Paris by Jump bike

Wednesday, August 14

I got up today and decided to do the hop on, hop off tour. Last time I was here and took one there were three routes – this time, only two. They removed the yellow route. I walked over to where the bus would come and decided, no, I am not going to do it. Instead, I decided to go eat “brunch” and read in the Luxembourg gardens. It was a quick 10-minute walk over there. The garden was huge – there were many people reading, picnicking and running around. They had chairs everywhere, it was wonderful. I opted to walk over to the palace and sit where people were picnicking. I had my yogurt and sat there and ready and people watched for a while before heading out.

I decided to head to the Pantheon. It was only a 20-minute walk from the gardens. I decided to go inside because I do not recall doing it before. It was huge and there is some sort of clock in the middle of the junction – a big brass looking ball hung by a string that somehow tells time, I have no idea how it works but it was awesome. I walked to the crypt and checked out some of the crypts of people I have heard of. Most notably the man who invented Braille and Marie Currie – Noble prize recipient.

After the Pantheon I wanted to go to the Eiffel tower – but it was like a 1.5 hour walk – there were many scooters around – but without a helmet and the with the cobble stone road, I wasn’t very confident. I had Googled “bike rules in Paris” last night, so instead I found a Jump bike and decided to try it because I felt I understood the rules of the road and it was not busy in the area.

Getting the bike was easy, quick scan of the QR code and the bike was ready for me. Most of the Paris streets have a bike lane – or are labeled for bike access, even one way streets have bike lines in both directions.

I was confident I could make it over to the Eiffel Tower – a 30-minute ride is what it said. The main street it wanted me to take was actually under construction – so it proved to be a little bit more difficult than I had planned. They are redoing their bike lane to make it even safer, but in the meantime, it is a nightmare to actually ride. I just weaved my way around – over the river and bike. I finally saw a bike on the road and decided to follow that local rider.

The best part about Jump bikes is they are electric assist, so you can go 25-35 KMh to keep up with traffic when needed. I followed the guy until I got to where I would drop my bike. You can only park in certain areas or they fine you. It is smart – they are presumably paying a fine if they are caught in a “no-bike zone” so they charge the person who put it there before they are fined themselves.

I had made it to the Eiffel tower!! I rode the bike – confidently, safely and happily – I made it! I walked through the park and noticed since the last time I had been there how much had changed. The amount of terrorist attacks are clearly leading the French to protect their landmarks more securely now. You can no longer go under or near the tower without a ticket. They have this glass wall all the way around. Therefore, I saw people queuing for security, then queuing for the lift line. I have been up there a handful of times so I opted out of going up and instead I decided to read, people watch and eat a chocolate bar in the park.

I laid out my rain jacket as a blanket, took out my book and read for a little over an hour. I saw a couple get engaged – the most anti-climactic proposal ever – they even put the ring on the wrong hand!! And just like that, they were gone, it was over.

After sitting there for a while, I decided I am going to go do a bike tour of Paris – so I grabbed another Jump bike and headed to the Sacre Couer. This ride was about the same distance (30 minutes) but uphill – thankfully for the Jump bike it was easy. I made it to the side of the Sacre Coeur and immediately saw a tram to take you up – but I decided for the stairs. I eat so much good food in Europe – it is always best to burn as much as I can. I went to the steps and looked out over Paris. From my view, I couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower, but I could see Centre Pompidou and Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Museum D’orsy. I tried to imagine what it would be like to see Notre Dame on fire from here – and I just couldn’t even get a clear through about it.

After people watching for a while, I decided to head down to Centre Pompidou – something I had never seen before, but have wanted to since I saw it in my high school French book. I grabbed a Jump bike again and took off. The ride took me through parts of Paris I had never been before – through the district that sold traditional Indian and African apparel and finally Centre Pompidou.

CP is a library and museum. I did not want to go in, but to see the exoskeleton of the building. They consider it an “inside-out” building because structure, mechanical and plumbing are on the outside of the building. It’s an eye sore for sure – sticks out like a sore thumb – but it is pretty neat to see how it is all color coded, each mechanical pipe is green and water is blue.

After my quick pull off to stare at the building I decided to head back to the hotel. This was just a quick 10-minute bike ride back over the river. I locked the bike and headed upstairs to do some work. It also gave me time to have a snack (some cheese, duh) and drink some water. It was not hot – only about 73* but it was sunny and I was a bit sun burned and knew I needed more water than the 32oz I had today.

At around 9pm I went for dinner – I had pizza. I cannot help it, it is just so good. I met a woman and her two teenage kids from Boston. She had traveled in her younger years – doing Asia for a year on her own – but when it came to now she and her daughters were a bit embarrassing.

They wanted things lickety split and nothing is fast around here when it comes to food. They want you to relax and enjoy the food, and these women just would not settle down. We chatted a bit – I finished my food, paid and wished them luck.

After dinner, I decided to find a crepe. It was late, which means the crepe stands are out. I found one, one block from the hotel and got myself a Nutella crepe. I only like the sweet ones. I headed back to the hotel because tomorrow I was off to Switzerland to bus into Lichtenstein.

France and clean underpants

Tuesday, August 13th

Today I got up and headed over to Saint Michel square where I was meeting my free walking tour. I got there about 20 minutes early and there was no one there – the guides showed up about 15 minutes before the start and all of a sudden there were warms of people!! It was crazy! They ended up having 4 tours – 2 in Spanish and 2 in English.

My guide was Harry from the UK. He confirmed he was not part of the royal blood (he had red hair, so people must believe he is or something). We started our tour learning how much of the city had been demolished in the 19th century by Napoleon III and much of what we know as Parisian architecture is “new.”

The tour used to cross the bridge to the front of Notre Dame, but yesterday the city blocked the bridge to begin lead abatement from the fire. It’s pretty controversial in the city because people who live on the island are allowed home but the schools have been closed and now this specific part of the island.

We continued our walk to Saint Chapell, an old prison, a square, and a finally the Louvre.

It wasn’t a long walk but our guide did a great job of skeaping and teaching me things I hadnt heard on other tours.

After the tour everyone else went to the café he was going to be sitting at – but I paid him and left. I was actually getting chilly so I headed back to the hotel for my rain jacket. The market across the street was open so before I went up to the room I grabbed some rolls, cheese, water, blood orange juice, and of course Nutella.

I decided to lunch in my room and then go back to Notre Dame to get a closer look. On my way to Notre Dame, I decided to check out an original Banksy. He is an anonymous street artist who has been brought to fame through his political and controversial art. I brought my phones and my Kindle and headed out to Notre Dame. My hotel is only like a 15 minute walk over there. The Banksy was on the way, so I snapped a picture and continued on.

On the south side of the cathedral you can get a bit closer, but on the east side you can basically walk within 20 feet of the structure. Construction continues – today they were using cranes to build another crane. They have installed protection over all the windows and wooden support for portions of the structure. I stood in awe for a while – took some pictures and realized my phone’s camera was acting up.

I reached out to Google for assistance and was troubleshooting with them right next to the cathedral. With the amount of lead they say is around there Im sure Ill end up with lead posioning – but I did make sure not to lick my fingers.

After my troubleshooting I went to read in the park behind Note Dame. I spent some time there before my work phone started to ring – and the work didn’t stop so I decided to head back to the hotel to eal with work. I worked until about 8pm and decided to go get food – I actually used Google maps to find some good food and settled on a French place one street over.

I ended up with the most amazing onion soup, some cheesy pasta (duh) and a crème brule. I wanted a 7up but they only had Limonade – which ended up being a more lemony 7up – it was good.

After dinner I headed back to the hotel to do laudnry. I only packed enough clothes for 5 days so it was time to wash some clothes (and by some I mean all).

I headed to the laundry room, fully expecting to pay $5 for a load, but it was free!! They even had soap – but I had brought mine from home – including Bounce sheets!. It took just shy of two hours to get it done, but it is nice to have clean clothes for the middle part of the trip.

Den Haag – The Hague….

Saturday, August 10

I was so tired from traveling that I slept in until about 9am! It was wonderful actually, minus the fact that my back always hurts when I sleep that long. I decided to get ready for the day so I can catch my train to Amsterdam.
I always wonder how older people live in these flats with the two foot step into the shower/tub – it can be difficult for a healthy, able body person! I packed up my bags and headed out on my seven minute walk to St Pancras station to catch the Eurostar train to Amsterdam.

The ticket said to arrive 45-60 minutes before the ticket time and I got to the station one hour before. I probably should have checked exactly how to do the Chunnel portion = because I kept waiting for the board to announce my train platform and it just said check the website – which had ZERO information on it. I finally stood up and found a sign that said “Eurostar” (the Chunnel train). I headed there to find out that even though I was there 30 minutes before the train departed I may not make it because I am taking the Chunnel and they need to do passport control – luckily they rushed me to the front of the ticket line – but I was tuck in the passport and security line. Im not quite sure why they have you go through security  other than to check for guns? I never saw a single person get stopped or had their luggage pulled aside. I realized later because I was in such a hurry that my trusty sunglasses were left in the security bin – but I did make my train, with time to spare! In fact, the platform had just opened up and I got just hopped in line and got right on!

I was determined to stay awake because I really wanted to see all the sights along the way. The tunnel or Chunnel (channel tunnel) is about 31 miles long – there are actually three tunnels – one for each direction and one for maintenance. It was completed in 1994 and took less than 6 years to complete at a cost of about $12 Billion in today’s value.

It makes trade and travel easier between the UK and Europe main land. The tunnel comes out in France, and the rail splits between east and west – east going to Amsterdam and Brussels and west going to Paris. The train starts in the heart of London and heads out to the country side before heading to a shallow depth of 150 feet under water in the tunnel. I was expecting my ears to pop due to the change in pressure, but that never happened. The tunnel was to be expected – no cell service and dark. The train can reach speeds of 100 MPH in the tunnel, but 186 MPH on land.

The train stops in France and Belgium before heading into the Netherlands. My ticket was to Amsterdam, but I opted instead to get off in Rotterdam since my Airbnb host was hoping I could arrive early, and lets be real it cut about an our off my travel time.

I got off in Rotterdam and had to buy another ticket all of $5 (+$1 for the ticket itself) to get to Den Haag (or The Haag as they say it in English). I made my way to my Airbnb and knocked, and knocked and rang the bell (which is just a bell attached to a knocker inside), and nothing. I messaged the host and told him I would be sitting on the stairs. After about 5 minutes he opened the door and was like “why didn’t you knock?” Well, I had, but whatever. The room was exactly as the pictures showed – bright and airy and pretty large for a bedroom in Europe. I only met Alejandro, the husband, not the kid or the wife. If I had known there was a child, I may not have booked here, but she was so quiet that I never had to worry.

I dropped off my stuff, collected the keys and headed out to find myself some sunglasses – much needed after a whole day of bright sun without them! The city center was about 25 minutes by foot away from the house – but it is such a great little town that walking is no big deal at all. This is a bike country though, so I feel like at some point I should rent a bike. It probably wont happen – but it should.

I found some cheap ($2) sunglasses at the trustee H&M (they think H&M is expensive – but the prices are the same in the states and we think its cheap!). Im much more comfortable with sunglasses on, so I continued to explore the center – which is mostly shopping – and decided to find a place to sit so I could figure out wat to do tomorrow before the concert. I found a place called Binnenhof which is the government office building – but it is so pretty – right on a little pond (man made from the locks and dams and canals). There is a “garden” in the middle – with a large church and a pretty fountain – and that is where I started to plan my day tomorrow.

I wanted to find a free walking tour so I can get the most out of my time here and see all that I can. It took a lot of Googling – which is crazy – but I finally found one. I picked the 10am start time so I could go to the little amusement park later in the afternoon (its not rides, its just like a 1:25 exact replica of a lot of the important things of Holland, called Madurodam.

After I made my reservation I decided it was time for dinner. Of course I wanted pizza – there is something about a paper thin pizza that makes the world a little better. I was going to go to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant – but it was a chain (similar probably to a smaller Biaggi’s) and I feel like I should have done it in London since he British. So, instead I found a place with good reviews on Google next to the city center church. I arrived at the perfect time – it was full downstairs so they opened the upstairs just for me – but within 10 minutes the place was almost full upstairs as well.

My pizza and caprese salad were a perfect way to end the day. After dinner I decided to go find some ice cream or white chocolate bar (or anything by Milka really). I put my headphones on and started to walk towards home. I was enjoying my podcast when someone tapped me on the shoulder. He was a 35-40 year old man from Congo. At first I was a bit taken back – but we chatted a bit and I said I was walking home but wanted to get something sweet first. So we chatted on the way to the gelato shop.

I ended up talking to him for over an hour and a half. He was a nice guy, there was some language barrier – but it was great to hear about life in Holland, especially as an immigrant. I finally bid him ado, dropped him off at the train station, and continued on my way. Because I didn’t know him, I made sure he got on the train before I left, I didn’t want him stalking or anything – but he didn’t even look back.

My heart is breaking, Notre Dame is on FIRE!

Notre Dame in Paris is on fire. From the looks of the feed the spire is in danger.

UPDATES WILL CONTINUE….

The greatest news that can be received after this terrible fire is that the Bell Tower has been saved and that much artwork was able to be rescued before the destructive fire reached them! Over two thirds of the roof has been destroyed. The cathedral was under a $6+ million dollar renovation – including the twelve apostle copper statues that once lined the roof – and it is believed the fire has started up in the “forest” of the wooden ceiling. The statues from the roof were removed last week – as part of this renovation.

Thankfully the firefighters were able to save the piece of the Holy Crown of Thorns, Saint Louis’ linen fabric and and the treasury of the Cathedral. These priceless pieces of art and history can be removed during the rebuilding period (because they will rebuild) and continue to share the history with generations to come.

23:28: According to Laurent Nunez, secretary to the interior minister, the two towers at the front of the cathedral are safe. At this point that also means the bells are safe. The firefighters are working tirelessly to save the artwork. From the news reports, it sounds as though the fire has been fought internally much of the time to protect as much of the original portions of the cathedral as possible. I am no expert on artwork, but I do know that smoke damage is difficult to clean up in normal circumstances so artwork hundreds of years old would be extremely difficult.

Nunez stated that one firefighter was seriously injured and 2/3 of the roof has been destroyed. As of now, the belief that the iconic front facade of the cathedral has been saved.

The Spire has fallen. At 1955 Paris time the Spire has fallen. Follow the link below for video.

The moment #NotreDame’s spire fell pic.twitter.com/XUcr6Iob0b— Patrick Galey (@patrickgaley) April 15, 2019

More of the roof has caught fire after the Spire fell. The scene is reporting that the fire alarm sounded at 1830 Paris time. At that time the doors were shut without warning. Shortly after the doors shut white smoke began to escape the roof, then quickly darkened. Within moments bright orange flames broke through the roof and spread quickly.

It should be noted that 13-14 million people visit Notre Dame every year, making it the most visited place in Europe. This historic Cathedral was under renovations, scaffolding covered much of the roof area. With Easter this coming weekend – the city was preparing for the massive crowds ready to visit this historic landmark.

Around 1925 Paris time the Paris Police tweeted :

Translated that means : “Notre Dame Fire in progress. Avoid the area and facilitate the passage of emergency vehicles and intervention of the @prefpolice.”

As it currently stands the flames are large and raging. The spire is fully engulfed, it’s just a matter of time before it crumbles honestly. The wooden structure that supports much of the weight of this building is all currently in danger.

Construction of Notre Dame started in 1163, completed around 1250. Additions and remodels have take place since then as well. The spire was renovated in the 19th century, being completed by wood covered in lead. It makes it very heavy, and will do significant damage if/when it falls.