Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 20: Paris Calling

After a hearty breakfast, we head out to Gare du Nord to find the Tourist Office. Like any other city, we decide to take the city pass and the sightseeing package. You can find your tickets at the local tourism office. For more info, click here.

Collecting our passes we then made our way to the blue line bus stop. As usual we missed the one closest to us and walked quite a while down to the Place de la Bastille. The Place de la Bastille is a square in Paris, where the Bastille prison stood until the 'Storming of the Bastille' in 1879-80 and its subsequent destruction. Today at the centre of the square stands the Colonne de Juillet (July Column) which is dedicated to the 1930 revolution.

Across the road is an impressive structure. A huge block in the city and modern in every way, we later learned that this place is the opera house or known as L'Opéra de la Bastille, and is the home base of the Opéra National de Paris.

Observing all this we waited here for almost an hour and half before we called up information only to gather the fact that today there was a bus strike and the blue line was not plying. Grr! Lucky for us there was a Metro station right there. By now having got the hang of public transport in Europe we make use of it just right. We rode the metro to the Notre Dame stop. And from here we followed road signs to get to the Cathedral.

The Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris or commonly known as the Notre Dame is an amazing and beautiful cathedral. Built in Gothic architecture this catherdral caters to the Roman Catholic population of Paris. Well there were hordes of tourist waiting to enter and one needs to be reminded that this is a place of worship. The architecture is amazing inside and out. One has an option to climb to the top of the cathedral but we decided to skip it. We spent some time in the cathedral praying as well as admiring the architecture and stained glass windows. Situated on the  banks of the Sienne, one must visit the Notre Dame when in Pars.

From here we hoped back onto the bus and rode to the Place de la ConcordeMusée d'Orsay , Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe.

The Place de la Concorde is one of the largest public squares in Paris. 86,400 square metres, it is situated along the Seine and separates the Tuilerie Gardens from the beginning of the Champs Elysées. We got down at the square, admired it beautiful fountains and the obelisk. The Fontaines de la Concorde are two monumental fountains located in the Place de la Concorde, the south fountain commemorating the maritime commerce and industry of France, while the north fountain c navigation and commerce on the rivers of France. These fountains are a must view for the sculptors and attention to detail. And it feels wonderful to be sprayed by the waters in the Paris sun.

The center of  Place de la Concorde you will find a giant Egyptian obelisk 'Luxor Obelisk' decorated with hieroglyphics from the time of Ramses II. It is said to have been gifted to the French in the nineteenth century by the Egyptian government.

After a brief stopover at the place de la concorde, we get back on Paris L'Open Tour bus before we proceed to the Champs-Élysées. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées as it is known in France, is truly the most beautiful avenue i have ever seen in my life. Lined with cinemas, coffee shops and shopping boutiques, this drive confirms that you are in the heart of Paris. What you will also come to love are the beaitufully shaped tress and gardens.

Next stop the Arc de Triomphe. We got off the bus here and it started raining. Had to cross a really busy intersection to get some shelter and also reach the monument. The structure is impressive and was built in honour of all those who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. On the inside and the top of the arc, one can find the names of all the generals and wars fought. Underneath the monument is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I. A flame continually burns here in memory of all those who sacrificed their lives.

From here's, though we can see it rising up above, is the next stop that will get us to the Eiffel Tower. Woohoo. As the bus snakes through the lanes, getting closer all the while, you can get to see the Eiffel Tower from different angles. What wouldn't I have given to live in one of those homes that open up to this majestic beauty everyday.

We get off at the Trocadéro and walk towards the tower. I honestly cannot put into words how awesome, magnificent, breathtaking the Eiffel Tower is. I stood in awe and must have clicked a 100 pictures of this beauty. Standing underneath the tower you cannot but marvel at the way this structure had been built. It's an engineering perfection. We decided a trip right up the tower is a must. We walk to the first level are some 300 steps. A lift takes us up the second level, you also have the option of climbing up here. The third level however and the highest is accessible only by lift. So we rode up to the 3rd floor some 137 meter high. The ride in the open elevators can be freaky but it's a must do. The view from the top is simply mind-blowing. You can see the whole of Paris and as far as the eye can see. Also on this level is the office of the master genius designer and engineer Gustave Eiffel. It has been reconstructed to show him at work in his office. I wish I could stay here forever but I had to go. Bye bye Eiffel... I love you!

Back on the ground I purchased mementos for my family and self. I still have that key chain which brings back fond memories.

We get back on board the bus and indulge in some sightseeing. We pass the Musée Rodin and catch a glimpse of 'The Thinker' in the museums extensive gardens. Also on our route is the Musée d'Orsay, the tuilleries and the Jardin des Tuileries.

We get off at the Notre Dame stop and make our way to the metro station to get back to our hotel. I love the public transport system in this country.

Now back at Gare du Nord, we grab our lunch cum dinner and call it a night. What a day it was. Will remember it till I die.
Everybody wants to be a cat
Because a cat's the only cat
Who knows were it's at
Oh yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh......zzzzzz

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