After a leisurely morning, we headed out towards the Seine to get passes for the Batobus, a river taxi relatively new to the city. We stopped by a boulangerie for a mid-morning snack, which we partook of while sitting in the large courtyard of the Hôtel de Ville. Our destination today was Tour Eiffel; rather than brave the Parisian Metro or walk the 2.5 miles, we opted for the river taxi which was a pleasant ride.
It’s hard to believe we were actually at the Tour Eiffel. If you couldn’t believe it, the multitude of souvenir sellers made sure you didn’t forget. With their wares dangling on large rings or spread out on blankets, they were EVERYWHERE. My wife remarked later that there was no “official” souvenir shop in the area, unlike in DC where the National Park Service has a shop at practically every single memorial and monument.
Crowds, of course, were everywhere and lines were already long for the trip up to the top of the tower. Rather than get sucked into a long wait, we decided instead to walk the length of the park towards the École Militaire, which had its own skyline marred by a modern skyscraper in the distance. It’s the only one in “old” Paris and considered an eyesore by many.
The Champ de Mars is reminiscent of the National Mall (thought not as long) and looks as if it is undergoing revitalization. We wandered up and down both tree-lined sides, enjoying the fall changes in leaves and the different views of the Tour Eiffel.
After dodging yet more hawkers, we rode the Batobus down to the Musee d’Orsey, as we’d been told to eat in the cafe behind one of the giant clock faces. However, you have to pay admission to do so (the cafe is only accessible inside the museum) and since neither of us are Impressionist art fans, we opted instead to cross back over the Seine for the Jardin des Tuileries. We figured we’d eat and then venture into the Louvre.
The Louvre? It is an experience all its own.
We knew a few of the things we wanted to see, so we planned our “attack” around those: the Mona Lisa, the statue of Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and Hammurabi’s Code. We wandered through much of the Middle Eastern antiquities area and ended up in one of the statuary courtyards, where I found my favorite sculpture ever: Lion and Serpent, by Antione-Louis Barye.
After shooting a few of the statuary, we ended our brief time in the Louvre touring through the richly appointed apartments of Emperor Napoleon III. Talk about opulence…
The main thing that really struck me while we were in the Louvre was the sheer size of the place. I know we breezed through quickly (about 5 hours total) and didn’t really stop to admire much other than what we’d predetermined. I think we’d like more time to simply wander around, but it was getting late and by this point we were hungry.
For dinner, we wandered into a small brassiere called “Louisa” which was quite charming and off the beaten path. My wife tried ratatouille for the first time and really enjoyed it. (And yes, that came from watching the Pixar movie.) I think the best part of the dinner was the pure joy our waiter seemed to exude because we attempted to carry on conversation with him in French.
Though we were pretty tired when we returned to our sanctuary, we only slept for a few hours before waking in the middle of the night. I suspect we were still fighting off the jet lag. However, knowing that our next day included a late night out, the subsequently slow morning that unfolded wouldn’t harm us one bit.
(To be continued…)