Day 3: Paris – Part DeuxPosted: June 13, 2012
I was up a little later than I wanted last night. I was working on my Paris Day 1 report when I hit a brick wall and turned in around 2:30 early this morning. I rolled over about 9:00 and finished my report. Hopefully you’ve read it by now. I take my time again this morning, its cold and overcast. The rain is holding off, for now. Down to the lobby for a few cups of coffee, back to my room, a quick shower, I’m dressed and out the door.
My personal driver from yesterday, Jean, is just pulling in with new tourists staying at the Sejours & Affairs. He asks me if I want a ride back to the airport. Absolutely. And off we go. Back to the CDG 1 Terminal to catch the RER into Paris. Just like that, I’m cruising through the Parisian suburbs and into the Saint Michelle – Notre Dame station. Up the stairs and out into the cool Paris air. Walking down the left bank of Seine River, there’s a magic about being here. The people, the city, the atmosphere…it’s unlike anywhere else I’ve been.
Approaching the end of Île de la Cité, I walk onto Pont Neuf – the oldest bridge in Paris. 400 years old, construction began in 1578, it went through a major renovation in 1994. Looking eastward towards Notre Dame, I’m treated with this view.
Turning around, here’s a statue of King Henry IV – torn down during the French Revolution, it was rebuilt in the early 1800s.
Further on down the Seine, a bridge with a certain gold hue is the next thing I see.
What are those things?
Padlocks. Padlocks? Are these from former street/riverside side vendors? I don’t know, either way the bridge and the vendors are just some of the mystique of this city.
I saw everything from out-of-print French romance novels, to 1980s Playboy magazines, to random paintings, to obscure art – a little something of everything. Speaking of random paintings, I’m headed this way for one thing: Musee d’Orsay.
The former home of the Gare d’Orsay, a railway station built between 1898 and 1900, its now a museum that houses Degas, Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh. Over the past two days, I took over 1,000 photos and would have had hundreds more if it weren’t for their no photography policy. Here are just a few of the interior.
This is a massive building. All along the main floor are bronze and marble sculptures. I didn’t think of it in time so I didn’t take any notes of the works lining the central spine – but there are several I recognized. Behind the statues on the left and right sides are smaller galleries ranging from Impressionists to naturalists to architecture. At the far end, opposite of the clock is a series of escalators taking you to the main exhibits featuring Van Gogh, Degas, and Monet.
On the top floor, looking out over the Seine River through a windowed clock, I see one of my targets of today’s trip: Sacre Coeur
I wish I had some photos of the works I saw. Saying I saw one of Cezanne’s Mountains, or Van Gogh’s Starry Night or his bedroom, or Degas’ bronze ballerina, or Monet’s La Rue Montorgueil or Cathedral de Rouen just doesn’t do it justice. As skilled as I think I am as a writer, I can’t describe what I saw. Famous works of art I’ve studied and seen in books or slide shows are now right in front of me. It was moving.
My two hours in Musee d’Orsay was far too short. That in and of itself needs to be a half or full day experience. Now I have another reason to come back. It’s now about 3:00 and I need to make my way to my next spot: The Invalides. About an hour later I make it there on the north lawn.
I’ve been walking for the past 4+ hours and I’m beat. So instead of heading in for a closer look, I just find an empty spot on the lawn and watch the people and traffic move past me towards Le Grand Palais.
Right behind me is the Invalides Metro stop that will take me to my next stop: the Bir-Hakeim Bridge. Named after a French World War 2 victory in the North African Desert over Erwin Rommel, it was featured in the movie “Inception”. I’m not going to lie, until I saw the movie, I didn’t know this thing existed. I wanted to make it out last year, but my schedule was so tight I didn’t have time for it. Not this year.
By now, the clouds are parting and it’s turning into a beautiful day. It’s a short walk to the Trocadéro and the Eiffel Tower. Climbing up to the top of the Trocadéro, they’ve turned the main grounds into a makeshift Euro Cup soccer watching venue. Fans are everywhere. Mostly young people wearing Portuguese flags as capes are all over the place.
I find a spot at the top, grab a chicken sandwich on fresh French bread and settle in to watch the people. It’s now about 4:45 and I’m starting to hurt a bit. I don’t go down to the Eiffel grounds, I still have dozens of photos from last year’s trip to process, but it’s hard to beat this view.
I spend about an hour on the grounds, just sitting on the steps watching the people. The Trocadéro Metro station is right behind me and from there, it’s just two trains to Sacre Coeur. In the second train, we were packed like sardines, there was no A/C, and had nine stops before I reach the Anvers stop – needless to say, I was a ball of sweat when I finally got off the train. Following the sortie arrows, I get above ground and right in the middle of a flea market.
Seriously, tents set up shilling all sorts of goods: “food” simmering in woks, bras/shorts/t-shirts in bins for 2 Euros each, knock-off Eiffel Tower statues, Vouis Luitton purses – sights and smells I won’t soon forget. I get my bearings and spot the top of the Sacre Coeur, it’s literally right above me.
This is at the top of the first climb, through the bazaar, and I still have three levels to go. But it’s worth it. From the top you get this amazing view.
It doesn’t show up well on these photos, but the bad weather is moving in. Looking up, I see the Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis at the top of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
I explore the grounds as best I can – it’s heavily built up on all four sides and I can’t get far enough away to get any good shots. I find a spot on the front steps and get back to my people watching. There are scammers all over the place, trying to take advantage of clueless tourists. I’ve got my ear buds in, listening to my iPod, so I easily brush them off. Others…not so much.
After about 30 minutes of just relaxing and taking in the scenery, I feel the first few rain drops. With that, I’m up and heading back to the Anvers Metro. By the time I get down to the Metro, it’s raining and the bazaar is breaking up and everyone’s heading underground. The easiest way for me to pick up the RER back to the airport is 3 trains and about 20 Metro stops.
It takes me almost two hours before I’m actually back to my room.
Overall, the last two days in Paris were incredible. I did everything I wanted to do. While it did rain, the rain cooperated extremely well. The Metro is incredibly easy to use and ridiculously convenient. Tomorrow I catch the TVG to Tours for a goof-off day before events at the track on Friday and the race on Saturday and Sunday. It’s almost midnight here so I’m going to wrap this up.
Paris is just…magical. I want to come back when I don’t have the race as the excuse to come over here. There are things I want to do and see here and things I have to do and see here.