Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir (ce soir, what what what) Voulez vous coucher avec moi
So I suppose I couldn’t have done the more Iconic Paris things today if I tried. In my first full day in town I have checked off the Eiffel Tower, the Arc De Triumph and Notre Dame…and much much more.
I woke up early this morning and hit the Metro. I was lucky enough to just need to catch one train and up I popped at the Arc De Triumph. Sitting in the centre of the craziest roundabout in the world (not only is it massive…but it has NO lane markings) is this grand structure. It was definitely bigger and taller than I imagined it would be. This would be the theme for the day in retrospect. I took my pictures from the ground and inspected the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal flame before making my way up the 200 plus steps to the top. There was a really cool animated display just before you hit the top of the Arc which explained the history as well as the importance of the structure to France and its people- all with wizzbang graphics!
The view from the top was surreal though. Paris is such a beautiful city and I never imagined (or probably cared to predict) just how amazing it would be. From the Arc you get brilliant views of the Champs Elysee as well as the Eiffel Tower and every other building you would care to check out in Paris’ vast area. It was a clear day and the view was stunning. You can also see why many other cities have tried to, or contemplated, replicating the Paris layout. It is a well designed city for beauty’s sake at least.
After descending the Arc it was time to be uber-touristy and check out the Eiffel Tower. I managed to make my way there through the maze of French streets which I thought was an achievement in itself but I think waiting in line for a ticket is probably a bigger achievement. The lines were seemingly endless when you join them but surprisingly moved fast enough to not make one got mad and want to stab out your own eyes and the eyes of innocent bystanders. Which is something I feared.
Once again the tower was much more imposing and larger than I expected. You read about its size, especially how it was larger than any other building on earth when it was built but you still don’t imagine its true stature until you are standing underneath it feeling as if you are an ant. When I got to the front of the line they had paused selling tickets for the very top so I only ended up going to the 2nd level but I suppose this meant I didn’t have to wait around and gave me time to fill in the rest of my day with more things.
From up the top the views were good, but personally I felt the Sacre Couer view from yesterday was more picturesque and from the top of the Arc was more interesting. Maybe if I had gone to the top I would’ve had a different point of view. What interested me more was the shear impressiveness of the building as an architectural feat. Especially for being built in the 19th century, it is a design ahead of its time. Even the Elevators are interesting. On the 1st floor there was also a good montage of how the tower has become a film star in French, USA, English and films from around the word which was also really interesting.
After walking down all the way to the bottom via the stairs I grabbed a Brie and Salad Baget for lunch and was back exploring the Paris streets. I was on my way to Notre Dame Cathedral but I wanted to walk through the city and along the river instead of missing all the sights and sounds of Paris by taking the Metro. It took me a while but eventually with tired legs I made it to Notre Dame…which again was MASSIVE and much larger than I expected (see I said it was a theme for the day).
As I had already seen Paris from above so often I didn’t bother with the tower but spent a fair bit of time exploring the nooks and crannies of this impressive gothic cathedral. The outside (with the gargoyles, etc) was probably more visually appealing to me, but the inside had a lot going for it as well. Although I think the best part of the cathedral is the area at the very back which is different as most of the time the view of the first few steps in to a Cathedral is the “wow” moment.
The day was quickly flying past me but at 4pm I managed to catch another Free Sandeman’s tour of the city this time with Phillip (a kiwi) as my guide. As Paris is such a huge place we didn’t really get to see many sights up close on the tour. However, this is okay as I had already seen the big ones earlier in the day and the main reason I went on the tour was for the stories and the more minor parts of the city I would probably walk past and never notice unless I had it screamed at me by a guide in a red shirt. The tour covered most of the main parts of Paris though and I learnt more about the French Revolution than I ever knew (although admittedly I knew very little to begin with).
Partway through the tour though I ran in to Anushka and Mel who I studied with in Leeds. It is really weird how I keep running in to people I know while travelling around Europe…it is like we are all on the same itinerary or something haha
Finally the tour ended and I made my way back to the hostel to rest up after a long day. I do have two points about tourist life in Paris though before I go:
1) They love smoking here so much that even outdoors I am coughing…I can’t wait to get back to UK/Aus in that regard
2) If you were a beret while travelling Paris…particularly if you are male and/or have NEVER worn a beret before…you are the definition of a Plonker!
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