I’m listening to Edith Piaf as I type this post. It makes me both extremely happy and incredibly sad.
I miss Paris.
To make me feel a little better I’m going to think about some of the fun touristy things we did while we were there.
Since we had three weeks, we had plenty of time to do (almost) everything we wanted to do, some things more than once. We saw the Tour Eiffel quite a few times. We would just “happen” to be in the area and figure we might as well see it again. Or, we’d be at the top of some amazing structure, like the Arc de Triomphe, and be so fortunate to see the tower sparkle for 5 minutes at the top of the hour.
Yeah, let’s talk about the Eiffel Tower some more. It was my favorite thing to see in Paris. I don’t know why. I just had an emotional sort of attachment to it. I think because it’s something that I feel like I’ve always known about. A representation of a place I’ve always wanted to go. I don’t know. I might just be weird. Whatever the reason, I took a bazillion pictures of it. Daytime, night time, cloudy, sunshine… I could not get enough.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the beauty of places like Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, and Sacré Coeur. But, I was. I just don’t see that kind of detail and care put into many of the buildings around here. At Sainte-Chapelle, which is smaller than Notre Dame, but much more intricate, they were restoring the stained glass. As in, taking each panel out, removing every piece of glass, re-painting some‚ cleaning them… each piece of glass. What?! It was made for Louis IX. Can you imagine, a church made for a king?!
While we were looking around the inside of these cathedrals, there were church services going on. That felt a little weird, like we were intruding. It made me wonder, does anyone go there go there? Or were they all tourists?
We climbed the 400 steps to the belfry of Notre Dame. The view was phenomenal, but it was cold cold cold!!! Take a freezing day, some under dressed Californians, and then climb up 400 steps to the frigid, windy belfry. Cool. Literally. We stood up there for a long time because we were waiting for the bells to ring on the hour. They didn’t. Our hands and feet went numb, so we left.
We found a Rick Steves walking tour of Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle in the Paris guidebook that our friend, Christy, had given us before we left. In addition to tours and info about the places we were visiting, we consulted it constantly for tips on where to eat, where the bathrooms were, hours of operation etc. It was invaluable to us.
Sacré Coeur was part of the view out the window of our flat. So it was extra special to us. We had friends from Germany come to spend a few days with us and they stayed in that area, so we saw it often. But, let me tell you, this was one of the worst places for the bracelet scams and young girls trying to get us to sign petitions. I don’t know what the deal is with the petitions. I watched a few people sign something and never saw a second person pick their pockets. When coming out of the metro in that area once I was met at the top of the stairs by three young women, all shoving clipboards in my face, trying not to let me pass. I had to put on my mean face and push through them. The bracelet scam was a little scarier. There were clusters of guys waiting for tourists. They’d come up to you and start tying string onto your wrist and if you didn’t stop them, they’d make a friendship bracelet for you while you stood and waited. The catch is that they expect you to pay them. One started to grab Tim’s wrist and got upset when Tim told the guy not to touch him.
I loved the Louvre. What I loved the most was the building itself. It was beautiful. We wandered around Napoleon’s apartment. We might have set off an alarm by leaning too far into his dining room. We were like, “Oooh, some tourist is setting off the alarm!” “Oh, it’s us.” Also, um, hello living room. Just a tad fancier than ours (which is also in an apartment, but is just a little bit smaller, and without a single chandelier).
I liked the Louvre better than Versailles. I know, I might be crazy.
While Versailles was insanely, seriously, obnoxiously beautiful, I was a bit underwhelmed by it. Not by the grandeur. Gosh, we walked about 5 miles that day, just on the property. It was stunning, breathtaking, gorgeous. I guess I just preferred the Louvre. It felt like so much at Versailles was something that “could have been similar to what Marie Antoinette” used/slept on/ate off of/wore.
At the Louvre we got to see some of the crowns they wore. I’m so fascinated by things like this because I can’t fathom that this type of thing is/was actually real. People wore crowns, really?!
Of all the museums, our very favorite was the one we spent the least amount of time at. The Musée de l’Orangerie is where Monet’s Water Lilies are. We admired his beautiful murals until we were forced to leave because the museum was closing. We read about an 80 year old man, in the later years of life, painting “Darkness Descends on the Pond”. I thought it was a dark, sad picture, until I noticed the three bright lilies in the center of the canvas, brightening the twilight.
Many of the touristy things that we did were covered by the four day museum pass that we purchased. We definitely got our money’s worth out of it, visiting 8 museums in 4 days. And another plus, at most places we got to go to the front of the line (weeeeeeee-hoooooo!). A bonus when it’s just day 3 and your feet are done. Like seriously done. In case you care, we went to these museums/monuments with our museum pass: Louvre, Rodin, l’Orangerie, Notre Dame belfry, Sainte-Chapelle, l’Arc du Triomphe, Versailles, and Orsay.
Aside from museums and the Eiffel Tower, we had plenty of other touristy business to attend to.
Tim loves to find the place where a favorite movie was filmed. Paris has plenty. Of the many, we saw just three. Inception bridge (twice), Inception café, Charade pillars, and maybe the best of the movie places: we did an Amélie walking tour. Amélie (one of our favorite movies) was filmed in Montmartre, where we stayed. Our main metro stop is the stop in the movie. We were just a 20 minute walk from Café des 2 Moulins (the restaurant she works at), and Mr. Collignon’s market. We also found a few other places that we recognized from the film.
Another favorite of Tim’s was Shakespeare and Company. An English bookstore across the way from Notre Dame. It was opened by George Whitman in ’51. (Not the original Shakespeare and Company, which was Sylvia Beach’s store and the one frequented by the likes of Hemmingway and Joyce.) It has always been a place hospitable to writers and readers alike. We spent hours there and had to check a third bag because we just had to have so many books stamped with the Shakespeare and Company logo.
We ventured just outside of Paris to a marché aux puces (flea market). Within minutes I’d found a large copper skillet with a lid for €30. I was happy. Although not thrilled that I had to carry it around for the rest of the outing. Ok, I didn’t really care. I was so pleased with the purchase.
It was probably the main reason we needed to check a third bag (because in France they weigh the carry ons… a copper pot is heh-veee). Whatev.
We wandered, bought treasures, got yelled at for touching a €300 1800’s tea cup and saucer (um, if you don’t lock your display case, I’m pretty sure that means I can take things out…). It was a really fun day.
Our weeks were full full full of amazing sights. This is just a glimpse.
Part three of our Paris adventure will continue next week.