Saturday, October 25, 2014

Paris: An Overview

Eiffel Tower

Paris: An Overview

A long time desire is satisfied. I am now in Paris, the city of lights and romantic dreams. The only thing missing is a romantic man. Sigh.

However, I am with my good friend Joyce and we are having a wonderful time.

We purchased a two day On-Off pass for the L’Open Tour bus system. I have no desire to see a place through the windows of a tour bus and be told all about it from some guide who asks for tips later in the day. But the double decker bus tours, that appear to be widespread in big cities around the world, are more of an overview of a city, and I’ve enjoyed them in Washington DC, and Edinburgh Scotland. The information about what you’re seeing comes over a loudspeaker or through ear buds. It’s a great way to orient the layout of a city with respect to a river, mountain range, or some big castle on a hill.

We used the bus on Sunday, the first bright sunny warm day. Our pass included the river boats that run up and down the Seine. It was a great day to see the whole city, even some of the modern parts that most tourists never get far enough out to see.
 
Notre Dame Cathedral
My only complaint is that the bus speakers weren’t great and there were times, like parked directly in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral, that the canned tour never even mentioned the world famous site!! Music played most of the time between commentary, and it ranged from traditional French songs, opera, and jazz to country-western tunes sung in French of course. Couldn’t help but remind me there is a city called Paris, in Texas!

Hopping off the boat, we visited the Eiffel Tower. Neither of us wanted to stand in the extremely long line to ride the elevator to the top, but it was fun to hang around, eat an ice cream, and take pictures looking up into the open iron framework.

It was built for the 1900 Universal Exposition and was supposed to be torn down afterwards. Many Parisians felt it ruined the skyline, but its supporters won out. Another pavilion that should have disappeared is the Grand Palais and the Petite Palais, across the street. Both of these beautiful buildings are also now icons along the Seine and the Champs-Elysees

Returning to the center of Paris we went inside the Cathedral. What a feat of Gothic architectural engineering it is. It was one of the first buildings to use the flying buttress, which allowed the walls to hold a towering ceiling above worshipers without collapsing upon them.
 
View from MontMartre
The next day we rode the bus again, this time on the other routes so as to get a feel for just how large Paris really is. South of the Seine is the Luxemborg palace and gardens, the Musee d’Orsay with its huge collection of Impressionist paintings, and the Rodin Museum. North is MonteMartre, the cathedral on a hill. It was an old stone building, but of much more recent construction, not requiring flying buttresses. If it hadn’t been raining a cold and steady drizzle, we might have also enjoyed its extensive gardens. Getting to it was a trip in itself, as the area just below is the sex district with the Molin Rouge and sex toy shops lining the boulevard. We walked back, after the drizzle stopped, to the nearest metro through a neighborhood full of material and sewing shops. Dozens of stores lined the street with every kind of material imaginable.

The bus/boat tour had been a great way to spend a couple of days, one bright and sunny, the other a bit wet. We felt we’d simply “flown” over Paris like a bird with someone pointing out the sights as we swooped around. The next day we dug into Paris deeply, like moles looking for sustenance.
Arc de Triomphe

View of a canal from the Bastille

Tower of St Jaques, where
pilgrims began their journey
on the Camino de Santiago