We have company!
Mark’s mom, Maureen has flown all the way from Wisconsin on her first trip to Europe. She got in last Wednesday and the first couple of days were spent showing her Lyon’s “main attractions.”
On her first day here we took her across the river Saône to visit Vieux Lyon, one of the largest Renaissance quarters in Europe.
Friday, after browsing the market, we hiked up the Fourviére hill (The Hill that Prays) and checked out the basilica that overlooks the city.
As you can see, Grandma Maureen keeps up with us just fine.
We did want to save up a bit of energy for the weekend – we were going to take on Paris; The City of Tourisss– I mean, Light. We’d planned on visiting it once or twice during our stay in France and taking someone who has never been is the perfect reason to go.
We arrived via TGV on Saturday morning. I’d booked passes on the Les Car Rouges and we hopped on and off at the various points of interest. Maureen got a front and center (and top) row seat.
We had audio commentary but it was really weak in information. From the Gare de Lyon train station we’d taken a regular bus (actually went the wrong direction the first try!) to get to one of the stopping points for the Red Cars (Car Rouges) and for me that was just as interesting, although we didn’t get to climb on top and feel the cool breeze blowing through our hair.
It was really cool in Paris this weekend.
No, I mean chilly.
I’d packed clothes for mild weather, but when the sun went behind the clouds the temperature seemed to drop twenty degrees. As it cooled off in the evening, we switched to the metro. It was warmer underground.
Maureen got quite the tour of the Paris metro; we experienced the whole range of new and old – clean and dirty. Stinky and…really stinky.
Of all the times I’d been to Paris, never have I been up in the Eiffel Tower. Probably because there were lines – and I am allergic to lines. I thought I was being crafty by booking our Eiffel Tower tickets ahead of time online. When we arrived, there was a looooooong line of people waiting to buy tickets and get in. We sauntered right past them and up to the gate.
We then waited. It was a relatively short line for the elevator to get up to the second level. I’m sorry but I really had to pee so that was my first priority and not the view.
The toilets were being cleaned (I use this term loosely) so I waited. Again. Waited for a disgruntled woman to slop a dirty mop around the floor before I could uncross my eyes to see where I was.
If we’d thought it was chilly on the ground, up at this height the wind was even less friendly. We decided to go on up to the top floor while we were still somewhat viable.
Ah, but no.
There was a line – tickets or not. We took our places and crept along the stalls with all the other bodies.
Warm bodies. Normally I don’t like being squished against strangers, but heh, it’s Paris. It happens. Lines and squishing against strangers.
We waited for perhaps an hour, not really sure, I was hibernating mentally and physically. Once we got to the upper deck however, it was worth risking a bit of frost bite for the view:
The weather was perfect for photos (just not for humans who didn’t dress properly).
We stayed up there as long as we could stand it, but then got back in line for the elevators that would take us back down. This wasn’t as long as the line to get up, thankfully.
We landed on the Second level (where the stinky potties were) and decided to check out the level below us that housed the restaurant and a snack bar.
That’s when the tragedy happened.
We were inside the snack bar seating area, snacking. We got word that someone either fell or jumped from the Eiffel Tower. When we walked to the edge to look, the area had already been roped off. Men with machine guns stood around it and partitions had been put up around the body. A firetruck had arrived by the time I’d decided that it was okay for me to take photos.
It was tragic, and under normal circumstances I think the affect of someone plunging to their death in front of your eyes would be a cause to close up shop and go home.
If this had happened even in a big city like Lyon, I think it would’ve made it into the news. The populace would’ve had a chance to react with at least a small gasp.
But not Paris. It turns out this was not the first time, or the twentieth, or the two hundred time someone had done this. I think the number is almost up to 500 people jumping to their death. We couldn’t find any hint of this event on the news – Mark did a search and only found a few tweets about it from Twitter.
Like all the other tourists, we just went on our merry way.
The next morning, we decided to spend our time indoors and chose the Jarden des Plantes, a beautiful area out of the tourist’s cross hairs. It hadn’t gotten any warmer and the sky looked menacing.
There were so many museums to choose from in this complex, but not surprisingly we chose the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution.
We did not wait in a single line and it wasn’t stuffed full of people – how nice.
However, the place was stuffed full of – stuffed animals, or what we in the States call taxidermy.
Most descriptions were translated into English, but not all. There was a section just for kids that was fantastic. I’d recommend this place, but bring along a flashlight and a magnifying glass. It was frustratingly dark and many of the exhibits were not even lit. The descriptions are in tiny print so people had to get right next to it, allowing only one or two people to read it at a time. Whoops.
It was a full day of exploring the five floors. Afterwards, the sky had cleared up and we walked through the rose garden to catch a bus back to the TGV that would whisk us home. I think Maureen was ready to not be a tourist for a while.
Paris ended up smelling like roses, so to speak.