Sunday, August 3, 2008
Odd and Ends in Paris
Sparkling Tour Eiffel at night Sorry about the sideways video, I'd have to buy QuickTime Pro to rotate it, but I’m still trying to figure out a way to correct it. It's still very much worth watching. The Tower is lit blue every night in honor of the EU and every hour, on the hour, they glitter the lights for 10 minutes. It's captivating, you really can't take your eyes off it! We were on a bateau mouches on the Seine River from 10 -11 pm and it's a beautiful way to to see the city at night.
The boat we took, the Vedette de Paris, was small and uncrowded (unlike some of the bigger packed boats we passed)---a good choice! It starts right in front of the Tower so we got the big light show right off the bat. As it cruises toward the two îles that split the river in two for a short stretch, the Île de la Cité and Île St. Louis, we pass under all the famous bridges of Paris. The ages, architecture, and ornamentation of these bridges are as different as the faces in this very multi-cultural city. A few of the bridges are pedestrian-only, regardless people lined them all, some waving or shouting bonjours and hellos, everyone taking in the same sights and scenes that we were.
Meanwhile, both sides of the river are lined with beautiful (and expensive) Haussman-style villas/apartments with steeply slanted roofs, wrought iron balconies and ornate detail. These are interspersed with gigantic famous buildings built in self-aggrandizement by one king/President or another: the Palais du Chaillot; Musée d’Art Moderne; Grand Palais; Assemblée Nationale; Musée d’Orsay and many other current museums or hotels that remain unknown by name. Then the famous stretch off the Champs-Elysées starting with the Obelisque at Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries, and the immense former Palais/current Louvre. Irie can’t believe that a king would build something so unnecessarily big and opulent. We explain that is one of the reasons the people revolted against the monarchy. As we approach the îles, Notre Dame comes into view and you get a magnificent view of the Rose Window on the south side. The bateau turns and goes around the other side of the îles, where the Hotel de Ville and the Conciergeries (where Marie Antoinette, among others was kept prisoner, in the tower? or am I confusing her with Rapunzel?) line opposite sides of the river. On the return trip, we get a repeat of the views and bridges with the Tour Eiffel standing tall over the entire scene. Unfortunately, the combination of the boat cruising along and being a novice at taking night pictures resulted in photos too blurry to share. The views, however, are etched in my head. It was relaxing yet vivid.
The week also saw us beating the crowds at the Tour Eiffel by climbing the first two levels, then buying tickets for the elevator to the top at the 2nd level. In the photo see the crawling line of tourists waiting for tickets--an elevator ride is the sugar for this line of ants. After the climb, Irie and I went back to our apartment while Lisa got some alone time shopping. Take note in the web gallery of the ornate department stores.
Another day found us walking through the Louvre courtyard (though we have yet to go inside on this trip) into the Jardin des Tuileries where we found a carnival of all things. We all rode the ferris wheel (Lisa taking on her fear of this ride) for yet another round of excellent city views, while Lisa and Irie also did the water ride. This was followed by the Musée d’Orsay for some beautiful sculpture and Impressionism.
On Sunday, I headed down to the Champs-Elysées for the end of the Tour de France. Yahoo sports listed the event as 12:45, and I got there after 1 pm. The streets were barricaded and lined with people, but it was quiet and subdued. Where’s the bikers? I finally see them on a large video screen, somewhere out in the country, surrounded by fields, with 140 km to go. It became clear that the race, while starting at 12:45 only ended in Paris, and after enjoying the spectacle for a few hours I headed back home without having seen a single bike racer. C’est la vie. The reason I didn't stay or go back is that Lisa and I had a date (thanks to our landlady for the babysitter link!) in which we went to the famous St. Chapelle chapel to hear a stringed septet perform Vivaldi's Four Seasons. My favorite classical piece in that setting, surrounded by all that magnificent stained glass left us both feeling sated and dazed.
The funniest event of the week had to be our trip to the Paris Plage. Every year, from late July to late August (which just so happens to coincide with our stay) they truck in sand and create a beach along the Seine. They have all kinds of beach-related activities, concerts, and even a temporary pool. It has been hot this week (about 30 C) so we decided to go to the pool in the afternoon, when the schedule said “kids 10 and under accompanied.” It was fairly crowded with a short line and we made it through the first entrance no problem. Then we got to the actual entrance to the pool and one of the guards made it clear (en français) that my knee-length (righteous curl brah!!) swimsuit wasn’t acceptable. After Lisa conversed with him we realized that 1.) we all needed bathing caps, and 2.) that I needed a “european” swimsuit, either a speedo or what we decided to call a “tankini” which is only slightly larger though just as skin tight. It just so happens that they are prepared for people like us and had a vending machine that sold those exact items. Let me just say that there was a bit of blushing, a fair amount of time in the pool up to my waist, and you will not find any of those pics on the web gallery. (Lisa here: He looks hot and buff in that thing and I think he needs to send it to all his middle aged friends). You will find many photos from everything else this week below...
A week in Paris