A short tube ride to St. Pancras station where we boarded the Eurostar train for a trek through the 'chunnel,' underwater to cross from the UK to France. It was a pleasant ride, much like Amtrak (but on time!)
Once we arrived at the Gare du Nord station in Paris it became quite clear we were in a foreign country. So much of our foreign travel experience has either been in primarily English speaking countries or places where we can get by with our broken English. Paris was fast paced and quite a different culture than the one we've become accustomed to in London.
We boarded bus 42--a highly recommended public transit route that took us right through the city center. I had read a lot about this method of travel--and it was definitely a taste of Parisian life-- but not having any French language skills made this somewhat of a 'baptism by fire.'
Even the way the buses work here--they don't stop unless you push a button--was foreign. We figured it out, but it was an adventure! People were pushy and unconcerned with the fact that we had three children, but for one kind woman who noticed we could use some help and made sure we knew what we were doing. Merci, kind woman, merci!
We got off the bus near the Louvre because one of our people had a bladder in need of some attention. Lucky us, it was on the same block as Laduree and their incredible macaroons. We went through the line twice, feasting on salted caramel, citron, gingerbread, vanilla and chocolate. Yum!
We then hailed a taxi and went on the ride of our life...honestly, this guy's reckless driving seriously rivalled our experiences in Central America and made NYC cabbies look like kiddie rides. It didn't help that he was on facebook on his tablet while driving--and pointed to the spot where Diana's crash occurred as we flew through a short tunnel.
After checking our backpacks in the hotel, we went to the Louvre.
I, honestly, was concerned about how 'into it' the kiddos would be...but we could have easily spent a couple more hours there before they grew restless. I was pleasantly surprised by their enthusiasm. And when R asked for my cell phone so he could "take a selfie with the Venus de Milo" I felt like all the cheesy photo ops from the wax museum yesterday were redeemed. I am raising well balanced children, right?
After the Louvre, we took a taxi to the Eiffel Tower.
I decided to go through a tour company for a 'behind the scenes, skip the line, theatrical experience' and I am SO glad we did. It was a true history lesson that kept the children captivated for two hours--from the war bunkers to the engine room--and there were even two special photo op areas off limits to the public that were terrific.
As we were leaving, the sun was setting, so we decided to take our time and walk down the stairs to exit rather than the elevator. I will always treasure that memory. The view, the supreme weather and the time with my tribe.
Again, there were other things I'd hoped to accomplish today, when this was all just a plan on paper...but this was a comfortable pace and a satisfying day of rich experiences!
(And I have already decided I plan to turn 40 every single year. What a gift this trip has been!!!)