**For Parts 1 and 2 of our Paris adventure, click here and here, respectively.
This was the most anticipated part of the trip for me...our day into Paris. Initially, we had decided to do 2 days in Paris, but we settled for one after realizing that yet another day away from Disney would be a hard-sell for the children.
There's a terrific tourist information center just outside the RER station at La Marnee Vallee which is literally steps away from the Disney Parks complex. We started our day by heading in there for some specific transportation information and for some discount tickets and advice as well. The lady there was so helpful. She gave us great advice about what to see and do. She directed us to the bus tour that was most appropriate for what we wanted to see. And she ended up having discounted tickets for us for the Louvre and the bus tour. Plus, she told us that the Rodin Museum and Gardens, one of the things we planned to see, was closed on Mondays, saving us time, money, and a headache. I was definitely a bit bummed about the Rodin Museum, because I had heard it was quite a child-friendly place, and that his most famous sculpture, "The Thinker" was in the gardens, and therefore quite accessible for the children. I was hoping to get a great photo, but it was not to be.
We headed into the city on the RER and knew exactly where to get off. I must say that we were a bit nervous about taking the Metro (subway) and RER (train) because of the language barrier. We decided to get off right where the bus tour began and then to stick to the bus tour routes, hopping off and on as we wanted to see the sites. We got off quite easily and found our bus stop as well. But before we boarded the tour bus, I had planned to find the one and only "Build-A_Bear" workshop in all of Paris. I had read online that it was located in a mall known as Galleries Lafayette, and it was quite close to the tour bus stop. So, we headed off in search of bears. We had to ask about three times as to where the Galleries were, but we finally found it. It is quite a sight to behold. Floors and floors of (very expensive) merchandise, all in a beautifully decorated building. It was so lovely and gilded that it felt like we were walking around inside a lovely jewel. And even though it was a sight to behold, alas, we found no "Build-A-Bear".
After that, we headed to the bus stop for the beginning of our bus tour. We started off at the Opera House, which is a lovely building. We didn't get out here, but did enjoy looking. Our next stop was the Louvre. We did get out here. Visiting the Louvre was a true dream come true for this art lovin' girl. I was dying to get inside what is arguably the world's most famous museum. And I definitely wanted to see the world's most famous portrait, the Mona Lisa. We stood outside the museum in awe of its beauty. We snapped a few photos of the fam in front of the I.M. Pei "pyramid" (Incidentally, if you're reading this from my hometown, our university's art museum was designed by Pei as well.). The pyramid is an amazing piece of architecture, inside and out. My children were mesmerized as they stood under the pyramid from the inside because of the light flooding in, but also because of the many little rainbows they could see which were caused by the reflection of the glass.
We headed off first to the Carrousel De Louvre because the children were starving. We found a large food court and got some French pastries. Then we had the obligatory bathroom break. (Just a side note for those of you planning to do a lot or even a little bit of travel with young children...you'll spend equal amounts of time in the potty and at doing the actual sightseeing. Just a fact of life, I suppose! I can't tell you how many bathrooms we visited in France!) Lastly, we did some quick shopping at a few of the stores in the Carrousel. My favorite store was called Les Enfants De Musee, where there were tons of art books, (really wish my kids spoke French), a nice selection of English books, and some wonderful games. We picked up "Katie and the Mona Lisa". We love the Katie books. Our first one was "Katie in London", which I had purchased for the kids while hubby and I were away on our initial look-see trip in January. So, the children were excited to find Katie. And I was excited that she was visiting Mona as well. Who knew? Then we also picked up a game called Art Memo, which I had seen in the states and a beautiful lotto game of famous French sites. I also found a terrific puzzle for my puzzle lovin' boy of the Eiffel Tower. It's more like a mind bender puzzle and not the piece by piece variety. Anyway, we plunked down some major euros at that little store.
Mona awaited us, so we headed back towards the museum to behold her, but we were caught in a huge security queue. Not being the patient or embarrassable gal, I went over to the man at the queue and pointed to our stroller. He quickly passed us through. I felt not one iota of guilt about this as the stroller is most usually a major headache when we travel and sightsee. So, we got back into the art portion of the museum and went in search of Mona Lisa. Really, with three young children, besides seeing Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, we knew that anything else we'd get to see would be a bonus. Since we live by so many fabulous museums, I've learned that we can't see everything, without boring the kids to death. So, we passed by lots and lots of fabulous art. But, on the way, we did stop and see this one, by Jacques-Louis David. The mere size of this painting is astounding. And the detail is fabulous. I love what Napoleon himself is said to have exclaimed when he saw the immense canvas, "What depth, what truth! This is not art, we can step into your painting!" The dignitaries and others pictured in the painting are actually reconizable. And the work took David two whole years to complete. So, that was our bonus piece.
When we arrived at the Mona Lisa, she was being mobbed by people. This painting is so famous and popular, that there are multiple security guards for just her. She is much smaller than I thought she'd be. And honestly, I wondered what all the fuss was about. But maybe that's because I couldn't get that close. One interesting thing that happened when we were there was that a woman got kicked out of the museum for attempting to photograph the Mona Lisa. Many were taking photos, which was a clearly marked no-no, but this lady was filming on a video camera behind a friend's head. I guess the fact that she would not stop filming when asked to and the fact that she kept arguing with the security guard may have been the reason for her getting the boot. Hmmm...I wonder what my children will remember most, Mona or the obnoxious photographer who made such a fuss?
Next stop...the Venus de Milo.