Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Arc de Triomphe and views from the top

The famed Champs Elysees with the Louvre waaaay in the back

After leaving the Arc, Ethan got suckered by a Gypsy woman, so I extricated him from her pleas for money and we decided to walk for a bit down the Champs Elysees. We were worried that it would start raining, so we planned to walk just a little ways and duck into a metro station once the rain hit. Well, it didn't rain. The rest of the day was gorgeous and sunny. We ended up walking aaaaaaaalll the way down the Champs Elysees to Place de la Concorde where there is a huge obelisk that was graciously gifted to the French by the people of Egypt (if you cannot detect my sarcasm, you should be reading another blog now....) We made a detour along the way at Rond Point, stopping by the Grand and Petit Palaces (beautiful buildings), then back over to Place de la Concorde.

Walking down the Champs Elysees

The Grand Palais

The Petit Palais (having a Yves St Laurent exhibition)

Beautiful flowers at Rond Point along the way

Louis Vuitton store

Pont Alexandre bridge

Statue of Winston Churchill near the Petit Palais

View from Pont Alexandre bridge

Place de la Concorde


From here, we walked to the Tuileries Garden, and peeked into L'Orangerie Museum so I could take a peek at Monet's Water Lilies. A beautiful place for these paintings. Would have been nice if the people visiting had heeded the 'no talking' signs, but still beautiful nonetheless.

They let you take pictures inside, but no flash and no tripods, so it was pretty hard to get a clear, non fuzzy picture. A beautiful, round room though; with light shining through a massive skylight in the ceiling--muted by a heavy white screen.
An important thing we learned about Paris. Grass. Grass is for looking at, not for walking on. They have this sort of heavy sand in their parks, which is meant to be walked on. Doesn't get muddy when it rains, doesn't get tracked everywhere since the grains are pretty big. Grass is in many areas, but is NOT to be walked on. It is treated like a flower bed--benches are set around it so you can gaze and enjoy, but NOT walk on it. Interesting. The Tuileries garden was beautiful, with huge fountains, sculptures and reflecting pools. Very planned and pretty, and huge. A nice part of our walk. There are some very specific areas in Paris where people ARE allowed to walk on grass--mostly near the Army museum. These areas are packed with soccer and frisbee players. The weather was great at this point, and tons of people were enjoying the outdoors.
We headed from L'Orangerie through the Tuileries Garden, all the way down to the Louvre. From here, we walked back towards the Eiffel tower, then crossed the river Seine and headed back to the Army museum, and the nearby metro stop. All in all (according to google maps..) 7km. We took the metro back to our hotel to recuperate.

The Tuileries Garden

The Louvre, at the end of the Tuileries Garden

The Louvre

The Eiffel Tower

Just before we got to our room, we stopped into a Russian grocery store and bought some Russian vodka and some sort of fruit juice for a little beverage in our room. It was interesting seeing all the traditional Russian foods in this little store. Ethan was leery about the vodka at first, since it is stereotypically rotgut for serious alcoholics on TV and in movies....but it was really good. The bottle was pretty, but not quite pretty enough for me to bring it home, so we chucked it, in the end.

After our relaxing beverages, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower. We had purchased lift tickets before we left, so we could avoid the often mammoth lines that form to go up. This meant we were locked into a specific time, but we felt it was well worth it to avoid those lines. Our ticket was for 8pm, hoping to be up there as the sun set spectacularly. We got into the very short pre-reserved ticket line, and headed up. The elevator lets you off at level 2, which is 115 meters up. We walked around and enjoyed the view here. It was pretty cloudy, but with a spectacular double rainbow that unfortunately does not photograph well...

From here, we took another elevator up to the very top. It was very windy up here, and a bit chilly, so we wandered, caught the view, then lined up to head back down. I do like the fact that the tower was designed to allow wind to flow through it, rather than to sway with the wind like the Space Needle does. That sucker was high!! I would not have wanted to be all the way up there and swaying around with all that wind.

We walked from here back towards our hotel, stopping for dinner along the way.

Paris Day 3--Monday

We headed out by metro this morning and went straight to Sainte Chapelle, on Ile de la Cite. After waiting in a sloooooow line for like 20 minutes, we were informed that Museum Pass holders skip this we went directly to security, then into the chapel itself. Holy color overload, Batman!! You climb up a teeny stone spiral staircase to get up to the level of the upper (famous) chapel. When you come into the chapel, the light shining through all these massive stained glass windows is totally disorienting. Massive, massive tall windows everywhere, and color just streaming through. We found seats near the middle of the chapel, and sat there for about an hour, just looking at all the scenes in the windows. An usher periodically shushed people who were speaking (signs everywhere remind people to be silent--this is a place of worship), so it was pretty calm inside. After perusing the windows, we made our way back outside into the real world.