Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Paris, Day 1

(This will be the first of a series of Paris posts.)

We are back from Paris! We had a fabulous EIGHT days to explore this beautiful city. I was lucky enough to see bits of Paris waaaaaay back in college, during my study abroad. I did the backpacking across Europe thing for not quite two weeks where I did visit Paris for three days. I admit that I saw very little. And I also ate very little, due to low funds. Oh, and I did also make a weekend trip back to my favorite European city during my study abroad. I think that time was spent in a nightclub and exploring flea markets!

So I was thrilled when Jim and I started to discuss a trip. And then we found out that my big sis Ana and her husband were thinking about a trip. Jim and I were so lucky to have Ana and Rich as travel companions. They really did know the city, how to navigate it, and Ana had some great ideas of what to do. She is very organized, thorough, and wanted all of us to have the best-est time!

We left on a Thursday and basically traveled overnight. We arrived in Paris on a Friday morning. We had a hell-ish wait in a customs line with all the other travelers, and finally, finally we were free! Rich navigated our way to our hotel. The travel was quite easy, but the navigation of crowded metro stations, streets, and "the mall from hell" with our heavy luggage was NOT easy. It was also very hot and a few of us were getting very frustrated and hangry (the combination of hungry and angry!)

We were also greeted with one immediate cultural difference between Americans and the French. The French do not really believe in elevators. Paris is very pedestrian and if you need an elevator you are basically shit out of luck. We wandered forever before we could make make our way from the underground metro station to the street level and we finally made it to our hotel.

The hotel was lovely- and air conditioned!! This was my view from my hotel window. Our window overlooked a little street/alley and we were able to see into others' lives (windows). Everywhere in Paris the apartments have these lovely wrought iron balconies and flower boxes. I could have taken pictures of all of the pretty buildings and been happy!


We unloaded our suitcases into our hotel rooms, rested a bit, and then the rest of the day was spent exploring our 'hood. First things first. FOOD! We found a cute little cafe and I ordered a lovely salad. This was my first experience with the French's belief of fresh, high quality food. The ham? OMG. The cheese? OMG. Such a simple little salad made me so happy! Oh, and I think I had a glass of rosé wine :)



The Hotel de Ville was very closeby. (I will try and hyperlink these locations to wikipedia entries. I know wikipedia is not the best resource, but it will at least give us the generals.) Later in the week, the Hotel de Ville was the location for a series of outdoor concerts. It was INSANE and crazy busy with young people at night, wine bottles and mini parties everywhere :) Oh, and on the last day or so of our stay the front of the HDV was transformed to a very beachy scene.


Further into our walk we found a local little park. There will be many of these EVERYWHERE. The French love their grassy areas, their picnics, and later on we will join them!


We wandered into a beautiful little church, not knowing the historical significance of it at all, but we all found it to be beautiful, even if it was a bit neglected and empty. This church, Church of the Saint-Merri, I found out later was built in 1500!


Right outside the Pompidou Centre (we visit it later in our stay), was this giant ice cream. I couldn't resist a lick!

One thing we saw a lot of was graffiti. I did appreciate the artsy and interesting ones.



We didn't really visit this small market but every street had their own version of a fruit/vegetable market. I've read several times that the French shop daily for their produce and groceries. They just don't have the same kitchen and refrigerator space as we do and so they either shop often or eat out often at the local street cafes. Anyway, all of the produce looked lovely, everywhere! (No Walmarts or SuperTargets to be found!)


This is the exterior, back view of the Pompidou Centre. We could see a part of the building from our hotel window.


Heading in another direction, we found our first view of the Seine River.


And just a little ways away was the Notre Dame. It is magnificent. I couldn't get the entire front of the cathedral in one shot, especially with all of the swarms of tourists, but the blue sky and the beautiful cathedral just made me so happy. When I saw the Notre Dame in 1995, it was completely under renovation with tons of scaffolding in the front. I was so happy to see the entire building as it should be!


There wasn't a line to go inside the Notre Dame and I was very eager. It was as beautiful as I remembered! There was a mass going on, so we were all very quiet and respectful of taking pictures. I did manage to take a few pictures because I loved the stained glass windows and just the general beauty of the cathedral.



This was the beautiful view of the Notre Dame from the river.


We sat at another street side café for a light dinner... And our first sips of 1664! (Imagine being in business since the 1600’s!)


Such a simple sandwich but with great bread, cheese, and jambon!


On our way back to our hotel we passed the Notre Dame again. It is a lively place. There were many people just loitering around, sitting on street curbs with beverages, and a few street performers gathering small crowds.


We sat on the ND 800th anniversary bleachers (for lack of a better word) and took in the scene, including a group of street performers dancing. It was a beautiful night and an even more beautiful view!


And that concludes our first day in Paris!



I just can't imagine looking at the world through James' eyes lately. He is now able to look at text and kinda sorta read. Yesterday we saw this at the grocery store, while I paused to look for my stone ground mustard...

He said, "Mom, look! Low price!"


Thanks for your help, James! I did end up buying Grey Poupon. It's the best!


6 year old problems

"Mom, life is complicated.."



"I just can't get past that Mario level."

Phew! Luckily, he was able to get past that level soon after this.


The Works

I had another Groupon for the Works. The Works is a science/engineering kid's interactive museum. Yeah, that's a mouthful.

James had a lot of fun manipulating and playing with all of the displays.

Here, he is creating a marble maze.


And then James and his Dad worked out a plan to make a fort. They had a pretty strong base and then kept building and building...



And then James knocked it all down! I think that was probably the most fun part for him.


There was a Knex station to build cars...


And then a ramp to race! I'm pretty sure James won this one.

Pulleys or something.


Programmable robots. James had fun working them through the maze.


Stringless harp. What fun!


One of James' favorite parts was this sensor maze. You had to be all spy like and get through the maze without setting off the motion, sound, or light sensors. James had fun crawling through this part.


It was a fun museum! I'll have to keep an eye on this one to see what traveling exhibits come through. It was a pretty small museum so we'd go back if there was something cool and new.


I Love Brownie Too



And all the warm fuzzies!


He does NOT need more warm fuzzies. They have taken over our living room!



I had one of those Groupon deals for the Mirror Maze at the Mall of America. We enjoyed it very much! It was relatively short but by doubling back we extended our mirror fun (the front desk girl said to do this).

We had to wear plastic gloves to not fingerprint the mirrors. This made a lot of sense because we had to walk around with our hands in front of us because we really couldn't tell which way was which!




Oh and then right next to the Mirror Maze place was a FUN EXCITING store. It was full of gamer toys and things. James picked out this Mario "Yoshi" to add to his Mario Bros collection. He used some of his allowance money and Mom (sucka!) threw in a few dollars too.


Oh and then! We found James' version of Heaven. I didn't get an overall picture of this area but it was called the Wii U Summer Tour. It was an area right in the Mall with the latest Wii U console and some interactive games and photo areas. James got to play the Nintendo 3DS. It was hard to tear him away...


But then he spied the Super Mario Bros Wii U game that he JUST HAD TO try!


To be polite I would steer James away from each area after a few minutes, to give other kids a chance to play. So we went to the next area, even though it was the same video game :) This young man was SUPER IMPRESSED with James' gaming skills. He said for someone so young, and not knowing the game, he sure was pretty good!


And then I thought this area was the cutest! They had these props to make it look like you were really in the game! James willingly put on the Mario hat and gloves and pretended to pop out of the tube!




He couldn't quite jump up and hit the ? box (like in the game) so I had to put down my camera and lift him up. And then he was happy!


This is the official photo that I was sent..


So I finally got James away from the Wii U area and I agreed to just "look" in the Lego store. And then we ran into MORE Nintendo 3DS systems. This time it was advertising the Lego City game.


I think it is inevitable that James will get this system. He is saving his allowance to buy it, maybe around his birthday time. Probably with some help from Mom and Dad, though he doesn't know that yet!