Paris, Day 2–we woke to sunny skies dotted with storm clouds but it seemed clear and crisp. A great day to visit a museum. I was going to ditch the Louvre because I didn’t want to fight the crowds but both Will and Lilly said they wanted to see the Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci and since I’ve never heard either kid say they wanted to see a painting, off to the Louvre we went.
Traveling by metro into Paris is very convenient and the system is easy to use. What shocked me was how dirty and smelly the underbelly of the city is…lots of homeless men, trash and missing ceilings at most of the stations. There were several street musicians entertaining us while walking between lines but overall, Paris has some cleaning up to do. But coming out of the metro is a feast for the eyes. Huge and impressive buildings typical of French architecture in wide open spaces which allows the viewer to truly stand in awe of the grandiosity. For easy access to the Louvre, we followed the recommendations I found online which shared a little secret about accessing the museum through the Carousel Mall entrance. And, as luck would have it, there was a Starbucks Coffee shop just before going through security.
Enjoying the Louvre is not difficult if you read up on the place. We took our coats and backpacks to the free coat check and bag check located on the main floor. Then, I went into the gift shop with Lilly and we found a children’s “Discover the Louvre” booklet which allowed her to focus in on 12 unique paintings near the Mona Lisa. What a great idea! Every major art museum should design these handy booklets. With tickets in hand, we were off to the Italian Renaissance paintings hung in the Grand Gallery. We passed by Winged Victory first (statue without a head) and then a quick move to the Mona Lisa. As expected, the painting was flanked by about 100 people all vying for the perfect picture. And, both Lilly and Will said, “It’s smaller than we thought.” Will’s purpose was complete at this point and we left him on a bench with a book for the remainder of our time in the museum. Lilly, of course, had a hunt to complete and that kids’ booklet turned out to be so handy for the adults as well. After we finished the Italian painters we decided to scoot over to see pieces featured in the antiquities collection including the great Sphinx, Venus de Milo and Hammurabi Code. It is truly overwhelming–after 2 hours we were ready to get out into the sunshine and stepped out into Tuileries Gardens, the large expanse of green grass and fountains right in front of the Imperial Palace (and the famous glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei.) We walked from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower which was a bit of a hike for us. It was a good thing that we could see our destination almost the whole time and once we were finally there, it really is quite impressive. We didn’t pay to go up the tower but we enjoyed lunch in its shadow and then walked across the street to get some extra pics and we were pleasantly entertained by some rollerblading guys who did fancy footwork with tiny cones. The day came to a close to a ride over to Notre Dame Cathedral which was swarming with tourists. The sign says 850 years celebration and there were enough people there to mark the occasion. The Crown of Thorns is now housed here and is shown on special days; we thought this may have been one of those days. As darkness came over the city, we rode over to the Arche De Triumphe and Lilly and I climbed to the top to see the view. Impressive to see the city radiating in spokes out into the distance with the Eiffel Tower and Ferris Wheel sparkling in the distance.
Dinner was enjoyed back near our hotel; Tim found a Chinese restaurant and the food and service was impeccable. Almond chicken, sweet and sour pork, shrimp and a encouraging word to Lilly to use chopsticks. We went to bed tired and satisfied.