As my previous post suggested, I’m now set up with my family. I will write about how that’s going after this post, which will cover what we did in Paris since the last update.
Thursday wasn’t quite as packed as the other days. We started the day by visiting Sacré Coeur in Monmartre. I’m not the most enthusiastic about churches. I do enjoy them for the artwork and architecture and grandiosity, but I feel a little funny about touring around and gawking while there are people there to actually attend services and pray. Sacré Coeur had some good information inside about the iconography, so that was interesting.
After that we went to Place du Tertre, which is known for the artists who work in the square and sell their pieces. It was pretty crowded with tourists but I enjoyed the artwork. We sat on the terrace (aka the sidewalk) of a crêperie and had lunch and watched the people and artists. I have to say, as enchanted as I was with Montmartre in Jeunet’s Amélie, it was my least favourite place in Paris that I visited. Granted, Sacré Coeur and the Place du Tertre are very touristy, but even walking to and from the metro near these places the streets just seemed dirtier and less picturesque. I won’t condemn it right now though because we really didn’t spend that much time there and I might find it a little more authentic further away from the major tourist hot spots.
We then hopped on the metro and headed to the Musée d’Art Moderne, which was a considerable distance. Entrance to this museum was free, but it was a bit disappointing. There were only a couple Picasso’s and one famous Matisse, but a lot of it was maybe too modern for my tastes. The other issue at this point was that my back was really hurting so I guess I wasn’t in the best shape for walking around a museum.
After that we went on one of the Bateaux Mouches tours, which takes you in a boat along the Seine. It was a really nice way to view the city. I find it funny how people on the banks of the river are always waving to you considering how frequently these tours run. We also got mooned and got to holler at a couple going at it on a park bench. I didn’t get too many good photos since we were moving but here’s one of Notre Dame as we passed by (more Notre Dame photos to come later in this post)
The plan after the tour was to go to the Champs Elysée but my back was really painful so we went back to the hotel room to rest instead. After we’d rested we decided to check out a nearby restaurant recommended in the Lonely Planet guide, Le Comptoir du Panthéon. As the name suggests, it was right beside the Panthéon (which was closed by this time). We sat on the terrace with the Panthéon directly to our right and views of the Eiffel Tower to our left against the changing sky as the sun set. It was lovely. And the food was really excellent too. Definitely the best meal we had in the city!
This was our last day in Paris and what better way to spend it than by visiting the Louvre! But first, we decided to pay a proper visit to Notre Dame after having passed by it twice. Notre Dame was everything the hype makes it out to be in my opinion. The exterior, the interior, the rose window. I think it’s possible to go to the top to see the gargoyles better…I’ll have to look into that.
I’ll keep my eye out for Quasimodo the next time I’m there.
Next we caught one of those bicycle taxi things (I don’t know the name), which was a really great way to see Paris on our way to the Louvre.
Within no time we were at the famous pyramid entrance of the Louvre, which really is beautiful. I look forward to seeing it at night.
The Louvre is certainly overwhelming at first, but once I started walking around (with my handy map and audio guide), it didn’t seem so scary. Everything is laid out in a way that makes sense, I think. We went with the full knowledge that we wouldn’t be able to see it all so we stayed in the Denon wing. I ended up seeing the Roman sculptures, French large scale paintings, Italian paintings and then I kind of rushed through the Spanish paintings. There’s a reason The Louvre is such a big deal. Aside from the vast number of incredible artworks, the building itself is massive and beautiful both inside and out. As a side note, I was incredibly thankful for the number of opportunities to sit down. Anytime I was getting tired or sore I didn’t have to look very far for a chair or a bench. Anyway, here are a couple shots from the afternoon.
After the Louvre we relaxed in the Jardin des Tuileries, which was full of many other people doing the same thing.
We then headed for a nearby restaurant recommended in The Lonely Planet, only to find that (like many shops in Paris at this time) they were closed until September. So then Omi thought we should go to the restaurant on the roof of the major department store “Galleries Lafayette”. We walked there (through the very pricey fashion area of Paris. I need to take a picture of the whacky Louis Vuitton window) only to find that the restaurant was closed for the night. So we sat down in a nearby cafe, but a look at the menu showed us that it was a typical tourist joint, which is not what we wanted on our last night in Paris. A look at the Lonely Planet guidebook showed us a place not too far away, Le Roi du Pot au Feu, a 1930s bistro.
The feel and fare of this place was decidedly authentic with small booths and vintage signs. The table had a bottle of the house wine (you paid for however much you drank out of it), coarse salt, a pot of dijon mustard (which I’m learning is just about as common as the salt and pepper), and a jar of gherkins. We both got the special, which was a hot pot featuring beef, potato, leek, turnip and carrot (if memory serves). Oh and I forgot to mention, a piece of bone with the marrow available. Our waiter explained that we were to spread the marrow on a piece of baguette, sprinkle with coarse salt and top with a gherkin if desired. Now, a lot of you may know that I’m a little funny with meat. I choose not to prepare it at home for myself and will often choose a vegetarian or fish option. When I do eat meat I try to avoid anything with the bone in because gnawing on a bone makes me feel kind of barbaric. And here I was faced with a big bone and I was supposed to eat the inside? But I want to be the kind of traveller (and person) who immerses themselves in culture, who doesn’t shy away from new experiences, and who does things that are outside of their comfort zone. So I thought, “When in Rome!..er, Paris” and I gave it a shot. It actually had a fairly mild flavour, and with the salt and gherkin, it was definitely palatable.
Properly stuffed, we knew it was too late to visit the Champs Elysée, so we headed back to the hotel. I didn’t get very much sleep that night because I was very nervous about meeting my family the next day!
The next day, I was heading over to the family’s for lunch (1′oclock) the next day and Omi wanted to be at the airport for 2:30, but we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Panthéon after breakfast. There’s certainly a lot more going on in there than what I remember from the Pantheon in Rome (although I did very much like that building as well). Unfortunately, Foucault’s pendulum was not there as I guess they’re doing restorative work on it. However, there were many paintings and sculptures of Ste Geneviève and figures of the Revolution and of course the interior was very grand. Apparently the architect, Soufflot, wanted to build a cathedral that would rival St Peter’s basilica in Rome. Having seen the two buildings, I’m afraid Soufflot didn’t achieve his goal (in my humble opinion) but it is still an impressive building. Beneath the main level there was a crypt featuring many national heroes including Voltaire, Roussea, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas, Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and many others. To be honest, I don’t really understand the appeal of visiting famous people’s remains but it wasn’t as creepy as it could have been, I guess.
And that wraps up my four days as a tourist in Paris! My original plan was to immediately write my next post but it’s pretty late and it took me a while to type this all out so I’ll probably fill you guys in tomorrow on how life with the family. Gotta add a little suspense! (Spoiler: it’s been great so far).