December 3 (Day 2)
Like a typical Parisan living in the Latin Quarter, we slept in, and started our day closer to mid-morning. We thought we had a problem with our hot water heater, but it turns out that it just can’t handle 2 showers at once. At least there’s not a problem with it. =)
We decided to start the day off with Rick Steves’ historical Paris walk that circles around the Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter and the area on the Seine. We are within walking distance of the Notre Dame, so that was a good starting place. They already have their 20 metre high Christimas Tree up in front. We toured the inside, noting especially that one of the prayer areas had been turned into a radio station to air Notre Dame Radio. Usually, it would be possible to climb up one of the towers as well, but this was closed due to snow. There isn’t any snow at all in the Paris central area, but I guess there was some lingering up in the tower.
We soon figured out that juggling an iphone audioguide, a camera, hat, gloves, neck warmer, and headphones were just too much. In order to use the touch screen on the iphone, we had to take our finger out of our gloves. Unfortunately we had to do this often to pause the tour to walk around. Alas, we finally gave up on following the tour. Perhaps in warmer weather sometime when there is less to carry around. Instead, we decided to go warm up inside a cafe for lunch.
We found a corner cafe that served crepes and we de-bundled to sit inside. There were some people sitting outside with steaming food, but we wanted the luxury of taking off our gloves and coat. The crepes and paninis were delicious and we even had a nutella crepe for dessert.
After lunch we saw the line for the Sainte-Chapelle was much shorter than before lunch so we headed over. The chapel, of course, was under renovation, but we could still see a good portion of the interior and stained glass walls.
The nearby metro station proved to be a labyrinth of underground passages, but somehow we made it to the Arc Triomphe, a Paris landmark and also final lap location of Le Tour de France. We were able to spend a lot of time here as the climb to the top also included 2-3 floors of exhibits inside. In fact we could even go up to the top, see some views, then come back down to warm up and do it all over again. The off season is much less crowded than I would imagine it to be in the summer. There were still tourists, but we never felt crowded.
The view from the top of the Arc is really magnificent. A giant round-about surrounds the Arc and this is the only round-about where the cars in the circle are supposed to yield to the cars entering. We watched from above and vowed never to drive here. There were some near impossible traffic maneuvers with cars, motorcycles, and bikes too. Yikes! Many avenues extend straight out from the Arc and towards various parts of the city. The main street is of course the Champ-Elysees, or the high-end shopping district. When the sky went dark (around 5p) the trees along the street were lit up in draped lights for the holidays. We didn’t stay long enough to see the Eiffel Tower light up.
In order to stay out long enough for the dinner hour to start, we strolled along the Champ-Elysees and marveled at all the car dealerships and shops. The Peugeot dealership was full of futuristic cars, lots of moving lights and displays, and of course rocking music. Mostly we came in to warm up, but as we moved to the back we were very impressed with all the Peugeot branded items from miniature cars to hand saws, to salt and pepper grinders. We stopped in Mercedes-Benz to warm up and then also Toyota. The Toyota shop was not rocking, but they were full of all their new hyrbid cars available in Europe include a car that was mounted to the wall to look as if it was driving up the wall.
They had lots of heat and wifi, so we stayed here to figure out what our dinner plans were. After Toyota, we took the metro to the Notre-Dame to see the church and tree lit up at night. This was well worth the stop. Then we found an Asian place in the Latin Quarter to eat a tasty dinner. We each had a starter, main course, and dessert. Mark’s adventure included a soup, stuffed boneless chicken wings (tasted like chicken meatloaf with peanuts), and a coconut cake dessert. The coconut cake came wrapped in leaves and was not very cake-like. Tasted good though. My adventure included rather standard egg rolls, a pork kebob with vermicelli, and then a warm banana tapioca-like dessert.
Tomorrow our plan is to head to Versailles. The forecast calls for rain/snow and a high of 3 degrees C. Actually that is pretty much the forecast for the rest of our stay. We had a cold, but dry day today. The wind chill had to have been below freezing.