Museums and rainy days… A perfect combo.

The family vacation has begun! My mum and sister arrived on Saturday afternoon, and after their first fresh croissants of the trip and a jet-lag induced snooze, we had a relaxing evening with a short walk around the 5th Arrondissement around the Pantheon, down by the Sorbonne, and complete with crêpes on our way home.

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It was a beautiful night, as it often is, but we didn’t stay out too late as we planned a free-museum Sunday packed with plans.
Our apartment is awesome, but if you don’t have earplugs, and aren’t a heavy sleeper, you are hooped. There was some sort of event at the bar below that went later than the usual patio restaurant din that lasts till 1 or 2am, and the noise and celebration went on past 3am. As well, first thing the next morning there were some sort of renovations happening in our building above us, so needless to say it was a rough first-night sleep for the travelers, and they slept in while I went down the street to pick up some breakfast pastries.

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We ended up not doing a museum day after all as the adjustment to Paris time was harder than expected. 😉 That was fine, as we chatted about our plans for the rest of the trip, researched museums we hadn’t been to before, and my sister and I went on a walk down to and along the Seine. We discovered several spots along the Seine with groups of people dancing, so we watched for a while.

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I  had seen this one group before from the other side of the river on a walk a few weeks ago. They just have a small speaker set up and couples practice various styles of ballroom dance. It’s a little semicircle of steps to the edge of the wall, which makes it a perfect place to sit and watch, or join in.

 

That was the end of the clear skies for a while. And now: for the weeks’ activities! Time sure flies. 🙂 Especially when it rains for almost an entire week in Paris! 🙂

We had to get our mum to see the Eiffel Tower, and there were rumors the rain was letting up, so we headed to Trocadero metro station for the fantastic best first view. Unfortunately the rumors were wrong and it rained a lot. All that really means is that most of our photos include umbrellas! (And perhaps, the reason we decided to wear pants the next day….)

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We needed a warm up and lunch so headed to a small spot on the south side of the river. We had quiche and tea, and my sister had her first chocolate chaud, which was not as thick as the melted chocolate bars I spoke of earlier, and she only added a bit of milk. I was impressed. 🙂 And then we had our first macarons of the family time trip: pistachio, raspberry, and coffee.

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We then headed to the Musee D’Orsay.

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I have really noticed a huge surge in the number of people everywhere in Paris. Parisians are on summer vacation, and all the tourists from Europe and elsewhere have now arrived. And it is busy! Lines are way longer and museums are quite congested, and on top of that, there are all sorts of outdoor venues being set up for Bastille Day (July 14). The line for the Orsay was gargantuan, but it still moved surprisingly quickly, and we were only in line for about 30 minutes. Inside was packed, but we were still able to enjoy an afternoon snack in the Cafe D’Ours (The Bear Cafe) on the main floor, explore my favourite Impressionist paintings and sculptures on the 5th floor, and marvel at all the incredible marble figures and the Post-Impressionist gallery before heading back out into the rain.

imageWe then spent the good part of a day at the Louvre, with our main focus in the Egypt exhibit. That place is so huge we stayed primarily in the Sully Wing and we were there for hours!

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It was pouring outside, so we were content to spend the day in such a fantastic place.

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I think it was this night we walked across the street from our apartment (and when I say ‘across the street’, I mean, a few steps away from our front door) and had a delicious fondue dinner.

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Next up: L’Orangerie! I was thrilled to go back, and would be happy to go often if I lived here year round… 🙂

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The Jardin Du Tuilleries, L’Orangerie in the background on the left, and a cloudy sky around the Tour Eiffel. 🙂

And like the others, this museum was busy, so much busier than when I was there last, and unfortunately the quiet atmosphere of the last time I was there wasn’t the case this time. The “silence please” signs were entirely ignored, and there were loud conversations, noisy kids running around and even one woman chatting on a cellphone (who was thankfully asked to take her conversation outside by a security guard) and it was a lot less calm than it had been a month earlier. Luckily, the waterlillies paintings still had a magic effect on us, and we all loved our visit. I did not take a single photo here, so you’ll just have to come and see for yourself. No really. Come to this place. It’s at the top of my must-see list.

Thursday spot: the Musee D’Arts et Métiers – a museum full of inventions and design in the Marais. They were open late on Thursday which was perfect for us again, as we had a late lunch and were happy to spend the evening there.

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Our favourite room was the Automaton Theatre, full of animatronics, from toys to clocks to music boxes, it was filled with amazing and detailed work dating as far back as the 18th century.
We went to the Arts and Métiers Museum, which was fantastic! Inventions and design, industry and innovation, for practical or entertainment reasons, this place touched on it all. We actually discovered that the main exhibit wad free, and only the temporary exhibit on the history of cinema cost money to get it. We decided we would come back for that as we arrived three hours before the late-night museum hours ended. We saw all sorts of amazing things from ancient sun dials, gears and prints machines to hidden cameras and space station robotics.

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We truly were part of the last few people escorted out of the museum as they closed, so we felt we made the best bang of our buck… Oh wait- it was free admission. Even better! We may head back for the media exhibit there later this week if time permits…

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Friday we went to Notre Dame, figuring if there was a good time to visit an ancient Gothic Church it would be on a gloomy rainy afternoon. Apparently, most of Paris had this idea, so this meant more long lines in the rain.

We walked through the lovely Marché aux Fleurs on our way.

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(oh yes, and also, we discovered a cream puff shop. )

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We were prepared with rain jackets and umbrellas but it was remarkably chilly and all of us felt we could have brought warmer clothes for July (?!) weather in Paris. No 30 degree weather, here, Canada!

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It it was after standing for about 20 minutes in pouring rain in yet another line to climb to the top that we decided to instead go for dessert and tea in the Marais. (We learned the wait was over an hour, and thought- “another time!”) We walked along the the south side of the building through the park, and I showed them the bridge of locks before we went on our way.

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Back at the Loire dans La Théière, we found a cozy table with mis-matched chairs on one side, and a couch on the other. Tea and dessert (and a decaf cappuccino for mum) were just perfect.

Dessert options: we went with the lemon meringue tart, of course.

Dessert options: we went with the lemon meringue tart, of course.

We also walked by the Carnavalet Museum I had been to before, and since it was free, we decided to venture in.

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Friday night the skies cleared up a bit and we went to the Jardin Du Luxembourg to enjoy it when it is a bit quieter.

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Saturday we had a break from the rain at about 3pm, so after a lazy morning  we packed a picnic lunch to bring to the Parc Floral to take in a free jazz concert. The good news is, we pack excellent picnics. The bad news is, the concert was way less ‘jazz’ and way more ‘new music’, or as I like to call it, noise.

image We found a spot near the giant rock feature water fountain, which was lovely, and we people watched and relaxed in the grass, as well as exploring a little garden exposition nearby.

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All in all, we got in some great museum action, saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and spent time in gardens here, as well as having some great meals. Week one down, bring on week two!! (And maybe some sunshine and hot days?) 😀

My sister took this photo and I love it. She has a blog too, and if I did this right, you should be able to get to her page by the link from this photo!

Sights with friends: part 2! (ou Les attractions touristiques avec des amies: partie deux!)

Diana and Lisa introduced me to Sean, an American who will be studying for his Masters in Paris in the fall, and Hugo, a Parisian  who has agreed to meet me for coffee on occasion to help me practice my French. You could tell instantly who was from where; Hugo kissed both cheeks, Sean shook hands. 🙂

 

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These four introduced me to the Jardin de Luxembourg, and we sat in the late evening sun before going for food at the fanciest ‘pub’ I’ve ever been to in the 5th Arrondissement. They had fois gras, caviar, & champagne on the menu. needless to say, none of us ordered those. 🙂

It was great to hang out in a group, and though the gents had plans for the next couple days (work and such), we girls went out again yesterday and did some more sightseeing.

Well, we started with shopping, as both Lisa and Diana were heading out of town the next day- Lisa to Budapest, and Diana back home to Vancouver. Time for souvenirs. Diana and I started in Monmartre, looking for a well-priced béret, some scarves, and other fun items family and friends might enjoy. I introduced her to “Pylônes”, one of my favourite shops I remembered from the last trip, and I showed her Refuge Des Fondus- the amazing restaurant I can’t wait to go back to. Diana found a lot of great stuff, though I didn’t buy anything. I was just her souvenir ‘enabler.’ 😉

image  image  Montmartre was very busy!

Another serendipitous discovery that was on my ‘must see’ list that we happened upon: the famous Passe Muraille sculpture!

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The art is based on “The Man Who Walked Through Walls” -a short story published by Marcel Aymé in 1943. The story goes something like this- There was a man named Dutilleul who lived in Montmartre who possessed the unusual ability to pass effortlessly through walls. Dutilleul used this to break into banks and jewellery shops and occasionally would allow himself to be caught in the act, but could easily escape prison over and over again. He then fell in love with a married woman, for whom he would sneak through the walls of her locked bedroom at night to see her. One morning while leaving her house through the wall, he discovered that he could not move, and became trapped: where he remains to this day

imageHis hand has been worn down to bony gold fingers from all the people trying to help him out of the wall. It was kind of creepy.

 

 

 

 

We then decided to make a quick stop at Galleries Lafayette, which was hugely busy and overwhelming- kind of like a gargantuan Holt Renfrew or something.

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We considered buying tiny €3.50 macarons, but we decided against it and bought them for €0.90 at a McDonalds later that day. I know I know, McDonald’s is not your classic Parisian patisserie, but I has to try. And have a cappuccino there, too. To make proper use of their wifi. 🙂

I would understand if you judge me here. ;)

I would understand if you judge me here. 😉

$$$ desserts  (€€€ dessertes)

$$$ desserts
(€€€ dessertes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wanted to check out the Chateau de Vincennes, which is at the end of Metro Line 1. The Chapel was our first stop, and it was beautiful. Apparently it took over two hundred years to complete.

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Walking into the castle truly felt like we had gone back in time. We explored the king’s chambers, ‘walk-in’ fireplaces as we liked to call them, and numerous stairwells and rooms.
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Plus there was a random kid in a knights helmet, so there’s that….

We were looking forward to spending the evening by the Eiffel Tower with a picnic (une pique-nique), so we picked up three kinds of cheese, olives, wine, cherries, and baguette, and sat in the Park to the south to enjoy our dinner and wait for the sparkling lights again

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Note the classy wine- it was a pink grapefruit rosée… I’m not taking credit for that..

At one point, someone started blaring the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and we joked it was probably a flash mob.

And then a flash mob happened. It was quite a modest size group,  so it was cute but not too exciting. It was bound to happen at some point, I suppose.

We were all actually more hopeful we would see a proposal when the Eiffel Tower flashing lights came on, but no luck.

imageWe were offered wine, beer, and champagne at regular 2 minute increments by guys wandering around the park selling them out of grocery bags. Either that or tiny Eiffel Tower keychains or laser pointers. We declined, but enjoyed watching an American girl barter and get the guy down to 0.20€ for one keychain, which was quite impressive as they were starting at 1€ each. 

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With one last dessert together of “Nutella et Spéculos” crêpés, we hugged (we should have double-cheek kissed) and took our separate trains home. The good news- Lisa is coming back through Paris in ten days, so we will meet up then and I’ll hear about her Train travels back across Europe. I’m looking forward to seeing other friendly faces as they pass through Paris later this month and at the beginning of August!