Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 10: Two Aunties visit the Eiffel

Today one of our friends was returning home, so we had to switch to a smaller room. We were extremely pleased when Hotel Innova offered to transfer our bags for us, so we would be free to roam the city without coming back to the hotel midday to transfer our bags. This is a very nice service and saved us a lot of time and trouble (and money in train tickets)!

We got an early start and made it to the Eiffel Tower by around 9 via a leisurely walk along the Seine on the quay. We had a reserved ticket for 9:30 which we had purchased on the web prior to our trip. Although the website is a little hard to navigate, it was worth it since it saved us a huge line-up and wait. There was still a little bit of a wait until the opening, however, during which we were repeatedly harassed by hawkers selling cheap Eiffel tower keychains. When we ignored them, one of them spoke to Huma in Hindi and called her 'Auntie', which is apparently a bit insulting! Needless to say, neither of us bought any keychains from him.

Me at the Eiffel.

We spent about two hours at the Eiffel enjoying the sights and taking loads of photos. We also saw the garden on the first level which was quite nice, albeit a bit small. The tower had the cleanest washrooms I have encountered outside our hotel so far, but that could be because it had just opened. One thing is, if you buy the tickets online it is hard to figure out how to get the full ticket to the top. Our ticket only took us half way, but we still enjoyed the trip and don't think we missed anything, having had several other birds-eye views of Paris before visiting the Eiffel.

In the garden on the Eiffel Tower.

After the Eiffel, it was off to complete our viewing of the Musee d'Orsay, which we hadn't been able to get through on our last visit. We saw the remaining Rodin sculptures we'd missed before and the entire first floor, including many Monets, Matisses, and Van Goghs. Then it was on to a lovely outdoor cafe lunch at Evangelista, near the museum. Guide books warn against cafes too close to tourist attractions, but this one was cheap and delicious, and the staff were very nice as well. They were very prompt with the water and we think it was the best we've tasted so far in Paris (most of the water tastes terrible, and waiters seem reluctant to provide it). We had delicious pizza and neopolitain salade, which had artichokes and broccoli, as well as olives.

Delicious pizza at Evangelista, near Musee d'Orsay.

Quite unexpectedly, we still had time and energy left after all of this, so we headed off to Notre Dame, the famous cathedral with distinctive gothic arches, flying buttresses, and the largest organ in the world. It also has two bell towers, one of which you can climb - 400 steps in all (Huma counted). The highlight for me was the gargoyles, and leaving after climbing down the 400 steps again.

Om nom nom.

From Notre Dame we managed to walk all the way back to the Marais, where we could try that little falafel shop across from L'As du Falafel. We sampled their chicken shawarma, and were extremely pleased with the spicy sauce provided in squeeze tubes. Unfortunately, we have yet to encounter any pickles. The shawarma was delicious to be sure, but perhaps not the best we have ever had. We still need to try their falafel to compare with that of L'As du Falafel, so we are planning on yet another trip back on our last day in Paris.

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