A Travellerspoint blog

Paris, Part 2 (deux!)

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On Saturday, we continued our Madeline-themed sightseeing by visiting Sacre Coeur.


We rode the funicular up the hill but walked down the steps in front to get some city views. The girls also rode the carousel.


After lunch, we rode the Metro across town to the Luxembourg Gardens to catch a marionette show. DD1 wasn't sure she would like it, but was won over pretty quickly. DD2 was excited from the start and enjoyed it all. The shows are performed in French, but it wasn't a problem because all the physical humor overcame the language barrier. The puppet theatre is adjacent to the big playground we had visited before, so we spent some more time there before dinner.

The next day was the first Sunday in July, which means free admission at many museums. We opted for the Musée d'Orsay because it would be closed on Monday.


The museum website mentioned treasure hunt activities for the kids. I asked for them at the front desk. The lady said they were in French, but I told her that I read it. She asked for the kids' ages and gave me 2 different hunts: heroes (DD1) and princes and princesses (DD2). Each has 5 works for the kids to find, along with a paragraph explaining the work that was pitched well to the age group--and that turned out to be in English after all. It also gives the room where each is located so we didn't have to wander aimlessly to complete the tasks. Both girls enjoyed the activities.

DD2 had exhausted the batteries of her camera by this time (she'd been playing a lot of games on it), but she snapped this pic at the museum with my phone:


It had been in the mid- to high 80s for all of our time in Paris, but Sunday was even hotter yet, reaching 93. After eating lunch in a hot cafe, we were in need of some AC. We headed over to the flagship Galeries Lafayette department store. Our first stop was the cafeteria for cold drinks. We also wandered through the souvenirs and toys (note: the latter has some toys out for kids in a small play area, but it is aimed at the younger set. DD2 was happy, while DD1 complained that nobody thought about kids like her). Once we had cooled down enough, we went up to the roof for some city views.


We also checked out the cool glass dome in the main building, which is visible from several floors.


By the time we were ready for dinner, the cafeteria and a couple of the other eateries at Galeries Lafayette had closed. The one that was open didn't have good choices for the girls. We also didn't want to wander in the heat for a place that would be open on a Sunday evening. We took the RER back to our neighborhood, ate there, and called it a night.

On our last full day in Paris, we went to the one sight the girls were the most excited to see: the Eiffel Tower! We would have gone earlier, but the pickings were slim when we bought advance tickets a couple of weeks before the trip. DH and I noticed that the security has increased substantially since our visit 13 years ago. We arrived well ahead of our arrival time, so getting through security went smoothly.


As we waited to go up, I learned that the Eiffel Tower gives a shout out to the father of modern chemistry.


The only disadvantage to buying an advance ticket to the Eiffel Tower is that you can't predict the weather. As luck would have it, we got some rain while we were in the tower. Fortunately, it was only a brief shower, so we were able to go inside where the bathrooms and souvenirs are and wait it out for a few minutes. We still enjoyed plenty of great views.


We started at the second level, and took the stairs down (279 of them, according to DD1, who counted) to the first level. Part of the floor of the first level is glass, which is cool--and slightly disconcerting.

For lunch, we grabbed sandwiches at the base of the tower and found a park bench. We had a nice view!


Our afternoon stop was the Pompidou Centre.


I had read that it was a fairly kid-friendly museum. It has children's workshops and a children's gallery. The children's workshop was closed during our visit, but the children's gallery was open. There were foam shapes that you could use to make images on an interactive screen, which was kind of cool.


The girls enjoyed it, though they quickly became interested in building structures out of the foam shapes instead of using them with the screen--but hey, that's art too, right? As for the regular exhibits, DD1 tolerated them fine, but DD2 was done with the art almost instantly. I took the girls back to the children's gallery while DH checked out a few more rooms of the museum. Once he was done, we visited the Igor Stravinsky Plaza and got dinner and souvenirs nearby.


In all, we visited the following Madeline sights (or at least saw the exterior up close):
Eiffel Tower
Notre Dame
Luxembourg Gardens
Sacre Cooeur
We also saw the Place de la Concorde from a distance.

We didn't get everything, so we'll have to visit again someday!

Posted by amikulski 09:01 Archived in France Tagged churches art children museums parks monuments playground Comments (0)

Paris, Part 1 (Un!)

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We had another long travel day on Wednesday as we headed to Paris using planes, trains, and automobiles. We left Salamanca for Madrid at 11 am. This time our train made fewer stops and utilized some high speed track, so the trip was shorter than it had been a few days before. We got some lunch at the train station and visited a store there filled with gummi candies.


We took a taxi to the airport and arrived with plenty of time for our flight. However, gates aren't assigned until about an hour before takeoff, so we spent a lot of time in the central part of Terminals HJK awaiting our assignment. Unfortunately, the kiddie area in this part of the terminal did not allow kids over 6, so we didn't stay there. Instead we went stir-crazy in some seats near the sign announcing gate assignments. Once we did get a gate, we found a nearby play area for all ages.


Once our flight landed, we took a very long taxi ride through traffic to get to our rental apartment. By the time we could get some dinner, it was past 10 PM. We opted for the quickest thing we could find: McDonalds. As someone who has seen Pulp Fiction, I was disappointed that there was no Royale with Cheese on the menu.

We were staying in the suburb of Noisy le Grand, about 30-45 minutes away from most of the sights in the city. This made it pretty much impossible to go home for naps. DD2 is at the point where she naps, but not every day, and she's not the type of kid who can just doze off anywhere. Thus our strategy was to skip nap but get home for bed earlier than in Spain to make up for the loss.

Both girls are fans of the Madeline books, so we tried to visit several of the places drawn in the books, starting with our first day of sightseeing. Our first stop was the Arc de Triomphe.


We took plenty of pictures, but did not go inside (Our rule of thumb was to only climb structures with elevators up, given that lots of stairs up can be tough on a 4-year-old.). We then walked down part of the Champs-Élysées, but the girls were getting hungry. We found some lunch before visiting our next site, Notre Dame; once again, we didn't climb the towers, but we did go inside.


Our next stop was the Luxembourg Gardens. They have a big playground with equipment for kids of all ages. The green structures are intended for older kids, but younger kids went on them as well. There's a small admission fee, but it's good for the whole day (they'll stamp your hand so you can re-enter) and well worth giving the girls a shady place to play. Both of them loved it.


Saint Sulpice church was on our route to dinner,so we quickly stepped in.


For those of you who read or saw The DaVinci Code, I took a pic of the gnomon/meridian line, but it did not turn out.

We had dinner as France won against Argentina in the World Cup; it was fun to see people cheering and spontaneously singing La Marseillaise. Afterwards, we headed back to the apartment. For the first time this trip, the girls got to bed at their usual times! That was great because they really needed it.

The next morning we headed to the Tuileries gardens,


where we found some carnival rides. We took the Ferris wheel and got some nice views of the city.


We purchased advance tickets for a cruise along the Seine. This also gave us nice city views from a different vantage point.


Some friends had suggested visiting the Louvre during its extended Friday hours to beat the crowds. We showed up at around 4 PM. There were still people, but the line wasn't bad. Unfortunately, DD2 was running out of energy, and it didn't help when we got a bit lost looking for the Ancient Egyptian art; the Louvre is like an enormous maze, and gallery numbers aren't always clearly marked. We found our way out (without finding the Egyptian art), checked out the Mona Lisa and few other works, and left. Even though our time there was short, it still felt like a deal to see amazing art for less than we spent on the Tuileries Ferris wheel.

We finished with dinner at a place that my husband had researched. It was great, but we were tired when we were done!

(Photo credits to DD1 on the gummy candies, B&W Arc de Triomphe, and sepia Notre Dame; she chose the effects on her own! DH took the Rose Window pic at Notre Dame, Saint Sulpice interior, and the pics from the boat ride.)

Posted by amikulski 19:16 Archived in France Tagged churches art children boats trains museums parks airport monuments Comments (0)


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On Sunday, we headed to Salamanca. It was an all-day affair. We left Barcelona in the morning on a high-speed train; the girls enjoyed the novelty of that. We arrived in Madrid Atocha station about 3 hours later. Our next train left Madrid Chamartín Station, so we took a taxi there and got some lunch before our next train ride: also about 3 hours, but much slower and traveling less distance. Once we were settled at our apartment, we met a colleague for dinner and then ice cream on the Plaza Mayor.


Salamanca was where my conference was, so the rest of the family took the lead on sightseeing. They spent a couple of mornings at Parque de las Jesuitas, a park that has a good children's playground. DD1 especially liked the zip line. On Monday afternoon, DH took the girls on a walk to the cathedral. It was a hot day, so he kept them going with water and ice cream. I joined them for dinner.

Tuesday was a half day for me, so I could join everyone for lunch. It was quite hot again, and the girls were still operating on less sleep than usual, so we headed back for naps. Afterwards, we took a walk so I could see the cathedral and find the astronaut on the facade.


Then we went to the historic building of the University of Salamanca. They're celebrating their 800th anniversary this year: pretty impressive! We found the frog for good luck (psst: look on the skull!).


I also snapped some pics of Unamuno's house because I enjoyed reading his books in my Spanish classes.


After some souvenir shopping, we found a place for dinner and returned to the Plaza Mayor for ice cream. Many outdoor cafes--and all of the ones on the plaza--had screens set up for the World Cup, so it's been interesting to see people's reactions during key plays.

That night we did some packing and turned in late. Paris was our next stop!

Posted by amikulski 09:03 Archived in Spain Tagged churches buildings parks spain europe Comments (0)

Barcelona, Part 2

Views and the Beach

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By day 3, our advance ticket game seemed to have improved. We ordered online tickets for later in the day at La Pedrera (Casa Milá). Then we went to the Arc de Triomf


and Parc de la Ciutadella, where I spotted a Canary Islands Palm.


We didn't check out the zoo there, but instead were looking for a playground. We found a small one on the north side of the park. Maybe there were other ones, but we didn't have the energy to find them. We did find the big fountain, though.


After lunch and a nap, we headed to La Pedrera.


The roof was really cool, but it was a little unnerving for me in some places where the ledge wasn't very high.


La Pedrera also had a nice exhibit explaining some of the inspiration that Gaudi found in nature.

After La Pedrera, we took a short walk to La Manzana de la Discordia, where there are 3 adjacent houses in different styles, one of which has a Gaudi facade. We took some pictures and headed home for dinner.


We wanted something more kid-oriented for our last full day in Barcelona, so we checked out Tibidabo, a mountain that has an amusement park on top. Getting there took some planning: we took the Metro to a regional train, and from there took a bus and funicular. The girls liked the funicular, and DH and I liked checking out the fancy houses along the bus route.


The amusement park has a few options for admission. You can buy general admission to the whole park or to just a portion of it, the panoramic zone. You can also enter the panoramic zone for free and purchase tickets a la carte for the rides within it. We went for the third option. The girls could ride everything within the panoramic zone, although DD2 needed an adult to accompany her on everything but the carousel (Later I discovered that we missed some kid rides that were farther back in the panoramic zone. Oops!). I joined the girls for the Ferris wheel and the airplane ride. You can see the wing in the pic I took while on the ride.


The panoramic zone is aptly named. You can see all of Barcelona and beyond.


Our post-nap adventure was to walk along the beach at Barceloneta. We didn't have suits, but that didn't stop us from wading in the water, searching for rocks, and digging in the sand.


As we walked back to the Metro, we felt like fish swimming upstream because people were coming to the beach to celebrate the festival of Sant Joan. The festivities carried on in our own neighborhood, with plenty of DIY fireworks being set off late into the night. We may be missing July 4th in the US this year, but Barcelona made sure we had that part covered!

(Photo credit to DD1 on the Arc de Triomf and Manzana de la Discordia. I took the beach, airplane, and palm pics. DH took the rest. DD2 has a child camera, but the resolution on it isn't very good, and she took many pictures of her shoes.)

Posted by amikulski 16:55 Archived in Spain Tagged mountains beaches children museums parks Comments (0)

Barcelona, Part 1

Jetlag and Timed Ticket Entries

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  • *Note: DD1 brought her first grown-up camera on the trip, so I will be featuring some of her pics in this blog. She took the Parc Güell photo and many of the ones from Sagrada Familia.*

For this trip, I wanted to try to reduce our jetlag. I had a 3-point plan:

1. Progressively earlier bedtimes (15 minutes a day until we were going to bed 2 hours early)
2. For me, a trtl scarf/neck pillow (DH didn't want one, and they don't come in kid sizes)
3. Chocolate (kid-dosed and tasty caffeine) for the morning after.


(Note: I got the Barcelona bar a few weeks ago as a gift and kept it to be themed! LOL.)

Part 1 of the plan was enacted, but not optimally. I got the girls down an hour early the night before our flight. I guess that's something. I only turned in a half hour early, and DH stayed up.

Part 2 was a total fail. About an hour into our drive to the airport, I realized that I left the trtl at home. D'oh! I had been so set on making sure it was in a carry on that I set it aside--and failed to pack it. My neck missed it.

Part 3 was OK. The chocolate did give us a little boost. I packed too much, but my girls will be happy with the extra chocolate on the trip.

My husband had his own plan for us: no napping on our first day there. I was so exhausted that I wore him down on this one, but we only got catnaps: he set a timer for 30 minutes. It was a tough first day--the girls dozed off in public a couple of times--but by the next day everyone was feeling better.

It's been 8 years since our last trip to Barcelona, and we've noticed a big increase in the use of timed entry tickets at many attractions. It has caught us a bit off guard, starting on our first day in the city. We went to Parc Güell only to find that part of the park was now designated as a monument zone that required timed entry tickets; we hadn't read about this anywhere, not even in our 2018 guidebook. We had arrived just before 4 PM only to find that the next available entry was at 8 PM. We were hot and sweaty from an uphill walk from the Metro, so this was a disappointment. We had some water to cool down, strolled through the open area of the park, and peeked down into the monument zone, some of which is off limits for restoration.


Our next day included both a hit and miss on timed entries. We had heard that they were being used at Sagrada Familia, so we had bought tickets online before our trip. Children under 6 are not allowed to go in the towers, so we split up with a plan to meet afterwards. DH and DD2 checked out the church and crossed the street to spend some time at a park. DD1 and I went up the towers of the Nativity facade first, saw the rest of the church, and then went to the park.

Sagrada Familia was amazing. Photos really can't do it justice.

The tower climb offered some interesting close-up details as well.

It was cool to see all the work that had been done since my visit in 2000, when the interior was still under construction. DD1 has become a Gaudi fan since doing a school project on him, so she loved it. DD2 was content to leave earlier and eat ice cream and play while her sister explored.

We had heard that the Picasso Museum offered free admission on Thursday afternoons. Having learned our lesson the day before, I went online to get more details. I learned that we again needed timed entry tickets, and that they were all out for the day. Instead of the museum, we walked down the Rambla and in the Barri Gotic. We ended our day meeting some friends for a late dinner who finishing their own vacation. It was great to meet up, and my girls seemed to enjoy hanging out with some other kids. Jetlag or not, we were on Spanish time!

Posted by amikulski 19:18 Archived in Spain Tagged churches children parks airplane Comments (0)

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