How much of Paris can you actually ‘see’ in Paris in one day… an awful lot. I’m not talking about climbing the Tour Eiffel or the Arc de Triomphe, but instead that of walking the streets of Paris, of strolling along the Rive Seine and listen to the very breath of the city as she sighs. I do mean ‘sigh’ too. A sigh of tiredness, of fatigue, of tempering her residents against the onslaught of tourists, a sigh of relief that the scars of such a turbulent and graphic history are slowly subsiding into the pages of history.
Our day started when we left our apartment and cheerfully descended the four flights of stairs and wandered through the tiny courtyard and onto the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre and headed south. I’ve never seen such a large and usually lively city be so absolutely quiet. Was Paris hungover? Had the city had such an impressive Saturday night out that it was now cowering in the dawn of a new day? It was so quiet we could easily be convince that some apocalyptic event had taken place and we, the 20 odd people we did see, were the only survivors of this cataclysmic end. On and on we strolled, stopping here and there to browse in shop windows, to pause at and admire a monument or statue. A comfortable half hour later we’d wandered off down the Rue du Louvre and before long were standing outside the Louvre, an even quicker stroll along the Rue de Rivoli before passing through the main gates of the Musee and we were standing outside the world famous glass pyramid.
We didn’t actually go into the Louvre, and I can’t really say I’m sorry we didn’t. We had planned to go in, but when we were standing outside in the mid-morning sunshine – with people swarming EVERYWHERE – we suddenly didn’t feel the urge to go. Even at 10am the queue was the better part of 250mtrs long and hugging the facade of the south face of the museum. We decided instead to press on with the rest of our sightseeing and save the Louvre for tomorrow. From the Louvre we made our way towards the river and crossed it at the Pont du Carrousel again heading left and towards Notre Dame. As fate would have it upon the approach to the Cathedral we were introduced to the phenomena that is public toilets in Paris, they are not for the faint hearted, or the weak bladder’ed. I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say after cruising past several, at least 5, cafe’s and giving their menus a quick scan for the price of a cup of coffee – so as to avail yourself of their facilities – it quickly became obvious we’d have more luck with the so-called public conveniences. Or not. Using a handy little app on my iPhone I found the nearest one… a mere 5 minute walk away… which now no longer exists. Right, next, brilliant, it’s 100 metres away… and it’s boarded up… okay, next? Another 10 minute walk, but there’s two in close proximity, brilliant… first one’s out of order (which we had to instruct a gentleman who may of been in between residences that it was not in service) and quickly made our way to the next… along with said gentleman who proceeded to bustle through the door before us. As we stood waiting a couple of ‘locals’ arrived and joined our petite queue and we laughingly joked about the public facilities in Paris – one of the strangers was born and bred in the city, now living in the US, complained animatedly of how bad the services were and was greatly ‘relieved’ that her American home did not have such problems – 5 minutes later he emerged, one of our party made steps to dash in only to pause at the threshold before backing away, face blank, apart from the slow droop of jaw and greenish tinged pallor. Now, whether or not the vagrant man was responsible for the utter mess that now covered the tiny room is beside the point, at any rate, having lingered, legs crossed and eyes watering, there were four rather narked off bladders glaring at the back of the man as he scurried away. A quick discussion of the next option took place and I’m sorry to say McDonalds was suggested as the best solution to the problem, even if it was another kilometre walk away. Sigh.
The ‘Golden Arches’ have NEVER looked so good, a beacon of salvation on the stormy seas of the Parisienne streets, a refuge for all bladders and safe haven for weary feet. Now, if only they could do something about their customer service, you know, actually provide some. Two cups of black coffee were procured, with 5 complimentary UHT milk’s to be shared between two cups – and consumed and suddenly we were feeling emboldened to face the streets again, their staff may be vocally and socially challenged but the coffee’s not all bad. Pressing on east we approached the Jardin des Tuileries and located some of public seats under the trees to have our lunch, wish I could say it was something tantalising, but unless your fancy lunch stretches to a sardine or avocado sandwich I’d say you’d be rather disappointed. Though, after all our morning’s adventures those two sandwiches were incredibly satisfying. Next we walked on through the gardens, pausing here and there to admire the statues or the plants, sometimes even the other passers-by, and I must say, it was one of the nicest parts of our visit to Paris. At the end of the gardens we could see the Place De La Concorde, the Obelisk standing out and lining up nicely with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. We strolled on and on along the Champs-Elysees, well, along at least half of it, can I just say, dang that’s one long road! After all the walking we’d done before lunch our legs were now starting to complain loudly that should we press on to the very end, and to the the Arch, that we would in all probability be spending the night under it – too exhausted to walk back. Deciding against spending the night al fresco we turned left and ambled back towards the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. You can imagine my amusement and sniggering when it became obvious we were in the fashion district – the ‘houses’ of Christian Dior, Armani and other well known names littering the shops as we walked past – as we wibbled and wobbled our way along in jeans and tshirts that certainly did not cost us a small fortune.
At the end of that street the Tour was in sight, so too was the river, and as we crossed over the Pont de l’Alma to the beat of some rather loud Turkish/Middle Eastern music – not exactly what we were expecting. The Eiffel Tour will remain unveiled at large to us, we were content to view it from a distance, given neither of us is good with heights it seemed perfectly valid to us to leave well enough alone. Along the Seine we strolled, the music getting louder and louder, the people getting more and more numerous as well, but it was lovely, with the sun-shining, the breeze in our faces, and a strange melodic song in our ears. A nicer afternoon stroll would be hard to find. We decided to cross back over on the Pont Royal and zigzag back through the Louvre and its gardens and begin heading back to the apartment, after 6 hours of near constant walking only hours after our international travel, we were starting to feel our energy drain rapidly. We returned ‘home’ via the same route as our embarkment, the streets now crowded with people, shops that were closed in the morning now brimming with life, our feet trudging on with only the thought of a lay-down and cup of tea keeping us moving. So now, after having had another light supper of baguette, camembert and eclair, we’re ready for a good night’s rest. Tomorrow is another day, another day for seeing the sights, for making the most of the opportunity of being in such a remarkable city. She may be sighing, she may even be groaning a little, but I can sympathise with her. After walking the better part of 20 kilometres in one day, I’m feeling pretty tired too!