Paris, Second Day: Eiffel Tower and the Rodin Museum

We had a startling wakeup on Saturday morning… the hotel’s fire alarm system was activated at 5:30 in the morning. Springing out of bed, frantically trying to find my robe, I was completely disoriented as we dashed out the door. We were on the top floor so walking down 8 flights of stairs was quite the energetic start; as we went further down, more and more people joined us in silently walking down the stairs. It was eerie. I remembered my phone, but forgot my purse which had my passport in it. D’oh! Good thing there wasn’t an actual fire… or worse, a terrorist attack. Unfortunately, in these times, we had to be watchful for suspicious activity. Curtis and I talked about a game plan should something bad happen and were on the alert everywhere we went. The staff apologized when we got to the lobby and said it was a false alarm. My knee held up pretty well doing all those stairs, but I definitely took the elevator back up!

Saturday’s itinerary included a trip to the Eiffel Tower, the Rodin Museum, a river cruise of the Seine, a nap, and dinner out.

Starbucks is the Same

Having been awakened so abruptly by the hotel’s alarm system, Curtis and I were up early and raring to go. After grabbing a coffee from the Executive Lounge, we showered, then had breakfast at the hotel restaurant. We popped down to Starbucks that was just a block away to get some real coffee before heading over to the Eiffel Tower. I was struck by how much the same Starbucks is no matter where you go… of course, this shouldn’t have surprised me and was comforting in a sweet way. I did love how the baristas greeted us with a bonjour upon arrival and an au revoir when leaving! I also shared this in my Week Eight post.

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The Eiffel Tower

Curtis and I booked a formal tour of the Eiffel Tower. We were supposed to meet our guide at 11 a.m. and initially we went to the base of the tower… which was the wrong spot! We had to hustle to meet our group since it was a street over next to a souvenir shop. Our expectation was that our group would be about 8 people… it was actually 20 people! The morning was cold, drizzly, and windy but I didn’t care. Honestly, I was still feeling awestruck to be in Paris and about to tour one of the most famous monuments in the world. I really, really like this view of the tower… framed by the bare branches. I got an identical shot of this composition with my iPhone but like this one a bit better.

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To the East

After riding a packed elevator (seriously, it had to be 50 people packed like sardines into this thing) to the second level, our tour commences with looking to the east. The Grand Roue (ferris wheel) is in the upper left corner. The golden topped building is Les Invalides which houses Napoleon’s Tomb. Our tour guide, Adam, was a charming young ex-pat that injected humor by giving us 5000 points for answering questions correctly. Too cute. I think Curtis ended up winning with over 100,000 points (he got a bonus 50,000 for answering a hard question, ha!).

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École Militaire

Looking south, we see the École Militaire… a military training school founded in 1750 by Louis XV. It is a huge complex of buildings and grounds. Pretty damn impressive, isn’t it? Napoleon graduated from this very school in just one year instead of the standard two years in 1784.

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The Seine

Looking to the west, and braving fierce winds, we see a great view of the River Seine. The Seine divides Paris into the Right Bank (the north side) and the Left Bank (the south side). The Eiffel Tower is on the Left Bank, our hotel was on the Right Bank. The Seine has 37 bridges, some of which were built as gifts to welcome dignitaries. In this photo, at the very tip of the island in the center, you can see a tiny version of the Statue of Liberty. According to Adam, our tour guide, America made this replica as a thank you gift to France for the original Statue of Liberty. France was so annoyed by the size of it, they stuck it at the end of this island where no one could really see it. The tour boats that cruise the river don’t even go down there to show it to tourists!

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Trocadéro from the Top

This is a photo I shared in my Week Eight post. The Trocadéro, site of the Palais de Chaillot, is an area to the north of the Eiffel Tower. This was my favorite view of the Palais de Chaillot and its gardens. Pure majesty.

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Eiffel Perspective

We skipped going to very tip top of the tower because it was about an hour wait for the line. I didn’t feel the images, nor the actual experience, would be much different than what we saw on the formal tour so we decided to head back down. It was miserably cold, rainy, and windy on the tower. When we got back down to the base, I looked up to get this unique perspective. The Eiffel Tower is amazing. Did you know it was built to commemorate the World’s Fair of 1889?

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Art is Everywhere

After our tour of the Eiffel Tower, Curtis and I decided to find some lunch nearby. We walked down the street where the souvenir shop was to find a cafe. This building is a residence… but look at it! There is literally art built into the buildings. You really get a sense of how old the city is and how young America is. There is so much history and beauty woven into every everything.

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Napoleon’s Tomb

We ended up eating at a little Italian cafe and had planned on visiting the Rodin Museum next. I was using a book Jenny lent us and according to the book, it looked like the museum was just a few streets over, a 10-minute walk maybe. Ahem, 45 minutes later, we find this… the golden-topped building. It is a chapel which houses Napoleon’s Tomb. This is just a small part of a huge collection of buildings called Les Invalides which we saw from the Eiffel Tower. The Musée de l’Armée is here which is both a museum and a monument. I wish we had time to go inside!

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Napoleon + Rodin

We finally made it to the Rodin Museum. Curtis was super excited to visit this particular museum because Rodin is his favorite sculptor and one of his favorite artists of any genre. Even the outside gardens were beautiful, as evidenced by this view. Seeing Napoleon’s Tomb through the sculpted topiaries was a bit otherworldly. Look where we were!

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Rodin’s The Thinker

Curtis’s favorite of all of Rodin’s pieces, The Thinker sits outside. It is enormous, with a person not even reaching the carvings at the base of the statue. From the museum’s website:

“When conceived in 1880 in its original size (approx. 70 cm) as the crowning element of The Gates of Hell, seated on the tympanum, The Thinker was entitled The Poet. He represented Dante, author of the Divine Comedy which had inspired The Gates, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell, while meditating on his work. The Thinker was therefore initially both a being with a tortured body, almost a damned soul, and a free-thinking man, determined to transcend his suffering through poetry. The pose of this figure owes much to Carpeaux’s Ugolino (1861) and to the seated portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici carved by Michelangelo (1526-31).”

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Rodin’s The Kiss

Seeing these sculptures in person is awe-inspiring. To think of this once being a huge chunk of marble, slowly being sculpted into a work of art… seeing it in person makes you realize the sheer magnitude of effort it must have taken. From the museum’s website:

“The Kiss originally represented Paolo and Francesca, two characters borrowed, once again, from Dante’s Divine Comedy: slain by Francesca’s husband who surprised them as they exchanged their first kiss, the two lovers were condemned to wander eternally through Hell.”

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Rodin’s The Prodigal Son

Even though you cannot see the face in this perspective, I still very much like this image. There is so much power in the musculature and agony in the pose. From the museum’s website:

“…the subject borrowed from the New Testament parable of the spendthrift son who returns home to throw himself at his father’s feet and beg his forgiveness for the ingratitude with which he had previously treated him. By highlighting certain details of this figure, like the hands, and by placing it in an unbalanced position, Rodin infuses this sorrowful body with the irrepressible fervour of a final prayer.”

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Before the River Cruise

After the Rodin Museum, we decided we wanted to do a cruise of the River Seine. We headed back over to the Eiffel Tower since that is where the boat tours launched and discovered that we had to wait about 45 minutes until the next cruise left. We roosted at the restaurant attached to the dock and had a warm drink. I began to notice that every single picture I took of my husband, he had never looked happier. We were having a great time.

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Cheesy Cruise Photo

We took the Bateaux Cruise of the Seine and got this cheesy photo that the cruise line took. So touristy!!! But we had to have it.

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Cruise View of the Orsay

The cruise was interesting but a little disappointing. By the time we realized they were boarding, the best seats were filled. It was just too cold to sit outside, so I didn’t take many photos while on the cruise. Adam, our Eiffel Tower tour guide, did such a good job explaining the different parts of the city and even the bridges, that we didn’t really learn anything new while on the cruise. I did want to share this one photo… of the Musée d’Orsay, home of Van Gogh and Monet. It’s one of several places we didn’t get to visit that was on my list. There just wasn’t enough time.

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After the cruise, we went back to the hotel and crashed. After such an early start and with jet lag really hitting, we napped for about three hours before getting up and getting ready for dinner. That hotel bed was to.die.for comfortable! Stay tuned for our evening out on the town.

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