The Saturday before Hedi left for Tunisia, we took a day trip to visit a close friend of ours and take advantage of the City of Light.
We decided to check out the very expensive neighborhood near the Place de la Bastille, walking along the Avenue de Paris until we got to the pricey, name-brand stores such as Gucchi and Prada. (We partook exclusively in what the French call faire du lèche-vitrine – “window shopping,” – I find the French to be a bit more desperate, “window licking”).
We tried very hard to see the interior of the Opéra House, but apparently the tours would have cost us a lot of money. We kept our entire day’s expenses to a minimum, apart from the numerous times we had to spend money on RER or Métro tickets. (Since the RER D was closed the weekend at the Gare du Nord for “travaux”, we had had to make a very roundabout trip to get to our friend’s apartment. As a result, Hedi and I repeatedly bought the wrong Métro/RER ticket and had great difficulty in passing the turnstiles with all the luggage he was carrying with him.) Once we got back to the city center, we were no longer weighed down with luggage and could enjoy the mild, end-of-the-summer weather in the most expensive quartier of Paris.
We turned onto the Avenue de l’Opéra and then made our way to the Place Vendôme to take pictures, directly across from the Ministère de la Justice. We all agreed that the bâtiment is frightening and imposing. It makes me think of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the Disney version of course. Check out some of the ridiculously expensive stores in the background and the ominous cloud hanging over the obelisk. We might have just been a tad paranoid, given the location and our status as foreigners. Ha ha.
Afterwards we continued on to the Jardin des Tuileries, and its benches were much more crowded than they were the last time I had taken a tour of Paris, in February of 2011.
The gorgeous obelisk at the Place de la Concorde, where the famous Avenue des Champs Élysées begins, is always just as stunning, especially on a beautiful summer day in late August. We stopped to get a drink and to catch our breath.
We then strolled down the mythic and equally expensive Avenue des Champs Elysées. It’s my favorite place in Paris to people watch, as you can get literally within inches of people from all different walks of life. We didn’t buy anything or loiter at any of the expensive cafés.
One thing I was not expecting to find along this Avenue, however, besides cafés and tourists with deep pockets and a penchant for shopping was renowned French car manufacturers. But then again, rarely had I strolled along with two males in tow…
Shortly after admiring Sébastien Loeb’s race car, we were presented with a bizarre and somewhat enticing spectacle: “driving” beside Sébastien Loeb in a 4D environment. It was a bit expensive (5 € per person), but the boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We were strapped into cars that moved left, right, forwards, backwards. We could smell the gasoline, watch the screen as we hurtled through the race course. At one point we saw a puddle of water and inwardly sighed – we had a full spray of mist as we crossed! I was slightly alarmed and rather uncomfortable, certain that I would fall out of my seat despite being tightly strapped in. I suppose I lacked that childhood dream of racecar driving that so many little boys have cherished.
Before returning back to Amiens, I rested against the Arc de Triomphe, at the northern end of the Champs Élysées. We had done a lot of walking in a short amount of time.