Paris, France

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Europe » France » Île-de-France » Paris
September 21st 2010
Published: December 22nd 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

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Pisa, Italy to Paris, France

Notre DameNotre DameNotre Dame

Breathtaking Sight
I awoke from my overnight train ride, and it was sun shining outside. I was near Paris. About thirty minutes to an hour later, we were arriving to our destination. After un-boarding, I now had to find where to go. I felt a little lost at the moment, for I tried the information desk, but upon first try they were not much help to me. I decided to go the ticket counter and go ahead and secure my reservations for my departure train that would occur in a couple of days. When my turn came up at the counter, the person there was very kind, and she gave me a map and explained to me which metro train to take, and which stop to get off at. I was relieved. I went back to the information desk to ask where the metro station was. I still could barely understand this lady, but I got the jest of it to know which direction.
I made my way to the metro station, and after going down the steps I queued up to the ticket machine. When it was my turn, and after observing how others obtained their tickets, I inserted my 1.70 Euros and I received a one way ticket to ride the train. These tickets can be used while you are in the train station, and you can change trains all day if you wish, but as soon as you leave the train station, you cannot reenter unless you purchase another ticket.
I enter my train, luggage in tow, and started my journey. I had to change trains once, but this was not a big issue. As long as you know the ending destination city, you will be going in the right direction. That is of course if your stop has not already been passed. When I got to my stop, I exit the train and make my way up the stairs and out of the station. I get my instructions to the hostel, and they were pretty clear as to how to get there from the train station. I followed them as written, and after about ¼ mile, I was at my next hostel.
I go to check into the hostel, and I was told check in time was 2:00 pm. They had large storage lockers for your luggage, and I had to actually get a medium locker, for the large ones were gone. I had to pay 3 or 4 Euro to rent the locker for four hours. I was glad my backpack/suitcase did not have the inside hard plastic pieces for I could just cram it into the locker. Good for me, for I could not think to lug that around for around three or four hours until check in time. So, I make my way out and decide that I would go to see Notre Dame. I got a map, and made my way. I asked some locals what stop, and I was told so I paid my 1.70 Euros and off I went. I got off the train at the pre defined stop, made my way to the street level, and did not see anything that resembled where I should be. I asked at the tourist information center that I found, and they told me I was in the wrong place and had to go elsewhere to find Notre Dame. They showed me on the map, and I had to make my way back to the train station, pay another 1.70 Euro and go again. I had to change trains, but once to my destination, I got off and this was correct.
I asked and was told which way to go. I found Notre Dame, and there were a lot of people there. The good news is that it is free to enter Notre Dame. I walked around and took pictures. They were having a service or mass or something inside the building, but I did as other tourists, and kept walking around. The “church” section has benches (many many long rows) that the congregation sets in or on. Anyway, after touring, i decided I wanted to go up to the top. I made my way outside and saw a long queue. I walked to the end and decided that I did not want to wait, for I wanted to go get checked in. I started walking back to the train station, and I thought to myself, why did you come here? I quickly turned around and got in the queue. I waited I guess around thirty to forty five minutes I guess, and I was finally at the front of the line. I paid my entrance fee to go to the top, and up I went. The staircase is a winding set of stairs and very small and claustrophobic. There were 386 stairs to be exact, and needless to say, I was winded when I got to the top. Once on top, you were allowed to walk around a roped off area and take pictures. I did this, and then I found where you could actually go into and up to the bell tower. I made my way up a few more flights of stairs, and there it was the bell of Notre Dame. The same bell from the cartoon “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. I asked someone to photograph me beside the bell, made another quick look at it, and started my descent from the top. On the way down, I shot a few pictures of the gargoyles that guard the cathedral. I thought this was pretty cool. Anyway, once I was back to level ground, I started making my way back to the train station. I turned around for one last look, nodded my head, and went toward my train. Again, I paid 1.70 Euros, got on the train, and made my way back to my hostel.
I checked into my hostel, gathered my luggage from the locker, and made my way to my room. Upon entering my room, I was surprised at how large the room was. I found my bed, which was a top bunk in the corner. Perfect!! Also, these beds had curtains around them for privacy. I looked, and all of the storage bins were taken with the exception of one in the front of the room, I put my things in there, locked it with my padlock, and went to take a shower. The bathrooms were segregated. The men’s were on one end of the hall, and the women’s were on the other end. I actually did not know this at the time, and I went to a unisex handicapped bathroom that had a shower. I proceeded to use this one. Oh well, live and learn. After this, I went back to my room, and upon entering, I met two of my roommates. They were two girls from Australia. Their names were Natalie and Sophie. They were friendly and polite. I asked them about the storage bin, and they told me the last person in the room that had my bed used the bin that I used. Okay, now I know that I did the right thing. After a few more minutes of chatting, it was time to go and try and find the Eiffel Tower. By this time, I was tired of paying 1.70 Euros every time I got on the train. I asked the information attendant at the station how much ten tickets would cost me, and he told me 12 Euros. I thought to myself, “Why did I not do this at first?” By doing this, each way would save me .50 Euros. That adds up quickly. Anyway, I got my ten tickets and off to the train I went. I followed my map, and after changing trains, I was at the Eiffel Tower stop. I exited the train expecting the Eiffel Tower to be right there, but I was wrong. I just followed the masses. You could see the top of the tower in the distance, and it just kept getting closer and closer. What I found amazing was all of the street vendors that were selling the same stuff for the same price. They were located pretty much side by side. I was thinking that if they diversified and sold different things it would be better, but this was not the case. I guess they had a main person that they sold for, and they just put their blankets or sheet out and filled them with the stuff. I decided not to really stop and look at anything, but instead keep going toward the tower which was getting closer and closer.
I finally made it to the Eiffel Tower after about a ten minute walk, and I went ahead and queued up in the line. It was already afternoon time, but I thought I would go ahead and go up to the top. I paid my admission fee, and got in the queue that was doing the security check. Once through this, I entered the base of the tower. I had to line up to catch the next lift up, and once it came, they hoarded us into the lift like a bunch of cattle. I mean we were packed in. I am surprised we did not exceed the weight capacity. At the moment, the ticket I purchased was only for the second level. Originally, I thought the top was closed. I exited the lift on the second level and walked around and took photos. After twenty or thirty minutes, I realized I could purchase a ticket on the second level to go to the top. I did so, and was in another queue to get on another lift. I took the lift up, and upon exiting the lift, the crowd was pretty thick. I elbowed my way to find some good views. Also, I brought my binoculars which I had in my day bag. I used these to further elevate my experience. What a view!! I took more photos, but mostly I just walked completely around the top, at least twice, just in pure awe and amazement. I looked up at the tip of the tower, and it was no more than ten to twenty feet from where I was at. I was up there in the clouds I felt like. I looked down to the grassy are in front of the tower where many just sit and eat lunch or whatever they do, and they looked like little specks. The buses and cars looked like Matchbox or Hot Wheel cars. I thought to myself, “You are on top of the Eiffel Tower.” I was still just in pure awe at this point.
After spending a good amount of time on top of the Eiffel Tower, I noticed it was starting to get dark, and at this time, I felt it best that I make my way back to the hostel. I got back in the long queue to go down from the top, and entered a lift. The lift down seemed to go faster down than the one going up. Pretty cool ride none the less. It was neat to see the building get bigger the more you came down. Once on the ground, I walked around the base of the Tower a few more minutes, and then off to the train station I went. There were only a couple of landmarks I remembered, and once passing those I thought to myself “Oh crap” where now? I saw a Subway so I decided I would grab a quick supper. Let me tell you, it is a lot more expensive in Paris than at home for a sandwich. I believe I paid around six Euros for a six inch sub, cookie and drink. Also, the refills cost one Euro. I just did not put any ice in my drink, and filled it to the rim. When I finished eating, I departed the Subway, looked across the street, and there was the train station. I was not lost after all. I made my way across the street, down the stairs to my platform. After about a fifteen minute ride, I was back at my stop. I made my way back to my hostel. Upon entering my room I met the remaining roommates. They were five girls from Hong Kong. I made the mistake in my hellos. I said hello in Japanese, and I was told in a polite way that they were not from Japan, but Hong Kong. I felt about an inch tall at that time and embarrassed. Oh well, I shrugged it off and made my way down to the common area to use my laptop. I checked emails there, and then I went outside and sat beside a lake that was behind the hostel. Pretty neat I thought having a lake in Paris. I was off the beaten path a little bit, but who would have figured? I went back up to my hostel, and went to bed. I heard my roommates when they came in, but luckily I had the curtain around my bed, and the lights did not bother me. Actually, the two from Australia were polite enough to use their cell phones for a light; however the girls from Hong Kong just cut the lights on and rattled with their luggage, etc... How rude I originally thought.
The Hong Kong girls must have set their alarms very early. All I remember is hearing this funky sounding alarm go off. Actually, I think two of them went off. I believe they were both from their cell phones. So much for waiting for 7:00 to get here for my alarm to go off. I guess I was waking up now. I gave them some time before I exited my bed, for I did not want to be in the way. I went to the bathroom and cleaned up, and then went back to my room to put away my toiletry bag. The two Australian girls asked me my agenda for the day, and I told them a couple of things that I wanted to do. They mentioned going to the Louvre. I thought to myself that I would not like this, or at least not be interested. They said they were going later in the evening. I left the room and then I went down to partake in the free breakfast. There was a big spread of breads jellies, generic cocoa pebbles looking cereal, milk, coffee, and juice. I ate until I was full, and then I got me a snack for later. I brought some plastic bags from home for this purpose. I took a baguette (bread) and some butter and put this in a gallon sized plastic bag. I went back up to my room to get my day bag, and I proceeded to stick the plastic bag in my day bag for later. Off I go on my second day in Paris.
The more I thought about the Louvre, the more I thought this would be a good opportunity to go. I did not get to go the last time that I was in Paris due to the time, and I thought if I go now, I could possibly beat the crowds. My mind was now set and I was quickly on the train on the way to the Louvre. I exit the train station, and make my way to the museum. I had to cross the street, and after a few wrong turns, I was finally at the entrance. It was beautiful. The entrance was inside of a giant glass pyramid. I took a few photos, and noticed there was starting to be a long queue. I got in the queue, and waited patiently until getting to the glass pyramid. There was a security check you have to go through, but after this, you go down the escalator and inside the main area of the Louvre. I queue in the ticket lines and just looked around in amazement at how large this place was, and I wasn’t even inside the museum yet. I spent my nine Euros on a ticket, asked where the Mona Lisa was located, and in I went.
The paintings were astonishing, beautiful, and breath-taking. And they were all (or at least seemed all) were so large. I made my way down a couple of halls, and followed the signs pointing to the Mona Lisa. I found the room the famous painting was in, and there was a large congregation of people in there. The Mona Lisa is not a large painting, and it is behind a large plexiglass looking wall. There also is a rail where you cannot get too close, oh and not to mention two guards there the whole time. I elbowed my way to the front, or at least as close as I could get, and took some photos. Here I am seeing one of the most famous paintings of all time. It was surreal. After a few minutes, I made my way out of this room, and continued exploring the Louvre. There were just too many things to see, and you just could not take enough pictures. I had a map that should where the most famous art pieces were, and I tried to get around seeing and photoing all of these that were listed. I think I did a pretty good job at finding them, and again, I was just amazed at the history, age, and beauty of some of the statues, paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art. I came across the statue or sculpture of the large face sculpture from Easter Island. The one from “The Night at the Museum” and I just sat there and smiled. It was a cool moment I thought to myself.
I started getting a little hungry at this point, and I had pretty much saw all that I wanted to see here. Believe me when I write this, you could spend days in the Louvre if you really did your research and read about all the paintings. I did not have that luxury, and to be honest, I really saw what I wanted to see. I made my way back to the room that housed the Mona Lisa for one last look. I went in, looked, asked someone to photo me as close as I could get to the photo, and I departed. I made my way back down the many halls, down the stairs, up the escalator, and out through the glass pyramid. Once out of the Louvre, I looked back and noticed the queue was extremely long. I was very glad I came as early as I did. By this time, it was around noon. I had spent over three hours in a museum. Who would have ever thought that? Not me for sure, but I would do it all over again. Anyway, I found me a bench to sit down on, and I ate me a snack while looking at the outside of the Louvre (such a large place) and the people. I finished up, and it was off to my next destination on my sightseeing agenda; The Arc de Triomphe.
I went to the train station, at this time I was glad to have purchased the multi tickets, and made my way to the next stop. I exited the train, and made my way to the main street. The structure was magnificent, and I could not wait to get over to it, however there was one problem. The Arc de Triomphe is across a very busy round about. Not to worry however, for there was an underground walkway to get you across the street, and when you come up the stairs, you are at the base of the structure. I walked around and took photos, and then I decided I would go to the top. I paid my fee, and after a security bag check, I made my way up the winding stairs. Up all 284 stairs I went. Gees, and the staircase was similar to Notre Dame how it was a winding staircase. Up, up, up I went. Finally I made it near the top. There was an area you could view from that allowed you to look at the ground through what appeared to be thick plexiglass. I did this, but I wanted to go further up. I got back on the stairs and continued up. I made my way to the top, and started walking around and viewing Paris from all the different sides. I brought my binoculars from home, and this was the perfect opportunity to use them. Magnificent view and it was absolutely beautiful. I took photos and then I decided to make my way down. Down, down the winding stairs i went. It seemed easier going down than up that is for sure. I got the ground level, and I walked around the base again. There is a grave of an unknown soldier that is buried there that was from WWI, and there is a flame that burns every day. There were also flowers around the site. I am not sure who maintains this, but it was neat and in order. It was a nice tribute I thought.
I decided I had seen all I wanted too here, so I made my way down the tunnel and back across the street. I was going back to the train station, and I decided to do something different. The station was very close, and actually the Arc de Triomphe is right off of one of the most famous streets in Paris; the Avenue des Champs Elysees. I have been on it before, and have heard about it, but I have never completely walked it. What am I getting myself into I thought. There really was no better time than now, for the weather was beautiful out, and I thought “Why not?” The Avenue des Champs Elysess is very famous for the shops/stores, but actually it is the same stuff we have here. It is just a conglomeration of many people spending bookuws of money. Off I go down the left side on the sidewalk. I walk, and walk, and walk. Finally, I make my way to the end of the left side. Along the way, I see street vendors, people hustling people with cards and other tricks, and just people casually walking as I was. The road curves around at the end of the Avenue des Champs Elysess and continues on. The road name changes I believe. There was a large fountain at the end and large statue called Cleopatra’s Needle. I looked back up the street I just walked, and the Arc de Triomphe seemed so far away in the distance. Also in the distance was the Eiffel Tower. I breathed in the air and was happy of where I was at this particular moment.
I took more photos, and then it was time to make my way back to the train station. I starting walking and noticed there was a bus of young models taking a photo shoot. I stood around with the other gawkers to see what they were doing. I watched about five minutes, and I decided this was a waste of my time so I started making my way back. Same scenario walking back concerning the street vendors and crowds. I just walk along and shake my head no when asked if I would like to purchase something. I get back to the steps that take me down to the train station, make one last look at the Arc de Triomphe, and make my way to the platform. I board the train, and decide that I will go back to the hostel and shower and clean up.
After cleaning up, I decided I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower one more time. I made my way back to the train station, and again I was glad I bought the multi tickets, and then I boarded the train. I exited the train station, and this time things looked a little familiar to me. I walked past all of the street vendors again selling the same exact stuff side by side for the same price. Go figure. Anyway, when I arrived at the Eiffel Tower, I saw an interesting scam going on. There was a person dressed in a gorilla suit going up to people bothering them and then wanting them to take a picture with them. Of course the accomplice was there with a polaroid, and they would take a picture and charge for it. What a rip off. Good thing they did not come towards me I guess. I make my way to the lawn are, and I decide to walk all the way to the end of the grassy area. I do this, and then I get the full view of the Eiffel Tower and all of its glory.
After several minutes of gazing, I went to find me a place on the lawn to sit down. I got as close as I could to the front, found a place and plopped down. I still had some bread in my day bag that I had put in there from the morning breakfast, so I proceeded to take this out of the gallon sized bag, and I broke bread right there. I had supper consisting of a baguette with butter and water. Delious nutrish I thought. It was starting to get a little dark, and the lights were starting to be visible on the Eiffel Tower. The crowd was starting to get bigger, and the darker it got, the bigger the crowd. Then, all of a sudden the Eiffel Tower started blinking. I am sure thousands of lights just blinking. I thought this was amazing. I got my camera and took a few seconds on video. What I come to find out was they have the light show on the Eiffel Tower one time per hour. I was lucky enough to see it and be in what I considered the perfect spot. Again, it was spectacular and amazing. I almost wanted to pinch myself. After the lights stopped blinking, the Eiffel Tower was still lit with lights. I sat a few more minutes, and then decided to head back to the hostel. I looked again, nodded my head, and got up. I made my way back to the base of the tower. Now at this time it was getting pretty dark, and the queue to go up on the tower was quite long. I would like to view the sights at night if I ever have the opportunity again, but I did not do this at this time. I felt as if I had saw enough and I was ready to make my way back. This time, I felt comfortable walking back to the train station, for it was familiar to me. It is funny, because as soon as I get comfortable, it is time to move to a new location. I guess that is the thrill in travelling.
I got back to my hostel, and of course all of the ladies were still out on the town, so I packed my things up where I would be ready in the morning to just get up and go. I went out and sat in the common area for a bit, and then I went to the little park behind the hostel and sat. Actually, I almost fell asleep on the bench I was sitting on. I was so relaxed and the weather was so nice. I closed my eyes to rest them, and before you know it I was almost asleep. I thought enough of this, so I went back to my room and went to sleep. At least for a little while. Remember, I had roommates. Once the girls from Australia came in, they were again polite and used their cell phones for lights. Then we have the five from Hong Kong. Same as before, lights on, rattling of suitcases. Same situation. Oh well, maybe my snoring kept them awake and they were paying me back. Who knows? All was good. The bed was comfortable, and I should not complain for the cost was cheap. Morning time came, and I decided I would go down to breakfast before I left for the train station. I went down to the common area to eat, and I sat with the two Australian girls. They asked me if the girls from Hong Kong woke me, for they said how loud they were. We all laughed about it, and wished we would have done something to disturb there sleep. Anyway, I did the same as before, and took a baguette with butter and put in a gallon sized bag for later. I told the Australian girls goodbye and happy travels, and I went back to my room to gather my things. The girls from Hong Kong were awake at this time, and when I was ready to depart, they were oh so friendly with their goodbyes. I guess they did not even realize how loud they were to disturb the others. Maybe it is a culture thing. Either way, we said goodbye, I went down to the front desk to check out, and I was off to the train station for my next adventure.

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