Our time in Italy was wonderful. Unexpected sights and sounds,plus the ones we were planning made for a really wonderful time.
Days and even weeks are passing by quickly on the trip, and we were heading back north to one of the first places we traveled to (and origin of our rental van – France). It’s funny how even being in a country once before can give you a bit of confidence. We have been traveling for 5 weeks, have seen a lot of Europe, and are getting accustomed to some of the habits and quirks – whether they be on the highways, in the supermarkets, or at the tourist venues. Even coming back to France was a welcome change in terms of being able to understand the language. I don’t say that as a bilingual Canadian by any means, but as a traveler who has been in countries where little to no English is spoken. I wasn’t expecting it to be in Austria, Hungary, Croatia or Italy, I just didn’t really think through the ramifications of what it would mean to fumble through with signs and grunts. **Hint: speaking louder does not make you any more understandable**
With French, Chris and Shana have a basic understanding, can figure out the majority of signs (thank you Miss Madge) and can carry on basic conversations to get more information.
We found a (guess what?) little Ibis hotel on the east edge of Paris. Chris had driven through Paris, albeit dodgily, once, and didn’t want to spend too much time in the city behind the wheel. Our first day was straight to the heart of the city. We rode the train in from 50m outside our hotel, and hopped the metro from site to site. Our experience in Rome gave us confidence to do this again. It was honestly a breeze moving from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triumphe. And then from Notre Dame to the Pantheon. We pack a lot in in a day! The Eiffel Tower was indeed beautiful, and while all tourists did the little ‘hold the tower up’ photo in Pisa, in Paris it’s all about the IKEA shot from the corner of one of the legs of Eiffel. It is well worth the price to the top. However, some advice: walk the steps the the second floor (actually 43 stories up) and then take the lift. The line from the ground is ridiculous, so don’t bother. You’ll be sore, but you’ll save a few hours of your time.
From Eiffel’s most impressive work, we rode the metro to l’Arc. It is majestic. It’s 50m tall (taller than the Roman Coliseum!) and in the middle of the world”s biggest traffic circle. Besides marveling at Napoleon’s narcissism, I was thanking the good Lord that I wasn’t trapped in one of the endless lanes whizzing around me praying for guidance as to which of the 12 exits to take from the roundabout. Crazy!
From there we walked up and down Paris’ most famous street, popping in to a Mercedes showcase room and a Peugot one. We then went back underground for a train trip to Notre Dame. Build in the 12 and 13 century, the cathedral is imposing, aging and majestic. We walked around inside, pausing longest at the beautiful rose windows. From the church, we walked a few blocks to the Pantheon, and paid the reasonable admission fee to wander the halls of reason. The work on the ceiling is especially tranquil. There was an exhibition exploring the likenesses of Voltaire and Rousseau in art, which needless to say bored the dickens out of the kids.
The night was growing longer, and we decided to try our luck and ride the train back past our hotel all the way to Disneyland. Two stops after ours, we read the small print and realized that our tickets only took us from zones 1-4, which Disney was not a part of. Before it was too late, we hopped out, and rode the train back. We drove to Disney, and ate supper in the village (a little tex-mex!) and bought tickets for the parks.
The kids were tired from a long day, but excited for Paris Disney. We have done nearly 40 days of museums, cathedrals, statues and fountains. Everyone’s been wonderful, with little to no complaining, but I think everyone was ready for a theme park. We spent two days in the two parks: Disneyland Paris (formerly called EuroDisney) is celebrating its 20th year of existence. It has Disneyland Park (very similar to Magic Kingdom or Disneyland in California – although much smaller). The rides are good, the streets are clean, and everyone speaks English! It was funny to ride a couple of rides in French though: Star Tours is weird with a little French robot leading the way. Disney Studios is similar to Hollywood Studios park in Florida, but again, less to do. The shows were lacking, or out of service, but we enjoyed Tower of Terror and Aerosmith’s Rollercoaster. New rides not available in Florida: Crush’s Coaster, India Jones and the Temple of Peril (kind of boring, but Spencer was too short to ride). Everything else we’d tried before. It was a great two days!
Next, we’d be training our way back to London, for the last leg of the journey. More to come!