We headed out early Tuesday morning on the bullet train. We were all able to sit together –which was great, and the kids loved the train. Zander was a bit disappointed at how slow it went. He thought, since it was a bullet train, we would be from Besancon to Paris in about 5 minutes – 2.5 hours seemed way too long. I tried to explain that it would have been 4 or more hours driving but this didn’t seem to console him at all.
We got to Gare de Lyon and purchased all our train tickets for the rest of the week. We think, of course, since we live in France we are savvy enough to use the ticket machines (no line) but, after a few minutes of frustration and asking for help we ended up in line, just like all the other clueless tourists. The worker was an absolute angel and helped us immensely – even gave us a great map. What patience she must have for such a career. Finally, we headed over to our apartment. It is a great size – plenty for us 7 and the location is perfect. Hungry for lunch, we hit La Grand Epicerie of Paris to get some groceries for the rest of the week. Of course, I had wanted to head out and conquer Paris immediately and the kids wanted to stay in the new apartment and watch television! Reality bites folks, the fact was that tomorrow we needed to eat breakfast at home and pack a picnic lunch, and so, out we went. Poor us, we were forced to visit the most famous grocery store in Paris – and possibly the world. It was only 1/2 km from our apartment- but it took us almost 1/2 an hour to locate it. It was a huge and amazing place but to call it expensive would be an understatement! It was ridiculously, outrageously, expensive. Particularly the produce – a bag of oranges was about 25 Euros. A box of strawberries about 10! It was arranged by product – like a whole island just for salt, another just for vinegar etc…. There was even a Nutella island ringed by jars of Nutella as large as Griffin. I think you would need a delivery person just to lift the thing. We ended up buying about 4 things despite the price, of course, including the best yogurt I’ve ever had and 6 pain au chocolates which were also the best I’ve ever had. Then we headed over to a normal store and got regular stuff. (These 20 items cost less than the bill at the first store, naturally) We made it back to the apartment for some lunch and rest. It was Grandma and Grandpa’s anniversary so they headed out to hit the town.The kids were so tired, I was wondering if we would make it out of the apartment at all, but they recovered after some food and playing with us.
We first visited the Rodin Museum. We had pre-bought Paris museum passes and they were awesome. We didn’t have to wait on line or anything – just walked right through the door. I was astounded by the body of work that was produced by just one artist. Besides the Thinker and The Kiss and The Gates of Hell there were hundreds more sculptures. I mean, when a painter does a large body of work it is impressive but, I now believe that Rodin takes the cake – I mean, this is carving out of marble – and with enough detail you can see veins – you can’t just dash out one or two a day, now can you? There is another Rodin museum in Philadelphia – it was cool to visit both. Thanks to Zander, who took the shot of us kissing in front of The Kiss. He had a hard time getting the shot so we had to kiss for a really, really long time – what a shame! Any readers out there remember our college days when we were accused of being stuck in ‘goo-goo, ga-ga’ land? Happy to say we still visit now and again. I was familiar with some of Rodin’s work but discovered I really liked the sculptures that were ‘emerging’ out of the marble as well. The museum was laid out beautifully and had mirrors placed strategically so you could more easily appreciate the sculptures. I’m pretty sure the curators didn’t think the site would necessarily be interactive, but, as you can see – Zander and Callie were inspired to try out some of the contortions Rodin sculpted. Perhaps they will have a future in modeling. It started out rainy but by the time we headed outside to the gardens it had cleared up so we could appreciate The Gates of Hell and The Three Shades, along with tons of others. The kids were wondering why Rodin would have made 3 of almost the same statue and also wonder what order he created them.
On the way out, the kids stuck their admittance stickers on a nearby electrical pole (as had thousands before them) Some had managed to get them up so high they must have stood on their parents shoulders. Here you have it folks – is it an evolving work of art, or litter?
Next we were going over to Les Invalides. Passing by the gardens next door we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Underwhelmed, Zander insisted it was just an electrical tower. Les Invalides is a former military halfway house sort of thing where, back in the day, tragically injured soldiers could live out the remainder of their days doing useful work with their food and housing provided by the state. So, if you lost a limb or eye or half your head and somehow survived back then – you were sent to Les Invalides. I can just imagine the doctor breaking the news. “I’m terribly sorry Jacques – we weren’t able to save the leg. But take heart. All is not lost, really! There is a place for people like you. It’s a lovely building, right in the heart of Paris. Not that you will be wandering out and about in the city, oh no! You wouldn’t want to mix with society. But, you will get to live in peace and harmony with all the other limbless or eyeless freaks. I mean, we wouldn’t want you out there scaring little children or demonstrating the darker side of war, now would we?” Well, for whatever reason, this lovely refuge was eventually shut down and they turned it into a museum of war. As an aside, in France there is no such thing as “differently abled” or even “physically disabled”. The word they use is handicapped – and that’s final.
The entire outside of the museum was ringed with cannons – all different kinds and all pointing outward as if in defense of the building. The kids LOVED the cannons and spent a long time just climbing on and around them – Zander was particularly interested in the one pictured 3rd. Notice how it was hit by a cannon ball in some long ago battle. He wondered if it would still work. I was impressed by how elaborate and ornate the cannons were. Having kids along for the ride really helps me slow down and notice details such as this.
We headed inside…. This is a huge museum and we only visited 2 wings out of about 6. The first was full of armor, swords etc…. it put the display of medieval weaponry in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (for those of you who know it) to shame. I often miss my family when I’m in places I think they would love. While here, I was really missing my father. He loves history, especially anything having to do with wars and also swords, weapons etc….. He would have LOVED this museum.
Callie is pictured standing in front of a cannon-like device with the largest calibre shot known to have been made – what a hole that would have made! The next shot is of some Asian era medieval knight with a cannon resembling the muzzle of a machine gun – not many of this model were made since it didn’t work too well and took too long to load! Callie got sick of this place very quickly – war is not her favorite thing. It makes her belly hurt. We tell her we hope she grows up knowing how bad war is and fights to stop it. Here we are hugging next to a cannon – believe it or not the handles of the cannon feature intertwined lovers – that’s right, sex and war, hand in hand! I loved the helmet pictured – it has a sphinx on top with a dragon on top of that – mythological creatures, unite – and kick some ass! I took a shot of this armor to show how much they had – that was just one window in a room with about 6-10 windows full. The handles on the swords pictured are gorgeous – I wished I could have gotten one for my father.
Then we went over to the WWI and WWII section of the museum – we walked faster since the museum was closing at 6 and we were going to meet one of Daddie’s co-workers for dinner. We saw a model of “Big Bertha”, a howitzer used in WW1. It was named Big Bertha after the daughter of the creator. Thanks Dad! You can read more about Big Bertha at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bertha_(howitzer). The name Bertha has always meant not just ugly, but also fat and mean. I guess it is because of this? I remember my sisters and I playing this little 78 rpm record that my Aunt Pat had given us. She gave us a whole bunch and we used to play them all the time – I loved Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond. But this other record, I don’t know the name, but it had this scene and one part was Howard Cosell…. I can’t remember much – but I do remember this scene
Regular voice (RV): “Bertha who?”
GV: Bertha Butt
RV: Who’s she?
GV: One of the Butt sisters (crazy drum music)
We used to play this over and over and over and laugh hysterically. Why, I have no idea. Poor Bertha….. OK readers, take a look at these recruitment posters – did these actually work??? The idea of being powerful instead of weak in a time of danger. The idea that we can somehow get rid of the ‘bad’ guys. It’s all just an illusion, isn’t it?
Then we headed over to the tomb of Napoleon. He wasn’t initially buried there but was interred later. The casket, or whatever you want to call it, was in the center of the building and was huge. At least 20 people could easily have fit inside the thing. It was a big as a delivery truck! You always hear about Napoleon overcompensating for his slight stature - well, his tomb continues this tradition. Here we discovered a small machine that, for 2 Euros, you could buy a commemorative coin. We let the kids each have one and they were so excited – this was to become ‘the’ souvenir for our Paris vacation. Andre’ did some research on Napoleon and he only ruled most of Europe for about 10 years – but I guess that’s better than anybody else around, right?
We headed over to Pont Alexandre III. There we met up with Andre’s Paris based co-worker, Emmanuel. He and his spouse, Claire, took us to a local restaurant called Hippopotamus. They had kids meals, balloons, crayons etc… – all great for our munchkins, and the food was delicious as well. I had chevre on toast, some foie gras and steak tartar – yum!!!! We got to the restaurant soon after opening, but had to leave before dessert, since it was past 9pm and the kids were, understandably, falling asleep in their chairs. I was proud of all of them for behaving so well for so long. They even let Andre’ and I had adult conversation most of the time. Claire and Emmanuel were very nice and spoke excellent English – they plan on living abroad as well, someday. Maybe they’ll come to Philly when we go back there. On the way home in the taxi Griffin fell asleep. You can’t blame him - we had been up since 5am!!! Sometimes I wish I could be the one carried to bed!
While we were hitting the museums and eating with friends, Grandma and Grandpa visited the Eiffel Tower, Rodin and Napoleon’s tomb. I include a few of their shots since they had such a great view. I love the rainbow ending at Napoleon’s tomb. I wonder if we were in there when they were taking the picture? Happy 8th Anniversary guys!