Thursday, February 28, 2013

Paris, Day 2

Please excuse my lack of French characters.  I cannot figure out how to add them:(

Our second day in Paris began a lot like our first day.  We enjoyed a nice, leisurely morning in the apartment making breakfast, drinking coffee, reading and letting Ava take her nap. Side note- it is so crazy that Ava is awake for only 1 hour and the girl needs a nap.  After much debate, we decided to save the Louvre for another visit and planned to spend out day checking out the Arc de triomphe, the Eiffel Tour (or La tour Eiffel to the Parisians) and Musee De L'Armee

After all the walking we did yesterday, we decided to take the Metro to the Arc. Our apartment was located really close to the Metro.  The Metro lets out right across the traffic circle from the Arc and then you take a tunnel under the circle to the Arc.  This traffic circle is INSANE; 12 roads all converge at this circle.  I would like to see all the crazy folks from Pinehurst navigate that circle. 

We are standing right at the entrance of the tunnel to go under the traffic circle.

Tomb of the Unknown Solder, which has been located here since 1918. Originally, France's senate wanted the mortal remains of an unidentified soldier to be held at the Pantheon, but veterans rejected that choice and chose the Arc instead.

Since there was no line, we bought tickets to go to the top of the Arc.  The views of the city were quite spectacular. 

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

I love the juxtaposition of the old buildings in Paris and the modern buildings in La Defense
Montmarte and Sacre-coeur
You can't get a view of the Eiffel Tower from Eiffel Tower

It was really cold up there.
Some nerd facts about the Arc.  The Arc de triomphe de l'Etoile took 30 years to complete.  Napoleon wanted a monument that resembled architecture found in ancient Rome so his soldiers could, "march home through the arches of victory".  The arch is a symbol to commemorate the victory or a general or an emperor.  Napoleon did not live to see its completion. 

After the Arc we walked to the Eiffel Tower.  We had decided ahead of time that we would not go to the top. We did take some nice photos.

My favorite picture that I took of the tour.  This was from a park across the river on our walk over.
Ava was nice and cozy in there.  At one point she had taken off both her shoes and socks, but was still perfectly toasty.  We were was freezing.

Our last stop for the day was the Musee De L'Armee and Napoleon's Tomb.  The museum was huge.  Since we didn't have a ton of time, we decided to just visit the World War I and II exhibit and the tomb. The museum was very well done and it was really interesting to learn about the war from a different country's perspective, even if we were on the same side.  I didn't take any pictures inside the museum, but here are some pictures from outside.

This picture shows L'Hotel Des Invalides (on the left), Eglise Du Dome (Dome Chapel) Saint-Louis Des Invalides Chapel (behind the Dome Chapel).  This now museum was originally established 1670 to house disabled soldiers. The building on the left is still a veteran's hospital.  The Chapel was built in 1676.  There were two chapels, the royal chapel and the veteran's chapel.  They did this so the king and his soldiers could attend mass simultaneously, but through separate entrances.  The front chapel is now home to Napoleon's tomb.

The Eglise Du Dome
Finally, here are some pictures from inside the Dome Chapel. 

I do not totally remember, but I think this was the tomb of Napoleon's brother

Napoleon's Tomb- crazy, but inside this tomb you will find an oak coffin, holding an ebony coffin, then 2 lead coffins, then a mahogany one, a tinplate coffin and finally Napoleon.  This was not his original resting place.  His body was exhumed 19 years later (and still perfectly preserved) and brought here in 1840. 

That evening, Dan and I had nice dinner and then took the Metro back to the Eiffel Tower to see it at night, all lit up.  When we got off the train it was raining and freezing, so we turned the corner, saw the tower lit up, turned around and got back on the train towards the warmth of the apartment.  What can I say, we are fair weather tourists.

We all really enjoyed our time in Paris.  Even my father, who wanted nothing to do with Paris, was pleasantly surprised by the city's beauty and the kindness of its people.  Paris gets a bad name, but I think if more people visiting here understood that people LIVE in this city and are not just there to please tourists and appreciate the culture of the city instead of complaining that it lacks some of the comforts of the US they would have a better experience.  I look forward to making another trip back here in the not-so-distant future to visit the Louvre and Orangerie, do a little shopping, and make it to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  For now, au revoir.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Paris Adventures- Day 1

After a miserable night of sleep (I never sleep well my first night in a strange place) it was nice to wake up to a fresh pot of coffee and breakfast in my pajamas.  That, I must say, is one of the best things about staying in an apartment over a hotel room. We hung out in the apartment until Ava got her morning nap, so we were ready to head out around 10:30. 

We wanted to start our day in the historic area of Paris, which is the island located in the center of the Seine River and is home to Notre Dame Cathedral and Saint Chappelle.  After our visit I have sort of developed an irrational obsession with Paris and have watched a few documentaries about the city and some of its famous inhabitants.  This island was also the birthplace of the French Revolution. 

The weather was pretty nice so we decided to walk from our apartment.  We did a lot of walking this day.  Here is a map of all the walking we did on day 1 (I know…total nerd alert)


Our first stop was Notre Dame and I must say this church was even more beautiful than I had expected it to be.  What I find so incredible is that this church was started in 1163 and was not completed until 1345.  How difficult it must have been to work so hard on a project that you will never see completed.  When you look at the size of this church it is incredible to think that it was built prior to the use of modern machinery.  The towers stand 200 feet tall, but we did not make the climb (not fun with a baby). 

Paris January 2013 (12) Notre Dame

Notre Dame

The Last Judgment- Notice the angel and the demon weighing the souls in the balance.  The bad souls are to the right and the good souls are to the left, gazing up at heaven. 

Notre Dame Mary in the Rose Window and the Kings of Judah.  During the French Revolution there was such a hatred of French Kings that some Paris citizens beheaded these kings and they weren’t repaired for decades.  Someone actually buried the heads on her property and they were unearthed in 1977.

The inside of the church is just as impressive as the outside.  During our visit we were able to see a display of the nine new bells ordered for the church’s 850th birthday (holy cow that is old!).  The church’s original bells were destroyed during the French Revolution (poor Notre Dame really took a beating).  The 4 replacement bells, which were cast in the 19th century, were removed, melted down and made into 8 new bells.  The new bells, which were now on the display, will be placed in the tower at the end of the month and will be rung for the first time on March 23rd, the day before Palm Sunday.   The bells lined the aisle of the church and it was quite a display.  The bells were on display for less than 1 month, so we were pretty lucky to catch it.

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This is the main bell and the largest.  “Her” name is Mary and she weighs a whopping 6 1/2 tons. 

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More pictures from Notre Dame

Paris January 2013 (26)   Paris January 2013 (19) Paris January 2013 (20)Paris January 2013 (23)By the way.  It is a major no no to carry your child on your shoulders in the Musee D’Orsay (we may or may not know this from experience). 

After leaving Notre Dame, we traveled over one of the “Love Lock” bridges, the Pont de l’Archeveche.  There are actually 2 “Love Lock” bridges in Paris.  One has locks for your committed love and the other bridge has locks for your lover.  Pont de l’Archeveche is for your lover. We then  walked to the Louvre (just to see the outside, it was closed that day), and then to the Musee D’Orsay.  I have no pictures from inside, but I loved seeing the ACTUAL impressionist works and Van Gogh paintings that I have learned about in school.  That was one of the highlights of my trip.  After we got in trouble for wearing Ava on Dan’s shoulders, I put her in the baby carrier and we had a great time walking around and looking at art. 

Paris January 2013 (27)Some of the locks for the Lovers.

Paris January 2013 (30)  No Louvre this visit, but we will be sure to make it inside next time.  

After the museum we walked back to the apartment to allow Ava to nap and to rest up for before dinner.  My feet were sure barking after all that walking.  We made sure to stop for some necessities before heading back.  I did not get a picture of the beautiful, very stinky cheese that we grabbed as well.  Wine, cheese and pastries was the perfect ending to a great afternoon.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Our Paris Home


Our daughter is a great sleeper.  A great sleeper as in goes to bed at 6 and sleeps until 7 or 7:30.  I am almost afraid to write this down as we might get jinxed.  This is awesome 99% of the time, but it is not awesome when traveling.  The last time we traveled we got a simple hotel room, Ava went to bed early (she actually stayed up until 7:30- wild night!), and Dan and I struggled to figure out what to do with ourselves for the rest of the evening.  This led to us sitting in the vestibule outside the bathroom with a bottle of wine while Ava slept.  Dan and I decided on that trip that we would only stay in either a suite or an apartment until Ava starts going to bed later.

When we decided we would go with my parents to Paris, Dan got on Home Away and started the search for an apartment.  We got so lucky to find this great place in the Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement) spending less per night than we would for a nice hotel room. 

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I don’t know about you, but this is exactly what I picture in my mind when I think about what a Paris apartment would look like.

living room

I loved all the big windows and ornate fireplaces in each room.  Every room also had at least one entire wall of bookshelves full of books.  The owner had a ton of travel books, which I am kind of obsessed with.  She also had a ton of art books, which was fun to look at after exploring art museums during the day.

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The dining room/fourth bedroom if you need it. 

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The view from the kitchen.

shower room 

Shower room with the crazy tub.  The apartment had one other shower room.

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Ava really enjoyed the tub.  Ava, I hope you are not mad at me in 16 years for posting a picture of you in the bathtub (sorry future Ava).

Mom and Dad's bedroom

My parents slept in this bedroom, which was in the back of the apartment so it was pretty quiet. 

 Jenn and Dan's bedroom

This is where Dan and I slept.  This room faced the street so it was a little ‘noisy.   I though I took a picture of Ava’s bedroom, but I guess I didn’t. She did have a room though, we didn’t make her sleep in the bathroom or anything.

view down street of apartment- Rue Claude Bernard

The “hood”


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Ava’s 2 favorite things to do on her vacation: look out the window and occasionally bang on it and crawl EVERYWHERE.  That girl is fast!

The Latin Quarter is a great area to stay.  We were 2 blocks away from Rue Mouffetard.  Rue Mouffetard was originally a Roman road, but today it is a touristy area (not in a bad way) with a daily open-air market, restaurants, chocolate shops, bakeries, and cafes.  We had a bakery a block away from our apartment on both sides, which was dangerous.  We were also walking distance to the Metro and we even walked to Notre Dame and the Musee d’Orsay (albeit a very long walk).  We also had a Starbucks down the street.  I know, I know…I shouldn’t be excited about a Starbucks when there are local cafes everywhere, but I have been without Starbucks since moving to Belgium and I really miss my Caramel Macchiato. 


A painting I found of Rue Mouffetard.  It pretty much looks the same today, minus the ladies in long dresses. 

rue mouffetard

Rue Mouffetard today

Since we were so close to the restaurants we decided to go out to dinner in shifts.  My parents (who enjoy eating early) would go to dinner around 6 while we fed Ava and got her ready for bed.  They would come back around 7:30-8 freeing Dan and me to go out after they returned. It was so nice to have 3 nights out without spending our entire meal keeping Ava entertained and preventing her from pulling the tablecloth off the table or throwing food around the restaurant.

cave la bourgonge

I found this picture online - this is where Dan and I ate the last night.  It is a wine bistro with a limited, but delicious menu and, as expected, a great wine list.  Dan had duck and I had a salad with all kinds of yummies like fried egg, Fois Gras, potatoes, and cheese. 

le mouff'tot mouff'tard

We ate here the first night.  This restaurant was surprisingly great.  We stopped here on a whim, but had one of the best meals we have ever had.  I had duck and Dan had a Filet.  We started with some Escargot that was still in the shell and some Foie Gras.  I felt very “Pretty  Woman” eating my escargot.  I have had it many times before, but I have never had to pull it out of the shells with one of those clamp things.

I highly recommend staying in an apartment when traveling to a new city.  Not only is the space great, but what better way to really immerse yourself in the life of a city.  In case you are interested, here is a link to the apartment.  Since we traveled off-peak it was a steal.  I think it is a lot more expensive during peak travel times.

I will write another post about of adventures in Paris.  Check back:)