Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 2 in Paris - Concorde, Galeries Lafayette & Eiffel Tower

After a good night's sleep, we were ready for our second day in Paris. Today will be a mixture of sightseeing and shopping survey. We opted for breakfast at the hotel for 8E. This was not buffet style but a fix supply of croissant, bread, biscuit, yogurt and choice of drink (tea, coffee, chocolate). Not exactly value for money but good enough to start the day. At the dining room, there were various copies of travel guide on France and Paris (Fodor, Frommer, Rick Steve, etc.) which you can browse before venturing out.

While waiting at the Bastille Metro station, we realised how crowded it was in the morning since it was about 9am when people were going to work. Being a Monday morning maybe made it worse. It is also on Line 1 which is the more if not the most popular tourist route. We finally got in after skipping several train arrivals but it got more packed as more and more people got in at subsequent stops. We saw some tourists with luggage having great difficulty to get in so it is definitely not the means to use if you are rushing to the airport for a flight home.

Anyway, we arrived at Concorde square with the Obelisk at the centre and there I met my first scam in Paris. A young girl approached me and asked to sign for some charity (the handicapped or something) but I gestured I did not understand and just said no. (Later during the Cosmos tour, the tour manager told us that once you sign, they will pester your for your euro since you have already committed.) You'll find them in many of the popular tourist spots so just ignore them.

Next stop was at the Tuileries garden on one side of the Concorde when you could sit at the green chairs by the fountain under the shady trees and relax while watching the world and the people go by.

There was a photo shoot near the fountain so I also joined in the session with my own shooting.

We did not proceed all the way to the Lourve at the other end of the garden since this will be done under the Cosmos tour. Instead we walked towards the church La Madeleine that looks like a Roman temple. Along the way on Rue Royale, we passed many Paris big names such as Laduree (famed for their macaroons, this is a branch) and Maxim's (famous restaurant) among others.

The entrance to Madeline was very colourful with boxes of flowers but we had a hard time finding a public toilet, maybe they were inside. In the end we ended up at a hotel (Hotel Madeleine if I am not mistaken) and surprisingly the man at the reception pointed us to their toilet without us asking, perhaps they saw the urgency on our faces.

After the great relief, we had a tour inside the Madeleine.

Nearby was Fauchon, a famous gourmet food shop where we had a peep at the colourful display.

From here, we continued up Rue Tronchet to Printemps, a popular departmental store, guided by the distinctive golden domes.

Even more popular was Galeries Lafayette that was filled with tourists. The colourful dome inside is even more impressive that the one on Printemps.

We had our lunch at the self service cafeteria and after that we had a free, rooftop view of Paris on the seventh floor with Eiffel Tower in the distance and the back of Garnier Opera in front.

As the French Tennis Open was in full swing, they were having some tennis-related promotion there.

For shoppers, there are three shops housing Galeries Lafayette. The first, after Printemps, is totally selling stuff for men (homme). Next is the store for ladies with all the brnaded stuff, the main attraction. Across the street is one for household items. Surprisingly, further down I saw Uniqlo, the Japanese store!

Since my wife wanted to get a hair-spray and she could not find one in Galeries Lafayette, it was a good excuse to visit another area of Paris. So off we went to the Forum des Halles. We found the shopping mall less touristy and a bit gloomy so we did not venture outside. Nevertheless, my wife managed to find her hair-spray here and we made our way back to the hotel for a rest.

Since I wanted to get to the metro station Chatelet at Line 1 and the signs at the big hall was rather confusing (to me at least), I was struggling with my metro map. A lady then came to my aid and pointed me to the right direction. She spoke English but she could be French so they are not unfriendly after all. This must be the most complicated interchange in the whole of Paris since we have to pass through so many gates and walk for long stretches before we finally came to the Line 1 platform. Apparently the three stations, Les Halles, Chatelet Les Halles and Chatelet are all interlinked here which consists of 5 Metro lines and 3 RER lines (if I counted correctly) which explains the complication. This is certainly one interchange to avoid if you are in a hurry.

We were at our hotel and took a well deserved rest where my wife did her hair. BTW, all the hotels that I have been in Paris and other parts of France are equipped with hair dryer so ladies you can leave yours at home. Tonight was meant for the Eiffel Tower and we had our dinner before we went to Trocadero, to get the best view of the Tower. We tried another Chinese fast-food shop near to the first one but this time it was not as good as the one last night. The cost was only 15E since we learned from our first encounter and asked for smaller portions.

When we stopped at Trocadero station, there were some announcements in French which we could not understand and all the passengers got off. We could only guess that there was some accident or some strike since the French are fond of striking. Anyway, we walked to Trocadero Square and true enough, you get a nice view of the Tower.

We had intended to walk to the Eiffel Tower (ET) and take the ride up the tower but we saw plenty of flashing cars and a big crowd across the Tower that looked like some VIP visit is on. Could it be Obama? But he was still in London with the Queen. Coupled with the announcement at the Metro station earlier, we concluded that something was happening near the ET and decided to stay in Trocadero and waited instead for the light show of the ET. There were plenty of other tourists there having the same idea. The ET lighted up gradually as it grew dark and when it was 10pm (and dark enough), the light show began and there were ohs and ahs from the crowd. The ET was blinking in all its glory for about 5 minutes.

After the light show, we went back to the Trocadero metro station. On the way there we enjoyed the flute and panpipes of some Peruvian street performers.
We took the Line 6 from Trocadero to CDG Etoile station to link with Line 1 for our way back to the hotel. Since Etoile was the terminal station for Line 6, the doors on both side opened and without having a second thought we just got off the same side that we got in. It was a mistake as we could not find a way to Line 1 and we realised that you have to get off on the other side. Thus we have to wait for the next train and walked right across the train to get to Line 1. So if you are using the same route, take note: the left side is the right side!

To do justice to the blinking light show of the ET, below is my video clip. Enjoy!
 Ronald Kwok

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