4,370 Miles: Spring Break in France, Part I

[Pretend this was posted about 4 months ago…I used to remember how to back-date posts…Part I covers March 1-3, 2018.]

I’ll be honest. Paris scared me.

Russ suggested Paris for our Spring Break destination way back last summer, and I balked. Paris seemed unmanageable for many reasons, a huge one of which is the fact that I don’t know a lick of French. The flights there were also crazy expensive, but Russ found an app called Hopper that we whole heartedly recommend now. Hopper takes your intended destination and dates and constantly runs it through airlines until it pulls up the most affordable flight, at which point, Hopper emails you with the deal.

Hopper’s first attempt to lure us to Paris had us flying through Istanbul.

Um, negative, Ghost Rider.

The second retrieval was a bit more appealing. We would fly from Atlanta through London and on to Paris for as low a price as we’ve ever seen for a trans-Atlantic flight. (And on a legit airline…y’all know I’m not getting on a questionable plane.)

So Russ booked the flights, and I bought a map and started charting out our course for Spring Break 2018.

IMG_7241this is how Jack slept on the plane; I would not recommend this method…

It was a long, tedious journey, but we finally rolled in to our apartment around 4pm Friday, March 2. We dropped our bags and, in an effort to battle jet lag, headed out for a stroll and to get a lay of the land.

Our apartment (7 Rue Duvivier) was rented through Air B&B and was in the 7th Arrondissement, near-ish to the Eiffel Tower.

IMG_6555outside the Musee de l’Armee; we heard great things about the museum but did not go in because it was set to close at 5pm…

It started to rain, and we were hungry and tired, so we headed back towards the apartment to find a place for dinner. “When in doubt, go for pasta” is practically a family motto around here, so we tracked down a lovely Italian place (Le Tribeca) around the corner from the apartment.

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After dinner, we poked around Rue Cler a bit and then headed home.

IMG_6560IMG_7245the market where we managed to purchase a $9 basket of strawberries…

We woke up on Saturday morning, and Russ walked down to a bakery to grab breakfast for the boys.
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After breakfast, we set off to find the Metro. Back in Atlanta, I’d taken a paper map of Paris (hard to find, btw), laid it out on our dining room table, and then marked places we knew we wanted to visit on it. Then I took all of those dots and divvied them up into sections; since Paris is so big and convoluted, we’d attack a section a day.

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Day One had us trekking way up north of the city to Les Puces–the flea markets. Russ remembered going to these as a child, and he wanted the boys to see them. Les Puces is seriously a sight to behold.

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It takes about an hour to get there via Metro. And it also takes about an hour to figure out how to purchase tickets for an entire family for a week on the Metro. Just saying.

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Les Puces is a mega-labyrinth of stalls, some filled with treasures, others with trash. But it’s all truly fascinating, if a bit over-whelming. The biggest hit for the boys? All the stalls selling [fake] running shoes.

An hour or so was all we could take of the flea market. So we ventured back on the Metro and headed back in to the city a bit to Montmartre. We were all getting a little cranky by now, and I’d charted out a restaurant for lunch that overlooked Sacre-Couer.

Of course, 35 minutes of walking (up and down and up and down hills) later, we still couldn’t find the restaurant (we were aiming for Pizzeria Babalou–the one obviously near Sacre-Couer). So we settled for yet another pasta place…

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Pizzeria Florenza…which hit the spot and was just right around the hill from Sacre-Couer.

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We opted to take the stairs up instead of the funicular. There was a crazy street band playing “Billie Jean,” so we sang along with the crowd as we started the hike up.

 

 

IMG_6609IMG_6613Half way there!IMG_6624

The Parisian weather was just about as crazy as Costa Rican weather…pouring rain one minute and clear blue skies the next…

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from the entrance to Sacre-Couer, looking back towards Paris

We walked back down and headed off to find a hidden gem, but before we could start our map reading journey, Jack had to do this:

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…which actually began a really silly brotherly tradition of pretending to touch the top of everything. (Too bad I can’t download photos from their phones…and too bad Jack wasn’t even close to “touching” the spire here; he and his brothers perfected their photography skills on this as the week progressed.)

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Another terrible tradition was also begun: leap-frogging over these poles. There are no words for how annoying this was for the next 8 days.

But on to the hidden gem: The “I Love You” Wall.

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The words “I love you”–in over 300 languages–are painted onto individual tiles and were made into a giant mosaic. The mosaic itself a little tricky to find, and my family definitely thought I was dragging them somewhere lame, until we walked around a corner and into the courtyard of the Square Jehan Rictus and saw it.IMG_6634IMG_7272IMG_7269

One cool landmark deserves another, so we kept walking towards Moulin Rouge. Which I forgot was in a seriously seedy area. Lots of eye covering here…

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Rather than burn our children’s eyes any more, we opted to hop back on the Metro and head to the Arc de Triomphe.

IMG_6644we were not model passengers on the Metro. Ever.

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We walked through the tunnel and over to the Arc, but the line to get to the top was incredibly long, so we opted to walk around the monument and then stroll down the Champs-Elysées.

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While walking down the Champs, the boys noticed the ferris wheel (Le Grand Roue) . Sigh. I had not planned on going on this thing. I was pretty sure it would pale in comparison to the London Eye, and, besides, I’m not really a fan of ferris wheels.

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The boys prevailed. The line was nonexistent, so we hopped right on.

IMG_6671I did get a pretty cool shot of the Champs-Elysées from the wheel.

If you’re headed to Paris and want to take a ride on the Grand Roue, well, you’re outta luck. Seems the Parisians view it as an eyesore, so they’ve shut it down. I didn’t know of its impending doom prior to going to Paris (not sure how I missed this), but now I guess I’m even happier that we bit the bullet and rode the thing.

We were in La Place de la Concorde near the Jardin des Tuileries, so we roamed around a bit and then grabbed dinner somewhere (yep, we don’t remember its name).

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We’d pretty much maxed out our first full day in Paris. We walked off dinner by cutting through the courtyards of the Louvre on the way back to the Metro.

IMG_6688IMG_6697ahem…getting better at this, I guess

Finally back to the Metro where we realized that one of us had already lost his week-long [read: expensive] Metro ticket.

IMG_7277Cue more Metro-Ticket-Purchasing-Mayhem

 

We made it back to the apartment and crashed out. Day One was a long, long day but a total success. Vive le Paris!

 

 

 

 

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