Tag Archives: Eiffel Tower

Paris Part Two: Do we get to ring the bells?

14 Feb

Saturday (the 5th) was an early start: breakfast at 8:30am, meet for the bus tour at 9am. I don’t mind getting an early start, especially for tours. Our tour guide’s name was Julian and he was originally from London, so he spoke the English I’ve grown accustomed to hearing over the last month. He spoke French with our driver and endured countless “the Bloody French!” jibes from our program chaperone.

Things I saw on the tour:

A typical Parisian church

A typical Parisian house... (This was probably some sort of mansion thing but I can't remember)

The Shakespeare and Company book shop. It had a story to it but sadly I don't remember (This will be a recurring theme)

A fountain. possibly the one from "Devil Wears Prada" when she throws her phone in the water.

Louis Vuitton headquarters, also the largest LV store in the world. Fortunately and unfortunately, I didn't get to go inside.

New York Avenue. And New York Restaurant. In Paris.

Replica of the Statue of Liberty torch

Metro Station designed during the Art Nuevo phase

We drove around Paris and learned about the architecture and different districts before heading onto the Île de la Cité, one of two islands on the Seine, the other being Île Saint-Louis. The Île de la Cité is home to one of the most famous cathedrals in the world: Notre Dame. The last time I was in Paris (summer 2005) I only glimpsed it from afar. Lucky for me, the bus stopped and let us off to see the cathedral up close and walk inside.  The outside is a marvel. I’ve seen some old buildings and I’ve seen medieval churches (well… parts of them, in museums…) but seeing Notre Dame up close was a whole new game.


The view from the side.

A statue on the grounds…

The copper has oxidized so these guys look a bit like the ghost army from Lord of the Rings (always a plus for this nerd).

Though most of the statues were restorations of the originals, the tableaus and their stories remained unchanged.

The three doorways into the cathedral.

Looking up at the center doorway

Statue between two of the doorways

John the Baptist. Holding his head.

Mary and a few other ladies in front of the center window

A few of the gargoyles. Disney gave me false hope that they would sing as Quasimodo rang the bells.

In medieval times the majority of people were illiterate, so Bible stories were told in picture form. Julian focused on the center doorway, as will I.

One of three entrances to the museum, the center door depicts the ascension of souls.

We have Christ seated as a king, flanked by angels. Below him is an angel (on the left) who is holding a set of scales. The scales tip towards good, or those who are going to go to Heaven. The devil is on the right, attempting to tip the scales towards evil, or those who are going to hell.

Tipping the scales... And the devil figures are just plain creepy.

Those on the left (Christ's right) will go to heaven...

Those on Christ's left (our right) will go to hell. This superstition towards the left is what led left-handed people to be treated so poorly.

After learning all of this from Julian, we were given free time to go inside the cathedral. There are few places that have taken my breath away: the Coliseum in Rome, the view from a cliff in St. Thomas, the first time I went to New York City… And now Notre Dame.

Ceiling of the main section of the cathedral

One of two giant windows

The organ

Chandeliers hang from the ceilings, providing a little extra light.

There were dozens of little apses, each with its own stained glass window. This one held a golden crucifix.

I’ve never been so impressed by columns and arches, stained glass windows and high ceilings.

People light candles in memory of loved ones who have passed.

I consider myself to be more spiritual than religious but I felt something while I was there. I can’t describe it entirely, but it was a feeling of contentment and wonder. It’s the same feeling I get when I go to a new museum or a new place that instantly captures my heart; as cheesy as that may sound. I could have spent hours in Notre Dame admiring the details but alas, I only had half an hour, which is more like five minutes for me when in a place that amazes me.

I could have stayed there all day. And night.

We continued the bus tour, getting a brief history of Paris and glimpsing a number of sights:

Arc de Triomphe

Sculpture on the Arc. Someone is having a hard time letting go...

This was a message left on the bridge above the tunnel where Princess Diana crashed. There were thousands of inscriptions on the bridge in tons of languages. This one, being a quote from a Lady GaGa song, was my favorite.

We finished our tour at the Eiffel Tower where we took the elevator to the second floor, the observation deck. There are quite a few monuments to be seen…

The Arc de Triomphe

Do I know what this is? No... Is it pretty? Yes.


Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Sacred Heart Basilica, on a hilltop in the distance.

A football field

The urban part of Paris isn't in the heart of the city but on the outskirts in order to maintain the classic feel of the city.

I thought about going all the way up but the wind and limited visibility talked me out of it. Besides, I’ve now been up the thing twice. I figure that makes up for not going to the tippity top.

Me on the observation deck; thankfully there is a railing and a fence to prevent clumsy people like me from failing off the edge.


Paris part one: I take a train underwater

8 Feb

This past weekend (February 4th-6th) I left my English-speaking city for the land of wine, cheese, and baguettes. In order to get to Paris we took a Eurostar train. England is an island. They didn’t build a massive bridge from England to France; they built a tunnel underneath the English Channel. This tunnel is called the Chunnel (insert chuckles here). Traveling by train is pretty nice, there’s no turbulence, the seats are comfortable and it’s relatively speedy.

Paris is an hour ahead of London so that proved to be an annoying time difference for this Blackberry addict. We got there at about 6:30pm. Our hotel was located in the Bastille area, made famous by the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille, which was a prison. The hotel was attached to a train station. It was nice, but a little noisy. The beds were like sleeping in heaven compared to the dorms in Kensington.

Our hotel was located beside this train station. The clock tower made it easy to find our way home.

The monument for the Bastille

After getting settled into the hotel we took the Metro (Paris subway, above and below ground, kind of like the Red line on the T) to the Eiffel Tower. The Metro is nowhere near as efficient as the Tube but they do have screens that tell you which train is coming next and the exact stops it makes. There is also a massive schedule that tells you exactly when the subways run. No waiting around for twenty minutes waiting for your train (I’m looking at you, Green line).

The Eiffel tower is pretty magnificent in the evening. It is lit up and every hour on the hour thousands of other lights turn on and the entire structure glitters for about five minutes. It must drive the locals absolutely bonkers but it’s a lovely experience for us tourists.

Me under the Eiffel Tower, like a total tourist.

While we waited for our boat tour to embark, we had the chance to take pictures and grab a snack. I got a crepe with nutella and whipped cream.

Messy, chocolatey goodness

The boat tour was interesting; we had an audio guide and even though we couldn’t take pictures through the windows it was still cool to see Paris at night from the Seine.

I managed to find a statue on the way back to the Metro…

A perfect pose: Hand on hip, butt out.

After we got back from the boat tour we explored by the hotel and came to the conclusion that Bastille isn’t the nicest area. Soon we were off to bed for a few hours before an early rise to a full day in Paris.