It's always interesting to attend a new ward in a foreign country, so we woke up very early (especially considering our previous late night) to make it to the meetinghouse in Paris. Because it was only about a half mile away from where we stayed, we walked, and halfway there met and helped a cute, lost Australian family find the building. There were two wards simultaneously meeting right across from one another, one for English-speakers and the other for French. Of course we had to hear the French meeting, but not to worry, they had a translator and headsets for everyone who wanted them. French is such a beautiful language...I loved trying to sing the familiar hymns (but not even coming close- its a tough language!) as we went through the sacrament meeting.
Because it was the first Sunday of the month, people were bearing their testimonies, so we really got to hear several locals speak and talk about things that they felt so strongly about. The Spirit was very strong and I loved all of it. After the close, we walked down the street to a French cafe/bakery to eat some breakfast...which was so yummy! Fresh-baked baguettes and croissants, with scrambled eggs and bacon- doesn't get much better than that.
After breakfast, we walked back home so we could relax and change to get ready for our bike tour of the city. We met our guide for Blue Bike Tours at the St. Michel Fountain, just a stone's throw from where we stayed. But it was raining...a little bummed that this might not only make it a little dangerous for the kids, but also put a damper on the tour, we stood under an umbrella and hoped that the weather would clear up. Right as we were starting, the sun came out and it totally stopped raining, and even cooled off (the weather during our visit was unusually hot for Paris). We picked out our bikes and started the 4-hour journey through the city, with a promise to hit all of the most important spots. Tessa was in a toddler seat on the back of my bike and Lauren had a trailer attachment on the back of Brian's, for which she promised to pull her own weight (haha!). I love guided tours and hearing interesting information and historical facts from people who know their stuff, and getting to do it outside, on a bike, in perfect weather, in Paris. Oui Oui!!
Our first stop was Notre Dame. Our guide was awesome and told us facts that none of us had learned on our visit the day before. For example, the zero point in Paris is located right in front of Notre Dame, and all points in the city are measured from this circular marker labeled "Point Zero Des Routes de France" (said in a perfect accent, of course). From there, we biked across the street to the famous Love Lock Bridge. Although locks can be found on just about every bridge in Paris, this one was completely and totally packed to the brim on both sides- which is why they are removing all of them in a couple of months...too much weight for one bridge to handle! We bought a lock from a nearby vendor (product placement, people!) and wrote all of our names and of course, we locked it on the bridge and tossed the keys in the River Seine below. We stopped quickly at the Grand Palais, Musee d'Orsay, and the Musee des Invalides- where our guide explained 600 years of French history in under 10 minutes- so interesting...it made me want to study it all. I love history. After a quick pit stop at an outdoor market where we picked up the necessary Nutella and banana crepes, we jumped back on the saddle and were on our way.
The trickiest part of the bike ride came next, as we wound our group through the busy, busy streets, over and down to the path that runs along the Seine- which until two years ago was a highway, now used solely for pedestrians...and bikes. We stopped at a crucial point along the Seine, where to Brian's (and Tessa's) utter delight, was a public sparkling water fountain! French people obviously take their sparkling water very seriously. We had to keep moving, but we promised Brian we could return later, with refillable water bottles in hand. Down the Seine, then up again to see La Tour Eiffel in all its splendor. It still hadn't lost its magic- seriously, I don't know how it could.
Then, we biked along the lower tree-lined section of the Champs de Elysees to the Place de la Concorde, where you could see the famous Luxor obelisk and the Arc de Triomphe from a distance. We then biked around the Tuileries Gardens and right onto the plaza of the Louvre narrowly missing death on a certain crosswalk (oops!).
The four-hour tour flew by. It was one of those moments where you are just so grateful and happy and trying to really live in and soak up each moment because you know after it passes that you are going to wish you could do it all over again. We all loved every second.
Afterwards, we walked back to the sparkling water fountain, as promised, and then along the Seine footpath to an outdoor pizza cafe that was right on the river. The pizza was so delicious that I had to recreate it when we got home- fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce, with a pile of arugula, topped off with shaved parmesan and a sprinkle of olive oil. Too good.
At day's end, we came back to our flat, and had each of the girls give us their prepared presentation on their assigned landmark. Tessa, feeling left out, also gave us a presentation that left us all laughing.
On Monday morning, we decided to get a better look at that little thing called the Arc de Triomphe. But first, back to the Louvre! Elle taught us how to do the perfect jumping picture, so we were all jumping around together in front of the glass pyramid like a bunch of American idiots trying to get the perfect shot. There were several tourists there who also have pictures of us from that morning (ha!). Lauren ... so classic.
We walked through the adjoining Tuileries Garden, grabbed a breakfast of every delicious French carb you can think of (which my waistline is now thanking me for!) and ate in the park. Then, we walked along the famous Champs de Elysees because you just have to do that when you're in Paris. Aaaand, we had promised Taylor her first macaron at Laduree- go big or go home, right?
Oh, and isn't Elle such a fantastic photographer?...thanks for taking our family photo!
The Arc de Triomphe is another Paris sight that is so much bigger and better in person than you imagine it to be. The traffic at the roundabout is mesmerizing in and of itself- its amazing that people live to tell about it- there are zero lanes and eleven possible exits with cars jamming themselves in at every possible point. After crossing through an underground tunnel to get to the monument, seeing the tomb of the unknown soldier and admiring the arch, we decided to climb to the top (or ride the lift up...perks of having a stroller). Rick Steves was right- this is the best view of Paris. You can see every thing from every vantage point as you walk around the entire monument. This is also where we made the last-minute fateful decision to go to Montmarte and the Sacre Coeur.
We Uber'd a car to the hill above Paris called Montmarte. I wish we could've had several hours to wander the seriously charming French streets of the area. We started out with more of the necessary crepes and then onward to the Sacre Coeur, where you could once again look down on the city from high up above. A few of us walked inside the church, which is also when Brian (who stayed outside) realized that we were going to miss our return train to London if we didn't book it out of there.
Rush hour traffic in a part of town where wi-fi is spotty at best, with seven people and ZERO taxis on a major time-crunch is certainly not the best combo. We waited for an uber that never showed (probably due to the non-existent wi-fi) and then decided to climb back up, over and down the other side of the massive hill to a better part of town. Cue the running in the right direction, Tessa-holding, sweat fest up and down huge flights of stairs until our phones would get a signal so we could hopefully get to the train station before our train left. We were able to get an uber van, but then seriously c r a w l e d back to our flat through the major traffic while watching our clocks with no hope of making the train. Elle, Brian and I left our kids with the driver while we ran upstairs and grabbed our bags and flew out of there so fast. We had to go back in the same direction to the station and time must have stood still because we all do not know how, but we made it to the check-in 5 minutes before our train departed. They luckily stamped our tickets (saving us $1200 in change fees), but had given our seats away, so we we would have to ride stand-by on another train. This was our last weekend and final night with Elle, so we didn't mind at all spending more quality time together (we aren't nearly as perturbed as we appear in this picture- just tired!). Two hours later we said au revoir to Paris and were on our way back to good old Britain. We didn't get in until midnight, but we were in a place that is feeling more and more like home.