|La Défense, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, and the Louvre|
A better indication of the scale of La Grande Arche. That’s Lydia on the steps.
The glass elevator riding its futuristic steel frame from the observation deck of La Grande Arche.
On this trip, I had my eye out for interesting people shots. I like this one.
Shot of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe with other visitors whose stamina permitted the 280-something step climb.
Sephora on Champs-Élysées—Euros were exchanged.
Art class at the Louvre. Interesting age profile among the students.
Wednesday, October 19
We had breakfast at the same place as yesterday—it might become the default place for the rest of our stay. Wow, we are halfway through the trip! After morning fuel, it’s on to the Metro for La Défense. This is modern Paris—skyscrapers, big business—just outside the old city.
Previous failed experiments at mixing old and new architecture have taught Paris city planners to keep them separate. (Case in point: Tour Montparnasse, which I saw described as a black, glass dagger stabbed into the heart of Paris.) Safely sequestered out of harm’s way, La Grande Arche is here, which stands in line with the Arc de Triomphe and, way out there, Place de la Concorde and beyond even that, the Louvre. The French love those straight lines.
La Grande Arche is immense and, as such, must be scaled for photographic advantage. Lydia went on ahead to buy the tickets while I lingered to take pictures. We had a little adventure as we arrived at the top. A young, French-speaking, Asian woman approached us about our tickets. She asked us to follow her, but then told us there was no problem. I was thinking, you might have started with that reassurance. I had been wondering what we had done, but we were innocent.
As it turns out, the cashier who sold Lydia our tickets had been skimming the till. She would take the correct money for two adult tickets (€15,) but ring in one adult and one student ticket. She would pocket the €1.50 difference. The company was on to her and was building a file against her. The young woman and her manager had Lydia fill out an official complaint and refunded us €1.50 (I suppose since the value of our tickets was only €13.50, even though we were charged €15.) What drama!
After our foray into international justice, we walked out to the roof observation deck to check out the view of Paris and take some shots. It was hazy and the photos suffered for that. After some strolling around the top of the Big Arch, we took the glass elevator back down to the plaza.
No elevator for this arch, just 280-some steps, but it’s a great view once you catch your breath (or restart your heart, depending on your fitness level.) Up here we took lots of pictures, walked around and then descended back down to the street. The crazy traffic circle (round about) here has so many accidents that insurance companies simply split the cost fifty-fifty with the driver, if the diver is covered at all. We had driven around this on our taxi ride in from the airport.
The Arc de Triomphe is at the top of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This is the Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive of Paris. All the high-end shops and cafés are here. Rick Steves says that it is here where you get the “pinch me, I’m in Paris” moment. Personally, I had that moment when I saw the Eiffel tower in the “flesh” for the first time.
We did pull into a few shops and part with some Euros, but not too many of either. We also had a lunch just off the main drag that was so good I was left to wonder how I would eat “regular” food again back home. One of our stops was the Peugeot showroom. If you are serious about selling cars in France, you must have a showroom on Champs-Élysées. I picked up some gifts for friends and family here. No cars, well yes, but they were matchbox-style ones and some chocolate.
Farther along, we stopped in at Sephora for a look-see. Though it was Lydia’s idea to pop in, I ended up as the big shopper. I picked up some shaving oil for myself and some bath oil for my mother. I had never tried shaving oil before, but I did the next morning and it works wonderfully. We took a rest in a café inside the Renault showroom. From there, it was a short walk to the Metro and a couple of stops to the Louvre.
The Louvre is the largest museum in the world. There is no way you could see it all and, quite frankly, you don’t need to. We used Rick Steves’s guidebook and it took us turn by turn to key pieces and explained why they are important. We saw the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and, of course, the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, which we know as “my lady Lisa” or Mona Lisa. No pictures, please. In addition, we saw lots of other paintings and statues by Leonardo da Vinci.
We headed over to the Mesopotamia exhibit, but it was closed. In hindsight, it was a blessing, since we were exhausted by that point. You’d never guess what that led to. We returned to out hotel for a nap. Après nap, we headed across the street to a packed, young, hopping restaurant. Lydia ate and we both had wine.
Read more about day 5 on Lydia’s blog.
Paris Vacation, Day 5 5 comments