Eiffel Tower to London Tower

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I often hear people talk about those strange late hours of the night like 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., but normally I wouldn’t recognize them if they hit me over the head with a sackful of starlight. In Paris, however, I grew acquainted with them and even supped with them. So it wasn’t really my fault that I slept in every morning. Even the grandchild did, that creature of early morning, who we walked into exhaustion every single day.

 

On our Saturday in Paris, we breakfasted and lunched at the apartment and then walked to the Louvre. Visiting the Louvre in an afternoon and evening is like visiting the Pacific Ocean in an afternoon and evening: you only see a small part of it. But, oh the part of the sea you see.

 

We chose the Denon Hall of the Louvre and walked along the Daru Hall admiring the sculptures. Then up ahead without a head stood Winged Victory. From there we winged our way in search of Mona Lisa.

 

My biggest surprise and greatest delight at the Louvre was my grandchild’s interest in the paintings. While my daughter pushed through the crowds to see Mona Lisa, the grandchild stood in fascination before Mantegna’s St. Sebastian and asked me to explain why he had so many arrows in him, and did it hurt. Although we took a good look at the world’s most famous smile, the child didn’t ask many questions about her. However, we spent a lot of time looking at and talking about The Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese. After that, it was, “Look, Grandma. What’s that? Oh, what is he doing? Why is she sad? Oh, look, look at that one. Tell me about that one.” Art-gawking with a five-year-old has to be one of life’s richest treasures.

 

Tuileries Garden between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde

 

Later we rested at the fountains outside the Louvre to watch the flocks of visitors and PIGEONS! In the cool of the evening we walked through the Tuileries Garden, and then step by winding step up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to see the city and watch the Eiffel Tower light show at dusk.

 

Arc de Triomphe with silver croissant moon

 

Our late night dinner back at the apartment included champagne, part of our welcome package. At bedtime, we said our last “Good night” in Paris.

 

Sunday we ate a late breakfast and went over to the Bastille area to the open market. As if I hadn’t had enough tomato, mozzarella, and basil already, I ordered some for lunch. We did some shopping, ate our last Berthillon ice cream down by the Seine and went back to the apartment to pack up for our train ride to London.

 

Berthillon ice cream, I will carry memories of you forever (Five seconds on the lips, forever on the hips)

 

Then we remembered that we had forgotten to have an emergency on our last day. We checked our train tickets, our luggage, and the apartment. Nothing was amiss and we seemed doomed to an adrenaline-free goodbye. My ever resourceful brother sensed my disappointment, and thirty minutes before our ride to the train station was due, decided to check the luggage requirements for Eurostar. Voila! The beautiful cutlery he had bought that afternoon was not allowed on board: no pokey knives with slicey, dicey edges. We called the shop where he bought them (thankfully just a block and a half away) and asked it they could ship the knives. Yes, but they were closing in ten minutes. My daughter grabbed the cutlery and ran to the shop. We locked up the apartment, dragged the suitcases down the winding stairs, and voila again. The grandchild slipped and slid partway down the spiral steps, while I had two heart attacks, lost my mind three times, and cried.  Other than some bruises, the child was fine. My daughter returned and we congratulated one another on averting not one but two possible disasters while we awaited our ride.

 

Thirty minutes after the appointed time, no driver appeared. My brother called the company. “Was it today, monsieur? I thought you said tomorrow.” At this point, how shall we say, le pulling of le hair began and someone began speaking French, as in “Excuse my French.” Here at last was the true emergency; the other two were what the French call amusebouches, the bite-sized tidbits that keep your mouth amused while you wait for the entree.

 

On the narrow streets of Ile Saint Louis on a warm Sunday afternoon in May, traffic moves slowly and the few taxis one sees are too small for three adults, one child, and six pieces of luggage. Eurostar trains do not wait. Le panic set in.

 

The street outside of our window (Rue Le Regrattier)

The corner where our taxi appeared

 

And then…tout de suite, we heard the sweet toot of an empty taxi van. We waved; he waved back. We did not ask him how or why he was nosing his way down the one-way Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, but we gave him a nice tip. He got us to Gare du Nord station with little time to spare. We hurried to the immigration line, dragging our luggage behind us, where we managed to get into the slowest line possible. We barely made the train.

 

Au revoir Rue Le Regrattier

 

About two hours later, after a nice meal on the train and several games of iPad Yahtzee, we arrived at Saint Pancras station in London, where we were picked up and taken to our flat. By midnight, we were also flat. We are so prone to doing that in the presence of beds.

 

Next installment: The child discovers that London Bridge is not falling down

43 thoughts on “Eiffel Tower to London Tower

  1. I must say I’m a green monster when reading about your trip. I cannot imagine seeing the beautiful sights you speek of, in person. It’s a dream of mine to visit Europe at great length. I am looking forward to your next installment!

  2. You are so clever to arrange all these crises to keep travel from becoming dull or routine! What a gift! (I particularly love the serving of the amuses bouches!) Back home, you might present the grandchild with a nice bird book to increase the identification range, or else vow never to visit Venice… And you brought back my own trip to the Louvre. I had just an afternoon. I galloped from Samothrace to Milo, smirked at the Smile, and then discovered…Georges de la Tour. I spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the delicate semitranslucence of fingers and warm brightness of faces as revealed by his fascination with candlelight. He may not have been the greatest painter who ever lived, but he was a complete revelation to my 17-year-old art-appreciation eyes. Thank you again for your blog!

    • A bird book – what a clever idea. When my father-in-law passed away, we inherited his bird bird and I sat with the grandchild the other day looking through it. I think the fascination with the pigeons is that you can get so close to them before they fly away.

      I am enamored with those painters who used paint to create light. It seems like magic to me.

  3. It is a great pleasure to read of your adventures in the heart of Europe, made all the more colorful by the variety of perspectives, given the three generations. Your humor, as always, marks the beat… and these pictures are proof to me, that all of this is not just a figment of your imagination… though I would enjoy it just as much if it were…

    • When my brother first bought the cutlery, they offered to mail it, but he had room in his suitcase, so he thought he would just carry them and save on postage. It all worked out and we were all so glad he thought to check; otherwise, he would have had to leave the cutlery as a “gift” to the people who check the baggage.

  4. There are many who would not think to bring a 5-year-old on a trip to Paris and London, thinking that they were too young to appreciate it. Obviously, at least for your granddaughter, that is not the case. I am so happy that she got so much out of the art. And a trip is not a good one unless you have several stories of travel disasters or near misses to share when you return home.

  5. You have a knack for disaster! Since I know you got back in one piece, I can only assume that any London disasters were also near misses. And there is nothing wrong with an attraction to PIGEONS! You have to start somewhere and pigeons are tame enough to be enjoyed.

    • You are so right about the pigeons. It’s their willingness to let you come close that is so attractive.

      In my case, if there are no emergencies or disasters, it’s not a very good vacation.

  6. I don’t know if I will ever get to Paris, but next time I have a chance to visit the Pacific Ocean, I will make sure to get there early in the day so that I can see all of it.

  7. Thank you so much for the joy of your writing. And I have to give some credit to your lovely gallery of visitors. Between your wit and theirs, I am frequently left giggling. Reading this blog is always a good experience.

  8. I had four heart attacks reading this episode from your trip! In that way, I am so glad that you’re covering every aspect of your overseas vacation— I love slice-of-life moments, and this one was quite a big hunk of real life!

    Thank you so much for writing these pieces, YS!

    • One more thing—

      Your opening line just kills me. I love its cleverness and its pacing and its sense of good humor—

      I often hear people talk about those strange late hours of the night like 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., but normally I wouldn’t recognize them if they hit me over the head with a sackful of starlight

      Ah, so lovely!

    • When I travel with my brother, I never feel it’s been a really good trip unless there are these heart-stopping moments when everything goes wrong until it goes right again. I think we are adrenaline junkies and secretly bring these all on ourselves.

      I’m so happy you like the stories.

      • I think in my family it’s me who causes the most unintentional trouble. I’m going to have to go with the “All’s well that ends well” on this one. Adrenaline junkies, FTW (for the win)!

        I really do love these stories. They are super fab, my friend.

  9. Yet another series of impending disasters expertly averted. Good on y’all! So glad everyone and everything came out right after all.

    I do think that a five-year-old may be the *ideal* critical companion for art museums: attention span not so long that the Old People in the party will hang about nurturing an aching case of sensory overload, and a sharp eye that bypasses all of the dunderheaded fluff that grownup critics are likely to impose upon their opinions about what is seen and experienced in the art.

  10. I’m really enjoying your vacation. We traveled a lot with our kids starting at 6 months. The BEST ages for art museums were 7 to 12. A lot of people wait until their kids are teens to travel because they want them to appreciate the culture (that’s not what teens appreciate – they like the way beer is sold in vending machines). Anyway, I bet your grandaughter would love her grandma to read The Art Gallery Stories by Philip Wilkinson. I thought it was a great book for teaching our kids about the paintings we were seeing.

    I think I only have one post left to read. 😦

    • I’m so glad you enjoy the posts. I know you have traveled a lot with kids. I really laughed at your comment about what teens appreciate about Europe. 🙂

      Thanks for the book idea. I will check to see if its in the library here.

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