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Walking through Paris, the Louvre

Home -> City trips -> Paris -> Travelogue Paris -> 14 December 2013

Saturday 14 December, walking through Paris, the Louvre

The Eiffel Tower from our hotelIn the hotel we get a great breakfast buffet and after a picture of the Eiffel Tower from our hotel room we are quickly on the way to the Champs-Elysee in the 8th arrondissement. Paris is divided into 20 districts or arrondissements in which about 2.2 million people live, but if you count all the suburbs, there are more than 12 million people. For me it is the first time I am in Paris and I had no idea what exactly I could expect from this mega-city. The first thing that strikes me is the many historic and sometimes bombastic buildings, as if this is a city that wants to show that it has a great past.
Equestrian statueIt is busy in the metro and when we get off the metro station on the Champs-Elysee we end up in an even bigger crowd. This widest and longest avenue of Paris (almost 2 kilometers) is really a promenade where people not only shop in the (expensive) shops but also want to be seen. And of course there are countless tourists. There is no corner of a street where there is no monument and equestrian statues like this we encounter throughout Paris. Paris has apparently produced quite a few knights.
The Arc de Triomphe The Arc de TriompheThe Champs-Elysee is a very wide road, with 6 or 8 lanes on both sides and we first walk to the western end of it, to the Arc de Triomphe that Napoleon Bonaparte had built in honor of his many victories and the walls show a number of wars. The cynical thing is that the bow was not completed until adter Napoleon had been long expelled. The triumph arch stands on a square where no less than 12 streets cross and I would not like to drive here, it is a continuous chaos.
Detail Arc de TriompheYou can also go to the platform on the roof of the triumph arch but there is no lift. We still have to walk around here for two more days and knowing our feet, we decide to skip the 324 steps to the roof. And then we would also have to pay for it. The arch is already imposing enough to walk around and underneath it and look at the details like this scene by Francois Rude known as the Marseillaise.
Under the arch is the tomb of the unknown soldier in honor of the anonymous victims of the 1st world war.
Expensive fur jackets Expensive dress, Paris Fashion store, ParisThe north side of the Champs-Elysee is largely filled with luxury shops, cafes and cinemas, but also in the side streets where we occasionally wander, many expensive shops can be found. In this fur coat shop nothing is under € 1,000 and the dress to the right costs € 2,500. If you also want the bag next to it, that will be € 990 extra.
We go into a few souvenir shops but the prices are a really too high. It seems that the rents here are among the highest in the world. Wikipedia talks about € 9,000 per square meter per year, so for a 10 by 11 meter shop you pay almost a million euros!
On the Champs Elysee Cars are being towed AWAY, ParisFrom the Arc de Triomphe we walk back east towards the Place de la Concorde but it is still a long way and we stop first for a terrace where we can sit outside thanks to the heating. This will probably also be the last time we sit down along the Champs Elysee because my coffee is € 6 and Teije's cappuccini € 7. It is nice to see the varied public passing by and the parking attendants who are very busy towing away wrongly parked cars, the one after the other.
Beggars on the ChaMps Elysee Artwork at the Champs ElyseeAbout 20 years ago, in 1994, the sidewalks were widened and today there is enough space for everyone. Every so often there is a beggar and it strikes me that we do not see drunken clochards here but especially small older women on the sidewalk, sometimes alone, sometimes with children. And it remains a difficult question: whether to give them money or not? You would like to know someone's background, does she have to give her money to others or can she use it herself, is she on drugs, you name it. We usually let our intuition decide, sometimes we give something but often not because there are so many of these ill-fated people.
The Eiffel Tower from the Seine The Eiffel TowerThrough the Avenue George V we walk to the Seine from where we have our first unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower, the monument that literally and figuratively dominates the Paris skyline. There will be few places from where you do not see the 317 meters high tower.
But after a few photos we walk further along the Seine, the Eiffel Tower will have to wait for us.
The Seine, Paris Glass dinosaur, ParisThe Seine meanders through Paris and divides the old center into two parts. On the Ile de la Cit, an island in the Seine, the oldest remains of habitation have been found and around it the city has become the metropolis that it is now with its millions of inhabitants.
Along the quays there are many tour boats but only a few touring on the river. At one of the boats we see this glass dinosaur skeleton.
Tableau along the Franklin Roosevelt avenueThrough the Avenue Montagne we walk back to the Champs-Elysee and cross it underground, so on the one side we enter a metro station and on the other side we go up again. Almost all metro stations have multiple entrances and exits and I'm glad that Teije likes to take notice of the right directions because with my sense of direction I would come out everywhere except the side I wanted. Handy, such a private tourleader.
Again we see all kinds of monuments such as this tableau at the beginning of the Franklin Roosevelt avenue.
Champs Elysee Champs ElyseeSo halfway the Champs-Elysee I wait until it is quiet on the boulevard which is not often the case. And then quickly to the middle of the road to take a picture to both sides. On one you see the Place de la Concorde with the Ferris wheel and the obelisk in the distance and on the other the Arc de Triomphe. Both ends are almost a kilometer away from us. It has taken us more than two hours to arrive halfway the Champs-Elysee.
Christmas cart, Paris Christmas market, ParisThis is also where a large Christmas market starts along the boulevard and it is pleasantly busy. A lot of things are traded but especially a lot of clothes, which I would not expect at all at a Christmas market. No ferris wheel here but a Christmas sleigh in which you can go up a bit. But to be honest, I have seen much nicer Christmas markets in Germany.
Ferris wheel ParisAlong the rest of the Champs-Elysee to the Place de la Concorde we encounter a lot of monumental buildings but after a while they become less and less interesting, there are too many. It is an abundance of architecture and culture as you see it in a city like Vienna.
At the Place de la Concorde, an octagonal square of 8 hectares, it becomes more interesting again. In the middle of the square is the so-called Needle of Cleopatra, but in reality it is an obelisk of Ramses II from the Luxor Temple in Luxor. Unlike many other Egyptian art in Paris, it was not robbed from Egypt but a gift from a viceroy of Egypt in the 19th century.
Slightly beyond the obelisk is the Ferris wheel but I do not like heights so I do not have to go in there, no matter how nice the view might be.
Obelisk of Ramses II in Paris Obelisk of Ramses II in ParisThe obelisk weighs 227 tons and, apart from the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, there are drawings on the base of the boat that was built especially for the transport of the obelisk and the way the obelisk was put upright again.
In the past it was wrongly thought that obelisks served as sundials and this one is also used as the central point (the gnomon) that causes a shadow. On the square are lines drawn where the shadow of the upper top of the obelisk can fall upon which indicates the date and time.
Ferris wheel and the needle of Cleoptra, Paris In the sunshine on the Bassin OctagonalIt has now become 12 to 15 degrees in the sun and at the Basin Octogonal (also octagonal) we give our feet a bit of rest and we enjoy the surroundings. The pond is located in the Jardin des Tuileries, gardens that were laid out in the 16th centuries by order of Catherine de Medici. The palace of which the gardens were part, was demolished in 1883.
In a side street we look for a cafe where we can also sit in the sun and have a drink. We take a rest before we take on the next challenge: the Louvre.
Arc du Carrousel, Paris For the LouvreWhen we walk under the Arc du Carrousel we are approached by a woman with a child. She claims to have found a golden ring and asks if it is ours. Of course not. Well, then we can have it anyway, because she is an honest woman and (obviously) not a thief, but she would like to have some money for her child in return. Teije is still discussing with her, but I know better. A dark-skinned man with a lot of merchandise comes running and calls that she is a cheater but he also plays one or other role in this deceit and we pay close attention to our stuff. Without losses we get through it, but it was funny to experience.
Egyptian tombstone, Louvre Egyptian tombstone, LouvreAnd then we enter the Louvre, one of the oldest, most famous, largest and most visited museums in the world. Today it is not so crowded and we are quickly inside. Viewing the Louvre in 1 day is impossible, so we have selected a few departments and we start with famous paintings such as the Mona Lisa. What is it small! And that is only one of the many world-famous paintings that can be seen here.
But most of the time we spend in the department with Egyptian antiquities, a hobby of Teije and I also find it interesting. Much of what is on display here comes from the Napoleon Bonaparte expedition to Egypt, a unique collection.
Reconstruction of the Medieval LouvreThe Louvre was originally a castle, later a palace and in 1793 it was opened as a museum. Here you see a reproduction of the Louvre when it was a castle. Even though we made a limited choice, it still takes us hours strolling through the endless halls. 60,000 square meters of exhibitions and only about 10% of all available objects are exhibited for the visitors. An unforgettable experience that can not be described and we could wander here for days. But we are not going to do that this time, we also want to see other things.
The Seine, ParisWhen we come outside again, we stroll around the Seine for a while but it gets dark quickly and we go into the old town to find a diner where we eat a nice meal for a reasonable price. An to recover from all that wandering around. But we are not finished for today yet, we have one thing on the program, to see the Eiffel Tower from close by night.
The Eiffel Tower The Eiffel TowerWe take the metro to Bir-Hakeim station and from there it is still a short walk. At the top of the Eifell tower apparently lasers have been installed that revolve around and above the city, we had already seen it from the hotel last night. No idea if this happens only around Christmas or all year round but it is a spectacular sight. I can hardly imagine that the tower is more than 300 meters high, more than 3 times as high as the Martinitower in our hometown of Groningen! The Eiffel tower has been standing there for more than 120 years, would metal fatigue never occur? According to our travel guide, the tower is made of wrought iron and therefore better resistant to metal fatigue and extreme weather conditions than other then known metals. He can therefore last a few more centuries.
The Eiffel TowerWe are clearly not the only ones who want to see the tower, all access roads are full of tourists waving past the pushy vendors and under the tower itself it is also very busy. I knew that the Eiffel Tower is large, but if you stand underneath and see the powerful legs on which that metal thing rests, it is a lot bigger than I could have ever imagined. You can also go upstairs with a lift but there are so many rows of people in front of the ticket office and it is indicated that the waiting time is longer than 2 hours, so it is not so difficult for us to decide that we skip that trip.
In memory of Nelson Mandela, who died 9 days ago, his name is shown at the front of the tower.
And then we go back to the hotel. We have to change metrolines twice, Teije says, so when he jumps into the 3rd metro at Villiens station I stay behind. The doors are already closed and Teije does not get them to open anymore. I thought 2 metros but switching twice means of course taking a 3rd metro ... I just stay calm where I am because I know that when I go walking, we will never see each other again. Then I have a nice future as a foreign clochard because I do not have a cell phone and no money on me and do not speak a word of French.
But a few minutes later, Teije is already in front of me again, he is particularly surprised that I have not become somewhat nervous. No, no, you have already placed me in so many other difficult situations that I have am getting used to it! But if he ever wants to get rid of me, he now knows how to do it: in the French metro.


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