S: Summertime in Paris
FC: Summertime in Paris
1: My mother and I traveled to Paris with a Rick Steves' tour in August 2010. It was my first trip to Europe, and her first trip to Paris. First on the agenda: see the Eiffel Tower. After that, we met our fantastic guide, Arnoud, and the rest of our Paris group.
2: We planned our trip to the Eiffel Tower well. We went up early enough to get pictures in the daylight, but late enough to get nightime shots we wanted. | Each day I was in Paris, I ran. I was happy to get pictures that would show where I ran to my running buddies back home. | After an hour of daylight photos, we stopped at the snack bar for wine and a snack. Sitting at 400 feet, we could just sip our wine and rejoice the fact that it was our first day in PARIS!
3: We stayed at Hotel de Loundres Eiffel. A quaint boutique hotel, it offers clean rooms and outstanding service. | Next door to the hotel is the Cafe Constance. For meals during our free time, we found ourselves drawn to this restaurant for their succulent meals, friendly staff, and a little practice of our French. | We discovered the crab cake at the Cafe Constance on our first afternoon in Paris. Our poor jet lagged bodies, starved from three meals of airplane food, couldn't believe their good fortune. | Mmmmm... the duck.
4: People watching is just as fabulous in Paris as in other cities. We stumbled across a pick-up game of soccer at the Esplanade des Invalides. We also observed a Japanese bride and groom being photographed on the Pont Alexander III Bridge. As Arnaud explained, in Japanese culture, having her pictures here would be a fairy tale come true for the bride.
6: On our first full day of our tour, we visited Sainte-Chapelle Cathedral. That evening, some of us returned for a chamber concert. A "wow" moment for me was realizing that the cathedral was completed in 1248, and the Bach and Vivaldi we were listening to, "classical," was composed in the 1700's. Practically modern!
7: Our next stop on Ile de la Cite, the island where Paris began 2000 years ago, was Notre Dame Cathedral. Afterward, Arnaud took us down a side street with a small statue of the Hunchback waiting for us. | We also learned about the wood frame architecture of houses built in the same period.
8: One of my favorite stops during our free time was the Rodin Museum. It was a good stroll from our hotel, down Rue St. Dominique and passing through the Esplanade des Invalides. | Not only did I get to meet one of my favorite men, "Le Penseur", I got to relax in the gardens of the museum. The shaded lawn chairs were a welcome break after our walk on the warm afternoon.
9: A favorite of my Mother's was the Luxembourg Garden. We did a quick tour through the Garden with Arnoud, and later returned to explore it further. | One area we were fascinated with was the boat pond, and the fun the children (and some adults) were having.
10: We spend one morning exploring the most famous road in Paris, Avenue des Champs-Elysees. We began in the Tuileries Garden and made our way, with a slight detour past the Grand and Petit Palais. | The Louis Vuitton flagship store on Champs-Elysees. | One thing we loved was the bike rental program. Throughout the city, anyone could use a self serve kiosk to rent a bike, and return it at his destination.
11: At the end of our journey up Champs-Elysees was the Arc de Triomphe. After crossing under the traffic circle, we were able to observe a moment of silence at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier.
12: One of our more modern adventures was the Pompidou Center. Built in 1977, it was (and still is to some) considered and eyesore to Parisians. | The Pompidou has an exo-skeleton, meaning all functional parts such as heating, electrical, and plumbing are on the outside of the building.
13: This tower, the Tour Saint Jacques is all that remains of the Saint Jacques de la Boucherie Church. | The dome of the Army museum. | The Parisians have their own version of the statue of Liberty on a small island on the Seine. She is facing East, towards America. | To the right is the Frank Gehry American Center. | Each day we were shown or stumbled across a unique piece of art or architecture. From the ancient to the modern, we were awed by all that we saw. | The view from our hotel room.
14: We spent a day hiking up to and exploring Montmartre, where we learned about Moulin Rouge, Marcel Ayme (the man in the wall), and the famous singer Dalida. Along the way, we found the home of Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, and numerous other artists. At the top, we were treated to a spectacular view of the city.
15: Another full day was required for the Louvre. Of course, I was looking forward to seeing all the Da Vinci works, the Venus de Milo, and the Vermeer. What surprised me was the stones of the Medieval Moat, and the hearts carved in them. It is believed that the mason's carved them so they could charge for the amount of stones they used.
16: The last day of our tour, we took a train out to Versailles. Like at Montmartre and the Louvre, Arnoud had arranged an expert guide. This gave us the opportunity go "through the back door" at the chateau of the Sun King and Marie-Antoinette. | A fountain fit for a Sun King. This fountain tells the story of the birth of Apollo and Diana. Louis XIV loved his gardens.
17: Versailles is in the process of a multi year renovation. The gold leaf, which disappeared during the Revolution, is currently being restored. It was amazing to see the contrast between what had and had not been renovated. | The original royal gate was decorated with over 100,000 pieces of gold leaf! This replica was installed in 2008.
18: One evening of our trip, Arnaud surprised us with tickets to an evening cruise on the Seine. We were able to see the city we had spent so many days learning about from a completely new perspective.
19: A photo of Arnaud and me on the last day of our tour. I would highly recommend touring with him if at all possible. Through his incredible memory of historic details and natural knack for storytelling, he truly made the trip exceptional.