May 20 2011 Day 7
Paris. Wow. Honestly, I started today with something of a “cheese-eating surrender monkey” opinion of the French, but I was totally impressed with Paris. When I drive down Provo Canyon, I often think to myself, if this canyon were anywhere in the country outside of the Mountain West it would be a National Park. Walking around Paris I thought the same thing about the buildings, in a city full of beautiful buildings, only the best make the tourist books.
We took a shuttle from our campground (no leering this morning, whew) to the metro where we figured out how to buy a ticket from the machine on only the third attempt and took it to the Louvre station. The building is immense and beautiful…except the modern art the Europeans feel they need to add to old things…not a fan of I.M. Pei’s pyramid, but they probably made him do it. We didn’t actually go in, parents with 2 and 6 year olds don’t get much out of huge, expensive museums. It’s going on the list of places to save for later.
From there we walked along the Seine to Notre Dame which has an average exterior, but the interior is probably the most impressive I have seen. I’m not sure exactly what it was, that made it so great, but I think it’s a combination of the scale (one of the largest and tallest), the interior design and the sun streaming through the stained glass windows. We sat in the chairs for 15 minutes (Lizzy had to go inspect a “Jesus” picture). Henry like the statue of St Denis on the outside holding his severed head in his hands.
After Notre Dame we walked to Luxembourg Gardens which were just beautiful and had the best kids playground I have ever seen. The zip-line, climbing ropes and sandbox were awesome along with sundry other playsets. Must not have the same type of lawyers in Europe as America. The kids didn’t want to leave after almost 1.5 hours, but we had enjoyed our time and had more to see.
I hadn’t realized the scale of things on the maps we’d looked at before. Most of the other towns we’d visited were pretty easy to walk 5-10 minutes between the sights, but Paris was much bigger. Even the normal buildings between the famous ones were well designed and decorated. Every street we walked on was pleasant. But we had walked enough at this point and hopped on the metro to Montmartre and the Sacre Cour basilica.
Luckily we chose to get off at a different station than the one Rick Steves recommended and thus unknowingly avoided surfacing from the Metro in the red light district. The basilica is on a steep hill just North of the river and there are a few hundred steps leading up which were a tough climb…Lizzy is big on doing steps all by herself right now and did almost two thirds of them before letting me carry her. Henry on the other hand took most of them at a run. At the top there was a mini concert on the steps and a bunch of Bangladeshi cheap souvenir vendors that would scatter when their lookout spotted the police almost like it was a game put on for the tourists.
After the cathedral we grabbed a ham and cheese crepe (cheapest calories in town, we’ve kind of given up enjoying sit down meals with the kids, rarely turns out well) which we enjoyed in front of a very talented bass playing street performer.
We wandered down the back side of the hill and took the Metro to the Arc de Triumph where we watched another street performer whose best trick was hopping on one hand in step with his music.
We then walked down the Champ de Elysses/ rue de diane to the Eifel tower. Lizzy had fallen asleep on the way and not wanting to repeat the previous night where she napped too late as we drove I rested in the park with her while Henry and Anna climbed the stairs to the second terrace or the Eifel Tower. Henry was a trooper and climbed up and down in record time. Much of the climb conversation consisted of how many scoops of ice cream such a feat deserved so once back on solid ground we quickly found an ice cream vendor and purchase 3 scoops—one for mom, two for Henry. Pistachio, Lemon, Chocolate.
Pretty much tucker-less at this point we headed back to the Blois de Bologne, picked up the car and headed Northwest towards the Normandy beaches. Driving to our campsite about 15 Km off the freeway we went for about a mile on this one lane road that was so completely tunneled in by trees I had to turn on the lights to see. We arrived to camp at the Chateau de Brevedent after sunset, the reception worker noticed me knocking at the office door and came out from the bar in the chateau to greet us. I started with my two-weeks worth of French, but his English was perfect, more than perfect actually, it was the kind of accent that make women swoon. Anna stayed in the car : ) , and we got camp set up in the chilly night.