Sunday, May 15, 2011

April 9th: La Vie En Rose

First of all, a little soundtrack for today's post.
Because I can.

Back to the Eiffel Tower we go, to see it in the daylight.

We were swarmed as we got off the bus by the souvenir sellers. They carry around these large metal rings loaded with mini Eiffel Towers and keychains...and apparently they aren't exactly doing this legally. The police pulled up at one point and they scattered like rats! Fully grown men running away with merchandise jingling like a chorus of bells...the police could have tracked them by sound alone if they had wanted to. :)

Underneath the tower....our idea to go up the tower the night before paid off. Lineups in the morning were already three times as long as they had been.

From the Eiffel Tower we decided to walk up to the Arc de Triomphe. It stands in honour of those who fought for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

There is a tunnel from the outer edge of the roundabout, under the street, which comes up underneath the Arc itself. They definitely don't want you attempting to cross the street!

You can see names of the French victories and generals carved into the surfaces on the underside of the Arc.

For a small fee (of course) you can climb to the top (you pay and you still have to climb stairs) for a 360 degree view of the city. The inside of the Arc isn't solid, there were statues and informational displays inside once you got to the top of the small spiral staircase.

And the view from the top was pretty fabulous. Here you can see two of the twelve streets that enter the roundabout around the Arc.

A second spiral staircase takes you from the top of the Arc back to street level. And makes you incredibly dizzy in the process! It may have been just me, with my lack of coordination and balance, but I felt I needed to watch where I was putting my feet the whole way down....and upon arriving at the bottom, well, I felt like just a wee bit unsteady.

The Unknown Soldier's flame underneath the Arc.

From the Arc de Triomphe, we headed down the Champs Elysees. Some shopping was done....mostly of the window variety. Lots of people out seeing and being seen, sitting at cafes along the way. It was warm and the sun was shining, such a lovely day to be out and about.! 

One of my few goals left for the day, other than heading for the Louvre and Notre Dame, was to have a Nutella crepe. Luckily on the way to the museum I was in luck.

A little messy, but delicious. And yes, there was a line, most of my tour had the same idea...luckily I was one of the first ones. :)

Some straight-edged, meticulously pruned trees...

The gates into the Tuileries Garden were gleaming gold in the sun...

And statues lined the path as we walked along...

The garden was humming with people out either sightseeing or soaking up the sun. There were chairs set up around several of the fountains/ponds and not a spare seat to be found.

The entrance from the Tuileries garden into the Louvre courtyard was through another arch. It's not a very centered picture, but through the smaller left-hand opening, you can see part of one of the glass pyramids. Just through the arches and to the left is a large statue of an angel. Behind the angel is an unmarked entrance to the Louvre,  which apparently cut down our wait to get inside. Funny because it was a huge ramp cut down to doors set below surface level, but without signs no one was using it!

And inside the museum, the inverted pyramid. We had plans for later to walk over the top of this outside...and ended up being foiled by low hedges and a fence. Which would explain why we couldn't see anyone up top when were inside the museum! 

This was a pretty quick visit to the Louvre, but we did see some pretty amazing pieces of artwork.

Winged Victory, 2nd century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike, presides over the top of a grand staircase.

And after fighting the crowds, we got to say hello to a certain smiling lady...

The Louvre is a beautiful building. And with over 650,000 square feet of space, not a small one either!

Our last stop before leaving the museum was the Venus de Milo.

You could always tell where a famous piece of art was....just by looking for massive crowds of tourists. :)

Back on the outside, we attempt to see the top of the inverted pyramid like I mentioned. These are the shrubs... The arch is the same one that we came through earlier.

The  four horse statue on top of the arch has an interesting story...the original statue was once displayed at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice...after being looted by the Venetians from Constantinople. In the late 1700's they were then was forcibly taken by Napoleon and installed on top of this arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. About 20 years later they were returned to Venice and reinstalled at the Basilica. The horses you see today are an exact replica of the originals. The originals now reside inside the Basilica in Venice, with another set of replicas adorning the outside.

From the Louvre we headed out to walk along the Seine towards Notre Dame. We crossed over the river on the Pont des Arts bridge. Lovers come here to attach locks, usually with names and dates on them, and then throw the keys into the river below to ensure their everlasting love. You had to admire the creativity of of some people....handcuffs anyone? :)

A view up the river...

And Notre Dame cathedral...

The carvings around the three entrances were incredibly detailed...these men are all standing on top of other, smaller men, and the one second from the left is poking his underling with his staff...ouch! Admittedly, I don't know enough about religious history to be able to identify or understand the meaning of most of the sculptures, but it was entertaining to look at never-the-less.

Votives inside the church...

There were two amazing rose windows, one on either side of the cathedral, with some beautiful stained glass.

Heading back to the bus for our pickup, I spotted this. A little home away from home maybe?

After our day in the city, our tour group headed out to Montmarte for dinner. We climbed up the hill towards the Sacre Coeur Basilica. Such a crowded place...see all the people on the steps?

An amazing building....

With an amazing view!

We headed from Sacre Coeur to the restaurant where we were having dinner...and such an amazing dinner it was! I had the best French Onion Soup ever, and duck a l'orange and wine and cheese...and something really tasty for dessert as well, I can't remember exactly what, but it was delicious!

After dinner, we headed back down the hill, trying not to kill ourselves on the uneven cobblestones.

At the bottom, I risked dashing through traffic to a traffic circle to get this next shot....

I didn't go see a show...the group was heading for the Irish pub next door...but it was pretty cool to see, especially at night with the lights shining.Next time I'm in Paris (and I'm determined that there will be a next time!) I'll go see a show.

Amazing food, interesting museums, beautiful city....what a fabulous day it was!

C'est magnifique!


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