We figured since we had been in Paris 7 days, maybe we should take the free walking tour, recommended to us by Melissa. We made it to Saint Michel and saw a giant crowd gathering. We waited in line, got a ticket, bought a hat, and waited for the tour to start. They divided the tour into 3 groups of about 25 people.
Our wonderful tour guide was named Arnaud (he is an American whose parents gave him a French name, and who ended up marrying a French woman and relocating to Paris). He did a great job of leading us around the city, and it felt like we covered a lot of ground, even though it was less than 3 miles over the course of 3 hours. We saw Notre Dame, a really cool bridge, walked along the Seine, and walked across a bridge filled with “love locks” (apparently made famous by the finale of Sex in the City).
We walked into one of the courtyards of the Louvre, under an archway, and saw the giant glass pyramid for the first time. The famous architect I. M. Pei designed the pyramid and it was pitched to the city of Paris as an “invisible” pyramid. However, when it came to construction, the glass was too thin to support itself, and all the metal scaffolding had to be added, thus rendering the pyramid quite visible. The world may love this pyramid, but many Parisians still believe it’s an eyesore.
We continued on through the Jardin des Tuileries, designed by Louis XIV’s landscape architect, who also designed the gardens at Versailles. We passed the l’Orangerie, which is an incredible museum now, holding Monet’s famous Water Lilies, but it was created by Napoleon, because he missed having oranges since he was from Corsica. We headed to the Obelisk (Obelisque), where the guillotine once stood, making the streets run with the blood of many during the French Revolution of 1789. We finished up our tour, getting a glimpse down the Champs-Elysees towards the Etoile (the famous roundabout… cf. National Lampoon’s European Vacation) and the Arc de Triomphe. We finished the tour in a nice little park.
After the tour, Arnaud invited whoever wanted to join him to go to a nearby cafe for lunch. We went and sat with some other young people we had gotten to know a little bit during the tour – a Brazilian, an American from D.C., and a Canadian. We tried escargot (Nathan is a fan, Amy thought it was OK). It was nice just chatting and being able to give a bit of advice since we’d been in Paris the longest of those at our table.
Later, we ventured out to one of Sheila and Austin’s recommended bars, La Fine Mousse, which serves lots of great beer, including some French microbrews. It’s on a random corner but has a great vibe, with friendly bartenders with helpful suggestions, and tables spilling out into the street from a cave-like interior.