Sunday, June 26, 2011

Babymoon in Europe Part Deux

After an awesome five days in London we headed to the train station to take the chunnel to Paris. The chunnel is a little creepy because it literally goes under the English Channel. I am not sure how they built it or how it's possible but we made it alive! :) It's not like you can tell when you are under water. The only thing that might have given it away was the ear popping.

 At the train station with the Olympic Rings behind me since London will host the Summer 2012 games.

Our first night in Paris was pretty uneventful. We checked into the hotel, Concorde Opera (which was pretty awesome). We stayed there a couple of nights and then got an apartment...more on that later. After we checked in we found a restaurant that was still open, ate pretty quickly and went back to the hotel to rest up for the next few busy days. It's crazy how early stores and restaurants close in Europe. Americans could learn a thing or two from them...leave work and go home to your families and friends. Live life, don't work your life away!

Day 2

Our good friends gave us an awesome book called 24 Great Walks in Paris. This was our guide while we were there and I recommend it to anyone! The first walk we did was Montmartre, but not before I got my pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant). My goal was to eat one every day and I am proud to say I reached my goal. :) Baby S is a fan. Anyway, we started the walk by walking from our hotel to the beginning of the official walk. Our first stop was Sacre Coeur, the most beautiful church that sits on top of the hill. The inside was just as beautiful and overwhelming to think about the people in history who have worshipped there. After that we headed over to Place du Tertre where artists set up their art to sell. We didn't buy anything but they can get pretty aggressive, and it was funny to see the caricatures of ridiculous Americans like Justin Bieber and Miley Cirus. Next on our walk were some little known places in Paris like a little vineyard, an apartment where Van Gogh lived with his brother, another small church, Moulin Rouge and a romantic little garden. There was a wall in the garden that had "I Love You" written in 250 languages, so of course Jeremy and I shared a kiss in front of it. After finishing our walk (it was about 1.5 miles total) we had a great lunch at Café des Deux Moulins where the movie Amelie was filmed. We had no idea that's where we were going to eat until we walked in and saw the film's paraphernalia everywhere. What a fun surprise because we LOVE that movie!

Sacre Coeur behind us on top of Montmartre.

Place du Tertre

Standing by the vineyard reading our walk book to find our next stop.

I Love You wall.

Café des Deux Moulins

For some reason we decided after our walk that it would be a good idea to walk some more. I forget I am pregnant sometimes and I can't do things like I used to. We walked A LOT! We went back to our hotel, freshened up a bit and then headed out to walk to Place de la Concorde and then on to Musee d'Orsay. This is one of my favorite museums in Europe. It has incredible art from Monet, Renoir, Degas, van Gogh, etc. We obviously couldn't take pictures of the art, but Jeremy did steal a picture of the building itself inside. It's built in an old train station so the architecture is really cool. There is still an old beautiful clock in one end of the building. Touring d'Orsay was really the only time I hit a wall on our trip. I literally wanted to curl up in a corner and take a nap. My tummy hurt and I could have gone right to sleep. I think we underestimated the amount of walking we had done. I got over my hump eventually and we headed back to our hotel stopping at the famous Laduree for some French macarons. good!! 

 Musee d'Orsay

 Yes, I ate all four of them.

Dinner that night was at an awesome little Italian restaurant close to the Arc de Triomphe. Since I still didn't have a normal appetite (thanks pregnancy nausea) I just had some spaghetti. But, I will tell you it was some of the best spaghetti I have ever had, and Jeremy was even a little jealous of my meal. 

This is the part of the story where we went to the Arc de Triomphe and I almost died. Ok that's a little dramatic, but I didn't realize how freakin' high that thing is. Jeremy didn't either when he was like "come on, let's climb the stairs." We got about halfway up that tiny, spiral staircase and Baby S and I were huffing and puffing (don't forget about all the walking we had done earlier). We made it to the top and thank the Lord there was a bench for me to sit on. I died laughing because there was a sculpture at the top of a dude's face and I imagine that's exactly what his face looked like when he got to the top of the stairs. His face said "are you kidding me with those stairs!?" (see below) I looked it up later and found it is 284 steps to the top. But, the view from the top was totally worth it and this was Jeremy's favorite spot in Paris. We ended up walking back down but it wasn't as bad. I guess I can say I got some exercise that day!

In front of the Arc de Triomphe

When I almost died. :)

The sculpture that was thinking the same thing I was about those stairs!

View from the top.

Day 3

After a crazy first full day in Paris, we decided to sleep a little late and take it easy in the morning. Jeremy went across the street from our hotel to get some yummy pain au chocolat and fresh orange juice. I also drank a few cafe au laits (basically half coffee, half milk) while I was in Europe which was the first coffee I'd had since I got pregnant. We took our time getting dressed and eating breakfast and then we packed up to head out to the apartment we'd rented for the rest of the trip. We used for the apartment and it ended up being an awesome choice. It was pretty inexpensive (two bedrooms, bathroom, living and kitchen shared between two couples isn't bad) and it was so nice. It sat along a quiet street and it was nice and quiet at night so we could leave the window open. Check it out....

 Living and kitchen

Our bedroom

The bathroom

After checking into our apartment and grabbing a quick lunch we headed to the Louvre. Honestly, this is a museum you could spend an entire day exploring, but I had been there before and Jeremy wanted to just see the main attractions like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Napoleon's Apartments, Wedding Feast at Cana and Winged Victory.

 Venus de Milo

In front of the Wedding Feast at Cana


After the Louvre we used our walk book to guide us to the Ile de la Cite, the island where Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle and the Palais de Justice (justice of the state) are located. It was fun to cross the big beautiful bridge to get to the island. The bridges in Paris are pretty unique. On a side note, we kept seeing a bunch of padlocks hanging on the sides of bridges (see pic below). I finally had to look it up and apparently the tradition is called Love Padlocks. You are supposed to "lock it up and throw away the key" in honor of your love. 

Love Padlocks

Anyway, our first stop on the island was the Palais de Justice and Sainte Chapelle. Sadly, both were closed because of a strike. Not cool. Who knew a church could go on strike! I was so sad because Sainte Chapelle is one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. The stained glass windows are INCREDIBLE! Not to fret...we got to head back there with David and Sarah later so Jeremy got to see it (more on that later). Since we didn't get to go to Sainte Chapelle, we headed over to Notre Dame. Trying to describe the inside of the churches in Europe will not do them justice so I will just say it was gorgeous. Luckily, our hand-dandy walk book gave us some fun factoids about the church that we definitely would not have know otherwise. One of the interesting (and funny facts) was about the statues of the "kings" on the front of the church. When the church was built, they put statues of the Biblical kings of Judah on the front. During the French Revolution, the statues were beheaded because they were thought to be kings of France. Oops. Another cool thing about the church was the organ, any organists dream. It has 7,800 pipes!

My sad face in front of the strike sign.

Palais de Justice

A random (funny) sign we saw walking to Notre Dame. Jeremy decided it means "no skipping with children".

You will notice the kings going all the way across the top under the rose window.

Rose window from the inside.

After Notre Dame the walk book guided us to a really cool, little-known Holocaust memorial in honor of all the Parisians who were deported during that time. I never knew about all the horrible things that happened in Paris during the Holocaust until I read the book Sarah's Key (really awesome historical fiction). I was glad we got to see this memorial. It was underground and built to resemble what it would have been like for a Jew in a concentration camp. The walls were all cement, there was no daylight (they obviously had some artificial light) and really tight. I sort of walked in, looked around and walked out because it made me claustrophobic! I can't imagine what all those people went through!

The rest of our day was pretty relaxing. We headed back to the the apartment to freshen up and relax for a while and then headed out for dinner. Jeremy found an amazing restaurant (one of Paris' top 10 for the area) called Ratatouille. I had some amazing chicken kabobs and Jeremy had veal w/ a side of ratatouille (whoda thunk). :) David and Sarah got to Paris late that night, so we stayed up to wait for them and gave them the grand tour of the apartment before we all went to bed to rest up for two more days of fun in Paris.

Stay tuned for more on the excitement in Paris w/ David and Sarah...