After a busy day and eventful evening in Paris, we slept in until 10 a.m. on Tuesday, finally feeling like we’re on vacation! After waking, we stopped by our local crepe stand for crepes avec sucre and took the tour bus to the Arc de Triomphe. Seeing this up close was a personal highlight of the trip. I’m French by heritage and the Arc is such a symbol of the culture, I was in awe of seeing it up close and personal. I had read that the view from the top is spectacular, so we got in line to get tickets and then saw the sign: "There are 284 steps to the top. There is no elevator." This being our eleventh day of this trip and basically our 10th day of walking around major cities, we bailed. If it had been a week earlier we probably would have gone for it, but at that point, we just couldn’t muster up the strength.
Instead, we headed to another landmark that DID have an elevator (thank goodness!), the Eiffel Tower. We got off at the Trocadero where we searched for something for lunch. We were reaching the end of our trip and we – me in particular – were getting near the end of our rope of dealing with foreign languages while eating and we opted for some sidewalk food, a hot dog in a baguette. It was good, though not as good as the hot dog panini in Rome. We followed it up with a much more Parisian dessert: crepes with meil (honey) and chocolate.
The trip up the Eiffel tower was another highlight. We decided to go all the way to the third level platform, which costs more. I’m glad that we went up to the top just to say we did it, but wouldn’t do it again. The view from the top isn’t any better than the one from the second platform and you have to deal with more fog, clouds and smog the further up you get, and everything gets so small you really can’t see too much detail. But the view is phenomenal regardless – the grey-blue roofs of Paris and the Seine river passing through it all is a great memory to have.
We then got back onto our tour bus and took it to Montmarte, to see Sacre Coeur. This is the area that holds the Moulin Rouge, which turns out to be quite the seedy "red light" district. Lots of adult toy and video stores line the streets, and my favorite, the "gadgetierre," a French word that I’m not exactly sure of the meaning of, but pretty sure I have a good idea.
Sacre Coeur was like Notre Dame in that it was a holy place marked by a number of non-sacred features: a book store right in the church, a souvenir coin maker in the back of the church and several street performers on the front stairs of the church. We did get a chance to see some great soccer ball jugglers though.
The tour bus route ended and we took a subway back to our hotel and got ready to go out to dinner and our show at Moulin Rouge. We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, fulfilling our obligation to visit there. We then got to the Moulin Rouge about 20 minutes before show time. It was raining that night and we figured that 20 minutes before would be good timing to get in and get our seats. Unfortunately, apparently, the shows start late and we found ourselves standing in the rain for nearly 40 minutes. We did have a great little show in front of us though: this couple from Minnesota were fondling and making out with each other to the point of coitus. His hand was grabbing the underside of her ass, starting to "reach around" and they were hiding behind an umbrella, making audible sucking noises as they made out. Then we realized that her left hand was no where to be seen and his pants were bunched oddly. Like there was… a… hand… down… the… front…
Anyway – after that graphic show, we were finally ushered into the Moulin Rouge. I wish I could tell you how they figure out how to seat everyone, but I’m clueless. We showed our Internet reservation, and told us to follow them. We wound our way through all these close-set tables, reminiscent of the nightclub scene in Good Fellas, to a table on the far side of the club, close to the stage.
One of my favorite memories came next: the sound of champagne corks popping throughout the club. You get a bottle of champagne for every couple, so there were hundreds of corks being expertly popped by the busy waiters, who carried small penlights between their teeth once the lights went down.
The Moulin Rouge show itself was far more spectacular than I thought it would be. We could only understand about half the show, since it was split between French and English, but it was all enjoyable. There were a few juggling/magic skits and many singing/dancing numbers. The stage sets would changes so fast and seamlessly that you wouldn’t even notice that they had gone from a Middle-Eastern set to a Latin American set. One of the highlights was when a large water tank rose out of the stage – about 10 feet wide and 20 feet long – with three boa constrictors in it. A topless dancer (oh yeah – most of them are topless and it must be VERY COLD back stage) jumped in and danced and writhed with the snakes for 5 minutes.
After the show, we tried to catch a cab across town. One cab driver wanted 35 Euro for the ride, but another took us for 15.
Another busy and long day… but only one more day in Paris left!