Wednesday morning rolled around and I woke up pretty excited. The first thing on our list was a visit to the world’s greatest museum, the Louvre. We had a great night of sleep and after cleaning up and getting ready we headed downstairs. We were met with mostly cloudy skies but the same charm and buzz of the busy Rue Cler. Just as it was the day before, the streets were full of young school bound kids and locals hitting the markets early. I could have stayed there and watched all day but I had a date with Mona.
Wednesday also marked our first exposure to the Paris metro, a cardiovascular-like subway system that runs underneath the entire city. I had traced and traced and traced our route on a metro map so, even though I was a bit nervous, I felt I had it figured out. We found our nearest metro entrance and descended down into this bustling underground world. People were walking faster than most drive and we tried to keep up with the flow. To show my ability to meld in with the locals I walked right up to a kiosk to get our metro tickets. Like an expert I spun the rollerpin controller looking to speed through the process (just as I had learned through a YouTube video). The problem is I couldn’t find where to change the language to English. So much for my expertise. As a line gathered behind me, my “in the way” complex kicked in and we aborted the mission. Luckily a nice lady at the ticket window made things easier. We bought a carnet of 10 single tickets and off we went.
We boarded our train and took off still not sure if we were on the right one. We were. Soon we arrived at the Concorde station where we switched trains. In a few brief moments we were at our Louvre stop. Up we climbed until we were in the mall that led to a museum entrance with a lot less traffic than up above. We made our way through security and soon we were there, the world’s grandest museum. We browsed through a souvenir shop and grabbed a quick breakfast at Paul’s. Just like the Orsay, we bypassed the ticket line thanks to our museum pass and headed to the star-studded Denon wing. We were immediately met by an amazing collection of Greek and Roman sculptures.
We moved with the crowd through amazing works of art dating before Christ until we reached a huge stairway. At the top, the brilliant Winged Victory stood like a guardian looking down upon us. It was a breathtaking display. Admirers surrounded the marble masterpiece and the feverish rhythm of cameras snapping could be heard halfway down the stairway. As we got closer I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that I was actually seeing it with my own eyes. But so much more was ahead. We took the right doorway which led us to none other than Venus de Milo. The Greeks called her Aphrodite and the Romans called her Venus but the Louvre calls her one of their most popular pieces. So many people were catching a glimpse and having their pictures taken with her. I was no different but I did take time to admire this amazing sculpture with an even more amazing history.
We moved through more amazing sculptures but also took time to admire the building itself. The more we saw of the Louvre the more we realized that the building itself was a work of art. Glorious gold trim and beautiful frescos adorned so many rooms. But finally we reached one of my most anticipated parts, the Italian paintings. But what would a vacation be without a minor hiccup. Jacki’s camera ran out of batteries just as we entered the first room of paintings and I could have cried. We had a whole big package of batteries at the hotel and her camera was going through them like toilet paper. It’s here we made the one goofy decision of the entire trip that we probably shouldn’t have. Underestimating the time it would take, we decided to go back to the hotel, retrieve some batteries, and head back to the Louvre. It took a lot longer than anticipated but soon we were back to experience the Italian masters.
Wonderful paintings covered the walls and soon we went into a room to our right. A huge crowd had gathered inside letting us know we had found Mona Lisa. She hung alone on her own wall behind a glass case and with two guards monitoring the crowd. People pushed closer trying to get a great photo of Da Vinci’s masterpiece and I couldn’t help but think that we were witnessing a pickpocket’s paradise. We got our photo but I was saddened at the fact that I couldn’t spend time admiring the Louvre’s first lady. But the disappointment was short-lived. On the opposite wall from Mona hung my favorite painting in the entire museum, Veronese’s “The Wedding Feast at Cana”. The huge canvas made this spectacular work even more impressive. While so many were fighting for the perfect photo with Mona, I had easy access to one of my favorite works. I didn’t want to leave.
We saw so many other great paintings but we soon decided to leave. There was so much left to see and we had planned to come back in a couple of days. But as we walked out I kinda knew our schedule may not allow it. We walked around the grounds enjoying the beautiful fountains and the fabulous architecture before walking over to the Tuileries Gardens to rest for a few minutes. After a breather we went to The Orangerie Museum to check out Monet’s water lilies. These are some of Jacki’s favorite works and I loved watching her just as much as admiring Monet’s paintings.
We still had some time so we decided to wander north of the Louvre and just see the city. It was a great idea. We visited the garden at the Palais Royal before stumbling across Place des Victories and it’s huge statue of King Louis XIV on his horse. We were also able to find and explore the beautiful Saint-Eustache church just as the rain made its appearance once again. After enjoying the church’s beauty, I realized we were close to the Fontaine des Innocents and I had to see it. I have this weird thing with fountains and as we approached it my jaw dropped. It was beautiful and nestled right in the middle of the nicest little square. Cafes and trees lined the square and I remember asking Jacki “Can you imagine what it would be like to live here?” This was a question I would ask many times. The fountain was constructed somewhere around 1550 and that alone is stunning. Sadly, the rain had things so wet that we couldn’t sit and soak it all in (pardon the pun).
It was getting late so we found our way once again to the Hotel de Ville Batobus port and hitched a Seine river ride to the Eiffel Tower. We walked to Rue Cler and our hotel where we relaxed a bit, cleaned up, then headed to Bistot Le P’tit Troquet where we hoped to find a seat and enjoy a good meal. We walked in and were greeted by a very nice man who spoke good English. He would later tell us that he had spent some time during the previous summer in Florida doing some humanitarian work. Luckily there were seats available and he took us to a small but cozy room in the back where they had about six tables. We had the room to ourselves. We both enjoyed a wonderful shrimp entrée and an even better beef bourguignon main dish. I finished with a cheese plate that was a little overwhelming but incredibly French. It was a wonderful meal with, once again, wonderful service. We were treated like cherished guests.
We walked out the restaurant into the night and decided to take a stroll down to the Eiffel Tower to catch it’s light show. There’s nothing like walking in Paris at night and there’s a reason it’s called “The City of Lights”. The beautifully lit streets and lively cafes give the night a flare unique to Paris. We arrived at the tower and found a nice spot to watch the show. At 11 PM Eiffel’s Tower burst into a five-minute light show that would rival anything you have ever seen. Couples snuggled and tried to take their own pictures with the sparkling wonder in the background. We were no different. It was a sight to behold.
After the show was over, we left arm in arm towards Rue Cler. It was another busy but magical day filled with art masterpieces, flower gardens, romantic walks in the rain, and delicious French cuisine. It’s hard to imagine having a better time and we still had three full days ahead. We arrived at Rue Cler and strolled into our hotel where Khalid, our always cheerful night worker, greeted us with a smile. We checked on things back home, took our showers, and then headed to bed. What did this wonderful city have in story for us next?