Gadget by The Blog Doctor.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Europe 08 Paris Day 1

We had stayed up as late as possible our first night in Paris, so we were extremely tired when we went to bed and slept fairly well.

The next morning we felt reasonably rested and not particularly jet lagged.

I went down to the foyer to have a look around before we left for the Tower. In the foyer I found the table with our Tour Director waiting to meet her travelers. Her name was Lilo. I introduced myself and Lilo explained that the 150 passengers were to be divided up into four groups; blue red green and yellow for purposes of touring Paris and for the Sunday trip to the boat. I opted for blue group, and noticed that we were the second couple to meet Lilo. She gave me the itinerary for Paris. There was a tour that was included in the price of the trip and some extras that required more payment.

We met Phil, Bev and the kids at the Eiffel Tower morning. As we stood in line we were asked innumerable times to buy miniature Eiffel Towers. Marg bought a few for the children. The sellers were mainly from North Africa, probably Algerians. There were so many of them that it was difficult to see how they could earn any money. I had a chance to test my relaxed frame of mind resolution. We arrived at the Tower earlier than Phil, so we stood in line and bought tickets for us all. I was concerned that Phil would not be able to find us when we had bought the tickets as there are four entrances. Naturally he arrived in the nick of time and found us.

We traveled to the top floor. This is done via two lifts. The first lift takes passengers to the first or second floors. On the second floor, which is fairly high up already, we changed to the lift for the top floor. Even though we were at the Tower early, there was still a necessity to stand in lines. Later in the day the lines become enormous.

The views from the top were spectacular. Clearly visible were: our hotel, Arc de Triumph, Notre Dame, Hotel des Invilides, Monmatre and Sacre Coeur on a hill to the north, Ecole Militaire, Champs de Mars and the skyscrapers of the financial district.

Margaret and Hayley on the second floor

Margaret, Beverley, Philip, Hayley, Jack (Bev's youngest) and Jeremy

Paris from the tower, Monmatre in the background (with the glorious Sacre Coeur)

Margaret and Beverley chat near the tower

As the lifts were busy we all walked down from the second floor at least some of the way. Some of us paid with sore legs next day.

We had lunch at the Carousel between the tower and the river. There we came across our first gypsy scam artists. Some gypsy women asked if we could speak English. Margaret said that she could and the girl gave her a note with a spectacular sob story and asked for money. We were regularly pestered by girls using the same scam all day. Later I got so exasperated that I swore at one of them.

On the way to the Metro we came across another scam attempt. A man walked past us and dropped a ring behind Philip. He turned around and offered the ring to Phil and started to walk away. Then he came back and asked for money. Phil got into a fairly heated argument, and eventually gave the ring back and told the scammer to nick off.

We went to the Louver via Metro. I watched how Phil and Bev navigated around and stored away the information for later on.

We left a metro station and walked past a few shops and restaurants to the entrance to the Louver. We walked along a wide passage with shops and eateries, and miraculously came out under "the pyramid". I had previously only seen the pyramid from outside. I thought its modernism clashed with the classical architecture of the Louvre itself. This was, though, a completely different view. It worked wonderfully well from inside (or underneath) as a huge skylight. Conclusion: don't judge architecture until you have seen it from inside as well as outside.

The artwork in the Louvre is not only hanging on the walls and free standing as sculpture. The building itself was an artwork, particularly the murals on the ceilings. We did not spend much time in the Louvre ...

... but on the way to finding the Mona Lisa we came across Bernardino Luini's Salome Receiving the Head of John the Baptist. Philip read the details while Jeremy looked at the picture ... amazed.

The next time we go to Paris I plan to spend a day at the Louvre, after carrying out some comprehensive research beforehand.

We returned to Philip and Bev's room in the Marriot hotel on the Champs Elysees. Very swish! We relaxed in the room for a while then Philip and I went for a walk along the Champs Elysees. Although the street is the height of chic and style with many very famous brands represented there we found a department store come super market (called Monoprix) close to the hotel. We bought a few provisions there.

We went for dinner to a nearby restaurant. There were eight of us. Like many Parisian restaurants it was arranged for couples with tables for two sprinkled about the room. I decided to test my schoolboy French and said to the waiter "table pour huit". I realised that I had successfully conveyed my message as the waiter went off and put four of the tables together. We ate a convivial meal of pasta or pizza.

Later that evening we walked back to the Eiffel Tower to see the evening light show. The tower is floodlit at night and for the first three or four hours after dark a glittering light show occurs for ten minutes. After the show we said goodbye to Phil, Bev and the kids and returned to our hotel room.

The tower floodlit at night

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