Our bed was scrumptious. With windows open wide we were continuously lulled by muted voices through the stone walls, so sleep came easily. We had decided this would be the day to be a ‘typical tourist’ and walk the city ending at the Eiffel Tower.
We embarked on our petite adventure armed with our backpack, umbrellas, and most importantly, CAMERA. We had to navigate the Paris Metro and purchased our three day pass. With Blackberry Playbook Metro Map, paper map and posted map on the wall – we were prepared to provide our own tour of Paris to anyone wanting to accompany us. So many pieces of inventory to manage, all contained on our backs. We confidently hop a train to begin at La Bastille. Once out in the open and looking up at the reminder of the once famous prison stormed during the French Revolution, my paparazzo husband wanted to launch his photo journal. Where’s the camera? Inventory control is already a problem and we are only at the beginning of this long day. Some moments of frustration and deep breathing ensued, but we reorganized and viola – camera. Ready, set, shoot!
Since my friend Gucci could not be on the trip with me due to illness, everything I was experiencing I wondered ‘has Gucci been here?’ What does she do in Paris? I came up with the idea to photo the most significant landmarks with my heart made by my hands and create a memory book for her, so that she knew everywhere I went in this city, I was thinking of her.
With the Les Miz theme rolling in my brain, I circled around imagining life in the 1700’s, Victor Hugo’s experiences later and my own take of the chaos during that time. It was such an important symbol for the Republican movement in France. We walked up Place Victor Hugo – and saw his house – again, the power of this writer and his dedication to such works as ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ was an enthralling experience. My reality was we are walking against time – one day only for the walking tour. Must move along.
We did utilize the time saving measure of the Metro – and we started our walk in earnest at the Louvre. No, we did not tour the Louvre. We did briefly tour the Carrousel des Louvres ( a high end shopping mall). Our focus was la toilette. At the Carrousel, it was one fifty euro (essentially 2 dollars) to use the bathroom. Being practical people, we noticed McDonald’s nearby and felt we could have a snack and a washroom – and elected this option. McDonald’s ‘Café ‘ in Paris is really amazing. Delicious, delectable pastries beautifully displayed, with McDonald’s type prices. Their macarons looked as beautiful as any we saw, but I simply couldn’t reconcile a small cookie for $1 or $2 dollars. We kept joking we are on the working princess tour of Paris. Metro, pennies, value. I was determined to track our spending to see if there was value in a day in this city. The fact I was at the Louvre (and its grounds) and I’m writing about our adventure in finding a bathroom should tell you about my mood while there – or my overall impression. However, by turning in the direction of the Eiffel Tower – I caught my breathe – to see it in real time – in the distance – made this moment in time feel more real – we are walking Paris.
Yes, we walked the stony, flowerless (but green) Champs-Elysees. We weren’t impressed. We saw the Obelisk at Place de la Concorde – very neat but found the traffic circle with the smartly dressed professionals on scooters far more interesting. Life on the street, no matter where we roam seems to draw our attention and observation. Our agenda for the day was aggressive so we sought a little respite with our trusty Metro pass – up to George V. Feeling it was time to refuel for the next leg of this tour, we reviewed the menu at the George, but decided to be a little patient to see what might be more appealing. Stopping to photo sites such as Louis Vuitton and Swarovski were bittersweet without Gucci. When we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe, we took it in – the edifice of honour to those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic wars – names inscribed everywhere. We crossed the street and decided to look for lunch in earnest. With the protection of the Arc, we sat at a classic restaurant and ordered duck comfit and steak. It felt like a classic afternoon in Paris savouring ‘early’ dinner – sipping champagne on the Champs Elysees feeling like we made enormous progress.
I felt that if we were going to see the Eiffel this one and only time, that I must see it in the evening, after strolling the Left Bank when it sparkles. This meant more walking, exploring, and observing. We stopped at the historic Paul patisserie. It was founded in 1889 and boasts the most amazing displays. Thinking that we could pick up some treats to sustain us later as we meander along the river, we made a few selections. Breathing in the yeasty perfume, I felt reluctant to leave, but there were more steps to follow.
‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’ was a bestseller many years ago – however – I must congratulate the sheer genius of the author. There is no secret to why French women don’t get fat – if you are walking twenty kilometres – you would easily walk off the steak lunch too! We stop at local pharmacies to inquire if they sell ‘sel d’epsoms’. I was trying to plan ahead for my rest at the apartment. However – it seems no such thing seemed to be available. We press on through the neighbourhoods off avenue George V towards the Pont de l’Alma (Princess Diana died in this tunnel in 1997). We needed to get to the Left Bank towards our final destination of the Eiffel. We photo the tower along the way from different perspectives. So grateful we are not on the dinner boats floating below us – we are trying to find the non-commercial aspects of the city with an incredible reputation for light and love, albeit we were on our own quest to see the quintessential tourist places.
Every step we take we realize the depth of historic content surrounding us. Once ensconced on the Left Bank – it felt like the ‘real Paris’ was finally starting to reveal itself. There are lovely apartments overlooking the river and the scene from the Seine is peaceful. We found a bench along the stony path leading us to La Tour and decided it was the perfect time to indulge in the Paul pastries. With the lengthening days, we didn’t need to feel rushed. We relaxed and indulged our sweet tooth. Reluctantly packing up and continuing our Left Bank stroll, it definitely felt more like a scene from Sabrina versus the mob shopping from des Champs.
Closer and closer – we arrive at the La Tour d’Eiffel – the metal lattice structure that stands as the romantic symbol of the city. It’s truly a beautiful edifice. Requisite photos, plus a few photos of others – my paparazzo husband and I decide to decend to the bank of the Seine for a little relaxation while we wait for dark to see the tower sparkle. It seems a little conflicting to see artists, lovers and machine gun toting army officers are converging, but we take it in. More floating restaurants that have packed in more people than we would be interested in dining with pass by. Between ‘Hop On, Hop Off’, Site Seeing Tour Buses and these glass ceiling boats…we wonder why you wouldn’t want to strap on a great pair of walking shoes and save the money.
Nearing dark (and 10 PM) we decide to prepare to leave and then – the Tower performs its sparkling routine for her enthralled visitors. I was included in the enthralled throng. The Tower was the highlight of the tourist day. Using our growing prowess with the Paris Metro, we head home after an 11 hour day touring the city.
Upon arrival in our little Paris apartment, we ate some leftovers, I soaked my tired feet and we planned our route for the next day’s visit to Marie Antoinette’s home in Versailles. We also tallied our day of spending. Metro passes, dinner on Champs Elysees, our Paul purchases, some soap and Starbucks (a clean bathroom methodology) – a rich day of experiences for us – all for $150. The working princess and her Beloved fell into a deep, satisfied sleep after the 20 kilometre Paris investigation.