We carried on and made our way towards Paris. We all agreed that it would probably be better for us to find a hotel outside of Paris, as parking would be a definite hassle. The night before, we searched the internet for options, and selected the Hotel Gabriel. It was very reasonably priced, and close to the underground metro system. The rooms were modest and ‘tiny’, but fine for our purposes.
We decided that an evening cruise down the Seine would be nice. Dinner cruises were hugely expensive, so we found a basic evening cruise, and looked for a place to eat dinner beforehand. We ended up having a nice meal in a restaurant just off the Champs-Elysees. The cruise was nice – the lights of the city are beautiful, and the Eifel Tower at night is far more spectacular than during the day.
After getting off the bus and walking into the courtyard to the main entrance, we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of people.
Happily, we walked towards the entrance, ready to purchase our tickets, when we saw the sign …… CLOSED TUESDAY! Can you believe it?? No other place on the planet closes on a TUESDAY!
Sigh. No Mona Lisa. Plus, this experience was a bit too parallel to the ‘Griswold’s Vacation trip to Walley World’! We felt a little foolish.
The lineup for the catacombs was long, but we toughed it out. The catacombs are a series of underground tunnels (from a former quarry) that house the remains of nearly six millions Parisians. A number of above-ground cemeteries were closed and emptied in the 18th century in order to facilitate the development of Paris and to contain disease. The bones were removed and placed there with great ceremony by the church.
The hotel was very nice, and run by the nicest lady – Simona. She checked us in – spoke great English – and then arranged for the restaurant upstairs to stay open so we could get fed. She helped interpret the menu for us, and later met us for drinks. We needed to get some laundry done, so she made arrangements for us to have that done the next day.
We said ‘ciao’ to the Leaning Tower, and started our trek to Rome. As in Paris, we decided that staying outside of Rome would be in our best interest. There is no parking, TERRIBLE drivers, and great potential for car theft in the city. We chose a route that paralleled the ocean, and stopped when we came to a seaside town that looked pleasant (San Marinella).
Vatican City is unbelievable – as were the lineups.
The Vatican museums are mind blowing – the artifacts/works of art are out of this world.
On to the rest of Rome. We once again took advantage of the ‘hop-on/hop-off’ bus tours, and winded our way around the massive city. Next stop for us was the Coliseum. We joined a tour, and were amazed at the cruelty of the ancient Romans. According to our tour guide, on opening day, over 5,000 wild animals were killed within a few hours. And we worry about the violence kids are exposed to nowadays …
That pretty much wrapped up the day for us, so we headed home on the train. It began pouring rain, so we once again hit the Monkey Pub, and enjoyed another BIG beer with our supper.
That evening, we tried to find the restaurant that had been referred to us by our Halifax transplant/Italian hotel manager. Unfortunately, it was dark and we missed it, so ended up going to a rather bizarre restaurant where we were served a rather bizarre meal. Terry ordered the seafood special, and was given a plate of whole, fried fish that appeared to have been pulled from their kids’ aquarium, along with whole, fried shrimp – everything intact. He grappled with his meal, to say the least.
We walked around and soaked up the ambiance. Of course we had to have a gondola ride. We struck a deal with a handsome young oar man, and off we went.
The water taxi transported us over to Murano, where we were escorted into the glass factory, and assigned a personal guide. He led us into the demonstration area, where there were a number of other observers.
We decided to attempt the water bus, hoping to see more of the area from the water. Not sure of the routes, we jumped on one, only to find that it was very much like your basic public transit – crowded with people – standing room only, and with no opportunity to enjoy the scenery around you. We were desperate to get off and just walk around again.
Terry, Lyle and I felt that we could make better time back to the bus terminal on foot, while Tammy and Ron disagreed. The race was on! We jumped off the water bus at the next stop, and weaved our way through the maze, finally figuring out the route markers that would direct us to the parking area. We made it, and with time to down half a beer before they caught up to us. Vindicated!
Back on the subway and train and to our hotel for the night.