This was our first full day in Paris. With the late night activity of the kids we got a slightly later start than I think we wanted, leaving the condo around 11:00 am. This, however, is how travel works when you have young kids.
Gary and Rosemary visited Paris a number of years earlier (with Steve, but not Debi or Suzy), and had seen a few things during that visit. Steve, who had lived in Paris almost a year at this point, had also visited most of the major attractions. So, most of what we saw was for the benefit of the rest of us. And, despite knowing how cliché it is to do so, we basically set up an itinerary of the famous things to see in Paris. The first item on the list: Musée du Louvre. I’m not typically a fan of doing what everyone else does when I’m traveling, but I hadn’t put much thought into this vacation because of work and was very happy to just go along with what everyone else wanted to do as I figured I’d enjoy whatever we did. So, like many first-time tourists to France, we went to The Louvre. And, even more stereotypical, we ended up seeing just two of the main attractions, like many others: the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
But first, we had to get into the museum. We had museum passes for a bunch of museums, which meant we didn’t have to wait in line, which was very nice. But once you’re in, you’re not actually “in” the museum exhibits. As we tried to enter one, we were told that we couldn’t take the kids through on our backs (Brent and Suzy had a backpack for Ethan as well). We had to check the backpacks. Ethan was fine walking, but Toren was tired, so we got a stroller for him (the museum has these for free, which is nice). After that, we followed the throngs to the two exhibits I mentioned (and I really do mean throngs as there were thousands of people there; at least 10,000, probably a lot more). It was shoulder-to-shoulder at times and nearly impassable, especially with a stroller. The stroller was particularly awkward as there are places in the Louvre that are basically inaccessible except by stairs, so we ended up carrying the stroller up and down a few staircases. Someone in our group mentioned that something like 70% of people or so who visit The Louvre just visit the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. I couldn’t verify that number, but if it’s accurate, you can add our group to that percentage. We did see a few other exhibits, but mostly just in passing on the way to the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
Knowing that there would be too many people to really spend any time admiring either piece of art (as is well documented by this news article I found on the topic while searching for the actual statistic for the number of people who just visit these two pieces of art), I took just a few pictures of the two pieces we saw, primarily just to document the hordes of people:
I actually didn’t bother trying to take good pictures of either piece of art because I know excellent pictures are easily accessible online (see The Mona Lisa here and The Venus de Milo here). So, instead, I just documented the hordes of people visiting these artworks. My favorite picture I took, though, is of what Toren thought of The Louvre:
According to Steve, who has been to The Louvre before, this is the vacation season in France, which means there are more French people on vacation than typical. That may explain why so many people where there. Regardless, it was a lot of people. By the time we pushed through the people to see just these two exhibits, it was close to 2:00 pm and we were hungry. We tried to find a restaurant inside The Louvre that could seat all of us, but didn’t have any luck, so we decided to leave. Yep, we spent just 2 to 3 hours at The Louvre. Given the enormity of the museum, it seems like it would really require a week or more to even begin to see all the museum has to offer. I’m guessing I’ll make it back to Paris at some point and will give The Louvre its due at that point.
We snapped pictures as we were leaving through the famed pyramid entrance/exit:
From The Louvre we walked through the Tuileries Garden:
The Tuileries Garden connects The Louvre and the Place de la Concorde. The Place de la Concorde is famous for a number of reasons, most notably being the location where many French nobles were guillotined during the French Revolution. It was renamed the Place de la Concorde as an act of reconciliation and to try to distance itself from the death that occurred there in the late 18th Century. The Place de la Concorde is also famous to Star Trek fans as the location of the offices of the President of the Federation. At the center of the Place de la Concorde are some very cool fountains and an amazing obelisk, the Luxor Obelisk:
Keep in mind that we left The Louvre to find lunch. It was now close to 3:00 pm and we hadn’t eaten as we couldn’t find many restaurants along the path we took. But, as we reached the Champs-Élysées, we found some food vendors and everyone agreed French paninis would work. The night before we walked the Champs-Élysées the Tour de France rode through here, finishing at the Arc de Triomphe (which was our final walking destination). The bleachers were still set up as we walked along the road. We stopped for lunch in the parks that line the Champs-Élysées. (Brent would later refer to this as his ”walk of hunger,” as he didn’t have breakfast and we didn’t eat lunch until about 3:00 pm). Toren and Ethan took the opportunity during our break to play on the grass and run around. Toren is very into pointing at birds and flowers and has even started chasing birds, which is what he did along the Champs-Élysées. He also loves digging in dirt, which he also did while we ate.
After our picnic in the park, we continued up the Champs-Élysées, stopping at a few famous stores. We eventually arrived at the Arc de Triomphe, which is, in fact, more imposing in person than it seems in photos. Brent snapped this while crossing the Champs-Élysées:
Our nifty museum passes also got us into the Arc de Triomphe, which meant we skipped another line. Also, because we had the kids in the backpacks, they let us take the elevator to the top, rather than walk, which was a nice option after our 3.5 kilometer trek up the Champs-Élysées from The Louvre. The view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe is amazing. I didn’t take the requisite pictures to build a panorama from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but we took a few good pictures on top:
From the Arc de Triomphe, we got on the “hop-on hop-off” double decker tour bus, which we also had passes for thanks to Rosemary, and rode it for a few stops. We saw a number of cool museums which seem like they would be great to visit (e.g., Musée de l’Homme), but we didn’t visit them. We were headed for the Eiffel Tower. Our museum pass didn’t include the Eiffel Tower, so we had to wait in line to get tickets, though Toren was getting antsy after being in the backpack all day, so we took him for a walk while everyone else waited in line, then I ran around with him on my back chasing Ethan, which they both enjoyed. It was probably 5:00 pm or so when we arrived at the Eiffel Tower. Since we hadn’t bought our tickets in advance, we could only go up to the second floor, not the third (which is the top and apparently requires tickets purchased in advance, so I was told; don’t quote me on this), but the views are still pretty amazing. And, of course, the Eiffel Tower is amazing. As is the case with the Arc de Triomphe, it’s much more imposing in person – it really is an amazingly large structure that is hard to appreciate until you’re there. This photo Brent took does a decent job:
He took it from the top of the double-decker bus as we were headed toward the tower. The buses you see in front of the tower are as close as buses can get. You could probably stack 7 or 8 double decker buses on top of each other and still clear the arch at the bottom of the tower. It’s amazing. Here’s a shot I took that also provides a sense of scale:
Here’s a shot of Debi in front of the tower from the nearby park:
The views from the tower are also very impressive. It’s hard to get a photo of you on the tower, but we managed to get one from the lower level of the second floor looking up at the upper level:
Steve took the one above. After Debi and I turned away, Toren looked over the railing at Steve and started making faces, which Steve caught:
A word of advice for anyone planning on visiting the Eiffel Tower: don’t wear a flowing, loose, mini-skirt. You can’t see it in the pictures I posted, but right next to us was a woman in a flowing, loose, mini-skirt posing for pictures. From where Steve was taking pictures it was hard not to see up her skirt. That was a fun surprise in our photos! ;)
We also had another surprise while on the Eiffel Tower. Brent saw him first and pointed him out, asking who he was, but I quickly recognized Chuck Liddell, one of the most famous MMA fighters in the world. He was visiting the Eiffel Tower with someone (according to Wikipedia he’s not married, so I don’t know who this is):
I’ve always liked Chuck and it was pretty cool to see him there. But I was more intrigued by the fact that his big toenails on both feet were painted blue:
Not sure what was up with that.
Anyway, we spent a while on the Tower, then dropped down and headed over to The Seine where we were considering a boat tour. But it was close to 8:00 pm at this point and we were thinking we should find a place for dinner then head back to the condo. We ended up walking along The Seine to a metro station (kind of far, surprisingly), then took the Metro to near Notre Dame, where Steve knew there were a number of restaurants. We found one that could seat all of us on the sidewalk so we could sit outside and watch people walking by. Dinner was good, but it ran late. We sat down at 9:00 and didn’t finish until about 11:15. By that time, both the kids were asleep. Ethan fell asleep in his backpack and Toren on Debi. We were hoping they would stay asleep while we headed back to the condo. Um, yeah, not so much. Ethan woke up when Brent tried to put him on his back and he ended up having a melt down. He was obviously tired and ended up screaming for the nearly 30 minutes it took us to get back to the condo (via the Metro, which was, let’s say, awkward, but certainly our fault for keeping him out so late).
Anyway, we made it home around midnight. We saw a lot, but learned an important lesson – the kids can’t handle days that long. Toren was still a little wound up from the trip home when we got to the condo and ended up playing until about 1:00 am again before going to bed.