Tour de France (Part II) / by Deborah Clague

My second day in Paris, I played typical tourist and took a double decker bus tour through the city. Despite the chill in the air, I chose to sit on the top deck to ogle all the beautiful and impeccably styled Parisians. It was like a 24/7 fashion show; I have never felt so fat, ugly and poor. Until I got to Monaco, which is when I started to feel like a leper. 

The first stop I got off was the Louvre. It was absolutely massive and so was the line to get in. I took a few pictures of the exterior and famous glass pyramid, encountered a few scammers and kept moving on. Right next to the Louvre and crossing the Seine is the famous "lock" bridge. Actually, there's more than one as the original is running out of space AND these are all over Europe, but I suppose the one in the City of Light is the most romantic because hey - Paris is for lovers (although I wonder how many of the couples bound for eternity on its railing have since broken up?). With my iPod in my pocket, I kept pace under the gray skies. I may have been alone but my heart was lost to the city. 

The first line that I decided to wait in was to enter the renowned gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame. It didn't take too long (maybe an hour) and in a town full of entrance fees - including for washrooms - it was free. My favorite part of traveling through Europe is visiting the historic churches and their glorious architecture. While I'm not of a religious nature, it's hard not to be swept up in their grandiosity. I also like to observe people in their search for something more in life. We all yearn for something more whether it be tangible or spiritual, realistic or pure faith. 

My search would soon be for a washroom, which led me to my third line of the day. You never see Rick Steeves or any of the Lonely Planet authors talk about this, but it's vital information for a holiday. Trust. Patience is a virtue in Paris, as is having a pocket full of change. You will need both when using a washroom facility here. While waiting at the one near the cathedral (20 minutes), all I could hear were the staff (né grumpy hags) yelling at everyone to pay a fee. If they didn't pay enough of a fee, they got yelled at some more. WWJD? WWDD??? Well, what I did was leave to try and find a McDonalds universally known as a place with addictive salty fries and free, clean toilets. Unfortunately, the facilities in Paris are more locked down than the Pentagon. Not wanting to wait in another line (seriously, you CANNOT escape lines in Paris), I made my way to the subway expecting the worst. Instead I discovered something of a miracle - a luxury public washroom that must have been something of a tourist destination as it had its own souvenir section. Yes, this washroom not only sold "upgrades" on handsoap (seriously) but also every manner of Eiffel Tower-stamped cheese that you could ever dream up: keychains, magnets, t-shirts...it was pretty strange. Not least of which because there was no line. 

The Louvre: 

Pont de l'Archeveche (lock bridge): 

Interior of Notre Dame Cathedral: 

Interior of Notre Dame Cathedral: 

Statue of Saint Joan of Arc: