Our first full day in Paris was a Wednesday and it was quite a contrast from the previous day. Tuesday had been a day of many contrasting emotions, the sadness of leaving my Dad & my home town, then the joy of seeing my sister for the first time in almost 5 years. We added to that the stress of traveling a journey not before completed, making sure we caught the right trains at the right time, the metro, the journey around the metro, oh my it was an adventure.
I awoke pretty well refreshed on the Wednesday, despite yet another uncomfortable bed, it turns out I am utterly spoiled with my nice mattress at home & traveling in less than great beds causes poor sleep & an aching back, this night though I think I was so tired I could have slept on the floor quite happily.
Our apartment was in a great location, just a few blocks from the Louvre & the Royal Opera house. Yet rather interestingly the nestle of back streets we were on seemed to be some sort of little “China town” as there were a host of asian restaurants of all nations. We had determined that we would go get breakfast from a patisserie, the one closest to the apartment was also recommended by Olivier on our arrival so we went there. For the quintessential multi-cultural experience it was a traditional Parisian patisserie that happened to be operated by some people of Japanese descent, meaning there were 2 languages we could not understand in the window. I was all set to try and bumble through ordering in French, but the assistant – who spoke perfect English, obviously overhead us talking & started the conversation in English. So with a little less excitement than I was expecting, we returned to the apartment with fresh Cafe Creme, pain au chocolates & a real French croissant, all of which were delicious.
I’d love to tell you that we came to Paris to do more than the most cliche of tourist things, that we went exploring little know treasures (other than a Japanese / French patisserie). But I don’t want to lie to you, we came to Paris to do the things people do when they come to Paris, on the first visit at least. Today was going to be all about making some little girls (who happen to be cousins) dream come true. Today we would go to the Eiffel Tower.
Following our delicious breakfast, we began the rest of the day’s adventure. We decided to start with the park at the Louvre, it would give the kids a much needed opportunity to run around & burn off some steam & also allow the adults to relax and enjoy the surroundings while stretching our legs. It was in easy walking distance so no need to use the metro, we were all a little gun shy from the previous day’s excitement. The streets were lined with 5 story stone buildings, it would be easy to imaging the roads having been carved out of the buildings rather than the buildings being built around them. Just at the end of our street there was a magnificent statue of some gut that looked like he had escaped from the Musketeers stories.
Once we got to the louvre we fort the first time saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance past a rather grand arch which we would head through into the park. The tower even from a distance is quite a sight, standing almost regally over the city, even with all its fame, actually seeing it was somewhat breathtaking.
It was an impressive beauty of a park, long, wide and well manicured. Sculptures strewn throughout, interesting plant life and some trees that were oddly cut flat at the top with impress levelness. We found a little playground within the park & the kids set about having a good time, while I tried (in vain) not to stare at the crowd of men practicing some form of martial arts, seemingly the older gentlemen were instructing the younger ones. We moved on from the playground after a while to let the kids ride the merry-go-round and then have a go in the trampoline park, My daughter had a blast with all of this, her soccer fitness helping her never even remotely get tired.
We decided to grab lunch before catching the metro to the tower & exited the park on the north side, no plans or destination in mind, just somewhere to eat. Right where we exited there were 2 restaurants on the main road either side of side street junction which had a third restaurant for us to choose from. For some reason i declared that we should go to this third one, being a hundred years from the main road seemed preferable to me.
The Brasserie called Flottes was just perfect. It was a long but rather thin city bar / restaurant. At least 3 floors, we were seated on the main floor at a corner table. Oddly I had a taxidermy’d polar bear towering over me in the corner. The place was not particularly busy, but there were folks there doing life, conversing in French, the ambiance of the place was just right, maybe because I was so relaxed and enjoying our stay, but I really felt like I was traveling here. I ordered a salad that came with cheese and ham & potatoes, making for a quite substantial meal for a salad. My wife enjoyed real French onion soup & my daughter had a sandwich with an egg on top (I forget the name) & was most excited to eat real french fries in France (although they are apparently of Belgian origin).
After lunch we rode the metro to the tower, a much more relaxed metro ride given that we were without suitcases and it was not rush hour. Rather than going the long way around on the metro to get to the closest station, we got out at Ecole Militaire metro station which put us at the entrance to the gardens leading up to the tower. This allowed for some great photo opportunities and also gave the anticipation of the climb chance to grow amongst both the kids and the adults as we strolled towards the imposing structure.
Once we reached the base of the tower we were faced with the choice of riding the elevator or climbing the stairs. A combination of long lines & significantly higher prices made the choice to use the stairs a fairly easy one to make. Once through security we began the climb, our surroundings were as you would expect, lots of exposed metal all joined together in a very industrial revolution kind of way. We were climbing the east side, the elevator there was closed for repairs, a rather amusing sight was the 2 engineers working on the elevator car situated either side of a model of a man who looked like a train driver. It took a second to realize that 2 of them were real, or maybe that one of them was fake.
We reached the first floor fairly quickly, my daughter excitedly leading the way as I straggled behind taking photos. The first floor was quite the tourist center with restaurants, a gift shop and even a small ice skating rink. There was also one of those awful see through floors running around. I actually didn’t realize how much I do not enjoy them until this day. My head knew it was safe, they wouldn’t put it in if it were not, millions of people have walked safely on them, yet as I told myself they were safe, my legs said no, not moving. I eventually managed to get myself to walk in it, rather week kneed and certainly not enjoying having to overcome some repressed fear of falling to my death. Ok at that point in time it was not particularly repressed, but think about it, if by random chance that thing were to fail while you were stood on it, you are going to die, absolutely no other options, there’s also a good chance you are going to land on someone & take them with you, it just …. yeah.
After some souvenir shopping in the gift store my sister informed me that she would not be going to the top, nor her husband or my nephew, I guess theres a family thing here haha. My niece however did want to join us & so we headed up the stairs to the 2nd floor, just the four of us now.
If I remember correctly it was a total of 670 stairs from the bottom to the second floor, that’s a lot of stairs (they were numbered by the way, I didn’t count). The view from the 1st floor had been pretty good, but the razzmatazz of the surroundings took away from it a little. The 2nd floor was all about the view, the platform was smaller (as I’m sure you know, the tower gets thinner as it goes up) which made it quicker to walk around and see the view from each side. It felt as though you could see forever, the sprawling city immense and beautiful, the air was cool, but not cold, not like it had been in England & certainly not like Scotland. The breeze was pretty good up there though. After spending some time taking photographs etc we to some tickets to rid the elevator to the top, the stairs only go to the 2nd floor, but the elevator add on from there is way cheaper.
The elevator was cramped due to the number of people in there, I wonder what the capacity is, surely it must be significant. The place must be awfully busy in the summer, early December crowds were enough for me. The ride up was fairly quick, the elevator wobbled a little & if I allowed my mind to wander towards what would happen if the cable failed, well, my knees went a little week. I’m not sure where these thoughts of falling were coming from on that day, it was rather bizarre.
The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is one that will stay with me forever, it is beyond spectacular, words really cannot do it justice. The girls were just as blown away as I was, my darling nice particularly proud of herself for not being too afraid to reach the top of the tower, I’m sure she will remind Mum of that for years to come. I took many photos & some video. If even took some panoramas, holding my phone through the fence to get an unrestricted shot. That was until my wife pointed out the signs that I had somehow been oblivious to telling you specifically not to do such things. I guess a cell phone accidentally falling from 300 feet would probably not be such a good thing lol.
I am not sure how long we stayed at the top for, we did not hurry, but it was getting crowded so we decided to go back down. We rode the elevator and then hit the downward stairs which did not feel particularly good on my knees or legs in general (yay getting old). We exited the tower just in time to see a guard of armed soldiers passing, a stark reminder that we were then only 3 weeks removed from the terrorist attacks that shook not only Paris, but the world. It was reassuring to see them as it helped to make us feel that we were in Paris at probably the safest time in history. Yet it was also heart breaking, that such a thing would be necessary in a place of beauty, a place of civilization, a place where normal people aspire to visit, to make dreams come true.
We spent a little time in a small park near the tower, my daughter and her cousin doing their best to communicate with some of the local children. Kids were playing all around, young boys playing football others chasing each other, the rest of the swings and climbing frames, it was a wonderful sight. Eventually it was time to leave and ride the metro back to the apartment. however before we settled in for an exciting meal of leftovers lead us into a pleasant relaxing quite evening in the apartment, a quick trip to Starbucks was in order. They had some fabulous freshly squeezed orange juice which I enjoyed much more than my wife did her luke warm coffee. We strolled down the street to get a closer view of the stunning Palais Garner, the national opera house. Then on the way back, we called into the must amazingly delectable chocolate store, it was frightfully expensive, but worth every cent.
The not supposed to be take panoramas 🙂