Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Grande Arche

Friday, April 13, 2012

One of my readers asked about the “Love Locks” on the bridge. We first saw them in Rome on the gates to the church across from the Trevi Fountain….where one traditionally tosses a coin over their shoulder to ensure a return trip to Rome…back in the early 2000’s. Then, several years ago we started seeing them here in Paris on the Pont des Arts walking bridge that has wire sides that are perfect for the locks. We heard that they cut them all off a couple of years ago but the bridge is full again; and you find them elsewhere also. The story we heard is that you lock the lock and then toss the keys in the river…so the lock can’t be removed…a symbol of everlasting love. I’m sure if you google it on the Internet you’ll find more information.

Yesterday morning we waited, as you know from my previous blog, for the plumbers who arrived and fixed the leak in the bathroom. Our time was well spent, Jim reading his new book that he absolutely loves and my working on the computer on my blog. It was noon before we locked the door on the apartment and headed towards the Metro Station.

The sun was shining and it was another brilliant April day in Paris. We were roasting in our warm clothing and could have easily not worn any coats; although once out of the sun it was still a bit nippy. We took line eight to Concorde and changed to line one there…all for 1.27 Euros each…the system is so easy and inexpensive! We rode to the end of the line which took us into the heart of the La Defense area. Coming up out of the Metro we were at the foot of the steps that lead up to the entrance to the Grande Arche…the third and largest of the war memorials here in Paris. This one is surrounded by very large modern buildings and you feel like you are in downtown Los Angeles (or any large American city) amid the skyscrapers. The missing element was “smog”…the sky was so blue and the sun so bright I’m sure there will be many sunburned tourists tonight. We snapped some photos and then headed into the Hilton Hotel to find a spot to nest until Jim’s cousin arrived. Only got about half an hour of reading before I walked over to use the toilette near the reception desk; on my way back I saw a group of people with luggage and stood there for a moment…suddenly one woman waived and started walking towards me. It was Robin…she recognized me from the photos in my blog. She immediately whipped out her IPad and gave it to me so that Jim and I could see the family photos taken on Easter. The whole family had gathered to celebrate with Robin’s grandmother….Jim’s Aunt Mary…who is 98 years young!

They checked into their rooms and then joined us for lunch in the shopping mall at Café du la Place. We each chose a French dish and began to share information. Jim has never met Robin before but knows her mother…his first cousin…and her aunts and uncles. Robin has a good friend, Sandy, who joined us for lunch; they are roommates for the tour.

We walked outside after lunch and although the sun was still just as brilliant….the jackets felt good as the wind had picked up. After photos we walked up to the top of the stairs…Sandy mentioned that they reminded her of the stairs in Rome at the Spanish Steps…full of people enjoying the sunshine and the view. And wow…what a view… you could easily see the Arc de Triomphe as you can see from my photo. Had I centered the photo better, one could see the oldest Arc at the Louvre…but after close inspection I caught the building on the right of it instead of the Arc du Carrousel as it is called.

The girls had not slept on the plane and also had a 4:30 meeting with their tour guide so we said goodbye after encouraging them to get on the Metro and ride to the Arc de Triomphe for a view of the Champs des Elysees before they went to bed. It’s an easy trip to make as their hotel is right at the Metro stop and it’s a straight shoot into town. It will be fun to hear if they went into central Paris when we hopefully see them again at the end of their tour in a week.

Back on the Metro we were whisked into the center again and exited the Metro at the Arc de Triomphe…hence the photo…and began our days exploration. Within the first fifteen minutes we discovered that all the zippers on my backpack had been undone. Not unusual in that area as we’ve had two previous experiences with the pickpockets there. But, wisely….only papers, books, umbrella, hat, etc. were inside and they didn’t remove anything. However, had a laptop been inside (and it is occasionally) that would have been gone. That’s why I always wear a security pouch for passports and extra credit cards. The other things are in a small purse worn across my chest and under my coat. I feel very safe walking in the city! Jim has a chain on his wallet that adds a bit of security but he only carries what we’ll need that day.

It’s now 8 am and Jim is up. He’s putting together our breakfast this morning..a first…I think he’s beginning to get his sea legs! LOL The older we get the harder this travel thing is on our bodies…I bounce back quicker than he does.

Jim took off his coat and I removed the sweater under my coat as we mingled with the crowds walking down the Avenue des Champs Elysees. We stopped and visited some of the many covered Galeries (Passages) along the way. Some were extremely modern while others had retained their earlier charm. Many had additional stores downstairs. A Starbucks was right in the center of one of the most charming ones.

As we continued east we saw a….had to be a tourist…woman in a yellow and black pants outfit. The perfect example of “what not to wear”! I was not the only one taking photos of her to send home. I even saw some gendarmes were pointing her out to one another and wagging their fingers.

As we hit the edge of the Jardens des Tulleries, we turned to the north to find the rue du Faubourg Saint Honore street that took us see Le Bristol Hotel (“Midnight in Paris” movie) and then to the French Presidential Palace: Royal Palais de L’Elysees…no problems taking photos here. Walked to the church of Madeleine…a wonderful old building with many pillars…very Greek in style and dark inside. We walked around the base outside and discovered a small exhibit of art…all about sacred light…and then finally the door to the little restaurant run by the church ladies guild during the week…we were too late as they only serve lunch so will do that one day next week.

Lots of brand name stores in this area…at Prada I noticed that they were pairing purple and orange…get your wild colors ready girls….and then the more subdued Dior and Chanel stores in The Village Royal passage…an open courtyard. I took a great photo from the top of the stairs at Madeleine of the oblisk and the Palais Bourbon dome.

Passing Maxim’s (where dinner will set you back about 125 euros easily) we rounded the corner towards the plac de la Concorde and found the Hotel Crillon next to the American Embassy. Here I was told “no photos” but managed to get a few. It was after 6 pm by now so we headed for our last stop: the Jeu de Paume where they now have art exhibits. It was closed for many years and is the twin for the Orangiere on the other side of the park that has housed Monet’s Water Lilies for many years.

We decided to not go into the exhibit on photography and instead caught the Metro towards home but not before I got a photo of the oblisk and the Eiffel Tower together. It was a quick trip and the skies had began to darken with pending rain. We made a grocery run at the Monoprix and still made it through the door to our apartment just as the drops began to fall. A good ending to a lovely day.

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