You can catch up with part 10 here. A few years ago I had seen an episode of Bizarre Foods set in Paris and the host went to a mustard store that looked really neat. I love mustard, so I was dying to get over there and check it out. Moms and Cuz were both too tired to go back out, so Jules, Nina, Uncle D, & I set out to buy condiments. We hopped on the Metro and made our way to the Madeleine stop. Maille sells oils and vinegars, but mainly mustards. I mean all kinds of mustard – gingerbread & chestnut honey, mangoes & thai spices, cocoa & raspberry, etc. A really wide variety of flavors. My desires were for something a little more extravagant. Maille sells a couple of mustards that aren’t pre-bottled and when you buy them they are pumped up from the basement. The one I bought was a black truffle mustard and it was not cheap at €20 (about $30); but I can bring my jar back and get free refills for like, so I think the math works out. The mustard was absolutely delicious. It was a sad day when I finally emptied that jug. The shop was really cool and I’ll definitely go back if I’m ever in Paris again. – Maille store front – mustard taps We left and headed back to the pizza place the others had eaten at the night before. They got some pizza since I didn’t know what Moms wanted. She was feeling a little more rejuvenated by the time we got back so she and I went back out and grabbed some pizzas. – me taking the previous picture – the entrance to the Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel – my pizza – Moms’ pizza This was our last night in Paris, tomorrow we’d be staying near Disneyland Paris for a night. We just had to get there. After eating I was looking up the route to get to Disneyland Paris and the information I was finding said it was going to cost us €15/person to travel to Disneyland Paris. It seemed really high, but I couldn’t find any info to the contrary. Moms found a car service, ACS Transfer, that would take us for the same price. I emailed them and they responded right away and we got everything set up for the morning. Tomorrow we’d be getting our Disney on! – the Maille mustard jar
With our group whole again we hopped back on the tour bus to continue seeing all those famous Parisian landmarks.
We got to the Champs-Elysee and the bus stopped right in front of a Mercedes-Benz store. So while everyone else figured out where to go and what to do I walked in to look at cars. I was browsing things I can’t afford and Uncle D & Cuz went to McDonald’s to get some food since only Moms & me had eaten at this point. I walked over to the Peugeot showroom as the others were eating. They sell Hot Wheels sized cars there of lots of their models. I bought a few before joining the rest of the family. Nina was on a mission to find the Chanel store since she had heard they sold small, cheap bottles of the perfume only at the Champs-Elysee store. We made our way down the street occasionally stopping at stores. I don’t remember which stores because I was too busy looking for more car stores to go to. While everyone else was in the Disney Store I went over to the Renault showroom, which was full of crazy concept cars. I bought a couple more cars before leaving and joining everyone at the Disney Store. I stopped in one more car store – the Citroen Creative Session Center. Of course I bought a few more cars here also.
– Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3
– Arc de Triomphe
– this waiter asked me to take his picture
– Renault Twin’Run concept
– Renault concept car
– Champs-Elysee Disney Store
– Champs-Elysee Disney Store
– inside the Citroen Creative Session
– Sebastien Loeb’s 2012 DS3 WRC championship car
The Chanel store wasn’t actually on the Champs-Elysee, it was off a side street. When we finally found it, but they didn’t sell the small bottles Nina was looking for. So the myth that the Paris Chanel store sells $25 1-oz bottles of Chanel No. 5 is officially busted. Moms and I went back to wait for the tour bus while the others took a cab to the Hard Rock to buy some shot glasses.
Our time in Paris was coming to an end, but there was still one thing I really wanted to do before we left. I might just have to go alone to get it done.
my final haul of cars bought at the Champs-Elysee showrooms
Moms still wasn’t feeling that great this morning. The others wanted to visit Notre Dame when it opened. We’ve been there and with Mom’s illness we decided we’d take it easy today and let the others go out on there own. We had purchased two-day passes for the tour bus since it was a really good deal, but they ended up taking a taxi since they left before the buses started running. Moms and I used our passes and started passing by the famous sights of Paris. I’m not sure where we were planning on going that morning, but as we got to the Louvre, Moms informed me that we would be getting off here.
– this little pathway on the side of the Eiffel Tower offers a different perspective and in the early morning it’s just you and the joggers
– Les Invalides (military museum and the tomb of Napoleon)
– La Madeleine
We weren’t planning on going here, but Moms loves this place (I’m pretty partial to it myself), so she just had to go in. After I hastily gathered up all my belongings and made my way down from the top of the bus, we were in this magnificent space. We took it in for a minute and then I spent the next few minutes taking pictures like crazy. The line was starting to get more people (who had just finished their picture taking sessions also) so we got in line before it got too long.
– the entrance to the Jardin des Tuileries
– Moms took this picture & I wish I could take credit for it
We bought our tickets and went straight to the Mona Lisa. Just like everybody else. We’ve already explored this area on our last trip so we didn’t spend much time here. We made our way to the Venus de Milo, which we missed last time, and passed the spot where Winged Victory of Samothrace normally sits, but it was out for a major restoration. (This was the first time Winged Victory had been moved since WWII, there is a great documentary on Netflix [yes, streaming also] about the effort to save art during WWII and you should watch it.) The Louvre is just too massive to really explore on a vacation. Last time we spent about 5 hours here and completely missed an entire wing of the building. We hadn’t eaten breakfast so after seeing the Venus de Milo and the other Greek antiquities, we made our way to the cafeteria.
– you’ve got to work your way through this crowd to see the Mona Lisa
– another view of the Mona Lisa room
– The Coronation of Napoleon
The Louvre cafeteria has different sections that offer different foods, so we split up since we didn’t want the same things. Moms had roasted chicken and I don’t know what else, while I had a beef empanada and an apple pie. The Louvre cafeteria does a good job which is good since you can spend a lot of time in the museum and be too tired to try and find food when you finish. After we ate, we browsed the gift shop and ran into some familiar faces. That’s right, the rest of our family had made their way to the Louvre after visiting Notre Dame and they were finishing up here as well.
– beef empanada & apple pie
– Moms’ roasted chicken (she ate her sides before I got back to take a picture)
With our group complete again, we all hopped on the tour bus to take us to the Champs-Elysee
We headed down the stairs since it’s much easier to go down than up, even though we had already paid for round-trip on the funicular. We had some light rain once we left Sacre-Coeur, and I had bought some new shoes a little while before the trip and was finding out that they were crazy slippery on these wet surfaces. I was mainly concerned with trying not to bust my head open while going down the stairs. We found a little café once we safely reached the bottom and the majority of us got ham and cheese crepes. They really hit the spot.
– ham & cheese crepe
I previously mentioned the tour bus we chose had multiple routes and we had already switched once to visit Sacre-Coeur. The route we were on could be useful to get to some of the train stations, but not as useful for sightseeing since it didn’t drive by any of the major Parisian sights. Meaning we would have to ride this route all the way back to the first stop to switch back to our original route. We’ve used these kind of tour buses before in Rome and they were a great way to see some of the things you didn’t have time to see while also taking you to the places you wanted to go. This tour with it’s multiple lines was kind of a hassle and not worth it once you start switching routes. To make matters worse, because we were there in the off-season the tours started their last trip at like 6. So by the time we got back to the first stop to switch routes we would have to find another way back to the hotel if we decided to stop someplace.
– I didn’t even know they had Chipotle in France
I had wanted to check out the dome in Galeries Lafayette. Since we were one street over and probably wouldn’t be back in this area everybody went with me over there. Galeries Lafayette is a huge department store in Paris along the same lines as Harrod’s in London or Macy’s in New York. Galeries Lafayette has competition in the form of Printemps, which is a similar style store and it’s located next door. We came across Printemps first and went in to use the restrooms. The store was absolutely insane and the building we were in only had women’s clothing, they had a whole other building for men’s clothes, and a third building for home goods & children’s clothes. Everything was out of our price range, but it was fun to look. Cuz was the only one to buy something, I think he bought some gold scissors.
– self-portrait in an ornament
– Printemps pastry station
By the time we finished looking around we were all tired and Moms was starting to not feel good. We quickly made our way next door to Galeries Lafayette to see what we came to see and it did not disappoint. The store is just as opulent as their neighbor and I’m glad we made it over to check out the dome while we were there.
With our aching feet we got a taxi for six and headed back to the room. Moms wasn’t feeling that good, so Nina, Uncle D, Jules, & I went back to the grocery store from the morning to get some in room snacks. The others got some pizzas at a restaurant we passed on the way back. I wasn’t sure what Moms wanted, so I didn’t get anything for us figuring I could go back out if she wanted some pizza. We ended up just getting some food brought up from the restaurant in the hotel. A burger and a cheese plate were split between us.
The tour bus took up a lot more time than I had figured so it felt like we didn’t get as much done even though the day was still exhausting.
We woke up this morning and I can’t remember what we were looking for, but we ended up in a grocery store to check out the local foods.
We decided to get tickets to a hop-on hop-off double decker tour bus as a way to see more of the city and to save on the walking. We had a destination in mind, the Basilique du Sacre Coeur and only one tour had a route that went that way. That should’ve been our first clue things might not go so smoothly. This tour had multiple routes, which meant it went to more places than the other tours we looked into, and certain stops were used as transfer points to catch a different route. The tour we used was L’Open Bus Tour.
The Basilique du Sacre Coeur is located at the top of a hill and the tour bus doesn’t take you directly to it. For that you take the funicular to go up the hill. We made our way to the funicular and there were lots of little shops along the way. There were definitely some purchases made on that walk. Cuz & I went into this chocolate shop and bought some fantastic macarons. Everything about this shop screamed Paris chocolate shop, it all looked so good. There was good reason for it apparently. Before we left on this trip I had read about something in France called the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, or MOF for short, it means One of the Best Crafstmen in France. It’s a competition held every four years where people from different trades show off their skills to make something unique. Winning is a big deal and means you’re the best of the best and you retain your title for life. The owner of this chocolate shop just happened to win a MOF.
– the aforementioned chocolate shop, see the writing below the name with the French flag colors, that’s how you know an establishment’s owner has won a MOF
– this Notre Dame was made of chocolate
The funicular is a short railway car that travels up a steep hill. The Sacre-Coeur funicular is part of the Paris Metro and uses a regular Metro ticket. Which we didn’t have. Some of us tried to figure out how to buy our tickets in the automated machine and the others tried to buy from the man at the counter. He was on break though so he wasn’t much help. Eventually we got it figured out and hopped in the funicular. Those things are just as fun to ride in as they are to say and type.
Sacre-Coeur is a beautiful church that seems like it’s centuries old, but is only 100 years old. There are steps leading to the church and they can be a popular spot to just sit and look over all of Paris. Our view that day was pretty foggy, but I could see it being a great place to just sit and stare on a clear day. We explored in awe, because it’s really breath-taking in there. Unfortunately they don’t allow photos inside.
– view from the top of the steps you can climb if you don’t want to ride the funicular
– view of Paris
– looking up from the bottom of the hill
We spent quite a bit of time in the souvenir shop next to the stairs when we left the church before we headed down. By now it was past lunchtime and we just needed to find something close.
We were on the Eurostar making our way towards France. There was an older British couple sitting near us and we had a great conversation with them which helped pass the time.
We got into Gare du Nord train station and got 2 taxis to our hotel. Nina and family of course paid a little extra. The hotel, Mercure Paris Centre Eiffel Tower, was very close to the Eiffel Tower. The rooms were much smaller than the London Marriott we had just left, but not so small that three of us were right on top of each other. They offered free wifi but you had to log in every time you used it which got old quick.
We didn’t care though we were in Paris and the Eiffel Tower was right there just tempting us to say hello. I had forgotten just how big it really is. If I didn’t already mention it in another post, I am terrified of heights. On my last trip here I went to the first level observation deck and it took me a long time to feel “comfortable” there. I don’t think I can go all the way to the top. Whenever the Eiffel Tower was brought up before the trip everyone but Moms and me said they were going to the top. You couldn’t not go to the top. Seeing it in person brought out a lot of trepidation amongst our party.
It was still early and the line wasn’t too long so we decided we’d go up to the first level. Once we got off the elevator all thoughts of going any higher were put on hold. There was a breeze and it was freezing out there. After checking out the sights and no longer being able to stand the cold we checked out the gift shop before heading back down. We weren’t too impressed with the official offerings and I don’t think any of us bought anything.
– Eiffel Tower from outside our hotel
– Trocadero from the Eiffel Tower
– Arc de Triomphe from the Eiffel Tower
– Champ de Mars & Tour Montparnasse
– these guys are at the base of the tower trying to sell you those cheap souvenirs, they really try to pressure you and you can see just how prevalent they are.
– the Eiffel Tower lights up on the hour
After watching the Tower light show, we were tired and hungry. We found a little restaurant that was across the street from the hotel. I don’t really remember what anybody had here. It was not a very good meal. We were just too hungry to care at that point. After dinner we went back to our rooms to get some sleep.
We woke up today with the sole purpose of visiting Westminster Abbey before catching our Eurostar train to Paris. Plus, I had a surprise in store for Cuz before we left.
– London cab
– British mail box
– the iconic British telephone booth
– Abraham Lincoln statue near Westminster Abbey
– Big Ben
– playing around with the Lensbaby
– Houses of Parliament
We queued (pardon my British) up to enter the Abbey. The line probably took about 20 minutes to get through and I passed most of the time by wandering and taking pictures.
– the North door entrance to the Abbey
– a wider view of the North Door
Westminster Abbey is a huge part of British monarch history. All the monarchs have been crowned here since the 11th century, many royals and national figures are buried here, as well as many royal weddings (you might remember William & Kate’s wedding being held here). It’s kind of a big deal. Entrance includes a free audio tour that walks you through the history of the church as well as information on who’s buried where.
We toured this at our own paces and regrouped together at the end. Of course we had to visit the gift shop before we left.
– the interior
– a walkway leading to another part of the abbey
– the West entrance (which is where you exit normally)
We hailed a six-person taxi and headed back to the hotel to gather our bags. We packed our last minute Westminster Abbey purchases and got some more cabs to take us to St. Pancras Station to catch the Eurostar. I don’t know why, but there’s another train station across the street – King’s Cross Station. I’m a Harry Potter fan and on my last visit to London I knew they had a “Platform 9 3/4” at King’s Cross Station I had to find. For those who may not understand, in the Harry Potter world the wizards take Platform 9 3/4 from King’s Cross Station to Hogwarts. The platform is hidden behind what looks like a stone wall that you just run through to access. The real King’s Cross has a photo-op setup with their own Platform 9 3/4. On the last trip, they were doing construction at King’s Cross and Platform 9 3/4 was hidden away off to the side and there was no photo-ops or anything. Now the construction is done and they’ve got things in their proper place. You take your photo pushing the trolley through to the platform and you get to choose your House scarf to wear. Next to the photo setup they have a Harry Potter store that is full of amazing Potter merchandise. It’s a good thing I didn’t have much money. Cuz is also a big Harry Potter fan and he didn’t know about any of this so I kept it a surprise until the last day and he couldn’t wait to get over there and check it out.
We got our pictures taken before doing some shopping. Cuz bought the entire collection of books with the British covers as well as his photo and some other stuff. I didn’t buy much, just a keychain and a cell phone case that looks like a Hogwarts Express ticket.
– King’s Cross Station
– just heading to Hogwarts
– the Sorting Hat with representatives from each house
– the Tri-Wizard Cup
– wands here, get your wands here
– St. Pancras Station (this is actually the station used in the films since it’s not as modern as King’s Cross)
By the time Cuz & I finished getting our geek on, it was just about time to catch our train. We all stopped in a deli and got some sandwiches and I got a cupcake from a bakery, because I was on vacation. Plus, I really like cupcakes.
– my strawberry cupcake – twas delicious
– I was the only one who didn’t bring a carry-on bag. It didn’t take long for Nina and fam to realize they were gonna need a bigger bag to bring their souvenirs home. This was what they found.
– a soda I found in the newspaper store.
With that our time in London came to an end.
London is a fantastic city. It feels like a modern metropolis, but they understand that until kind of recently they ruled a large portion of the world and they embrace their history. Old and new blend well here. As an American there’s definitely some culture shock, but it still kind of feels like home. I didn’t get any this time, but last time I fell in love with meat pies and I just can’t be mad at any place with something so delicious.