Monday, December 17, 2012

Paris: Part 1

Bonjour!! David and I had a wonderful time in Paris!!  Many of you have asked about the trip and I have so much to tell you that I just can't fit it all into one blog post!!  So, here is the first of 2 (or 3).  This is a rundown of what we did.

Day 1:   After a long flight, we landed in Paris at 8:00am Paris time (which is 6 hours ahead of our normal Eastern Standard time).  From the airport, we took the RER train and metro to our hotel (which was quite nice).  Since our room wasn't quite ready, we dropped off our luggage and went to grab some breakfast/brunch.  Once our room was ready, we unpacked and cleaned up a bit after our long travel time.  Then, we decided to head out and do the most quintessential Paris tourist thing to do - go to the Eiffel Tower! 
 After waiting in line for close to an hour - a very chilly hour - we rode the elevator up to the second floor.  It was a rather gray day, but we still got some incredible views! 

 I am not a big fan of heights and I was not super excited about going all the way to the top, but I simply couldn't be that close and not go all the way!  At the top, the views were once again incredible, but also terribly windy and cold, so our tower top visit was very brief!!  We rode back down to ground level and it was nearing 5:00pm.  We decided to head back toward the hotel, get an early dinner, and hit the sack. (We had only had a couple hours of sleep on the plane the night before due to the time change.)
Day 2: On our second day, we began the morning by going to visit Notre Dame.
The cathedral is incredible and steeped in history.  To put it in perspective, when we visited, they were preparing to celebrate the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame.  850 years!  That means the cathedral was built over 300 years before Columbus discovered America and over 600 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed!  Especially with that in mind, the intricate construction is even more amazing.
Intricate carving in and around the doors.
One of many beautiful stained glass windows.
From the rear of the building.
David and I sat briefly in the seats/pews of the magnificent, sacred place and it is as if you can feel the history emanating throughout the building.  It is indescribable really.

We left Notre Dame and went around the corner where we sat down at a little cafe called Le Quasimodo.  We had delicious omelets and shared a chocolate crepe with whipped cream.  The best food we had during our trip!
That afternoon, David had a business meeting outside the city, so after a quick change, we took the train through the countryside to a town called Guyancourt where there was a corporate center in which his meeting was scheduled to take place.  During the ride, it was nice to just sit back and take in the scenery.  We rode past little neighborhoods filled with stereotypical, old homes and cobblestone streets. In contrast, we rode past the palace of Versailles.  Then, as we arrived at our destination, we were surrounded by a very modern complex of office buildings.

After the meeting, we got on the train and headed back to Paris.  Even thought it was dark, we decided to visit the Arc de Triomphe.
The Arc, of course, is located in the center of a large roundabout intersection.  To get to it, you have to walk down steps that take you under the street and out at the bottom of the Arc.  (We were there at rush hour and David and I were both fascinated by the traffic.  Paris traffic rules and drivers are just crazy!!  Watching the many, many vehicles swarm around the intersections was very entertaining - especially from atop the Arc!)
Directly under the Arc, looking up.

The eternal flame that burns over the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
After taking in the sites around the bottom of the Arc, we climbed the 285 spiral stairs - no elevator - to the top.  The views were fantastic!
Looking down the Champs Elysees from atop the Arc de Triomphe.
The Eiffel Tower.
A cold and wind-blown me at the top of the Arc with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
After descending the 285 steps of the spiral staircase back down from the top, we walked up the Champs Elysees, exploring some of the shops.  We stopped in a little restaurant to eat supper.  At the restaurant, the appetizer du jour was escargot (snails)!  Although we were not brave enough to try it, we saw the waiters dishing it up for many other diners!

Day 3: On Tuesday, our third day, we had most of the day open to do what we wanted.  We started by going to Invalides.

Ceiling inside the dome
 Invalides was built in the 1670's as a hospital and home for "unwell soldiers."  It also houses a military museum.  Here, again, the history is incredible.  We walked through the museum part of the complex and saw suits of armor dating back to the 1300's!  In 1840, Invalides also became the final resting place for Napoleon.  The part of the building that features a great, elaborate dome houses his massive tomb.
Napoleon's tomb - note its size compared to David and the people behind and above

From above the tomb - the people on the far side are looking down into the area surrounding the actual tomb

Buildings at Invalides from an interior courtyard

Exterior entrance from the opposite side of the complex from the dome
 Tuesday was a beautiful, sunny day, so after visiting Invalides, we just walked around some.  We saw the Grand Palais and watched as police stopped traffic around another crazy, busy intersection to make way for a motorcade that we think carried some Brazilian dignitary.   Then, we decided to hop on a double decker bus tour.  It was certainly brisk up there, but we got to see (and see again) some of the major Paris attractions from a very different vantage point.
The Arc de Triomphe - in the daylight

McDonald's on Champs Elysees

Some of the Christmas decorations - Snow Village

Eiffel Tower


Notre Dame

Not a good picture, but that's the Louvre


Typical busy Paris city street with people coming up out of the metro
After exploring a few stores around the Opera (which is a busy shopping district), we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a business dinner.

Day 4: - On Wednesday, David had a business meeting during the morning at the hotel.  I sat in and pretended to be knowledgeable and useful.  Then, I tagged along for lunch at a very authentic French restaurant.  For now, all I have to say about that is I am really, really glad we had someone with us who was from Paris and spoke French so he was able to translate the menu!!!

That afternoon, we headed off to the Louvre.  The museum is massive!  Once again, I found the history overwhelming as we viewed paintings and sculptures that are much older than the United States, many of them older even than Christ.  Construction of the buildings themselves began in 1200.
Nike of Samothrace - 190 B.C.

Mona Lisa - (1503-1505) - I couldn't believe we were allowed to take pictures!

Venus di Milo - 2nd century B.C.

The Pyramid

Under the Louvre - a downward pyramid and shopping center

Day 5: Thursday, our last day in Paris, David was in a meeting the first half of the day.  I actually ventured out on my own which was a big deal for me, being someone who has not traveled or navigated foreign cities much.  I hopped on the Metro and headed to the Orsay museum.  Signs everywhere told me that pictures were not allowed, so I don't have any to show for my visit.  However, I saw paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, and many others.

Afterwards, I headed across the river and through the Jardin des Tuileries as I made my way back over to the Louvre and the shops underneath.

David met me there and we did a little shopping for the girls.  Then, we spent a couple hours just walking around the city some more before grabbing dinner and heading back to the hotel.

There you have it - our itinerary in review!  There were only two things on my list that we did not get to do - take a river cruise and go to the Sacre Coeur.  The weather was cold everyday with high temps in the upper 30's.  A couple days were also damp and drizzly, so the river cruise just didn't seem like a good idea.  We just ran out of time to go to the Sacre Coeur.  However, I sincerely hope we will go back sometime - maybe in warmer weather -  do the things we missed and discover even more wonderful places! 


Dolly Jacobs said...

Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing your travels with us!

Shoes said...

Simply amazing photographs - thanks for posting this! It looks like you two had a great Paris adventure, what an experience!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

:-) You're welcome!

Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

We did have a great time! :-) Glad you enjoyed the pictures.

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