one full day in Paris

Paris Travel Blog

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west facade of Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris, on the Île de la Cité

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.

east side of Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris & Square Jean XXIII
  Exasperated, she gave up on the frustrating machines and simply offered me the 90 eurocents I was short.  We pay then by coin and a ticket spit out, so she gave me directions to Notre Dame (change at Réaumur Sébastopol to Porte d’Orléans to Saint Michel) and set me off on my own.

 

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.

the north Rose Window of Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris
  Gestured me to stand close behind him, he inserted his pass and we shuffled through the turnstile together.  As we approached our respective trains, he spoke to me in French, but I understood not a word.  The only thoughts I managed to express in exchange before he disappeared were, “merci” and “I don’t speak French.”

 

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.

plaza of Musée de Louvre
  I walked around the north side of the cathedral, below gargoyles outstretched from the cornices, to Square Jean XXIII for an outside view of the chancel.  With gothic arches and flying buttresses, I found the rear of the building architecturally more interesting than the front.

 

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.

Arc de Triomphe (in the distance) & Musée de Louvre pyramids

 

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.

Evans & La Joconde (Mona Lisa) in Musée de Louvre
  Asking the staff for directions to the painting, I was confounded by the blank stairs I received when I referred to the world famous portriate.  Eventually, I grabbed a brochure and pointed out the picture; instantly the guard knew what I was after.  It turned out in French the painting goes by a completely different name, “La Joconde.”  I finally found the lady on display, but saw nothing too special in the painting.  Although lifelike, it was a comparatively small image of a rather unattractive woman.  I found countless of the lesser-known works throughout the museum far more captivating.

 

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.

inside Musée de Louvre
  To verify my course, I tried to employ the little bit of French I had learned from Anaїs and asked a couple of strangers for directions.  With rolling eyes and dismissive turns of the head, as if to scoff, “That isn’t French,” the locals I engaged snubbed me each time.  No matter; I found on my own.

 

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.

Evans leaving Musée de Louvre
85).  I noticed that the father of the family man behind me (who fortunately spoke English) had in hand a ten and two ones to buy his four tickets, so I asked him if he would give me cash and allow me charge his tickets on my card.  Problem solved, I had my ticket and some cash in my pocket, so I began the slow assent to the top.

 

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.

Jardin des Tuileries, Place Concorde, Arc Triomphe (in the distance)
   Precisely aligned and perpendicular to the river, are Parc du Champs de Mars to the southeast and place du Trocadéro (on which stands Palais de Chaillot) over La Seine to the northwest.  Looking down at the miniscule people below, I was disgusted to notice the ledge below, littered with cigarette butts.  What a shame so many filthy smokers show utter disrespect for the monuments they come to enjoy.

 

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.

Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower, in the distance) & La Concorde
  I had gotten so little sleep on the coach the night before that I could no longer function without a little rest.

 

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.

Pont Alexandre III across La Seine (bridge constructed 1896-1898)
  At Le Bistrot De Papa on Avenue Bosquet, my ears tuned in the sound of English.  Instantly, I made a connection with Area and Lisa, two Kiwi girls in search of escargot.  They invited me to join them, so between the three of us, we split a serving of six snails.  Not bad, they were a lot like muscles and far less slimy than I had expected.  My only issue was the molten butter pools in which they swam.  The half-hour delay receiving the bill precluded me from finding more substantial food elsewhere since I was in a hurry to get to the coach station to add my name to the waiting list for a ride back to London.

 

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.

looking up at Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower)
  My number on the waiting list was only eleven, but I would have to wait for every other passenger to check in and fill up the first two or three coaches until the last person with a reservation got on the last bus.  Only at that point would the company begin accepting the stand-bys.

 

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.
Parc du Champs de Mars viewed from the top of Tour Eiffel
emmllerg says:
Enjoy your next vacation to Paris
Posted on: Jun 02, 2013
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west facade of Cathedrale Notre Da…
west facade of Cathedrale Notre D…
east side of Cathedrale Notre Dame…
east side of Cathedrale Notre Dam…
the north Rose Window of Cathedral…
the north Rose Window of Cathedra…
plaza of Musée de Louvre
plaza of Musée de Louvre
Arc de Triomphe (in the distance) …
Arc de Triomphe (in the distance)…
Evans & La Joconde (Mona Lisa) in …
Evans & La Joconde (Mona Lisa) in…
inside Musée de Louvre
inside Musée de Louvre
Evans leaving Musée de Louvre
Evans leaving Musée de Louvre
Jardin des Tuileries, Place Concor…
Jardin des Tuileries, Place Conco…
Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower, in the …
Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower, in the…
Pont Alexandre III across La Seine…
Pont Alexandre III across La Sein…
looking up at Tour Eiffel (Eiffel …
looking up at Tour Eiffel (Eiffel…
Parc du Champs de Mars viewed from…
Parc du Champs de Mars viewed fro…
La Seine from the top of Tour Eiff…
La Seine from the top of Tour Eif…
place du Trocadéro (on which stan…
place du Trocadéro (on which sta…
filthy smokers have littered and d…
filthy smokers have littered and …
Paris
photo by: Sweetski