one full day in Paris
Paris Travel Blog› entry 64 of 68 › view all entries
It seemed to me that the 3:00am (CEST) break at a petrol station was a rather unnecessary and wasteful of our time considering we had taken other short breaks in addition to stopping for customs and immigration at each end of the Channel Tunnel. Notwithstanding, we arrived at Gallient Station before 6:00 and my Parisian friend guided me through the underground.
The machines self-service in the terminal do show Visa and MasterCard logos, but when I tried to use my card to buy a metro ticket, nothing happened. Between the bilingual instructions and my lack of experience using this type of machine, I continued having trouble, so I handed my credit card to Anaїs to let the local have a try. Struggling as well, she understood and followed the instructions, but her attempts proved as fruitless as well.
My ticket failed to grant me access at the second connecting gate and, recognizing my predicament, a helpful black homme wearing an industrial-looking denim jacket and navy blue beret waved me over.
At 7:10am, I emerged from the depths of the Metropolitan to greet the slumbering city of Paris before the sun. Approaching to enter the Portal of the Virgin, but I saw on the sign that Notre Dame would not be open until 8:00am.
Waiting for the turn of the hour, I took a seat on the sidewalk terrace of Café Panis. For my breakfast, they served a terrific omelet with French bread and delicious, but overpriced, fresh-squeezed orange juice. Once the church opened, I was among the first inside. Notre Dame is another exceptional cathedral, and the exquisite paintings that adorn the walls set it ahead. The brilliant North Rose Window, opulent chandeliers, and the intricate mosaic of Mary also left an impression.
From the Île de la Cité, I walked along La Seine to Musée de Louvre. As soon as I reached the plaza, it was clear The Louvre is big! I entered through the pyramid down to Le Grand Louvre, the subterranean portion of the museum and discovered it this Mecca of art and cultural history was far larger even than it appeared from outside. Just to see everything on display at a running glance would have taken a week, but to examine each work to fully appreciate every masterpiece, one could devote a lifetime.
After spending most of my time admiring the French sculpture and painting exhibitions, I became lost in the colossal galleries and vast corridors, while in search of the Mona Lisa.
After traversing the endless isles of the Louvre, it was a long walk (about 3.5km or 2.2 miles) to la Tour Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower). Through Jardin des Tuileries, the trees obscured my view of the tower, but I had a clear line of sight to Arc de Triomphe.
The tower appeared deceptively close when I first spotted it and as it continued to grow above the horizon. Only at the base did I realize how enormous it truly the tower stands. Before committing to one of the long queues for entrance, I found a travel agency to reserve my coach seat back to London. Alas, the carrier was fully booked. The agent did advised me that at 21:00 each night, Eurolines begins a waiting list for those who show up without reservations, but she also book a reservation for me on Saturday’s night run incase I would need it.
Back at the tower, I followed the ropes for half an hour to the ticket counter where the cashier informed me that they do not accept credit cards for charges under 10€ (~$9.
Reaching the first platform, I slowed only to look for the next flight of stairs. I had hoped to take the stairs all the way up, but they are closed to the public above the level two. In the queue for the lift at the second platform, a talkative English man of middle-eastern decent opened a conversation. As we progressed in line through the labyrinth of ropes, he and I intermittently chatted until we caught separate cabs.
The views from the top were unparalleled. Although haziness increased over distance from such an altitude, I found striking the geometric symmetry of the cityscape surrounding the tower.
I asked directions of some teenage French girls on the way back down and it was helpful to compare the map to my overview of the actual roads and landmarks below. The lines to get down were as long as those going up, but without the same eager anticipation, my descent felt quicker. Reacquainted with the ground, I crossed the street to Parc du Champs de Mars for a power nap on the grass.
By 17:00, I woke groggy, but able to function and got back on my feet. At the tourist information booth under the tower, I obtained a more detailed map along with a guidebook to see what else I could do in Paris. Sitting by Pont Neuf (New Bridge) on some steps leading down to the river from Le Port de Conti, I read my new guide and watched some Asian sketch artists performing their craft until police chased them off, presumably for operating their businesses without proper permits. I had been considering the riverboat cruise, but by the time I read the schedule, the last boat was gone and my decision was made easy.
Exhausted, sweaty, sun roasted, and famished, I browsed the menus of every bistro I passed en route to some monuments.
Still starving, I bought a Yop (a tasty, nutritious, and filling yogurt drink that I had discovered somewhere in Great Britain) to hold me over and took the metro to the coach station.
The two hours I sat on the waiting list were dreadful! I was hot, sticky, hungry, weary, and I secondhand smoked a pack or two while trying to sleep on the hard tile floor of the terminal. Eventually, I made the cut and we departed at 23:30. Along the restless journey, the two customs stops in addition to our breaks traumatically interrupted my slumber, but I did have invigorating conversations with several other passengers, all of who felt equally dismayed by the excessive delays. One couple from Davis, California, had extra French bread and cheese that they kindly shared with me and other hungry riders. It was a light snack, but one my stomach truly appreciated.