Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 7 - A Couple of Tourists in Paris

With the first air conditioned hotel room of the trip and our jet lag seeming to disappear, your Ramblers actually got a good full night's sleep.  Instead of sugar plum fairies we dreamed of the Starbucks right next to our hotel. Tres Bien! We have learned over the last week that France is not a nation of breakfast coffee drinkers (or water drinkers in general but that is another story) so your Ramblers have been cold turkey for 6 days - but on the 7th day God granted us coffee.  Rambler Jane was overcome.

After some coffee and a little "on the fly" planning, we decided to knock out the big three of the Paris tourist trail.  The Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and a Seine River boat cruise.

First, the Arc - What's to say?  It's massive, impressive and beautiful.  We hit this spot first and the lines were pretty limited.  It was built to honor those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and also contains the French tomb of the unknown soldier.

Inside the Arc de Triomphe

View of Eiffel Tower from Top of Arc de Triomphe

Arc from Middle of Champs-Elysées 
Next up was the Eiffel Tower. To Rambler Jane's chagrin, your Ramblers decided to walk the 30 minutes to the tower (her choice of footwear that morning turned out to be a bad one). It ended being a pleasant walk and we even found the Thomas Jefferson Garden on Place Des Etats-Unis.

Virginia:  woot-woot!
Paris is a great walking city and a great motorcycle city. Rambler Darryl would be excited. The drivers of said motorcycles especially in Paris are a word...NUTS!  They cut between cars (legally) and speed and zig in and out of traffic like they are on a closed road course. One final comment on traffic in Paris: Rambler Hance thinks Paris stands for Park Anywhere Risk Is Small because people just stop and park in odd places, motorcycles and scooters park on the sidewalks and cars park pointing both ways on the same side of the street. France may be a quasi-socialist economy but the parking is all Ayn Rand.

Anyhoo, we made it to the Eiffel Tower in no time and found that the rest of the tourists in Paris were also there. After taking lots of pictures and being awed by the sight, your Ramblers decided to pass on the extremely long lines (especially on a hot day) and settle for the ground view. It is quite a view. And to think, the thing was going to be torn down after the 1889 World's Fair.

See, Not So big (view from Arc de Triomphe)

Crossing the Bridge over the Seine

Rambler Hance
Rambler Selfie
With the decision to avoid the lines of touri (pronounced tour-i) wanting to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower, your Ramblers decided to check out the boat cruises on the Seine that leave from the base of the tower. The prospect of sitting down for an hour and getting a quickie view of some of the main Paris must-sees also seemed appealing. After battling the glare of the ticket kiosk screen that was facing the sun, we just made the 12:30 boat and with our quad-lingual host and the multi-language audio guides at the ready, we set off.  It is a great and quick way to get a good view of Paris. The Seine is the heart of the city, and the original part of Paris that was settled over 2000 years ago was an island in the middle of the Seine. We passed several notable bridges, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the national legislative building (editors note: where a statement was made about the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man being the cornerstone of modern democracy --cough Declaration of Independence, 1776-- cough), the original island that was settled, and many others. It was well worth the 13 euros (per person).

French Russian Friendship Bridge

Notre Dame behind the River Wall

After a busy morning of monument stalking and floating down the Seine we were famished. We decided to try and walk to a nearly cafe recommended by two travel and foodie FORs (friend of the Ramblers) - Cafe Constant owned by Chef Christian Constant.  We made it in a few minutes with no navigation errors and there were still tables available.  It was hot day and we got seated upstairs which was a little stuffy but we opened one of the windows further and settled in to an hour of simple, yet exquisite goodness.  We started with a couple of entrees and then even though it was a hot day we ordered the beef stew because we had heard it was exceptional.  Awesome does not describe the food in this place. The only thing that would have made the stew better if it was 45 outside instead of 85.  Here is the view from the cheap seats.

A salmon appetizer

An artichoke and mushroom appetizer

Yummy beef stew

After being rejuvenated by the food, Rambler Hance persuaded Rambler Jane to continue the march across Paris to the nearly Rodin Museum that was recommended by the same FORs. The museum gives a pretty complete picture of the works of Rodin during his life and is viewable in 1-2 hours unless you really know or enjoy examining the nuances of works of art - your Ramblers do not. The best known (at least by layman) works by Rodin are these two:
The Thinker(s)

The Gates of Hell
After a long day (and no air conditioning in the Rodan museum) we made one final push to go next door and determine the source of this beautiful dome.

Come to find it out it was the Dome Church, part of the Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried.  It might be worth a look on another day or another trip, but after a long day, your Ramblers did not feel the need to buy the tickets and tromp through another sight.

It was time to catch a cab and head home.  Luckily the former was rather quick and we arrived back at our hotel tout de suite. We decided to go have a quick drink before dinner and hit up another local cafe with an American name.

We returned to the hotel to catch up on blogging, take a quick nap, shower and make dinner plans. We decided to try and eat at Zinc Caius, listed on one of the food blogs recommended by a FOR and got the hotel to make reservations. We set out a little after 8pm to find the establishment. When we arrived on the street at the address, it wasn't there. We asked a nearly local and they pointed back up the street from whence we came. ????  We spied a sign that had a big C that looked like the Caius portion of the establishment we were looking for and in our pigeon French asked about our intended destination. The staff said it had closed and been turned into an Italian restaurant. Well, your Ramblers did not come to Paris to eat I-talian. So in a reverse Seinfeld move, we made the reservation, but did not hold the reservation. We were coaxed into trying what turned out to be Caius. Long story short, the food was excellent, it was the larger and more expensive sibling of our original destination, and why the hotel did not figure out that the place we asked them to make reservations for no longer existed, we are not sure. The hotel is 0 for 2 on the dinner thing and your Ramblers think they will go it alone from now on. The food was excellent and our waiter Jen (he said "Yen") was the best yet in France. He also helped us find some strategic Tour de France viewing sites. He was so helpful and friendly that we left our first tip since the Coke guy in the bar in Vouvray, when did not know any better.

Our waiter at Casius

After a long day and a delicious dinner, it was time for bed. Tomorrow is another tourist day and we are undecided what spots to hit, but Notre Dame and the Louvre (depending on the lines) are at the top of our list.

Until then, au revoir and keep rambling.

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