the monument, we noticed roosters at the base and wondered why they were there.
Here’s what we were able to come up with to explain the use of cocks on the base of the pillar. In Europe, revolutions started in France and penetrated the rest of Europe. Again and again Europe was penetrated by revolutions from France. Finally, there was an explosion as freedom came to new areas like Belgium. Then, exhausted, the revolutionaries rolled over and went to sleep.
Although Paris was unseasonably cool, the rain held off for most of the tour. We were able to get out and see the view of the Eiffel Tower in the drizzle.
At Versailles, the rain picked up a bit.
But the rain didn’t matter as much at Versailles since we went into the palace anyway, and the palace was amazing. There just aren’t any houses in the United States that cost the equivalent of over $2 billion to build, and the attention to detail inside and outside was incredible.
Then some more rain during our trip back to Paris.
By the time we returned to Paris, the rain had ended, and we went on an after dinner river cruise in the Seine, enabling us to to Paris from another perspective.
Finally, most of the group went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, with some overcoming a significant fear of heights to go to the upper level. There’s nothing quite like seeing the city fall away through the windows of the elevator as you go up. The top, though, is completely enclosed. When you step off the elevator, you are in a room with plexiglass windows. Then you can climb stairs to the observation area, which is completely closed in by metal grating.
The sun sets late in Paris, but the tower was lit up when we got to the bottom around 10:30.
After a great day seeing many of the monuments of Paris,visiting Versailles, taking a river cruise, and viewing the city from the Eiffel Tower, we experienced our second problem with electricity on the way back to the hotel on the Metro. A stretch of track that we needed to use was closed. So we tried a different route. Closed again. At this point, it was after midnight; finally, our guide found a route that was open and we got to the hotel around 1.
The kids were great and got up for our morning trip to the Louvre without a problem. Since the pace of the trip was so rapid, we only had about an hour to see the Louvre, and our travelers did a good job of identifying three or fours things that they wanted to see and hurrying through to see them. Speaking from my own experience, the tour of the Louvre went something like this: see something awesome, as planned; get lost for fifteen minutes; accidentally see something else that was awesome; see something else that you wanted to see; somehow navigate through the museum to the exit.
After lunch in Paris, the next stop was the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which was closed when we arrived due to Mass. Most of our travelers were ecstatic at this news, since they would be able to shop a bit earlier.
Look at all this space for activities!
Next up – Florence and Assisi.