Friday, May 16, 2014

Highs and Lows: Away to Visit Paris part 3

Night View

We ride a high-speed elevator then climb a bunch of steps to the top floor of la Tour Montparnasse, the sleek, black and somewhat menacing skyscraper that no one seems to love. We step out onto the new outside viewing platform just as the Eiffel Tower is performing her hourly twinkling light show. The visit is part of our evening bike tour with Blue Bikes that I talked about in a previous post.

Our guide, John-Baptise points out various landmarks including a huge Ferris wheel off to the east, which is the Foire du Trône, a fair that has been around for about a thousand years. Seriously. It started in the 900s.

What a fabulous night! Incroyablement, we can even see stars and the croissant-shaped moon: something special for Paris.

The bright spot in the middle of the photo is the
Foire du Trône, which is held in the spring each year.

Up on the Roof

Another high-point, view-wise, is one of the true bargains of Paris: the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette. Just after our tour of the Palais Garnier Opera House, we drag our husbands through the doors of the large upscale department store, assuring them we aren't there to shop. We ooh and ah at the colorful glass Belle Epoque rotunda and ride the escalator to the top floor then take the stairs to the roof. There are plenty of benches and places to lounge sur le toit. We linger  for about a half hour, taking photos and wishing we had brought along a picnic lunch.

The interior of the 102-year-old Galeries Lafayette

Here we are, on the rooftop of the Galeries Layfayette.

Be Still, My Sacré-Coeur

A steep hill and about a million steps ahead of us, Sacré-Coeur is beckoning. Our friends opt to ride the funicular, but Ken and I brave the stairs, and huff and puff our way up to the base of la belle basilique. Along with a few thousand other tourists, we catch our breath, kick back and enjoy the view before stepping inside, where mass is about to begin.

Riding the funicular at Sacré-Coeur saves a few
steps, but there are still many stairs ahead.

La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre

View from the steps of Sacré Coeur

Underneath it All

We had been told by friends, by guidebooks and by online reviews, that we should absolutely, positively visit the Catacombs of Paris. Our first attempt is thwarted because the line is too long and we are sent away as the site is at capacity for the day. We arrive the following morning, an hour before opening. There are maybe 200 people in front of us in line, but even after the attraction opens, the wait is painfully slow. Little do I know, our pain was only just beginning. 

The Catacombs are underground ossuaries, or bone closets, that hold about six million people. Six million skeletons neatly stacked. Cool? I guess, especially if you're around 13 years old. But we're not. And so, we have found ourselves deep under the streets of Paris, kind of depressed. I tell Ken I have lost my appetite. He agrees, but says he's kind of in the mood for ribs.

The obnoxiously long line at the Paris Catacombs. 

Inside the Catacombs

Neatly stacked skeletons

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