Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas in Paris

Who would have thought that such a dream would come true? As a child I always dreamed of visiting Paris, and after taking French in high school it was a must to make it there one day. So at the age of 34 I can mark that off of my bucket list! I was a bit nervous about the venture at hand, but we saw the opportunity to go visit France and we had to run with it. Clark was given a week off without having to take leave and we didn't want to just sit around doing nothing for two weeks so we packed up the kids and we started our tweleve hour treck to Paris. It was very nice drive all except for the cluster getting out of Milano. Passing thru their toll was like being herded like a bunch of cattle. There was no rhyme or reason to their toll booth. Once you paid, it was twenty lanes of traffic combining into two (NO JOKE)! We had big rigs coming at us from all directions and nobody was letting anybody in....scary scary. Anyway after that it was a peaceful drive and we love seeing different parts of Italy, there is always something new to see and look at. I do have to say that once we crossed into France it was a bit boring. Lots of open vast land with not much to see. It kind of felt like driving through the sticks of Montana.

Going thru the mountains of France was very beautiful, but the higher we went.....the colder it got! :) Once we found our hotel and got all checked in we went across the street to a LARGE VERY LARGE mall and looked for something to eat. We were hoping to find something with authentic French cuisine, but ended up settling for more of an American eatery, called Hippopotamus! It was okay food but was quite expensive.

So that concludes our first day of Gilleo Christmas (European) Vacation.

So this brings me to the part where I give you some fun facts and helpful information to help you better understand the conditions in which we are dealing with. FYI: The great state of Texas has a population of 25,373,947 give or take a few hundred or so illegal immigrants!! The wonderful country of France has a population of 59,329,691 (as of 2000) so add a few more thousand to that! France is about 4/5ths the size or 10% smaller than Texas. This comes out to be about 34.8 people in Texas per square km and 110 people in France per square km. Paris being the capital of France it is the largest city in all of Europe besides Germany, and accomidates 1/6 of France's population. So when I say that our 30 minute commute from our hotel to downtown Paris was a nightmare I am not kidding. A drive that should take roughly 30 minutes took us over 2 hours, and it didn't matter what time of the day it was it was always bumper to bumper crawling traffic, and add in snow on one of those days and half your day is spent on the highway in traffic.The following day we woke bright and early to make it to the Eiffel Tower before it got really packed. So begins our venture of driving the streets in downtown Paris. Had we not already been acclimated to the CRAZY European driving we would have had a hearattack!! However, we like to consider ourselves expert "DRIVE WITH OUR HEADS UP OUR BUTTS" drivers so it was NO PROBLEMO! We found a parking spot a few blocks away from the Eiffel tower and hoofed it. One of the advantages of going to Paris in the frigged cold is that there are no lines and no waiting!! :) Made it to the Eiffel tower and zipped our way right to the tip top! There are three observation platforms. The first level is at 200 feet, the second is at 400 feet and the top is at 900 feet. You can take the 360 stairs to the first level, and then another 360 stairs to the second level but you have to take an elevator to the very top. We just rode the elevator all the way up since there were no lines. The view was amazing but it was really hazy that morning, so we couldn't see all of the city! It was VERY windy and COLD at the very top, but an amazing must see!

We didn't get the opprotunity to see the Eiffel tower all lit up at night, but have heard that it is a beautiful sight. So maybe on our next visit to Paris we will have to take the night tour! After our little travel to 900 hundred feet in the air we walked across the River Seine to a small Christmas market. This is where we ordered some hotdogs for lunch and the French lady and I joked about the size of hotdogs I wanted. She was speaking only French and I of course was speaking English but when I ordered the BIG hotdogs over the little ones, and we were all laughing and joking it didn't matter what language we were speaking, because we all knew what the joke was about!!

In all my life I don't think I have ever consumed as much hot cocoa as we did on our four days in Paris!

Now for our treck back to where we parked our car. We parked in front of the Army museum and Napolean's Tomb. The boys absolutely loved this part of the trip. We learned all about Napeolan, the French military, and about WWI and WWII!

And so concludes our first full day of touring Paris. The boys had done really well all day so we didn't want to push our luck and over due it. We called it a day and headed back to the room, after of course spending an hour and half on the Paris freeway! We ordered room service well okay we had Clark walk across the street to the mall to pick up McDonalds. It had been a few months since we had had Luke's FAVORITE! I do have to say the French do McDonalds better than the Italians do!! :)

PART 2: Today brings another early start to get to The Louvre before the crowds. We got there just as they were opening so we didn't have to stand in any lines!! We drove right by this building the day before and didn't even realize it was The Louvre!! The boys did VERY WELL in the museum and I think they actually got a lot out of our visit!! It was not overly crowded and I enjoyed my day there!! However to truly enjoy it and take away from it all there is to take away I think it requires a FULL day there. We saw the most important things like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo statue, Victory statue Raphael's La Belle Jardiniere, Paolo Veronese's The Marriage at Cana and soooooo much more.

After our visit to The Louvre we decided to try our luck at visiting the Orsay museum. MMMMM yeah shortly after paying and entering the museum we learned the boys were all museumed out!! It's all good because the kids were free, and the museum didn't allow photography of any kind, and you had to check all your bags. Needless to say I don't have anything to show for our visit to the Orsay museum except for our ticket stubs and our memories!! :) After leaving the Orsay we walked back to our car and did a little driving around. We found the central "SHOPPING" area and all the souviner shops, but we were all spent at this point and just wanted to get the commute out of the way. We also promised the kids we would take them to the Aquarium that was in the mall across from our hotel. So in trying to get to the freeway we drove past the famous Arc de Triomphe: this arc is dedicated to the glory of all French Armies. In writing this I just learned that you can go up into the arc.....mmmm something to put on the list for our next visit to Paris!

We ended this day treating the kids to a trip to the Aquarium that was located in the mall across from our hotel. Yes, what WASN'T in this mall I'm telling you it was HUGE! However the aquarium wasn't all that big, the kids still had a blast.

For dinner get this we had French Italian cuisine!!! :) Go figure right! However the French actually do pretty good Italian. They don't however do very good cappuccino's, the Italians so far have the best. The French do however have the YUMMIEST breakfast pasteries and the French Crescents are the BOMB!!! Well folks before this blog turns into a novel, I am going to say "TO BE CONTINUED!" I hope to finish it tomorrow since the kids will all have returned to school and the husband back to work! AWE PEACE AND QUIET!! :)