I shouldn't have worried about not getting to see everything I wanted. Paris had been lulled into a false sense of security by my slow and lackadaisical sightseeing thus far. But I surprised Paris with a swift uppercut to the Musee D'Orsay, followed by a one-two punch right to the Sainte Chapelle and Arc de Triomphe, then a quick hit to the Champs-Elysees, and a TKO with a lit Eiffel Tower. I left Paris laying on the mat, a quivering heap of jelly, begging for relief, or at least a quick end to the torment. But I've got one day left and no intention of showing Paris any mercy. Today, I am the Mohammed Ali of sightseeing. I am floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Do not get in my way today. I am hot.
Ryan, bless him, elected to stay at the house for a "rest" day, although he would not call it that, since he had the two youngest kids with him and therefore couldn't really rest. I maintained that sitting around would at least be more restful than dragging four kids through Paris, but in the end, we agreed to disagree on that, and I left him with Zack and Darcey and took off.
Our first stop was a cafe called Angelina's which was the nicest place I've been to since we got here. It was like Betty's Tea Room in Harrogate, formal and lovely. We looked out of place in our shorts and sneakers, with two kids in tow, although there were plenty of other people dressed that way too, it still felt awkward. We ordered the most delicious hot chocolate, called Chocolat Africain, which was so dark you had to add your own sugar to it. And all of those table manners I've been trying to teach my children when we eat dinner every night? Let's just say the lessons haven't stuck. I think this was the one time on our whole trip where I felt like my touristness stuck out, like I had a huge sign above my head that said "Just left the farm for the first time." They treated us well, but I felt weird. Still, I want to go back sometime and eat a whole meal, without kids or sneakers.
After that we split into two teams, my dad, Tim and Brad who aimed for (but completely missed) the Air and Space Museum, and me, my mom, and Noah, who headed for the Musee D'Orsay. The Brad team ended up taking many trains and finally got to the point where the place was going to close anyhow, so they just went home. Bummer. Then Brad was riding someone's bike and flipped over the handlebars, scraping his knee pretty badly. Not a good day, overall.
We got to the Musee D'Orsay and found that the extra two hours that we had gotten in Disneyland had been borrowed from this place - they were closing two hours early. We ended up with only an hour and fifteen minutes to do the whole museum of Impressionist art. Turns out, that was fine. We rented some audioguides, but they weren't as interesting as the one at the Louvre, so we went to the top floor and did the major Impressionist pieces. We saw Degas, who is my favorite, Monet, Manet, Renoir, who we also liked, Van Gogh, who makes my kids' artwork look like masterpieces, and a pile of others. There was lots there that I recognized, and that was fun, but I was back to not really caring about museums so much. We had to breeze through the place pretty quickly, but I don't think I missed much. I regret not spending more time at the Louvre, where the tour was so interesting and informational and the art covered more styles, but how could I have known?
After the museum, we got the sourest lemon ice cream cones - I think they forgot to put any sugar at all, they were way too sour even for me - and we quickly zipped over to the place on my list that I've tried to see the whole week, Sainte Chapelle cathedral. It isn't that big, so maybe it's not a cathedral per se, but it is a church with these gorgeous stained glass windows. The walls and ceiling, instead of being stone like every church we've seen, were painted red and blue with gold accents, and the windows were amazing. We walked upstairs and I got through the door first and almost forgot how to breathe. I couldn't believe how pretty it was inside. Not quite as majestic as the other places (especially the Duomo in Milan, my favorite) but beautiful in it's own way. There were a dozen or so windows that went as high as the ceiling, each panel teaching a part of the history of Christianity, starting with the Creation. The place was small, but the ceiling still soared like a gothic cathedral. It was amazing.
We decided to walk to the Deportation Memorial, but we ended up turned the wrong direction and missed it completely. That's the kind of thing I do all the time, and I was glad in this case it wasn't my fault. Noah wanted to go all the way down to the water, so I left my mom at the top of Pont Neuf and he and I hiked down to the Seine. He looked at it and we sat there for a few minutes, resting. He had been a trooper the whole day, occasionally whining but mostly when he was hungry.
Next we took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed the steps to the top. It wasn't worth it. The view from the Eiffel Tower was better, it was so sunny that it was hard to see anything through squinty eyes, and there wasn't much to the monument at the top other than the view. But you have to do it once, right? At the base of the Arc is the famous Champs-Elysees, a shopping street that I wanted to walk down. So did everyone else on the planet, apparently - the sidewalks were so crowded that I instantly was done being around people and wanted to go home. It seemed like no matter which side of the sidewalk we were on, no matter which direction we were going, people just poured over us like water over stones in a river. It makes it really hard for the stone to walk upstream, though. Noah needed to eat and didn't want another baguette with ham and cheese (the standard take-out fare here, available everywhere) and I wouldn't go to McDonalds on principle, so I bought him a "Magic Box" at a French version of McD's called Quick. My mom and I got food to go from a cafe called Paul's instead.
It was about 8:30 at that point and my mom headed home, but I promised Noah that I'd take him to see the lights turn on at the Eiffel Tower. We Metroed over to the Trocadero stop and found a place to sit on a wall as fast as we could to get out of everyone's way. Too many people! We sat there for about an hour, Noah running around and expending all sorts of energy, while I read my new Paris cookbook. It was nice and relaxing up on our wall. At 10:00 the lights came on, but it was barely dark enough to see them, so we hung out for 15 more minutes and then called it a night. We were salmon swimming upstream through the metro station, which was so crowded that I held Noah's arm with both of mine, pinning it to my body so we wouldn't be separated in the rush of people. It was crazy!
As soon as we walked into the hallway of our train line, the crowds were gone, and I could relax. I do not like that many people in one place. 45 minutes later, we pulled into our quiet little town of Maison-Lafitte, and walked out of the station into a street party! What the heck is going on in this place? Is there anyone left inside their houses tonight? This is a Saturday night in Paris, I suppose. The cafes had their tables pulled out into the street, which had been blocked off from traffic, and there was a band set up. Apparently there were more bands and people on the other side of the town, but I was heading home and didn't see it. This is the kind of outdoor atmosphere that the newer strip malls are aiming for in America, the hanging out and partying all night (while theoretically spending lots of money). I'm thinking specifically of the Riverwoods in Provo - that's what they are looking for, and you know what's stopping it from happening? The parking/drive through area through the whole place. If that was pedestrian only, I bet they would get that ambiance that they want, that Paris has by accident. It is such a different feeling here, and I'm surprised by it.
So today I conquered Paris. I finally feel relaxed, like I can just enjoy myself without thinking I'm missing the opportunity to do something else, something more fun that is just a few metro stops away. And that feels good.