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Bonjour and Buon giorno!

March 18, 2009

We are currently sitting in our hotel in Florence waiting for our laundry and getting ready to get on the train to Rome. Sorry it has taken me so long to write anything. We’ve had some internet difficulty, and what can I say, we’ve been a bit busy 🙂

Days 1 and 2 – Paris

We arrived in Paris after having slept about an hour of the overnight flight. We managed to get through the Paris airport without too much difficulty, and once we figured out how to get change to buy a Metro ticket, we were on our way. A very pleasant Parisian from Cambodia talked to us for the entire ride into the city, and he was quick to inform us that there were plenty of McDonald’s in Paris. He seemed confused when we weren’t excited about the news. Eventually the time came for our first RER/Metro connection. We jumped off the train and stood in the station for probably 20 minutes baffled by the signs that seemed to indicate the train that we needed didn’t exist. This was the first of many opportunities to use the handy “Parlez vous, Englais, sil vous plait?” After some confused nodding and gesturing we finally figured out where we needed to be and boarded the correct train, and just a few stops later we were standing in a cold drizzly Paris steps from the Arc de Triomphe.

We walked to our hotel and were delighted to discover that the staff spoke English well and they were exceedingly friendly. The room was wonderful. It smelled like oranges, I’m still not sure why, and after being bombarded with jet engine noise, traffic noise and subway noise, I found it so quiet and serene I wanted to just stay there and soak it all in. But, our time in Paris was limited, so after a very quick refresh, we headed back out to see as much as we could. We walked back to the Arc and climbed what felt like about 10,000 steps to get to the top. From the top we could see Eiffel, Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, Notre Dame… it was quite a way to begin our day.paris-arc

paris5From there we headed to the Eiffel Tower and through the park to Les Invalides, the building that houses Napoleon’s tomb. We decided while we were there to see the WWII museum in the same complex. There was a lot to see there, and I would have enjoyed it much more if I hadn’t been so tired. We left there and walked for what felt like hours to the Orsay museum. It was incredible, but again, I think my exhaustion prevented me from appreciating it as much as I could have. The hours after the Orsay are kind of a blur. We walked for a while looking for a place to eat and ended up lost and wandering in the dark. It didn’t take Eric long to figure out where we were, but after that we were both too exhausted and grumpy to attempt to decipher a French menu, so we headed back to the hotel and had tea and some kind of really tasty soup in the lounge before calling it a night.
The next morning was much better. We had a wonderful breakfast of croissants, pastries and coffee at the hotel and then walked to one of the highlights of the trip so far – L’Orangerie Museum. Before I began planning this trip, I had never even heard of the place. Apparently it is where Monet’s famous Water Lilies are kept. They are arranged in two oval shaped rooms, so that when you sit in the middle of the room, you are completely surrounded by the paintings. It was spectacular.

In awe of the Water Lilies - my favorite!

In awe of the Water Lilies - my favorite!

Walking from Ile de St. Louis toward Notre Dame

Walking from Ile de St. Louis toward Notre Dame

From there we walked to Palais Garnier, the Opera house that inspired Phantom of the Opera. It was absolutely breathtaking. We then hopped on the Metro and headed to the Ile de St. Louis. We walked leisurely along the Seine toward Notre Dame and made our way across the bridge to the Cathedral. There is no way to describe what it is like to stand in the sanctuary of Notre Dame. It is so beautiful, I was completely awestruck. It nearly brought me to tears. We walked around gazing at the beautiful windows and incredible architecture and were about to walk down the center aisle toward the door when we (and everyone around us) were ushered to the side because someone had collapsed right there near the altar. I have no idea what happened, but the person wasn’t moving at all. We left the church and hung out in the plaza for a while to see if there was any indication as to what had happened, but there wasn’t. So we decided to continue our walk. As we approached Sainte Chapelle and found that we couldn’t get in yet, we saw the paparazzi chasing a man whom we can only assume was famous in France. There were lots of cameras shoved in his face and he apparently wasn’t happy about it. He disappeared and the commotion settled and so we decided to head to a café for some Croque Monsieur while we waited for Sainte Chappelle to open.

Sainte Chappelle

Sainte Chappelle

Sainte Chapelle was beautiful, with its blue ceilings and gold everywhere – very different from Notre Dame, but still beautiful. When we finished there we found ourselves with some unexpected free time so we walked to the Latin Quarter and to the Pantheon and then took the metro to Pompadou Center, which in my opinion does not belong in Paris. It is a very odd, modern building that just doesn’t fit in such a beautiful old city. We went there for the view of Sacre Coeur, which was indeed worth the visit. From there we headed to the Louvre, which was so much bigger than I ever imagined. Really, you could probably visit the Louvre every day for a week and not see the whole thing. We spent about two hours there and did manage to see Venus de Milo, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, and of course, the Mona Lisa. Many people told me that I would be disappointed and that it was smaller than you expect, but I didn’t think so. Yes there was a huge crowd of people surrounding the world’s most famous painting, but I don’t think that made it any less special to see, and it seemed to me to be just the right size.

mona-lisa1We left the Louvre after dark, and the reality that we only had a few short hours left in Paris began to sink in. My intentions immediately became clear – we must find some crepes and a pastry shop. Parisian pastries are to me, one of the primary reasons to go to Paris, and as of yet we hadn’t found any. Maybe we were walking around in the wrong places, but I always imagined a patisserie on every corner, and it just didn’t seem to be the case. We got back on the metro and returned to the Latin Quarter and found some crepes in fairly short order, one with Nutella and one fromage (cheese). We were cold and they were warm, and it was heavenly. The Latin Quarter at night reminded me of a civilized French Quarter – with lots of young people, much younger than us, a marching band performing on the street, lots of drinking and partying, albeit with wine instead of beer.

We got back on the Metro, this time packed in like sardines. I don’t remember where we got off, but from there we began the long walk up the river toward the Arc and our hotel. We stopped in several places for photos and I kept looking for pastries. I knew there was supposed to be a Laduree somewhere along Champs Elysses, so we kept walking and walking and walking. Finally when we were just about to give up, I spotted it. They were selling out quickly of their daily supply, but we got in line and managed to order one of something with layers of chocolate and nutty cake and other yummy stuff, and a small box of macaroons. I’ve only tasted two of them so far, the chocolate and the mango and they were both fabulous. Mission accomplished. We walked from there to the Arc, but didn’t make it there in time to get to the top again. Eric took a couple of night shots of it before he was chased off by the police. Then we headed back to the hotel and said goodbye to Paris.

Venice and Tuscany still to come…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2009 7:42 am

    AWESOME!! And that doesn’t really say it well enough. I love the photos and you’ve captured the memories beautifully! Thanks for including your readers 🙂

  2. March 18, 2009 9:12 am

    So glad to get the update. Love the pictures. We drew your Christmas card from the basket this week, so we are praying for you guys. I thought that was neat considering you are away. Have a great time! Keep the updates coming.

  3. kermooch permalink
    March 18, 2009 9:34 am

    I am living vicariously through you, so I hope the updates keep coming! Glad to hear you are having a great time.

  4. Debby Morton permalink
    March 18, 2009 5:28 pm

    Glad to hear that you are having such a wonderful time Kendra. Can’t wait to read some more of your travels.

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