Our second day in Paris was just as hectic as the first…though with more coffee needed this time around…
We began our Sunday adventure around 10am which is apparently still too early to be up and about for Parisians on a Sunday morning. The streets and cafes were largely quiet at this time except for the hive of activity occurring at the food markets. There was a strong mix of aromas as we wandered through the markets, trying and failing to ignore any samples on offer. After a quick wander through the markets we began our walk through the Marais District, our first stop being the Pompidou Centre.
The Pompidou Centre is an alternative looking building mainly due to the fact that its “inside out”. The structural systems, mechanics, circulation and plumbing are all located on the outside of the building and are colour coded. We didn’t actually go into the building but I did an assignment on this building for French class way back in year seven so I needed to see it.
Le Marais is famous for its medieval feel, a haphazard mix of alleyways and stores. It is also one of the few areas in Paris largely untouched by Napoleon during his restructure of the city. Our exploration of this area in Paris got us quite lost at some points but we did manage to find an incredible chocolate store so I don’t think anyone minded.
After a small sugar rush we began our walk to the Galeries Lafayette. This is a multi-level store, filled to the brim with clothes that had a few too many $000000 for my bank account however, that didn’t stop me from enjoying how spectacular the building is. We were also there during the Christmas/New Year break so the inside of the building was extra festive.
The real reason we came to the Galeries Lafayette however, was to see the view of Paris from the roof. After going up 7 levels of stairs and escalators we made it to the roof. This is a free viewing platform that provides great views of, in particular, the Paris Opera. We were lucky to have this opportunity as it has only been in the last few years that the department store has actually been open on a Sunday.
By this point a lunch break was needed so we made our way to a little side street near the Champs-Élysées. As this is a tourist hot spot we decided to find a street a few steps back from the Champs-Élysées, where the crowds were reduced and the menu prices were more affordable. A positive of travelling in winter is that all the winter specialities are out in force and you can use the excuse of “warming up” as a reason behind buying your third hot chocolate for the day! Beef Bourguignon was the lunch menu option of choice, accompanied by…yes, more bread 🙂
After lunch we walked along the Champs-Élysées before making our way up to the Arc de Triomphe. It is a brilliant monument and there is always a fair amount of people lining the streets, trying to capture the structure in better detail. But what was almost more impressive than the arch was the chaotic movement of the cars surrounding it. No lanes nor road rules need apply in this area of Paris. It was a crazy free for all as cars went wherever they pleased. I remember overhearing a tour guide say this was the only area that car insurance wouldn’t cover you and I could see why!
Next we went off to do the most touristy thing we could…going up the Eiffel Tower. As it was near sunset the lines were next to nothing and before we knew it we were in the elevator going up to the second level. I noticed quite quickly upon leaving the elevator that I could feel the tower sway. It only lasts about five minutes before you no longer notice it but if you aren’t a fan of heights just make sure you take the time to feel comfortable before going out to look at the view. The views from the tower are incredible! Though Paris was always grey and overcast when we were there you can still see in vivid detail all the areas of Paris, playing the game of where have I been. I will say however, that the two rules when up there are watch your pockets and wait your turn. As it can get quite crowded when up there you need to be mindful of the people around you and share the view.
We stayed up on the second level until it was night, watching as the sun set and the city lights came on. It is for that reason I recommend going up the tower in the late afternoon. We may have only been up there for an hour but in that time we caught both the day and night view and the crowds weren’t nearly as bad as they would have been during the day. As we came down the elevator the night atmosphere started to sink in. The city is suddenly aglow with a warm light and the Eiffel Tower, not wanting to be outdone, puts on a show every hour. The energy at night around the tower was great as we ventured into the Christmas market for its last night. We then spent the rest of the evening having a leisurely stroll back to our hotel, taking in a new perspective of Paris as the lights come on.