European Vacation – August 7

This was our day to explore Paris. But with the events of the night before, it took us a little while to get going. We went to a local grocery store, the MonoPrix, and grabbed some baguettes, fruit and biscuits for breakfast. Say what you want about the French, they make some kick ass bread. A quick breakfast sitting on our beds and we braved the streets of Paris again, significantly more paranoid and aware of our surroundings due to last night’s adventure. I had perfected what I’ve since called the “Paris Pat”, which was a quick check to ensure I still had my money belt, my pocket change, my pda, my backpack, my children, my wife and my father-in-law. With practice, I had it down to 5 seconds flat.

This morning, we decided to stay out of the metro for a bit and walk up to the Latin Quartier and the Ile de Cite, where Notre Dame is. Along the way, we wandered through the Jardin du Luxembourg, a quintessentially Parisian park in front of the French Senate. A little less famous and crowded than the Jardin de Tuillieres by the Louvre, the reduced scale of this park was just the thing we needed to restore Paris’s magic. There were pony rides, beautiful fountains and sculptures, marionette shows (unfortunately none were playing at the time), children playing with miniature sail boats and several couples on benches sucking each other’s faces off. Apparently this is also a national past time, along with smoking. When the two are combined, which is often, the results can be a little revolting.

After the park, we continued through the Latin Quartier and then crossed the bridge to the island where Paris originated. We were immediately drawn to the instantly recognizable façade of Notre Dame. Although we would have loved to go in, the queue went down two blocks, and we weren’t prepared to invest at least two hours in gaining entrance. This is the reality of a summer trip to Europe. You have to pick and choose your activities carefully, as the demand and crowds prevent you from seeing everything. Instead, we opted for a small, very expensive, but very good scoop of Berthillion ice cream and grabbed a perch overlooking the Seine to enjoy them. I’m guessing gelato and ice cream will emerge as a theme on this trip.

Fatigue was beginning to set in, as was hunger, so we headed back to the hotel, stopping at our friendly MonoPrix to grab some more baguettes, ham, cheese, salads, olives, fruit and a bottle of wine for lunch. It you want to avoid the exorbitantly overpriced bistros, I highly recommend these impromptu picnics. Based on my experience, it’s impossible to get bad food in France.

A quick nap, and we headed out for the evening. We caught the metro (no criminal activities this time) to the Champs d’Elysee and wandered down the boulevard to the Arc d’Triomphe. Another “must do” Parisian experience. The most interesting things we found were the car dealerships along the way. Half museum, half gallery, these dealerships celebrated the art of the automobile. Concept cars and interactive displays showcased the latest offerings from Renault, Peugot, Toyota and other manufacturers.

After we crossed the Seine again and made our way to the Eiffel Tower, timing it perfectly to arrive just at dusk. The tower lighting up was a spectacular site, although, because of line ups, we opted to keep our feet on the ground. On the hour, hundreds of bright twinkling lights turn the tower into an amazing centerpiece for the “City of Light”. Time was drawing short on our day, so we caught the metro back to the hotel and giving in to convenience, decided to opt for a late night pizza from a nearby “Pizza Hut”. A crime, I know, but we were tired.

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