Day 5 – Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus and Musee des Arts et Metiers

Day five was supposed to be our second day for museums, but after a lot of walking the day before and 4 pairs of sore, tired feet, we opted to try a hop-on-hop-off bus tour instead of hoofing it around town. We used the hotel’s computer to purchase our one day pass for Foxity’s buses. We had seen the orange buses around town, and they all had closed in upper levels (retractable roofs) and advertised that they were heated as well. That was really our main concern. I read that BigBusTours is another good one, but the ones we saw had open tops and it was just too cold for that.

Dad woke up with an appetite for “real” breakfast, so before we hopped on a bus, we ate at a little restaurant that served the English breakfast I previously described. Everyone else got two eggs and “bacon” (Canadian bacon), and I stuck with breads, juice, and coffee. I had to chuckle at the sugar packet that came with my coffee here. The packet said “Sucre Daddy” on the back, which is apparently a popular sugar packet because I saw it again several times after this.

Paris0099 copyWe caught our bus across the street from Notre Dame. The driver didn’t even look at our tickets when I held up the paper, he just waved us on and handed us earbuds. We got seats on the top level, and though the retractable roof did allow some wind through, we were warm and comfortable. The audio tour was offered in several languages, and there was music during the pauses and delays (red lights, traffic, etc.). I was so tired and so not in the mood to walk around that Josh and I decided to stay on the bus for an entire loop and then hop off on the second go around. Mom and dad ended up staying on with us as we made the loop. It was nice to finally get an above-ground view of Paris as we traveled from one monument to another. We drove through the Place de la Concorde, up the Champs-Elysees, around the Arc de Triomphe, and beside the Eiffel Tower. After using the metro to get from one to another all week, it helped us connect the dots and get a more complete picture of Paris. Josh and I decided over the course of the two hour loop that we would like to visit the Grand Palais, and mom and dad wanted to visit the Christmas Market along the Champs-Elysees. Originally Josh and I planned to get off somewhere near the hotel (Notre Dame) to find lunch before hopping back on to get to the Grand Palais. We changed our minds and ended up getting off on the Champs-Elysees with my parents, where they headed down to the market and we headed up to find lunch.

Josh and I ended up in a pizza restaurant called Cafe di Roma. It looked cute and had tables open near the window looking out onto the Champs-Elysees, so we went for it. The waiter didn’t speak much English, but bless his heart, he tried! We didn’t ask him to, but maybe he wanted to practice his English. We ordered a pizza and salad to share and two Oranginas. The service was pretty quick by French standards and our pizza came out piping hot. It was good napoletana style pizza that’s hard to find in the US. I have since read some pretty bad reviews for Cafe di Roma, but we enjoyed our visit. I think the key here is to order pizza and to sit by the window so you can people watch as you eat. On our way out the waiter thanked us and we told him his English was very good. Heather (our first tour guide) said that is the ultimate compliment, so we used it on everyone who was nice to us. He blushed and laughed and protested that his English is terrible, but we could tell he was pleased. We walked up the street just two blocks to Laduree for macaroons that I heard were the best in Paris. The whole experience reminded me of Georgetown Cupcake in Washington, DC. There was a short queue outside and you had to wait for someone to exit before you were allowed to enter. Once inside, there is a winding queue in front of the macaroon case. I’m ok with long queues, as long as they’re indoors and there are sweets at the end! I ordered a small box of 8 and chose my flavors and then waited to pay. I didn’t want to eat any just then, so we carefully put the bag inside Josh’s messenger bag to open later. Though it’s out of the timeline, I will say that the only flavor I enjoyed later was the pistachio. I ate the macaroons the next day, so a macaroon aficionado would say that’s the problem, but they were chewy. The ones I got from Maison Georges Larincol in the Latin Quarter were crisp and perfectly edible for several days. Not to mention the flavors were better.

We texted my parents after Laduree to see if they wanted to meet us at Grand Palais. They said they would head that way, so we walked down to find the entrance. We showed our museum passes to the person at the start of the queue, who took my pass from me and looked at it really hard. Then he took it over to a group of other museum employees and they had a long conversation in French about it. Then another gentleman took my pass and started explaining to me in French that they don’t take the pass there. This was a very long, drawn out ordeal (and pretty hilarious to us who speak little to no French), but I eventually got my pass back. I’m guessing we didn’t look very American this day, because the guy had no idea we didn’t speak French and when he finally stopped talking and we replied in English he was pretty taken aback. We had just been nodding and smiling the whole time, because we got the gist of what he was trying to say. Josh and I laughed about this the rest of the trip. It’s funny how sometimes you really don’t need to speak the language to understand exactly what’s going on.

The line to buy tickets was insane. We really wanted to go in, but not badly enough to stand in the long line in the cold. It was getting late into the afternoon as well, so by the time we stood in line we would not have had much time in the museum. We texted my parents to let them know the museum was a no-go, and finally ended up using the Find Friends app on our phones to meet back up. On our must-do list this day was the Musee des Arts et Metiers because they claim to have the oldest airplane in the world. Even older than the Wright Brothers’… We took the metro to the 3rd arrondissement, exiting at the Arts et Metiers stop. We must have come in on the only normal looking platform, but pictures online show a very neat steampunk platform that is an attraction all on its own. It’s a short walk from the metro stop to the museum, just about a block away.

There is another Lady Liberty in the courtyard outside the museum’s entrance. Our museum passes did work here, but you need to visit the ticket counter to show your pass and receive a paper ticket. If you’re only coming to see the airplanes, ignore the instructions for the full tour and head left around the ticket counter. The oldest airplane, a bat-like, steam-powered contraption is down the hall on your right above the beautiful staircase. The other airplanes are to the left in the old chapel. If you are mechanically inclined, this museum is for you. We were rushing since the museum was only open for another hour that day, but we did a whirl-wind tour past the bicycles, a Model-T Ford, and many detailed displays about the advancement of technology. There were chemistry sets, weights, meter sticks, radios, cameras, iPods, engines, musical instruments, computers the size of cars, and on and on. We finally reached the Ader Avion III, or as we called it, The Bat. The information card is in French, so we weren’t quite sure what we were looking at. I suggest pulling up the info on your phone, or checking the English guide map for info. The plane is said to have flown a test flight in 1897 at Versailles. I’m a bit skeptical, but I think that’s my American pride coming through. After stopping to marvel at the bat, we hurried down the hall to get a look at the others. Airplanes hanging above your head in an old church are just something else entirely. It’s a very interesting juxtaposition of science and religion. There is a pendulum hanging from the ceiling here as well, another scientific instrument you don’t expect to see in a church!

The only other thing of interest we did this day was go to dinner. The hotel desk had recommended Balzar on Christmas Eve, but they were reservation-only that night and weren’t able to seat us when we tried to eat there. We decided to give them another try and had the restaurant mostly to ourselves because of the early hour. In France, 7pm is early for dinner. The only other customers at that time were a family with a small child. The waiter made us order in French (no problem!) and teased us for trying to speak English. I thought it was good-natured, but we did experience very slow service here. The wait staff and bus boys sat down to eat at a table nearby after the waiter took our order. We ended up pouring our own wine to refill our glasses from the bottle we got for the table, which apparently is a faux pas, but I will only sit with an empty glass for so long before I take matters into my own hands. I enjoyed my salmon and mashed potatoes with leeks and beurre blanc. I think Josh had scallops and risotto, but he ate it so fast I hardly remember. It must have been good. I can’t remember what mom ordered, and only that dad had some kind of beef. I ordered profiteroles for dessert. I’ve never had them before, so my eyes lit up when the waiter brought my plate out. He poured the melted chocolate over the top of the ice cream filled pastries right there at the table. Yumm….


My salmon dish at Balzar

After dinner we called it an early night because the next day we had to be dressed and downstairs by 6:30am for our day trip to Brugge, Belgium!

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