Rise and shine, 11 a.m. and put on yesterday's clothes (an I "heart" London shirt covered by a grey hoodie) and go to the Louvre. The building itself is a work of art (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louvre). I've been to many sporting events/concerts/crowded schools where people are too crowded they can't move...long lines etc..not here. There must have been 40,000 people in that museum with us but every line went at almost walking speed. Definitely a well-run and very well-prepared organization. In the Louvre is the treasured "Mona Lisa." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:La_gioconda.jpg) Fighting through the hundreds in front of it and snapping photos (which I didn't know was allowed) I took some video. The room was a mob-scene. I had always heard that the room was crowded but since it was a museum the crowd would be understandably quiet and photos (especially with a flash) would not be tolerated. Maybe the rules just didn't apply on June 10, 2009 because it was as if a celebrity was in the room. Lots of shouts and yells with a flash going off every 1-2 seconds...people shoving left and right with Mona Lisa herself just sitting there smiling and posing as she's done for the past 500 years.
Aside from the "Mona Lisa" the museum offered a few other Da Vinci's "Virgin on the Rocks" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_of_the_Rocks) and "John the Baptist." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John_the_Baptist_(Leonardo)) I was in art heaven. The building had thousands and thousands of priceless works of art and sculptures and statues as well. Another few of my favorites were the "Venus de Milo" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de_Milo) and the "Code of Hammarabi" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi) stone. Time to head out.
After leaving the museum and finding a stair to rest on a bit, we noticed a small gathering of people next to a braed stand in one of the many luxorious gardens. We head on over and notice that all the birds (I mean even the small ones that are usually to frightened to come near a human) are flying up into people's hands and eating out of them. (I did it and have video, it was very cool) It was so much fun that I got caught up in the birds enough to forget about the Lourve and its infamous pyramid 100 meters behind me. The Eiffel tower off in the distance. The Gold Dome (Napoleon's tomb) off to my left and the Arc de Triomphe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_de_Triomphe) straight ahead. The Arc was still a mere 2 miles away but could still be seen quite easily because of its size. What a moment.
Deciding to walk toward the Arc and taking the route of the famous Champs-Élysées (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champs-Élysées the finishing street for the Tour de France) We took our time. It was th middle of the afternoon and the rain/drizzle had finally let up. We took a couple detours off the path for a rest a drink but kept our eyes on the Arc (the center of the largest round-a-bout; 12 streets merging into one). Roughly 100 people were standing around/on top of the Arc so we knew we could get to it but it took awhile to find the undergound tunnel that led to it. Crossing the street wasn't an option unless you thought it would be fun to play frogger with the 100 cars flying around the Arc.
We got to the center of the Arc but once we did it started raining again and the 9 Euro it costs to take the stairs to the top to stand in the rain with a view that was cut down about 90 percent (because of the rain) didn't really seem like an enjoyable thing we were anxious to do, despite the fact that Doug and Aimee both bought $3 umbrellas from a side vender (Aimee lost the handle to the umbrella before even getting to the Arc).
One more stop on our voyage in Paris, Mont Marte (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montmartre) and the Sacre Coure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilique_du_Sacré-Cœur,_Paris). Catching a North bound subway to Mont Marte was one of the treasures I didn't really know about until I got there but quickly became one of my favories. The rain had stopped for a moment as we left the subway and stared up at the Sacre Cour (sacred heart) church. Lots of stairs, big shocker, but upon reaching the summit of that hilly climb the view was great. Another stunning view across Paris for another 3-4 min before more rain but as the sprinkles started to hit us Aimee's umbrella turned inside-out and more laughter and videos were made.
Heading inside the church was a great end to our quite adventurous day. A sit, a pause and good reflection on the trip itself and a reminder of how fortunate I am to do this. I think about all the time and am oh so very thankful for all the right circumstances, people, luck and determination it took to get this trip started. Day 9 complete. 18 more to go. (As I'm writing this, I'm on the speed train to Amsterdam, just stopped in Brussels and can see a gothic-style cathedral. All is good.)