I wasn’t looking forward to the trip from Edinburgh to Paris as I needed to take care not to lift anything too heavy. My ankle was improving everyday but it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to carry a 19kg pack along with pulling a 7 kg suitcase. In steps Super Karen. She carried the packs and bags down to the bus stop while I sat in a café and had a lovely coffee. Just kidding! Well, Karen did make several trips carrying the bags but I sat in the bus stop guarding them, coffee-less. By miraculous intervention a large taxi cab drove by which I waved down. A taxi ride to the train station where we were to catch the airport bus would be much better than two bus trips. I was sure Karen would agree! So I frantically directed the taxi driver and Amy as they loaded up our bags and then we headed off back to the apartment where Karen and Daniel were fetching the last bags. After a slightly confusing moment we discovered that Karen had also waved down a taxi. Her one got the boot since we already had most of the bags in our taxi. Shortly we were off to the train station, pleased at how easy it had been to get this far. On the way we had a change of plans and decided to get the taxi driver to take us directly to the airport which in the end didn’t cost us very much more than the taxi/bus would have cost. We had an informative talk with the driver who was able to point out to us all the awesome things we had neglected to visit while in Edinburgh! I guess he was thinking about the return business.

After a while of queuing in the line for our EasyJet flight to Paris we were ushered out of the line and told we could not check in for another half hour. The Cossey’s had arrived too early for perhaps only the third time in their lives! What do you do when you have time to spare? Off to Costa Coffee for my last UK Cappuccino. [Now that I am Paris I really miss the coffee in the UK. I went into a café today and after discovering that their tiny coffee was 4 euros if I stood there and 6 euros if I sat down Karen decided I didn’t need coffee …. 6/9/2012 Yesterday here in Belgium I paid 3.50 euros for a tiny coffee that was all froth so I am now reviewing this fundamental aspect in my life to decide if it is necessary any longer. After all for the price of an unsatisfying coffee you can buy two good sized ice creams.]

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The actual flight was straight forward although we were among the very last to get on board, not due to my coffee but rather Karen dashing off to a different coffee shop to buy cakes! Also I should add that getting off the plane was a little delayed due to the exit ramp not working so eventually we had to all get off via the back door – the pilot was not impressed but it did give Amy and Daniel an opportunity to have their photo taken with him in the cockpit.

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The other slight snag getting out of the Paris airport was that someone had left a suitcase unattended on the foot path so we were all stuck in the area after passport control but prior to baggage pick up. On the upside it did give Daniel a chance to seeing the police with large guns walking around the place. Just before leaving Edinburgh we had a message from the owner of the Paris apartment letting us know that he could pick us up from the airport. We really appreciated this due to my limited carrying ability at the moment. Everything managed to fit in his car and during the 40 minute trip from the airport to the apartment we had an interesting chat about planes, engines and Paris things. On arrival at the apartment he carried our bags, showed us around then took us on a mini tour of the neighbourhood. We departed paths at the nearby Carrefour supermarket where we purchased our initial groceries then headed back to the apartment by foot. It must have been about 10pm before we had finished dinner so the next day we all slept in.

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It felt wrong to be in Paris yet not have breakfast until 11am but we needed the sleep. Not long after we had breakfast we decided to have an early lunch so we could get on with sightseeing. Our first task was to work out the best travel option for us. We decide to buy 5 day 3 zone travel passes (93 euros). Then, for about six hours until we could no longer walk, we orientated ourselves with a few key monuments in the city such us the Eiffel Tower, Palais de Chaillot, Esplanade du Trocadero, and the Arch de Triumph; and we also walked down a few blocks of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Apart from the decrepit underground trains my first impression is that Paris seems to be filled with monuments, fabulous grand buildings that sparkle in the sun, and tree lined streets.

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We had intended to get up early the next day, Friday, so we could get in line for the Eiffel Tower before the queues however after such a late night before we slept in too long. The backup plan was to get on the 11am Foxity Bus Tour to take the two hour tour then hop-on-hop-off to revisit some of the sights. Unfortunately we were a little late leaving so didn’t get to the first point until about 11:25am. Surprisingly a bus was there ready to leave so after a quick chat to the driver we raced to the nearest coffee shop to use their toilets (for which we had to buy a coffee of course). The bus was still there but rearing to go so we jumped on and before I had paid the driver was off. Overall it was a great tour and the best way I think to get a snapshot of the numerous sights one could visit if you had time.

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I was greatly impressed with the garden-like parks spread all around the place, bordered with beautifully designed buildings from the 1800’s and earlier. This place is so rich in history. Everywhere you look has a story. Here are some photos from the tour however I discovered that taking photos while on a tour bus trying to hold a walking stick is difficult and the photos are not particularly good.

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After the tour, although we had paid for the ability to hop-on-hop-off, we decided we were too tired to do much more so we sat on the steps of L’église de la Madeleine, a Roman Catholic church. Evidently it was originally designed as a temple to the glory of … no not God but … Napoleon’s army! Centuries before Napoleon turned up a church on the site had been consecrated and dedicated to Mary Magdalene. Sometime after Napoleon disappeared the focus was once again God rather than Napoleon’s army. The history is a bit confusing to me but the point is we had lunch on the steps of this temple like church in the sun ….

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The last stop before finding our way home was to take a closer look at Notre-Dame. To save time we didn’t go on the next tour bus but rather caught a train. Notre-Dame is certainly a tourist mecca and reminded me a little of Venice, however there’s only just a fraction of the crowds here in comparison.

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The kids have seen a few churches now so they weren’t so impressed. After all how do you compete with Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City? But there again they don’t know the story of Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre-Dame – come to think about it I don’t know the story except that it’s about a hunchback at Notre-Dame – isn’t it? [I just read a synopsis of the story – its hopelessly terrible so don’t bother reading it.] Whatever the case the Notre Dame Cathedral is said to be one of the largest and most well-known cathedrals in the world.

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We were determined to get an earlier night on Friday but this is difficult when we are all sharing the same studio apartment so the kids were again later than they should have been, after 9pm but maybe after 10pm when I stopped working on the computer. Nonetheless on Saturday I woke everyone up at 7am so I could get Karen and the kids out the door no long after 7:45am so they could get to the Eiffel Tower before the lines really started. I decided I needed to stay home and miss the tower so I could rest my foot and also get a few odd jobs done; among them working out where to stay for three nights in Amsterdam in a few weeks’ time and also working out our best options for Disneyland. It really did need a break from sightseeing to get my head in the right space and away from the kids occasional quarrels ….

Here are a few photos they took:

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I had hoped they would be home by 11am but eventually around mid-day they found their way back full of stories. Karen didn’t stay long before she popped out to the supermarket to get a few items while I cooked lunch. Of course she was much longer than expected but finally we sat down to lunch. After a quick break we all heaed out to the nearby underground train station and found our way to Musée Rodin. On Daniel’s must see list he had to visit the Musée Rodin to see “The Thinker” as it is known (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thinker). Auguste Rodin cast the bronze and marble sculpture in 1902. The sculpture is of a man seated, naked, in a thinking pose with his chin resting on his bent over hand.

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There were dozens of Rodin’s sculptures in the garden, most of them appearing strange to us as we don’t know the story of them. We did see another famous monumental sculpture called The Gates of Hell which seems to incorporate several of his other sculptures such as The Thinker. The gates depict a scene from Dante’s “Inferno”. Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gates_of_HellThere are different thoughts as to who or what The Thinker is contemplating. In the context of the Gates of Hell some suggest that it is Adam contemplating the consequences of his sin on mankind.

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To complete our day I wanted to show the kids that there really is a Statue of Liberty in Paris! It seems to be one of the overlooked monuments but has an important history.

There are actually several models and replicates of the Statue of Liberty in Paris. One is the original 1870 model in the Luxembourg Gardens and the another is at Pont de Grenelle. This is 11.50 metres high and was inaugurated in 1889. The latter is the one we saw:

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On Sunday we had an early lunch then we headed for the Louvre. There are so many things to do in Paris it is difficult to know what to miss out. In our case however, as much as Daniel and Amy wanted to see the Mona Lisa they didn’t really want to see anything else at the Musée du Louvre so, we decided to not go into the Louvre but rather walk around the glass pyramid and take some photos.

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After taking loads of photos and gazing at the splendid architecture (of the 1600’s built Palais du Louvre) we moved on through the Place du Carrousel to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, not to be confused with the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile which is down further at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. Construction started on both in 1806 but the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which I think looks nicer, took only two years to complete whereas the larger, and perhaps more well-known Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, took 30 years.

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We continued our walk through the Tuileries Garden along to the Place de la Concorde with its Luxor Obslisk.

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Our walk had taken about an hour and it was 5pm so time to get back to our apartment with the hope of getting an early night before our big day on Monday.

Disney-day required us to leave the apartment just after 8am so we could get to the tourism centre early in order to get some of the group tickets for Disneyland. The entrance for both parks, one day, cost about 46 euros each when part of a “group” compared to 70 euros so it was well worth the effort. I think I will leave the kids blogs to talk about Disneyland however I will offer here a few thoughts. I wasn’t looking forward to it myself but I have to say that the Walt Disney Studio Park made it bearable! The Stunt Show featuring cars and motorbikes racing around the place was excellent; I could have watched the 45 minute show again. It is amazing how hot explosions and flames are and we were a good distance from them.

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I also enjoyed going, with Daniel, through the movie set for Armageddon. In the other park my favourite rides were Star Tours and also Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast:

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For dinner we went to the Disney Village for the most expensive and disappointing McDonalds meal. The deadly sins, as Daniel puts it, included giving us the wrong size fries, having no salt (I have to agree, how can McD’s run out of salt for their fries!) and having the most disgusting toilets in all of Europe (and when I mentioned the condition of the toilets to staff they did care one bit)! This forced me to go to Starbucks next door for a brilliant coffee and clean toilets – they probably had salt if I asked for it. Karen wanted to stay for the final parade and the fireworks at the end of the night so it was around mid-night before we finally got out of the park. I have to say the fireworks and audio/visual display at the end of the night was the best I have ever seen – kind of makes the Tattoo display seem a little limp. What a long day.

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We had left around 8am and didn’t get in the door again until 1am the next day. We had so many late nights in Paris that on the Tuesday we had a rest day. While the kids stayed home I raced into town to get mobile internet loaded and working again with Orange. I got off the metro at Cluny La Sorbonne which is near Norte-Dame and walked around looking for Saint Michel’s boulevard and in the process discovered a few blocks of narrow cobblestoned streets filled with restaurants and tourists. After getting my internet connected again I walked along a small section of the road beside the river La Seine in the sun while browsing the book covers and then I brought some post cards and a Paris handbag for Karen and Amy. Once I returned home Karen went to the post office to send another 2 kg of stuff home while I began the task of packing. The next day we would have to carry all our bags on the train system to pick up our rental car.

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(Week 27B-28A: Wednesday 22 August 2012 – Wednesday 29 August 2012)