The day began at the Marché Grenelle…a place where various vendors of fresh foods and various good meet under the train bridge on Grenelle street. Everything from fresh cream to cow`s ears are available here. We picked tshirts, Eiffel Tower keychains, veggies and fruits. After a quick breakfast it`s off for a little Sunday stroll.
Out first stop, circuitously, is a little street Erin and visited on our honeymoon in Paris 16 years ago — rue du Chat qui Pêche (street of the fishing cat). This is Paris’ most narrow street (and barely longer than my driveway). We emerge at the edge of the Seine near Quai St Michel where we take a short walk to Notre Dame Cathedral, the home of Victor Hugo`s Hunchback of Notre Dame. The line up to get in snakes around the square but people are let in in groups of 20 so it`s pretty quick.
Notre Dame is spectacular, as one might expect this landmark to be. Started in the 15th century, it has since been renovated a dozen times to become one of Paris`grandest landmarks. Inside are multiple chapels, grand ceilings and frescoes. The faithful have many opportunities to drop coins in the church coffers to light candles: Tom, who is slow converting himself to Catholicism, lights a candle to take care of a sick relative. We pay tribute to Joan of Arc and move on.
We leave Notre Dame in search of libations and cross paths with 3 soldiers with automatic weapons. Their presence is both disconcerting and comforting. Oddly, we are constantly reminded, in subway announcements, by omnipresent signs and by verbal warning by police and security guard to watch off for “pique-poquettes” who are known to be active. I doubt the heavily armed soldiers, gendarmes, police judiciaires or prefectures de police are out looking for pick-pockets…but for us tourists, we only need worry about the petty thieves hopefully whistling past the occasional terrorist who likes to behead his victim.
We have a quick supper then head off to Eiffel`s Tower as my sister, who is meticulous, especially when hosting, has reserved us some “coupe-file” tickets to the second level. We breeze by security and marvel as the elevator takes us up the tower to the first observation deck. We won’t make it to the top level because of an enormous line-up. We realized that the view here is spectacular enough for us.
I hate to admit it, but there is something magical about being there. It`s not just the view, it`s the realization that, at some point, Parisian politicians realized that they needed to prevent the proliferation of towers in the central zone. Off in the distance, one can see the 55-storey Montparnasse tower — a condo tower that showed Parisiens just what unfettered condo development might look like. It reminded me of the proposed 55-storey Brigil monstrosity for Gatineau.
We spend the rest of the evening exploring all 4 sides of the tower and its views as the sun sets. Hundreds of people flitter about, taking selfies and chattering in various languages, likely about the views. It feels a bit like a brotherhood…all of us here, from all over the world, enjoying this French icon that, while French, actually belong to the world. I doubt Gustav Eiffel had any idea the impact of his engineering work would have on the world. After awhile, as the sun sets, we finally disembark from the tower and slowly walk home through the Champs de Mars. I glanced back and I see the tower all aglow, its guide light circling the Paris sky. Sometimes magic happens, even without Walt Disney.