Adventures in Paris – Ile de la Cite and Museums!

It’s only been a week since we returned from Paris. Because we had such a fantastic time there, I must split the trip into two blogs…. it was that awesome!

We left on a Saturday afternoon and arrived safely in Paris the next morning on a scant 0-2 hours of sleep. Alas, Chris’s bag did not make it. We stayed with my husband’s great aunt who lives in Paris; we reached her place and collapsed.

Below, us with our wonderful hostess, who fed us, cleaned up after us, loaned us umbrellas and books, and put a roof over our heads all week!

The bag did not come that afternoon, or that evening. After Aunt Fay made us a tasty dinner, we went for a walk around the block and ended up beside the Seine. And there in the distance was the Eiffel Tower. No matter where we went in Paris, we found it looming out of the horizon at the oddest moments.

The next morning we had pastries for breakfast before we buckled on our sight-seeing sandals. A word about the delicious food we ate – there is an open air market around the corner 3 days a week and a baker that we visited almost daily, as well as meat, fruit/vegetable, chocolate, and cheese shops. Plus wine every day, sometimes at lunch AND dinner. Yes, I am a big fan of French foodways. 

We decided not to let the absence of clean clothes for Chris deter us. So using our freshly purchased carnet (10 metro tickets) and Museums passes, we took the bus to Ile de la Cite (Paris’s central island, densely covered with important edifices) and checked out Notre Dame. Ahh, the history! the literature! the awe of being in a cathedral that took over 100 years to build, that was built before the Americas were even known to Europe! And it is still a “working church”; people still light candles to the saints, and the ancient stone walls are heavy with the prayers of pilgrims. 

Here is a view of its side overlooking the Seine:

We crossed a bridge to Ile St. Louis and, since we are from Med City, had lunch at the Med Cafe. I had a savory crepe, a sweet crepe, and a cider… mmmm! Afterwards we walked over a little bridge that was covered with “lover’s locks.” It’s a tradition to put a lock on this bridge (or another bridge in Paris; they’re all very romantic) as a sign of your undying love. Although I tried to resist the temptation I gave in and bought a lock and Chris and I locked it on. Five years!!!

(Of course, we later found out that the weight of locks on another bridge actually caused a panel to fall off and forced the bridge’s temporary closure!)

In the afternoon we went to Shakespeare & Company, a bookstore with real ambiance –  then to Saint Chapelle, another church on Ile de la Cite. Saint Chapelle has the most beautiful stained glass windows; it feels like the whole church is made of colored glass. What a beautiful and sacred place!

Finally we headed to la Conciergerie, the barracks/jail area where prisoners were held before their encounters with la Guillotine. Then home (where Chris’s bag had at last arrived!) for a tasty home-cooked dinner.

The next day it rained but we persevered and checked out the Musee D’Orsay and the Rodin Museum. D’Orsay had a wonderful Van Gogh exhibition going on; it was strange to see so many of his works together. Even though he was crazy, I love what he could do with paint! We bolted through the rain and lunched at another cafe before wandering around the Rodin Museum and gardens. Below, the Gates of Hell! Most of of Rodin’s works are somehow incorporated into this piece. You can see the Shades at the top, and the Thinker right underneath representing Dante.

On Wednesday we made it to the place I was most looking forward to… the Louvre!! We entered through the subway, checked out the pyramids (shades of the Da Vinci Code!) and headed into the Sully Wing to check out the Venus de Milo. Even though this is a terrible picture I think you can get the point… people worship the Venus with their phones and iPads!

We and 1,000,000 other people also saw la Joconde, aka the Mona Lisa. My favorite part of the Louvre was all the gorgeous marble statues, both ancient Greek (many missing various parts of their anatomy) and nineteenth century (a little more gently worn!)  We spent awhile hunting for one particular statue but finally gave up, exhausted by all the museum walking. 

Afterwards we went to the Jardin des Tuileries and found take-away lunch at a little cafe – sandwiches and a nutella crepe, mmm. Then we set out on a 2 mile walk up the Champs Elysees, stopping first at Place de la Concorde, the former site of the guillotine, to check out the monument to Louis XVI. An obelisk, but not just any obelisk – a granite obelisk engraved with hieroglyphs honoring Ramses transported with great care all the way from Egypt. As an archaeologist, I love seeing this beautiful monument of an ancient culture. As an anthropologist, I am concerned about colonialism and why there is an Egyptian obelisk in France. As a postmodernist, I am extreme entertained by the whole thing. An Egyptian obelisk honoring a pharaoh set up in the middle of a French city to honor a dead French king?! Cool!

So after the obelisk, we walked approximately two miles up the Champs Elysee which is like a giant outdoor shopping mall. We plowed through stopping only to refuel with some chocolates. Then we slipped into the Arc de Triomphe


…. and climbed up the 300 foot winding staircase…

We were pretty winded at the top, but the splendid views were worth the hike!

Exhausted by walking, climbing, and exploring museums, we staggered home to rest. Little did we know we would be doing even more walking the next day…

Wow, do all these museums, churches, and awesome sights seem like a lot of things to process? It did to me, too! Bear in mind, there were lots of naps, tasty meals, and lingering evening conversations with Aunt Fay along the way. I will save the rest of our adventures for next blog!