OUR PARIS TRIP JOURNAL : Day 5

After a gorgeous sunny Thursday, Friday greeted us with a thick, gray overcast sky. But that didn’t stop Rue Cler. I opened up the windows to hear it moving at top speed. The cobblestones glistened from a pre-dawn rain shower and the steady French chatter of market owners and school kids filled the air. This was my street and I felt right at home here. Like before, I could have spent the day just walking the street and watching the locals. But we had some big sites to see so we cleaned up and headed out.

Like old pros, we headed into the metro and made our way to the Odeon station near the Latin Quarter. As I looked around I was again blown away by this new Paris neighborhood with its own unique flavor but with the same enchanting beauty. We walked up Rue Danton and came to Place St. Andre des Arts. Wow! The small square is literally filled with lush green trees and trendy cafes. This was the Latin Quarter and I loved it. We moved on up the street and right ahead was Place Saint Michel and its incredible fountain. This was Christmas morning for a fountain fan like me. The huge fountain dating back to the 1850’s features Michael the archangel slaying a demon and two water spitting dragons. It caps the corner of two avenues that serve as the Latin Quarter’s gateway and several other tourists joined us on this busy hub in getting our picture made in front of it.

Place Saint-Michel

I pulled out the trusted map and noticed we were really close to Saint-Severin so off we went down Rue Saint-Severin. The cramped streets were loaded with charm even with the number of cheap souvenir shops wedged between a variety of cafes. While some shops were most certainly aimed at tourists, the tight architecture hearkened back to the area’s medieval history. It was a wonderful place to explore. Right at the other end of the street is the gothic-styled Saint-Severin church. We walked alongside of it admiring its gargoyle water drains and classical design. Unfortunately the church didn’t open it’s doors until 11:00 AM. We had 30 minutes to kill so we explored the area. We came across another old church and right in front of it was a pretty little garden with a view of Notre Dame that made us stop in our tracks. Picture time. After several photos we sat on a bench and just admired what we were seeing. Have I mentioned I love the city?

I told Jacki that one of my ‘must see’ places, the Shakespeare & Company bookstore, should be reasonably close. It wasn’t marked on our map so I cranked up the Trip Advisor app. Lo and behold the bookstore was just around the corner from the garden,  mere steps away from where we were sitting! Thinking back to the store’s appearance in the movie “Midnight in Paris”, I had to get my picture made there. Jacki was a good sport and snapped photo after photo as if I were a swimsuit model even though she was anxious to get inside. With me finally satisfied, we headed into the quirky store with a great history. We could have stayed there all day. We browsed all sorts of books before going upstairs for an amazing little flashback to the days of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Stein. I settled on a copy of “The Great Gatsby”. I paid the cashier and got my official Shakespeare and Company stamp on the inside. I left grinning from ear to ear.

Shakespeare & Company

By that time Saint-Severin’s doors were open so we backtracked a couple of blocks to check out one of the oldest churches on the Left Bank. The inside was even more impressive than the outside. The tall spiraling pillars and high gothic ceilings supported some of the prettiest and most vibrant stained glass I had seen. As was customary for our Paris church visits, we sat for a bit just admiring what was around us. I thought about the history of the church and the number of people who had throughout the centuries sat where I was. But there was another little church on the day’s agenda so we left Saint-Severin to grab a bite to eat before heading to Notre Dame.

La Sainsev in The Latin Quarter

The walk through the snug cobblestone streets of the surrounding area was a delight, a true trip back in time. We checked out the posted menus of several cafes and small bistros. We were still a little early for lunch by Parisian standards but we were ready to eat. We came upon Le Sainsev, a quaint little cafe with a good menu and a prime location for people-watching. Yet another friendly French waiter showed us to a nice outside table. For an entrĂ©e I had boiled eggs and mayonnaise. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculously simply but it was quite tasty. Jacki chose the onion soup for the second time on the trip and she loved it. We both chose the beef flank steak with pepper sauce, baked potato for Jacki and fries for me. I finished my meal with chocolate mousse that our waiter made sure to point out was homemade. As we sat, the streets filled up as if someone had rung the dinner bell for the locals. Parisians flocked to a little deli across the street for a quick “to go” lunch. Some even found time to slip into the fancy chocolate shop next door to satisfy their sweet tooth.

With full stomachs and smiles on our faces we got up and headed towards the Seine River. I hated to leave this little taste of the Latin Quarter. I loved it there and had another one of my moments – “Wouldn’t it be amazing to live right here?” We took a lovely little side street (which made me want to stay even more) and came out facing the Seine River. The Seine was lined with green metal contraptions that when closed could be mistaken for dumpsters but when open they revealed small riverside stores where vendors showed their wares. As we walked we stopped at each one, thumbing through old books, trinkets, photos, and paintings. We crossed over to Ile de la Cite, the island center of Paris. Some say Paris’ roots can be traced to the island dating back as far as 50 B.C. But we had no time to think about that because right in front of us stood the jaw dropping Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame

The square in front of Notre Dame was filled with strained-necked fellow tourists gazing up at the cathedral’s astounding architecture. I wanted to walk around and take it all in but the line to get inside was actually fairly short. We took advantage of it. As we walked in I was overcome by the sense of history. I thought about the construction of the cathedral which began in 1163. I thought about walking in the same church where Napoleon and Josephine’s coronation was held. It was a surreal experience. The French gothic design was a sight to behold. Bible stories and historic figures were depicted through etchings, sculptures, paintings, and stunning stained glass. The only distraction was the buzz from the steady flow of sightseers which made it feel a bit more like an attraction than a church. We sat for a few moments and took it all in. Again we talked about the amazement of being where we were.

Notre Dame Stained Glass

We went outside and admired the equally impressive appearance of Notre Dame’s exterior. The amazing sculpting of the last judgement, the 28 kings of Judah, Saint Denis, and the temptation in Eden only begin to cover what’s found on the facade of this structural masterpiece. We headed around the left side to see about going to the top of the cathedral. But the line was long and it wasn’t moving. I really wanted to get an up close and personal look at Notre Dame’s famous gargoyles but we both agreed that the 1 1/2 hours of line time could be better spent elsewhere. We went to the little garden behind Notre Dame and enjoyed a little time on a bench. Right behind the garden was a small bridge that went over to Paris’ other island, the small but chic Ile Saint-Louis. Off we went.

Notre Dame from the bridge

Crossing the bridge we ran into street musicians and aspiring painters. The first street we came to was Quai de Bourbon and I immediately recognized it from “Midnight in Paris”, another “must take” photo for me. Ile Saint-Louis is small but it packs a lot of charm. We didn’t have a lot of time but we knew we needed to hunt down Berthillon. Berthillon is a world-renowned ice cream parlor and there’s no way we were going to miss it. Jacki chose a dish of Mango and Chocolate. I stayed traditional and went with Vanilla and Chocolate. Oh my goodness!  I swear to you, if I lived close by I would weigh 500 lbs! It was so good and I’m not a big ice cream guy. It was getting late so we hopped back over to Notre Dame and made our way to Sainte-Chapelle.

Sainte-Chapelle had the longest line and most thorough security of any place we had visited. The wait was long but while in line we did meet a charming older couple from Australia. They had been traveling through Europe and stopped in Paris for a few days. We talked about Paris, our families, and our countries. The gentleman had visited Sainte-Chapelle before and his excitement to see it again was infectious. After finally getting through security we made it inside. The bottom floor was pretty but the real treat was up a spiral staircase on the second floor. There we saw stained glass that put all others we had seen to shame. It was indescribable. Our Australian friend must have seen the amazement on our faces. He walked up to me and said “Didn’t I tell ya?”

The Breathtaking Sainte-Chapelle

We left and did a little more exploring of the island finishing up at Place Dauphine. After checking out another “Midnight in Paris” location we crossed over to the right bank. While walking towards the Louvre Batobus port we did a little shopping from the street vendors. The port turned out to be farther that anticipated and when we finally got there we were worn out. The river cruise to the 7th gave us a little time to recharge. Once there we headed to the hotel to clean up and then decided to go back to Pasco for dinner. As ridiculous as it sounds I ordered the exact same thing as the night before. It was quite good.

When we left the restaurant it was dark and a light rain shower started. We walked arm-in-arm under one umbrella and I loved every minute of it. Can you get any more romantic that a nighttime walk in the rain in Paris, France? We had been in the city for five days and our trip was slowly winding down. One more full day in the city of lights. That realization started to set in. I wasn’t ready to leave. I had fallen for the city. But the time had almost come so we better make the next day count.

OUR PARIS TRIP JOURNAL : Day 3

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.

Rue Cler

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.

“Winged Victory”

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.

“Venus de Milo”

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.

The crowd to see Mona Lisa

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.

Veronese’s “The Wedding Feast at Cana”

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).

Fontaine des Innocents

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 entrĂ©e 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.

The Eiffel Tower light show

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?