Posted by: ganymedes1985 | October 12, 2009

The things I’ve seen in Paris: Day 2

The 2nd day was to be the most exhausting of our visit, since it involved a heavy tour around the city… by foot. 😮
We had an early breakfast, and were well on time at Trocadéro. This is one of the 2 possible arrival points when you plan to go to the Eiffel Tower by metro (station Trocadéro of line 6 and line 9), but in my opinion it is the most impressing one.

After a short queue (at the metal detector cabin) we got our tickets and went up to the 2nd floor, where without hesitation took the other elevator to the top.
The wind was strong and freezing, and everybody was pulling their jackets high around their necks. The morning fog still hadn’t completely vanquished, so we didn’t really get to see very far (for example, we couldn’t make out the white Sacré Coeur on the Montmartre hill).

After taking some more pictures on the 2nd and 1st level (and a pit stop with a coffee in a cafeteria on the 1st level), we left the tower and strolled along the Champs de Mars, taking a few more pictures of the most famous landmark of Paris.

The Hôtel des Invalides (and old military hospital and veterans home) is within walking distance from the Eiffel Tower.
Originally, I had only planned to take my friends into the Dome building, to check out the Tomb of Napoleon and several others… but since admission for the entire complex is free for EU civilians under 25, we couldn’t resist doing as much as possible. 
It had an area with loads of scale model fortresses and defensive works around major cities (directly under the roof); an area devoted to armory and harnesses (including harnesses for horses and teenage boys, Oriental weapons and harnesses and loads of cannons in all sizes).
In an other part of the building you could walk around and see all sorts of uniform styles from the Napoleonic era. This was really “my kind of thing”, since those uniforms are often intensely detailed with gold or silver embroidery, feathered hats, fur capes died in rich colors, etc…
In some of the side rooms of this department you could also see a travelling set used by Napoleon himself, with tent, shaving set, one of his cloaks… you name it! Highlight of this department is the well known “Napoleon in his Imperial throne” painting by Ingres.

In the end I don’t regret visiting more than just the Dome. It’s here that I realized that there is a big difference between a war museum and a military museum, and I actually enjoyed doing this one! I assure you: it’s worth spending a couple hours inside it, but we didn’t get to see everything in the 2 hours that we were there, so if you plan on visiting it, reserve 3 hours for it…

We quickly searched something to eat in a supermarket we discovered in one of the nearby streets (rue Saint Dominique number 67, they sell plastic spoons, forks and knives “on demand only” at the register).
After our little picnic we continued to torment our feet by walking. First over the Alexandre III bridge, with it’s golden statues at each corner, then turned right (skipping the Grand and Petit Palais) and strolled next to the Seine towards the Place de la Concorde.
Once there, I remembered a newspaper article of a guy climbing the Luxor Obelisk once to get a better reception for his phone… but I don’t get exactly how he managed doing that. It’s nice to learn how the transportation was done by checking out the pedestal on which the Obelisk stands.

The Jardin de Tuileries starts at this square, and with the sun still struggling to show itself, we had a rest on one of those cool reclined chairs.
But we didn’t stay too long. In the distance, the Arc du Carrousel and behind it the Louvre was reeling us towards them. The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel isn’t very large, but what it lacks in size, it makes up in beautiful decorations.
The Louvre appeared to be closed on Tuesdays… or at least this particular Tuesday. We didn’t plan to actually visit it (it is simply way too large, you easily need about 3 or 4 hours to visit just 1 department), but I had hoped to take them under the glass pyramid… still, a moment there on the square was sufficient to once again be reminded on how huge this palace actually is.

A rescheduling was in order. I had opted for visiting the Musée d’Orsay at this point, but once there it proved that everybody who had hoped to visit the (closed) Louvre, had decided to do d’Orsay instead. I can’t blame them, it’s a tempting alternative since it’s less than 10 minutes walking from the pyramid of the Louvre. So, we turned around and took an RER train towards the Cité (station “Saint-Michel/Notre Dame” of the RER C line).

click image for higher resolution

click image for higher resolution

Once there, we joined up the queue to visit the tower of the Notre Dame. I stayed in the queue while my friends (separately) visited the interior. Sadly 1 had to cut his visit short when I texted him we were nearing the part of the queue cut off by fencing. We were all excited to climb the towers now that the sun had finally managed to break through the clouds.

I’ve done my share of tower climbing, but doing the 387 steps of the Notre Dame is not what I would call easy. The first part of the spiral staircase is alright, but after the 1st rest point they become narrow, are worn out and sloped… and no railing. And I also do not get why the first rest point has been turned into a souvenir shop (because who would like to drag everything they just purchased along while climbing higher up the tower?).

click for higher resolution

click for higher resolution

When we finally reached the end of that 2nd (narrow) set of stairs, we found ourselves facing one of the famous chimera. You only do a small part of the 1st tower and then take a bridge to go to the 2nd tower. Here, you can take a little detour to the left and visit the  huge “Emmanuel” bell, before taking a 3rd set of stairs to the upper terrace.
The view there is amazing, and with the sun lighting the stones and gargoyles around us, it’s a really nice ending of the tour.

Back down, it was my turn to (re-)visit this landmark on the inside, while a service was going on. I had agreed to go last since I had done it twice already. It was worth the waiting. The sun was lighting the stained glass windows as I’ve never seen it lit them before, and when everybody went silent and a young women started singing, it made my 3rd visit to this place the most memorable.

Hunger! We were starving and longed for food. But I wasn’t done playing tour guide yet. Oh no. Since we were so close, I quickly dragged them to check out the Hôtel de Ville, and soon as we had done that we jumped into the nearest affordable restaurant we could find (we all decided to ignore Centre Pompidou, despite it being 3 minutes from the Hôtel de Ville).
Food wasn’t bad, but that’s all there’s to mention about it.

I had planned to have dessert elsewhere: on Tour Montparnasse, while enjoying the view on the 56th floor of Paris by night. A close inspection of the metro network told us we could get there.
The Montparnasse train station is actually quite big and a tad confusing at first, but once you spot the boards pointing towards the tower, it gets (a bit) more easy.

click for higher resolution

click for higher resolution

I’m not gonna lie about it: at € 10,50 (each) it sure was expensive to take the elevator up to the panorama level, but it’s worth it if you ask me. You can really see why they call it the “City of Light” from up there.
None of us was in the mood for ice cream anymore tho, we all were craving a beer! After a hard day like this, what more would 3 guys want? We all went for a pint! It was sogood! We had to down it at one point tho, because they were closing… anyhoo, our “pint with a view” was a perfect closing of our 2nd day!


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