Eiffel Tower: Sights, sounds & smells…

Photo by Bryon Meyer

Photo by Bryon Meyer

The Eiffel Tower is a “must see” when visiting the grand city of Paris, so we crammed this icon into our itinerary.

We walk from the metro… Hmmm… where is a bathroom?  Ah-ha! Just after we passed the Louvre (and a Gypsy having a loud argument with an African Eiffel Tower vendor), Randy spies a small pay toilet and he pays the lady attendant.  Randy proceeds to conduct his business  only to notice the woman is still standing there watching him.  Awkward…

After a lengthy walk, we arrive at the latticed wrought iron landmark and find we are not alone. The area around this popular tower is crammed with tourists, vendors with large rings of tiny Eiffel Tower replicas, Gypsies attempting to scam tourists… Do you speak English?  Sign my petition for orphans… along with the regular pick pockets. They would have to dig pretty deep to get any of my valuables and I’ve learned to say “No,” so I’m still feeling pretty secure.

We stroll through the area and see a man urinating in the bushes right by the sidewalk. We continue on our way and see another man doing the same thing and we soon discover why.  The only bathroom facilities we could find was one of the automatic pods that takes a minute to disinfect  between users.  Long line backed up waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. This may explain why so many areas in the city smell like urine.

The Eiffel Tower, La Tour Eiffel in French, was the main exhibit of the Paris Exposition — or World’s Fair — of 1889. It was constructed to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and to demonstrate France’s industrial prowess to the world. Not all were pleased with the project as a group of 300 artists, sculptors, writers and architects sent a petition to the commissioner of the Paris Exposition, pleading him to halt construction of the “ridiculous tower” that would dominate Paris like a “gigantic black smokestack.”

There are many fun fact to know and tell about this massive structure, but the most interesting to me was the effect of the sun. Logically, the tower was built to sway slightly in the wind, but the sun affects the tower more. As the sun-facing side of the tower heats up, the top moves as much as 7 inches (18 centimeters) away from the sun. The sun also causes the tower to grow about 6 inches.  livescience.com

Even though the tourist trap atmosphere and lack of bathrooms at the Eiffel Tower are negatives, you can’t help but be amazed at the architecture and stare at the design from all angles possible. It is a worthwhile stop.

Best advice when visiting the Eiffel Tower?  Restrict your liquids or wear Depends.

Rollin’ On the River Seine

Since 1991, the Seine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protected as an important natural and cultural artifact.

 

 

 

 

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The river runs for 776 km (482 miles) through France and into the English Channel at Le Havre and Honfleur (Belgium). Its source is in the French region of Burgundy, and its mouth is the English Channel. These houseboats could go for quite a ride with that kind of distance. Wonder how much it costs to park here?

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In Paris, the banks of the Seine are connected by a total of 37 bridges and provides plenty of background for photo opps.

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The river’s name originates in the latin word, “sequana”, which some believe relates to a Gaelic name that would have been attributed by the earliest Celtic settlers.2014Paris-1080021dmv

Hey, guys… what’s for dinner? I see wine bottles and glasses, so I’ll bet a fun time will be had by all. I do wonder why so many have their heads down when the view is the selling point of this experience. 2014Paris-1080018dmv

Here come some more boats of tourists using the services of a company called Bateaux-Mouches. (Click on the link for their website and touring options.)

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There are many boat tour operators in Paris offering various levels of service from taxi-boats to private dining experiences. The most famous are still the Bateaux-Mouches.2014Paris-1080015dmvcr

Yep, there they go.2014Paris-1080140dmvWe appear to be forlorn since we did not go on a river boat cruise. It was a lucky day for the cruisers since they were able to watch us watching them.

Inquiring minds want to know…

 

~A Paris Guide:  The River Seine

Musée de Cluny

Musée de Cluny joins together two prestigious buildings in the heart of Paris: the Thermes Gallo-Romains de Lutèce (Gallo-Roman baths), built at the end of the 1st century and the Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny, built at the end of the 15th century.

Click on images for a larger viewing window:

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The six tapestries depict a slender, blond woman in a Mediterranean garden with a unicorn and a lion on either side. They were woven in Flanders in the early 1500s by unknown artisans — most likely ordered by a wealthy family in Paris, but their subject remains mysterious.

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They are considered some of the finest examples of medieval handiwork in the world.

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For images and more information about this series of tapestries and information click on the following links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musée_national_du_Moyen_Âge

http://heindorffhus.motivsamler.dk/arthistory/frame-TapestryUnicornLady.htm 

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Early medieval sculptures from the seventh and eighth centuries are also stored in the museum.

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Adam made of stone from around 1260.

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cluny-1080100Vaults of the gothic chapel

cluny-1080095While Musée de Cluny is probably not the first place that comes to mind when visiting Paris, it was well worth the visit.

 

Sacre Coeur, Trinkets & Bracelet Scams

In December 1870 following the military defeat of France by Prussia, a project began to build a church in Paris dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as a sign of penitence, trust, hope and faith. ~ Sacre Coeur-montmartre.com

Click on the image below to enjoy a panoramic view and more detailed facts about Sacre Coeur:

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Image by Joyce Meyer

Sacre Coeur Basilica, perched atop the hill of Montmartre, was opened just after World War I.

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Image by Joyce Meyer

View of Paris from the front steps of the basilica

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Image by Joyce Meyer

Not being well versed in French and since we are farmers, the term sack -a-corn helps us remember the name. Whatever works, right?

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Image by Joyce Meyer

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Image by Joyce Meyer

Small spiral staircase with many, many steps up to the viewing level, but oh, so worth it!

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Image by Joyce Meyer

 

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Image by Joyce Meyer

Beggars grace the steps to hit up tourists entering…

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Image by Joyce Meyer

…and exiting.

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Image by Joyce Meyer

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Image by Joyce Meyer

Mini Eiffel Tower vendors are set up in front of the Basilica with their products on small blankets or towels to allow a quick exit since their activities and products are illegal. Kind of a cat and mouse game with law enforcement.

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Image by Joyce Meyer

According to Reuters, reported July of 2013, Paris police  seized 60 tons of miniature Eiffel Towers that black-market vendors were hoping to sell to tourists.  Chinese gangs, many based in the east of Paris, import the trinkets from China before selling them to other groups who control the sellers. These vendors are not paying tax on their sales and are taking business away from authorized vendors. This report also states that police are hindered by the inability of over-stretched courts to prosecute the waves of illegal sellers, many of whom come from Senegal (a country in West Africa) and India. (It makes me wonder how much money is transferred “under the table” to encourage authorities to look the other way or not prosecute)

 Bracelet Men or String Men also work a scam aggressively trying to tie small string bracelets onto wrists or fingers and then demand large payments for the item. Non, merci, keep hands down and just keep walking. 

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Image by Joyce Meyer

A small group of string men are lined up along the steps as we exit. We proceed down and our happy-go-lucky son has been targeted as a man attempts to tie a string to his wrist.  Mama and Sister Lion quickly jump into attack mode and shoo the man away with a stern “NO” and smack the offending hand away before any damage is done.

We are wise to your ways..Don’t mess with us!

For more information about scams in Paris check out the links below or just search “Paris scams” and you will find plenty of information and recounts of personal experiences.

http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/France/Ile_de_France/Paris-99080/Warnings_or_Dangers-Paris-Beggars_Aggressive_Vendors-BR-1.html

Corporatetravelsafety.com

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Image by Joyce Meyer

As we leave Sacre Coeur we hear sweet melodies floating through the air. No scam here, just a talented street musician doing his thing.

I’ll marry you anywhere as long as it’s Paris

Love is in the air as we tour Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France and see wedding photo sessions on the cathedral grounds. My shots are quick little snaps from quite a distance and just for giggles and kicks.

Every day of the year, masses, vespers and the sacrament of reconciliation are celebrated at Notre-Dame de Paris. Since the cathedral is no longer a parish, baptisms, marriages and funerals are no longer held there. Even though weddings are no longer performed in the cathedral, it doesn’t stop brides from using the grounds to jazz up their wedding photos.

2014Paris-1080081hfm20fp20popcmUnlike Minnesota or South Dakota, only brides and grooms appear to be photographed as no bridesmaids or groomsmen can be seen anywhere.

2014Paris-1080080dmvAlthough he was quite close to the action, I believe this photographer is a tourist since the real photographer was shooting Canon and orchestrating the posing.

2014Paris-1080040hfm40fp40pop40plcrIs he wearing flip-flops?  Might as well be comfortable.2014Paris-1080032dmvcrThis photographer carries flowers, brides arm and his camera is under the flowers. What a guy!

2014Paris-1080026dmvkpPigeons are plentiful around the cathedral. Bread for sale…

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2014Paris-1080036dmvThe line to enter the Cathedral of Notre Dame moves faster than it appears.

2014Paris-1080039dmvcr Gypsies are known to run begging, pick-pocket and other scams in the Paris tourist areas and metro. This little lady is working the line for the Notre Dame Cathedral.

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2014Paris-1080044dmvConstruction began in 1163, and Notre-Dame would be completed some 100 years later, in 1272. Click on the link for more information – The Official Notre Dame website.

 

 

 

To market, to market… Paris, France

Time to leave the hostal and explore, so we visit a neighborhood Paris street market near the Red Light District. Market products are often fresher, more flavorful, and less expensive than supermarket counterparts. They can also be a lot more environmentally friendly since the fresh fruit and produce, in particular, tends to come from local farms.  goparis.com

It’s entertaining listening to the French chatter while we try to identify products while their smells permeate the air.

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2014Paris-1070897dmvWith access to a kitchen, it would be fun to buy food and beverage at the market and cook our own meals.

Bon appetite!

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood ~ Paris, France

Want to experience Paris, but not willing to dole out extravagant amounts of money?

paris_map3Welcome to the neighborhood of Calaincourt Hostel, located in the Montmartre, a hill in the north region of Paris, France. If you check out the map above, we are located  just  north of #18 Sacre Coeur, located at the summit of the butte Montmartre. (Click on links for more info.)

2014Paris-1070930cl All five of us are crammed into this little room, but it is actually a wonderful spot to be and the price is right.  Breakfast included with all the coffee/tea you can drink(Sadly, not many bathrooms in the city so we had to limit consumption of liquids),  happy hour each day with a great view overlooking our steep steps, so we can look down and see/hear the people passing by. Bonus points for having our own bathroom/shower, and the bunk beds double as drying racks!

2014Paris-1080124dmvFront view of our hostel with a nice laundromat  located nearby. Thank you, Italian Family On Holiday for the interesting visit as we shared the laundromat facilities.

2014Paris-1080126dmvWe really are situated on a hill as our hostel window is upper left. Lots of beeking (eavesdropping?)  opportunities as people pass by on these steps. I am surprised that French does not seem to be the predominant language spoken as the chatter of Middle Eastern and African languages pepper the air as we listen through the window.

2014Paris-1080175dmvcrRandy finds an English-speaking French man to share dog stories.  Kind of looks like our old dog, Sandy.

2014Paris-1070982Fragrant smell of sausage and bread.

2014Paris-1080109dmvKids are kids the world around as they eye the yummy looking items in the window of a nearby candy store.

2014Paris-1080111dmvPopular mode of transportation.

2014Paris-1080119dmvThe name of this restaurant, Le Cafe Qui Parle,  reminds me of home ~ Lac Qui Parle County in Minnesota, but it is out of our price range. (Click on the link to view info and menu.)

2014Paris-1080121dmvcrWe purchase food and beverages at our local little grocery store and at a nearby supermarket.

2014Paris-1080177fp20pop30crThis little gal is ready to leave the cafe at the bottom of our steps before her parents have finished visiting.  Just like home.

2014Paris-1080184dmvDown the street, this gentleman sits at this spot waiting for handouts and is dressed in this attire each day we are here.

2014Paris-1080186dmvOne afternoon, I did see him standing in a small sandwich shop. I don’t know his story, but it seems to be a boring life.

paris happy hour

Photo credit: Joan Rigdon – Ipad

So, here’s to Paris and our new home away from home!

Au revoir… until tomorrow.