Paris 2017 – Day 3

This was a Sunday and ended up being the nicest day of Spring 2017 so far. Everyone was outside. I have never seen so many people in the Tuileries gardens and Sacré Coeur. It was perfect for our itinerary, though, because there were virtually no lines for the Louvre or Orsay Museum, which are usually packed.

We first attended church in my old LDS (Mormon) ward of Paris-Lilas. I met up with a family I taught 24 years ago as a missionary, which was a highlight of the whole trip.

Père Lachaise Cemetery
I love it here. Coolest cemetery I’ve ever seen. I lost my 3-day metro pass as I pulled my camera in and out of my pocket, so we walked almost the whole thing twice trying to find it. (I found everyone else’s expired passes, but not mine.)

Louvre and Orsay Museums
Since my travel partner was 18, we just did a speedy “highlights” tour (with some delays from getting lost).

Sacré Coeur and Montmartre
I always enjoy it here: street performers, impressive church, great views of Paris, artists, and lots of people watching.

 

Paris 2017 – Day 2

Versailles Bike Tour
Highly recommended! We met at the tour office in Paris and took the train together to Versailles. We picked up bikes and spent an hour at a market to eat crepes and buy picnic supplies for later. Our guide was fun and informative and it was a nice, relaxing day, despite getting left behind at one point. Book at Fat Tire Tours.

Paris Temple
If you’re Mormon, or interested in Mormons, there’s a new temple near Versailles. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the Versailles palace (5 minutes by car) in Le Chesnay. The public open house is from April 22 – May 13, 2017, which was after our trip. But we went ahead and joined the line for VIP tours, despite being of only average importance. It’s a beautiful place, inside and out.

Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées
This is another good evening area after everything else is closed. We climbed the Arc de Triomphe and then walked down the Champs-Élysées boulevard to Place de la Concorde, where the guillotines used to do their thing.

 

Paris 2017 – Day 1

We landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at 11am. It took about 30 minutes to get through passport control and to the RER train station connected to the airport. €10 to take the B line into Paris, which includes any connections you need to make via métro.

Eiffel Tower
I waited too long to buy advance tickets to ascend the Eiffel Tower — you need to get them 2+ months ahead of time. But you can generally still get late tickets through tour operators, so we used Fat Tire Tours. Other than having some obnoxious parents with impressionable kids on the tour, it was great. Even with the “skip the line” tour, you spend some time at security checks and waiting for elevators. But the views are worth it.

Airbnb
This was my first time trying Airbnb. I used to think you had to hang out with another family and actually interact with other human beings, but there are plenty of listings where you rent the whole house or apartment and have it to yourself. My first attempt didn’t work out — the punk canceled on me a few days before our trip. But I quickly booked another and it was great. We had a two-room apartment near Père Lachaise and loved it. We had more space and privacy, and we saved at least $50 a night over a hotel.

Wander around
A lot of the touristy places close around 6pm, but there are several outdoor spots that are accessible at all hours. We picked a park near the apartment, the Notre Dame cathedral area, and the Pompidou Center, which usually has a good variety of street performers.

Last Day in Italy – Florence and Pisa

Day 7
It’s coming to an end. Our final art gallery was Galleria dell’Accademia where Michelangelo’s David is housed. (There’s a replica outside Palazzo Vecchio but the original was moved to the Accademia). This was a perfect gallery to save for last because it’s relatively small with just a few must-sees. I enjoyed the small History of Music section with a spinnet built by Cristofori, the inventor of the piano. In front of David we met a couple from Fayetteville, Georgia. (I was going to say “an older couple” but they were probably only 5 years older than us.) She was wondering whether David was depicted before or after slaying Goliath. He was more interested in why David was naked. “Did they really fight in the nude back then? If not, why do artists insist on removing their battle gear?” (Say with a strong Southern accent.)

I ate the most amazing artichoke heart and tomato pizza and then we took a detour to Pisa to see the famous leaning tower. Our expectations were low — we mostly wanted the tourist photos — but Pisa was a great little town. The mile walk from the train station to the leaning tower was lined with great shops, open markets, and nice views.

We fit in another crepe and gelato and headed back to Florence to retrieve our luggage from the hotel and took a final train back to Rome, exhausted. We had falafels and kebabs at a great little shop by the train station and took our final taxi at light speed to our final hotel near the Rome airport. The (French) song on the taxi radio is still in my head: Maître Gims – Est-ce que tu m’aimes. Well, it is battling it out with the gypsy accordion music.

An air traffic controller strike threatened to delay our flights home, but we all made it out on time. I watched the following movies during the 28 hours we spent in the air:

  • Creed – 2.5 stars
  • Concussion – 3 stars
  • Hunger Games final – 3 stars
  • Monster Hunt (Chinese) – a hearty 4 stars for pure weirdness and a catchy little musical number
  • Half of Daddy’s Home – 1 star

I also got some reading done, but not as much as I should have.

I am happy to report that despite all the carbs consumed, I gained no weight on the trip. Monica and Wendy wore Fitbits and we averaged 25,000 steps (about 9 miles) per day. Now let’s see what kind of damage these seven boxes of Cruesli will do.

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