Thursday, August 9, 2012

Europe - Pit Stop 4 - Paris, Day 2

Paris in two days? Impossible!! I knew two days would not be enough to see the city so we didn't even try. I had created my priority list and stuck to the plan. I definitely wanted to see:

1. Eiffel Tower
2. Louvre (Mona Lisa)
3. Notre Dame Cathedral
4. Champs-Elysees

That's it, nothing more, nothing less! So we started day 2 (read about day 1 here) with the Champs-Elysees. Posed in front of the Arc de Triumph (The India Gate of France). Beautiful and imposing. Once we got our desired pictures with the Arc, we moved on.

Arc de Triumph
Us at Arc de Triumph
Another one at the Arc de Triumph
Since we were in no hurry to get anywhere, we strolled the famous avenue and wondered what's so beautiful about it. It's crowded, commercialized and nothing like what it used to be in the olden times. It's lined with tonnes of stores and luckily for us each of them had a SALE :). The Avenue is one of the most famous streets in the world for upscale shopping. Traditionally it was home to popular brands like Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, Guerlain and more but now stores like Gap, Sephora, Zara, H&M, Bennetton etc. occupy most of its space.

This is what it used to look like in the 1890s!

The avenue in 1890 - Source:
This is how it looks now, sigh!!

Champs Elysees - Source: 
After spending almost the entire afternoon on the Avenue (blame it on the sales) I decided to make a quick trip to the Louvre again, to pay my homage to Miss Lisa. So while Siddharth headed back to the hotel, I hopped on the subway and headed in the opposite direction.

I had butterflies in my stomach, I was finally going to see the "Mona Lisa", not judging just going. Since I had only an hour I did not bother checking out any other section in the museum. I quickly bought the museum ticket (10 Euros) and the audio guide (which btw is extremely helpful, comes in seven languages and costs only 5 Euros) and scanned the large map for signs of Mona Lisa. I made my way to the Denon section (which is where the painting is). As I strolled through the corridor I was awestruck by large format Italian and French paintings. I was so engrossed in the beautiful paintings that I kept walking and reached the end of the corridor. Huh!!! Where is the Mona Lisa?? Only then did I realize that I had left her far behind and traced my steps back.

Denon section of the museum
Beautiful ceilings
Another look at the beautiful ceilings 

Tucked in the hallway was a small room with a large crowd, I instantly knew why!! There she was, in a small frame, smiling and greeting all. I am guessing, almost everyone who visits the Louvre wants to see the Mona Lisa. It's undeniably the greatest attraction in the Louvre and about 6 million people view the painting annually. I elbowed my way to the front and stood staring at it. The audio does a decent job of explaining the painting but leaves you wanting for more. While I admired the painting, I could not help but ask myself "So what's so special about it? ". I took one last look and walked out towards the exit. Apparently, the painting is assessed at approximately $720 million (adjusted for inflation) in 2010.

Mona Lisa
The crowd checking out the Mona Lisa
It was 9 pm and the sun was about to set. The Louvre bathed in golden light and I captured it some more before heading back for the grand finale of our trip.
The pyramid at Louvre

I had a date with Siddharth at 9:45pm at the Eiffel Tower. We stood in line for an hour to go up the tower. Btw the tower looks gorgeous in the night and both of us were super excited to go to the top. Here's a tip, you can skip the line by buying the tickets online. It will save you tonnes of time but the ticket is almost double the price (14 Euros online vs 8.50 Euros onsite). Had I known about it I would have totally opted for the online version. Here are some pictures while waiting in line!

Eiffel Tower

The views of the city from the second floor of the tower were spectacular. There was a gentle pitter patter of raindrops falling on our faces while we enjoyed this beautiful moment. It was absolutely breath taking and worth the wait. Unfortunately due to a technical problem the lifts were only going up to the second floor - the centre of the tower (another reason why you should not wait till the last minute before closing). Nonetheless we enjoyed every bit of it!!

Views of the city from the tower deck
Views of the city from the second floor of the tower

Here we are enjoying the moment!!

The journey down was even more exciting as we decided to take the stairs. 704 freaking steps is what we took all the way down to the bottom. My legs were shivering but my heart racing with happiness at this wonderful experience. Holding each others hands we walked back to the hotel and as I turned my head to take another look I saw it sparkle one more time!!


CJ - Food Stories said...

Wow ... Love all those beautiful images :-)

Shruti Kapoor said...

Thank you CJ!!