Friday was our last full day in Paris, and we hadn’t scheduled anything so that we could have a bit of flexibility. But there was one must-see that we hadn’t experienced, so we knew we had to go to Notre Dame.
It was a beautiful day, and we started by picking up some quiches and other breakfast goodies from a bakery, which we brought with us to eat along the Seine.
Then it was on to Notre Dame, where we joined a huge line to go up into the towers of Notre Dame. In spite of having visited Paris with my family in high school and living in Paris for a semester in college, I’d never climbed up into the towers. One reason must have been the line. It was a huge, very slow-moving line. We ended up waiting for 90 minutes. (See my “Line Management Strategies” in my planning post for more on this.) Luckily it was a beautiful day and it was finally pretty warm, plus Notre Dame is in the center of everything, so we let the girls go off on exploratory missions, shopping through the tourist-trap shops and even venturing to the stalls along the Seine. When we first let them go, we were a teensy bit nervous. Cute W joked, “That’s right, we’re sending our daughters off to roam Paris alone, where just yesterday they got hit by a car and there was a terrorist shooting. I’m sure it’ll be fine.” But then, of course, it was fine, and they had such a lovely time together, and they checked back with us periodically. At one point J and I snuck into some toilettes at the restaurant across the street. I was fully prepared to buy drinks for the privilege of going to the bathroom, but then service was slow and the toilettes were coin-operated, so I figured all bets were off and we peed and dashed.
At various points while we were waiting Cute W and I wondered if this particular excursion was going to be “worth it,” but it turns out that it totally, totally was worth the wait. If there’s something better than climbing up a ton of stairs, it’s climbing up a ton of twisty stairs with the occasional fantastic views.
Once we emerged outside, it became even more fun. We loved getting up close and personal with the gargoyles. If you click on it and squint you might be able to see that one of the creatures in the distance is actually an elephant.
Plus, I just loved the views of the city. We’d seen some views from other places, of course, but with the river and the tourists, it just seemed especially lively and fun from up at Notre Dame.
We were also allowed to climb up into the bell tower and touch the bells, which was pretty cool.
After climbing up through the towers we checked out the main level of Notre Dame, then headed to the stalls along the Seine to buy paintings that J had scoped out while Cute W and I had been waiting on line. Oh, and Cute W took a picture of me at the back of Notre Dame, because I’m always talking about how the back is really gorgeous, too.
J also enjoyed playing along the Seine and its many playground and fitness features.
We’d packed all of our previous picnic leftovers–stubs of cheese, half a bottle of wine, and more–into my backpack for a picnic lunch, which we supplemented a bit. We ate along the Seine again, this time in an area that used to be highway but that’s recently been converted into a park. The girls liked playing on the swings.
Then we had the rest of the afternoon and nothing that was absolutely pressing to do. It was beautiful outside, still, so we decided to walk around the Marais following Rick Steveâ€™s walking tour. That was fun. . . it allowed the girls a chance to shop, which was good, because having not spent much of their budget all week, they were suddenly desperate to acquire mementos. We also explored places that I wouldn’t have known to check out. For example, we walked into the courtyard of the Hotel de Sully, which was lovely, and I wouldnâ€™t have been bold enough to enter that doorway if Rick Steves hadn’t told me to do it. From there we went into the Place des Vosges, then ended up at Pompidou Center, which everyone thought was pretty dang ugly.
We took our final Metro ride in search of some dinner. This felt like a lot of pressure, since it was our last evening in Paris, and after hemming and hawing we ended up at a restaurant that was. . . fine. I wouldn’t make it a do-over. We ordered a meat and cheese plate in part because it was a French thing to do, and we tried, among other things, some rabbit patÃ©. Cute W liked it, but J and I both thought it tasted like what we imagined dog food must taste like. If I’m remembering correctly, M said “No way” to even trying it.
We headed to a different place for a more successful dessert course of crepes.
And just like that, our last day was over. We had a long-ish walk home from the Left Bank, and as we crossed the river one last time, J grabbed my hand and started singing “Down by the Bay.” Do you remember that song? “Down by the bay/where the watermelons grow/back to my home/I dare not go/for if I do/my mother will say. . . ” and then you ad lib something that rhymes, like “Have you ever seen a frog dancing on a log, down by the bay?” It turned into a marathon song, and just when I thought M would mock her little sister, she joined in, instead, so we spent the last 20 minutes or so walking, swinging hands, and singing the song while Cute W documented the Beautiful Family Bonding.
We had to head to the airport on Saturday morning. Believe it or not, we were still finding new things to love even at the airport. First, we were super-excited to see some of our favorite sandwiches at Brioche DorÃ©e, which we scooped up for airport snacking. Then we got to try something new, these Evian water drinks that I love-love-loved. I don’t think that they sell them here in the US, and that is a sorrowful thing, because they are adorable little bottles full of the nectar of the gods in the form of fruit-flower flavors like “grape and rose,” “lemon and elderflower,” and “raspberry and verbena.”
I thought that they were delicious. If you come across them, try them. And/or buy me a case. Actually, they’re probably too expensive for daily life, but they were a lovely send-off at the airport.
Oh! And once again there was random kid fun in the form of old, arcade-style video games.
After spending the flight to Paris stressed about getting zero sleep, I’d decided that I was going to screw it and take full advantage of the in-flight entertainment on the way home, so I knocked off “Manchester by the Sea,” “Southside with You,” and. . . I don’t know, something else. So: go me.
We were full-on exhausted by Montreal, when we also realized that J had accidentally left her very favorite jacket at the Paris airport, but besides that, we were golden.
One last long drive and we were home to see our kitty and recover.