25 May 2012

Doing the sites!

Thursday (edited):   It may not have been entirely consistent with our objective to blend into the Parisian scene, but we admit that today we did some of the Paris tourist sites - starting with the Eiffel Tower.   We were undecided before we arrived whether we would go up, but our minds were made up for us when we got there. Not only was visibility pretty poor, but only one lift was operating (the other was out of service), and the extremely lengthy queue was hardly moving.   So we gazed at the tower from the ground and headed on to the Arc de Triumph.  Once again, there was a queue (not quite as long) to buy tickets, and Champs Elysées was beckoning, so again we admired it from the ground.

Champs Elysées was different!  We took our time to walk most of its length, pausing for lunch at one of the pavement cafés and briefly to note the queue to enter the Louis Vuitton store (couldn't help think  that scarcity, even if induced, creates desirability!)

We noted that the cost of items on the menu where we ate was not markedly higher than elsewhere  - except for coffees and especially cappuccinos.   Cappuccinos were on the menu for €7.50.    Obviously even if table rental isn't built in most of the meal prices,  there's a trap for the unwary who just sit down and order a coffee.  We didn't check the quality of the cappuccino (the one we had a day or so ago was only so-so), but the food was reasonably acceptable.
Opera Garnier

We progressed to Blvd Haussmann with the idea that we might look around the Opéra Garnier.  However, by the time we worked out where to go and so on, it was so close to the final admission time of 4.30 that a visit was impracticable.   The consolation prize was a visit to some of the department stores.

Our transport has wherever possible been by bus.  Only one of today's sectors was by Metro.   In fact the bus routes often provide a more direct route (for example, the 69 bus runs directly from Rue de Rivoli to Champ de Mars, directly in front of the Eiffel Tower).  This compensates to some extent to the fact that they can be slower than the Metro (although dedicated bus lanes help, too).   But we almost always get a seat  and we like looking out on the various parts of the city as we pass through them.  The near-absence of tourists on the buses means that the passengers are often quite polite to each other (in keeping with French tradition) and it's not unusual to exchange helpful comments - which immediately exposes our lack of French!
 EDIT:   Did I say "dedicated" bus lanes?    Bus lanes, yes, but maybe "dedicated" doesn't quite convey the correct impression.   They're not used only by buses!    They're used by motor-bikes, ordinary bikes, taxis and as parking space for delivery vehicles, too!    I'm not sure to what extent these other users re meant to be there, but certainly some of the bike readers (amongst others) don't leave much room for error, riding alongside buses and cutting in and out of the traffic.
I should also add that you need to be alert when you're travelling by bus.  Apart from the obvious requirement to get on the correct one (yes, I got the number wrong once and we headed off in the wrong direction), sometimes if they're late they don't go to the final destination (like Melbourne trams).  


  1. One site that a railophile should not miss is the marvellous Gare de Lyon. Your pictures of the Orsay clock, which was not accessible to us last year because of renovations, were reminiscent of the clock scenes, interior and exterior views from, in the wonderful 3D movie Hugo. (http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s3376564.htm)
    Makes me wonder if there was a government rail architect who designed both Orsay and Lyon stations.

  2. Postscript- I think the actual station in Hugo is Montparnasse, but it seems to have modernised beyond romance.

  3. abg's query about government railway architects sent me off to Google.

    At that stage the various railway companies were private companies so no common architect.

    When the Gare de l'Est opened in Paris in 1849, it represented a new type of building, constructed to house trains, passengers, and parcels at the terminus of the railway line. It provided a model for similar train stations into the twentieth century, not just in France but all over the world.

    The similarity of external decoration of the various stations demonstrates the influence on French architecture of L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

    Apart from stations in the major cities, each of the private railway companies had its own standard designs for station buildings.