Well, as it turned out, Arc de Triomphe didn't happen today! We got up around 9:00 am this morning. I was amazed that both Geoff and Andy seemed to be over the jet lag already. I on the other hand, am still struggling with it.
Geoff decided we should check out the breakfast here at Hilton. It turned out to be a nice buffet. As it always happens at a buffet--I ate too much! But the important thing for us was Andy ate quite a lot too, which was surprising because he normally doesn't care to eat, especially with foreign food. So I guess we were off to a good start.
After breakfast, Andy said he really would like to see Notre Dame, where Quasimodo rang the bells. Therefore we planned our day to explore the famed cathedral. I figured it would be too much to climb both Notre Dame and Arc de Triomphe on the same day, so we decided to put off the Arc for another time.
Although our hotel was near a subway station (Coucelles stop on the Blue line
), it was a bit out of the way to get to most of the tourist attractions. We ended up having to change different trains for a few times. Eventually we arrived at Notre Dame around noon time. Geoff went off to get the museum passes, and he brought back good news and bad news: the good news was Andy could get in museums for free; the bad news was contrary to what I thought, pass holders also had to wait in line!
The line for accessing Notre Dame's Towers wasn't horrendously long, but as we stood there, the weather got progressively cold and windy. Geoff was really sweet and offered to stand in line for us while Andy and I escape to the nearby cafe to get hot chocolate. Finally, it was our turn to go in, and Andy was so excited to see the "ancient" winding staircase leading up to the tower.
I was smart enough to prepared Andy well ahead of time--he knew this would be quite a climb up to the tower. So despite the seemingly never ending steps, and the exhausting climb, Andy never stopped and complained the entire time! I on the other hand didn't fare all that well. Two third of the way up the stairs, I already felt I couldn't move my legs for another step. It was pretty daunting for me to see Andy was still able to take two steps at a time when all I could do was huffing and puffing! So up he went--laughing and imagining him as Quasimodo climbing these steps in the dark with only a lantern to light the way! Finally, I heard Andy chirping ahead of me: "We're there. I can see the daylight now!" Turned out he was right. But first, I had to stop a bit to catch my breath. If I remembered correctly from my last visit here years ago, we had just climbed around 300 steps!
Now we arrived at the Galerie de Gargoyles--the "bridge" between Notre Dame's North and South Towers. Andy was quite fascinated with these "ugly" creatures. When we waited for Geoff to get the museum passes outside Notre Dame, Andy and I could only stare at these things from afar on the ground. But now, we are right among them! Excited that he was, Andy took out his camera (we gave him our old digital camera just before this trip
) and started to snap pictures. He took a very good picture of the Eiffel Tower in the distance once he figured out how to use the zoom button on his own. But his main focus here was the gargoyles--he particularly liked this one gargoyle who looked like he was chewing off the head of a bird! Oh well, boys will be boys. ::roll eyes::
After lingering for some time among the gargoyles and taking pictures, we moved inside the South Tower to see the old bell. It was rather dark inside the bell tower, so the pictures we took in there didn't quite come out. But it was still neat to see the bell so close. I didn't pay attention last time I was here, but this time we learned all the bells in catholic cathedrals were christened and "baptized." So this one's name is Emmanuel, named after Louis XIV's favorite grandson. Andy had questions on how would Quasimodo ring the bell. From the information posted next to the bell, I suspected that was a departure from realism on Victor Hugo's part--it seemed that before mechanical mechanisms were installed, it took a group of men to ring this very large bell!
After our visit with the bell, we moved on to see panoramic view of Paris on top of the South Tower--that was another 150 or so steps to climb. The view was indeed very nice, but it was so windy up there that I almost did a Marilyn Monroe "impersonation"--my skirt was almost blew up completely by the gust when I walked outside. ::oops:: Another reason I wore the wrong outfit today. I'm definitely going to wear jeans tomorrow!
It was so cold and windy up at the top, we didn't stay too long. We wound our way down those steps--it was far easier climbing down the tower than climbing up, we made our way back on the ground in no time. We then spent some time inside the cathedral. It was a nice break from the cold elements outside, and I even managed to sit on the chair for a bit to rest my aching feet. We stayed inside as much as we could, Andy got bored pretty quickly and wanted to visit more museums. After all those "exercises" of climbing the stairs, Geoff and I were hungry again, so we decided to eat lunch first.
We stopped at a cafe nearby. We chose that one because it's named Le Quasimodo Cafe. ::eyes roll:: The food turned out to be pretty good--we ordered some wine, a plate of delicatessens, and another plate of french fries. We wolfed our food down and discussed where we should go next. Andy said he wanted to see Mona Lisa. I thought it was a bit too late in the day to visit Louvre, but what the heck--Louvre it is!
While we were eating our lunch, it started to rain outside. Fortunately I had the good sense of bringing my umbrella this morning, and the subway entrance wasn't too far from the cafe. We rode the train to Musee Louvre. However when we got there, we found out Louvre was closed on Tuesdays! ::hammer on head:: Lazy me for not doing proper researches beforehand. Andy was really disappointed. Now what?! Since Andy said his second favorite painter was Van Gogh (he claimed his first was Leonard Da Vinci), Geoff suggested we go to Musee d'Orsay instead.
Musee d'Orsay looked not too far from Louvre on the map, but in reality, it was quite a walk. Worse yet, it was raining pretty hard by that time. Determined as we were, we trekked our way there slowly in the gusty wind and pouring rain. But made it we did--a little under an hour before the museum would close! We had to move really fast since we didn't have much time. We browsed through the early works by Manet and Monet. Andy got a kick out of seeing Manet's famous painting "Olympia" featured among the background of another painting done by the same artist! All of Van Gogh's paintings were located in one room on the 5th floor. So we moved headily toward the back of the building where express escalator was located. But on our way there, we (especially Andy and I
) got side-tracked at the Opera area near the escalator. There was a sliced open model of Paris Opera house which was quite interesting. In front of it, there were "mini" models of Paris streets and structures underneath a see-through glass floor! Andy had a blast "stomping" on the glass floor pretending to be various constellations in the nightly sky above the city of Paris! (Previously, I had erroneously thought he was pretending to be a god walking above the city and pouring "rain" onto the city.
) But Geoff was determined to get us to the Van Gogh's paintings before the museum closed. So he herded us onto the escalator.
We made to the Van Gogh's room 5 minutes before the museum would close. Andy and I discussed about the two Van Gogh's self portraits there. We talked about how most of Van Gogh's self portraits showed the artist's left ear only. I asked Andy which of the self portrait he liked better, he pointed to the one that was done later by the artist. Uhm, made sense to me since that was the more famous of the two, but I asked Andy why he liked it better. He told me because he liked the swirly background brush strokes in that painting better than the short and stubbly ones in the other painting! I showed Andy Van Gogh's painting nicknamed "Church with no doors," and explained to him "why" the church seemed to have no doors. Leave it to a child to state the obvious--Andy pointed out the reason there was no doors was because the artist painted the backside of the church--the entrance was on the other side!
Five minutes was up pretty quickly. We were ushered outside the exhibition area by the museum employees. The rain finally stopped outside. As we stepped outside the museum, we discovered there was a subway entrance right underneath the museum! Geoff and I looked at each other--after all that struggling in the rain, we could've avoided it by taking the subway instead, probably much quicker too!
It's now after 6:00 pm, and we were all pretty tired by now. So we headed back to our hotel to call it a day. Near the hotel, we stopped at a different restaurant for dinner. As usual, the food was delicious--Andy ate his first escargot and liked it! I told him he can now "brag" to his friend that he ate snails!( See picture collage behind the cut... )