Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Europe 2005 - Paris

This was our final stop so we had to turn in the car.
Eiffel tower- what can you say this was just one of those I can’t really be here type of moments. Every time I looked up the only thing I could think was "that looks an awful lot like the Eiffel tower" since my brain would not accept that I was really there. We climbed up to the 1st and 2nd levels by the stairs. Its nice that they number them for you. Since the 1st level has about 300 stairs it compares with most of the church towers we have climbed. Its weird to think that up to that point the tallest buildings came up to there. Even though we were tired I am glad we took the stairs because of the shorter lines up and down but they crammed people into the elevators like sardines. We came back at night to see it lit up and it was amusing to hear the general gasp coming from all around (us included) when they started it sparkling. We sat on the park grass and watched it sparkle as salesmen went around trying to sell bottles of wine & champagne. we lost track of time and made it home on the last subway of the night at midnight.
Arc de Triomphe- L. was to tired from climbing to the 2nd level of the Eiffel tower so no more climbing. I think the funniest thing to watch is the 16 roads that dump out into the circle surrounding the arch ( you take a tunnel to get under the traffic.) I am glad that we did not drive though it.
Champs-Elysées- This is supposed to be the posh road of Paris like Rodeo Drive in Beverly hills. It seemed more like a lot of restaurants and movie theaters to me but maybe that is because I don’t like to shop.
Notre dame- This is the most gargoyles I have seen on a church. When we went in there was a mass going on so we tried to be as quiet as possible but tour guides there made that useless.
Orsay museum- I never realized how much I liked impressionism until we walked through that wing. Both of us were either saying, "I like that one" or "I remember studying that one" for most of the paintings. It was nice to see 4 of Monet's paintings of Rouen Cathedral after seeing the church in person.
Catacombs- Paris wanted the room so they dug up their graveyards and put all the bones here. This place did not have the impact of Kutna Hora since this was people dying naturally, not the plague wiping out the city. Also they did not try to create things from the bones. Instead they were neatly stacked by graveyard. Don't get me wrong, it was very eerie to walk through hall after hall of stacked bones. We followed our guidebook and brought along our flashlights and it allowed us to see the tops of the stacks better but there were not any unlit halls.
The Latin quarter & Île Saint-Louis- both areas just seemed like more tourist shops, not the quaint areas our guidebooks and tour shows seemed to make them out to be. I don’t know maybe we just missed walking down the right road to be enchanted.
Louvre-we planned for a whole day since it was so big. We had pre purchased our tickets and used the subway entrance to the museum right at 9am to avoid the crowd. We went straight to see Mona Lisa. It paid off as there was not that big of a crowd yet. Apparently a lot of people are disappointed by the painting but we liked it. We went back and saw Da Vinci’s other paintings then "winged victory". I really like how they have it at the top of the stairs. After seeing Venus De milo I was surprised to find out they had “Hammurabi's code” there. It was truly bizarre to see the first known written law. It is nice that you are able to re-enter so we could get lunch and just wander until 4pm.

Bugs- L. was attacked by bugs and we don’t know when. She is covered head to toe by at least 50 very itchy bug bites. Its weird since we have gone everywhere together but I don’t have any. It had to have been fleas in the cheap hotel we stayed in in Paris.

Public Transit-the subway here is pretty easy to use once you figure out the maps. in each station they have maps for the busses, trains, local streets when you leave that station, then finally the subway map. We found it easier to carry our own subway map instead of trying to figure out which map we were looking at. It is nice that instead of using metal train wheels they have large rubber tires that make the ride much more quiet.
The airport is easy to get to from the subway system and I wish LAX was as easy. It was weird to see flights leaving for Tehran and Havana.

Internet- there are no real internet cafés here. They just have internet terminals in the subway stops that don’t have anywhere for me to plug in USB to upload posts.
There was an advertisement on one of the subways for an internet connection. For 29 Euro/month you get DSL2 (20 Mb) VOIP phone and 180 channels. I saw this in other cities and just thought it was an intro offer but that's it. So it looks like either Internet here is subsidized or no one wants to compete with the phone and cable monopolies prices in the USA.

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