Paris, Amsterdam and Luxembourg 2017

Bastille Day and Musée d’Orsay

This was the view from our apartment last night!  We feel so lucky that we were able to be here and experience Bastille Day.  The night before, the suburbs had their fireworks shows and we could see about 30 of them from our windows.  On Friday morning, we watched the planes fly over on their way to the parade at Champs-Élysées.

Once the parade was over, we headed to the 16th arondissment and visited the Musée Marmottan Monet.  No photography was allowed, but the Monet and Pissaro paintings were amazing.


The metros were deserted! We grabbed lunch at a cafe,


and then headed home to watch the fireworks.  We had heard they were great, but we were blown away.  They were spectacular! 

This morning, we got up, did a little packing, and took the metro to the Musée d’Orsay. The museum is on the left bank and is the old Gare d’Orsay train station built in 1900. The building itself is beautiful.

Their collection is incredibly impressive.

We spent a long time in the museum, then walked along the Seine…

left our lock on the Pont des Arts, 

and found a Mexican food restaurant!

To finish off our day, we stopped at the Arc de Triumph,


and found crepes for the kids 

This has been another unbelievavble trip.  It’s hard to believe how much we have done in ten days.  Nous aimons Paris!

Hooray for Luxembourg


We had the most incredible time in Luxembourg today.  We started very early and took a couple Metros before we caught our main line train to Luxembourg at 7:40 am.  After two hours, we arrived in Luxembourg City.  We walked to the city center and couldn’t believe the views.

We checked out the cathedral. The original cathedral was built on this site in 936.

Next, we walked to the top of the Bock Fortress.

Next, we went to the Casements, a huge underground system of military tunnels. The first casements were built in 1644, they were expanded over the years, and then in 1867, the fortress was supposed to be dismantled following the neutralizarion of Luxembourg.  But, because the networks are under the city itself, they could never be destroyed.  During the two world wars, they served as shelters and could hold 35,000 people during an attack or bombing.

We went down about a million of these super steep stairs...

There are multiple tunnels beneath bridges so in case of attacked, the people could still get across underground. After the Casements, we grabbed lunch at a cafe.


We walked along the Corniche to Barrio Grund, the district along the river Alzette.

The stone walls, castles and river were so beautiful.


While we were walking around, we ended up backstage while the soundcheck was going for that night’s Alt-J concert, so we had to check it out. 

It was a fantastic day.  Luxembourg was well worth the visit.  Tomorrow is Bastille Day and we can’t wait to experience all of the festivities.

Château de Versailles

Today, we visited the completely outrageous palace of Versailles.  The last time we were here was in 2010, so we knew we had to come back now that Violet is old enough to remember this time.

We took the Metro into the city, met our amazing guide Marie-Claire, and then boarded the train to Versailles. Once we got there, we were able to bypass the ever growing line and go in a separate entrance.  These types of crowds are new to us because we have always traveled in May and missed the big summer tourist season.  Europe in summer is still very doable, but you have to plan in advance or you will spend most of your visit lining up with irritable travelers.

These are the ornate palace gates that display many of the symbols of Louis XIV, the horn of abundance, Apollo the sun God, the crown and the double “L” initials.

This is the exterior detail and stained glass windows of the unbelievable Royal chapel.

You can see the “L” for Louis everywhere in this palace.  He was known as the Sun King, and since he thought of himself as a type of Demi-God,  there are references to Apollo (the Sun God) and Hercules (symbol of strength and also a demi—God) in almost every room.

Here, Marie-Claire is showing us the ornate 17th century doors.  Underneath the gold leaf is red paint, used to make the gold look richer.

This is the second level of the Royal Chapel.

and the organ…

And here is a scultpure of the Sun King in all his glory looking like a Roman Gladiator.

We walked through all of the ornate rooms dedicated to various Roman Gods.  This one is the room of Apollo and you can see his representation on this ceiling painting.

This room was dedicated to Venus.

And this is the exquisite Hall of Mirrors…

We also saw the private quarters of King Louis the XIV and the royal bedroom before heading out to the gardens.

They really are spectacular!

This is the incredible Collonade, totally hidden in the “forest.”

This is the Apollo Fountain.  Hayden and Vi threw in a coin to make a wish to return to France soon.

We only covered a tiny bit of the gardens today, so we will need to come back again soon.  Violet really wanted to see the Hamlet - the “farm" Marie Antoinette created so she and her friends could pretend to be commoners. 

We had the best time and thanks to our guide, learned so much about French history. We are going to try to have a somewhat early night tonight because we have to leave our apartment at 6:00 am to catch our train to Luxembourg.

Disneyland Paris!


We had the greatest time at Disneyland Paris today.  Our apartment is about an hour away by train, so it was an easy journey this morning.  Our first stop was Hyperspace Mountain - like Space Mountain but with a rocket start and three loops.  It was a blast!


We checked out Toy Story land and rode a few rides, but were pretty underwhelmed, so it was off to Rock 'n Roller Coaster.


The Ratatouille ride was broken down when we walked up, but we hung out for a bit and it opened again so we were able to go right in.


We thought we’d end our day with Thunder Mountain.  


Our train appears to be both on fire and in the water at the same time.


Viva La France! Baguette!!

It must have been a great day because Hayden was clearly exhausted on the way home.


Spending the whole day in Versailles tomorrow!

The River Seine

After our long day in Amsterdam yesterday, we slept until noon today!  When we finally got up, Neil and I went for a run in La Defense. After that, we decided to head to Pont-Neuf and take a cruise on the Seine.

The view of the Notre Dame from the water was incredible.

Here is the beautiful Institut de France.

T he Musée d’Orsay - we are planning to visit at the end of the week. And another view of the Eiffel Tower from the river.

Disneyland Paris tomorrow!!

We Never Want to Leave Amsterdam

We really wish we had about another week here.  Amsterdam is incredible.  We had a great night’s sleep at our beautiful hotel and a fantastic breakfast there too.  We took a taxi to a luggage drop near the city center, and then headed off on foot.  It was a perfect day out and we just walked along the canals trying to see as much as we possibly could.

The architecture is so beautiful!

Everyone was out enjoying the perfect weather either on bicycle or by boat.

When we initially tried to get tickets for the Anne Frank house, they were completely sold out.  Luckily, I kept checking over the last few weeks and was able to get the last four special educational program tickets for us.  We were so glad because the line for stand-by visitors was unbelievably long.

This is the church with the bells that the Frank family could hear from the secret annex.

And here is the Anne Frank house…for over two years, eight people lived here secretly to escape the Nazi persecution.  In the end, they were all arrested and and sent to concentration camps.  Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only person out of the eight who survived the war.

No photography is allowed inside the house or the museum.  Our special tickets allowed us to attend a thirty minute presentation about the history of the Frank family, the other people who also used the annex as their hiding place, and the brave people who helped them from the outside.  We also learned a bit more about the history of WWII, Germany and the Netherlands as it related to the events that took place here.  Here are a few pictures from that part of the tour.


This is a picture of Anne in her Montessori Kindergarten class.  She is the girl with dark hair in the middle toward the back sitting on the chair. The majority of the children in this class photo died in concentration camps.


This is a diagram of the house and secret annex in the back.


This is a picture of Rotterdam after the German bombing.  The Netherlands surrendered the following day and the Nazi occupation began.


And this might be the saddest picture of all.  This is Otto Frank in the secret annex on the day the house was opened as a museum.

We all re-read the Diary of Anne Frank just before this trip and it was quite an experience to be there in person.  It was also incredibly heartbreaking knowing the tragic outcome. Even though it was an extremely somber experience, we are all so glad we came and saw it for ourselves.  

From here, we headed back to the central station and I am writing this from our train headed back to Paris.  Amsterdam is one of my very favorite places in the world and I can’t wait to come back and spend more time here.

First Time to Amsterdam

This morning, we got up and took a couple of local trains to Gare du Nord and boarded our Thalys train to Amsterdam Centraal.  It was a quick three hour ride to the Netherlands.  We took a taxi to our lovely hotel and then rode the tram back to the old city.  We grabbed a late breakfast before meeting our guide, Rob, in Dam Square.  We learned so much about the history and culture of this beautiful city.  The architecture is amazing and the canals are so charming.

We saw Rembrandt’s home with the red shutters…

and the many “coffee” shops of the Red Light District.

This pretty courtyard is housing for female students of Amsterdam University and has a 15 year waiting list.  And I loved this leaning house!

I have to say Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities - it is so beautiful and has such a good vibe.  People seem so happy and relaxed.  It was a great day and our guide was fantastic.  

I wish we had taken more pictures, but we were really busy soaking it all in.  We still have tomorrow here, so I will be sure to try to capture more of this place.  

First Day in Paris

We are back in business! We have had a few technical difficulties.  First, we forgot to bring the cable that connects our big camera to our laptop.  Neil made many extremely inconvenient trips to far away stores in both Paris and Amsterdam, bought two versions that didn’t work before finally finding the right cable.  Then, we realized our power converter had gone bad.  We ordered a new one from our hotel here in Amsterdam only to find that our Mac’s power plug was too big to work with it.  So, I gave up hope, but Neil did not. He used nail clippers and somehow trimmed the converter so it would work, so we can finally start posting again!  Hooray for Neil!! Now, back to the blog...

We had a memorble first day in Paris!  After our red eye flight, we arrived at our super modern apartment in La Defense.  We have the most amazing view of Paris from our 30th floor windows and balcony. 

We got some dinner, a little sleep, and our first real day began the next mornng.  We started our day in the Tuileries, walking through the gardens and looking at the fountains.

Next, we met our guide, Margerie, at the Louvre.  We were excited for Violet because she didn’t really remember our last visit here. 

We learned how the Venus de Milo is the combination of three different Greek scultpural styles…

And we saw Winged Victory (Nike) after an extensive restoration since our last visit to the Louvre…

And of course, this one…

And Hayden’s favorite painting, Raft of the Medusa.

We saw tons of other amazing art and then headed to the rarely visited third wing of the Napoleon III Apartments. The rooms here are incredible!

After the Louvre, we went to lunch at a cafe and then took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower.

We met a different guide here and learned all about the history and construction of the tower.  Then, it was time to go up.  Violet was very nervous about the height, but she was fine once we got up.  The view of the city is amazing and we were so lucky to have such a clear day.

It was a long, long day but we are glad we had the chance to revisit some of the major Paris attractions again now that Violet is old enough to remember them!  Amsterdam tomorrow!

L’été à Paris

We are returning to France this summer and revisiting some of our favorite spots.  We can’t wait to experience Bastille Day in Paris! We will also be visiting Amsterdam and Luxembourg for the first time.  Thanks for reading our blog!

Hayden’s fantastic blog is here


Violet’s awesome blog is here

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© Knstrong 2013