Fantastic French Vacation – Part7 Paris

Gorgeous marble statue at Louvre

Time to say Au Revoir to Cote d’ Azur and Salut to Paris. But first we had to return our rental car. Since the address for car return was different from that of the Train Station (Gare de Nice Ville), we had planned to drop off the luggage somewhere at the train station before returning the car. At the train station’s parking deck, however, we spotted sign for Euro Car and decided to try returning the car there instead. There was no attendant for Euro Car at the lot on top of the building that the sign pointed us to. We managed to ask the attendants for a different rental car company and figured out that we had to just leave the car there and take the key to the office at the train station. Finding the office wasn’t a problem and there were attendants in the office but we were told that we would not be able to get a receipt at that moment b/c it was lunch break and no one was available to inspect the car. Luckily, the clerk was willing to put a rubber stamp on our contract noting return location, date and time.

Now it was time to tackle the other matter. I bought our TGV train tickets on line at TGV-europe.com and selected picking up the tickets from automatic machines at the train station. We found the machines but couldn’t get it to work; for some reasons, it kept rejecting my credit card. Working through the crowds and trying different windows and counters, we were finally pointed to the correct area, the ticketing windows. Not knowing which was the right line, my husband and I split up and each took a line. Mine was the info line and shortest. I got my turn after impatiently listening to other people’s questions and answers but only to be told that the machines do not accept some certain types of cards and I had to go to some certain windows, which had the longest line and not the one my husband took up. Even though it was supposedly a line that was for other windows, I urged my husband to stay where he was, because it was much shorter, while I myself took up the longer line that I was pointed to by the info guy. Watching the line crawled slowly, I grew anxious. Luckily, my husband got his turn much sooner and got our tickets. I wondered if we would have made it otherwise. Lesson learnt, maybe it is worth spending a little extra to get the tickets from raileurope.com that delivers to US addresses.

With tickets in hand, I relaxed and we had just enough time to find our platform. The train was already waiting but the train number displayed on the small screen next to the door did not match ours. After checking with multiple characters, passengers, porters and people in uniforms who looked like train conductors, we were convinced enough and boarded the train. That first class coach was empty and by the time the train moved out of the station, only about half a dozen passengers were in it. During the six hour journey, the train made several stops and we had lunch on the train. The lunch was anticlimax, probably because we had been spoiled by then, but the train ride overall was smooth and the coach was completely full when we arrived at Paris train station, Paris Gare de Lyon.

Riding in a taxi for our hotel, Hotel Convention in Montparnasse, looking right and left and feeling curious at everything we passed by, we started the last leg of our trip. And a great way we did commence the grand finale of our vacation. Paris, or Paree, celebrates its 2060th birthday this year and per our driver, that very day, Jun 21st, was France’s national music day and there was to be music everywhere.

Hotel Convention on Rue Alain Chartier is a few doors to the intersection of Rue de la Convention and and Rue de Vaugirard where the Metro station Convention is located. Once we arrived, we found that the music day manifested in this corner as 3 music events. A group was performing on a square on the north corner of the intersection where a crowd gathered, kids frolicked and many singed along or grooved to the tune of French versions of American pop songs. Across the street on the other side of Rue Alain Chartier, party music blasted at maximum decibel out of an apartment/condo on second floor and a few young adults dancing and waving to onlookers from their balcony, where a couple of 4 or 5 feet tall speaker boxes also stood, while sipping what seemed to be beers. A few doors down on Rue Alain Chartier, outside Le Moka, a street side café, a DJ was playing tunes with an interesting sound, Asian, Arab or maybe a fused version, at a volume not to be outdone by the other groups. What strain of music you could hear depended on which of them you were closer to. It was surely an interesting scene to behold and turned out to be a special dinner time entertainment as we sat and ate dinner at a café nearby, Café Convention. We withdrew ourselves at due time to rest our tired bodies but Paris showed no sign of sleepiness and the music flowed by our window long after I drifted into dream land. Such was the first of our five nights in Paris.

Paris is grand, in many ways. The forerunner and paragon of civic planning in its days, it has impressive grand boulevards. Once atop Arch of Triumph, you see twelve broad boulevards converge into the arch. One of such is world renowned Champs-Elysee, which is extended straightly further south east by Place de Concord, Jardin Tuileries and Louvre, aligning perfectly and forming the most visited block. Its counterpart on northwest side of the Arch is Avenue Charles de Gaulle highlighted by the Grande Arch de La Defense de Paris and bevy of modern high rises at the distant end.

Paris has grand architectures, boasting landmarks including the names mentioned above and Pantheon, Notre Dame, St Chapelle, Cathedral of Sacre-Coeur, Eiffel Tower, so on and numerous other architectural delights, albeit at smaller scales, spread throughout the city.

Gentle hills and river Seine add natural beauty to manmade elegance of Paris. Views of Paris and Seine winding its way through straddling bridges are delightful at the riverbank, exhilarating atop the tower of Notre Dame and a triumphant crescendo from Eiffel Tower’s top level.

A city that came into existence more than two millenniums ago, Paris is steep in history and has played a prominent role in European history and consequently the world’s history. Historic University of Paris, the 4th oldest university in the world, was founded in mid 12th century and Pairs has since shared a position as culture center of the world with a few other cities like London and New York. Having nurtured numerous eminent artists and cradled important art movements, Paris remains till this day the art capital of the world. Home to some of the world’s greatest museums, Paris’s art collections are sure to take your breath away.

Between sightseeing and immersing in the arts, there was tasty break everywhere. I especially loved the Boulangerie and Patisserie on the corner just a few doors from our hotel, Aux Delices de L’Etoile XVe that offers a large variety of irresistible breads, pastries and deserts at very reasonable price. My husband and I each had an individual sized quiche, a piece of desert and a bottle water for a total of €10.70 and all super delicious.

Staying in a local neighborhood, eating where the locals do, and shopping at a street market that is set up on the sidewalks of the street in front of the hotel and caters to the locals 3 times every week were all precious experiences. Searching for Amaury Vassili’s albums, a beautiful young tenor who represented France in 2011’s Euro Vision competition and whom I dubbed French Josh Groban, at the book store a few doors down, being directed to Musee City at Louvre and finally finding it at Galerie La Fayette’s music department was a fun little quest. Checking out Marche aux Puce, largest street market in the world, was interesting. But shopping in department stores like La Fayette and H&M when summer sales begin is a big no, no. We ran into a huge crowd looking for bargains at La Fayette on Jun 25, a Saturday, and could barely move around on certain floors; it was literally an elbow to elbow frenzy in leather good area of shoes and handbag, etc. We escaped to the top floor for a few souvenirs and retreat into the street where it was slightly better.

Parisians seem gregarious and outdoor loving. Cafes are always busy and it is easier to find seats inside than out, which however might be in part attributed to the fact that many there smoke. We visited Eiffel Tower on Friday. As we walked away in the evening twilight, we realized the lawns of Champ de Mars were almost full with groups of families and friends picnicking and waiting for Eiffel Tower to light up. That was a memorable tableau of Paris to take away.

Neighborhood view outside hotel window

A band performing on Music Day

Café Convention

Inverse Pyramid at Louvre

Carousel de Louvre

Pavilion Sully at Louvre

Gorgeous marble statue at Louvre

Winged Victory at Louvre

What a vivid story this picture at Louvre tells

Venus at Louvre

Place de Concorde and Eiffel Tower in distance

Arc de Triomphe

One of the four beautiful reliefs on Arc de Triomphe – Two facing Champs Elysses and other two on opposite pillars

Eiffel seen atop Arc de Triomphe

Grande Arch de La Defense is the one in the center

Sacre Coeur seen atop Arc de Triomphe

Saint Chapelle’s stain glasses are stunning

Notre Dame

From tower of Notre Dame

From Eiffel Tower’s base

Champ de Mars from Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower from Champ de Mars

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: