The last day of another packed tour around Paris via the trusty metro. Starting at the Eiffel Tower and working my way over to the area around Palais de Chaillot. A quick hop via the metro from Alma Marceau to the Champs Elysees area, including the Arc de Triomphe, the Grand and Petit Palais. From the Champs Elysees Clemenceau, I arrive at the Invalides Quarter, home of Napoleon's tomb, Chapel of St Louis and the military museum in the Hotel des Invalides. The day finishes off with a quick stop in the red light district of the Moulin Rouge.
|Eiffel Tower, Chaillot, Champs Elysees, Invalides and Montmartre Quarter|
1. Eiffel Tower
2. Palais de Chaillot
3. Palais Galleria
4. Avenue des Champs Elysees
5. Arch de Triomphe
6. Jardin des Champs Elysees
7. Grand and Petit Palais
8. Hotel des Invalides
9. Church of St Louis and Napoleon's Tomb
10. Moulin Rouge
Paris.org - The Pantheon
Hotel des Invalides
At around 9am in the morning, I arrived at the Eiffel Tower again, only to be surprised by the amount of people who have already started lining up. The queue was a real mess, those in group tours mixed with the visitor's queue. Although the tower staff intervened, it took a while before people were able to sort themselves out and get into the right line. Anyway, this explains why their are signs warning of pickpockets, anyone looking perplexed will have their belongings stolen. But, after more than 15 minutes of waiting, I was finally able to purchase my tickets to visit all levels of the tower. The ticket price is higher as you gain access to the higher levels of the tower, but since I wasn't sure if I was to go back I felt it was a good idea to spend the money.
Since the queue to the lift was an even bigger mess, I decided to walk up the steps to the first level and try my luck in catching the lifts from there. At this time of the day, there was only one lift in operation that goes straight to the second floor, but there is another lift going from the first and second floors, so it was good to take the gamble. After a 10 minute walk up the steps, and a brief stroll around the level observing the engines and hardware that powers the lifts, I didn't have to wait too long to get the next lift to the second level. Besides, the 1st level was totally bare, boring and devoid of any activity.
Unlike the first level, there was more noise and activity on the second level. Here, tourists congregated around the viewing balconies, souvenir shops and cafe or stood waiting for the lift to the top level. And the top level, which can be reached by the lifts in the middle of the second floor, was even more crowded and thus more difficult to take photos. What is worse is the number of group visitors bunching around trying to take photos around the smallish platform, making walking and viewing even more difficult. Despite this, the views from the top are breathtaking. Although it was cloudy, I could still see Paris for miles, including the Montparnasse tower in the south, the Sacre Coeur and the hills of Montmartre in the north and the modern high-rise skyscrapers of La Defense in the west.
After leaving the Eiffel tower in the late morning, I walked around the Chaillot quarter, starting from the Palais de Chaillot and the Trocadero Fountains. Unlike the night before, the fountains were not firing today, making the area almost look lifeless. And despite the size and grandeur of the building and its fountains, there was prescence of graphiti and grime in some parts. In addition, teenagers seem to choose the road around the fountain as their meeting place for friends or skateboarding and roller-blading. And at the Palais, the courtyard with the bronze sculptures had been fenced off, supposedly for renovation. Despite this, the various museums and film library inside the Palais de Chaillot were still open. Also at this point I arrive at the Place du Trocadero and its landmark monument - the statue of Marshal Ferdinand Foch.
Instead of walking, I caught the metro down from the Trocadero to Iena to look at the facade of the Palais Galliera. Unfortunately, the gardens surrounding the building were closed and the facade, like the Palais du Chaillot, was also being renovated. Across the road was the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville Paris. Other than the impressive collonade of the building, there wasn't much there that convinced me to go, the main street between the two almost felt deserted. So I left the area for the Avenue des Champs Elysees for lunch before going to the famous Arc de Triomphe. As usual, I caught the metro from Iena to Franklin D Roosevelt.
The Avenue Champs Elysees has got to be one of the busiest and liveliest streets I ever encountered. There are cinemas, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants all along this long avenue right up to the Arc de Triomphe. Like the streets of Picadilly Circus and Oxford Street in London, the footpaths are bustling with people and traffic. As I walked towards the famous arch, I would occassionally wander off the footpath and onto the traffic islands in the middle of the road to take photos, then quickly dart back when the lights changed. By lunchtime, the clouds had also cleared, making the area even more livelier and brighter.
The Arc de Triomphe could only be crossed from a subway under the street, where visitors had to pay a fee to get into the area of the Arch de Triomphe as well as to the top of the arch. I headed for the top of the arch first, but I had to walk up a spiral staircase. Along the way, some visitors had to stop and rest, so I had to push my way through before I got to the top of the arch. But after the long climb up, I was disappointed to find out that I had only arrived at a small museum and that there was another staircase leading to the top. But once I had got to the top, I was rewarded with great views of the city and the famous bustling roundabout below the arch.
And the bas reliefs and sculptures built into the top of the arch and its facade could not be discounted either. Around the back, are the Bas Relief of Aboukir that celebrates the victory of Napoleon over the Turkish in 1799 and the funeral of General Marceau who led the victory against the Austrians. Right below the arch I could see the flickering flame of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a unknown soldier from World War I. In summary, the arch gives a vivid depiction of the trials of tribulations of war, a theme that the french here are more than willing to illustrate.
In the middle of the afternoon, I took the metro back down from George V to the Champs Elysees Clemenceau and strolled around the park of Jardin des Champs Elysees and the small theatres, then to the Petit and Grand Palais on Avenue Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, the Petit and Grand Palais were closed for renovations. Howerver, some of the frescoes that decorate the front of the Grand Palais could be seen above the scaffolding. Again wasting no time, I headed for the Hotel des Invalides via the metro to Invalides, thus allowing enough time to arrive before it closes before 6pm.
The Hotel des Invalides is another 5 minutes walk from the Invalides metro - alternatively, I could have caught the metro to Varenne which is just next to the building. In the middle of the avenue, there are traffic islands which I used to take photos of the whole building, then walked through the gates and through the gardens, its paths lined with cannons. On arrival, I purchased my tickets in the hall located left of the entrance. Since it was approaching 5pm, I had to skip the Musee de l'Armee and headed straight for the St Louis des Invalides - or the Soldier's Chapel. Unlike the other cathedrals I've visited, the interior was bright and cheerful, making the area bigger than I originally thought. Above the entrance is the organ built by Alexandre Thierry while at the back is the altar.
The Dome of the Invalides, home of Napoleon's Tomb, was initially trickier to find as I thought the chapel was linked with the tomb. From the chapel entrance, I had to turn right then head up the corridor. This leads out to the main courtyard and entrance to the Dome of Invalides. Inside, the dome is filled with various monuments of all kinds, including the Tomb of Bonparte and Memorial to Vauban, the tomb of Marshal Foch and the famous tomb of Napoleon onthe floor below. Looking upwards, I was amazed at finding a large painting on the dome, the Glory of Paradise, which depicts St Lois presenting his sword to Christ. At the back of the building is the Glass Gallery where a huge altar and the glass separating the Dome from the church could be found. From here I went down the stairs to the Tomb of Napoleon. I could not help but feel amazed at how much effort the french had put in creating this monument for Napoleon and his family, yet who could blame them when it was he who contributed signifcantly to France's prosperity and vivid history.
After having dinner near the Gare du Nord (not the most imaginative place for having dinner but was the most convenient for my final trip), I caught the metro to to Blanche. This meant going on the much neglected line 2 that was filled with young teenagers and partygoers, beggars and buskers. As usual, I had to be careful of my belongings, keeping my camera in the bag so I didn't stand out too much from the rest of the passengers. Getting off the Blanche station, I was immediately met by the familliar windmill of the Moulin Rouge theatre - home of the Can can. Since it was about 9pm, the lights were vivid and bright against the darkening sunlight. Outside the theatre, bouncers guarded the entrance trying to keep a sense of civility over what really happens inside the theatre. Such civility was only temporary, when one wanders along the streets of Clichy - sex shops, night clubs and adult video stores not to mention the rowdy partygoers abound in this area.
As it was getting late and I had to wake up early for my Eurostar train the next day, I decided to call it a day. Although I had probably missed some stuff that I shouldn't have, it was a rewarding trip in Paris nonetheless. Going alone in such a difficult political environment has provided the boost and confidence needed for my future trips. At the same time, I've learnt lots about the French history and culture in the five days I stayed in Paris, in some cases I felt like I mixed in with the atmosphere and forgetting about my own life back home. But, hard as it may seem, it was time for me to return back to reality and head back to my original life.