What a day! Glorious, sunny, not too hot, and full of exquisitely Parisian experiences.
DD (the great planner) had purchased tickets to the Eiffel Tower, complete with access to the top. The TOP! We took off on the Metro and of course, it was an adventure all its own. First we noticed a man quietly singing to a guitar in the rear of our car. It was very pleasant but after a few stops he seemed to disappear. Then we could hear the sound of a trumpet in the background, and I assumed I could hear the sound bleeding from the headphones of some jazz-loving fellow traveler. But NO! At the next stop two men leapt into the car. One carried a trumpet and one a melodica and they brought with them a small sound system in a suitcase. They launched into a spirited rendition of “Hit the Road Jack”. The tourists were pleasantly surprised but the locals looked a bit embarrassed by the performance. The song was prescient because at the next stop an official confronted them and quietly convinced them to leave. The atmosphere immediately became much more prosaic.
We made our way to the Eiffel Tower, and well, it is Freaking Fantastic. Sure, it’s the iconic symbol of Paris, visible from the air as our plane landed. And we were expecting something pretty special. But to stand underneath it, to see the millions of kilos of steel gracefully sweeping from the banks of the Seine to the clouds above it! It’s breathtaking. And it is crowded. An average just short of twenty thousand people visit the tower everyDAY. So if you’re thinking of just dropping by sometime, you may be out of luck. The line-ups are breathtaking, too. We swept by them (majestically I like to think) and went up to the “Visitors With Tickets” line (which was much shorter). We had a time to come, 11:30 am, and we were there right on the dot. The elevator car lifted us (hydraulically and diagonally) to the second level where we stood in another lineup for the trip to the TOP. That drops you at a penultimate level indoors, with windows all around to view the city in inclement weather. But not today! We climbed the stairs to the tippety-top, and stood and saw the city arrayed below us. What an experience!
Okay, I had to make a stop at the souvenir shop on our way out for some gifts for **ahem** friends, but we refused to stand in the line for the toilets because if there’s one thing travel has taught me, it’s how to hold it until it’s convenient to pee.
From the Eiffel Tower we split from the rest of the family and made our way to Montmartre. After a day spent indoors yesterday (and another threatened for tomorrow) DH just wanted to walk outside through the streets of some Parisian neighbourhood, and boy! we found a good one to explore.
First we had to eat, and decided that a leisurely lunch at a nice restaurant was just the thing. We found one (the Panorama) and although there were several good choices of establishments available, this one looked like the locals went there, and what better recommendation can you get? We were not disappointed. Our meals were tasty, the service was friendly and prompt, the prices were extremely reasonable (love those French wine prices!) and we left refreshed and ready for a long walk uphill to Sacre Coeur. We looked for the funicular railway as a shortcut, but a street had been blocked off for some tree removal and we decided that rather than backtrack we would just forge onward and upward. Upward being a rather daunting set of stairs which we took slowly and carefully. The stairs have a cobbled ramp running beside them, for which we discovered the reason when a man left one apartment building halfway up the flight maneuvering a floor polisher which he placed on the ramp and smoothly towed it upstairs.
The streets were lined by five-storey limestone buildings (which we really noticed from the Eiffel Tower). All of Paris is built of limestone. There are no pink buildings, no blue or grey ones. It’s a very nice effect, and of course, it must be on purpose. You also see this in Montmartre, as you climb the hill layer after layer of limestore buildings are revealed. And there’s a reason for this, which is here.
We reached Sacre Coeur breathless but unbowed. We didn’t go inside because, well, crowds. Plus the place looks so pure and inspirational from afar, the white sepulchre on a hilltop, floating above the corruptible city below. But up close it looks like a rather tacky wedding cake, all frills and furbelows. So we walked down the hill, stopping to purchase some Argentina empanadas and some red wine for dinner.
We also had a pleasant surprise when we returned to the Metro station. Its entrance is one of the original Metropolitain Art-Deco structures — so beautiful!
Not an original photo — there were so many people rushing in and out we had to get into the current of commuters or be lost.
Our homeward journey was uneventful (no aggressive buskers) but the empanadas and red wine were great with grapes for a light supper.