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France trip - August 2012, Part II

September 07, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

This is part 2 of our trip to France, 7 days in Paris. Here is the gallery with all the pictures from part 2.

The 1st part of our trip is here <==

Although Tamara and I had been in Paris 4 years ago, and a lot of our stay here now was re-visiting the sites we've seen and showing them to Anne, I saw something I haven't before and even Tamara managed to see something new.

Day 1

Our first day in Paris is the last day of the heat wave and therefore we decide to go to the Louvre. We buy the longest, 6 day, museum passes. 

_8200771 It goes very well although it's, basically, impossible for a child to see "Mona Lisa". All she sees are people's backs. I picked her on my shoulders and, after a minute or so was asked by a security guy to put her down, but she's seen enough. Across it is the enormous "Wedding at Cana", where we play "I spy with my little eye." And, as usual, ancient statues are a big hit with Anne.

Here's Venus of Milo

_8200741 and Nike of Samothrace


Drawing in a museum is a good tradition.

_8200776 After the museum we walk in the courtyard.

_8200796 Anne would've prefered to stay in shade but the prospect of seeing Jeane d'Arc statue get's her going. 

_8200798 We head into Tuileries Garden and go through it to Place de la Concord. There is a children playground on the way and Anne is delighted.

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After Place Concord we're heading home and have a dinner in a restaurant nearby.

_8200808 Upstairs on the balcony sunset is gorgeous, here's an HDR attempt:


Day 2

This is the day for Notre Dame de Paris and Ile de la Cite. The plan is to be in the line to get up to Notre Dame before it opens at 9AM. At that we fail and only arrive at 9:35 only to find out that it really opens at 10AM. That's what an old guidebook can do.

_8210837 It worked out pretty well and soon enough we are up around the chimeras. The view is great, especially with chimeras in it.

_8210849 _8210874 After that we go up some more into the bell tower and then up on it. 

_8210864 The view is even better from up there, the best view in Paris I've seen, Eiffel Tower and maybe even Arc de Triomphe included. Maybe from the top of Centre George Pompidou it can also be that good.

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We bought Anne an Esmeralda toy and it figures in many photographs from now on.


There is a long line just to get inside Notre Dame de Paris. We'll get back later. 

_8210901 After lunch we move on to Saint Chapelle and Conciergerie. After Notre Dame, St. Chapelle doesn't stir nearly as much enthusiasm in Anne, maybe all the stair climbing we've done is also a factor. In Conciergerie, however, the stories about the Reign of Terror cause more interest.


More walking with splendid views leads us from the island to St. Michael Fountain. Anne really wanted to see it, having seen some photographs of it before. Another thing Anne keeps asking about is the Bird Market (I believe it was mentioned in "Eloise in Paris"). Tamara actually found the place but the Bird Market is only open on Sundays. We leave with a promise that, maybe, we'll get back here on Sunday.


That's pretty much it for today, except we go back to Notre Dame to look inside.


When we go back to the metro station at Hotel de Ville we notice there is some event happening on the plaza in front of it. Liberation of Paris Day is coming up on August, 25. We look until it's over, for about 5min.

Day 3

Today we'll go to the opera. We start with Palais Royal, go on to Place Vendome, and continue to Opera Garnier.


By "going to the opera" I mean taking a tour inside. This is something we have not done before and we learn some interesting things, like the fact that the reason to replace the classic ceiling (to the one by Chagal) was that it got darker from the soot from gas lighting. Or, the emperors seats designed specifically to be used by Napoleon III and his wife have never actually been used by them, since the building was not active until 1874, when then primary opera theater was destroyed by fire.


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_8220971 After opera we visit Galleries Lafayette, have lunch and walk to La Madeleine.

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We visit a small Musee l'Orangerie (in the Tuileries Gardens near Place Concord) to see, among other impressionsts and post-impressionists, several large "Water Lilies" by Monet. There are large, too large for their room I think. We use them to discuss times of day and quality of light. 

Time to go back to the hotel. Tomorrow we'll have a busy day with a lot of walking so the best time to get up to the Arc de Triomphe is tonight. Maybe if we stay until 9PM we'll see the sparkling Eiffel Tower. After dinner we walk up to the top of the Arc. Anne is holding up splendidly. On the top we are rewarded with the famous panorama of Paris, and the view is getting only better as the sun is setting.

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It's past 9PM, the Eiffel Tower is lighted, but not sparkling. That's a bit disappointing. It's getting chilly, time to go. Tomorrow is the Eiffel Tower day!

Day 4

When we arrived in Paris I asked Anne, what would she like to see the most. The answer: "Eiffel Tower and - what is that place where Napoleon is buried - right, Invalides." A bit surprised, I asked, "What about Notre Dame de Paris?" - "Oh, yeah, Notre Dame too".

Tour Eiffel is still having one of the elevator out of service; we are prepared for long lines and arrive about 30min before opening. Today we brought some pastries and water and have breakfast standing under the Eiffel Tower. The wait proves tolerable, about an hour, and we are on the very top.

_8231070 _8231072 We come down and walk along Champ de Mars to the Ecole Militaire periodically stopping to make a picture.

_8231084 Anne's "favorite Jessie pose" - a Toy Story reference 

_8231085 And now we go on to Les Invalides. Anne's excited, those history books did leave an impression, obviously.


_8231092 _8231112 _8231103 We decide to skip the museum, instead we walk through to the Pont Alexandre III and now the question is "what to do next?". Can we go to Saint-Germain-des-Pres from here? Probably. In this case Trocadero is out of the way, we'll need to get there another time.

The walk is not very short, but very nice. No major attractions but the houses around are picturesque. We finally reach Saint-Germain-des-Pres and have lunch in Relais de l'Enrecote, a restaurant we found accidentally on our last trip here. It does not have a menu and only serves, basically, steak with fries, but also with very nice sauce. That cuts down on choosing time for picky eaters :)

Since we are here already it only makes sense to go to Latin Quarter. Walking there we are passing a large neoclassical church we haven't seen before, with a fountain in front. It turns out to be Saint-Sulpice Church, actually the second largest church in Paris, after Notre Dame.

_8231117 _8231122 We come to Jardins de Luxembourg. After looking at the palace and glancing at the boats in the pool we proceed to the fountain.

_8231146 _8231179 _8231168 Something interesting is going on in the parks's gazebo - people dressed old-fashion way dance waltzes and polkas. They seem to be an amateur group. Anne is fascinated, she loves this kind of performances, and the music is beautiful. The atmosphere is very enjoyable.  

_8231153 We watch for about 30min, then move on to Pantheon.

_8231195 _8231185 Anne is not that interested in looking at the tombs, plus she has no idea who these people are and there's no way to really explain it well at this age, words like "great author" don't really mean anything unless there's also an understanding why he or she was great. She does looks with interest at the names we can relate to something she knows: Victor Hugo, Luois Braille (she's seen braille in escalators in the US), Lazare Carnot (just because our hotel is on Avenue Carnot).

We try to get to Musee Cluny, which was built on and hosts remains of Roman baths, but it's already closed. We decide to walk to Hotel de Ville so we don't change the trains.

passing Sorbonne on the way


On the way we see Monoprix, a supermarket. Refrigerator in our hotel doesn't work and it's probably too late to fix it tonight, but we get enough stuff to get an excellent breakfast next morning and a reserve of fruits.

Day 5

Today our plan is: Montmartre and something else, depending on the time. Anne has seen a souvenir model of Sacre Coeur before (as well as Eiffel Tower) and glad to see it in real life.

_8241199 We walk around Montmartre


It starts raining and I vote off visiting the cemetery, not my favorite tourist destination anyway (and I suspect wouldn't be Anne's). Thus we have quite a bit of time left and decide to visit Vincennes.

For some reason comparatively few people visiting Paris (that I know of) go to Vincennes, maybe because it doesn't really fit into the image of glamorous city, or maybe because it's just too far from the center to be well known. 

_8241209 _8241207 _8241215 We head back and decide to stop on the way to look at Centre George Pompidou and Stravinky Fountain. Here is where we get under a rain again. Light, but getting stronger. We have only one umbrella, but my hat helps. After looking at the fountain a bit we go home.

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Day 6

Weather forecast has let us down in France. For example, yesterday it was not supposed to rain, today was, and that's why we postponed Musee d'Orsay until today. 

Musee d'Orsay not only has a great impressionist (and post-impressionist) painting collection, as well as sculptures, but also provides some excellent views from the windows and the terrace. And, of course, an interesting design (being a former train station) of the museum itself.


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I love Musee d'Orsay collection, it's easier to absorb than some more diverse museums. Anne always loves finding familiar paintings, or any work of art really, kids do... actually, adults do too. She finds Degas, Monet, Renoir.

After the museum we decide to come back to Quartier Latin and try Musee Cluny again, after all, this is the last day of our museum passes. Cluny Museum is also called "National Museum of Middle Ages". If medieval architecture is something I find very interesting, other types of visual arts do lack, in my personal very humble opinion, although the stained glass exhibition is good and "The lady and the unicorn" tapestries are interesting, although I'm confused why exactly it's called that way since, after all, the lion seems to be as involved as the unicorn.


We visit the remains of Roman baths

_8251274 _8251277 We still have some time before dinner and Tamara has 2 suggestions: to walk along the Seine with a view of Ile-de-la-Cite or to visit something that she wanted to see for a long time but haven't: Arenes de Lutece (Lutetia Arena), remains of the Roman arena. It's a bit of a walk, but why don't we try to do both?

It's not easy to find the arena since the signs are only in it's vicinity and we never really located it on a detailed map, the guidebook map really gives us an area of several blocks, east of Latin Quarter. Looking for it we pass a house where Andre-Marie Ampere lived. We finally find the entrance to the arena and immediately met with deafening sound of drums. There is something going on, something, I guess, musical from Africa judging by the costumes of the performers. At any rate, it is extremely loud, thanks partially to the great acoustics of the arena, which is bordered by houses some of which reuse parts of the Roman wall (whoever lives there got plenty of sound waves today). Anne likes any performance and we sit for a while. There are a few dozen people, some watching the performance, some playing boules.

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And now we move on to the river, getting to the Seine at Pont de la Tournelle (a bridge to Ile Saint-Louis). The walk along the river is beautiful and relaxing.

_8251303 _8251293 _8251314 And we are back to Hotel de Ville again, where Metro train "1" stops, and there is a very considerable gathering of people, some speeches with a big screen, which now shows some pictures and videos taken during the Liberation of Paris operation. Right after some war planes pass on the screen there is a loud roar as 2 military planes fly low across the plaza. Wow, they synced it perfectly. This is the culmination and the end of the event. Somehow we always arrive right before they finish.

Day 7

Last day in Paris, and we, pretty much, have seen everything we wanted to show Anne. One could argue that Marais, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Place de la Bastille and, maybe, some other places deserve a visit, but they were not high on our list for a 7 year old, and me and Tamara have seen them before.

One place that we definitely do want to go to is Trocadero. As you remember, we skipped it on the day we went to Eiffel Tower.

Obligatory shot of the Eiffel Tower with the statues

_8261321 _8261325 A swan flying around the fountains

_8261337 _8261333 There is a carousel with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower. Why not...

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We decide to go to Pont Alexandre III by foot. Seems to me it's a long walk, but we're used to it by now. The walk offers multiple views of  Eiffel Tower. I'm going to have some sorting out of photos to do later, definitely.

_8261354 _8261361 We come to the Flame of Liberty, a copy of the one the Statue of Liberty in New York is holding. It is also an unofficial Princess Diana memorial, since it is right near the place of the accident, the tunnel under Pont de l'Alma.

_8261359 Under Pont de l'Alma is a statue of Zouave soldier and it is used to measure Seine level. Apparently, during the great flood of 1910 the water reached its nose.

_8261360 We reach Pont Alexandre III where I take 10-15min to make some photographs. 

_8261376 _8261398 _8261409 _8261404 We pass Grand Palais and Petit Palais and go to Champs-Elysees. Another thing that Eloise did in Paris is dine in Fouquet's Restaurant. Anne is not big on new food but maybe this one will work, I'm sure we can afford one meal there. We get seated in Fouquet's, on some charming chairs, and look though the menu. Yep, the prices are up there,  but let's see. Either Anne is tired of walking or tired of us feeding her french food; she inquires: "But where is the children menu?" - "There is none," - we respond - "Eloise did not ask for children menu here". "What  kind of restaurant doesn't have a children menu?" - Anne follows. At this point we leave Fouquet's and have lunch in a nearby restaurant with a blue canopy. Hmm, waiters in sort of sailor-type uniforms is something that may be suspicious, but they have pizza that Anne definitely will eat. OK, I do not recommend this restaurant (forgot its name) - overall, I think, the worst food that we've had in France. 

After lunch we decide to try the Bird market, it is Sunday after all, and we walk to Ile de la Cite. The bird market is there and there are birds for sale, and we patiently explain why we will not buy any of them. Also, there is a cage with ferrets, neither of us have seen them this close before.


On the first day Anne wanted to come closer to Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, but we were already far that time. We can go back today. On the way there is a block that Tamara remembers as having an animal store that she visited as a young girl on her first visit to Paris. Turns out there are about 5 animal stores (on Quai de la Megisserie, I believe), we go into each one and spend considerable time watching puppies and kittens. Today is a "cute animal day".

We are back at the Louvre. Today the weather is better, not nearly as hot as when we last were here, and we spend some time outside.

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While I'm spending time shooting pictures Tamara and Anne get a bit bored.


We walk to the arc.


_8261473 We see some things on the inside decorations of the arc, and a swallow is flying right into one of them! These are swallow's nests. Reminds me of my childhood, we had a swallow's nest on our balcony...

_8261475_1 It is evening. We have dinner, look again at Arc de Tromphe and get back to our hotel. It's late and we have to get started early tomorrow. I get out to the balcony for the last night shot of Eiffel Tower and Arc de Tromphe and - here it is - the sparkling Eiffel Tower! I guess they reserve it only for the weekends nowadays... We all look at it for several minutes. This is the end of our trip. 

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Day 8

Monday morning. Well, this is it. Now we have a flight home, I have to go to work tomorrow and then go through and process some 1200+ shots, some of which are HDRs.

But for now, since I had to get up a little after 5AM anyway, I'm taking morning pictures...


There you go. 2 weeks went fast. Not that fast though, it seems a long time has past since we arrived in France and we have seen a lot of things.

Not all photos I made are in the blog posts, full galleries are here:

Part I - the drive

Part II - Paris

As they say it in France, au revoir.




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