For those who were wondering… I did try to solve the mystery of the hump in my mattress… turns out it was a bend in the bed frame and not the mattress itself!
Today we woke up in Paris, a city that reminds me a bit of NYC in both look and smell. In Paris, public toilets are not free, which likely contributes to the heavy smell of pee in some areas. Our group has opted to go on a “free” walking tour around Paris.
As most of you would expect, my breakfast consisted of bread, with butter and jam and some terrible coffee, it was what I found that I would eat. Paris is not known for having good coffee and the hostel was no exception. The hostel itself is very nice, with a really nice room, but the food, for me and my limited palate, left a lot to be desired.
The walking tour itself, although full of fun little stories and and an entertaining guide, left us feeling a bit unsatisfied as what was accomplished for the amount of time spent. However, the stories were worth the 5 euro it cost. I will do my best to retell them.
Fountaine of Saint Michel was the meeting point of the tour. This is in the Latin quarter of Paris. The square in which we stood held a lot of history. The fun story of the square takes place in 1998, when France is to host the world cup. France makes it to the finals against Brazil and wins its first and only World Cup title. As the story goes, the people come to the square to celebrate and while celebrating, one member of the crowd scales the fountain and puts a France jersey on Saint Michel. Soon to follow, the Brasil jersey was put on the Devil. To the displeasure to some of the residents, the jerseys only came down when the weather finally wore them away months later.
Next up was Notre Dame, which is absolutely incredible! It took over 100 years to build and it is truly a site to see. Unfortunately we did not go inside, which was a bit of a bummer.
The story here was about the doors. A man, whom I now can not remember his name, was commissioned to create the doors for Notre Dame. It is said he made a deal with Devil as he was having a hard time thinking of a design. This man died two weeks after finishing the doors. When Notre Dame was first opened, the doors would not work. With the help of holy water, the doors were able to open, and so they were deemed cursed by the devil. The center doors remained closed to this day. The doors are truly exquisite and thanks to my zoom lens, I was able to capture them!
Another feature of Notre Dame is the gargoyles that surround the church. We learned that most of these are actually drain pipes and the water leaves the mouth of the gargoyle.
While we were in the square in front of Notre Dame, I noticed near the statue there was a gathering of people and pigeons. Being nosy as I am, I had to investigate. Turns out, there was a guy there with food for the pigeons, who would land right on him. It seemed as if people would pay for food to have pigeons land on them to take pictures.
This whole thing seemed absolutely mad to me. First of all, you shouldn’t be feeding the pigeons, second of all you shouldn’t be paying for food for the pigeons, and most important… You should not encourage pigeons to land on you! Oh the things you can get tourist to do!
Next we walked over to the Conciergerie. This building has been named 3 times. Initially it was known as Palais de la Cité, when it housed the King of France. Next it turned in to a courthouse and prison, where it tried and housed Marie Antoinette as well as other prisoners. Now it is the site of the Palais de Justice. The building itself was really nice, however, there is also a beautiful church off to the left!
We made our way to the Pont Neuf, the first stone bridge in Paris not to support houses. The construction of this bridge took a long time, starting with the King Henry III and finishing with King Henry IV. During the construction, they ran into some funding issue, and so, the King imposed a tax on wine. The people of Paris were very upset about this. When you get close to the bridge, you can see that it is lined with stone carved faces, although none seem to be alike.
As you can see, the faces are a bit demonic in nature. The story goes, upon completion of the bridge, King Henry IV through a 3 day party for the people, where there was to be all the wine you could drink. Because the people were still upset about the tax to there wine, they came and stayed for 3 days straight, drinking their fill of wine. By the 3rd day, the people were all a bit haggard. King Henry IV had a sketch artist draw the faces of the guest and they were carved into the bridge to embarrass his guest who overstayed their welcome.
This bridge, being void of houses, was highly traveled, as well as drew in street artist who would perform, much as they do today. Before heading onto the bridge, we were once again warned about pick pocketing as well as scams. One scam is a ball game, which we actually saw, where there are 3 boxes and you must guess which box the ball is in. You see this in some magic performances. In addition to the person “running” the game, you also have other members posing as players, who help draw in people with the illusion of being able to win. We actually witnessed this on the bridge, and it is quite an elaborate operation.
The original love lock bridge is no longer filled with locks, due to one the the pieces of the gate falling into the canal. After weighing the gate, and determining it could have cut right through a boat had it actually landed on one, it was deemed a safety issue an all the locks were removed. In view of the original Love lock bridge, which has been crafted so no more locks can be placed, there is gates in which new love locks have been placed. There are vendors on site, willing to sell you a lock and use of a sharpie. To me, this concept has now become commercialized and gimmicky. The authenticity around it has been lost, so much so, that you will even find combination locks on the gate!
We walked into the center of the Louvre and learned a little about it’s history. This picture does not do it justice. The Louvre is massive and intricate and amazing. This is the location of the Mona Lisa, which only became famous after it was stolen and post cards were sent world wide in search of it. I will be visiting the Louvre tomorrow, to explore the gallery. In total, it is more than 13 kilometers, and is estimated it would take over 9 months to see every piece of art inside.
Our last stop was the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories. It leads you into the Tuileries Garden where you can see the Axe historique, which is a line of monuments, buildings and thoroughfares that extends from the center of Paris. If you look, the Louvre does not sit center as the rest, and at times there have been talks of shifting the Louvre so it is center.
Again, although informative and full of fun stories, it was very much touristy, and I felt as though I didn’t get to see much of Paris.
Our group came back together to set out for a picnic at the Eiffel Tower. What I found a bit funny, was we saw the Eiffel Tower at different parts of the walk, but it seemed quite small, like the one in Vegas. It was not until you arrived on site that you saw the enormity of it. It did not disappoint, and we had bread, cheese, meat and wine while basking in the view. The worst part about this location is the abundance of souvenir shops and street vendors. Every couple feet there was a guy holding cheap trinkets trying to get you to buy.