Saturday, June 15, 2013

Paris Day 3 & 4


We woke up early, ate breakfast at our hotel and took the subway up to the Arc de Triomphe. Napoleon had the Arc de Triomphe commissioned to commemorate his victory at the battle of Austerlitz. It was a lot bigger than I'd imagined! We headed right up the stairs for a view from the top because we were worried it might rain on us. Luckily the weather held out for a few hours. Our legs were burning as we pushed up the 284 stairs at a brisk pace. We even passed a few people in the spiral stairwell who had to stop for breathers. There are no elevators, so it's either suck it up or miss the view, so we kept pushing on towards the top and we were glad we did. It was beautiful up there! This view from the top is looking toward the Eiffel Tower.
This view from the top is looking down the Champs Elysees, where all the high-end shopping is in Paris.
This view is looking towards the high-rise, skyscraper business district of Paris in the distance.

After we'd had our fill up top we climbed back down the stairs and walked around the base for a few minutes, admiring all of its detail. Today the Arc de Triomphe is dedicated to the glory of all the French armies. It lists all the French victories since the revolution.
The columns list the names of generals of the French army, with a line under the names of those who died in battle. Directly under the center of the Arc is the tomb of the unknown soldier. Every day at 6:30 PM the candle is re-lit and new flowers are set there.
There is a  relief sculpture on one of the pillars of a toga-clad Napoleon posing while Paris kneels at his feet. He actually died before the Arc was finished, but his funeral procession passed underneath it (19 years later). The relief sculpture below is of Lady Liberty with a sword.

Chris gave me an Arc de Triomphe hat.
One of the plaques inside the Arc talked about all the embassies and famous rich people that live up one of the streets that spokes out from the Arc de Triomphe, so Chris and I decided to walk up it a ways and check out the ritzy neighborhood. The homes were pretty fancy!
This is the busiest McDonald's location in the world! And it's on the Champs Elysees. It seems Paris (or its tourists, at least) loves a good bigmac.
We walked down the Champs Elysees, wandering in and out of stores as we went. They had a Zara store there so I bought some clothes for Emme and Henry. Then we headed for a famous bakery called LaDuree.
All our guidebooks say if you want to experience a real French macaroon, you MUST go to LaDuree on the Champs Elysees. It was a cute little boutique with all sorts of beautiful macaroons and pastries.

Me outside LaDuree.
We bought two tiny boxes of macaroons and a Kouign-amann to share...and $50 later we were like wait, what just happened??? But alas they were delicious. And Euros are kind of like play money anyway, right? But look how beautiful the little macaroon boxes are.
(Then later at the airport we discovered they have a LaDuree location there that is DUTY-FREE! Yep, we'll remember that for next time. It's like getting a 20% discount so the macaroons were only about $2 euros a piece. So of course we bought few more.)
Soon after our LaDuree excursion, it started to pour rain. So we ducked into the subway and found a little sandwich shop to eat lunch in. The sandwiches weren't great but at least it was food and we stayed dry! After we finished our lunch we hopped the subway to the Orsay Museum to go inside and take a peek.

The Musee d'Orsay houses art from the 1800's and 1900's, so basically it starts up where the Louvre ends. They have fantastic works from Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, etc. I actually recognized a few more of the works in this museum.
Here is a view of the main gallery. I snuck this picture because photography is not allowed inside! The size of the Orsay feels much more manageable than the Louvre, so we decided to see every collection inside. We started on the main floor and snaked our way through every gallery. By the time we were done everything was starting to blur...but we really enjoyed it. We only used our audio guide for the first few galleries or so and then decided to just go with it. It was definitely worth the visit.
After we finished at the Orsay we walked across the bridge to the Tuileries gardens.
We passed a made-to-order crepe stand, so of course I had to get one. With nutella.
Chris opted for ice cream, which the cute young French girl shaped into a rose for him. Pretty cool!
This is the Tuileries garden. I have to say, I was underwhelmed by the "gardens" inside the city. They were all dirt paths and not a lot of actual "garden" content. But I guess in a city where space comes at a premium, having any sort of green space is a luxury. (But I think the French need to come see Central Park and then we'll talk about "gardens.")
After the Tuileries gardens we headed to the Orangerie, which is located practically on the premises. This museum houses Monet's waterlillies exhibit (unfortunately no photography allowed). It was magical! It's basically an oval room with four curved walls and on each wall is a different mural of the same water-lily pond but at a different time of the day. They were absolutely gorgeous! By far my most favorite piece of art I saw in Paris. It made me wish we'd had an extra day so we could have taken a day trip out to Monet's house in Giverny. That would have been super neat.

After the Orangerie we hopped the subway back to Rue Cler by our hotel and ate a real dinner at a sit down restaurant. It was the only real live sit down dinner we ate in Paris, which is probably a shame -- but it was either eat a 3-hour dinner or see 3 more hours of a museum. And mostly we chose museums!

After dinner we felt a little rejuvenated and we had a few more subway passes to burn through so we decided to hop on up to the Moulin Rouge and see the red windmill. It was starting to rain fairly steady when we got there, so we snapped a pic and headed back home. But lets just say that neighborhood is a little seedy! :o
On the way home in the subway Chris had me take a picture for Emme, who is obsessed with coins, of him counting his "monies." She liked it.
We woke up and packed up our bags to prepare for the long flight home. We took a few last photos on the balcony from our room and then we ate breakfast at the hotel and left our bags in the luggage room.
Goodbye, Rue Cler!

We decided to head over to the Rodin museum and Napoleon's tomb since we had a few hours before we needed to head to the airport. Here's me in front of the Ponte Alexandre III bridge. It was beautiful.

Les Invalides in the distance with the gold dome.
When we got to the Rodin museum, most of the inside was under renovation, but the gardens were absolutely magnificent. (Okay, I should probably take back my comment about Paris's "gardens" after seeing the Rodin gardens.)  They were beautifully manicured and full of gorgeous sculptures around every bend. Here is the thinker, one of his famous pieces.

The Gates of Hell. Amazing!
The Shades.
After the Rodin museum we headed back toward Les Invalides to see Napoleon's tomb which is housed inside.
It's a beautiful church from the outside, as well as the inside.
Napoleon's tomb is right below the dome. Chris's comment was, "that's a pretty big tomb for such a little guy." Ha ha! So true. It's pretty grand for someone they exiled and then decided they liked again.

The inside of the dome.
The tomb viewed from down below.
Apparently behind the Les Imvalides church is an Army Museum which is incredible. Supposedly if you're a dude you'll love it. Unfortunately we didn't have the recommended 3 hours to visit it (or even 30 minutes), so we had to dash. Maybe next time we're in Paris!

We hopped the subway back to our hotel, picked up our luggage, and headed toward the airport. On our way to the airport Chris had like 6 euros in coins left in his pocket, so when we walked past a bakery he told me to go inside and buy one last amazing Parisian pastry for us to gobble up on the sidewalk. And I did. And it did not disappoint.

Here we are in the Charles DeGaulle International Airport, waiting for our flight back home. It was fun, Paris!

The two guys across the aisle from us were both amazing sleepers. Just look at them! The one guy simply bent his head forward with his chin to his chest and slept for like 8 hours. The other guy used a pillow as a wedge and leaned his head on the chair in front. Talent, I tell ya!
All in all, we had a fabulous time touring Spain & Paris. A HUGE, HUGE thanks to my parents for letting us come. We miss you already! XOXO