Note: This entry has been created from notes and memories while on the trip.
CNN Europe is hands-down a better production than the CNN packaged for US consumption. The anchors and commentary are more than willing to critize the US, write off ideas as half-baked, or otherwise couch their language in the same decorum and politesse. And, after watching the weather reports every half-hour or so, it is obvious how much more aware Europeans are of other parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. Cities feature run from London and Paris to Moscow to Ankara and Cairo. And those commercials for Egyptian tourism have really touched me deeply. Show me the mummy!
Today was packed with the major tourist sites. I started with the Louvre, despite a late rising. The collections of the museum are, in a word, vast, and I took the guidebook advice of preselecting those wings I wanted to visit. The Egyptian wing, consisiting of portions of two floors of one wing, contained a phenomenal number of vases, pottery, scrolls, and assorted items, along with larger sculptures and an entire room filled with tombs. There was also a preserved body (still wrapped, so Quebec wins top gory honors here) on display in one of the columns. Not that I really needed to view another.
The French paintings of the 17th through mid-19th centuries were also on display, and were a wing I enjoyed. The audioguide provided fascinating background detail in to many of the paintings, with descriptions of the artists’ lives and potential motiviations behind the works. Of course, I did also see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo statues before heading off to l’Arc de Triomphe (after getting lost several times on my way out, of course).
The walk, it turned out, was further than anticipated, so by the time I had reached it I was both tired and hungry. The Arc itself is little more than a giant concrete structure, in the center of a busy intersection, along a highly commercialized stretch of road. For a fee, you can climb to the top, though both the tower tour at Notre Dame and the tour d’Eiffel offer better views. Or at least I imagine they would, since I declined to pay.
Using the metro, I caught a train over to the Eiffel tower, where I made it up to the second level (the lines for the third-level elevator were simply too long). The views here were sensational, with a view of l’Hopital des Invalides off to one side with the nearby gardens and an overall view of the city below. It is in fact noticeable how few tall buildings exist in Paris. Relatively few reach above five stories, speaking volumes about how old in fact many buildings must be. This has helped preserve the historical architecture of the city while ensuring that no overwhelming sense of claustrophobia sets in from the height of the buildings, like New York City often provides.
The evening commenced with dinner at a fairly nice (and slightly pricey) restuarant, and some additional meandering through gardens and streets on my way back to the hotel. All in all, a a solid day of sightseeing.