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Monday, July 20, 2009


We flew from Birmingham to Paris (it is now June 29), arriving later than scheduled because of a plane delay at Birmingham International. By the time we actually reached the Hotel Innova on the Boulevard Pasteur, it was too late to visit any of the museums on our list so we checked in and set off to do the Champs-Elysees walk from "Rick Steves' Paris".

The hotel decor was pretty basic but fine. Notice our air conditioning--the window. Most buildings in Paris are not air conditioned.

The room was basic, but the ceiling gave the room panache.

The view from our room.

We started at the Arc de Triomphe, arriving just as they were preparing for a ceremony to rekindle the flame by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and place fresh flowers.

The Arc de Triomphe

The underside of the arch.

Some of the people participating in the ceremony. We had to take a photo of the woman in the red hat and yellowsuit because she was a real dragon lady at keeping the spectators in their place behind the barriers.

After the ceremony, we continued down the Champs-Elysees, reputedly one of the world's most celebrated streets for fancy car dealerships, celebrity cafes, glitzy nightclubs, and high-fashion shopping. What a disappointment! Maybe, it's because we come from New York where we have the same shops (like Hugo Boss, Disney, the Gap, and Sephora) but we were not impressed. What we saw was mostly people and trash--trash because there are no garbage cans to be found, so all of the crowd just dumps their garbage around the trees on the sidewalk. Here's a typical view of the famed street.

One part of old Paris that is still alive is Laduree, a nineteenth-century tea salon and patisserie. Don had no interest in overpaying for a coffee to find out what the inside looked like.

Another surviving piece of old Paris is the Arcades des Champs-Elysees that still serves as a shopping mall and, unfortunately, a large Starbucks. With its Art Deco lights, glass skylight, mosaic floor, and classical columns, the arcade was a pleasant break from the crowd outside.

Arcade des Champs Elysees.

The mosaic floor in the arcade.

We left the crowded shopping district and continued on to the park area, wandering past the Grand and Petit Palais exhibition halls. The Grand Palais, a Belle-Epoque era building that wasfirst unveiled during the Univeral Exhibition of 1900. Like the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais was meant to be a temporary structure but it stands today, serving as an exhibition space for art.

The Grand Palais.

One of the mosaics on the facade of the Grand Palais.

Past the two "palaces" was the pont Alexandre III, a highly decorative bridge over the Seine. Built between 1896 and 1900, the bridge is named after Tsar Alexander III, who concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892.

Looking over the bridge to the gold dome of Les Invalides.

One of my favorite parts of the bridge, a group of metal cattails with glass lamps on top.

Detail of the cattails. The light is too bright to see the lamps on top of the stems.

We continued over the bridge to scope out the exact location of Les Invalides, where we would be returning to visit the Army Museum. After that we wandered down a side street to find dinner at a crowded cafe and then stumbled across a shop selling delicious glace (ice cream to us). After our refreshing dessert, we headed bakc to the hotel, exiting through one of the remaining historic metro station markers.

Pasteur metro stop at night.

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