Day Eight

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Travelin-Tigers

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Tigres de Voyage

May 18, 2002
Saturday

Paris on Foot (Day 2 of 4)

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Paris on Foot - Arc de Triomphe

Paris by Tourist Bus - Eiffel Tower

Too Tired to Enjoy - Louvre / Notre Dame

Chinese / Groceries / Back to the Room

Day 07 Return to Main Page Day 09

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Paris on Foot - Arc de Triomphe

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Dave: After our late nite with chilly rain, it was easy to expect us to get a bit of a late start. However, today the weather was spectacular. The concierge lounge was closed so we agreed to get croissants and coffee from a kiosk somewhere. So we headed out to the La Defense Metro terminal with our all-day passes in hand. In a few minutes we were at the Arc de Triomphe / l'Etoile (the star) station.

Dave riding the Paris Metro

Riding the Metro to Arc de Triomphe

Dave at Place de la Defense

Place de la Defense

We were awestruck by the famous Arch. The hundreds of pictures did not prepare us for its immense size. We simply walked about the sidewalks circling the massive structure, taking pictures every few metres. The traffic was crazy, and the place was elbow to elbow with tourists. We really didn't have a plan for the day, and it was quickly becoming time to get one. We toyed briefly with crossing the street (via underground passage) and climbing to the roof to see the spectacular city views from the foot of the Champs Elysee, but decided to "wait until tomorrow". Of course, it was drizzling rain tomorrow so we never made it to the top.

Jesse at Arc de Triomphe

Dave at Arc de Triomphe

Jesse at Arc de Triomphe

Jesse at the Arc deTriomphe
Dave gets in the act, too
Our favorite picture of the entire trip

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Paris by Tourist Bus - Eiffel Tower

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Jesse: We took the opportunity of a restful view of Paris by bus, purchasing tickets at a red double-decker that just happened to be idling at the Arch. We bought our tickets and route maps and hopped on board, catching a nice seat on the top, open deck.

We took delight in snapping photos of the Eiffel Tower from various points along the bus trip.  Although the Trocadero was crowded with a peaceful protest and tourist buses, it offered a good direct view of the tower, the next step on our short bus trip.

 

Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower

Complex statue scenes on the front and back of the Arch

Eiffel Tower from Trocadero

The Trocadero was congested with buses and protesters

Riding the Tourist Bus

The double-decker bus was a welcome rest with a view!

We jumped off at the tower stop, and for the first time were able to appreciate the sheer size of the structure. Each of it's four legs could easily be a full sized building. The massive lines of people in front of the legs made a good comparison for size. As we debated how much we wanted to visit the observation deck of the tower, a rowdy group of people caught our attention. Some wore big hats, others had flags draped over their backs, but they all shared the same red, black, and yellow pattern. They set a giant Belgian flag under the tower, and Dad remembered that France was facing Belgium in a football game that night.

We watched the mini-parade of Belgian supporters like the tourists we were, then needed to make a decision on whether or not to pay for an elevator up the Eiffel Tower. After a moment of contemplating the lines and suggesting we could get our elevated pictures of Paris from the top of the Arch, we decided to move on instead.

Eiffel Tower

Palais de Chaillot through the Eiffel Tower

Belgian soccer fans at Eiffel Tower

The Belgians were ready for the football game that night

Immense Eiffel Tower

The base of the tower was truly immense, pictures from afar couldn't properly show the magnitude

Eiffel Tower

Ecole Militaire through the Eiffel Tower

Dave at Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Louvre reflecting pool and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel 

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Too Tired to Enjoy - Louvre / Notre Dame

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Courtyard at the LouvreDave: After our stop at the Eiffel Tower, the bus and its recorded descriptions seemed a great place to rest our tired legs and learn about the city of Paris. We stayed aboard by the Hotel des Invalides and the Ecole Militaire (Military School) made most famous by Napoleon. We rode by the Musee d'Orsay and jumped out at the Louvre It was impossible to comprehend just how TIRED our legs and feet were. Mine were aching and, at early afternoon. This was no time for us to visit the immense Louvre Besides, we still hadn't eaten lunch!

We walked through the immense courtyards, shooting pictures of tourists, and panoramas of the famous building. People were everywhere, and the line to get tickets was really the last straw. We were still searching for a lunch place, so we passed through the northern passageway, and out onto the street.

 

Ticket Line at the Louvre

The line at the Louvre was too much at 2pm, we would come back tomorrow

Outside, we found an historic city plaza was informally cordoned off, and filled with kids sporting the latest Paris fashions and going about on roller-blades and skateboards. Several cones were set up for slaloms, and others were jumping from and over stairs. We huddled amongst the onlookers and continued to search for lunch (actually breakfast).

Across the street was a Metro station that must be famous, decorated in red and cyan baubles. There were several overpriced cafes and restaurants, and we were really seeking just a carry away sandwich. Where is a hot dog vendor when you need one? We talked ourselves into heading for the Louvre "food court",  and returned to the courtyard and its famous glass pyramid (for more pictures). Instead we headed on out and down the street toward the Notre Dame cathedral.

By now it was nearly three o'clock, so lunch would soon conflict with dinner. The side street behind Notre Dame finally offered some kiosks with sandwiches and cafe tables and park benches to enjoy them. But an odd thought dawned upon us. Rather that having sandwiches at 3pm (and dinner at 10!), lets break for an early dinner instead. We picked up some juice, then headed into the side door of the famous cathedral (clearly marked "Exit Only" and "Enter through Front")

Unexplainably, dozens upon dozens of people were in our path, as we pushed our way through them. Once inside, an event of some kind was in progress with a man in suit and tie speaking (french) to nearly a hundred seated onlookers. It was neither a religious ceremony or an arts performance; we guessed it to be an historical lecture or political rally.

Hundreds of tourists were walking about, totally disregarding the lecturer and his lecture, as did we. The inside of the Cathedral was just like those we visited in Winchester and elsewhere during our UK trip four years previously. We took several pictures of the internments and various ornate wood carvings. Of course, we photographed the famous "rose window" as I explained that I learned of it during 10th grade Humanities class, but at the moment I really needed to know, I could only remember that it was "famous, somehow" and ordered Jesse to research that on the internet when we returned home.

We proceeded out the front (plainly marked "Entrance") and encountered hundreds of tourists mulling about with much the feeling of a Middle Eastern market. A large group of nattily dressed young men (matching ties and sport coats) were singing four part harmony. It seemed to me that they were a "glee club" from Britain and that the event was spontaneous on their part, rather than a scripted point of entertainment organized by our French hosts.

Here we stopped to enjoy the larger than life statue of Charlemagne, and encountered first four people in biker outfits and second a young man walking quickly and cradling in his arms a LIVE FERRET. We were both silent this whole time, communicating our surprise only through eye and eyebrow movement. Then we crossed the bridge over the Seine, walking past the restaurant where we had dinner the night before, and into the small neighborhood near the "Sorbonne" and referred to as the "Latin Quarter" on our map.

Paris Metro station near the Louvre

Jesse at the Metro Station

Jesse at Notre Dame

Jesse at Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral

The Famous Interior of Notre Dame

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral

The Towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral
Zoom photo showing tourists enjoying the view

Outside Notre-Dame Cathedral

Motorcyclists visting Notre Dame

Tourists mulling about the entrance / exit
An unexpected encounter

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Chinese / Groceries / Back to the Room

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Dave: We walked about the neighborhood, now intent on finding a cafe for dinner. It was almost 5pm and we had somehow missed both breakfast and lunch. We found a small grocery, and noted it to buy more bottled water (Eau) on our trip home.

We snapped pictures of French signs, then found a block with a bakery, butcher shop and restaurant (Pattisserie, Boucherie, Cafe). We were were tired and hungry and the host sat us at a very small table in the farthest uncomplimentary corner he could find. Others were seated with street views and in areas with slightly more space, but we sat and conversed, totally ignored, in the cafe's "Side Pocket". Jesse looked at me and started his stopwatch. At three minutes we agreed that we would be spoken to by five or would take our Euros elsewhere. We were ready to eat three meals between us, but that was not our fate. At five minutes we sternly arose and prepared our response when encountered the gibbering host, but no. We put on our jackets, and picked up our backpack and plainly strode though the cafe and exited out the front door. Oh well. Our departure didn't even raise an eyebrow.

Overcome with vengeance, I looked about to find the most objectionable place to spend my Euros, supporting some business that the local residents might resent, but there were no McDonalds or Quick burgers present. As we strolled back toward Notre Dame (and the Metro) Jesse proposed buying sandwiches from the bakery (just as we watched them being whisked out of the bakery's front window at 5pm). Finally our path crossed a Chinese / Thai  restaurant, that seemed about as anti-Frog as you could get within reason.

They had just opened (now at 5pm) and no god-fearing Frenchman would be eating dinner for another 3 hours. It was perfect! We were offered a table on the sidewalk, but took the one inside directly in the large window. We sat and rested our legs and enjoyed soup and dinner, with Eau and Jus d'Pomme. We left a large tip when we rose an hour later, with enough energy to make it back to the hotel.

Chinese for Dinner

Chinese for Dinner

Dave: After dinner, we walked back to the small grocery, and decided it best not to haul heavy water and juice through the Metro back to the Marriott. Instead we hit the Metro station and, in 20 minutes, were back at the Place de la Defense. Of course, to change Metro trains required that we drag our tired legs up one flight of stairs then down another two and across a half mile walkway (how French!), so we were glad we weren't hauling heavy provisions, too

When originally looking for the Marriott at first arrival, I had seen that an "Auchon" was located somewhere nearby. From my trips to Houston, Texas I knew of the Auchon supermarket chain and had researched their Texas super-center on the internet (out of curiosity). It would be a good plan to buy some beverages, and possibly a small dessert, then retire to our room to view the France vs Belgium soccer match that we had learned about from the noisy fans at the Eiffel Tower this morning.

A map directed us to Auchon, but in total Frenchness, we were routed a long circuitous route to arrive at the hidden shopping center that was just a few dozen paces from our original location. We grabbed a hand basket, and made many choices, including juice and soda, lots of water, and a few custard treats for the soccer game. We also picked up some fruit and cookies for snacking and on the train to Luxembourg. Like any super-center, there were over a dozen open checkout lines, and we chose the one with a woman with a large cart over the other lines where many people had half full carts. We chatted and watched everything going on.

The woman separated her purchases into three distinct sets, and this took extra time, the other lines were complete, and people that arrived as I was watching had finished and been on their way. Behind us were several customers, including two guys getting beer to go watch the game. The woman's escapades became unreal. We were first in line, so we were uneager to get in a new line, although many at the back of our line moved and I watched as they checked out and were on their way.

After her huge load of groceries was finally scanned and bagged, and as the woman's two small children fussed and crawled and walked about, she produced some "script" money, probably the French equivalent of food stamps. They would not clear the cash register. The poor clerk (a lanky twenty-ish young man from India) apologized in French, and continued to page his supervisor. The matronly woman (in universal grocery store green vest) finally arrived, taking documents, then left, then returned, then called somebody on the intercom, then left again. Our line was huge, and only the first three of us stayed the course as all the other rats deserted this ship.

The young woman at the next check out signaled that she was finished, turning away new customers as they sought her ever shortening line, and eventually asking the man at the end of her line to turn away others as she was due to close. Of course this was all done French, but between "Ferme" and "Si Vous Plait" and hand gestures, you could easily see the drama. She finally turned off her light, and our young man called her. "Can you help these two men", again with "assist" and "deux hommes". "Non" she said without emotion hold up her hand and closing her eyes to show her eyelids. Her day was done, and customers can go to Hell! How French

Our Indian helper was apologetic, again and again, as 10, 15 and 20 minutes elapsed. It was a bad omen when the French woman, third in line that had been chatting and snarling to our checker, snarled, snorted and turned on her heel for another line. Sure enough, we (and the two guys with the 12 pack) watched her check out and go, muttering and snarling over her shoulder.

Eventually, the woman's "script" was refused, after three visits of the matronly supervisor (who had stopped working on her problem to help the other teller balance out her cash drawer), and after she had produced her passport (marked Cameroon), and dutifully explained herself to three different Auchon people. Out of the blue, she reached into a envelope in her purse and produced a wad of bills, Euros of different denominations. She counted off one hundred, two hundred, fifty, seventy, etc. My mind flashed to the thought that she had in that moment decided to buy groceries with her rent money as her two and three year old children fussed and rocked and sat on the floor near the checkout. I was so glad that I had not added any emotional pressure to her horribly spiraling day.

Soccer and Snacks at the Marriott

Soccer and Snacks at the Marriott

We bagged our three sacks of snacks, and our watch said we had waited over 40 minutes in line. We stepped outside, and strode the block or so down to the Renaissance where we headed to our room and quickly turned on the TV. There were 10 minutes left in the first half, so we celebrated with Peach and Apricot juice and custard tarts to die for. Eventually we settled in and enjoyed the game, calling home to talk to Lyn and tell her about our day in Paris. I cut and pasted pictures on the laptop, and uploaded the pages so Lyn could see them in the morning. Jesse conked out first, and I was soon to join him in the fantastic American-style King Size Bed with its four inch thick feather bed and comforter. I floated off from Paris to heaven as my aching feet, legs and back stretched out and tried to recuperate.

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