What better way to explore a new city, orientate yourself and see iconic landmarks than by a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tour? There really is none. Dillon and I set out for a day of exploring Paris on a Hop-On-Hop-Off tour bus so that we could see iconic landmarks that we did not have time to explore and to orientate ourselves and find landmarks and places that we were planning on seeing over the new few days in Paris.
Our morning started with a continental buffet breakfast; croissants, boiled eggs, cheese slices, yoghurt, and a selection of cereal served with your choice of tea, coffee, or orange juice.
Fuelled on the only items I could eat (eggs and cheese with a cup of coffee) we head out for our day. Although I find metro services to be very similar in all European countries, the language barrier does cause a few problems. It became clear to us that the station closest to us did not sell tickets, and it took us a while to find out where we could buy tickets. It turns out that only selected stations that have a massive sign of a ticket above the entrance actually sell tickets. We bought 10 one-way tickets each (2 per day).
We travelled on line 9 to Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette and changed to line 6 to get off at Pyramides. A short walk from the station to the Hop-On-Hop-Off ticket office and we bought 24hour tour tickets for around 60 EUR. We hopped on the bus our tour of the city began.
Our first stop was the Lourve but because we had planned to see it later on in the week we only took a passing photo and carried on with the bus tour. The one thing that I love about Hop-On-Hop-Off tours is the audio book. Just plug your earphones into the audio console on the side panel of the seat and listen to the history of the city as your drive past it.
Our second stop was the Notre Dame. Unfortunately, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is temporarily closed due to the April 2019 fire that destroyed the spire, oak frame and lead roof. The iconic cathedral was cordoned off and for this reason, we didn’t get off at this stop and merely took a passing photo and continued on our Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour.
We decided to get off at the next stop, Les Invalides.
Les Invalides, formally the Hôtel national des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids), or also as Hôtel des Invalides, is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France, containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l’Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the Dôme des Invalides, a large church, the tallest in Paris at a height of 107 meters, with the tombs of some of France’s war heroes, most notably Napoleon.’
Before walking into Les Invalides, we headed in the opposite direction to the ornate and extravagant Pont Alexandre III bridge. It connectts the Champs-Elysees quarter with that of Invalides and the Eiffel Tower (more on that later). The bridge’s construction commenced in 1896 and was completed in 1900. Its style reflects that of the Grand Palais to which it leads. This bridge has made appearances in multiple movies but just to name a couple; in James Bond A View to Kill as well as in the 1997 animated movie Anastasia.
We walked over the bridge as well as under it. The frame work of the bridge lends itself to some really great artistic shots, and I highly recommend it.
After exploring the bridge and its intricate architecture, we turned around and headed towards Les Invalides. Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments relating to the military history of France. The buildings house a few military museums as well as the Dôme des Invalides, which is a large church containing the tombs of France’s war heroes, most notably the tomb of Napoleon.
There is a cafeteria just outside the Musée de l’Armée that we stopped at to have a meal before moving on to the next iconic landmark. I noticed that vegetarian options were a struggle to find in France, and the language barrier made it harder for us to ask for an alternative option to what the menu displayed. More often than not, a vegetarian option was a goats cheese panini (I think we had this every time we bought lunch on the go).
After lunch, we hopped back onto the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. Next stop, the Eiffel Tower. We took a few pictures of the Eiffel Tower from the Champ de Mars and then walked below tower to take a few more. I read a number of reviews that warn you of vendors that walk around trying to sell trinkets, a few of them will work together, one distracting you while another one pick-pockets, and because I come from South Africa I wasn’t at all concerned with this until I experienced it. There are vendors every where you look with limited understanding of the word no. Luckily nothing of ours was taken but I can see how one could easily be distracted, so keep your eyes-peeled and your possessions close.
There are a number of reasons that we decided not to climb up the Eiffel Tower. Two major ones being that the Eiffel Tower is what you expect to see when you look at the Paris cityscape, if you are on it then what is left to be seen? And the other reason is the crowds. So instead of going up the Eiffel Tower we walk over the Pont d’lena to Palais de Chaillot where took a few iconic influencer shots of the Eiffel Tower.
Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe so we waited for the bus… and we waited… and we waited. After an hour and thirty minutes we decided to give up on the bus and walked from the Palais de Chaillot to the Arc de Triomphe. I hadn’t exactly planned to walk very far so I was in the wrong shoes for the distance we ended up walking, but I was in Paris and no achy foot is going to stop me exploring.
The Arc de Triomphe is magnificent. It honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. While we were taking pictures under the arch of the monument we noticed a military parade coming up the Champs-Élysées, headed straight towards the Arc de Triomphe. I still have not found out what the ceremony was for but it was amazing to have been there to witness the ceremony. (Does anyone know what ceremony this was? It was the 2nd of July 2019.)
And of course, being on the Champs-Élysées calls for some shopping. We ended off our day strolling down the Champs-Élysées looking at a few of the shops that interested us. We called in for the night at around 21:30. We caught the metro home to get ready for round 3 tomorrow.
One last interesting thing, during the bus tour, we drove past a building known as the Académie française. This is the pre-eminent French council for all matters pertaining to the French language. Members of the Académie française (a.k.a French Language Police) are appointed to help keep the language pure, and only allow a select number of words to be added to the French language and dictionary each year. Unfortunately, they have been too conservative and their attempts to keep the language pure have only made the language more impure as the French have become accustomed to adding English words into conversations where no French word exists. For example, there is no French word for chewing gum, so the French have adapted to saying ‘la chewing gum’.