Wow, one year of marriage already! Where is one of the most romantic locations in the world to celebrate? Paris!
We spent a long weekend in Paris and loved every minute of it, well almost. Unfortunately we neglected to write down our detailed journal immediately after the trip, so this trip tale may be more like a brief summary.
Once again we opted to take the Eurostar into Paris, after all it is only 3 hrs from our house to the city center of Paris. We left on a Thursday after work and arrived into the Gare du Nord Station approx. 9:30pm or so. Our hotel wasn't too far from the station, but it did take some walking around to find it. We checked in, unloaded our back packs and headed out to explore the night life and grab some food. We were both pretty tired so we weren't out too late and we wanted to rest up for all of the exploring yet to come.
Our hotel http://www.pariserve.tm.fr/hotel/timhotel-trudaine/english.htm
The following morning we decided to just start walking, as we did for about 10 hours. The sky was a bit grey and there was a definite mist in the air. The temp was probably 40'F or so with wind and rain in the forecast, but who cares? We were in PARIS! We were walking on all sorts of little streets and alley ways admiring all of the shops. The streets were very narrow and made from cobblestone. We took notice to the way the neighbourhoods were organised, each street had specific shops that were all in the same trade. For instance one street consisted of all fabric shops and the next alley over was more like kitchenware etc...
We strolled around to the north of our hotel, because we spotted a beautiful building perched atop a hill and it was just asking to be visited. After about 30 minutes of walking in the misty rain we reached the base of this hill with the building on top. We then realised we were at the base of the Montmartre district and the building above was Le Scare-Coeur. At the bottom of this hill was a small park area with a merry-go-round and a children's play area. Just beyond the play area, on either side, were endless amounts of uneven stairs, zig zaging up the sides of the hill. Ofcourse we began to climb and in no time at all we were smack dab on top of the world and Le Sacre-Coeur was beautiful. Wow what a phenomenal view of the city too. We could just about see all of the major monuments through the misty grey skies.
We roamed around that neighbourhood, which is named Montmartre District. This area is full of street artists doing sketches of the tourist and it had a very bohemian feel to it. We were looking through a shop window and a man came up to us and just started sketching Heidi. Within seconds another older man was over sketching Alan. We both tried to keep walking and they followed us. We told them we weren't interested in buying a sketch nor did we want to carry it around. They continued drawing and said no problem if you don't like, you don't buy. We finally gave in and they were done in about 5 minutes. We looked at the pictures and they weren't half bad so we asked the price, it's okay you can say it "SUCKERS!". Yep, we sure were.
They wanted $30 for each sketch. HA we were thinking more on the lines of $5 for both. Oh, were they mad when we said we didn't want them. They yelled at us and said how hard they work and we had to at least reimburse them for their supplies. After a little confrontation we just began walking away and they followed us causing a scene. We tucked away down an alley and into a shop, which turned out to be great because Heidi found a brown chenille scarf she had been wanting. Eventually they gave up and went back to the main square to pick out their next victims. It was pretty comical and we did get a good laugh, but we went back to Le Sacre-Coeur following a different route.
From there we went back down the hill, but this time we used a staircase a few blocks to the west. There must have been over 300 uneven steps going straight down to a small street in a cute residential neighbourhood. After a while going down those steps your eyes begin to play tricks on you and believe you me, "watch your step" takes on a new meaning here. We spent some time winding through the neighbourhoods with our main direction being towards the city center. Within 10 minutes or so we were on a very busy road in the Moulin Rouge District (Red Light). Quite interesting shops and sights, it is sure to be an entirely different atmosphere once it's dark outside. We continued walking through this area for a while then decided to hop on the metro and take it in to see the Eiffel Tower. We wanted to see some of the sights today, as opposed to going on Saturday or Sunday, to avoid massive crowds.
The metro was a breeze to figure out and we arrived at the Eiffel Tower stop about 30 minutes later. We had to walk about 8 minutes to actually reach the Eiffel Tower itself, no biggie because there was plenty to look at along the way. With the Seine to our left and the Eiffel Tower ahead and to the right and all sorts of upscale city apartment buildings along the right. We happened upon a street vendor making fresh crepes and guess what that was breakfast, soon to be Alan's new addiction.
The Eiffel Tower! Wow, it was so much bigger than either of us imagined. On the side there was a huge marquee displaying the number of days until the year 2000. We were there when there were 666 days left, spooky. We stood under it for a few minutes just gawking at its enormity and admiring the engineering. On each of its four legs is an glass elevator that goes up at a slant to level 1 (about 95 feet from the ground). From there you need to get on another glass elevator to take you up the main body just a bit further (another 50ft or so) to level 2. Next you get on yet another glass elevator to take you up the narrow portion of the main body to the tippy top, 984ft up. Talk about getting weak knees, just talk to Heidi, she couldn't even look down (you see the elevator is glass from floor to ceiling and side to side). Oh, but it is well worth it once you are at the top and the view you get no words can describe.
We walked around the observation room inside and then stepped outside and walked around the terrace. It was extremely windy, so much so that you could feel the Tower itself rocking. When we stepped outside Alan faced Heidi and immediately dropped to one knee and grabbed her hands. He then went on to profess his love to Heidi and let her know that she meant the world to him. Heidi's eyes filled with tears and was so happy no one could know. There were so many people around and another couple offered to take our picture and asked if we just got engaged. We told them we were married, but Alan just couldn't resist the moment (what a romantic). We didn't spend too much longer outside because it was burr chilly cold, but there was an observation area inside with panoramic pictures identifying the things you could see from each vantage. On the way down we stopped at level 2 to browse the gift shops and take a brake from the elevator ride.
We then headed to our next destination which was the Louvre. We took the metro part way then we got out to walk and see the sights. The metro is nice and all, but you sure don't see much underground. Along the way we discovered another street vendor in, what seemed to be a main shopping district, and he was selling fresh made churros. That was a bit exciting, because you can't get such things in England and we are no doubt junk food junkies. We continued walking, the Seine now on our right, and we must have walked through the pet district (too many pet shops to count, but we managed to enter most of them) and then the garden district (which Heidi had to check out with a fine toothed comb). Then just up the road was the Louvre.
It too was much bigger than we imagined and we should have set aside an entire day just for this, but we only had 2 hours. We looked at the map of the museum and came up with a must see list. The Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa etc... The Mona Lisa was behind 50 tourists, and 2 layers of glass about a foot apart from each other. It was a little disappointing not being able to see it out in the open, but understandable. Venus de Milo was beautiful and we saw too much else to mention along the way. You must go yourselves and grasp the full experience.
It was getting late and our little feetsies were dog tired. We began to work our way back to the hotel via the surface and then Alan's foot was in a bit of pain so it was the metro the rest of the way. When we returned to our room Alan removed his shoes and Heidi was going to rub his sore feet, but it was quite obvious one was extremely swollen. Nothing a little ice pack wouldn't fix up over night.(two weeks later we found out it was a sprained ligament). Heidi went to the little grocery store down the road, and was so thrilled something was open later than 8pm like in England, and went in to purchase some ice. Well, that just wasn't available so time for quick thinking. A thought that came to mind was frozen peas, but none of them either. The choice was frozen broccoli, cauliflower, fish sticks, or french fries. Heidi took the cheapest and most flexible frozen food option, the fries. Two bags were purchased and within 5 minutes were wrapped around Alan's ankle. Time to stay in for the night and rest the foot, we still had two full days left of walking and exploring. We watched a bit of TV, in french ofcourse and then slept as sound as babies.
The next morning Alan's foot looked to be in better condition, but we were going to take it easy for the day. We walked to the little boulangerie down the alley from the hotel and got a croissant for breakfast. We continued down the road passing cute little fruit and veggie stands and bakery's. This must have been the fruit and bread district, Ha! We stopped by a McDonalds to get a fountain drink (with ice we hoped) and noticed on their menu the offered beer. Looks like America is a little behind the times, eh? Alan's foot was bugging him quite a bit, so we tried to decide what activities didn't involve walking. We came up empty handed, except for going to the movies.
We continued walking for a few more hours and passed through all of the main neighbourhoods between the north and the center. We went by the The Latin Quarter, Le Palace de l'Opera (it was gorgeous and we bought some raspberry vinigar at a cute little shop across the street), Le Palace de la Concorde, Champs Elysees, The Arc de Triomphe (Under the arch is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Twelve avenues fan out from the arch, creating the pattern of a star, leading to the arch, the Champs Elysees is lined with trees, cafes and luxurious shops). This journey was at a slow pace, but we must have covered over 8 miles on Alan's bad foot. Once we reached the Arc de Triomphe that was the end of pushing it to the limit. We went to a restaurant for lunch along the Champs Elysees and tried to make that last a couple of hours and people watch too. We continued walking down the Champs Elysees and passed the movie theatre area. We went in to see Good Will Hunting and loved it. The movie was in English with French subtitles, and we both seemed to be reading the subtitles to see how everything translated.
By this time it was early evening and no hope for Alan's foot improving after the 4 hour rest or so. Back to the hotel for the night. On the way back we ran across a juggling shop and just had to go in.(as most of you know Alan is a juggler and Heidi is learning). They had some really cool goodies, but what caught Alan's eye were the fire balls. We purchased 3 balls the size of a baseball and wrapped in silver with canvas stripes, and some gloves to handle them once they are on fire. (Alan tried them as soon as we got home and they look incredible, but Alan can no longer have his palm read - just kidding).
After the big purchase it was definitely back to the hotel. Again Heidi went to the little store to buy her 2 bags of frozen french fries for the evening. At this time the checkout girl, the same one from the day before, was giving peculiar looks to Heidi and asked where she was from. After some idle chat Heidi was on her way back to nurse her hubby, whom by the way is pretty good at playing the patient. Another mellow evening then nighty night. We did have a good laugh about the french fries, we are sure the maid was wondering why she found 2 bags of defrosted french fries in the garbage can each day. (those strange Americans)
Again, Alan's foot didn't need to be walked on, but we had to check out of the hotel and find something to do until 9pm when our train departed back to London. We walked to the metro station and on the way we passed a shop that specialized in ear coning supplies. We purchased a few sticks and wouldn't ya know it the instructions were in french. We have a dictionary at home so we were sure we would figure it out. They are wax sticks (kinda like pixy stix) that you place in your ear as you lay on your side, you then light the end away from your ear and let it burn its way down. This is meant to clean your ears and extract any wax.
We hopped on the metro and went to Champs Elysees and had lunch. Next we decided it would be best to hop on the double decker bus and see the rest of the city that way. We rode the bus and we had pretty much visited all of the sights by foot. We did stop and get off at Notre Dame. This was so beautiful and there was a Sunday mass going on as we entered. There was an area in the back that had thousands of tea lite candles on many tables. You had to pay a nominal fee to light a candle, so Heidi did. The feeling in this place just gives you goose bumps. It was big and dark with singing and organ music filling it to the rims. Stained glass windows and arches everywhere you looked, marble floors and tall columns up to the 30 or 40ft ceilings. We only stayed for about 10 minutes then walked around the neighbourhood and hopped back on the bus. We did this most of the day and then went to the hotel to get our back packs out of storage. We went out to dinner and then caught the train back to England.
We loved Paris and can't wait to go back!
An interactive map of Paris and its sights http://www.paris.org/Maps/MM/