Friday, July 12, 2013

Paris, France → Baden Baden, Germany

The next morning, I had intended to get up ridiculously early and get to the Eiffel Tower before the lines became absurd. But I was pretty sleep deprived, and we had warm beds and one very small bathroom, so we ended up getting a later start. And then we were all hungry, of course. We hopped on the metro in the direction of a vegan restaurant I had read about, Gentle Gourmet Café. It was basically in the opposite direction of the tower, but I was really excited to go to at least one restaurant where I would be able to eat everything on the menu. It was right off the metro line and super easy to find, but we walked in and they said they were having a problem with something or other, and they were not accepting any more customers. So, having told my mom about Huré, we decide to kill two birds with one stone and go check out Notre Dame, as our breakfast had now turned into lunch. Noah had to seriously talk me out of going into Notre Dame the day before, so I was determined to go inside today. Deciding that it's a good idea to walk there (it's not that far!) turns out to be the opposite of a good idea, because it is that far, and we're all very hungry at this point.
This bread is so ridiculously good.
We come up on it from the opposite direction, so we hit the food first. I grab one of the amazing looking olive rolls along with a sandwich, and we head to the Seine - but the closer bank this time, since none of us can wait - and sit on some steps to eat while some fat Parisian pigeons eye us hungrily.
Notre Dame is slightly less crowded today, and we get into the long line to get inside. It's free to go into the church, but you have to pay to do the walk along the top of the building. As lovely as I'm sure it is, I was getting tired of paying to go up things, and we were already planning on going up the Eiffel Tower. I decide that view will be much nicer, anyway.
Notre Dame did not disappoint - the ceilings are vast and it's absolutely beautiful inside. It's also the noisiest church I had been in yet.


The lighting makes everything look painted.

 We spend a good long time exploring the church (it's also one of the few that I took photos in), and when we head out I realize I'm getting antsy. It's time for the Eiffel Tower now right?? We're walking along the water trying to decide which way the closest metro stop is, and end up at the BatoBus. The BatoBus stops at all the major tourist attractions along the river. It is super touristy, but it is also a chance to be on the Seine. Plus it's really hot out and sounds like a fantastic idea. Mom is kind enough to pay for all the tickets, and we hop on the boat, stopping at pretty  much every single stop along the way to the Eiffel Tower. We stand out on the back of the boat along the railing, passing under so many of Paris' bridges.

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées

My friend sent me a message the night before
about this giant silver T-rex that had just
gone up a week earlier. We were on the lookout
for it and just caught it as we went by in the
opposite direction!

All my hair in his face!

I love this guy.
I decided, about two seconds into the boat ride, that I didn't care how touristy it was. It was lovely. And when we came up on the Eiffel Tower, my mom and I grabbed each other and nearly started jumping up and down. I am so glad she was there the first time I saw it close up. No one else could have appreciated how exciting this was, because it was that exciting for her too! I probably took about eight thousand pictures of the damn thing in the few hours we were there.

from the Seine

We walked up the steps from the water in awe. I had told Noah, when we saw it from afar, that I was mildly disappointed - just mildly - because it seemed less impressive. Silly me. I was miles away from it at the time. I took it all back as we came up the stairs and saw it from across the street. It is massive, and just as impressive as I had originally expected it to be. I couldn't wait to climb it. We explored around it, walked under it, and wandered into one of the parks next to it. Thankfully, everyone was up for doing the stairs rather than the elevator, as it was slightly cheaper, the line was shorter, and I really just wanted to be able to say I climbed the Eiffel Tower.

Second floor view!

Le Champ de Mars

Toy city.
 The stairs were numbered, and we got to 700 something before I stopped paying attention. At the bottom, there was a notice about the very top level being closed, which we were all a little bummed about. However, after exploring the second level for a little while, we noticed a line and a ticket booth for "summit" tickets. Thankfully, the only way up is on an elevator (or I would have made us all walk it, and everyone would have hated me). So up we went, and it was terrifying. I am horrendously afraid of heights. It makes no sense, for one thing, and it came out of nowhere for another. As a child I climbed everything - the higher up, the better. In any case, the elevator had glass walls, and being pressed against said walls in the crowded car, my stomach dropped and I felt a little queasy as we started going up. The glass is also floor to ceiling, which gives you the uneasy feeling of being catapulted up to the top on nothing but air, and affords you a view of the absolutely straight down-ness of the elevator shaft. The view from the top was lovely, though, and worth the minor terror of the way up. We searched out the Arc de Triomphe and the ferris wheel we'd ridden the night before. They serve champagne (for an exorbitant amount of money) at the top, which I was super tempted to buy anyway, just because drinking champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower seems like something everyone ought to do at least once. But for the second time in two days, I exercised some measure of self control, and instead took tons of photos and wandered around until it was too cold to stay up there any longer. Plummeting downward in the elevator was even more terrifying than going up.
Bein silly.

Mum and I at the top!
L'Arc, et la ville
Holy crap I'm on the Eiffel Tower face.

All in all, we ended up spending something like four hours on the tower. We were all very surprised when we headed back down and looked at the time. The BatoBus was about to stop running, so we hopped on one of the last and took it in toward Notre Dame again, getting our money's worth and doing the whole route twice. They were setting up along the Seine for le 14 juillet celebrations, and I noticed, as we were passing near the Musée d'Orsay stop, that there were aerial hoops set up. I do aerial silks and trapeze, and had been trying to find a place in Europe to go at least once during my trip, but without any luck. I made everyone jump off the boat to go investigate. It was for a show the following night (which I made note of, and promptly forgot about), and they had a little booth set up nearby. I went and spoke to the woman who handed me a few brochures, all advertising classes nowhere near Paris. At least I know it exists in Europe!

We got back on the boat, figuring out our stop and how to hunt down the metro from Chatelet back toward Gare du Nord. First, we headed into the shops and restaurants to find dinner. We ended up at a Greek place which put cheese on everything, so I (kind of grumpily) ate some pita bread before getting lost for a while in search of the Metro.

très Paris
The sunset and Notre Dame

Back at the hostel, we hopped on the wifi to do some investigating. Dylan (our Hawaii friend we met up with in Spain) had suggested something brilliant on our travel planning day - why not rent a car and drive to Baden Baden if everything else was too expensive? I wanted mom to get to see the place (it was kind of her Cinque Terre!), and I wanted to drink a beer in Germany. So, I told her what he'd said, and she thought it sounded like a fine idea. We researched train tickets and car rentals, and decided it was cheaper (and faster) to get a car. In fact, it probably wasn't, as they tacked on a ton of fees and the whole ordeal was a bit ridiculous. But, completely worth it (hopefully she thinks so too!). We booked a car and planned on leaving early the next day for the 5 hour drive to Germany. Road trip in Europe!!

To be continued

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