I’m picking right up where I left off in last week’s post.
We landed in Paris, went through customs and took the train into town, arriving at our apartment to meet our host at 11pm.
We all chose beds and fell quickly into them. It was Saturday night, and there was lots of activity on the streets. I flung open the windows of my room so I could fall asleep to the noises of Paris.
For a while I could hear singing and then a voice from a building somewhere above me yelled at the revelers to be quiet. I caught a bit of it on Vine because it made me giggle. It would be morning before I could see Paris, but we were already experiencing it.
We woke up to rain falling and sleepy kids, so Peter and I ran out in the rain to grab coffee and pastries. We were going to get some groceries to have at the apartment but I had forgotten that most of the markets in Paris are closed on Sundays. We were fortunate to find a patisserie that was open, so we left finding a market until later and went back with croissants and treats.
We decided to stay close to our apartment on our first day. We were about ten minutes from Notre-Dame on the Ile de la Cite, so went there first and then explored the island.
The Notre-Dame was predictably mobbed, and this clown was determined to be in my photo. You can tell from the looks on our faces that he was uninvited. I feel the same way about clowns as I do about crowds, so we moved on quickly to smaller streets.
There are lots of crowded spots in Paris, but I do love that it is fairly simple to get away from the crowds. Usually if you just walk a couple of blocks in any direction, you can escape the madness and find your own secret Paris.
The boys loved walking along the river, and they were not at all bothered by the rain or the puddles.
In fact the rain was kind of perfect. Ben and I had just watched Midnight in Paris where Owen Wilson keeps talking about walking in the rain in Paris.
I do love all the rainy Paris photos.
We had classic baguette sandwiches for lunch and then went to Amarino to get gelato.
Our afternoon was dominated by trying to find a market that was open.
We finally found a tiny one where we bought a few groceries to hold us over.
Then I went for a rainy walk by myself while everyone rested for a bit back at the apartment.
The boys and I stayed in and had pasta while Peter and Whitney went out to dinner. I wanted them to have a night out in Paris without worrying about the kids begging to leave a restaurant.
Everyone was happy! The World Cup final was on, and you could hear the cheering in the streets.
Monday was Bastille Day and we knew it was going to be a long day. Our plan was to spend the day slowly walking to the Eiffel Tower, making stops along the way. That way we would be there to have our dinner picnic and claim our spot for the fireworks.
We walked to the river and meandered along at our own pace.
First we made a stop at the Pont des Arts, also known as the Love Locks Bridge.
Next we went to the Louvre.
Paris museums are free on Bastille Day so we took the kids in for just a few minutes, to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Seeing the Mona Lisa was on their list, so we were excited to make it happen, but Simon’s favorite painting in the Louvre was one he found of some dogs.
Inadvertently we managed to exit the museum through the Medieval Undergound which I did not know existed. It is a tunnel through the original foundations of the Louvre, a fortress in former days. At first I thought we were in an extension of an exhibit for Egyptian pyramids but Peter figured it out that we were actually in the underground of the Louvre. At the end of the tunnels, there is a model of what it used to look like. It was all super fascinating and in contrast to the rest of the museum, completely deserted. (Again, always head away from the crowds!)
When we emerged under the famous Pyramid, planes were flying over as part of the celebrations for Bastillle Day.
After we walked out of the Pyramid, we grabbed sandwiches from a stand and just let the kids play in the grass.
The memory of our boys playing in the grass outside the Louvre is one of my most happy + idyllic.
We wandered back to the river bank because I could not wait to show the boys all the summer fun that they have set up on the Left Bank in Paris this summer.
We took our time enjoying the games, the views and the sunshine along the river.
It’s a cross between art and play this summer on the Left Bank, with lots of interactive installations.
Like this giant chalkboard.
And this dance party under a bridge where you can tap in via bluetooth and play your own music.
We followed our river walk with a trip to Rue Cler for more gelato and to pick up the food for our Eiffel Tower Picnic.
We reached the Eiffel Tower around 4pm, which was perhaps a little early for the fireworks (not until midnight!) but if you’re going to wait around all day somewhere, I cannot imagine a better setting.
We took turns keeping our spot while the kids made trips to a nearby playground. Ben and I rented bikes and rode up to the Arc de Triomphe so he could see it and feel what it’s like to be on a bicycle in Paris.
We also left to get more food, because when you’re sitting around people watching all day, you need a lot to eat.
Honestly, I was a little bit worried that the whole experience was going to be a letdown. That there was no way it could handle the build up. Plus I knew we had a VERY long walk home in the middle of the night. I had read that it would be impossible to find a cab and that there would be a crush on the Metro. We had geared ourselves up and even took a few little naps on the lawn, but I was still concerned that we might be sorry.
Also, the crowd grew thicker and thicker all evening, and we had to be kind of territorial to hold onto our spot.
Soon the music started and after a while the band began to play songs that were familiar to the surrounding Parisians. The Eiffel Tower began to light up in all different colors. People were waving giant flags and blowing bubbles and standing up and singing along.
It was beautiful.
Then just before the fireworks, the National Anthem of France played. The singing became so loud and the enthusiasm in the air was palpable. I felt myself start to get a little lump in my throat and there were tears in my eyes, and the fireworks had not even started.
Then they began, and all concern about whether or not it was really worth it to come to Paris for Bastille Day immediately washed away.
Pictures cannot capture the magic. Neither can videos.
The music and the spectacle were all timed together, with loud horns for the big bangs and soft violins for little sparks. At one point there was a man swinging from the center of the tower and another one climbing down the side. You could see them because they were wearing lighted costumes.
The fireworks shot from behind and from the top and from every possible level of the tower, and they went on for almost an hour.
The walk home at 1 am was long and hard and crazy, but we all agreed that it was worth every step. When I fell into bed dizzy with the wonder of the day, it was almost 3am.
It was the event of a lifetime for certain, and given the opportunity, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The next morning we all slept in. Our train was at 4pm, so by the time we got moving, we just had a few hours left in Paris.
We spent them on the Ile Saint-Louis and along the river. More pastries of course. And then a pile of baguettes and other foods for the train ride, and we were off.
But because it is Paris, we never want to say Au revoir.
So we just say A bientot!
The Boys Favorite Parts of Paris:
The Fireworks (of course!)
Croissants + Gelato + Macarons
Stomping in the puddles along the Seine
We are partnering as a family with GowithOh this year as we travel around Europe, so we received a discount on our GowithOh apartment in Paris. More photos from the apartment can be found in our Google+ album of our trip to Paris. Stay tuned for more glimpses of our life on the road or perhaps subscribe.