Saturday, December 29, 2012

La Tour Eiffel à Nôtre Dame et deloins, avec Haiku

I'm not sure of the French word for beyond, so I have used deloins, which I am not sure is an actual French word. Hopefully if it is it's not a rude one.

It was about this time last year that I presented you with Haiku of the French Riviera, and this post will be the sequel: Haiku of Paris. I'll start with one about the roads:

Cobblestones, Smart Cars,
No road markings to speak of.
Perpetual gridlock.

It's not actually as bad as that in most places, but it's true they have no lane markings. There are giant roundabouts where the road is wide enough for four, maybe five cars, and it's a free-for-all get-a-space-where-you-can. I'm glad I'm not driving in Paris.

I left at 9.40 this morning for le Mètro, ten minutes after I was planning to be at the Eiffel Tower. My late start was partly due to realising that I'd locked up my valuables with a non-refundable 2€ coin and forgotten to take out my umbrella or camera. These are important on a rainy day in Paris, and I had to sacrifice another 2€ to get them out and lock the remaining valuables up again. It didn't actually rain, but it would have done if I hadn't had an umbrella.

I got off le Mètro at École Militaire, which is very close to the Champs de Mars and gives you a good view of the Tower as you walk the length of the park. I began to take photos of the Eiffel Tower. This would become a habit throughout the day - me with the Eiffel Tower whenever it was visible.

Coming from the Champs de Mars is actually a good way to get to the Tower, because the queue on that side of the tower is shorter (at least when I was there). There are two types of queue: those that want to take the lift up, and those who want to walk and get a cheaper ticket (3€50 vs. 8€). I joined the walking queue and we shuffled slowly but surely towards the ticket office. I'm glad I got there earlyish, because the queues only grew while I was up in the tower, and had to have been at least an hour long by lunch time.

You can get to the first and second levels by stairs, but you have to pay extra for a lift to the very top, and the top was obscured by cloud today anyway. The second level is about 130m up, and I went as far as you could go. The views are amazing - much of Paris looks white from a distance, with splashes of gold here and there and the river winding through.

I'm quite glad I walked, because I got to see a lot more of the tower and savour the views on the way. You go up inside one of the legs/pylons, curling ever closer to the middle until you hit the first level. Here you get to see a piece of the original spiral stair linking levels one and two, which looks extremely scary and was too steep for public use. They're doing construction on this level, so some of it wasn't open, but I went around as far as you could and stared in the four directions over Paris. The second level has shops and a restaurant in the middle, and the lifts to the very top, and is probably where some people start to get vertigo. I admit I made sure my hands were completely free coming down from there - no camera - and tried not to look down too much.

Temporary tour.
Ha! One hundred and twenty-
Three years and counting.

See how I changed languages to get the syllables to fit? That's skill, that is.

I walked along the Seine, through a Christmas market and across the bridge to la Place de Concorde with its Egyptian obelisk and ferris wheel, then through the Tuileries gardens while eating a chocolate and banana crêpe. There are lots of statues in the gardens, and grass that you're not allowed to sit on, and at the end of the Tuileries is the Louvre, which I hadn't realised. I'd decided not to go the the Louvre or any museums this time around, because I would have been running at full speed round its eight miles of galleries, trying to get everything in before I had to move on to the next spot on my itinerary: the Shakespeare bookshop.

This is a little English language bookshop near Nôtre Dame that is as bookshops should be: books crammed right up to the ceiling, with nooks and crannies everywhere and barely enough space to pass people. I crossed the Seine by the Ponts des Arts, which is completely covered in padlocks signifying love: the idea is you write your names on it and throw the key into the river to show that your love will never be broken. There are quite a few combination locks on there too - I wonder if that still signifies the same thing? Because as long as you remember the code, you can go and unlock it any time you want.

After the bookshop I joined the snaking queue for Nôtre Dame. The cathedral will be 850 years old next year, and the statues and carvings and windows are incredible. The colours of the stained glass are beautifully vivid and the ceiling soars high above. I spent a while staring up and realised that the arches in the nave are not quite at right angles to the walls, and then wondered if this was on purpose or not. It seems incredible that they could build something like this so long ago.

Last on my itinerary was Montmartre. I got le Mètro there and climbed the hill to see the Sacré Cœur Cathedral and the panorama of Paris. There were a lot of people up here, and a Christmas market where I got some kind of chocolate covered marshmallow thing and took pictures. You weren't allowed to take pictures in the Sacré Cœur, but it's beautiful inside, with round arches and lots of mosaics.

I got back to the hostel just as it was getting dark, and decided to treat myself to dinner in a bar-brasserie on a cobblestoned corner that reminded me of a movie. I had filet mignon (pork, I think. I was expecting beef) with lovely sautéed potatoes and salad, and a red wine, this being Paris where wine is cheaper than soft drink, and sat in a wicker chair by the window watching people go by. There were two fluffy dogs in a car outside that were keeping close watch on the street and kept staring challengingly at me, which was extremely cute.

Now I'm looking forward to sleep... Time for one last haiku.

Wide white boulevards
Every building stately, calm.
The river flows through.

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