Monday, July 8, 2013

Vacation 13: Paris

We took a pleasant subway ride to the Eiffel tower. The wait was long at every phase: tickets, security, elevator to deck 1, elevator to upper deck, and elevator down. Fortunately, we had our raincoats. Again, people were packed hip to hip and both signs and the PA warned people that there are pickpockets behind you as you enjoy the view. To help pass the time, we packed our own picnic lunch and found a nice bench by the down elevators to eat it on.

That afternoon, we went to the Louvre a day early because there was a train strike on and I worried about making it on time to the station for the trip to London tomorrow at 2:45. I didn't know whether the kids would want to stay for 1 hour or 8, so this gave us flexibility.

The entrance under the pyramid is overwhelming. We wanted to start with the Mona Lisa and had to visit information several times over the course of our stay. To get to the portraits in that wing, you have to maze through ancient sculptures, past Winged Victory, down endless halls with ceilings painted nicer than the modern art on the walls.

The Mona Lisa shared her cyclopean room with the Wedding Feast of Cana. Again, pick pockets and tour groups were everywhere. Pierce and I stood back and examined the Wedding Feast while Tammy and Emily moved to take photos of the smiling lady. There painting wasn't historically or ethnically accurate in any way. I'm not an art historian, but its sole virtue in my mind was its enormous size.

Back in the sculpture area, I was disappointed how many of the 40 foot rooms had nothing of merit. One had chipped blocks of broken statues with no recognizable features. The stolen art of several continents from one of the world's greatest empires, and this is what you bring to the table? We did find an AC vent, though, a must have after walking several miles in these crowds.

 After the statues in the Vatican, most of these were dull repeats. I did, however, love the Caryatid columns, and the beautiful sculpture of Psyche and Eros (steamy).

Pierce and I were done and sat on window seat whenever possible, but Emily and Tammy really enjoyed Napolean's apartments. Lavish room after room of beds, salons, and fine dining. I got to hear what the alarms sound like when one of the women near us leaned on the table to get a better photo. No one came to investigate.

Lastly, we walked up the Champs Elysses and ate at a pastry shop called Angelinas, each picking our own $10 dessert--caramel almond, berry cream, chocolate, ... ahh. Everyone shared. That's what I want to remember about Paris.

After viewing the Arch again from the safety of the sidewalk, we took the subway back to the hotel and ate at Quick Burger, next to McDonalds.

The next morning, we popped in to Notre Dame to catch its 850th anniversary--during which they added a grand stand and gift shops but closed all public toilets. Blessedly, this was my only flareup of IBS during the trip. I took lots of pills, didn't eat vegetables or drink much pop, and took very small meals more often. TRY not eating onions in French or Italian restaurants. Lines for toilets at gift shops went out the door and they charged 50 cents at the till for the wait. I gave my change to the kids to get a souvenir coin while I ran into a restaurant. They also wanted to charge 50 cents at the stall, but refused to give change to tourists. Eventually, a kind woman customer saw my obvious discomfort and asked for a free token for herself. I still had to wait for a woman who commandeered (commodeered?) the men's toilet, because the women's room had a line.

The last stop of the city was the church of Sacre Coeur at the top of Montmarche. It was a relatively long ride, walk, and climb up over a hundred steps. I worried about check out time of noon and the train the whole time. The clerk told us to relax and take our time. We waltzed
through customs at the train station with relative ease after filling out several unexpected forms. They actually ask you if you're a terrorist or carrying contraband. I had to explain how I could possibly be retired at my age to the officer and hand out some cards.

My admitted paranoia made us wait in the lounge for an hour before boarding, but I prefer this to missing the train and having to buy the tickets again. This wait gave Emily a chance to charge her DS by the courtesy desk and me an opportunity to buy some British pounds. Strange that as a member of the EU, England still seems to still do everything its own way.

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