Day Two

Day 2

Continental Breakfast

I awoke at the leisurely hour of about eight thirty am and spent the first seconds remembering where I was in fact. That accomplished I felt a tinge of excitement as I showered, dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast ( petit déjeuner ). The breakfast room was located below street level at the bottom of some winding stairs. I was amazed to see how full it was ! I thought that I had slept in - obviously not. I wasn't really sure of what the breakfast protocol was so I grabbed an English language newspaper and sat down to catch up on events. Shortly, one of the maids came over and asked me something in French. It wasn't till about the third or fourth day that I actually worked out that she was asking whether I wanted the continental or full breakfast. Her English was as good as my French, so we just stared at each other for a moment. She then repeated the request and luckily this time I managed to pick up the word Café. I decided that this was something about coffee so I said "Oui" ( Yes ) and nodded my head in the international sign of agreement. Satisfied with my response she departed back to kitchen. I am really going to have to work out what she was asking I told myself.

Moments later she reappeared with a "continental" breakfast. Apparently, the French usually have only a light breakfast but I knew that could always be supplemented it in my travels during the day. My breakfast consisted of a large, strong coffee, a small bread roll and croissant as well as jam and butter. Although it didn't really look like much at first it turned out to surprisingly filling.

Paris Metro


I departed from the hotel and headed north along Rue de Rennes to the St Placaide Metro station a few hundred metres up the road. Like all city subways you proceed down stairs, past both human and automatic ticket dispensers and to the platform. The Paris Metro is very well signed and lines are designated by colours, letters and numbers, while the directions are denoted by the final destination of the train on that line. Thus, my ultimate destination being the station Varenne, I had to firstly take the pink number four train in the direction of Porte de Clignancourt and change at St Michel. Having located the correct platform I approached the barriers to the station. I inserted my pre-purchased ticket in the front of the barrier, it was sucked in and spat out a little further along. I took my ticket, pushed through the barrier gates and entered the platform.


The Paris Metro is clean, spacious and very convenient as I was to discover over the period of my stay. The only trick is that when the train arrives, the doors to the carriages do not open automatically. You have to either push a button or pull a handle to get them to open automatically. This mastered, I was off ! 

Changing lines is also a very simple task, simply get off at the appropriate transfer point and follow the connection signs on the platform. The trick is to note the direction that you want to proceed in. I transferred at St Michel to the yellow "C" line in the direction of Versailles. After one more brief transfer I has arrived at my destination and emerged from the subway to the street of the Invalides Quarter.

Dome Church and Napoleon's Tomb

The weather was cool but sunny and I was thankful that the rain had ceased. As I walked down Boulevard des Invalides the Dôme Church stands as the most striking feature. I continued around to the front, on Avenue de Tourville and entered.

 
 

I now discovered the benefits of museum card. Once I completed the rear of the card with my starting date I was able to walk right into most museums, no queuing or buying tickets ! If you do go to Paris I can't recommend one of these cards enough ! I just walked up to the entrance, flashed my pass and I was in.


Inside the Dome church you will find the tombs of Napoleon, Vauban, Marshal Foch and other figures of military significance. In the middle of the church, directly under the dome, you will find the tomb of Napoleon whose crypt is actually located on the lower level.


Access to crypt containing Napoleon's tomb is by the curved stairs located at the side of the altar, at the opposite side directly across from the entrance. Napoleon's body is encased in six coffins and placed in the crypt in 1861.


Directly above Napoleon's tomb is the Dome ceiling. It shows the glory of Paradise with Saint Louis presenting his sword to Christ. It was painted by Charles de la Fosse on 1692.


At the back of the church you will find the ornate altar, beyond that a set of glass windows that lead separate the Dome from the older Invalides chapel. To the side and the rear you will wind the spiral staircase that will lead you down to Napoleon's crypt.

 

Once you have been around the church use the main entrance to also exit. Be aware that although many of these buildings are historical monuments they are also churches and proper respect and decorum should always be observed.

Hotel Invalides

On the other side of the windows, behind the altar is the St Louis des Invalides. Entry can't be gained from the Dôme Church you must walk around and enter from the Cour d'Honneur ( Courtyard ) on the other side of the Dôme ChurchSt Louis des Invalides is also know as the "soldier's chapel". Along the roof are banners that have been seized in battle down through history.

The entrance of the chapel leads out into the Cour d'Honneur. This an open courtyard that was used, and is still used for military parades. It is very interesting to remember that people like Napoleon Bonaparte would have walked around this very courtyard through the ages.

 

Located on the eastern and western sides of the courtyard is the Musée de l'Armée. This museum covers military history from the Stone Age right through to World War II, although the majority of the exhibits cover Medieval and Napoleonic times. The western side has a fabulous display of arms and armour from places such as China, Japan, India and Asia. The Arsenal has suits of armour, over one thousands helmets, spears, swords and firearms.


For those interested in military history the Musée de l'Armée is well worth at least half a day. Also located in the western wing is one of the most unusual and interesting museums I found in Paris. The Musée des Plans Reliefs is located on the upper floor and contains detailed models of French forts and fortified towns, some dating back before the French revolution. They are housed in a huge room that remains dark, except for the models. When you have a look at the highly detailed nature of some of these maps you wonder how long it must have taken to create. The Museum is not very large in itself but in my opinion well worth a visit.


Walking north from the Cour d'Honneur you emerge into the Invalides gardens. Much of area is lined with cannons from the seventeenth and eighteenth century.


The Hôtel Invalides was the first hospital for veterans and disabled soldiers of France dating back to before the French revolution. The complex was completed around 1676 and exhibits an excellent example of French architecture of the period.


In general if you are at all interested in the military history of France then I would highly recommend spending at least half a day in the museums and churches of the Hôtel Invalides.

Musèe Rodin

Returning to my Eyewitness travel guide to see what other points of interest were  in the area I decided to visit the nearby Musée Rodin. The museum is located just to the east of the Hôtel Invalides, on Rue de Varenne. Once again my museum pass allowed me free entry into what was once the home of the nineteenth century French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Rodin lived here from 1908 until his death in 1917 and as an agreement with the French State, that owned the property, he left all his works of art to the nation. The museum contains some of his most famous works including "The Kiss" and "Eve" which are located inside and works including "The Thinker" and "The Gates of Hell" in the grounds.


Walking through the gardens you will find a wide range of Rodin's works in a beautifully arranged garden. Unfortunately, since it was still the tail of winter I was unable to see the array of thousands of rose bushes.


After pausing for some morning tea here I decided to head further west over towards the Eiffel Tower again. Being such a short distance I decided to walk. Navigation once again proved simple, I just headed north until I came to the Seine river and the went left.

Palais de Chaillot

Rather than heading for the Eiffel Tower straight away I decided to head across the Pont D'Iéna to the Palais de Chaillot. The Palais, composed of two curved wings houses museums, a theatre amongst other things.


After walking around some of the surrounding streets I finally came to the parvis or square located between the two wings. Being Sunday it was full of people either trying to sell touristy stuff or rollerblading. I just couldn't get over how many people were rollerblading ! I settled down on one of the balconies overlooking the Trocadéro fountains to watch the entertainment. Below me there was some sort of rollerblade high jumping competition going on. This proved to be most entertaining as a large crowd had gathered to watch.


I was a bit annoyed that the Trocadéro fountains were currently not operating when I took this classic "tourist" photo of the Eiffel Tower. I decided to continue down towards the Eiffel Tower. On the way I stopped to watch the skaters negotiate an obstacle course of witches hats all lined up down the hill. The first skater came down the hill moving both feet in and out of the witches hats at a great speed - without knocking one over ! Impressive, I thought. The next skater came down backwards, at the same break-neck speed and once again negotiated all the cones successfully. Even more impressive, I thought. As each skater came down the routine became tricker and tricker. The culmination for me had to the one skater who came down backwards, on one skate at what appeared to a speed greater than any who went before and successfully completed the whole course. It seemed a shame to leave these guys without paying for the show.


The whole area around the Eiffel Tower was very busy with tourists and locals. It seems that this area is very popular, especially on weekends. It was getting late in the afternoon and I was debating whether to go up the Eiffel Tower. There was a fair queue waiting to gain entry but the weather was pretty good for taking photos. Like most other tall monuments and buildings, I find that it is best to visit then around dusk so that you can get photos both in the day and at night. However, I decided not to take this opportunity to climb the Tower but wait until the following day when the crowds would be less ( I hoped ! ).


I the meantime I explored the base of the Tower and marveled at its aesthetics as well as its engineering. It is a truly remarkable structure, well worth its place as one of the most famous of the world's structures.

Having nothing much further to look at in the area I decided to head off, back to my hotel as the sun was starting to go down and it was getting towards the time when I would have to try my luck at speaking French again to get fed. I paused one further time, looking back at the Tower, knowing that I would return and ascend to the top very very soon.


I proceeded to the École Militaire metro station successfully negotiating my way back to my local stop ( St Placide ), well not before yet another photo. Strangely enough I found myself in a similar position to the previous day ( Day 1 ), so I snapped a picture. I was starting to think that maybe I could create some sort of theme out of all these photos. The Eiffel Tower at all different times of the day, BUT from the same place ...


Dinner Time

Now it was time to find a place to eat. I emerged from the Metro at Saint Placide, near my hotel, ready to try one of the local restaurants. As I continued up the street I was becoming a little overwhelmed by the choices and feeling a little unnerved about trying my hand at speaking French again. In the end I decided to bite the bullet and try the next one. Being a Sunday evening there weren't too many people I noticed as I entered. My restaurant of choice had not only a dining area but also a cafe style area with smaller tables. Since there already appeared to be menus on the small cafe style tables I sat down here. You don't realise how exhausted you are until you really stop and only now was I beginning to realise that I had in fact done a fair amount of walking and wouldn't be able to stay awake too much longer.

Shortly my waiter arrived and greeted me in the now familiar manner - "Bonsior" ( Good Evening ). "Bonsior", I replied and quickly follows that up with my standard question "Paelez vous anglais ?" ( Do you speak English ? ). The response to this was "A little". That was ok since by now I could order my drink in French and at least point to what I wanted on the menu and tag on "S'il vous plaît" ( Please ). I was beginning to feel a little more comfortable with the language, but was far from making fluent use of it in conversation.

My meal arrived quickly and was excellent. Even though it was a simple sandwich and salad it was delicious. With some food now in my stomach I decided that I would try some desert as well. I am please to say that this also was excellent. With my evening meal digested and finished off with a cappuccino I asked for "Pouvez-vous preparer ma note, s'il vous plaît" ( Can I have my cheque please ?). Upon receiving it I was struck by the question of whether I should leave a tip or not. I couldn't remember having read anywhere that I should so I decided to leave a small amount on the table and proceed to the counter to pay. Upon paying my bill I asked ( in English ) about leaving a tip and was told that part of the bill is given to the waiter. Ah ha, now I know. As with all things it is best to ask if you are unsure. Contrary to stories that I have heard everyone I asked questions of was very polite and patient with me.

I walked the few remaining meters back to my hotel, got my key and headed for my room. As soon as I lay down on the bed I knew that I wasn't going to be able to stay awake for long. I had a quick look through my travel guides and decided that tomorrow I would go to the Louvre. That decision made I settled down between the covers and was asleep in a matter of moments - my second day in Paris complete.

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