After a day exploring the grounds around the Eiffel Tower, I decided to go explore the area around the Louvre and Notre Dame the next day. The path I chose would be quite a bit longer, because I decided to follow the River Seine back to the Tower, then to the hostel, but it would be a great way to see a lot of that area of the city.
I set out early and headed towards the river and the Louvre. I know that the museum holds probably the most extensive collection of art from all over the world and all time periods. The lines at the Louvre are incredibly long. Longer than at the Eiffel Tower.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to manage to get in, but outside the Louvre is an assortment of architectural flourishes and elements that rivals most museums, so I started exploring the outside of the site before heading to the Church of Notre Dame. There were several statues, and many features of architecture on the huge expanse of the museum’s buildings.
After wondering around the large open square enclosed by the buildings of the Louvre, I made my way down the street, along the River Seine towards Notre Dame Cathedral. Along the way I passed small stands built into the embankments of the retaining wall of the river. Each wooden shack held old books, advertising posters, yellowed newspapers from decades ago, post cards, small statues and pad locks.
There is a newer fad lately where people attach a padlock (which is why they are sold nearby) to the bridge’s railings with two lovers’ names on it. They then toss the keys over the bridge into the river below, as a gesture of their commitment. The police sometimes patrol the bridge to make sure people aren’t tossing the keys into the river, and they really haven’t set any laws or anything on how to handle this.
I found the cathedral and wondered around, catching some pictures of the famous face of the building. There was a recently built grand stand in front of it for people to sit and take in the beautiful building. After seeing the huge groups lined up to explore the church grounds on private tours (the church was closed to the public that day). The warm Parisian air had started to work on my Alaskan temperament and I decided to start for home. I check my map of the city and decided to take the long way home, to see the rest of the River Seine, and check out some more little shops that lined it while I made my way to the tower, and finally on to the hostel.
While making my way back to the river, and heading on towards the other bridges, I came across this dapper gentleman, none other than President Thomas Jefferson. He is listed on the statue as being the president of the US, and the Ambassador to France as well. I was quite impressed that the French, for all the anti American sentiments they can hold, still saw it fit to honor our second president and founding father with a larger than life statue in a relatively prominent location.
There was a nice little bit of info about him and his contributions in French as well. It made me wonder how many French heros we have embodied back home. I could not think of one off hand.
I continued along the river, passing smaller bridges here and there and then came to a larger, highly ornate bridge. It was the Pont Alexandre III bridge, and it is probably the most heavily ornate bridge in Paris, and exceptional in its collection of statues and architectural flourishes. There were four large gilded statues atop towering pillars depicting gods, one on each corner of the bridge.
At the base of each of these was another statue, stone but with a gilded accessory as well. This one is the a France de la Renaissance by Jules Coutan.
I really enjoyed seeing these statues, and all the gilding everywhere. The gold colors seemed be placed any where they could think of to add a little richness to the cityscape.
After making my way along the river for around 45 minutes, I finally saw the Eiffel Tower getting near. The sidewalk melted into a wide dirt path with people pushing strollers and jogging. I was stopped by a tall man claiming to be from somewhere in Africa. He had several lengths of colorful string in this hand. He made a loop with one and wanted me to hold the other end. This is another high pressure money making scam for people. The basic principle goes two ways, a nicer way and a sinister way.
The nicer way is they have to hold the loop of string while they weave a pretty bracelet in front of you. They talk about good luck, or ask you to make a wish. They might tell you the bracelet is a good luck charm, and will secure friendship or grant you the wish. At the end of it all they clip the loose ends, and tie it on your wrist. Then they put out their hand and ask for 20 Euro. Usually you will feel obligated to purchase at this exorbitant rate, and they tend to make a fair bit of money doing this. Your best bet is to not allow them to start, and to kindly say no thank you.
The more sinister version of this scam goes exactly the same to you, except the person doesn’t ask for money. You walk away with a smile and thinking how nice. Then you reach for your wallet and realize that the second person you didn’t see got away with even more while your attention was being held by the weaving strings.
Keep moving when approached by beggars and other people on the street attempting to sell or collect money from you. Be polite, but firm.
That is all for today! The next post will be my adventure down 130 steps below Paris to the Catacombs! Come back soon for more!