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Friday, 22 April 2016
Paris sightseeing: Catacombes, Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Marais etc
The one thing E was really keen to do in Paris was see the Catacombes. These underground passages have the bones of 6 million Parisians moved there when church graveyards became overflowing and a health hazard. I went there on my first visit to Paris and found them fascinating, disturbing and sad. We decided that an underground attraction was the thing to do on a rainy day. I read online that there could be long queues but unfortunately I had to see them to believe them.
The queues were long when we arrived. And it was raining. But I insisted we were there and should queue. So Sylvia and E went off to MacDonalds and brought me back a macaron. Meanwhile I talked to an American and a Londoner as the queue so slowly moved along. Somehow I ended up under Sylvia's Minion umbrella. She had mine and E only had an Akubra hat to battle the rain. They went off for a hot chocolate to warm them. We waited ages. Then I got myself a hot chocolate.
We waited and waited and waited. We were so wet. We had conversations with the Londoner about the irony of going to the Catacombes because it was wet and yet spending so much time in the rain. We talked about the strikes going on that day and whether they affected the other tourist attractions. (See what I think is a strike poster above.) We joked that the bones underground were of those who had waited too long. After almost 3 hours were finally were ushered inside.
Open top bus tour
We boarded at the Notre Dame, headed up the Left Bank of the Seine past the Musee D'Orsay and across the river to the Place de la Concorde (above). The traffic there is so crazy that it is amazing no one has ever run into the obelisk.
the Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Then we turned into the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. I see people strolling along the generous footpaths and part of me wishes to be down among them while another part loves being up so high (we sat at the front of the upstairs). It is a romantic street but is full of high street brands rather than quirky individual shops. The traffic is incredibly busy and we can see the Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph) in the distance.
When we returned to Melbourne after our trip, one of the first questions I was asked about Paris was, did you climb the Eiffel Tower. We didn't. I have before but as I have already said, I prefer the views from the Notre Dame (or even the Pompidou) in the very oldest part of the city. Sylvia really wanted to climb the Eiffel Tower. I considered it until we saw the queues. They were long and we had been in enough queues.
After a day that started with climbing the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral, riding around Paris on an open top bus and dinner at Brasserie Lola, I left E and Sylvia to go home and I went to the Louvre Museum. I think I might have only visited once before when I first went to Paris. It was a Friday night so there were no queues and I had a museum pass. The hardest bit was trying to work out where to start in this immense museum.
Well I guess the first moment is to sigh in awe at the magnificent building. Especially when there is a busker playing atmospheric music on the violin. The Louvre Palace was originally built as a fortress in the 12th Century, used as a royal palace for centuries and in 1793 it was first opened as museum. It is absolutely huge.
When my mum heard that we were staying in the Marais she recommended we visit the Musee de Carnavalet. I decided to go there on the day after we had been on the open top bus. Sylvia had loved it so much she and E went on it again. And again. While I had a day in the Marais.
The building of the Musee de Carnavalet was impressive. However inside I made the mistake of not getting a headset tour. Most of the signs were in French and it was hard to get a sense of the place. Finally I found that there was some information at the back of my map brochure and when I arrived at the section on the French Revolution, I was delighted to discover that the storyboards were in both French and English.
When I first went to Paris with my list of places to visit, it included Place de Vosges and Victor Hugo's House. It took me another 20 years to get there. When I first visited Paris, I had done heaps of research, but this time I had barely looked at anything about Paris until a few days before we flew there. Hence my mistake in buying a sightseeing pass that I thought would take me to Victor Hugo's House and Musee de Carnavalet, not realising that these museums were free to enter.
Notre Dame. Some other favourite Paris sights we saw on this trip are the Pompidou Centre and Shakespeare and Co Bookstore. On previous visits, I have enjoyed visiting Musee D'Orsay, Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmatre, Pere Lachaise and the Palace of Versailles. If only I had had more time in Paris.... Sigh! Je t'aime Paris!