After a few days in Bruges we caught the train to Brussels where we would board the high speed bullet train to Paris. Brussels is the capital of the European Union and has a very large, very busy and rather interesting train station. While we were waiting we encountered an odd fellow speaking French who I assume was playing the part of a germ. Perhaps advocating cleanliness or a cleaning product. He was armed with a plunger and a toilet bowl scrubber. It was very entertaining if not somewhat surreal.
I was very excited by the prospect of this train ride. The bullet train travels at speeds of up to 200 mph and reaches Paris in about 2 1/2 hours from Brussels. The trip was cool. We saw a lot of the countryside and the train was very clean and comfortable.
In no time at all we arrived at the train station in Paris. We hopped off and headed to the front of the train station to catch a cab. In our research we read that you should avoid hailing a cab in Paris. At the train station there is a cab stand and you wait in line there. There are some type of “free-lance” cabs that wait beyond the “official” stand and they are to be avoided.
After we checked in to our hotel we set out for our first attraction, The Eiffel Tower. It was just a 10 minute walk from where we were staying and it was a gorgeous day!
Heavens to Murgatroid! That thing is HUGE! Built in 1887-1889 for 1889 Universal Exhibition and Centennial of the French Revolution the tower juts an impressive 986 feet into the sky.
As you might imagine, there were crowds and vendors everywhere. We crossed the Seine River over to the Trocadero. From here you can climb the steps and get a good view of the tower and the surrounding area.
We decided to make our way back to the hotel and see about getting some dinner. There was a street nearby that featured some good places to eat as well as some shops with wine, bread, cheese and fresh produce. It smelled heavenly!
After dinner and relaxing a bit we walked back to the Trocadero to set up the tripod and get a nice time-lapse shot of the Eiffel Tower at night. If you click the thumbnail you can go through the progression of shots leading to the ultimate night shot. We did not know this, but the tower “twinkles” every hour on the hour for about 10 minutes starting at 10:00 pm. The twinkling lights were installed for the millennium and looks VERY cool.
It was starting to get chilly and we were fairly tired so we packed up the camera gear and walked back to the hotel hand in hand. It was quite charming.
We slept good and got up the next day with our sites set on mounting the Eiffel Tower. For just under 11 Euros you can ride to the top. The view is pretty spectacular and I we got some great pictures of the city. From there we caught the hop on, hop off bus to tour the city. This gave us a very good overview of Paris and allowed us to get our bearings.
After that we mostly walked to take in the sites. We did use the Metro to get us to the Musee d’Orsay but walked and walked otherwise.
Over the next few days we walked to Notre Dame, we walked to the Louvre, we walked to the Arc DeTriumph and to the Champs Elysee. We walked and walked and walked.
The Louvre was worthwhile…besides the obligatory Mona Lisa and Venus De Milo we saw many interesting exhibits including Winged Victory of Samothrace.
While we really like the Louvre I have to say, the Musee d’Orsay had to be our favorite. Filled with impressionist works we saw more Van Gogh works as well as Monet, Manet, Degas, CÃ©zanne, Renoir, Pissarro and the list goes on and on. The museum is an old train station saved from demolition and remodeled into one of the best art spaces I have ever seen in my life.
I took some pictures but nothing can do that place justice.
There is one thing we did which I recommend to anyone going to Paris. There’s a restaurant at the top of a department store called The Samaratain. From the roof you can see all of Paris and it’s very nice. We enjoyed a lunch there and fed the sparrows who came begging at our table.
Paris is full of some very fond memories. We were getting rather tired going all day every day and it was catching up to us. When the woman with the severe eye makeup and the goth-esque clothing passed us on the street for the second time I quipped “I’m late for my noon haunting”… an inside joke that kept us laughing the rest of the trip.
We polished off Paris with another long, LONG walk. We needed to tire ourselves for the upcoming ordeal…
Next up; Night train to Venice!