On our first morning in Paris, I woke up when it was still dark. Checking my phone, I shocked to see that it was well after 7.00am and the sun wouldn't rise until 8.30am. I guess that's the end of summer!
But once we'd dug our warm clothes out, we were ready to enjoy the city. Our apartment was only a block from the Centre Pompidou and not much further from Notre Dame. And, just as importantly, there were patisseries and cafés galore.
We limited the amount of time the boys had to spend looking at art galleries and churches, because we're not total masochists (or sadists) but we did take them to a few special ones. Sainte Chapelle is one of my favourite churches in the world, and the boys also loved the stained glass. And we're all fans of the view from church towers, so we climbed up Notre Dame and listened to the bells (the bells!) The Musee d'Orsay kept us busy for an afternoon, and the Centre Pompidou for a morning.
We were there for Halloween, and while we didn't do anything special to mark it, we did coincidentally do a couple of appropriate things. We visited the Catacombs, old mines where the bones from overcrowded cemeteries are stacked, and a tourist attraction for nearly 200 years. And we had dinner at Dans la Noir, where you are served by blind waiters, and eat in pitch dark, guessing what you're eating and checking if your guess was right when you emerge, blinking, after dessert.
The security levels here were some of the highest we've seen all year, understandably. Metal detectors and X-rays at every tourist attraction, bag checks at shopping malls. But tourists didn't seem put off, with big queues all over the place, okay if you've booked your tickets ahead, otherwise there were often long waits.
Paris was a lovely start to our time in Europe, now it's time for the dramatic scenery of Iceland!
In Paris we arrived without knowing what we were going to do. We went to the Centre Georges Pompidou, which was only a block away, and Notre Dame, a roughly equal distance away. Then after conceiving a plan, we went to the Conciergerie, to get our Paris Museum Passes. These were awesome. They meant we didn't need to wait in ticket queues, and sometimes got priority access. They worked for everything except the Eiffel Tower. Kids didn't need them, so mum and dad got them only. They were quite expensive.
The museums we went to were the Rodin museum and the Musée d'Orsay. They were a little boring, but cool as well. In the Rodin museum there was the Thinker which I like. And the Musée d'Orsay had a see through clock window. We waited for five hours in the queue for the Eiffel Tower, but we went all the way to the top, so it was sort-of-worth-it.
One night we went to a really cool resteraunt. Their food was good, but not special. Their decor was non existent, but really special, because the whole resteraunt was pitch black, and you couldn't see a thing!!! That included the waiters and waitresses, because they were all blind!!!
On our second day we got the worst news that we could get this year (no, we didn't run out of money), which was that we wouldn't be able to go back to our school when we get home.
I also got an iCloud account in Paris so I will get iMessage and email set up in London.
I worry that we've become a bit like a drug addict, constantly needing a bigger hit. After the highlights of Africa and Egypt and looking ahead to some more of the different in Iceland and Norway, even spending a week in Paris, one of my very favourite cities, felt like a bit of a lull.
It didn't help that we arrived back in Europe to the miserable news that the boys' old school had declined their re-enrolment for 2017. So that knocked the wind out of all of our sails for the first couple of days. But it's hard to feel sorry for yourself for too long in this place. We cracked open the long sealed winter suitcase, braced ourselves against the autumnal temperatures and got stuck into the many sights and sounds.
We stayed in a great little AirBnB in the 1er arrondissement, near to Les Halles. Our time there ended up being a mixture of the classics, like Notre Dame, Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe; some old favourites, including the Musée d'Orsay and Musée Rodin; some things that were new to us all, such as the Catacombs; and, perhaps best of all, some of the domestic (or is that domistique?) like morning runs along the Seine pathway, followed by freshly cooked chaussons aux pommes for breakfast from the nearby patesserie, and eating out each night at the many fantastic local restaurants.
After all of that we lugged ourselves and our bags through the Metro to Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to London, and from there our flight to Reykjavik...