About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Paris and the Eiffel Tower

We had to wake up early after a late night of Wii with Mike and Jen. We played Boom Blox, Mario Kart and shuffle board. Mike and I suck at shuffle board!

Anyway, we woke up and got ready for our weekend trip to Paris. Last time we took the train to Malpensa airport and it took 2 ½ hours. This time we drove to the airport to see if there was a difference. We did hit some rush hour traffic, but it ended up being so much quicker and easier. The parking lot is right across the highway from the terminal, so our shuttle only took a couple of minutes. We ended up getting to our gate much earlier than we expected. I guess it’s better to be early than running late.

Brandon doing homework while we wait for our flight.

We boarded our EasyJet plane and flew to Paris. The flight is only 1 hour and 10 minutes long. Not bad at all. By the time we reach altitude its time to start descending.

We arrived in cloudy Paris around 12:30pm. Our first order of business was to find the RER trains into the city. We found the train and bought our tickets. The ride into the city took about an hour. We arrived at Guarda da Nord station and immediately found the Information booth where we picked up some maps and bought our Museum Passes. They also helped us figure out which Metro line we should catch to our hotel.

We found our hotel, but our room was not ready. We are staying at the Paris Hotel Le Mediterranean. Thanks to Michelle and Becky for recommending the hotel!! It is located in a working class neighborhood, about 6 blocks from the Bastille Monument. We were hungry for some lunch. The desk clerk kept our suitcase for us and recommended we eat near the Bastille, so we headed that way.

The Bastille Monument.

The Bastille was a fortress/prison, best known today because of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 which led to the French Revolution. Today, the former location of the fort is called the Place de la Bastille with the column in the center of a giant roundabout. Because of this sights history, the Place has become a regular meeting place for demonstrations of all sorts, both peaceful and not so peaceful.

We found the Bastille Cafe on the corner of one of the many streets (Rues) leading from the center. We had sandwiches that we average in taste but expensive in price - e42 for the three of us!

After lunch we wandered back to the hotel to check in, taking our time to check out the neighborhoods.

Typical Paris intersection with angled buildings. This one had our favorite bakery on the ground floor. We had breakfast here every day.

Our hotel room is nice, with a double bed and a single bed and plenty of space. We unpacked a little bit, figured out how to get to the Eiffel Tower and headed that way. We decided to walk several blocks to the RER station on the opposite side of hte river. This would allow us to check out more of the neighborhoods along the way.

We are amazed at the scope of Metro lines, RER trains, etc in Paris. Each station seems to have multiple underground levels. Its easy to lose track of where you are if you don't watch the signs carefully. We found our RER train and rode it, mostly underground, to the Eiffel tower.

First views of the Eiffel Tower.

How exciting to see the Eiffel Tower in person. It is so much larger than I imagined. From afar it just looks like a tall monument, but as you get closer its size is impressive. It was built 100 years after the French Revolution, serving no function but to impress. Bridge builder Gustave Eiffel wont the contest for the 1889 Centennial World's Fair by beating out other proposals - such as a giant guillotine. The tower is built with 7,000 tons of steel and 50 tons of paint. It is so well engineers that it weighs no more per square inch at its base than an NFL linebacker.

There are three observation platforms, at 200, 400, and 900 feet. One double deck elevator takes you to the 1st and 2nd levels. Another elevator takes you to the top. The Jules Verne restaurant is located on the 2nd level. Get a reservation there (usually booked at least 3 months in advance) and it will set you back approximately $300 per person.

The wait in line was about 45 min long. Before we arrived at the ticket counter, we had to walk through a metal detector and have our bags searched. We would find though the course of the weekend that security was high all around Paris. It was not unusual to see military guards with automatic weapons at many of the major sights. It can either make you feel safer or a little bit nervous.

When we finally bought our tickets, we chose to go all the way to the top. You can buy tickets for only the lower platforms if you prefer.

The top platform is tiny and very crowded, making it hard to see. We walked around the perimeter, then took the elevator back down to the second level.

View from the 2nd level, looking southwest.

View looking south.

Looking out over Paris.

View to the north, across the Seine River.

Katrina and Brandon at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Brandon was one happy boy!

Far from home.

The second level has some interesting displays with the history of the Eiffel tower, as well as general facts. The views are much nicer because it isn't as crowded and you are a bit closer to what you are looking at. It was getting dark and we wanted to get down to ground level in time to see the light show at 9pm. The lines for the elevators were long, so we chose to take the stairs. You can see the structure up close and personal when you take the stairs.

Elevator pully.

Up close it looks just like a giant Erector set.

Taking the stairs down from the second level.

Once we hit the ground, Brandon wanted to take some time to find the center of the tower on the plaza underneath. It is not marked, but he is sure he found it.

We decided to view the light show from the north side, across the River Seine, because that is what Rick's recommends. After crossing the busy street, we stopped for some ice cream to eat while we waited on the bridge.

River Seine at night.

Nighttime shots of the Eiffel Tower.

The light show started at 9pm sharp. We were amazed by the twinkling lights all over the tower. We were not impressed that it went on for 10 minutes without really doing anything else but twinkling. Don't get me wrong, it was a very pretty sight, but 10 minutes of it left a bit to be desired.

Light show.

It was late, we were tired, so we caught the Metro back to our hotel.

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