Saturday, October 6, 2007

We'll Always Have Paris

Let's see, what have I accomplished lately?
Beginning of the school year meetings....check.
Buy books....check.
Cover books with sticky plastic....check.
Sign kids up for after school activities (wouldn't want them to have too much free time on their hands)....check.
Finish my vacation posts...uh, well, not quite.

Okay, here is my next-to-last vacation post (and you thought you were getting out of it):

We left my Mom's house in Holland, and faster than you can say "Belgium" we were in Paris, the city of love (actually, it took us a little longer than that, but since we drove right through Belgium there's nothing to tell). Having to share hotel rooms with the kids takes some of the love out of the city of love, but we had fun nevertheless.

We hit the town right away, and headed towards the Eiffel Tower. On the way we stopped at the Hôtel des Invalides, where Napoleon's Tomb is, but it was near closing time so we didn't go in. Carmen's sandal broke right outside, and there we were, in the middle of Paris on a Sunday afternoon; no shops were open, and we were nowhere near our hotel. As fate would have it, I had a wide ponytail holder in my bag and we patched her up so we could continue our tour; it was either that, or go barefoot. Needless to say, Carmen was not at all pleased, but she didn't have a choice but to come along.

Just before getting to the Eiffel Tower. Carmen carefully hides her broken sandal.

When we got to the Eiffel Tower we had to wait for two hours to get in, and just our luck, it was one of hottest afternoons Paris had seen all month. It rained for most of the summer, but not that day. At least there were a couple of huge fans spraying water onto the crowds, probably more to keep tempers cool than anything else.

Rocío and Violeta get refreshed.

We had lots of time to study the tower from below.

Once we got in the elevator it took us to the first floor, then, on its way to the second, it stopped. So there we were, stuck between the first and the second floor of the Eiffel Tower in a glass elevator (to fully experience the great height we were at). The guide pressed the button, the elevator started to rise, and then sunk down again. She waited, and tried again, and again the elevator rose and fell slightly. I have never liked elevators, even when I was a kid. I think I saw a movie about someone getting stuck in one for hours, and having gotten stuck a couple of times before myself didn't help matters much. I told Jesús that we should have taken the stairs; the line was shorter, and we wouldn't be stuck in an elevator, fifty some odd meters above the ground (okay, so what if there are more than 700 steps, we could have made it). He tried to calm me down, "Hundreds of people do this everyday, and there's never been an accident. Besides, the elevators are hydraulic, so there's no way they can fall". My answer was, "I'm not hundreds of people, there's always a first time for everything, and I have no idea about hydraulic systems so that is not helping." Finally, the elevator started up again, and we got off on the second floor (115 meters), my heart pounding and my hands sweating. We had a look around. Okay, the view is spectacular, but I was still not sure it was worth what I had just been through.

Do we look stressed, or what?

Jesús said, "Okay, let's go to the top". I was not at all inclined to do that, but the girls said if I didn't go, they weren't going, so up I went. The third floor is much higher up than the other two, and the elevator ride seems endless, which gives you time to appreciate the fact that you are crowded into a glass box travelling up through an open steel structure. Anyway, we got to the top (276 meters) without incident, saw all the important Paris landmarks, except the Eiffel Tower itself (duh), and since what goes up must come down, we did.

When we got to the second floor, the lights came on...Okay, it was worth it.

I looked in the souvenir shop for a shirt that said "I survived being stuck in an elevator at the Eiffel Tower" but they were all out. After that, we went back to the hotel, dog-tired after a long ride on the subway.

Our hotel was in a kind of dodgy neighborhood, which we didn't know when we reserved it, since it doesn't say "these are the dodgy areas, don't go here" when you look on the map on the Internet. But the hotel itself was fine, except for the fact that we had a team of somewhat noisy basketball players near us, who kept having massages out in the hallway. And, taking the elevator down surrounded by a bunch of people over 2 meters tall, was an interesting, if somewhat intimidating experience. It seems there was some sort of competition, and the whole hotel was filled with basketball teams from different countries. Breakfast was a free-for-all, with all of us scrambling to get to the food before the players did. After they had passed, the dining room looked like a swarm of locusts had just come through, completely picked clean. It was raining so we went to the Louvre, after all what better place to go on a rainy day.

The typical "Here I am holding up the pyramid" picture.

There is so much to see that after a few hours your head spins and you can't keep clear what you actually saw. Everyone remembers the most well-known works of art and no matter who you ask "So, what did you see?" The answer is sure to be "Um, The Mona Lisa, The Venus de Milo, and lots of Japanese tourists." That's what we saw. I'm not going to put up a picture of everything we saw, that would take forever, so if you want to see what else is in the Louvre you'll have to go for yourself.

The kids were worried about what happened to her arms. Anyone seen the Venus' arms?

Yes, we saw it..for about 20 seconds, as the guards herded us through.

The kids liked this.

This caught my fancy.

This was very nice. Where can I get one?

We had pizza for lunch in the Louvre cafeteria...okay, I know that doesn't sound very French, nor very appropriate after seeing some of the world's most spectacular works of art, but what do you want, we were with three very hungry kids, who were completely fed up with all things cultural.

After lunch, we did a quick stop at Notre Dame, and I really mean a quick stop, because we had to use the bathroom. We had a run in with a particularly bad-humored restroom attendant, who told the girls to hurry up. At least that's what we think she said; for all I know she could have been telling us that she had a particularly painful pimple on her bottom, or that her boyfriend stood her up yet again, since my French is mostly limited to "Bonjour" "Au revoir" and "traboule" (which I learned in Lyon, and is completely useless elsewhere).

Jesús had lots of time to take pictures while we girls took a pit stop.

That taken care of, we went inside Notre Dame for a peek, and then we were off to the hotel, to pick up our things and get to our next and last hotel.

Even the subway has style in Paris.

We stopped off at the Château de Chambord on our way. It was closed for the evening, and the only people around were several small groups of, you guessed it, Spaniards. Everyone else had long gone to dinner and to their hotels or campgrounds.

We finally got to the hotel around 11, after getting seriously lost on the winding French country roads. Ironically, someone had decided to call the hotel "Premiere Classe", even though there was nothing first class about it. This was by far the worst hotel we stayed in; the photos don't really do justice to the crumminess of it all. Suffice to say, the mattresses, which were on a thick sheet of glass were hard as a rock, and the bathroom was like a tiny cubicle made of pink plastic, with a door that wouldn't close properly. Showering without sustaining serious injury was a feat in itself, but we survived (they should have had "I survived a night in Premiere Classe" t-shirts).

The next day, after swearing never to visit another "Premiere Classe", we hit the road and soon we were HOME! Our vacation was over, but one thing's for sure: We'll always have Paris.

 I'll be back soon with my very last vacation post (yes, I promise it will really be the last one)

What was that?  I know you're probably thinking, "The vacation is over, but she said this is the next-to-last vacation post, what's going on here?" Well, technically the vacation is over, but I did promise something about Mr. Bean...What, was he there too? You'll have to wait until the next post to find out, and I know you just can't wait, can you? Until then, what do you think happened to Mr. Bean?


  1. i'm sorry, that was too much culture in one post for me. i've been overloaded. =:-)

  2. Sounds like the French should have hired some German engineers.

  3. i sort of have bizarre thoughts aboutthe conversation between veus and the little sculpture that caught your fancy....maybe it's just the cold meds talking.

    you are quite the trooper for overcoming your fear to go to the top of the eiffel tour.

  4. minijon: I know, I've violated the no-long-posts rule, but I wanted to finish it up and move on to something else. Culture overload, that's what we had at the Louvre. It was great, but there's just too much to take it all in. I'll do a shorter post next time. :)

    Diesel: Hear, hear! While we were standing in line we could see the elevator had problems, but they said it had been fixed, ha!

    Lime: About going to the top, my kids wouldn't go without me, and I didn't want them to miss out on going to the top. That's like going to visit the Empire State building and not going all the way up, kind of pointless. And now I am imagining that conversation between the venus and the not-so-little man, and my imaginiation is running away with me. ;)

  5. That was simply amazing! I loved all the pics and can only imagine taking my kids to see all those places one day. I loved the pic where she was trying to hide her sandal. Very funny!

    The video with all the sparkly lights was my favorite...

  6. At least the hotel looks clean ! :D

    Your kids have such nice names... I didn't know. I love Spanish names.

    I never got to visit Paris properly - well, at least not as a grown-up. I went to the Louvres a bunch of time when I was a kid (translation : my parents dragged me there and I begged for ice cream all the way).

    I really should visit Paris well once. I always go there for paperworks and Uni. exams, so not much time...

    Great Eiffel Tower pics !

  7. wow, that was a wonderful post. The Eifel Tower lighting up, teh crappy hotel room, the elevator incident...did I see a nintendo DS in the shabby hotel room???

    I love how you write, how you see the humor in things and these vacation posts have been a delight, despite of what you think!

    Thank you, for taking me along.

  8. Minka: Thanks, you're welcome to come along anytime. And yes, that's a DS in the shabby hotel room. That little gadget and the dvd made a world of difference in the car -we only had the radio when I was a kid. These kids don't know how lucky they are, even if we do take them to crummy hotels. :)