Once again I received a delightful room service breakfast courtesy of Cute W, who went out extra-early with J to locate coffee, quiche, and pastries while M and I slept in. Monday was cloudy with intermittent rain as we started walking up the Champs-Elysées, so we’d duck into a covered arcade whenever it rained bit harder, then continue west. We’re not giant shoppers, really, so we didn’t linger too much as we made our way to the other end of the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe.
We used our Museum Pass again to enter, and there really wasn’t much of a wait at all. But there were plenty of stairs.
The Arc de Triomphe is situated in the Place de l’Étoile, which totally makes sense as you look down and around you (étoile means “star”).
Cute W was geeking out a little on the amazing traffic patterns as all of the cars flowed smoothly with a gigantic wide-open traffic circle without any lines or lanes. Although, now that I’ve looked for examples to share (I found this and this), I’m a little bit disappointed, because I think the unbelievably fluid motion of traffic might have had more to do with the Easter Monday national holiday than Parisians’ innate common sense. Oh, well.
Still, the view was lovely.
We took a bunch of pictures, then headed down and walked through Trocadéro and toward the Eiffel Tower. Trocadéro is a lovely park area on the Right Bank just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. It’s an excellent view. Along the way we picked up some sandwiches–a warm egg, cheese, & bacon; chicken salad with lettuce; and saucission, which became J’s favorite and something she looked for all week–then sat on a bench passing the sandwiches around. Just next to us was a newly-engaged American couple who had clearly pulled out all the stops, with roses, champagne, and a picnic. We offered to take their picture, but apparently the professional photographer had just left. After lunch we headed to the tower. Along the way a gaggle of young girls approached me to ask if I spoke English, and they so exactly matched our tour guide Camille’s description of a popular pick-pocketing technique that I jerked away from them violently, making all of them and my daughters laugh. Whatever. It wasn’t friendly, but I was keeping my euros, dammit.
We had heard that the line for walking up the first two flights of stairs of the Eiffel Tower was considerably shorter than the elevator line. While it was shorter, it was still pretty dang long. Plus, it was gloomy and chilly. I have some strong opinions about this line and planning in general, but I’ll withhold them here and refer you to this post, the logistics post about planning for our trip.
Nevertheless, we had a pretty good time. I have a bunch of photos of us all laughing, and for the life of me, I can’t remember exactly what we were laughing at. But that’s true for much of the trip. We had fun. We laughed so much, and after a long day of sight-seeing, I’d turn to Cute W in bed and say, “What were we laughing about, again?” and it would all be a blur, because we’d been so busy all day and we were so exhausted by nighttime.
Anyway, after laughing through the line, we finally bought our tickets and headed up the stairs. And it was a lot of stairs.
This is a typical view from the trip: my children leaving me in the dust. That’s okay. We found the signage on the tower a teensy bit confusing, which meant that we seemed to intuitively choose the “up” stairs to walk down and vice-versa. We had a fun time looking down from up high, especially since Cute W in particular sometimes finds heights unsettling. There were spots where you could walk over glass to look down, and Cute W had trouble even attempting to walk on the glass part. Even the girls were a little nervous: here’s J inching along the seam where two sections on the glass are fused together, under the assumption that the joint was a little safer than the rest of it. I found this pretty hilarious, since of course the whole area is walked over by hundreds of tourists daily. There was a bunch of nervous laughter here, too, and I think that we were entertaining some of the other tourists who were sitting down to rest.
From the second floor we could have purchased tickets to take an elevator up even higher, but everyone felt pretty satisfied that we were high enough, plus we were all pretty chilly. When I mentioned buying tickets to go higher, J said, “I’d rather put that money toward crepes.” Indeed.
We had a bit of drama at one point on our way down when I said to J, “Hey, we’re on the Eiffel Tower!” because she had been anticipating it so much and look, here we were, it was actually happening. Except that she thought that I was reminding her that we were up very high and that I didn’t want her to go too fast and accidentally fall off the Eiffel Tower, so she got into a bit of snit and complained that I was making her go too slowly. At which point I thought that she meant I was slowing her down because I’m an out-of-shape middle-aged lady going at a snail’s pace, and I, too, got into a snit and started hustling and taking stairs two at a time. At which point we realized that it had all been a misunderstanding, and J took a moment to acknowledge that, why yes, it was pretty cool to actually be on the Eiffel Tower while I bent over, panting, and nodded emphatically.
Once on terra firma, we wandered back over to the Seine, where J had seen a bunch of market tents. We walked through the market and picked up some random fried seafood snack that J was interested in. We also kept spotting brides, because of course tons of folks like to take their wedding photos in lovely Paris. We still had a good chunk of afternoon and we weren’t entirely sure what else would be open for the holiday, so we decided to take our first Metro ride east toward Sainte-Chappelle.We waited a little too long behind the world’s slowest lady at a ticket machine before noticing that we could buy tickets from someone at a desk, but once we got that all squared away, getting onto the subway car was pretty quick and uneventful. In fact, it was delightful to sit in a cozy-warm space on benches with cushions. Hooray.
When we got to Sainte-Chappelle, we saw quite a line that we completely bypassed due to our splendid Museum Passes. When you walk into the church you start out in a pretty room with a few windows that serves as a gift shop before you make your way to. . . wait for it. . . some more stairs. Then you take the stairs to to the main sanctuary, which is splendid. It makes it a good surprise because I suspect that the girls thought that that first room was our destination, but the main sanctuary is much more impressive.
I really love ecclesiastical buildings, especially after being a tour guide at St. John the Divine, and so I feel like I could have spent the day there with a book, but I also didn’t want the girls to get bored. But I pulled out the Rick Steves to point out a few particular windows, and the girls were surprisingly interested and attentive, especially considering how much we’d already done all day. The church was pretty crowded, but we agreed it was pretty awesome.
When we emerged from the church everyone was dragging a bit, so we stopped for hot chocolates to refuel. Probably even more energizing was the flower market right nearby, which was delightful and beautiful but not so friendly. The girls both fell in love with the miniature cacti that seemed to be trendy in Paris. I kept telling them that those were something we could buy at home, but since coming back stateside I haven’t seen any cacti that are even nearly so cute as the ones we saw in Paris. We’d planned to check out Notre Dame, but the tours we were interested in had closed early for the holiday. We did, however, get in some people watching, like a bunch of folks who were getting way too cozy with pigeons. . . yucka.
M was also on the hunt for some souvenirs, and she ended up picking out two small paintings at one of the stands along the Seine.
By this time we were getting hungry for dinner, so we had vague plans to walk around St. Michel and find a restaurant there. Unfortunately, all the Yelp reviews were pretty terrible. In retrospect, I wish we’d remembered to check our Blue Fox pamphlet, because the staff had made suggestions for places to eat, including a few spots around St. Michel.
Instead we wandered and started getting a little tired and cranky until Cute W totally scored a win for the team by finding Le Bistrot des Augustins on Yelp. This was a very small place right by the river that specialized in gratins, which seemed to be baked cheesy-potato-y deliciousness. It was just perfect. In fact, looking for their website, I stumbled on this old New York Times article in which the writer tries to replicate the experience of eating here as she wanders all over New York. Plus, we’d been pretty much half-chilled all day, so a few dishes of comfort food goodness were exactly what we needed. I didn’t take any pictures. I think I was too tired and hungry. (Update: I did take pictures, just on a different camera:)
After dinner we headed home. At that point I was very tired, but J continued to be a bundle of energy. She loved being along the river, and she was constantly walking along the very edge of the bank, which made me deeply nervous.
I was tired, so I walked a steady pace on street level as J flitted here, there and everywhere. M was kind enough to keep me company, and she was so chilly that she even tolerated holding hands. That was good, since I expected that J would be falling into the soup at any moment and so clutching at least one daughter felt like I could at least 50% of my progeny safe.
We realized that we hadn’t eaten a crepe all day, and we resolved to make up for it soon. But I, for one, had to get to bed.