23 March, 2010
There wouldn’t be need to write anything if the day hadn’t been somewhat… well, stupid. It started quite sensibly though. We took the good old city sightseeing bus again, as the ticked was valid for 48 hours (and thus, the whole previous day we had been using it as public transport, circling and circling around the same places), intending to go to the Arc de Triomphe. But then, just as the day before, our plans changed en route. We learned from the driver that the Seine cruise tickets could be purchased directly from him and decided not to waste time while the weather was so lovely. We got off near the Eiffel Tower and went down to the Seine. Having already bought the tickets, we successfully avoided a very long queue, which included an unimaginable number of school-age children – mostly British, interspersed with a few German and French kids – in short, a pretty noisy crowd.
On the boat we were accompanied by a guide, who was making comments in French, English, Spanish and Italian. An hour later, we disembarked near the Eiffel Tower (again!) and started thinking of the quickest way to get the Champs Elysees (Attention, the first and stupidity of the day is about to begin!).
The idea to take the tour bus again was rejected by me, as in this case we would have to make almost a full circle. The idea to walk was rejected by Mom – although, as it turned out later, it would have been the best one.
Then I suggested taking the tube, as it looked like we’d get there with no changes. So, we reached the station, the sign above which read «RER», with a notice that the Métro station was 300 metres away. We followed the indicated direction until we ended up in a really stupid place, and there was no tube station in sight. I said we should go back to the RER station and take the train there – for some reason it got in my head that it was an RER line indicated on the map, rather than a tube line. Naturally, it turned out that the RER wasn’t going to the Place de l’Etoile from there! We had to try walking in the direction of the sign once again and ask how to get to the tube, and we found out that we had to walk about fifty more metres from the aforementioned “stupid place”. Well, who would have known that the station called «Bir-Hakeim – Tour Eiffel», which was supposed to be the closest one to the Eiffel Tower, was actually a mile and a day away from it?! And then we had to walk even more under the ground until the Arc de Triomphe exit. By the way, the Paris Métro was not particularly impressive.
On top of all the “joys” of the day, I got stuck in the turnstile! I’m sure that the ticket was validated normally, because I saw the words: «Reprenez votre billet», and so I had to push the turnstile, and then the double door gates. Now, the turnstile worked as it should, but the gate simply wouldn’t open! In the end, I somehow managed to slip through a crack between the gates.
When we eventually reached the Champs Elysees, it was already lunchtime in full swing, so we decided to find a restaurant. Among those rejected was an Italian restaurant (it’s ridiculous to go to one in Paris!) and the famous «Fouquet’s» (too few dishes on the menu for too high a price). Looks like we made the correct choice in the end: we really enjoyed the «Chez Clément» restaurant with its nice interior a lot. And most importantly… they had oysters! I was even able to explain what we wanted to the waitress in French. I asked her which ones were the best. She replied that she didn’t eat oysters, but usually the largest ones are the most delicious, and the largest oysters on the menu were the Creuse de Bretagne № 2. She brought us the oysters – six large molluscs on a bed of crashed ice, with vinegar and lemon. The taste was very original. I find it hard to say with certainty how much I liked them, but at least they weren’t disgusting. They had a mucus-like texture and tasted somewhere between black caviar (mind you, I’m no oligarch, it’s just that I come from a country where black caviar is quite abundant and relatively cheap!) and pickled herring (especially if eaten with vinegar).
After lunch, we tried to do some shopping on the Champs Elysees, but weren’t really in the mood for that. Plus, in one of the stores – attention, another stupidity! – I nearly left my camera in the dressing room.
So we decided to walk to the hotel, via the Place de la Concorde and Rue de Rivoli.
Once back in the hotel, I called a friend to meet him in the evening. We met at Saint Germain des Près, where I arrived without incidents this time, albeit in a terrible rush hour.
We wandered through the neighbourhood a bit and then took a tube to the Trocadero square in order to take photos of the Eiffel Tower illuminated by night. And it was really beautiful! It turned out that it sparkles with lights for five minutes every hour, and we arrived just in time to see that. The Trocadero was crowded, much more than in daytime.