Saturday, April 21, 2012

Reconnaisance by Bus

One neat thing among many about Crowe's flat is that the internet is hot! Easily double the speed of our DSL at home. Nice.

Bed at 8-ish, woke at 1am and 2am etc. but with heroic discipline went back to sleep until 6. Based on prior experience we'll be hit with narcoleptic attacks at odd times for the next few days but basically we are on local time.

Out for the day at 8am. First stop, the local ATM, which accepted our Stanford Credit Union cash card without a burp and with no special fee. It's so nice when things work.

The café Yoli recommended for breakfast wasn't open yet on this Saturday morning, but the one around the corner was, and we had café au lait & croissants — all very nice.

Next adventure: finding our local metro stop, which is Censier-Daubenton (the names of the two streets that intersect there). It was just a few blocks but took a bit of hunting this first time. Bought ten-packs of metro tickets from the machine. When bought 10 at a time, a metro ride costs €1.20, call it a buck-sixty.

And down into the metro and off to Pyramide, a stop near the seam between the Louvre and the Tuileries, where our objective was the main Paris tourist office, to buy museum passports. Got there about nine, and it wasn't open until 10. OK, another time; step II. of our agenda was to sign up for the hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus tour at an office a couple blocks down Rue de Pyramide. Opposite which was Jean d'Arc and the outer ends of the big "U" of the Louvre.

To catch the bus we had to go to the courtyard of the Louvre, which has highly barbered trees.

Now, where did I leave my passport...

Taking a bus ride in the open-top bus was a suggestion of our friend Don Anderson, as a way to get a general feel for the layout of the city and the relation of all the big sights to each other. And it worked very well for this. We now have a good feel for where stuff is and how far apart things are.

We spent about 5 hours hopping on and off the Open Tours buses. For the first couple of hours we rode on top, out in the wind. The temp was about 10C, pretty nippy, and after trundling by Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower we agreed it was j-j-j-j-ust t-t-t-t-oo c-c-c-c-old and went downstairs.

By one-ish we had gotten around to Montparnasse where there is a huge skyscraper that was on David's list for views. So we got off, and found lunch, and went to the top of the Tour Montparnasse. Here's that tower as seen from several kilometers away, at Sacre Coeur.

Here are some of the things you can see from it. Do click through on these, there's quite a lot of detail.

La Tour Eiffel

Church of the Dome; Pont Alexandre III; Grand Palais (with glass roof)

Notre Dame

In the distance on its hill, the Cathedral of Sacre Coeur—from whence the above pic of Tour Montparnasse was taken.

Resuming the hop-on bus route we trundled by the Opera, and the sun gleamed on an angel.

Why is the roof only partly gilded?

There was a crowd of tourists on the steps. Odd, since there's nothing to do here but admire the columns.

We got off the bus for the last time at the foot of the Butte Montmartre, the hill on which Sacre Coeur sits. We climbed up to it via a street that was jam-crammed with tourists and street vendors.

Hats are in, David is pleased to see.

At the top there was a huge crowd.

Ushers keep a constant stream of people, four abreast, moving into, around, and out of the church, whose interior was impressively large but not decoratively very interesting.

So we descended the hill and, looking for info on how to get home on the Metro, stumbled over a tourist office where we were able to buy those museum passports we missed in the morning. Entered the Metro for a long ride home under this very fine Art Nouveau arch:

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