Capitol Reef 2017

This is our new favorite National Park. It’s a little more in the middle of nowhere, but it shares a lot of Zion’s beauty without all the crowds. We were there Memorial Day Weekend — which set a new record for number of visitors — and we still felt like we had the place to ourselves.

On behalf of my son, I apologize to all the lizards who now lack tails.

Video –

Photos –

Bear Lake 2017

Had a great and slightly chilly time at Bear Lake! Here’s a quick video, including some drone footage –

And a bunch of photos –

Paris Itinerary

Every once in a while someone asks me for tourist ideas for Paris. Here’s a summary of what we did last week. We like a fast pace, so cut this in half if you prefer to relax on vacation.

A few recommendations before you arrive in Paris:

  1. Buy Rick Steves Paris and read as much as you can — highlight and mark pages and lug it around with you during your trip.
  2. Download Rick Steves Walking Tours if you want to do any audio tours
  3. Download the TripAdvisor app and save Paris for offline use. Perfect for tracking down restaurants and sights that are close to wherever you happen to be in the city.
  4. Download the Citymapper app. I can’t say enough good things about this. You tell it where you want to go and it will figure out the quickest options via bus, metro, Uber, and walking. It will even tell you which part of the train to get in so you are closest to the exit when you get off.
  5. Set up your phone for international use. We use Verizon and pay $25 for 100MB of data (expires in 30 days). This can easily last a week if you are careful to only turn on Cellular Data when you need it. (For example, turn it on for 1 minute while you type in a Citymapper route. Click the star to save the route for offline use. Then turn Cellular Data back off. You only used a fraction of a MB.) Make sure your phone is not doing App updates or other heavy things over a cell connection – these can eat up your 100MB very quickly.
  6. Consider a Paris Museum Pass – this is a great deal if you’re going to see 3+ museums during your stay. It also includes climbing Notre Dame, climbing Arc de Triomphe, and several places in Paris suburbs if you want to explore further out. You can buy a 2-, 4-, or 6-day pass.

Ok, here was our itinerary. Keep in mind that the day of week matters. Many places are closed on Mondays, others (like the Louvre and Pompidou Center) are closed on Tuesdays. Click a day below if you want more detail and photos:

Day 1 – Arrive, climb the Eiffel Tower, check in to Airbnb, explore

Day 2 – Bike tour of Versailles, visit Mormon temple (if you’re so inclined), climb the Arc de Triomphe and walk the Champs-Élysées.

Day 3 – Church, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Louvre Museum, Orsay Museum, Sacré Coeur and Motmartre, Bateaux-Mouches tour of the Seine

Day 4 – Notre Dame tower climb, Sewer tour, Napoleon’s tomb, Pantheon, Sainte-Chapelle, Luxembourg Gardens

Day 5 – Catacombs, Rodin Museum, Picasso Museum, Museum of Music, Pompidou Center and Les Halles

Day 6 – fly home with mounds of Chocolate Cruesli

My stash of Cruesli – brought an extra suitcase for this.

 

Paris 2017 – Day 5

We saved most of today for catching up on anything we missed earlier.

Catacombs
This is the second activity where long lines are difficult to avoid. They actually do have a skip the line option now, but it’s more than 2x the normal entrance fee. You could also try Fat Tire Tours again if you want the VIP tour. (For me, this one is worth the line.)

The Catacombs are fascinating. My non-historian understanding is that graves were full and unsanitary in the 1700s and they dug up all the bones and dumped them underground. Monks and others organized them into neat piles with some designs. There are miles and miles of tunnels — the tour only covers one mile. There are groups and individuals that sneak down there to read poetry, watch movies, and do who knows what else.

That took until about noon. Then we ran from one thing to another to make sure we saw all the main sights: Bastille, Rodin Museum, Garnier’s Opera, Victor Hugo’s home, Picasso Museum, Museum of Music, etc. We went to the Pompidou Center, a fun area for people watching, but it was calmer than usual because the museum is closed on Tuesdays. We finished out the evening with some more souvenir shops, one last crepe and réligieuse pastry, and a stash of so much Chocolate Cruesli my luggage was declared overweight the next day at the airport.

 

Paris 2017 – Day 4

Notre Dame towers
This is one of two events where the lines are unavoidable and fairly painful. We arrived at 9:30 – it opens at 10 – and waited more than an hour. But it’s one of my favorite things to do, so it’s worth it for me. I love gargoyles and this is the best view you can get of them. The line to enter the cathedral is also long, but moves quickly.

While you’re in line it’s a good time to catch up on the Rick Steves book and/or audio guides.

Paris Sewers Tour
It’s gross and fascinating. You get an overview of the history of Paris and how much effort has gone in to dealing with the waste of an ever-growing population. I’ve done it twice and will go again. It’s covered by the Paris Museum Pass and there are no lines! 🙂

Napoleon’s Tomb
Interesting but not a must-see for me. This includes the Museum of the Army, which is huge – you could spend all day here if you’re into that.

Pantheon
I enjoyed this more than I expected. I like tombs and graves, especially of famous people. And this has several: Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Louis Braille, Pierre Curie, Marie Curie, Alexandre Dumas, and others.

The Sorbonne is nearby – we accidentally walked onto a scene that was being filmed there and forced a take two.

Sainte-Chapelle
The Museum Pass gets you in quickly (after security check). This place is beautiful. Each frame of the stained glass is a different event from the Bible, and there are over 1,100 of them.

Luxembourg Gardens
This wasn’t in our original itinerary, but it was a nice place to visit and take a break. Kids can rent little sailboats, pick a flag (including pirate), and chase it around the pond.

That was a full day! One day left.