I woke at 7 a.m. feeling fully refreshed and took a shower making use of the complementary jasmine-fragranced shower gel. The boys (aged 12 and 14) woke at the sound of my electric shaver and immediately turned on the TV to listen to the radio channel they enjoyed the evening before. At 7:30 a.m. we were all dressed and our breakfast was delivered. We had fresh orange juice, croissants and bread rolls with honey, butter and strawberry preserves, mini tarte au pomme and pain chocolat plus a pot of hot chocolate for them to share and a 4 cup pot of wonderful coffee for me. After breakfast we went next door to the room occupied by my wife and the other two boys (8 year old twins) who were watching Bugs Bunny in French. The day was sunny and in preparation for all the walking we had planned I packed a few bottles of water into my small backpack and we headed downstairs to get the bus into the centre of Paris. As we have visited Paris on numerous occasions we didn't want the guided tour and so the bus dropped us just next to the Eifel Tower at about 9:30 a.m.
We'd been up the Eifel Tower before and didn't want to waste hours in the long queues that had already formed and so we walked across the Seine resisting the temptation to buy plastic Eifel Tower replicas from the street vendors. The top of the steps were uncrowded and gave a good opportunity to take a photograph of the Eifel Tower. I had to smile at the graffiti on the wall next to me which read "This is not a photo opportunity". We had considered using the underground to get around the city as on previous trip but as it was such a nice day and the boys are all used to walking long distances we decided to travel on foot. The first destination was the Arc de Triomphe, not because we wanted to visit it but because we thought the boys ought to see it at least once. Then we headed off down the Champs-Elyseés and headed through the Orangerie gardens towards the Louvre museum. Our first stop was one of the cafés for lunch break. We had very nice, fresh ham and ementaal cheese sandwiches in baguettes followed by chocolate ice cream cones. I won't mention coffee any more except to mention that I'm drinking way too much but loving it. In the Louvre I enjoyed the Egyptian artefacts and the sculptures particularly the Venus di Milo but the hundreds of oil paintings failed to inspire me as usual. I still can't understand why there are always large crowds around the Mona Lisa. It seems such a small, dull picture.
After a few hours we headed over to the George Pompidou centre. This really is my favourite museum in the world - 6 floors of the world's best modern art including Andy Worhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Of course there were several "works of art" that I thought were not worthy of public display. Anyone can paint a canvas entirely one shade of blue can't they? and what's so clever about making rectangles from piles of clothes on the floor? My kids have been doing that all their lives. I walked through rooms alternately muttering "Garbage!" and "Genius!". After all the walking the kids were hungry again I my feet were requesting a break so we left the building and headed out across the square to find a quiet pavement café away from the crowds. This time we all had crepes (mine was with banana and chocolate) and ate them looking across a square containing a little pond with mechanised figures and fountains.
It was now early evening and so we made our way to the Metro to catch a train to Versailles. I consulted the little map of the rail network and identified the correct route to take. When we arrived at Porte de Versailles and left the station I was puzzled to find that nothing matched my map of Versailles. Eventually I found a tourist information kiosk and picked up another map of the rail system. This one was 1cm larger than mine and showed that there was a station called Versailles Rive Gauche on another line not shown on my original map! It was getting late now and I was concerned that a trip back into Paris and then out again could make us very late. Then I had an idea that we could catch a bus across to the other railway line to save time. Luckily the bus shelters have larger detailed maps on their walls so I was able to see where a bus route crossed the railway. There was a delay while we found which bus stopped at which place but eventually we got the right bus. It was very helpful that all the bus stops had names displayed and were automatically announced by loudspeaker on the bus. Eventually we boarded another train and arrived at Marseilles Rive Gauche at about 9:30pm. Now I could see where I was on my map of Versailles but the area where our hotel was, was shown dotted at the very top of the map. It was getting dark and raining so I started to look for a taxi or 2 taxis probably. Oddly there were none to be seen. Okay, plan B, try to find a bus to take us as close to where our hotel was as possible. Once again we studied the timetables and maps and eventually identified the route number, bus number and correct stop. When the bus arrived, I knew the name of the area where the hotel was located was on the route so I asked if there was a stop nearby our hotel. He said there was and pointed to C.C. Parly 2 on the route map saying "Centre Commercial Parley 2". Hooray! That's the shopping mall opposite our hotel. If I'd known what C.C. stood for I wouldn't have needed to ask. Still, I was pleased that we'd soon be back.
We eventually arrived back at the hotel at a little after 10 p.m., slightly tired and damp but much less stressed than you'd imagine. Unfortunately the hotel restaurant was closed and we were all very hungry. I consulted the room service menu but it seemed to be mainly snacks at this time in the evening. Then I had a brainwave and opened the telephone directory in my room. I telephoned the local branch of Domino's Pizzas and within 12 minutes they had delivered 2 large pizzas directly to my room. I think I was a hero that night. I was rather pleased with myself as it was my first telephone conversation in French. The pizzas vanished in a matter of minutes and we settled down to sleep in anticipation of a full day in Disneyland Paris the next day.
originally a starblvd post by CAM, Apr/21/2004 00:20:15 [-05 EST]
I think the crowds standing around the Mona Lisa are all people staring at it in search of whatever it is that people find interesting about it. They are standing there thinking "there's got to be something more to it than this?!"
I am looking forward to your description of Disneyland, and particularly the reactions of you and your kids! Our kids loved the original Disneyland in California -- we made our pilgrimage there when they were about 11 and 8.