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  • Day12

    Day 12: Paris, France

    July 18, 2016 in France ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    Today we had a later start than we would have liked. It feels like we've been traveling for weeks and our bodies are tired and losing stamina. The sun didn't set in Scotland until 10:20 and it rose at 4:45 so we feel like zombies in the morning. Now that we're in Paris with AC, blackout curtains, and a comfortable bed, all we want to do is sleep, but we want to see everything, too. The good thing is that everything is closer in Paris than it was in London. Paris may be sprawling, but the main attractions and neighborhoods (or arrondissements) are incredibly close and the metro stops are very close together if you need to use them at all. Some other differences between the metro and tube is that the tube was used by everyone (businessmen, tourists, locals) where the metro seems to mainly be poorer to average locals and some tourists. Paris' boulevards are much wider (thanks to Napoleon) and therefore driving is possible where in London it was not. Today we walked to Ile de la Cite where Paris began in the 50s AD. It's a fairly small island in the middle of the Seine next to Ile de St. Louis. On the Cite there are several iconic places including St. Chapelle church (didn't tour), Conciergerie (where it was first a palace then a prison especially during the French Revolution where Marie Antoinette stayed) and of course Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the most visited monument in France (that's what the brochure said) and is stunning with it's 2 towers, rose windows, flying buttresses, and is the best example of gothic architecture standing. We took some pictures, but with the heat and long line, we decided we'd try early another morning. We walked across the bridge to the Latin Quarter (oldest quarter with iconic Haussmannian architecture) to Shakespeare and Company bookstore. This little independent bookstore is famous for the people who frequented it like Fitzgerald and Hemingway during the 20s. It was opened by an American and houses all English books. I bought a Madeline in Paris book and received their official stamp in the front cover. We then went to the Musee de Cluny. This is a medieval museum in a monastery most well-known for the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry ("I've come to see the tapestries" keeps running through my mind) which is shrouded in mystery since it's unlike anything else made at the time. Nice museum with few people. The building itself was really neat with it's gothic medieval architecture. We then walked to Jardin du Luxembourg and had a salad and cold tea and people watched. This is probably the most famous garden in France where people come to lay in the grass, eat, and let their poor cooped up city children run around. Kids also rent little sail boats to put in the murky fountain in front of the palace. We then walk to the Pantheon where King Louis XV built a secular building to the Saint Genevieve and where thousands are buried in the crypt below with lots of famous French people (like Rousseau, Voltaire, Hugo, Dumas, Braille, etc.). I found it amusing that the godless were buried here because they couldn't be buried in a church. After cooling off there, we headed back to the island, grabbed a chocolate crepe made fresh, jumped on the metro and headed back to the hotel to shower, cool off, and give our feet a rest. Some side remarks: I read in several places that everyone under the age of 35 knew English- that is so untrue. Except those at front desks, I'd say most do not know English here. They may know a few words, but they cannot carry on a conversation or understand anything specific. I'm totally blown away. I didn't learn French before we came here, so we've been going off Joel's high school French and it's saved us several times already ordering food, maneuvering the streets, and reading placards (which are all in French even in the museums). The children at church didn't know English (and their grandmother is American) and a teenager at church last night began in English and switched to French when he got too frustrated. Anyways... After our rest, we made our way down Champs-Elyses where they are getting ready for the tour de France next week. We decide to grab a cheap and healthy dinner at Pret-a-manger because last night's dinner was super annoying with our waiter not understanding Joel explaining allergies so he gave him more potatoes, not no potatoes. Sometimes our French is better than their English- and that's bad. We decide we're going to do 2 nice dinners with reservations and pre-explain the allergies and do pret the other nights. After dinner we walk to the Arc du Triumphe (walked under the street to get to it) and then used our fast pass to walk right by the line again. Joel thinks we're going to save ourself an entire day of waiting when this is all over. We walked the 200 or so steps to the top and we got an awesome view of the entire city as the sun sets. Everything is so close- you can see the modern downtown to the west, the eiffel tower to the south, the champs-elyses and the ferris wheel to the east and sacre-couer church NE. Totally worth it. We walk down and walk the other side of the boulevard until we want to take the metro the rest of the way to the Louvre to take some awesome night pictures. We're super tired and go back to the hotel to rest our weary little legs.Read more