2021 Europe Day 1: Paris, Part 1 – Eiffel Tower and Roaming



We both slept well after our 24 hour travel day, me waking up at 7am and Ash up around 10am. That was 8 hours for me which is a lot, and over 11 for Ash since he went to bed before me. So we were refreshed and ready to start the day.

By the time Ash got up I’d finished the blog and was just reading and relaxing. I’d had a bit too much coffee at that point. There’s a Nespresso machine in the apartment and the “coffee” option doesn’t produce much but boy does it pack a punch. It just didn’t hit me until later. Ash had one himself, and then we headed out to get some fresh bread for breakfast.

Le Marais is the gay district in Paris and there was evidence of that all around.

The LGBT Center is just around the corner from our place.

Cross walk done with the typical white horizontal lines, but rainbow verticals on the border.

“You know you’re in the gayborhood when….” (Part 1)

French bakeries are like none other I’ve been in so far. Everything is just to rich and beautiful. This one had some extra stuff going on which you can’t really see in this photo. For one it was packed but the line of people is just out of the frame on the right. The other thing is honey bees – Lots of Them. If you look closely you will find them – see that little dot towards the top center of that white wall of the counter? Those other dots against the white wall and lights overhead? All bees. The heaviest concentration of them was on and around those bakery items on the top shelf. And what was amazing to watch is how peaceful they were coexisting with the people. No one was shooing them away, and for the most part they were staying away from the people, too. Only once did one land on me towards the very end of our transaction. We got a small loaf of seeded bread and a couple of lattes.

“You know you’re in the gayborhood when…” (Part 2)

“You know you’re in the gayborhood when….” (Part 2 – closeup)

That street was Rue Rambuteau, one block south of us. There was quite a bit of stuff on it that we will likely return to throughout the trip.

This is our street, Rue Michel le Comte.

That’s Ash walking in front of me. (You’ll see a lot of that on this trip probably!) There are a few shops on it but none of them were open, it was hard to tell if that was just because it’s Sunday or what. And they’re mostly on the right side in this photo. The left side is predominantly residential, which is where we are.

Ash whipped together scrambled eggs with brie, mushrooms and parsley, and fingerling potatoes. We put butter and cherry jam on the bread. The butter here is amazing.

So what’s the agenda for the day? Saturday night when we were walking back to our place, it occurred to me that I still hadn’t gone up the Eiffel tower, because the last 2 times I was here the lines were just ridiculous. Since travel is so low during the pandemic, we figured we might have better luck this time. I looked online and it was definitely open. You could buy tickets online for up to the 2nd floor, but if you wanted to go to the top you had to buy them in person. So that’s what we decided to do.

I’ll try to resist posting a photo of every cute street we’re on, but will simply point out the lack of cars. Every city in Europe I’ve ever been in has sections like this and I love it. There’s a tiny bit of this now at home as a result of the pandemic and I’m all for it – I hope it’s one of the many things that’s come out of all this that stays (like working from home!).

This is Tour (tower) Saint-Jacques. Built originally in the 1500’s, it was destroyed in 1797 during the French Revolution and this is all that remains.

There’s a cute little park around it were locals were enjoying some quiet in the big city.

We made our way down to the Seine and walked along it for the majority of our trip to the Eiffel Tower. The weather was cloudy and only got up to about 65 for most of the day. There were lots of runner, bikers, scooters and roller skaters out.

We saw one of these tour boats on Saturday night and Ash said “please tell me you don’t want to do that.” And I don’t. Not here. The Rhein though maybe! (And that was my answer…)

We came to Place Concord and decided to go back up. This is where the Champs-Elysees ends and the Jardin (garden) Tuileries begins. I’d been here once in 2014 and somehow don’t remember this fountain.

Beautiful, no?

Looking up Champs-Elysees you see the Arc de Triomphe where it begins. All the way directly behind me this magnificent straight line ends at the Louvre, one of my favorite little things about Paris.

Pont Alexandre bridge with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

I thought “this will be my next Facebook cover.” And it is. This is Pont (bridge) Alexandre III, largely considered the most extravagant bridge in Paris.

A closeup of one of the 4 towers that frame it, with Ash in front for perspective.

You can’t see the sign in this photo but it says Pont Alexandre III, 1900.

That’s Les Invalides aka Hotel des Invalides (house of the disabled) in the background, a complex of military museums and monuments including Napoleon’s tomb under the rotunda. I was there in 2014 and enjoyed it.

It’s hard to resist these iconic shots.

A little closer shot while crossing the street.

Getting close to the Eiffel Tower entrance, taken from across the street.

Almost there.

Selfie of Ash and me wearing masks with the Eiffel Tower directly behind and above us. We are looking down at the camera.

Everyone was wearing masks and, like at dinner the night before, we “got carded”: were asked to show proof of vaccination. Happy to do it every time.

Made our way to the ticket counter in just about 20 minutes. The line when we joined it was about where it is now, but notice the empty snake line. If that had been full – and that’s not even all of it – it would have been hours. As we were approaching there were signs indicating that top may close without notice, which we figured it why you couldn’t buy them online. And it seemed that it was closed today based on other signs we saw. But when we got to the booth she said “to the top?” We were like YES and very excited at the turn of events.

I couldn’t get a decent photo of the elevator, but it’s a slanted double decker sort of – each car holding maybe 80 people (good thing everyone was vaxxed!) and on top of each other but not directly. It moved pretty quickly. We got off at the 2nd floor and had to take another one to the summit.

Champ (field) de Mars and the Grand Palais in the background, an exhibition hall.

So much in this shot if you know what you’re looking for. The only very obvious thing from this distance is Les Invalides, the gold dome right center.

The Arc de Triomphe.

Sacre-Coeur Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) on the only hill in Paris. I was in it in 2014 and and around it quite a bit in 2018 because I was staying in that neighborhood (Montmartre).

From underneath the tower looking up

One final shot before we go.

We were making or way over to Champs-Elysees. We saw these stairs from a distance and strayed from Google’s recommended path because why not?

We’d left around Noon and it was now after 3:30pm. We were ready for refreshment. We stopped at the first reasonable thing we saw, a Pret a Manger. Technically it’s against the rules – I don’t like to go anywhere you can go in the US and I’ve been to one of these in NYC. But it’s a UK based chain so I figured that’s close enough. Think Panera Bread for a US equivalent.

We each got coffee but shared a salmon baguette and water.

Lots of restoration work happening at the Arc. This is the beginning of Champs-Elysees (Elysian Fields – a place for dead heroes in Greek mythology).

It’s a fun avenue, especially if you’re a shopper, even just a window shopper. Often considered one of the best shopping places on the planet, we went in and out of a bunch of stuff. I was looking for a light hoody (I can’t believe I forgot mine!) but no luck. There were lots of people about and every coffee shop and restaurant was packed. It was nice to see it so alive. I can’t imagine how odd this must’ve felt during lockdown.

Paul - a patisserie

We stopped here for more coffee and to do some people watching. That’s Ash bottom right of center.

Cappuccinos all around and we shared a large pistachio macaroon.

We eventually made it back to our neighborhood, and found a French place for dinner a couple of blocks away, La Terrasse des Archives. It’s at the corner of our street and Rue des Archives, which according to our host is the gayest street in town. We haven’t walked it yet.

We sat outside of course. But one of the negatives about outside dining in Europe is you invariably end up having to fight cigarette smoke, which we encountered but thankfully not until the end of our meal.

For starters Ash got tandoori shrimp, I had asparagus with tomato, orange and grapefruit. Talk about refreshing.

I had steak and fries. The meat wasn’t the best cut for what we paid for it, too much fat and gristle for my taste. The mustard sauce was good though and so were the fries.

Ash had the tuna with cold bulgur.

We ended with a cheese course. From top to bottom: brie, a goat cheese, something like a smoked gouda, and another goat cheese. Ash liked them all. I’m not a goat cheese fan but I tried them both just to be able to say that I didn’t care for them with conviction. I typically like brie but not this particular one. The smoky one was OK.

We were home just after 9pm. Somewhere on our way back earlier in the day we were lured into a cookie shop and decided that would be dessert. It was well worth the stop. We split a dark chocolate chip, a milk chocolate chip, and something called a caramelmilky which we both agreed was the best of the 3 by far, and they were all great.

Ash showered and went straight to bed. I showered and uploaded the photos then followed. This is my view of the apartment while writing.

Yesterday we’d made brunch reservations for this morning at a place Ash had heard good things about on the Champs-Elysees, and then we’re going to the Louvre. We walked 10 miles yesterday and have a similar goal today so we’ll see how we do.

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