Monday, September 15, 2008

Paris, France - weekend with the girls

How we came to see the great city of Paris, France.
I was speaking with a group of ladies from my church about my mothers upcoming visit. I had mentioned that I would LOVE to take her to Paris, but i was so afraid of going and trying to figure that big city out. My friend, Bobbie, said she would take us... I don't know if she was kidding, but I took her up on her offer to help us navigate the foreign land. Bobbie was talking about our weekend girls get-away to Ania, and Ania (who has never been either) said she would like to go to! There was enough room in the van, there was another room available in the hotel and so we had our gang! Three generations + 2 sweet friends. It was a wonderful weekend. Bobbie, who speaks French very well, LOVES Paris and her love was infectious. She has been to Paris (and other places in France) many times before, but her awe of the city and love of the history just permeated all that we did and we fell in love, too. We didn't do too much "off the beaten path" touring since none of us had been there before we all wanted to hit the highlights, but having someone who speaks French and "understands" the city we walked or took the Metro everywhere, and learned a lot as we were on our way to and from the different hot-spots. It was like having our own personal Rick Steeves! We started out early on Friday morning and headed for the Holiday Inn by Paris Disneyland. We parked our car in the parking lot (which is outside the city of Paris) and from there took a shuttle and a train into downtown Paris. We caught the Metro to our hotel, which was located in the southwest quadrant of the city just a few blocks from the Eiffel tower. We dropped our bags at the hotel and headed out. The first thing we saw was the Eiffel tower. Then we stopped for some cafe (and sampled quiche lorraine). Our goal now was to walk along the Seinne river up to the Place de Concord - with the Obelesque at the center and from there walk the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. On our way to do this, though, we suddenly found ourselves at the right place at the right time and saw the Pope's entourage drive by upon his entrance into Paris! We didn't even know he was going to be in the city, but we had seen a large park all gated off with screens showing photo's of him as a choir was singing in the background - so we had a feeling something was up... then all of a sudden there was a news helicopter flying around, the city streets seemed to stop, and he drove by. After he passed though we continued on and saw the rest of the things on our list with little more excitement save for the excellent crepes we bought along the Champs Elysees and the 5 MILLLLLLLLLLLIIIIIIOOOOON stairs we climbed to reach the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
Saturday we started with a moderate breakfast at our hotel. We then took the Metro over toward the Place de Concord to visit Bobbie's favorite little boutique that sells specialty teas, coffee's and other treats. We all bought some yummy coffee, tea, and treats. We window shopped our way over to the entrance of the Louvre. There was no line to get in so we paid the entrance fee and spent about 2 hours walking around the Louvre. How can I put into words how awesome it was to be there? You see those paintings in books, and recreations of them hang almost everywhere... but to walk down some of those halls and look at the actual canvas.... it was breathtaking. The paintings were so vivid, the Louvre itself is a magnificent building apart from the history and art that it holds. Every piece we stopped to look at seemed to tell a story and give a history lesson. Some of the painting made us cry - and I know that sounds corny and maybe even a little cliche, but the expressions that the artists captured of Jesus, Mary, or John the Baptist were just such amazing interpretations that you couldn't help but feel like weeping. We had to walk too quickly through the Egyptian wing since time was speeding by and we were all starting to feel hungry. You would need days to explore the Louvre. We did stop briefly at a painting on a wall that was completed during the reign of King Darius I (!!!!!!!!!!!). We ate lunch in the Louvre cafeteria, which was EXPENSIVE, but yummy. After lunch we headed over to Notre Dame - strolling by all the vendors along the way selling their original art and tourist "stuff". We took time to admire some of the bridges along the Seine, each one with it's unique carvings and history. Notre Dame was PACKED (probably because of the Pope's visit) so we sat briefly below the statue of King Charlemagne (the great) to catch our breath before heading over to the Latin quarter. Here we did some souvenir shopping before catching the Metro back to pick up our bags and catch the train back out to where our car was parked. We stopped at a shopping mall after picking up the van for one last French meal. I had the best creme brulee of my life (and this was only a food court restaurant!) and we set off for home about 9 PM. It was a fabulous trip, and so special to have been able to share that with my mom and daughter. I loved having Bobbie there, and the trip would not have been the same without Ania's sweet smile. We laughed so hard on our tired ride home over the silliest of things! I have about 200 pictures - most of them I uploaded to facebook for your viewing pleasure should you feel so inclined to check them all out - but here is a sampling of the trip.
(Above) the Eiffel tower was our first stop and (Below) Bobbie and Ania share their smiles at our first of many snack and coffee stops.The Arc de TriompheAfter climbing the stairs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe we had just enough light left in the day for a few pictures. (above) - looking down the Champs Elysees toward the Louvre and (below) the 3 generations with the Eiffel tower in the background. (above) Saturday morning, outside the Louvre museum before going in and (below) yes, that is the Venus di Milo! No kidding. We also saw the Mona Lisa among many other things!!Sarah stands outside Notre Dame Cathedral.
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