Monday, October 5, 2009

Long Weekend in Paris, just me and my mom

Why Paris? Well my mother has never been oversees and when I moved to Lagos two and a half years ago she got a passport and we said we should meet in Paris. We finally did. I have training outside of Paris in Fontainebleau so we decided to meet at the front end of my business trip for 4 days.

Day 1
My flight arrived at ~6AM and my mom's flight arrived ~7:45AM. I met her when she came out from baggage claim and we attempted to get our planned shuttle but I ran out of change after I was on hold too long with the shuttle company so we decided to test out the RER train system, something I preferred to do anyway... but it did suck dragging our luggage around when making the two connections we needed to make. This was the definitely the cheaper route (40 euros for the taxi vs 21 euros for the train) and more of an experience... just what my mom needed after traveling 16 hours in economy class! We got to our hotel about 11AM and checked right in. We stayed near Invalides in the Hotel de Varenne, a hotel that was advertised in the Orange County Register Travel Section in an article my mom cut out just after I left for Lagos in 2007. It was a nice, quaint hotel in a great location, walking distance from everything... at least I thought it was (sorry mom!).
We rested for about an hour and then headed to the Eiffel Tower via Rue Cler, where we stopped for lunch. Rue Cler was the first place we saw the beautiful flower shops and the lovely fruit and vegetable displays. We ate pizza at Tribeca and it was great. I enjoyed a simple Margherita pizza with yummy cheese and my mom enjoyed the ham and mushroom pizza. This is where I started testing out the little French I had learned on the flight over.
Following lunch we made our way to the Eiffel Tower approaching it from the Parc Du Champ De Mars to the southeast, taking photos along the way. It is a spectacular engineering structure with striking symmetry. We wavered on whether or not to go to the top and decided to walk across the river to the Jardins Du Trocadero to take in the views from there. We relaxed on the steps above the fountains for about one hour and watched some street performers (dancers) do their thing while constantly being asked of we were interested in 3 metal Eiffel Tower figurines for the low cost of 1 euro ($1.40).
We decided to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower to see Paris at twilight and at night. The lines were not long at all. We stopped at the second level (400ft above the ground) to take photos and the scenery was beautiful! Paris is cut in two by the River Seine with many of the main attractions ( the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Hotel de Invalides, Arc de Triomphe, etc.) lining the river and surrounded by 18th century buildings, mostly four stories, packed together and separated by narrow streets. Many people walk and take the Metro (train) or buses as the networks are immense and efficient. If they do drive, the drive small cars and we saw many Smart Cars.
Back to the views from the Eiffel Tower... We went to the top (900 ft above the ground) via elevator and it was twilight so we stayed up there until it got dark and I took lots of photos. It was amazing and we were lucky to have great weather! Suddenly an announcement came over the PA system telling us that the tower was now closed to all and we were instructed to exit and stay calm. Many folks left but I still needed to get photos so we stayed and then took the elevator down to the second level where we took more photos. From here we walked down the 360 stairs (instead of the elevator) to the first level (200ft above ground) taking more photos adn then we walked down another 360 stairs to the ground level... and my mom did not want to see any more stairs at that point. It was a long day. We headed back to the hotel on foot hoping to find a place to eat but we were out of luck. We got back to the hotel about 9:30PM and asked where we could eat... we had Japanese across the street from the hotel. It was good but not what I expected to eat in Paris!
View of Paris Streets View from the Eiffel Tower, looking at the Louvre

Night shot from the Eiffel Tower

Day 2

No alarm was set and we woke about 8AM and slowly got rolling. My mom slept all night which was good due her lengthy travel and the 8 hour time change (jet lag). I was recovering from 1.5 weeks of LONG work days since we returned from our Uganda vacation (I am still working on that post). Is that a violin I hear playing??? The walking and the stairs from the day before resulted in tired muscles that required sleep to recover.

We made our way from the hotel to the Musee Du Louvre, passing in front of the Hotel des Invalides, crossing the Seine River on the Point Alexandre III bridge, passing by the Grand Palais and Petit Palais (which we could not go in front of due to some police activity), viewing the Place de la Concorde Obilisque and finally entering the Jardin Des Tuileries to enjoy a coffee and hot chocolate (cafe creme and chocolate chaud) by the one of the pools. We enjoyed the greenery (just lounging outside enjoying the quiet time was wonderful for me), the sculptures and the colorful flowers. We entered though the underground mall entrance at 99 Rue de Rivoli to purchase a two day Museum Pass for 32 euros each, a pass that would get us into many (but not all) main attractions. After a little shopping at Sephora (: )), we entered the Louvre and followed Rick Steve's tour found in his Paris 2010 book which I highly recommend (get his free podcasts/MP3 audio tours from his website or through the iTunes store).

The Louvre houses one of the world's most important art collections and the building itself dates back to the 12th Century. It was occupied by many French kings, to include Louis XIII, XIV, XV and became a museum in 1793.

First stop was Venus de Milo, then the Victory of Samothrace (winged woman), then the Mona Lisa... too much to see in one week much less a morning!

From the Louvre we went to the Musee d'Orsay just across the Seine River. The museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 and displays collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914.

Victory at Somothrace - the winged woman

Venus de Milo
Mona Lisa

Musee d Orsay

Mom & ???  (Need the Rick Steve's Book!)
Me & Van Gogh

Arc de Triomphe

Church near the Hotel (Invalides)... during the day...
...and at night.

Day 3.

We were up at 7AM, got ready and headed to the Metro Station hop on the train (30 minute ride) to Versailles arriving at 9:15AM. We toured the chatuae, walked through the garden and then the Grand Trianon. Loius XIV, XVI and Marie Antionette were the biggest stars... oh yeah... and Napoleon!

We took a tram back the the chateau (our feet hurt!) then walke dto a ccafe for lunch. We were headed back to Paris on the train at 4PM. We walked in search of ice cream and finally found it then rested in the hotel before our eveining excursion to the Arc de Triomphe (AdT). We walked part of the way there from the hotel and then got on the Metro (our feet were still sore!) which stopped at the AdT. We got there at about 8PM and though my mom did not want to go up the 284 stairs (spiral staircase), she decided to do it and it was worth it. The view from the top was amazing.

We grabbed a sandwich to split on the way back to the hotel via the Metro and got home at 10:15PM. It was another long but very good day.


I am losing my patience with Blogspot...  I havve to relaod these pics but it will take time...  I may just post them on facebook!  Frustrated!

Day 4
We woke at 8AM, got ready, checked mom in for her flight and paid for the hotel. We then headed to the LTour bus stop to hop on the open top bus for a short tour on the way to the Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle Cathedrals. The plan was to pay for the bus tour so that my mom could tour the rest of the city once I left for training in Fontainbleau. We took the bus to the churches but before visitng we stopped for breakfast. Both cathedrals were amazing.  I love the stained glass windows. 

After the cathedrals, the trip got a little hectic as the tour bus, which normally runs on a 20 minute schedule decided not to run as scheduled and I needed to get to the hotel to catch a bus to Fountainbleau...  we ran and then caught a cab and arrived at the hotel just in time to run up to the room, get my bag and hop in the taxi as I needed to get to Fountainbleau for a Sunday afternoon Meet and Greet for the course I was taking.  From that point my mom was on her own and she spent her afternoon on the tour bus to see the rest of Paris! 

Notre Dame Cathedral
Bored Gargoyle
Mass in session (see the small man in green)

St.Chapelle Cathedral

St. Chapelle Cathedral

I attended training in Fountainbleau, France, about an hour taxi ride from Paris.  Here are some pics.
Fountainbleau Chateau


rabiel said...

Wow !! Sounds like you and Karen were very busy. But it also sounds great. Lots of good memories of wandering around Paris. We have yet to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Always leave something for the next trip !!

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