Paris At Last!

I’m trying out a new way to write my blogs…this time with an iPad connected to a Bluetooth keyboard.  Up till now I’ve used a laptop to write these, but that’s simply too much weight to carry on this trip.  So…I apologize in advance for the extra typos and spelling errors.  I don’t have as many tools as I normally do…especially when it comes to sizing and moving photos.  It’s a little frustrating, but I hope you still get the drift of our trip!

We arrived at our Paris hotel slightly after midnight; however, the four of us still wanted to get a taste of Paris before we tried to sleep.  With that in mind, we set out on the Champs Elysees.  It’s definitely not as crowded on an early early Thursday morning, but we still managed to find an open cafe.  We ordered Kir Royale and toasted our arrival.  No sooner had we made our post than it began to rain….hard!  Somehow, that seemed like the perfect welcome to Paris, so we slowly made our way back to our hotel and tucked in for the morning.
In spite of our late night we still managed to get up early and tackle a couple of the items on our Paris to-do list. We started our mission by walking down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.  This great momument has seen a lot of history…from Napoleon’s Funeral Cortege to Hitler’s conquest, to the Allied Victory.  It’s awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time.

 

Next up we took a bit of time to do some geocaching.  We’ve had our eye on a Arc de Triomphe cache for our 2000th cache.  Took us a bit, but we finally found the cache and celebrated number 2000 in sight of the great Arc!

 

Next was the Eiffel Tower.  This beautiful tower has been amazing visitors to Paris since 1898 and we are no exceptions.  We had a little wait in line to buy tickets, but soon we were on our way up.  You start up on an inclined elevator to the “Second Stage”  It’s at this level that you get some of the best views of the city:  Montmartre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, etc.  We spent some time here, but of course, one must visit the top!  Upward we go for a two minute journey to the top.  Up there is a pretty small viewing platform, seemingly with at least two people from every country in the world.  It’s crowded!  We quickly did the requisite walk-about and headed down.  It took awhile with some line-queueing, but we finally made it.  Good to go up….better to get down!  Finished our visit here with a walk through the Champ de Mars and then onward for more Paris.

We use the Metro to get around Paris.  It’s cheap, reliable and fast.  That’s how we got from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower, and that’s how we now get to Notre Dame.  We quickly arrive at the cathedral, but there’s a line to get in…a long line!  Seems we timed our visit to coincide with free English-language tours.  We’ve had enough lines for the day so we stroll around this beautiful building.  It was started in 1163 and took over 200 years to complete….and it’s just now celebrating its 850th anniversary.  This is the queen of gothic cathredrals with its many flying buttresses and protective gargoyles.  Stunning.

 

After our walk we boarded a small boat on the Seine almost in the shade of Notre Dame.  It’s a perfect spot to admire the cathedral and wave to people on the other boats cruising by.

 

I guess I should explain my pronouns….”we” and “our”.  “We” are Mona, Marvin, Aleta and Monte (Mona’s brother) Sometimes I use “we” to describe Mona and I…sometimes it means the four of us.  I guess you’ll have to figure it out.  This trip is to celebrate Monte and Aleta’s 30th wedding anniversary and to see some of the great sights of Paris, Rome and Florence with a couple of side trips to Normandy and Monaco.

After our boat cafe we wandered along the quays, looking at the book sellers’ stands and doing some people watching.  Of course, when in Paris you are constantly people watching….no way to avoid it.  Not only are the Parisians themselves interesting, but the whole world visits Paris.  You hear every language, and you see people from virtually every culture.  They say that if you sit in a Parisian cafe long enough you will see the entire world walk by….and that’s one of our bullet list items!

Speaking of cafes.  After we walked around our old stomping grounds, south of St. Germain – near Odeon, we stopped at one of our favorite cafes, Relais Odeon.  We sat here for quite some time, enjoying the wine and watching the world walk by.  All too soon it was time to move on.  We reluctantly yeilded our tables and moved on….to another cafe.  (Following Pam’s orders, of course!) This is another of our favorite Left Bank cafes, Vins et Terrior…and is the perfect place for comfort food:  escargot and beouf bourgornne.  Yum!  Great way to cap off our first day in Paris!

Next morning we hit the Louvre, the world’s first museum and arguably the world’s greatest museum.  This is the former palace of the French kings and was converted to a museum after the French Revolution.  It’s hard to convey how large this building is….and how extensive its collection.  It has two Metro stops all its own, and you still have to walk forever to get in and around.  With this much to see you have to have to have a plan: Pick a few key targets and pace yourself.

Our targets were the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Egpytian mummies.  Getting to these three targets still exposes you to a LOT of exhibits….Renasaince art that you’ve seen in pictures, Greek and Roman artifacts, and the palace rooms themselves.  The rooms of the palace were beautifully decorated with gold leaf, masterpieces of art painted on walls and ceilings…..indescribable!  We spent about four hours in the Louvre, till our brains got full up.  Time to go to a cafe!

Our next cafe was on the north side of Notre Dame, giving us a great view of the spires and innumerable gargoyles.  Perfect!  Afterwards, we visited the inside of Notre Dame.  Most of the time in here you are looking up….the incredible and huge stained glass….the arches….the columns reaching up.  They built this when????…over 400 years before America was discovered????  How could this be??  Incredible.

 

We hadn’t had enough yet, so we caught the Metro and headed to Montmartre….one of the few hills of Paris.  We took the funicular (inclined railway) to the top and landed at the base of Sacre Coure…a white basilica on top of the butte.  We then wandered over to Place du Tertre where there’s a square lined on the inside with working artists and on the outside with cafes.  We walked around admiring the art, buying none (for the first time!)  and finally landed at yet another cafe.  Sipping wine, eating crepes and watching the world walk by!

Afterwards, we wandered the down the hill, stopping to admire the quaint homes and stopping to walk through the unique Montmartre Cemetery.

We were getting a little tired so it was time to rest and relax….at a cafe of course!  This time it was Cafe Francious with a truly incredible view of the Eifflel Tower.  The tower is beautiful by day, but it is amazing by night.  After dusk it lights up showing off its style….and once an hour there’s an incredible light show making the entire tower sparkle!  It must be seen to be believed!

It was a big day for us.  Time to wander the back streets home and find our way to our beds!

Next morning we were off to see Sainte Chapelle; a gothic cathedral built to house the crown of thorns.  Saint Chapelle was built in the early 1200’s and was built in only six years as opposed to the over 200 years required to build Notre Dame.  Sainte Chapelle is known for its amazing stained glass windows each of which tell part of the story of the Bible.  These windows make Sainte Chapelle a theatre of light and bedazzle anyone who has the priveledge of seeing them.  The lower chappel, built for the commoners, is also beautiful in its own way and is not to be missed.

 

Afterwards we wandered through the Sainte Germain des Pres area, visiting the little boulangeries and patisseries….and just enjoying the sights and sounds of normal  Parisian life. after a couple of hours  we wound up back by Boule Mich, caught a cab and headed to Port d’Alma for a little the de rigueur Bateaux -Mouches boat ride on the Seine.  They provide a narrative tour of the Seine….in ten languages so you have to listen closely for when your language comes up.  Sometimes you get confused, thinking it’s in English, but you’re actually listening to the Japanese version…or is that just me?

Of course, while on the boat we all had to follow standard boat protocol which means you must wildly wave at everyone on shore, on the bridges and on other boats.  I wonder if the pirates of the Caribbean had to do this waving, too?  Maybe that’s what made them grumpy and that’s why they started all that pillaging and what not….but, I digress.

Made our way home, enjoying the sights and sounds of the Champs Elysees at night.  Endless car noise, people talking in every language, and street performers doing every flip, bird song and dance imaginable.  Can’t get that kind of entertainment on Manor Drive!

Afterwards, Mona and I visited the Sephora mothership…right next door to the Marriott.  On our way back we semi-crashed a fashion premiere.  We got in okay, and got to gawke at the models….but the fun ended when they they wanted to charge us for drinks.  The audacity!  We decided to take our business elsewhere!

Time for some sleep….more to follow!

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