Saturday, June 14, 2014

We'll Always Have Paris

It has taken me forever to write this post, partly because there was so much to say and partly because Sadie can make it hard to find time to write. So it's overdue, but I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Well, recently my mom and sister, Caroline, came to visit us for about ten days. We did some things in Germany and the Netherlands, but the highlight of our trip was Paris! Hunter had a long weekend for Ascension, so Sadie, my mom, my sister, and I went on Wednesday morning and Hunter planned to join us that night after work. For accommodations, we went with an apartment rental, and it was really nice, and much cheaper than a hotel would have been for four adults! We used this site and were really happy with it, in case anyone is planning a trip!

We got on the Thalys train to Paris and right away hit a snag! Hunter texted me to say that the train was sold out for that night! I was pretty panicked, but thankfully was able to use the train's super-slow wireless to find him a ticket for the next morning. So basically, he only missed 12 hours that would have been mostly sleeping. Crisis averted!

We got to the apartment, which was on the 4th European floor, same as our apartment in Germany, which wasn't exactly easy with suitcases and stuff but we did it. Then, my sister wanted to go visit the Paris sewers, so we headed that way. I kinda thought it was just going to be a museum about the sewers, but you were in like, an actual functioning sewer. Interesting but also kinda gross. It probably wasn't the *best* place for Sadie to be, and she did end up with a cold that night, but it was definitely an experience. I convinced my sister to pose for a picture in front of this giant ball they use to sift out sand and stuff:

That night we were looking around for stuff to eat and ended up at a fondue place. We were wary at first, because it was the kind of place with a guy standing outside trying to pull you in, which was pretty off-putting to Caroline and me. But mom convinced us to try it and it was really good! Care and I shared a fondue and Sadie had some of the bread. After that, we went on a cruise down the Seine, which was pretty nice. Travelling with them made it so much easier, because we could all take turns comforting Sadie. 

Thursday morning, my sister wanted to go to several markets. At the first one we went to, I got a little dress for Sadie--it hasn't been washed yet so no pics, sorry! After the second market, Hunter had arrived in Paris, so I had to miss the third--sadly, this is the one that they thought I would have liked the best. C'est la vie. Hunter and I dropped his stuff at the apartment and then met up with mom and Caroline. We had some lunch before splitting up. Hunter wanted to see Notre Dame, and my mom and sister wanted to see the Maison Victor Hugo (it turned out to be closed, but they were able to see this Holocaust ghettos type museum). Here is Notre Dame:

There was a big line outside, but it's kinda constantly moving, so it wasn't so bad. There was a mass just ending as we went in, as we were there on Ascension Day. We also paid to look at the treasury, which was I think our first encounter with people just taking pictures of themselves with anything that happened to be in their way. So like, we are trying to look at a jewel encrusted reliquary and then a person is like, oh, here I am standing right in front of it so I can prove to my friends I saw it! Sorry for being mean about it, it can just get really frustrating when anything you want to see is also something a thousand other people want to see. I usually don't have really bad crowd anxiety, but I just felt so pressed in the entire time we were there. I think Paris would be an amazing city to live in, because you don't have to go to all the touristy areas, but if I'm there as a tourist, of course I want to see those things, so I just have to deal with the lines and crowds.

There is a statue of Charlemagne outside of Notre Dame, which I took a picture of because he is kind of a big deal in Aachen:

That evening, we went to check out the Eiffel Tower, just to see what the lines were like. There is a shorter line for if you want to take the stairs up to the 2nd floor; I think it's like 600 steps or something. Anyway, the line was crazy and I think the elevator to the top was closed, so we decided that we would try to go early the next morning. It's a bit hard to take phone pics from that close up, since it's so tall, but I gave it my best "shot," haha.

We headed to Montmartre to see the Sacre Coeur. I was under the impression that it would be less crowded and less touristy than everywhere else we had been so far. When we got there, Hunter described it as, "whatever is BEYOND Beyond Thunderdome." So yeah, it was crowded, but there is a great view of Paris from up there. I didn't actually take a picture of said view, but here are some pictures of the Sacre Coeur:

We went in and looked around. It's really pretty, but the kind of weird thing was that in addition to the ever-present gift shop, there were these souvenir coin machines scattered around like, in the actual church. Mom said it reminded her of the moneylenders in the temple, although I suspect that the profits went to the upkeep of the church and weren't just independently contracted out like arcade games in a pizza parlor. After the Sacre Coeur, we walked around a bit and I found like the only secluded courtyard with no one in it to feed Sadie. My sister wanted to go to the Cafe des Deux Moulins, from Amelie, so we went there and had a drink and then continued on our way.

The last part of that day that I remember was going out to dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. Hunter and I have a habit/tradition of eating Ethiopian food in cities all over the world, hopefully one day in Ethiopia. The annoying thing was that we had to wait for a table, it was like 9:30 or 10:00, and Sadie was Not. Happy. But once we got the food, it didn't matter. It was so good! Mom and Caroline had never tried it before, but they liked it (or at least pretended to). So that was Thursday.

Friday morning the plan was to head to the Eiffel Tower early. Sadie still had a cold, which had kept me up a bit, so I volunteered to stay behind with her. It's a good thing I did, because even to take the stairs there was a long line and I don't think I could have done it carrying Sadie. My feet already hurt sooo bad. So I chilled with Sadie while they walked to the 2nd floor. The elevator to the top was open that day, but I think they decided that since it was already close to noon by the time they got up there and there was a line for the elevator, that they would skip it. If I go back to Paris, I really would like to go to the top, so I will probably check very early about getting the advance tickets online.

The things we had planned for that afternoon were the Catacombs and the Little Prince store. When we got to the Catacombs, the line was insane. It wound all the way around a very large block, and I heard someone saying it would be three hours. I think the way the tours work there is that a set number of people can go in at one time. The Little Prince store wasn't far away, so Hunter volunteered to stand in line while we went to the store, and we would decide what to do afterward based on how far he had gotten. Sadly, we went to the store and it was closed! It was a holiday weekend I guess, and I know I could get a lot of the same stuff cheaper online, but I did want to check out the store. When we got back to the line, Hunter had moved up a bit. The Catacombs were one of Caroline's top things that she wanted to do, so she and Mom decided to stay in the line while Hunter, Sadie, and I went to the Louvre.

On the way over, we stopped by the Centre Pompidou just to see it. When we got to the Louvre, the crowds to get in really weren't bad. The tickets are bought from a machine, so that streamlines things a bit. I had to change Sadie and then go to the bathroom myself, so it took a while for us to get started. Protip: There are bathrooms in the galleries, after you show your ticket, and there aren't really lines for them. Of course, I didn't find that out until after I'd stood in the ridiculously long one. Anyway, we saw all the typical stuff, but I took pictures of a few things that were a bit more interesting to me.

The Code of Hammurabi

They said this statue was 9,000 years old, but I prefer to describe it as OVER 9,000!!!

Of course, we saw La Joconde or as you rubes probably know it, the Mona Lisa. I had seen it twice before, and remembered it being a lot smaller. I had really built it down in Hunter's mind, and my own, so we were pleasantly surprised. Of course, there's just a huge blob of people around it and apparently the new thing now is to take Mona Lisa selfies. I get it, on some level, but it's just really inconsiderate. Like, other people are trying to look at it and you just see a mass of phones being held up. So anyway, we saw that and a lot of the other really famous things. I wanted to see the portrait of Joseph Ducreux, but although the Louvre owns it, it isn't on display, so boo. We never even made it up to the top floor. We wanted to see some of the paintings they had there, but first we had trouble finding how to get up there, then halfway up a staircase we decided we were just really, really tired and we wanted to go back.

Back at the apartment, my sister and mom had gotten some macarons from La Duree and Pierre Herme. I was so tired and my feet hurt so bad, I really didn't want to go out anywhere for dinner. Mom and Caroline went to pick up Chinese food and we ate that with some of the macarons. So, that was our last night in Paris. It was tiring, but we definitely want to go back. There is just so much to see and do. It was also fun speaking French, which I think I did pretty well with, aside from ending every sentence with "bitte" out of habit.

Saturday we went through Luxembourg. There was a big marathon going on there, apparently the "sporting event of the year" or something. So there were food and beer stands and lots of people on the streets, some with vuvuzelas, which was pretty annoying. We took a walk around the city, seeing some of the old walls and things, and by the end of that, we were basically exhausted. That night, which happened to be our sixth anniversary, Hunter and I got to go out and eat a meal by ourselves, without passing a baby back and forth. We had some traditional Luxembourgeoise food, which is very similar to German. On Sunday, basically everything was closed, even most restaurants. That's even worse than Germany. So we found a place to grab some breakfast/lunch, and then headed home. I'll close out with a few more pictures my sister took of Sadie.

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