Saturday, August 27, 2011

Paris, encore!

I will slowly catch you up on all of our adventures.  Today's post will be the Paris portion, with a short prelude to the trip showing Darrell and Lindsey jumping off a pedestrian bridge into the River Aare!

Truly the most fun to have in a Bern summer!
We left Saturday, August 20th on an 8 am train to Paris and arrived in the early afternoon.  We then tried to figure out how to buy métro tickets and find our way to our hotel.  We were too early to check in so we left our bags at the hotel and went for a walk to a nearby park for a picnic.  The parks seem to be mostly crushed gravel – not much grass – but at least they have a fountain to drink from and some benches to eat your lunch at.  There are definitely a lot more homeless people, panhandlers and people with some serious mental issues on the streets in Paris than anywhere we’ve seen in Switzerland.  There is also a lot more dog poop.  Yuck.  After we settled in our room – which was fantastic by the way – Shanghai 202 in the Monte Carlo hotel if you want to book it for yourself – we walked towards the Seine.

Typical street corner in beautiful Paris
We walked to Pont Neuf, along the Seine, where dozens of book sellers have their shops set up.  It was a hot day in Paris, but I was still surprised to see a sandy beach along the river!

Man-made beach along the busy Seine
We crossed over to the Latin Quarter on the left bank where we had a nice cold drink, and then we walked back to Île de la Cité to see Notre Dame.  The line going into the cathedral was long but went very quickly.  I had forgotten how absolutely huge and amazing the space was inside.  I'm sure we would have gotten a lot out of an English-speaking tour, but we are on the quick visit trip this time, so anything I learn will have to come from our Lonely Planet guide and Wikipedia I'm afraid. 

On the way back to our hotel I caught this man hanging out of his balcony.

He has a great place for people watching
The next morning we took the métro to Le Louvre.  We got in fairly early but it was still super crowded.  We went straight to the Mona Lisa, assuming the crowds would only keep building, and then we wandered through some of the Greek and Roman antiquities.  We spent five hours in this amazing museum – just seeing a tiny fraction of it of course.  

Lindsey took this picture from one of the windows inside.  There are three large wings to Le Louvre and in the middle is the pyramid, designed by the Chinese American architect  I.M. Pei.  This addition made Le Louvre the largest museum in the world.  Underneath the pyramid is the information area and gift shops and entrances to all three wings.

Lindsey's photo of the outside of the pyramid at Le Louvre
After being indoors for so long, we were ready to brave the heat and walk in the Jardin des Tuileries.  We didn't last long before we needed a cold drink!  Here is the view from our cafe spot.  There are many, many statues (most with birds on them) in the garden.

Birds dominate the statues in the Jardin des Tuileries!
We walked through the garden to the Place de la Concorde with its obelisk, and then onto the Champs Elysées.  We cut to the south and walked between the Grand Palace and the Petit Palace – where Lindsey got some interesting photos in the puddles there!

Lindsey's puddle image of the Petit Palace
We ended up walking all the way to the Eiffel Tower – somewhere I hadn’t gone when I was here in college.  It was especially interesting to me as I was reading a mystery that takes place at the same time as the tower is finished – on time for the world's fair on the same grounds in 1889.  The tower is 324 meters (1,063 ft) tall,  and was the tallest building in the world for 41 years until the Chrysler building was completed.  We didn’t want to stand in line or pay for tickets (you can walk up the first two levels and then take an elevator to the top), so we just sat on the grass in the park and stared up at it for awhile.  

Le Tour Eiffel
For dinner that evening, we found a fantastic French restaurant where Darrell and I ordered the “menu” for 20 Euros (about $30) each.  For that price though we got a before-dinner aperitif, a salad and bread, the main dinner where we had choices so we tried two different things (I ordered the boeuf bourguignon, and Darrell had fish with a cream sauce), a glass of wine with the dinner, as well as a choice of dessert and an after-dinner coffee!  This was clearly the best meal and meal deal of the entire trip!  In comparison, when we were in Zurich on our last day together, we stopped at the local grocery store and picked up three salads that were marked “reduced”, one small bag of potato chips, one serving of French fries, and one juice, and we paid over $40 for that!  I have to say Bern seems reasonable after trying to eat in Zurich!

On our last morning in Paris we walked uphill to the Montmartre area – the highest point in Paris.  The first thing we saw was the Moulin Rouge – complete with red windmill – and then we walked up to the artist’s area near the Sacre Coeur church.  There were tons of artists selling paintings as well as doing portraits and cutting profiles of tourists.  We then walked around the church, and went inside.  A service was going on inside but many tourists just walk in a counter-clockwise direction around the whole service going on in the middle, just like at Notre Dame. 

Lindsey dancing to some street musicians outside the church
From here, we walked back to our hotel to collect our luggage.  On the way Lindsey found and photographed one of the Space Invader tiles!

So the space invaders have seen Montmartre as well!  I blogged about them earlier, and if you google space invaders you can find out more about this modern cultural phenomenon.

Next post - Amsterdam!

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