I woke to a blue sky and sun. There was one place I wanted to be, in the Tuileries, said to be the oldest gardens in Paris.
So, a spell working out which buses or metro to take, and off I went. I had decided on the bus because I like to see as much of the city as possible and the services are usually quite frequent. The bus home went from a different place to the bus out, because of one way systems and although I had looked on a map I was not quite sure where to find it.
However, off I went. Past several familiar places that I wish to return to including a highly recommended hot chocolate cafe on Rivoli! Then we were going past the side of the Louvre. The bus I caught then pulls right over to the right of the carriageway and makes a forty five degree turn across all the traffic, to make the turn into the tight passage through one of the arches under the Louvre. It is a real tour de force: there are only about two inches max. on each side of the bus as it takes an absolutely straight path through the deep arches. Once through we find ourselves in the Carrousel, a roundabout on the road through the Palais du Louvre,
past the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, from which a wide avenue spreads down through the Tuileries, across the Place de la Concorde, up the Champs Elysee and up to the other arch always known merely as the Arc de Triomphe. THE Arc de Triomphe to quote Fodors ” was inspired Rome’s Arch of Titus and was planned by Napoleon – who like to consider himself the heir to the Roman emperors – to celebrate his military successes. Unfortunately it proved something of an embarrassment : although he wanted it completed in time for an 1810 parade in honour of his new bride, the arch was still only a few feet high, and a dummy arch of painted canvas was strung up to save face. Napoleon’s empire had been gone for more than 20 years before it was finally finished in 1836!”
This small triumphal Arc de Carrousel was erected by Napoleon between 1806 and 1808: the four gilded bronze horses were originally those looted by him from Venice but were returned in 1815 after which these were designed, pulling a chariot carrying a goddess representing the restoration of the monarchy.
I took this at the bottom of the Tuileries just before the Place de la Concorde: you can just see the Arc de Triomphe through the bottom of the Paris eye!
As I descended the bus I saw a bride having her photos taken beside a vintage car: no sign of groom bridesmaids or anyone else, so perhaps it was a photo-shoot for a magazine rather than a ‘real’ bride?
The Louvre seen through the Carrousel Arc de Triomphe.
The day was very bright and warm but a large black cloud was threatening over to the West. Lots of people had the same idea as me, and the gardens were fairly full, both of tourists, Parisiens taking the fresh air, children on school visits, and gardeners taking out the old bedding from summer and making all new for the winter and spring.
and toddlers were feeding the birds,
whilst their elders took their ease in chairs situated around the gardens.
More children were rushing through the piles of dead leaves having a wonderful time under the boxed horse chestnuts. I walked down to the centre of the gardens where there are two long ponds beside two outdoor cafes, one each side of the main path.
I chose a table beside the water and ordered a hot crepe with chocolate and cream and a pot of tea. (I had had fruit for breakfast was having salad for supper to make amends!).
The birds were so tame that they came and ate out of my hands and even settled on my fingers to eat, but I could not take a photo at the same time. You can see how its wings were fluttering as it positively yanked at the crumbs in my fingers!
Waiting for more:
I have to admit that I was having one of my ‘moments’: an experience of complete and utter happiness. Sitting in the sun, by the water, quiet chatter from other customers, gardeners gently working beside the water, hot tea and chocolate with cold cream and little birds fluttering on my fingers and holding on whilst sharing my crepe. (Incidentally, since chocolate is poisonous for birds, I made sure that the pieces I gave them were from the edge of the crepe and not contaminated!) Everything was still and peaceful but with a gentle hum in the background. And I was in Paris!
Eventually I tore myself away and walked down to the bottom of the Tuileries so check the opening times of the Orangerie, where the huge Monet water lilies are hung. There was a lot of traffic in the Place de la Concorde but some brave people had made their way to the centre beside the fountain.
Many people had left by then, just a few couples sitting on benches in the more isolated parts (!) and a horticultural group clustered around a dead tree.
I gave them space but immediately the lecturer in me returned as I thought of all the things to tell them about.
I had another look at the map and wandered round some streets and somewhat to my surprise found myself at the correct stop. I am not an intrepid traveller like Yael sounds to be: I am always rather anxious but have learned that you have to throw yourself into life to live it, it does not just come to you. So once I have learned all I can, I just go for it. I must say that sitting alone at that bus stop in Paris, I felt ridiculously pleased with myself. I knew that this being the first day all alone in Paris I would need to get out and do things or it would be too easy to get frightened and stay in my comfort zone. So I had had a wonderful day, and the travel was working out. Silly really, since Paris is such an easy city, but nonetheless, I am not a natural lone explorer.
The bus did not stop where I thought it should but I got off and found my way home fine. At one stage some bicyclist caused the bus driver to stamp on the brakes, we were all catapaulted forward and he screamed out of the window at the “did he want to get killed?” Bus drivers here are great: if they see you rushing for a bus they wait, and open the doors again if they have already closed. If you miss a stop and call out, they pull up for you and let you out rather than make you go on to the next stop. And they never move off until the elderly are seated. So it was really shocking when we were all tipped on top of each other. No wonder the driver was beside himself with fury and shock.
Once in, I made a quick cup of tea, had a boiled egg and then went off the cinema to see the film recommended by my tutor, Les Petits Mouchoirs. She said I should have no trouble understanding it. Well, it was great fun and at least I laughed where everyone else did but I reckon I only understood about a third of it. The basic plot proved to be no trouble, but there was so much colloquial language, and often they used slang and spoke so fast, that I was really left behind, much to my chagrin. So not much progress there then. I think it has got to be exposure, time and practice now.
A late supper and bed. A lovely day.