Thursday 20th September
On our travels around Versailles yesterday we have worked out where the railway station is and a pretty good idea of where we are to head to, (pretty easy really as there is only 1 train track leading from Chateau Versailles Station and it leads directly in central Paris).
So it was a quick bike ride to the station, secure our trusty steads to a handy steel handrail, buy 2 return tickets from the machines and get on the train.
We feel such seasoned travelers now, watch out “The Amazing Race”, exit train 1 at Invalides, to get a map and further directions etc for our Day 1. Find out we have actually come 1 stop to far so return to Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel (should have actually worked that one out really), Exiting this station into bright sunshine again we quickly try to get our bearings on the map as to where the Eiffel Tour is. Not having a huge amount of luck we actually look up and Bugger Me, we are right under it.
The tower is really quite a landmark, our first view had been from the train coming in but good old security issues now mean it is surrounded by a 8 foot high glass fence with very tight security to get into the immediate area. The surrounding area is head to toe full of “immigrants” selling miniature Towers and Tea towels as well as the teams who are playing the tourists at the “3 cups and ball game”, watching this for a few rounds I had it sussed and was told by a “lovely young lady” to show them where the ball was. I promptly did, was right and was handed 200 euro. A little confused about this generous donation to the “keep feeding Shane and Susie account” I was then told to have another go, OK not my money I thought so proceeded to do so. However they were most put out at the next turn of events when I wouldn’t bet any of my own money on their silly little con job. In fact our level of friendship thawed as quickly as ice cream in a microwave. We moved on.
At the next group of organised con men playing the same game we saw an older couple basically scalped of close to 350 euro, They had opened their wallet to get some cash out and the girl, who was acting as an excited winner from the previous round essentially grabbed their cash out of the wallet. 2 things happened, the first as the wallet fiasco was being carried out by the girl the guy running the cups simply turned the mat around. And secondly as the “ripped off” couple were wondering what just had happened the bike police came along and the “con” team vanished into the tourist crowd cash and all. BEWARE TOURISTS.
So anyway, we have now been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, it s an incredible piece of engineering, especially as it was built before the crane technology of today. Expecting the worse of queues it was only about 10 mins waiting for the first lift. The views are incredible and we were so lucky to have a beautiful clear day. If only I had won the “cups and ball” I could have bought Susie a 17euro plastic flute of Champagne at the top. (oh well we will have a beer on the way home instead).
Moving on, been there done that got the photo, we made our way through Paris by foot and Metro to the Arc De Triumphe, where once again we climbed to the top. This is perhaps an even better view as you look down the Champs -Elysees towards the Royal Palace and the Louvre.
Spent one of the most entertaining 30 odd minutes watching traffic around the Arc de Triumphe, it is essentially a big uncontrolled roundabout, if it had lanes painted (probably a good idea) it would be about 4 lanes, instead it is about 7 to 8 lanes of chaos, if somebody ends up on the inside and needs to get to the outside they just basically cross the traffic and if they have perhaps missed the exit by a bit, no problems will just go backwards against the flow of traffic. Getting on from 2 directions is controlled (ha ha) by traffic lights, so every 30 seconds or so another chaotic rush of vehicles enter. Motorcyclists seem to cope the best ( except for the one guy we saw get flattened by a smart car), followed by smart cars, the worst have to be the buses and trucks that find themselves trapped in this maze. Cyclists for some reason seem to find this whole thing a challenge and pedal their way through not in the least bit worried about survival. (However this seems to be a very common attitude with cyclists in France).
Next port of call is the Opera House at the other end of Champs-Elysees, so a wander down this amazing street is in order. Calling into a perfumeree as we are trying to find a very special perfume for a friend back home we are told we are getting close and it comes from a special “perfume house” by the opera house. (We have been chasing this stuff in most of the major cities we have visited and we are getting close). So its back onto the Metro and a change or 2 later we emerge in front of the Opera House, a Google Search for Fragonard Perfumery Boutique has us excited as it is 700metres away.
700 meter walk and we are there, this is the factory shop and loaded with a “tour bus”, the security guard ( yes they have them on perfume places as well here) takes us straight to the sales area and MISSION COMPLETE.
Ok lets head back to the Opera house for a visit, OH Crap, closes at 4.30pm its 4.45pm. Never mind tomorrows another day. Next to visit in our little red book is the area known as Passage Jouffroy, an area within the 9th and 10th Arrondissements. Very cool little streets filled with art dealers, both old and new and an amazing old world book store.
By now time is starting to get on so we make a very uneventful journey back to Versailles for the obligatory sidewalk beer before pedaling our way home to Miss Stella. We decide to move 30 odd meters tonight just to trick anyone into thinking we are not there permanently. It is also a slightly more level spot. (don’t be fooled though not everything is improving, the acorns falling on the roof of Miss Stella take a bit to get used to in the middle of the night.