Around the World in 40 Days - Summer '08 travel blog

Eiffel Tower/Champs de Mars

L'Arc de Triomphe

Picnic on the Seine - Pont Neuf

Day 39 - Strolling Around the Seine

After a leisurely morning, and an excellent sleep, we headed for the Eiffel Tower. For fuel, we found a local shop from which to buy croissant and pain au chocolate ... another of those "pinch me I'm in Paris" moments!

The Metro took us to the top of the Trocadero Square, and a breath taking view of the tower. The square is elevated above the banks of the Seine, with a pool and fountain leading towards the river, and the tower on the far bank. Although the weather was overcast and somewhat gloomy it was so cool to be so close the storied tower. As we walked along the square we had to dodge the ever-present souvenier-sellers who were jingling their Eiffel Tower keychains loudly. We bought a couple Cafe au Lait instead :)

Approaching the tower, and walking underneath it is really indescribeable! It is one of those iconic monuments of almost mythical proportions, and to find yourself so close to it is just incredible :) Laura enjoying her return to the Tower, this time feeling much less lonely.

We arrived later than we had planned, so that meant waiting in a queue for a half an hour. Avoiding the elevator line in favour of walking up allowed us to get through the queue and up the tower much more quickly! Walking up the 600 steps was not bad, especially with a quick break at the first level, and it was fun to be inside the tower looking through the mass of steel and out over Paris. The view from the top of the second level was great, although there were many people crowded along the railings. We took our time, took in the view, and took in some more very expensive coffee :) A quick visit to the local post office was memorable as we met someone from London, Ontario!! Small world. There was also an art display which featured various lighthouses. What initially caught our eyes were a few images of lighhouses from Canada's Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec.

Two hours later, we made our way back to the ground enjoying some ice cream as walked down the Champs de Mars. It was still surreal to be glancing back at the Eiffel Tower! Next stop was Rue Cler, and nice shopping street close to the tower. There we picked up some wine, cheese, figs, peaches and honeycomb for our afternoon picnic ...

We enjoyed walking along the left bank of the Seine, past the typical Parisian rows of homes and business, along tree lined boulevards, and past interesting looking shops and used bookshops. Our destination was the Luxembourg Garden, which we had heard was THE spot to stop for an afternoon picnic. When we got there, it was beautiful and well manicured, but we felt out of place with our baguette as no one seemed to be eating! It was fun to watch people playing Bocci Ball, but we couldn't find a nice place to stop and eat. Parisian parks seem to have many trees, but underneath the trees the ground is not green but gravel ... Plus there are many rules regulating the use of the park: where you can/can't play cards, where dogs are allowed, where open alcohol is not allowed etc. So we left, disappointed.

In search of a better picnic spot, we walked from the Senate back towards Notre Dame and the Isle de la Cite. It was a good walk, strolling past St. Germain de Pres (very cool neighbourhood which we wish we had found sooner!), and St. Sulpice. The area has a definite artisan feel, and we walked past the former homes of Richard Wagner and George Sand.

We found our way to the upstream end of Ile de la Cite, close to where our boat cruise began yesterday and had a very enjoyable and romantic picnic dinner. Many other young couples were doing the same, but we were the only foreigners! To be in Paris doing such a thing in the presence of locals instead of tourists was quite special for us. It was good to let our feet hang over the edge of the embankment on the Seine River, looking out towards the Louvre, enjoying the atmosphere, the setting sun, and each other's company.

We could have stayed there all night, but we wanted to walk the Champs Elysee and get up the Arc de Triomphe for a night view before it closed. It was a quick walk, and we JUST made it to the ticket booth in time! It was awesome to be in this place, thinking about the history, and the kinds of people that have walked underneath the Arc de Triomphe (good and bad). The view from the top looking out over the many streets radiating out from the Arc was spectacular, lights and all. Better yet was the fancy light display on the Eiffel Tower in commemoration of France's EU headship this year. The tower literally glittered like a small firework/sparkler! We didn't leave until the security guards told us to leave ;)

From there we headed to a cafe nearby, where we finished off our Paris experience in style with Soupe à l'oignon gratinée (French Onion soup) and Creme Brulee. It was a very fitting and satisfying way to end our trip!

By the time we left the cafe, we made it to the Metro station just in time to catch the last train ... after such a busy day we were glad to have the comfort of our hotel room!

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