Day Five

Today I decided to set off to the Arc de Triomphe, however since I would need to make a change over near Notre-Dame I decided to once again make a quick visit. After last night's effort in pouring rain I wanted to get some better shots of the Cathedral. I wandered around the Cathedral looking for a "good" shot and discovered that I could descend to river bank. This proved to be an excellent position for my photo.

 

As you can see the weather was still unfortunately overcast. I really hope that I may one day have the opportunity to return one day, in fine weather and retake some of these shots. I think that if you really want to experience and colour of Paris, then there is no time like spring time !

Arc de Triomphe

I re-boarded the Metro and headed to my next destination - The Arc de Triomphe. The Arc is one of the most recognisable symbols of Paris and France and stands to the North West of the city. Upon emerging from the Metro, as always, I headed in the wrong direction initially. I kept thinking to myself - I know there is an underground passage here but where ? After finally locating it I emerged at the base of the Arc. Tickets for the Arc are located below street level to one side of the Arc, but once again my trusty museum pass allowed be entry.

 

The great thing about the Arc is that you can climb to the viewing platform at the top. Unfortunately, I couldn't see any other way than ascending the twisting stairs up the fifty metres or so to the top. At the top of the stairs you will find a small museum with a few exhibits, while I was there a video on the Arc was playing. A further short ascent and you end up on the top of the Arc.



From the top of the Arc you once again get great views all around Paris, however I think the most interesting sight is what happens in the traffic below. The Arc is situation on a huge round about that intersects with several major roads. Traffic constantly enters and exist from and flows through the roundabout. Since there are no lanes marked, and no apparent road rules in effect in the vicinity of the Arc, watching the plight of motorists battling other motorists is most entertaining. I have also heard that once you enter this particular roundabout your vehicle insurance is void until you exit. Apparently, due to the constant threat of accidents insurance companies will not honor policies in this vicinity. I don't know how true this really is but I can understand why it might be as I watched car, bicycles, motor scooters, trucks, etc all trying to get in and out in one piece !


Once you have finished at the top it is time to descend the twisting stairs once again to the bottom of the structure. In the centre of the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is once again amazing to stop and think of all the history that this structure has seen, from Napoleon to now, almost 200 years.


Champs Elysées

I now decided to walk down the Champs Elysées a way. Clustered around on the footpath facing the Arc are photographers who attempt to convince you to let then take your picture in front of the Arc. I had no intention of allowing this with my judgment being confirmed by the price that they were charging. Be warned that the photographers can be very aggressive in getting you into a shot. Best advice is to be polite but firm and continue on your way.


Bastille

I hopped on the Metro and headed east to the site of the old Bastille prison. There is nothing left of the Bastille that served as an imperial prison prior to the Revolutionary War. In its place now stands the Opera de Paris and the Colonne de Jullet.


The column is a memorial to all those who dies in the street battles of July 1830 that lead to the over throw of the monarch at the time.


After taking a short break and checking my map I headed off, in what I thought to be the direction of the Musée Carnavalet, but in fact ended up being in the opposite direction ! As I said earlier, I think that this sort of random touring can prove to be a reel boon. As I headed done some back streets I ended up in a sort of food market where all sorts of delicates caught my eye. After trying some samples I finally realised that I was headed in the wrong direction again, so checking my trusty map and armed with my snacks I headed back in the direction that I came.

One of the funny things I found about walking in Paris was that I always seemed to end up going in the wrong direction. It was probably the fact there aren't any landmarks that one can get bearings on, so just wandering around can prove to be an intriguing experience.

Place des Vosges


On my way to Musée Carnavalet I came across Place des Vosges. This was once the site of jousting and tournaments. The square has nine houses on each side and is very much the same as it was over four hundred years ago. Tucked away in the south eastern corner of the square is the Maison of Victor Hugo. Hugo, the author of Les Misérables, lived on the second floor of this building from 1832 to 1848. Inside you will find displays of his drawings, books and lifetime influences.


Musée Carnavalet

The Musée Carnavalet is devoted to the history or Paris. The museum occupies two adjacent mansions of two floors each and contain many works of art, pictures, sculptures, furniture and more. The museum also has some wonderful gardens that are well worth a look as well and is once again free to those with a museum card.


Musée Picaso

Not far from the Musée Carnavalet is the Musée Picasso. This Spanish born painter, who lived most of his life in Paris, is undoubtedly one of the most famous artists of modern times. Covering three floors, including the basement you will find a variety of works from the artist including : "Two women running on a beach", "The Kiss" and more. If you are art fan then I suggest that you allow a good few hours to view all the works. Entry was once again free thanks to the museum card.

After Musée Picasso, I wandered north to Square du Temple. This park was once the fortified centre of the medieval Knights Templar, an order of Knights that protected pilgrims on their way to the Holy Lands.


I once again jumped aboard the Metro and headed a few stops south to the Hôtel de Ville, which is the home of the City council. Outside the Hotel, in the square facing the Hotel, was an ice skating rink, but there was no one skating while I was there.


Petit Palais

From here I decided to head back up the Champs Elysées to the Petit Palais located on Winston Churchill Ave just down from the Pont Alexandre III. Once again mymuseum card granted me free access to the Palais, however I must say that I found this place to be rather disappointing. There were not many people at all here and the whole structure is very large and yet seems to have very little in it. At the time of my visit the Palais was also under going refurbishment. I think that many of the works of art are probably not as well known ( outside Paris ) and that may make the exhibits mundane, unless you are a real art lover.

Across the road from the Petit Palais is the Grand Palais. After being a little disappointed with the Petit Palais, I decided to give the Grand Palais a miss. It was currently hosting a temporary exhibit that didn't really appeal to me so I walked down to Pont Alexandre III.


The most striking feature of this bridge are the four columns a topped with golden winged figures. The bridge has been designed to allow unrestricted view of the Hotel Invalides and Champs Elysées. You can see the Dôme Church of the Hotel Invalides in the background of above shot.

I decided to head back towards the Champs Elysées to find a Metro station. As I approached the intersection between Winston Churchill Avenue and Champs Elysées ( which is a major intersection ) I noticed that it was full of policemen directing afternoon peak hour traffic. Even though the intersection had lights there would have been more than a dozen police assisting the traffic negotiate the afternoon peak hour.


If was getting lat in the afternoon but I still enough time to visit another museum. My choice this time was Musée de Cluny or Musée National du Moyen Age - Thermes de Cluny. Here you will find a huge collection of medieval arts and crafts. Inside this medieval mansion you will find manuscripts, tapestries, textiles, precious metals, ceramics, sculptures and more. The museum has some interesting and famous pieces ( such as the Lady with the Unicorn ) and is well worth a visit. Once again most of the information presented is in French so getting information about some of the exhibits is hard.

Once again my day was almost over and I headed back to my hotel. For some reason, that I can't remember, I must have exited the Metro to look at something and just as I did a line of mounted cavalry came down the street. I have no idea what they are or what they were doing or even were the hell I was at the time but I was lucky enough to get this shot - just dumb luck I suppose.


I headed back to my hotel in the knowledge that I only had one more full day here in Paris and was determined to make the most of it.

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