A Wonderful Stroll Along The Seine
I have seen Paris through many lenses over the years. I fell in love with the impressionism at the Jue de Paume during the early 80s. I could not get enough of Monet's Lilly, Degas's dancers, or Van Gogh's sunflowers. I explored Gallary Lafayette and other department stores, looking for great bargains during my next visit. I listened to music outside the Pompidou Center and celebrated my birthday on the Champs Elysees; I walked across the city with fifty kids and played soccer at a compound next to the Eiffel Tower. I am no stranger to Paris, but I have never enjoyed Paris from the banks of the Seine. However, during my most recent visit, I walked for nine hours along the Seine, twenty kilometers round trip from the Bastille to the Eiffel Tower, with a few excursions off the river to see nearby sites. I wandered along, talking with my friend, eating, listening to music, taking pictures, and people-watching.
My walk was intentionally slow, with many stops to take in the fun, adventure, and romance inherent to Paris by the river. I marveled at the culture and the gentility around me. There was a little piece of art in every direction. I walked beneath my favorite bridge, Pont Alexandre III, with its gold-plated statues and gorgeous lamps, and skimmed a few magazines in the portable book shops on the sidewalk above the river. I sipped a glass of red wine on one of the many boats docked permanently by its bank. I waved at the passengers of the many riverboats going back and forth like a pendulum on the river as my mind tried to make sense of all I felt. I concluded that Paris was the best example of artificial beauty I have ever experienced. It reminded me that I was having a great time in one of the most beautiful and civilized places on earth.
My camera stole moments for my memory as I strolled along this lovely river and rambled through the middle of everything. I captured the stress-free play of the children as they climbed the walls, ran through the spraying water, or ate ice cream under their parents' watchful eyes. My lens fell in love with the beach umbrellas and the lawn chairs full of sunbathers just beneath Notre Dame and the Louvre. The images created a strange juxtaposition of artificial beauty and natural splendor. I experienced my eyes going back and forth like a tennis match. I lay on a lawn chair to understand what the people were experiencing. I could feel the energy, but it was not something I would do for long because the temperature was quite chilly, even though it was the middle of August. My attention shifted to the runners, the wall climbers, the bocce players, the boats, the music, the food, and the water sprays cooling us off. I felt for a moment like I was on a tropical island instead of in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.
One disappointment I felt during my walk was the commercialization of the gardens of the Louvre. I wouldn't say I liked the Ferris wheel and the other rides in an area a stone's throw away from the Louvre. For me, the Louvre is exceptional, and these rides are ordinary. I did not like them close together. The proximity confused me emotionally. Amusement parks are a dime a dozen, but the Louvre is unique. I know people want to make money, and since so many people come to the Louvre each year, why not squeeze some more money out of them when they are there? But this money comes at a high price because they have damaged the aesthetics of the entire area with the lights and the distracting circus. I know London's Ferris wheel, the London Eye, is very popular and an excellent way to see London. And, I know many other cities, like Avignon, have copied London and built giant Ferris wheels in the center of town, but I did not expect this from Paris. I felt like the Ferris revolution diminished the beauty of the Louvre gardens, and I don't think it is well positioned to see the city plus, the Eiffel Tower is a much better place to see Paris.
Walking from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe along the Champs-Elysees was an unforgettable experience. People were going in every direction along the five lanes of sidewalks on either side of the congested Avenue in between. The sidewalk cafes were packed, and the stores were overrun with tourists. I was particularly enamored by how quickly the Parian adopted Neymar because they had his picture plastered on many store windows along the route. However, I was most impressed by the Lamborgini rentals on the side streets adjacent to the Champs-Elysees. For two hundred Euros, I could drive my favorite exotic car for half hour. I thought about it but quickly dismissed the idea because I believed I could get much better value for my two hundred and forty dollars. However, I saw many young men jumping at the offer and posing for pictures in front of their favorite cars.
Through the tunnel beneath the Arc de Triomphe, I walked out on the other side of the massive traffic circle that surrounds the Arc. At the other end of the tunnel, I figured out how to find my way to the Trocadero across the river from the tower. I was tired and hungry by this time, so I stopped for dinner and rest before proceeding to the building. As I sat in the restaurant looking out at both the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower, I remembered that I was in Paris some years earlier when Phillipe Petit, high wire artist, walked on a tightrope from the Eiffel Tower to the Trocadero. After dinner, I walked to Trocadero, took pictures of the tower, descended the steps into the gardens, and crossed the river to look at this magnificent structure. It was a mob scene with people running in the middle of the road to get an unobstructed view of themselves in front of the tower.
As I returned to the river to retrace my steps to my apartment, I could not help but appreciate the effort the Parisians had made to create this beautiful experience for me and much more like me. My walk along the Seine was different at night; the city had put away all the lawn chairs and the umbrellas. The water sprays were turned off, and many of the cafes closed. I thought it must be an effort to take out and put away all these resources every day But, I was very thankful that they did it.