Travelling to Paris
Continuing from where we stopped off last week….Dover
We travelled to Paris by a ferry crossing the English Channel. At Dover, our tour bus drove on to the lower deck of the P&O ferry and parked there. We alighted and climbed up to the upper deck of the ferry. As the ferry left the shores of Dover, we could see the white cliffs of Dover at a distance.
The cliffs as seen while crossing the English Channel
On board the ferry crossing English Channel
We arrived at Calais , the port on the French side of the English Channel. At Calais, we boarded the bus back and were driven to our hotel in Paris.
One of the first sights that welcomed us at France was not such a pleasant one. The dark side behind all the glamour and pomp was obvious!. Potential immigrants to UK desperately trying to get into any vehicle crossing over. I understand this is a common phenomenon and leads to even loss of life sometimes. The desperation to get across the border, lands some of these people in difficulties. We do read off and on about the calamities that befall some of them!!
After some time to check in and freshen up, we boarded our bus again for dinner at a restaurant followed by a visit to the Eiffel Tower to see the lighting up of the tower.
Lighting up of Eiffel Tower
As soon as it gets dark, the Eiffel Tower’s golden lighting switches on automatically thanks to sensors. In addition to the structural lighting, a beacon also comes on.
In addition to this the sparkles come on for 5 mins at the beginning of each hour till 1 am.
The lit up Eiffel Tower (the rain water added a reflection too!!)
The Sparkles and the beacon!!
Since we are at Eiffel Tower, let me take you through some day-time views of the tower. (We actually did this the next day as part of the city tour)
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is the most visited tourist attraction in the world!
It was designed by Gustave Eiffel for the Paris Expo in 1889 which marked the centenary of the French Revolution. The Eiffel Tower was created as an entrance for the expo.
There is an interesting anecdote about the survival of this tower. It was initially dismissed as a monstrosity when first unveiled ,as the artist community, felt that it would destroy the beauty of Paris. But Gustave insisted that he would build it in two years and he actually managed to do it. When the lifts were not ready, it is said that he climbed it manually and hoisted the French flag. Such was his determination.He was allowed to retain the tower for twenty years to enable him to recover his costs. The understanding was that after that time it would be brought down. Eiffel thought of a clever plan and installed radio antennae on the tower. Once the antennae were regularly sending signals, the anti tower lobby relented and the rest is history…..
Now ,this very same tower has become emblematic of Paris
The tower is made of sturdy iron rods weighing more than 10,000 tons. On arrival at the base, the sight of the four massive pillars is awe inspiring. These legs of the tower house various facilities like ticket counters and lifts and a wide road passes between the pillars. Inside one of the pillars is an old steam lift preserved for posterity!
The base of the tower with massive pillars
The Eiffel Tower
An elevator ride (or 360 steps to climb for the brave ones) leads to the first level at 57 mts height. This level has a gift shop, cafeteria, washrooms and an outdoor viewing terrace.
View from first level
View of River Seine from the first level of Eiffel Tower
Another elevator ride takes one to the second level at 125 mt. This level has similar amenities as the first level and offers views of many important landmarks in Paris. The balcony is covered with glass to prevent suicides and accidents.
View from second level of tower
At the second level of The Eiffel Tower
The next view is from the final level of 276 m. which can again be reached by an elevator.
View of the Les Invalides ( shrine where Napoleon’s tomb is located) from last level
After a detailed visit to the Eiffel Tower, we were on the Champs-Elysees.
Champs-Elysees is the most monumental boulevard in Paris. 1.9 km long and 70 mts wide; it was once a desolate marshland. After the 17th century, the place was gradually developed with elegant buildings bordering the boulevard.
Broadly divided into two parts by the Rond-Point intersection; the lower part has the Place de la Concorde ( Concord square) and the Petit Palais. The upper part extends up to the Arc de Triumph and is lined by luxury shops, hotels, cafes, cinemas and theatres. It is a popular meeting point for Parisians.
Though the place has an upscale aura about it, there are more affordable stores and restaurants too.
The Champs Elysees with the Arc de Triumph at one end
Typical buildings lining the Champs Elysees with high end shops
Arc de Triumph
This arc is dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the French armies of the Revolution. It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 and completed in 1836. This 50 mt high arch features bas-reliefs with larger than life size figures which depict the glorious return of the French armies.
At the foot of the arch is the tomb of the unknown soldier. The Flame of Remembrance is kindled here every evening at the tomb.
At the Arc De Triumph
The Tomb of the unknown Soldier and the Flame of Remembrance
Place de la Concorde (Concorde square)
This octagonal square was the heart of 18th century Paris. It was the scene of several historical events including the execution of Louis XVI and Mary Antoinette. It was also part of Napoleon’s triumphal route.
It is one of the most attractive squares in the city and offers great views of many Paris landmarks. The center has an Egyptian obelisk and has beautiful fountains.
It is a busy intersection too with heavy traffic.
The Concorde place with the obelisk and a fountain
A typical building surrounding the Concorde square
I must mention here that as we were driven around Paris, I was surprised to find walls defaced at many places with graffiti. We do not hear about these things and the actual sights can be an eye opener. Our guide also warned us to be careful with our bags and wallets at all points of time. So there is a dark side to this place. Perhaps our colonial mindset makes us think that the grass is all green across the oceans. But that is not true…a dark underbelly is very much a reality!!
See you next week with more pictures from various locations in Paris. Till then , keep your comments going and subscribe below