Paris-Amsterdam

Paris-Amsterdam

I realize now that I did not even mention our visit to the Musee d’orsay, this is the museum that houses great works of art from Monet, Van Gough and Gaugan, this is the problem with Paris, it is so amazing, so filled with incredible things, that you can omit huge details, and the day still seems full. I also did not not mention Sophie sitting with a dog in the fancy restaurant, the kids newly developed skills of gypsy avoidance, the tiny little hotel room that we shared in Paris and the incredible visit to the Luxembourg gardens. Due to the fact that it is 12:00 at night and I am completely exhausted and need to get some sleep as we prepare for our big day tomorrow you are jut going to have to trust me when I say, Paris is the most incredible city. It was mind blowing, I loved it!

20100716_3373
Two hour line up to climb the stairs of Notre Dame Cathedral

We woke up today at 10:00, we needed the rest! After breakfast we checked out of our hotel, left our luggage in the basement and walked 5 minutes to Notre Dame Cathedral. This building is so beautiful that you can not help but feel moved by it. We waited in line for almost two hours to climb to the top and visit with the many gargoyles and get a chance to see the bell tower.

20100716_3388
Making Gargoyle faces at the top of Notre Dame

The last time I was in Paris, I could not afford any of the entrance fees to museums and attractions. I did not see the inside of the Louvre or the Musee d’orsay, I did not get to go up the Eiffel tower or climb the ancient stairs to Notre Dames bell tower, this time I did! I feel so lucky to have had this time in Paris. Seeing the children pull faces at the Gargoyles as we looked over Paris was so special. This was my favorite day so far.

After our visit at Notre Dame, we headed to a shop to pick up supplies, Salami, cheese, wine and bread all enjoyed picnic style, this is the way we have eaten almost every lunch in Paris and it was a fitting end to an amazing four days. We picked up our luggage at the hotel and headed to the Metro for our trip to the Gard du Nord station.

I will say it again, the Metro is hell, it is hot, full of people and scary, we had to let two trains go by before we felt it was open and safe enough to get on. I can not tell you how relieved I was to get to the station and say goodbye to the Paris Subway system for good!

Our train to Holland left Paris at 5:45. France was an experience like no other, it has rocked my world, I loved being in this country. Thank you France, for an incredibly memorable experience.

I will sign off now, I am off to “Efteling” tomorrow, this is a theme park in in southern Holland all based on scary fairy tales…so I need to get some sleep if you are curious here is the web site. Efteling

Tomorrow I will bring us up to date on my travels through Holland mainly the lakes, Hilversum and Amsterdam.

Paris kids 2010

Climbing the Eiffel Tower and roaming the streets of Paris…. with kids.

Climbing the Eiffel Tower and roaming the streets of Paris…. with kids.

July 15 Paris

img_4290

Up again at 7:30 AM uggggh, Paris is exhausting! We had a succulent breakfast and then hit the road for the Eiffel Tower, today was the day that Joshua would achieve his life goal of climbing the tower. We got to the tower at 8:45 AM and the line to climb the stairs was only 20 minutes…excellent! This is a critical travel tip, if you want to go up the Eiffel tower make it your first stop of the day, and make it early. Otherwise expect wait times of 2 hours or more.

 

 

20100715_3302
Tired 7 year old being carried by his brother through the streets of Paris

The climb was not bad, Joshua, Sophie and Connor were amazing and climbed the stairs without complaint. Connor even carried up our backpack. After the tower climb, we walked the Champs Elysee, had a picnic in the park, wandered the streets of St-Germain-des-Prés,  visited Place de la Concord, and worked our way back to our hotel on the left bank by 6:00. We spent an hour or so getting ready for a nice “last dinner in Paris” evening and actually ate at a decent hour (8:00). We were in bed for a 10:00, happy but tired.

20100715_3232

 

Never go to Paris on Bastille day.

Never go to Paris on Bastille day.

Edit note: This is a series of originally private memoirs from my family trip to Europe. Click here for the start of this series. 28 Days in Europe with the kids

July 14th Bastille Day in Paris

img_4140Up at 7:30 for Breakfast and then off to the Louvre. We got there at 8:30, half an hour before it opened, and there was already a line! We did not know that because it was Bastille day, the Louvre had free admission, score! We made a beeline for the Mona Lisa, because we were there early there were only about 100 people in front of the famous painting so we were able to get a great look. The Louvre is so filled with great works of art that we couldn’t possibly see them all in one day and after a while its hard to keep your perspective, we bought a book that describes the most famous pieces so that we could understand what we were looking at. Picture shows us at “Wedding at Cana.” This is the painting right across the hall from the Mona Lisa

Now here is some very good advice to all you travelers out there; Never go to Paris on Bastille Day.

1) All major attractions, except the Louvre are closed.

2) There are police, soliders and French patriots EVERYWHERE

3) It rains buckets (okay this could have happened any day but it just so happened that is was on Bastille day this year that more rain fell in four hours than for the past 6 weeks)

As we walked out of the Louvre it was pouring rain, we bought two umbrellas and tried to walk through the streets to get to the Champs Elysee but this was pointless as all streets were closed for Bastille Day…grrrrr, it was so frustrating we were getting soaking wet, there were gypsies trying to rob us, puddles and rivers everywhere, what was happening to my dream Paris holiday?

20100714_3114We spotted a Bistro across the road and ran for it, I think we got inside just as the lightning and thunder happened. Joshua asked me if it was “midnight” the sky was pitch black it was unbelievable, it was actually only 1:00 PM. The bistro was, however our safe haven. We promptly ordered a litre of the house wine and settled in for the afternoon. 110 Euros later, the kids were well fed on all sorts of French delicacies, I was much more mellow, all of a sudden Paris was good again. It was still lightly raining at 3:00 and we set off.

img_4191By 3:30 the rain had stopped and we found our selves in the middle of a french army “meet and greet” Connor, Sophie and Josh got to put on French Army gear, ride on a tank, sit on a helicopter and practice finding land mines. Is it actually okay to go to Paris on Bastille day?  I still say no, but the kids did like it, at one point I think I said to Chris,” I did not come to Paris to try on a Army uniform,” haha, its all good.

At this point the sun came out and we ventured over to the Eiffel tower, it was packed with tourists and the lines were at the two hour wait point. We decided to go back to our left bank hotel, shower and have dinner.

 

Enroute, we stopped off at the gardens outside of the Louvre where we went on the largest Ferris wheel in France, ate some cotton candy and goofed around a little. By the time we made it back to our hotel it was 9:30 PM, we got showered, dressed up and went out for a great dinner. At 11:00 all the fireworks went off but we were too busy eating and drinking to really care, at 12:00 we again fell into bed, completely wiped out.

20100714_3212

La Ciotat- Marseilles- Paris

La Ciotat- Marseilles- Paris

Okay, I am semi-recovered from the Paris portion of our trip. It has taken two full days of spoiling by Colleen and Falco to return me to my normal self.  I will now try to catch up. The next few posts will be about our four days in Paris.

July 13th. La Ciotat to Paris.

We were up early this morning to drive to Marseilles. We had asked the front desk clerk how early he thought we should leave as the GPS said it was a 20 minute drive, ” An hour or two,” he said. It was lucky we left early and listened to him! The drive into Marseilles was nothing less than terrifying, I can honestly say that driving a car into the third largest city in France was not something for the faint hearted. At times we were surrounded by hundreds of crazy drivers swerving and honking at us and other times we crawled along at no more than one km an hour. I highly recommend not retuning rental cars to city locations. It was a huge contrast to the nice small city of Narbonne where we picked up the car, returning the car was incredibly stressful.

Once we got rid of the car, we found our train and settled in for the 3 hour ride to Paris. It was fantastic, super quite, really fast and nice and comfy. On arrival in Paris at 3:45 PM we made our way down to the Metro station where the madness began. The subway was absolutely packed with people, Chris and I split up the kids and held on to our bags and literally pushed our way onto the subway. It was scary and hot and I was sweating buckets by the time we got off at our stop. We went up the escaltor, kept away from the gypsies and homeless lunatics to get to street level…ahhh Paris, it was beautiful, the past half hour of subway hell was forgotten.

We found ourselves in front of Notre Dame Cathedral which is breathtaking. We pulled our suitcases along the cobbled streets, through Bistros and shops and found our hotel just five blocks away from the center of Paris. On first sight the hotel is pretty shabby, but it is clean, run by a wonderful French family and super cheap, 155 Euros a night Breakfast included. We dumped our luggage in the room and hit the town.

img_4054First stop, dinner. We went into a fabulous little bistro and had pepper steaks, frites and wine, yummy! Then we got tickets for a river cruise and traveled up and down the Seine. It was a great evening that ended with a kiss from Joshua under the Eiffel Tower. We returned to our cruise boat which took us back to our hotel, we fell into bed at 11:30 excited about the next day.

img_4092
Kissing Joshua under the Eiffel Tower.
20100713_3039
Cruising the Seine

20100713_3050