Amsterdam, Brugge and France Part 4 – Paris Days 4 and 5

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Day 8 – NOTRE DAME, ILE ST. LOUIS, PROMENADE PLANTEE, LE MARAIS, TROCADERO

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This is the view in the morning from our hotel. Can’t you just imagine that it’s 1800s Paris when you wake up in the period hotel room and look out of this? I really loved it.

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The first place we went was Notre Dame. I hate clowns. I do. They are creepy and weird. I’m convinced this guy picked up on my vibe and was determined to torture me. He would NOT leave me alone. Go away. The creepiness line up: first clowns, second porcelain dolls, third nutcrackers. All of them give me the willies.

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Thank you. We went first thing because the lines can get long, but you can’t buy tickets, so you just have to decide if it is worth it. The line really moves fast.

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There is a separate line to climb to the top of the church.

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As cathedrals go, it’s nice, but not really any different than the others, if I’m being honest.

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It’s not that big or any more ornate than any others, but it is very historic and old.

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And very famous.

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These are the coin machines they also had in Sacre Couer. They are really loud and right up by the pulpit. Money changers anyone? New Testament? Is this ringing any bells?

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Coming out of Notre Dame you are right by the river, and the shacks that line the river sell books and art, and always have, historically.

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Just across the river from Notre Dame is the famous Shakespeare and Company book store where famous authors have lived and honed their craft when they couldn’t afford to live on their own. The requirements were that they work on their writing everyday, and they worked in the shop.

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I bought a book. Of course I (and every other book loving tourist) wanted a used copy of Les Miserables, but they didn’t have any. The shop owner said he could sell them by the hundreds. I settled on a copy of The Black Tulip by Alexander Dumas. It’s about a tulip grower in Amsterdam. Fitting, given our trip started there. It was an antique 1930s edition, leather bound. They had a whole set, but it was 130 euros, and would have been big and heavy to haul around, and I didn’t want a whole set. The store even has a special stamp they will put in your book if you want.

Travel Tip: These shoes have become my favorite travel shoe. I bought them for the Italy trip last year, but ended up leaving them home. I first wore them in New Orleans this spring because it was supposed to be torrential rains. They are actually a water shoe that can be worn as a flat or a Mary Jane. On this day I flipped the strap to the back of the shoe. they are extremely comfortable, versatile, have a supportive sole that has great traction on wet surfaces and the shoe dries very quickly. They work great for climbing and hiking, like we did in the countryside of France, and they are easy to clean. They are cuter than any of the other options I’ve bought and tried. I do plan to color the gray part black.

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You aren’t supposed to take pictures inside the bookstore because it impedes the shoppers. I did break the rules and took a picture of the stairs because I loved the quote.

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Even though I didn’t take pictures, Brittney did because she didn’t see the signs, so she shared her pictures with me.

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Speaking of authors and books, I read a few books about Paris before the trip. Of course, if you have never read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, you really should, even if you read the abridged version.

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In addition to that, I read The Paris Wife about Ernest Hemingway. The book about Claude Monet that I read is mostly set in Paris as well. The Marie Antoinette trilogy I read is also set in Paris for nearly half of it. I have more on my list to read still, but they will be so much more interesting now that I’ve been there.

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The store is so cool, it is worth a visit, especially if you are a book lover like I am.

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When I was in Middle School, sometimes my mom would drop us off at the mall near her office to go spend our babysitting money. I spent most of my time and all of my money at the book store there. I read the backs of just about every book I could in the time I had. In that store I discovered The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. It is a fantastic book.

 

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With our book purchases. Brittney is also a book lover. We could have browsed all day. On the river bank enjoying a beautiful day.

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I’m sure you’ve heard of the love lock bridge. The tradition is to put a lock on the bridge with your significant other and your love will last forever. For good measure you can toss the key into the river. Well, there isn’t just one bridge, and all of these locked relationships are now DOOMED. The city is cutting off all the locks. Why? because the weight of them is pulling down the rails. When we were there the city had cut the locks off all the bridges but this one. At least that’s what a grumpy street artist told us.

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We didn’t add a lock because they’re about to come off, and that is a bad omen. Kidding.

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After that we went to the Ile St. Louis to see a bit of old Paris. This is one of the few places where the streets are still narrow like they were before Napoleon.

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We bought the famous gelato.

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This candy store was more like a toy store for Adam and Brittany. They love sweets. David and me, not so much.

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Napoleon was loved for a time, but then overthrown and exiled, and you can read about the period after that in The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. Another excellent read.

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Napoleon spent vast amounts of money on his wars, but also on improvements to the city of Paris. The people were angry because they were starving, but modern Parisians owe him a lot. He widened all the streets so that he could march his army up and down them and because it is harder to barricade a wide boulevard during revolutions (just like they did in Les Mis), but once cars were introduced, that made it possible to drive the streets. Can you imagine if Paris were full of narrow roads just like this and trying to drive?

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He was also responsible for the first sanitation measure. Paris used to be one of the filthiest, most disgusting cities in the world. He preserved old structures that others wanted to tear down, and everything he built was meant to be beautiful and meant to last (and meant to glorify himself, but that is beside the point).

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These napkin rings are cool. All the names are French, but if they had had my kids’ names (which no one ever does) or took requests, I would have bought them.

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Like Italy and England, there were window flower boxes everywhere, and I love that.

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I <3 doors.

After Ile St. Louis we walked around the Latin Quarter. There is a reason I didn’t share any pictures.

We had a disgusting lunch at Le Metro Cafe. Don’t eat there. The only positive thing is there was a bathroom to use. Paying customers get a token from the bar to open the bathroom door. I put my token in not realizing the bathroom was occupied, so it didn’t open, but my token was in the door already. The girl who came out wouldn’t let me in because she was insisting I had to pay. I kept trying to explain en francais that I did pay, and my token was stuck in the door. This went on forever before she let me by in exasperation. I held the door for Brittney after I went, and went Brittney came out she let the door close behind her. The next girl waiting got really mad and stomped off because she didn’t have correct change.

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In the metro there was an orchestra playing. It was really beautiful and a nice change from the other musicians often found there (and in other subway stations around the world) playing random, weird or homemade instruments. I don’t need to hear covers of Bob Marley on your recorder. It was certainly better than that horrible violinist in Rome.

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Our next stop was the Parisian version of the Highline, except they had theirs first. It’s called the Coulis Vert, or the Promenade Plantee, and is a garden built on an abandoned elevated rail line. I’m a huge garden geek, and the Highline is my favorite place in NYC.

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I couldn’t wait to see the Parisian version. Spoiler: I loved it.

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Besides being a beautiful oasis of greenery in a beautiful city, there were NO TOURISTS THERE. This is where the locals walk to and fro. This is real Paris in daily life, which is something I really love to experience when we travel abroad. Of course all the touristy sites are touristy for a reason. They’re awesome and worth flying halfway around the world to see, but seeing the local scene is so much a part of understanding the culture of the country.

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The garden meanders through beautiful old buildings and neighborhoods that are more residential.

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It’s 3 kilometers long, and I would have loved to walk the whole thing, but we had other places to see. Next time.

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I love this random super old wall that was incorporated into a more modern building. That is one of the major differences between Europeans and Americans. Really, most of the world and Americans. We live in a very disposable society. Don’t like it? Tear it down, toss it, trash it, replace it. We make and buy things cheaply and abandon them easily when some other cheap, new, shiny thing shows up.

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The French, and many other countries use what they have and appreciate the value of old things. They make things with the expectation that they will be kept and used for a long time. In the case of buildings, centuries. They also make them beautiful.

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If you’ve never heard of Jennifer Scott and her Madame Chic books, they talk about this concept in reference to how the French think of clothing. They limit the number of their clothing items in favor of having a few extremely high quality, and wear them over and over and over. Her website is great. I’m such a francophile, so I read just about any book, blog or article about French culture.

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I loved the various water features. These reflecting pools went on for several segments.

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Instead of being highly manicured, it has a more wild, natural look.

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There are several exits off the Coulis Vert, and we got off here to see yet another garden, the Jardin de Reuilly-Paul-Pernin. Still no tourists.

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Le *sigh*.

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We decided to sit down and enjoy the beautiful day, the beautiful surroundings, the beautiful company. Adam got to relax with his head in my lap.

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From that park we exited into this residential neighborhood. As you walk down the street, you can see the names of the businesses and ugly store fronts next to you, but notice the height of the trees. They are the perfect height for blocking the first story so that as you look down the street you just see the second story and above, which is very attractive. It was later in the afternoon and we went into a bakery for a snack, and there was very little in the case. Why? Because he had sold out of the bread and pastries he had made that morning. Tomorrow he will make more. I love that! Everything is fresh and delicious, and not meant to sit on the shelves for months. Made today, eaten today.

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As I mentioned before, August is a terrible time to go to Europe. The whole continent goes on vacay. We knew that, but the timing of the trip couldn’t be helped. It was go in August or don’t go. We saw signs like this everywhere. They were closed for vacation.

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We made our way to Le Marais, which was probably my favorite neighborhood.

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It has been a residential center for the wealthy for centuries.

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The nobility, and even a king built their city homes here.

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As it became a commercial center as well, it became the Jewish district.

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There is a lot of high end shopping there.

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It’s different than shopping on the Champs Elysee because it still has the narrow streets, the boutiques are small and specialized, and it’s a more personalized experience.

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Adam found a dress he wanted to buy me, mais alors, they didn’t have my size.

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There are many beautiful, historic buildings. The whole neighborhood is so charming, and it is another glimpse into old Paris because Napoleon didn’t make his street widening improvements here.

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Blue is my favorite color, and I would have packed these in my bag if I could have.

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We went to L’as du Fallafel for dinner. It is very inexpensive, casual and very, very good. I had an amazing lamb gyro for dinner. I also highly recommend the lemonade.

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Lenny Kravitz (who is at least half Jewish), formally endorses it.

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Do be aware that because this is the Jewish district, many things are closed on Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, so pick a different day to come.

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This is the kind of window shopping I love. Ok, I love clothes and shoes window shopping as well, but this is beautiful.

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Place des Voges is in Le Marais and is famous for many reasons. One, it is the oldest planned square in Paris.

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Two, Victor Hugo lived here and did much of his writing here.

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Three, it is still a very beautiful place with views of gorgeous buildings, and locals love to relax or meet up with people here.

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This is how you get people to eat more fruits and veggies. Who can walk by a display like that and go to a disgusting American fast food place instead (I’m looking at YOU McDonald’s)?

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Our last stop of the day was the Trocadero.

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You know after being the giant super hero holding up the leaning Tower of Pisa I had to be the giant hand touching the top of the Eiffel Tower.

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Adam loves it when I make him take pictures like this. He’ll thank me later.

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From the Eiffel Tower you get an amazing view of the Trocadero, and the reverse is also true.

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If you want a prime location to see the Tower light up at night along with every other tourist in the city, this is it. It reflects in the water, and is really spectacular.

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The fountains also light up at night, which we saw from the top of the Tower.

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The fountains run all the time, so unless you are interested in sunset or sunrise or after dark, any time is a good time to go.

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Our original intention had been to stay until the tower lit up, but we were exhausted, and chose to leave before that happened.

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But that’s ok. We’ve seen both lit up at night from various vantage points.

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We walked down to the street, called and Uber car and went back to our hotel for some zzzzzzz.

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This is the hallway and door to our hotel room. I confess, it is trippy when the elevator door opens, but also adds to the charm.

DAY 9 – LOUVRE, CATACOMBS, ANGELINA’S SALON AND RIVER CRUISE

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First thing the next morning, we went to the Louvre. This inverted triangle acts like a magnifying glass and heats up the area underneath it.

Do buy a ticket in advance to the Louvre, but be aware that they aren’t timed entry tickets. They are good for any day in the next year. It won’t allow you to skip the line, but it will save you a step. The real gem is to know about the secret entrance with very short lines. Under the Louvre there is a shopping mall called Carousel du Louvre. The entrance is fairly obscure, so just Google map it. Number one, you will be waiting in line INSIDE, which is often much better than braving the elements outside. Number two, the line is much, much shorter and moves very quickly. It took us 20 minutes at the most.

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The other triangle also heats up the area beneath it, and you could bake to death in a matter of minutes, so don’t just stand there.

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The Louvre is HUGE. I mean huge. You could spend months going back every day and not see it all.

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You have to decide exactly what you want to see and plot a course or you will leave not seeing anything you wanted to see. There are maps that tell you where things are. We went to the hall with Egyptian artifacts first.

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If it is warm weather, go first thing in the morning. Air conditioning in Europe isn’t the same as the U.S. Not even close. The Louvre is extremely poorly ventilated. There are thousands of people there and very little air circulation. It was scorching hot inside, and we were there fairly early.

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Take special notice of any exhibit near one of these grates and admire at length. This is where the cold air comes out.

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We saw the ancient Greek artifacts, but only briefly. We saw tons of them on our trip to Greece, as well as in London.

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Adam and I are both fascinated by Ancient Egypt. He’s been there twice and seen most of what there is to see firsthand.

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We’ve seen artifacts in NYC, London and at Highclere Castle.

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While you are admiring the artwork, don’t forget that the Louvre was once the royal palace where the kind and queen lived until Louis the XIV moved the royal court to Versailles to escape the extremely unsanitary conditions of Paris. It was later made into a museum. It is still an extraordinary building in its own right, so take time to notice the craftsmanship.

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During the French Revolution (which I read so much about in the Marie Antoinette trilogy), the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation’s masterpieces. The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property.

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Look at this ceiling, for example. It’s easy to cruise through looking at eye level and forget to look up.

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The Louvre is ENORMOUS.

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LOVE these doors. I may have posted as many pictures of doors as I have of gardens.

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This is Nike of Samothrace and is one of the top exhibits here. She is the Greek goddess of Victory. See boys, Nike is a GIRL.

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The Mona Lisa. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t on my list, but we happened to cruise past the room she is in. Here are a few things to know. Remember how I told you that Michael Angelo’s David is so surprising because it is 13 feet tall? Mona Lisa is so surprising because it is tiny. Like 20×30, including the frame. In the original movie Annie (and as far as I’m concerned, the only version), they make it huge. I know that isn’t exactly a historical reference, but that’s what I had seen. It is not huge. It’s on this gigantic wall, and there will be approximately 9,000 people standing in front of it trying to get a picture. I made my way part way through the crowd, zoomed with my camera, clicked and left. It has never been a draw for me.

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This is Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, and is a favorite of mine.

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And we’re back outside! Air!

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We didn’t ride the ferris wheel, but it is an option.

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We were famished and went to the famous Angelina’s Salon. Lunch was fantastic!

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It’s on the pricier side compared to the cafes, but also much more delicious than the cafes. It’s worth a visit.

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It is famous for the most amazing hot chocolate. Oh yes, I ordered hot chocolate in August after nearly expiring of heat stroke at the Louvre. This little pot of chocolate was 15 euros, which was nearly the price of my entree.

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The hot chocolate was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Basically it was a melted bar of fine chocolate with a little cream mixed in. If we go to Paris in the winter, I will get a pot every single day. Adam and I have a thing for hot chocolate. No powdered mixes for us. We try it everywhere we go. In Italy it was really thick like pudding. You have to spoon it. I prefer to drink it.

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The salon is beautiful. You are paying not only for the delicious food, but for the ambience and experience.

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And then there are the desserts, which Angelina’s is also known for. We got ours to go because we had an appointment. This was decadent.

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Adam is so sweet to share. We were in an Uber car on our way to our next destination.

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They do have the best macarons. Brittney and I both agree they are better than the ones at Laduree.

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We were eating our dessert on the run because we had tickets to go to the catacombs. You absolutely need to buy these tickets in advance or you will wait for hours in line. We showed up at ten to three and walked right in. On a hot day, I highly recommend going in the later afternoon when it is scorching outside. This is the best air conditioned place in Paris.

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It was so nice and cool. Some people recommend taking a sweater, but I didn’t need one, and I’m very cold natured. Maybe because it took that long to cool down.

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It will take about an hour to walk through on your own. You can go faster or slower if you want to.

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If I had it to do over, I might splurge on a guided tour because the history is so fascinating. You can also read up on it before you go.

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I’m suddenly thinking I need to find a historical fiction novel to read about this. If you have recommendations, please send them to me.

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The ground is damp or wet in most places, and can be a little slick, so wear something with good traction, and nothing that can’t get dirty or wet. You won’t be wading through creeks, but your shoes could get dirty. As you can see it slopes down because you are going underground.

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The sign above reads, “Stop! This is the empire of the dead.”

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The cemeteries were full, so they dug up a bunch of graves and brought the bones down here. Some of them are very creatively displayed.

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Behind these attractively designed walls the bones are just tossed in haphazardly.

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Each display has a sign telling which cemetery the bones came from and when.

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The exit is fairly unassuming.

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We walked around the neighborhood for a bit.

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I wanted to do some souvenir shopping at the Monoprix, and I found something. I’ve mentioned before that when we travel I get something for my kitchen. I love using them and remembering our trips.

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In Paris I got these simple red and white striped kitchen towels. They go perfectly with my kitchen since I’ve got a French cottage thing going at home, and I loved that these are authentically what the French use in their kitchens as well, instead of some random kitchen gadget you could buy anywhere. Can you buy kitchen towels anywhere? Yes. Could I probably find these exact ones in the US? Probably. But I didn’t. I got them in Paris, and I will remember that every time I dry my hands. I bought seven of them, one for every day of the week. I wish I had bought more in case any get ruined, which, let’s be honest, they will. I have 6 agents of destruction kids.

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At one of the shops next door I bought some lavender sachets for my linen closet and intimates drawer. They are embroidered with cottage garden flowers and very pretty. I bought one at Giverny for 3x the price. I grabbed 3 more here for 7 euros. These would make excellent gifts.

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We went back to Notre Dame and walked around Pont Neuf. There is a beach along the Seine. There is sand, umbrellas, lounge chairs and a place to shower off. I think that is really random and really funny.

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We met up with Brittney and David by the Opera Garnier and had a really suberb and reasonably priced dinner at a cafe near there called La Petit Vendome. It looks just like all the other red awning cafes, many of which are really horrible, and it was mostly empty. Both bad signs, but the owner is very charismatic and eager to please.

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I highly recommend the charcuterie board. it was fabulous.

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As was the French onion soup.

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And these salads.

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We ordered entirely too much food.

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The last thing we did was going on an evening cruise of the Seine.This is the company we went with: Seine http://vedettesdupontneuf.com/home/

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There is no need to buy tickets in advance. The boats leave every 30 minutes all day long.

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We timed ours to be out on the river at sunset.

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There is a guide on the boat describing the various points of interest in English, French, and Spanish.

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The weather was absolutely perfect.

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It was nice to go past so many of the things we saw during the last five days.

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When you get on the boat, sit on the left side if you are facing the front. You will get the best views.

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The boat does a u-turn down past the Eiffel Tower and comes back.

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I believe the cruise lasts 45 minutes.

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These people were partying, and very friendly. Lots of waving and cheering for our boat.

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It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Paris. You could also do this tour right when you get there to get your bearings and see what there is to see, but we had everything planned out already. Adam and I often don’t repeat countries because there is so much to see, but we will back to Paris, and I still need to see Provence, the Loire Valley and the northeast area of France.

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