The Garden of the Tuileries on a Spring Morning - Camille Pissaro 1899

Paris, Friday July 11

Given the 6 hour time difference, we didn’t wake up until late. The Mouffetard market was already bustling with shoppers as we went in search of breakfast…pastries and coffee being the easiest to ask for. Our best efforts at pronouncing other items in French were often met with the same quizzical look as when we ask for them in English. Eventually though, we develop a comfort with BonJour and Merci. Ordering food was most effective when the pronunciation was delivered while simultaneously pointing at the desired item on the menu. In spite of our inability with the French language, I never experienced impoliteness or impatience.

A few other words would come in handy, like Deux (two). If one of us ordered this wine or that entree, it was often easier to get “Deux” of those. Billets was another. After studying the options, Melanie determined the best value for using the metro was to buy 5-day billets (tickets) for metro zones 1 through 3. That covered most of the places we intended to go, and we could buy separate billets for anything outside that area.

We purchased museum passes which gave us entrance to the Louvre and about 40 other places.

For the Friday excursion we selected the Louvre. Taking the M-7 from Place Monge, we exited at Pont Neuf. There are closer stations but we also wanted to walk around. Once there, we diverted to Isle de la Cite to look inside Notre Dame. By the time we reached the Louvre entrance at the Pyramids, the ticket line was quite long. There was almost no line at the entrance for those who already had tickets.

Louvre

Using her smart phone, Melanie located the nearest tourist information center, only a couple blocks away. There we purchased museum passes which gave us entrance to the Louvre and about 40 other places. The advisor also gave us information on hours and close dates. Many museums are closed on Monday, and the coming Monday also happened to be Bastille day. More than museums would be closed. But there would be other festivities happening around town, including a parade and fireworks.

Every gallery in the Louvre is a banquet for the eyes and mind.

The first gallery I wandered into contained paintings, drawings and models depicting the history of the Louvre and its evolution from 12th century fortress to elaborate royal residence, then to museum. Every gallery in the Louvre is a banquet for the eyes and mind. I wanted to photograph everything, but ended up taking very few pictures. Photos taken in the dim light of the galleries were very poor representations of the real things. After touring the Louvre for a few hours, we walked through the Jardin des Tuileries.

Coming out of the Tuileries on the Place de la Concorde, we were diverted around the barriers set up around the Place, where bleachers were being erected for the coming Bastille Day festivities. Military command and communication vehicles were stationed nearby, obviously for security. Along the Champs Elysees, Tricolors hung from the lamp posts.

Arc De Triomphe

The museum passes we purchased also gave us access to the Arc de Triomphe, at the western end of the Champs Elysees. The Arc is at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly Place de l’Etoile), within a very busy traffic circle. A tunnel under the circle provides access to pedestrians. The Arc was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, after the battle of Austerlitz. Completed in 1836, the Arc was originally dedicated to the glory of the Armies of the Republic and Empire. In 1921, the Arc became the resting place of France’s unknown soldier.

It is 49.5 meters tall (162 feet), with an observation deck on top. So we ascended the stairs for a look around the city. While viewing the Paris skyline, we met a group of French marines. There were many members of the French military in Paris for the Bastille day celebration.

From the Arc we headed south east past the Eiffel Tower and through Champ de Mars in search of some dinner and a glass of wine. We found it at the cafe La Terrasse on Place de l’Ecole Militaire, across from the institution by the same name.

It was night as we left the cafe for the metro, passing the Champ de Mars, our way lit by street lamps, a nearly full moon, and thousands strobes twinkling on the Eiffel Tower.