I earned my meals yesterday. I was out walking from 8:30am until 1:30am, with a couple breaks for food. I also stopped off at my hotel to wash some socks and underwear, because my supply of clean clothes is dwindling.
Breakfast was some kind of pastry with apple sauce inside. It was nothing exciting. I did a walk around Lavallois with my camera to see what was worth seeing. Turns out, thereÂs not much. Everything was closed at that hour, and there werenÂt a lot of people around.
I took the camera back to the hotel. This was to be an exploration day, and not a day to be carrying 15 pounds of camera gear around. I planned to see as much as I could, and then return for surgical strikes with the camera when the weather, light and time intersected in such a way that would contribute to good photos.
My first mission after returning the camera was to meet up with Nancy and Anne. We met at the Louise Michel Metro station near my hotel. Then we went to look for some shoes. Mine are seriously wearing out. The soles are now cracked, and I can feel the road through the thin leather insole. After all the punishment IÂve put them through here, I donÂt think they owe me anything at this point. I found the perfect pair of shoes for a good price (around 40 euros) in one of the shops here, but just like at home, they didnÂt have my size. Things seem to be a bit more expensive here, but they donÂt sell any cheap crap. I think the same priced pair of shoes at home would be of inferior quality. We tried to visit some of the other shoe shops in the neighborhood, but they were closed, either for holidays, or for some other unspecified reason.
After my unsuccessful shoe shopping mission, we hit the Metro and headed to the Montmatre area for a walk. ThereÂs a seemingly endless spiral staircase leading out of the Metro station at Abbesses. It was worth the climb just to watch peopleÂs eyes rolling as they make another turn of the spiral and realize thereÂs no end in sight.
Montmatre is supposed to be one of the most beautiful walks in Paris, and I have to say that reputation holds up well. Unfortunately, every other tourist in the world seems to know this too, so its quaint, narrow, cobblestone streets were packed shoulder to shoulder with camera-toting tourists. Waiters carrying platters of crepes weaved through the crowds to their customers, who, for some reason, were seated on the other side of the street from the restaurant.
We managed to see the major sites in the area, including the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, PicassoÂs Âcradle of Cubism,Â the Montmatre Cemetery, and the Moulin Rouge.
After that, we spiraled back down into the Abbesses, and rode the Metro to a random stop near St. Germaine Boulevard. We had lunch near there, at an overpriced and underwhelming cafÃ©. I ordered an assiette de charcuterie, which is a plate of assorted cold meats, like sausage, sliced ham, and kielbasa. We walked along the boulevard, through the busy shopping area (which also failed to have any decent shoes) to the Seine, and then crossed over to the Ile de la CitÃ© to see Notre Dame.
After all of this, IÂd had just about all I could take of sightseeing. I headed back to my hotel to do some laundry and to watch a French game show. After that, I met up with the girls again, and we went for dinner. After a lot of wandering around, we found a fantastic little cafÃ© called La FÃ©e Verte in the Voltaire neighborhood. Dinner was perfect. I ordered grilled beef with roasted potatoes and a Roquefort cream sauce. All of todayÂs walking probably burned about half of the calories in the Roquefort sauce. We had an excellent bottle of Bordeaux, and crÃ¨me brulÃ©e for dessert.
After dinner, we got on the Metro yet again and made the long trip to the Eiffel Tower. It was spectacular at night. We walked around there a bit, enjoying the copyrighted light show. I think itÂs ridiculous that you need to obtain a license to take professional photos of the tower at night. ItÂs dominating the city skyline, so to take any photo of Paris at night would pretty much require you to get a license.
By the time we had finished at the tower, it was getting quite late, and I was starting to get a bit worried about missing the last Metro back to my hotel. In fact, thatÂs what ended up happening. I made it partway back on the dingy RER train, but when I tried to get onto Line 3 to get home, it was closed. I ended up on a deserted street outside the Peirere Metro station at 1am with no clue where I was. I managed to find a map, though, and started walking in the right general direction. This brings me to my gripe about French public maps. They never seem to be oriented in a way that matches the map to the area. They orient the map in a way that looks best in the neighborhood. IÂm used to this type of map being set up facing north, so that walking forward will take you towards the top of the map. Knowing this French tendency made getting back to my hotel a bit easier last night, although I had to walk through a fairly scary stretch where all the streetlights had gone out.
I finally made it back to the hotel around 1:40am, and set my alarm for 5:30am. I was determined to get some good early-morning photos.
5:30am comes pretty early, but I managed to haul myself out of bed and onto the street by 6. The Metro and RER were nearly deserted at this hour. I got to the Eiffel Tower again by about 7. It was really peaceful there. There were only cleaning staff around, and a few soldiers with automatic rifles patrolling the area. Even though I donÂt think the photos are stunning or anything, it was worthwhile just enjoying the calm, the sunrise, and near silence of this normally bustling place. I was le tired after my quick photo session, so I headed back to the hotel. As I walked back from the Metro station, I saw the tourists heading out for the day. I found it kind of funny that I was coming back as they were going out.