Today started with trying to post yesterday’s blog…fail! Oh well, we might just end up being a day behind while we’re in Paris.
After breakfast we used our metro pass to get our pretty little butts over the Arc de Triomphe. We emerged from our metro exit right across the traffic circle from it (which is a ways when you consider the crazy traffic circle has about 12 lanes!). Our first thought was that we had never really grasped how big this thing is. We had known it was tall, but it’s really tall! And wide! And thick! We stared up a bit, snapped a few photos and then entered the underground pedway that gets you past the madness of traffic. It brings you up right at the arch so you can breeze right up. Well most people have to pay but we just flashed our Paris Museum Pass and headed straight up uninterrupted.
The Arc de Triomphe was built in 1806 by Napoleon I. Returning home from victory he declared to his soliders “you will march home through arches of victory”. The monument was built at the end of the Champs-Élysées (with the Louvre at the other) to commemorate military victories. Famously Hitler and then de Gaulle marched from the Arc when taking over and then liberating Paris. We weren’t doing anything that epic, but we did march ourselves all the way up that spiral staircase. Was it worth it?
Pretty nice, eh? You can see the whole city from up there. We took in the whole 360 degree view as we walked to perimeter of the arc’s top. Then we hit the giftshop…we only note that because this was an exceptionally good one!
After tackling the stairs again on the way down (down being the true challange for Kristin when it comes to inclines) we took a turn on the Champs-Élysées. The Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets and most expensive strips of real estate in the world. It got it’s name from Louis XV and in the 18th century it became a fashionable avenue. At one time people would dress in their very best and make a day out of strolling down the tree-lined avenue. Our walk down was pleasant, but not as full of high society. We did see a lot of fancy shops, ones we could never afford to go into, like a gigantic Louis Vuitton. There were also some more manageable ones that you would find in West Ed. We then entered the largest Disney store we’ve ever been to (excluding ones at or around Disney theme parks). Our stroll continued right down past the Place de Concorde. This is a large central area with an obelisk from Egypt in the middle. This was the location of the guillotine during the French Revolution and where Louis XVI ans Marie Antoinette lost their heads.
Across the bridge from the Place de Concorde is the Musee de l’Orangerie. We had looked into the art featured here and had only heard of one piece. So, since there was no line & we could get in with our PMP we ran in to see just it. Are you curious what that one piece is? We really should be referring to it as a collection, because it covers the walls all the way around 2 circular rooms. It is Monet’s Water Lillies. We immediately understood why these painting are so famous, they were gorgeous. The colors were soft & flowing and yet the picture was clear. Up close there looked like too many colors ot be allowed, but the big picture was perfect. The variety between the colors and tone of the different pieces was also remarkable considering that they were all on the same subject. Basically, if you ever have a chance to see this take it, it is extraordinary.
We were felling a bit peckish by this point so we stopped at a road stand for lunch. We split a hot dog and a crepe. First, the hot dog was delicious! It was in a baguette style bun so it had a pleasant crunch to it. We toned down our crepe today and went with a simple apple compote on a sweet crepe. This was super yummy!
We thought we would round out our museum-going experience with a visit to the Musee d’Orsay. However it seems it is close don Mondays, so we’ll have to wait for tomorrow for that one.
Instead we caught the metro back to Notre Dame. Because of Sunday service and a special 9/11 ceremony that was held yesterday we had been unable to do the tower climb. Today it was open again though…and people were lined up down the block. The line moved fast though and we entertained our selves writing postcards from Paris 🙂 We flashed our PMP (yes we’re obsessed with what a good deal those were) and climbed up yet another steep and long spiral staircase. This was probably a longer hike than at the Arc, however it seemed easier. Maybe we’re already getting into better shape! Or maybe our bodies were just actually awake by the afternoon. At the top we were again treated to spectacular views. We were now situated on the East side of the city, as opposed to the morning when we had been on the West side. This gave us a little variety from earlier. The best part though were the gargoyles. They were on every corner & every outcrop. Some were traditional gragoyles, looking like horned demons & monsters, but there were also some shaped like birds, elephants and even people. It’s fun to think of them sitting up there watching over the city for years and years and years.
You were able to branch off and climb into the bell tower. The bells are huge! The tower itself is quite neat as well as it is all old wood and looks like rather ancient.
We kept singing the songs from The Hunchback of Notre Dame as we wandered through, but no sightings of Quasimoto. No! Wait! Look over there…
Once we had dizzily descended another tower we walked a few blocks to Saint Chapelle church. It is much smaller and tucked away in the Palais de Justice but Rick Steves had made it sound so lovely in his guide book that we figured we should check it out. Another sign that it would be good was the line outside. It was not tiny. But we had no where else to be so we waited…and played Drop 7 on our phones. The hold up was really security. There is more security at minor sights here than there was anywhere in London. They are constantly checking your bag and making you pass through a medal detector. Justine kept setting it off because she had coins in her pocket.
Saint Chapelle was built in the 13th century on the orders of King Louis IX to house Jesus’ Crown of Thorns. It was most definitely worth any length of line! We have been to some fabulously grand churches so far and yet this one may be our favorite. The first floor is beautiful with high gothic domes on the ceilings and color everywhere. Seriously, every inch of the place is painted red or blue or green or gold.
And as your still gushing about the wall paints you emerge no the second floor and find the most vibrant stained-glass all around you. There are 1,113 bible scenes featured on the windows of the chapel. They all shine bright & beautiful, telling their stories ot all the world. We just sat in here for quite awhile, overwhelmed by the beauty!
Also housed in the Palais de Justice is the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie was a French palace before it became a prison. It housed many prisoners during the French Revolution before they we sent to trial before the Revolutionaries. These folks often ended up at the guillotine. The prisons most famous resident was Marie Antionette, who was kept here for a few months following her husbands death as she awaited her trial. We thought this place sounded interesting when we read about it. Now we had some free time and were armed with out Museum Pass so we swung by. The architecture in the main hall was amazing. Check it out:
There were some interesting videos and exhibits depicting what life would have been like in the prison and a recreation of Marie Antionette’s cell.
Now we had a couple of hours to kill before our evening plans so we carried out a roving photo-shoot. First stop was the Louvre. We wanted pictures there when it wasn’t raining (because we somehow didn’t get rained on at all today!). Here are a couple of our best shots:
Next stop was Trocadero, which is a plaza across the river from the Eiffel Tower. We had a lot of fun with this one!
We had supper in the Tower area at a random little restaurant. Our meal was a bit of a splurge as we got both drinks and a dessert! Justine had a hamburger with a glass of Bourdeaux Sauvignon. Kristin had a Croque Madame (a toasted ham, cheese & egg sandwich) with a Monaco drink (beer+lemonade+grenadine=delicious!). For dessert we gave in to our new addiction…a crepe with whipped creme & ice cream!
And then tonight we finally did it…we went up the Eiffel Tower! Everyone knows of the Eiffel Tower but as we’re reaching the top here’s a couple facts. The Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair and the people of Paris hated it. They wished it to be destroyed after the Fair. It represented the science and technology of the Industrial Revolution and the Parisians wanted nothing to do with it in their old artistic city. Ironically, a century later, the Tower has become that old artisan masterpiece they had wanted back in 1889.
The line was actually quite quick moving and we were up earlier than we had expected, but it was already getting dark & the tower was already lit up. On the 2nd level you leave the elevator. We were very excited!
After exploring a little bit we got in line to go to the top. The sign at the bottom had said there were delays of 45 minutes to ride these elevators, but we were riding up in less than 15! There was a great moment when we first started moving up from the second level when a couple of ladies squealed in excitement. The view from the top was incredible! You are sooooo high up! We walked the whole perimeter finding all of the landmarks. They’re all lit up at night, which is quite handy for spotting them. Again we were amazed by how solid the Arc de Triomphe looks, and the crazy star of streets around it. Everything looked so cool due to how wide the streets were and how tall the buildings are. It made the city look super divided. Justine pointed out the Champs-Élysées and how it really fits into one perfectly straight line running from the Arc to the Louvre. Justine also realized she ‘s not a big fan of heights. Looking out at the monuments was fine but looking straight down made her a little queasy.
We also used the bathroom up here, just because we could…the top of the Eiffel Tower seemed an interesting place to go.
There was another line to get back down to the 2nd level, but we were entertained by the signs telling you how far away the capital (and sometimes other large) cities of every country are. We’re about 9,000 I’m from home! On the 2nd level we hit the gift shop then did the 360 degree tour. This height had a better detailed view of the city. Again we found all of the places we’d already visited and Justine pointed out all of the ones we’d see tomorrow.
We stayed on the 2nd level to see the “Sparkle Sparkle” show on the next hour. It was really neat to see from on the tower…although a little disorienting when you start walking down stairs during it. We walked down the stairs to the first level and did another tour around. Now the details of everything were even clearer!
Finally we marched down the rest of the stairs back to ground level. We are so glad we went up the tower at night! It was beautiful to see the city all lit up and shining for us! Until tomorrow…
Love, Luck & Lots of Stairs,