Exchange Rates $
|Dates: 1997 Oct 3, 4, 5, 6
- We got off the overnight train from Cerbère at Lyon. The overnight
train was smooth; it was a good sleep. At Lyon, we caught a TGV train to
Paris. On the map, Lyon is a little past half way between Barcelona and
Paris. Well, it took nearly 8 hours on the train to get to Lyon. The final
leg of the trip (Lyon to Paris) took 2 hours. Wow, the TGV was fast (300
km/hr or almost 200 mph!). The TGV trains were nice.
- Arrived in Paris in the morning at Gare de Lyon (the Lyon Train Station),
located in the south-east portion of Paris. Seeing as we planned on visiting
London next, we hoped to find a room near Gare du Nord (North Train Station).
Paris has many train stations.
- We tried phoning around for hostels. Unfortunately, the phones did
not take cash; one has to either use a phone card or a credit card. Well,
after making 3 unsuccessful phone calls using my credit card (at 10.5 francs
per call!), we decided to use the Tourist Information Bureau's hotel booking
service. They got us a room at a one star hotel on a street called "Rue
des Petits Hotels" (Street of Small Hotels). The room was very small
and the shower leaked. The rate was 112 francs per night per person. Room
- We had prepurchased a "Paris Visite" transit pass. This bus/metro
pass allowed us unlimited travel on the Paris transit system.
- While walking through Jardin Des Toileries (the park leading to the
Louvre), I got my first view of the Tour Eiffel, looming in the distance.
- We walked up Des Champs Élysées; really a major shopping
district with wide sidewalks that are packed with people.
- Saw the Arc De Triomphe, a monument dedicated to those who fought for
- No visit to Paris would be complete without visiting the Eiffel Tower.
Built by Gustav Eiffel for the 1906 World's fair, this 300 m tall steel
structure was quite the feat of engineering in it's time. The tariff for
going up the tower is 57 francs, or if you walk halfway up and take the
elevator the rest of the way, 27 francs (there is NO option that allows
you to walk all the way up). From the top, one gets the best view of Paris
available. View the panorama from the top of the Tour Eiffel.
- Our visit to the Louvre was on Oct 5, the first Sunday of the month.
The Louvre does not charge admission on the first Sunday of the month,
so this was a freebie. Unfortunately, this meant that the Louvre was quite
crowded for our visit.
- The legends about the Louvre's size are true. It is huge. This is the
ultimate art and artifact buffet. Lots of stuff, both good and bad, interesting
and not so interesting. I found that there was too much stuff; one has
too look through too much "crap" to find the true gems. In other
words, more quantity than quality. Still, the Louvre is a "must see".
- The Mona Lisa (by Leonardo da Vinci) must be the Louvre's centerpiece,
as there were many signs specifically indicating where to go to see Mona's
portrait. We encountered a large crowd surrounding a large windowed 10
foot tall "box". Upon closer inspection, one found that this
was the home of the Mona Lisa. People who have seen it before told me that
the portrait was a lot smaller than they thought. Going with this preconception,
I found the Mona Lisa to be LARGER than I thought it would be! Anyway,
I didn't think there was anything special about this painting (yes, art
is in the eye of the beholder).
- Another major piece at the Louvre is the Venus de Milo. This is the
famous armless statue of the Greek goddess Venus. As expected, there was
a large crowd around this piece. Like the Mona Lisa, I didn't see why this
piece is so famous.
- We visited the Musee D'Orsay (located across the Seine River from the
Louvre). This museum is home to contemporary and modern art. In my opinion,
I thought it had a very good collection, as most pieces were interesting
(ie more quality than quantity). If you are into the French Impressionists
(Monet, Renoir, Pissaro), this is the museum that has an excellent collection
of their best works.
- Another thing that one must do in Paris is eat a meal at a sidewalk
restaurant. Thus we ate dinner at a sidewalk restaurant ....... very expensive,
and small portions. To drink, I ordered a Coca Cola; what arrive was a
minature bottle of Coca Cola (maybe 120 ml). For food, I ordered roast
beef; what arrived was a plate with veggies in one corner, and 3 thin (
2 mm?) and small slices of roast beef. Afterwards, I ordered a coffee;
what I got was expresso in a cup the size of a thimball. Anyway, if that
was all I ate, I'd still be very hungry; luckily, they do provide bread,
and needless to say, we kept the waiter busy bringing us bread! Oh well;
the total meal cost: 104 francs.
- A tour of "Paris at night" is something one is suppose to
do, as monuments such as the Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame,
are lit up. We started our tour at the Moulin Rouge, Paris' famous nightclub.
The area around the Moulin Rouge was very crowded. In this area are located
all sorts of strip bars and burlesque shows; the proprieters of the establishments
are very aggressive in trying to get you to patronize their establishment
(they literally grab you by the arm and try to pull you into their business!).
We just try to ignore these guys, one guy tried to get our attention by
saying hello in 4 languages (French, English, Japanese, Chinese).
- We saw the infamous tunnel at Pont de l'Alma. The Parisians are not
proud of this, but from the number of people we saw there, the tunnel has
become a popular (albeit morbid) tourist attraction of Paris. Flowers and
messages to the late Princess Of Wales were placed at the entrance and
exit of the tunnel.
- We departed Paris on the morning of Oct 6. Our next destination was
London, England. We chose to take the "Chunnel" train, operated
by a private company called Eurostar. Because we were Eurail Pass holders,
we got the discounted fare of 390 francs to take this train. I would recommend
this route to London (as opposed to taking a train to Calais, then a ferry
across the English Channel, then taking a bus or train from Dover to London)
as it is simple and fast. The Eurostar train, travelling at 300 km/hr through
the French countryside, will get you to London in under 3 hours.
view of the Tour Eiffel from the Palais de Chaillot.
Arc de Triomphe, France's tribute to it's war heroes and victories.
fountain on des Champs Élysées
front of Notre Dame.
out at a sidewalk restaurant. Small portions, high prices.
infamous tunnel at Pont de l'Alma.