Monday, June 25, 2012

Paris...we are here!

Though we avoid American chains like the plague while traveling abroad, after more than a week of coffee cups that only offered three sips of coffee we needed a venti so we stopped at the Starbucks across from the Versailles train station.  After enjoying a very large cup of coffee, we headed back in to Paris for seven more days.
At the Javel station we bought a Passe Navigo which is valid for all metro, bus and RER within Paris.  I highly recommend this pass if you plan to be in Paris for a five to seven days as it is only €24.50 plus €5 for the card.  The card is valid Monday through Sunday (regardless of when you purchase the card, it will expire on Sunday so just make sure your timing is right).  The pass saves you a lot of time purchasing tickets each time you ride.  If you're only in town a few days, purchasing a Carnet (10 tickets at one time) is a good deal.
A line change and a few minutes later we were arriving at the Boulogne Jean Jaur├Ęs station.  The attendant at our metro station was fabulous...she actually Google mapped the walk from the station to our hotel! Our hotel was a just a 10 minute walk from the station in a nice suburb of Paris.  Since we are here for a week, we opted to stay in the 'burbs to get a better feel for every day life.  Boulogne is a great area with many shopping markets, pharmacies, cafes and boulangeries (bakeries).

After getting settled in to the hotel, we headed in to town to visit the Louvre...first stopped at a boulangerie to pick up a baguette (ham for me and chicken for Julie) to eat as we walked (the Parisian way).  Most museums in Paris are closed either Monday or Tuesday so make sure to check before heading out.  The Louvre is closed on Tuesday and the Musee d'Orsay is closed on Monday...a good thing because both are very large and overwhelming so don't try to see both in one day.

Thanks to our Paris Museum Pass we didn't have to wait in the long queue to purchase tickets and we were able to use a special security entrance.  The Louvre is very large so a stop at the information desk is a good idea to find out where specific pieces of art are located if you only want to see a few things. 

We, of course, had to see the Mona Lisa...I mean we are in the Louvre after all. 

The Louvre is an EXTREMELY popular tourist spot and there are massive crowds so be prepared.  Until you reach the galleries, it is also rather warm (no air conditioning in the corridors plus the crowds) but once you get to the galleries themselves, it is a little cooler (did I mentioned it was unseasonably warm during our visit?!).
Everywhere you look in the museum is an amazing work of art...even the ceilings here are beautiful.

The Wedding Feast at Cana
Winged Victory
(we had a replica at my college so
seeing the original was a treat)
Next stop today was the Latin Quarter for dinner.  We found a great cafe on Boulevard St Michel (boul' Miche) that provided some great people watching!  A couple observations were made during our two plus hour, clearly parallel parking is not taught to the French as it took several drivers multiple times to park their Smart car size vehicles in a space a Cadillac could park...and two, the French seem to enjoy being very warm as they tend to wear long sleeve shirts, jackets and scarfs in 80 degree plus weather!

An after dinner stroll through the Latin Quarter and then to the Cluny-La Sorbonne station to make our way back to the hotel.  Almost all the metro stations in Paris have their own unique look/personality.  The one at the Cluny-La Sorbonne is quite beautiful.

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