This week's theme is "Touristy Paris" and what better to start off a tourist's journey in the city of light than with an image of the Eiffel Tower! When the Mom and I stayed on the Rue de la Clef, our first stop after getting off the plane (and taking a nap...) was to head over to the Eiffel Tower. I don't know what it is about it, but it's just really neat and these days I've got Eiffel Tower stuff all around my home... even a giant wire sculpture of it that I got at the Pottery Barn in Soho years ago after managing to (with the Mom) fit into a cab... but that's a story for another time!
The Eiffel Tower is certainly a "Must See" if you're ever visiting Gay-Paree. But, take this word of advice-- there are ELEVATORS. Back in the '70's when the Mom and Dad made their first visit, Mom stayed on the ground and the Dad hiked up the stairs... at least until he got to the first platform when he then realized that there are *elevators*! Also, I highly recommend the Restaurant Jules Verne. It's a totally unique dining experience right up in the Tower!
Shakespeare & Co. books is another Paris institution on the Left Bank. An English language book store that has been a hang out for the likes of Hemingway and the Beat Poets, it's a fun thing to see, especially if you're stopping in across the Quai to the Bateaux Parisien...
The Bateaux Parisien is a cruise line that runs hour long scenic boat tours up and down the Seine. Or at least they're supposed to be an hour long. Speaking from experience, don't take the last cruise of the night on the eve of Bastille Day. The Mom and I made that mistake once and the boat cruise became more like something out of "Speed II: Cruise Control". But, that being said, any other time is a great time for a boat cruise on the Seine. I have been on these cruises seven times in three visits. It's addictive! And besides, where else but in France could you ride on a boat named the "Isabelle Adjani" or "Catherine Deneuve?"
One of the things you'll see if you are on a boat cruise in the Seine is the Musee D'Orsay art museum. This is the museum of impressionist art that is housed in a former train station. While it certainly doesn't rival the collection size of the Louvre, it's a must see, especially if you're a fan of the impressionists like Monet, Van Gogh and the like. Up at the top of the building are these giant clocks and you can see through to the face when you're inside on the top floor... I was able to get this neat picture of two figures in front of the clock face!
Then there's the Catacombs! Not for the feint of heart (or claustrophobic) but certainly cool. Together with the Paris Sewers the Catacombs tours are one of the ways to see "underground Paris".... the catacombs are underground tunnels where hundreds of thousands of bones of former Parisians are buried... during the plague (and other times in Paris' history) the local cemeteries began to get filled and at night, the "old bones" were dug up and relocated in these tunnels and underground chambers. It's said that during the reign of the Sun King extravagant parties would be held down in the catacombs and during World War II supposedly some of the treasures of the Louvre were hidden here as well. We visited one day with my friend from the former East Berlin, Jana (who was in the Cornell Law program at the Sorbonne) and her friend from back home, a very genial German med student. It was quite an adventure! To get out of the catacombs once you've been on the tour you have to walk up a multi-storey spiral staircase about the width of a man-hole. I honestly almost passed out and I'm not even claustrophobic. Try to get past the fact that you're walking amongst bones (which can be hard to do when you see the weird patterns that the bone-buriers made with skulls, etc.) Thank god for the Germans, had it not been for them walking behind me I would have been a goner! ;)
Vive la France! Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite! Here's an image of "Liberty Leading the People" by Delacroix, which hangs in the Louvre. Any visit to Paris has to include a visit to the Louvre, even if you only get to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo! Anywhere you turn in this museum you'll be amazed at the beautiful works of art. If you have the chance also to hit up the Cafe Marly for lunch (on the ground floor of the museum), I highly recommend it!
The Bookinistes! On the right and left banks of the Seine book sellers have these wonderful stalls with old books, magazines and great prints. You could easily spend the whole day walking up and down the quais checking out the wonderful books and other goodies! It's a true Parisian institution.
A-ha! The Tuileries Gardens Ferris Wheel! The Mom *loves* Ferris Wheels. This one is set up near the Louvre in the Tuileries. I, unfortunately, I hate Ferris Wheels. So much so that when the Mom and I went on this one I ended up screaming at the French Ferris Wheel workers to let me off as we rolled past them. It didn't work. But, once they finally let me off, I took these pictures and Mom is up there somewhere. Sadly, my fear of heights (and more specifically, fear of falling from a great height) made me a poor Ferris Wheel companion. But Mom had a good time (at least, once I got off).