Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First Views of Paris-- Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower

We woke at 5:30. Finished packing though we had done most of it the night before, and caught our last tube train to St. Pancras where we needed to catch the Eurostar Train. Breakfast was Starbucks in the station. I really hate the fact that we had to resort to Starbucks. It is everywhere!
The Eurostar journey was 2 hours, but add an extra hour for the time difference in Paris. We read, slept, and journaled. The time passed really quickly. At the train station in Paris we bought 4 carnets (bundles of ten metro tickets) for the metro. Then we headed for our hotel: Mariott Renaissance at Arc de Triomphe. We had no problem finding it, but we probably looked like a line of ducklings following one another with our matching rolling bags.
Our room was not ready for us so we parked our bags.
We took the metro back the way we came to Blanche to have lunch and begin the audio walking tour of Montmartre I complied and recorded. First was lunch. We went to the Cafe de Deux Moulins which is where Amalie was filmed. Lunch did a lot to revive us all. Kids had cheeseburgers and fries. I had croque Monsieur and Mark had Croque Madame. Plus we had some red wine. The waitress joked with us.
We started the walking tour on much better footing. We saw the Moulin Rouge before turning our attention to the Montmartre cemetery where many famous artists including Degas were buried. The problem was that the 11 hectare plot was surrounded by a high wall. We walked the entire perimeter before finding the secret entrance. The cemetery was cool and quite beyond the usual that we see in the States. The above-ground vaults were a mix of old and new. We were off to find Degas at the opposite end of the yard. The problem was that the cemetery had a few different levels. We walked in the direction of Degas but came to a drop-off. Degas was on the other side, but we would have needed a bridge to get there. By this time, I was ready to quit, but Mark insisted we find Degas's grave. When we finally found it (Jonah wins the prize), we almost missed it because the crypt was engraved "de Gas". Maren posed in front of in the 14-year-old little ballerina pose.
And off we went. Along the tour we saw famous restaurants and dance halls frequented by Impressionist artists and Picasso. The streets wound upward toward Sacre Coeur. We saw houses and studios where Van Gogh and Picasso lived and worked. Finally, we reached the highest point in Paris, the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. Here, we saw our first, slightly tree obstructed, view of the Eiffel Tower. The church itself felt very commercialized and not very holy. We had an icky feeling. We continued onward toward the Dali museum and were accosted by women trying to get us to sign a petition. They didn't speak English. They kept pointing to a handicap symbol on the page and the words blind and deaf. But I knew they were pickpockets. They try to get you to hold a clipboard and sign while they reach in your pockets. I had not heard of this exact ploy. The one I heard is where they try to tie a friendship bracelet on you. But the effect is the same. After many a loud, "Non" they left us alone. Our cash was pretty well battened down in our secret pockets anyway. We finished our tour with the Art Noveau style of the Metro entrance at Abbesses.
From Abbesses we took the metro back to Ternes which is near our hotel. We made a detour into the Rue de Poncelet Market. We bought camembert aux truffes, wine, sweet biscuits, Maren's requisite pear, and a demi baguette.
Back at the hotel, our room was ready. It is a modern room with a small one seat balcony and one bathroom. We are used to two bathrooms now so this should be interesting. The room came with a complimentary bottle of wine and some chocolate almonds/coffee beans. The bed spreads are white with grey and red accented pillows and throws. Dark paneled cupboards. White wallpaper with pale gray and very large Japanese style floral motifs. We were able to unpack a little and get organized before we were off for our next adventure.
We walked to the Trocadéro area and across to the top of the steps by the Esplanade du Trocadéro and had a grand view of the Eiffel Tower. We chose a park bench along the park path to the tower and sat and ate our dinner. The trees were flowering pink. Skies were gray and spritzing a bit now and then. After eating we walked to the tower, taking pictures all along the way. The lines were long due to an elevator that was out of order. We chose to walk up the 700 steps instead of waiting. Hard to believe we paid as much as we did to have to climb all those stairs. The 700 stairs gave us access to the first two levels. I thought we bought the ticket to allow elevator access to the top, but we did not. Oh well. We had good views from the mid level. The stairs were hard but not impossible. We stopped at the first level to catch our breaths. Of course, the kids ran up ahead. We took pictures including some panoramas, but we didn't stay too long because we wanted to come down and see the tower light up at the top of the hour. It was getting dark. We started our climb around 8. 8:30 was sunset, but it was too cloudy to see any colors. So, down we came. We passed by the carousels on our way back to the Esplanade du Trocadéro. The kids practiced taking pictures with various shutter speeds in the dimming light. In the background, a marching band played songs by Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. Mark and I opened our market wine and put some in our water bottle. The kids, who were very tired when we had started our journey, were very animated with the lights and the camera. The 9 pm (first of the night) light show itself was nice, but limited to ten minutes of twinkling. The night had the feel of Fourth of July but not quite the show. Still-- this was the Eiffel Tower, which started with more style points than a blank night sky.
Afterwards, we checked out some souvenir shops outside and in the metro station. Maren just loves tacky little souvenir shops. She didn't buy anything, but Jonah bought a n Eiffel Tower key chain. The girl he may possibly ask to prom is an Eiffel Tower freak-- it is the wallpaper on her Facebook page. I think she has been there.
Back at the hotel, we went straight to bed. This seems to be a theme with us.

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