The Big Walk in Paris
Part of: Solo UK and France by Train
I had a good and very productive week in Paris. I took several thousand photos, at least some of them good, and that's the main thing. My French, such as it is, ground back to life and got some good practice. I got to know my way around the city again, saw many parts of it I never have before, and I became comfortable with the Metro, which is just as efficient but not as intuitive as London's Tube.
My first full day, Sunday, was very sunny (one of the few sunny days, it turns out) and I did what I shall call "The Big Walk," which I think I have done on previous visits as well. It takes in most of the big sights, from the Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Louvre to the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower, and back again. Here are some highlights.
Above is a rough sketch of the walk, with purple extension for twilight photography on the Ile-St-Louis. The Notre-Dame is by the blue line at the far right; the Eiffel Tower on the far left. As best I can calculate, I walked around 10 miles. Holy moly, it felt like it.
My first stop was virtually around the corner from my hotel. This is the Centre Georges Pompidou, built in the 1970s as a modern art museum, which it still is. It wears all of its functional innards on the outside, leaving lots of space for the galleries inside. It is very different, and certainly stands out from its surroundings!
Then I headed in the other direction, passing along the Hotel de Ville (city hall). I saw this impressive building everyday, as it's only one block from my hotel and is on the way to everything else.
View from the other side of the fountains, from the Hotel de Ville square, looking towards the Notre Dame Cathedral.
I've crossed two bridges by the time I'm on the other side of the Notre Dame, as seen here - because it's on a small island in the middle of the Seine River. Ancient Celtic and Roman cities were centered on this island, as it was easy to defend.
The line to enter the cathedral - actually just the back half of it! Ugh. Admission is free, wonderfully, so that's not the holdup - it's just a natural bottleneck of so many people wanting to enter through two small doors. There was always a significant line when I passed by, so I never went inside on this trip.
One of many iconic sights of Paris are these wonderful stalls that line the river on both sides. A few sell tourist stuff, but most are really cool, with wonderful antique books, magazines, and prints. I really wish I had more time and luggage space to stock up on wonderful things to decorate my house with.
Nearby, I discovered one of the few remaining Art Nouveau entrances to the Metro (the Cité stop). Quite beautiful.
The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, at the west end of the Louvre. It was built in 1806-08 to commemorate Napoleon's military victories. Its more famous big brother was also designed in 1806 but not completed until 1836.
This time, I went with a Viennoise Chocolat, which is a brioche-like bread studded with dark chocolate chips. So delicious, much less rich than a croissant, and perfect for keeping in my purse and munching on throughout the afternoon.
I made a brief detour to check out the Petit Palais and Grand Palais, two very pretty art museums that face each other across a large road. This is the Petit Palais:
And the Grand Palais:
A nice view from the Pont de l'Alma, where I crossed over to the Left Bank and headed south.
Then I walked over a couple blocks to a big grassy park, where I saw this. I don't remember what it's called.
Near the tower I sat on a bench to rest for a minute and consider my next move, and a lady next to me asked in English where I was from. I told her, and she exclaimed that I was the second person from Portland she'd met that day - the other was at her B&B that morning. Watch out, we are everywhere! And I lady I spoke to was from Toronto. I considered heading for a Metro station, which my feet were strongly in favor of, but the light was getting better in the late afternoon and I couldn't pass up the photo opportunities. So I headed back the way I came, along the river, and I'm glad I did. It was a very pretty walk.
The Musee d'Orsay, an art museum housed in a former train station. It is an excellent museum, but doesn't allow photography inside for some unknown reason (whereas photos are allowed in the Louvre, the Musee Rodin, the Museum of the Middle Ages...) so it wasn't a priority and I never made it inside during this trip.
Then it still wasn't quitting time. Here's the Hotel de Ville again on my way back to the hotel, but I only made a quick stop to pick up my tripod.
By 5:30pm I was on the Ile-St-Louis, the other main island in the Seine, where I stood on a bridge for almost an hour and half taking night photos of the Notre-Dame. It wasn't entirely a success, since they apparently don't illuminate the cathedral anymore! Humph. But it was still a lovely scene and, aside from the cold wind, a nice place to spend some time.
I got back to the hotel around 8, downloaded and copied all photos, charged the camera batteries, chatted briefly with David, researched some destinations for the next day, handled some photo orders via e-mail, then crashed. But I'm glad I used that first day to the fullest, because there were many rainy days to follow.