Today was our last day in Paris. We set out for Place d’Aligre after breakfast. This is a combination of food and flea markets in the 12th. The particularly nice thing about it is that it is open on weekdays, not just weekends like the others. And, it’s not out as far so the neighborhood was a bit more pleasant. Shana found some nice stuff for her antique business, and she has become a good bargainer en Francais. I enjoyed being her assistant and occasional interpreter (though I mean that very loosely). It was a nice marche aux puces to end on.
We hopped on a couple of metro lines to Musee d’Orsay and had a delightful time. We share a similar level of knowledge of and appreciation for art, so we are a good pair in the museums. We spent a couple of hours before departing for a stroll down the Seine. We checked out the booksellers in their dark green stalls. Then we found a great Italian restaurant tucked down a small, quiet side street among the hustle and bustle of the city. For 15,90€ each, we had a three course delicious lunch. We have done fairly well with our food prices and are glad of that for sure…calories are another story.
Okay…I have written two additional paragraphs two times, but Word Press keeps deleting them when I hit save! So, I am just going to try to add photos and you can figure out what else we did. Au revoir!
Most know that Paris is full of museums. Today we took in two and had quite different experiences. We took the metro to Place de la Concorde and saw the obelisk. Then we crossed the street to Musee de l’Orangerie, situated in Jardin des Tuileries. It was absolutely delightful, both in content and scale. The most famous work here is Monet’s Nympheas or water lilies. This is a series of many large panels housed in two oval rooms in l’Orangerie. It was spectacular. There is another floor of paintings to view, many from the impressionist era. Also quite nice. Then we were done and departed, after buying a few mementos at the cute little shop.
We strolled through the garden to the Louvre. We cut the queue with our Paris Pass (awesome) and made our plan. We went to see La Jaconde (the Mona Lisa) along with just about everyone else. I think it was as crowded as when we were here in August! We visited Venus de Milo with another crowd. We saw many things – paintings and statues mostly – along the way. Next we found our way to Napoleon III’s apartment, and it felt like we were at Versailles. Such over the top opulence! It was sort of cool to see and much less crowded. We found the Lacemaker next, by Dutch artist Vermeer, which was unexpectedly small. Finally, we descended to view the medieval Louvre before exiting. The whole thing was overwhelming, just like the other times I’ve visited. I’m not quite sure how to experience it any other way, so maybe next time I’m in Paris, I’ll skip it all together. I will definitely return to l’Orangerie.
We walked toward Les Halles, stopping for lunch along the way. Next we toured Saint Eustache, a cathedral built in the 16th century that houses the largest pipe organ in Paris. Young Louis XIV received communion here and Mozart’s mother’s funeral was here, among many other things. We had a 3:00 booking at O Chateau for a wine tasting (part of our Paris Pass), so that was next. It was good in terms of the wine, but a bit too much shtick from the somelier. The Pompidou was an easy walk from this point, so we went there next to enjoy it from the outside only. We were sort of museumed out by now. The metro took us home, and we will go find crepes for dinner in a bit.
One more full day here tomorrow. We have a few things left to do, including another flea market, a boat ride on the Seine, and the best museum: Musee d’Orsay. Should be fun!
We slept well, enjoyed breakfast at the hotel (great coffee), and headed to Île de la Cité. We had a preview of the flower and bird market (Reed’s nightmare) before heading to Notre Dame. We walked around the massive cathedral before going inside. We then entered, checked out the outer perimeter, and settled in for an hour long service, a Gregorian mass, which was special for Lent. We thoroughly enjoyed worshipping in this way.
Next we went to Sainte Chapelle…if you’ve been there, you know what an amazing experience we were in for. Thankfully, the rose window that was behind the scaffolding when we visited in August was visible, though still a bit obscured. We returned to the flower and bird market after soaking in the majesty of the colored glass. Shana got some perfume, I got some soap, and we really enjoyed the beautiful flowers and chirping birds.
We traveled to the Vanves Marche aux Puces (flea market) in the 14th arrondissement. We enjoyed browsing the many stalls of brocantes. I got a napkin and Shana got a lot of handkerchiefs for a good price. It was fun to take in a market that was a bit more manageable in size than Clignancourt.
We were quite cold and hungry by this point, so we went to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. We ate at Les Deux Magots, which I had wanted to do. I think I sat at Jean-Paul Sartre’s table as we enjoyed our quiche and coffee. And, even more, Ric Ocasek, Paulina Poritzkova, and their son sat right next to us! We respected their privacy and left them alone, but it was pretty cool nonetheless. If you don’t know who these people are, search up The Cars or 1980s models.
We sojourned on to Saint Sulpice, another pretty cathedral. We went for the Lenten organ recital, which was okay though too much talking. Still, I was happy to visit as I had never been. Next we took the metro to the Pantheon to tour the crypts…we saw Paulina and her son again, though no Ric is time. We even had time to visit Arc de Triomphe before heading back to the hotel! We lucked out with our timing and saw the eternal flame ceremony, complete with bugle and snare drum.
We took provisions (baguette, cheese, wine) to our room to enjoy for dinner. We are content with everything we did and saw today and should sleep well tonight!
We had a nice train ride from Angers to Paris and made our way to the hotel by metro. It is a lovely hotel (Cadran) in the seventh, just off Rue Cler. We got some lunch after checking in, and then we set out to explore. We found the huge flea market, Clignancourt, in the 20th and browsed for awhile. Then we went to Monmartre and visited Sacre Coeur. We still have lots to see but are already having fun!
A quick update while we wait to depart Paris…at least for now. 😉
We had our last breakfast on Rue Cler; croissants, coffees, and a hot chocolate for Abbie. Then we walked the very short distance to L’Hôtel national des Invalides where there is an Army Museum and Napoleon’s mighty tomb. It was another spectacular campus of buildings, and the kids seemed quite interested in the war history, especially that of WWI & WWII.
We strolled back to Rue Cler for lunch at the Chinese restaurant from yesterday. Then we went next door for delicious gelato and coffee. We should have time to grab one last crepe before taking the Metro to the bus to the airport. Then we should land in Dublin around 11:15pm, only to depart about 12 hours later.
We have been talking with the kids today about all we’ve done and what they’ve enjoyed the most. Abbie’s list of favorite destinations from first to last goes France, Ireland, Scotland, and England. Jackson’s and mine goes France, Ireland, England, and Scotland. Reed’s is Ireland, France, Scotland, and England. The kids both loved the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Blarney Castle, and Alnwick Castle. I need more time to reflect on all we’ve done before I can create my list. I think we have lots to keep talking about and lessons to learn from this time away together. It has been a gift!
Today we checked off a few more items from our priority list for what to see during our visit to Paris. We enjoyed café au lait ($8 each!) and croissants around the corner from our lovely hotel and then set out for the Metro. We went to Île de la Cité to experience La cathédrale Notre-Dame, or the spectacular and enormous Notre Dame Cathedral. We considered going up the bell towers, but the line was very, very long, probably a 90+ minute wait (& no queue jumping privileges with our Paris Pass). We instead waited in a super long, but fast moving, line to go into the sanctuary. A service was in session, so we sat for a bit to take it in. Then we traveled around the outside hallways, admiring the architecture, stained glass, and monuments along the way. It truly is a marvelous structure – we learned that it took 182 years to complete!
After we viewed the inside, we walked along the Seine to view it from the outside. The gardens are beautiful, the flying buttresses are incredible, and the ornate detailing is phenomenal. I particularly like the “green guys” (i.e., the Apostles) climbing up the spire. In preparation for our visit, Abbie has been watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame repeatedly, and we did so together two nights ago in our hotel. We kept our eyes open for Quasimodo and Esmerelda!
Next we walked over to Sainte-Chapelle, Reed’s and my favorite cathedral that we’ve seen…like anywhere on the planet. It was built in the 13th century in a medieval gothic style, and it contains one of the most extensive collections of 13th c. stained glass anywhere in the world. We again didn’t have the line cutting privilege with our Paris Pass, but we met a nice woman and her 12-year-old daughter from Southern California while we waited. She approached us and asked about Abbie, as her daughter is also from China. It was fun to talk about our experiences of getting our precious daughters years ago.
Sainte-Chapelle isn’t large like Notre Dame, and you actually have to go upstairs to get to the main chapel, which is kind of cool. The windows that surround it are amazing in both color and story, going through both Old Testament and New Testament stories. There seem to be hardly any walls connecting the windows…you are surrounded by colored glass. Unfortunately, about 1/4 of the windows were behind construction walls undergoing an extensive restoration process where the glass is removed, cleaned, and reinstalled, with new lead where needed. And this included the huge rose window, which was masked by scaffolding covered by a partition with a grayscale image where the window would have been. The kids were a bit underwhelmed, especially after waiting in line for awhile, and I can’t say that I blame them. Perhaps they will return one day to see the whole thing in all it’s glory.
We descended back down into the Metro (to the very cool Cité station) and took the #1 line to the Charles de Gaulle stop. We ascended from beneath the city to the majestic Arc de Triomphe. It really is a spectacular view, right from the escalator out of the Metro. We were right on the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous streets in the world. We descended again to go through the tunnel under the huge rotary street that surrounds the monument. Up once again and we went straight for the queue – this time with cutting privileges. We climbed the 284 stairs up one leg of the Arc to the top. This is one of the best views in all of Paris – the Eiffel Tower on one side, Sacre Coeur on another; the Grande Arche at La Defense on yet another. It was spectacular.
We descended the stairs down the other leg and then walked around the Arc. It really is hard to get it in a photo when you are right next to it – it is so HUGE, standing at 164 feet high, 148 feet wide, and 72 feet deep. It has ornate detailing on every surface and huge sculptures on its legs. It was commissioned to be built by Napoleon in 1806 – talk about a “Napoleon Complex!” Beneath the Arc is the tomb of the unknown solider from WWI, complete with a burning eternal flame and decorated with flowers. It really was an awe-inspiring experience, both for the kids at their first viewing and us at our subsequent viewing. One quick note, if you want a fabulous view of Paris from above, this is about the best place to go. You miss the long lines at the Eiffel Tower and the view, unlike Sacre Coeur, is unobstructed.
Back on the Metro to our neighborhood to find lunch. We returned to Rue Cler, this time enjoying Chinese food (including beverage), for only €7.5 each; a truly remarkable deal. However, there was a gelato shop next door that we indulged in and blew the budget (€3.6 each!). It was well worth it and perhaps even better than our Grafton Street gelato spot in Dublin. I guess we are quite a bit closer to Italy here. What was really nice is you could choose as many flavors as you wanted, even in our small dishes. I went with caramel, chocolate, pistachio, and coffee, and they shape it like a rose when you get it in a cone as I did (check it out at amorino.com). Reed and I also got really good coffee; I think we will return tomorrow.
The boys went back to the hotel, and us girls did a tiny bit of souvenir shopping. Abbie wanted some Eiffel Tower earrings, and we had been searching for non-dangling ones (my rule). We were successful, and I even found a little glass pyramid for Jackson, reminiscent of the ones at the Louvre (with the Eiffel Tower etched inside).
Speaking of which, we returned to the Eiffel Tower tonight a bit before 10pm to view it sparkling. On the hour, from just after dusk until 2am, it twinkles for five minutes. Lots of people gather in Champ de Mars, the long park between Ecole Militaire and the Tower. It is a festive atmosphere with music, drinking, and laughter. We found a patch of grass and joined the party. Right on cue, it dazzled the crowd…one of my favorite things about Paris: how it dazzles me.
Backing up a bit, we went out for dinner at the place we scoped out last night. It didn’t go so well. the snails were not a hit (Jackson did at least try one; Abbie chickened out), the cheese pizza had a LOT of funky French cheese on it (even made me gag), and the bill was exorbitant. Oh well…I guess we are doing our part to help out the French economy.
Tomorrow we will pack up, explore the city a bit more (Hotel des Invalides & Napoleon’s Tomb), and then head to the little Beauvais airport to fly back to Dublin before returning home Wednesday (not sure when we’ll have a chance to update the blog). Even though I would love more time in Paris, I think we all are ready to go home. Thank you in advance for your prayers for “journey mercies”!
Cafe au Lait breakfast
Hotel de Ville
Mom and Abbie in the Notre Dame line
Dad and Jackson in the Notre Dame line
Taking in a service, Notre Dame Cathedral
Joan of Arc, Notre Dame Cathedral
Rose Window, Notre Dame Cathedral
Eucharist, Notre Dame Cathedral
We made it… and the kids enjoyed!
“The Green Guys” – The Apostles
Metro entrance on Île de la Cité
Abbie and Mom in Sainte Chapelle
The chapel’s most spectacular window…printed in grayscale :(
Jackson’s reaction to the grayscale window
Metro stop under Île de la Cité
On the way to the Arc de triomphe
Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre from the Arc
La Défense from the Arc
Eiffel Tower from the Arc
Abbie spying away
Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Arc de triomphe
Today we had the Musée du Louvre and Musée d’Orsay on our agenda. We all slept well in our cozy Parisienne hotel, and we left around 10:30 for breakfast. We enjoyed croissants and coffees on Rue Cler again before we headed down to the Metro. Two short Metro lines later, and we ascended into the Louvre.
We had already purchased our four-day Paris Passes and had them mailed to us in Dublin. These passes allow entry into about 60 museums, cathedrals, and other exhibits around the city, and some come with “queue jumping” privileges. Now the first Sunday of the month is “free museum day,” which we knew ahead of time, so we expected big crowds. Our lovely passes came to the rescue for avoiding very long lines just to get inside. We were super glad to have them.
The Louvre contains over 14 kilometers of exhibit halls, and we had absolutely no intention of thoroughly covering them. Reed and I had been before, so we mainly set out to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo this time around. We made our way through the halls and crowds and were able to get good views of both. We also saw Wedding at Cana, Winged Victory, and many, many other paintings and statues along the way. I think the kids enjoyed the marvelous structure of the Louvre itself (originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II, & Louis XIV didn’t think it was grand enough so he moved out to Versailles!), as well as the cool glass pyramids (circa 1988-1993). Jackson is reading The Da Vinci Code now, so he had that additional interest when exploring.
We went on foot across the Seine and over to the Orsay. This is Reed’s and my favorite museum (and we went to a LOT of them on one of our trips here to come to this conclusion), but our children don’t feel the same (which is completely okay). The Orsay is housed in what was a train station built for the 1900 World’s Fair. Again, the building itself is spectacular, especially its famous giant clocks. Like the Louvre, we had an efficient plan in mind, only hitting floors five and two for some of the really big names in the art world. Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh top the list. I was very moved seeing these famous pieces, while at the same time I felt guilty for not knowing more and teaching my children more about art.
We strolled along the streets near the Orsay to find a suitable lunch spot. It is quite expensive eating in Paris, as you can imagine, so we try our best to be a bit discerning (and we ask for tap water as a Coke is about $6!). This time it was Italian pasta, which was delicious. We stopped at a souvenir shop to get sunglasses for the kids (great Paris souvenir), and then we headed to the Metro for our next stop: Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur.
We love this bohemian neighborhood and the artsy feel it has (watch Moulin Rouge if you haven’t!). Again, it was super crowded and fairly hot at this point in the day (& the energy of the younger half of Team Mueller was fading fast). We walked up hundreds of steps between getting out of the Metro and then up to Sacré-Cœur, which is at the highest point in Paris. We tried to take in the view of the city amidst the crowd, and then we went into the famous domed basilica. The 4:00 service was just starting, so we sat down for a bit. The sound of the huge organ filled the space, and the nuns lead the crowd in song. We didn’t stay the whole time, but Reed and I were thankful to have a few moments of reflection in such an amazing holy setting.
We took the Metro back to our neighborhood, played some cards, and shared crepes for a snack (Abbie and Reed went with plain sugar while Jackson and I had Nutella and bananas). Later, Reed and I went around the corner for dinner, scoping out a place to take the kids tomorrow night. We brought home a baguette, French butter, brie cheese, and a chocolate tartine for the kids to share…they were delighted. And, the consensus was we like Irish butter better.
Tomorrow we have Notre Dame and Arc de Triomphe at the top of our list, as well as a return to the Eiffel Tower around 10pm to see it sparkle. I could get used to this…j’adore Paris!
Energy level good… ready to go!
Winged Victory (Nike of Samothrace)
Dodging the crowds, Jackson turns at the Mona Lisa
Dad told her to do the “Mona Lisa” – hmmm, not quite?
Main Pyramid (from inside Louvre)
Venus de Milo (Aphrodite of Milos)
Medieval Louvre, Salle Basse
On our way out
Photo credit to Jackson
Abbie outside d’Orsay
Jackson outside d’Orsay
Abbie entering the Monet hall (Woman with a Parasol in the background)
Don’t think we were supposed to take this….it’s called ‘Poppies’
A view from the clock at Musee d’Orsey
Nice shot, Jackson!
Abbie, mastering the Metro
A few stops to go and we’re at Montmartre
Abbie has taken a liking to the Metro
Made it up so many stairs… and that was just from the Metro
Friday at Trinity was quiet…the kids and I were home all day while Reed toured Kilbeggan Distillery, where one can find the oldest working pot still on the planet and enjoy a guided tasting of four distinct Irish whiskeys (or so I hear). While there, he enjoyed a guided tasting of four of their whiskey’s (check in with him if you want to know what he was able to try). Jackson rested up for the next leg of our journey, and it seems to have paid off as he’s feeling pretty good today.
We said goodbye to Trinity bright and early today as we caught a 4:00am bus to the airport. It was raining pretty good as we walked and waited, so we were a bit soggy by the time we got on the bus. This was the first real rain our whole time in Ireland, so I’m glad I finally had a use for my rain jacket that I brought all this way.
Anyway, as Paris is Reed’s and my favorite city in the world, we wanted to share it with the kids since we were relatively close. We took a cheap Ryanair flight from Dublin into Beauvais Airport, which is about an hour outside of Paris. The tiny airport reminded me of one in Waterloo, Iowa, though Beauvais does have passport control. We hopped on a bus and enjoyed the French countryside for awhile (& did some napping).
We took two metro trains to our favorite stop (Ecole Militaire), dropped our luggage at our hotel, and set out for some coffee and snacks. Jackson really liked his cafe creme with four sugars…so much so he even let me get a picture of the moment! We had croissants, eggs, and coffees…very Parisienne. Then we headed to the Eiffel Tower, something we all we looking forward to. We had built it up pretty big to the kids so I was a bit worried they might be let down, but it completely lived up to expectations. It truly is a marvelous structure…blows me away every time I am near it!
We spontaneously decided to do a Seine River cruise, and it was a great way to show the kids some of the big sites in an easy fashion. Seeing the Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and all the wonderful bridges and architecture was just awesome. I think the kids are starting to understand why we love this city so much!
We got checked into our hotel, which is just a few minutes from the Eiffel Tower (the kids even have a view of it from their window!). It will be a great home base for the next thee days while we explore the city together. We got some crepes right next door and we have some wine for later. I feel very happy in this city of light…j’adore Paris!
Oldest working pot still in the world (Kilbeggan Distillery)
Cask house, Kilbeggan Distillery
Smelled delightfully of the angel’s share (Kilbeggan Distillery)
Jackson’s first cafe creme
My first treat!
Abbie was so excited; Jackson was impressed!
Abbie’s got a new hat!
Taking it in.
On the Seine
Pont Alexandre III (aka, fancy Paris bridge commemorating Franco-Russian friendship)
Musee d’Orsay in the background
Returning from the ride
Yummy Crepe (even without Nutella)
Clock at Musee d’Orsay
A view from our room
notes & stuff from reed and erin and jackson and abigail