Day 24 – Paris By Train, Bus and Boat

eiffel towerThanks to a couple of great ipod applications we were able to add the public bus to our modes of transportation.  The bus is my preferred mode of transport at home since I love being above ground and feeling like it’s a safe cheap way to get anywhere in the city at any time.  Of course it’s not great if you are in a time crunch, or if you’re dealing with midtown traffic during the holiday season, but for the most part I never tire of watching the city go by while I’m on my way.  The ipod app showed us the best route to get from our apartment to Trocadero via one bus line.

We found the right station with the help of a nice elderly Frenchman.  The buses and the Metro in Paris do things much more efficiently and just plain better than we do in NYC.  First of all at both the Metro and bus stations the arrival time is given for the next train or bus.  This alleviates all stress, people hanging over the edge of the platform in anticipation, and makes you able to make a different choice if there is a delay.  Secondly, they have designated bus lanes separated by a median so that the buses never get stuck in traffic and cruise along with total punctuality.  It’s such a pleasure.

Our ride to Trocadero was a total tourist treat.   (For anyone visiting New York City I would recommend the M5 bus for a similarly great ride)  We went through the 7th Arrondissement, past the Eiffel Tower, over the Seine to Trocadero.  There we disembarked for the best view of the Eiffel Tower and the ascent up the stairs of Palais de Chaillot across the Boulevard to the Café Carette, which we sought out specifically in honor of one of my sister-in-laws, as this was her favorite café in Paris.  The girls were rewarded for their patience and endless stair climbing with hot chocolate and pastries that they devoured.

After our sweet treats we headed back across the bridge to the Eiffel Tower.  Unfortunately everyone else had the same pre-lunch idea and this was the first time that we encountered long lines.  Only 2 legs were open so that added to the lines, plus the fact that it is the one place where you can’t make a reservation or buy ahead on-line.  We decided to come back later in the day and not waste our time in line.  We headed down to the Seine and boarded the Batobus the line that had been recommended to us instead of the Bateau Mouche.  This was a hop on, hop off boat that made the loop up along both sides of the Seine and continuing our day of above ground travel we decided it was the perfect way to get to Notre Dame Cathedral.  And it was.

We disembarked at Notre Dame and walked from the left bank over the bridge to the cathedral, but not before the girls stopped to peruse every book and print seller’s stall.  We had already allowed the girls to each buy a tacky metal toy Eiffel Tower now we let them pick out a print.  Did they choose one of the botanicals?  The black and white photos of Paris, even one of the reproduction vintage French advertising prints?  No.  They chose the picture of the Mona Lisa as a cat.  To be seven years old in Paris, what can I say?

After making our special purchase we headed over to Notre Dame where there were no lines.  We did a brief stroll around the church admiring the stained glass windows and gothic ceilings and then headed back out towards the Holocaust Memorial, which is a short walk behind the gardens of Notre Dame, and the signs say that it is the memorial to the “Deported.”  A nice Euphemism for “those Jewish citizens we gladly shipped off to concentration camps.”  It was closed so we looked down at it briefly, disparaged the French for a bit, and then moved on to the Right Bank and the Pompidou Museum.

Our plan was just to show the girls the outside of the museum because it is so cool to see a building turned inside out like that, and then grab lunch in Le Marais.  We were so hungry by the time we reached the Pompidou that instead we grabbed the makings of a picnic at a Monop’ across the street and spread out in the plaza of the Pompidou for a picnic lunch.  It helps when the to-go food has items like crème brulee, caramelized apples, half bottles of wine or champagne, and tens of different sandwich combinations.  We watched the people going up and down the external escalators into the Pompidou and Sophia remarked that they looked just like hamsters in cages going through the tubes.  And despite the fact that I desperately wanted to see the Kandinsky exhibit we had to let it go since the girls were pretty museumed-out.

After our picnic we convinced the girls to walk through Le Marais one of our favorite neighborhoods.  Well, this is where having kids along for the trip changes things because they were no more up for window-shopping than we were for hitting Euro Disney.  We had an abbreviated chance to window shop through the neighborhood and then saw the rain clouds building and decided to head back to our neighborhood for a little good ol’ fashioned Italian riposo (how will we ever adjust back in NY?)

We got on to the Metro right as the rain began to fall and headed back to Montparnasse and our apartment.  Poor Isabel, whose one desire was to go back to Luxembourg Gardens and play in the playground and ride the ponies, was rained out again.   We headed out a little later and found a great Lebanese restaurant.  The rain cleared during dinner and the evening sun came out.  Paris is at the western edge of the time zone, much like Michigan, and so it stays light out until about 9:45pm, just like in Michigan in the summer time.  Since the weather turned clear we decided to pick up some dessert macaroons and hop back on the bus to the Eiffel Tower now that we were pros with the 82-bus line.

The girls were over the moon excited to be up so late.  Sure enough we got to the Eiffel Tower and the line only took about 20 minutes.  Unfortunately the very top was closed, but we took the elevator up to the second level and got a spectacular view.  Plus, just riding in the double decker elevator diagonally and then vertically was a thrill for the girls.  By the time we got home from our late night excursion, during which we discovered that the buses completely change at night and we ended up at the main train station close to our apartment but we had to take a quick taxi, we were all wiped out.  The girls conked out without even asking for their second macaroon.

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