Day Three

By my third day in Paris I was becoming more confident with the language and able to tackle breakfast without feeling too self conscious. By this stage the staff were beginning to get used to my face ( and my lack of linguist skills perhaps ! ). As always breakfast was enjoyable and I hit the streets this Monday morning, getting lost amongst the normal working commuters. Poor saps, I thought, ensuring that I enjoyed every minute of my holiday, because I knew that sooner or later it would end.


My first destination today was the Louvre. I boarded as usual at St Placide and alighted at Palais Royal Musée du Louvre. To my horror, upon arrival, I found that there was already a queue to enter. At this stage I was still one level below the surface in the Carrousel du Louvre with the inverted glass pyramid its most striking feature. I was a little disconcerted about the length ( and static nature ) of this line so I wandered around a bit looking for another entrance and possibly a shorter line.

After climbing some nearby stairs I found myself on the surface on what was a rather drab and dreary day. It was raining slightly but a little rain wasn't going to stop me. Looking around I got my first impression about how large the Louvre really is ! The Louvre was first constructed as a fortress and grew to be a palace for royalty and now serves as a museum. In the distance I could see the glass pyramid entrance so I headed towards it, knowing I should be able to gain entry somewhere in the region.

One of the reasons that I had bought my museum card was that I had read that it would allow me to bypass all queues to places like the Louvre. As I got closer to the glass pyramid entrance I noticed to my horror, again, that there was another huge queue snaking off across the courtyard and into the wings of the structure. Being unsure of exactly where I should enter I joined the end of queue, resigned to having to spend ages waiting to just in ! What good was this card I thought to myself ? I was sure that I didn't have to be in this queue so I grabbed a information guide and began to study it.

I soon discovered that there was another entrance directly across from where I was standing. This is entrance is located in Passage Richelieu - which is directly to the left of the glass pyramid entrance ( if you are facing the pyramid entrance ). It is located through an archway on the left of the above photo, just across from the glass pyramid. As I left the queue I was resigned to standing in yet another queue ( hopefully shorter ! ). To my utter amazement there was no one waiting there at all ! I once again showed mymuseum card and walked directly in. It is at this point that I realised that my museum card was truly worth GOLD, and strongly recommend that if you do go to Paris that you GET ONE !

The Louvre is composed of four floors with exhibits including sculptures, Egyptian antiquities, Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities and much much more ! Where to start ? I wondered as I walked through the crowded lobby and decided to start via the Sully access, which is basically the wing directly behind the glass pyramid in the above photo. As I entered I noticed that flash photography was discouraged but not banned from the museum, understanding the need to preserve these works of arts I refrained from using my camera ( since I had no way to control its flash ). I now wish that I did have a camera that would have allowed me to take photos without a flash and would recommend others to have such a camera if they want to photograph most of the exhibits in museums. I was to find out a little later that not everyone agreed with me on the use of flash photography.

Through the Sully access, on the Entresol Level, you will find the Medieval Louvre. At this point in its history the Louvre served as a fort and was also transformed into a royal residence in about 1360 by Charles V. You can still see the base of the twin towers and the drawbridge support of Philippe-Auguste's fortress.

Moving upstairs to the ground floor level I found myself amongst the Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities. As I walked down a long hall in the Greek section I was almost blinded by the flash of cameras at the end. What was down here I wondered ? As I got closer I could see, through the crowd, the reason for such attention - Venus de Milo. It seemed that every one wanted their photos taken with famous ancient sculpture, Mum, Dad, Kids, Mum and Dad, Dad and the kids, Mum and the kids, etc etc etc. So much from refraining from flash photography for the sake of the art I thought as I passed.

Also on this level you will find art from Mesopotamia such as winged bulls, French and Italian sculptures. The next level ( Level 1 ) contains exhibits such as art from Italy, England and Spain as well as other Objets d'art as well as the Napoleon III Apartments. I was keen to have a look at the Mona Lisa, probably one of the most famous pieces of art in the world. I knew that I was getting close from my map, however, once again the incandescent bursts of camera flashes lead me directly to the piece. The Mona Lisa is housed behind a huge glass frame with tinted glass and it is a real fight to even get to see the painting since there are always so many people. In the same general vicinity you will also find "The Raft of Medusa" and "Virgin with a Child, surrounded by six Angels".

In the opposite wing to the Mona Lisa ( Richelieu ) you will find the Napoleon III Apartments. These rooms have been preserved in the condition of their occupation by Napoleon III. You will be truly amazed at the opulence that abounds here. Moving upstairs to the second floor you will find more European paintings from such artists as Rubens, Caravaggio, Watteau and more.

After what had been an exhausting time walking through the galleries and exhibits I decided to have lunch at the up-market cafe located within the museum. My command of French was slowly improving since I could order almost everything I wanted with a lot less pointing. As I sat there, enjoying my break and resting my tired feet I began to plan where I was going to head to next. I knew that there was much more to see so I paid for me meal and headed off, catching a few more exhibits that I had missed on my way out.

I would recommend that you set aside at least a good part of a day to experience the best aspects of the Louvre, however if you are a real art or museum lover then maybe a whole day would be best. Whatever your inclination I would highly recommend a trip to the Louvre since it truly is one of the great museums of the world.

Royal Palais

I headed out via the glass pyramid entrance, noting that weather had not improved and headed north to the Palais Royal. This former Royal Palais was the childhood home of Louis XIV and after the revolution became a gambling house and today serves as government offices ( I believe ) with small shops located on the ground floor. In the centre of the Palais is the Jardin du Palais Royal which is bordered by arcades, restaurants, art galleries and specialty shops.

After walking all around the Palais and looking at a number of small shops that adjoin the Jardin I headed west. At the intersection of Rue de Pyramids and Rue de Rivoli ( at Place des Pyramids ) is Fermiet's gilded statue of Joan or Arc, behind which is the Hotel Regina.

Moving further west through another garden, Jardin des Tuileries. These gardens were part of the Palais des Tuileries and run parallel to the Seine river from the Louvre to the Champs-Elysèes which leads to the Arc de Triomphe. At the western end of the gardens is the Musèe de l'Orangerie which houses some outstanding works of art, including Monet's water lilly series and works by Cezanne. Unfortunately, it appeared that the museum was closed for repairs or renovation. A little further west I came toPlace de la Concorde.

Place de Concorde

This large open square started out as a Place Louis XV, used for displaying a statue of the King. During the Revolution the statue of the King was replaced by an execution guillotine used to execute criminals of the revolution. In the two and half years that the square served this function it facilitated over 1,100 executions, the most famous of which being those of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette. After begin renamed to "Concord" and having a 3,200 Luxor obelisk installed at its centre, it has become the focus point of colourful parades down the Champs Elysèes on Bastille Day annually ( July 14 ).

You don't realise how much the Eiffel Tower dominates the Paris skyline until you start moving around the city. I believe that there is a city edict that buildings in the area are not allowed to be over a certain size. This ensures that the Eiffel Tower is easily seen from most locations and was going to be my next stop. The weather had been overcast and chilly all day but now the rain started to come down more heavily. After having some trouble locating the Concorde Metro station I proceeded to my final destination for the day - an climb up the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

A few stops from Concorde I alighted at La Motte Picquet and headed north towards the Eiffel Tower. After admiring the structure for the past few days I had finally decided that today would be the day that I would accomplish this. Unfortunately the weather was not nearly as good as it had been the previous day when I had contemplated climbing the tower, however I was now committed to it. It was late in the afternoon so I had indeed timed my visit well, since I would be able to experience the tower both by day and by night.

The Eiffel Tower was originally built for the Universal Exhibition in 1889, the precursor of today's World Trade Fair. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel ( who also designed the skeleton structure for the State of Liberty ). The Tower remained the world's tallest building from its completion to the construction of the New York Empire State Building in 1931. The Tower is composed of three levels, the first Level is 57 metres high and can be reached by lift or 360 or so stairs. I really wanted to climb the stairs, to the first level at least, however due to the weather most of the stairs were closed. After buying my ticket I entered the double decker lifts up to the first level level.

The second level is probably about one-third the way up the 320 metres high structure. One of the amazing things that I learned while visiting the Tower was that it never sways more than 12 cm ! This incredible feat has been attributed to the engineering genius of Gustave Eiffel. It is also amazing to think that the Tower was supposed to be demolished after the end of the Universal Exhibition.

The Eiffel Tower is one of the few Paris attractions that isn't covered my museum card. You can also elect to buy Tower tickets based on how high you wish to travel but who in the right mind wouldn't want to travel to the top ? At all levels the Eiffel Tower provides excellent views of Paris, I was a little disappointed about the poor state of the weather but there wasn't much that I could do about ! As you can see from the photographs Paris is basically a very low-rise city, with most of the larger commercial buildings located away from the traditional centre.

Second Level

Reaching the second level is via the same double decker lifts as used to reach the first level or by walking the 700 or so steps from the first level.

Third Level

The top level of the Eiffel Tower is reached via a set of vertical lifts that ascend the neck of the structure to the platform 274 metres above the ground. This top level has a limit of about 800 people placed on it, mainly for space reasons I would think. You get some marvelous views of Paris as you ascend the lifts, through the Eiffel Tower iron work. Once you emerge from the lifts you find that there in fact two observation decks here, one exposed and one enclosed.

By this stage in the weather had taken a turn for the worst. The winds were quite strong and there was occasional lashings of rain, however the views were spectacular. You could see the weather roll through Paris as well as seeing a good deal of the city and surrounding areas in spite of this. Around the top of the exposed deck are interesting details about the history of the Tower. One tells how Eiffel's daughter spent the first few nights with her father sleeping at the top of the Tower to demonstrate to disbelievers how safe the structure was.

If you move into the enclosed observation deck ( just below the exposed one ) you will find windows looking out over Paris. Below these windows you will find maps of the city highlighting locations and attraction in the vicinity. Above these windows you will find a list of cities of the world and their distances from the Tower.

Wanting to find out how far I was from home I walked around until I located Sydney, Australia. Not surprisingly, ( apart from Wellington, New Zealand ), Sydney is the most distant city. When you have a look at the distances involved you being to realise how big the world really is and how far Australia is from this point !

It was unfortunately time to start my descent. I once again took the vertical lift from the top back down the second level as night began to settle over Paris. After grabbing a quick bite to eat I settled in to watch the sun go down over the city and lights of Paris start to illuminate.

It was now getting late so I decided that I should start making my way back, I was also starting to get a little hungry. As I walked around the second level I found the stairs that lead down to the first level. They didn't seem to be closed so I headed down.

On my descent I took the time to read a number of very interesting historical notes about events at the Tower. I would highly recommend taking the stairs at some stage in your tour of the Eiffel Tower, since it here that you really get closest to the structure. It is amazing to think of all the work that was required to place all the rivets, beams and supports in place. Being the World's tallest structure at that time it would have been a real challenge for those working on a structure like this that "reached to the sky".

Upon reaching the first level again I took my time to walk around all four sides of the structure looking out onto the lights of Paris. There are a number of shops and a restaurant on this level, but I suppose since it was a Monday night they were all closed. Feeling that I had done as much as I could at the Tower I headed for the lift to take me back down.

Dinner Time

Once again it was time to make an attempt to use my poor command of French to order something to eat for myself. As I exited from my local Metro station I was deciding whether I should in fact go somewhere different for dinner tonight. After wandering past a few restaurants I found myself outside the same establishment that I had frequented the previous night. Being more tired that discerning I decided that this would be more than suitable. As I entered I was greeted by the same waiter from the previous night, who escorted me to table and presented me with a menu.

Reading the menu was going to prove more difficult than I first imagined. Most of the items on the menu I did not recognise at all. Not to panic I whipped out my trusty French / English dictionary and attempted to decipher what was on offer. After about ten minutes I decided that translating everything on menu was going to be waste of time and decided to take a risk and just order something.

To my great surprise, my meal was once again excellent. Maybe I was starting to get the hang of this ordering process I thought, nahh, luck was just on my side. I certainly hoped that it would continue and that I wouldn't have to end up eating snails one night, although I do know the French for them ( escargot ) so I know what to avoid.

After a filling meal and a full day touring I was well and truly ready to hit the sack. My plan for tomorrow was to start off with a visit to Notre-Dame and Sainte-Chapelle.