Friday, August 9, 2013

# champs elysees # galaries Lafayette paris

Paris. The City of Love, Pick Pockets and Complicated Metro Network

Perhaps it's not right that I start off this entry by saying that I wished I had more time to spend in Paris, there was simply too much to see, hear and take in, and 3 days simply didn't cut it. The journey from Amsterdam to Paris was interesting-we passed by a lot of pretty cottages in the country side, a nuclear power reactor (I think) wind energy fans and greenery as far as the eye can see. I was beginning to love the trains in Europe, they're simply wonderful. We reached Paris in the evening, and checked-in into a hotel far away from downtown Paris. I was glad we were far away because it made it safer to walk about with my wallet and hand phone without the worry of being pick pocket targets. The area had wonderful local designer boutiques selling wardrobes at reasonable prices but sadly they close on Sundays therefore we couldn't really do shopping for ourselves. But we had pizza in a family restaurant and later on some beers and cocktails at the bar around the corner. The waitress there gave us the same advise millions of other tourists had when they went to Paris. Don't travel with valuables and only carry enough money to last the day. Luckily we had purchased our Paris two day passe and 2 day Museum Pass online, and we carried our Qatari IDs around (if we lose that we still have our passports) I am not going to to in length about the hotel we stayed at, I had that covered extensively in TripAdvisor under a pseudonym
The view from our hotel

A night out in the local pub

The pub near our hotel
Gare De Nord train station is a building housing complex international, regional and local trains

A view outside of the station

Arc De Triomphe

Louis Vuitton Flagship Store on Champs Elysees

We got down near Arc De Triomphe only to find that the area was cordoned off for the final leg of Tour de France but we managed to get some shots of the building before being whistled away by the police. We walked to Champs Elysees and I couldn't help going in Laduree for their macaroons. After eating them I realized I liked the Laduree in Doha better. They had great service and attitude to make up for the lack of macaroon selection (another review n TripAdvisor) I also passed by the LV head quarters but on a Sunday they were closed. However Lafayette gallery was opened and boy was it crowded with Chinese tourists I felt like I was in Asia

 The Laduree on the posh end of Paris

The macaroons cost 22 Euro for 16 pieces

The flavors on sale, when I went to buy them they had the seasonal flavors too

Bubbles in hand-check. Top of the world-check!

pont de Bir-Hakeim, pont Rouelle, pont de Grenelle and pont Mirabeau

As we were making our way to the Eiffel Tower, we were stopped by Bohemian/Roman gypsy girl carrying a chart looking to bait the gullible tourist to sign while a few young boys loitered around to pick pocket. This is how the scam goes, one of them will lure you to sign some fake petitions which will cause the distraction, and a group of smaller children will make their way to you to pick-pocket or steal from your handbag without you noticing. You have been warned, stay away from these gypsies. I have this habit of walking slowly when my husband is around and I was right behind him when one of them came by and I waved her off and gave her dirty look. Eiffel Tower itself was 70 stairs high just to get to the second floor, so we climbed to the first floor, then bought some water and continued our way to second floor where the viewing point gave us a 360 degrees bird-view of the city underneath and a handful of bridges (pont de Bir-Hakeim, pont Rouelle, pont de Grenelle and pont Mirabeau) The tickets to the tower can be purchased at the booth downtairs. You will notice that the express tickets-that is the elevator straight to the top is three times longer than the queue to the 2nd floor, which is very short because after all who wants to climb 70 flight of stairs? Once we have reached the second floor, we then took the escalator to the top of Eiffel Tower for an even better view of the city. They have a tiny shop that sells champagne in a fancy glass so we did just that. It was a hot day and the bubbles did wonders to lift up our spirits. We then made our way down with the classic elevator. Some parts of the tower was under renovation but all in all it was a good experience. We went at noon and there were a lot of tourists so there was a queue to go down with the modern escalator so we walked a bit and found a less crowded old-school escalator. As a matter of fact, it was so un-crowded there were about 10 people in it only! You have to walk to the west side of the tower, to the side with a lot of white tarp (construction/repairs going on there) to get down with the vintage escalator.

Les Invalides

 Peek A Boo!

 The tomb is also covered by my Museum Pass

Hitler's notebook

 Ah, The Louvre, the secrets you have!

There is a story behind this statues. The old man sucking the young girl's boob is actually her father. You can Google search for the whole story

Venus di Milo

Winged victory of Samothrace

Me next to the Virgin of the Rocks

St. John the Baptist

Me and the Mona Lisa

The Virgin Child with St. Anne

Done ogling at the Eiffter tower, we continued to the Military Museum (Les Invalides), which our Museum Pass covered. To be honest the only reason we even went to the Military Museum was to check out Napoleon's tomb and then since we had time we decided to do a quick tour of the museum itself, which took us a good 2 hours from one end to another, and that also just ground and first floor! After that, we went to the one place that we both wanted to go; that is the Louvre Museum where Da Vinci's paintings were housed, alongside Goya and Venus Di Milo. The highlight of the event was catching a glimpse of Mona Lisa. The crowd there were neck to neck, people gently pushing each other to be as close as possible to her for a shot. There were plenty of signs to watch out for pick pockets. You know the museum is huge and you need about half a day to do the entire museum. My husband was dead tired but I wanted to see all the other paintings here and while my husband sat down with the statues from the Roman Empire I walked some more. Altogether we spent about 1.5 hours here and still didn't get to cover all the exhibits, paintings and statues on display. I would definitely want to go back there again in future, with plenty of camera batteries and memory cards. Our camera battery ran out and sadly I didn't manage to take pictures of all the paintings here. We didn't even make it to the Modern Art which was in another wing. When you do visit the Louvre, ensure that you are well hydrated because the toilets here were either out of order or had a beeline. And make sure you purchase your Paris Passe and Museum Pass ahead of time, we saved the time queuing up for manual tickets, it was a snaking line. Oh, and you can also buy your Museum Pass at the museum itself (no queue there)

 Hard Rock Paris

Moulin Rouge

 Red Light Area of Paris

 In front of the Erotic Museum nearby Moulin Rouge

We were tired before the day even ended so we decided to go back to the hotel, rest and go out at night when it was much cooler. We went to Hard Rock, got ourselves some T-shirts then walked to Moulin Rouge. We hadn't booked any of the cabaret shows, being so ridiculously expensive (100 Euro for show + half a bottle of bubbles or wine) so we just walked down the busy street and sat down in a pub for a pint. The service in Paris is so slow it's almost like they're lazy. At every single pub we went to they took their time to come back with our beer. We mulled over watching a strip tease, it was cheap for 20 Euro but at the last minute changed our minds and went back to the hotel, but not before stepping on the same grate that Monroe stepped unto for her famous billowing dress pose

The Grand Palace (Le Grande Palais)

The following day we woke up reasonably late and headed for the Grand Palace (Le Grand Palais) which is across the Military Museum (Les Invalides) You'd have to cross the Alexandra III bridge to get to it or just take the Metro that stops near it. The smaller Palace is situated opposite the Grand Palace. After that we walked along Champs Elysees, passed some official looking buildings which I forgot what it was. Mental note: make sure to carry a notebook to jot down places of interest we passed by. We ended up at Galleries Lafayette and purchased a few things to name, perfumes, nail polish and clothes! There were too many tourists queuing up for their cash tax-refund so we decided we will mail ours from Geneva for a refund to his credit card. A lot of people think that Paris is tax free, its not. The only difference between you and a local is that you get your tax refunded but they don't.  There is no such thing as tax charged for items above 800 Euro. Everything has tax on it, even the nail polish. After much purchasing, our tax refund totaled to about 30 Euro. because of the long queue (consisting of mainly Chinese tourists) we decided to mail it, if you choose to mail the refund you will need the French and the next Europe country you're headed to stamp of approval and have it mailed there and you get your refund in about 6 weeks.

Now, let's talk about the scams going on in Paris downtown. Here I noticed another scam, the did-you-drop-a-gold-ring scam. We were standing in a crowd to cross the Galleries to the other end to reach the Metro when a dubious looking white man in his late 50s approached an old aged couple next to my husband and he was showing him a ring on his hand. My husband noticed him and nudged me and I was like "Oh my god, it's the gold ring scam!" all the while turning to look at him to see where he was going with his scam and my husband not wanting to attract unwanted attention to us, tried to shush me but the couple next to him who were being scammed started digging their pockets to check everything was intact. The scammer realised he was being "noticed" and quietly disappeared into the crowd

The new and flashy Galleries Lafayette. Notice the zebra crossing and the crowd waiting to cross it. THAT'S WHERE the SCAMMERS look for victims

My husband with the 4 time Le Tour De France veteran winner, Bernard Hinault

We relied on the Metro heavily for our entire Paris trip, and boy were they complicated. I can't tell you how many times we've missed a station and had to backtrack. Thanks to some of the kind people we managed to find our way. By mistake we had stored our luggage at Gare du Nord and had to go back there to get it. The locker systems there were underground and all bags have to go thru a scanner to make sure no one is packing explosives and food that would go bad because I noticed several people being stopped for packing in food. There was a machine that dispensed changes and the lockers ranged from about 3 Euro to 15 Euro depending on the size of luggage you carry. We took the 9 Euro locker which fitted both our bags with plenty of extra room

Lockers located at the underground floor of Gare du Nord. The place has literary no ventilation and it was a sauna in there

We then made our way to Gare de Lyon station for our train to Geneva. It was so hot and humid outside, when I ordered ice cream by time it came to my table the sorbet was melting! Now Geneva was a different story! It was old school richness while Paris was new money

Fancy that! Mee goreng and popiah for lunch at an Asian restaurant ear Gare du Lyon train station

Movenpick ice cream sundae for 13 Euro

En route to Geneva

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