Mona Lisa and dinner with new friends

Trip Start May 14, 2010
1
8
21
Trip End Jun 02, 2010


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Where I stayed
Pullman Rive Gauche

Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today is our last day in Paris. We got a relatively early start and went to the Louvre first thing. We had read about possible long lines, but really got in pretty quickly, maybe because we got there not too long after they opened. We decided to get audio tours to help us navigate the museum because it is so incredibly large…and all of the descriptions and information tags were in French (go figure!).

After spending some time looking at other sculptures and paintings we decided to check out the Mona Lisa because the museum was very quickly becoming busy. I had read that when you first see the painting, you would be disappointed by how small and dark it was. Well, we were not disappointed. It was pretty cool to see such a famous painting in person...and it’s true - her eyes really DO follow you no matter where you are standing! And what a smug little smile :) Quite surreal to see that lovely lady in person!! The Louvre contains the largest single collection of Leonardo da Vinci paintings - 5 paintings in all including the Mona Lisa. Really amazing to see these masterpieces right in front of us. We also saw paintings and sculptures by Raphael, Michelangelo, da Vinci’s nephew Piernino da Vinci. The other highlight was seeing the Venus de Milo and learning the history of her discovery. The painting The Wedding at Cana (which is where Jesus turned water into wine) by Veronese is absolutely huge - at almost 22 feet by 32.5 feet I could only take pictures of small sections at a time. The other famous sculptures we saw was the Victory of Samothrace ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winged_Victory_of_Samothrace ), thought to have been created around 190 BC. It's almost impossible to fathom something that old. It's one of the three centerpieces of the museum (the other two being the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. Wow, how cool it was to see these amazing works of art!!

After 5 hours in The Louvre, we were exhausted. So the plan was to do a canal cruise and then call it a night. We had a very early train out to London in the morning, so we wanted to get back a little earlier to pack and chill. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans... The battery in the camcorder was dead and we didn't have the backup along. O.K., no biggie. Well catch the Metro back to the hotel, charge the camcorder battery, charge our batteries, and then head back in to the city. So yeah, best laid plans and all that - we had trouble finding a Metro station, and when we asked for directions, they were very had to understand - we had made the mistake of leaving that morning without a metro map. Big mistake. We walked for two hours I think, looking for a station. Much bigger delay than we anticipated (not to mention the added stress and fatigue!!!). But, we did finally locate one, got back to the hotel and charge the camcorder batteries as well as our own. Since we needed to eat dinner, we decided to go to the Rue Cler area and find one of the restaurants that Rick Steves recommended and have eat there before the cruise. There was a wait of about 20 minutes, so the waitress brought us a couple of beers and we stood at the outside bar (which was basically just a bar-height finished plank) with another couple from the US. They were on their honeymoon and we visited with them while we waited for our table. Our waitress came back and told us that she had a table for four if we wanted to dine together, which we all agreed would be great. We had an awesome time with them. I feel bad, I can only remember her name which was Jana. I sincerely regret not getting their contact information so we could keep in touch! They were from Tennessee and were heading to London a couple of days after us. Anyway, with all the great conversation, food, not to mention beers and a bottle of wine, we lost track of time and by the time we knew it, it was too late to do a canal cruise. Disappointing, but now we have something to do next time we come back to Paris (ha ha). We walked around just a little in the Trocadero area (which is across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower) and then figured we better get on the Metro before they stop running for the night - PANIC! The last train departed at 12:30 - we boarded at 12:10ish. We had to make one transfer...I made it out of the train, but Brian couldn't get out before it started moving - DOUBLE PANIC for me! Here I am, alone in a metro station in Paris after midnight. I tried to stay calm, and I stayed put. He showed up on the next arrival, after having gotten off at the next stop and reboarding. I cannot say how relieved I was!!! So, it was later than we had wanted it to be, we were both very tired, and still had packing to do so we were ready for the early morning departure.

Our train was leaving at 6:43 from Paris Nord station, which meant we had to be up by 4:30. By the time we got to bed (1:45 a.m.), we were looking at getting less than 3 hours of sleep. Not good. We got up at 4:30, left at the planned time of 5:30...and, well, things didn't go as planned (AGAIN) from there. Earlier I raved at how easy train travel was..well that was true for our trip from Amsterdam to Paris, not so from Paris to London. It was the equivalent to travel in an airport, which we were NOT expecting and did not allow enough time for. We had to go through customs/immigration, a check in process, and fill out a "landing card" etc. We were definitely in panic mode. We ended up missing our scheduled departure, but they were really great and rescheduled us for the next train out at 7:13. I still prefer travel by train, but I think I learned a lesson that every departure is not the same and to be better prepared!!




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