Obamas tour Paris as president ends overseas trip

By Elaine Ganley

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, June 7 2009 10:32 a.m. MDT

People watch and take photos from upstairs windows as President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive for dinner at a restaurant in Paris Saturday.

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

PARIS — President Barack Obama spent a few hours as a tourist this weekend, seeing Paris with his wife and two young girls after his trip to the Middle East, Germany and the beaches of Normandy.

Obama wrapped up a six-day trip abroad that took him to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Germany and France. The tour included a speech to Muslims on Thursday and a trip to a Nazi concentration camp a day later. On Saturday, he marked the 65th anniversary of the Allied invasion at Normandy.

After the D-Day ceremonies at Omaha Beach, Obama returned to Paris with wife Michelle. They stayed at the U.S. ambassador's residence and spent time as tourists with their daughters.

The Obama family was up early on a cool and overcast Sunday morning. Shortly after 9 a.m., they arrived at the Pompidou Center, a modern art museum constructed of color-coded ducts that has become a famous landmark since it opened in 1977.

Obama and his family went to the top of the Pompidou Center, which has one of the best views of the whole city.

Crowds lined the streets in patches, with gawkers taking pictures of the motorcade.

The whirlwind tour of Paris began early Saturday evening at the 12th century Notre Dame cathedral, where Obama lit a candle and listened to a children's choir. Thousands of tourists lined the streets.

Then, the first couple went out for dinner near the Eiffel Tower.

It was precisely the type of sightseeing the French and Germans wanted to see. During stops in both countries, local reporters asked the U.S. president why he wasn't spending more time in their countries.

On Saturday, Obama grumbled about his busy schedule during a stop in Caen.

"I would love nothing more than to have a leisurely week in Paris, stroll down the Seine, take my wife out to a nice meal, have a picnic in Luxembourg Gardens. Those days are over, for the moment," Obama said to laughter.

Obama called French President Nicholas Sarkozy a friend and said the pair can pick up the phone and chat anytime.

"I think you guys are reading too much into my schedule," Obama said.

The president flew back to Washington on Sunday afternoon. On Monday, he planned to join Vice President Joe Biden at a Cabinet meeting on reviving the economy.

Associated Press writers Jennifer Loven and Jenny Barchfield in Paris contributed to this report.

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