Yesterday was our first day in Paris, and thankfully we rolled into town pretty early so it was very similar to our day in Dublin - travel all night, land in the morning and drop our bags at the hostel, and then hit the city hard and accomplish as much as possible.
At the hostel we grabbed the Paris New Europe flier and found that they did a free tour in the morning and afternoon, so we decided to walk to the nearby Moulon Rouge (literally a 5 minute walk), stop at the Starbucks there, and then grab a metro to the tour starting point. So we did just that. Moulon Rouge has a big red windmill on it. Windmills are kind of cool I guess.
So we got to St. Michel's Fountain and started our free tour. It was excellent, about on par with the Edinburgh tour (Sorry London, you tried your best) and our guide, Linda, was from Philly and living in Paris for about a year now and was really awesome and funny. We travelled to lots of locations, including:
- St. Michel Fountain
- Notre Dame
- Henry IV's stone bridge (which a funny fact is that the strange faces carved along the side of the bridge are people he knew. He had a big party and everyone at the party got super drunk and he had a sketch artist sketch them all so he could carve their faces on his new bridge.)
- Statue of Henry IV - In celebration of the 400th anniversary of his death recently, an artist gave him a blue lightsaber that lights up at night, because naturally no man is more powerful then a Jedi. I Hope to get to see him one of the next 2 nights so I can see it lit up. (Look closely at the statue to the right and you can see a line coming out of his right hand. It is actually a long blue light bulb.)
- The Louvre - It was closed yesterday so we were able to walk around it and see what it looks like reletively crowd free. Actually going to the Louvre is for Day 2
- We saw this permenant exhibition by an artist whose name (sounded like at least) Daniel Verran. It was kinda cool. But the more interesting part was this little pickpocket kid came up and our tour guide was like Oh! Stay away from this kid, he's a thief. Get away! (he stays, playing with some binocular toy. Had to be like 10 or 11 years old. Starts walking into the group again near her) No! Go away you! I hate you!. It was funny.
- An Egyptian Obelisk that Napolean took from Egypt. There used to be 2 but in more modern times Egypt wanted them back and France agreed to give one back in a meet-you-half-way kind of deal.
- Arc de Triomph (from a pretty long distance)
- I stopped into a McDonalds while we were on our break mid-tour, and yes... they do call it a Royale with Cheese. And they do drown their fries in mayonnaise. Score 2 for Pulp Fiction. Made me so happy.
After the tour the guides always say "I'm going to a nearby restaurant, come if you want cheap authentic local food!" Normally we don't but this time we did. So we followed Linda to a café and when we turned the corner to the street it was on we were greeted by metal barricades and French Riot Police that looked kinda like they were gearing up to fight terminators. She talked to them and they said it was fine to go to the café but we just had to be wary that there was a big riot going on down the street. We heard yelling and chanting and such and saw some flags bobbing up and down through the stopped cars and trees down the road in the distance. The waiter told us that we should sit inside instead of in the seats outside because the cops were shooting tear gas at the riot. I looked back and could notice smoke rising from the crowd, aka tear gas. Awesome! Viva la Revolucion!
For our lunch we had wine, cheese, meats, and croquet monsieur (this cheese and ham sandwich thing, traditional French meal). Everything was delicious and I was able to scratch off eating in a French café and eating a plate of French cheeses from my list of food to-dos. At lunch we signed up for another tour for the next night at 6 (with Linda again) that tours other areas of Paris, including Van Gogh’s house and Picasso’s studio! We are very excited for that. After eating we made our way to the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel tower is so. Cool. In person. It was one of those moments where you just look up at it and keep saying “Holy crap that is the Eiffel Tower! That’s really the Eiffel Tower!” Dave and Jen did not want to go to the top so they got the half way tickets (€6,50) but Sharon and I were not missing the top so we got the Sommit tickets (€11,50) and headed on up. The view from the middle (2nd floor, first is a fancy restaurant) was really awesome. It was so cool looking out the elevator window at the passing structure of the tower interior. So after hanging out and taking pictures and such, Sharon and I got on line for the elevator to the top. The first area of the top is a big round enclosed room with flags for probably every country and a city name under it, with the distance from that point to that city if you were to go straight out in that direction, so you could see all around the tower how far it is from each of these cities. (New York was six thousand something kilometers, LA nine thousand something.) After being done in there you walk up a short stair case to the actual top landing, and it was really awesome. Gustav Eiffel used to have his apartment up here, and they have part of it visible behind windows with wax figures of him entertaining 2 guests that you can look in at.
On our way down, we wanted to walk. But the stairs were closed. Sad face. So we got in line and eventually took the elevator down to the middle again where you transfer to the other elevator. Except on this landing, we saw the staircase was opened. We weren’t sure if we could go down at first, because it was a little off to the side and there was absolutely nobody near it or going down it, but there was a huge line waiting to take the elevator back down to the ground. So we just went ahead and started down the stairs. It was an excellent decision because it was so cool to walk down the tower. You could see all the insides, including the gears, pulleys, and cables that operated the elevators. Actually we even found out that the elevator has a sort of secret statue underneath it that you can only see if you walk down the staircase of an old timey elevator operator taking an old fashion elevator down with giant levers that operate it. It was cool. So we got down to the bottom and met back up with Dave and Jen and made our way back to the hostel.
We took some time to rest and such and then it was out in search of dinner. It was late (11pm) and we weren’t sure if anything would be opened, but finally… finally! In Paris we find some places opened later then 6pm! So we got some burgers across the street and our first real French crepes! I got a Nutella and Banana crepe (thanks Eunk! There is the picture I promised to the right!) and it was delicious! So good here! I can’t wait to try a new crepe tomorrow. So that is all for Paris, day 1! (aka trip day 15!)