What a day! We did a fantastic walking tour of Paris. Our tour guide Paul was lovely and made everyone feel welcome. He referred to the group as a family the whole day and there were 2 fellow Brisbanites on the tour with us. It was an excellent introduction to Paris and covered so many amazing sights (we saw lots more than I manage to cover in this blog!). It really helped us feel comfortable in the city and so excited for everything we’ll be seeing close up/from the inside in the coming week (I don’t think I’ll go into much detail on the actual sights today as we’ll be visiting again and learning a lot more soon). It was also free but everyone tipped Paul at the end as he’d definitely earned it with the wonderful tour he gave.
The introduction to the tour included 2 warnings. Warning Number 1: Watch out for poo! As it turned out we didn’t see any at all but apparently it can be quite an issue with most dog owners in Paris ignoring their civic responsibility to pick up their dog’s poop. Warning Number 2: Watch out for scammers! Sam and I laughed at this as we’d just had our own experience while waiting to meet the tour group. Girls will walk up and ask if you speak English, if you say yes they will try to get you to sign something that seems to be a petition for some cause or another, but if you do sign they will then ask for money. Another scam which he pointed out while we were further into our day was the ‘gold ring’ scam where the person will say that you dropped this ‘gold’ ring, and insist you keep it despite your protests that its not yours, then ‘notice’ they are broke and ask for some money in exchange for the ring they just gave you. The take away message here is don’t sign any bits of paper or accept anything offered to you.
Our meeting point was on Ile de la Cité and (‘the Island of the City’ in the river Seine, the centre of Paris) right next to Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral is breathtakingly beautiful and we’ll definitely be back for a proper visit. Fun fact: the darker colour of the spire is due to dirt/grime. When the whole cathedral was cleaned to produce the colours we see today they ran out of time to finish the spire. I can just imagine the intimidating effect the cathedral might have had when it was all dark.
Also on Ile de la Cité was the ‘point zero’ for France which is used to measure how far anything if from France (despite the centre of Paris being nowhere near the centre of France).
On the next stretch Paul pointed out La Conciergerie, La Sainte Chapelle, Pont Neuf, Place Dauphine, bohemian second hand book sellers (The Bookinistes) and the fire fighters of the Seine who happened to be playing volley ball IN the Seine when we passed.
We stopped at Pont des Arts, one of the Lovelock bridges (we’ll be heading to one ourselves to lock on a lovely engagement gift at some point). I had no idea there was more than one (Pont des Arts, Pont de l’Archeveche and Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor)! Also, it’s technically illegal!
We saw Musée du Louvre and Musée de Orsay (cannot wait to visit some of Degas’ ballet sculptures and paintings here). Paul gave us some tips on planning our trips to these giant museums.
We walked through Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden), Place de la Concorde and onto Champs Elysées where we could see Arc de Triomphe in the distance (we saw Arc de Triomphe Carousel earlier which is confusing).
Toward the end of our tour we saw Academie Française (the place where ‘the immortals’ protect the French language from corruption and foreign slang), Grand Palais and Petit Palais (the big and small palaces), Michel Alexander III bridge, Napoleon’s Tomb, Les Invalides (former hotel turned museum) and École Militaire (the military school, see picture for bullet holes that prove it’s legit). That’s not even close to the order we saw it all in but my brain has muddled it around too much to care at this point. Lots of cool things! Beautiful buildings! Yay Paris!
Bonus fun. A photo of some fun street art. Below that is the ‘goat moat’ surrounding Les Invalides. Our tour guide Paul told us the story of how he had been doing a segway tour when someone dropped their helmet into the moat. He jumped in to get it and was surrounded by attack goats (kept there to trim the grass, and intruders) who chased him all over the moat while a police man yelled and whistled at him. He eventually made it out and was promptly tackled by the police man and would have been arrested if not for the large group of clueless foreigners he had waiting for the rest of the tour on their segways. Sadly the goats have now been replaced by a lawn mower… but apparently have be moved over to Tuileries Garden.
We finished up our tour looking over Champ de Mars to Tour Eiffel.
Then we walked the very short distance back to our apartment and had a much needed restful evening. I intended to catch up on blogging Scotland and Ireland but instead I only got this one day done… while watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the music gives me goosebumps every time, gorgeous) and the Aristocats (’cause everybody wants to be a cat).