The unplanned things

by Kim on November 22, 2013 · 50 comments

Europe by train: day 7. Paris, France.

We visited the Louvre today. We were so excited. We stood in line outside of the giant glass pyramid and paid our entrance fee. Then we stood in line again and paid for the audio tour headset. Then I stood in line for the bathroom. Then Brian stood in line at the coat check. And then, finally, we were ready to explore the museum. We figured it would take all day.

Three hours later we were done with the Louvre.

I suppose I’d forgotten that I am not a museum person. I mean, Natural History museums with dinosaur bones and dioramas of the solar system? I can totally do that. Italian paintings from the 13th and 14th centuries? I last about twenty minutes. I got a C- in Art History. Barely. I’m sure there are some of you that will be horrified to read this. So let me save you the trouble of writing a scathing comment by agreeing that the Louvre is a stunning, world-class museum. It’s wonderful. It’s just not for me.

On our walk to the Louvre we’d passed a closed market. On our walk back from the Louvre we found that the boarded up stalls had been transformed into a Christmas market and it was in full swing.

There was an ice-skating rink and a life-sized statue of Santa. There were vendor stalls selling warm food and jewelry and stockings and snow globes. Christmas carols were spilling from the loud speakers. I am a Christmas fanatic so I bopped around like a kid who’d had one too many candy canes. It was holiday heaven.

We were freezing so we bought scarves. And then we bought mulled wine to warm our hands and bellies. We walked arm in arm, telling childhood Christmas stories and daydreaming about the Christmases in our future.

In each country we visit we buy one souvenir. Today we bought our keepsake from France. It’s a Christmas ornament with a tiny hand-painted Eiffel Tower. I hope that each year in the future as we decorate our tree we will see it and think of today. I hope one of us will say to the other, remember when we ditched the Louvre and stumbled upon that beautiful Christmas market? And for a moment we will be back here, in Paris, walking hand-in-hand in an icy-cold chill down a street awash in twinkling lights.

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin Thomas November 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I just adore Paris and I bet it is magical in the winter! Be on the lookout for a sugar waffle covered in nutella. Sometimes the carts that sell crepes have them, and they are AMAZING! Also if you pass the bridge with all the locks, tell mine “hello”!
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Kim November 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I saw that stuff at the market. Okay, tomorrow I will get some!! And we visited the bridge with the locks the other day. When did you put your lock up? I read that the government cut them all off recently so most of the locks on there are from 2013.

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Gillian @GlobalBookshelf November 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I love playing ‘remember that time’! Especially if we ditch some ‘must-see’ attraction for something far more fitting for us.
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:15 am

Yes, and I love that we have a little keepsake to remember it by.

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Jalan2Liburan November 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm

That macarons…oh la laaaaaa :)

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:16 am

I know, right?

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Eleanor Roberts November 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I love Paris, it is my favorite city. Your pictures are fantastic, they capture the sparkle of the city in winter. I enjoy reading your blog but have not posted before. I couldn’t resist this time. I am a lover of art history and I adore the Louvre. However, it is hard, even for me, to spend all day in the museum when Paris is waiting to be discovered just outside the door. I think you made the right choice ….

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:17 am

Hey, it’s nice to hear that from an Art History lover!!! Now I don’t feel bad at all about leaving :)

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Michelle Preston November 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Oh that was beautiful – I can so relate to how you feel. I visited the Rijks and the Van Gogh Museums in Amsterdam and lasted less than an hour in each. Both were truly magnificent but just not my thing. I so much preferred cycling through the countryside. That will be a truly special christmas ornament in years to come…..

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:18 am

Yes, it’s funny that I keep taking myself to museums when I know that I find true joy exploring the streets…

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Patti November 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Paris in the winter is magical – that’s what I learned when we were there, especially on the days it snowed! I buy Christmas ornaments from wherever we travel and have the same exact feeling every year when I decorate our tree. It’s a wonderful lasting memory. I’m so glad you were able to return to Paris!
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:18 am

I wish I’d been buying ornaments the whole time! They’re a great keepsake.

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Jessica November 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm

A Christmas market in Paris is one of my travel dreams. :)

Good for you for just doing you. (I guess it goes with the life you’re living, hey? :) ) Lots of people would have continued on with the Louvre just because they were “supposed to,” and who really has time for that?!
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:19 am

No one! Plus, if I’d spent another half hour in the Louvre I would have lost my mind :)

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Kaitie November 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I feel the same about the lourve. It’s great, just not for me…I think I stayed the bare minimum my professor made me. In addition, on our five week trip through Europe we bought one ornament per country and I CANNOT WAIT to decorate our tree this year :) Great souvenir!

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:19 am

Yes! Such great memories you’ll have when you decorate!! So fun.

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Rhonda November 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm

how wonderful to have come upon the market, you will always remember that day when you look at your ornament. I, however, am now drooling over the macaroons! p.s, love the first pic of you, all in black with your lime green shoes! Classic. We loved the Louvre, and the Prado, and many a museum…. for about 2 hours. We’d much rather be wandering the side streets, drinking coffee in a cute local cafe, or listening to music in a dark and romantic jazz club. All of the “must sees” are great…but the true magic lies, for me, in the side streets.
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:20 am

Haha, I know. How embarrassing are those shoes?

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) November 22, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I am the same way with museums, so you won’t get any guff from me. In fact, the last time I was in Paris, I didn’t even go to the Louvre, so 3-hours spent seems perfectly respectable to me. I feel very lucky when I do go to arty things like that to have Tony as my own personal docent as he majored in Art History so can tell me all the things that make the paintings really come to life; beats having an audio headset any day of the week!

Glad you ditched it and headed out into the streets—the more I travel, the more I find that just wandering around soaking in the atmosphere of a place tends to be more rewarding than visiting the big-ticket (and big price tag!) attractions.
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:20 am

Steph, I would expect you to be a museum girl!

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Sanna November 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I do like art and Louvre, but still my most vivid memory from my visit (in early 90s so I’m surprised I can remember even this, haha) was the fact that there were several people videotaping Mona Lisa. Video! It’s a painting, what’s the videocamera for?!? Just in case the secrets of her mystery smile will be revealed at the precise moment you’re looking at it? Especially annoying as there was constantly a huge crowd gathered in front of it and some people were standing there for ages, videotaping, while others at the back could barely see the painting (tiny as it is). The weirdest thing.

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:21 am

Haha, that is so strange! It’s funny how there are hoards of people crowded all around it. Why?!?! I mean, I know it’s a famous painting but…

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HP November 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

’tis the season to take a Eurotrain trip from Christmas market to Christmas market.
Nurnberg, Salzburg, Wien…..
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:21 am

Exactly! We keep joking that this is just turning into a Christmas Market expedition.

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eemusings November 22, 2013 at 10:43 pm

That’s why I was so stoked to find out that as under 26-s we could visit the Louvre for free on Friday evenings! Not museum people at all, least of all art museums, so we bowled in, spent about an hour (maybe 1.5 hours tops) in there, then got the hell out.
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:22 am

Lucky you. Just one more reason it pays to be young! ;)

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Karisa November 23, 2013 at 6:33 am

The Christmas market sounds so beautiful and festive :) I wandered around a similar market in Rome a few Christmases ago and just loved it. Open air European Christmas markets sure are a nice change of pace from Black Friday at Walmart!!! ;)
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:23 am

Yeah, they totally leave Black Friday Walmart in the dust.

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Jean November 23, 2013 at 8:29 am

I too love Paris, the Louvre not so much…. but just wandering around my favorite city along with London. Am enjoying your travels through your eyes. We did a lot but my husband passed away and I do travel alone all the time but felt sad for myself reading your blog. Hmm must find a travelling friend or two…..Your photos are divine. Your smiles are contagious. You both are inspiring……

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:24 am

Jean, I’m so sorry about your husband. I hope you find a traveling friend or two in the new year. Much love.

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Sarah Somewhere November 23, 2013 at 8:49 am

You are so lucky to be there for the Christmas markets! I could think of no other place in the world which would be more beautiful and romantic at Christmas time. Love the ornament, and love love love your big red scarf!
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:24 am

You described it perfectly. And it is sooo romantic!!!! Last year we were in Rio just a few days before Christmas… definitely a different feel!

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Steve C November 23, 2013 at 10:09 am

Wandering around Udaipur the week before Christmas, you’d never know it was that time of the year. Never the less, I was bound and determined to add to our ornament collection, one from each country just like you’re doing. Then, finally, I found a small box with 12 hand carved and brightly painted little wooden animals. (I had written $1.12 on the box) Each had a little wire loop glued into the top. I have no idea what they were made for, but they became our ornament collection addition from India. Every year, when I unpack the Christmas stuff, I gently open that box and think of wandering those back streets of Udaipur, in search of something, anything, Christmas. They are my fondest travel acquired possession.

Merry Thanksgiving!

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:25 am

Such a great story! And smart that you bought ornaments that won’t break!!! I’m going to have to baby my bag for the rest of the trip.

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Kate Leatherbarrow November 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm

No judgment from me Kim. After my first trip to Europe (Spain and Italy) I decided if I never saw another Madonna and child i would be just fine. I’m with you…..art museums are good for a bit, to say you have been but moving on to find other gems is much more rewarding. So glad you are in Europe, even if not intended, I loved it and you will too, perhaps already do.

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:26 am

I am definitely already loving it. It’s so beautiful and easy!!!! I sort of want to move to Europe (one can dream…).

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Lauri November 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Our best trip to the Louvre was when we hired a private tour guide and had her gear the 2 hour tour to our kids. They are 10 and 14… and the tour was fantastic. She mostly showed us the moat that they discovered in 1980 when building the Pyramid entrance. It was from the original castle that morphed into the Louvre, and was in amazing shape. We then moved on to sculptures and avoided boring paintings altogether, except for the Mona Lisa, which started a big debate between the guide and my son about her eyebrows. It really was a fascinating tour and the kids loved it. They actually wanted to go again the following day, but we convinced them that there was more to see in Paris.

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:26 am

That sounds amazing. And such a great experience for your kids. Maybe if I had a personal guide I’d have enjoyed it a bit more ;)

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Cheryl Dinan November 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Kim, I really appreciate the paintings. I would like to have seen more of them. I love and miss you guys. Jessi is sad because Maggi has cancer again. It doesn’t sound good. Take care. Love, Mom

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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:27 am

Hi Mom. Poor Maggie. I’ll get in touch with Jessi.

Hi everyone else, Maggie is a dog!!

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Maddie November 24, 2013 at 6:14 am

Paris looks so stunning in the winter :-) I enjoy museums but have a wall that I hit where I just can’t look at anything more. I always make sure to see the areas I’m super interested in first just in case I hit the wall unexpectedly! My favourite part of the Louvre are Napoleon’s apartments, it’s just fantastic in there. You are lucky to see some of the European Christmas markets, they are so incredibly gorgeous and it’s such a lovely tradition.
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:29 am

Yes, me too! I always knock the stuff I want to see out first so that I can get the hell out as soon as I need to :)

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Christine November 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I love it! Absolutely beautiful! Especially the spread of macaroons! I hope one day soon to experience such things.
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:37 am

The macaroons are unbelievable! So colorful. They’re like art and not food.

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Lizzie November 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I’m with ya. I like museums, but after about an hour & ahalf, I’m like a saturated sponge that just can’t absorb any more. Local pubs, people, and markets–those are the true museums that are instructive of the places I visit–and where no amount of time spent seems like too much. LOVE the ornament!
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Kim November 26, 2013 at 12:40 am

Yes, you said it perfectly. I agree.

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Sara November 26, 2013 at 2:31 pm

First, I LOVE, absolutely LOVE Europe at Christmas time. It’s my favorite – all the markets, and the piped in music and the mulled cider. Second, we get a Christmas ornament for every trip we take – and every year we decorate our tree with all our ornaments, and it’s such a fun trip down memory lane.

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Kim November 27, 2013 at 12:50 am

I’m late to the Christmas ornament game but I’m going to start collecting them now. The only downfall is that I’m paranoid the ornament will break now that we have to haul it all over.

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Carmel December 1, 2013 at 4:51 am

Well, it’s good to know what fits you and what doesn’t. I love art museums, so I loved the Louvre and I can’t wait for Shawn to see it…but there are definitely things I could care less about seeing. At this moment, I can’t really think of any, but I’m sure I have a long list if I think about it…
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Kim December 1, 2013 at 10:54 am

Don’t spend too long thinking about it. It’s probably good that you can’t come up with a long list. XO

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