Monday, October 5th.
Wow, we had our first glimpse of Paris today; where do I start!
Firstly we knew that rain was pending later in the day so we needed to get a move on. The train station was about a 20 minute walk from our camping pitch and you guessed it the first half was up hill.
This campground handed out a very helpful booklet telling us exactly what train to catch and which stations to de-board at to catch particular sights.
We had no problem mastering the first let of our trip getting off at the Louvre.
Two reasons for this destination; one, to catch a Hop on Hop off Bus and two to buy our Paris Museum Tour, monument pass.
Just as we reached the top stairs of the train station I noticed a lime green L’Open Tour bus pass. We had picked the right stop to pick up the HOHO bus tour. It even had lime green headsets and the best map we have seen on these tours. There were three routes to choose from, easily identified by three different colours and there were little pictures of the points of interest along each route. Finally in our last city I find the type of map I wanted.
The bus took us out an arched gate in the wall surrounding the Louvre and along the Seine with tour boats passing by. We criss-crossed the River a few times and passed the Palace of Justice and low and behold there was Note Dame in front of us. It looked quite majestic standing alone on the banks of the Seine and we look forward to visiting it in the next few days.
We continued across the Seine and backtracked on the other side passing the Musee D’Orsay, also to explore later, back across the river and we were circling the Place du La Concorde which sits between the Av. Des Champs-Elysees and Jardin Des Tuileries. This huge area covering over 20 acres was created in 1763. The guillotine resided in the centre of it during the Revolution and such notables as Marie Antoinette and Robespierre lost their heads here. When the reign of terror was over in 1794 it was renamed Pace de la Concorde.
The 3200 year old Luxor obelisk a gift from the viceroy of Egypt to King Lou-Philippe stands in the centre now, surrounded by two fountains and eight statues personifying French cities. The entire square is quite breathtaking and I am sure we will explore it more later.
Imagine we are now driving down the very busy tree-lined Av. Des Champs-Elysees with the Arc de Triomphe in the distance.
The traffic was unreal, 6 lanes of buses, cars, trucks and those annoying motorcycles, vespas and scooters darting in and out with everyone vying for the perfect spot to go forward. We were sitting on the upper level at the front, above the driver so had a very good view of some close encounters; I had to shut my eyes a few times.
It is a GRAND avenue, nothing else to say.
As the bus looped around the Arc de Triomphe we counted the 12 Treed Avenues going away from it. What ingenuity to create this Etoile (star) in the downtown area. Haussmann, responsible for the urban modernization of Paris under Napoleon III for 17 years demolished the chaotic unsanitary streets of the medieval city and created a well ventilated and ordered capital in a geometrical grid. The overall effect is quite stunning
I am now anticipating my first view of the Eiffel Tower. It didn’t disappoint.
It also stands alone on the banks of the Seine surrounded by parkland. Quite an imposing structure as it rises to the sky. The first available tickets to visit the Eiffel Tower were Friday at 4 pm, we booked them as we were not going to see Europe and not visit the Eiffel Tower.
The rain had starting dripping on us as we circled the Tower. We passed more notable sites that we will visit in the days to come but by the time we ended our tour back at the Louvre it was pouring rain and despite our rain gear we were soaked, besides we no longer could see out the window.
The Louvre is huge. It surrounds a very large plaza and in total covers about 3 football fields in size. The line ups for tickets and passes in the rain were of the Disney nature but way less organized it seemed. We thought, nah there has to be somewhere else to start our museum adventure.
At our next Metro stop we found a tourist information building and were directed to a huge underground mall where we found a ticket agency. The Paris museum cards were purchased and we headed back to camp. A train station was accessible underground and with no problems we were on the train.
It rained then really rained through until the next morning!