Paris - Day 1.

We arrived in Paris yesterday afternoon. Doodlebug fell asleep in the cab ride to the hotel so we stayed in for a few hours for her to get some much needed rest before we headed out for a look around the hotel. It was a beautiful evening to just walk around.

We wandered through a side street where a festival of some sort was going on. There were tons of people and games for everyone to take part in for free - connect four, a ring toss, a wooden 3D-ish puzzle and a ton more. The real treat however was the small cafe where we got to (well I got to, Owen has been here before :P) have my first taste of Paris Bread. Everyone had told me how yummy it was, but I was not expecting it to tast soooo Fresh and delicious! I don't think I'll ever be able to eat bread not from France the same way again!

After a quick snack, we wandered around for a bit more before we came back to the hotel and visited with a friend that is attending the same Conference as Owen.

Today was my first day on my own since we arrived in Europe. I was super nervous about getting lost and trying to find my way around the Metro and I had good reason! The Metro in Paris is crazy compared to any other metro I've been on before. They have a TON of different lines, not to forget there is also there is the RER, another line for longer commutes. Everyone I talked to about the Metro were all like "OMG the metro in Paris is AMAZING!" umm yeah amazingly confusing. Each metro line is like it's own little community underground!

I had a metro map and while it was super easy to get to the metro from our current hotel (Pullam) and then take that to Chatelet which dropped me off super close to central/downtown Paris (close to shops, Notre Dame, Musee D'Orsay, the Louvre), it was the getting home part that confused me. But I'll get to that part.

After Owen showed me where the Metro was (yes I made him before his conference started for the day) we came back to the hotel, met up with S and then I left and Natasha and I had a baguette for breakfast. I then decided that it was now or never and time to brave the Metro and find my way downtown so that I could go see some attractions/monuments. I also wanted to prove to my husband that I was not going to spend the whole time holed up in the hotel room bc I did not want to go out on my own with Natasha.

So I headed to the Metro, which was easy enough. I even had zero issue with Tash's stroller. There was an escalator going down as well as stairs. I bought my Orange Ticket (one week pass) and learned that I needed a "special" ID card as well as a photo on that. She told me they are for residents of Paris normally. blah So after I got that, I found a booth that does passport photos, ID photos and the like for 4 EURO, so had those done before I headed off for my train. Again, this was the EASIEST part of the whole metro experience. I had no idea how BIG the metro system was as it was so easy to get to the train. It was really the only line out that I could see.

The trains are a bit roomier then our Transit ones, come a lot more frequently and are a lot faster. (Or so it seems) The doors also do not have that reflex action where if you are half way through they will re-open. Once they start to close you need to have all limbs out of the car or risk having them permanently stuck in there when the train departs. Seriously, they do not pop open when they meet resistance, like your body or a stroller.

I arrived in downtown Paris w/o a hitch, but had issues getting above ground. I have NO idea why they call the metro wheelchair friendly as I could not find an elevator in sight and there was no escalators at all leading upwards. Some nice Parisans helped me get my stroller up the set of stairs.

So I made it out, got my bearings and the first thing I see is GAP and Baby GAP ha! which I avoided. I checked my map, trying to not look too tourist-y and set out to find Notre Dame since it was the closest of all the things I wanted to see. After some brief confusion, and then finally figuring out the map I found it.

I have to say I agree with Owen, while impressive, and definitely quite massive, I was not quite taken with Notre Dame. It has made me realize though, that I should have brought my kit lens (18-55m) for some of the momuments. While my 28-105 was great, I really needed something that would allow me to get the full building in the frame without having to step back 5 miles to get it!

Anywho, I took some photos, but again I was not overly 'thrilled' or as excited to see Notre Dame as I thought I'd be. I don't know, it just does not seem as impressive in person as I pictured it to be. I actually almost left when I realized that perhaps I should go inside. ha!

So Tash and I went in (Notre Dame is stroller friendly!) and looked around. I took some photos but again, the inside did not strike me as anything 'marvelous'. Perhaps my expectations for Notre Dame were just too high? I don't know. /shrug There was actually a service going on way in the front of the church and I felt bad for the priests (?) that were attending and had to listen to ppl tromping in and out and flashing going off every 30 seconds. I guess they are probably use to it.

After leaving Notre Dame (Tash played in the park in the back for a bit to burn off some steam) I headed off to Musee D'Orsay. I really really should have double checked my book Paris Day to Day because after a 15-ish minute walk all the way down to the Musee, I discovered that it is closed on Mondays. :p I was not alone though, several people walked up to the doors, read that it was closed and walked away.

At this point it was around 12.30ish and I was debating going to the Louvre. I realized though that I had left my ID badge back at the hotel (Total employees get in for free) and it was close to Natasha's nap, so I was risking parental suicide by trying to take in the Louvre and actually enjoy it. She was due for a nap and I doubted there was any chance I'd really enjoy the Louvre with a cranky kid. So instead, since I pretty much had to walk by it, I walked back up La Seine and just peeked at the outside area of the Louvre.

I think because of the book/movie, The DaVinci Code, I was expecting the Pryamid to be a bit larger, but it was pretty cool all the same. The entire museum has a HUGE courtyard out front as well as gardens (which I did not see). I snapped a few photos (which I have to say my photos are not as great as I had hoped (just looking at them through the camera as it's not easy to take a photo while making sure your 2 yr old does not run off. She's getting braver and braver all the time in how far she will run from me) but they are memories all the same and I am far from being a Pro. :0)

As Tash was prepared for a meltdown (tired, hot, hungry) I gave her the extra baguette from this morning (still fresh!) and that subdued the pending tantrum as well as an Eiffel Tower Keychain I bought for 1 EURO, and we headed back to Chatelet metro. Again, no problem whatsoever finding the metro (I had picked a massive fountain as my landmark to get back to). It was first getting down there (again, not stroller friendly! I was told it would not be, but there is no way Tash could walk all day w/o getting tired!).

First I get down there and suddenly instead of just a walk to the Train like I was expecting (from my previous experience at the first station this morning) there were tunnels everywhere. I could not find information, so while Parisans rushed around me I wandered down one tunnel and the next trying to either a) a spot that looked familar or b) information and praying they spoke a teeny bit of english bc we all know mine sucks.

Luckily, following the exit signs I found information, however, upon walking up to the info desk I realized I had not carefully memorized exactly what station I had come from. oops! I looked at the metro map and all I could remember was that it had been 4 stops from my station. Not very helpful. So I guessed the station, she told me what line I needed (4, which was totally wrong! I should have taken #14. Ahh good ole hindsight!) and I headed that way. More lugging of the stroller down the stairs ensued, I think Natasha had a tantrum in there somewhere because she wanted to push it, before I found the #4 line. I get on and watch at each stop and realize this is not the correct train. heh

But, being the person I am, I count out the 4 stops, get off and then make my way to above ground to give in and find a taxi. That was pretty easy, except he spoke very little english. I told him "Pullman Hotel" and he was like umm...huh? Finally after some hand singles from both of us and me then asking for un stylo et Papier, I write down "Pullman Hotel" and he goes Ahhh Pullman hotel! Obviously my accent has much to be desired. :p

So 9.70 EURO later, we arrive at the correct hotel, I give him a nice tip, come up to my room, put Natasha down for her nap and make mental note that tomorrow I'll remember what station I started at. :p We move to the Hilton on Wednesday which is a LOT closer to the Eiffel Tower and D'Arc so I'm sort of saving to see those once we switch Hotels. It's quite a walk from Chatelet Station and the metro is confusing me enough as it is without trying to take it right to the Tower. On Friday Owen's co-worker's wife is going to Versailles, so I'm hoping to go with them. They are coming to Paris on Wed. but are spending a night in Brussels first. I'd like to see Cimetiere Du Pere Lachaise as well, so perhaps they are making a visit to that too?

Apparently Versailles is super easy to get to on the RER (30-40 min train ride) but I'm a bit nervous to go that far on my own! I think tomorrow I'll give Sannie a call and see if she wants to meet up somewhere to shop or what not.
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