September 3rd, 2013 – Sunny
PETIT PALAIS, MUSÉE RODIN, E.T, ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Our time in Paris had gone by so fast!!! With only two full days left in the city we only visited 1/3 of the attractions on our list… but since my wife and I were having such a fantastic time we decided to maintain our pace knowing that we would miss out on a few attractions.
Our agenda took us to the Grand Palais which was a highly-rated attraction on guide books and travel websites. Upon arrival we were greeted kindly with closed doors (of course museums close in the middle of the work week – Wednesday!). Instead we traveled 100 meters across the busy avenue and found the Petit Palais – to our relief the lights were on.
The Petit Palais was a quiet and marvelously maintained museum. Although we were completely museum-ed out at this point of our trip it was difficult not to admire at all of those priceless paintings and sculptures. We were able to enjoy each artifact and sometimes entire exhibits in absolute peace… which was a refreshing contrast to the frantic pace of the Louvre and Musee D’orsay. However it was the intricate interior of the museum itself that wowed me the most – especially the mosaic-tiled floor and those cast iron spiral staircases.
After Petit Palais we visited one of the most extravagant bridges in Paris: Pont Alexandre III which was only a stone’s throw away. The white, black, and gold decorated bridge was lined with classic Parisian lamp posts on either side and it was extremely well maintained – minus some fresh graffiti on its railings. (personally my favorite portion of the bridge were those steel support beams on the underside of the bridge). After our brief stop at Pont Alexandre III we once again proceeded on foot toward our next destination: Musee Rodin.
We had no idea who “Rodin” was and our decision to visit this museum was purely based on fantastic reviews from TripAdvisor. The leisure walk from Pont Alexandre III took us through a business-oriented neighborhood where we stuck out like a sore thumb in a sea of suits and business attires. Our walk also took us through countless packed restaurants which reminded us that it was indeed lunch time. As we walked into a “suitable” aka air conditioned restaurant we were severely under-dressed… until 3 construction workers walked through the door… whew lol. 2 hours later we emerged happy and refreshed, and I also found a new love for chicken gizzards. (I ordered it accidentally since our free iPhone French dictionary wouldn’t tell us what gésier meant unless we upgraded to the full version… lol…. hmmm.. salty goodness)
Musée Rodin was a comparatively smaller museum that housed numerous sculptures by a supposably famous artist called “Auguste Rodin”. Rodin’s works were scattered throughout an immaculately manicured garden that was rivaled only by the Palace of Versailles. Groups of local artists could be seen translating their favorite iron/stone sculptures onto sketch pads. Impressed by its garden we headed into a mansion where smaller/less weather resistant/delicate masterpieces were stored. The contrast between the garden and the main building of Musée Rodin was shocking to say the least. Even though the artworks were undeniably inspiring, it was difficult to look past the squeaky & uneven floors and the general state of disrepair of the building. Upon our exit from the main building we headed down a narrow path where an unusually large amount of tourists congregated… then eureka! Instead of being a mystically famous sculptor named “Auguste Rodin”, I finally gazed upon a piece of work of which I can identify with! I was staring at The Thinker!
As we departed Musée Rodin I was still proud of myself for being an art aficionado (for knowing The Thinker… lol), we walked past a grand-ish looking church called Basilica of Sainte Clotilde. We were the only visitors at the time of visit (it was a work day and I don’t think this church was a tourist attraction) and it was obvious that the basilica would benefit from some minor restorations. However, its hardened “demeanor” reasonated with me and I ended up appreciating this simple church much more than some of its more famous counterparts. An impromptu soccer game had erupted at the tiny square outside of the church and we were greeted by a flying soccer ball as we exited from the basilica.
Throughout the day… actually throughout our stay in Paris we noticed the popularity of the citywide bike sharing program called Vélib’. These grey-bronze cruiser bikes were everywhere in Paris and I (not my wife) wanted to try them out since day 1. A few minutes on the automated terminal and a minimal fee later, we were on our bikes! We cruised for approximately 20 meters until my wife got too scared to travel on the busy Paris roads/sidewalk… so we walked our 50 ton tanks bikes to the next nearest Vélib’ station which was only a 5 minute walk away. From there we took the subway back home even though it was only around 4PM because we had a romantic evening planned!
A bottle of cheap wine, a couple of plastic wine glasses, two sandwiches, and assorted desserts in my backpack later we were back on Vélib’ bikes riding toward… that’s right we were going back to the Eiffel Tower hahaha. (Ironically the package of plastic wine glasses were more expensive than the wine, which was 1.80 euros LOL… it was important to J that we stayed classy with the cups). The bike ride on Blvd de Grenelle wasn’t as scary as anticipated due to a dedicated bike path, but we were on high alert for those crazy French motorists anyways. Once we dropped off our bikes around Trocadero we found a shaded patch of grass, fanned out our tiny bamboo mat, and enjoyed an inexpensive yet romantic picnic dinner staring at the Eiffel Tower. By the time it was cool enough to wonder off again the sun was low enough on the horizon where everything was blanketed in a warm orange hue… giant water cannons also went off in an hourly interval at Trocadero (worth seeing). We spent 2-3 hours at “Place du Trocadéro” chatting, photographing, and being silly until the sun was no more. From there we proceeded on foot for 25 minutes towards the Arc de Triomphe through quiet residential streets and by the time we reached our destination the sky was pitch black.
The Arc de Trimophe was an EXTREMELY busy traffic circle where 12 main roads intersected. The arch trumped all other surrounding structures in terms of height and grandeur, and sometimes flashes of white strobe lights would sparkle at the roof – those lights turned out to be camera flashes from crazy tourists thinking they could illuminate the entirety of Paris using their camera flashes (photo tip – most camera flashes have an effective radius of < 3 meters, so taking night landscape photos with them would essentially give you a completely black picture… so turn off your flash and use a tripod or have steady hands). To our relief there were underground tunnels to access the Arc de Triomphe, and similar to the Notre Dame bell tower we had to hike up a long spiral staircase in order to reach the top (there was 1 elevator for the less physically abled). Due to the fact that it was late at night (an hour before closing) and it wasn’t peak tourist hours, there were no lineups at the counter and it was quite enjoyable at the top with only a handful of other tourists. The view from the top was so spectacular I was grateful (and still am) to have had such dumb luck to visit during night time instead. The panoramic view of Paris was illuminated by golden lights with bone straight major avenues extending from the arch to the peripherals of Paris. I was able to look straight down the busy Champs-Élysées, then to my right was the imposing Eiffel Tower and its rotating beacon, and behind me lied La Défense with its skyscrappers and the Grande Arche. In fact, I enjoyed the top of Arc de Triomphe much more than the Eiffel Tower strictly in terms of the view (just like why we went up the Rockefeller Center to marvel at New York rather than going up the Empire State Building). The eye-gasm presented to us at the top of Arc de Triomphe was further sweetened by the hourly Eiffel Tower light show (during the latter part of the show I snuck to the abandoned sides of the viewing deck to do some quick photography projects :P).
P.S. Make sure to spend a few minutes looking down at the traffic circle and witness the chaos and horrors of French driving – there were no lines or anything on the road… it was simply cars weaving in and out at “inappropriately” high speeds… yet no accidents, just lots of horns.
We walked down Champs-Élysées and realized that it was nothing but a busy and glorified shopping district. Since we had zero intentions of buying thousand dollar handbags I was finally able to persuade J to give Vélib’ another try (we were also out of metro tickets haha). After we navigated away from Champs-Élysées the streets were fortunately quiet, and we slowly made our way back home zigzagging through Parisian neighborhoods. For some reason there was something magical and romantic about strolling through quiet Parisian streets on unpredictable beater bikes… the 45 minutes it took us to get home was my absolute favorite portion of our honeymoon. (to avoid extra fees we changed bikes half-way through the trip because only the first 30 minutes were free… and we got lost a little bit haha).