Paris Stories and Tips

Paris 2007: Day 2 - Shopping and the Eiffel Tower

Arc de Triomphe at nightfall Photo, Paris, France

We walked a bit from the cafe by Musee D'Orsay to a metro stop, thinking we might be able to get over to the Musee Carnavalet but we waited about 20 minutes and no train seemed inclined to come and there were only a few people waiting. On the way out, I noticed the video screen that said the line we were waiting for was "non assuré " , which basically means service is spotty at best. We finally decided to hike to Place de la Concorde and maybe get the metro there.

Well that was the plan anyway. We got to the square across the river, which was the location of the guillotine during the French Revolution. There are fountains and statues, an obelisk and the "Grande Roule", an observation wheel with hanging pods which only have a canopy over them for coverage. Graham took one look at that and said he'd not be caught dead on it but I could go if I wanted. I hadn’t actually planned to but why not? It was very lightly raining but the canopy kept me more or less dry. Views were pretty good if hazy and we went around quite a few times, at least a half dozen I'd say, for 8 euros. While I was on it, it did start to rain a bit harder so Graham waiting below got a bit soggy.

From there we walked to Rue Rivoli where there are large buildings lining the street with covered walkways. We window shopped there for a few blocks though I did actually pop into one or two stores and picked up a few Christmas gifts. Some of the boutiques were very expensive but not all, to my surprise.

We decided we were getting hungry so with that in the back of our minds, we headed down Rue Rivoli, thinking that there would be cafes or restaurants further down, which there probably were had we got that far but we got sidetracked when we saw the tall column in Place Vendome where the designer shops are. We walked through the square and down Rue de la Paix to see the posh shops such as Cartier, Van Cleef and Arples, Dior etc, and then ducked down a side street that had some eateries. We decided on a very basic takeaway type mid-eastern place that also had some tables inside. Graham had a kebab and I had a very excellent pizza that was topped with marvelous cheese.

By this time, we've reached mid-afternoon and decided against the Carnavalet because it had been raining on and off, mostly lightly and the busses and metro so far today proved to be a bit unreliable. We headed for the nearby Opera Garnier which also seemed to be closed. Behind it, however, were the big department stores, Au Printemps and Galleries Lafayette which we did go into.

Galleries Lafayette is huge, there is one 7 floor store and another multi floor store for menswear and yet another one for home décor. The main one has a large centre open area, that soars up to a marvelous stained glass dome. Their Christmas tree nearly reached the dome, or so it looked from the ground floor where mostly all the makeup, perfume and accessories were. We went to the top to see the Paris souvenir area and I did find a few things I liked including a ceramic building about 4 inches tall which has a café on the ground and the typical windows with balconies painted on as well.

We trudged around the store looking for loos and an atm, both of which seemed to elude us though we did find the toilet. I was getting warm and a bit cranky with sore feet again so we left there for the cool air and found another café for a restorative hit of caffeine and a pastry.

The sun was going down so the next place we thought we'd go was to see the Arc de Triomphe. We had to walk a little way to find the right spot for a bus but we didn’t have to wait too long for one. The Arc was closed so we couldn’t get up to the top *damn strike* but we took pictures around it and looking down the Champs Elysee where the Grande Roule all lit up could be seen in one direction and the Arch La Defense could be seen in the other direction where all the skyscrapers are.

Back to the bus stop, and the same bus route will take us to the Eiffel tower. Every hour on the hour it sparkles with thousands of lights, with a blue beam circulating on the top. It’s very cool! We took pictures from the Palais de Chaillot across the river and then walked over to it. It’s dark so the tower is all lit up and you just can’t imagine how huge it is! You know you can see it from most of Paris depending on if there aren’t buildings blocking the view so you know it must be tall but it’s more the sheer size of it that stuns you when you see it from the other side of the river and watch people and teeny tiny car lights streaming under and around the massive "legs" supporting it. It had stopped raining but it was quite windy and chilly under the tower. We had no intentions of going up it, we had just wanted to see it up close.

And boy were there a lot of cars as it was rush hour! Traffic in Paris is just madness! Even when the lights change, cars and scooters are bearing down on you from around the corners and and don’t seem to care if pedestrians are in the cross walk. We’ve even seen them back up into an intersection. They just don’t seem to give a stuff! What really impresses me, though, is that the cars are all in very good condition. Compare that with the crazy traffic in Rome where the cars are all scratched and dented!

We walked towards the College Militaire for a little way and noticed a lot of soldiers around. We aren’t sure if that’s because of the military school right there or if it’s just general security for such a high profile tourist icon. We found what looked like a main road and waited for a bus that looked as if it would get us close to the hotel but it never came while we waited. We walked a bit further to the nearest Metro station which was actually on the line that would go right to our hotel.

And waited. But this time it did seem like the announcements were a bit encouraging. The trains would be slow but they would arrive. We chatted to a nice man who spoke very good English and translated the announcement for us. Seems the line we wanted only had one train running back and forth so if we waited long enough, we'd be rewarded. Meanwhile, there were two guys further down the platform that were well into the party mood though it was only about 7:30 p.m. One had a guitar and they were singing Beatles songs (badly) at the top of their voices. Still, it passed the time and was entertaining if only for having something to make fun of!

The train came eventually. I think we only waited about 20 minutes in all though we'd also waited 20 minutes earlier for the bus. We got back to the hotel and decided to have dinner at the restaurant that was right underneath the hotel, Café Mondrian. We both had onion soup and Graham had a burger to see whether French burgers were better. He said it was quite tasty and he was satisfied. I had a really nice salmon with rice and salad and we had ice cream for dessert by the famed Berthillon company. Very intense flavours!

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