Next up: France! We spent four days in Paris, our hotel within walking distance of Notre Dame, which was incredible. I hadn't realized Paris was so grand - we would walk in the afternoons along the Seine River, as the sun bounced off buildings that were each more extravagant than the next - enormous, intricate, gold. However, perhaps my favorite hours in Paris were the first time we walked west past the Louvre down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees.
Our visit coincided with the unrest surrounding pension reform, and while our travel wasn't significantly delayed or disrupted, we did see university students marching on several occasions. In addition, I took a very early train to Lyon one morning for work (about two hours by train from Paris) where a French colleague was supposed to meet me. He was traveling by train from elsewhere in France, but never arrived due to protesters setting up barricades on the train tracks.
Late afternoon, we visited the Louvre and walked what seemed like miles through the museum on our already tired legs. The Louvre is huge. Towards the end, I felt as though I couldn't even appreciate any of the art - it all blended together. I think I am supposed to say the highlight was the smaller-than-expected Mona Lisa, but in all actuality, I liked some other paintings better, such as Delacroix' revolutionary painting Liberty Leading the People or the massive painting of Napoleon's coronation.
We walked around the Gardens of Luxembourg, nearby our hotel before making the long trip to the airport.