Our visit to Paris, the first ever for either my husband or myself, was delightful. Everyone talks about going to Paris and how beautiful it is. We arrived on a gloomy, cool morning and took a cab to our hotel. Traffic was horrendous and it took a very long time to get there. Our cab driver, after the initial “Bonjour” spoke not a word to us but sighed incessantly the entire trip. I couldn’t blame him. It was a terrible drive but one would suppose a cab driver would be used to it. We checked into the Oceania hotel at 10 in the morning and had a quick bite to eat before heading out to see what we could see.
It was raining by that time. Did I say raining? Pouring would be closer to the truth. We had our umbrellas, portable golf-size so we walked together under one (Paris is the most romantic city in the world, after all) and carrying the other. The subway station, Porte de Versailles, was quite close to the hotel (unlike the Versailles itself which was a long train ride away). The subway system in Washington DC was fashioned after the Paris Metro so after a few moments of studying, we were able to figure out how to work the system and find our train easily enough. Like in DC, you have to know the last station on a line to determine which train to get on. Unlike DC, the tunnels are extensive, leading to various platforms and the train you need. An additional bonus – there is only one price for a ticket to all stops in the city which was very convenient.
We got off at the Notre Dame stop. As soon as we came out of the Metro, there was a small coffee shop there and we decided to stop and watch the rain from under cover. We had a coffee and eyed our surroundings. The Fountaine Saint Michel was off to our left. Of course, it was harder to see through the rain and would have to wait for another day.
The river Seine was off to our left, but mostly all we could see was the Bridge across it which led the way to Notre Dame. We headed there after our coffee.
It was still pouring. I was surprised to find that entrance to Notre Dame was free (in contrast to Westminster Abbey into which entry costs 15 pounds) and as it was raining so hard, there were few people lined up to get in. We shook the rain from our umbrella and stepped into the Medieval period. Those who know me will understand the impact of that statement for me. My heart resides in the Medieval world and this cathedral dates back to the 12th century. It was built nearly 100 years after William the Conqueror became the first King of a united Britain during the time of the reign of Henry II. Much of it inside is more modern as later Kings contributed to its glory but the building itself is a marvel. Words cannot do the structure justice and I still find it incredible that such buildings could have been made at that time.
|Okay, so I took this picture a few days later when it wasn't raining.|
There was a funeral in process when we got there so people were pretty quiet. Signs everywhere demand “Silence” and “No Flash” photography. We studied the wood carvings which tell the story of Jesus’ life – basically the theme of the rosary with a few other scenes added. These were incredible and we walked through quietly looking at each one, noting which ones were rosary themes. It was very moving.
We were getting tired by this time, having flown all night and gotten very little sleep so we decided to head back towards the hotel. We ate dinner at a restaurant near the hotel called Clement Versailles. It was early so we were by ourselves in the front of the restaurant. While we sat there waiting for our food, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. A tiny mouse, no more than an inch long, was running along the wall and finding an obstacle, scurried back the way he came. Such is the magic of Paris – I thought he was cute. I did, however, retrieve my purse from the floor!
Johnny should be writing part of this blog because he was able to continue touring Paris while I was at work. He visited the Arc de Triomphe, climbing to the top (sending me text messages all the way about how many steps there were). I did get to see the Arc later in the week but I wasn’t about to climb all the steps or make Johnny do it twice.
We did go to the Eiffel Tower one evening after I got done work. We stood in line for about an hour and 40 minutes, finally getting to the entrance. (There are two cars that take people to the top – one of these was broken.) We got in the first car which took us part of the way up at which point we disembarked and got into another, smaller car to get to the top. It was still daylight but hazy; this did not interfere with our view of the city at all. We walked all around the inside at the top catching all the different views and then climbed one set of steps to the outside. I have a fear of heights that is unusual; I’m afraid of dropping things from great height. I don’t know why. But I could not pull my camera out of my pocket. Fortunately, Johnny took pictures.
The lights came on while we were still on the Tower and after we got off and were walking away, we looked back and saw twinkling lights come on at exactly 10:00. It was beautiful!
On the one day I had off, the weather was warm and so beautiful that I just couldn’t imagine being inside so we agreed to simply walk about the city. We took the Metro to the Charles de Gaulle stop and climbed out directly in front of the Arc de Triomphe. After taking a few photos with tourists arms in the way, we headed in the other direction down the Champs Élyseés. It looks much like any other large city avenue although much wider and we enjoyed looking at stores and people along the way. We bought gifts from little kiosks along the way. We stopped of course, to have something to drink and continue to watch the street and people. From there, we crossed over in between the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais (museums) towards a bridge that reminded me very much of the Memorial Bridge in DC. Since Washington DC was planned by a Frenchman, I suppose this should not be that surprising.
We walked along the Seine – not at water level but at the street level above. This took us along a sparsely traveled area and apparently it’s a good one for con artists. As we walked along, clearly marked as tourists by the packages hanging off my arm, a man walking towards reached down and picked something up from the sidewalk. It was clever – it gave all the appearance of being real but I had just been looking there and I knew there was nothing on the walk. He then showed us a “gold” wedding band and asked us if it belonged to us and we said no. Then he offered it to us “for good luck” which we politely declined and walked on. It was funny. Ten minutes later when a young woman tried to pull the same thing, I waved her away in disgust and we kept walking. There was also some sort of petition that we were continually being approached to sign. I have no idea what that was about but we didn’t do that either.
There were a lot of houseboats on the water and you could see that some people make their homes on the water. And just because you live on a river, doesn't mean you shouldn't have a garden!
We crossed the Seine at the Pont des Arts bridge. The bridge is famous for a number of reasons but one of them is for the locks that are attached to the sides. The locks are put their by lovers who want to return to Paris or something like that. It was interesting, in any case
Lots of foxglove here...poisonous plants.
Interesting experience here...I was trying to snap a picture when some bratty American teenage girl came running by and tried to throw her hands in front of my shot. Her stupid giggly girlfriends were nearby laughing. I'm not sure why. First, she didn't come close to ruining the shot and second...it's a digital camera. You just shoot again. Embarrassing to run into ugly Americans when you're in another country.
We took pictures of the Louvre and continued on our way.
We stopped and had lunch and then headed back to the hotel as we'd made dinner plans with friends.
So what didn't I like about Paris? Cobblestone walkways....not easy to maneuver at any time - really inconvenient in heels. Men peeing in public. Really? Uh, yeah. The number of people who were clearly mentally ill. I was shocked at the number of people who were walking about ranting to themselves or just shouting at everyone. They didn't all look homeless either. Still, these few things are a small price to pay for a visit to such a beautiful city. We are definitely going back to Paris.