Thursday, March 13, 2008

Paris: Day 3, or "I said I wanted to go to the top; I didn't say I wasn't scared!"

Paris Travel Journal

Day 3

On Day 3 of our trip (Day 2 in Paris), we woke up refreshed after finally getting some decent sleep. After showering and getting dressed, we went downstairs to the lobby of the hotel for breakfast, where we got to savor our first *real* French croissants! Coffee, pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants – my new favorite food!), mini-baguettes, frommage (cheese), salami, and dried apricots (soooo tender and sweet – nothing like the ones we have here!) were also sampled by moi. Matt the non-foodie had a bowl of cereal… and got the “I didn’t fly over 3500 miles to eat cereal!” from me. LOL.

After breakfast, we bundled up and set out for Le Tour Eiffel! I was soooo excited… I felt like I would *really* know I was in Paris once I got a glimpse of the famous Tower.

We took the Métro (Parisian subway) from our hotel. The subway system in Paris is similar to the one in New York; there are many different lines which run to all parts of the city, and you’re never more than a few blocks from a Métro station... ours was half a block from our hotel.

After we changed trains from the one that took us from our hotel to the one that would take us to Le Tour Eiffel, a man with an accordion boarded our subway car. Once the train started moving, he started to play, and it was so pretty and so Parisien that I almost cried from sheer happiness.

We had to get off the Métro one stop early because the one nearest the Eiffel Tower was closed for repairs. We came out of the station, rounded the corner, and I gasped – there it was! The very symbol of Paris!

We took many photos along the walk towards the tower, crossing a bridge over the Seine.

We walked along the river until we reached the Tower. The closer we got, the more amazing it was. It’s HUGE. As we walked underneath, Matt asked “why do my feet hurt when I look up at it?” I had to laugh, because I really did marry my mother – she gets “pains in her feet” contemplating heights, too!

We got in line for tickets to go to the top of the Tower. There are three levels; you can buy a ticket to any of them. Matt asked me if I wanted to go all the way to the top. "Mais oui!" While waiting, we chatted with the couple behind us, who were from the Canary Islands, and we sampled some frites from the concession stand. Matt had a coke and I had a café crème that I promptly declared “the best coffee I’ve ever tasted in my life.”

A word about French food – everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING tastes better in Paris. From the obvious things like croissants, chocolate, and rich, buttery sauces, to even things like potato chips, Coca-Cola (made with real sugar -- no high fructose corn syrup!), and mayonnaise. Food is intended to be enjoyed. The point of eating in France is not to just satisfy hunger (which we Americans tend to do by gulping down as many bland calories as we can, as cheaply as possible, while dashing from one place to another) but to really experience the sensual pleasures of food – the tastes, the aromas, the textures. One of my only regrets about our Paris trip is that I didn’t have enough time to sample as many different foods as I wanted... but everything I did get a chance to eat was divine.

After waiting in line for what felt like a hundred years, we finally boarded the elevator which would take us to the second level, after which we’d get a second elevator to the top. The elevators go right up the “legs” of the tower, and it’s a bit unnerving to watch the ground drop away from this tiny car filled with people! Matt looked at my face and teased me about being afraid. I replied, “I said I wanted to go to the top; I didn’t say I wasn’t scared!”

It was a looooong line for tickets to the top!

We spent some time on the second level before journeying to the top. We took lots of photos, of course. I stopped in at the gift shop and bought a mini-replica Tour Eiffel for Jacob, as well as a few other souvenirs. Then we boarded the elevator and soon we were about 300 meters off the ground! I tiptoed to the edge to peer down. The view was dizzying. And yes, you really can see all the way to the ocean.

Holding on for dear life!

Matt can't even look!

The view from the top

On the way down, we stopped on the first level, where we mailed some postcards from La Poste and sat for a bit before journeying back down to the ground. There was an ice replica of the Tower on the first level – when Jacob saw our photos of it, he declared it the “Ice-el Tower” ;)

While waiting for the elevator, the tendonitis in my ankles really started to flare up from all the standing I’d done that day. It’s odd; I can walk moderate distances without much trouble, but if I stand in one place for more than ten minutes I can really screw up my ankles. We thought about calling it a day and heading back to the hotel, but I decided to ignore the pain and keep going.

The wheels that move the elevator cables... just watching them turn is enough to make you dizzy!

Au revoir, Tour Eiffel!

After leaving the Tower, it was back to the Métro, which we took to the Musée du Louvre, home of some of the most famous art in the entire world. Before going into the museum, we had dinner in the food court below. Yes, it’s a food court – but nothing like the food courts of American malls. There are several stands serving different types of cuisine from all over the world. I considered carefully and opted (quelle surprise!) for the French: a generous filet of salmon topped with a creamy sauce, vegetable gratin, couscous, and a glass of rosé. (Oh, how I adore being in a city where a soda, a glass or wine or a beer all cost the same!) Matt the non-foodie had a burger and frites. Well... to each their own!

I discreetly put my feet on the chair across from mine while we ate, hoping that would help ease the inflammation in my ankles. Afterwards, we went into the museum and viewed the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and several other Greek/Roman pieces before going up to the first floor to see the most famous painting in the world, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Despite the admonishing of the museum’s brochure that no photographs should be taken on the first floor, people were snapping flash photos of the painting while the museum guards just stood watching. (My dad’s theory as to why they don’t care if people take photos: it’s not the real Mona Lisa.)

The infamous inverted pyramid

Venus de Milo -- I have a miniature replica of this sculpture in my bedroom, which my parents brought back from their trip to the Greek Isles.

Winged Victory -- this statue is near and dear to my heart, because she was one of the symbols of my high school. We had a life-sized replica of her in our "Pink Marble Hall".

The most famous painting in the world -- Da Vinci's La Giaconda, or in English, the Mona Lisa.

By the time we left the hall where Mona Lisa was, I was in tears from my ankle pain. We sat for a bit and then ventured back to our hotel. I took some Aleve and Matt went to the convenience store near the hotel and got me a Heineken, which helped a bit. A quick phone call to our boy, and we were soon fast asleep.

Coming soon: Day 4!


Ty-Anna said...

OMG! The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre...amazing...and the coffee? OMG I can only imagine! sorry your ankles were acting up.

Lisa D said...

I'm still drooling. The Louvre fascinates me...

Hope your ankles are better!