Sunday, January 5, 2014

European Adventure 2012: Paris Day 2

Waking up in Paris...
When you start off your day with pastries like these little beauties, you know it's going to be an extra special kind of day.
We walked from our teeny little hotel room (we have found that hotel rooms in Paris and London are teeny tiny but uber expensive) and strolled to a charming, busy pastry shop that our local expert Tom recommended. 
Oh my. 
No words can describe the amazing deliciousness of these buttery, melt-in-your-mouth croissants and the sugary sweet almond pastries. 
Powered by pastries, we hit the ground running...and we're off!  Dan, our super travel guide, typed up a full itinerary/research packet to plan our day.  We were ready to tackle it. 
First we stopped at the Place de la Concorde in Paris.  This is where the guillotine named the "Black Widow" stood during the French Revolution. Over 1,300 people were beheaded here--among them were King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette.  Now, it's just a little plaza area surrounded by bustling traffic coming from all directions.  A plaque near the obelisk in the center of the plaza marks the place:  "This plaza, opened in 1763, was originally called the Plaza of Louis XV.  From November 1792 to May 1795 it was then referred to as the Plaza of the Revolution.  It was the main venue for public executions, including that of Louis XVI on 21 January 1793 and Marie-Antoinette on 16 October 1793."

Next, we walked right down the street to La Madeleine Church in Paris.  This church is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene.

The interior of the church was majestic and beautifully adorned with breathtaking sculptures.  It was a peaceful retreat from the busy streets outside.

We then took a walk through the Tuileries Gardens.  We let Peter out of the stroller to stretch his legs and run through the grass.  Soon, we spotted a charming, old fashioned carousel!

Our little traveler deserved a break from sightseeing.  He was absolutely thrilled!

After a very sad and tearful goodbye to the carousel, Peter and mommy had a little pep talk in the beautiful gardens (with the Louvre in the background) and I convinced our sweet boy that there would be more fun to come.

We continued our relaxing walk through the Tuileries and arrived at our next destination....
...The Louvre Art Museum!
The museum was massive. We cruised through the halls and maze-like corridors (because when you're at an art museum with a two year old, you don't have time to actually look at the art) on a mission to find the one and only Mona Lisa!
As you can see, she's quite popular...

After the Louvre, we went back to the metro to hit our next stop.  Good thing we have such a skilled navigator with us!
We took the metro to the Place de la Bastille.

This is where the infamous Bastille Prison was located. The "flash point" of the French Revolution occurred at this prison in 1789 when French Revolutionaries stormed the Bastille and defeated the Royal troops inside...the prison was destroyed shortly afterwards.

The French Revolution had begun!
After a very full morning of sightseeing, we met Tom at a little café for a mid-afternoon snack while Peter snoozed in his stroller. 

The meat and cheese plate reenergized us for the next adventure on our list:
the Cathedral of Notre Dame. 
We took our time and soaked it all in.  There were countless side altars and statues, one could easily spend the entire day exploring and meditating. 

This red reliquary contains the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus!  It was purchased from the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) by the French King St. Louis IX in the Middle Ages.
The next item on the itinerary was the Basilica of St. Denis.  This Basilica was located on the far northern edge of Paris.  Dan was very motivated to see it, so we traveled on a jam-packed metro during rush hour through endless stops.  It was a memorable experience to say the least!  I entertained myself by people watching (and at one point, dog someone brought a scary looking dog onto the metro) and reassuring Peter not to worry as more and more people smooshed in close to us.  Claustrophobic?  Yes.  As our metro stop approached, I began to feel nervous.  We were pinned in the back with a stroller, how would we ever make it to the metro door?!  Several locals noticed our dilemma and generously yelled and kindly pushed us through to the door.  Phew!  We finally arrived at the Basilica of St. Denis where he (the first bishop of Paris who was beheaded for his work converting the populace to Christianity around A.D. 258) and the monarchs of France are buried.
It was beautiful on the outside, but had unfortunately closed early for the day and we were unable to go inside.  (Humph!) We said a prayer at the doorstep and then hopped back on the metro which, to our delight, was much less crowded. 
Our last stop before dinner was the Sacre Coeur Basilica, dedicated to Christ's Sacred Heart.
It was built over the site where martyrs were slain in Roman times (to include St. Denis)!  It was built high atop a steep hill.  We took a cable car lift to the top and went inside to find a beautiful church filled with prayerful souls at an evening Mass.  It was an inspiring sight to see.  After our visit, we enjoyed the breathtaking view of Paris (including the Eifel Tower lit up at night) before descending down the hill again.



We walked with Tom to an artsy district of Paris for dinner.  Two of the highlights of the dinner were crepes and French onion soup.  Yum!

We are so grateful to our friend, Tom, for being our expert guide!  We had so much fun!

After dinner, we walked through the charming cobblestone streets, peeked in the artsy little shops, and bought a painting of the Eifel Tower. 

Our metro stop was right next to Moulin Rouge, a dance hall famous for its can can dancing, so we stopped for a photo op.  "Moulin Rouge" means "Red Windmill" in English. 
Then we hopped back on the metro for our final ride of the night.  And we slept very soundly in our little Parisian hotel room.

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