We arrived in Paris on Tuesday afternoon after a tiring trip from Singapore. Slightly late, our flight didn’t leave Singapore until 1.00 am and by then the girls were whacked. Violet was asleep before the plane took off but Audrey was suffering from exhaustion and was ill during the entire flight. A four hour transfer in London helped but she didn’t fully recover until after good night’s sleep once we reached Paris. Fortunately she was back too her usual bright self by the next morning.
She are staying at a Holiday Inn just near the Grands Boulevards Metro station. It is relatively central with a lot of brasseries nearby for dinner and a convenience store just over the road. We have seen a little damage for the recent riots in Paris. In this area there are a few shops with windows boarded and a number of ATM screens smashed in that makes them inoperable. There is a strong police presence on the street and last night on our way to the convenience store, Cathy and I passed a squad of nine armed soldiers patrolling the street.
We decided that we should spend our first day visiting the most famous Parisien site of all – the Eiffel Tower. We are clearly not gong to see everything in this city in the three days that we have here but we should be able to cover the major attractions.
As a response to terrorism, the Eiffel Tower is much less open than on my last visit. Then you could walk up to the base and all around the area underneath the tower. Now, there is a very high armoured glass fence around round the entire site and to enter you have to pass through a security check and metal detector. Perhaps the positive side of this is that it may deter some of the pickpockets from entering the area so easily. The crowds were light and we quickly bought tickets and caught the lift up to the middle level.
It was a cloudy day but quite mild with a temperature of about 10C. However, the wind was cool. We spent about half an hour taking in the view. We could see all across Paris and at one stage Audrey said “I can’t believe that I’m really in Paris”. Her reaction made my day!
By now it was almost midday and we strolled over the river to the Trocadero for a more distant view of the tower. Jill sat on a seat by the river waiting for us to return. We found a Creperie on the way back and bought the girls a crepe filled with chocolate.
We had decided to take a river boat tour of the Seine and we had just a short wait fro the boat to leave. There was another security check on entry. The tour travels past some of the major sights such as the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay. I always think that Paris is a beautiful city and even on a cloudy day, we had patches of sunshine that lit up the buildings along the way.
By the time that we returned, it was after 2.00 pm and time for a late lunch. Rather than wandering around the streets looking for a pace to eat, we decided to eat at the bistro on the riverfront near the departure point for the tour boats. It might have been a little more expensive than other places, but it was very convenient. We ate lazily, looking out at the view of the Eiffel Tower. At 3.30 pm, we realised that most of the afternoon had already disappeared.
We tossed up whether we would go on to the Arc de Triumph or just head back to see the famous Galleries Lafayette Store. This is the most up-market department store in France. In the end, the Galleries won out because the walk to a metro station that would get us to the top of the Champs Elyse was much further away. Our train took us to the Opera station and we exited right beside the Opera House. We could see a little more riot damage around us but there were lots of police and the area was quite safe.
The Galleries Lafayette store was right behind the Opera House, so we only had a short walk to get there. The Christmas windows were very popular with children. They were based on cartoon-like characters that children had drawn so they were very bright and colourful.
The central feature of the Galleries is a very ornate dome. It’s right in the middle of the store and every floor surrounds it. Right now, it is decorated with a fantastic giant Christmas Tree. It’s a wonderful sight and I think every person ion Paris had come to see it. The best view as in the aisle of the perfume department on the grounds floor. I needed to stitch 15 photos into this one to see it in all of its splendour.
There is a terrace on the roof of the store and it gives a good view across the rooftops of Paris. The sun was setting while were there (about 5.00 pm) and I waited to see if the clouds would light up. Unfortunately, the clouds near the horizon were too thick and instead of a pink evening sky, all we had was a golden glow. It was still very nice and its not everyday that I experience a Parisian sunset.
We were not very hungry after our very late lunch so I went over to the convenience store and bought a snack for dinner. We are still a bit jet-lagged and by 8.30 pm we were having trouble keeping our eyes open, so it was off to bed after a good first day in Paris.