Our Paris Vacation: Day 1
I decided to journal our days on vacation as they happen, because I can never remember the specifics when we get home. I’ll be shocked if anyone actually reads this all, but just in case I thought a grandparent or two might want to keep up with us, and I’ll go ahead and hit publish.
In fact, it’s now a week later, and I thoroughly enjoyed my week entirely offline (save for Skype conversations with the parents on Thanksgiving). I’m up to my eyeballs in email, but in the meantime, I wanted to go ahead and post this stuff.
There’s also more photos on Flickr.
Today, our first morning in Paris, we woke up hungry. The night before, we got to our apartment really late, straight from the airport, so all we essentially did was crash. The kids were out and we were out, all night long. Our place is nice — tiny — but nice. It’s basically a slightly larger hotel room, which is just fine with us. We definitely couldn’t live here, but for a week-long vacation, it has everything we need.
So in the morning, the kids were starving, and all we had in the apartment was a few apples and some nuts, our snacks for the journey last night. The kids munched on those while we got ready, and then we set out to find breakfast. Our plan was to eat breakfast and dinner at the apartment, to save money, but since we hadn’t had time to gracery shop yet, this was an exception.
It’s lame but true — the only place in our area that seemed to serve breakfast was McDonald’s. Kabob and I looked at each other and decided this was a ONE TIME thing on this vacation, and bit the bullet. Turns out it was the nicest McDonald’s we had ever seen. Chickpea never even knew it was a McDonald’s, which was fine by us (or an Old McDonald’s, as she calls it). The decor was nice, not cheesy, and the chairs were leather-like business chairs. Like what you’d see in an executive’s office. The food was actually good, too, and the espresso was surprisingly palatable. All in all, one of the best McDonald’s experiences we’ve had.
As we left, Kabob realized he’d left the video camera in the apartment, so he went back while the kids and I slowly started walking in the general direction of Notre Dame, our first stop. What seemed like three hours later, we met up again. During our little stroll, Chickpea was — for some reason — fascinated by the pigeons, even though we have scads of them back home, often visiting our balcony (well, doves, but whatever). She also amassed quite an autumn leaf collection, which was fun — it’s nice to be in a place that feels and looks like fall. Garbanzo flirted with an older woman who was talking to herself while we sat at a bench and waited for Kabob to catch up. It seemed to make her day.
Back together, we headed down in to the metro station. You never know which station will have escalators, and which have nothing but stairs. Not a problem, normally, unless you have a stroller. Well, we do, so thankfully, Kabob is okay with carrying it up and down the stairs with Garbanzo having the best seat in the house on this journey. The metro is fast and efficient for all our traveling, so we’ll have no problem getting anywhere this week. It seems older than the Underground in London, almost as though it’s been around since World War II. Maybe it has, I don’t know.
At our destination stop, we emerged into rain and serious wind. It wasn’t too bothersome; just mist, really. We all had hats and jacket hoods and stroller covers, so it didn’t phase us. We walked towards the Ile de Cite, an island in the Seine, where the Notre Dame stands. I never knew there was an island in the Seine, but if you didn’t see it on the map, you’d probably never notice anyway. You just cross one of the bridges and keep walking.
Chickpea enjoyed understanding more of why Madeline is described as someone who “nobody knew so well how to frighten Miss Clavel.” This is the general area where Madeline walked along the railing of one of the bridges crossing the Seine.
Speaking of, in the airport, Chickpea said, “Mom, I saw someone dressed up like a nun. It was funny.” I said, “Chickpea? That IS a nun.” She said, “Really?! Maybe it’s Miss Clavel! Let’s go find out.”
Anyway, we walked to the Notre Dame, passing equally beautiful and breathtaking buildings. These Parisians really know their architecture. Truly. If we didn’t have little kids with us, I’d take more time to really take in all the buildings and the statues. Kabob and I decided that at one time, having statues of people every ten feet carved on your house must have been the “in” thing, because they’re everywhere.
The Notre Dame does not disappoint. We explained to Chickpea how old and intricate this church is, and how difficult it must have been to build it so long ago, but it didn’t really seem to sink in. She was impressed by the stained glass and how high the ceiling was, however. Garbanzo was impressed that he got to get out of his stroller and point at things, doing his usual grunting noise that sorta sounds like “Look!” One day, he’ll look back at photos and find out he was once in the Notre Dame.
It is extremely hard to take photos inside because flash photography isn’t allowed and it’s quite dark. After a number of tries for a non-blurry shot without a tripod, we gave up and just decided to enjoy the ride and get postcards later, if we needed to. I know it’s kind of a “duh,” but Notre Dame truly is amazing. The stained glass, the buttresses, all the paintings… Well worth the visit.
We left starving, and it was raining a bit harder now, so we just went to the nearest cafe, not 15 feet from the church building. It was warm and cozy, and all you’d expect from a little French cafe. The waiters wore tuxedos and white aprons (“like in Ratatouille!,” says Chick), and the service was impeccable. It was fun to have great service. We enjoyed our lunch surrounded by other tourists.
When we got the bill, Kabob and I looked at each other and started laughing. 86! Euros! That’s about $120 US dollars. I had quiche and a salad, Kabob has lasagna, and the kids split a ham and cheese sandwich, fries, and a salad. Granted, Chick got some ice cream for dessert, and we grownups had cappuccinos, but still. We knew food would be the bulk of our expense in Paris, and for this reason, we were only going to dine out for lunch (prices are raised for the same food at dinner). Plus, we were right across the street from a major tourist site, so not all places will be this spendy. Still… We shrugged our shoulders, paid our bill, and went on. So glad we saved up plenty of cash for this trip. We might end up needing it all.
It was already starting to get a little dark by this time, and it was still rainy and crazy windy. The only nearby indoor thing we wanted to do was the Louvre, but we didn’t want to start that in late afternoon. So instead, we just strolled around, looked at the beauty of Paris, and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells. We stopped by the Pompidou, but it was closed because of a strike. Oh well — Kabob mostly wanted to see the outside anyway.
We slowly headed to the nearest metro station, and on the way, happened upon an old, very French carousel. Well, Chickpea just had to take a ride on the black horse with the pink saddle, and it was only 2 euro per kid (free for standing adults), so we said sure. We paid for Garbanzo to hitch a ride as well, but he wasn’t nearly as impressed. Early evening, no nap, sightseeing a crowded church where you have to be quiet, and walking around in the cold rain, and I was surprised he didn’t do more than cry. He was such a trooper today.
So we got to the metro station, and 30 minutes later we finally got to our train. I don’t remember which station we were at, but man, it was HUGE. And crowded. And confusing.
Back in our neighborhood, we walked to the grocery store and got some stuff for dinner that night and for the next few days. The total came to — 86 euro. The same price as lunch that day. This was why we were eating at home for dinner.
And oh my goodness, was dinner good. We had bread and brie, meat-stuffed ravioli with bolognese sauce (both store brand), soda water — and chips and guacamole for an appetizer. We nearly squealed with excitement when we saw that at the store. Sure, it’s Old El Paso brand guac, but beggars can’t be choosers. It tasted like caviar.
The kids went nuts running around the apartment after dinner. I think they were pretty pent up after a day of sightseeing and stroller sitting and metro crowd squeezing. They did so well today. So we let them blow off steam while we cleaned up from dinner, and then it was jammmies and story time. And that’s when Chickpea lost it.
She was so tired, she went, in one breath, from crying about missing our home and her bed, to wishing we could move here and get all our stuff into this apartment, back to wishing she were in her own bed. I did my best to not bust out laughing at this scene. Bless her heart, she was delirious. She wanted to sleep in bed with Kabob and me, but seeing as it’s about a twin-and-a-half, that is no option.
Kabob and I crashed soon after, equally exhausted. It was a great day. Other simple pleasures we’ve enjoyed so far:
- Drinking water straight from the faucet. Oh how we miss that, and miss not paying for drinking water.
- Christmas decorations. This is a major treat.
- The variety of choices at the grocery store. If we came here from America, it would probably feel like fewer choices, but from our perspective, it was perfect. All the cheese, the meat choices, the jams, the yogurt flavors… Heavenly.
- The food really has been amazing. Even our 86 euro lunch was delicious (thankfully), and the store-brand bolognese sauce was perfect. Good food, here we come.
I’ll post the next day tomorrow. Tonight, we’ll be decorating our Christmas tree!