Let's start at the Eiffel Tower. You kinda have to stroll beneath the Eiffel Tower and back through the Champs du Mars park stretching out beyond it at some point during your trip to Paris. It's just a given.
On a drizzly afternoon last month, my brother and I were paying our mandatory call on the Eiffel Tower.
The above section of this pic shows the (empty) queue for ascending the Eiffel Tower via stairs. The below (full) queue shows the line for the elevators. Somehow that made me laugh.
We elected not to go up, but instead just meandered through the park and then into the streets, wherever our feet took us.
My Disney background has made me into an inveterate trip planner, but Paris is a city that simply must be wandered, at least a little bit. If you plan out every second, you may miss some unexpected, tucked-away beauty that Paris would have surprised you with.
For instance, I loved the shops we passed in our ramblings. I found a little grocer's to grab an orangina from - the shelves in this shop reached all the way up to the ceiling and were so orderly and tightly packed with cans and boxes - making the most of the limited space in a city shop.
Yet it felt like a local shop too - the grocer was talking to a customer when I came in, clearly they knew each other; and as the man left the shopkeeper wished him most sincerely to have a "bon avril" - to have a great April. Loved that little slice of life.
In the quaint shopping streets I also stopped in a papeterie (that's French code for stationery store!) that was a cubbyhole of a store. The two ladies watching over the wares barely paused in their gossip when I came in, and I SO wish I spoke better French just so I could have better listened in on their conversation. It was about some offensive person of their acquaintance who was extremely annoying because she talked too much and had no clue about something.
Obviously a tale of high neighborhood drama, if only I could have understood it!
That looks it's important. At length our wanderings brought us out near Invalides.
See those cannons? There was a whole row of them, trained on the boulevard. Back in centuries past I suppose it was a not-so-subtle reminder from the king to the populace that this was his city, and they'd better not forget it!
Yet more cannons. My brother enjoyed them, while I enjoyed simply strolling through the gardens...
Love those carefully trimmed bushes, the cobbled pathways, and the beautiful architecture!
If anybody watched the Rachel Zoe Project yesterday (c'mon...don't get all snobby...you know you watch trashy Bravo tv sometimes too...), that golden dome may look familiar - they showed it a bunch in the clips of Paris. Well that, my friends, is Invalides!
|Those windows look like knights!|
My brother and I walked up to see what was in this imposing-looking structure and discovered that it was the Musee l'Armee, or the Army Museum. We found, on consulting the inconspicuous guide book we had with us, that it also houses the tomb of Napoleon in a rather impressive chapel.
Like strolling beneath the Eiffel Tower, looking at rows and rows of old medieval suits of armor can be considered another requisite part of European travel. So naturally we went into the museum. ;)
These helmets were made to look like their owners faces (at least, I think so...all the explanatory plaques were in French, so sometimes it was difficult to get the exact gist of the history). The silver smith wasn't too kind about that one fellow's nose though!
There were also many swords. I wondered whether Inigo Montoya or his father made any of them. (Princess Bride? Anyone?)
Above are some delicate scissors and letter openers that sword smiths would also make. Hey, then you could defend yourself at your desk as well as out on the field!
Sometimes history seems so far away and difficult to relate to; at other times you can see pieces of modern life so clearly reflected in pieces of the past, it's like looking in a mirror. Take the above carving. Does that not look, unquestionably, like a group of bros? I'm sure the word "bro" didn't exist in the dark ages, but I mean, c'mon. Excange the armour for flip flops and polo shirts and that could easily be a too-cool-for-you posse of college boys instead of a group of knights.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
No offense Napoleon, but who really needs a coffin that large and ostentatious? I found I preferred the memorials in the side chapels. The stained glass was so vibrantly colored in blue or yellow that the very air in the space seemed stained by its color.
Somehow ethereal and eerie all at once!
I also loved this miniature model of Invalides. We found out just before closing that there was actually a whole display of various miniature cities in another part of the museum - bummer! Will have to get to that another time!
We had about an hour in the museum - which was really only enough to see the medieval wing and Napoleon's tomb. Before we left we had a quick look around the Napoleon-era rooms...
This lady was, I believe, the first or one of the few female members of the French guards. I love how there are little stories like this that you come across unexpectedly when museum-ing. What was she like I wonder? What was her story? I love her uniform and her pensive expression!
There were many more interesting stories and paintings in store for us at the Louvre, which we were visiting later that evening. But to hear about that, you'll have to wait for the next update! :)