Thursday, June 13, 2013

Paris Day 1

When we arrived in Paris we took the RER commuter train and then a regular subway train to the city center, where we hopped off and walked a block to our hotel. We stayed at Grand Hotel Leveque which is located on a walking street called Rue Cler, in the 7th arrondisement. It's about a 5-7 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower from here.
In fact, here is a view from our hotel window. See the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower peeping up over the building across the street? Eeeee! So awesome.
It was overcast and rainy and lovely when we arrived. It felt like very Parisian weather.
View left from our balocony down the walking street. It's filled with markets (cheese, fruit, meat, etc) and cafes.
View right from our balcony down the street.
The street we stayed on was fantastic. It was a great location and very quaint. The inside of our hotel, however, was just not as exciting. I suppose it was very Parisian. It was clean and modern, but SUPER tight.
There was barely room to line our suitcases against the wall and walk past them. And the elevator to get upstairs (we were on the 5th floor) could hold either two people or one person with a suitcase. And it was snug at that, ha ha! But hey, at least it had an elevator -- because I've heard many little hotels in Paris don't.
Here is our little bathroom. Very cute, but very tiny. A little one person shower with accordion door.
A toilet and a pedestal sink. To blowdry your hair you had to stand outside the door frame if you wanted to have elbow room. Tight! It was a cute little hotel, with friendly desk-people (rare) and it was definitely clean, but very simple. But this, my friends, is all you get for $250/night in the heart of Paris!
After we dropped our bags and the weather started to clear up, we decided to make a run to the Eiffel Tower. It was the only thing on our itinerary the entire trip that I didn't have advance reservations for. Dumb, I know, but they were sold out by the time I tried to buy them (about 2 months in advance). The exact words from my guide book say, "Frankly, you'd be crazy to show up without a reservation." Ha ha! So we headed off to towards the Eiffel Tower, prepared to wait 3 hours if need be.

We grabbed a quick cheese sandwich on our street and snapped our first Parisian selfie. Incidentally, that cheese sandwich we bought (had like three kinds of cheese on it) haunts my dreams, it was so good! I wish I'd asked the lady what kind of cheese it was! I guess I'll never know.
We walked to the bottom of our street, hung a right and headed toward the Eiffel Tower.
We passed the Ecole Militaire on our way (military training school I think). Beautiful building.
And there she is! Our first view of the Eiffel Tower from the Champ de Mars.


As we walked closer and closer, she just got bigger and bigger. It's hard to tell from pictures, but this thing is HUGE.
The Eiffel Tower was built for the world's fair on 1889 by a bridge-builder named Gustave Eiffel. Originally they planned to take it down after the fair, but they liked it so much that they decided to leave it up permanently. It's 1,063 feet tall, and the base straddles an area of 3.5 acres.
I told Chris we had to take a kissing picture in front of the Eiffel Tower, because it's tradition. After all, we are in the city of love. After several tries, this was as natural a picture as I could get, ha ha.

When we arrived to the ticket line at the base of the tower, it was almost nonexistent! I think we got lucky because the rain had just cleared up. Score! So instead of waiting three hours to get up inside, we only waited about 20 minutes (and half of that was just waiting for the elevator).

We took the elevator up to the second tier, and then immediately hopped the second elevator up to the very top. I actually had to close my eyes on the ride to the VERY top because it was SO high, ha ha! 
 But the views from the top were fantastic. This picture is looking out over the Seine River.

This picture looks out over the Champ de Mars and our hotel. You can see the golden dome of the Les Invalides.
When we'd finished looking around at the top, we came down the elevator back to the second level for some more views.
Looking across the river toward the Trocadero, Maritime Museum and the skyscraper's in the distance (their business district).
It was a great way to start off our trip -- by getting a birds eye view of the layout of the city. We could see almost every attraction we were about to visit from up here.
The sun came out for us and it turned out to be a perfect evening to be inside the tower!

Funny story: It was actually fairly crowded up on the various tiers, which is funny because I know it was less crowded than usual. It was tricky to get around in some places because there were lines roped off for elevators going up and elevators going down, etc. So in an attempt to sneak around a corner to another good viewpoint, I ducked under a rope and when I stood up to turn, I whacked my head real good on a huge steel beam. Like right across the forehead. A huge goose-egg appeared so fast that Chris took a picture of it on his phone because he thought it was hilarious, ha ha. (I'll have to get the pic from him.) So that was my only souvenir from the Eiffel Tower -- a shooting pain in my head for the next week every time I raised my eyebrows! Ha ha.

The bridges across the Seine were lovely. We never did get a chance to take a boat cruise down the river, but we did take a train one evening that was above ground and crossed one of the bridges at night right when the Eiffel Tower was lit up. And we just happened to have an accordian player in our train car playing the most romantic music as we held hands and watched the Eiffel Tower out the window. It was so romantic! I didn't feel the need to squeeze in a river cruise after that. :)
In the distance here you can see the twin towers of the notre dame to the right of the river and the Louvre to the left of the river.

It's a beautiful city! No doubt about it.
After we'd had our fill, we took the elevator down to the first tier and then walked the stairs down to the ground. We wanted to experience the true majesty of its height with our knees. :)

Then we crossed the street towards the Trocadero for another great view, just as the sun was setting and a rainbow appeared behind the tower. So beautiful!
We stumbled across a little sandwich/made-to-order crepe bar on our way, so Chris got a sandwich and I got a crepe.
There were so many toppings and I had no clue what was what, so I simply asked the man to make me his favorite version (he was very nice -- not all shop keepers were nice!). It ended up being a nutella-filled crepe with brown sugar and it was fabulous! Only their brown sugar is like chunkier or grainier than ours, it's hard to describe. So the brown sugar didn't melt down, it gave it texture. It was amazing!
We sat and ate our food while we watched the sun set on the Eiffel Tower. We had a lot of time to kill since it only took us 20 minutes to get up the tower, instead of the three hours we'd planned on, ha ha!
Mmmmm, that crepe.

We finished our food and headed up the steps of the Trocadro to get a better view. They light the tower up every night for five minutes at the top of the hour when it's dark, and this is the best place to view it from. So we bought some trinkets from illegal-souvenir-peddlers (like the ones in Guell Park in Spain, ha ha) and took in the scene while we waited.
We found another North American couple from New Jersey and took pictures for each other in front of the Eiffel Tower. It might be the only non-selfie pic we got of us in Paris.
Taaa-daaaa! There she is, all lit up. It's pretty spectacular. It doesn't just light up in one solid beam, it sparkles all over. (I should have taken a video.) Amazing.

When we'd finished watching the lights, we headed back toward our hotel via a different route along the river, and then down towards Rue Cler. We passed some cute little cafe's and cobblestone streets. It was just so cute! Paris has such a fun flavor all its own.
To be continued in Paris Day 2.

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