The best part of waking up is NOT Folgers in your cup. In fact, it’s waking up in Paris with another delicious Parisian breakfast prepared just for you. Again, the table was presented beautifully, set with the same dainty white dishes. In place of the decorative white apples from yesterday, the table had three small white pots with little aloe plants in them. Again there were fresh baguettes with butter and jam, as well as plates of moist, fluffy shortbread, dried figs and yogurt. We again had fresh orange juice, coffee and tea to get us going for the day. We made sure to eat well knowing we had a long day ahead of us.
Jacques was kind again to offer his suggestions upon learning our plans for the day. An organized host, he pulled from drawer appropriate maps, booklets and brochures for our reference. We looked over them, and then got ready for our day.
We started out into the city by taking a bus, suggested by Jacques as the best means of travel to get to the Arc de Triomphe. I have never traveled by bus before, so this was somewhat stressful for me. We weren’t sure where to scan our tickets, but thankfully there was a little old lady ahead of us who demonstrated the process. We inserted our tickets and made our way to some vacant seats in the middle. As we settled into our seats, I let out a sigh of relief that the bus challenge had been overcome.
Three stops later I realized we were going the wrong direction.
We quickly got off the bus and then crossed the street to find the stop for the opposite direction. We found it without delay and there was enough time before the arrival of the next bus for me to study the maps and gain an understanding of how the buses operated. We hopped the next bus and I had about 15 minutes to enjoy the scenery of unfamiliar arrondissements before arriving at the Arc de Triomphe. I was surprised to see it was not as wide as I was expecting, but nonetheless massive, and the roundabout surrounding it several lanes wide – I believe I’ve seen this in a few movies! Consequently, it is necessary to take an underground tunnel to get to it, as crosswalks are not feasible. Watching the cars enter and exit the roundabout was almost as impressive as the monument itself.
We crossed underneath the road and arrived to find it was elaborately made, and very tall. In addition, now out in the open, we realized this overcast, dreary day was also bitterly cold with the wind whipping about and no tall buildings to shield us from it. What happened to a high in the 50’s and partly cloudy?
There was a memorial with a small fire for “The Unknown Soldier”. I found myself wishing I could get close to it to warm up. I quickly took some pictures, but unfortunately was more interested in finding a warmer location.
Having already met a few challenges already, we now faced the obstacle of crossing back under the road and arriving near the correct street – twelve roads come off the roundabout.
Somehow we succeeded, and before carrying on to the Eiffel Tower, we stopped to watch a group of break-dancers who exhibited amazing talent, with incredible upper body strength and some fantastic abs! Recognizing this as a potential opportunity for pick-pocketing, we moved on to our next destination. We walked under the protective height of the buildings, mostly boutiques, hotels and the Embassy of Spain. When we reached the Seine, we continued alongside the river viewing the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
With the cloud cover it was difficult to see it in its entirety. We took several pictures along the way and soon reached the base of the tower. It was beautiful and the construction so obviously meticulous. As the visibility was poor, we opted not to go up into the tower, but chose to view it from below.
I had been told I had to eat a French hot dog, so we stepped over to a food stand and I ordered one. I also saw hot chocolate on the menu and ordered one of those as well, as it was also recommended to me.
We sat on a bench away from the crowd and enjoyed a tasty lunch underneath one of France’s iconic landmarks. When we finished eating we walked down to the river to catch the Batoboat for a riverboat cruise. We noticed as we crossed the street that it was blocked at one end by a police car. There were several police cars parked nearby with many officers on foot, and a few mounted officers as well. It made us a little bit uneasy, and we were eager to get on the boat. Unfortunately, the next boat was 25 minutes out… if only we’d eaten 5 minutes faster! On a positive note, Ashley bought her ticket using her student ID for a discount, and they gave it to me too, saving me 8 Euro!
We waited down by the river for the next boat to arrive. In the meantime I took advantage of the opportunity to take some photos. It was a very cold 25 minutes and by the time the boat floated up, I was more than ready to go. We scurried on to the boat and took two seats in the front. It wasn’t heated, but a plexiglass roof cover eliminated the wind making it much warmer. We floated down the Seine, past the Musee d’Orsay, St-Germain-des-Pres, and the Louvre, onward to Notre Dame.
We got off the riverboat and walked the perimeter of Notre Dame, admiring the intricate gothic beauty of the building with the grotesque, yet fascinating gargoyles.
We went inside to find the cathedral as breathtaking as Sacre Couer, though completely different. It was tall and narrow, with impressive stained glass throughout. We spent nearly an hour inside learning about the history of the cathedral. We also saw a confession in progress, which is apparently not anonymous as I had understood it to be.
After we were done touring the cathedral, we left to make our way back to the Eiffel Tower as we wanted to see it illuminated at night. I had checked earlier and sunset was to occur at 6:14. We found the correct bus line to take us to the tower and arrived just at dusk. We waited and waited, but the lights didn’t come on. Knowing we had limited time before the show at Moulin Rouge, we began to make our way to the nearby subway station that would take us back to the B&B. We hadn’t even walked a block when the lights came on, so we hurried back to get pictures. Unfortunately, in low light, my camera stinks. It was a beautiful sight, regardless, and I was happy we got to see it.
We then went back to the B&B to get ready for the show. The dress code for Moulin Rouge is “elegant”, so our comfortable tourist clothes were not going to cut it. We changed and then headed the few blocks up Rue Blanche to get to the show.
We first stopped in to the Quality Burger to get some dinner for Ashley and then got in line at Moulin Rouge. We waited about ten minutes in line, and then arrived at the coat check where they informed us we were required to check our coats, (and camera), and that we must pay 2 Euro each for the service! Seems like they should 1) inform you of this requirement when you make the reservation, and/or 2) not charge you as the ticket itself is expensive enough. Under normal circumstances I may have communicated my disappointment, however, due to my inability to speak fluent French, I figured it was in my best interest to suck it up and pay the 4 Euro. I could care less about checking my coat, but was very nervous to leave my camera in their hands.
The usher took us to our seats and then brought us a bottle of champagne to share. We were seated next to two other women who were not friendly and didn’t speak to us at any point. The show itself was one of the best I’ve ever seen. There was dancing, singing, comedy, acrobatics, and so much more… oh, and there were a lot of boobs. It was such a culture shock, but the show was so magnificent I can’t describe it as anything but amazing. After seeing so many boobs shaking around, you kind of get used to it and forget they’re there. I can’t tell you what the story line of the show was, as everything was in French, but the performances were outstanding, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The entire time I kept thinking to myself: “I don’t want it to be over!” To my dismay, the show did end. Highlights included dancing in an aquarium with snakes, an incredible juggling display and an acrobatic display similar to that of Chinese acrobats, only it consisted of a man and woman and demonstrated incredible strength. The whole show was amazing and I will definitely go back someday. I highly recommend it!
Once the show was over we went back uphill as we had yesterday to Sacre Couer so we could see “The City of Lights” at night. The city was indeed beautiful, but due to the poor visibility, there was much that couldn’t be seen. Nonetheless, it was quite a site, and well worth the trek uphill. As it hadn’t gotten any warmer, our repeat visit to Sacre Couer was short-lived and we headed back downhill to our quaint little B&B to rest up for tomorrow. Awesome day!