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Thoughts of a wandering soul The "IT WAS TIME" Trip!

Strolling down the Champs Elysees...

FRANCE | Monday, 10 December 2012 | Views [425]

The next morning (28 Nov), if it can be called that, I woke up around 4am!

Gah! I checked facebook for a bit and finally managed to sleep again. Next I woke up around 9am, and got dressed.

I was determined to find the Sacre Couer and then head further into Paris to the Arc de Triomple, walk down the Champs Elysees and then maybe do the museums around there. But first, breakfast!

There was a creperie just at the intersection so I went to buy one there. The guy came out and seemed a little surprised to see me. I asked for a crepe with butter & sugar and he asked if I spoke English.

Yes, and then we proceeded to talk for the next 15 minutes about his life. He had come to France when he was seven, from Mauritius, had a daughter with his previous wife (they were currently divorced) and had just recently got married to a 34 year old from India while they were both on holiday in Mauritius when she met the rest of his family.

He was about 47. He's never met her family, but speaks to them on the phone. He's hanging out for March when he goes to India to bring her back to France.

Huh! So how'd they meet?

She was in Paris for work for a few days and they met at his other shop and swapped details and it went from there! It was all meant to be.

Sure, of course. And he hopes the same thing will happen to me. Right. With his blessings I wander off in search of the Sacre Couer!

I'm trying to keep the map in my head, but like I said, those streets are tricky! I'm passing a tiny shop when I look up and see a windmill type thing. Interesting!

Just then a young girl comes out of a shop in front of me and I ask her what this is and then ask her if she knows where the Sacre Coeur is? In that general direction, she points, oh, I'll walk with you, I'm going that way.

Okay thanks.

She asks if I speak Hindi and I say yes.

Her parents are also from Mauritius, but she was born in France, and she speaks a little Hindi.

Finally we come to the crossroads and part ways. I continue along as I've been directed, but still no sign. I ask a man clearing weeds from the pavements where it is. Up the hill and to the left. Thanks, and then I see the signs. And lots of souvenir shops.

One thing I've gotta say - they have these things which look like pictures of major monuments/buildings drawn in charcoal, and even though they're cheap and everywhere, they just look SO good! I decide I want to buy one of each before realising the logistical problem of carrying them in my pack. Maybe I can buy and post them back home?

I continued on my way thinking about this, when lo and behold! There rose the Sacre Coeur in front of me! It was big and white and looked beautiful. What was no less amazing though was the view from on the steps in front of it. You had a panoramic view of Paris for miles around. Admittedly, a lot of the buildings were still covered in mist/fog/smog (?) but the sun shone through in places, and it looked beautiful.

There was a guy on the steps playing...the harp! Yes! That's not generally an instrument that's easy to lug around, but there he was, with his CDs in case you wanted to buy any, and it was really fitting and lovely. I went inside the basilica, there weren't many pepole around at all, and wandered around. Twas lovely, but smaller than I was expecting. I then thought, oh how do I get to the dome to look out?

I wandered back outside and to the left there were signs for the crypt and dome. I knew I didn't want to see the crypt, but the dome would be nice. However, given the mist everywhere I thought it might be better to see it later.

I asked the lady inside what time it closes and she replied in English that it was open now, and I didn't have to worry about it closing.

Okay, not quite the answer I was looking for. I walked outside and they had pictures of the view at night time. At least with the lights it would be prettier, even if there was still a bit of smog around. So I went back in and tried to ask the lady what time the sun sets. She didn't understand. Umm...what time is it night? She still didn't understand and finally in exasperation she exclaimed, "It is open now madame, what more do you want!"

Hmm...firstly, there was no one else around who I was possibly holding up with my questions.

Secondly, why were the jerks on my trip only women?

And thirdly, I thought, the view from the steps was plenty fine, and I didn't want to be dealing with another f***ing bitch like I'd had to at Tiger Kingdom.

So with that, I turned around and walked out.

It had me thinking for a while but then I guess you're always going to come across people who don't like you, or you annoy, c'est la vie, non? No point getting all hung up about it.

Just then this little girl appeared in front of me who looked in her mid teens with the most doleful expression on her face. She placed a clipboard in front of me and it looked like some kind of petition for the deaf and dumb society.

Oh, okay, sure...I started filling in my details, until I got to the third field and saw people had put money down.

Hmm...I wasn't keen on giving to anything just then, so I apologised and I handed back the clipboard.

She followed me and gave me that expression again with even bigger eyes this time.

Puss in Boots from Shrek has nothing on this kid!

Gah, I dug around my purse and was gonna give her coins for one euro, but then that expression, so I gave her five euros.

I walked away and was checking out the funicular which now I couldn't ride 'cause I had no coins.

I then turned around to walk down the stairs and there was Puss in Boots girl again, except she'd written on the back of her clipboard "minimum 10 euro".

Okay, that was enough. I said to her she could give me back the 5 I'd already given her, at which she then finally walked away.

I caught the train to the Arc de Triomphe and when I exited at the station I found myself at that massive infamous roundabout with about six lanes of traffic.

Twas quite interesting to watch the cars trying to exit at the correct turnoffs, especially when they had to change lanes as well.

After a while, I saw people actually under the Arc and wondered how to get there. Surely not across this crazy road! Nope, couldn't see any people on the roads. And then I saw these steps leading underground. Aha! There was an underpass to the Arc.

I walked across and when I came out under it, it was huge! It was so detailed and still so clear. There was also an eternal flame lit, surrounded by wreaths. I hadn't realised it was for the fallen French soldiers. There were passages written on the ground which had dates and explained that the soldiers had given their lives for their country. It was really quite moving.

From there, trying to get my bearings, I started walking down the Champs Elysees, towards what I hoped would be the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre.

At first, it was just a big street with lots of people. There were a lot of brand names, but not being a purveyor of brands I didn't recognise most of them.

I did come across a Swarovski sotre though, and even though I felt a bit out of place with my big jacket and hiking boots, I decided to check it out anyway. The security guard was really sweet.

Nothing mind blowing in there though, so it was easy to leave with no purchases.

Next stop, McDonald's! No, not to eat, just to check out. The first thing I noticed was that it was expensive! And nothing looked any different to any other menu.

But their McCafe had a selection of teas in those silk teabags! Ha! I went to take a picture but the girls behind the counter said no.

Why? I asked. But they didn't know, just that you couldn't take a picture.

Interesting. The same thing had happened in McDonald's in India which I'd thought was really odd at the time, but maybe it's a company thing. I kept walking down, and there was a street show with two guys doing hip hop and breakdancing. It was really entertaining, you could tell they'd spent time rehearsing and had great showmanship.

Walking further down I spotted...a roasted chestnut stand!

Oooh! Yes please! I'll just take a small bag I told the guy, but he filled it so much I couldn't finish them all.

Then I was surprised to see all these white tents set up along the street before I realised it was the Christmas market! Awesome!

They had food, clothes, food, trinkets, toys, food, it all looked great, but there was no way I could have finished anything by myself and I still had a nearly full bag of chestnuts, so I didn't buy anything.

I finally reached the Place de la Concorde and checked out the obelisk as I remembered it referenced in many of the stories I'd read. It did look slightly unreal and out of place with its dark green stone and golden cap with the hieroglyphics all down its sides.

After that, I walked down to the Jardin des Tuileries, only to see a mother with her two kids eating...candy floss!

Now I know I still had a packet of roasted chestnuts, but I'd already missed out on candy floss twice!

Once in Hong Kong at the Race in Pink Heels and the second time at Amphawa market in Thailand.

I asked where she got them and she pointed to the left just before the gardens.

Now, just so you know, I'm not a complete impulse buyer, I went to the Garden's souvenir shop, wandered around, ate another chestnut soI could close the top of the cardboard cone, put it in my bag and THEN headed back to the candy floss maker.

Just a small one please - I couldn't believe I'd be paying 3 euro for it! The guy left the machine running for a while and then made the biggest candy floss stick ever! My goodness! This is a small? I exclaimed, handing over my money. I took it and headed off into the gardens. They were looking a bit bare - expected, I guess given the time of the year, but it was a nice walk nonetheless.

Except it started to lightly drizzle, which wouldn't have been a problem either, except it was falling on my candy floss and crystalising it making it all more sticky & not to mention my hands which were getting close to numb from the cold.

At the bottom of the garden I came across, no, not faeries, but close, the Louvre!

Again, it was a very surreal feeling of having read and heard about it for so long and then seeing it.

At first all I saw was the glass pyramid, and for a moment thought THAT was somehow the Louvre, not really registering the massive buildings around the courtyard in which the pyramid sat.

I tried to clean my hands as best as I could - note that hand sanitiser seems to do nothing for stickiness!

I tried to look for dew upon the grass but no such luck either! Anyways, finally I opened my bottle of water and washed them, and they were well and truly numb by now!

I made my way over to the Louvre, but first passed under another arch, the Arch de Triomphe du Carrousel! Once I got closer to the Louvre, I had heard stories of the crowds and queues, etc. so I was most surprised to find myself inside the Louvre within a few minutes.

I kept waiting for the phantom crowds to appear, but they never did. I went down the stairs (after a baggage scan) under the pyramid and there were quite a few more people here, but again, not like I'd been expecting.

I wondered if it was worth buying a ticket becauase if it was going to close in a couple of hours, it wouldn't be worth it when I noticed they said it was open til 9.45pm on Wed & Fri. Oh! What day was it today? I wracked my brains for about 5 minutes before I realised, oh, I can check it on my phone! Which I did, and it was Wed! Yay! Late night museum!

I bought a ticket and thought since the Mona Lisa is the hardest thing to see because of all the people, I'll make a beeline for it, see it (cause you can't really NOT see it!) and then I can see the other exhibits at leisure.

So I went to find this mysterious lady. There were signs with her face all over the place. She was in a pretty big room, and again, quite a few people were there, but I got right to the front in a matter of seconds.

So either all those horror stories of queues are exaggerated, or perhaps this is one of the joys of being in winter together with late night museum. Okay, I suspect it's the latter.

As for the painting itself...it was...enh! I'm no art critic or nuttin, but it didn't really do anything for me. I looked at it for a few minutes, but nope, still nothing.

Okay, that done, I could go see what I really wanted to - the marble sculptures.

The museum is over four levels, and each has pretty large wings. Thankfully the map they give you showed where things were kept, but it was still kind of tricky to find them. There were so many stairs everywhere!

Not to mention that when you were on your way to somewhere to see something, you'd see something else and think, oh I'll just check this out while I'm here, and end up somewhere completely different to where you wanted to go!

There was SO MUCH art. OMG, there was SO much art! There were also groups of little school kids and older kids doing art, I assume 'cause they'd all be stopped at a statue, drawing it. Occasionally an alarm or something would go off briefly, and I wondered what it was for.

I discovered what it was for when I got particularly close to a 3D painting I was trying to take a picture of and the same alarm went off. Aha! Thank goodness it stopped a second after I jerked my hands away.

I loved the statues, they were really something and there were so many of them. One thing I discovered about men in those days was that they had rippling muscle laden bodies, but tiny or missing manhoods. So either the use of steroids was prevalent a long time ago, or there were just many more eunuchs around than I realised :-p

I was walking along and most of the statues were made of the shiny, polished marble, which is nice, but then I came across the most beautiful sculpture I've ever seen.

The marble it was made of was one thing (it was smooth, but not shiny, and looked like crystal powder) but the statues themselves were incredible! There were two people, a naked girl, and a winged boy holding her from above, his arm across her breasts so you couldn't see them, but it was their look. Or more specifically the look the boy had on his face as he gazed at her.

Oh my goodness, it was breathtaking, and for it to have been captured as it was, to know that it would stay like that forever, it was just so beautiful and loving and tender and just simply amazing.

My gaze travelled to the girl's "skin" and it was amazing how much like skin it looked.

I just cannot describe what I felt. I was completely mesmerized and slowly circled it taking photos of every part of it, knowing I'd have to leave at some point. I must have taken over fifty photos of that single sculpture and still felt like it was not enough.

Especially of his face, that look. The gaze of love as they looked at each other.

Goodness, just the sweet tenderness of it all. It was almost too much.

There was another guy there with his partner who must have felt the same way 'cause we both kept circling it trying to get closer and closer to the statue without attracting the attention of the guard posted next to it.

Finally, I looked at the sign - it was Psyche revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova. Ah well, that would explain it. The statue across from this amazing piece, while made of that same exquisite marble, doesn't seem to convey that depth of expression the previous statue did.

I continued to wander around, mainly focusing on the statues and by now both my legs (especially my knee!) and head hurt and I want to head back, but also realise I may not be back here for quite a while and don't want to miss anything.

One thing I realise as night falls is that you definitely want to see the exhibits near the glass during the day with natural light. At night, the artificial lighting really dampens the beauty of everything. The other thing I realise is that despite the number of people in the museum, it always seems to smell fresh. That's pretty cool. If only they could have taken such good care of their toilets. Two blocks were closed down with just one toilet being used - that didn't have a seat! Great...

Oh, when near the souvenirs, I notice a lot of pictures of the statue I'd fallen in love with! Good to know I can still be a cliche! I want to get a big one, but again, transport problems. I settle for a postcard size that I can look at anytime I want.

After I got out, I realised I had no idea where the nearest metro was and given how cold and tired I was, I didn't want to go walking anywhere. I asked a guy, and he said there was one in the Louvre.

Really? It was clear I didn't fully understand his directions, so he said he was going to the Louvre anyway, and to just follow him.

Finally found the metro after walking through what seemed a corridor to very expensive shops and arrived at my station.

Okay, I was hungry, but what to eat? I wandered up and down the strip of shops near me, but didn't really want to sit in a restaurant, nor eat such a big meal.

Where was a sandwich when you needed it? Finally, I came across another creperie, and the guy in front of me ordered a ham & cheese one.

Ooh! It looked good! I got one and took it to the hotel where I could eat in peace. I think I got about halfway through before I gave up.

It was almost 9.30pm by the time I got to sleep...only to wake up at 3.30am! Gah! How was this possible??

I went on facebook for a while and finally went back to sleep around 5am!

Tags: arc de triomphe, louvre, pyche and cupid, sacre coeur

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