Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 11 - Paris, France (2011)

Our first official Paris exploration day. Our accommodation was GIS Hotel located at Neuilly-Plaisance. Still under Zone 3 of their transpo system, it was a cheap choice (90 euros per nite for a family room with 2 single beds and 1 double bed) and quite convenient way to go to the city center (just walking distance to train station).

We pre-planned to buy the Paris Visite pass - a travel card pass which enables us to have unlimited rides in all public transpo services within the Ile-de-France region (eg. Metro, RER, bus, tramway, SNCF trains, funiculaire de Montmartre, Montmartrobus, noctambus, Optile bus sytem) at discounted rate. It also offers discounts in several attractions. Better check terms and conditions and full coverage for more details. We opted for this travel card initially because it also has 20% discount for Disney tickets, but we didn't see the conditions (it wasn't clearly stated I guess). Check out Disney blog for more details.

Anyway, we got up early hoping for a good, sunny weather. But it turned out to be a gloomy, cold morning. It dampened our spirits a bit, knowing it wasn't really the best weather, but we dressed up, walked to the train station and focused on the interesting experience we planned to have. We approached the ticket counter and inquired about the travel pass. Turned out we can just purchase it from the machine. So we queued up and figured out how we can purchase the tickets from the machine.

After a few minutes of browsing through the options (which were initially in French), we found the English language option, then chose the type of pass we want, number of days, zone coverage, and voila! we got our tickets! Of course, we tried to buy one ticket first, to check if it will work.

this was the ticket jacket with some details inside (not complete though)

we bought 2 adult tickets for 2 days, Zones 1-3. Cost was Euro 15.20 per adult.

and 2 children tickets for Euro 7.60 each.
We used our credit cards to make the purchases.

I've read from books and online resources that we needed to present the tickets to the ticket booth and ask for the Paris map and other materials. Unfortunately, the people in the ticket booth (who don't really speak good English) seem to have no idea what I'm talking about. We got a little bit worried cause we needed those materials to get around. It should have the Paris city map as well as the transpo map (of course, how else can we efficiently use our travel card if we had no idea what the transpo system was). Then they told us that maybe when we get to the city center we can ask from the ticket booth there. So crossing our fingers, we took the train from Neuilly-Plaisance to Chatelet Les Halles (city center, 6 stations away), both in the red line so we didn't change trains.

To use the tickets, you have to insert them in the slot at the gantries, and get them back at the end of the gantry. This will then be inserted again before you exit the train stations. Make sure to keep your tickets for as long as they are valid. 

Upon arriving at Chatelet Les Halles, we headed directly to the ticket counter and asked for the Paris Visite travel kit. Thank goodness the people in this station were more accommodating and they knew about the Paris Visite pass.

this was the travel kit (I expected something more). It has a city map with major attractions highlighted (overlaid with transpo details). It also has a the RER map which covers all the zones. And it has a list of the attractions and respective discounts offered.

our Paris Visite travel kit - map, tickets, receipts and ticket jacket

Now we were really ready to see what Paris had to offer. But we cannot do that with empty stomachs! So we looked for a place to eat (using our trusty iphone applications) and voila! McDonalds was on the list! So off we went to have breakfast at McDo. Not really a great way to savor the French cuisine but we weren't really those type of tourists :)

After breakfast, we checked our bearing, looked out for signs and headed towards Ile de la Cite crossing over Pont Neuf.

Pont Neuf (Old Bridge) -  ironic since this is the city's oldest bridge (1607)

there were semi-circle shaped sitting areas along the bring. Good place for photo stop and to watch boats passing by

exact replica of the statue of King Henry IV - who was the person behind the construction of Pont Neuf

From the bridge, before reaching the other end of the island, we turned left and walked along Quai des Orfevres to begin our tour of Ile de la Cite.

Ira toying with Tribunel Correcionnel's lion door knocker

Then we turned left at Bd du Palais and walked pass....

Palais de Justice... and overlooking Sainte-Chapelle (on the left)

we didn't go in to see Sainte-Chapelle up close as there was a VERY LONG queue

Then we crossed over to Rue de Lutece, walked along the street until we reached Rue de la Cite. Prominently seen in this intersection is the Hospitaux de Paris. We turned right on the street and a few meters along the road on the left was the vacant space making way for the famous Paris attraction.

Our main destination was the most popular monument in Paris and in all of France (according to an online source). "An active Catholic church, a place of pilgrimage, and the focal point for Catholicism in France". 

Notre Dame Cathedral - its famous west front

When I was reading about this attraction, I expected to be awed by the size and architecture. But upon seeing it personally, and seeing Cologne Cathedral in the early leg of our trip, it didn't really impress me that much.

Point Zero - considered the center of Paris. 
The point where all distances in France (from Paris) are measured from. 

The kids were getting a bit fuzzy so I decided to let them have a game. Whoever finds Point Zero first will get a prize (at that point I didn't have any idea yet what the prize was). So everyone scrambled around looking for this point. 

west front - depiction of the Last Judgement

photo op with one of the portals

we went inside the Cathedral to check the famous Rose Windows

the North Rose Window

the biggest chalice I've ever seen

the South Rose Window

Notre Dame Cathedral miniature model

massive chandelier

after a few moments of silence and reflection inside the Cathedral, we brought the kids out to have a run around the front grounds of the Cathedral

there were birds who were on a feeding frenzy, thanks to a man there who was (I think) running the show

Ira with Tita Malou tried to feed the doves

then it was Kelvin's and Shane's turn

the birds can actually snatch the bread from your fingers so better hold on tight and savour the moment when they are munching in on your fingertips

these small birds were quite fast, the snatched away a small piece of bread i was holding

After feeding the birds, we walked towards the direction of the Eiffel Tower hoping to take in the sights and sounds of Paris.

we saw Paris' version of Tuktuk

Academie Nationale de Musique (Opera House)

also referred to as Palais Garnier

but then we just decided to take the train going to a place near the Eiffel Tower - much more convenient

Then we walked along Champs des Mars and saw souvenir shops along the way. We bought some Paris sweaters which proved to be quite useful as it was quite cold as it became late.

walking towards the Eiffel Tower from Champs des Mars. From afar it didn't really look that big (ok, I admit, after seeing Cologne Cathedral, I don't think any other big structure impressed me), but as we got closer it was evident that the tower was humongous. But it still didn't amuse me as much as Cologne Cathedral did. And I have to say, it didn't really appeal to me as a romantic spot (was i too tired or in not a really good mood then???).

We looked for a spot to sit down on the grass, and waited till it got dark to take pictures. There were other tourists who even brought their picnic baskets, champagne and all. 

Eiffel Tower slowly lighting up as it got dark

it really was better to wait till the sky was dark to take a better photo with the Eiffel Tower

at around 9pm, we decided to walk closer to the tower. By that time we still haven't decided whether to climb up or not. But with the chill in the air, and someone from the group wearing only shorts, there was no way we could stand the cold weather up the tower.

getting closer to the base 

finally, we were there! 
at the base of the tower, literally
taken from behind the Eiffel Tower

from across the street, where the carousel was

side view of the tower

and yet another pic with the group

I think we've covered all the angles of the Eiffel Tower that night. And it was just in time for us to go back home since it was almost midnight!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to LEAVE A MESSAGE, ASK A QUESTION or SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES, too. I would love to hear from you