Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Iconic Paris - the ET

Tuesday 1 September 2009

It was a later start this morning. Although Helen would not admit to it, I could see that she needed sleep. We got up to a cool and wet morning. Very Parée! And yet the light is amazing - as Hels puts it beige on beige, oh no, make that champagne on champagne, but oh so elegant. Bum around just talking. I wash some clothes - the first washing I have done since leaving home (ah yes, thats right, Michael is in the Somme).

Skype is amazing tool - just imagine, if you close your eyes, you can really imagine that you are in the room with whoever you are talking with. Helen Skypes in to the family. I think that it will help Soph and Erin just to be able to see their mum each day. We work out that if we are online about 9 am then the girls and Greg are just arriving home from school - a good time to chat, before they get dinner.

OMG do you know what is exciting Helen? The sound of the police sirens! That is one of the dangers of travelling for a long time - you get used to the everyday and so no longer even hear them. But yes, they are different to home and at first they are exciting.

My sister Siobán is having a major operation today - Mum has flown to Brisbane where she has flown to from Port Moresby. I phone in because I have just found out that it is today (thanks Damien for letting me know) to catch Mum as she is waiting for the doctor - Siobán is prepped. So I'll catch up with them later tonight.

Its about 10:30 am and with no food in the unit, we head out to find some breakfast. We walk up the street passed Le Pont du Seine where we ate last night and keep walking in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, but find no other eateries in this direction, so we turn back. Next door to the restaurant is a brasserie/café and in we go and sit at two tables (cos we can, they are not busy) looking out across the street and to the rail bridge. Deux Café American, deux jus d'orange, deux croque monsieur. (Two american coffees, two orange juices and two ham and cheese toasted sandwiches). Ah, gay Parée! I thought that it was interesting that the waiter handed us English menus as soon as we sat - gosh, are we that obvious!

We sit, drinking in the atmosphere. Just sit. And look. And listen. And watch. We see not only the tourists as they push towards the tower, sometimes a little unsure, often a little nervous, but also the everyday around us. We see the local young guy handing out leaflets to passing motorists as they stop at the lights - and I amazed that most of them wind down the windows and take his leaflet - hah! us in Australia would tell them where to get off, or just ignore them. We see a young African (the city of full of them) flogging umbrellas to the unprepared getting off the metro - all with the Effiel Tower silhouette emblazed on it. We see a Parisian mother and daughter, cool, aloof and dressed rather eclectically but assured and looking beautiful not because they know that they are, but because they are just confident in who they are!

Oh my god. These croque monsieur are divine. The cheese has a magical crust and so creamy underneath. Yummo! There is a nice small salad on the side, but I am oh so over salads (cos you get them with every meal!) - just give me some nice v-e-g-e-t-a-b-l-e-s!

And we see two police on bikes pull up a delivery driver who is just about to pull away from his illegal parking spot outsidethe cafe. Ah, but that is not why they are pulling him up! They had ridden between the lanes of traffic and had smelt the joint he was smoking! The world around here just stopped and watched. The poor boy was mortified. He was frisk searched in full view of everyone, his jacket was emptied etc etc etc. Oh it was fun watching.

The rain is really set in. We head off to look for the local supermarket that I know is just down the street. And gee - there it is. Very IGA-ish as Helen described! But with grog!!! We buy staples - a Ficelle - a long thin loaf of bread, pain de choclat, and one with rhubarb (hello darling), a couple of different cheeses - reblochon and boursin, a bottle of rose and one of red, garlic olives, tarama and some fruit - bananas, green grapes and raspberries. Its too wet to go anywhere out in the open, so we opt to go back to the apartment.

My legs are killing me today - stairs yesterday I guess and hauling luggage! Neither of us has had enough sleep either. And so the best way to spend a wet and windy time - ha ha take to bed with a book. Well, maybe not even the book. We both slept despite the noise from the busy street below us. Actually, we slept 6 hours! So we obviously needed it! We woke after 6 pm really refreshed. And the afternoon light is just getting to that really beautiful type.

We set out to go and explore that iconic symbol that is more Parisian than Paris. The ET. The Eiffel Tower. We are staying just less than a kilometre from it. As we come passed the Australian Embassy we begin to see more and more of it towering over the trees. Its not long before I can point out to Helen the base of one of the piers.

At this time of the day, the views of the tower are amazing because the relief of the edges looks so sharp. And the moon is rising (I'm sure there is a song in that somewhere!) and visible between the arches with the backdrop of a Parisian skyscraper - nice! For a while Helen is almost struck dumb - yes! This symbol has meant something special to her for so long. And now, here she is. At it. Under it. In it.

After about half an hour just looking, we make our way over to buy tickets. Ha ha yeah, OK we make our way over to join the queue snaking its way through the grids that herd us like good little sheep - two by two, towards our goal. First we have to go through a security check and of course I set the beeper off as I walk through the detector. Back I go and the young man, proabable very bored with the repetitiveness of his long day, says "Ah madame, no smiling" with a twinkle in his eye. We exchange a few words and you can see that not enough people see these workers as other people rather than just a process. We decide that we will buy tickets to go ALLLL the way to the top (last time I was here we coud only go as far as the second level). Legs aches from shuffling a step or two at a time, but eventually we are at the lift. "Bonsoir madam" I say as we enter and again, we are rewarded with a smile and a "Bonsoir". Their days must be so monotonous!

We are airborne! Well, not quite, but we are moving upwards to the sky - packed like sardines into the lift. With an American couple that have latched on to us. Well, she did. Sheep like, he resignedly followed. She seems to want to stay with us, but thankfully, they do not have the luxury of time and so push on quite quickly once we are out.

Now, that first walk to the edge of the platform and the first look out over Paris is amazing. Helen vassilates between ahs and "Oh my gods" and total awestruck silence. Yep, no matter what you think of it, Paris has it. An absolute beauty as a space. And because the city is flat with a few minor hills, you can see for miles and miles. And in a surreal way, the major monuments (and there are heaps) rise out and stand in relief out of the all the other buildings that surrond them - it is truly amazing. There is no way I can adequately use words to describe it, you have to come and see what I mean for yourself!

We walk all around at this level gazing out through the cage and then go up one flight (blasted spiral stairs) to get a view without the cage, but set back about 4 metres. Photos, more photos, lots more photos. We both mourn the cameras lost - our good ones. But I truly wonder whether any camera we would have could ever be good enough to capture what we will forever carry in our hearts and our minds.

Finally, we get on to the next elevator and head for the top. Of course, after we join the queues and crawl along for about 20 minutes that is. The ride to the top is very different. Very fast, straight up and you watch the city fall away under your feet. and we get to the top and it is grossly overcrowded. You inch forward. There is no such thing as personal space up here. Everyone is in everyone's face and elbow ad back. We jostle to get the viewing spots we want, knowing that someone else is just beind you, wanting to have the same look, so you keep moving.

We see so much farther - right across the huge metropolis that is Paris, but we have lost the detail that is so obvious from the second level - the rooftops and the cars and the people like ants.
For the first ten minutes of each hour from sunset to 1 am, globes twinkle up and down the Eiffel Tower and there are two laser probes that chase each other across the horizon from the top. This means that for a while it positively sparkles and the energy that it throws out in terms of excitment is just amazing. So at midnight we are down at the foot of the tower looking to the heavens and taking photos of the spectacle along with a few others.

Once we had done this, we needed some sustenance. There is not much open at this time of the night so we cross the road on to the edge of the Pont d'Iéna, the bride that connects the Eiffel Tower with the Trocadero on the other side of the River Seine. Ah, here we buy exorbitantly priced hot chocolate with cream - but oh so delicious!

Its late. And we are tired. Exhilarated but tired. To end the night we decide to walk back along the right bank of the Seine - back to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim - the beautiful bridge that we can see from our apartment. Its one of those amazing pieces of architecture that is so symmetrical and beautiful for someone like me who just loves symmetry!

Back at the unit we are hungry (having had nothing to eat tonight!) We bring out the cheese and rosé and fruit and have a carpet picnic! Finally hit the bed well after 2 am and Helen at 3'ish.

1 comment:

Sue said...

What a great day - Helen you look so happy I am both immensly happy for you and jealous (also immensly) - We saw the Eiffel Tower under a blanket of snow - it looks very different - Love Sue xxx