The most famous landmark in Paris.

After spending time in smaller, more relaxed places like Angers, Nantes and Caen it was a bit of a shock to arrive in Paris which is so big crowded and busy.  I think we both found it a little bit overwhelming actually.  We arrived on Saturday evening and navigated the crowds and construction to find our hotel.

View from the balcony off our hotel room overlooking Montholon Park. The playing areas are lit at night so it was a bit noisy, but we had no trouble sleeping.

First order of business on Sunday was the Louvre (as Catherine has already highlighted).  We spent several hours there focusing on sculpture – the place is so big you do have to narrow down what you want to see.  We’ve been to some art museums in Europe and I get bored pretty quickly, but fortunately the sculptures hold my attention a little better.  Even so we only scratched the surface in the 4 or so hours we were there.  Once we left the Louvre we started heading west along the Champs de Elysee.  I knew it’s a big wide boulevard, but didn’t realize how long it is.  Even with the wide sidewalks and being a little after peak tourist season it was packed with people all the way to the end at the Arc de Triomphe.

Catherine in front of the Arc de Triomphe. A number of bike riders from England had made the journey to Paris to raise funds for veterans and were having a presentation under the Arc. The police had the big traffic circle partly closed off so you don't see many cars in the picture. Normally there would be six lanes of mayhem! The drivers were none too pleased about the disruption as you might imagine.

From there we headed south towards the Seine and the Tour Eiffel.  From there Catherine busted out the map and channelled her inner Magellan and guided us effortlessly around to see a number of the city’s main attractions.  Well it wasn’t really that effortless since we did it all on foot and did I mention that Paris is a big city?  We both had sore feet once we got back to the hotel about 13 hours after we first left in the morning.  Here’s a small sampling of what we came across:

We came across this building near the Seine. I've heard of green roofs and green buildings but this one takes the cake.
Musée de l'Armée (Museum of the Army). Interestingly, as late as the 19th century France was considered to be the leader in military might and strategy. And then in the 20th century not so much...
Grand Palais and the Alexander III bridge across the Seine.
Notre Dame. There was a huge service going on inside yet they still let sightseers inside. It was very strange as people were milling around, talking and taking all sorts of pictures including of the congregation while the service was going on. I'm not exactly a fan of the Catholic church, but I thought it was kind of rude.
Late evening over the Seine. Apparently super romantic, but all I remember was being hungry and having really sore feet!

After our big day we had a good sleep in the next before heading out for more exploring, but at a more relaxed pace including lots of resting and eating which was great.  We even stumbled into the number one rated bakery in the city by pure chance – Catherine has some great internal radar for bakeries (and cats).  We ran out of camera battery so there isn’t a lot of evidence of the day, but here is one:

Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre

On Tuesday we had a early afternoon flight back to Stockholm so we slept in, had breakfast and bought some food for the trip before going to the train station to catch a train to the airport.  There we had ourselves an authentic French experience – a mass strike!  The French are legendary for holding huge strikes at the smallest provocation with little or no warning, so I was always a little nervous when I booked our travel that we might need to find alternatives ‘on the fly’.  Especially with the French government starting the process to move the retirement age to 62 (from 60) I knew that the potential for a strike at any time was very real.

Our travels had been totally smooth up till that point so I guess we were ‘due’.  Apparently the strike was huge with several million people across the country taking part.  We were on vacation and not paying attention to the newspapers so we didn’t find out until we had already bought our train tickets and made our way to the platform.  Only then was there a notice saying that all train traffic was affected by a strike, but thankfully some trains were still running to the airport from a totally different area of the station.  We made our way to the other platform and waited about 30 minutes for a train.  The locals seemed to be taking it all in stride – I’m sure they have seen it all before.  Luckily we had left ourselves some extra time and we made it to the airport without having to run for our flight.

And there ends the recap of our trip to France.  About 3 weeks late, but hopefully better late than never.  Next up for us (or one of us anyway) is a move back to Vancouver…

We'll finish the post the way we started. This time from the other side of the Seine.