Paris, France (Part 2)
Almost 7 million people visit the Eiffel Tower each year. It is 324m tall and weighs 10,100 tonnes.
The next day, we were blessed with much better weather. The day before, it was rainy and foggy; not the best day for a good view atop the Eiffel Tower.
I found quite a strategic location to actually take some shots that showed both the tower as well as the humans. But it required very dedicated photographers to get down on their knees (or lower).
Beneath the Eiffel Tower
You can actually buy your tickets online so that you have one less queue to wait in.
Instead of taking the lift all the way up, we decided to climb 704 steps to the second floor to save some money (€11.50 vs. €13.50 in total for 12-24 year olds) and also some time, since the queue for the lifts were horrendous. It was a pretty good experience climbing. We got to see all angles of this wonder and also, could take our time to take pictures and enjoy not squeezing with a thousand other people. Ok, I exaggerate.
Beyond the second floor, climbing is no longer possible. So we had to take the lift to the top. At this level, the view is phenomenal as it is unobstructed; unlike at the top where there are pesky fences that deprive us of really amazing shots. But, of course, you can always stick your camera out; just don’t drop it. It will fall to a terrible death.
Looking up from the second floor
We then took the lift to the top.
At the top of the Eiffel Tower
We took the lift down from the second floor and it was a fun ride down. The lift was made with clear panels so we could see the descend, and it moved diagonally down the legs of the tower.
Our next stop was Cathedrále Notre Dame de Paris. Most of us would know of Notre Dame Cathedral from Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It was written to bring awareness to the value of Gothic architecture, which was slowly being replaced by more modern styles. His novel might very well have saved the cathedral from demolition!
Access is free. I was never a believer of churches that charge for entry.
We were fortunate to have entered during evening mass. There was a huge congregation, and the music playing was really haunting (in a scary way). It gave me goosebumps.
We remembered what our tour guide, Nancy, had told us about Notre Dame, and how we should see the rear as well. It was really different from the front. It reminded me of a spider.
The next day, we decided it was about time to visit one of the world’s most famous and most photographed museums – the Louvre. The best thing about Paris? Entry is free for most, if not all, museums! Hooray for Erasmus!
As I have probably mentioned a thousand times, I’m not the biggest art fanatic. My appreciation for art cannot rival my appreciation for good food. I like art only because I enjoy looking at beautiful things (people included). So our goal was to see Mona Lisa, some other stuff for a short while, and we were out! We did try to “appreciate” the art, but the Louvre is just HUGE. There was no way I would last that long in there. We were getting bored, so we had to find our way to the wing where Mona Lisa was.
We knew we were in the right area because there was a crowd of “paparazzi” (like a hundred people) trying to capture a picture of the Mona Lisa. You know what they say… If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! I jostled into the crowd with Joel to see this enigmatic, little thing that hung on a wall disproportionately bigger than she. Oh, and by the way, she is also protected by bulletproof glass.
Just across the Louvre is Pont des Arts, otherwise known as the Love Lock Bridge. Each year, thousands of lovebirds flock to this bridge to “lock” in their love. They then throw the keys into the Seine. Throughout the world, other couples have done so on other bridges.
The funny couple with their German padlock. SPOIL MARKET.
We didn’t do the whole lovey-dovey thing. We don’t want to add any more weight to the poor bridge, which is so heavy from the locks that part of it recently collapsed. Also, the authorities occasionally remove parts of the bridge to prevent such mishaps. I don’t want anyone to take our love away, ya know? Besides, he’s already got the keys to my heart ❤
From Pont des Arts, we grabbed a quick snack of French goodies.
We got the bread and madeleine at a random bakery and they were so good! I especially love the madeleine. So buttery and soft.
We passed by Eric Kayser again and had more even more to eat. We tried the pistachio éclair and a raspberry financier.
I’m a huge fan of éclairs, but this just did not cut it. I felt that the choux pastry was too hard and too dry. The ones we get at Délifrance here in Singapore are better. Sorry!
Financier aux Fruit Rouges
The raspberry financier, on the other hand, was exceptional! It had a core filled with raspberry and a wonderful taste of almond. Slightly crumbly and very rich.
Our very last stop was to the Palace of Versailles. But first, I had to get myself another one of those paninis from the first morning.
Smoked salmon and mozzarella panini from Epik Café
I. Just. Love. Stringy. Cheese.
Versailles was just a 20 minute train ride from Paris. I first heard of Château de Versailles in high school history class. It was in 1919 that the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors, undoubtedly the most famous room in the whole of the palace.
Inside the golden gates of the Palace of Versailles
Once again, entry was free for us. We just needed to flash our student Visas.
The Hall of Mirrors
The history of the Versailles Palace is an interesting one. Take a guided tour or the audio tour, and take lots of pictures too. The House of Mirrors is exceptionally stunning. The entire palace is over-the-top. There is gold in every corner. Louis XIV definitely outdid himself.
Versailles Palace is also where you get a peek into one of history’s most outstanding female figures – Marie-Antoinette. In Austria, I would find out more about her. But that’s for another time.
We were quite unlucky that day. When we arrived at Versailles, it was already drizzling. By the time we were done exploring the palace, it was almost evening and the rain was falling heavier than before. The palace gardens are beautiful with manicured lawns and flowers, and I really did want to see it. However, the weather just did not permit it. It was wet and cold, so we left the compound with only a short glimpse into the park.
We realised that we hadn’t eaten a proper meal out in Paris thus far. I’m sure it was the exorbitant prices restaurants charge there. All this while, we were surviving on pasta we cooked at the hostel. Their stove wasn’t even working, so we had to boil water over and over again to cook the pasta. I also made microwave scrambled eggs a couple of times. So, for our last meal, we decided to indulge. We searched Tripadvisor for good restaurants around our area and found one that was #29 out of 12,383 – Les Rillettes.
When we found the restaurant, it was full, and we were asked to come back in about an hour’s time. The restaurant is pretty small. I only recall two long tables. There were also only two people working there – a husband and wife duo. The wife waited on the tables while the husband was the chef. They were really such lovely people!
The menu was in French and so we had to depend on my limited knowledge of French to figure out what each item was. Fortunately, the chef’s English was good and he explained it to us.
Most of the mains are burgers but with a French twist. You may notice that the burger buns look different. They used gougères in place of the usual bun. A gougère is a savoury choux pastry mixed with cheese. Very delicious.
Beef burger with foie gras, ham and a homemade onion and tomato compote – €20
Grilled chicken burger with French ham, Camembert and roasted mushrooms – €17
Beef burger with tomato cherry chutney, onion compote, melted cheese and ham – €17
Till this day, these burgers have to be the most delicious burgers I have ever eaten. Hands down. And it has nothing to do with the price either. I would definitely recommend the beef burgers for meat-lovers. I only ordered the chicken because I can’t take too much beef.
For dessert, we had Fontainebleau chestnut cream with chestnut honey. This was so light and refreshing. I personally love crème de marrons and have a container full of it at home. The guys really enjoyed this too. We were scraping off whatever was left in the glasses.
Fontainebleau chestnut cream with chestnut honey
This was definitely one of the most memorable meals for me. Good food, good ambience, great service and even better company.
The next day, Dj and I left Paris for Warsaw, where I would pick up my bags and head to Graz alone.
Paris was, overall, good to me. The guys were not so impressed; the whole experience tainted by our run in with those brutes and also the dirty, stinky train stations and streets.However, I hope to return someday and enrol in Le Cordon Bleu Paris. That has been my dream for a long time. So until then, au revoir, Paris!