Eiffel Tower, River Seine Cruise, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, Latin Quarter
On our very first night in Paris, I dragged Maylene immediately off to the Eiffel Tower and we arrived at dusk, staying long enough to watch the sun set from the middle viewing level of the tower. It was HUGE! Absolutely overwhelming in height and base size. I thought the elevators would take you straight up to the top like the Space Needle, but they actually go kind of diagonally, following along the curve of the legs of the tower. We didn’t go all the way up, mostly because of the very, very long second line to get there but had been told that the middle level was the best to see the city with anyway. It was too cool! We were inside the tower at the top of the hour when the lights began to twinkle showing off for the tourists. Oh yeah – and we were only too happy to learn that Team America’s destruction of the tower was included in the video montage starring the iron behemoth.
Just outside of the tower is the River Seine and a selection of cruises that are fantastic to take at night with all of the Napoleonic-ly enormous buildings lit up. After disembarking from the cruise, we were treated to an even more spectacular light show with the tower showing off it’s myriad of colored lights set to music. My mouth gaped open the whole time.
From the tower, the Arc de Triomphe looked absolutely enormous and I knew that we would have to see it close-up. We headed over there one day after visiting the Louvre and arrived at about 18:15. Luckily for us, it was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and they were doing a special honor for the tomb of the unknown soldier who rests at the monument. It was inspiring to see all of the veterans paying respect to their comrade in arms. Apparently they do a nice ceremony for the soldier every single day but we were lucky enough to come on a special anniversary. The monument really is huge by the way, but I think that the emotions that filled the monument on that night were even bigger.
Veterans honoring the tomb of the unknown soldier
We’ve had a lot of special moments like that. In fact, our visit to Notre Dame coincided with Veteran’s Day in the US and in France. It was really special to be there to see the soldiers preparing for the commemorative service and, of course, to be able to buy a poppy of rememberance from a retiree. The cathedral itself is very impressive. The many spires and gargoyles make it a joy to behold and we really liked the high gothic arches found in the interior as well as the mini-chapels dedicated to various saints.
The Cathedral for Mary
Gothic interior of the cathedral - 3 stories high
We were really hoping to go to the Deportation Memorial just around the corner to recognize the 200,000 French Jews who were sent to concentration camps during Nazi occupied France. Unfortunately the memorial was closed – maybe they were doing a special thing – bummer.
We spent a lot of time in Paris at large must-see sights and brilliantly interesting museums so we made sure to focus on at least a few neighborhoods to get a better sense of community. Upon a friend’s recommendation, we visited the Sacre Couer/Monmartre neighborhood one afternoon and found it to be lovely. We spent time at the neighborhood park just below the Sacre Couer church and watched the local children playing soccer – what ball control! We only left because Maylene was blessed by a little sparrow and we decided to take the hint before his friends joined in. We really liked all of the quaint stores and the cool sights laid out before us. We even enjoyed what I called “crap alley” which is a street that leads to the Sacre Couer and is just filled with low-class souvenir shops and men trying to tie a bracelet on your arm so you have to pay them. But – I have to say that the crepes were yummy! Unfortunately they insist upon putting nutella in most everything but we managed to get away with a sugar dusting only and really liked it.
Sacre Couer's "Crap Alley"
We walked back toward the Pigalle neighborhood and I was only too excited to see the real Moulin Rouge – windmill and all — fun!
Somebody's happy much...
We wandered aimlessly around the Latin Quarter after visiting Notre Dame — what a cool place. Since the establishment of the Sorbonne University in the area in the 1250s, it has been a hotbed of revolutionary thought and wide-eyed university students challenging the status quo. It got its name from all of the students originally speaking and writing exclusively in Latin. Much of the area is filled with winding, cobblestone streets and tiny restaurants and shops but a lot of them have been paved over – intentionally by the government as a means to prevent the cobblestones from being used as projectile weapons against them in protest. I love a little Bohemian, upstart neighborhood like that.
Latin Quarter - in an area not yet robbed of cobblestone...