Victory / Day 58 of 64 / 06 July
I left the hostel at 9am this morning, as I wanted to head down to The Louvre before the crowds started building up. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one that had this great idea. By the time I reached the underground lobby/shopping mall of The Louvre, a long line had already formed at the entrance. Luckily, the queue for The Louvre moves pretty constantly, but overall I still spent about an hour queuing to get past security and get my ticket.
Now, when visiting The Louvre, make sure you have a plan, unlike me. Join a tour, get an audio guide, Google the must-see pieces, but whatever you do, do not think you can just wander around and find interesting things to see. The Louvre is simply too big, and too complex to fully see in a day, and you’ll definitely have to be content with strolling past walls of art if you want to be able to spend a reasonable amount of time here.
Absolutely beautiful museum.
Of course, the main attraction at The Louvre is without a doubt the Mona Lisa. But, as with any major tourist attention, the tourists tend to ruin it. So, discard any hopes of seeing the Mona Lisa without a crowd, and instead, find the fastest way to cross it off your list. Personally, what I’d suggest is joining the Mona Lisa scrum immediately after you arrive at The Louvre. That way, you won’t feel pressured to see one of the world’s most famous paintings, and you can then enjoy the rest of The Louvre at your own pace. Also, you might notice that the rest of The Louvre is rather empty compared to the Mona Lisa hall. Seriously, the other wings of the museum are less suffocating than the wing the Mona Lisa is in.
The lady herself, smaller than you’d imagine. This really isn’t the artistic enlightenment you’d imagine either. It’s like a classic art mosh pit.
Anyway, I had my fill of classic art and artefacts by 12.30pm, so I left the museum and made my way to Saint Michael Square [Place Saint-Michel], where my walking tour of Paris was due to start from at 2pm. I was still early when I reached the square, so I decided to have lunch at a nearby French restaurant. A word of caution: eating out in France can be ridiculously expensive, especially since food trucks and street food aren’t nearly as ubiquitous here as they are in other European countries. Still, remember to treat yo’self once in a while. I ordered some poulet, and I swear that it’s the best poulet I’ve ever had. Even better than poulet from Poulet back in Singapore.
At 2pm, the walking tour began from in front of the Saint Michael Fountain [Fontaine Saint-Michel]. From there, we walked along the banks of the River Seine to the Notre-Dame Cathedral [Notre-Dame de Paris]. Now, the cathedral was actually slated for demolition back in the earlier half of the 1800s. This prompted influential Parisian Victor Hugo to write The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, which sought to make other Parisians realise the beauty of the Notre-Dame de Paris. Of course, this book was later adapted by Disney into a movie, with the educational parts about Gothic architecture removed and substituted with a love story. Classic move.
We then headed to Île de la Cité, one of two remaining islands in the River Seine. Interesting to note is that the island is home to its own Metro station. However, building that Metro station was no easy feat. Surrounded by water, the island’s soil was soft and deemed to have the “consistency of mayonnaise”. That is until engineers devised a plan to freeze the ground solid, allowing traditional tunnelling methods to be used once again. Huge rods were inserted deep into the ground, and for a period of six months, liquid nitrogen flowed through these pipes, slowly freezing the ground around them. Keep in mind that this took place more than 100 years ago: that’s some pretty impressive and innovative engineering, even by today’s standards.
We strolled along the banks of the River Seine again to reach The Louvre’s courtyard, and from there we headed to the Tuileries Garden [Jardin des Tuileries] where we ended our tour. The tour ended at around 4.30pm, and I headed back to my hostel, but I wasn’t done with the day yet.
At around 7pm, I left the hostel and headed for the Arc de Triomphe. I arrived at 8pm, and the atmosphere there was incredible. France had just beaten Uruguay, 2-0, and French fans were out in full force. Cars were circling round the arch, honking their horns and with their passengers leaning out flying the French flag. Groups of fans were breaking out into song spontaneously. The Tricolore was everywhere you looked. A proud moment for French fans no doubt, and they were definitely relishing the opportunity to go crazy.
I stayed for a while to be part of the vibrancy, but soon I had to leave for Port de La Bourdonnais, a pier near the Eiffel Tower where my River Seine boat tour would be departing from.
Finally managed to get a decent shot with the tower, with the sun in the right place for once.
I reached the pier at around 8.45pm and I boarded the 9pm boat, as recommended by the walking tour guide. He recommends the 9pm boat tour in the summer months as you’ll depart while the sun is still up, and return just as the sun has already started to set. You’ll also be able to catch the Eiffel Tower lights twinkle when the boat returns to the pier at 10pm. The lights twinkle every hour after the sun has begun to set. It turned out to be a great recommendation as I managed to catch some amazing views of Paris bathed in summer twilight.
The boat returned to the pier at 10pm, and right on cue, the Eiffel Tower twinkled. There’s a reason why Paris is called the “City of Lights”.