Monday, May 6, 2013

Paris Day Four

In case you missed it  - Introduction, Day One, Day Two, Day Three

Monday, March 11, 2013

The plan for Monday was to go to Versailles, then come back and walk the Champs Elysees. We woke up and headed off to the train station. We had pre-bought our tickets when we first got to Paris so we didn't need to worry about them later. We figured out which train we were supposed to get on, mostly by eavesdropping on other peoples conversations. Then we got some croissants and juice at the snack stand and waited for our train. We got on the train and sat back and relaxed because we needed to take it all the way to the end, it was about a 45 minute ride. We ate our croissants, which were the most delicious croissants I have ever eaten! Who knew that the croissants that we got at the train station snack stand would be so yummy!!!

During the train ride there was an accordion player who came on board. There was also a man who walked the train and put little cards on the chair next to you. The cards talked about how he was an refugee and wasn't able to find work and needed money for his children. Then a few minutes later, he would come back through the car and pick them up. That happened on more than one of our longer train rides. As we got closer and closer to Versailles, I started to notice that there weren't very many people on the train. It was winter so the tourist sites hadn't been too crowded, but there had been crowds. A few stops before we got there I decided to pull out our Museum Pass that had the times for all of the attractions on it.

Versailles was closed on Mondays...

So we sat there trying to decided what to do. Should we get off the train at the next stop and just head back, should we go all the way to the stop and just look at Versailles. We ended up not quite doing either. We got off at the Versailles stop, then we exited the train station. Luckily the machines were down so we didn't need a ticket to exit. This meant that we didn't end up losing money for this mess up. I was in a rather foul mood and it was sprinkling so shortly after we exited the train station I demanded that we just go back. We were only wasting time, and we would have to come back another day. Jeff had wanted to walk around a bit and explore and go see the Chateau, but I was grumpy and we were doing nothing of the sort. (We hadn't had much time to plan our trip, and I was mad that the situation probably would have been prevented had we planned our day earlier than the night before.)

Anyways.... Getting back on the train was fun. We entered again the train station and go out to the platform. There are two trains. We notice there are a lot of people sitting on one of the trains, so we get on that train. A few minutes after we sit down there is an announcement over the intercom and most of the people on the train get off and go onto the other train. So, we decide to follow them, but we made our decision too late, and the train doors closed in front of us. So, we just go back over and sit on our original train. We sit for a while longer and a second train pulls in and a few people get on board that train. We decide that we are going to sit in this train no matter what. The other train took off and left again before ours did. Weren't we feeling stupid.  But, a few minutes later our train left, and we were on our way back to Paris. Changing the plans a bit to incorporate some of the things were planning on doing that Friday.

We started out at the Orangerie which is in the Tuilleries Gardens. Tuillerie is my new favorite French word. Come on say it... Isn't that fun?  The Tuilleries Gardens are just outside of the Louvre, and the Orangerie is a Impressionist museum that has Claude Monet's  famous Waterlillies. We spent about an hour there, it's not a very large museum.

After the Orangerie, we walked down the road to the Opera Garnier. The Opera Garnier is the famous opera that is pictured in tons of movies, including a favorite of mine, The Phantom of the Opera. The Opera is HUGE and is ridiculously ornate. We had to pay to go inside, but it was worth it. We loved it! There were costumes from old shows, and just room after room of beautiful decorations. My favorite part of the Opera Garnier was the library. I want to have a room just like it in my house someday!






with flash.

without flash

 

Right across the street from the Opera Garnier was the Galleries Lafeyette. The largest department store I have ever seen! It is 7 stories and takes up two city blocks! We ended up spending 3 hours there! We had so much fun walking around and looking at all the things they sold. Jeff got a couple dress shirts and then we also got some bread and cheese for the next day when we were in England. We also ate at the McDonalds in Galleries Lafeyette because Grammy had told us we needed to eat there and get a brownie. Sadly, we forgot about the brownies. We did however get some sandwiches. My thing with eating at McDonalds in foreign countries is that it's okay as long as you get something you can't get in the United States. So we had sandwiches that had a burger patty and goat cheese and lettuce and some sauce. They were delicious!

After Galleries Lafeyette, we went back to the hotel and dropped off our purchases. We then took the Metro to the end of the Champs Elysees opposite the Arc du Triomphe. It was freezing cold and raining the whole time! We walked pretty quickly and only stopped in three stores. The first we went to was a Paris-Saint Germain soccer team store. Then, we walked along a little farther and went into a clothing store. I really wanted to look and see if they had a warmer coat than the one I had brought. But, I couldn't really find anything I could justify spending the money on. Last we went to the Louis Vuitton store because it was HUGE and we were cold. I'm pretty sure there were more workers than people in that store, and the store wasn't empty!



When we got to the Arc du Triomphe we decided not to go up to the top because it was so cold and rainy. We instead were going to try to find this Fondue restaurant that had been recommended to us by our tour guide, Greg from Australia.  We took the Metro from the Arc du Triomphe over to the stop listed next to the restaurant on the sheet we had. We walked around the square looking for the road the restaurant was supposed to be on. We couldn't find it, but we did see the Moulin Rouge... We decided to stop and ask a crepe vendor if he knew where the restaurant was. He didn't know, but he pulled out his phone and called the restaurant to find out. This whole interchange happened in french and when he explained the directions to me in French, I wasn't 100% certain of what he said. So, we walked the way I thought he said, and turns out we were right, however I missed the part where we were then supposed to go like 2 miles down the road.... So it was getting late and it was still raining. We decided to give up and just get on the Metro we were at. When we got down to wait for the Metro, we saw a map. On the map we found the road that it was on, but we decided to just try again another night.

We went back to the hotel and just decided to go to one of the restaurants they recommended that was right behind the hotel. We went to it and it happened to be the exact same menu as the Italian restaurant we went to on the second night, just a different location! We even had the same waitress! We each got something different, and once again the food was incredible! When we left the restaurant it was snowing! We stood there enjoying the snow for a moment, and being Floridians. A man walked past us and muttered something about hurrying to get out of the snow, but we were enjoying ourselves. Can't you tell!


 

I do have to say that these were the biggest snowflakes I had ever seen! We tried to go to bed quickly that night because we had to be up early for England the next day!

Paris Day Three!

In case you missed them, Introduction, Day One, Day Two


Sunday, March 10, 2013

This morning we decided to eat breakfast at the hotel. It was a traditional European breakfast of rolls, cheeses, and cold cuts. We were in a hurry because we needed to be at the foot of the Eiffel Tower by 10:15. We wanted to get there a little early because we were worried about not being allowed on the tour because we hadn't checked in ahead of time.

We took the Metro down to the the Trocadero stop. The Trocadero is a large garden leading up to the Eiffel Tower. Let me set the scene for you... We get off the Metro stop and there is a sign pointing towards the Eiffel Tower. We walk along the side of this building, and then BAM! there it is! I'm pretty sure that was another one of the moments that I turned to Jeff and said, "We're in Paris!". I may have teared up a bit. It's just so exciting to have seen pictures and heard of things all your life and then to actually get to see it in person!


 
So we walk over to the Eiffel Tower after snapping a few pictures. Oh did I mention our camera died... so these are the only pictures that we have of the day! But, as you can also see it was a pretty cloudy and hazy day, so the views from the Eiffel Tower weren't that great anyways.
 
 
We get over to the corner where we are supposed to meet our guide and he's there with a few other people from the group. We decide to just give him our name and not mention the whole not-checking-in-thing. He had us on the list and that was that! We were still going on the tour!
 
Our tour guide was Greg from Australia. He was a young guy, and you could tell he really enjoyed what he did. He was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We spent a few minutes under the Eiffel Tower learning about the history and construction behind it. Then, up we went! In order to go up to the first deck you go up a cable car through the legs. Once you are on the second floor you take an elevator straight up! We spent a lot of time on the second floor with Greg from Australia. We went around all four sides and he showed us the different buildings we could see from the Eiffel Tower. It was FREEZING cold and windy up there. But, Greg from Australia was entertaining enough to keep the whole group there (well, except for the Indian family who didn't speak English and rudely took their tickets from him and promptly left the group just after the tour started). 
 
My favorite story that he told was of a man who wrote for the newspaper. He had written a editorial about how he thought the Eiffel Tower should be torn down. That same man was seen eating lunch in the Eiffel Tower multiple times a week. When asked what he was doing there he said, "This is the only place in Paris where I don't have to look at this ugly building!"
 
We had a short break during the tour and went and got hot chocolate, which was highly recommended by Greg from Australia. We also bought Jeff's Dad a Eiffel Tower plaque that he had requested, our first souvenir! We went up to the third floor (the top). When we stepped out of the elevator all we could see was WHITE! Then, as we approached the windows we could see more, but it was all below us. We could actually see farther off into the distance from the second floor. We walked around the top, and then headed back down. While we were waiting for the elevator down, someone came on the intercom and said that pickpockets were at large on the Tower and to be careful. We had always been careful, knowing that there were pickpockets everywhere in Paris, but it just made us a little more wary.
 
After the Eiffel Tower, the plan was to go over to the Conciergerie. We headed back to the Metro, but we went down on the wrong side. So we came out of the station, but when we tried to go on the other side, it wouldn't let us in. So we started walking... and walking... and walking... It was just a straight shot down the river, but it was a 3 mile long straight shot. It was cold, lunch time, and I needed to use the restroom.  This is where we became very grateful for our Museum passes. Half way between the Eiffel Tower and the Conciergerie was the Musee D'Orsay. Grammy (my dad's mom) had told us we needed to eat in the restaurant at the Musee D'Orsay, and so we figured it would be the perfect place to stop and eat and use clean restrooms.
 
Quick Note: Before we had gone to Paris we read up on all kinds of things. One of those things was all the different scams the gypsies use in order to get your money. We were really excited when we got to witness one of them just outside the Musee D'Orsay. The gypsy lady is walking towards you, she stops and picks up a ring. She will ask you if it's yours, then when you say no, show you that it's real gold and try to sell it to you. Personally, even if I didn't know it was a scam, I still feel like this scenario questions ones morals a bit. Who is going to buy a ring that they know belongs to someone else, who is probably wondering where it is, and is going to come back looking for it. But, we said no and kept moving on our way. What made it even funnier was just on the opposite side of the street we saw another 'ring dropper' hard at work as well! This even was pretty interesting, and provided the subject of most of our lunch conversation. We asked questions like, what if we said that the ring was ours? or what if someone followed behind her and picked up the ring after she dropped it?
 
Back to lunch. The restaurant was gorgeous! Gold leafing, chandeliers, tall painted ceilings, large windows, and statues all around. The food was even better! We both ordered the French Onion Soup. It was incredible! I had probably and inch thick layer of melted cheese on top, and then bits of bread in the soup. It was amazing!!! Then for dessert we had a plate with pineapple, spanish nougat icecream, and banana marscapone. Can you say delicious? (My mouth is watering just typing this... )
 
After lunch we were able to get on the Metro to go the rest of the way to the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie is a humungous building, so I was a little disappointed when the museum part of it was only a few rooms. However, because we were running a bit behind schedule, it helped us make up some time. The Conciergerie was the prison where the nobles were held during the French Revolution, including Marie Antoinette! The museum showed how the different prisoners would have lived, whether they were richer or poorer, or Marie Antoinettette! It all depended on what they could afford to buy for themselves.
 
After the Conciergerie, we went on one of the walks out of the Rick Steve's Paris book, with a few minor adjustments. It also included a lot of the buildings that Jeff was looking forward to seeing with his class. We started at the Conciergerie and went to the Hotel de Ville. On our way there we had to stop for a very large parade of motorcycles going down the street. We don't know what it was for, but there was lots of pink involved. Motorcycles and pink.... It was quite an interesting display! After looking at the Hotel de Ville, we walked down to the Pompidou Centre. The Pompidou is a modern art museum and really interesting on the outside. Basically all of the buildings pipes, vents, and things that should be on the inside, are on the outside and colored all differently. Since we don't have any pictures, it's definitely one you should go Google. Outside the Pompidou were tons of street vendors and yet another, much smaller, parade. This one was very musical, but the group that we saw was beating on trash cans. We walked in and out of the stores surrounding the Pompidou and looked at the interesting art and souvenirs to be had in the area. We didn't go into the Pompidou because I don't like modern art, and Jeff was just interested in seeing the outisde of the building.
 
After the Pompidou, we walked past the Hotel Soubise, and then made our way towards the Place des Vosages and the Victor Hugo House. Along the way there was tons of small local shops and businesses and tons of local people. You could tell this was a rather tourist-free zone, and it was really nice to witness. The Place des Vosages was really cute! It was a small square with a park in the middle surrounded by identical brick houses. One of the houses was Victor Hugo's house. Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables, and a few other famous classics. We went inside Victor Hugo's house and it was small, but pretty interesting. Almost all of the walls were covered in red damask. I don't think I would hire him as my interior decorator. It was still pretty cool to go in the 19th century home. I could definately live in the Place des Vosages, and I see why an author might enjoy it too!
 
Just around the corner, and down the street from the Place des Vosages was the Bastille Opera. A very modern building, but really neat to look at. It is also located where the Bastille used to be. The square it was located in was where all of the nobles were beheaded during the French Revolution. We looked around the square and sat down on a bench for a bit (we had just walked three miles, (again)). It was getting dark and so we decided to head back to the hotel and then figure out where we wanted to eat for dinner. Back at the hotel we made the mistake of laying down on the bed to "rest for a few momonets" and ended up taking a 2 hour nap. It was after 9 when we woke up and we still needed to decide where to go for dinner. We decided on a restaurant called Hippopotomaus. It was just across the street from the Gare du Nord and we had talked about it a few times already. The food was not the best, but it did the trick and was relatively inexpensive. We went back to the hotel and crashed pretty quick! We had Versailles planned for the next day!  
 
 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Paris Day Two

In case you missed it: Introduction to Paris, Paris Day One

This morning we chose not to set an alarm, or maybe we did set an alarm and just chose to ignore it. I'm not really sure anymore. I do however know that it was after 10am when we finally left the hotel. We went first to the Musée de l'Armée, also known as Hôtel Invalides. We had such a great time there! I know I'm a girl and all, but one of my favorite things to see in museums is old armor and weapons. I loved this museum because the whole thing was filled with old weapons and armor ranging from the Stone Age to WWII. We had only planned to spend less than two hours there, but we ended up spending almost four! I had seen English armor before, but the French armor is so much more intricate. Jeff was really fascinated by the guns. There were also tons of funny faced helmets that we made sure we got pictures of to show our nephews. Here are all the pictures that we took there. Sorry there are a lot, but we just had too much fun there.

The entrance to the Museum. French architecture is just so beautiful!!
 
The windows on the roof looked like suits of armor! Pretty neat!
 
This gun had three barrels!
 
Really fancy hats!
 
Fancy armor. These belonged to a king.
 
Fancy armor with matching armor for the horse.
 
We loved that this one had a ear on the side of the helmet!
 
Jeff really loved how detailed all the guns were!
 
A ferocious helmet!
 
Just the blade.
 
Look at how long that thing was! It was only used for ceremonial purposes.
 
Fancy helmet with a dragon on top!
 
Japanese jewel encrusted powder horn.
 
Really long cannon
 
Cannon with multiple barrels
 
Really funny helmet. We wonder if someone really used this....
 
This one looked like it should belong to a jester.
 
Winged helmet. You can see Jeff in the background, this was one of his favorites.
 
HUGE cannon, and Jeff for scale
 
The interior courtyard of the museum.
 
The view of the museum from near the Metro stop. The dome in the back is where the Tombeau de Napolean is located.

If you read the picture captions you would know that at the Hôtel Invalides is also the Tombeau de Napolean, or Napolean's tomb. The tomb is in the center of a large domed church. You can see the golden dome behind the Hôtel Invalides in the picture above. The tomb is HUGE, and ridiculously elaborate. The tombs of four other famous French Generals are also house in the four corners of the church. Have I mentioned I love old churches! We spent a good 20 minutes sitting on a marble bench just staring up at the dome (and maybe resting because we were already tired). It was pretty cold inside the church because of all the marble and stone, but it was really well lit with tons of windows.  Here are the pictures that we took of the tomb and the church.
 
The tomb from above.
 
The dome above the tomb.
 
The tomb from the ground.
 
The statues around the tomb.
 
Statue of Napoleon.
 
 

View from the front of the church, and Me!
After going to the Tomb of Napolean, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the museum cafeteria. We just got some pre-made sandwiches, berry pie, and a custard dessert that we think was flan. The sandwiches were surprisingly yummy. I also got a Monster energy drink because I used to be quite fond of them and I felt the need to drink one in Paris. We had planned on walking down the Champs Elysées after the Musée de l'Armée, but we didn't have enough time to go before the soccer game, and we still needed to pick up our tickets. So we were off to the Paris Saint Germain (PSG) vs Nancy soccer game.
 
Oh. my. goodness. Picking up our tickets was probably one of the most awful experiences ever! We got to the stadium and were in line to get our tickets just under two hours before the game. We waited...and waited... and waited... Occasionally they would let a group of people come up through the line to the front. After hearing them say it a few times I realized these were the people who had bought there tickets off the official website. We, on the other hand, had bought our tickets off a website called Viagogo. Viagogo is really the only other place you can buy tickets for the PSG games besides the main website. There is in fact was a link to it from the PSG website because all there tickets had been sold out. It was crazy.
 
People were getting very angry, and the lines were just getting longer and longer. Lucky for us we had gotten there fairly early and so we weren't too far from the front of the line. I don't think I have mentioned that they were letting 5 to 10 people through every 20 minutes or so. By they I mean the man who was standing in front of our line trying (really failing) to control the mob of people. While we were waiting a car on the highway below us had broken down and we were slightly entertained by watching them push there car up the hill and wait for the police to come. However, the broken down car did not distract us from the fact that we had been in line for over an hour. By the time we got to the front of the line and should have been next to be let through, the people around us were furious, and rightfully so because it was 5 minutes before the game was supposed to start. They had brought over another man to help try to control the crowd, and when they went to let the next few people through there was a huge surge of angry people that pushed through and one of the crowd control men reached out and stopped Jeff and I from going. Did I mention we were at the front of the line....? At this point I was starting to get really annoyed, I had tried to be calm and smile at the guard in hopes that he would be kind to us for not being rude to him. Apparently that wasn't going to work. So we got to wait another 20 minutes. Once again there was an angry push of people that pushed around the men, and once again he tried to stick out his arm in front of me. I gave him a probably very nasty look and said, "Monsieur!" very firmly. He nodded his head and let Jeff and I pass. When we got into the ticket office we realized why it had been taking so long. There were only two people handing out tickets for Viagogo as opposed to the 20+ people for the PSG website. However, it was 20 minutes into the game by the time we sat down in our seats, which by the way were in the twelfth row and really awesome! So, in case you didn't figure it out already, I would NOT recommend using Viagogo for buying tickets to any event.  Don't forget that we were towards the front of the line and we missed the first 20 minutes! I wouldn't be surprised if most of the people didn't end up getting to see the game!
 
 ***I promise this is the last huge rant I have about things going wrong, well until I get to the group of teenagers at Disneyland Paris, but there are always annoying groups of teenagers at theme parks so that doesn't really count.
 
The game was lots of fun (now that we were finally there). Nancy scored the first goal, and emotions were high. Paris Saint Germain tied it up, and then scored one more for the win! It was really neat to show Jeff how excited the rest of the world is about soccer. We also got to see David Beckham play. He had just recently transferred to PSG two weeks before! That was an added bonus!
 
 
The stadium

 
 
 
We went back to our hotel, and tried to decide where to eat. We decided just to walk down the street our hotel was on (Boulevard Magenta) and find something. We ended up deciding on this small pizzeria. I had the best pizza I'd eaten since I was in Italy! I got a Quatro Fromaggio pizza and Jeff got a Calzone. I wish I would have taken a picture of the calzone it was so huge it stretched a couple inches off each side of the plate! Olive Garden could take a lesson from this restaurant. Their fresh Parmesan was not just freshly grated, it was freshly scraped out of a wheel of cheese by the waitresses! We had Créme Brulée for dessert. It has always been one of my favorite desserts in the United States, but Jeff had never had it and he loved it! We spent almost two hours in the restaurant just chatting, and planning our day. It was almost 11pm by the time we got back to our hotel.
 
When we got back Jeff pulls out a piece of paper and gives it to me. He had bought us tickets for a tour of the Eiffel Tower! It was a surprise, because we hadn't been able to pre-purchase tickets. However, I was reading over the paper and read a sentence that said that we were supposed to call and reconfirm our order at least 24 hours in advance, which Jeff hadn't done. We were really worried and Jeff was feeling really bad. We tried looking all over the website to see if there was anything we could do, but couldn't find anything. At one in the morning, we decided we were just going to show up for the tour the next day and see if they would let us on. I mean come on, we can't be the first set of tourists to forget!
 
You will have to wait until the next post to find out what happens... (Cue suspenseful music!)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Paris Day One

I wrote a little Introduction to our trip to give some general details before I begin. 

On, Thursday, March 8th at 3pm, Jeff FINALLY picks me up from work. It was such a long day, but I got so much accomplished trying to keep busy. We then went and picked John Keisling up from school and drove to the Tallahassee airport. We had already printed our boarding passes the night before and all we had were carry on bags so we went straight to security. Jeff was stopped and they had to search his bag. Apparently the alarm clock, plug adapter, and cellphone charge all close together looked like a bomb.... The best part was the lady held up the alarm clock and asked us what we were going to use it for? After going through security we ended up having almost two hours before the plane left. (Note to self: TLH is tiny! There is no need to show up early for a flight. Ever!) Our plane was on time (the only one of the trip) and we were off to Atlanta!

When we got to Atlanta we had an hour and a half before our plane left. Jeff sat with all the stuff and I went off to get Peiwei. Something I find very funny about International Terminals in airports is that they are way nicer and have much better shopping and places to eat than the rest of the airport. By the time I got back they were already starting to board the plane, so we ate some of our food quickly and brought the rest on the plane. We hadn't been assigned seats next to each other, but we were able to trade with someone. Our plane ride seemed to take forever! But, the food was good and we each had our own TV to watch movies, listen to music, or play games on. We were fed twice and after each meal the flight attendants walk down the aisles offering warm rolls. Yum! We like Air France. Our plane finally landed 45 minutes late at 12:00pm Friday afternoon, Paris Time. We had to go through custums, then walk what seemed like miles to the train station. We bought tickets for our trip to and from Paris from the Charles de Gaulle Airport and also went ahead and bought tickets to a from Versailles while we were there. We got on the train and headed for Paris! Our stop was the Gare du Nord which is a MASSIVE train station. It is connected to the Metro, RER, Eurostar, and other trains as well! Our hotel was maybe a two minute walk from the front door. That turned out to be VERY convenient!  We got to the hotel a few minutes before 2:30pm, which was the check in time anyways so it worked out perfectly! We got settled in and headed for Notre Dame.

We were a little worried that we might have trouble finding it when we got off the metro, but we came up the stairs and there it was! It was kind of surreal to see! I turned to Jeff and said," We're in Paris!" Even though it was winter, there were still quite a lot of people there. I can't imagine how bad the crowds must be in the summer time! Notre Dame was beautiful!
I have always loved old churches. They are so large and grand and impressive. It amazes me how permanent and detailed they were able to make the architecture without the use of modern machinery. I could just sit and look around for hours; there are so many things to see and take in! We walked around the outside of Notre Dame, twice. The first time we were trying to find out how to go up in the towers, and discovered they were closed until the following day. The second time was because we got a little turned around trying to find our way to the Conciergerie.

 We were told by someone that we had to try hot dogs in Paris, we hadn't eaten anything since we were on the airplane, and so we decided to stop at one of the street vendors and get a hot dog. Oh my goodness! It was yummy! The bun was about a foot long and had two hot dogs on it. Those two hot dogs were smothered in a layer of cheese about an inch thick! Not, the nasty nacho cheese, but real cheese! During our trips around Notre Dame, we stopped in some of the tourist shops too! I don't know why, but I am kind of fascinated by them. I hardly ever buy anything, but I really like to look at all the different things they have to sell. It's weird and I bet Jeff grew sick of it by the end of the trip, but I really like walking through tourist shops. I will say, he is lucky in the fact that I spend maybe 2-5 minutes in each. I just walk through, look and then leave.

So as I said we headed for the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie was the prison where Marie Antoinette and most of the other people beheaded during the French Revolution were kept. When we found the Conciergerie, we sadly discovered that it too was closed until the following day. We then went to the Saint Chapelle, which like Notre Dame and the Conciergerie is on the Île de la Cité. The Île de la Cité is where the city of Paris began. It is a small island in the middle of the Seine River.

When we got to Saint Chapelle we saw that they should have been closed for the day(according to the sign). However, they were letting people in, so we decided to give it a try. We were able to get in and look around. Both my father and grandmother said that we HAD to go to the Saint Chapelle, and at first Jeff and I couldn't figure out why. We looked around the dimly lit lower part of the building (though at the time we didnt' realize it was the lower part) and were not very impressed. The stain glass was dim and the paint was falling off the walls. Now, don't get me wrong, it was pretty, but we had just left Notre Dame and it didn't seem like anything in comparison. We didn't spend long looking around and were just about to leave, when we saw a stairwell in the corner. We walked up the spiral staircase and quickly realized why we were told we couldn't miss this church!

 
 
 

It was so gorgeous! The stained glass windows were gigantic and bright! After the trip, Jeff actually said that Saint Chapelle was one of his top three favorite things we did! It would have been so terrible if we hadn't seen the staircase in the corner leading up to this!

After the Saint Chapelle, we walked across the Seine to the Louvre! The Louvre is open until 9:45pm on Friday nights so even though it was almost 7pm when we arrived there we still had plenty of time. Let me start by saying the Louvre is massive!!! One could spend a week there and probably still not see everything! I had a list of things that I wanted to see. So we found them on the map and headed straight for them. We looked around at the things in the rooms we walked through, but for the most part we just headed straight for the things on my list.

We saw the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, The Mona Lisa, Oath of the Horatii, The Wedding Feast at Cana, and The Stele of Hammurabi (Hammurabi's Code). I had wanted to see the Seated Scribe, one of the oldest, still painted, Egyptian statues, but the wing that it was in was closed that day. We ended up going back the next Friday to see it. The Louvre was beautiful! Not just all the art in it, but the building itself! Before it was a museum it was a palace and every bit of it is covered in marble, gold leaf, and grand architecture.  Something I do have to say about the Mona Lisa is that it's small. There is a large number of people surrounding it and it was pretty underwhelming. I guess now I can say I have seen it in person, even though it wasn't that great of a view.
The ceiling of a room in the Louvre.


We were exhausted by the time we finished at the Louvre! We had been walking around all day and had only gotten about 3 or 4 hours of sleep on the plane. We were hungry and ready for bed. We exited the Louvre through the underground shopping mall called the Carousel. That is where the inverted pyramid was that Jeff really wanted to see. They had a food court there, but nothing really caught our eye, so we decided to search above ground. Near the metro stop we saw to restaurants. The first seemed more like a bar, so we decided to go into the second. Looking back we really wish we would have gone into the first one, or just eaten at the food court.
 
We walked into the restaurant and they asked if we had a reservation. We didn't, but there was only one couple in the restaurant so they were able to seat us. We think the host gestured toward the table right next to the other couple. When I say "right next to" , I mean the tables were probably two inches apart. There was a row of about 5 of them. I started to slide down the bench to the table and Jeff sat down across from me at the first table that was farthest away from the couple. I think this annoyed the host a bit. We then started looking over the menu as the restaurant started to fill up. There were couples placed on either side of us. The other couples were just  talking and chatting and Jeff and I were so tired we couldn't think of anything to say. That made us feel pretty awkward. Jeff ordered a lamb shank and I ordered steak and french fries. Jeff thought his food was good, but it was a very small portion. He ended up eating a granola bar when we got back to the hotel room. My steak didn't seem to have any flavor and all I had to cut it with was a butter knife which didn't work very well. I'm also pretty positive that the couple sitting next to us was talking about my miserable attempts at cutting my steak. I only ended up eating about a third of it, but I did eat all of my french fries (with a fork). Then, after we were done eating we sat for a long time! They cleared our plates and still we sat.  Finally, we figured we better ask for the check, however for the life of me I couldn't remember how to say check in French. Luckily, they got the message. We paid and were out of there! We felt awkward and unwanted the whole time and it didn't help that the food wasn't that great. We took the metro home and quickly fell asleep!
 
The next morning I pulled out the Rick Steve's Paris book and read the section on Restaurants. There we learned that quick service is considered rude in France. We also learned that they won't bring the check until you ask for it and if they do it is almost the equivalent of them kicking you out of the restaurant. French waiters don't work off of tips, they are paid much better than waiters in the U.S. They also work much harder! They have so many tables are often running around constantly, you have to be assertive and catch them if you want anything, otherwise they will get to you when they have a moment (which could mean you are waiting a very long time). Lastly, Europeans don't really have a sense of personal space, or at least their personal space is MUCH smaller than American personal space. It is normal to seat people at the same table in a restaurant or for someone to be standing so close they touch you on the metro. We didn't want to have another awkward experience and quickly adapted to the "French" style of living and dining! We love it! That first night was the only awkward dining experience and bad food we had the rest of the trip! It was a great learning experience! Now that we knew a little more about the culture it made it so much easier to accept and understand it. It also allowed us to have such rich experiences and feel more relaxed throughout our trip!