Yosemite Hike - 2011

Friday, August 10, 2012

Final Day in Europe

One last day of wrestling the kids up by 9:00am to take on the day. We have definitely become used to the European lifestyle of bed around midnight and up at eight or nine in the morning. Since we are fairly North, the sun does not go down until about 10pm every night. Late dinners and then night activities or Olympic events have become the norm.

Was suppose to be a casual day visiting some parks and doing a little shopping before our train ride to Frankfurt to fly home on Saturday. But little Quasimodo Shelby wanted to see the hunchback of Notre Dame up in the tower of the church.

One has to arrive early to avoid a hour plus line most of the day. Shelby and Jana set off to Notre Dame first thing to get a jump on the line, while bookworm Sydney and Dad headed to nearby Shakespeare book store.

Jana was a bit concerned when they got to ND; there were police cars everywhere, caution tape and a body! Seriously? A crime scene on the last day we have to climb the tower of ND? Turns out a movie was being filmed but no one seemed to know which one.

Shelby found her own peace by climbing and being on top of the Notre Dame, while two streets below, Sydney's joy came from sitting up in the quaint second story of the bookstore to read old, used classic novels. Sydney purchased two classics; the Hunchback of Notre Dame & Moby Dick to read, more than likely on the plane ride home. (Thanks Karen & Jim!)

Shelby here blogging about climbing ND.

After waiting in line for an hour it was nice to move around more. After climbing up almost 100 stairs we got to the first floor were we got our tickets, I thought it's interesting that you got your tickets off the ground floor. At home you can never buy your tickets in the middle of the ground floor and second floor.

We climbed up 40 to 50 more to get to the 2nd floor with an amazing view of the city. When you looked around you, you were caged in. I said to mom I think it was well worth the wait. We walked farther down the litter path till we saw two small doors, dad could never fit through. We walked in walked up the stairs to where the giant bell was. It was cool to see something that's very historical. We waited in a small line to go up to the very top. When we were in line we meet a family from Washington. They said it felt so good to speak English, I agreed. When we got to the top the view was even more spectacular then the last one.

After we got down we met Dad and Sydney. Here are some facts about the Notre Dame:

It was to take 200 years to complete
The bell that we saw is the cathedral's largest bell
There is a total of 400 stairs
It's towers are 69 meters high

If you go to Paris I recommend it,It a long line but its worth it!

We headed to Marais, District 4 to experience an ethnic, and heavy Jewish, neighborhood of Paris. One thing about Paris, finding a meal to everyone's liking can be a challenge to say the least. If you decide to sit and eat too, it is twice as much as taking out. Still difficult to stomach spending $40 - $50 on takeout hamburgers, hot dog, and flaffels, but when in Paris. Most everyone seems to have coffee and croissant for breakfast, a panini sandwich to go and then sit down for a dinner at a cafe. C'est la vie. Hamburgers for the girls and delicious and filling falafel at Rick Steves recommendation. Thanks Rick!

Off to Bertillion's for ice cream, as literally everyone who heard we were going to Paris said you have to have ice cream there. We had ice cream everyday at Bertillion subsidiaries or offshoots, but walked to experience the home of ice cream. Once again, they were closed for August, c'est la vie!

The Isle of St. Louis did provide an excellent opportunity to finalize last minute gifts.

During Jana's 20 minute shopping "spree"...

Scott had the worst luck trying to rent four bikes in both London and Paris, as we only had a credit card and it didn't have a chip in it like most in Europe. A great concept to rent a bike for a day or less and it is locked up and computerized. Ride the bike to another part of the city and then find another bike stall to lock it up. Unfortunately, after multiple attempts in London and Paris, we were always turned away. Off and walking we went AGAIN! How many miles will it be today?!

Marched back up to Luxembourg Park so Shelby could play in a huge playground for a hour before we had to navigate the metro with our suitcases to the train station.

Her smile says it all!

As the train from Paris to Frankfurt glides thought the French countryside at 100 plus miles per hour, we ponder all the great things we saw and experienced. Nice to see countryside with trees, rolling farm land, cows grazing all reminding us of Switzerland.

It was three trips wrapped in one, with the glorious Swiss Alps, the metropolis of London, thriving with the Olympics and the historic artistic city of Paris. What more could we ask for in an adventurous European trip.

Next trip to Europe will definitely be South and more relaxing on the beaches of Italy, Spain, Croatia and maybe Greece.

Shelby: Notre Dame & Luxembourg Gardens
Sydney: Shakespeare's Book Store (picture to come)
Jana: Morning walk with Shelby & Notre Dame, relaxing at Luxembourg Gardens
Scott: A bit of everything

Location:Paris, France

Thursday, August 9, 2012

We Triomphed!!!

Fitting title to basically our last full day in Europe as it wasn't the most stress free day we've had. More on that later. As usual so many wonderful things to see, but tried to take it at a leisurely pace.

The day started with a nice Parisian breakfast in our apartment. Fresh croissants from the bakery, fruit, yogurt and a little muesli. Ready to take on the day as the Louvre, among other things await.

Our apartment....First come the stairs, 81 of them!

Master Bedroom

Kitchen/Laundry Room

Living Room AND the girls's room with large couch, chairs, nice table and rolls for the floor.

View of our street - Rue de Bourgonne

Staying one street over from the Rodin sculpture musee and two streets away from Napolean's Tomb and the War Museum, provided great start to the day. Scott really wanted to see the Rodin sculptures as it reminded him of his days at Stanford where they have a wonderful Rodin sculpture garden.

A pose by "the thinker" we ventured through the beautiful gardens with sculptures hidden in different parts. We were all amazed at the fine precision and real sized body parts shaped from marble and bronze.

Short! The first thing that came to mind peering at the top of Napoleon's tomb. It was great to be a king or leader back then, as they built their own huge buildings as their memorials or resting place. The kids kept asking was Napolean a good guy and do the French regard him highly? Needless to say we gave the kids a short answer, not knowing for sure how the French view Napoleon.

His tomb was quite impressive and each family member and other great war leaders each got their own wing and tomb.

One of many glorious ceilings

The War Museum brought back memories of studying WWI and WWII in school. The girls really have no idea of the history of the wars and didn't understand the Allies and Axis powers. Scott absolutely soaked up the museum and told the girls they would learn about WWII by reading "All Quiet on the Western Front".

Great museum to see the perspective of the French and witness the timelines of soldiers clothing, guns, chemical warfare, tanks, and planes that shaped the wars over time. A good walking timeline of the wars.

Quick Metro ride to Louvre for a picnic lunch on the grass. Didn't get much better than baguette sandwiches, olives, salads, cheeses and a little beer to take in the nice sunny day, before venturing through the glass pyramid into the Louvre.

We have learned after 3 weeks that breakfast at home and packed lunches is the best plan for us to mitigate stress of deciding where to eat or disappointment with bad meals and the stress of making a decision that usually disappoints someone.

A bit of a rough patch between girls, nothing a Parent Induced Peace Treaty "PIPT" can't solve or else we don't go in.....

Syd all "Louved" up and ready for art, post "PIPT"!

A lot to see, but really focused on Greek sculptures starting with Venus de Milo and the moving to Roman sculptures, before exploring the art of Medevil times during the Italian Renaissance.

Disappointed they were sold out of audio tours but luckily we had downloaded Rick Steves audio tour (thanks Grawleskis!) on the iPad to take Sydney through the history and famous pieces in the Louvre - she was enthralled!!! We're pretty sure she could walk all 13 miles of it if we let her.

Shelby wanted to bee line right to the Mona Lisa. As we soaked up the different art and artist, you know when your close to the Mona Lisa as the crowds become huge. The girls wiggled up from ten rows deep to peer at the most famous piece of art work in the World. Unfortunately she didn't wink, but posed pleasanty for our camera.

A perfectly planned day perfect went a bit haywire from here...

The plan, Jana & Shelby high tail to line for climb at Notre Dame, Scott & Sydney see Vermeer and then head to ND. Unfortunately, Jana realizes she doesn't have her wallet and not sure if she's handed to Scott, he is good at holding things, or more likely, has she set it down to a foreigner's delight?

Shelby stays calm, helping Jana with a plan - write a note for Scott to stay put and then, the not so good plan, try to find Scott & Syd in the Louvre. Needless to say we came up empty handed, went back to bag check noticing Scotts bag was gone, apparently not getting the note.

So, Shelby & Jana ultimately decided to head to ND with no money in pockets. A bit of a stressful time with talks of what ifs and maybe and should we have, but all good as we round the corner to ND and see Scott and Syd waiting. Relief, appreciation and order restored once again and nothing an ice cream from Bertillion can't calm!

Next misstep, a walk to a pizzeria recommended in the guide book only to find it close until mid August. We've found that quite common, as many Parisians are on vacation. Quick taxi to another place, but once again poor service and average food for $75.00.

Another little find that Shelby wanted to see was Luxembourg Park and it was glorious! Unfortunately the children's park closed so we wandered for 15 minutes, knowing we'd like to return. Promptly at 8:45pm, the guards blow whistles and everyone departs and gates are locked.

Glorious light and foliage all around - 8:30pm

One last stop on our 2 day museum pass, the Arch de Triomphe at night. Under the Champ de Ellyses and up 100 or so stairs to the top of the Arch. Quite a spectacular view at 10:00pm complete with the light show of Eiffel Tower. Met a great Wisconsin family of seven traveling for 10 weeks and 10 different countries in Europe.

Down the stairs, under the Arch we go...

We searched for crepes with The Schwartz Family, exchanging travel tales and more on the Champ de Ellysees, but no luck for something under $10, all deciding to take a raincheck until tomorrow. Loved knowing others are price conscious and also that others sometimes have a a hard time finding what they want. We were beginning to think it was just us!

In the end, a triumphant day!

Shelby: Picnic at Louvre, Arc de Triomph & meeting The Schwartz
Sydney: The Louvre
Jana: Picnic @ Louvre, Luxembourg Gardens & meeting The Schwartz Family
Scott: War Museum, cruising the Louvre

Location:Paris, France

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Very Impressionist

Late night last night, as we didn't get back until after midnight from our bike tour. Slow morning, again battling this is a vacation against the, "there's so much to see see in just 3 days. Paris awaits and here we come with two-day museum passes in hand!

Our apartment is a long stone throw away from the d'Orsay, in the distric 7 area near St. Germaine. Time to see some art and first stop the old train station now converted into an art museum. Thanks to friend Kelly Grawleski we went directly to the fifth floor to see all the Impressionists and yes, we loved the behind the clock view - very Hugoesque!

Standing behind this clock in the d'Orsay and seeing the hands move was an amazing sight. It looked massive from inside!

The Fortune Family refers to our residence artist and art historian Sydney for all inquires about art style, paintings, and artist. Quite impressive her knowledge of both the art and artists that we took in.

Next up, a pleasant walk down the Seine to the Notre Dame. A quick moving line allowed us to view the church built in the 1100s from the first level. Unfortunately, an hour and a half line to climb the Notre Dame tower to see the hunchback of Notre Dame. We decided to save that for another time.

Lunch in Paris is either at a cafe in the corner where you sit down and pay for the bad service with high prices. We tended to gravitate toward purchasing panini's on the run. We miss our friendly London and it's easier food on every corner!

Sitting eating lunch on the isle of Notre Dame we noticed Saint Chapelle across the street. Some of the best sites are not the major ones, but the undiscovered off the beaten path where the expectations are not too high. Saint Chapelle presented some of the most amazing stain glass windows anywhere. It is also right next to France's Supreme Court, so threaten the kids to behave or over to the court where most criminals would get the guillotine.

In St. Chapelle, the fifteen separate panels of stained glass cover 6,500 square feet and over 1,100 different scenes from the Bible telling the the entire Christian history of the world, from Creation in the Genesis, to coming of Christ, to the end of the world.

The one tour we did book for our trip, was the Eiffel Tour, to avoid two hour plus lines. We were all impressed by the tour and the history of the Tower and its varied uses, despite many Parisians thinking it is an eyesore. Most interesting to learn, it was built for Paris' 1889 Universal Exposition and expected to stand for 30 years and be torn down.

The first part of the tour took us underground to witness the radio and secret military quarters to intercept German transmissions during WWI. The tower also transmitted TV signals when that first occurred. It stands 1,063 feet including its antennae.

Finally what everyone was waiting for, an elevator up to the 2nd platform of the tower for an amazing view. It did not disappoint, although we felt we should have walked up it. It was a clear day and could see 70 km out supposedly. We had no idea how expansive Paris is, as one tends to spend all the time in the center where all the sites and museums are located.

Looking up into the Tower

Can't get much better than today, as it was truly a glorious! Hard to believe tomorrow can bring some other amazing history and experiences for our family. To prepare for the walking tomorrow, we Fortune Four walked down the Eiffel Tower, 720 stairs, to end the day!

Unfortunately the TV in the apartment isn't working do we're left to Internet updates for the Olympics and viewing out our window to the neighbors TV.

Shelby: Behind the scenes tour of the Eiffel Tower
Sydney: Seeing the city of Paris from atop the Tower
Jana: The tour of the Tower
Scott: Second platform of the Tower

Location:Paris, France