Sunday, August 8, 2010

Walking through Paris

By 8 am we’d packed the car and headed in the direction of Paris. Just as the weatherman said, we had light fog. Jim was driving very carefully to conserve gasoil as we were uncertain as to where we might be able to top of the tank if it dropped below the full mark.

We arrived in Paris about 9 am and our original plans of taking a taxi from the car rental place to the hotel with all of our luggage was no longer necessary. The streets were empty and it was fairly easy to drive to our hotel on Rue Cler near the Eiffel Tower. It’s a pedestrian street but we slowly drove down and parked long enough to put the luggage in our room….which was great…we thought it would be in storage for a few hours. Note…still foggy…we could only see the bottom floors of the Eiffel Tower but the lines were already several hours long.

Back in the car we headed towards the Arc de Triomphe and the Foch Avenue Europcar Rental Agency. Jim enjoyed driving around the Arc de Triomphe…always a challenge that he loves to tackle. We arrived about 9:30 and drove down the ramp to the underground area for the car agency and also a gas station. But, the gauge still showed full after fifty kilometers and so we didn’t have to add any gasoil….so happy as it was 1.45 Euros per liter! We generally paid 1.11 Euros per liter.

Checked the car in with no problems and then walked….luggage free…to the street. We crossed over five or six streets circling the Arc de Triomphe to the Avenue Hoche. We walked two blocks and arrived as the bells were ringing for the 10 am Mass at St. Joseph’s Church; The English Language church where we’d renewed our wedding vows with our children nearly two months ago.

Spoke to the priest after Mass and then walked back to the Arc de Triomphe and from there we walked for the next six hours. Did I mention that Jim’s sandals broke yesterday….he is back in his black regular shoes with socks and I’m still in open sandals. He actually admitted today that he misses his sandals. I really had to work to get him to bring them on the trip!

Our first stop as we strolled down the Avenue Des Champs Elysees was the Peugeot Dealership that had an unusual display called the “Peugeot Shanghai Expo”….yes….they have showrooms for several different auto manufacturers on this famous street. There was a very old limo…1934…an old bicycle…and a new model plus an advanced concept sports version.

We started checking the big movie theatres that dot the boulevard for new movies that have the “version original” tags….meaning that they are still in English and only French sub-titles. We’ve found the movie “Night-Day” and plan to go see it tomorrow afternoon.

Stopped along the way and purchased sandwiches and enjoyed them as we sat in the Gardens of the Tuileries at one of the large water fountains. They have metal chairs all over the park for people to sit in and enjoy the open air. Always seems to be an open chair no matter how crowded the park.

After lunch we headed over to the amusement zone near the Louvre and found the large Ferris wheel; always wanted to ride this one so we climbed aboard. Price was steep at 8 Euros each but what fun. We had our own little glass box and it rose slowly for the first oval as they loaded each box and then we had two more revolutions. Lots of photo opportunities, especially since the last of the fog had lifted and the sun was out in full force.

Continued walking through the Louvre around the glass pyramids and the fountains before heading over to Rue Rivoli and then in the direction of St. Jacques Tower. We stopped to gaze at the tower and rest our “tootsies” before continuing to the George Pompidou Center; very modern and totally out-of-place but extremely popular with the young folks. One of the designers was the same architect that worked on the modern courthouse in Bordeaux. We figured out how to get on the escalators going up to the restaurant on the top of the museum and enjoyed the views of Paris again. Then back down and through the small park connected to the museum….take a look at the wooden shacks that are attached to the outside of the Museum….modern art.

We were headed for the Marais and finally stopped to rest inside of St. Paul & St. Louis Church about 2:45 pm. Back on the trail we finally made it to our destination of the Place de Bastille. Yes…the 14 century prison that was destroyed in 1789 at the beginning of the French Revolution. The stones from this huge prison with eight towers were used to build the bridge at the Place de la Concorde. In 1899 during the construction of a Metro line, additional stones were discovered. They have been placed in a park called Henri Galli on the Boulevard Henry IV near the Seine River; they look like the top of a tower and are almost hidden by the flowers that grow wildly over the sides. The city has also used special paving stones on the street and sidewalks that show the actual outline of the Bastille at the Place de Bastille. There is also a large statue on the center of the square commemorating the liberation of the French people.

We were delighted to see the Seine River banks and the St. Louis en L’ile….our turn around point. We walked along the sides of the island as we looked at the August gift to the people of Paris: Paris Plages. They turn the right bank of the Seine River into a beach complete with games, furniture and everything one needs to enjoy a day at the “beach” during the month of August….in past years we’ve seen sand brought in for the full effect but this year we didn’t see the sand…cost cutting measures we surmised.

Soon we were at Notre Dame; could not believe the lines. It was nearly 4 pm and the line for the entrance to the bell tower was completely back to the park behind the church and the line to get inside of the church reached from the front doors all the way to the crypte entrance at the other end of the plaza. So glad this wasn’t our only day to see the church! Soon we were at the St. Michel Metro Station; purchased our tickets and made two transfers to reach our hotel the Grand Hotel Leveque on Rue Cler. Rested a bit and then enjoyed a beer with a jambon and fromage crepe downstairs at Creperie Ulysee en Gaule; the best in Paris in our book!

A long day but fun to write about….see you tomorrow!

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