Saturday, January 19, 2013

Paris - Eiffel Tower, Bus #69, and Père Lachaise Cemetery

Our second day in Paris started out beautifully!  The view from our balcony was wonderful!

Hotel Edouard IV morning balcony

We began with, of course, the mandatory cup of coffee from the cafe below the hotel.

Cafe Creme

Man, I miss those! I mean really really miss those!

With this being Christmas Eve there were still a few things that were open.  Actually, quite a bit was open.  We didn't have plans for much though because we knew we were going to buy the six day Paris Museum Pass and once you activate it you have six days to use it no matter if it is holidays or not.  We were waiting until after Christmas to buy the pass and then use it the six days following.  So our options were limited to things not covered by the pass and things that were opened Christmas Eve.  We also wanted to save some things to do on Christmas Day.  There were a few things that were open on Christmas Day and New Year's Day but closed on Tuesday and guess what day Christmas and New Year's fell on....yep...Tuesday.

With that all being said, we had plans to go up the Eiffel Tower, ride the #69 bus for a cheap tour of  Paris, and to go to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, which just happened to be a stop on the #69 bus line!

So up first, up the tower we go!  We had the choice of taking the elevator or taking the stairs (which is cheaper); we took the elevator.  We were going to go all the way to the top but by the time the line moved us to the front (wasn't too bad of a wait) the elevator to the very top level was closed because it was too crowded.  We were told it would be opened back up in an hour.

In the meantime we got on the elevator and headed to the second floor.  The folks at the Eiffel Tower do have a sense of humor.  They have a "conductor" on the elevator.

Elevator conductor at Eiffel Tower

Once on the second floor and looking up, it is still a looong way up to the top floor!

Top Level of Eiffel Tower

The views from the second floor are truly amazing!

Sacre Coeur Basilica from Eiffel Tower

This is the one hill in Paris and on the hill the Sacré-Coeur Basilica which we did go to another day.

River Seine from Eiffel Tower

A look at the Seine River with a few of the over 30 bridges that cross it just in Paris alone!

We were going to wait to go up to the top, we would have had to pay extra, but I don't think it would have been that much.  But after fighting the crowd, shivering in the wind, looking around, getting cranky because we were hungry, we decided to not.

We took the stairs to the 1st floor and got something to drink and a snack.  We were looking for the post office at the Eiffel Tower so that we could mail some postcards from there.  I had read online that if you mail them from there they put a stamp that says Eiffel Tower.  Well, of course, we had to do that!  For your information the post office is on the ground floor and if you are facing the river it is under the pillar that is on the left-hand side.  It is automated but does take credit cards (if you have one with an electronic chip, which of course we don't) or coins (which we didn't have either).  So as you see, we didn't get to use it, but we did find a post office open on Christmas Eve later that day and were able to mail out our cards.

Instead of taking the stairs down from the first floor to the ground floor we decided to take the elevator and as we waited for it we saw this.

Pickpocket sign at Eiffel Tower with faces

The drawn on faces cracked me up! It was a little unnerving how often we were warned about pickpockets all over Paris, especially the subway.  There was one point when we were on the subway and three young teenage girls got in the same car we were in.  Then a man got one and started saying that these girls were pickpockets.  Apparently, there is no a word for pickpocket in French, because he was using that word and the sign above uses it too.  Even when those girls got on Frankie and I both sensed something was off about them.  Not sure what it was, but we were leery. It was surely  not the first time they had been called out because they didn't even blink and even joked about it.  It was really rather sad to think of how young and already harden they were.

It wasn't just the subway that we were warned about pickpockets.  We were warned at the Eiffel Tower at the higher levels!  We were warned at the Louvre.  We were warned at Versailles Palace and many other places.  All of these paces you have to pay to get in.  So there are people who pay to go in so that they can pick pockets??  I was thinking about that but then it dawned on me that I am sure they make enough to cover their tickets plus much  much more.  It would have to be worth it to them to do it.  I was just raised to well to have ever thought of doing that let alone actually do it!  It blows my mind.

Once we were done with the Eiffel Tower we decided to take the bus line 69.  It gives you a nice view of several sights in Paris without having to pay as much as those hop off-hop on bus tours.  It cost the same as one metro ticket and is good for an hour and half of sightseeing!  It begins or ends at the Eiffel Tower and passes the following: Les Invalides, Alexandre Bridge, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Tuileries gardens, the Louvre (one of the entrances shown here),

One Entrance of the Louvre

Notre Dame, Place Bastille,

Place de la Bastille with the July Column

and finally Pere Lachaise Cemetery (which was our next destination).

Before going in the cemetery we needed something.

Cafe Creme 2

Awh! The good stuff!  We were now ready for the cemetery.  

Now most people wouldn't think to go to a cemetery on their vacation but there are some extremely famous people buried in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery and it is largest cemetery in Paris.  We followed Rick Steve's Pere Lachaise Cemetery walk so that we were not just wondering around and possible getting lost!  It is a crazy tangle of roads and tombs.

One of the first things we came across was the Columbarium and Crematorium.  Don't feel bad, I had to look up columbarium too.  It is the place where they keep the remains of the people who have been cremated.  You had to walk down a short set of steps into this.

columbarium in Pere Lachaise Cemetery

I have never seen anything like it, over 1,000 niches. (Had to look that up too, small cubicles to hold the remains of the cremated.)  I still don't know how I feel about it.

While this is a huge cemetery (100 acres!), it is very compacted! There are at least 70,000 people buried there.  That is over 45 times the amount of people in the town I live in!!  I mean seriously look how crowded it is! 

Crowded Pere Lachaise Cemetery

I read in our Rick Steve's guidebook that they still allow people to be buried here but it is over $14,000 for a 7 foot by 3 foot plot, there are certain rules (you have to have died in Paris or lived there), and there is a waiting list.  I read somewhere else that since it is so expensive the cemetery gives out 30 year leases and if a family doesn't renew the contract the cemetery removes the remains and puts them in a ossuary.  Apparently, I really need to brush up on my cemetery terminology.  An ossuary is a place that is specifically made to be a final resting place of human skeletal remains when burial space is scarce.  AND, since there is so little room there can be multiple family members buried in one tomb.  Crazy stuff!

Here is an example of some of the larger more elaborate tombs.

large tombs in Pere Lachaise Cemetery

And here is the plainest one we saw.

A new burial plot Pere Lachaise Cemetery

At least the grass was green. If I had been in charge of the upkeep even that wouldn't be a given! Just ask my husband!  I do not have a green thumb, he says it is black! I try, I really do.

I guess when there are so many grave sites in one space you need to do something to make yours stand out.  Here were a few that stood out, to put it politely.

Woman drapped over tomb in Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Frankie said he wanted his tomb to have a statue of me draped over it like this one did.

Hand holding tomb Pere Lachaise Cemetery

I think I would rather we be buried side by side and have our hands forever clasps like this one.

Man with little man tomb Pere Lachaise Cemetery

But really we should do like this one. Frankie holding a little statue of me or the other way around. Yeah! Me holding a little statue of Frankie. I like that idea better!  That would be hilarious!

So one of the real reasons we went to the cemetery was to see the graves of the famous, at least the ones that were famous to us.

First up, Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde Tomb 2 Pere Lachaise Cemetery

In the past there was no glass barrier around his tomb and people would go up and kiss it with red lipstick.  Ew. The cemetery and the Irish government (Oscar Wilde was Irish by birth) kept paying to get it cleaned and it was causing the tomb to erode. So they glassed it.

We also saw the composer Chopin's grave.

Chopin  Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Check out all those FRESH flowers!  This man died over 160 years ago and he is still beloved by the people.

Then there is the one that I really wanted to see, Jim Morrison.

Jim Morrison Tomb Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Now I am really too young to know Jim Morrison or the music of The Doors, but my father is not and he listened to it thus forcing us to listen to it as well.  So I, in a way, grew up with the music of the 60's.  

As we gazed at the tomb there was a man there who was playing songs by The Doors on his phone.  I am definitely not THAT into The Doors and don't feel the need to honor somebody who lead such a drug filled life, so I found it slightly silly.  I wanted to film this guy so badly, but I am not that brave nor rude, so I filmed him in around about way.

One last parting shot from the cemetery.

Eiffel Tower from Pere Lachaise Cemetery

After our walk around the Pere Lachaise Cemetery we got back on the 69 bus line and headed back to the Eiffel Tower stop.  Before we got to our stop the bus turned and all of the sudden there was the Louvre!

We jumped off the bus!  It was too late to actually go in but we took some pictures before heading back towards the Eiffel Tower.

Louvre and Pyramid at night

Here is the pyramid entrance glowing with the Louvre in the background.

The next two pictures are my "artistic" shots.  Someone had left a small Eiffel Tower charm so I took a picture where the real Eiffel Tower was in focus and the charm wasn't and then I switched it.

Eiffel Tower and Eiffel Tower charm

Eiffel Tower charm and Eiffel Tower

Once we got back to the Tower we found a place to eat supper.  We tried snails for the first time and we both liked them!  They are not slimy or chewy.  It was very good with the butter and garlic sauce!  Frankie tried them first and as you can see from the video he didn't even grimace  although he did have a little trouble grabbing the little boogers!


After supper we walked towards the metro stop to go back to our hotel and I leave you with a fantastic shot of the Eiffel Tower!  This is one of my favorite pictures from the entire trip.

Eiffel Tower and Moon 2