Historic Walk and Eiffel Tower
Oct 9, 2015
|Friday, October 9th
We started our day in front of Notre Dame listening to Rick’s Steve self-guided tour of the Historic Paris.
This is one majestic looking church. The Cathedral’s façade was overwhelming in its detail. High above the entrance Mary is surrounded by the halo of the rose window. The line-up to get into the church was too long for us to wait but we did stop to view the plaque that denotes the center of Paris. We will come back later.
A trip around the exterior of this magnificent basilica was well worth the walk. The detail in the creation of the flying buttresses was beautiful.
On the end of this island where the Seine splits is the Deportation Memorial. It was an eerie feeling descending the narrow set of stairs, with concrete all around us. Next we entered a dark single file chamber where there was a large circular plaque in the floor which read, ”They went to the end of the earth and did not return”. Ahead stretched a long narrow hallway lined with 200,000 lighted crystals, one for each French citizen who died during WWII. Flickering at the far end was the eternal flame of hope and at our feet was the tomb of the unknown deportee. Above, the inscription reads, ”Dedicated to the living memory of the 2000,000 French deportees shrouded by the night and fog, exterminated in the Nazi concentration camps”. I found this Memorial very moving.
Across the Seine we entered the Latin Quarter with its intriguing, artsy, bohemian character. During the middle ages this area was perhaps Europe’s leading university district, when Latin was the language of higher education. We wandered the narrow streets and found St. Severin’s Church then on to St. Michel’s square which is the traditional core of the Left Bank’s artsy, liberal, hippie, bohemian district of poets and philosophers. A fountain of St Michel stands facing the bridge of the same name.
Our walking tour took us to Sainte-Chapelle which had an exquisite exterior and I was anxious to check out the interior. The reason for its architectural harmony is due to the fact that it was completed under the direction of one architect and in only six years-unheard of in Gothic times. In contrast, Notre Dame took over 200 years. Alas, another disappointed, they had just closed for lunch; 1-2:30.
Disappointed we headed back to the Left Bank and enjoyed a lunch at an outdoor café.
When we finished we wandered along the side of the Seine in order to walk over the Pont Neuf. This “new” bridge now Paris’ oldest was built in the 1600’s. Looks great for its age!? Unlike other bridges of its time this one never had houses or buildings growing on it. The turrets were originally for vendors and street entertainers. This bridge must have been a beehive of activity then.
Our admission time for the Eiffel Tower was 3 pm. We hustled over navigated the construction within the metro system. What a mess it was down below, we found it tough going without construction but some very kind people kept directing us and we finally found the right line (Colour and number) that would take us to the Tower.
The security line was a nightmare. There were only two lines and the other one was dealing with an older man who was NOT going to relinquish his Swiss Army Knife. Even though there was lots of yelling, our line kept moving and we never saw what the end result was.
What a marvel this tower is. From a distance it looks almost lacy, delicate and graceful but walking under it I felt like I was entering the jaws of a monster. What an eerie feeling it was!
Built on the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution (and in the spirit of the Industrial Revolution), the tower was the centerpiece of a World Expo designed simply to show off what people could built in 1889. Bridge-builder Gustave Eiffel (Eeffel) (1832-1923) won the contest to build the fair’s centerpiece by beating out rival proposals such as a giant guillotine. To a generation hooked on technology, the tower was the marvel of the age, a symbol of progress and human ingenuity. Pretty impressive by today’s standards I think as well. Despite the tower’s 7,300 tons of metal and 60 tons of paint, it is so well engineered that it weighs no more per square inch at its base than a linebacker on tiptoes!!
At a cost of 5 million, 4 million from private funding and 1 million from the French Government, Eiffel had to find other funding when the government backed out. Initially the tower was to stand for the Word’s Fair but Eiffel had to recover all his costs. He convinced the government to leave it standing for 20 years in order to do so. Within 2 years he had recovered all of his funding and 140 years later 145 million people have visited the tower. For 40 years it was the world’s tallest structure. What structure replaced it as the tallest?
Bill wisely had booked our reservations for the summit (top) so we avoided the long line at the second level of those trying to buy tickets to do so.
Unfortunately, there were many lines and no directions as to where to go to catch this mysterious elevator to the top. We found people standing in lines clueless as to where they went.
I need to remind you that we found that many Europeans must have skipped Kindergarten as they don’t seem to know how to stand in line, what single file means or push their chairs in at the table. I know this is a generalization but why did all the bad mannered ones come on our trip. Must be time to head home, we are getting cranky!!!
Anyway we enjoyed the view from the second level found the correct line and in no time whisked to the top with 30 other people.
The views of the city were breathtaking. We could pick out the Arc, and enjoyed seeing the entire length of the Champs Elysees; fully realize the size of the Louvre; Notre Dame standing majestically beside the serpentine Seine; the Pont Neuf crossing it and many other incredible sights.
The trip back down was thrilling and uneventful other than the fact that Bill and I were in urgent need of a WC. We found the stairs down to the entrance and were surprised that there was no feel to enter. I had paid E 1.50 at the Louvre for the privilege.
Back at the entrance to the Louvre which we found without difficulty, thank goodness, we found the line just as long but it was moving quickly.
As we stepped inside, the first thing that struck us was how dark the interior was. Like most Catholic basilicas of its times it is designed in the shape of a cross with a long central nave lined with columns and flanked by side isles. In a pinch this basilica could hold 10,000 worshipers.
To me the word stark would apply to a description of the walls. The bas reliefs and sculptures although beautiful, blended into the grey of the walls. BUT the rose windows were magnificent especially the ones high in the walls of the transept.
As our heads looked upward we were startled and amazed at how high the ceiling was. There were three floors each one decorated with fine arches and the ceiling had to be 10 stories above us. The many windows on these floors where stain glassed and on a bright sunny day I have no doubt the interior would have been quite bright.
We exited the church and saw a very stormy sky but sat down and pondered what we would do for the rest of the evening. I really wanted to see Paris at night but saner minds prevailed and we headed to the underground train. After switching from the train to the metro we arrived at the station La Defence and listened to many announcements in French. Finally Bill asked a lovely young lady who fortuitously sat down beside him, “English” her reply thank goodness, “Of course” prompted Bill to ask “What is going on?”. We found out that there was a fire in the tunnel somewhere west bound. Yikes that is where we were trying to head and explained why the train wasn’t moving. Up the escalator we went and saw many train employees directing stranded passengers to other trains and buses. What a zoo it was! I asked a man in a suit who seemed to have it all together and explained our problem, he directed us to T2, then bus 262 suggesting it was the best way to get to Maison Laffitte from there.
Off we went to find the T2 train line. We were grateful the bus stop was just around a kiosk from the train platform so we stood in line with many others. After a 30 minute wait Bus 262 arrived. It felt like there were thousands of people wanting to board this bus (no lines of course just an undulating mass of people), the driver opened the back door which we were standing in front of when I was suddenly struck in the back with what seemed like a tsunami wave. The only thing that kept me on my feet was Bill’s hand on my elbow and the fear of being trampled to death, literally. We were promptly propelled then squished up against the other side of the bus. The only good news here was that we had the side of the bus to hang on to (not that there was any fear of falling down) and lean against.
Two hours and twenty minutes later we arrived back at our campground, it usually takes about 45 minutes. Too exhausted to think about preparing dinner we agreed to go to the restaurant to eat after using the facilities. Bill was waiting for me, when I had finished, to tell me that the restaurant had decided to shut down early and they were only filling take-out orders.
I think my reply was something like, “ It just doesn’t get any better than this”.
Fortunately they served great burgers and chips so we weren’t starving as we fell to sleep. WE SURVIVED another day!