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On Friday, June 9, we arrived at the Louvre at 10am.  An hour or so later, our friends arrived, and then the 10 of us meandered about the museum, checking out artifacts and art among the roughly 5 million Chinese tourists who were also checking out the artifacts and art.  I took several Instagram “stories” that I thought were really funny at the time but are now gone forever, since they only stay published for 24 hours (including of a goddess taking a selfie), but I did get a picture of our 3 children crashing the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine (but not the strong, intoxicating wine that my children shouldn’t be around); we left before things got too rowdy.

Mona Lisa gazed at us reproachfully (best I could tell, as she had at least 500 paparazzi in front of her).

We picked Friday to go to the Louvre, because it stays open for extra hours on Fridays, so when it got really crowded at about lunch time, we left to have lunch.  Since it was lunch time.  Jim Bob and I had beers, because the wine Jesus made went to the guests who were actually invited to the party, not to us crashers, it seemed.

We strolled about the Tuileries Garden after that, and the children ran around and played loudly, so as to ensure that all around recognized that we’re Americans.

Then, we went to Musee de l’Orangerie, which had fewer oranges than I’d hoped for, but did have lots of paintings.  There were giant paintings of water lilies by Monet–in fact, there was an entire room that was nothing but enormous canvasses he created, and they were huge and, at times, fuzzy, as his eyesight was pretty bad by the time he painted for this museum, having already painted for the Louvre and other museums that are more crowded.  I liked its scale.  Beneath these giant paintings were several regular-sized paintings by Monet and other impressionists, and I found myself enjoying the Manets quite a bit.

Then, we went to a creperie, and all 10 of us had crepes, and it was amazing.  Mine had apples and cinnamon and vanilla ice cream on it, baby.  I then decided we should go back to America and start a crepes restaurant smack dab in the Bible belt called “How Crepe Thou Art” and serve up deliciously thin pancakes for the rest of our lives, but I probably won’t.

After crepes, we returned to the Louvre.  It was much better at 6pm, and we got to see all kinds of ancient sculptures and artwork without having to make sure our wallets were still in our pockets every 10 seconds or so (or maybe that was just me).

Our companions the McAllisters returned to their place of rest (but not the eternal kind of rest), and my family took the metro back to our place, wondering if 8:30pm was too late for dinner; it wasn’t.  We walked over to a pub called The Honest Lawyer for burgers and beers (plus whatever the other 4 members of my family  ate), and I decided I’d sell How Crepe Thou Art after a decade or so and run The Honest Lawyer until the end of my days.

This is what happy looks like:

And thus concluded our 4th day in Paris.

June 8 was our third day in Paris.  Deciding the attacks with hammers were finished, we went to Notre Dame cathedral and the nearby archeological crypt (after our usual cafe au lait and croissants breakfast, of course).  We elected to skip the long line to go to the top of the cathedral, but we did use our museum pass to bypass the line to see the inside (tip:  get the museum pass.  It saves lots of money and lots of time!), taking in the French Gothic architecture from the 12th century.  The crypt gives visitors a glimpse of what life in Paris was like when it was under Roman rule and was an interesting trip way back in time (and a welcomed reprieve from heat and crowds).

We then ventured to Shakespeare & Company, one of my favorite places in Paris.  It was full of old books, old reading rooms, and old history.  I bought a book full of stories and photographs called “Hemingway’s Paris.”  I had a hard time leaving, but eventually, children want to eat.

We stopped for lunch, and my 10-year-old had her first bowl of escargot–and liked it!

Content we’d had enough happiness at lunch, we visited the Memorial of the Deportation, which memorializes the 200,000 French (mostly Jews) sent to Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. The architecture is pretty, and the exhibit is moving.  I’m glad we took our children there.

After that, we shopped the bouquinistes along the Seine and got ice cream at Berthillon, which some say is the best ice cream in the world, but I was too busy enjoying it to ponder its ranking. The children took advantage of the local vendors’ selection of berets.

The children seemed too happy at this point, so we took them to the prison where everyone awaited the guillotine; it’s called La Conciergerie.  And then for redemption, we saw over 1100 Biblical scenes across 15 stained glass windows, and Christ’s crown of thorns, at Sainte-Chapelle cathedral.  Built in only 7 years, it packs a lot of impressiveness in a relatively small space (for a famous cathedral).

Then we took the metro to the Orsay, an old train station now full of impressionists (choosing Thursday for the extended hours).  We got the audio tour for the children (we all 5 did this at most places, but it was really helpful when a museum had a children’s version), and the grownups did Rick Steves’ audio tour from his app (we also used his book–among others–to plan much of this trip, but his was the only one we carried with us every day in Paris).  Everyone really enjoyed this museum, as impressionism is pretty easy to understand and appreciate without an art history degree once you get past the nudity.

That night, we dined in the Trocadero area at an old bakery called Carette that had great food (including macaroons for dessert) and views of the Eiffel tower at night.

See how happy the full moon, Eiffel tower, and Parisian night sky made us?

This was an action-packed day with lots to see and lots of walking; it was a good way to power through my “it’s no longer my birthday in Paris, and I’m a little sad about that” feelings.

Next up:  day 4!

The 5 of us were biking along the canals behind the palace at Versailles when my 8-year-old followed my detour off the main path to see where a hilly dirt path that went into the nearby woods might lead, as it seemed more exciting than the wider main trail.  He looked ahead at the dips and turns ahead of us and yelled, “You’re the best Daddy in the WORLD!”

June 15, 2017, the penultimate day of our French vacation:  the day I became the best Daddy in the world to the only boy whose opinion matters.

We’d taken off from Atlanta on Monday, June 5.  Originally, the discount fare I’d found went from Miami, so we’d bought a one way ticket down there (planning to get off the plane during a layover in Atlanta on the trip home), but when I called Delta to see about an earlier flight (since 1. our traveling companions were already at the airport and had an earlier flight to Miami than we did, and 2. I was worried about approaching bad weather), I learned our flight from Miami to Paris had been cancelled.  Luckily, the agent was able to get all 10 of us on a direct flight later that evening, and since I happened to be on the phone with him when the flight was cancelled, we beat the presumed throngs of folks trying to get on the same plane from Miami upon learning of their flight’s cancellation an hour or so later.

We landed on June 6, securing the beachhead at Charles de Gaulle airport, leaving only a carseat behind.  Kia sent one of its troops who, armed with an ipad with my name on it, led our squadron to the local motor pool, and issued us a fine utility vehicle:  the Carens.  Once I returned the necessary requisition paperwork, we set off for our quarters on Rue Leonard de Vinci.  After grounding our gear, we walked a few blocks to where my once fraternity brother/now DEA agent lives with his family and had dinner.

My family then set off to explore the Arc de Triomphe, stopping to allow me a Royal with cheese, and concluding the evening by scoping out the macaroons from Laduree.

The next morning–June 7, 2017–I turned 42.  I walked a few steps outside our apartment to Cafe Victor Hugo (which would be how we’d start every subsequent morning we were there) for coffee and then led the family on a long walk through Paris in search of what I thought would be a great place for breakfast but turned out to be a good place for dinner that just happened to open early (note to self:  select “brunch” on Yelp when looking for breakfast, not just  restaurants open at 9am).  Instead, we stopped by a patisserie and had macaroons for breakfast (and, since it was my birthday, I also had a chocolate chip cookie–one of the best I’ve ever had).

Then, we walked to the Rodin museum. I enjoyed learning how he created his bronze statues from molds so that they could be replicated in varying sizes.  We saw the Gates of Hell, the Thinker (and the Munch painting of it), the Kiss, and his other famous works while learning about his relationship with Camille Claudel and how he designed his future museum while still alive.  It was a great first museum for our trip; I loved that it was both indoors and outside and gave us insight into the artist’s life as well as his work.

Next, we went to the Eiffel Tower for our pre-purchased lift ticket to the observation tower with our travel companions, the McAllisters.

Then, we had lunch and visited the Army Museum, which was called National Residence of the Invalids (I could make a joke about the French army here, but I’ll refrain; it’d been used as a military hospital at one point).  Next to it was Napoleon’s tomb.  I loved seeing the WWII exhibits in the Army museum and how Napoleon’s tomb was basically an enormous matryoshka doll of metal and wooden coffins. The building that housed it featured an enormous rotunda that our U.S. Capitol mimicked.

Shortly after that visit, we dropped the children off at my DEA agent friend’s apartment (his oldest is in high school, so she could watch the youngsters) so the adults could have a delicious steak dinner at Sacree Fleur.

And such concluded a great birthday and our first couple days in Paris!