Monday, April 27, 2009

Paris - Day Four

As much fun as I was having in Paris, I was getting ready to get back home to America. I was missing my kids, English, cheeseburgers, American television and yes even missing my dogs. We did not have any huge plans for the day, just some general ideas of stuff we'd like to do. I really wanted to see Musee D' Orsay, so I could see original Van Goghs and Monets, so we decided to head there.

Remember how I told you that my feet were hemorrhaging and that I was going to wear flip flops the next day? Yup, I sure did. I got up and put on my black big foam bottomed flip flops. I did a little dance in the hotel room for my hubby, showing him how comfortable I was.

We got outside and the ground was wet from some rain, and it started to sprinkle a bit, but no big deal after all, I'm in Paris, you just pull out your umbrella and keep going (at least that's what I've been told).

We take the metro down to the museum and get out. Everyone seems to really be dressed for winter, wearing boots, walking shoes and carrying umbrellas. I'm starting to feel a BIT out of place with my flip flops. I can feel my panic start to set in, but I can't say anything at this point because I'd be eating crow.

We walk across the garden and cross the seine river to get to the museum. I see ahead of me marble steps and marble tile in front of the museum. Panic begins to set in. I'm wearing FOAM flip flops. When foam gets wet on tile it is NOT a good combination. Add pregnant and clumsy in to that equation and you have a recipe for disaster. Now I grip my husbands arm a little tighter (who by the way is now holding the umbrella for me like I'm Miss Daisy or something). I manage to get up the steps without falling down but my luck does not last very long. I biff it and slip as soon as I hit the top. Wonderful.

I can see my hubby's ears turning red from the embarrassment. I get in the line for the museum trying NOT to attract any more attention to myself but I can hear my shoes screaming loudly (you know like the stain on the guys shirt in the Tide commercial?). A little 8 year old girl in front of me turns around. She sees my shoes and her eyes grow wide. She then POKES HER MOTHER and speaks something in French and points at my shoes. Wonderful. Just wonderful. I now have a precocious eight year old French child laughing at my shoes.

I manage to make it through the line and into the museum without attracting any more attention to myself. I see a couple more American teenagers there with flip flops on so I feel a little more justified in my decision.

The museum was incredible. Amazing paintings totally LOVED it. We left the museum and again, panic sets in as I have to cross the marble entryway which is more wet now from rain. Yes, I biff it again a second time, this time I start to laugh hysterically over the whole situation and about pee my pants. So I'm slipping, laughing, with tears rolling down my face. So much for not attracting attention to myself. I think now is the time I deserve a big "I TOLD YOU SO" from my husband.

We manage to get me back to the hotel without breaking my neck or me falling into the Seine river (but we joked that my shoes COULD be used as a flotation device)...We rest for a while then decide to do some shopping.

We went to the shops at LaFayette. It was pretty amazing, but also pretty packed, so we did not stay long. We went back to the hotel to drop off some bags and bottles of wine we didn't want to carry, then headed back out for dinner. Jamin and I got seated right in between two French couples, which we were used to giving up our personal space by this time. Nothing seemed to phase us, from how long it took to get our dinner and dessert, to how long it took for coffee to arrive. Jamin ordered coffee, and I guess they thought he wanted an expresso, because it came in an Evie sized little cup. I started laughing again. This whole day was one odd experience, from my flip flops to Jamin's tea party sized cup.

We went back to the hotel, packed our bags, thankful that we would see our kiddos the next day and be on American soil.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Paris - Day Three

On day three we decided to take the train out of town and go to Versailles.  I have heard MARVELOUS things about the gardens there, so I was totally stoked to go see it.  This train was a double decker train.  Jamin was like a third grader and jumping up and down that we MUST ride on the top level.  My feet felt like they had their own heartbeat by this point from all the walking over the past few days, so I could care less WHERE we were as long as we could sit down.  (Oh, side note, I put my insoles from my flats INTO my sneakers thinking that this would save my feet from pain, but since I'm pregnant I forget that my feet will swell, thus the feeling that my feet were throbbing was actually because the insoles were making things worse).

 I was totally bummed to see such a huge line outside the palace to get tickets.  Everywhere else we have been we didn't have to stand in line, so I was a bit spoiled at this point.  Anyhow after about thirty minutes in line and 20 Euro's each we get our tickets.  We decided to do the gardens first (which by the way are FREE - I'll get back to that in a moment).  I have never seen anything so breathtaking in my life.  Looking out past the reflecting pool felt like I was staring at some type of painting.  It was surreal.  We walked around the gardens for a few hours, had lunch, and moseyed on into the palace (after standing in a security line).

I must say, I was COMPLETELY disappointed with the palace.  I guess I expected the Louvre, very well kept and clean.  I understand they are trying to keep the original stuff but the place seemed, well, run down to me.  In the hall of mirrors someone had put graffiti on the mirrors and they hadn't even bothered to clean it off or try and repair/restore it in any way.  Also it was wall to wall people, and it was hot and I was just packed in there like a bunch of sardines.  I was ready to leave after twenty minutes.  My advice:  skip the palace, it's NOT worth the twenty Euros each to get in, go to the gardens which are FREE.  Inside is such a tourist trap it's not even funny.  I reached the outside of the palace, breathed in the fresh air and thanked God for some personal space.

We walked back to the metro station and I sat down and my feet thanked me.  I loosened my sneakers and pulled out the insoles (positive that my shoes were filled with my blood).  I looked at my hubby and told him "I'm wearing my foam big flip flops tomorrow no matter what.  I don't care what ANYONE says, they are the only shoes I can wear that DONT hurt my feet and I'm sick to death of my feet hurting".  (Yes, I'm trying to convince myself this while I tell him because I ALWAYS care what people think about me).  My hubby kinda rolls his eyes at me because he is truly sick of hearing me whine.  At this point he doesn't care if I wear garden clogs, whatever will shut me up.  

We take our normal afternoon nap (OH and watch some Friends, they have an hour of Friends on in ENGLISH!  Woo hoo!).  We were also a bit tired of gambling on dinner.  At this point I was dying for a McDonalds huge burger.  Hubby goes downstairs and chats with the hotel manager.  He recommends "Brasserie Bofinger" which is in the Bastille area (awesome area by the way).  We go there and get seated even without a reservation.  I was a bit scared when I saw the HUGE seafood platter of creepy critters being delivered to the table next to us.  This was supposedly "very good traditional French food".  I poured over the French menu not having a CLUE what 3/4 of the things on there were.  Dear Lord, I don't want to mistakenly order Oysters.  They come over about 20 minutes later, and we ask for "English" after trying to spout some really bad French out.  "Ah English!" he runs away and comes back with an English menu and laughs at the wave of relief that passes across our faces.

I order the Salmon and Hubby orders the Sauerkraut with sausages - one of the dishes that Bofinger is famous for.  Choucroute garnie à l'alsacienne (sauerkraut presented the Alsatian way - I don't know what that means, but it makes me sound cultured doesn't it?).  I was a bit fearful, but was TOTALLY impressed.  This was THE BEST salmon I have ever had in my life, with a side of mashed potatoes.  It was incredible.  It was about time, because if I had to eat any more cold duck meat or chewy cuts of rare beef I think I may puke.  Jamin went nuts over the sauerkraut (which I hate), but said "you HAVE to try this".  Reluctantly I did (I have an aversion to eating anything that smells like feet).  The sauerkraut was incredible.  I actually liked it.  Best dining experience in France!  So worth it.  (Later we were told that this used to be Winston Churchills favorite restaurant in!).

Jamin wanted to walk around a bit, but my feet were screaming at me, so we went back to our arrondissement, stopped by a little bar and shared some wine (I only had one glass), then he ordered a coffee.  We walked back to our hotel after a wonderful evening, making a note to thank the manager in the morning for a wonderful recommendation on dinner.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Paris - Day Two

The next day we got up pretty early and went to the Louvre as soon as it opened. We bought tickets in the subway station so we got to avoid the line which was VERY nice. The Louvre was my favorite part of the entire trip. Seeing these paintings and artifacts with my very own eyes was absolutely amazing. I never got sick of seeing all the statues in there, they were amazing to me!  I saw actual paintings by Da Vinci!  I saw Egyptian hieroglyphics and huge statues!  The roman statues were also amazing.  I could go on and on for hours, the Louvre was my favorite part of the trip.  It was gorgeous.

After the Louve we took a walk and grabbed some lunch. Food was VERY interesting in Paris. I'm an extremely picky eater so it was tough ordering and finding things I liked.  After our lunch (which was pretty decent chicken and pasta) we walked and just happened upon another cathedral, which was gorgeous but not packed like Notre Dame.  It was "Eglise St. Eustache"  (Jamin calls it cathedral of the mustache because that is what the name sounds like...ah my funny man).

After the cathedral we went back to the hotel for a quick nap, then went back out on the town for the evening. I wanted dinner by the Eiffel so I could see it sparkle at night, but I also wanted to see the Moulin Rouge lit up at night. Problem with this is it is in the red light district of the city, so not a great part of town. We decided to go at dusk before it was too dark. We got off the metro and walked briskly to the Moulin Rouge, snapped some photos then got out of that district quickly. We decided to head to the Eiffel tower.

We found a cute little resturant close to the Eiffel tower. Dinner in Paris is very interesting. First of all, they don't eat until about 8pm (most resturants don't even open until then). Also, they expect you to be there all evening. They are in no hurry to wait on you. It takes at LEAST two hours to eat, get coffee, dessert and the check. This was annoying at first because I'm a fast paced American, but after a while I just got used to it.

Seeing the Eiffel at night was amazing seeing it all lit up, it was gorgeous. There was NO line to go to the top (it was around 11pm by now). I reluctantly agreed to go to the top of the Eiffel with Jamin. For those of you who don't know, I'm PETRIFIED of heights. I get vertigo just on the second floor of the mall. I can't walk close to the railing, I stay near the stores. Seriously. It's pretty bad. So as the elevator begins to lift to the first floor I'm praying, and gripping the rail and I can feel the tears begin to flow (I'm paniced). Jamin looks at me pleedingly not to totally embarass him. I was able to hold it together. You get off that level and it takes you up to another elevator that takes you to the top. This one was more scarry. Everyone was dead silent, feeling the same paranoia that I was. One American said when we got to the top (right before the doors of the elevator open), he said "and now we drop...". Everyone started to laugh because we were all feeling that same feeling you get going on those freefall rides. It broke the silence and the tension.

I'm so glad that I did go to the top though.  I would have regretted it if I didn't.  Being up there wasn't that bad, because there was a cage and netting all around it (I suppose to deter those who think it would be super awesome to take a flying leap off the Eiffel?  I suppose if you were going to off yourself some would find taking a leap off the Eiffel as the way to do it, not me though).  Anyhow, going down wasn't as bad as the tense trip up to the top.

Jamin and I walked back to the metro (at midnight) a little leery of riding the subway that late, but we were fine.  Nobody tried to mug us or pickpocket us. ( If they would have I would have just whacked them with my huge Mary Poppins purse.)  We got back to the hotel safely and yes, watched some more CNN, and a little of The Simpsons dubbed in French.  At this point we would have watched Hannah Montana or Suite Life of Zack and Cody and totally loved it.  Anything in English other than CNN.  (Hubby and I have to watch TV to get sleepy and go to bed in case you were wondering).  Anyhow we somehow got to sleep around one am that night!

My Trip To Paris - day one

Hubby and I took a trip to Paris last week. This was my very first time in Europe and it was a very interesting and exciting trip.

The first thing we had to adjust to was a long plane ride and the time difference. Of course we got sat in the middle row of the plane (side-note, we were NOT supposed to, we SO picked out two seats ne
ar the window), so it wasn't a very comfort
able ride, and of course we had a screaming baby in front of us for eight hours. Behind us was a group of teenagers that thought it was fun to giggle and take photos the entire time everyone was trying to sleep.  I was so close to getting up and screaming at them, but hubby tends to keep me calm.  I embarrass him when I do stuff like that.

I was extremely grateful when the plane landed in Paris. I got off the plane and the first thing that I noticed was that Paris airport smells like pee and cigarette smoke (like a bowling alley almost). We got in the long line to pass through their customs and get our passport stamped. We stood behind a lady that just kicked her bag the whole time (I'm guessing it was too heavy for her to pick it up?). After our passport was stamped Jamin looked at me and said "Thank God we aren't behind the lady who HATES her bag anymore." It was funny and totally true.

Our taxi/shuttle was waiting for us after we got our luggage. We then got into the vehicle while this guy drove us on a Paris freeway and up and down these TEENY little Paris streets. Traffic there was INSANE. Jamin and I prayed for our life while in this taxi.  Culture shock was begging to begin.

The hotel wouldn't let us check in until two PM, so we left our bags there and took our first trip on the metro (I could dedicate a whole entire blog session to the experience of riding on the metro...very interesting), down to the Eiffel tower. The problem was since I couldn't get into my suitcase and shower and change, I was wearing capri's, a tank top and tennis shoes and carrying a camera bag.  You may as well of stamped "tourist" across my forehead.  So much for trying to blend in.  We rounded the corner looking for the Eiffel.  Jamin is looking at the map.  I glance to my right.  Towering over the trees, there is the Eiffel.  I tug on Jamin, "Jamin look up..."  It was amazing.  No words can describe it.  It was so much bigger than I ever expected it to be!

We went back to our area and grabbed a bite to eat, then went to the hotel, slept for a bit and showered and went out for the evening. We went to see the Notre Dame cathedral. Again, words can't describe it. They had this gorgeous music playing inside the cathedral, and the most beautiful architecture that I've ever seen.  It really made me think about how many years it took to build it, and how we don't take pride in our architecture now like they did back then.  It's really a shame.  The buildings are gorgeous.  I can't even begin to describe the detail on the outside of the cathedral.  It's awe inspiring.

There was this super cool street performer just right by the Seine with his bass violin, playing "Georgia on My Mind." 

We were pretty tired and jet lagged so after the cathedral we went to the Arch De Triomphe and took a quick peek at it (thank GOD there was a tunnel going UNDER the street to see it. I couldn't imagine trying to cross traffic there.  Traffic in Paris is nuts).  The arch is gorgeous and  again, the detail on the architecture is amazing.  We opted not to go to the top since the only way up was via staircase (300 stairs to be exact).  My pregnant body just couldn't handle that.  We took several photos some photos and headed back to our hotel. We grabbed a sandwich from a local bakery for dinner (the meat on the sandwich was duck meat I later found out, no wonder why I couldn't eat it, a very odd taste to it). I yanked the meat off the sandwich and ate the bread.  At least my belly was full.  I tried to watch some TV to relax, but EVERYTHING was in French except CNN.  (Side-note, I may NEVER watch CNN again).  We went to bed around 8pm Paris time.  We were exhausted.

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