When I first struck out to explore Paris, I was like a hungry kid, who had been on a diet for months! I wanted to see everything and go everywhere. Well…I got as far as the velo parking, around the corner of Rue Saint-Séverin I had never used bike sharing before. Tried my credit card in it but no luck..just then I saw a person putting her bike into the slot and asked her for help.
We started talking and turned out she was in Paris for a few months, studying medicine. Ruxandra is from Romania but spoke fluent french, navigating the city became so much easier with her..from catching some summer sun at Jardin de Luxemborg to shopping and hot chocolate at Rue de Rivoli!
Wine and dine
So these people I met, on my first day in Paris, the Canadian, the French, the Romanian, the Indian and I took the M4 from Fontaine Saint Michel to Boulevard du Montparnasse and had a Mexican dinner at Indiana. It’s a really fun restaurant, or maybe it was us that made it fun (!) with glowing yellow lights and great wine. It had outdoor seating which was perfect for the summer night.
There are a bunch of quaint cafe’s, wine bars and local pubs down Rue du Montparnasse and on Rue Stanislas. Some of them had live music, and all of them had a great crowd! We spent many hours drinking rosé and sharing travel stories.
As we were walking back to the metro station, we heard a loud noise..the rosé had dimmed our reflexes so we just stood there. We saw a couple of boys run past us. The vandals had slashed the tyres of the velos at the bike sharing stand nearby. I remember thinking if this was India, the bikes wouldn’t have lasted more than a few weeks in the stands!
Champs Elysees, Cars and Crêpes
The next day was museum day, it was the first sunday of the month and entrance to the Louvre was free! It’s every backpacker’s dream, goal and plan to take advantage of all the free entries to all museums, churches, palaces, gardens, libraries, exhibits and galleries possible! I started out early took the M4 to Châtelet and changed to M1 to get to Arc de Triomphe, Place Charles de Gaulle. I was supposed to meet Kate there, but she was nowhere to be found, neither of us had cellphones ( ever heard of a backpacker with a cellphone on international roaming?!) I did the routine picture taking at the Arc and started to walked down Champs Elysees towards Place de la Concorde.
Most of the showrooms were closed, it was still quite early for a sunday..Parisians are a fairly laid back people! To my surprise I saw a huge crowd gathered by the lane overlooking the underpass. I walked over as I heard the humming of engines and screeching of tyres. I saw top of the line sports cars whizzing past from Avenue des Champs–Élysées into the tunnel. Apparently these cars can be seen on the odd sunday, racing on Champs Elysees, before the stores open and hordes of tourists descend upon the glamorous avenue.
As I strolled down the avenue, the mercury rose on the ‘awe-struck’ meter. the fancy stores, brands I’d never heard of…well..except for Louis Vuitton, the façade of whose imposing building I drooled over, from across the street. Too scared to venture into the portals of high fashion in my pedestrian attire!
I walked down the avenue till the Place de la concorde, and there stood the Obélisque de Louxor, where a guillotine had stood in 1793! The 75 ft tall obelisk was engraved with hieroglyphics during the reign of King Ramses. It was brought to Paris in 1833, King Louis Philippe had it placed in its current spot.
Further down by the Jardin de Tuileries, I found something even more exciting than the day’s explorations…a crêpe stall! Banana, honey and nutella crêpes were had whilst enjoying the scenery and watching passers by..
Lady Katherine of the Tuileries
I spotted what is known as the Bassin Octogonal, a small pond with a fountain, in the gardens. It seemed an inviting place to sit and people-watch. As I reached the fountain, guess who I should find sitting there and sunning herself… the missing Lady Katherine! We had missed each other at the earlier meeting point and each made our way towards the final destination of the day…Le Louvre!
We sat by the fountain and chatted about our day, watched others as they jogged, read, fed the pigeons. The day was hot and sunny and the morning’s roaming had tired us out.
The secret passageway into Le Louvre
The entrance to Le Louvre is free on the first sunday of the month, from October to March.. this is a much advertised fact in the traveler community. But what few people know is that there is a secret way to beat the 4 hour wait in the queue!
As we approached the Louvre we saw a really long snaking queue, which stretched from the front into the back courtyard and back! Just as we braced ourselves for the wait, we spotted steps going underground, in the sandy part of the gardens. So this was what the walking tour guide from Sandeman’s was referring to! She had told us about several lesser known entrances into the Louvre and this was one of them. We rushed down the steps to discover it led directly to the gallery of La Pyramide Inversée ! That totally made our day!
After we emerged from our Louvre explorations, the queue was still as long as we had left it…but we did pay it forward by telling some of the backpackers about the other entrance!
And then we enjoyed a hearty lunch at a cafe in the Tuileries…
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