I’ve been meaning to add another entry to the blog for some time, but a series of events has kept me busy. I have some time now that I’m about to leave, so here’s a longer blog entry to cover my time in Paris.
I’ve been in Paris for 9 days (longer than intended, you’ll see why further down) which is the longest I’ve stayed in a single city. On day one I decided to do the Eiffel Tower right away since I only had time to do one thing. I got there by the Trocadero metro station (best way to arrive for the dramatic reveal of the tower as you come around a corner) and spent a few minutes getting pictures at ground level before getting in line. After a short while in line, I realized I was in the line for the lift, and the line for the stairs was significantly shorter and even cost less, so I left the poor souls who were going to be spending 2 hours in line and joined up with the stair line, which lasted about 20 minutes. I climbed up to level 1 and then level 2 and spent about 1.5 hours total in the tower. It was getting dark when I was coming down, so I got to see the tower lit up and even the hourly light shows where a few hundred strobe lights get set off for a few minutes. The next three days were spent doing miscellaneous stuffs. I took a day trip to Caen, went up the Montparnes Tower (the strangely out of place skyscraper near the Eiffel Tower, which has almost no line and just a good a view), visited Notre Dame and the surrounding area, climbed the hill up to Sacre Coeur cathedral (covered with both tourists and aggresive souvenir salesmen), visited the Grand Arche at La Defense (Paris’ financial district), walked the Champs D’Elysee from the Arc D’Triumph to the Louvre, took a day trip to Orleans and Blois, and visited the Pantheon (not related to the one in Rome), among other things. Then on Wednesday, I hit up the Louvre, Orsay, Rodin and Army museums in a single day. Normally this would mean several hours standing in line, but I had a Museum Pass, so I got to laugh maniacally at other tourists in line as I walked straight in. The Louvre is cool, though you’d have to spend an entire day there to see everything. I would suggest sticking to the southern wing (which houses mostly Renaissance and Enlightenment stuffs) if you have limited time. The Orsay is smaller and more managable, and I think I liked it a bit more than the Louvre. You could spend all your time on the ground level and it would be worth your admission. The Rodin is a fairly small museum (composed of two houses and gardens) and houses various works by Rodin and a few other artists. The gardens outside also feature a number of his most famous works, such as the Thinker and the unfinished Gates of Hell, and by themselves only cost 1 euro, so they might actually be the best value in Paris. Lastly, the Army Museum is dedicated to (mostly French) military history from the Middle Ages through the end of World War 2. It also houses Napoleon’s tomb in a mini-cathedral in the back (or, front, depending on what side you’re on). The building also has other French military leaders, but Napoleon gets the giant tomb in the center under the dome. On Thursday I went to Versailles and spent most of the day there. I walked quickly through the chateau (a bit crowded in the morning) and then spent a few hours wanding the expansive gardens. Oddly enough, I kept hearing what sounded like gunfire in the distance, so maybe there’s a firing range near Versailles. I found that most tourists don’t go very far in to the gardens, so if you’re willing to walk out to the perimeters you’ll leave most of the crowd behind. At the end of my visit I went back to the chateau and went through it again now that most of the crowds were gone. I then returned to Paris and went up the Arc D’Triump, which has good views of La Defense and the Champs D Elysees, but not much else.
This brings me to where my plans got sidetracked by TGV, the French rail administration. I was supposed to take a train from Paris to San Sebastian (Spain) on Friday morning, but the train I wanted was all booked up and the next one I could get on was an overnight train on Sunday night. So, I extended my stay here by another 2 nights and thought about what to do. I decided to spend Saturday taking a day trip to the D-Day beaches in Normany. I caught a train to the town of Bayeux and then got on a bus to the American Cemetary, which overlooks Omaha Beach. It was raining when I arrived, so there weren’t many other people walking around at first. After some time in the cemetary I took a path down the bluffs to the beach. 70 years has erased almost everything from that day, except for a scattered bunker here and there. Before leaving I paid a visit to the visitor center and then caught the bus back to Bayeux and then a train back to Paris. Now it’s Sunday and I’ve got a number of hours to burn before my 10:00pm train. Next post will be from somewhere in Spain. The current plan is to go to Santiago De Compostela after San Sebastian, and then Madrid.