Part 2 - Paris, France
Day 4 – Fly to France, Disneyland Paris
September 5, 2016
|Our first croissants|
|So happy to be here!|
We were happy to finally get to the rooms and get settled. The hotel is themed after an old west town. All of the areas look like streets from an old west town, but actually they are the hotel rooms. There is a fire pit in the middle where Disney characters come out each night. Also there is a restaurant in the main building along with a gift shop. I would say the hotel is basically a typical Disney value resort that you might find at Walt Disney World except it’s a bit run down (Not too bad). Each of our rooms has a queen size bed and a bunk bed and our rooms do connect so it’s perfect for us.
|The themed queue|
After the ride we checked out a few more rides and then headed back for an “early” night. We stopped off for a snack at King Ludwig’s Castle (and bar). Zach slept through it and that turned out to be a problem. He woke up soon after and everything was fine until everyone was finally in bed. Zach decided he was hungry and we didn’t have anything to give him. He put up quite a fit, but eventually gave in to just being tired.
Zach insisted he did not like this "home" and wanted us all to leave immediately for a new "home."
It wasn't cold here, but these jackets are all we brought to layer. It was sprinkling rain most of this evening and the jackets are waterproof, so we chose between cold and wet or hot and dry. That's one of the challenges in packing lightly.
Perhaps now would be a good time to describe the beds we've encountered so far in Europe. The mattresses are HARD. They have a bottom sheet and then just a comforter. No box springs, pillow tops, top sheets, or blankets. It must be because their laundry machines are so small. It does make it easy to make the beds though! This has been true in Iceland, Disneyland, and Paris (since I am always writing a few days after Marc...I can foresee the future.)
|Almost the first family to breakfast|
|In front of Disneyland Hotel which you pass through to get into Disneyland Park|
We got to Disneyland just a few minutes after it opened (which is quite a few minutes late by Kyrie’s standards) and walked over to Discoveryland which is the Paris version of Tomorrowland. It’s very cool looking – steampunk style. The rides there are all typical from the other Disney parks except that they had some Nautilus experience that we haven’t tried yet, so I’m not sure what that is. The space mountain is pretty different from the others. It uses a more modern track system than the American versions, but it’s still dark enough that you don’t know where you’re going next. I thought it was fun. Jacob and I agreed that is was a bit more "owww" than "wow". We're both glad we tried it though. It was the coolest of the three Space Mountains we've been on. This one is called Space Mountain: Mission 2.
Regarding our late arrival...We were a few minutes "late" for the early entry that begins two hours before official park opening. I never would have let us be late for the real opening by I cut them a little break today since our bodies still think it's the middle of the night.
|Marc and Max on Indiana Jones Coaster|
Now it was 10:00am and the rest of the park was opening so we went over to the Indiana Jones ride. Kyrie and Jacob went on first. They thought it was fun and told Max (who was concerned that it might be an indoor coaster, which he hates) that he would like the ride. So Max and I went on next. What Kyrie and Jacob hadn’t told Max was that the ride goes upside down (another thing that Max avoids.) Well, we went through the loop and Max says, “Did we just go upside down?!” I said, "Yes." And Max said, “I do like upside down coasters!”
|A really cool looking play area that was under construction|
|Alice in Wonderland Hedge Maze|
|Queen of Heart's Castle in the maze|
|Our old friend, PUSH!|
Soon it was time for dinner at Bistrot Chez Remy (themed after the Ratatouille movie). For the adults they have 2 menu’s. One is about 39 Euros (about $45) and the other like 55 Euros. I should have picked the more expensive one. I really didn’t want to spend the money because every restaurant has been so expensive, but the dinner wasn’t very good. It was a very tough steak with some fries and ratatouille. The salad and the dessert were very good though and I really think the other menu would probably have been better.
|Kid's menu was a little small...|
|...but the dessert made up for it!|
|Fun with Chip and Dale (AKA Tic and Tac in France) on the way back to our room!|
The story of Sleeping Beauty inside the castle...
|See the cave to the left of the bridge?|
Some of the rides around Walt Disney Studios...
|Tower of Terror...still Zoe's favorite ride|
|Crush's Coaster loading|
|Mater ride...can't remember the name|
|Nicely themed Toy Story area|
|Max doesn't like heights so much...|
Rides at Disneyland...
|Storybook Boat ride|
|Casey Jr. Circus Train|
|Jacob and Walt|
The funniest moment of the day happened at dessert time. The waiter brought out the kids sundaes which included a tray of toppings that the waiter would put on the ice cream if the kids wanted them. So, he was asking them if they wanted each topping and he got to one and said, “Do you want some poopy candy?” It was actually pop rocks, but with his accent "pop" sounded like "poop." I clarified the name for the kids and they were all fine; but Zach said, "Did he say "poopy candy? I don't want that!"
|Waiting outside apartment...Eiffel Tower in background.|
|The beginning of my love affair with espresso|
The apartment is pretty and well located, and the owner is very nice and helpful. She even left a liter of water, a carton of milk, three packages of cookies, espresso cartridges, and a nice bottle of wine for us. It is awfully stuffy though. It's wonderful with the doors open, but that pretty much only happens while we're getting ready to leave each morning and to go to bed each night.
Day 7 - Eiffel Tower, Orsay Museum
September 8, 2016
Okay, whoever invented these European washer/dryer things needs a new career. It takes forever to wash and dry enough laundry for one person! It says to only load 2.5 kilograms of clothes at a time. I have no idea how much that is, but apparently it's one shirt and a sock. I realize there is a space issue, but there has to be a better way. I really doubt anyone actually uses these things.
Anyway, after starting a LITTLE BIT of laundry, we headed out to the Eiffel Tower. We didn't get there quite as early as we intended so the line was already pretty long. We had tried to purchase our tickets a couple weeks ago, but they were already sold out, so we had to stand in line. It took about a half hour so it wasn't that bad. I was surprised by how big the Eiffel Tower was in person. Usually, I find the opposite when I'm used to seeing something on TV it usually looks smaller in real life. We took the elevator to the top and it seemed like it must be the tallest building in the world, but of course it's not. It was a great view of Paris. It's kind of amazing how big the city is. I've read that it is much smaller than Chicago, but it looks quite large to me and things are definitely built much closer together here. I don't know how people even drive down some of those narrow streets.
|At the top|
After the Eiffel Tower we took a taxi to the place where we needed to go to pick up our Paris Pass. We had purchased it online before we left, but not early enough to have it shipped. I would definitely recommend that everyone have it shipped before you leave. It was a long taxi ride from the Eiffel Tower to the Paris Pass place. But we didn't have the exact Euros or the ability to navigate public transportation yet, so taxi was our best choice.
The Paris Pass includes a museum pass to allow entry into all of the popular museums, an attractions pass that gives you the Big Bus Tour, River Cruise and other attractions, and a transit pass to use all of the public transportation. It's a pretty good deal and it's definitely a lot more convenient than standing in line to buy tickets everywhere.
|One of the streets of Paris...|
We were in the biggest traffic jam in an intersection that I've ever encountered. I thought motorcyclists were going to get smashed into the side of our taxi. At one point, our taxi driver tried to get Marc to give a rude gesture to another taxi driver. When Marc wouldn't do it, he called up the other guy to have words, so apparently he knew him. After the fake (?) fight, our driver was more talkative and put some Blues music on figuring that's what we like since we're from Chicago.
We need something like this in the U.S. The food is fresh and can be warmed in nearby microwaves. Another thing I like about Paris is they often group foods together for a single charge. For example here you can order an entree (which we call appetizer or salad in the US), plat (main dish or incorrectly called entree in the US), dessert, and boisson (drink) for one price. They also had an option for either entree or dessert along with the plat and boisson.
|This brownie was not as sweet as typical in US but very good|
|Kyrie's pasta and fresh citrus drink|
Then we headed to the Tuileries Gardens so the kids could run around a bit. Kyrie found this great app that we used to help us plan our our days in each of the places we went. (Visit-a-City) Besides having our itinerary available right on the phone, it also gives directions to your next stop with just the touch of a button. It even lets you select whether you are walking, driving, or taking public transportation and tells you how long each will take. So the gardens were a bit of a walk, so we decided to try out our transit pass. The app told us exactly how to get to the correct metro station and which direction to go and how many stops it would be before we should exit. It was awesome! Definitely made things much easier.
|Viva la France|
|Concorde Plaza across the way|
|I don't know how Kyrie got this picture, it didn't look anything like this!|
We soon moved on to the Orsay Museum. This museum is dedicated to impressionist artists. It was pretty neat to see some famous paintings up close and in person. Some of the art was really impressive. We definitely aren't art people, so a lot of it wasn't that interesting to us, but I'm glad we got to see it. We had a funny moment when we were on the second floor of the main section of the museum. The main room is about as large as a football field and it's like 3 or 4 stories high, so it's mostly a big empty space. Well, I sneezed (and I usually sneeze pretty loud) and the sound reverberated throughout the place and seriously like everyone in the place stopped what they were doing to see what happened. The kids thought it was hilarious.
Some of the paintings that we saw...
|I don't know why this is famous, other than it must have been difficult to paint.|
|Where I sneezed|
Okay, I'm not sure what happened to Marc. He's usually good with directions, or at least I think so because I am really terrible at it. BUT this trip he has led us astray A LOT! And not short detours...like walking until our legs are about to fall off and then realizing we went exactly the opposite direction that we needed to go in and must now walk back just as far as we've come just to be at the starting point. I have actually had a bit better sense of direction than he has had and am starting to trust my instincts. My theory is that I always feel lost, so this is nothing new to me. My normally poor directional skills (in the US) are not too bad here since it's all the same to me.
|The only people I've seen wearing berets|
|Finally found a bakery!|
|Max couldn't be happier!|
So far, I am surprised how many Parisians speak English and how polite and helpful they have been. It has been much appreciated!
|This is the street right in front of our apartment|
Day 8 - Bus Tour, Notre Dame, Museum of the Army
September 9, 2016
Well, the laundry struggles continue. Seriously, it takes me forever just to figure out how to get the stupid door to open just so that I can see that my clothes are still wet!
So here are some observations about Paris that I've noticed in our short time here:
- Soda costs more than beer or wine when you order it at a cafe. It's seriously more than 5 Euros for a little 8oz bottle of Coke. I'm sure it's just as well that they don't drink it, but for me it's annoying. I've been trying to figure out what to order instead, but I haven't found a good substitute that's cheaper.
Speaking of wine though, I think it's cool that there are different prices for different size pours or carafes. When I feel indulgent, I order a size up from a glass. Plus it looks cooler when they bring it in a carafe and pour it from there or just a bigger wine glass.
-It costs a lot more if you want to sit down. At most of the cafes the drinks are about half price if you just order them from the bar and don't sit down anywhere. Space is at a premium so they charge a lot more if you're using any of it. And we use a lot of it!
- This city is not made for strollers. The sidewalks are quite narrow and are completely uneven and falling apart. Also, the museums were all made long before anyone cared about making things accessible, so the elevators are inconveniently located if they even exist. It's still good to have the stroller, but I'm glad that we bought a super light one before this trip. We've carried it as much as pushed it!
- The French people are not rude - probably. I've always heard that French people are rude to Americans. I haven't found that to be the case. While I wouldn't say that they are overly friendly, I think they have been fine. Considering that they have to deal with another language (and probably several languages throughout the day) and that most of the people we are dealing with are very busy, I think they are just being business like and trying to get the job done.
Not only are Parisians pretty polite, it seems like the French are pretty big fans of the USA. I've seen statues of Washington and Jefferson and even a metro stop named Franklin D. Roosevelt.
- There isn't a bakery on every corner. There have been many times during these few days in Paris that all we've really wanted is a little snack, like maybe one of those French baguettes that people are always walking around with in the movies, but we can never find one! There are lots of cafes, but we have had a really hard time finding bakeries! We have found a couple, but never when we needed one. We did stock up for breakfast though.
I've only see three patisseries in three days! And I've only seen one lady carrying around a bag with two baguettes she apparently had just purchased. Big bummer! We want more! Only a few fruit stands spilling onto the street like I had imagined before visiting.
I have been happy to see crepe carts and stands though. Still only once when we needed one.
So we had another amazing day in Paris today. We started by taking the Metro to the Arc de Triumph. That was much larger than I had thought and I was surprised to find that it has 12 streets coming off of the circle that leads to it. I don't know how anyone drives through that, but apparently they do. I guess roundabouts must be the way to go!
|Les Invalides (Houses Napoleon's tomb)|
|Just a typical street scene|
|Musee de Louvre, of course|
I think Marc left the Garnier Opera House pictures off on purpose. We were torn between stopping at the Opera House to look around and trying to make it to the included walking tour at Notre Dame. We didn't think we'd make the tour in time, so got off at the Opera House. First we were hungry, so as our luck here would have it, finally decided on an expensive cafe since there were really no other options. By the time we finished lunch, and entered the Opera House, the next English tour did not start for a couple of hours and the unguided tour was not included on the Paris Pass. We decided the little glimpse we had was good enough rather than paying more admission. So we ended up just getting on the Big Bus again and going to Notre Dame which had tons of food choices of course.
One of our stops was the Notre Dame Cathedral. It's a place I've wanted to see for many years and it didn't disappoint. It's a really amazing piece of architecture and the fact that it was started almost a thousand years ago makes it even more incredible. It took about 800 years to build it to the way it is today.
|Standing in the exact center of Paris|
Our other stop today was the Museum of the Army. We only went through a couple wings of the building. One was about the two world wars and the other was ancient armor and weapons. Both were very interesting and it was a good opportunity to teach the kids about the United States involvement in World War II. It was weird seeing a picture of Hitler by the Eiffel Tower. The other thing near the Museum of the Army is Napoleon's tomb. It's in a very ornate building and there are several others entombed there (including more Napoleon's), but I had no idea who they were. By the time we left, I understood less about Napoleon than I did before. I knew that he was a French general and that he eventually became the leader of France, but apparently they called him Emperor? That seems strange. I was also thinking that he was a traitor, but I guess I was thinking of Benedict Arnold. I told the kids that we have some homework to do to figure all of this out.
Again, the U.S.A. was featured in a very positive way. Of course, we did help the French out a lot in the wars. I never really thought about it before. I thought history was boring in school and now I can't get enough of it when the context is concrete.
The armor was fascinating too. Why so much armor for kids? I still do not know the answer to this.
We were getting quite tired by the time we left the museum so we started walking home. We picked up some groceries for breakfast and then stopped at a cafe that had pizzas for dinner. It was very good and the kids were glad to have food that seemed like home. Funny statement, since this is obviously Italian food. We do eat Italian food fairly often at home, but clearly this is not American food. It was REALLY good Italian food! It was also a nice break from our long walk. We split three pizzas and one order of spaghetti (4 meals) making this one of the mre affordable meals we've had here also.
I've been meaning to talk about the time change ever since we got to Iceland, but I keep forgetting to mention it. So, Iceland is 5 hours later than Illinois and France is 7 hours. It's been fun telling the kids what time it is at home. We were on the Eiffel Tower at about 2:30am Central Time and we put the kids to bed at 2:30 in the afternoon Central Time! We adapted immediately to the time change. We were all quite tired the first day in Iceland, but half of that was just because we couldn't sleep on the plane. It's pretty amazing that the human body can adapt that easily!
Max's Post - The bus tour was really boring. All we did was sit around. My favorite dinner was the pizza place. I liked the pizza and the bread. I got a beret. The apartment is nice, except I don't understand why the washer and dryer are the same machine. I liked the Eiffel Tower, except how high it was. I liked seeing the horse armor at the Army museum. There were a whole bunch of locks on a bridge and there were people selling locks on the bridge. And they were writing on them too. I'm glad that there was youtube in the apartment.
Day 9 - Louvre
September 10, 2016
The museum is a good mixture of paintings, sculpture and other artwork.
|I don't understand why this sculpture is so much more famous than the hundreds of others in the museum (some even include the arms!)|
|A courtyard at the Louvre|
|Getting plenty of exercise on this trip!|
|Somehow Kyrie got this picture while we were on the Metro!|
We headed back to the apartment to do that laundry and take a break. Zach ended up taking a late nap so we decided to stay in. I took the older boys to the grocery store and we found some "dinner".
I had downloaded an audio tour by Rick Steeves to listen to as we went room to room. It made the tour much more interesting as otherwise we would have had no idea about the detail or significance of the places we were allowed to see.
|The royal bedroom|
|Hall of Mirrors|
This optical illusion was added at the end of the hall of mirrors as some kind of modern art in 2016. It's an interesting illusion, but it's terribly out of place in a palace from the 1700's. It's just one of several things that were added. I'm sure that they are just temporary, but they are an awful idea.
The Versailles gardens are extensive. They go on for miles, although a lot of it is lakes and trees. We only saw a few flower gardens, most of it was hedges and fountains. There are about 300 fountains remaining out of the 1500 that were there at one time. I had to do some research to figure out how they made the fountains work hundreds of years before electricity. They built a huge machine on the Seine River (which apparently made quite a bit of noise) with large paddlewheels that would pump the water up a hill to Versailles. It pumped over a million gallons of water per day, but it still wasn’t able to supply all of the fountains at once. They had to divert the water to power whichever fountains the king was near. We happened to be here on a day the fountains were turned on. That also meant we had to pay to enter the gardens; on days the fountains are not running, it is free.
The river cruise was the grand finale to our time in Paris. We left just as the sun set, and saw all the lights turning on. Paris is a very beautiful city. It was nice to cruise past the places we had visited and get another view of them. The weather was perfect for the cruise...a little chilly with the breeze on the top of the boat, but that made for nice cuddling with the kids. Au revoir, Paris! We will be back someday.
Day 11 - Train to Barcelona, Spain