Friday, May 22, 2015

Paris ah oui je t'aime!

Well its has been a whirlwind few days here in Paris, trying desperately to fit in every little thing and see everything I wanted to see (I think I could stay here a couple of weeks and not see everything I want to see). On Wednesday we were in Versailles, the ancient palace and home of King Louis 14-16th, the first one started it, and the third one (husband of Marie Antoinette) was dragged from it, imprisoned elsewhere for a year or two and then guillotined when France got jealous of the rich and sometimes arrogant royals and killed them all.

Actually maybe I already wrote about this - I'm losing track of my days. It was awesome anyway.
Yesterday we went straight to the Louvre & got a 2 day museum pass (in hindsight we realized it would've been cheaper and better to get a 4 day museum pass which would have included our Versaille entry which we'd paid for separately) so we did the super quick Louvre tour - Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, Dying Slave, and a few other things in between, then headed off to Notre Dame and went through it - the stained glass windows were amazing. I wanted to climb the towers but the line was too long, so we went to St Chapelle also on the Ile de la Cite (island in the middle of the Seine) but it was closed till 2:15pm. So we got a bus to the Luxembourg gardens and had a picnic, then went off hunting the Statue of Liberty - which was at the opposite end. It was a copy of the original which had been taken away in 2010 for preservation reasons (which we later saw in the Musee d'Orsay). After that we headed off to see the Pantheon which was partially covered & being renovated, but still great.

We then went to the Eiffel Tower for our Behind the Scenes Tour, it was amazing! We learnt about the creation of the tower and who actually designed (and got no credit for) it. We got to go see an underground bunker on the Champs de Mars field by the tower, then we went underneath the tower and saw the workings of the pulleys, lifts, elevators and wheels, then got taken up to the 2nd floor where we were taken behind some doors to see the wind turbines they have running all the shops on the first floor. We had a look at the view there then got the lift up the top 280m above the ground (the tower is 325m high) the view was incredible. In the distance I could see a group of several tall skyscrapers, I wondered what they were - Paris doesn't really have any really tall buildings apart from the Eiffel Tower.

After that we went to the Musee d'Orsay then had dinner. Late night but a great day.

Today I left home about 7am because I wanted to go see the Grand Arche which was one of the "things to see" on my list. Its a bit out of the way but I was so glad I went there. I arrived & discovered I was amongst all the skyscrapers I'd seen the day before - something to do with the French Defence Department. The Grand Arche is massive!! Its huge and white and square, and I walked out of the Metro to be right in front of it and quite struck by it. The whole thing wouldn't fit in my camera viewfinder - until I'd backed up about 100m. Very cool. After that I went to Place de la Concorde to see the Egyptian obelisk in the middle, then Place de la Bastille the site of where the Bastille prison used to be located that was destroyed during the Revolution (there was only one prisoner in it, so they let him out). After that I went to Notre Dame so I could be there early for when the towers opened at 10am. I arrived 9:25 and there was already a queue. Got in straightaway though and found out why they limit numbers up there - its quite squishy and lots of places where only one person can go through at a time. It was amazing seeing the gargoyles up that close though, and seeing the belfry and bells. There were about 422 steps to climb up and I dropped my camera spare battery in the shop partway up. So after I'd gone through and down I had to go back up again - good workout!

I met Aroha at St Chapelle and got in quite quickly - this lovely chapel full of amazing detailed stained glass windows on two levels, with all sorts of Bible story images. Very cool. We then went to see the Opera Garner building but didn't go inside - these two kiwis we met had said it was the most beautiful building they'd ever seen - will have to go back another time. After that I went to the Musee de quai branly which had an art exhibit - Oceania, America, Asia and Africa. I had to go see the NZ section which I really liked, I kind of skim glanced the rest of it. It was good, I was just tired from all the stairs today. Then I went to see this fountain I'd seen from a distance which turned out to be heaps of fun mostly because after taking photos there I stopped to watch some really good hip hop dancers wowing the crowd nearby, before heading home on the metro.

Tomorrow we go to Parc Asterix which is maybe an hour north of here, then early Sunday we take the Eurostar to London, which I'm looking forward to, as I've never been (except transiting at Heathrow, which so doesn't count!). Can't believe our trip is starting to come towards the end!!! I'm loving it here, I totally want to come back to Paris, its such an amazing city.

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