When I left off, we had spent the day visiting the Eiffel Tower, then back to the hotel to become more adjusted to not only being in a different time zone but also having the sun set around 10:30-11pm.
One thing Brenna had made clear was that she wanted to visit the Louvre, and so I had bought tickets ahead of time. One added bonus for visiting many places where you need to buy a ticket – if you’re traveling with children, have them bring their school ID. When age was a factor, I had a double bonus – student rate for Brenna and senior rate for me. Yaaaayyyy!!!!!
Anyway, since I had Google Maps on my phone, we could pretty much find our way around. However, I felt more comfortable taking a taxi to where we were going and then taking our time exploring and finding our way back. So off we went to the Louvre.
While there were many wonderful things to see there, what Brenna REALLY wanted to see was Van Gogh – especially Starry Night. When we could not find it, we inquired from one of the guides, who informed us that we could find Van Gogh paintings in the Musee D’Orsay – not the Louvre. And a final irony – Starry Night was being displayed BACK IN NEW YORK!!!!! She lives in New York, and the painting was right there all along.
Our ticket for the Louvre was for 11am, so it was around noon when we set off for the Musee D’Orsay to find Mr. Van Gogh, and we were not disappointed. There was a treasure trove of his paintings, and she was in heaven. As with ancient buildings, it is an awe-inspiring experience to be sharing the same space with objects and art conceived by human minds and created by human hands centuries, and sometimes millennia, in the past.
Besides paintings, there were beautiful sculptures. I am always amazed when I look at them, trying to imagine how a sculptor can view a block of marble or wood, imagine what it could become and then chip away bit by bit until he has the finished product. The artistry and realistic detail on some of these statues was incredibly life-like.
The grounds of the museums were also impressive with statues and even a re-creation of the Arc de Triomphe.
In addition to the museums, we literally walked miles, exploring the streets between the Louvre and our hotel. We passed many shops and Brenna discovered the French macaroon, different than what people in the United States think of when they hear that name. It is more like two soft cookies with a filling in between, and comes in a wide variety of flavors. And it’s also very expensive. She bought some, and I think some of her purchase was meant to be a gift when we got back to New York, but for some reason, they all ended up being eaten – I can’t imagine why (wink, wink).
delicious French macaroons
Brenna’s mom suggested we also go to the Notre Dame cathedral, and compare it to other cathedrals or churches that we might visit, especially Kylemore Abbey which was on our bucket list for Ireland.
After more walking, we finally found it. Since we spent our morning and early afternoon visiting the museums, it was late afternoon by the time we found Notre Dame. To get inside, you needed a ticket, and guess what – the line of people waiting to get in was quite literally around the block. So we made due with walking around the outside and will have to Google photographs to see what it looked like inside.
As we wandered, we also explored shops to search for gifts for friends and family, and discover mementos for ourselves. Brenna desperately wanted a hat, and Paris, being the fashion capital of the world, should have a nice selection – or so we thought. There were baseball caps and knit caps, but nothing you could call high fashion. Well, nothing except for a handmade hat that she came across – at the bargain price of 250 Euros! She had a set amount of money to spend, and so passed on the opportunity to buy a fancy Parisian hat. That was probably the first of many life lessons in managing her money…..
So by now, my feet were killing me, but salvation was in sight in the form of tour boats on the Seine River. We paid our euros and got a seat on the tour boat and went up and down the river listening to commentary in both English and French.
Of course there were the bridges and the ornamentation on them and the unique street lights.
From this photo you can see how easy it was to find our way back to the hotel – just walk towards the Eiffel Tower
All of this was expected, but I learned something new. There is a statue next to the bridge and when it was constructed, it was used to measure the level of the water in the river.
It was difficult to imagine the water rising even to his waist.
Among our wanderings, we also walked to the Arc de Triomphe. We followed the signs and eventually saw it. It was standing in the middle of an immense traffic circle with no crosswalk in sight. I saw many people there, so, thinking there must be a way, we started crossing all the streets surrounding it and finally found a tunnel going under the street and emerging at the Arc.
Photographs simply do not do justice to its size.
Inside its columns are carved the names of, I am certain, people who distinguished themselves in various wars:
along with detailed sculptures
and several memorials with eternal flames to commemorate the dead:
There was also a doorway to go to the top of the Arc. However, not being a fan of heights, nor wanting to stand on another line to buy tickets to get there, we contented ourselves with exploring everything that could be seen while standing with our feet firmly planted on the ground. And it was a very impressive and sobering monument to lives lost and victories won.
In our travels, we also came upon a monument to refugees:
The Republic of France in homage to the victims of racist persecution, anti-Semitism and crimes against humanity………………..
A very sobering monument to remind us of the suffering resulting when humanity acts upon their worst instincts.
And so our stay in Paris was quickly coming to an end. Back at the hotel, we had a nice dinner and I had the front desk print up our boarding passes. We also had them re-activate our magnetic room card keys. It seems that keeping the card key next to your cell phone will de-activate the card. This is something I had never come across before, so I do not know if I had just been lucky or if this is some new form of technology.
My other issue was my cell phone. In Mexico, I use Telcel as my carrier, but Telcel only works in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, so I was using my Verizon sim card and running up tons of charges on my bill. A Eurail SIM card was advertised for Europe before I left Mexico, but it was almost impossible to find a shop that sold them, and then I heard that it would take 24 hours to activate due to security concerns and regulations, so I bought a plan from Verizon for $10 per day, and that took care of that.
And so we spent our last night in Paris before catching the 6am Le Bus Direct to the airport in the morning to spend the 4th of July in Rebild, Denmark, the only place outside of the U.S. that has a real American Fourth of July. Au revoir Paris and “hej danmark”!