(Note: The following post describes details from a previous trip, NOT a current trip.)
Tuesday, September 18th.
First stop today: the Montparnasse Tower – hated by Parisians, but known for views that rival those of the Eiffel Tower, for a fraction of the wait time.
Luckily, I’d bought my ticket at the tourist visitors’ centre the day before, so when I arrive this afternoon, I only have to wait seven minutes in line before boarding the elevator for an ear-popping 38-second ride up to the 56th-floor observation deck.
To be able to just look out as far as the eye can see, in any direction, is simply marvelous.
But the views don’t stop there. I take a few flights of stairs up to the 59th floor – the tower’s roof. The view up here is even better than indoors/downstairs – and it includes a clear view of the Eiffel Tower. (Thank you, Fat Tire Bike Tour guide for the suggestion!)
After, I head over to the Musée d’Orsay – a site I would say is more than worth the price of admission.
This building (which, I believe, used to be a train station) is, in itself, a work of art. The only thing that takes away from its beauty for me, on this day, are the crowds, and the signs which suggest I should be on guard in case of pickpockets. In the scheme of things, though, this is minor.
I don’t need to visit the Louvre. All those works by Cézanne, Manet, Monet and Van Gogh, the impressionist and pontilist art, the sculptures … these are all the treasures I need to see. Perhaps I’ll take on the Louvre on my next trip to Paris.
Later in the afternoon, I decide to head to Notre-Dame … but when I arrive, I discover it’s closed.
So I wander around near the Seine and try to find the Canadian pub Darlene and Laurent mentioned the day before … but to no avail.
With two strikes under my belt, I take the steps down to the path by the river and start walking.
I pass clusters of kids and young people sharing wine, and couples sharing moments of affection, the strong smell of urine stinging my nose.
I walk as far as I can until the path ends, then ascend to street level.
I try to walk further so I can find that Islamic centre Nathalie spoke of a couple of days earlier, but I think I just end up walking alongside the side of the Louvre that faces the river.
Perhaps the one thing I come across on my walk which catches me by surprise, is the glint coming off one of the pedestrian bridges in the near distance.
I get closer and discover the Pont des Arts, known as the Lover’s Bridge, for its many locks that couples attach to the bridge’s chain-link fencing.
On my way back, I decide to do one final search for the Great Canadian Pub before going “home” for the night.
As I’m about to give up and cross the street – there it is.
I actually hesitate, because I’m not sure if I have the right place – it doesn’t match the visual I have in my mind. I’m also on the fence as to whether I want to go in. In the end, I do – I tell myself I’m having a drink, then heading “home” to sleep.
The place is packed, except for a couple stools at the bar. Between the blare of the TVs and the noisiness of the bar, I can’t really hear any English being spoken. Despite the jersey displayed in one corner and some paraphernalia scattered around the bar (the “Canadian” decor), there’s a UEFA soccer match which, I can only presume, is a big one.
I place my drink order (a Strongbow) with one of the bartenders, a French guy wearing a Moosehead Beer t-shirt.
And for a while, I just sit there, listening. I think I detect English being spoken by two guys to my left … and, listening a bit longer, I hear a couple on my right, definitely speaking English. Straining to hear, I think they might be Canadian, which perks me up a bit.
My suspicion’s confirmed when I overhear the guy speaking to the bartender in the Moosehead shirt.
So, mustering up some courage, I wait for a lull in their conversation, and, SUCCESS. Turns out they’re originally from Sarnia, but live in Toronto. They’re heading to a wedding in Hungary, but decided to spend a couple of days by themselves in Paris. Who would have thought I’d actually find Canadians in the Canadian-themed bar in Paris?
So we chat for a bit; they generously buy me a drink. A bit later, they step outside for a smoke (and, as it turns out, to finish their drinks and take off).
After we part ways, I return inside … and end up chatting to the guys who are sitting to my left. Julian and Dave are American ex-pats who had come here for school, but have been here ever since.
So we talk about Paris, music by French bands we recognize (at least, Julian and I do), and make other small talk. Eventually Julian leaves, so it’s just me and Dave. When the place thins out, Dave suggests we go elsewhere. First we check out this bar that looks really cool on the inside, but is about 40 minutes away from closing for the night.
Then we head over to another place he knows which – from what I can tell, and what he tells me – could be a Russian-owned establishment. The interior looks like it could be some sort of boom-boom dance club with tables – except it’s empty.
So, one more drink … and then we part ways.
(What? Did you think something ELSE happened?)
I head home, ready for some much-needed sleep. Tomorrow’s another day, and I’ve got another part of town to see.