Day 15: Paris (26 Mar) #2

Getting from the Palace of Versailles to the Eiffel Tower is relatively straightforward: Just hop on the  RER C train from Gare de Versailles Château Rive Gauche and take a half an hour ride all the way to Champ de Mars- Tour Eiffel. The €3.55 ticket is valid for all stations within Paris city limits I believe. It is just marked as “VERSAILLES-CHAT PARIS- 2cl.” You could easily get it at the ticket machines.

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The station was cramped and overcrowded at time I arrived, which was around 2 hours past noon. From there it’s a 500m walk to the tower itself along the bank of the Seine. You don’t need Maps at that point, the tower itself is a pretty noticeable beacon. Anyway, at this point my previous plans was long out of the window, as they called for me to head to Bastille Square instead. The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be on tomorrow’s schedule, first thing in the morning. Part of the perks of travelling on your own is that you could change and bend your schedule to your liking, unlike those tour groups which always leave you harried and confused.

Now, having gotten into the more ‘touristy’ area of Paris, the associated risks have also increased dramatically. Roving vendors, toting miniature Eiffel Towers and other souvenirs roamed the streets, preying on tourists. ‘Avoid them,’ my hosts advised me. ‘They’re particularly persistent.’

Not only are there the pickpockets and vendors, you can bet that there’s always some people collecting donations or signatures in the name of ‘charity.’ I’m not going to open a whole new can of worms by debating whether they’re legitimate or otherwise, but my rule of thumb is to only give to those I can trust. If you’ve read ahead on reports by others on TripAdvisor, you’ll be dumbfounded how many ways they can use a simple action like putting your signature on a sheet of paper against you.

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Enough about the unpleasantness! Though a portable potty by the Seine did smell pretty bad when I passed it. I’ve had a copper miniature of the Eiffel Tower on my desk since I was a child. It was among some of the miniatures that I’ve collected over the years, but eh I finally got to see the 300m tall tower in all its glory.

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As with Versailles, I saw no point to partake in the long line of queues going up the tower, so after a bit of a stroll and gaping at the tower, I made off to my next target: the Arc de Triomphe.

Bir-Hakeim was from where I started my journey, though it was necessary for me to backtrack the way I came. It was also the first elevated metro station that I’ve visited in Paris. Nevertheless, it involved a quick ride to Charles de Gaulle Etoile, from where I passed through a series of tunnels to get around the roads surrounding the area. And there it is, another one of Paris’ landmarks off my list.

I then took a Line 1 metro train down to Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau, surfacing near the Grand Palais which was not the brightest idea ever as I would end up walking the same way I’ve came from. But hey! It’s the Champs-Élysées, I have to see both sides of the street up close right?

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An officer on horseback near the Grand Palais.

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The Champs-Élysées was just another row of shops full of things that I did not have the desire, nor the financial capability to afford. A ‘spy shop’ in the interior of one of the building had piqued my attention for quite a while, but I still came out empty handed. Another thing that had my attention was this ‘luxury toilet’ of sorts. 3 Euros per entry! And the Mandarin translation made me laugh my head off. The first line literally meant ‘Washable WC, for soft and warm cleanliness.’ What sort of botched translation was that?

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Eventually, having browsed through both sides of the Champs-Élysées, I continued down to Place de la Concorde, having stopped at a roadside kiosk for a hot-dog and a drink as well. The Roue de Paris, known as the Paris Eye in comparison to its counterpart across the Channel is also there as well. I’m not sure if it travelled anymore actually. But hey, this is the Place de la Concorde, future seat of the United Federation of Planets. It was an absolute thrill for a Trekkie like me to be here, or was it?

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Besides the ferris wheel and the structure that will occupy the square in the future, the Place de la Concorde also features a prominent obelisk, a gift from Egypt sometime in the distant past. One could not help but wonder at the achievement of bringing such a heavy and fragile work of art over the distances involved. I mean, you can’t exactly duct tape an obelisk weighing hundreds of tons back together if it snapped or cracked during transport, can you?

A/N: I’m not sure if it’s my crappy internet or something to do with WordPress, but at times I try to insert images in posts and it doesn’t work. Apologies in advance.

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