Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Eiffel Tower.

At the Eiffel Tower.

F

rom the Arc de Triomphe, we made our way over to the Champs-Élysées.  We were on our way to the Eiffel Tower and we had to be there by 1:30p.  The number of people who can go up the tower is tightly controlled and when you buy your ticket, which we did when we got our City Pass, you are given a specific timeslot.  I knew we had quite a distance to walk and not a whole lot of time so I tried to rush Z along.

At the same time, I wanted Z to see the Champs-Élysées.  He asked me what the deal with it was.  I'm sure the famed avenue has important historical significance but I don't what that is.  I only know it for all the upscale stores that are located there.  I told Z it's the Paris version of 5th Avenue in New York City.  Am I close?


We headed down the avenue, window shopping here and there.  Z was particularly interested with the car showrooms that are there.  I have to admit, a car store is not typically what you see in the heart of a city shopping district but of course, this is Paris and those shops were not dealerships - they are showrooms.  We stepped inside the Peugeot because a sportscar caught our eye.  Z admitted he knows little about cars and had never heard of Peugeot and wanted to know what kind of cars they are.  I told him the company makes cars for the average Joe - their market is not aimed at high income people.  So, he and I could own Peugeots.  Am I close?


We also passed by the Lido.  It was good to know exactly where it was located as we have to be back here for our 9p show on Friday.  That should be fun!

As always, I recognize the names of famous patisseries and this one is one of the most well known ones there is.   Did someone say Ladurée?


Since we were rushing to the Eiffel Tower, I knew we didn't have time to sit and eat anything but I wanted to see the place so we stepped inside.  What an elegant interior!!  Suddenly, I felt really under dressed.  Unfortunately, the line leading up to the pastry counter was much too long.  Otherwise, I would have gotten a sweet thing or two.  Perhaps, if we're back here another time, we can have some tea and pastry here - like really *civilized* people :-)

Z wanted to walk the full Champs-Élysées but I told him that not only was it a long avenue but it would also take us in a direction away from where the Eiffel Tower is located.  Another time.  So, at some point, we turned around and headed down Avenue George V.  I know this small street well - walked it many times when I was here on a work assignment back in 1996.  I also had the privilege of spending a night at the famed George V Hotel which is now a Four Seasons Hotel.  That was quite an experience especially for a life long budget traveler like me!

Avenue George V ends near Pont de l'Alma which has the sad reputation as the spot near where Princess Diana was killed in a car crash.  For me, it's the place that offers a wonderful view of the most iconic of Parisian landmarks.  We paused for a few minutes to take in the view.  Z wanted to see the Eiffel Tower.  Here it stands in all its glory!


From the bridge, we turned right and walked along Quai Branly, continuing towards the tower.   In the greenspace between the Seine and Quai Branly was a photo exhibition of some sort.  Another thing to check out if are back in the neighborhood and have more time.  On our side of the street was a most unusual view.  A tall building with a facade completely covered in plants.....live plants!  It was a green, living wall!  I thought it was so cool.  Apparently, the building is the Musée du Quai Branly and the vertical garden is the creation of  Patrick Blanc, a globe trotting botanist who also happens to be a resident scientist at the prestigious CNRS (Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique).  The vertical garden comprises 15,000 plants and 150 different species!  Unbelievable.  It's obvious that Blanc has applied some scientific knowledge to developing a way to keep the plants alive?  Is there some sort of a fanciful watering system??  I wondered if the plants live all winter long and do they add to the insulation of the building?  So fascinating.


Z was using the app on his iPhone to navigate us to the tower.  I just followed him.   His footsteps took us to a neighborhood and I was wondering how we would get to the Eiffel Tower from here.  My memory was telling me we just keep walking along Quai Branly.  But just a block or two after we had turned onto Avenue de La Bourdonnais, Z  made another and there, in clear view, was our destination. 


Eventually, the sidewalk turned into a path that wound its way down towards where I was guessing was the *entrance* to the tower.  There were only a few tourists walking the path we were on. I think we really did come via the back door, so to speak.

The Eiffel Tower is named after Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the engineer whose company designed and built the tower. It was erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair. The tower stands 324 meters (1,063 feet) tall. Each side of its square base measures 125 meters (410 feet) in length.  The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second; you can to the third to enjoy a view from higher up. We didn't realize it at the time but our ticket would only get us to the second level :-(


The surnames of 72 French scientists, engineers, and mathematicians are inscribed on all four sides of the tower, just beneath the first level balcony. Between 2010 and 2011, the engravings were repainted to their original gold color.

A few of the names on the North-East side (also known as La Bourdonnais side).


We soon made to the *entrance* area of the Tower as evidenced by all the tourists around us!

It wasn't clear to me where we were suppose to go so I walked up to an attendant and showed him what we had gotten at the Visitors Information Center yesterday.  He told me what I had was a voucher and that I had to go over to the ticket office to exchange it for an actual ticket.  So that's what I did.

After I got our tickets, we had a few minutes to wait before we could take our place in line and go up.  We would be entering via the North entrance.

We found a spot on a bench to pass the time.


This was the first place I had seen wandering souvenir vendors.  They were all African men selling pretty much the same thing - toy versions of the tower in small, smaller and smallest sizes.  They were politely annoying - hovering very close by and only occasionally, one would come back to as if we wanted to buy anything.  I think I overhead one tourist negotiating to buy six of the smallest ones for a euro! 


A few minutes before the 1:30p mark and Z and I were in line.  We were pretty much at the head of the line.  First, we had to pass through security.


From security, we made our way up to a platform to wait for the cable car.  You can walk up to the three levels but our ticket entitled us to the ride so ride we did.

As we stood waiting, waiting for the cable car, I couldn't help but notice the posted sign that warned tourists about pickpockets.  I overhead a woman, sounded like an American, standing nearby saying that such signs were actually detrimental.  Her rationale was that when a tourist reads the sign, his/her natural reaction is to take whatever valuable thing they might have and move it to a more secure spot.  If there is a pickpocket standing nearby, he/she would then know where the valuable object was put.  Hmmm.....I don't know how true that all is.  Anybody know a good pickpocket I can follow up with? :-)


That red thing in the photo below is the cable car coming back down towards us.


The car that came down was carrying passengers so we had to let them off before we could get in.  Since Z and I were close to the front of the line, we got a prime viewing spot near the window.  I took a video of our ride up.  It took about 2 minutes to get to the second level after a short pitstop at the first leve.


We stepped out onto the observatory platform and took in the view.   I've never been up the Eiffel Tower so I had no idea what the view was like.  From here, you can see just how flat Paris is!  The water of the Seine was a beautiful shade of blue green today - reflecting the sky above.


That spiky thing on the back left is Sacré-Cœur and the glass covered building is Grand Palais.

The Gold Dome on the right is Les Invalides, Napolean Bonaparte is entombed there.  Hopefully, we'll visit the place.

The Trocadéro.

Some famous Arch.

And some famous cathedral.

Looking down at part of the Champ de Mars, the greenspace that surrounds the Eiffel Tower.

Champ de Mars.  At the other end of the green space is the École Militaire,
a complex of buildings housing various military training facilities.  The skyscraper
in the far distance is the Montparnasse Tower.

Looking west, along the Seine.

After we were done with taking in the views from the 2nd level, we decided to head to the 3rd level which is also the highest level that the public is allow to go to.  At this point, we didn't realize that our ticket did not include access to the 3rd level.  It wasn't until we compared our ticket to the ones accepted for entry up to the 3rd level that we figured out we didn't have access.  Oh well.  Part of me was very disappointed that the sales lady at the Visitors Information Center had not advised us that a separate ticket would be required. I would have gladly paid for it.  Goes to show you really need to do your research in advance!

One of the large flywheels that pull the cable car up and down.

But then, I looked up at the tourists who were on the 3rd level and realized they weren't all that high above us.  Perhaps, we really didn't miss out on much!  I take back my words about the sales lady.


We decided it was time to leave and so we went and waited for the cable car.   After a few minutes of waiting, we made our way down the stairs.  What the heck, it's good exercise and not hard to do!  So down we went.


We eventually got to the first level and there was an exhibition of sorts there.  Z took a look but I was more interested in the sights outside the tower.


On the first level, there is also a nice restaurant.  We didn't eat there but Z went in to use the facilities.

On the 1st floor balcony.  The floor is glass!

View of the entrance area from the 1st level.

For some reason, the stairs to the ground level were blocked off so we were forced to take the cable car.  By the time we got in line, we were close to the back of the pack so no window view for me.  That's okay, I got my view on the way up.

Notice the prominent pickpocket sign.

Back on the ground level, we strolled along Champ de Mars, towards École Militaire. 
Champ de Mars

This is a really popular place for both locals and tourists.  For tourists, it's where many of the iconic views of the Eiffel Tower are photographed.  One tourist after another snapping away; plenty of selfies included.


Of course, I had to do the same except I had Z as my photo muse :-)


The Champ de Mars reminded me of the Mall in DC - except we have the Washington Monument instead of the Eiffel Tower and we don't have such nicely pruned trees.  Like Mall, the grass here shows the wear and tear of an entire summer season of people walking, running, and sitting on it.  

Is there such a thing as too many photos of the Eiffel Tower?  Okay, only two more.



Z wanted to know where to go to next.  I figured we needed food, especially Z since he hadn't had breakfast.  Recalling my  trip here in 1996, when I basically walked the entire city in one weekend, I remembered Rue Cler which is well known as another market street with plenty of eateries.  I knew it was close by so I suggested that Z navigate us there.

It wasn't a long walk and it was a beautiful day.  I really enjoyed my stroll on the streets of Paris.  I have to train Z to stroll.  He only knows how to walk with a purpose.  Sometimes, it's nice to walk to just enjoy the surroundings.

Anyway, we eventually got to Rue Cler.  It's a weekday today so although the stores were all open, there were few people about.  Because of its proximity to the Eiffel Tower, Rue Cler is popular with tourists and we saw plenty of team seated outside cafes. 



Z has pretty much relinquished meal finding duties to me and I'm fine with that.  After checking out a few menus, I settled on a place that looked like your classic French cafe - Café du Marché.  Z has not yet had a meal in one so I want him to have the experience.  When in Paris, do as Parisians do so we took a table outside.  Z started out sitting across from me but since the table next to us was empty, I told him to move over.  Everyone sits at a cafe, facing the street, not each other :-)


I have to give kudos to Z.  He's been trying out a new dish with each meal and staying with traditional French dishes.  Today, he ordered steak tartare.  When he told the waitress this, she asked him if he knew it was raw meat.  He replied that he did.  I happen to love steak tartare so I'm glad he's trying it.  We can always something else if he decides he can't eat it.


In the meantime, I ordered a salad that came topped with a bit of prosciutto and duck mousse.  It turned out to be a huge composed salad.  There were carrots, green beans, beets, olives. cucumbers, tomatoes, some greens and couscous.  It was really more than I wanted but it so tasty, I actually ate most of it!


Not the most flattering picture of Z but I wanted to remember his moment with steak tartare.  He ended up devouring it all!

After we paid the bill, we crossed over to the other side of the street.  From our table at the cafe, we had spotted the boulangerie.  We decided to check it out.   We made a beeline for the pastry counter.  We had to have some dessert after all :-)   We each picked out an item to share - I went for the mille-feuille topped with raspberries and pistachios and Z took the baba au rhum. The sales lady decided to have some fun with the packaging.  Somehow, with a sheet of paper, she formed a pyramid - our pastries were nestled inside.  It looked so nice! I think she was proud of it herself, especially when her colleague admired it.


We shared the two desserts.  My verdict?  Surprisingly, I thought that I could make better renditions of both desserts.  The baba was a tad too sweet and the layers of the mille-feuille were a tad too thick.  Now that I had said that to Z, I have to prove it.  I think it's his way of getting a nice dessert out of me :-)  I am up for the challenge!


Lunch was a nice break but it was back to sightseeing after lunch.  It was time to visit one of the world's greatest museums!