Monday, May 5, 2014

Paris, part 2

   Even though our first night in Paris had been a late one,  I insisted on an early start the next day to beat the crowds. My children have become very patient art museum visitors. They like some of the art, especially modern stuff, but they get bored after 30 minutes or so and start pestering one another, following me so close I can feel their breath on the back of my neck, but I rarely hear "how much longer". Well, Youngest Child asks this, mostly just for something to talk about, I think. So, we hit the Orsay Museum which has an amazing collection of Impressionist paintings. The museum is in an old train station- it is extensive and an interesting building to wander through, even without the artwork. Rain was a bit of a nuisance, yes, it rains in April in Paris, but we persevered through the day and spent the evening at the Louvre for a treasure hunt that I had arranged through a fabulous American woman living in Paris. Her company is called THATLou and she sets you up with images of artwork, a map of the museum, instructions and sends you on your way to figure out a few riddles and generally guide you through some of the museum without getting too lost. This place is immense and would take days to see every room. It was the former palace of the French royalty and is over 650,000 square feet. The most famous pieces in the collection are Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa, but I particularly liked the massive paintings by French and Italian artists through the 18th and 19th century. The thing I constantly remind my kids in any museum is, you don't have to like it, just look at it- for instance, at the Louvre, I couldn't get over how immense some of these paintings were. Rather than critiquing brush strokes, we contemplated what size ladder would be necessary to reach all of the corners of the canvases.
   I let the kids sleep in a bit the next day, but before too many daylight hours past, we headed towards Notre Dame Cathedral. Once again, it was raining, but we found a flower and bird market  I had read about and it was really something. You could hear the chirping as you climb out of the metro station. Bunnies and a few rodents were for sale, too. Notre Dame is magnificent but the line to enter was way out of our league so we continued on my plan to find the best ice cream in Paris- Berthillon. Youngest Child had the most flavorful fraise ice cream I have ever tasted while Middle Child had citron vert, Oldest Child had noisette and I indulged in Earl Grey. We wandered miles that day, as the sun came out and with ice cream in hand, it was easy to let time slip away.
  We had been so busy with other activities, we had not even seen our neighborhood. Our apartment was close to the Marais, a hip area with cool shops and restaurants. That evening, we set off in search of a falafel joint I had read about. I know, falafels in Paris. Well, it's true that Paris is very expensive and when feeding four of us, bistro fare is not always possible. C'est la vie. We wandered through charming neighborhoods with parks and cafes and restaurants, cool shops and pretty buildings. Brick lined streets took us to the Jewish district which was full of life and activity on a Sunday evening. And there was our falafel place. A line of about 50 people were waiting to place their order and take it from the emporter window. Yes, they were absolutely delicious with their crispy chick pea fritters, shredded cabbage, hummus, cucumbers and eggplant stuffed into a pita.
   The next day we got an early start for Versailles, but not early enough. By 9:30, there were thousands of people in line, colorful umbrellas forming a ribbon to the entrance. Yes, it was raining again. No matter, time went quickly as we were surrounded by English speakers and we were starved for conversation. Once inside though, we found the crowds close to unbearable, so rushed through the first half dozen rooms, just to get away from the pushing and elbowing. Finally able to relax, we marveled at the opulence of the French monarchy in the time of Louis XIV for a century or so. After hearing plenty of stories about Marie Antoinette and King Louis, the kids were happy to see the crazy lifestyle of these famous people of history. The rains made our venture through the gardens fast but once again, the grand scale of Versailles is perfectly evident.
   We made it to the top of the Arc de Triumphe, walked along the Champs d'Elysees, through the Tuileries gardens then over to the Pompidou Center which is the modern art museum of Paris. For a splurge, I took the kids to a brasserie for a fine dining experience French style. We had a wonderful meal with impeccable service, exactly what I was hoping to show the kids. Yes, it was a very busy 5 days, we covered alot of ground and we adore Paris.
   Part 3 will cover our Normandy excursion. Stay tuned.
Orsay museum 
Galerie Lafayette
Hall of Mirrors, Versailles
Arc de Triumphe 
Shopping on the Champs d'Elysees-yes, it is real.
Tuilerie Gardens
Locks of love.
We know how to use the metro!
Symphony for metro commuters. 
Sunday bird market
A whole street of birds
One of the oldest Paris metro signs
This is the falafel place.


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