Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 3

Part 3 – Paris

 September 25th– 27 th


Shortly before our departure to Europe, we had contact with a relative who is living in Paris temporarily.  He offered us his flat to stay in as he would be out of town during the time of our tour.

So with our Dutch host as guide we left Schiphol for Orley airport South of Paris.  From there we caught a bus that took us to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. We found the flat a 340m walk from the far side of the Arc de Triomphe.  Or if you want to be pedantic, 300m from the near side of the circle.


Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe turned out to be a massive thing.   Twelve big streets connect at the circle around the Arc de Triomphe, with no traffic lights to regulate traffic. Although I found it entertaining to watch, I would not want to drive there!

[Source:  Imagery 2018 © Google, map data © Google]



Big bus tours

We got tickets for the hop on hop off Big Bus Tours bus, valid for two days.   We were told that if you start your trip on the bus past 16:00 in the afternoon, then that day does not count. So we trundled down the Champs Elysees, whiling away the time until four before boarding the bus.

We considered this to be an exploratory trip, so we did not hop off. We wanted to get the feel of the route. Just as I got to the Eiffel tower, my camera memory was full, and I had to resort to some picture with my phone instead.  The bus does not wait.



The next day we did the tour again, this time getting off at the Eiffel tower to begin with.  As we got to the Eiffel tower, I realised that I have not put the camera batteries back after I charged them the previous evening.  Fortunately I found a set of back-up batteries in the camera bag that I actually forgot about!

It’s really no use describing the details of a tour like this. It’s like taking pictures. I later gave up on taking them. Paris is massive and old, with a seemingly endless supply of really impressive old buildings.  And as far as the Eiffel tower is concerned, every ten meters that you walk in any direction from or around it, you find a better angle for a picture.  You just can’t win!

What left me in awe was hanging around these highly recognizable landmarks in the world such as the Eiffel tower and the Louvre and the Notre Dame.  Just being there was just amazing.

According to the running commentary on the bus, the Champs Elysees is a rather expensive street to run a business from. I was thus surprised to find, tucked away on the Champs Elysees, even a MacDonald’s.

It turned out to be the start of fashion week in Paris. Everywhere girls in bridal or other fancy dresses got photographed against the backdrop of the Eiffel tower or other exotic views.



Between changing from the Red Bus to the Blue Bus (for different routes) we visited one of the Lafayette buildings to get to the rooftop which offers a commanding view of Paris – for free.  Getting anything free here is noteworthy.  Even toilets require payment.  Speaking of which, I was initially rather surprised to find a female cleaner going about her business of cleaning the gents’ toilets, unperturbed by the gents using the urinals.  I never quite fancied taking a leak as a spectator sport.

Sorry, I digress.  To get to the top floor of the Lafayette building, you pass a number of exotic stores. At some of these outlets you can buy yourself some really hideous outfits for €1800 and upwards if you are so inclined.   Not even the sky is the limit – very much like with stupidity.

We gave Louis Vuitton a skip because we did not want to do queues. Apparently they had a new range of handbags which is so exotic that you had to queue up just to be let into the shop. I guess they contact your credit provider before letting you in, just to prevent embarrassment to both you and them.  Crazy Store never does that when we go looking for a handbag there.


Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre

We took a walk to the next bus stop. This turned out well for the increasing of the number of steps on my step counter, but it was disastrous from a navigational point of view, even with Google maps. With the sun sitting south of centre instead of north of centre as is the case in the Southern hemisphere, I had difficulties getting my direction. Eventually the answer was to enlarge the screen of your Maps, and to start walking so that one can see in which direction one moves on the phone screen. Eventually we did get to the right bus stop to get to the Sacré-Coeur.

The church is perched on a hill. A steep hill.

Having survived the steps, you are at the top of Montmartre. They had a funicular for the faint hearted who could not do the uphill walk. In spite of the sacredness of the institution one had to contend with all manners of hustlers. Some had these three upside down cups moving around a coin, and for a few Euros you could incorrectly guess were the coin was – and of course, lose your money.  I was saved by my wife from a chap who started tying a rope to my finger. I assume he would have made some ornament which would be impossible to get off and then expected to be paid for it. I was also for the second time urged by lady to “just sign here” on a collections form. Apparently that is just the diversion to get into your pockets – literally.


Place du Tertre

Close by is the Place du Tertre, where you will find a huge collection of artists, many of whom offering to draw your picture while you sit there.  There is a square, and the streets joining the square are very narrow, with a proliferation of restaurants and curio shops.  It had a rather festive atmosphere.


The Louvre

Our last stop for the day was the Louvre.

From the outside you have a view of a number of landmarks – note the Arc de Triomphe right at the far end of the picture.

I went in just to see what it looked like underneath the glass pyramid and take the been-there-dunnit, but did not go see Mona.


Eiffel – again, this time at night

On our way back the bus developed a problem as evidenced by a loud bang from the left rear wheel with the arch over the wheel having been ripped off from the bus. So we decided to walk the three kilometers back to the flat. Approaching the Eiffel tower, however, we decided to rather hang around until dark for the glitter that happens every hour after dark at the Eiffel.

So we started looking for a place to eat, only to find us in an area of embassies. The restaurants fortunately prevented embarrassment by having their menus outside. So we could see even before we entered that we could not afford to eat there. Fortunately Google Maps found us a Starbucks where we could eat. When we were done, it was dark, and we headed out to the Eiffel.

When the 21:00 glitter came, it was rather entertaining. And there were hundreds of people there, with a carnival atmosphere. Afterwards we took the Metro underground back. I found it rather amazing. There were hundreds of people on the train that time of the night, and it felt totally safe. Emerging from the Metro station again, we found us to be 350 meters from the flat!


Notre Dame

Having only the Notre Dame on our itinerary for the day we had a late start taking the bus past 10 the morning. Surprisingly, entrance to the Notre Dame was free. It’s pretty majestic. Bearing in mind that they started building in the eleven hundreds and kept on renovations until, well, fairly recently it stands to reason that they could make a rather extensive job of it. The detail is amazing. Over the top, really. Assuming that they paid the artisans doing all the building and sculptures I guess quite a number of people might have been able to retire comfortably.

The detail is extreme.

I don’t know what the story is with headless dudes, but I spotted a number of sculptures where the chaps held their heads in their hands.  Oh, wait; these are the guys that had the guillotine.  But then again, those sculptures date from way before the guillotine.


Latin district

From there we headed to the so-called Latin district where the Sorbonne University is.  Narrow streets sporting shoulder to shoulder restaurants. Most proprietors seem to be standing outside to woo customers in.   This is also where the Boulevard Saint Michelle is – remember Peter Sarstedt’s 1969 song “Where do you go to my lovely”?

Also the Shakespeare and company bookshop is.  And seemingly another hundred bookshops. Maybe the Sorbonne students are avid readers.

Castle Le Jardin du Luxembourg

On the outer edge of the Latin district is the castle Le Jardin du Luxembourg, although this is not Luxemburg. I don’t know what the thing is with the French and palatial buildings. Maybe moderation is an English word that just never caught on in the French vocabulary.


Moulin Rouge

Somewhere on our bus route the Moulin Rouge was pointed out to us.

And that brought an end to our Paris excursion.


Heading back to Netherland

The bus for Orley airport departed 300m from the flat where we stayed, so this went painlessly. At Orley the plane left 25 minutes late, minimizing the time we will have in Schiphol to catch the train out to Hilversum. And when we landed at Schiphol, the plane did so somewhere on a polder miles away from the terminal building. Eventually we literally ran for the station.

On our way there, one rucksack started spilling its contents, so that slowed us down a bit. I think we recovered everything. Within 30 seconds of our arrival on the peron, the train pulled in. Just then our host’s husband called to say he is waiting with his car for us outside. The signals were crossed, though.  After confusion subsided 30 seconds later and we realized we should not have boarded the train we headed back out of the train, only for the train to pull off before we got to the doors. In spite of the ease with which people jump on and of trains in movies we felt it ill advised to disembark from the moving train.

In the end we did meet up with our lift and made it home by midnight.  But not midnight in Paris.

[Click on Part 4 below to read further]


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