|By: Paul S. Cilwa||Viewed: 4/25/2019
|Topics/Keywords: #Europe #France #Paris #Travel||Page Views: 1363|
|Paul and Michael's visit to Paris, 1999|
Paris, When it Drizzles
December 4, 1999
From the airport, the easiest, quickest and cheapest way into Paris itself, is a train called the RER. It costs 49 francs to take this train, which is part of the subway system, into the city. The ride isn't long, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes. We got off at the Gare du Nord exit, the train station, knowing we would be leaving that evening for our next stop. We made our reservations for the evenings' trip to Amsterdam, placed our luggage in a storage locker, and returned to the Metro—the Parisian subway—to see the city.
We each got a one-day Metro pass, which seemed like a good idea at the time; however, we wound up walking most of the day and only used the subway twice, so it turned out not to be. Still having the freedom to use the Metro as much as we wanted was nice.
We started by leaving the train station, for no particular reason except that it seemed to be at the heart of Paris. Hungry, we made our first stop at a little bakery, picked up a couple of sandwiches—on French bread, of course—and found a little Parisian park to eat them in.
After breakfast, we wandered through the streets, snapping pictures of anything that looked remotely interesting…and everything looked interesting. It still amazes me that I can stand in a place in Europe and look at buildings that are older than any I've seen in the United States!
Paris doesn't seem to have any boring buildings. A great deal of care has apparently been made in their construction, and I mean, from the beginning. Paris began as a village in a small island on the River Seine, and even the oldest buildings there show the same care and artistic construction as the buildings from Gothic times or even the most modern stores on the Champs Élysées.
Paris is also a city of monuments. If it happened there, someone has built a monument to commemorate it.
We walked beneath impressively rolling clouds that occasionally opened and spilled rain on us. "It's raining," I pointed out. "But…it's raining in Paris!" That was enough to make us grin, and we continued our sightseeing. It didn't keep anyone else from enjoying the city, either; the streets got progressively busier and more crowded—or, maybe they just seemed more crowded after everyone opened up their umbrellas.
In Charles de Gaul center, one of a thousand little plazas, there is a central tower. However, it is not, as one might expect, dedicated to that former President of France. It seems to be a religious site, dedicated to one Sainte Merri.
On the Ile de la Cité, the tiny place where the city began, we found ancient buildings still in use—mostly as souvenir shops (the word is French, after all; these people invented kitsch) but also plant nurseries. Many stores were selling Christmas trees, and the smell of pine helped freshen the air.
Then, the centerpiece of the island: Gothic church of Notre Dame—"our Lady", dedicated to the Blessed Virgin many hundreds of years ago.
The sun came out briefly, almost illuminating the ancient church as if by spotlight. We couldn't resist going inside.
It's easy to imagine the presence of Quasimodo, hiding in the rafters!
Outside the great cathedral, were more monuments. Michael posed by this one of Charlemagne, and succeeded in looking even more fierce:
Crossing the river Seine, we were again treated to the day's light show, as the clouds parted and then moved in, again.
Note how calm the water was. Two weeks later, when we returned for our flights home, the water was rushing madly, presumably the result of even more winter rain.
On our list of things we must see, were two that we didn't have time for that first day. However, we got to see both the Arc de Triumph and the Eiffel tower on our return visit to Paris, just before we flew home.
With the sky still raining, we found the Arc and even the Eiffel Tower in the mist.
Not knowing there was an underground passage to the monument, Michael and I made a mad, dangerous dash across the traffic to the Arc, which is built on an island in the middle of a traffic circle. Once there, we saw an eternal flame burning: the tomb of France's unknown soldier.
The Arc was originally commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate his many victories. Now it stands as a proud monument to all the French armies.
You can go inside, which Michael and I did. There you'll find various awards and statuary, celebrating the French courage under fire.
Outside, from the roof, you can see the great avenues that radiate from the Arc, including the famous Champs Elysses. I had heard of this street, but I thought it was some romantic little path along the Seine. Instead, it turned out to be Paris' 5th Avenue, a broad way lined with expensive stores and filled with people buying things for Christmas.
And, then, from the Arc de Triumph, we could see, jutting into the mist…Monsieur Eiffel's triumph, the Tower built for the World's Fair.
Monsieur Eiffel's Tower
For the 1893 World's Fair, ___ Eiffel, previously known for his bridges, constructed a Tower of steel. In this city of ornately-fronted buildings, this open construction was considered to be gauche beyond belief, at least by some. However, its airy, fairly-tale look soon won over the most hardened critic; and, when the Fair was done, Eiffel's Tower was not taken apart, after all. Now, over a century later, it helps create the most recognizable of all city skylines.
Since there are no Metro stops within three blocks of the Tower, we decided to walk there from the Arc de Triumph. The rain was light, just mist, really; and it gave me a chance to capture the approach on film.
As we neared, the top of the tower kept appearing and disappearing, as if connecting the rain clouds above to the ground…or, perhaps, keeping them apart.
Finally, directly under the thing, with 7 million tons of iron suspended over us, it still looked as light as a feather!
Of course, what do you do as soon as you've climbed something?
You look back at where you came from!
Although, as it turned out, we couldn't see our house from here.
Well, that was it for our Paris sightseeing. Our next stop: home!
But…not your next stop! Because, when we left Paris initially, we were just at the beginning of our trip. Our next stop: Amsterdam!