Friday, July 03, 2009

Day Fifteen: Paris, France-Trois Times the Fun

Day Three in Paris-The Day I REALLY fell in love. I was softened on Day Two with the fabulous Louvre, and Notre Dame, but Day Three is when I got to experience the charm of Paris, it was a great finale. We woke up and took a metro back to the Island Notre Dame is anchored on, and where the city was birthed. We arrived, and I got in line to climb the bell tower (the line was too long the day before). There were already about 15 people in the line, but they let people in by groups of 20, about every ten minutes. You can start climbing at 10 am. There are over 400 steps up to the top of the tower. These stairs are tight spaces circling in tight spirals. There have been so many visitors who took this journey before me and the stone steps are indented because of the feet brushing past each one over the years. On the way up there are two stops-the first is at a gift shop (what's a famous landmark without a gift shop?), level one of the bell tower, and then, about four more flights up, the top! The pathway is narrow, and between the first and second tower you wait again next to a walkie talkie armed employee until enough of the 'other visitors' leave that area for you to move up. On the way BACK down there are no stops....and I was dizzy after the fast descent. You are at the mercy of the people before, and after you to determine the pace as you make that climb together. My Mom chose to stay down below due to knee problems, and exhaustion. From the top you can see the city as the gargoyles do, and it's pretty neat. I think I'm still caught up in thinking about all the people that climbed before me....LONG before me, what they saw, what they didn't see, what they experienced along with those same Gargoyles. Were I a writer, I'd write those gargoyle's tales...oh....wait, I think that's been done. :O) It's worth a visit if your knees will take it!

Our next stop was Montmatre and the Sacre Coeur. This is the ONLY hill in Paris, so the view from the top is stupendous. The church is pretty fabulous itself!

We took the metro, and when we exited, we wound our way to the funiculaire that took us to the top of the hill for the price of a metro ticket. Mom was ready to avoid these intimidating stairs, and it didn't take much arm twisting after my adventure in Notre Dame's belltower. At the top we took in the view of the city, and then we began walking through the streets. This part of Paris was left alone when 'the renovations' were done, so it retains the old charm, and it's the Paris I always expected to find (I also found this authentic feel in the Latin Quarter, across from Notre Dame). The buildings are each a little different, the streets are steep, and cobbled, and there are large windmills still resting atop their homes from their days of service many years ago (include the famous Moulin Rouge!). There are artist sitting under umbrellas in the squares sketching visitor's portraits, and painting scenes from around Paris. There are also some fun little shops, and cafes with great views of the city from the sidewalk tables. We stumbled upon one with the best food, a sweet waitress, and an even better view of the city below. We walked our way down off the hill, and took a Metro to Hotel des Invalides. We passed it the day before on our driving tour, but I wanted a closer look. It's many things, including Napolean's resting place (his tomb is directly under the gold dome).

Next, I wanted to walk under the Eiffle Tower.

We made the mile plus walk to the park that lead up to the tower, and walked around, I grabbed another crepe by the river (did I mention I like them?), and then we decided to walk to the next thing on my list-The Statue of Liberty. It was a much longer walk than I thought it would be (no surprise-despite all the sweets, and bread-I lost a few pounds at the end of this trip with all the walking and stairs.)

She wasn't as big as 'ours' (which I knew), but she is indeed an almost exact replica....go figure, the brochures don't lie. We then just stumbled upon a bus route next to the statue that led us to our final stop for the day, and so we felt adventurous and decided to take it, which was neat. We got to experience the people coming and going from the bus, and the city shutting down for the work day on the 45 minute trip. The last stop was the Museum of Modern Art-not for the inside, no, that didn't interest me, it was the fountains on the outside simply because in French Class this was the scene of many of the 'greetings among friends' that we watch to learn the language,'s the one spot I least I remembered something from all those years of French!

...and then, we shopped around, caught the metro back to the hotel, grabbed some bread (because I hadn't had enough), and got to sleep relatively early in preparation for our early morning trip to the airport. Paris was the hardest city for me to even like, it wasn't initially a very warm, and inviting place when we entered it through the large boulevards, but even those started to appeal to me after I got the chance to see some of the character that lies in the layers around the city. I think a must are the Eiffle Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Montmatre, and the Latin Quarter-they are a great representation of all the city has to offer, but had I not visited the last two-I would have left a little disheartened. HAVING visited those two places, I feel like there are so many more stones to upturn, and it's a place I'd love to visit again someday!