Paris Part 4 – Striking out on our own
Wednesday was the first day totally on our own, not meeting up with anybody who spoke French. Actually, it was kind of nice. We didn’t have to meet anybody at a certain time or anything, so we were able to go at our own pace.
Part 4A, Museum Day
So where did we go? First up was the world-famous Louvre.
The Louvre is huge and crowded! I’m sure there are tucked away corners that you can catch your breath (seriously, the place is huge), but we were looking to get in, hit the major sites, and get out. Apparently so was everybody else, especially the tour groups.
The museum pass saved us from the massive line. We tried to go in the side entrance that nobody knows about, but they told us we couldn’t because we had a stroller (I think maybe it was just because they thought we would want to use an elevator, but there was a little language problem). No problem though, we strolled passed the entire line with our museum pass. Sayonara, suckers!
This is Paris tip #6: buy a museum pass! Even if you end up losing money on it, it is well worth it to skip all the lines! (I guess you could consider this tip 2A, since it is very much like buying a timed ticket for the Eiffel Tower) On top of that though, if you make any effort whatsoever, I can’t imagine you would lose money on it. I think we saved over 50€ (about $70) in museum admissions. Well worth the money!
On Winged Victory: “Lets keep our eyes open for her head!
On Venus de Milo: “I liked the statues WITH arms.”
On the Mona Lisa: “Why is she smiling?” – Good question! People have been wondering that for years.
I think the thing that Evie got the biggest kick out of was the Mona Lisa. I think that was the only one that was famous enough for Evie to have encountered before in her short little life. She definitely recognized it and gave an appropriate “Ooooh!” when I lifted her up high enough to see it over everybody’s head (did I mention it was crowded?)
One thing that really annoyed me at the Louvre was the disrespect. Here we are amongst some of the most famous, priceless works of art in the world, and people just can’t stop touching it and taking flash photography. “This vase lasted 1,000 years, so I must get a picture of me touching it!” How do people not realize that *everybody* thinks they are the one special person who is allowed to break the rules? And if every person touches that vase, it’s not going to make it another 50 years, much less 1,000.
And there are signs everywhere about flash photography. If you don’t know how to turn off the flash on your camera, then just don’t take pictures. It’s not that important. Buy a post card, the picture is going to look nicer than your blurry, cheap, 50-heads-blocking-my-shot picture anyway. But I saw you taking picture after picture, just flashing away. “Oh well, the rules don’t apply to me, but I’m just one guy! What kind of damage can my one camera do?” It turned my stomach. (I would also like to say that I don’t know what percentage of the people doing these things were American, certainly some percentage, but not the majority. I’m looking at you Asia.)
After we were done with the Louvre, we needed some outside time, so we ran around in Tuileries, the big open park outside of the museum. It’s actually worth going to Tuileries even if you aren’t going to the museum, it’s a pretty nice park. In particular, you can see kids renting batteau (boats) and floating them in the pond. They have these really long sticks to push them away from the edge if they get too close. Evie liked watching the boats, but we tried not to hang around there too much because we didn’t want her to figure out that you could actually rent the boats.
Next we had originally planned to go to Musée d’Orsay, but we thought that might be a little much to do in a day. So instead we decided to go to the closer and smaller Musée de l’Orangerie. It ended up being a wise choice!
We couldn’t completely skip the line with our museum pass, but we were able to go in an expedited line. This was really a gem of a museum. It was small, but the big draw are the extremely large water lilies by Monet. Everybody was really nice here. They practically forced us to take our stroller in (at many museums you have to check them) and stoic security guards would break their cover to tell us how to get to the secret elevators. We were pleasantly surprised at how nice of a museum it was! Unfortunately, both kids fell asleep before we got to the water lilies. However, that did justify us going to l’Orangerie instead of Orsay.
Part 4B, It’s all about the kids
Next up, we went back to Champs-Élysées to make another attempt to catch the marionette show. Evie LOVED it! I thought I could sit by her and sort of explain what was going on, but I couldn’t understand anything. A true French marionette show requires a lot of participation by the kids, and Evie was right there with them yelling, “Oui! Oui!” when the other kids were yelling, even though she had no idea what she was saying. She was just giggling away. It was awesome! I would never have guessed she would have liked it so much. All French marionette shows star a particular puppet named Guignol (pronounced something like “Geen-yol”) and there is always a lot of shouting for Guignol. This became a MAJOR theme of the trip, shouting “Guignol!” at each other probably a hundred times a day.
Evie also managed to snag a crêpe on the way, which she ate on a park bench. She loved “French pancakes” (it was a traditional one, with just sugar) and made grand plans for eating more of them. She was literally only eating bread-like things at this point, but she was willing to add crêpes to the line up, next to baguette and croissants. Eating nothing but bread is a crumby, messy way to go through life. Evie didn’t really hold herself responsible for that. We were complaining about the state of the floor under the table and Evie declared, “Someone even put crumbs under MY chair!”
For Oliver’s part, he was getting really sick of riding in the ergo (the baby carrier we use). I think it was hot and sweaty, and he’s not used to being so tied up for most of the day. At home he gets some time to spread out and play a little bit. He was starting to get fussy every time we put him in there. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of options (though we put him in the stroller now and again, when we had the chance).
Part 4C, Nous sommes Français
At this point I really felt like we were getting into a rhythm and starting to assimilate: we went shopping for toilet paper at our “usual” grocery store, we were eating stinky cheese and baguettes, and getting to know the people at the boulangerie (another 3 trips! I expect a personalized thank you card!)
A side note about the apartment: it feels really chintzy to leave everything almost used up. There were only 2 half rolls of toilet paper. Every cleaning supply (including dish soap) was just a finger’s breadth from the bottom. It could be coincidence that every single last thing was just about to run out when we got there, but I somehow doubt it. I really don’t want to accuse someone of emptying out dish soap and stealing toilet paper, but that’s what it felt like. Another scam somehow. If you don’t want your place to seem sleazy, just go through ahead of time and spend the $10 and stock up on a few things. It will be money well spent. (Too bad we gotcha and took home the rest of the toilet paper we bought! Looks like the shoe is on the other foot!)
One more thing to mention: if French people see us coming, they should run. We’re an omen of death.
Two times during the day we were witness to some horrible incident that involved an ambulance. The first was while Sara was waiting in line in the Louvre gift shop. An old man collapsed like a ton of bricks and smashed his head onto the stone ground. She did eventually make it out of there, but there was quite a scene with a ring of people around the guy, trying to make him comfortable until the paramedics got there. We didn’t wait around to see what happened after that.
However, a short while later, while we were waiting in the park for the marionettes to start, we heard some kind of commotion. Our best guess is that someone had found a body lying behind some hedges. Maybe a homeless man? Or maybe something happened to someone that the guy was with? We’re not sure. Anyway, he alerted a security guard who got the police who called for an ambulance, and there was another big scene. We couldn’t see the person from where we were standing, but there was definitely someone on the ground. Before the situation could resolve itself, we had to go in for the puppet show.
The moral of the story is, if you’re old, don’t come anywhere near us! (Maybe this death aura only applies in France, but better safe than sorry)