Notre Dame gargoyles

Paris: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe & Notre Dame

At the top of the Eiffel Tower

Well I have to say, after today my opinion of Paris has improved quite a bit, though I still think people tend to overrate it and overlook other fascinating destinations.

Breakfast this morning was orange juice and two croissants. It was pretty good, though it turns out it cost about $10 from the hotel, so for tomorrow’s breakfast we just bought something from the grocery store. We tried to be ready early so we could get in line for the Eiffel Tower. It opens at 9:30am, and we probably got there at about 8:30 and there was already a bit of a line formed. By 9:30, the line had stretched around the inside of the base of the Eiffel Tower. I was really glad we got there early then! There is one elevator that takes you up one of the “legs” of the Eiffel Tower, and then you can walk around the lower level and take a look around. There’s then another, straight up-and-down elevator to take you to the top of the Tower, and this one definitely made you realize how high up you were really going!

The views from the top would have been a bit better if it hadn’t been so foggy out this morning. We could see some of the River Seine and the Arc de Triomphe from up there, and we just barely made out Notre Dame in the distance. I was hoping to see someone propose while we were up there, but alas, no luck. Maybe guys are starting to get more original than that with their proposals?

We then took some pictures in the garden area beneath the Eiffel Tower and in the Trocadero on the other side (where we were last night). We also had some crepes for lunch (mine was a sucre citron one–I had no idea what it  meant but he made it just by sprinkling sugar and lemon juice on it) and rode on the carousel below the Eiffel Tower, which was fun and seemed appropriate in France. I also managed to get some Eiffel Tower souvenirs and people-watch, which was fun.

Afterwards we headed over to the Arc de Triomphe and took a few pictures of it. It was a lot less gold-colored than I’d thought it would be; the stones were more of a white color. I thought maybe I was used to seeing it lit up at night, but now I see that my pictures of it actually look like more of a yellow color than it looked in person. Once we were done at the Arc, we walked down the Champs-Elysees, where there are tons of very fancy shops like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, plus some car stores that we went in… I didn’t really get it at first, because one had a whole bunch of salt and pepper shakers with the car company’s logo on them and a display of how they film car stunts or something, and then the Mercedes store had mannequins in fancy dresses next to their cars. Apparently that theme was “Princess dresses and steel coaches.” Maybe since I’m not of the elite class (and would probably never buy any of the things from the stores along the Champs-Elysees) I don’t understand such things.

The next stop was Notre Dame, which I was really excited to see! I was surprised, after our time at St. Paul’s Basilica and our short stop by Westminster Abbey, that Notre Dame doesn’t charge you to enter and allows photography inside (just no flash). It also didn’t have a giant gift shop, just a little stand with rosaries and a few small souvenirs. It was sort of refreshing to see a church that wasn’t quite so…touristy, I guess. It also had silent areas where you could pray and candles you could light for people, which I was also happy to see. Fun fact, this year is the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame’s completion. So the building is about three times as old as the United States of America! I would say Notre Dame’s best features are its beautiful stained glass windows–all of them different and all of them beautiful, and to contrast them, its hideous gargoyles. Unfortunately we couldn’t go on the tour up into the towers of Notre Dame and see the gargoyles up close, but we did see them from below, and got a few pictures. The stained glass windows, on the other hand, we could see up close. One thing that surprised me was that, not only is there the one famous Rose Window, the large circular one, there are actually two other large circular ones (I would say about the same size). There are many different stained glass windows in Notre Dame, which surprised me; I’m not really sure why. Maybe because if I had designed it, I would’ve taken the easy way out and made them all exactly the same.

When we were done at Notre Dame, we walked to the back of it, in search of a certain bridge. On the way we found a really pretty garden with a fountain behind Notre Dame, and a little walkway along the Seine that was also really pretty. The bridge we were in search of was one on which couples place locks with their names (and dates or home city or country) and then throw the keys into the river, symbolizing that their love will last forever. Mickey and I placed a lock on the bridge with our names and “friends forever” in French (amis pour toujours) on the back, and then threw the keys in. The bridge was really interesting, and gleamed golden in the sunlight from the numerous brass locks on it. It was almost completely covered in locks of all sorts–some heavy and antique looking, padlocks, bike locks, combination locks, etc. Some were even shaped like hearts or engraved. We saw a few couples place new locks on the bridge as well while we were there.

There are also quite a few tourist shops around Notre Dame, so we stopped in a few of those and Mickey bought a few things before we sat down at our meeting place to wait for our group. The waiting place was on these sort of bleachers, or maybe more like steps, set up across from Notre Dame. I’m not sure why they were there, as they seemed a little out of place, but they were very popular and lots of people were sitting there, enjoying the sunshine and the view of Notre Dame.

We were then quite tired, so we headed back to the hotel. We were also hungry, so we stopped by the grocery store on the way back to pick up supper and breakfast for tomorrow. Going to the grocery store in France was a bit of an adventure. Neither of us speak any French, so we weren’t entirely sure what any of our labels said, though I managed to figure out that the sandwich I got was ham, since I speak Spanish, and in that language ham is jamon. This label said jambon, so I assumed it was ham. And it certainly tasted like ham, so I think I was right. I also got a milkshake type thing and some sort of French dessert that was kind of like those cream puff things you can get at Chinese restaurants in the US, but they were in a sort of pudding of chocolate. It was pretty delicious, whatever it was. There was a sign on the cash register that I roughly translated to mean you had to ask for a bag from the cashier, but since we didn’t know how to ask that in French, we ended up awkwardly carrying all of our food items back to the hotel. It was kind of fun anyways!

Now we’re just relaxing at the hotel. Big day tomorrow, our last day in Paris. The Louvre and Sacre Coeur are on the agenda. Until tomorrow everyone! Only about four more days of the trip. It’ll be a little sad to go of course, but right now I think I’ll be really ready to go home by then!

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