Trip Report – 4-7
Tuesday – We biked to Pere Lachaise cemetery. It was the only time I felt a little panicked in traffic with our bikes, but we made it safely. We liked our stroll through the graves; it really did feel like a city for the dead, to paraphrase David Downie. From there, we took a metro to Saint Sulpice, ate lunch and went to the Longchamp store (went there twice during our visit, as I realized that I just had to buy presents for my mom and sister there, too!). We got Velibs again, and biked to Luxembourg Gardens. We liked the bowlers and tennis players, as well as the scenery and people-watching.
Wednesday – In the morning, we saw the Nissim di Camando Museum and ate a picnic lunch in Parc Monceau. We thought the audio tour was fantastic there: organized, informative and doable in an hour or two. We had some sun in the park and just lounged, watching the kids, who all apparently have half days of school on Wednesdays.
From there, we saw the Arts and Decoratifs Museum. Again, great audio guide. I was interested in the way that design tended to move from religious to classical to ornate and back again, really up through the Art Nouveau period.
Back to the apartment for a rest, then off to the Louvre for the Wednesday night late hours.
On our way there, we made the mistake of eating at one of the “Chinese” restaurants along the Rue Saint Antoine. Ugh! I thought we would get food poisoning, and the “food” is terrible. I don’t know *what* we were thinking!
Anyhow, anyone who plans to go to the Louvre may want to consider downloading an audio tour, or taking a printed tour – at any rate, do NOT rent the 3DS guides from the Louvre itself. We found them frustrating to use and sparse in information. We spent the time seeing the Flemish and Dutch painters of the 17th and 18th centuries. For us, the highlight was the series of Rubens paintings that depict Marie de Medici’s life. That woman was a force of nature!
Thursday – Versailles and Musee D’Orsay. A great day! We got on the train early (8 am) and headed to Versailles Chantiers to rent bikes. Oops! I forgot the passports, so we couldn’t do it. But, in the end, I’m glad we didn’t (more on that shortly)… We saw the main Chateau before the crowds got too bad, then rented bikes on the grounds: we rode all around the Grand Canal and to the Petite Trianon. I think the best part of the day was wandering out to Marie Antoinette’s hamlet – it was a lovely walk and we liked the farm animals and gardens. I’m glad we didn’t rent bikes near the train station because we wouldn’t have used them all that much; we enjoyed riding for about an hour.
Because the RER C stops at Musee D’Orsay, and because the museum is open late on Thursdays, we decided to visit on the way back. We went up to the café for a break, and enjoyed the museum tremendously. I think so many people prefer the D’Orsay to the Louvre because it’s more manageable and the audioguides were helpful.
At the café, we started chatting with a couple next to us (from South Africa). They had been caught in the football/soccer riot on Monday and were tear gassed. Luckily, a French couple noticed they were getting no help from the police, and guided the South African couple through some alleyways and passages to an open Metro station. Glad we missed that!
Friday – Shopping! I dragged my poor husband all through the Marais on foot, but found some really cute gifts (tea, notebooks, and chocolate). Then, we rode Velibs to the Rue Mouffetard and bought scarves from Diwali, kids’ stuff, ice cream (for ourselves, obviously), canned pate, more chocolate. Then, off to Bon Marche (mustard! Candy! Salt!), Longchamp and Monoprix.
We had pasta at Fuxia (so-so; man! I wish I had planned our meals a bit better);
Saturday, we were picked up by a taxi promptly at 7:30 and had an uneventful flight home. My dad had come to stay with our kids and took such great care of them. AND we had asked him to make a landscape plan for us to replace trees we’d taken out (he’s something of a talented amateur landscape artist); instead, he bought plants and *planted* them for us. So, we came home to a nice dinner, happy kids, and a new garden.
All in all, it was a perfect visit. We fell in love with Paris and can’t wait to go again.