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.

Exploring Paris: Art, toilets & crepes, oh my!

 

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Looks like we have security at the Artists’ Market in Montmartre area of Paris, France. Watch out, Bad Guys!

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 Place du Tertre is where the legends of 20th century art used to roam. Now it’s filled with watercolors, portrait sketchers and caricaturists.

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 Picasso, Vlamenck, Derain, Soutine, Modigliani, Van Gogh and countless others lived and worked in these narrow streets.

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 Wall plaques identify buildings and cafes as historic with crucial info such as “Hemmingway once peed in our bathroom…” etc.  ~ http://www.aparisguide.com/montmartre/

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Speaking of toilets, we find dire shortages of bathroom facilities throughout the city (which explains the frequent urine smells in stairways and in the metro.) and begin to plan our itinerary around estimated time of need. (I believe Joan may be researching the next toilet location as she waits her turn.) A few rare instances one may find a futuristic looking toilet pod as pictured above and below. ( Paris Sanisette:  Click on this link for detailed operation instructions.)

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The door closes after the previous user and it takes a full minute for the empty toilet pod to go through its disinfecting cycle before the next person can use it. A robotic arm comes out to scrub the toilet and the floor is cleaned so I patiently wait my turn. That extra minute between users is a long time if a person has to REALLY go and there is a long line. Wish me luck as I allow the doors to the unknown to close upon me. If I fall asleep in there or find myself locked in, it will automatically open after 15 minutes. So they say…

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With that business taken care of we can focus on finding real French crepes since all of this tourist activity has made us hungry. This crepe vendor looks authentic enough, right? 2014Paris-1080006dmvDoesn’t that look just nummy…?

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.