Tag Vierzehn

Or Quatorze, if you will. Imagine being so lucky to be in France for La fete nationale, or Bastille day as we call it. It was our last day so we packed in quite a bit. The crew was growing weary of our all out pace, but we only had one more day. We got up early, skipped breakfast, and headed to Notre Dame. We arrived early enough that there were no lines. We toured the cathedral with it’s eerie quietness. I struggled with enjoying the history while also being mortified by the history of the church. I’m not sure the kids had quite the same experience, and I didn’t want to be a downer. Afterwards, we had breakfast at a cafe across the street that was incredibly disappointing.

Next, we took a train to Versailles and ventured around the grounds. It was too busy to do a tour of the inside, but the grounds themselves were impressive. While we were strolling, we saw a group of big helicopters with military escorts. Turns out our great orange one was also in the country getting a military tour. I’m sure he thought all the festivities were for him. Sorry France.

DSC_0096

DSC_0112

DSC_0131

DSC_0175

After the gardens, we stopped in town nearby and had Chinese food at a street cafe. It was excellent, and a fun break. We left recharged and headed back to Paris proper. We needed to pack and prepare for our departure the following morning. The kids were exhausted, and I really wanted to get them out later, so the downtime was welcome.

DSC_0219

We stepped out for dinner and wandered the neighborhood around Centre Pompidou, which was fun, but no one could really agree on what we wanted to eat. Looked at lots of menus, stomachs grumbled, feed started to hurt, tensions started to rise, and we defaulted to an Italian restaurant. The restaurant appears to cater to a primarily gay clientele, and the waiter was very outgoing and friendly despite, as he called out, the most embarrassing and vile american also being in town. But he said he wouldn’t hold that against us. The food was mediocre at best, and things listed as filet were actually flank steak. The kids enjoyed the cat who wandered around though.

Since we were disappointed in the food, we skipped dessert and headed back to our neighborhood and got dinner at the one of the local restaurants. We indulged in cheesecake, tiramisu and a creme brulee. All were fantastic.

Later that evening, Hilary and I forced the kids to get up and head out to a vantage point near us where we could watch the fireworks show on the Eiffel tower. We weren’t alone. Any place with a view had people, and we found a few utility sheds that we stood on for a while (so the kids could see) and tried standing in the street for a bit. The kids were very tired (and kinda whiny) but the view was excellent and the crowd was fun.

Boom!

Takeoff

After the show, which included lasers and fireworks, we headed back to the apartment and crashed hard. Happy La fete!

Tag Dreizehn

Today we are going to visit the catacombs. They’re close enough that we walked over to get in line. Sadly, because of the late night last night, everyone was dragging this morning, so our place in the line was grim. The line was long and we had no idea how long it would take. We waited for 3 hours and took turns going to get food from nearby restaurants. Hilary and MG went to get Sushi, while Ella, Michelle and I went to a nearby cafe and got a bad Caesar salad and split a burger.

When we were all back in line, we started to get the sense that it could still be several more hours until we got to the catacombs. Michelle, Hilary and Ella decided that it wasn’t worth it, so after 3 and a half hours, they bailed and went to look at other things in Paris, starting with macaron.

MG and I stuck it out for another 2 hours (picking up a little sunburn) and finally got to the front of the line. I think climbing the stairs underground, the smell, and the darkness finally made it clear to MG what we were doing. She started to get a little nervous and a little scared in the dark tunnels, but also excited. We explored the tunnels, enjoying the immense set of tunnels, the stacks of bones and skulls, and the ornate patterns made in the walls using bones. I think because of the spooky factor, (remember, MG was only 7) we moved through the catacombs fairly quickly. We were out in less than 30 minutes but did get to enjoy the bizarre and unique attraction. Was it worth 6 hours in a city of infinite options? Depends on who you ask. I thought it was amazing but would like to have a few more of those hours back in retrospect.
"where are the bones?"

Catacombs

While we were underground, Hilly, Michelle and Ella went to Montmarte to see Moulin Rouge and explore the hill. They enjoyed a lovely afternoon snack of oak honey, salt and potatoes under chicken and a cheese plate. MG and I caught up to them just as they were finishing their snack.
DSC_0023

Then we climbed to see the view from Sacré Cœur, which is an amazing vantage point. It’s also bustling with locals and tourists alike. Hilary had hoped we could see the amazing footballer/trickster who does amazing feats of balance and ball handling, but it was his day off.

atop Montmarte

MG and Aunt Hilly

Sacré Cœur and carousel

After exploring the alleyways around Montmarte, we wandered until we found a small restaurant that was open (early) so we could have a nice meal. We found one, too. It was a small place and everyone was thrilled with their meals. I don’t remember all of them, but I had an amazing roast duck dish, we got a terrine, someone got a ratatouille, and Michelle got a poached egg with mushroom cream.

Montmarte neighborhood

We all agreed that while the neighborhood was amazing, we were zonked and needed a little down time. Plus, it was already 7pm and we had one last full day before we had to head back. So we retired to the apartment where Hilary showed us YouTube videos of the football magician.

Montmarte metro stairway

Tag Zwolf

We started day twelve with a hearty breakfast of potatoes, eggs and avocados. (and coffee) We wound our way towards Rue Cler, which is supposed to be a bustling street market, but it was nearly deserted. Likely due to the rain or maybe the day, but there were only a few stalls open. So much for our well made plan of grabbing lunch fixings. We were able to find a lovely deli and picked a few types of charcuterie. Then we found a wonderful fromage shop that smelled amazing. We left with a nearly lethal collection of cheeses and preserves. We were able to find a few baguettes and walked the rest of the way to the park below the Eiffel Tower. We spread out on the lawn and luxuriated in our lunch. The combination of bread, cheeses, fruits, meats, wine and sour ale made for a nearly perfect lunch.

DSC_0672

The one unusual aspect of the lunch is that we were quickly surrounded by a mormon youth choir all wearing “Musical Ambassador” shirts. They were loud, teen-agery, and prone to breaking in to song.

The kids and Michelle rode the carousel and deemed it “lame.”

DSC_0724

Next we headed to St. Chapelle, where we managed to sneak a corkscrew (for the wine) through the security checkpoint. The church was amazing and the restoration work top notch. The colors, murals, glasswork, stonework, etc. were all amazing.
DSC_0768

However, by the time we finished the church tour, the amount of walking and “boring” things took a toll on the kids, so we did a crepe break to recharge. We were across from the Hotel DeVille, so Michelle and Ella went to check it out before we headed back to the apartment.

We stayed in the neighborhood for dinner and everyone enjoyed their meals at the Italian restaurant. Michelle made some note about all the different pasta dishes we got, but her writing is so bad I can’t tell what it says here. Something about the Penne, ravioli that the kids vacuumed up, and something about Maddie doing an Austin Powers and falling down the stairs.

After dinner, we attempted to catch an Uber to our river cruise, but got kicked out for having 1 too many passengers. So we took the bus. The river cruise was amazing. The Seine River was so active at night, and we did a several mile cruise that included getting to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle at night.

Ile Saint Louis

After the cruise, we wandered over to the Louvre to explore the pyramid and just take in the city. It was a lot of fun, but the night was getting late, so we ended up taking 2 separate Ubers to the nearest train station, then took the train back to the apartment. Maddie fell asleep and I ended up carrying her back to the apartment. We arrived at midnight and everyone crashed.