Paris – August 4th – 19th, 2014
Written by Roxanne
When we first told the kids about our plans to take a round the world trip, Aurora quickly said she wanted to visit Paris. She never wavered from that decision. Besides seeing the Eiffel Tower, I don’t know if she knew anything else about Paris. She may have read a few books that referred to Paris, or heard people talk about it; I don’t know. Over the past few months, she occasionally asked when we would be going to Paris. Well, it’s time had finally come. Our tickets were bought and we were on our way.
What I didn’t expect was how excited everyone was to go to Paris. We were all giddy with excitement as we boarded the plane. Maybe we were just happy to be leaving the Spanish language behind after almost 4 months; maybe we all had a deeply hidden desire to see Paris too?
We arrived in Paris on August 4th and took a taxi to the apartment that we had rented for the next week. Our apartment (or flat) was very tiny, one small bedroom, a livingroom that was also used as a dining room, a kitchen that only one person could be in at a time and a bathroom that was so small you almost had to back out of. But it was our home for the next week. It was close to the metro, grocery store and cafes. What more could we ask for? We were happy.
Although Paris has a great transportation system, it really is a city for walking. You miss so much by taking the trams, buses and metro. I loved walking and finding art in the strangest places all throughout Paris.
On our first day out, we took the metro straight to the Musée du Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. It was a very rainy day and the lineup to get in was crazy. We would be waiting 3-4 hours to get in. Huddling in the rain, looking at our guide book trying to figure out where else we could go to get out of the downpour we spotted the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and we quickly ran in to get out of the rain. Once inside we were told that the best value for our money would be to buy a museum pass. It would allow us to skip the line and get into dozens of museums for one fee. When you see the line ups, you can’t pass up the museum pass. Len and I bought a 4 day pass and the kids entrance to most museums was free. We spent about an hour walking through the Musée des Arts Décoratifs looking at the clothing fashions and other exhibits. We especially enjoyed looking at the jewelry.
After visiting the Musée des Arts Décoratifs we were all hungry and the closest place was McDonalds; so that’s where we went. McDonalds was an insanely busy place with little sitting and table space. We walked around with our tray of food for about 10 minutes before someone took pity on us and offered their booth as they left.
After having lunch we headed back to the Louvre and straight in. Thank you Museum Pass!! Well, not really. Once inside we had to get in line to pay for an audio guide and then get into another line to pick up the audio guide. What a crazy system. We spent over 4½ hours walking though the Louvre admiring the art we have only seen in books. People recommend knowing what you want to see, before you get there. Now having visited the Louvre, I understand that completely. The Museum is massive. A brochure said there were many kilometres of corridors in the Louvre. We stood there under the glass pyramid looking around in awe, not knowing where to start. After tracking down the museum guide, we found out where the Mona Lisa was and headed in that direction.
The building itself is amazing and so beautiful. The architecture and style of the building is art in itself. The wide grand halls, stairs and rooms, lead to many galleries. There are marble pillars, arches and much interior décor that leads you further and further into the museum. There were so many people, in fact thousands. We did a quick calculation based on the amount of people who visit the Louvre, and came up with the figure of approximately 40,000 people a day visit the museum. Some are listening to their audio guides, some are following their guides around who are providing background to the art, others are taking notes of individual art pieces, some are standing quietly looking and analysing and appreciating the art and then there are those whom are running around after their toddlers and young children. I cannot imagine how bored those children were, Noah and Aurora can only stay interested for so long before they get fidgety. I was in my happy place.
The Louvre is a magical place filled with the works of some of the masters. We did finally get to see the Mona Lisa, along with a swarm of other people. In real life the Mona Lisa is not a very large painting, it seems even smaller when it is in a very large room with hundreds of people snapping pictures of it. It is actually quite funny, when you stand at the back of the room and watch the people push and shove to get a better picture. Noah and Aurora squirmed their way to the front and got a few good pictures. I tried too but, got frustrated and left. How can you really appreciate the art when you have to fight to see it?
By the time we were ready to leave we were lost in deep inside the Louvre. It probably took us at least another 30 minutes just to find our way out. Our first day out in Paris left us happy and exhausted and we had only been to two museums and had seen only a tiny portion of the exhibits.
We spent the next few days walking around, in the rain, along the river, watching people go about their day, and of course seeing the sights. We went to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Len and Noah climbed the bell tower while Aurora and I went to an archeological underground exhibit of the original foundation of the Cathedral. We climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the Arch of Triumph; walked along the Champs-Elysees; stopped at the Musee d’Orsay to see the works of Van Gogh, Renoir and Monet. This was my favorite Museum, I liked it more than the Louvre. We ate many crepes filled with Nutella, banana and cinnamon and fell in love with fresh French bread. The atmosphere of being in Paris, with all these sights, sounds and tastes was wonderful in fact magical and it was the “Paris Experience” we all had been giddy about.
We were only to be in Paris for a week and then head to Belgium; but our week flew by so quickly that we weren’t ready to leave, so we found another apartment and stayed a second week. Belgium and its chocolate will have to wait until our next time. We found a cute apartment in Montmartre that was just down about 400 steps from the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. We only discovered we were so close, upon our return from seeing the Basilica, as we took the “long way” to find it, and discovered the “short way” home after leaving the Basilica.
We loved walking in and around, and just being in Montmartre. Montmartre, previously to being swallowed up by Paris, was a town on it’s own. It still has the architecture, roads and look of that town, and you feel like you are back in that place when you are there. It’s a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of Paris. We did not see inside, but we walked by and saw the famed Moulin Rouge club. Montmartre was filled with little cafes, cheese shops, bakeries, chocolatiers, apartments and parks. We saw the area where Picasso lived, painted and partied. Areas were filled with street art, artists, locals, some tourists and smell of fresh pastries. Montmartre is a place we would go back to in a heartbeat.
We fell in love with Paris and all the wonderful things it has to offer. Although we did not see the Sainte-Chapelle, Palais Royal, the Pantheon or Versailles, we have no regrets. We had so much fun in Paris. Unfortunately, our family does not move that fast so buying the 4 day museum pass was not a good idea. We did not get our money’s worth out of the pass. Next time we would plan better as some museums are free on certain days of the week.