We start this post from where we left last time, just outside the Louvre Museum. After spending a whole afternoon appreciating art inside the Louvre we just wanted to take a long walk. There is no better place to have long walks than central Paris. Every few minutes you will come across a beautiful building which you will stop and photograph, making the walk a less strenuous one.
Just across the road from the Louvre is the Tuileries garden which houses the Orangerie museum. Having had our quota of art for the day we skipped going into the museum itself. But the gardens themselves are a good place to have a leisurely stroll. We started by taking photos of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the smaller of the Napoleonic triumphal arches.
We started walking down the garden and were drawn to the smell of fresh crepes and coffee. There is always time for fresh crepes and coffee when in Paris!! We had a decadent Chocolate crepe and I had my Cafe Long ( Thats what they call a espresso shot with more hot water added – essentially a black coffee!!) and started walking towards the first of the two basins inside the garden.
There are chairs around the small basin/ pond where you can just sit and feed the mallards and starlings who have made the basin their home. I was happy to give the 300mm some exercise and as the sun was finally out I got some good photos.
After I was satisfied with my bird photos we moved on through the symmetrically arranged garden and the second of the basins and exited through the gates to reach the Place de la Concorde.
The Place de la Concorde is a historic square where the guillotine was located during the days of the French revolution. Though the guillotine itself is long gone, the knowledge that thousands lost their head on this spot is bone chilling in itself.
What stands here at present is the obelisk of Luxor. A tall pointy structure transported all the way from its original spot in Egypt to this present spot to honour those who lost their lives in the executions. It has hieroglyphics all over its 4 sides and a glittering gold leaf cap that shines in the sunlight.
We were now at the traffic circle across which was the famous Champs – Elysees or as I call it fashion street of Paris!! I’m not a big fashion buff and all the glamorous showrooms didn’t seem very attractive to me. I went into the disney store to check out the toys and that was it. We packed sandwiches for dinner from one of the numerous cafes lining the boulevard and proceeded on to the larger Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile.
This triumphal arch was built to commemorate Napoleon’s famous victory against the Austrians. It sits in the centre of the mother of all traffic roundabouts, 12 arterial roads converging at a single point! I have yet to understand the rules of traffic at this place and it is a traffic nightmare. Thankfully you don’t have to risk your life crossing the road with its chaotic traffic, there is a underpass to get to the monument itself.
Climbing to the top of the arch requires a ticket, but it is covered in the museum pass. Having missed the gargoyles in the morning, I was rearing to climb one of these Parisian structures. The climb is higher than it looks from below but thankfully there is a intermediate floor to rest before climbing to the top terrace.
The view from the top is superb. You see Paris spread symmetrically away from the arch. Identifying all the famous monuments from the top and getting the bearings of where they lie is a good way to pass time. We saw the skyscrapers of La Defense and the modern Grande Arche from the top and as we had no time to visit that part of Paris, at least we got a look.
We didn’t know this yet, but the day we went to the Eiffel tower it was fogged out and we couldn’t see the top. So this was the only time I got decent photographs of this iconic monument. If it wasn’t for these photos I would have spent 3 days in and around the tower without a single photo of the complete tower.
We also saw the hill of Montemarte and the Sacre Couer basilica in the distance and marked it as our next target when we returned from Chartres. After taking photos of the radiating boulevards we descended from the arch.
We had two hours to get back to our hotel, freshen up, have our packed sandwiches and rush back to St Chapelle for our violin solo concert. So the time for our leisurely stroll was up. We took the metro back, gobbled our sandwiches and took the metro back to Ile de la Cite.
By now it was raining and cold and when the gates to Sainte Chapelle opened we rushed inside just to be warm and indoors. The concert was superb and time passed by in a flash. I didn’t take photos of the violinist in all the excitement. So we took photos of the empty lit up altar region as a consolation. After walking out we took a few photos of the lit up Notre Dame cathedral and the lit up Seine banks.
It had been a splendid day in a great city. We returned to the hotel satisfied with our days exploits.The next morning we were off to Versailles for our dose of French Royalty. But that is topic for another post, another day.